fbpx
Menu

Posts tagged: documentary photography

A Multi-Faceted Portrait of the Genius of Photographer Jim Marshall

Man outside a liquor store in Oakland, California, 1962

Black musicians still had to fight to perform in venues in non-black neighborhoods, even though the black and white locals of the American Federation of Musicians had merged. North Beach, San Francisco, 1960.

John Coltrane listening to playback at Rudy Van Gelder’s studio for Impulse Records, New York City, 1963

When most people think of photographer Jim Marshall (1936-2010), scenes from rock and roll history come crashing to mind: Jimi Hendrix setting his guitar on fire during the Monterey Pop Festival; Johnny Cash flipping the bird at San Quentin State Prison; Janis Joplin lounging like a vixen in a sparkly mini-dress with a bottle of Southern Comfort in hand; the Charlatans playing the Summer of Love concert in Golden Gate Park.

But Marshall’s roots go deeper than rock: they thread through the history of jazz, in the nightclubs and festivals where he honed his skills as self-taught photographer coming of age in Jim Crow America. A perennial outsider, Marshall championed the underdog, the spaces where the oppressed and exploited transformed their pain and sorrow into beauty and art.

As a man of the streets, Marshall understood the power of the activist to transform the way we see and think. He used the camera as his instrument, to tell the story of the people and the times — not just the headlining names but the regular folks who fought for the cause that we’re still fighting for more than half a century after he made some of his most indelible photographs.

A Powerful Journey Through San Quentin, California’s Oldest And Most Notorious Prison

Unknown (American, 20th century). Soul Day 8-9-76, from the San Quentin State Prison Archive, 1976, printed 2018. Inkjet print.

Unknown (American, 20th century). Mother’s Day 5-9-76, from the San Quentin State Prison Archive, 1976, printed 2018. Inkjet print. 

In 2011, visual artist Nigel Poor entered San Quentin, the oldest, most notorious prison in California. Prior inmates include Charles Manson, Sirhan Sirhan, Black Panther Party members Eldridge Cleaver and George Jackson, and Stanley “Tookie” Williams, co-founder of the Crips street gang and one of the many inmates executed in the prison death chamber.

The image of San Quentin looms large in popular culture through film, television, music, and literature dating back to John Steinbeck’s 1937 novel, Of Mice and Men — creating fictional, often misinformed narratives that cast a long shadow over the true stories of those inside the prison walls.

Unlike those inside San Quentin, Poor entered of her own volition in 2011 as a volunteer teacher for the Prison University Project, teaching the history of photography to inmates. Inside the prison, Poor discovered an astounding wealth of stories that were waiting to be told, stories that became the basis for The San Quentin Project: Nigel Poor and the Men of San Quentin State Prison, currently on view at the Berkeley Art Museum Pacific Film Archive through November 19, 2019.

In The San Quentin Project, Poor counters fiction with fact through a series of profound personal histories shared in photographs, visual documents, and Ear Hustle, an acclaimed podcast co-produced with Earlonne Woods. Originally designed to run exclusively on the San Quentin institutional channel, Ear Hustle became a platform for inmates to tell their story in their own words. Since it began, it has been broadcast beyond their wildest dreams, airing throughout the entire California prison system as well as 114 UK prisons.

Here Poor and Woods share their experiences creating an archive of San Quentin’s history, past and present.

Gavin Watson Looks Back on His Childhood as a British Skinhead

Long before the UK skinhead scene was co-opted by right-wing movements it was a culture created by the working class looking to forge a connection across the races. If first emerged on the streets of London in 1969 in response to the self-indulgent pretensions of bourgeois hippiedom. Forged in the council estates and East End slums, skinhead culture combined the style and sound of the Windrush generation with the back-to-basics aesthetics of post-war Britain. It was reborn again in the late 1970s and 80s, just as photographer Gavin Watson came of age.

