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Posts tagged: portrait photography

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.

The Artist Challenging Gender, Sexual, and Racial Stereotypes in Photos

Lola Flash, Dominque, Brooklyn, 2011, from the series [sur]passing.

Lola Flash, Raven O, USA, 2017. From the series LEGENDS.

African-American photographer Lola Flash first rose to prominence during the late 1980s when she began documenting the work of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP). As a member and activist, Flash photographed demonstrations in New York, Washington DC, and London, marching in solidarity in a life-or-death fight against the government.

She developed her signature cross-color style at this time as a means to subvert the perceptions of race and representation that have long informed and defined so much of the photographic canon. The subject of color has been a thread that continues throughout her work, leading her to explore the subject of colorism and the impact of pigmentation on Black identity and consciousness.

In the new exhibition, [sur]passing on view at Autograph in London through August 17, 2019, Flash presents a series of larger-than-life portraits of global diasporic figures posed against the urban skyline, inviting us to consider our response complexion in all its many splendored forms.

It’s a subject that is discussed at length within the Black community, in large response to the conditions imposed by white supremacy. Many outside the community may consciously or unconsciously ascribe to the heavily socialized stereotypes around light and dark skin, not to mention hair texture and facial physiognomy. By centering and celebrating color, Flash continues to push redefine representation of Black identity from the inside.

The exhibition also includes a selection of bold and experimental early works from Flash’s series Cross Colour and Gay to Z, alongside works from her ongoing series LEGENDS, portraits of prominent members of queer and non-gender conforming communities. Here Flash reflects on working three decades in the trenches.

An Intimate Look at the Secret Life of April Dawn Alison

“Everyone has three lives: a public life, a private life and a secret life,” the novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez knowingly remarked, reminding us that what we see and what we believe is often just an illusion of sorts. Beneath it all, lays the true self, an identity we often keep hidden from the world — including ourselves.

But there are those who dare to delve into the person they are we no one else is there to witness it. These moments are a manifestation of something beyond the person others see: it is the self that exists within our deepest being. To record this, to document it, to create evidence of that which exists for no one else — this takes nerve. It is here our story of April Dawn Alison begins.

In 2017, a painter named Andrew Masulio donated an archive of over 8,000 Polaroids to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) — previously unseen self-portraits of April Dawn Alison, the female persona of Alan Schaefer (1941-2008), an Oakland-based photographer who lived in the world as a man. The archive reveals to us a fully-realized secret life beautifully revealed in the exquisite monograph, April Dawn Alison (MACK), selections from which are currently on view at SFMOMA through December 1, 2019.

A Powerful Portrait of the First Peoples of Australia

In 1899, British/Australian biologist and anthropologist Sir Baldwin Spencer and telegraph-station master Francis J. Gillen published The Native Tribes of Central Australia, an in-depth study of the customs and traditions of the Aboriginal groups living near Alice Springs. Initiated as members of the Arunta tribe, the authors were the first Europeans to witness the customs and social structures of a people that the state of Australia did not recognize.

The book featured 119 photographs, many of sacred rituals and ceremonies never seen by the Western world before. While the book caused a sensation in Europe, it failed to take into account the impact it had on those it documented — quite literally as such encounters with the disease-carrying Europeans often resulted in death:

“The very kindness of the white man who supplies him, in outlying parts, with stray bits of clothing is by no means conducive to the longevity of the native. If you give a black fellow, say a woollen shirt, he will perhaps wear it for a day or two, after that his wife will be adorned with it, and then, in return for perhaps a little food, it will be passed on to a friend. The natural result is that, no sooner do the natives come into contact with white men, than phthisis and other diseases soon make their appearance, and, after a comparatively short time, all that can be done is to gather the few remnants of the tribe into some mission station where the path to final extinction may be made as pleasant as possible.”

Memories of Terence Donovan’s Swinging Sixties

Georgia Gold Fashion shoot for Queen magazine 26 May 1964 

Sophia Loren May 1963. In costume on the Spanish set of Anthony Mann’s ‘The Fall
of the Roman Empire’ Queen magazine

British fashion photographer Terence Donovan embodies the quintessential rags-to-riches tale but a modern twist: for all of his commercial success, a darkness cast a pall, and leading the legendary lensman to commit suicide at the age of 60, in 1996.

Although he made his name in the Swinging Sixties as part of the “Black Trinity” that included fellow fashion photographers David Bailey and Brian Duffy, Donovan rarely exhibited his work. ‘Terence didn’t want to look back,’ Robin Muir, former photo editor of British Vogue told The Guardian in 1999. ‘I think it is very much part of his generation’s way of approaching photography not to see themselves as artists, but as people who pick up the camera and then move on.”

Now, a new exhibition shines a light on his iconic work. Terence Donovan: The 1960s – Vintage Prints from the Archive on view Huxley-Parlour in London through July 27, 2019, presents sections of his most famous images alongside rarely-seen works. The exhibition begins in 1959, when Donovan, then 22, opened his first London studio, and charts his career as he came to define the look of post-war Britain’s first youthquake — a time of sex, frocks, and rock & roll that still reverberates today.

