Tag Archives: culture

Featured photographer Rachael Banks

© Rachael Banks, Grady after Benson, 2016

Rachael Banks is a photographer from Louisville, Kentucky, and is an Assistant Professor of Photography at Northern Kentucky University. In a recent issue of F-Stop Magazine, I was fortunate to interview her and feature her work in the thematic context of animals  – while acknowledging her work focuses primarily on family dynamics, relationships, and nostalgia. She is also especially interested in social subcultures and identity informed by place. Banks’ creates work about her family and the uneasiness of those relationships that are strained but also incredibly involved. The inclusion of numerous pets or animals in her family’s life conveys the importance animals play in our lives as she explores feelings of loss, identity, and meaning in the context of family, love and acceptance. It is immediately apparent that she cares deeply for her family – a tough subject to be subjective with, and also intimately close to. 

 

I am the oldest of three, but more like a mother than a sister.

I constructed a family of siblings, both real and assumed.
‘Between Home and Here’ addresses deeply internalized
guilt and the essence of loved ones.

There is a history of pain and an apparent inwardness in my family.

My brother has a rage inside of him that I know others can see. 

But, I can’t help noticing the way he delicately handles a small rabbit in his arms, gently stroking its ears and shielding its eyes from the fear of the unfamiliar.

I am a witness to their sensitivity and empathy in how they revere animal life, despite human failure.

This is a story about hating and loving where you are from.
It comes from doing anything to go back to a place that you left.

I left my heart in Kentucky and came back to find it.
The photographs are artifacts from my search.

Rachael Banks – ‘Between Home and Here’

Cary Benbow (CB): Your project Between Home and Here explores very powerful tropes of Family and inclusion. Let’s talk about the level of trust and intimacy in your work, and I’d like to ask about the project in terms of portraiture versus straight documentary style photography.

Rachael Banks (RB): While I am extroverted at work (I have to be), I am actually pretty shy and slow in how I go about making work, so it isn’t always as viable for me to photograph strangers. There is definitely a level of intimacy I have to achieve with a person to make work about them extensively. I really like to invest in whoever I am making work about. I go back and forth about my work being more portraiture based vs. documentary. In the beginning, I was interested in the concept of aesthetic beauty and portraiture allowed me to explore that. However, as the work has continued, I’ve thought more about my relationships with people and the place I feel I have in the world. I never considered myself a documentary photographer because I wasn’t sure if photographing my family fit within the scope but as the work expands, I definitely feel like the work is more heavily influenced by documentary photography. Portraiture is something I naturally gravitate towards in respect to my working methodology but my intent goes beyond the mode in which I present my images.

CB: Let’s discuss the role animals play in your work; how much of a role do they play in the lives of your subjects, or in your own life?

RB: I’m not sure if this is a regional or family influence (maybe a little bit of both) but I grew up surrounded by animals. My family members have always had a wide array of pets and my dad lives on a farm. I was definitely raised in an environment that placed a heavy emphasis on respect for animals and to treat pets as family. Because my work is so centrally focused on my relationships with immediate family, it is inevitable that animals become a part of that. Additionally, I see that animals often serve as an extension of the subject I am photographing and that they can help inform the viewer with more insight into the personality traits of the individual. On a personal note, I spend a lot of time driving to make work and I bring my dog Ghost with me as much as possible. If there isn’t an animal in the photograph I’m making, there is most likely one sitting next to me while I’m shooting.

CB: With regard to your earlier statement about your portraits documenting your family, what do you feel are the “obligations” of a photographer, or what obligation do you have to the people, your family, in your photos?

RB: I think it is important to have the ability to stand behind every image that you make. I understand that anything I put out into the world for others to see is coming from my own specific gaze and that I am actively selecting how the subject is framed and presented. I feel that I have a responsibility to myself and others to be able to understand that not everyone will see my images the same way that I do and that I have the ability to contribute (both negatively and positively) to how an individual/region/situation is represented. There is always the possibility that something I make can be misunderstood or that I can even cause harm, so with that in mind, I try to make sure that I don’t share anything that I can’t live with later on in life.

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

RB: My mom photographed my entire childhood – and I mean she photographed everything constantly. While she has never identified as being creative/artistic, I feel that her compulsions have influenced me greatly and my need to document as much of my life/surroundings as possible. I have a lot of anxiety about forgetting defining moments or losing sight of what informs my identity. Photography has always provided a way for me to stay connected to who I am and what matters to me.

