All posts by Cary Benbow

Cary Benbow is a photographer, writer and contributor to a number of photography magazines. See his work at www.carybenbow.com or www.wobnebmagazine.com

Interview with photographer Kevin Faingnaert

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Cary Benbow (CB): How would you describe your work to someone viewing it for the first time?

Kevin Faingnaert (KF): Social documentary combining portrait, landscapes and structures to tell in depth stories which are both analytical and emotional. I have a sensitive and aesthetic visual approach.

CB: Why do you photograph? What compels you to make the images you create?

KF: It’s quite simple honestly – it’s a way to share what I love. Making photo stories is the only way I’m able to share my ideas and feelings on a certain topic. When I’m traveling, I need friends around me to share moments with. It’s the first thing I miss when traveling alone. So making pictures is a way to fill this gap and share my moments.

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CB: You spent one month photographing and living with the people in Matavenero, in the region of El Bierzo, Spain. What is the idea behind this project?

KF: In spring 2015 I ventured to Matavenero, a remote eco-village high up in the isolated mountainous region of North West Spain, to document the lives of its inhabitants. When I heard about Matavenero and their independent lifestyle, I was hooked immediately. They turn away from the way of modern life, based on efficiency and consumption, to live according to their beliefs. They built their own village in the middle of nowhere and are dependent only from their own gardens. I was extremely curious to see how they live, who they are, what they do, and why they abandoned their old life.

I consider myself a social documentary photographer, so this project relates to my other projects that it focuses on sub-culture and communities that are removed from the mainstream.

It’s a totally different story than Banger Days, my series on a merciless full-contact demolition sport where drivers use scrap cars to race, crash and destroy.

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CB: Your projects include editorial style shots along with portraiture – Why do you think people are so interested in portraiture, and how do you feel your work meets that need?

KF: People can find feeling and connect on a human level to a portrait and what they see in the person in the picture. This is impossible with for example a landscape. People don’t relate as much to a landscape or a structure, than another person.

I like to make landscape photos to show the environment, to show where people live, but it in the end, it are the persons in the photos who make the story.

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CB: Why do you present your work on your website without statements, or commentary about the project?

KF: I like to save the stories for interviews or to talk about it in real life. I also don’t like the make any big statements. I want to create a visual story where viewers can step into, explore and analyze without the need of commentary or statements.

CB: What/who are your photography inspirations – and why?

KF: There are so many and honestly, it chances every day. Alec Soth is a constant though, as well are Diane Arbus and Sally Mann. I love the work of Rob Hornstra and especially his Sochi Project. He’s a great documentary maker and storyteller.

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CB: How do you approach your personal work differently than editorial or commercial photography?

KF: I wish I had more experience in editorial photography to answer this question. Lately I’ve been putting a lot of effort and time in personal work. I do it slowly on my own pace. For example, when light conditions are not good enough to make the picture I want, I can just try again the next day, and the next day after,… This is not possible in editorial photography. It’s more fast-paced and you only get one chance to do it right.

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To view the Matavenero project, and other projects by Kevin Faingnaert, visit hiswebsite or view his Tumblr


 

This is an edited version of the interview originally published in F-Stop Magazine

Interview with photographer Laura Konttinen

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Cary Benbow (CB): What is your approach to photography or image-making as a visual artist?

Laura Konttinen (LK): What drew me to photography was realizing what a clever double agent it is; a photograph pretends to be an invisible window into an objective past, but is of course a deliberate point of view and often not that different from, say, a painting. I have this deeply rooted desire to reveal photography’s ‘fakeness’, somehow catch it in the act. At the same time, I can’t escape photography’s comforting link to the past.

My work process is a sort of ritual that quenches my thirst to preserve the past but at the same time cleanses me of its burden. The creation of each image involves multiple stages: browsing pictures I have taken on my travels, printing them, cutting, and making miniature arrangements. Photographing these staged landscapes gives a comforting finality to the vague experiences they are based on. They are now meaningful and they have a shape.

CB: What is the concept behind your portfolio images in this issue? How do they relate to your other projects, or how are they significantly different?

