The Stories of Marginalized People Around the World, in Photos

Moria #2: Rakan Alzahab, who fled the civil war in Syria, at the food tent at the Moria refugee camp on Lesbos, Greece, in February 2016. His inscription, in Arabic, reads, “Zabadani, we miss you.” It refers to his hometown, in the hills outside Damascus. (Artwork by Wayne Martin Belger; Photograph of artwork by Jade Beall)

Moria #3: An Afghan woman at the food tent at the Moria refugee camp on Lesbos, Greece, in February 2016. She had arrived after crossing the Aegean Sea in a smuggler’s rubber boat. Her inscription, in Dari, reads, “We love you all.” (Artwork by Wayne Martin Belger; Photograph of artwork by Jade Beall)

Syria’s civil war was hurtling into its third brutal year in the spring of 2014. Rakan Alzahab was 17. One day, when he was stopped at an army checkpoint near Damascus, a soldier examined his cellphone. Among the pictures on it was one of his cousin’s daughter holding a rebel group’s flag across her shoulder.

The soldier took him into a building where other soldiers beat him for two hours before setting him free. “I returned to my house where I lived with my mother and my sister,” Alzahab told Smithsonian by email. “My mother saw me and got shocked and said, ‘You will not stay here anymore. Go away and stay alive.’” And so began his long journey into exile.

The photograph of Alzahab on this page was taken while he was on Lesbos, where the Moria refugee camp, a fenced-in jumble of cheek-by-jowl shelters, left a big impression. After a sleepless night—“I was afraid something would happen to me or someone would come and steal my money”—he walked to the food tent. “I was in the line, waiting, when Wayne came with his camera. I asked myself, who is this man and what is he doing here?”

Wayne is Wayne Martin Belger, an American photographer, and he was volunteering at Moria while working on a project he has titled “Us & Them,” a series of unusual portraits of people who have been oppressed, abused or otherwise pushed to the margins. The camera that caught Alzahab’s eye is indeed a curiosity: 30 pounds of copper, titanium, steel, gold and other metals welded together into a box that makes pictures by admitting only a pinhole of light.

Intimate Portraits and Stories of Trans Women

Vanessa, entertainer

Mara, software engineer

“Anybody who knows anything of history knows that great social changes are impossible without the feminine ferment. Social progress can be measured by the position of the female sex,” Karl Marx wrote in a letter to Ludwig Kugelmann in 1868.

A century later, Marsha P. Johnson, an African American trans woman, would kick off the LGBTQ Liberation Movement when she set off the Stonewall Riots at 2:00 am the morning of June 28, 1969. Now, nearly 50 years later, trans women remain at the forefront in the fight for equality, visibility, and representation.

In Female (Daylight Books), Chilean photographer Pilar Vergara shares the portraits of trans women from across the United States, who share their personal stories in a series of interviews that reveal the profound depths of their life experiences.

One Young Photographer on Reshaping the World Through Powerful Images (Sponsored)

Born and raised in Harlem, New York, Flo Ngala has always had creativity running through her veins. She found her voice early on by staging self-portraits in her bedroom and documenting her community on her daily route to and from school, and since then, she’s used her talents to amplify the voices of others. As a photographer for some of the biggest names in the music and fashion industries, she’s helped shape modern popular culture, while at the same time staying true to her candid, authentic aesthetic and interest in telling real, human stories.

Ngala’s skills have taken her to unexpected destinations, figuratively and literally; in 2016, she jetted off to Senegal to shoot a fashion editorial, and she’s been traveling on assignments ever since. When she’s not behind the lens herself, Ngala’s still immersed in the world of images; she’s interned at one of the biggest ad agencies in the world and plans to continue art directing. Oh, and she just celebrated her 23rd birthday this spring.

As she’s grown from an ambitious teenager into fully-realized creative force, Ngala has continued to approach every new project with the same passion and ingenuity that fueled her early work. When the time came for the photographer to create a website, Squarespace was the obvious choice. Their DIY website builder allowed her to showcase her work beautifully, without any hassle.

