Matt Eich is a freelance photographer and founding member of Luceo Images. His work is rooted in memory, both personal and collective and he strives to approach every photograph with a sense of intimacy. He believes that stories are the fabric of history and that they have the power to inform and transform open-minded viewers. While he has worked on five continents, Matt’s images focus on his own back yard, often exploring communities, the issues they face and their sense of identity. Some of his clients include Newsweek, Mother Jones, TIME, The FADER, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Apple and others. In 2009 Matt won POYi’s Community Awareness Award, The Magenta Foundation’s Bright Spark Award, was a finalist for the W. Eugene Smith Grant and was selected for the 16th World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass. Most recently he was awarded the 2010 Juried Fellowship at the Houston Center For Photography, a 2nd place in POYi 67 and was named one of PDN’s 30 Emerging Photographers.
This work is from his ‘Carry Me Ohio’ Project in which he documents life in the Appalachian foothills of Southeastern Ohio. Matt’s self-published Carry Me Ohio book is for sale on the Luceo site.
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Ying Ang is a photographer of stories, journeys and contemporary quirks. Her work is centrally focused on varying themes of the human condition. Currently based in New York, Ying is a member of the Brooklyn-based photographer collective MJR. This work is from her series, ‘Boys Girls Boys’, a glimpse into the life of a ladyboy, Sri Vet, in Cambodia. Of this work she says, ‘Sri Vet is a Khmer ladyboy. She has not considered herself male since she was 14 years old. Tolerated by the local community, her only real avenues of income are hairdressing, bar work at the now defunct local ladyboy bar and prostitution. She shares a single room and one double bed with 3 other ladyboys-they take turns on the floor on a rotational basis. Ostracized as a woman as well as a man, therefore unable to work in either capacity, Sri Vet considers her role as sex worker inescapable. She is also an incurable romantic’.
SV-’I always knew it would be hard. I want to find love but here it is always the same story. I will find a Khmer boyfriend and after he spends whatever money I have and has his fun, he will leave and marry a woman who can give him children. I still fall in love sometimes though. It’s hard to put that part of yourself aside, no matter how impossible it might seem…except it’s bad for business. I don’t charge the ones I like. The one-night Khmer customers pay US$1.50. If I am lucky enough to find a foreigner for the night, he might pay me US$10. If I get a customer tonight, I will eat lunch the next day. If not, I will try again tomorrow night. It’s a difficult life to wake up to sometimes, but this is who I am. I cannot be any other way and would rather live like this than pretend to be what I’m not.’
Ikuru Kuwajima was born in Chiba, Japan in 1984. He studied journalism in the United States at the University of Missouri from 2003 to 2007 and interned as a photojournalist for various newspapers. After a stint working as a freelance photojournalist in Bucharest, Romania, he moved to Ukraine in 2008 to work on long-term projects. Kuwajima is a native Japanese speaker and English-Japanese translator and is proficient in Russian and Romanian. His work has been recognized by the College Photographer of the Year competition, the Hearst Journalism Awards Program, and the Ueno Hikoma Award. Of this series, Yagnob, he writes, ‘Yagnobi are an ethnic group in Tajikitan. Currently around 500 people live in about 35-40 communities along the Yagnob River. Until recently, they didn’t have electricity. They live by raising goats, sheeps, cows and some vegetables. There is no doctor now, and some children don’t have access to schools, which are usually taught by one teacher at a house. The long winter could get as cold as -30 Celsius. Many said they don’t leave the place just because the mountains have been their home for many, many generations’.
Early in her career, Sandy Dyas owned a small portraiture business in Bellevue, a small Iowa town near the Mississippi River. A dozen years later, she moved to Iowa City and received her MFA in Intermedia (Performance Art & Video). Her first book of photographs, entitled Down to the River; Portraits of Iowa Musicians, was published by the University of Iowa Press in June 2007. In 2005, she was named “Iowa Photographer” by Photo District News. Currently she is involved in a one year photo project entitled The 50 States Project. She is an artist, freelance photographer and a Lecturer in the Art & Art History Department at Cornell College. Some of her clients include New York Times, Vogue, No Depression Magazine, Redhouse Records, and BUST Magazine.
