Category Archives: Book Review

Coincidences by Jonathan Higbee

© Jonathan Higbee. From Coincidences, Anthology Editions

When viewing the work of Jonathan Higbee, I am reminded of the metaphor of theater as applied to street photography. Whichever street corner, subway station, beachfront, or billboard Higbee selects as the tableau, it feels like a magnificent theater with a diverse cast of characters performing in an unscripted play on an ever-changing stage. As individuals interact with one another in these tightly-packed public spaces, occasionally extraordinary situations unfold that are unexpected, mysterious, humorous or poignant. A strange or wonderful juxtaposition may materialize and then vanish in a split-second. Such ephemeral events are often overlooked or quickly forgotten. Higbee captures these fleeting moments as evocative, richly-layered images that allow each viewer to enjoy the sense of wit and painstaking patience Higbee undertakes.

It is somewhat unappreciative to say his images are merely serendipity, or lucky happenstance. Jonathan Higbee spent years meticulously documenting these fleeting juxtapositions on the streets of New York. The intersections of pedestrians, street signs, billboards, and more take on new meaning and life: as a dancer on a stage of trash, graffiti unfurling from a backpack, or even a giant casually walking the streets of the city. Each photograph captures the wit, joy, and surrealism of everyday life in a sometimes chaotic world. The resulting images are a visual language of their own; an expression that is equivalent to the final situation captured. The sum is greater than its parts. The craft and attention required to make this body of work should prompt us to pause and reflect on how magical these instances truly are.

© Jonathan Higbee. From Coincidences, Anthology Editions
© Jonathan Higbee. From Coincidences, Anthology Editions
© Jonathan Higbee. From Coincidences, Anthology Editions
© Jonathan Higbee. From Coincidences, Anthology Editions
© Jonathan Higbee. From Coincidences, Anthology Editions
© Jonathan Higbee. From Coincidences, Anthology Editions
© Jonathan Higbee. From Coincidences, Anthology Editions
© Jonathan Higbee. From Coincidences, Anthology Editions
© Jonathan Higbee. From Coincidences, Anthology Editions

 


Coincidences by Jonathan Higbee
Foreword by Dustin Lance Black and an afterword by Jonathan Higbee
Hardcover
160 pages, 125 images
10 inches x 8.85 inches
ISBN 9781944860257

Anthology Editions is an independent book publisher based in Brooklyn, New York. anthologyeditions.com

Jonathan Higbee will be in discussion with photographer Harvey Stein at Rizzoli Bookstore, New York on December 11, 2019 at 6pm. See their website for information: https://www.rizzolibookstore.com/events

Jonathan Higbee is a New York-based photographer who is often noted for his street photography, but his portfolio also includes fine art and commercial work. His photos have been exhibited all over the world and have been featured in numerous publications such as Huffington Post, Daily Mail, and Buzzfeed. His unique vision has amassed a large following on social media, including a major presence for his Coincidences series on Instagram. He was awarded the World Street Photography grand prize in 2015, a LensCulture Street Photography Award in 2016, and most recently was a 2018 Hasselblad Masters finalist.

Dustin Lance Black is an American screenwriter, director, film and television producer, and LGBT rights activist. He has won a Writers Guild of America Award and an Academy Award for the 2008 film, Milk. Black is a founding board member of the American Foundation for Equal Rights and writer of 8, a staged reenactment of the federal trial that led to a federal court’s overturn of California’s Proposition 8.

Legacy in Stone: Syria Before War – by Kevin Bubriski

Kevin Bubriski was on assignment in Syria in 2003, during the infancy of the U.S. war in neighboring Iraq. He was photographing the country’s ancient monuments, as well as documenting the daily lives and ordinary human stories of its citizens. Unbeknownst to him, within the decade, a war would break out in Syria, and destroy or damage much of what he had photographed. Legacy in Stone: Syria Before War is a collection of 100 black-and-white photographs immortalizing the ancient monuments of Syria.

Until the Syrian civil war in 2010, the Suq (an open marketplace) in Aleppo was considered to be the longest continuously inhabited place of commerce in the world, existing for well over two millennia. Bubriski photographed the Suq while it was still thriving, teeming with merchants and artisans. He also captured stunning, decisive images from the Dead Cities, the basilica of St. Simeon, the pilgrimage sites of Serjilla, al-Bara, Kharab Shams, Mushabak, Baqirha, Qalb Lozeh, Resafe, early Islamic sites near Raqqa, and the ancient Roman trade cities of Apamea and Palmyra.

Bubriski recalls a special sense of discovery and awe being in a place of such rich history and haunting beauty. He remembers holding his breath and seeing the ruins take shape on the ground-glass of his camera as he gathered and preserved these sites forever in photographs. In an interview with public radio station WBUR earlier this year, Bubriski and Syrian scholar Amr Al-Zam spoke about important aspects of the project and the photographs. Al-Zam wrote the foreword to the book, and he said, “Syria is very fortunate in that it is an extremely rich region in terms of the amount of cultural heritage that we have. So even as we have lost such amazing, beautiful sites and monuments, there is still a huge amount left. My concern is that our ability to then make sure that future generations can see, feel, and experience the same things that we have and if not the same way, in just as equally meaningful manner.” But Al-Zam has also been quoted saying… “the damage is phenomenal and it’s gone forever. It can never be returned or retrieved.”

