Category Archives: Book Review

Lo-Life: An American Classic by George “Rack-Lo” Billips and Jackson Blount

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‘Lo-Life’ is the remarkable story of a small group of teenagers fighting to make a name for themselves who eventually made themselves seen, heard, and emulated globally.

Lo-Life: An American Classic takes the reader on a trip to New York City in the early 80s—a time when crime and violence ran the streets. The infamous Lo-Life gang emerged from this tumultuous time. Formed by crews of teenagers from the Brownsville and Crown Heights neighborhoods of Brooklyn, they made a name for themselves by dressing head-to-toe in expensive Ralph Lauren clothing, or “Lo.” Polo apparel—and other preppy 80s fashion labels like Guess, Nautica, and Benetton, among others—represented an aspirational lifestyle for these kids from rough neighborhoods just struggling to get by. Fighting for style and survival, the Lo-Lifes targeted these brands, and would acquire them by any means necessary, including stick-ups, shoplifting, and hustling. A reign of terror ensued, when your new winter coat could make you the target for a robbery—or worse.

 

 

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The book covers the background of what was happening culturally and socially in the greater New York area in the 1980s, and progresses until present time. There are images from published features about the members of these gangs, a ‘style-book” of sorts showing some of the most desired Lo-Life clothing, and the personal photographs and stories from some of the members of the gangs, with names like Rack-Lo, Thirstin Howl the 3rd, Uncle Disco, and Boostin’ Billy. They recount what is was like to go on boosting sprees in high-end clothing stores like Lord & Taylor, Saks 5th Avenue, John Wanamaker’s, and Trump Towers – stealing as many as possible, or the most prized pieces in the Ralph Lauren collection of clothing that defined their social status. One gang member recalls what is was like to steal a silk Crown shirt from a Lord & Taylor store:

“If you had that shirt, you were exclusive. People treated me like a celebrity, everyone wanted to take pictures with me. I didn’t even know these people, it was all because of the shirt. To other people, it was that serious.” Bek-Live

 

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What started as an informal gang uniform organized around clean designs and bright colors, became a devotion to a lifestyle brand, and eventually created an association between the streets and luxury that would fundamentally change the fashion industry. The iconic clothing style designed by Ralph Lauren (born Ralph Lifshitz in the Bronx, NY to Jewish immigrant parents in 1939) as an expression of quality, taste, and style, an expression of the ultimate luxury living experience, was adopted by street gangs as their uniform of choice. Their desire to achieve their American Dream was presented to the world through apparel that was designed to declare: I have made it.

 

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‘Lo-Life’ is an intriguing look inside this gang culture and its members. Although I never knew anyone personally who had been mugged or hurt for their designer clothing from that era, I heard stories of people being shot for their Air Jordans, or had their designer jacket stolen (be it Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Nautica, or Bennetton) – and this was in the midwest, far from the hustle and bustle of New York. ‘Lo-Life’ is ultimately the story of a life journey, a story of the American Dream, and what is was like for these young kids from New York to make a name for themselves – just like Ralph Lauren himself.

 

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Lo-Life: An American Classic by George “Rack-Lo” Billips and Jackson Blount 
Hardcover, 7.25 x 9.75 inches, 232 pages
ISBN: 978-1-57687-812-5

To buy a copy of Lo-Life, please visit the book’s website: http://www.powerhousebooks.com/books/lo-life-an-american-classic/ 


Jackson Blount, a Brooklyn native, graduated from SVA in 2001. He has designed professionally since, doing both corporate and freelance work throughout his design career.

Rack-Lo is one of the main catalysts of the Lo-Life movement. He played a major role in the unification of boosting crews of the early 80s to form the world-renowned Lo-Life crew. 


This is an edited version of the article originally published in F-Stop Magazine, Janurary 2017.

North of Dixie: Civil Rights Photography Beyond the South

Mark Speltz presents an overview of the civil rights era of the latter 20th century through photographs and contextual history of the socio-political environment of the United States  He has utilized historical photographs from the J.Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. For this powerful and compelling volume, Speltz carefully selected one hundred photographs, some never-before-seen or published, taken between 1938 and 1975 in more than twenty-five cities in the Northeast, Midwest and Western United States by photojournalists, artists, and activists that include Bob Adelman, Ruth-Marion Baruch, Charles Brittin, Diana Davies, Jack Delano, Leonard Freed, Don Hogan Charles, Gordon Parks, Art Shay, Morgan and Marvin Smith, and Maria Varela.

