Alec Soth’s New Work Embraces the Grandeur of Intimacy

Alec Soth. Sonya and Dombrovsky. Odessa. 2018

Alex Soth. Nick. Los Anglese. 2017

After the 2015 publication of Songbook and a retrospective, Gathered Leaves, Alec Soth decided to take a hiatus from photography in order to reconsider his creative process. For more than a year, Soth ceased traveling and opted for the pleasures of solitude found in his farmhouse in Minneapolis. Here he explored new forms of art making and meditation, keeping open to questions rather than searching for answers.

“When I returned to photography, I wanted to strip the medium down to its primary elements,” Soth remarks in the artist statement for I Know How Furiously Your Heart Is Beating, Soth’s new exhibition at Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco and accompanying monograph just published by MACK.

Rather than continuing to explore the epic narratives of American life, Soth turned inward, exploring the space in which people intimately connect and share a moment of mutual interiority in the creation of art. I Know How Furiously Your Heart Is Beating is a path to connecting across the divide, a reversal of Soth’s previous perspective as seeing photography as a means to separate himself from the world.

Dave Heath’s Breathtaking Dialogues with Solitude

Dave Heath. New York City, 1960 

Dave Heath. Washington Square, New York, 1960

At the age of 16, Dave Heath was paging through a 1947 issue of LIFE magazine when he came upon “Bad Boy’s Story: An Unhappy Child Learns to Live at Peace with the World,” a photo essay by Ralph Crane that explored the life of an orphaned by growing up in Seattle.

Heath, who had been abandoned at the age of 4, immediately felt seen. Living in foster homes and an orphanage, Heath saw himself in both the protagonist and the journalist at the same time. Heath had already been participating in a camera club and recognized that photography could become a lifeline between himself and the world.

It was a commitment to which he would give his life, using the camera to document the political, social, and cultural events of the time, while simultaneously creating an investigation of the photograph itself. Largely self-taught, Heath made it his business to learn the craft, theory, and history of his chosen medium in order to create for himself.

Seeing War Abroad and at Home Through the Eyes of Don McCullin

Local Boys in Bradford 1972

Don McCullin – Near Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin 1961

Londonderry 1971

At the age of 83, British photojournalist Sir Don McCullin decidedly declared, “I’m not an artist” — while standing inside a major retrospective of his work now on view at the Tate in London through May 6, 2019.

“I’ve been struggling against that word all my life,” McCullin told The New York Times. “The American photographers all want to be called artists. I’m a photographer and I stand by it.”

But don’t be quick to try to label McCullin any further. A genre photographer he is not. Despite efforts made to describe him to a “war photographer,” McCullin resists summing up his life’s work in such narrow, reductive terms. As a photojournalist and documentary photographer, McCullin’s interests lie in focusing his attention on the difficult truths about humanity on the home front and abroad.

Whether covering conflict in Cyprus, Vietnam, Cambodia, Biafra, Congo, Bangladesh, Northern Ireland, Beirut, Syria — or looking at poverty and working class life in the UK, McCullin uses the camera to explore the underlying humanity — or lack thereof — at the core of conflict, oppression, and trauma.

New book, Images in Transition, makes us question the notion of truth in photo journalism

David Pace photography

David Pace got his first camera when he was just eight years old — a little plastic Kodak Brownie Hawkeye. Since then, he has displayed an exceptional ability to portray raw, lingering emotion through his photographs.

Whether it’s mundane scenes of suburban life in the 1960s or artisanal gold mining in Burkina Faso, you can always find something relatable in David’s work. It conveys the complex vagaries of humanity, each frame an invitation to find connections between the subjects he photographs and our own life.

David Pace photography

His work has been exhibited in prestigious galleries in Germany, Japan, and the US. Most recently, he partnered with Stephen Wirtz, co-founder of the Stephen Wirtz Gallery in San Francisco, to create the visually powerful book, Images in Transition, a collection of evocative wirephotos from World War 2.

The technique was still in its infancy at the time and wirephotos were far from perfect. These images were blurry, ridden with weird artifacts, and showed dot-matrix like pixelation. News agencies often retouched these pictures to enhance details, hide certain elements or incorporate new ones. This heavy amount of manipulation raises a whole universe of fascinating questions around ethics, art, and technology.

The result is an intriguing look at the intersection between art, journalism, and propaganda.