Bubriski’s images of Syria feature the architecture, and in some cases, the people he encountered at a number of the sites he photographed. The living legacy of Syria, its people, will endure. This is in contrast to the ruins of cities, cathedrals, and infrastructure that had stood for centuries. Generations of Syrians will never get to experience the rich history firsthand. Bubriski’s images serve to document and educate.  Roman columns and roadways, Suq rope makers and soap sellers, stacks of limestone abstracted in his compositions – in light of the destruction that has happened since the images were made, I felt lucky to be able to view these scenes. In the same WBUR interview, Bubriski says, “Everything has been damaged to some extent. Some things have been entirely destroyed. … This was a direct assault on the cultural history of place, and also the multi-ethnic cultural histories, because there were the ancient Romans and the early Christians and the Byzantine world, followed by the early Islamic world. All of that was targeted by ISIS and others.”

Some of the scenes Bubriski captured may never exist again. Without him as witness, and his photographs as evidence, this aspect of world history might have remained lost.

From Legacy in Stone by Kevin Bubriski, published by powerHouse Books

 

From Legacy in Stone by Kevin Bubriski, published by powerHouse Books

 

From Legacy in Stone by Kevin Bubriski, published by powerHouse Books

 

From Legacy in Stone by Kevin Bubriski, published by powerHouse Books

 

From Legacy in Stone by Kevin Bubriski, published by powerHouse Books

 

From Legacy in Stone by Kevin Bubriski, published by powerHouse Books

 

From Legacy in Stone by Kevin Bubriski, published by powerHouse Books

 

From Legacy in Stone by Kevin Bubriski, published by powerHouse Books

 

From Legacy in Stone by Kevin Bubriski, published by powerHouse Books

 

From Legacy in Stone by Kevin Bubriski, published by powerHouse Books

 


Kevin Bubriski’s fine art photography is in permanent collections at the Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris. He is a recipient of Guggenheim and NEA fellowships. His books include Portrait of Nepal (Chronicle Books, 1993), Pilgrimage: Looking at Ground Zero (powerHouse, 2002), and Look into My Eyes: Nuevomexicanos por vida 1981-83 (Museum of New Mexico Press, 2016).

To see more of his work, and follow links to his books for sale, please visit https://kevinbubriski.com

Continuum – A Photography Book by Abelardo Morell, Alyssa McDonald and Irina Rozovsky

Continuum is the second Yoffy Press Triptych after TRACE was published in late 2018 (reviewed in F-Stop Magazine here), and features the work of Abelardo Morell, Alyssa McDonald and Irina Rozovsky. In each Triptych, three artists are given a word to inspire the creation of a small book of work. The three resulting books are sold as a set, inviting the viewer into the collaboration to make connections between the projects and the overarching theme.

I recently heard a photographer speaking with his former professor/mentor in a podcast interview (check out Ffoton Interviews from Ffoton Wales), and the photographer specifically mentioned the impact made on him by the way lectures were structured and the influences introduced throughout the course. He also made a point to mention that work by certain photographers was included in the lectures, and unless otherwise he may have never learned about them; which made a big impact. The decisions made by the professor were lasting and altering for this student in the decades to follow. Personally, I can trace back many of my photo influences through my former professors and mentors.   

If one studies the history of photography, or even skims an anthology of famous photographers of the 20th century, it’s not hard to trace the traveling impact of Strand to Steiglitz, to Evans, to Parks, to Winogrand, to Metzner, to Leibovitz, to Gilden…and so on. Just pick a starting point and follow the breadcrumbs. The path of influence could lead in a number of different directions from any number of different artists; but the core idea remains. Photographers don’t create work in a vacuum. In the triptych Continuum, the impact of these three photographers upon each other, Morell, McDonald, and Rozovsky, gives the viewer an opportunity to explore the similarities and differences across their work. Whether it is subtle or direct, the lasting impact can be immeasurable.

To their credit, Yoffy Press has taken the triptych format of publishing in interesting directions. Continuum is another wonderful way for a publisher of photo books to explore themes that are not easily explored. Continuum leads us in a circle of influence asking the viewer to reflect upon the work of these three photographers, and it also invited me to reflect on the influences I had as a photo student and beyond. The three books examine the relationship between student and teacher and how that dynamic can shift, reverse and fuse over time. Abelardo Morell taught at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design for more than thirty years. Irina Rozovsky was his student there and became a teacher herself.  Alyssa McDonald became Irina Rozovsky’s student, and later became Abelardo Morell’s assistant.  Continuum brings these three photographers together in a way for the viewer to discover the different ways they learned from each other.  This continuum is one of many lineages in the unending and ever-changing collective evolution of photography.