CB: Who are your photography inspirations or how to they influence your work?

RB: This is a question where I can go overboard so I will attempt to be as concise as possible. I really love Doug Dubois and the way he documents youth in addition to integrating a graphic novel in his series My Last Day at Seventeen. When I think about the muse in the photograph, I always look at Emmet Gowin; because who wouldn’t want to be loved the way that Edith is? I’m really inspired by Nathan Pearce and the way he photographs his life in the Midwest – he also has an incredible work ethic that always pushes me to be better. Jake Reinhart is another big inspiration for me because of his extensive approach to research and his ability to articulate his work in such a thoughtful way. I am also currently excited about Amy Powell, Caiti Borruso, Susan Worsham, and Dylan Hausthor.

CB: Do you feel there is a significant difference between “documentary” style photography versus “portrait” photography as a label? Or are those labels significant as a category to your work?

RB: I think that there is crossover between portraiture and documentary in my work. In terms of there being a difference, I believe the intent of the photographer is significant in making distinctions between the two. I’ve seen documentary work that is mainly consistent of portraiture so there isn’t much a difference between the two in that situation but I have also seen a lot of portraiture work that is more about visual aesthetics than it is about being documentary. I feel that my work falls in both categories in that I work primarily in portraiture but I am approaching my subject matter as a documentarian. Portraiture is a natural habit for me but I am more interested in the research and document component of making work. I don’t want to be the person that says I don’t fall into a category because I definitely fall into a few! If I had to describe my work in one sentence to a stranger I would summarize it as a documentary approach to family (assumed and biological) portraiture.

CB: Please talk about the role of a photographer as “publisher” and what you think about the recent increased push for photographers to publish photo books and/or zines. I know you are a strong advocate for publishing work.

RB: I am 100% supportive of photographers working in self-publishing and its one of my favorite components of photography. I think there is a lot that self-publishing/zines allow for a photographer in regard to the opportunity for exposure that it provides. While I feel it is still important to show work in galleries, a zine allows a photographer to share work without being weighed down by so many financial burdens. Accessible art is really important to me and I feel that self-publishing allows for photography to be more readily distributed and shared which fosters such a dynamic community that I value being a part of. On another note, I think that there is an over saturation of photobooks in the world right now, but I’m not terribly upset about having more books to collect. If there is a project that isn’t ready to be presented to the work as a traveling solo exhibition or a monograph, it can still be shared/distributed as a zine. Publishing also allows for photographers/viewers to see work as a physical object as opposed to looking at everything through a screen. I definitely appreciate the photograph more as a physical object and publishing encourages this.

 

© Rachael Banks, Ghost in the Snow, 2017
© Rachael Banks, The See Him in You, 2018
© Rachael Banks, Dad Holding Mabel, 2017
© Rachael Banks, In the Garden, 2015
© Rachael Banks, from Between Home and Here
© Rachael Banks, Ghost, 2017
© Rachael Banks, My Dream of a White Horse, 2018
© Rachael Banks, Basil, 2015
© Rachael Banks, from Between Home and Here
© Rachael Banks, from Between Home and Here
© Rachael Banks, Bo Jackson, 2015
© Rachael Banks, from Between Home and Here
© Rachael Banks, from Between Home and Here
© Rachael Banks, from Between Home and Here
© Rachael Banks, from Between Home and Here
© Rachael Banks, from Between Home and Here

Rachael Banks (b. Louisville, KY) is an Assistant Professor of Photography at Northern Kentucky University and is based in Covington, KY. She received an MFA in photography from Texas Woman’s University (Denton, TX). Banks is an avid supporter of self-publishing, accessible art, zines, and collecting. Her work has been shown at The Center for Fine Art Photography, The Kinsey Institute, Black Box Gallery, Darkroom Gallery, and several other institutions. She has also been featured in a number of online photography publications and frequently participates in panel discussions and invited speaker presentations.

To see more work by Rachael Banks, please visit her website at www.rachaelbanksphoto.com


An edited version of this article was first published in F-Stop Magazine in April 2019.

Arthur Fields – Seen and Heard: Evidence of a unique personal experience

Grid of images from ‘Seen and Heard’ © Arthur Fields

Arthur Fields is a photographer from Texas, currently living in Vincennes, Indiana where he is an Assistant Professor of Art at Vincennes University.  He currently teaches courses in traditional analog photography as well as digital imaging.  He also serves as the director of VU’s Shircliff Gallery of Art.