LK: Early on I realized that all of my artwork is somehow connected to nostalgia and memories. The portfolio I submitted features work from ”The Memory Project” (2010-2013) and ”Islands” (2014-ongoing). The images in ”The Memory Project” are based on my actual memories. I wanted to try and visualize the vagueness, the mutations and incoherencies that are a central part of memories. The series originated from my simultaneous frustration and fascination with photography’s connection to reality. It is easy for a photograph from a long gone place to replace the actual memory from that same place. I wanted to explore the visual possibilities to challenge that connection – to break apart the photograph and rebuild it as a more accurate representation of the surreal aspects of memories.
With ”Islands”, I have gone further, to the realm of imaginary. Each island is only loosely based on real places, and most of their character and story stems from mythologies, folk tales and symbols. In a way, the islands depict archetypes – they are places of fear, dreams, denial, isolation or sorrow. In history, literature and everyday life islands often become representations for different parts of the human psyche, as is demonstrated by their role as prisons, holiday paradises or untamed and harsh tests of survival.

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CB: In your opinion, what makes a good photograph?

LK: I am drawn to pictures that seem to be rich in symbolic meaning and melancholic undertones. In my own work I tend to be obsessively attracted to symmetry, overly saturated colours and a shallow depth of field, but in general I enjoy seeing work that is visually different from mine. I am in awe of the ”capture the moment” kind of photographers. My own work is very staged and there is little space for happy accidents, so an eye for fleeting moments is something that I admire.

CB: What are you inspired by?

LK: I am inspired by places, but only after they have started to fade in my mind. I only like to look at pictures I take on trips after I have started to forget the exact places and situations. The past is veiled in a new kind of glory when it’s affected by imagination and even fallacies.
I enjoy creating handcrafted illusions where an element does resemble a slice of a possible landscape, but is still obviously just a set-up. I feel this approach is similar to theatrical set design. In a theatre, set pieces can be just subtle symbols of real spaces, and the inherent fakeness is still accepted by the audience by default. I like playing with this same idea of things looking like something else, but still obviously looking like what they are – sugar is sea foam, but still just sugar.

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CB: What or who are your photography inspirations?

LK: Rather than photographers, I feel more inspired by conceptual artists. Even though my own work has a very different approach, themes and medium, I am fascinated by work like Yoko Ono’s instruction pieces, Joseph Beuys’s performance with a coyote and Sophie Calle’s journey secretly following a stranger from Paris to Venice. To me, the most interesting art gives a shape to the invisible oddities of human experience.

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CB: How would you describe your work to someone viewing it for the first time?

LK: I would invite them to explore the strange and the familiar in my work; to look beyond the softness and the bright colours.

To view more work by Laura Konttinen, visit her website athttp://www.laurakonttinen.net


 

Originally published in F-Stop Magazine

Photographer Malcolm Lightner

Malcolm Lightner’s work, as seen here from his new book, Mile O’Mud, will be shown at the New Orleans Photo Alliance Gallery through the end of May.

Watch for my upcoming review of Mile O’ Mud – as I slog through his images of Florida mud racing culture and portraits of the people connected to it.

Malcolm Lightner: Mile O’ Mud Through May 29, 2016 Churning the buttery muddy water at the Florida Sports Park, swamp buggy races keep Florida’s frontier heritage alive. With Mile O’ Mud, 4th generation native Floridian Lightner shows us his home’s beauty; scarred and raw, surrounded by lush blue sky and restorative greens and we witness…

via Malcolm Lightner @ New Orleans Photo Alliance Gallery — F-Stop Magazine

Book Review: Ikinga by Stephan Würth

 

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In late 2013, Stephan Würth embarked on a whirlwind road trip, winding his way across Burundi, a small landlocked nation in the heart of East Africa.  Discreetly capturing images on an iPhone during his journey, Würth portrays everyday life in the impoverished country, from the bustling open-air markets of its capital, Bujumbura, to the plantations of sweet banana and coffee deep in the country’s foothills.

