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Posts tagged: documentary photography

A Fresh Look at Gordon Parks’ Photo Essay “Harlem Gang Leader”

Gordon Parks: Red Jackson, Harlem, New York, 1948; gelatin silver print; 19 1/2 x 15
3/4 in.

Gordon Parks: Untitled, Harlem, New York, 1948; gelatin silver print with applied
pigment; 4 1/2 x 4 1/2 in.

1948 was a watershed year in the career of American photographer Gordon Parks. An established fashion photographer who had been working on assignment for LIFE magazine, Parks was also an accomplished author, publishing his second book, Camera Portraits, a collection of his work accompanied by professional observations about posing, lighting, and printing. At the same, time, Parks longed for something deeper and more essential to his soul.

“Photographing fashion was rewarding but for me somewhat rarefied,” he revealed in his memoir, Half Past Autumn. “Documentary urgings were still gnawing at me, still waiting for fulfillment.”

He met with his editors to make his very first pitch: the story of Leonard “Red” Jackson, the 17-year-old leader of the Midtowners, a Harlem gang that had been caught up in the turf warfare that had been plaguing the neighborhood throughout the decade. He showed them 21 pictured edited from a body of hundreds photographs made over a period of four weeks made shadowing Red as he went about his business. The work tells the story of survival in its most poignant form, caught in the space where poverty, oppression, and violence foment and froth.

The Man Who Made History by Photographing India in Color

Raghubir Singh, Ganapati immersion, Chowpatty, Bombay, 1989
Chromogenic print
Photograph copyright © 2017 Succession Raghubir Singh,
Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery

Raghubir Singh, Holi revellers, Bombay, 1990
Chromogenic print
Photograph copyright © 2017 Succession Raghubir Singh,
Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Raghubir Singh (1942-1999) secured his position as one of the early serious photographers to work in color. At the time, Kodachrome slide film was not generally accepted by his contemporaries in Europe and the United States, but Singh felt it was necessary to his life and purpose as a photographer of India. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be available in his home country until trade restrictions were lifted in the early 1990s. In the meantime, Singh relied on magazines overseas, including National Geographic, to provide him with the precious film he had nicknamed “King Kodachrome.”

These Veterans Are Using Photography to Cope with Trauma

The Visions of Warriors movie poster

At the Menlo Park Division of the VA Palo Alto Health Care System in California, veterans learn photography as a way of coping with trauma. Mark Pinto watches birds out in nature and renders them in blue with his old-fashioned cyanotypes. Ari Sonnenberg takes self-portraits in black and white. Homerina “Marina” Bond photographs blooming flowers–symbols of her recovery. “[There are] tiny little embers of hope buried within the artwork,” Priscilla “Peni” Bethel says. “Every class I attend helps me towards the day those embers will burst into flames.”

The Veteran Photo Recovery Project was founded by Susan Quaglietti, a nurse practitioner at the VA Menlo Park, and she runs the program with help from a team of experts: Jeff Stadler, an art therapist, Ryan Gardner, a clinical social worker, and Kristen McDonald, a clinical psychologist. Together, they work with veterans living with mental disorders. In addition to more traditional, evidence-based treatments, each veteran who chooses to participate creates a portfolio of six images as part of their recovery.

After reading about their work, the Los Angeles-based film producer Ming Lai searched for ways to get in touch with the minds behind The Veteran Photo Recovery Project. In the end, he sent what he calls “an old-fashioned letter,” addressed to the VA Menlo Park, with Quaglietti’s name on it. “Miraculously, she received my letter at this massive campus, and she graciously said yes,” Lai remembers. Three and a half years later, on Veteran’s Day, the people who brought The Veteran Photo Recovery Project to life will share their stories in Visions of Warriors by Humanist Films.

The Sorrow and Grace of Abandoned Cats, in Photos

“I remember having the clear feeling that I was taking photos of people,” Italian photographer Sabrina Boem tells me of her first encounter with stray and abandoned cats. “I remember human eyes that talked to me. I loved those cats, their eyes, the way they looked at me.”

The Grace & Magic of Rural Living, in Photos

Electric Current © Andrew Heiser, Los Angeles, CA

German Pastoral Study #1, from the series Divine Animals: The Bovidae © R. J. Kern, Minneapolis, MN

Dinner Time © Michael Knapstein, Middleton, Wisconsin

Last summer, Feature Shoot launched The Print Swap, a worldwide project for photographers. Here’s how it works: you can submit by tagging your photos #theprintswap. Every day, we curate submissions, and we notify photographers who have been selected. It’s free to submit, but winners pay a one-time fee of $40 per image. We cover shipping and printing, which is done by our friends at Skink Ink in Brooklyn, New York. Prints are then mailed out randomly across the globe, and every participating photographer receives a surprise print from one of their peers.

In recent weeks, we’ve been looking over The Print Swap archive and putting together online group shows with the pictures in the collection. In the past, we’ve explored themes like New Topographics, Seascapes, and the American West. Here, a collection of some of our favorite photographs of life in rural places.