There are thoughtful and informed writings at the beginning of the book by Timothy Potts, Director at The J. Paul Getty Museum, and in the preface by Deborah Willis, the chair of the Department of Photography & Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. Speltz’s curated collection of photographs offer a broader and more complex view of the American civil rights movement than is usually presented by the media. Hand-in hand with iconic and lesser known images of the Civil Rights movement of the mid-twentieth century, Speltz presents passages of text to frame and inform the reader of the socio-political environment at the time. It surprises me that so many people born in the late 20th century to early 21st century are unaware of the history that directly affected the two generations before them. Without hitting you over the head or preaching to the reader about the history of the civil rights movement and the current environment of race relations in the United States, North of Dixie pulls from a great archive of historic photography and combines it with pertinent text to inform the reader. The end result is a cross between your favorite textbook, the one you’ve kept all these years, and a photo book you page through to soak up great photography.

CHARLES BRITTIN, LOS ANGELES, CA, SEPTEMBER 1963. Los Angeles, Getty Research Institute. News media interviewing CORE activists waging a sit-in and hunger strike outside the Los Angeles Board of Education offices to raise awareness of segregation and inequality in the public schools.
UNKNOWN PHOTOGRAPHER, ST. LOUIS, MO, EARLY 1940s. Washington, DC, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Visual Materials from the NAACP Records. Members of the St. Louis Branch of the NAACP calling for victory at home and abroad and an end to racial violence.

In the book’s epilogue, Speltz connects earlier photographs of the civil rights movement with the cell phone imagery that documents the black struggle of today. He writes:

Their recurring themes should remind us that racism and concerted efforts to roll back hard-won civil rights gains persist. The ongoing and constantly evolving struggle against police brutality and militarism, entrenched poverty, institutionalized racism, and everyday micro aggressions suggests that photographs will continue to play a crucial role in documenting the struggle and advancing the much-needed dialogue around it.”

A poignant comparison is presented in the introduction by placing two images on the same page; a photograph of a protester in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014 is paired with a photo of a boy in Newark, New Jersey in 1967 (not shown here). There is 47 years difference between those images, two different centuries apart, and yet very little, if no, change in the way people of color are being discriminated against but still show strength and courage in the face of moments of chaos and flared emotions.

COX STUDIO, SAN FRANCISCO, CA, 1955. Washington, DC, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Visual Materials from the NAACP Records. San Francisco NAACP members during a “Don’t Ride” campaign urging riders to boycott Yellow Cab and help stop hiring discrimination.

There is a passage from 1961 by James Baldwin in the preface that addresses the theme of “what kind of country” would a first “Negro” president be president of? This idea weighed on me throughout reading and looking at this book. But North of Dixie does a wonderful job of presenting images and background information that perhaps many readers did not already know. Powerful historic images of fire hoses and german shepherds in Alabama, and lunch counter sit-ins by the freedom riders are some of the best known photographs in the world, period. Those iconic images were also on my mind as I looked at the photographs in this book. But the overall feeling I got from North of Dixie is a combination of disappointment mixed with hope. A black man has served as a two-term president. People of color have held some of the highest offices in the government – yet the nation has not seen many issues of race and inequality disappear in the everyday lives of many Americans.

LEONARD FREED, BROOKLYN, NY, 1963. Los Angeles, the J. Paul Getty Museum, 2008.62.5 / © Leonard Freed / Magnum Photos. Demonstrators sitting with signs and intentionally blocking traffic during protest on car-lined thoroughfare.

Yet there is hope. It is my personal hope that people of different races, color or creed will see there is far more to be gained in life by working together and accepting each other for who we are. North of Dixie brings to light numerous lesser-known images and illuminates the story of the civil rights movement in the American North and West. The book reveals the power of photography to preserve historical memory, impact social consciousness, and stimulate critical dialogue among everyone interested in social justice, human rights, American history, the African American civil rights movement, Black studies, and photojournalism. And hopefully, by better understanding the failures of our past we can avoid the pitfalls of repeating it. North of Dixie certainly goes a long way to guide the way.


Mark Speltz is an author and historian who writes about civil rights photography, vernacular architecture, and Wisconsin culture and history. He is currently a senior historian at American Girl in Madison, Wisconsin.

Deborah Willis is chair of the Department of Photography & Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. She has been the recipient of Guggenheim, Fletcher, and MacArthur fellowships and was named one of the “100 Most Important People in Photography” by American Photography magazine.