© Abelardo Morell, from Continuum by Yoffy Press
© Abelardo Morell, from Continuum by Yoffy Press
© Abelardo Morell, from Continuum by Yoffy Press

About Abelardo Morell

Abelardo Morell was born in Havana, Cuba in 1948. He immigrated to the United States with his parents in 1962.  Morell received his undergraduate degree from Bowdoin College and his MFA from The Yale University School of Art. He has received an honorary degree from Bowdoin College in 1997 and from Lesley University in 2014.

His recent publications include The Universe Next Door (2013), published by The Art Institute of Chicago, and Tent-Camera (2018), published by Nazraeli Press.  His most recent body of work, Flowers for Lisa, was published by Abrams in October 2018.

He has received a number of awards and grants, which include a Guggenheim fellowship in 1994 and an Infinity Award in Art from ICP in 2011. In November 2017, he received a Lucie Award for achievement in fine art.

His work has been collected and shown in many galleries, institutions and museums, including the Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art, the Metropolitan Art Museum in New York, The Chicago Art Institute, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Houston Museum of Art, The Boston Museum of Fine Art, The Victoria & Albert Museum and over seventy other museums in the United States and abroad. A retrospective of his work organized jointly by the Art Institute of Chicago, The Getty in Los Angeles and The High Museum in Atlanta closed in May 2014 after a year of travel. This November of 2019, he will have a show of his work Flowers for Lisa on display at Edwynn Houk Gallery in New York City.

www.abelardomorell.net

© Alyssa McDonald, from Continuum by Yoffy Press
© Alyssa McDonald, from Continuum by Yoffy Press
© Alyssa McDonald, from Continuum by Yoffy Press

About Alyssa McDonald

Alyssa McDonald is a New England native and photographic artist based in Boston. She graduated with honors from Massachusetts College of Art and Design with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography. Most recently, she has exhibited her photographs in group shows at ROW DTLA for the Lucie Foundation’s Month of Photography Los Angeles, SE Center for Photography in Greenville, South Carolina and Millepiani Exhibition Space in Rome, Italy, Aviary Gallery in Boston, Massachusetts and Dehn Gallery in Manchester, Connecticut.  She has work in three upcoming shows in 2019 including a group exhibition at the Rhode Island Photographic Arts Center in Providence, Rhode Island, The Cumberland Valley Photographers Exhibition at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in Hagerstown, Maryland and Women Photographers Today at Valid Photo in Barcelona, Spain.  She was part of Photolucida’s Critical Mass Top 200 and received an honorable mention in the 12th Annual Julia Margaret Cameron Awards.

Her photographs are rooted in a realm that is capable of being both physical and psychological.  It is through her intense observation of landscapes and characters over the course of the seasons and passing of years, that her subject matter is able to parallel the immediate with the infinite.  Each composition is laden with the history of its landscape and steeped with  experiences of wonder and discovery in the natural world.  With these symbolic values and narratives in mind, she aims her camera at intertwined histories, origins and fates.

www.alyssanmcdonald.com

© Irina Rozovsky, from Continuum by Yoffy Press
© Irina Rozovsky, from Continuum by Yoffy Press
© Irina Rozovsky, from Continuum by Yoffy Press

About Irina Rozovsky

Irina Rozovsky (born in Moscow, raised in the US), makes photographs of people and places, transforming external landscapes into interior states. She has published two monographs (One to Nothing, 2011, and Island in my Mind, 2015). Her work is exhibited internationally and is in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and has appeared in The New Yorker, New York Times Magazine, Harpers, and Vice. Irina lives and works in Athens, Georgia where she and her husband Mark Steinmetz run the photography project space The Humid. Irina is represented by Claxton Projects.


www.irinar.com


 

Continuum – Abelardo Morell, Alyssa McDonald and Irina Rozovsky
Published by Yoffy Press
Softcover, set of three books
8.75 x 6 inches – each book is approx. 40 pages
Edition of 250


Yoffy Press was founded by Jennifer Yoffy. She founded Crusade for Art in 2013, a non-profit organization whose mission was to engage new audiences with art. Jennifer owned a fine art photography gallery in Atlanta (Jennifer Schwartz Gallery) for five years, and she co-founded Flash Powder Projects, a photographer-focused collaborative venture and publishing company. In the spring of 2013, she traveled around the country in a 1977 VW bus, engaging audiences with photography.