By the time Watson left school at age 16, he had shot some 10,000 pictures of his friends in High Wycombe, documenting the poignant beauty of their daily lives, finding inspiration and solace in the space where rebellion, style, and self-actualization meet. In Oh What Fun We Had! (Damiani), Watson delves into his archive for a fresh look at a vastly misunderstood and misrepresented culture before the right-wing infiltrated it and spread disinformation through the mainstream media.

Beginning in 1994, with the publication of his first book skins, Watson has been on a mission to reclaim his roots and culture from those who have disrespected it. Here he shares his experiences and insights into the truth about skinhead culture — a history that can only be told by an insider.

The Hope and Resilience of Animals, in Photos

“I first saw Chloe as I was passing a beautiful rolling pasture on my drive home,” Debra Hodges remembers. “It was late afternoon. Her whiteness was shimmering against the dark green of the forest behind her as she grazed in a pasture green with the promise of warmer days ahead. I’d driven by that pasture for years and had never seen her. I knew I had to photograph her.”

After weeks of searching for the property owner and the lessee, Hodges finally got to meet Chloe–a senior horse in her 20s. Chloe had been with her family for eight years, and she had melanoma. “From a distance, she was perfection,” the artist says. “Up close she had a large mass growing at the edge of one of her eye sockets. And the base of her tail was deformed by a collection of lesions and growths that hadn’t yet interfered with her bodily functions but would before long.”

Cruising Down “The Boulevard” of the San Fernando Valley During the 1970s

After World War II came to a close, a new phenomenon crept across the United States. As many adolescents no longer had to drop out of school and get a job to support their family, the era of the teenager began. Born of a potent combination of combination of leisure time, disposable cash, angst, boredom and rebellion, teens soon discovered true freedom came from owning or borrowing a set of wheels.

The car — perhaps the most potent symbol of American self-determination at the expense of the environment — became the vehicle to freedom of a sort: the ability to go cruising at night. From the late 1940s through well into the 1990s, cruising down the main streets, avenues, boulevards, and specially designated strips became the coolest thing a teen could do.

Growing up in the San Fernando Valley of Southern California during the 1950s and ‘60s, American photographer Rick McCloskey spent his youth cruising Van Nuys Boulevard every Wednesday night. His family home, just one city block from “The Boulevard” was located a few blocks from the famed Bob’s Big Boy Restaurant, home of the All-American meal: burgers and milkshakes.

Lyrical Photos of Trails Left Behind After the Kill

On the northeastern tip of Hokkaido, Japan, Shiretoko National Park lies in the balance. Taking its name from the native Ainu language, “the place where the earth protrudes” is one of the most remote places in the island nation. The temperate and subalpine mixed forests are home to brown bears and Kamuiwakka Falls, a hot springs waterfall known as “water of the gods.”

Designated as a 2005 UNESCO World Heritage Site, the park is also home to deer, whose population has been controversially culled by the government. Japanese photographer Takashi Homma began documenting the site of the kills in 2009, working over the next decade to compile a series of work just published in Trails (MACK).

Capturing Shadowman, New York’s Most Notorious Street Artist, in Never-Before-Seen Photos

Canadian artist Richard Hambleton (1952-2017) emerged from the Lower East Side art scene in New York as an urban legend at a time when the city was filled with characters that inspired some of Hollywood’s most iconoclastic films.

The young artist first left his mark on the streets of 15 cities across Canada and the United States between 1976 and 1979, creating Image Mass Murder Art — a series of police-style “chalk” outlines painted around volunteer “homicide victims.” In some cases he splashed red paint to add a hyperrealistic touch to the “crime scene.”

By 1979, Hambleton was firmly established in New York at a time when the Lower East Side was coming into vogue during the era of graffiti and street art. Alongside contemporaries such as Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, Hambleton became notorious for his “Shadowman” paintings that loomed ominously on the streets, in the alleys, and at corners waiting to strike pedestrians at a time when street crime was a regular feature of daily life.