North of Dixie: Civil Rights Photography Beyond the South
Hardcover
ISBN: 978-1-60606-505-1
160 pages
8 3/4 x 9 3/4 inches
100 b&w illustrations
$35.00 US | £20 | €33
Imprint: J. Paul Getty Museum

To purchase a copy of North of Dixie, visit here.


Photo credit (top): CHARLES BRITTIN, NEAR LOS ANGELES, CA, 1963. Los Angeles, Getty Research Institute. Activists picketing at a demonstration for housing equality while uniformed American Nazi Party members counterprotest in the background with signs displaying anti-integration slogans and racist epithets.


This is an edited version of the review published in F-Stop Magazine, December, 2016

The ƒ/D Book of Pinhole

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The ƒ/D Book of Pinhole is a collection of pinhole photos from 99 photographers which was submitted in response to a Call for Entry in July and August of 2016. The photographs were selected and accepted based on their aesthetic quality, uniqueness of execution, appropriate use of pinhole and, in some cases, demonstration of persevering through the challenges of pinhole. In their entry, photographers also noted their response to the prompt “I saw through a pinhole” – quotes from these will be featured in the book.
The photographers represent the North & South American, European, and Asian continents in geographical and aesthetic uniqueness. The photographs themselves represent executions that show the “pinhole look” in general as well as the unique ways in which pinhole works with motion and time, bent film planes, infrared, and other techniques and formats. 

A Pinhole Photography Primer
The pinhole camera serves as a creative antidote to today’s pixel-perfect world.  ƒ/D feels that pinhole can serve as a creative bedrock from which a photographer can build in a number of directions. Whether you are a current or aspiring pinhole practitioner, or you practice other forms of photography,  there is a wealth of inspiration provided by these photos showing what can be accomplished with time and the barest equipment.

Gare du Luxembourg – ©Chris Reuland
Pinhole cameras, by definition, use no lens. Instead, light is focused by a tiny hole; oftentimes it is literally a hole made with a pin. The camera relies on the property of light to travel in a straight line. The numerous rays of light from a scene are projected individually through the pinhole and onto the photo taking medium (film, photo paper, or digital sensor). Because the pinhole is tiny, often fractions of a millimeter, the f-stop of such cameras tend to be very high numbers – usually above 100. Consequently, exposure times usually range from about a second to 10 or more minutes. In addition, the tiny pinhole aperture provides almost infinite depth of field, usually extending from an inch in front of the camera to infinity.

Beach Tractor – © Nigel Breadman
Because of the way the light is focused by the pinhole, and the long exposure times, Pinhole Photographs have some unique properties. Details in a scene are softened compared to lensed images. Because of the long exposure times, parts of a scene that move are blurred. Between the softened details and the blurred motion, pinhole photos tend to skew towards abstract and surreal imagery. Sometimes this combination of qualities can result in unpredictably creative effects – effects that we can in some cases apply in other aspects of photography.

The book will be available for backing through January 1st, 2017 via Kickstarter.com:
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/537638366/the-f-d-book-of-pinhole

Book Review: Abandoned America: Dismantling the Dream by Matthew Christopher

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Palace Theater, Gary, IN

A Proper Ceremony to Remember

If the creation of a structure represents the values and ideals of a time, so too does its subsequent abandonment and eventual destruction. In Abandoned America: Dismantling the Dream, photographer Matthew Christopher continues his tour of the quiet catastrophes dotting American cities, examining the losses and failures that led these ruins to become forsaken by communities that once embraced them.

From the heartbreaking story of a state school that would become home to one of the country’s worst cases of fatal neglect and abuse, to the shattered remains of what was once the largest mall in the United States, Abandoned America: Dismantling the Dream questions what leads us to leave places behind and what are the consequences of doing so.

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Randall Park Mall, Cleveland, OH
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Lee Plaza Hotel, Detroit, MI

Matthew Christopher’s journey to document abandoned sites began a decade ago while researching the decline of the state hospital system. Realizing that words alone could not adequately convey the harsh realities of institutional care, Christopher embarked on a journey to visit and photograph the crumbling state schools and asylums in our midst. Ten years later, Christopher’s focus had broadened to include the ruins of American infrastructure, industry, churches, schools, theaters, hospitals, prisons, resorts and hotels as realized in his best-selling book, Abandoned America: The Age of Consequences (Jonglez Publishing) and his 2016 follow up, Abandoned America: Dismantling the Dream (Carpet Bombing Culture). From Taunton State Hospital in Massachusetts to the US Air Force’s aircraft boneyard in Tucson, Arizona, Christopher’s extensive collection of derelict sites is featured on his website Abandoned America.