Fields’ latest artistic research is based on his love of landscape and self-representation. By compiling imagery from online web searches and social networks such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, both virtual and tangible, his work consists of imagery collected through the process of data compiling using hashtags (identity markers). Acting as both curator as well as image-maker he is concerned with choosing, organizing, editing, and remixing, to better understand the collective cultural experience that is mediated through digital processes.

Much of Fields’ recent work involving images and hashtags used on social media platforms (especially Instagram) explore themes of place, sense of self, and inclusion/exclusion; especially in the context of class, race, and culture. His exhibition From Academic to Instagram complied collections of images based around a core group of hashtags. The resulting grid of multiple images from his collection is a manner of both curation and image-making. In his statement for the exhibition, Fields says, “I am concerned with choosing, organizing, editing, and remixing, to better understand the collective cultural experience that is mediated through digital processes. By considering the photograph as data to be sorted, I engage in systems for which modern culture stores and presents images that reflect the pictorial and social relationships connecting the camera, the photographer, and the spectator.”  Fields includes more context for the work by addressing the collective social experience people have by being both producers and consumers of visual media. Fields continues in his statement, “As John Berger writes in his seminal book, Ways of Seeing, ‘Oil painting, before it was anything else, was a celebration of private property. As an art-form it derived from the principle that you are what you have.’ These sets of images, placed in the IG grid format, represent my view of the genre or a hashtag as it relates to my personal online experience. The amount of feedback or likes I get from IG followers. Why are these images created? Are they actually memories of daily life or is this just the modern way of displaying wealth, class or culture?”

In a collection of related images and posts on Fields’ Instagram feed (@artfields), he uses the hashtag ‘overheard’ to explore themes of inclusion and exclusion, as well as identity and a sense of place and self. The images are part of a larger project, Seen and Heard. When I asked Fields about these images and the themes within, he said the feeling of being an outsider was especially noticeable soon after relocating from his home in Texas. That feeling has subsided with time, but the series of ‘overheard’ tagged images definitely builds off the feeling of being ‘on the outside’ of a conversation, culture or class.

In his project statement for Seen and Heard, Fields states that the project is ultimately “an exploration of a way that memory is influenced in the digital age. Using the senses of sight and sound, I share my daily walk through the world. These routine and sometimes mundane activities such as driving to work, celebrating birthdays and watching nature are activities that represent my life. Through the use of the social network Instagram, these mundane scenes are revisited and carefully edited to portray my public-self. Upon seeing an image, the brain informs us that we have seen or had that experience. By choosing to print specific imagery, I transform it from experience to object which in turn enhances the ability to recall the experience. This work promotes the intuitive recognition of shared experiences. Like the careful construction of the vanishing ‘scrapbook’, I am selecting and constructing the memories for myself and the viewer. Created to trigger both visual and auditory memories, this selection of images and text are randomly chosen to represent my life.”

“Each image is labeled with its associated information, such as location and hashtag,” Fields explains. “The images are also given the bonus of a quote. The added quote represents an overheard comment or audio blurb, heard by the artist within 48 hours of taking the image. By choosing a particular quote with an unrelated image, a connection between the two leads to the generation of a personal narrative. While this work does mirror that deluge of images and audio prevalent in a digital society, it is curated; filtered to make a particular story that serves as evidence of a unique personal experience.” Fields’ work explores his own personal interactions; yet there is a strong supporting level of universal experience through social contexts, identity and memory. 

The collection of images from the Seen and Heard project can be views at Fields’ Instagram feed: @artfields. In connection with this published feature, beginning April 23rd, Fields will be posting work from his project on the Instagram feed for Wobneb Magazine. To see images from this project, please click on the link, and follow @WobnebMag on Instagram to view his work.

From ‘Seen and Heard’ © Arthur Fields
From ‘Seen and Heard’ © Arthur Fields
From ‘Seen and Heard’ © Arthur Fields
From ‘Seen and Heard’ © Arthur Fields
From ‘Seen and Heard’ © Arthur Fields
From ‘Seen and Heard’ © Arthur Fields
From ‘Seen and Heard’ © Arthur Fields
From ‘Seen and Heard’ © Arthur Fields
From ‘Seen and Heard’ © Arthur Fields
From ‘Seen and Heard’ © Arthur Fields
From ‘Seen and Heard’ © Arthur Fields
From ‘Seen and Heard’ © Arthur Fields
From ‘Seen and Heard’ © Arthur Fields

Arthur Fields completed a MFA in Photography at Texas Woman’s University in Denton, Texas, and earned a BFA in Digital Imaging and Photography at Washington University in St. Louis.  His prior studies included printmaking and photography at Brookhaven College.  He also is a board member of several photographic arts organizations: Ticka-Arts, The Texas Photographic Society, and the editorial board of YIELD Magazine. He also is an active member of the Society for Photographic Education, where he serves as Student Volunteer Coordinator of the SPE National Conference.

