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Posts tagged: documentary photography

69 Magnum Photographers Reveal Their Contact Sheets in New Book

Havana. Ministry of Industry.
Ernesto Guevara (Che), Argentinian politician,
Minister of industry (1961-1965) during an exclusive interview in his office.
© Rene Burri/Magnum Photos.

We would like to believe that photographs convey an element of truth, that in the fraction of a second recorded for posterity, we have captured something that lies beyond mere celluloid of digital technology – something we can gaze upon and discover verifiable facts, unearth an ineffable aspect of reality that lies beneath the surface.

Perhaps this is possible, in as much as we wish to believe it so, but when we consider that the single frame lies in a larger body of work can we be absolutely sure that we’re not being guided by the aesthetic power of the form. Are we not sentient beings whose powers and perceptions of sight heavily influenced by the perfection of the art?

It may be the best way to know is to consider the context, in as much as it is available to us: the circumstances of the moment, the players, the photographer themselves. And, if we are to consider the artist, where does this image fall, not only within their oeuvre but more specifically in project from which it is drawn? This is where the contact sheet comes in.

Portraits Reveal the Many Faces of Bureaucracy

Ram Prabodh Yadav (b. 1970) is sub-inspector (deputy inspector) of police in Maner Block, Patna district, State of Bihar. Monthly salary: 10,000 rupees (131 euro).

Thomas Harris (b. 1949) is chief of police of the city of Rockdale (some 6,000 inhabitants), Milam County, Texas. Monthly salary: $4,250 (3,162 euro).

The word ’bureaucracy’ has a negative connotation. It suggests unnecessary paperwork, inefficiency and unfriendliness. This negative perception is created in time, by people’s repeated experiences, and the degree of resentment towards this system of government differs per country. For his series Bureaucratics, Dutch photographer Jan Banning traveled to eight countries on five continents, and visited hundreds of offices, documenting the culture, symbols and rituals of state civil administrations and its servants.

Civil servants are to an extent the face of the government. Banning’s images are full of details, and the stories describing the civil servant’s task and his salary are illustrative for the relationship between the state, the civil servant’s rank and power.

Banning’s visits were unannounced, and the images reflect what a local citizen would see when coming inside. Each photo is shot from the same height, the height of a standing person. But the photos put these offices in a different perspective than what a visitor actually sees. Most likely, the people that come in are more interested in solving the issue that brought them there, than in paying attention to these places. In a way, these photos make these offices and the people in them truly visible for the first time.

The series Bureaucratics has been published in a book that is available together with Jan Banning’s new book “Red Utopia: Communism 100 years after the Russian Revolution” which was released on the 14th of October.

Tragic, Heartfelt Photos from the Streets of Poughkeepsie

Karen with Marvin’s Kitten, 2017

During his junior year at Vassar College, the photographer Caleb Stein passed through Main Street in Poughkeepsie, New York every day on the way to his internship with Bruce Gilden. He stopped for the first time when a group of basketball players caught his eye. He took out his camera, and he spent time talking to them. Over the next year, he made a point to visit Main Street and travel back to campus by foot. “ I started to see the same people in the same places,” he remembers. “And they started to recognize me.”

Photographer Captures a Day in the Life of Children with Rare Genetic Conditions

Madison has excessive amounts of iron accumulating in her brain, leading to stiffness in her limbs, Parkinson’s, dystonia, vision problems, and developmental delays. She still manages to laugh a lot, and she loves the swings.

Ian has MCAP and PMG which involve the skin, connective tissue, and brain, causing a disproportionately large head and capillary malformations on the skin. He and his sister have a special bond.

In 1969, Karen Haberberg’s parents lost their first son, a two-year-old boy named Raphael Haberberg. Rafi had a rare genetic disorder called Tay–Sachs disease, and he passed away before Karen was born. Now a photographer, Karen and her family are still followed by Rafi’s memory. They still have his baby pictures. One of them appears in the introduction to An Ordinary Day, Karen’s photo book about families affected by rare, often painful, sometimes disabling genetic conditions.

Martin Parr’s Evocative Ode to Scotland

Tomintoul Highland Games, Tomintoul, 2006.

The East Mainland Show, Orkney, 2007.

In the title of his newest book from Damiani, Martin Parr suggests: Think of Scotland – and what comes to mind? Perhaps it is the wail of bagpipes held by men donning rich plaid kilts or visions of medieval castles lay in ruins sitting nobly on distant isles. Maybe you see fields of heather spread across the moor, under blue grey skies from which featherlike rain softly falls. Or maybe you dream of Mary Queen of Scots, walking to her death, defiantly disrobing to reveal a velvet petticoat and sleeves in crimson-brown, the color of martyrdom.

Or perhaps Parr’s directive draws to mind the words of Irvine Welsh who penned the classic novel, Trainspotting, a story of modern Scotland, in which he writes, “Choose Life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television, choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol, and dental insurance. Choose fixed interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisurewear and matching luggage. Choose a three-piece suit on hire purchase in a range of fucking fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who the fuck you are on Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing fucking junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pissing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked up brats you spawned to replace yourselves. Choose your future. Choose life… But why would I want to do a thing like that?”

It is here, in the space between these two realms, that Parr finds himself, a chronicler of the fabled land whose national animal is the unicorn. For more than 25 years Parr has traversed the country creating a body of work from the streets of Edinburgh to the markets of Glasgow, the Portree Games on the Isle of Skye to the agricultural shows in Orkney. The works, assembled here, have gone largely unpublished – until now. 

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.

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