Celebrating the Second Annual Latin American Foto Festival in the Bronx

Fred Ramos. A Honduran child plays near train tracks in Arriaga, Chiapas, in southern Mexico, October 2018.

Johis Alarco?n. Nicole Carcelén, 19, plays with a cotton plant in her hair. The black slaves who first came to Ecuador were forced to work in cotton fields, cane fields and coal mines. For Nicole, cotton plants represent the strength of her ancestors and the strength of their blood. La Loma, 2018.

Yael Martinez. Alin Granda at her father’s home in Taxco Guerrero.Ignacio Granda went missing in Iguala Guerrero on May10, 2013 Alin was one year old.With more than 100 thousand deaths that the fight against organized crime has left, there is a generation of children growing in a context of violence. Guerrero Mexico on July 13, 2017.

With the second edition of the Bronx Documentary Center’s Latin American Foto Festival, curators Michael Kamber and Cynthia Rivera provide a space for photographers living and working in Latin America to tell their stories on their terms. The Festival, held in nine venues throughout the Melrose neighborhood of the Bronx, gave some 50,000 residents — many of whom are Latinx immigrants — the opportunity to engage with stories from their homelands through exhibitions, workshops, tours, and panel discussions.

The history of colonized lands is rarely told by those who have suffered the fate of centuries of imperialism that have systemically decimated the people and the lands of every continent outside Europe. Over the past 200 years, the people of Latin America have fought for independence and sovereignty, and against puppet regimes installed by the United States that first began in 1823 under the Monroe Doctrine.

As ICE raids systemically target Black and Latinx communities, the Foto Festival provides a pertinent moment to pause and reflect on the impact of white supremacy in its many forms, and the ways in which those it aims to exploit, oppress, and erase fight back in a struggle for life or death.

Picturing the Banality of Evil in the Ominous Workings of the State

Many Americans profess surprise at the inhumane social practices coming from the present White House. Perhaps they are comforted that they once had the luxury to have never been concerned about the forces of the military and prison industrial complexes weighted against foreign lands and U.S. citizens alike.

Perhaps the carnage of AIDS never touched their families. Perhaps they were never the victim of land grabs, medical experimentation, or any number of the genocidal acts waged by this nation that are documented in the annals of history and the on-going subject of current events.

“I guess the only time most people think about injustice is when it happens to them,” poet Charles Bukowski opined, summing up the new wave of “Not my country!” that greets those who have chosen denial over truth up until it finally affected them.

Deconstructing the Visual Language of Group Photography

Bob Adelman (1930–2016), People Wall, World’s Fair, New York, 1965, gelatin silver print. The Morgan Library & Museum, Purchased as the gift of Nancy and Burton Staniar, 2015.131. © Bob Adelman Estate

Amy Arbus (b. 1954), The Clash, NYC, 1981, gelatin silver print. The Morgan Library & Museum, Gift of Amy Arbus, 2018.74 Copyright © Amy Arbus

The mind loves to generalize, group and sort, to make categories where they might exist and impose them where they do not. It’s simpler this way; superficiality releases us of the presence of complexity, contradiction, and inconsistency that are the hallmarks of life. Once sorted and filed, we can rely upon confirmation bias to avoid the painful discomfort of ignorance.

The photograph — in as much as it is art, artifact, evidence, testimony, illusion, and artifice — allows us to simultaneously reinforce and question the assumptions we hold. It is only fitting that a group show about the group could offer the possibility of exploring the many facets of our insatiable desire to organize life into neat and palatable portion sizes.

In Among Others: Photography and the Group, now on view at The Morgan Library & Museum in New York through August 18, 2019, Joel Smith, the Morgan’s Richard L. Menschel Curator brings together more than 60 works from the 1860s through the present that explore that which we have long taken for granted as a photographic archetype.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Get some visual inspiration into your day!

Sign Up for the Best Stories in Photography

Expert advice from photo industry professionals every Friday + get our guide to mastering Instagram (for FREE)!

Thanks for signing up to the Feature Shoot newsletter!