Tag Archives: black and white

Sarah Belclaire – Ophelia Risen from the Lake

Unmending, 2017-Present, © Sarah Belclaire

Sarah Belclaire is a photographer and writer based in Boston, Massachusetts, Her writing is mainly focused on women artists, and she recently launched a social media campaign called #1woman1review to encourage more women writers to review the work of women artists.

Belclaire’s photographic work also focuses on women’s issues, both personally and broadly. Her current/ongoing series “Unmending” is an attempt to relate her own story about disability and chronic illness to healing as a universal and varied experience. She uses large pieces of fabric to create in-studio scenes and costumes embodying the dichotomy of covering up or hiding one’s self, as compared to emerging from trauma.

This featured photographer comes from a blind submission to Wobneb Magazine. Like many things in life, a blind leap of faith is called for. In this particular case, it means the curtain is pulled aside and Sarah Belclaire’s work comes to the front of the stage. Her work is presented with a dignified grace rather than a clanging gong. Her cathartic work in ‘Unmending’ uses her own body, and her own life experience to explore meaning of her own recovery from illness; and in the larger sense, what it truly means to heal.   


Artist Statement for ‘Unmending’

“These self-portraits began with one year of photographing myself as I experienced chronic illness and, primarily, recovered from surgery. I photographed my healing scars and my life with those scars and presented these images to friends through Instagram and Facebook. As my healing progressed, the reactions of those who took my scars at face value drove me towards a different narrative: one of healing as a lifelong and universally relatable process, less tied to scars than to identity.

 I began to explore the body language and inadvertent messages that remain when I photograph my healing body without explicitly including the physical wounds. In covering my scars I uncovered themes of affectation, evasion, and discomfort as well as self-awareness, poise, and resilience. Recognizing that I am neither sickly nor immune to damage, I experiment with draped cloth costumes, which when molded, re-folded, and altered, can transform me into any state of mind: exposed, invincible, or somewhere in between. I see myself as a soul-searching woman, hiding, concealing, revealing and adorning herself with fabric: first a curtain drawn, then a twisted rope; a hospital gown or a ballgown; sheath or shaper. This work is intended to address recovery as a self-aware and sometimes painful process through which we mend, unmend, hide, emerge, lean upon others, evolve, and reinvent ourselves in search of a narrative for our healing experience.”

“At the age of twenty-six I opted for surgery to potentially, one day, save my heart. All at once it was comforting, terrifying, scarring, and curative. I addressed the complexity of this journey by photographing myself every day, starting the day after my surgery. Even when I could barely walk I was taking photos, not because it was a challenge but because it was a relief.”

 “My wardrobe and backdrops made from draped fabric are inspired by traditions of European painting from the Baroque era to early Impressionism. Fabric backdrops allow me to create a diorama of sorts in which to install my human still-lifes. Inspired by the elaborate use of costume and gesture in an exhibit of the Pre-Raphaelites at the National Gallery of Art in London, I have transformed myself into the heroine of my own anti-tragedy: an Ophelia risen from the lake.”


Sarah Belclaire is a photographer, writer, and researcher from Boston, Massachusetts. She has been writing about the arts and music and shooting portraits for 10 years. Her writing has been featured on BobDylan.com, Folk Radio UK, and No Depression. Her photos have appeared in international print and online publications such as Vogue Italia, PH Magazine, F-Stop Magazine, Photographer’s Forum, and Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls. To see more of her work from ‘Unmending’ and other photography projects, please visit her website at https://www.sarahbelclaire.com/ — to read Belclaire’s interviews, features and editorials, visit https://www.sarahbelclaire.com/redshoes

All images shown are from the series ‘Unmending, 2017-Present’ © Sarah Belclaire

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}

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.

Land – Sea : New Work by UK Photographer Andrew Mellor

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Andrew Mellor is a photographer based in Lancashire in the North West of England. His photography explores natural and man-made environments; and the interaction between the two with concerns over how we use the landscape and the social and political issues surrounding it. His work explores change and human impact.

Land – Sea : Artist Statement

For centuries Blackpool was just a hamlet by the sea. But by the middle of the 18th century, the practice of sea bathing to cure disease became very fashionable amongst the wealthier classes and people were making the journey to Blackpool solely for that purpose. Our current perceptions of the British seaside were formed during this Victorian period – childish innocence, the fun of the fair and the tranquillity of the sea itself; simple ‘old-fashioned’ fun – are all the stronger for having these Victorian roots.
Between the years 1856 and 1870, a Promenade was built along the sea front to prevent continual erosion and potential flooding and over many years the coastline witnessed significant geological and geographical changes.