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Fallside Hotel, Niagra Falls, NY
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Fort Pitt Casting Company, McKeesport, PA

While looking through Christopher’s images of these places and locations of historic or personal importance, I thought of a story that has stuck with me for over a decade. It is a story about an abandoned house. In the house, boys who had gone exploring found a treasure trove of letters written by or about the former residents of the home. In the radio documentary story, The House on Loon Lake by Adam Beckman, This American Life  #199, Adam’s mother recalls the house in question when he interviews her for the story. In speaking about the house and objects Beckman found there almost 25 years earlier, she says, The abandonment is melancholy. In a way, it’s worse than throwing away, much worse. I can understand one family being obliged to flee or run or abandon, but that nobody else cared. That it was so overwhelmingly abandoned by everybody, that nobody had cared to solve something, to resolve something. That was very offensive to me. It was like leaving a corpse. You don’t leave a corpse. And that’s a little bit the feeling that I had. That here was a carcass, the carcass of a house, of a life, of a private, and nobody cared to pick it up and give it a proper burial. I thought that it was important that somebody should care. …Objects have lives. They are witness to things. And these objects were like that. So I was, in a way, glad that you were listening.”

Through his writings and his images, we know Matthew Christopher is looking and listening to these places that quietly sit, and for better or worse, remind us of the history passing through the spaces he documents; the lives that were touched, and the bitter-sweet memories that remain.

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Taunton State Hospital, Taunton, MA

In speaking about the haunting Taunton State Hospital, which housed the mentally ill from the late 1800’s until the main hospital building was officially closed in 1975, Christopher writes in Poe-like sentiment:

Perching high up on the old infirmary’s roofs at sunrise and
trying to balance myself on the steep, crumbling slate,
it is amazing to witness that something once so ornate, so filled with hope
disintegrated into the mess of rubble and debris behind me –
where once there was a great ornamental dome, a magnificent auditorium,
an administrative hub that was this mighty beast’s nerve center
now there is only the whisper of what once was, what could have been.
It is a beautiful morning to be at such a vantage point,
even if it is atop the decaying remains of a dream gone horribly wrong
If you were able to look across it all, you’d feel it in your very bones and blood –
the weight of its history, the many things it represented to so many people.
Maybe if you could just see it, you’d understand.


Matthew Christopher earned his MFA in Imaging Arts and Sciences from Rochester Institute of Technology in 2012. His work has been exhibited in museums and galleries across the East Coast, and featured in many national and international publications.

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Abandoned America: Dismantling The Dream by Matthew Christopher
With introduction by Don Wildman
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Carpet Bombing Culture; Lam edition (September 15, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1908211423
ISBN-13: 978-1908211422

All images © Matthew Christopher, used by permission.


To find out more about this book, or order a signed copy of Abandoned America, visit Christopher’s website: http://www.dismantlingthedream.com

(This review was originally published in F-Stop Magazine)

Book Review: MTWTFSS by Sophie Harris-Taylor

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Capturing luminous moments between the momentous

‘MTWTFSS: Chapter 1. 2010-2015’ is a vulnerable, honest and intimate photo book by the emerging photographer Sophie Harris-Taylor whose autobiographical body of work is made of images taken from her photographic diary of the past five years.

The book is laid out in a traditional journal form, much like a decent sized Moleskin notebook, complete with a strip of fabric to mark your place. The front and back cover are stamped/faux-embossed with the book title and short statement. I appreciated its understated presentation, especially in a time when larger photobook publishers are really trying to vie for the attention of their customers. The handcrafted design esthetic of MTWTFSS is definitely in the ‘Win’ column.

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© Sophie Harris-Taylor

Harris-Taylor has compiled a collection of images spanning a five year period, in a diary-style fashion. Her images are presented almost exclusively as single image pages, with the occasional blank or two-page spread for visual pacing. The limited first edition of 500 copies are hand numbered and signed.

In describing the book, Harris-Taylor says, “MTWTFSS is an autobiographical, fragmented, sporadic photo diary. It is a reflection of myself and those I know and love. In familiar, often mundane surroundings I seek to capture some element of truth of our lives. For me these ‘everyday, forgotten nothings’ are more important and truthful than any other. These are the moments between the momentous.”