For more information about Arthur Fields, and to see more of his work, please visit his website at http://www.arthurfields.net.

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}

Featured photographer – Tito Mouraz

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Fluvial — transforming personal geography into a fictional world of shapes and forms

Project Statement — Fluvial is a meditation of the beaches and villages of interior northern and central Portugal. Photographed between 2011 and 2017, these fluvial scenes transmute personal geography into a fictional atmosphere. Testifying to the author’s lifelong relationship with northern and central Portuguese riverside beaches and villages, they act not in the manner of a topographic survey, but rather by equating erosion with vision. Just as the river currents have shaped the natural elements, time’s passage appears to have depurated irony off his gaze, predisposing it to form and analogy, and to kindness towards his equals.

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Capturing families at informal moments of Portuguese society, predominantly emigrant workers home for summer from northern European countries, bodies, tree trunks and riverbed rocks resemble small sculptures (some of which are anthropomorphic); the human body, here almost amphibious, is often reduced to a simple form, to the submerged surface, either adopting the stream bed as an optical instrument, or by shaping it with light.

The human and non-human bodies emerge from chiaroscuro schemes, either as elements of an illusory mise-en-scène, or defamiliarized, reduced to mere form, as if by casting a spell on them.

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Realistic yet dreamlike, conveying a pagan sense of nature, creating the atmospheric effect of an infinite Sunday, it reminds one of a summer dream — a visual ode to human leisure.

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For more information, or to see more work from Mouraz’s project Fluvial, visit his website at http://www.titomouraz.com/en/works/Fluvial/

Also, check out our 2016 published feature on Mouraz’s work, Casa das Sete Senhoras / The House of the Seven Women 

Julio’s House by Orestes Gonzalez

A Home Becomes a Touchstone

Julios House Living Room

The colorful photographs in Julio’s House show us extravagant, Liberace-inspired interior living spaces within a modest Miami house. We see scenes of a very personal setting, but devoid of people. The only people shown in the book are in vintage photographs taken of Orestes Gonzalez’s uncle Julio, his uncle’s friends and lovers, and his life as a cruise ship entertainer. Julio worked as a magician, tour guide and entertainer aboard a ship that took tourists between Miami and Cuba before Castro took power in 1958.

Current images of Julio‘s house are juxtaposed with vintage photographs of the same rooms and largely unchanged decor from over 30–40 years ago. The bitter-sweetness is palpable. How does Gonzalez come to terms with the loss of a family member who was somewhat estranged by his family, and put it all into context while sorting through his belongings and walking through Julio’s personal spaces?

Julios House aboard the SS Florida with Tourists 1958
Julio Santana aboard the SS Florida with tourists, 1958

Julios House Credenza

Julios House Bedroom

Julios House Wall portrait

When I first saw photographs of this project almost a year ago, I recognized the importance and the weight of responsibility for photographing spaces that belonged to a significant person in one’s life. Gonzalez’s photos include rooms that feature knickknacks, reading material on a side table, and all the ephemera that were in place while his uncle was living in his home. So the photographs are part document, part remembrance. It is a potentially revealing and rewarding endeavor to explore the themes that come from this process, decipher meaning from all of it, and try to understand it.

I had the opportunity to photograph my grandparents house while they were both living. I went through their house with a large format camera and took careful photographs of each room. The images were originally taken as a documentary study of where they lived. Looking at those photographs over twenty years later, they have transformed into vignettes of spending time in the house as a child. When I asked Gonzalez about the images in his own project, which was developed into this wonderful book, he said, “They lasso you in to a reality, away from incorrectly fantasizing over a period of time or a place. My intent with the story was to shatter the stereotype of the gay man (that my generation grew up with) as just an effete, and not family orientated individual.”