Featuring slideshows of images from her documentary projects, behind-the-scenes celebrity shoots, and self-portrait sessions, Ngala’s website puts powerful photography front and center. The final piece of the puzzle was claiming this online space with a domain name of her own. “Typing into a browser still is so cool to me,” she says. We asked her to tell us more about website design, the photo industry, and the importance of impactful imagery.

Brassai, the Eye of Paris, Returns

Extinguishing a Streetlight, rue Emile Richard c. 1933

Bal des Quatre Saisons, rue de Lappe c. 1932

Born Gyula Halász (1899 – 1984), Brassaï took his famed French pseudonym in honor of his hometown of in Brassó, Transylvania. The young artist moved to Paris where he intended to paint, but took up photography when he recognized the camera’s inimitable ability to capture the light in the dark, and the way it revealed itself n silver gelatin paper.

In 1933, Brassaï published Paris de nuit (Paris by Night) to immediate acclaim – one that has not diminished in the intervening years. Here in the dark maze of lamplit streets, prostitutes and lovers, workers and revelers go about their business in café and bars, in smoked filled dancehalls where anything goes.

These images, which earned him the title of “the eye of Paris” on an essay by Henry Miller, gave Brassaï instant entrée to café society and the haute monde, to the glorious glamour and decadence that was Patis between the wars. In this fleeting moment of history, Brassaï captured it all. Here, the worlds of theater, dance, and art mingle and merge, and glow alongside portraits of his colleagues and friends, people such as Picasso, Dali, Matisse, Genet, and Giacometti.

Photography Exhibition Opportunity: The Print Swap in London

In the last year, our worldwide project The Print Swap has traveled the globe, with exhibitions in New York, Los Angeles, Sydney, Berlin, and Hyderabad, India. Now, we’re thrilled to announce our first-ever exhibition in London, opening this October as part of The Other Art Fair. Our guest curator will be Caroline Hunter, the Picture Editor at The Guardian Weekend Magazine. As always, we invite photographers to submit by tagging #theprintswap on Instagram. Participating photographers must submit between now and September 2nd, 2018, in order to be considered for the London show.

A Joyful, Fearless Exhibition About Women Photographing Women

Isabel Bateman in the Character of Queen Henrietta Maria, 1874 © Julia Margaret Cameron

Self-Portrait, Canal Saint Martin, Paris, 1930’s © Ilse Bing

American Girl in Italy, 1951 © Ruth Orkin

In 1865, The Photographic Journal published a review of the work of Julia Margaret Cameron. It ended with the line, “We are sorry to have to speak thus severely on the works of a lady, but we feel compelled to do so in the interest of the art.” On more than one occasion, she was dismissed, belittled, and even mocked, and in some cases, critics made special reference to her gender.

Now, a century and a half later, we recognize Cameron as a pioneer who left an indelible mark on the history of photography. “In many ways, Julia Margaret Cameron was a feminist even if there wasn’t a word for it,” Daniel Cooney, the gallerist behind Daniel Cooney Fine Art, tells me. “She was one of the first female practitioners of photography, and she was making images that revealed women as complex, intelligent people, even though they had very few rights.”

Beginning with that brilliant Victorian lady and extending through the Second, Third, and Fourth Wave, Cooney’s exhibition Into the Light honors generations of women behind–and in front of–the camera.

‘Photography on the Margins’ Offers a View of Another Kind of Life

Pieter Hugo Abdullahi Mohammed With Mainasara, Ogre-Remo, Nigeria 2007
From the series Hyena and Other Men © Pieter Hugo.
Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yossi Milo, New York.

Paz Errazuriz From the series La Manzana de Adan (Adam’s Apple), 1983
© Paz Errazuriz / Courtesy of the artist

The fringe photographs well. The drama, passion, and intrigue of lives pushing past boundaries, past definitions and social coded respectability naturally lends itself to the photograph, always offering a glimpse into something beyond the square lives of the mainstream.

In Another Kind of Life: Photography on the Margins (Prestel), author Alona Pardo, Curator at the Barbican Art Gallery in London, brings together an impressive collection of work that takes us inside worlds we might never otherwise see. Here, artists including Diane Arbus, Jim Goldberg, Danny Lyon, Mary Ellen Mark, Daido Moriyama, Pieter Hugo, and Larry Clark bring us into other worlds rarely seen, the realms of junkies and hustlers, trans women and street youth, gangsters and hippies, Rockability cats and Teds.