Shaena Mallett is a young photographer and anthropologist based in southeastern Ohio, who works to blend art and documentary storytelling to share intimate visual experiences. She is a student at Ohio University and a teaching assistant for the Athens Photographic Project, a therapeutic photography program helping adults with mental illness. Her areas of focus include non-profit community development work, women’s health issues and the interaction of culture and environment.
Jason Andrew was born and raised on the coast of California where he spent his early years surfing and snowboarding while exploring the small coastal villages of Baja California. Upon graduating with a Bachelors Degree in History from San Diego State University, he began photographing for a small music label while teaching elementary school. He later moved to NYC where he graduated from the 2006/07 Documentary Photography and Photojournalism program at the International Center of Photography where he interned with VII photographer James Nachtwey. In 2008, he attended the Eddie Adams Workshop and his Jazzland series about an abandoned amusement park in New Orleans was selected for American Photography 24. In 2009, he was named a Magenta Emerging Photographer and is currently among the “Emerging Talents” on Reportage by Getty Images. His clients and publications include AOL, Bag News Notes, Courrier International, Grazia Daily, Le Monde 2, National Geographic Books, New York Magazine, Transworld Surf and Ventiquattro.
Kevin Miyazaki is a photographer working out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Some of his clients include AARP, Departures, Food & Wine, Fortune, GQ, and The New York Times. He is represented by Redux Pictures.
In your series Camp Home, you effectively created evidence, as you say, of people held in the Japanese internment camps in WW2. This project has an interesting back story. Could you explain what spurred you into wanting to create this body of work of photographic evidence of these places?
‘My father was born and raised in Tacoma, Washington, and his family was sent to two different internment camps during WWII. The first was Tule Lake Relocation Center, which was located in the northernmost tip of California. I made a visit to the site a few years ago, while driving from San Francisco to Olympia, Washington, expecting to find a plaque or historical marker. I did find a marker, but also learned of the history of the region following the war.
‘The land was divided up into homesteads, and given to returning veterans to start farms. These were young men, mostly from the West Coast, who had fought in the Pacific and in Europe. They arrived to the area to start their new lives, after the Tule Lake camp was shut down and all the Japanese American families had left. Buildings from the internment camp – the barracks in which the families lived – were given to the homesteaders to aid their new start. So the farmers, who had nothing but a piece of land to begin farming, used these buildings as houses and outbuildings.
‘Many raised families in them, and continue to live in the structures today. I’m interested in the transformation of the buildings and aim to capture the essence of human presence and habitation. During the war, interned families were not allowed to have cameras, so there’s a gap in the collective Japanese American family album. My photographs reference time spent and lived with the walls of the structures, both past and present’.
What is your process for finding the places to photograph, and how is your idea generally received by those who may occupy the spaces you’re looking to make images of?
‘I drive the countryside looking for the buildings, which are easy to identify by their scale and dimensions. I simply knock on doors — and overwhelmingly, people are gracious and curious about the project. I’ve spent hours in kitchens and living rooms sharing family stories. This aspect is really important to the project, in my mind — the coming together of people with very different and uniquely American family histories’.
Given your heritage, it seems this project has an especially personal connection for you. Have you come across any locations, scenes or even details that gave you significant pause in this project?
‘My father was 13 when he entered Tule Lake, so I think the elements which reference adolescence (a basketball hoop, bb guns, a trophy) hold a special meaning. But in general, I think most Japanese Americans of my generation feel both connected and distant from the internment story.
‘Our parents usually didn’t discuss the internment in great length, and we weren’t always as curious as we should have been. So in some ways, I feel an ease of distance from the emotional aspect of the family history. On the other hand, it’s quite powerful to think that I could be standing in a building that my family once lived in’.
Do you have any finite hopes or goals for this project or is this more of a matter of personal exploration for you? Is there any work left to be done and if so what challenges do you see in filling it out?