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© Sophie Harris-Taylor
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© Sophie Harris-Taylor
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© Sophie Harris-Taylor
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© Sophie Harris-Taylor

Harris-Taylor relates the personal aspect of the book by saying, “MTWTFSS is the most personal to me. It’s only become apparent recently that although I’m representing aspects of other people, I’m seeking the aspects I’m familiar with and which I can relate to the most. So I’m really using them to express myself.”

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© Sophie Harris-Taylor
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© Sophie Harris-Taylor
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© Sophie Harris-Taylor

I truly did get the feeling I was privy to a photo diary, where the author had chosen certain places, people and images that evoked a sense of vulnerable moments captured between her and the people in her life. The book’s presentation didn’t feel forced, and while the promotion for the book describes the images as “spontaneous”, I would be more apt to describe the style as “informal” despite the acute attention Harris-Taylor gives to light, composition, and the connection to the people sitting before her lens.

“At the same time as seeking their vulnerability I was in awe of their confidence and ability to be comfortable in their own skin. In truth, I was in awe of my friends. One girlfriend in particular; she let me in, she gave me what to capture and I became almost obsessed with the act of photographing her. There were moments of sadness, moments of vulnerability, she never put up a front or undermined what I was doing, she let her guard down and this is what I became interested in.”

The understated moments that make up much of what we construct in our minds as the memories of what has taken place, where we have gone, and who we have encountered, are the memories we recall when reminiscing. Harris-Taylor has taken the reader/viewer into her own memories and revealed the mostly hidden, simple moments by being our (sometimes literally) bare and vulnerable self, our true moments without facade.


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Limited 1st edition of 500 (hand numbered)
Leather-effect binding and blind embossed cover.
16x20cm, 176 pages
Offset lithograph printed on 140gsm uncoated paper.
Designed by Joseph Carter.


Sophie Harris-Taylor is a British fine art photographer and lecturer in photography. Born in 1988 in London, where she still resides, she received both her MA and BA (Hons) in Photography from Kingston University.

Harris-Taylor’s work has been nominated for the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize and The Renaissance Photography Prize. Her work has also been exhibited in a range of shows, including The Young Masters.


To view more work by Sophie Harris-Taylor, visit her website athttp://www.sophieharristaylor.com/

To order a copy of MTWTFSS, click here

(This review was originally published in F-Stop Magazine)

Book Review: Out of the Ordinary: A Journey Through Everyday Scotland | Vol. 1 by Iain Sarjeant

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Inverness – 25/10/2011

Book Introduction by Iain Sarjeant:

Much of my photography is spontaneous in nature – I enjoy wandering, exploring, discovering, observing – often in everyday places. It’s a way of working that I find very fulfilling – just drifting and seeing what is round the next corner.

Out Of The Ordinary has developed from this approach, and reflects my interest in people’s relationship and interaction with their environment. The series explores the kind of places that most of us walk or drive past every day, without really noticing – places where the infrastructure of human habitation interacts with the natural environment. These are dynamic landscapes, constantly being altered, and part of the fascination for me is the element of chance involved in the photographs – coming across scenes that may look very different the following week or month.

I try not to have any plan or pre-conceived ideas when exploring. Sometimes I am simply drawn to the play of light and shadow, or colour and form, but often I am looking to create images that have an element of ambiguity, hopefully leaving the viewer with questions. By playing with composition and balancing visual elements, I hope to transform the ordinary and common-place into something interesting and unusual.

The project is ongoing and for me has become a journey through everyday Scotland.

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Macduff, Aberdeenshire – 04/05/2016

Sarjeant’s images of “everyday” Scotland are not ones you might find gracing the pages of glossy travel magazines trying to attract visitors to his country. Rather, these images would be more likely to be found in the galleries of Edinburgh or Glasgow, attracting many people nonetheless. His book, Out of the Ordinary: A Journey Through Everyday Scotland | Vol. 1 was published in the summer of 2016, and quickly sold out. A second printing of 100 copies was done, and a limited number of copies are available hereAn anticipated Volume 2 is in the works for 2017.

His views of his everyday surroundings are largely devoid of people. In the few images that include people, Sarjeant has carefully chosen to include them as elements in the scene to give us either a sense of scale, or mystery and inform the viewer that the spaces are not without use. The collection of images in this project are landscapes where the structures and infrastructures of the people of Scotland are revealed – often with blocks or lines of saturated color that punctuate the scene.