An Exquisite Study of the Sacred Feminine Realm, in Photos

For Mona Kuhn, the female nude is a vessel, a path, a portal to transcendence between the physical and spiritual planes. Liberated from the earthly draw of desire, it transforms from object to subject, to a state of becoming that is only possible when one is the protagonist of their own story and their own lives.

In She Disappeared into Complete Silence (Steidl), Kuhn takes Paul Nash’s Landscape from a Dream (1936-38) as her departure point and delves into the realm of photography to explore the surreal, symbolic realm of the California desert landscape, her model Jacintha, and elements of architecture to organize chaos. It is here that Kuhn embraces the space where light and shadow engage in exquisite interplay across a myriad of surfaces so that air becomes perfumed and potent, almost tactile itself. Light moves through these images like the hand of God, liberating us from the demands of the world and allowing us a moment of peace in our noisy and tiresome world.

A Desolate Warning Written Across the Australian Continent

Barkandji Country 5: Though this country is breathtaking in its color and redolent  of a spirituality that can not be easily denied, this image, when enlarged to its full native resolution, is over 2.5 meters wide and clearly shows sheep around the dam whose cloven hooves have denuded the landscape of its natural cover. This leaves the topsoil without structure so the little soil that remains is prone to wind erosion.

Euahlayi Country 1: Because of the natural abundance of vegetation and waterfowl, the ancient fecundity of the Narran Lakes wetlands has been reduced to almost nothing. Once a meeting place of First Nations for trade, festivals and intermarriage, now, with water taken by farming, there are only vestigial ponds that can no longer support the cultural significance they once did.

For 65,000 years, the Murray-Darling basin has been an oasis at the end of the earth — a self-contained world fed by the rivers from which it takes its name, creating a rich, fertile climate in which the Aboriginal people of North South Wales, Australia thrived. Until —

The imperialist forces of the UK settled the continent, destroying the natural ecosystem in more ways than one. Sixty-two species of mammal have gone extinct, while half the 34 native species of fish are threatened. The Aborginal people were either exiles, diseased or otherwise killed by settlers.

Today, the land is a symbol of late capitalism run amok, with climate change heralding the worst drought in 100 years, threatening the livelihood of inorganic businesses draining resources from the land including cotton, cattle and sheep farms.

Perceiving the scope of climate change is daunting to realize – like the rotation of the earth of its axis, the consistently incremental changes go largely unperceived, so that it is only after the damage is done and the time has passed that we begin to understand all the warning signs flashing before our very eyes.

Australian photographer Paul Harmon has been making aerial photographs of the floodplains traditionally owned by the Barkandji, Ngemba, Euahlayi and Wayilwan Indiginous Nations, revealing the horrific impact of imperialism on the continent in his series, WaterMarks.

Thought-Provoking Photos of Children In Their Color-Coded Rooms

The Pink Project I – Jiwon (K) and Her Pink Things, Seoul, South Korea,
Light jet Print, 2014

The Blue Project – Kyungjin and His Blue Things, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea,
Light jet Print, 2017

Color is many-splendored thing — a bouquet of sensations we often take to heart. Color evokes emotion and desire, excitement and reserve. It is both curious and telling that color would be genderized, with pink and blue, two opposite ends of the spectrum, used to delineate the poles on the binary. Where pink was once the color of masculinity, drawn from the power of red, it was viciously emasculated on July 18, 1926 when the Chicago Tribune ran a notorious, unsigned editorial headlined, “Pink Powder Puffs.”

In it, the author attacked film star Rudolph Valentino, holding him to blame for the installation of a face-powder machine inside a public restroom for men on the North Side. It was a reach, one that was as bigoted and disrespectful as anything you would see today:

A powder vending machine!  In a men’s washroom! Homo Americanus! Why didn’t someone quietly drown Rudolph Guglielmo, alias Valentino, years ago?… Do women like the type of “man” who pats pink powder on his face in a public washroom and arranges his coiffure in a public elevator?… Hollywood is the national school of masculinity. Rudy, the beautiful gardener’s boy, is the prototype of the American male.

It was a sentiment that the American public loved, one that held fast as the color pink received gender reassignment. Blue, which was traditionally for girls, was given to boys, and once complete, the color/gender binary became the latest socially constructed fait accompli.

Because gender is assigned at birth along with sex, paroxysms of cultural hysteria follow in the simplest of terms, when the seeds of identity politics planted in something as inherently universal as color itself. It’s popular because it’s easy — and just a little too obvious.