The photographs highlight the integral role the bicycle, or ikinga, plays in Burundi’s culture. Würth’s images of this commercial bicycle culture are presented as a symbol of how the nation of Burundi is striving to overcome the decades of civil war and economic hardship since becoming an independent country in 1962.

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The book is bound in yellow cloth binding, with bright pink endsheets inside the front and back covers. Opening the book reminded me of when I used to work for a publishing company – when we got shipments from co-workers based in Chennai, India, the inside of their manilla envelopes had thin layers of brightly colored cloth with beautiful, printed patterns. Much like ikinga, once past the outer colorful display, there are materials needed to complete a project, materials needed to get work done. Würth’s scenes of life in Burundi show people living and working in impoverished areas, with few paved roads. Their bicycles are sturdy, and sometimes cobbled together with various repaired parts from different bikes. The goods transported via bicycle are crops like bananas and coffee, as well as building materials.

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Even though Würth consciously tried to avoid it in this project, one cannot completely ignore the political aspect of Burundi’s ethnic conflict and economic struggles, or the fact that Würth’s photos are that of a Western eye viewing a third-world country. But these ‘outsider’ portraits are similar in regard to those of Robert Frank, a Swiss photographer whose iconic images of America and Americans were taken in the 1950s. Frank’s images revealed a country quite different than what was being depicted by most American photographers at the time. Sometimes an outside viewpoint is exactly what is needed.

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In the book’s essay, Joseph Akel addresses the visual aspect of what Würth has accomplished in ikinga:

“Drawing from a conceptual lineage that traces back to Dziga Vertov’s ‘Man with a Movie Camera’, Jean Rouch’s ‘Chronique d’un été’, and August Sanders’ encyclopedic survey of Germany’s population at the turn of the century, Würth’s images manage to succinctly – and with little artifice – depict day-to-day life in Burundi. In perhaps one of the most striking images to come out of the series, a young mother with her baby strapped to her back, is seen riding sidesaddle on a bicycle-taxi. The image is remarkable, not so much for the amazing balancing act the mother seems to achieve on the back of the bicycle, as it is for the beautiful, warm, and direct smile that she has on her face. Ultimately, what comes across in the photographs that make up Ikinga is the resilient human face of a country that has, for too long, occupied a place in our collective imagination as a land of inhumanity.”

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These muted color photographs of the people of Burundi are a far cry from a leisurely weekend bicycle ride Westerners might enjoy. There are no images of people dressed in Lycra with colorful helmets, and energy bars. Whether it is a utilitarian bicycle capable of moving hundreds of pounds of goods, or a bicycle-taxi decorated with brightly colored reflectors, streamers, and handgrips – Würth’s book ikinga shows a culture of people who are strong and determined.


Stephan Würth is a photographer originally from Germany who grew up between Munich, Texas and California.  His work has been featured in international editions of Vogue, The New York Times, Porter Magazine, GQ, Playboy, Esquire, Galore Magazine, Treats Magazine and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition among others. In 2011, Stephan released his first book “Ghost Town” published by Damiani.

Joseph Akel is a New York based writer and editor. His non-fiction writing has appeared inThe New York Times, Vanity Fair, Interview, The Paris Review, New York Magazine, Artforum, Frieze, and V Magazine,  among others.


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Stephan Würth – Ikinga (with essay by Joseph Akel)
Cloth, 9.5 x 9.5 in. / 72 pgs / 31 color
Published by Damiani – May 2016 (U.S. publication)

For more information on ikinga, and other projects by Stephan Würth, visit his website. Purchase the book via Amazon: ikinga


 

This is an edited version of the review originally published in F-Stop Magazine

KENTUCKY CAPTURED: PHOTOGRAPHS INSPIRED BY THE BLUEGRASS STATE

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Ralph Eugene Meatyard American, 1925 – 1972
Untitled, 1970
Gelatin silver print
9 1/2 × 11 1/2 in. (24.1 × 29.1 cm.)
Lent by University of Louisville
Photographic Archives

Speed Art Museum, Louisville, Kentucky

Dates: March 12 – July 17, 2016
Location: Temporary Exhibitions Gallery, South Building
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Curated by: Elizabeth Reilly and Marcy Werner

Kentucky Captured surveys the many ways in which the Bluegrass State has inspired photographers in the twentieth century. This exhibition, selected exclusively from the University of Louisville Photographic Archives, is a travelogue stretching from urban to rural landscapes, backyards to graveyards, and from portraits to street photography. Bringing together Kentucky photographers and those from outside the state, the exhibition illustrates how the essence of Kentucky has influenced the photographer’s eye.