Painful, Beautiful, Unforgettable Photos from the ACT UP Community

Jon Greenberg (1956-1993), ACT UP Alternative and Holistic Treatment Committee, 2/16/1992

Porchlight (Jay Funk & Mark Harrington), Saugerties, NY, 7/24/1993

In May of 1988, the great activist Vito Russo gave his speech ‘Why We Fight’ at an ACT UP (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) demonstration. Throughout, he compared living with AIDS to living through war: every week for the previous four years, he had attended two funerals a week.

In the end, he concluded, it was “worse” than a war because the public and the government didn’t “give a shit.” In 1989, 14,544 people were killed. Policy-makers remained silent. Some actively opposed the spread of awareness and educational tools. Russo died the following year.

After joining ACT UP in 1989, the photographer Stephen Barker witnessed the crisis firsthand. He was part of the life-saving (and once-illegal) needle exchange program in New York City. Looking back, he describes himself and his colleagues as “foot soldiers” for the cause.

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at ‘Terrorist Rehab’ in Saudi Arabia

A classroom for members of the jail is lined with desks. Even though the desks are new, the participants have scratched their names, dates, hearts, and slogans into the wood. The black seats with wooden desks reminded me of a line of black clad IS members carrying kalashnikovs. At Al-Ha’ir prison, I had to use the prison’s camera and wasn’t allowed to take photos of any of the staff or inmates, which left me to photograph the evidence left behind by the inmates. I photographed some of the etchings in the wood, but the prison censored these photos. © David Degner/Getty Images

Inmates have a small area with astroturf to enjoy the sun at the end of each cell block. The Ha’ir prison is primarily for terrorists, we are told. Talking to human rights activists, however, gives the impression that there are different departments with different standards. Political prisoners sometimes come to Ha’ir, but hardly in the comfortable cells jihadists have. While the writers were interviewing another inmate under supervision, I was able to talk with some inmates alone. They saw many new inmates arrive after the bombing of Shia mosques in the eastern provinces in May 2015 and felt they were arrested randomly. As one inmate said, there is always the official story and then the unofficial story which they won’t let us see. But he said he couldn’t go into details. © David Degner/Getty Images

The Family House is designed like a boutique hotel with all the amenities for a family visit. The suites allow inmates to live with their family for short periods of time while incarcerated. The families and inmates arrive in chauffeured cars with the hotel logo; guests are given a key for their rooms, and the all female staff cares for them during their stay. © David Degner/Getty Images

In May of last year, Cairo photographer David Degner and Swiss journalist Monika Bolliger traveled to the Al-Ha’ir Prison in Saudi Arabia to see the living conditions of men who had been incarcerated on terrorism-related charges.

These ‘State-Approved’ Photos from North Korea Reveal a Complex Truth

In a diorama at the Sinchon Museum of American War Atrocities, U.S. soldiers are depicted driving a nail into a Korean woman’s head. The regime uses the museum’s gory displays to foster an unsubstantiated narrative that American-led forces massacred 35,000 civilians in Sinchon in 1950.

Meticulously choreographed military parades. Strident news announcements on state television. Missile tests presided over by a grinning Kim Jong Un. Propaganda from North Korea comes to us fully formed and almost alluring in its opacity: a finished product that has been carefully constructed to convey an idealized image of strength and unity.

Carl De Keyzer, a photographer based in Belgium, offers a different and more intimate view: a glimpse of the process of indoctrination within North Korea. From their first day in kindergarten, children are spoon-fed propaganda—from lectures about the legendary feats of Kim Il Sung to field trips to a museum that depicts, in gruesome detail, Americans massacring Koreans. What makes the images all the more remarkable is that De Keyzer was subject to the same restrictions imposed on foreign tourists who visit North Korea. During his four trips to the country over the past two years, he was attended at all times by official minders, and had to submit his photos for state approval.

A Poetic Reminder of What Korea Used to Be Like

Described by ICP curator Christopher Phillips as “the long-lost Korean cousin of Magnum photographers such as Henri-Cartier Bresson” is the lesser known Han Youngsoo.

South Korea’s rapid economic development during the past half century is unprecedented. The country went from being one of the poorest countries in the world to being the 4th largest economy in Asia. Han Youngsoo was one of the few artists working during that time to document the country that was soon to change beyond recognition; his photographs transport the viewer back to a time when Seoul was an impoverished city, devastated by the Korean war.

Marvin E. Newman’s Spellbinding “City of Lights”

Broadway, 1954.

Feast Of San Gennaro, Little Italy, New York, 1952.

Coney Island, 1953

Now in his 89th year, American photographer Marvin E. Newman is receiving his due as one of the finest street photographers of the twentieth century. His self-titled monograph, just released as a XXL Collector’s Edition from Taschen showcases his vibrant collection of cityscapes made in New York, Chicago, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles—as well as in the Heartland of the nation and the outskirts of Alaska between the years 1950 and 1983.

Born in the Bronx in 1927, Newman studied photography and sculpture at Brooklyn College with Walter Rosenblum. He joined the Photo League in 1948 before moving to Chicago the following year to study with Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind at the Institute of Design. “They taught you to keep your mind open and go further, and always respond to what you are making,” Newman remembered.

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