To order a copy of Continuum, or see more titles from Yoffy Press, please visit their website: http://www.yoffypress.com/

The Universal Becomes Personal: Hair Stories by Rohina Hoffman

Hair is so ubiquitous, it’s a common thread not unlike the weather. Seemingly everyone has a comment or observation about the subject. ‘How does my hair look?’, ‘I cried when my hair was cut,’ or ‘I’m having a ‘bad hair day’. Hair Stories is centered around the experience of women and their hair, yet the experience is still universal to some degree. Who among us has not had a bad hair day, bad haircut, or the experience of being happy when their hair looks exactly like they want? Through this project, Hoffman specifically addresses female identity, personality, femininity, history, and many of the aspects that are attached to the subject. Each woman in the book presents her own story about themselves and their hair. Hoffman also includes an inserted sheet where the reader can scan a QR code and hear excerpts of audio interviews of the women sharing their stories as well. By presenting the womens’ voices along with their portraits, I thought this made the stories even more personal.

In her essay in the book, Hoffman writes: “What I discovered is that hair is a language, a shield, and a trophy. Hair is a construct reflecting our identity, history, femininity, personality, our innermost feelings of self-doubt, aging, vanity, and self-esteem. Hair also has deep sociological roots. It can be indicative of a certain religious or political belief system and like its genetic code, is complicated and touches our very core.”

Hair Stories is a series of excerpted interviews and color portraits of a diverse array of women, that explores the complex relationship women have with their hair. Indian-born, Los Angeles–based photographer Rohina Hoffman used the interviewing skills she has developed in her training as a neurologist to establish an intimate rapport that allowed for a truthful dialogue about the role of hair in these womens’ lives. Though it was conceived and shot before the #MeToo movement, this salient project presents hair as a metaphor for identity, femininity and the manner in which women struggle for control over their own bodies in a misogynistic world. Hair Stories does not present itself as a politically charged story, however, and it also shows that hair is more than just style or aesthetics; it is a physical manifestation of the ongoing hope and history of women. I reflected upon the women in my own life in a way that was unexpected for me. The universal became personal. Being cognizant of their own hair stories, and the differences which make them strong individuals, allowed me to learn more about them in a way that is accessible to all of us. 

 

Yasmine, © Rohina Hoffman
Angie, © Rohina Hoffman
Samantha, © Rohina Hoffman
Althea, © Rohina Hoffman
Sophie, © Rohina Hoffman
Larisa, © Rohina Hoffman
Salma, © Rohina Hoffman
Naomi, © Rohina Hoffman

Hair Stories
Text and photographs by Rohina Hoffman
Introduction by Emily Lambert-Clements, Art Advisor and Former Assoc. Fraenkel Gallery.
Essay by Esther R. Berry, Fashion and Gender Studies Scholar and Curator, Ryerson University.
Hardcover 7.25in x 10.5in
92 pages with insert 38 color photographs and excerpts of interviews.
ISBN 978-8862086400


Rohina Hoffman is a fine art portrait photographer working in southern California. Born in India and raised in New Jersey, Hoffman grew up in a family of doctors spanning three generations. While an undergraduate at Brown University, Hoffman also studied photography at Rhode Island School of Design and was a staff photographer for the Brown Daily Herald. A graduate of Brown University Medical School and resident at UCLA Medical Center, her training led to a career as a neurologist. Taught to be a skilled observer of her patients, Hoffman was instilled with a deep and unique appreciation of the human experience. Hoffman now works full time as a photographer.

For more information about the photographer, go to: https://www.rohinahoffman.com. To purchase a copy of Hair Stories, please visit the website here: https://www.womenshairstories.com/buy/hair-stories

New Ways of Seeing: The Democratic Language of Photography by Grant Scott

© Grant Scott. From New Ways of Seeing

The strength of New Ways of Seeing is in the discussion of where we are today. The discourse and investigation of photography and learning the craft of fluently speaking a visual language is at the forefront. The book feels perfectly positioned to appeal to both students and educators of visual arts, or anyone wanting to better understand the importance of applying practiced skills and knowledge to the visual language of photography.

The ‘democratic language of photography’ couldn’t be more appropriate as a guide or theme throughout Grant Scott’s new book New Ways of Seeing. In a very agreeable tone set in the text, Scott presents his opinion about how we got to the current position of the billions of people worldwide who carry a camera each day. However, he makes the point that this fact does not necessarily make us all well versed in a photographic, or visual language.

I’d like to make a short comment at the start of this review. Aside from the single image chosen from the book and the cover image, this review largely focuses on subject matter and not images. It’s a significant departure from my normal reviews, but one that I’ve tried to make in an effort to highlight the significance of how we all can write and talk about photography without the narrative crutch of photos to illustrate the ideas.

In the book, Scott easily recognizes the importance of pre-smartphone photography and visual storytelling, while also giving credit to the importance of the ease and ability of photographers to create without the burden of expense, or perhaps ironically, without the burden of a traditional photography education. Thus giving rise to photographers being able to proliferate personal projects and elevate the democratization of photography.

