Posts tagged: portrait photography

One Photographer Reflects on the Mysteries of the Human Body

When the gallerist Giles Huxley-Parlour discusses the work of Jocelyn Lee, he doesn’t talk about seeing the work “in person.” Instead, he uses the phrase “in the flesh.” When the poet Sharon Olds writes about Lee’s photographs, she uses the same word, asking, “What is this flesh, anyway?!” And when Lee describes her own images, she tends to use the word “naked” instead of “nude.” The Appearance of Things, created over the course of about a decade, is her exploration of our bodies, their strength, and their fragility.

One Photographer’s Love Letter to Appalachia

Erik, Athens

Hubie Bobo Lane, Chauncey

The Ohio photographer Rich-Joseph Facun remembers the exact day he started work on Black Diamonds: January 5th, 2018. He saw a stranger while leaving his doctor’s office, and he stopped briefly to greet him. “As we talked a little more, I began to get annoyed with myself,” the photographer remembers. “I knew I should photograph him.” After some consideration, he did, and he’s been sharing stories from the towns of Appalachian Ohio ever since.

The Stories of Marginalized People Around the World, in Photos

Moria #2: Rakan Alzahab, who fled the civil war in Syria, at the food tent at the Moria refugee camp on Lesbos, Greece, in February 2016. His inscription, in Arabic, reads, “Zabadani, we miss you.” It refers to his hometown, in the hills outside Damascus. (Artwork by Wayne Martin Belger; Photograph of artwork by Jade Beall)

Moria #3: An Afghan woman at the food tent at the Moria refugee camp on Lesbos, Greece, in February 2016. She had arrived after crossing the Aegean Sea in a smuggler’s rubber boat. Her inscription, in Dari, reads, “We love you all.” (Artwork by Wayne Martin Belger; Photograph of artwork by Jade Beall)

Syria’s civil war was hurtling into its third brutal year in the spring of 2014. Rakan Alzahab was 17. One day, when he was stopped at an army checkpoint near Damascus, a soldier examined his cellphone. Among the pictures on it was one of his cousin’s daughter holding a rebel group’s flag across her shoulder.

The soldier took him into a building where other soldiers beat him for two hours before setting him free. “I returned to my house where I lived with my mother and my sister,” Alzahab told Smithsonian by email. “My mother saw me and got shocked and said, ‘You will not stay here anymore. Go away and stay alive.’” And so began his long journey into exile.

The photograph of Alzahab on this page was taken while he was on Lesbos, where the Moria refugee camp, a fenced-in jumble of cheek-by-jowl shelters, left a big impression. After a sleepless night—“I was afraid something would happen to me or someone would come and steal my money”—he walked to the food tent. “I was in the line, waiting, when Wayne came with his camera. I asked myself, who is this man and what is he doing here?”

Wayne is Wayne Martin Belger, an American photographer, and he was volunteering at Moria while working on a project he has titled “Us & Them,” a series of unusual portraits of people who have been oppressed, abused or otherwise pushed to the margins. The camera that caught Alzahab’s eye is indeed a curiosity: 30 pounds of copper, titanium, steel, gold and other metals welded together into a box that makes pictures by admitting only a pinhole of light.

A Joyful, Fearless Exhibition About Women Photographing Women

Isabel Bateman in the Character of Queen Henrietta Maria, 1874 © Julia Margaret Cameron

Self-Portrait, Canal Saint Martin, Paris, 1930’s © Ilse Bing

American Girl in Italy, 1951 © Ruth Orkin

In 1865, The Photographic Journal published a review of the work of Julia Margaret Cameron. It ended with the line, “We are sorry to have to speak thus severely on the works of a lady, but we feel compelled to do so in the interest of the art.” On more than one occasion, she was dismissed, belittled, and even mocked, and in some cases, critics made special reference to her gender.

Now, a century and a half later, we recognize Cameron as a pioneer who left an indelible mark on the history of photography. “In many ways, Julia Margaret Cameron was a feminist even if there wasn’t a word for it,” Daniel Cooney, the gallerist behind Daniel Cooney Fine Art, tells me. “She was one of the first female practitioners of photography, and she was making images that revealed women as complex, intelligent people, even though they had very few rights.”

Beginning with that brilliant Victorian lady and extending through the Second, Third, and Fourth Wave, Cooney’s exhibition Into the Light honors generations of women behind–and in front of–the camera.

‘Photography on the Margins’ Offers a View of Another Kind of Life

Pieter Hugo Abdullahi Mohammed With Mainasara, Ogre-Remo, Nigeria 2007
From the series Hyena and Other Men © Pieter Hugo.
Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yossi Milo, New York.