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David Graham American, born 1952
Graveyard, Clermont, KY, 1983
Chromogenic print
8 × 10 in. (20.3 × 25.4 cm.)
Lent by University of Louisville
Photographic Archives

See more online information from the Speed Museum. The museum collection is a notable catalog of artwork from pre-history artifacts to contemporary artwork – including a number of contemporary photos in their collection in their third floor North gallery.


All images shown are copyright of the respective artist or estates.

 

Landscape Photos Capture the Past and the Imaginary

This article by David Schonauer on Vantage highlights landscape photography of the past and present that ultimately helps us understand places unlike any other medium.

Out There Landscape Photos Capture the Past and the Imaginary

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Hetch Hetchy Valley. Photo by Matt Ashby Wolfskill (courtesy of Library of Congress)

(Intro to article) Some photographs preserve what is gone. Some capture places that were never there. Both are landscapes worth visiting. Over the past few weeks, there have emerged many stories and projects that deal with landscapes and the people who dwell in them.

We’ve learnt about places from the past that have disappeared — the Hetch Hetchy Valley of California’s Sierra Nevada, the twin of Yosemite that was dammed in 1923 to create a reservoir that holds 85% of the water used by San Francisco.

Elsewhere, we’ve seen documentary work on countries that are unrecognized by other states, such as ghostly Abkhazia, once a holiday spot for the Soviet elite, and the country of Transnistria, which may or may not be part of Moldavia, depending on your viewpoint.

Then there are landscapes that were created for a future that never arrived.

There are some places that only photography can take us. Read on


David Schonauer is editor of Pro Photo Daily. Follow him on Twitter. Jeffrey Roberts is publisher of Pro Photo Daily and AI-AP. Follow Jeffrey on Twitter. Follow Pro Photo Daily on Facebook.

Photography is a Marathon, Not a Sprint: Interview with William Olmsted

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William Olmsted’s work does not hit you over the head, or scream at you for attention. It is smarter than that. He shoots mainly with film and film cameras; opting for the approach of selective shooting. His approach toward taking photos involves long walks around his local area once a week or so with his camera, but it is common that he does not take a picture. Olmsted is thoughtful and patient. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

“Sometimes I see something in the backyard, or the store parking lot. Shooting isn’t really a regular thing for me, it is more like something that might happen…Something that catches my eye for a reason that is hidden from me at the time, something that can potentially fit in a body of work, something that I can’t imagine as a photograph, something I want to record for seventy year old me.”

His work includes images of birds and other animals native to his area. Some of the animals are trapped – both literally or figuratively in their environment. There are also images of discarded or broken objects – found by the roadside, or inside homes that appear to have sections that are not used, or the entire home may be abandoned. These thematic elements, his visual interplay with color or witty juxtaposed views, are well thought out. His recurring images with birds might leave the viewer with the metaphoric idea of flight or escape, in a physical or possibly spiritual way. His use of elements common to his particular area of the country could seem surreal to people who live in very different places. Olmsted’s images that include guns, knives, and the intrinsic artifacts of hunting exposes a distinct difference between people who live in rural areas versus urban environments.

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When asked to give a statement or overall description about his work, Olmsted wrote, “All my photographs are from the same small town on the coast of Maine where I have lived my entire life. They are a result of my desire for my hometown’s demystification and a consequence of my liminal place here, a looking-back, to say goodbye before I pack things up and leave for good. While not an authoritative view on what is often portrayed as a beautiful vacation place, I hope my photographs stand as an alternative one, because I find Maine’s marginal landscapes more compelling and important than it’s beautiful ones.”