The book is laid out in chapters, but as Scott mentions in his introduction, it is not necessary to read them in order. His chapters cover a broad spectrum of topics and they are presented with the sentiment of embracing change. Scott liberally references photographers of prominence and notes the significance of their work – historically and contextually. He gives them ample credit for the influence they have made for contemporary photographers, even if it is without their awareness. The importance of internet sites like Instagram are given credit, due to the role they have played in the process of forming and informing the lives of people studying photography. Scott says in the chapter Speaking in a Digital Environment:

“For a photographer to ignore the impact of Instagram on lens-based image creation could be an act of informed decision making. For a teacher involved in photographic education to ignore Instagram’s impact on the next generation of photographers would be an act of denial and negligence”.

I enjoyed reading through the range of topics, and embraced Scott’s attitude toward a general inclusion of all the advances in smartphone, digital, and computational photography, rather than adopting a stance of being firmly grounded in traditional analog photography and scoffing the present state. The role of narrative and telling a meaningful story through the visual language of images is a primary theme throughout. Scott mentions that many people currently studying photography more readily identify themselves as visual storytellers, rather than as photographers. Very little attention is paid to gear or kit as it applies to how to make meaningful work, but the technological advances of photographic equipment are chronicled for the purpose of better understanding how we’ve gotten to this point. This is one of the most meaningful books about photography that I’ve read. It is highly informed, but not over my head, and ultimately invites the reader to thoughtfully inspect and challenge their own practices of being an image creator.


New Ways of Seeing: The Democratic Language of Photography by Grant Scott
240 pages, 5.6 x 0.6 x 8.4 inches, 60 color photos
Published by Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2019
ISBN-10: 135004931X
ISBN-13: 978-1350049314


Grant Scott is the founder of United Nations of Photography, a Senior Lecturer in Photography at Oxford Brookes University, UK, a working photographer, and the author of several previously published books.

His documentary film, Do Not Bend: The Photographic Life of Bill Jay has been screened across the UK, Canada, and the United States, and was ultimately posted for free via YouTube in the spirit of sharing knowledge.

Grant Scott is the founder of United Nations of Photography, a Senior Lecturer in Photography at Oxford Brookes University, UK, a working photographer, and the author of several previously published books. He can be found on Twitter at @UNofPhoto

His documentary film, Do Not Bend: The Photographic Life of Bill Jay has been screened across the UK, Canada, and the United States, and was ultimately posted for free via YouTube in the spirit of sharing knowledge.

To buy a copy of New Ways of Seeing, it can be found on Amazon here, or at the publisher site here. Check out the website for  United Nations of Photography and to find out more about Grant Scott or see his work, please see his website: https://www.grantscott.com/

We Shared this Time by Jeffery C. Johnson

Artist’s Snack Shop – Chicago, 2008. © Jeffery C. Johnson

Chicago-based photographer Jeffery C. Johnson’s photography has been prominently featured on the WGN-TV News, ABC-TV’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, BBC Travel.com, CNN Travel.com, Chicago Reader, Chicagoist, Gapers Block, and at ChicagoPublicRadio.com.

Johnson has worked as a dedicated photographer for the Scottish pop band Aberfeldy, captured the scene at the capitol building in Springfield, Illinois in 2007 when then Senator Barack Obama announced his candidacy for President of the United States. He also exclusively followed the Four Star Anarchist Organization during the Anti-NATO protests in Chicago in 2012. 

Johnson has primarily photographed across the United States, but says his favorite subject has always been Chicago. Johnson grew up there and both his grandfather & father were photojournalists in Chicago. “And, of course”, he says on his website, “because the city is amazingly energetic, beautiful and bewitching, rough and raw, full of history, mystery, and punch. While I would have loved to photograph Churchill, I was given Blagojevich; but a photographer can only capture those within their time. I enjoy taking pieces and putting them together to represent a whole – whether it’s a city, a specific place, an event, or a person. I feel I am making portraits of whatever I photograph”.

We Shared this Time is a self-published collection of photos from Johnson’s work that spans different themes across his broader collection of reportage style photography. Whether it is a street image of a particular location, specific event being covered, or lucky happenstance – the direct style of Johnson’s work makes you feel like you were there. The unpretentious nature of some of his portraits transcend straight reportage, and speak to larger issues like gun violence, celebrity, and poverty. We see a teenager standing up in a crowd of people, pantomiming holding a rifle and taking aim. We see street musicians playing for tips in downtown Chicago, contrasted against professional actor and musician Steve Martin candidly playing his banjo in front of a Cracker Barrel restaurant in Naperville, IL. Johnson’s image of a Cubs fan hoping to catch a stray home-run ball, dressed in full catcher’s gear behind Wrigley Field, is in stark contrast to his candid portrait of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich – sporting a Cubs baseball cap while dressed in a business suit and tie.

Much like fellow Chicagoan Studs Terkel, Jeffery Johnson shared a moment or two with folks from all walks of life, and shared them with us. Rather, Johnson’s subjects are all of us. We Shared this Time shows different aspects of the larger picture and reveals that these disparate actors in the play of life are not so different in the end. We are all part of the play.