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Hawick, Borders – 03/04/2015
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Balerno, Edinburgh – 17/07/2015
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Dunbeath, Caithness – 21/05/2015

His visual lexicography includes vehicles in all manner of use and function (or disfunction), buildings both commercial and residential, markings on pavement, graffiti, shadows and shipping containers. Sarjeant’s wanderings take him through areas of Scotland that, in his words, “often look very different the following month, day, or even hour.” The decisive moments he choses are ones worth taking in and really looking at.

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Cowdenbeath, Fife – 14/04/2016
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Selkirk, Borders – 19/03/2013
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Lossiemouth, Moray – 01/11/2013

“Ultimately all photography is about light and I am fascinated by how it interacts with the lie of the land, whether in wild places or, as in this project, in man-made places. Light can create interest from the most ordinary of subjects.” Iain Sarjeant

These landscapes, communities, structures, and the geography created by them, reveal what exists beyond the ordinary. The way Sarjeant frames the images to draw our eyes through the scene, the way he juxtaposes forms, shadows, blocks of colors, and even tire tracks in snow covered lots, reveal a Scotland of beautiful repose; places for us to stop, and become drawn into the scenes.


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Iain Sarjeant is the founder and editor of Another Place, and Another Place Press which showcases contemporary landscape photography. He is a member of Documenting Britain, and works as a stock photographer.

For more information, or to view his personal work; please visit:

http://iainsarjeant.tumblr.com/

http://www.iainsarjeant.co.uk/

http://www.iainsarjeant.com/

Book Review: The Last Stop by Ryann Ford

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What started out as a humble Kickstarter project, has since grown to be a fully-realized photobook from powerHouse books. The Last Stop by Ryann Ford is a fantastic collection of parts of America that are disappearing: the humble highway rest stop. Ford set out to document these places before they were gone, much like a documentary historian who is frantically trying to preserve history; the fabric of what makes us who we are. This couldn’t be more true of the great American car culture of the mid-twentieth century, and who better to do it than a person named Ford.

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Ford laid out her project summary in late 2014, and her case was this: “Literally, before our eyes, rest stops are vanishing from the landscapes of America. All over the country, rest areas are losing the fight to commercial alternatives: drive-thrus at every exit and mega-sized travel centers offering car washes, wi-fi, grilled paninis and bladder-busting sized fountain drinks. They’re on the chopping block for many states, their upkeep giving way with tight highway budgets. And they’re not just being closed, they’re being demolished. “They’re just toilets and tables” you might say. But if you take a closer look, you will see that they are much more. They have been an oasis of green to walk your dog, have a picnic, study the map. For some, what was seen and read at rest stops could be all that was known of a region’s historical, archeological, geological, or cultural significance. Many people these days only know of rest stops as a blur from the car window. Many don’t know the historical significance of these quirky little roadside relics.”

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Raised in a Southern California mountain town so small it didn’t even have a stoplight, Ford had the freedom to explore and observe from a young age. At age 12, she took her first photo using her father’s old Pentax Spotmatic; at age 18 she enrolled in the renowned Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Photography.

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“When I moved from Southern California to Austin,” Ford recalls, “I had to move all of my belongings, so I drove. I had always wanted to make that Route 66 trip, so I tried to drive on it as much as I could from LA to Texas, which is actually kind of tough because so many sections of the road are gone now and at some points you’ll be driving on the pavement or have to go off on the dirt. I hadn’t really thought of the project at that point, but I think I saw a couple of the rest stops and that planted the seed. Then I got to Austin and became a commercial photographer. I shot a lot for Texas Monthly magazine and they would send me on assignments all over Texas, so I really got to see everything from Dallas to Houston, and San Antonio to all the small towns. I drove on a lot of the backroads, and that’s when I think I really started noticing them. There were just these cute little pull-offs, some of them don’t even have restrooms, it’s just a covered picnic table nestled back in the trees or out on this gorgeous prairie. A lot of them looked like they were from the 50s and 60s and I just love mid-century architecture and vintage design. I thought they could make for a really cool photo project.”

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The book’s design is well executed and the 10″ x 12″ trim size of the book gives ample space for the photos. Each rest stop shown in the book has a corresponding geo-tag location and a dot on an adjacent map of where it is located along her journey. In this collection of sites, Ford has created her own visual language, her own typography of this aspect of American culture. Much like projects that document and capture disappearing languages, iconic styles of architecture, and culture – With The Last Stop, Ford does far more than capture the remarkable, effective design of our nation’s road stops; she preserves a moment in the American travel experience when the journey was just as important as the destination itself.

