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An Intimate Portrait of Life After Life in Prison

TRACY, 51, in her own apartment three-and-a-half years after her release. Jamaica, NY (2017)
Sentence: 22 years to life Served: 24 years Released: February 2014 “I imagined coming home, living in a one- or two-bedroom apartment, where one was a master and an extra room for guests. Here I have that. I call this room my “doll house,” my safe haven. I feel at peace. I’ve finally unpacked. I spend a lot of time in here. I take pride in everything. I put more into this room than into the kitchen. I know I need to eat, but my room is my nutrition.”

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CLAUDE, 45, in transitional housing five months after her release. Corona, NY (2017) Sentence: 25 years to life Served: 25 years. Released: February 2017 “When I step into my room, I feel like I’m stepping into another world. I spent 25 years isolated. I really isolated myself. My room in the prison was my safe haven. There was no negative energy. No one came in unless the officers were doing a room search. It was my cocoon, my womb, where I feel the safest. It’s the same thing here. It’s my space. Everything in the room belongs to me, so I have a claim. I have things I was not allowed. I have glass bottles, perfume, shower gel, my mom’s ashes. My mom’s picture in a picture frame with glass. I shed the day the minute I cross over the threshold. I am home.”

American photographer Sara Bennett knows the legal system from a vantage point few have. Working as a public defender specializing in cases with battered women and the wrongly convicted, Bennett has developed a profound understanding of the impact that prison has on innocent and vulnerable lives.

The experience of prison resonates long after release for many who are consigned to spend years inside the system. Over the past five years, Bennett has begun documenting the lives of former inmates in the project Life After Life in Prison. Here we see women making their way back into the world, adapting to the challenges of life after having lost it all.

With a humanist eye and a sensitivity to detail, Bennett shares stories rarely told anywhere: the struggles of the dispossessed and marginalized who carry the weight of redemption on their own shoulders. It is only when they are able to retreat into their own private worlds that they may lay down their burdens for a moment.

Photos of Iconic Women Who Changed Course of the 20th Century

Monica Vitti, Actor, Shepperton, England, 1965.

Diane Von Furstenberg, Fashion Designer, New York, New York, 1979.

A dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker, photographer Susan Wood came of age as the conservative values of the 1950s and early ‘60s were boldly stripped and peeled away as the Sexual Revolution and Women’s Liberation Movement ushered in a new age, introducing a fresh generation of powerful women who transformed the state of America.

From Eve Arnold, Susan Sontag, and Gloria Steinem to Julia Child, Yoko Ono, and Diane von Furstenberg, Wood has photographed some of the most luminous women of our times for the stunning new book Women: Portraits 1960-2000 (Pointed Leaf Press).

In her lively essay, “Women Was My Beat,” Wood recounts the unexpected path, which lead her into a career as a professional photographer during the golden age of magazines. After working for fashion magazines including Vogue, Glamour, Mademoiselle, and McCall’s, Wood realized she was most interested in doing picture stories about people, places, and events.

Working for Look, Life, People, and New York during the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, Wood’s photographs became an part of the cultural dialogue. As a woman photographing women, her portraits reveal the soul and spirit of her subjects with sensitivity and understanding. Here Wood looks back at her years on the beat, reflecting on life for women during the decades when everything changed.

Ethereal Photos from the Shores of the Dead Sea

For years, the Israeli-based photographer Alexander Bronfer returned to Ein Bokek beach regularly, searching for moments of poetry and silence long after most people had left. “Over generations, people have entered into state of tranquility visiting those ancient shores,” he says. “It’s difficult find the right words to describe it. This is the mystery of the Dead Sea.” He titles this body of work Sodom, after the nearby mountain and the rumored site of the biblical city by the same name.

The Humanity Of Wildlife, In 150 Photos

In 2017, Randal Ford’s animal photographs were awarded first place and best of show in the fine art category in the International Photo Awards competition. Nearly a year later, Rizzoli New York published his first monograph, The Animal Kingdom: A Collection Of Portraits. Over five years in the making, the book features 150 up close and personal animal portraits, from a pensive chimpanzee to a fierce spotted leopard. Proceeds from the sale of this book benefit Project Survival’s Cat Haven, a park dedicated to the preservation of wild cats.

Behind-the-Scenes with a Renowned NYC Food Photographer

Whether he’s shooting a best-selling cookbook, teaming up with a celebrity chef, or telling the story of a beloved local restaurant, the NYC photographer David Malosh reminds us of the creative possibilities of food. Originally from Wisconsin, he’s built a career by capturing all manners of dishes around the country, from coastal oyster recipes to fancy, minimalist eggs and everything in between. Malosh has a unique talent for producing images that are at once surprising and simple, making him the go-to photographer for some of the biggest names in the food business.