It was built in several sections, which vary in height and profile, with the first completed stretch of sea defence being erected from Talbot Square to the site of where Blackpool tower was to be later built. All sections were subsequently designed by a succession of Borough Surveyors and landscape architects, which were also built in stages. This has resulted in different architectural compositions of varying construction and design. The visual stimulus created by the differing architecture is a fascinating feat of engineering and can be used to improve society, both socially and environmentally.

The marine frontage is approximately 12 miles long, from Blackpool to Fleetwood, and is in constant need of maintenance, as it is estimated that the average life span of a seawall is 50–100 years. Hard-erosion control methods provide a more permanent solution than soft-erosion control methods and because of their relative permanence, it is assumed that these structures can be a final solution to erosion.

There are many fabled stories, which provide a mythical backdrop to the seafront, with tales of bells tolling from lost villages and the revelry of the patrons from the penny o pint, which superstition says is supposed to signify a stormy night. Maps from before the late 1500’s indicate the North West coastline ventured out possibly a mile or two further than it does presently. Supposedly, several villages stood along this peninsula and were said to have been destroyed during a tidal flood, around 1554 or 1555; some archaeological evidence suggesting the existence of these villages has been found.

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To see more of Andrew Mellor’s work, or connect to him via social media, check out his website and links below:

Email: andy@andrewmellorphotography.com

Website: http://www.andrewmellorphotography.com

Instagram: https://instagram.com/andymellorphoto/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Andrew_J_Mellor

Also: Read about On the Fringe by Andrew Mellor

Small Town Inertia photo book project – J A Mortram

Surviving life and austerity on the margins

416d4c7a467bb808c27585fda580742d_originalJim Mortram is a photographer from Dereham, Norfolk, UK. He has been photographing members of his community who are on the fringes of society.  For the last seven years, Jim has been photographing the lives of people in his community who, through physical and mental problems and a failing social security system, face isolation and loneliness in their daily lives. His work covers difficult subjects such as disability, addiction and self-harm, but is always with hope and dignity, focusing upon the strength and resilience of the people he photographs. His long-form documentary photography and accompanying texts journal the lives of “people without a voice”.

Mortram’s work and projects have been featured by many, including the British Journal of Photography, as part of its “ones to watch” lists. And now, Mortram’s project ‘Small Town Inertia’ is being produced as a book via Kickstarter.

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The photographs also depict the scale of welfare cuts … of housing benefit cuts …health service cuts … and the constant failure of systems that should care for the vulnerable in the UK.

These people have a right to dignity, a right to be heard and not ignored. Jim is now publishing his photographs in a limited edition hardback book with highly regarded publisher Bluecoat Press.

Jim Mortram is one of Britain’s brightest talents. His long-term project about those on the margins of society has resulted in many accolades. The Guardian newspaper describes his work as having ‘a timeless character that invites easy comparison with the classic documentary work of such British photographers as Chris Steel-Perkins, Paul Trevor and Chris Killip.’  He was awarded in the Digital Camera : Photographer of the Year competition 2009 and 2010. He has exhibited internationally including Camden Image Gallery 2014 and Photoville New York 2013. His published work has appeared in The Guardian, British Journal of Photography (Ones to Watch 2013), Black and White Photography, Cafe Royal Books, BBC, Professional Photography, Flakphoto and aCurator.

The Kickstarter project has many levels of support available with various rewards for your kind support. Please consider supporting this project today.

Based on a False Story by Al Brydon

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What was old is new again – A conversation with the past

A drawer with rolls of exposed film sat quietly for years. Every once in awhile, Al Brydon would nose about in that drawer, then shut it and forget about them again. But one day he didn’t shut the drawer. “I couldn’t tell you why”, Brydon recalls. “When it’s time it’s time, I guess. The rolls of film suddenly became a way of having a conversation with my past self. I just needed fifteen or so years to realise it. Who wouldn’t want to get into a time machine?”

Brydon took on the chance of obliterating the images taken years before. The fruitful happenstance results of re-exposing those rolls of film were well worth the risk.  While the number of chances for good double exposures was very high, taken amongst roughly between 500 and 600 frames, Brydon states, “The hit rate for usable images was low. There’s only so much serendipity one person can muster it seems.”