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“The rest stops are more than just a place providing service to the public, they represent uniqueness in a world headed toward commercialization. While rest areas were originally designed to provide only the basic amenities of parking, bathroom, and picnic table, developers soon found within them the opportunity to reconnect people with the places they were traveling though, to add some humanity back to interstate travel. We can all relate to rest stops and what they represent as social and architectural icons of Americana. To me though, they are disappearing waysides of memories, anticipation and mystery of what the next one down the road will look like, and lastly they are a relevant benchmark in an era of bygone leisure travel.”


 

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The Last Stop: Vanishing Rest Stops of the American Roadside By Ryann Ford
Hardcover, 10 x 12 inches, 176 pages
ISBN: 978-1-57687-791-3

All images are reproduced with permission and are from The Last Stop by Ryann Ford, published by powerHouse Books.

You can purchase the book “The Last Stop” here, or see more of her work at her website here.


Book review :  Metro: Scenes from an Urban Stage by Stan Raucher

Public transportation can seem a bit like a traveling theater. Periodically the scene changes from one part of the city or country to another, or from day to night as the train cars travel from above-ground to below-ground, and the cast of characters can be varied throughout the play. Doors open and shut like the curtains on stage with each new scene. Tranquility can give rise to energetic vibes in just a few stops when new members of the cast come on board; and while viewing Stan Raucher’s images, one is immediately drawn into these vignettes of life.

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In his project statement for Metro, Stan Raucher speaks to the metaphor of theater. “Whenever I step into a subway station it feels as though I have entered a magnificent theater with a diverse cast of characters performing in an unscripted play on an ever-changing stage. My series Metro documents the behavior of ordinary people in mass transit systems in various countries and cultures. As individuals interact with one another in these tightly-packed public spaces, occasionally extraordinary situations that are unexpected, mysterious, humorous or poignant unfold. A strange or wonderful juxtaposition, a spontaneous gesture, a concealed mood or a hidden emotion may materialize and then vanish in a split-second. Such ephemeral events are often overlooked or quickly forgotten. My intent is to capture these fleeting moments as evocative, richly-layered images that allow each viewer to generate a unique personal narrative, and that these candid photographs will prompt us to pause and reflect on our modern lives.”

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Photographers are generally voyeurs, observers, people-watchers. Metro: Scenes from an Urban Stage allows the reader to catch glimpses of these improvised plays as Raucher saw them. He took the photographs in Metrobetween 2007 and 2014 during numerous trips he made to fifteen cities on four continents. He captured scenes in the metro systems of New York City, Mexico City, San Francisco, Paris, Budapest, Naples, London, Warsaw, Rome, Prague, Vienna, São Paulo, Lima, Delhi, and Shanghai. Raucher’s images are like the work of other masters like Walker Evans, or Robert Frank, who shot clandestine images of people and public places. “Using available light and a bit of serendipity,” Raucher says, ” I endeavor to create compelling photographs that provide a glimpse into aspects of the human condition.”

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The hardbound book contains 50 duotone images on matte paper stock which beautifully gives depth to the scenes. The intimate views of people in their own worlds lead us to guess what they are thinking, where they are going, or deduce what their day has been like. Raucher’s masterful images are rich with details and emotions, which allows the viewer to decipher body language, soak in the details of these fleeting moments in their travels, and mentally craft a script to narrate their lives based on our own sense of the world around us and the people we know. As Marlaine Glicksman sums up the book in her essay, “Raucher’s images explore and magnify a self-contained world. Yet rather than contain ours, they enable us to see farther, both into the metro and into ourselves.”


Stan Raucher is an award-winning photographer who has been documenting aspects of the human condition around the world for over a decade. His photographs have been featured in 20 solo exhibitions and included in over 60 juried group shows. His work has been published in Slate, LensWork,Black & White Magazine, The Daily Mail, The Independent, Lenscratch, F-Stop Magazine, Shots and The Havana Times. He was a 2012, 2013 and 2015 Critical Mass finalist, a 2012 CDS/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography finalist, a 2015 PX3 Bronze Award winner, and he received a 2015 Artists Trust GAP Award. His prints are held by museums, institutions, and private collectors.

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Ed Kashi is an award-winning photojournalist, filmmaker, educator, and member of VII Photo Agency. He has authored numerous books detailing the social and political issues that define our times, and he is known for his complex imagery and its compelling rendering of the human condition.

Marlaine Glicksman is a visual storyteller: an award-winning filmmaker, screenwriter, photographer, and writer who creates dramatic character-driven stories set in multicultural contexts both narrative and documentary and in moving images and stills.