Stunning Portraits of LGBTQ Writers at the Height of the AIDS Crisis

Robert Giard. Storme Webber, New York City, 1990. 15 x 15”, gelatin silver print.
Webber is a poet, playwright, educator and artist. Her collections of poetry include “Diaspora”, “Blues Divine” and “Noirish Lesbiana”.

Robert Giard. John Giorno, New York City, 1993. 15 x 15”, gelatin silver print.

On July 16, 2002, American photographer Robert Giard died doing what he loved best — traveling across the country to make portraits of LGBTQ+ writers. In total, Giard photographed some 600 writers from all walks of life, creating a visual record during the height of the AIDS crisis.

Giard’s inclusive spirit lead him to create a veritable catalogue that encompasses not only a broad swath of enthographic communities, but a diverse array of literary practitioners, be it novelists, playwrights, and poets or journalists, historians, and activists including Stonewall rebels Sylvia Rivera and Storme De Laverie.

The photographs were first published in the landmark book Particular Voices: Portraits of Gay and Lesbian Writers (MIT Press, 1997), and in 2004, the renowned Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University acquired Robert Giard’s complete archive as part of the Yale Collection of American Literature.

Now a selection of 53 portraits are on view in Particular Voices: Photographs of LGBTQ Writers, Artists and Activists, 1980’s – 90’s at Daniel Cooney Fine Art, New York, now through July 26, 2019. Here, we get first-person accounts of Giard through the eyes of those who sat for him as well as Jonathan Sillin, Giard’s life partner, co-president of the Robert Giard Foundation, and executor of the Robert Giard Estate.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Legend in Their Own Time

Georgia O’Keefe, Ghost Ranch, New Mexico, 1968. Silver Gelatin Photograph, 12 15/16 x 8 3/4 inches. Stamped verso. Print Made Later

Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1947. Silver Gelatin Photograph. 9 3/16 x 12 1/2 inches. Stamped verso. Print Made Later

Diana Vreeland, 1974 . Vintage Silver Gelatin Photograph Mounted to Board, 13 5/8 x 10 5/8 inches. Signed, titled and dated in pencil on mount recto. Titled in pencil on mount verso. Print made c. 1974

Known as the “father of the environmental portrait,” American photographer Arnold Newman (1918–2006) transformed the way in which we consider the person we are gazing upon. By taking them out of the studio and restoring them to their rightful place, we see the subject as a product of their environment — and their environment as an extension of the inner self.

“You don’t take pictures with your camera. You take pictures with your mind and your heart,” Newman said, recognizing the underlying connection between the artist, their subject, and the work itself.

Hailing from New York, Newman had his first solo exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1945, garnering national attention for his revealing portraits collected for Artists Look Like This. It’s a subject that Newman revisited throughout his long, illustrious life, and the basis for the recent exhibition Arnold Newman, Artist Portraits at Fahey/Klein in Los Angeles.

Sam Gregg documents the true story of Naples

Whether its the slums in Klong Toey, Bangkok, or Britain filled with “greasy spoons” and “pie and mash shops”, London-based Sam Gregg is a portrait and documentary photographer drawn towards capturing marginalised and dispossessed communities.

Through honest and captivating imagery, Gregg encompasses his environment by fully immersing himself in his surroundings. Over the years he’s formed a body of work that’s full of impactful stories and narratives – so enlightening, so vulnerable and so empowering that it’s hard to witness any of his collections come to an end.

Within See Napes and Die, his ongoing project that began in 2016, Gregg travels to four of central Naples’ most historically rich yet volatile areas: Rione Sanità, Quartieri Spagnoli, Forcella and Santa Lucia. With an aim to “humanise the city’s plight” while “showing that those who are affected are tangible human beings before they’re political units” – says Gregg in the summary, the series is a response to the media and its glamorisation of Naples’ negative image.

‘Selfie Harm’: experiment shows what’s problematic about editing apps

In his series, entitled Selfie Harm, photographer Rankin highlights the pitfalls of tech and social media with regards to our self-esteem and mental health.

Made in collaboration with agency M&C Saatchi and MTArt Agency, the project involved asking teens aged from 13 to 19 years old to retouch their selfies based on what they deem as beautiful, before posting those edited images online.

Haley Morris-Cafiero parodies her body-shaming bullies

Haley Morris-Cafiero, Fake Waist Girl, The Bully Pulpit

Haley Morris-Cafiero, Body Builder, The Bully Pulpit

Nine years ago, American photographer Haley Morris-Cafiero embarked on a social experiment. She set up a camera on a tripod in a busy public area – Times Square, New York, to be exact – and photographed herself as she performed mundane tasks. Strangers passed her by and, among the thousands of images taken, she noticed that there were some questionable smirks made by those around her: body shaming, caught on camera.

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