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The images in Based on a False Story are a wonderful mix of beautiful double-exposed portraits of old friends and new, juxtaposed landscapes, and tactile images of balanced geometric shapes and forms that construct dreamlike scenes with silhouetted human forms in the distance, or trees forming a horizon line within the portrait of a young man. The images draw in the viewer and evoke a sense of recalling past places and people affected by the passage of time. ‘False Story’ is Brydon’s second book published through Another Place Press this year, and rounds out a full year of marvelous publications from this small-but-mighty publisher.

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Brydon has worked with double exposed film in other projects, including a project with California based photographer J.M Golding. Brydon and Golding swapped rolls of film each other had shot in their respective haunts, and the resulting project, “Tales from a non-existent land”, have a strong influence for this new project. Both projects may be born from a specific type of photographic technique, but both also transcend and speak of something more than the photographic process itself. Brydon has taken it even further by addressing the landscape of the physical and metaphysical worlds.

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Brydon has described his process of working on his landscape work through the analogy of listening; “The dead sing songs, and I am trying to learn how to hear them.” With consideration to all the occurrences man has taken to alter the physical landscape surrounding him, Brydon listens and tries to interpret the history of the land, both past and present. In this way, ‘False Story’ is also a process of connecting one’s past and present. This applies to the personal as well as the physical. Brydon says, “Some of the last photographs I had of one of my best friends were hidden in the rolls somewhere and I was worried about losing them. As it turned out, one of these particular photographs became the most successful in terms of delivering exactly what I was trying to convey. But I had no idea what was on the films really. It was more about a feeling than any compositional considerations. I tried to imagine the younger Al and I walking together while I was making the photographs. What would we have talked about? Would we have even liked each other? We are two extremely different people after all. I just walked and went to places that felt right. There were no rules and no deadlines. I was in the enviable position of freedom within the confines of a two dimensional medium and a limited number of rolls of film.”

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When I asked if ‘False Story’ feels like departure from the majority of the landscape work he has been creating, Brydon said, “Maybe a slight departure… I’d like to say everything I do is well thought out and totally intentional, but this is a falsehood. I make the work, then work out why as I go along. In this instance the process did inform the end result. I was aware there would be some photographs on there I would have liked to see without the addition of another frame over the top. There’s a sadness to the work, but it’s necessary, and as it should be. But the world happens to be immensely beautiful, and I hope I’ve at least conveyed some of that beauty in the photographs.”

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From all the various types of films stored in that drawer, Brydon had to impose some order for the purpose of the project. “Because I was working with different films and due to the chaotic nature of the work I wanted a uniform aesthetic. They were scanned and converted to mono with slight adjustments here and there. I also added the scratches but this was done by literally kicking the negatives around in my cellar. The act of re-exposing the negs was a destructive one and I wanted to continue that destructive process after I’d got the processed films back from the lab. I knew once the films had been processed and the work finished that effectively it would be the end of the conversation. I’m not sure about the long term effects of the work yet. I’m interested to see how I feel about the photographs in a year or so.  I did however keep one film back. This will be re-exposed in another fifteen years so I can have one more stern chat with myself.  I will be 55 years old.”

This psychological evaluation of one’s current self against one’s past self reveals what we know to be true – we are not who we once were. By examining our past self, we change not only who we were, but who we are now. Through the process of creating ‘False Story’, Brydon’s conversation with his past self and destruction of his original images has actually revealed glimpses of his present self. We can only assume that his current work will foretell the work to be created in 15 more years – when he will re-discover who he is, and was, anew.

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Based on a False Story by Al Brydon
© 2016 – published by Another Place Press
http://anotherplacepress.bigcartel.com/
52 pp / 210 x 150mm
Perfect Bound
Fedrigoni & GF Smith papers:
350gsm Colorplan cover, 170gsm Uncoated text
ISBN 978-0-9935688-8-6


Al Brydon is a photographer based in the North of the UK. He is less tall than he seems on the internet. To see more work and projects, visit his website: http://www.al-brydon.com/

Another Place Press is a small independent publisher interested in contemporary photography that explores landscape in the widest sense, covering themes which include land, place, journey, city and environment – from the remotest corners of the globe to the centre of the largest cities. Iain Sarjeant is the founder and editor of Another Place, and Another Place Press.

Casa das Sete Senhoras / The House of the Seven Women – by Tito Mouraz

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“It is still said around here that the house is haunted.

At the house there lived seven women, all maiden sisters.