‘There are still buildings to be photographed and people to be met, and I’m overdue for another trip. As far as goals, it’s important to me that the work is seen on the West Coast, where many Japanese American internees still live. I’ve been fortunate to have pictures from the series exhibited in group shows at the Rayko Photo Center in San Francisco and the Photographic Center Northwest in Seattle, and I hope to find other venues in the future’.
Your projects are created with digital 35mm gear. The type of thoughtful and inherently still images you are making seem like the perfect subject matter for a camera that allows you to slow down and make only 1 or 2 images. Why not large or medium format?
‘Indeed, all my work these days is made with 35mm digital cameras. In the past, I had shot with medium and large format film cameras for both my editorial and personal work. After switching to digital a few years ago, it took me a while before I felt like I could make the same types of pictures.
‘With film, I picked up a specific camera with unique physical features and limitations, which I knew would put me in a specific place while making pictures. But with digital (35mm, since I can’t afford medium format), I’m trying to make a variety of pictures — both personal and for clients — all with one camera. I’ve come to peace with that, though, and feel like I’m making the same pictures I would have made say, with 4×5. The technical advantages with digital help this project specifically, as there are sometimes issues with the amount of time I have to shoot, and with light levels and quality (I’m shooting all natural light for Camp Home)’.
Given documentary photography’s general tendency to portray moments, human relationships and intimacy, why have you chosen to make this series one of essentially still objects and inanimate scenes?
‘I’m interested in what space and objects can say about the people to whom they are most intimate. In Camp Home, I’d like viewers to understand that these buildings have a long, and somewhat complicated history, if perhaps only under the surface — not unlike the history of our country in the last 60 years. But photographing places and things void of people is a theme common in all of my personal project work. I’ve been working on a new set of pictures called Within Reach — small, intimate details from around my house. I think if you begin adding up all the small details, you’d start to get a good picture of who I am’.
Were there any personal barriers you had to overcome in embracing your still life work?
‘When it comes to making personal work, I think it can be difficult coming from a background of assignment-based editorial work. In editorial photography, you’re always problem-solving. You’re given a starting point, from which you then make the best of the situation, for the integrity of the story and publication.
‘Making personal work, you’re free from that given starting point, so anything is possible — which can be both liberating and frightening. In my fine art work, I always try to remember that I own the project — the original idea, the pictures, and everything associated with it. I’m not creating photographs in order to meet a deadline or please a photo editor, so I have complete freedom to succeed or fail on my own terms’.
Brian Lesteberg attended the Minneapolis College of Art in Design, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Photography. He currently lives and works in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Some of his clients include The New York Times Magazine, Fortune, and Time. Of this series, Raised to Hunt, he says, ‘My father raised me to be a hunter. Every fall, since my twelfth birthday, we’ve followed the migratory birds that descend from Canada to central North Dakota. Approaching manhood, I’ve become more aware of nature’s vulnerability, especially as I master field dressing wild game for evening meals. Exhausting and exhilarating, the time I spend with my father in the field has become a ritual as steady as the migrations they depend on. My photographs are witness to this ritual and its place in the layered order of the natural world’. His work is currently being shown at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Liz Cockrum was born and raised in Chicago, IL. After earning her BFA in Photography from Columbia College Chicago, Liz moved to her current home in San Diego to nurture her passion for surfing. Through photography, Liz seeks to reveal little-seen elements of environments, cultures, and people to her viewers. Her current body of work, Sirens, focuses on female surfers in Southern California. She states, ‘My intention with this body of work is to celebrate the courageous and innovative females who are pioneering this shift towards a more positive, open surf culture. These images speak to broader ideas related to women in modern society, the power of determination and sub-cultures within a larger community. Through portraits, landscapes and details I want to focus the viewer’s attention on the individuals who are an integral part of a unique culture’. When Liz is not photographing, you can find her surfing, cooking, dabbling in mixed-media arts, or making plans to travel abroad. Her work is represented by Joseph Bellows Gallery in La Jolla, California.