“The Odditorium”, Carnival, Berwyn, IL., 2011. © Jeffery C. Johnson

 

Couple, Brookfield Zoo – Brookfield, IL., 2010 © Jeffery C. Johnson

 

Nik Wallenda, Skyscraper Highwire Walk, Chicago, 2014. © Jeffery C. Johnson

 

Homecoming Queen, Franklin County High School – Brookville, IN., 2011. © Jeffery C. Johnson

 

Fan, High School Football Game – Brookville, IN., 2011. © Jeffery C. Johnson

 

Waiting for a Home Run Ball, Waveland Ave., Wrigley Field – Chicago, 2007. © Jeffery C. Johnson

 

Street Musician – Chicago, 2011. © Jeffery C. Johnson

 

Woman on Street Corner – Chicago. © Jeffery C. Johnson


To learn more about Jeffery C. Johnson, please visit his website at https://jefferycjohnson.smugmug.com/. Links to purchase a copy of We Shared this Time can also be found there, or at Blub: https://www.blurb.com/b/9414851-we-shared-this-time

Havana Youth by Greg Kahn

Greg Kahn says he wants Havana Youth to break the stereotype of what it means to be Cuban. The country’s current identity by and large was formed on a sense of collectivism: the idea of the benefit of a large group of people versus the individual. The youth of Cuba today are striving to break that stereotype and form new ideas based on how their counterculture reflects their own identity. This is somewhat challenging due to the lack of pop culture influences they allowed in Cuba for most of their lives. They’ve not been inundated with tons of commercials, tons of magazine advertisements, etc. due to the lack of these sources in Cuba. Their fashion sense and the zeitgeist of the youth Kahn photographed in Cuba are born from their own unbound expression of how they wish to be seen as a generation, and a culture.

An interesting cultural evolution is taking place in Cuba, especially with the millennial generation. Technologically they skipped straight past pagers and cell phones and went from landlines to iPhones. They are now soaking up popular culture via the internet, mimicking what they see, and re-inventing themselves – and Cuban culture – in the process. Kahn says he fell into the trap of photographing stereotypical architecture and old Cuba versus new Cuba images at first. After two initial trips to Cuba, he realized he was making the wrong type of work for what he wanted to capture. A lucky encounter with discovering an outdoor rave concert thriving with thousands of young Cubans, helped him realize that this is the driving force behind the change in Cuba’s economy and its future. Their energy, their drive and their sense of music and fashion were a key part of their identity.

Young Cubans’ sense of fashion is a conscious decision be a counterculture – their clothing is a middle finger to authority. This attitude is similar to one in another photo book I’ve seen about gang youth in 1980s New York City who were wearing designer clothing as an expression of the ultimate luxury living experience. Their desire to achieve their own version of the American Dream was presented to the world through apparel designed to declare: I have made it. For Cuban youth, their newly acquired iPhones, international magazines, smuggled underground movies and internet hotspots have become a way to raise their status. It is also the way for them to resist the government. A fashion blogger Kahn met in Cuban said clothes are communication. Every day there is a really conscious choice about what he is going to wear. Clothes have a strong connotation; they can be like a journalist writing against the government. It’s what it means to be free.

This culture is not only evolution, it is revolution. It is revolution without the need to fire single shot; it is revolution with a capital R, through the guise of fashion, communication, and expression via counterculture. The Cuban government will not allow for protests out in the public eye. The youth of Cuba are protesting through this subversive process of accessing the internet, and accessing a way to make money and gain upward mobility in an oppressive environment. Kahn’s images show us an avant-garde way of life within the world of youth and fashion in Cuba, and also how a new socio-political way of life is forming as well.


Havana Youth
Photographs by Greg Kahn
Introduction by Ariana Hernandez-Reguant
Hardcover, 11.25 x 8.5 inches
144 pages + additional softcover zine
Edition of 500
ISBN: 978-1-943948-12-3


To find out more about the work of Greg Kahn, and Havana Youth, please visit his website https://www.gregkahn.com/. To purchase the book, please visit Yoffy Press at http://www.yoffypress.com/havana-youth

All images shown are © Greg Kahn, used by permission of the publisher.

Seeing Deeply – A Retrospective by Dawoud Bey

The Woman in the Light, Harlem, New York City, 1980. © Dawoud Bey

Dawoud Bey: Seeing Deeply offers a forty-year retrospective of the celebrated photographer’s work, from his early street photography in Harlem to his current images of Harlem gentrification. Photographs from all of Bey’s major projects are presented in chronological sequence, allowing viewers to see how the collective body of portraits and recent landscapes create an unparalleled historical representation of various communities in the United States. Prodigious is an apt descriptor for ‘Seeing Deeply’.

After taking in the span of images within the book, an analogy came to mind. You can draw a line from the beginning of his work and see it all the way through to his current projects. Like a carpenter lifting a board to look down the length of its edge, one can see straight from one end to the other and know that it is true. The sturdy grain of the wood may flow slightly from side to side, but  its core is unwavering and reliable.