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Q&A

Wobneb Magazine (WM): Why do you photograph? What compels you to make the images you create?

William Olmsted (WO): I like the process, the wandering. I wouldn’t have discovered the kind of perambulatory exploration I now enjoy so much were it not for photography and carrying a camera goes well with that.

I feel photography is something I can do and I enjoy its limitations and lessons.

There is also the little excitement of looking at my pictures for the first time weeks or months after I take them. That never gets old.

WM: There are so many ways to express oneself in a 21st-century world; What makes still photography your choice of expression? Do you create work in other mediums?

WO: I drew a lot as a young kid, then in high school I found photography and have mostly had a monogamous relationship with it. For a couple years, 2011 and 2012 I think, I didn’t take pictures at all. I dedicated myself to writing for hours a day, but it drove me nuts. A fundamental thing I learned from it was that I’m not a studio artist. I like being out in the world too much, and photography is a good compliment to that desire.

WM: In your opinion, what makes a good photograph?

WO: It would depend on the photograph. I don’t know if any general rule is applicable. Reasons for liking something can often be more ambiguous than not. I can tell you what makes a bad photograph, or why I don’t like something, but when something clicks and jives with my sensibilities, justifications often feel like hollow rationalization.

Maybe the one thing I could say is, something (is) hinted at. There is usually a sense of a thing left unsaid that I like about quality photographs and projects.

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WM: What/who are your photography inspirations – and why?

WO: My inspirations are people who work seriously at something over long periods of time. That drive is compelling to me, even when it flies in the face of convenience or even good judgement.

WM: You’ve cited photographers such as Gregory Halpern, Stacy Kranitz, and Lars Tunbjork as influences. In a way, do you see your work being stylistically similar and/or making a statement in a similar fashion as some of your influences? What is your intent for the viewer?

WO: Jeez, I dunno. Those are pretty big names who create really stellar work. To some degree, sure. Between equipment and environment I am probably treading similar path, so I guess it’s only natural that we might share something in common. Their work has influenced me, but so has the work of others across disparate mediums. Maybe there is some relationship between me and them, but that is probably best for the viewer to decide.

I know that a viewer will likely derive meaning from the work, so I might use that as a starting point, but any intent I have for a viewer is mostly non-existent. I guess it’s easy because there really aren’t any that I know of! On some level, I do want people to see my work and I like interacting with other photographers, so I throw my stuff on the internet, but another’s reading of my work isn’t a primary concern right now. Don’t hold me to it though, my feelings about an audience could change from project to project. I could see myself playing with the idea of viewership at some point.

WM: Do you feel your work makes a comment on a universal level, as well as the personal level? Your work is specific to a certain place – is it more about your experience, or do you feel it translates well to other people’s experiences or lives?

WO: My work is related to, and is a product of, my experience; but I don’t know how universal that is. Through the cadence of the photographs perhaps the viewer can enter the landscape and gain or feel something, even if their experience is distant from mine. Maybe that’s using the personal to access something less specific, more universal, I don’t know.

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WM: Would you please explain the idea behind the ‘Void Fraction’ series on your website? Why did you select these image to work together/against each other in a multipart series?
WO: Within photography’s coupling of vagueness and specificity I try to explore memory, sense of place and time as well as create as kind of clouded autobiography. I think these pictures ultimately reduce useful information about the places they were taken and create a kind of fictive alternate dimension which I enjoy adding to. I wanted to create something that was inspired by a year here while playing with the sense of the seasons and day/night cycles. I also found myself photographing many of the same subjects at different times of the year and I noticed patterns emerging that I thought might coalesce into an interesting project.

WM: There are elements of nature, wildlife, landscape, man’s inclusion/interaction with nature in your work – will you comment on why you choose to depict these elements in the way you do?

WO: Maybe I feel my photos of this place are more honest in some way, even though I feel they are lying too. That desire to portray this landscape a little differently gets filtered through various limitations and comes out as whatever it is.

Mostly its just intuition.

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WM: Who are the people that appear in your photographs? Do they have significance beyond the role of a”Figure” in your scenes?