When it came time for the photographer to create a website, he put his playful yet refined sensibility to work once more. Ultimately, he selected the website builder Squarespace to help bring his vision to life. Malosh’s images speak for themselves, so his Squarespace site places them front and center. Each page under his domain is a feast for the eyes, and it’s easy to lose track of time while browsing his diverse and colorful galleries. We spoke to Malosh about food photography, web hosting, and some behind-the-scenes secrets from the kitchen.

Why did you choose Squarespace to build a website, and what website template is your favorite?
“I chose Squarespace because it was simple. I’m not a huge techie; I don’t talk about the specs of a new camera or the latest software. That’s what digital techs are for, and I’m immensely grateful for their skill and technical knowledge. I needed to set up a website that was flexible and easy to update, one that I could manage myself.

“I think creatives have a tendency to overthink websites. We want them to be perfect. But photo editors and art buyers just want to be able to see images quickly and navigate through your site efficiently. I use the Wells template, which I modified a little. Wells is very straightforward in terms of design and navigation. I was looking for an opening gallery view plus big single images, which is exactly what the template does. A portfolio-based website shouldn’t call attention to itself; it should showcase images. It’s an effective design when they only see the images and the rest is intuitive.”

Your website design is so colorful and fun! Was it easy to add all these images and gifs to your homepage?
“Thanks! Images and gifs are easy to add. I size the longest dimension to 2500 pixels and then drag and drop the files in.”

What about your individual galleries? Why did you choose to display your images in this clean side-by-side layout, as opposed to a slideshow or something similar?
“Gallery views are the fastest way for an editor or art buyer to view a lot of images and (hopefully) find something they are into. I do like scrolling sites, but if you put an image at the very end of a long scroll, someone might not get to it. So I opted for a gallery.”

What was the most rewarding aspect of creating your own website rather than hiring an outside web designer?
“I don’t want to sound like it’s only about ease and efficiency, and I know there are incredible web designers out there, but I wanted a simple site that I could update whenever I felt like it. It’s nice to be able to put up a new gallery in a few minutes and to take them down when you want.”

Can you walk us through the process of collaborating with a chef? How much creative control do you typically have?
“Every job is different, and it depends on who approaches me for a particular book or project. Working directly with a chef tends to give me a bit more freedom because our goals are aligned from the start. We have a meeting and kick ideas around for a while to come up with something that suits the chef or the subject of the book. Cookbooks don’t always have an art director, so it often falls to me to pull a board together. I like to have a story or concept in mind when I shoot rather than just winging it. It gives consistency to a longer project that might otherwise go off in a thousand directions. I’ve also been lucky to work with chefs who are really excited to be doing a book and have placed a good amount of trust in me to make something interesting. They often see their food in a new way, which is exciting for everyone.”

Do you cook yourself?
“I don’t cook as much as I used to or as often as I’d like. I used to cook almost every night, and the more complicated the recipe, the better. I was into dishes that would take hours or days to prepare and had a laundry list of ingredients. I loved it when I had the time, but as my schedule got busier, I started cooking a bit less. I now sort of default to simple Italian and French cooking, 5-ingredient-or-less kind of stuff. I do make my own pasta, though. That’s where I draw the line.”

What are some differences between shooting a magazine editorial and shooting a cookbook?
“Magazine editorial shooting is usually much more scripted. A designer has already done a layout, and you’re essentially shooting the image into it. Editorial shoots take place over a day or two and you’re doing 8-10 recipes a day. It’s pretty hit-and-run. With cookbooks, you’re shooting for 10 days or more, and there’s time to get into it and make it all flow together. You get to know the chef and the rest of the crew, and it’s more familial. Cookbooks seem to have more freedom because it’s nearly impossible to lay them out ahead of time. That means we can make great images and trust a designer to do something even better with them.”

How have other genres, like fashion and still life, informed your approach to photographing food?
“I tend to look at still life and fashion images for inspiration more than I look at pictures of food. That’s not to say that I don’t keep up with what’s going on in food, and there are definitely food photographers I truly admire, but what I find interesting tends to be based on composition and movement in an image more than the food itself. Good composition is fairly universal, even if the subject matter is different.”

Have you learned any unconventional food styling tips along the way?
“The real styling tips I’ve learned are very simple: use good ingredients, make nice shapes, leave some negative space. And a bit of shine never hurts. The food we shoot is (usually) completely edible. There are a few things that still require tricks, like tacos… I’ve seen more strange things hold tacos together than I care to admit. Every client wants tacos to magically stand up on their own and also somehow stay closed. I’ve seen magnets, denture cream, and T-pins all work magic on flour tortillas. More than anything, though, stylists have taught me good cooking techniques: using higher heat, salting (especially fish) ahead of time and not cooking things to oblivion.”