Throughout his career, Bey made images in communities he felt had been under-represented by other photographers. He shot photos in Harlem, Birmingham, Syracuse, Brooklyn, Boston, Chicago, and many other cities. Whether the work was made in small or medium format cameras, black & white or color, and even large format Polaroid portraits, the feel of Bey’s work gives a nod to some of his influencers; photographers such as as Roy DeCarava, Walker Evans, Gordon Parks, and James Van Der Zee.

Bey’s photo of a young woman waiting for a bus in Syracuse in 1985 could have easily been taken in 1965. The timeless quality of this portrait demonstrates sensitivity to the person, and showing them in a certain state of mind, rather than a time and place, and allows the viewer to make an intimate connection. The way she regards the camera/viewer, leaning against a counter in a bus terminal directly under a sign telling patrons to wait outside for busses, evokes a feeling of dignified protest, or respectful righteousness.

The list of Dawoud Bey’s accomplishments, awards, grants, and museums that collect his work is staggering. Bey was also a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant”, yet when I viewed a TEDx talk he gave in 2015 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, I was struck by his humility and sense of inspiration and drive to explore ideas and themes through his genuine love for the medium of photography.

Bey was drawn to visit the Met in 1969 by news of demonstrations by people who were called to action by the idea of who was being allowed to author the experience of the African-American community. He viewed the exhibition on the day he went to the museum, and decided to start making photographs in his own community of Harlem. His photographs from Harlem over a five year span resulted in an exhibition in 1975. The project was an effort to convey the humanity of the men, women and children in that community. In Bey’s words, many African-American communities up until that time had been predominantly been shown through a lens of pathology. His sense of duty to depict African-Americans and their lives has been an underlying theme throughout his career. I was drawn to a certain quote by Hilton Als in Sarah Lewis’ introduction to ‘Seeing Deeply’. Als comments that Bey creates “works of art made out of real lives as opposed to real lives being used to reflect the artist’s idea of it.” Amen.

A Young Woman Waiting for the Bus, Syracuse, 1985. © Dawoud Bey

Alva, New York, NY, 1992. © Dawoud Bey

Mark and Eric, Chicago, IL, 1994. © Dawoud Bey

Four Children at Lenox Avenue, Harlem, New York City, 1977. © Dawoud Bey

Mary Parker and Caela Cowan, Birmingham, AL, 2012. © Dawoud Bey

Men From the 369th Regiment Marching Band, Harlem, New York City, 1977. © Dawoud Bey

Three Men and the Lenox Lounge, Harlem, New York City, 2014. © Dawoud Bey

A Girl with a Knife Nosepin, Brooklyn, N.Y., 1990. © Dawoud Bey

A Boy in Front of Loew’s 125th Street Movie Theater, Harlem, NY, 1976. © Dawoud Bey


Dawoud Bey: Seeing Deeply by Dawoud Bey
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: University of Texas Press; First Edition
Language: English
ISBN-10: 9781477317198


Dawoud Bey’s work is held by major collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the High Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the National Portrait Gallery, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. In addition to the MacArthur fellowship, Bey’s honors include the United States Artists Guthman Fellowship, 2015; the Guggenheim Fellowship in Photography, 2002; and the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, 1991. He is Professor of Art and a former Distinguished College Artist at Columbia College Chicago.

To view more images or purchase ‘Seeing Deeply’ by Dawoud Bey, please visit the University of Texas Press website. All images represented are included with recognition to Dawoud Bey/University of Texas Press.

{First published in F-Stop Magazine in January 2019}

Solargraphs by Al Brydon – A conversation with the Sun

Solargraphs by Al Brydon © JW Editions

A new book, Solargraphs by Al Brydon is available from JW Editions. Brydon’s understated approach to making engaging images is disarming. There is a beautiful serendipity that comes out of his seemingly casual method for making work. He makes it look easy, but make no mistake Brydon has been steadfast for decades in making photographic work of and about his surroundings. He is continually trying techniques old and new to strive for a meaningful conversation with the land. Solargraphs is definitely one of those engaging conversations.

“Solargraphs are pinhole cameras with exposure times measured in months rather than fractions of a second. This slowing down of time produces the arcs of the sun as it traces its way across the sky. The ‘how’ isn’t anywhere near as important as the ‘why’, but it gives you an idea of what’s involved in making the work.

The length of time involved raises certain questions. Is it a different me collecting the solargraph than the person who left it? Maybe a window into what the landscape looks like when I’m not there to experience it?

What’s implied in the image is as important as what you can see. Anything moving quickly isn’t pictured but is in there. Solargraphs see everything (metaphorically) like photographic black holes. Every moment of joy and sadness you have experienced while each exposure was made is in there somewhere. A newborns first breath and another person’s last. The chaos of the universe condensed into photographic form. More than a moment. A tumbling cascade of moments set within the confines of a 5×7 piece of darkroom paper. With Solargraphs we are able to experience time almost in a geological sense and gain a glimpse into a differing reality than our own. A looped reminder how wonderfully fleeting our lives are.”