One of them was a witch.

On full moon nights, the ladies in their white garments would fly from the balcony to the leafy branches of the chestnut across the street. From there they would seduce men who passed by.

In the House of the Seven Women, chatting, getting to know what it was like before me, listening and imagining, was as important as the act of photographing.

I started by doing some portraits of people. They interested me because they have always lived here and are attached to land just like trees. They speak about time, about their memories; their losses … many of them already dress in black.

This series gives an account of a persistent return to the same place, so as to scrutinize its differences (the slow deactivation of agricultural practices, the gradual transformation of the territory, aging…), in spite of listening to the same owl, to the same fox, to the same stories.

Same as in legend, perhaps the magic and appalling features, this cyclical experience, were my greatest wound: night, fumes, corpses, moon, ruin, sounds.

A place of affections, after all I was also born here.”

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In the Beira-Alta region of Portugal, where Tito Mouraz was born and brought up, there is a house that is said to be haunted by the ghosts of seven women, all maiden sisters. One of them was a witch. On nights of the full moon, the women, in their white gowns, would fly from their balcony over to the leafy branches of the chestnut across the street. From there they would seduce men who passed by.

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One cannot help but imagine these women with their siren songs, their efforts to lure men toward the house, all in an effort to do what? Do them harm? Enchant them? Seduce them? Regardless, Mouraz’s surreal, dreamlike images take us to a world of mystery and visual metaphors for the world that surrounded him in his youth, and are re-explored in his repeated trips to photograph the same area and people.

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Mouraz explores the myth of this place through raw, moody black and white images that capture the sense of the night, the fumes, the moon, the sounds of the trees. It is an environment where the past resonates deeply and within which the people portrayed seem attached, like trees, to the land in which they they live. Beira-Alta shaped Mouraz as a child and through his persistent return he searches out the slow changes of time through the gradual aging and transformation of a landscape.

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Tito Mouraz is a gallery represented photographer in Portugal and France. He has exhibited internationally in Europe and has work in a number of public and private collections. To view more work by Tito Mouraz, visit his website at http://titomouraz.com/

His published book of The House of the Seven Women was released in 2016, and was selected as a top photo book of 2016 by The Guardian, 1000 Words Photography, Colin Pantall and Sean O’Hagan. You can find his book available for purchase from dewi lewis publishing at https://www.dewilewis.com/collections/new-titles/products/the-house-of-the-seven-women

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

Interview with photographer Carrie Schreck

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Cary Benbow (CB): Why did you become a photographer? How did you get started?

Carrie Schreck (CS): I messed around a bit with film as a kid but the real answer this: when I first lived in San Francisco, my boyfriend and I never locked our car. It’s best just to leave it unlocked with nothing in it; if someone breaks in, at least you don’t have to replace your windows. One night someone must have been ripping off cars, got into ours and fell asleep. The next morning my boyfriend walks in with a Canon AE-1 left in the back seat. That’s how I got in to photography. Seriously. I still have that camera.

CB: Where do you get the ideas for your personal photography?

CS: I’m looking for genuine moments, powerful moments, and I hope to have the right mix of luck and speed to be able to catch them and do them some justice.

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CB: Explain the idea behind your Moped portfolio images  – How do they relate to your other projects?

CS: I’ve been shooting moped riders and moped gangs for 7 years. I shoot it because it’s my life and what’s going on around me, but it’s such a close-knit community, it’s a brotherhood and sisterhood. The story lines around each gang, each ride, each rally are a total challenge to capture. I wanted to save the memories for the people in them, that was always my first priority. Say, if Ashlee ever has kids and they are able to see a photo of her bombing the Coronado bridge after racing hundreds of miles, fixing her bike on the side of the road, doing something silly and dangerous but daring… maybe they’ll be inspired. With a photograph, that inspiration can happen long after I’m gone, after she’s gone.

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CB: Seven years definitely counts as a large, long-term project. What work are you currently shooting?

CS: ‘Larger series’ is about right. I’ve taken about 50,000 photos over the last 7 years. This fall I’ll be showing a slice of them at Haphazard Gallery in Santa Monica opening October 29. I’ve gotten the selects down to about one thousand, so I’m still editing. This coming week I’m traveling to Europe to meet with some moped gangs over there, tour a factory, follow a race, then I’ll be back in the states for the big national rally in San Francisco. That will be 8 years in total shooting bikes, I’m about ready to find a new subject.

CB: What will you be doing while you are in Europe? Where will you be traveling?