WO: The people in these photographs are all immediate family. I wanted to approach this project from everywhere. Landscapes, portraits, still life, whatever. If it’s lacking one thing at this point it’s more pictures of people, but I still have a years worth of film to develop so we’ll see how things go.

WM: Besides throwing your images out on the Internet, do you see other avenues for your work at this time? Photobook? A gallery exhibition? Have you looked for a gallery to represent you, or do you feel that is an antiquated idea?

WO: I like the idea of a book. I’ve made some PDFs that are on a hard drive somewhere around here that function as a kind of ersatz book. I’ve made some small zines and prints on request, but that is about it.

I’ve never looked for a gallery to represent me and wouldn’t know how to go about being represented. I don’t think I’ve ever even been inside a gallery, so my ignorance is great enough that I have no reason to feel the idea is antiquated either.

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WM: Your statement that you are ready to pack up and leave your hometown for good leaves the impression that you possibly are at odds with the idea of your sense of place, and somewhat the idea of Beauty. Are not ‘marginal’ landscapes ones of Beauty as well? You could make strong work wherever you end up, but why leave Maine?

WO: I guess there is beauty, and then there is Beauty, and there is everything between. Perhaps conventional beauty is a better descriptor, or maybe I need to reword something.

Why leave? I’m finding other places more interesting, and this one less so.


William Olmsted
website: www.williamolmsted.com
tumblr: http://wramo.tumblr.com/
All photographs used by permission. Photos © William Olmsted. Originally published September 2015 by Cary Benbow in Wobneb Magazine.

Interview with photographer J.M. Golding

Cary Benbow: Why do you photograph? What compels you to make the images you create?

J.M. Golding: For me, the answer lies in both the process of creating, and in the images that result from that process. In terms of process, making photographs invites me into what the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls a flow state, which he describes as ‘‘an almost automatic, effortless, yet highly focused state of consciousness,’’ a state of deep absorption in the moment. For me, since I most often photograph in natural settings (an intentional choice based on both where I enjoy being and what I generally most want to see in photos), the flow state carries with it an experience of connecting with nature, what Ruth Bernhard referred to as “knowing what it feels like to be a leaf.” Not only is the experience of photographing wonderful (in the full sense of the word) for me, but then I get photographs, too! As much as I know intellectually that there are solid reasons in physics and chemistry that those pictures exist, I still experience photographs as a form of magic, as alchemy. And not just because they reproduce reality – to me, they’re all the more magical because they transform reality, sometimes in ways that can be quite surprising to my conscious self. I get to use these alterations in reality to create and/or discover metaphors that explore and transform subjective experience. Not only that, but when another person finds resonance in my work, that’s a form of connection between that person and me. It’s a pretty amazing experience all around.

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CB: What is the idea behind your images submitted to F-Stop’s issue, Wonder-Full? Are they part of a project, or why did you select these images?

JG: I chose the images I submitted from among my best work that seemed to express or contain a sense of wonder – something that is integral to photography for me. Some of the photos are part of various projects; others (including “At the frontier of the known world”) aren’t – or at least, for now, no project has cohered around those particular images for me.

The untitled piece is from a project called “Before there were words,” which is about preverbal experience that we retain, perhaps in our unconscious minds, long after it’s become possible, expected, and maybe typical for us to relate to the world largely through words. The photographs speak of pure actuality, that moment before verbal labels rush in to change experience.

“The land transforming” is part of the series, “From destruction grows a garden of the soul,” I made these photographs in the year and a half after a 2013 fire ravaged over 3,000 acres of mountain wilderness in northern California. I couldn’t resist the metaphor of beauty – and, visually, joy – coming into existence after, and as a direct result of, disastrous loss.

“This moment always” is from the series, “Where you are,” which explores integration of closeness and distance using double exposure. The photographs contain elements of each of two exposures, one focused close and one focused far away, fusing them to create an image that couldn’t have been anticipated by either one alone. In joining near and far, they also join solid and ethereal, objective and subjective, sharp and blurred, literal and metaphorical, real and imagined.