– Al Brydon

 

Solargraphs by Al Brydon © JW Editions

Solargraphs by Al Brydon © JW Editions


Solargraphs by Al Brydon

210 mm x 295 mm, hardback
96 pages, thread sewn
Introduction by contemporary photographer Rob Hudson

A Limited Edition is also available:
Signed copy of the book
Signed and numbered print – ‘Death of a Wood’
Print is exclusive to this book edition (Digital print on fine art photo paper)
Limited to 50 copies only

Published by JW Editions – an independent publisher of photobooks, producing affordable fine quality short run commercially produced edition-based releases, and handmade artist limited editions.

To order a copy of Solargraphs, visit their website: www.jweditions.co.uk


Al Brydon is a photographer based in the North of the UK. He has been exhibited and published both in the UK and internationally, and has just completed his five-year series ‘Solargraphs’ which have just been exhibited at the ‘Inside the Outside’ collective group show ‘Out of the woods of thought’. He is prone to working on various long-term bodies of work. See more of his work at his website: www.al-brydon.com


All images used with permission. Photographs © Al Brydon, and the printed book © JW Editions.

Taking Sides: Berlin and the Wall, 1974 – by Sven Martson

Taking Sides: Berlin and the Wall, 1974 contains many serendipitous images and glimpses of what life was like in Berlin in 1974. Martson’s black and white photographs of Berlin and its residents are an artful and skillful documentation of people living their lives on both sides of the Berlin Wall. He also presents an important historic document and intimate view of people living in a politically, and physically, segregated city. We see images of everyday life; children playing, street scenes in a large modern city, people shopping, work, play, boredom, and glimpses of the political elephant in the room – the Wall.

Martson’s images are even more poignant when viewed in the context of how a political viewpoint can divide rather than unify. A collective population of people who are more alike than different can become two polarized populations cast in opposition to the other; groups of people who are separated by imaginary lines drawn with a socio-political pen. In the author’s notes, Martson comments that the wall gave a particularly ugly form to the binary oppositions in human experience. Abstract economic and political ideologies were made real in the form of armed guard towers, land mines, razor-wire fences and an impregnable concrete barrier which divided a city, a country, and perhaps the perceptions of the world.

Martson’s parents were directly impacted by the Soviet occupied Estonia and Germany. “The radically redrawn borders of Germany and much of Europe after World War II forced my parents to flee their Soviet occupied homelands to seek freedom and opportunity in West Germany, and later in the United States,” Martson says. “Although my family has no direct connection to Berlin, I saw its stark division as a reminder and a concentrated symbol of the forces that drove my parents west to become American citizens.”

“In September of 1974, I traveled to West Berlin. It was a bright island of liberty surrounded by a dull gray wall, built not for its protection but to ensure its isolation. Fascinated by such an untenable design, I sought to record in photographs what I might find on either side of that historic divide. I spent a month walking the streets of Berlin taking pictures on either side of the Wall. I was not unbiased in my feelings toward Communist East Germany, yet I tried to avoid making political statements in favor of maintaining a documentary style.”

While I was only four years old in 1974, I can remember with clarity when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. I watched live news coverage of joyous East and West Berlin citizens mingling atop the Wall, or taking turns smashing holes in the wall with sledgehammers. And later, heavy construction equipment pulled sections of the wall apart amidst a barrage of blinding light from thousands of cameras documenting the event. I knew I was watching one of the pivotal points in 20th century history.

We find ourselves at a point in history where leaders are again speaking of walls, which makes Martson’s book even more important. Now photographers have the opportunity to record, document and comment on history potentially repeating itself, in some sense, along the border of Mexico and the United States. Martson comments about current Berlin on his website, and this prompted questions in my mind of how we will look back at the result of a proposed U.S-Mexico border wall. On his site, Martson says, “After more than two decades of German reunification, the almost complete disappearance of the Wall has produced an entirely different Berlin. These photographs are now a historical record: a visual account of opposing ideologies in precarious accommodation.”

Precarious indeed.


Taking Sides: Berlin and the Wall, 1974 by Sven Martson
Hardcover
Published by Lecturis
Language: English/German
ISBN-10: 9462262616


Sven Martson was born in Germany and raised in the United States. He received his BA from Syracuse University in 1970, and subsequent studies led to an interest in documentary style photography. In 1972 he met Walker Evans and worked under his direction, making prints from Evans’ negatives. After Evans’ death, Martson continued to print for the Evans estate.

Martson is an established editorial photographer, and he serves a wide range of independent educational institutions throughout the United States. Over the past thirty years he has traveled extensively, and exhibited in the United States and Europe. He is currently represented by the Kehler Liddell Gallery in New Haven, CT.

To view more work by Sven Martson, please visit his website at http://svenmartson.com/. To purchase a copy of Taking Sides: Berlin and the Wall, 1974, see the book listing here.

This review was originally published in F-Stop Magazine, January 2019.