Posts tagged: documentary photography

The Outsider Artist Whose Dedication Saved His Life

The call to make art isn’t so much a choice as a force compelling creation, no matter the price. Few can resist the possibility that lays beyond the sheer will it takes to render something out of nothing at all. For all that is given, the possibility of return is a draw: fame, wealth, and legacy.

But for the outsider artist, the reward is the act itself, creating a cycle of momentum nothing short of phenomenal. For Gustav Mesmer, the “Icarus of Lautertal”, as he came to be called, art was a way the medium through which he could express and resolve the conflict of being on earth and off at the same time. And that was enough.

A Powerful Portrait of Living Off the Grid in Northern Canada

A view of Yellowknife Bay from Jolliffe Island.

Ryan and Cheyanna on Jolliffe Island.

Deep in the Northern Territories of Canada, on the edge of Great Slave Lake lies a community living off the grid, on the fringes of Yellowknife, the capital city — home to photographer Pat Kane, a member of the Timiskaming First Nation.

The city of Yellowknife, named for a local Dene tribe, first colonized in the 1930s after gold was discovered. Early prospectors headed north, erecting shacks and shanties on the waterfront, which remained intact as the city was built around these settlements.

By the 1980s, the first houseboats appeared on the lake, and together, with the shacks, became home to a flourishing community who have chosen the solitude of nature over the conveniences of modernity. In his on-going series, Offgrid, Kane documents a colorful collection of characters from all walks of life — from musicians and artists to bureaucrats, entrepreneurs, and curmudgeons — whose back-to-basics way of life has become a vibrant part of the city’s cultural landscape.

Here, Kane shares his experiences photographing the people who live in this magical corner of the world.

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.

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.

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.

Honoring the Romani People, in Photographs

Since the Romani people left northwestern India some 1,500 years ago, they have been subject to discrimination and persecution so extreme that most people are unaware that the term used to describe them, “gypsy,” is an ethnic slur. Instead, the very people that have enslaved and oppressed the Romani for over a millennia have also appropriated this slur and recast it in glowing terms to describe free-spirited bohemian members of their own community.

Intent on going beyond the stereotypes and bigotry that have kept the Romani maligned and marginalized, Italian photographer Marco Ponzianelli began traveling to nomad camps in his native Rome in 2016. Over a period of two years, he got to know the Romani, as individuals and as a culture, an understanding he aims to portrait in the series Your Gypsy is a Person.

Here, Ponzianelli shares his experiences gaining the trust of people who know better than to allow just any outsider into their world.

Powerful Portraits of People Living in Purgatory at the US and Mexico Border

A teenage migrant boy, Jesus Martinez Stadium, in Mexico City, Mexico, Nov 9, 2018

Migrant children playing in the streets where they are camped out, outside the locked gates of the condemned refugee camp, Benito Juarez sports complex in Tijuana, Mexico, Dec 2, 2018

In November 2018, Cory Zimmerman began documenting the lives of people living in purgatory, just across the US border into Mexico, in places we rarely see or consider from the inside looking out. Over the next three months, Zimmerman created a series of photographs titled Between a Sword and a Wall: A Portrait of he Migrant Caravan, made at the front lines of the migrant crisis.

Zimmerman traveled to Jesus Martinez Stadium in Mexico City, the Benito Juarez sports complex in Tijuana, San Ysidro border crossing in Tijuana, and the US/Mexican border at Playas de Tijuana as part of an ongoing effort to assist and document the lives of the people who are fighting for their lives.

Zimmerman started a Go Fund Me to help feed the children, as his current work takes him to Guatemala, where he is working with NGOs to document the causes behind the on-going migration crisis. Here, he speaks about his experiences photographing the innocent people whose lives hang in the balance.

The Death of a Parent, Captured in Photos

“Sometimes I feel like I am in a bad dream.”

“Everything is aimless and hopeless. I have lost my direction and I don’t know where to go.”

“Your dad was suddenly lying there in a hospital room. The man I loved.”

The photographer Argus Paul Estabrook remembers his mother calling him from the hospital, and he remembers flying from Seoul to be with his family in the United States. But much of his father’s battle with pancreatic cancer remains a blur. By the time he was diagnosed, it had already reached Stage 4, and when it was all said and done, Estabrook‘s father would live for only three more weeks. “Time was really jumbled like that one drawer where nothing is in the right place,” the photographer admits. “Memories become fractured and mixed together.”

This Is Not an Exit is a poetic recounting of his father’s illness and its aftermath. Initially, the series wasn’t meant to be anything more than a way of coping. It was his father who had first introduced him to photography early in life, and documenting his final days was almost instinctual. “During that time, everything was happening so fast,” he tells me. “I was just trying to hold on to something. That turned out to be my camera.”

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