CB: In your opinion, what makes a good photograph?

JG: I think a good photograph is one that moves us, that feels meaningful, that has emotional resonance. Of course, that will differ to some extent from one person to another.

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CB: What/who are your photography inspirations – and why?

JG: As you can probably tell from what I said earlier, feeling a connection with nature is a basic inspiration for me. And I’m inspired by light and shadow … by openness to what lies beneath the surface of things … by the emotional resonance of a moment. In my experience, photography is where all of these inspirations meet.

Seeing other artists’ work, and conversation with other artists, are also important sources of inspiration for me. I’d like to mention just a few of those other artists. It probably sounds trite, but I can’t not mention the work of Ansel Adams. I was absolutely stunned from the first time I saw his work, which happened in my late childhood, around the time I took my first darkroom class at summer camp. His books The Camera, The Negative, and The Printwere an important foundation for me, both technically and esthetically.

I’ve also been very much influenced by Ruth Bernhard’s Gift of the Commonplace project. She said that “there is nothing unimportant in the universe” – which takes the emphasis away from the “subject” of the photograph, the thing in front of the lens, to the way it’s photographed, the light, the meaning, the artist’s subjective experience.

Jim Rohan’s photographs are a wonderful source of inspiration for me. In front of his lens, a rock becomes a mysterious symbol, magical light sifts through the trees or meanders along a coastline, a path becomes a gateway into another world, and reflections disclose meaning in their depths. I’m inspired by the ways he sees nature and light, and it’s clear to me that my sense of composition has changed as a result of looking as his photographs.

Amy Nicolazzo makes intensely subjective photographs, full of emotional resonance, inviting me to see deeply and to discover meaning, and frequently leaving me breathless. Often as I try to describe my experience of these photographs, I find the words slipping from my grasp, and I suspect that’s because the feeling is in the picture, not in words … an important aspect of what I hope to do in my own work.

Al Brydon makes otherworldly landscapes that hold a palpable sense of presence, of subjective reality. They’re truly evocative, often dreamlike and mysterious, and they engage me through their subtle qualities of darkness. Each moment in these images carries significance.

CB: How would you describe your work to someone viewing it for the first time?

JG: I usually say something like they’re primarily analogue, mostly black and white, soft, blurry, not entirely literal images of landscapes and landscape elements. But I’d rather just show the photos to the person.

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To see more of J.M. Golding’s work, see her website: http://fallingthroughthelens.blogspot.com/


Also published on Medium.

The Landscapes of photographer Mandy Williams

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Mandy Williams is a visual artist working primarily in photography and video. Her work covers range of subjects, but centers around the theme of the social dynamics arising from contemporary culture – particularly how personal identity is affected by environment and how our social and affective lives interconnect. This interest in the psychology of place has been a catalyst for both autobiographical and voyeuristic projects, documentary approaches to more conceptual ones. Much of her photographic and video works highlight the domestic environment, although some refer more broadly to place and sites in transition.

Her recent series share an underlying narrative about human interaction or presence. Some of these include Unseen Landscapes (2012-15), which use Google Street View as a starting point to create somewhere otherworldly, and Riverbed Stories (2012-15), photography and video documenting polluted river beds in South East London.

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Both ‘Unseen Landscapes’ and ‘Riverbed Stories’ stem from the idea of contemporary landscape. The detachment is undeniable in how people interact with the landscape, whether it is by remote observation, or utter disregard. A roadside natural setting is disrupted by castoff personal items such as mattresses, chairs, gloves, floating shoes and discarded baby carriages. The images point to the pollution of the natural setting, and also to a sense of detachment to nature by the people who thoughtlessly threw these items away. Williams depicts these items in the water and weeds with a sensibility toward the loss of both the intimate history of the items, as well as the lost natural beauty of the English landscape she documents.