You can try Squarespace free for 14 days. When you’re ready to subscribe, be sure to use coupon ‘FEATURESHOOT’ for 10% off your first purchase.

Squarespace is a Feature Shoot sponsor.

The Lost Pride of Romanian Mining Towns, in Photos

In 2017, Belgian photographer Kevin Faingnaert wanted to find a project close to home, but different enough to be an exploration. He initially set to find stories in the farming communities in the Romanian Carpathian mountains, but while researching, he came across the small towns in the Jiu Valley and was hooked. He loved the people and their traditions, and the stories he discovered there reminded him of his grandfather’s tales from the period when the Belgian coal mining industry headed towards its end. Faingaert’s series Jiu Valley is the result of a month spent in the region and is a wonderful and dramatic portrayal of a community stuck in time, once mines have been downsized or completely closed and nothing came to replace them.

These mining towns were built during the communist decades. They used to be important and the jobs there were well paid, but mining lost its importance after the regime fell in 1989. The focus of the series lies in the loneliness of these places but mostly on the workers who shaped them. The miner is the central character in the history of the valley, and Faingaert wanted to document what they have built and what they are about to lose when the mines close down completely.

Of Loss, Longing, Love, and Fear in the Work of Vivane Sassen

Eudocimus Ruber, 2017.

And Tango Makes Three, 2017.

Over the past two decades, Dutch photographer Viviane Sassen has created a singular body of work that weaves together a spellbinding phantasmagoria of luminous scenes of life. Her relentless independence from the limits of reality, in search of the multi-layered experience that exists beyond the known places Sassen in the realm of poets, mystics, and magicians.

In Hot Mirror (Prestel), we delve deep beneath the still surface of the images, into another realm, one that unfolds page by page as Sassen weaves a tale titled The Eye of the Eucalyptus Tree. Here, we travel between sections from the artist’s most notable series that take us from a remote Maroon village in Suriname in Pikin Slee to Flamboya, in which she returned to Kenya, her childhood home.

A Sassen photograph is not just an image of what lies before the camera, but something more; it is an ode to the medium of photography itself. Like a symphony conductor carefully leading an orchestra, Sassen creates luminous, layered images that belie the power of the visual world.

The Enduring Allure of Artificial Reality, in Photos

Ice Cream Calamity

In our never-ending quest to fix what isn’t broken, we have developed a sweet tooth for the chemical burn that comes whenever we add saccharine. This insistence on artifice is driven by an obsession with perfection, one that believes our ideals superior to the miracles nature reveals each and every day – one that has us writing ourselves out of existence quicker than we’d dare to allow ourselves to believe.

But here, in that moment before the dam breaks, we cross the tipping point without looking back. We cast our faith in illusions designed to sell us on an idea, a service, a product – any number of highly desired sources of escape. It is in this fantastical utopia that American artist Jason DeMarte creates fantastical landscapes that tap into our limitless capacity to consume.

In his series, Adorned, which was chosen for the Critical Mass Top 50, DeMarte digitally combines images of fabricated and artificial flora and fauna with commercially produced products to give us what we want – and more of it. DeMarte takes our cravings to their logical conclusion, a place where beauty becomes gooey, and yet it still appeals. These memento mori could not be more prescient of what is to come, as we step into a brave new world where AI, climate change, and late capitalism become the defining forces of our time. DeMarte shares his insights into this extraordinary body of work.

A Photographer Finds Peace in the Vast Emptiness of the Altiplano Region

When Vancouver-based photographer Chiara Zonca started her Moon Kingdom series, she already knew how to lose herself in isolated locations. She had been exploring what she calls “the switch”—an emotional process that occurs when she is surrounded by a landscape so surreal that it feels like a dream. In a month’s time, she travelled with her husband to “alien-like” locations in the Altiplano region that separates the border of Chile and Bolivia.

Mysterious Photos from the Forests of Brazil

“These landscapes have filled my imagination since my childhood,” the photographer Antonio Schubert says of the mountains and forests of Brazil. On the drive to visit his grandparents, he traveled through rugged cliffs, and at home in Rio de Janeiro, he dreamt of adventure. “In my imagination, the mountain that I saw on the way to school was the same as the one I saw 100 kilometers from the city,” he tells me. As he grew, so did his yearning for wild places. “The first time I went to Itatiaia National Park in 1981, I saw this cabin in the middle of a green ocean,” he remembers. “I promised myself that one day I would find the way to get there.”

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