But sometimes, you can’t see it until it’s arranged in such a way that the undeniable truth is taken to absurdist heights. In JeongMee Yoon: The Pink and Blue Project (Hatje Cantz), Seoul-based photographer JeongMee Yoon sets out to explore the striking intersection between color, gender, and late capitalism.

Feature Shoot Has a New Podcast!

Ron, surrounded by one of his famous nests. He was rescued by Save the Chimps and lived his remaining years at their sanctuary in Fort Pierce, Florida, where this photo was taken. © Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

Knuckles, Las Vegas, NV 2011 © Michael Joseph

We’re honored to announce that the first episode of the Feature Shoot photography podcast is now available. Featuring first-person stories from photographers Jo-Anne McArthur and Michael Joseph, this episode dives deep into the moving and untold stories behind the pictures that stayed with them long after they clicked the shutter. Future episodes will follow the same format: photographers will recount the tale behind one of their images.

For the eight-plus years, Joseph has met and photographed individuals in an American youth subculture, known commonly as Travelers. He’s journeyed throughout the country, collecting portraits and stories from people who spend their days on the go, exploring the United States by freight train or car, and living according to their own set of rules. In this episode, he introduces us to Knuckles, a Traveler he first met in Las Vegas. Over the years, the two of them have stayed in touch, and the photographer has also visited Knuckles’s family.

Throughout the last two-plus decades, McArthur has traveled to more than 60 countries documenting the lives of animals who are exploited by humans. Through her images, she reveals the individuality and dignity of creatures we largely ignore and overlook, from those we eat to those we use for entertainment. In this episode, she introduces us to Ron, a chimpanzee who spent years of his life in a laboratory, where he lived in a 5’x5’x7’ cage, was anesthetized more than a hundred times, and had a healthy disk surgically removed from his neck. Ron and McArthur were born in the same year, though their lives followed very different courses. By the time they met, Ron had thankfully been rescued by Save the Chimps, and he lived out the rest of his life at their Florida sanctuary.

Though their careers are unique, McArthur and Joseph do share a similar dedication in giving voice to invisible or otherwise forgotten individuals: people and animals who have value and who deserve to be seen and heard.

If you’re a photographer and you’d like us to consider your story for an episode of the Feature Shoot podcast, please send us your story idea to [email protected]

Magical Photos of Childhood Summers in a Small Austrian Village

Alena plays with a cat and a cow. Merkenbrechts, August 2013

Victor is enjoying his mother’s legs. Merkenbrechts, July 2018

In her project I am Waldviertel, Dutch photographer Carla Kogelman travels to the Austrian region of Waldviertel to the small village of Merkenbrechts, population less than 200. Here, Kogelman transports us into an eternal moment of fleeting childhood summers, a moment where time eclipses in that it is both fast with outdoor adventure, and slow with restless boredom—imagination and play often being its only respite.

An Intimate Look at Drug Addiction in Middle America

Jack’s reflection through a bathroom mirror. Cedar Rapids, Iowa. 2018

Millette and her two grandchildren, Anthony and Allana. Cedar Rapids, Iowa. 2018

Back in 1971, Larry Clark introduced Tulsa (Lustrum Press) to the world, transforming not only documentary photography and art book publishing but pulling back the curtain and exposing the secret truth about the heroin epidemic that had begun to sweep across Middle America.

Nearly half a century later, things have only gotten worse as the government has used the “War on Drugs” to propel the prison industrial complex to extraordinary heights while simultaneously cultivating an opioid crisis has been created and fueled by the pharmaceutical industry.

The realities of drug use, abuse, and recovery are much closer than we think, often within our most intimate circles of family and friends. Recognizing this truth in his own life, photographer Jordan Gale decided to revisit his upbringing in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for the series It Is What It Is, which will be published by Daylight Books in 2020.

Inspired by artists including Danny Wilcox Frazier, Larry Clark, Robert Frank, and Eugene Richards, Gale traveled through Eastern Iowa between 2015 and 2019 creating images that offer intense, introspective explorations of the relationship the self and our environment.

Gale’s photographs pose poignant questions, and provoke thoughtful consideration of the underlying issues at stake: Why do some escape and others don’t? What is our responsibility to tell the story of our communities?

It Is What It Is has just launched on Kickstarter. Support the project here. Here, Gale shares his insights in creating this powerful body of work.

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