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In the same sense, the detachment from nature in ‘Unseen Landscapes’ starts right at the moment the images are made. These landscape images captured by Google Street view are made without bias, without thoughtful intent. The images are made by an unblinking eye traveling the land. Williams presents her versions of these images as soft, monochromatic toned views. She has used images from this archive to present scenes that she herself has never seen in person, nor visited. Visually, the presentation of the images in a circular format references (intentionally or not) the early photographic prints made by the Kodak No. 1 camera. This makes for an interesting visual homage to one of the earliest commercial photo products (You press the button, and we do the rest) while appropriating images from one of the largest publicly available digital image databases in the world. So much of the world we experience online is via digital captures made half a world away; one has to wonder if ‘Unseen Landscapes’ is a commentary on the subject, or a reflection of it. Either way, Williams has created beautifully crafted portraits of the land which also prompt the viewer to think about their own interaction and connection with the world around them. 

To view the projects, or see Mandy Williams’ work, click here. Images shown are © Mandy Williams.


Mandy Williams is a photographer living in London, UK. She previously lived in Vancouver, Canada, but has since returned to her home country of England in 2002 and has been contributing to different exhibitions and publications in the UK, and internationally in exhibits and in publications.

Website: www.mandywilliams.com
Twitter: @artphotofilm

Interview with photographer Will Ellis

Cary Benbow: Why do you photograph? What compels you to make the images you create?

Will Ellis: It starts with a feeling of being intensely fascinated by a topic to the point where I have to externalize it. There’s an urge to capture it and show everyone else why it’s so amazing. I try to stay motivated with concrete goals, like completing a body of work for a book or exhibition.  I like to have a plan, stick to a subject, and really delve into it.

CB: What is the idea behind your images submitted to F-Stop’s issue, Wonder-Full? Are they part of a project, or why did you select these images?

WE: These are from a series I’m working on called ‘Arthur Kill Road’, which examines the remote edges of Staten Island, one of the five boroughs of New York City. Staten Island is often called “the forgotten borough” and has a decidedly different character than what people often associate with the city. It’s more suburban in nature, and not much of a tourist destination. But in certain areas, it has this really unique sense of place, with wild, open spaces, pockets of historic architecture, and all of these odd relics and ruins that have just been sitting there for decades.  There’s a quiet atmosphere and a “haunted” quality to these areas that is unlike anywhere else in the city.  And that feeling of “wonder” is definitely something I’m looking to evoke with this project.

CB: In your opinion, what makes a good photograph?

WE: There are so many approaches to photography; but I think the most important element of a good photograph is a clear and compelling subject. Beyond that, I like when a picture has an energy or mood that hits you immediately. And then it gives you something to chew on — details to pore over, or some element of surprise that invites you to study an image before you scroll down or move on to the next one.  There’s also basic technical things to consider. As an architectural photographer, I like very precise framing and straight lines–but I envy photographers whose images have that very subtle, effortless quality.

CB: What/who are your photography inspirations – and why?

WE: I love looking at the work of other photographers, Walker Evans is one that I always come back to, but in general, I tend to draw more inspiration from other mediums.  For this project, I used gothic literature as a reference for the atmosphere I was trying to create.  I’m playing with a lot of those tropes of the haunted house and the fog-ridden wilderness.  Visually, I looked at paintings by Andrew Wyeth and the German Romantic painter, Caspar David Friedrich.  But the style and color palette really comes through spending the time to get to know a place, figuring out what time of year or under what weather conditions to shoot, and slowly developing a cohesive look and tone throughout the project. It’s so important to look at a lot of work and appreciate what others are creating, but I think the best inspiration comes directly from the world around you.

CB: How would you describe your work to someone viewing it for the first time?

WE: Context is pretty important for my work. People want to know what they’re looking at, and that information can enrich the experience of the pictures. So I like to give a bit of historical background on the places I shoot.  With this project, I would say I’m looking for landscapes or settings that have an expressive quality, convey a mood, and tell a story.  The mood I’m drawn to again and again is eerie, dark, and mysterious. “Hauntingly beautiful” is a phrase I hear a lot.  But ultimately, I’m much more interested in hearing what the viewer has to say than explaining my own intentions.

For more of Will Ellis’ work: willellisphoto.com


Originally published for F-Stop Magazine in February, 2016 here.