CS: I’ll be in Slovenia and Croatia, so I’m very interested in the lives of people displaced passing through from Syria and Jordan. I’m drawn to human ingenuity and how people excel at making the best of their situation. If I can find people willing to be photographed, I might. There are some moments that just don’t need to be photographed, I’m always aware of that, too.

CB: What or who are your personal photography inspirations?

CS: You know, strangely enough I found out a few years ago that my great Aunt was one of the first famous female photographers, Nancy Ford Cones. Like me, she liked documenting life’s moments. In her later years she started to become more experimental, creating scenes, when her husband died she stopped shooting altogether.  Weirdly, I learned all of this way after my own interest in photography began. In a way I feel like I’m continuing to shoot for her, so she’s a big inspiration for me.

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

CS: If Arthur Pollock had a 5D and hung out with grimey gear-head punks. Something like that.

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To see more work by Carrie Schreck, visit her website at https://radradmopeds.wordpress.com/

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

A Process of Healing – Interview with photographer Tarah Sloan

I came across a series of images by Tarah Sloan when reviewing work in the F-Stop Magazine exhibition, Family, earlier this year. The exhibition took place at a time when Sloan was not able to give her input for an interview, but I had the chance to revisit her work; and I am glad for the opportunity. In our interview, she revealed the back-story for her series of images dealing with her mother, cancer, and loss. By dealing with her Mother’s life after the loss of family members, one could presume this work is catharsis for her as well.

TarahSloan-2- New Day
New Day

Cary Benbow (CB): Why do you photograph? Why did you become a photographer?

Tarah Sloan (TS): I photograph because it is a way of expression and a form of storytelling, for myself and the viewer. The environment I am surrounded by typically compels me to create images. I started photographing at a young age, so over time my skills developed and my love never wavered. After graduating from high school, I knew I wanted to attend an art college to receive my BFA in photography, and that’s exactly what I did.

CB: Your images in this series definitely come across as storytelling. Can you please explain the idea behind your series?

TS: These images are unlike any other project I have created before. My concept behind this photo series is the emotional plunge of grief a person will face in their lifetime. This project is significantly different because it is personal to my family and me, documenting my mother as the subject. I also normally would not have one person as my main focus through a whole body of work. Many of my ideas for my personal work come from observing the behaviors of others in my environment; such as, this work of my mother.

TarahSloan-5 Staying in Bed
Staying in Bed

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

TS: A good photograph should pull you in and make you think, feel, react or respond in some way. Photography, after all, is art.

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Classroom

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

TS: That’s a hard question for me, because I can be a little too critical of my own work. I want the viewer to gain some sort of emotional connection from the image. Whether that’s from wonder, amazement, sadness, or joy. Within this series of photographs, I documented my mother.

“I started documenting my mother a few months after my brother Daron passed away in July of 2015.
 I watched her daily struggle with grief after the loss of her husband, sister, and her only son – each who had suffered with cancer; all within 5 years.
I watched her put on the daily brave face and try to continue with life as usual.
I watched as the feelings of depression kept her in its grip.
After many lonely hours, days, and nights, I began to see her gaining strength as she finds new life in the comfort of her garden and the surroundings of her music and art students.”

TarahSloan-8 Yard Work
Yard Work

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

TS: Paul Strand, Ansel Adams, Sally Mann, Diane Arbus, Uta Barth, and Shelby Lee Adams- to name a few from a broad range of individually talented and inspirational photographers. There are many people who I draw inspiration from, including my past professors and colleagues. Why are these people my inspirations? The majority of their photographs are captivating and striking on a number of photographic levels. I think it would be hard for someone to not find inspiration in some way.

 

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CB: What work are you currently working on? Any new projects?

TS: This past summer my mom and I spent 40 days straight on the road, traveling a full circle around the US to visit different grad schools I have looked into. From visiting family in West Virginia, we journeyed upwards to the first art school in Chicago, across to the University of Oregon, down to San Francisco Art Institute, across to the University of New Mexico, then back across to Georgia. Of course, we stopped at as many National Parks as we could along the way, including Devil’s Tower, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, and the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. It was an amazing, exhausting, and eye-opening experience to see the grand, ever changing landscapes of the United States- totally worth it! As a (mostly) landscape photographer, I was in heaven the majority of the trip.  I’m pretty excited to see where my future leads me.


See more of Tarah Sloan’s images at her website: www.tarahsloanphotography.com