 

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Metro: Scenes from an Urban Stage
Foreword by Ed Kashi and Essay by Marlaine Glicksman

ISBN: 9781942084150
8″ x 10″ inches
88 Pages; 50 Duotone

To order Metro, visit Daylight Books site. For more information about Stan Raucher and his work, visit his website here.


 

This article was originally published in F-Stop Magazine in May 2016

Mile O’Mud by Malcolm Lightner

Mad Max cruises Alligator Alley

At the heart of Mile O’Mud is the thrilling sport of swamp buggy racing. For the uninitiated, swamp buggy racing consists of custom buggies that are part boat and part love-child of NASCAR and high octane drag racing. The buggies and their driver/pilot tear through swampy, muddy terrain that is more like the lake in the center of Daytona International Speedway than the track surrounding it. And much like the famed rowdy crowds who inhabit the infield of NASCAR races, swamp buggy fans do not disappoint.

Fans pile meat in baking pans, cans of Budweiser in boxes, and stack themselves in bleachers, truck beds, and on top of homemade platforms to cheer for the Swamp Buggy Queen and pray for drivers’ quick recoveries when the track proves too treacherous, because the drivers literally risk life and limb.

 

Malcolm Lightner grew up down the street from the original “Mile O’ Mud” swamp buggy track off of Radio Road in Collier County, Florida. His own family has roots in the beginning of swamp buggy racing. Lightner’s great-uncle R.L. Walker was one of the first swamp-buggy drivers back in the late 1940s and 50s. Lightner, after getting college degrees, including his MFA, moved to New York in 1999, and he returned at least once a year to the Florida Sports Park from 2002 to 2013 to document the races — missing only 2005 due to a hurricane forced cancellation.

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Lightner’s images include portraits of the racers, the fans, the vehicles both on and off the track, as well as traditional events of the sport — including the crowning and subsequent dunking of the Swamp Buggy Queen. There is the thrill of speed and danger at the races, and a palpable rush of energy. “On my first visit to the track, I drove into the parking lot, heard the engines of the buggies roar, and witnessed the great plumes of water trailing behind the boat-dragster hybrids,” Lightner says. “I could feel the vibrations from the raw horsepower pound against my chest, and it almost took my breath away. I thought to myself, ‘this is going to be fun!’”

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Lightner’s superb images of this sport and frank depiction of its culture make me feel much the same. I was drawn into the world he has photographed, felt like a voyeur at some southern bacchanalia, and ultimately I wanted to start over at the beginning of the book and view it again. And again.

In addition to the excitement and thrills, Lightner also says “I’ve come to understand Swamp Buggy Racing as a metaphor for life’s daily struggles and the innate drive to overcome obstacles against great odds while trying to maintain a sense of humor and grace. The races demonstrated to me the all-American desire to compete to win, as well as the power of family and community.”

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This book documents the people and the culture Lightner is from, but of course this is more than an immersive documentary project. He has shown us his own clan, and paid homage to his family and community. Many of us yearn to escape the world we grew up in, to prove to ourselves and the world that we are greater than small beginnings. Yet for many people, their roots call them back. ‘Mile O’Mud’ not only called Lightner back, but it brought along a cooler of beer, some good tunes, and the thrill of the sport that helped shape him.


MALCOLM LIGHTNER is a photographer who works and resides in New York. Born in 1969 in Naples, Florida, he is a fourth generation native Floridian. Malcolm has been the recipient of numerous awards and grants and his work has been featured in a range of exhibitions including Art + Commerce Emerging Photographers and NYPH (New York Photo Festival). Malcolm’s photography is included in the permanent photography collections at the Southeast Museum of Photography in Daytona Beach, Florida. His work has appeared in Dear Dave, The Oxford American, VICE, Aint-Bad and Life among other publications. Malcolm is a member of the photography faculty at the School of Visual Arts in New York City since 2002.

All images are from Mile O’ Mud by Malcolm Lightner, published by powerHouse Books., and used by permission.

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Mile O’ Mud: The Culture of Swamp Buggy Racing
By Malcolm Lightner, Introduction by Padgett Powell
Hardcover, 12–1/2 x 11–7/8 inches, 144 pages
ISBN: 978–1–57687–794–4

For more information about Malcolm Lightner, please see his website:http://www.malcolmlightner.com/

To purchase the book, visit powerHouse Books here


Published originally in F-Stop Magazine – http://www.fstopmagazine.com

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