Julios House Studio portrait 1971

Gonzalez’s text throughout the book is well paced with the images chosen. The interior scenes of the house are counterbalanced with personal photographs or close-ups of a setting that give us a real feel for what it was like to be in the home. We see the rooms, how they are decorated, personal effects on shelves and side tables, stuffed birds attached to black velvet in picture frames, striped foil wallpaper in the dining room and green shag carpet in the front room. Bright daylight floods the rooms in his images — a stark contrast to the nightlife chronicled in some of the text describing evening parties with energetic music, dancing, and Cuban food that went straight to the gut and soul of the merry-makers in Julio’s house.

Julios House Night stand
Julios House Closet
Julios House Pajaritos (Birds)
One can sense Gonzalez’s conflict, from the way Julio was marginalized by his close family long ago. But while going through Julio’s belongings and paperwork, Gonzalez discovered that his uncle had scrimped and saved and lived modestly in order to eventually bring 12 members of his immediate family to the United States from Cuba. Gonzalez discovered his uncle was a caring, family-centric man who lived a life that was at odds with the stereotypes that gay men (Cuban-American men especially, according to Gonzalez) faced in the 1970s and beyond. His previously held opinion about Julio as a flamboyant, superficial man quickly transformed into pride for his uncle.
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 The book feels like a hand-written letter one would write and send it to someone who has been a significant influence in their life. A letter to convey the complex emotion: ‘I understand now better what you mean to me, what you meant to me, and why our relationship is important.’ So many things are seen clearer if given enough time and distance, whether it’s physical or emotional.
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It would be easy to view this collection of photographs and written memories as primarily being a remembrance. But, I feel one should look at the project as a sense of discovery. Gonzalez is presenting a visual and written exploration of the over-arching question: what would his life possibly be like if he had experienced his family in a different way, and how would that difference impact his own life as an openly gay man? Does the myth of one’s past hold up to the scrutiny of the present? Gonzalez’s photographs are taken from the angle and perspective of an adult, and they were not naively taken nor considered. The narrative text is written by a man who is recalling the past, and providing context for the life and times of his uncle. This process of self discovery, as well as trying to understand the people who influence and mold your life, is potentially one of the most important things a person can undertake. And the act of treasuring or honoring the lives of those we love reminds us of our own mortality. With consideration to Julio’s House, one could say our own possessions might mean nothing to one person, but to another it may be the key to unlocking memories and understanding.

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Julio’s House by Orestes Gonzalez
Essay by Roula Seikaly
10 x 8.5″ perfect-bound, hardcover
60 pages
Limited edition of 400

Julio’s House is published by Kris Graves Projects, and can be purchased online at http://www.krisgravesprojects.com/store/julioshouse. For people who want to buy a copy at the only bookstore in New York that carries it, get info at the website for Printed Matter, Inc.

Julio’s House received much deserved attention and accolades in 2017. Notably, the book was bought by The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York) as part of their book collection in the Thomas J. Watson Library, and the images have been picked up by The Fredric Snitzer Gallery in Miami. The opening date for the show “Julios House”, at the Fredric Snitzer Gallery is Friday April 6th, 2018.

To see more work by Orestes Gonzalez, please visit his website at http://orestesgonzalez.com or read our interview in F-Stop Magazine here or on Medium here.

 

In the Country of Stones by Nicolas Blandin

Poetic visual narrative of Armenia

© Nicolas Blandin
www.nicolasblandin.com

Busy lives being what they are — I did not have the opportunity to sit down with In the Country of Stones when it published in June of 2017. My copy arrived, and time slipped by. Shame on me. Nicolas Blandin’s book is a wonderful collection of images made when he travelled to Armenia in 2013–2014 after being captivated by the land and its people on a previous visit.

The landscapes Blandin captured are beautiful in their stillness. The layers of history, memories and culture appear in icons made visible. Telephone poles, highway ruins, and ancient carvings all evoke an ancient Christian past, and the Soviet government that ruled there for over 70 years is recognized as well. Both exist, at least visually, in a harmony knit together by the people of Armenia. Blandin comments on this aspect of the people in the book: “We had heard about the legendary Armenian hospitality, but we were still humbled by the level of openness and generosity we encountered. During those three weeks on the road we had the strange feeling that we had reunited with distant relatives…”

© Nicolas Blandin
www.nicolasblandin.com

© Nicolas Blandin
www.nicolasblandin.com

The mix of images in the book include almost as many portraits as images of the land itself. Yet I undoubtedly consider the book to be about Blandin’s journey to this raw, poetically beautiful place. The placement of the images within the book are such that one image leads the viewer into the next with a feeling of wonder, and time seems to fold back and forth on itself. A portrait of teenage boys wearing contemporary clothes is juxtaposed with an image of a house interior with a metal stove that could easily be from the early 20th century. Massive Soviet brutalist architecture follows an interior photo of a monastery from the 9th century complete with early Christian iconography. And each person shown in the book gazes directly at the camera, and thus right at the viewer — hinting at the openness and familiarity Blandin felt.