The Photographer Creating Posed Snapshots as a Reflection of Self


Black Eye

While attending the Yale School of Art for her MFA in photography, American photographer Danna Singer would spend her weekends photographing friends and family in her hometown of Bellcrest, a working-class neighborhood on the Jersey shore. As she shot, a series began to emerge, one that impresses viewers with a profound sense of alienation, pain, and numbness that came about as a result of generations trapped in a cycle of addiction, abuse, teen pregnancy, and lack of education and opportunities. Singer titled the series If It Rained an Ocean.

Inspired by the work of artists like Sally Mann, Diane Arbus, and Gregory Crewdson, Singer dives into the deep end and creates extremely intimate images where the facades have been stripped away and what remains is the pure, raw psyche of her subjects. In each of her photographs, there is a sense of a story so devastating it is eating away at the souls of all it possesses. There is something enormous yet hollow and so tender to the touch that you begin to imagine that there is much more than meets the eye in these photographs.

These Photos of Plants in Greenhouses Look Like Paintings

Plants have historically had a significant presence in visual arts, from the vibrant flowers in Monet’s paintings to the still and colder photographs of Karl Blossfeldt. And while the meaning and significance might have changed from one artist to the next, plants have always been a subject through which to communicate a larger message about nature, and sometimes, humanity.

Inside of a greenhouse in March 2015, the photographer Samuel Zeller found what would become a body of work that now spans over three years and several countries. In his latest photo book, Botanical, published at Hoxton Mini Press, the photographer looks at exotic plants enclosed in the warmth and protection of European greenhouses.

Announcing the 4th Annual Feature Shoot Emerging Photography Awards!

Photos © Zoe Wetherall (top), Cian Oba-Smith (bottom)

It’s that time again! It’s been ten years since the launch of Feature Shoot, and we’re thrilled to announce our 4th Annual Emerging Photography Awards. Up-and-coming photographers working around the world are welcome to apply for the chance to kickstart their careers. We have a stellar lineup of prizes this year, including a $5000 cash prize and international group exhibitions at United Photo Industries gallery in Brooklyn, Head On Photo Festival in Sydney, and FORMAT International Photography Festival in the UK.

Alison Zavos, the Founder of Feature Shoot, will select one photographer to win the cash prize. The jury will also include Laura Roumanos, the Executive Producer & Co-Founder United Photo Industries and Photoville, Moshe Rosenzveig, the Founder and Director of Head On Photo Festival, and Louise Clements, Artistic Director QUAD and Director of FORMAT International Photography Festival. Roumanos will select 2-3 photographers to exhibit at United Photo Industries, while Rosenzveig and Clements will choose 3-5 photographers each to exhibit at Head On and FORMAT festivals, respectively. This means that as many as thirteen photographers could be selected to be part of one of the exhibitions.

Photos © Johanna-Maria Fritz, Niv Rozenberg, Paul Shiakallis, Dorine Bessiere, (clockwise from left)

Additionally, we will invite one submitting photographer per week to take over our Instagram account @featureshoot, where we have a current following of more than 195,000. During the open call, we will also have a People’s Choice Award winner each month, who will receive a $250 gift certificate to our new store Superfine Prints. The winners of the Emerging Photography Awards will be featured on our website, social media channels, and/or newsletter, reaching an estimated 500,000 people. All exhibiting images will be shown as beautiful ChromaLuxe metal prints.

Over the last few years, we’ve had thousands of talented photographers apply to the Emerging Photography Awards. We’ve also gotten the opportunity to see past winners flourish and grow through new opportunities at home and abroad. At the same time, we know we’re just getting started. We can’t wait to see the inspiring, moving, and surprising work that comes our way this year. It costs $40 to submit, and we accept up to five images from a series. The deadline for submissions in October 1st, 2018. Apply here.

The Feature Shoot Emerging Photography Awards are supported by Squarespace, United Photo Industries, Head On Photo Festival, FORMAT International Photography Festival, and Chomaluxe. We’d like to extend a special thank you to our sponsors.

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