Paz Errazuriz From the series La Manzana de Adan (Adam’s Apple), 1983
© Paz Errazuriz / Courtesy of the artist

The fringe photographs well. The drama, passion, and intrigue of lives pushing past boundaries, past definitions and social coded respectability naturally lends itself to the photograph, always offering a glimpse into something beyond the square lives of the mainstream.

In Another Kind of Life: Photography on the Margins (Prestel), author Alona Pardo, Curator at the Barbican Art Gallery in London, brings together an impressive collection of work that takes us inside worlds we might never otherwise see. Here, artists including Diane Arbus, Jim Goldberg, Danny Lyon, Mary Ellen Mark, Daido Moriyama, Pieter Hugo, and Larry Clark bring us into other worlds rarely seen, the realms of junkies and hustlers, trans women and street youth, gangsters and hippies, Rockability cats and Teds.

The Photographer Creating Posed Snapshots as a Reflection of Self


Black Eye

While attending the Yale School of Art for her MFA in photography, American photographer Danna Singer would spend her weekends photographing friends and family in her hometown of Bellcrest, a working-class neighborhood on the Jersey shore. As she shot, a series began to emerge, one that impresses viewers with a profound sense of alienation, pain, and numbness that came about as a result of generations trapped in a cycle of addiction, abuse, teen pregnancy, and lack of education and opportunities. Singer titled the series If It Rained an Ocean.

Inspired by the work of artists like Sally Mann, Diane Arbus, and Gregory Crewdson, Singer dives into the deep end and creates extremely intimate images where the facades have been stripped away and what remains is the pure, raw psyche of her subjects. In each of her photographs, there is a sense of a story so devastating it is eating away at the souls of all it possesses. There is something enormous yet hollow and so tender to the touch that you begin to imagine that there is much more than meets the eye in these photographs.

The Elegant Vulnerability of Rineke Dijkstra’s Portraits

Odessa, Ukraine, August 7, 1997

Marianna (The Fairy Doll) 2014 (videostill)

Dutch photographer Rineke Dijkstra is a relentless formalist, always cool to the touch, bringing a taste of August Sander’s skillful psychology to her portraiture. In June 1992, she traveled to Hilton Head Island to begin Beach Portraits, a series of full-length photographs filled with awkward glamour and quiet grandeur, provoking a response, a sense of evaluation waiting to happen in the moment. Do you like what you see? Want to know more? Each photograph reads as an invitation beyond the moment into something infinitely richer and more complex.

A master at capturing the interior lives lurking just below the flesh, Dijkstra uses the camera as a way to capture both the outer appearance and inner realities, show the ways in which they complement and contrast one another in a quiet moment in time. Using a 4×5 camera, Dijkstra creates, “A space where things can happen. The people I shoot really have to open themselves up to me. And I have to open up, too. It’s an interaction.”

One Photographer’s Commitment to the Vulnerable Wild Horses of the United States

Wild Horse Family, Sandwash Basin, CO

Moonlit Dance


Horses helped ease Tori Gagne‘s homesickness when she was a young girl away at summer camp. As an adult and a photographer, Gagne now sees the equine species as a kind of mirror for the pieces of ourselves we’ve lost. “Horses connect us to a deeper part of ourselves that remembers wildness, freedom, nature and open spaces,” she tells me. “They can feel your emotion and reflect it back to you, showing you your true self.” Today, she documents and advocates for the lives of wild horses in the United States.

Intimate Portraits of Just-Released Inmates Leaving Prison

Huntsville, Texas, is a prison town, home to 11 different units of varying degrees of security. The Department of Criminal Justice has been the largest employer in Huntsville since 2005, making just about everyone in the town of 38,000 indirectly affiliated with the prison industrial complex.

The Wallis unit, the largest prison in Huntsville, serves as the regional release center for the state, with an average of 100 to 150 men being bussed in from other facilities every weekday. If a newly-released inmate does not have someone picking them up, they walk a couple of blocks to the Greyhound bus station, where they can catch a specially designated bus out of town.

A Look Inside a Protest Camp on the Fringes of London

Outside of the eco-village Grow Heathrow, you can find a sign reading, “Open to visitors 10am-6pm.” In 2011, the London photographer Jonathan Goldberg became one of those visitors. “During my first visit to this off-grid community, I was greeted warmly, then promptly handed an axe to chop some firewood,” he remembers. “I loved the hands-on manner of this lifestyle, and the closeness to nature which living amongst trees and bush provided.”

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