© Nicolas Blandin
www.nicolasblandin.com

© Nicolas Blandin
www.nicolasblandin.com

© Nicolas Blandin
www.nicolasblandin.com

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© Nicolas Blandin
www.nicolasblandin.com

The book sold out its first edition 150 copy print run, not surprisingly. Much like many of the other editions published by Another Place Press, the book’s size is very personal in nature; lending to a meaningful interaction between the images and the viewer. The photos are printed beautifully on uncoated paper, which gives them a warmth and softness without sacrificing clarity.

© Nicolas Blandin
www.nicolasblandin.com

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© Nicolas Blandin
www.nicolasblandin.com

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Blandin speaks to the backstory of the project, as well as the historic narrative of Armenia and how it frames his work in those contexts. He closes his statement in the book by saying, “The images in this book are the result of a personal journey. They are partial, subjective, selective, even oblique. They do not amount to a definitive vision of the country. How could they even presume to record a nation in such a state of flux? In my photographs, I am seeking to tell my own story, as well as the stories of others, as honestly as I can. Rather than documenting the history and the landscape, my approach to both is rather more poetic and lyrical. And yet, to borrow Jocelyn Lee’s words, photographs, unlike paintings or drawings, remain “mysterious but irrefutable anchors to a real event in space and time.”

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In the County of Stones — Nicolas Blandin

76 pp / 150 x 190mm
Perfect Bound
Fedrigoni & GF Smith papers:
350gsm Colorplan cover
170gsm Uncoated text
Edition of 150
APP011
ISBN 978–1–9997424–0–9

 


Nicolas Blandin is a self-taught French photographer based in Annecy, France. Winner of the 2017 Feature Shoot Emerging Photography Awards, his work has been featured in various publications both printed and online. Besides freelancing for editorial and commercial clients, Nicolas is working on several long-term personal projects. His first book entitled “In the Country of Stones” was published by Another Place Press in June 2017.

Feel free to get in touch for commissions, collaborations, print inquiries or just to say hi.

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.

 

 

Peace in the Valley by Saleem Ahmed

Peace in the Valley is a wonderful image collection of vignettes of the Bolivian landscape by photographer Salem Ahmed. It is a visual love affair with people, places and scenes presented in soft, colorful tones, and thoughtful compositions that create a meaningful dialog between photographer and the city of Nuestra Señora de la Paz, or just La Paz for short. 

Entropy and pragmatic utility stand side-by-side in the images Ahmed presents for the viewer’s pleasure. Like a shabby chic dressed model on a runway, La Paz is a patchwork of urban fabric draped over its streets and buildings; adorned with graffiti, power lines, and retention fences that lure our gaze.

His images felt to me as if they had genuine sentimental value. These were studies of a city, as well as a remembrance to be kept. While Ahmed’s introduction to the book gives one an idea of the setting and what it means to him personally, the images carry the viewer through to the end.

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“The city is loud, dirty, and chaotic. Traffic laws are merely suggestions, as black clouds of exhaust fumes blanket rush-hour gridlocks and zebra-striped crosswalks. The opening-and-closing of sliding doors on taxi minivans, and the rumble of diesel engines from repurposed military buses reverberates through the streets.”

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“La Paz is a city that has consistently broke my heart and challenged my physical and mental toughness. It is also another home to me. Despite my frustrations, I continued to return to La Paz to try and understand a place that didn’t always make sense. These photographs serve as a tribute to the beautiful people of Bolivia and my continued search for the meaning of peace.”

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Peace in the Valley allows the viewer to walk through La Paz and see what Ahmed has seen – a beautiful city that might appear imperfect on the surface, but when we soak up the details and enjoy the scenes, we too can fall in love.


For more information, please visit Ahmed’s website, instagram, or publisher site.  Peace In The Valley is one of their latest releases, and these coveted books by Another Place Press are amazingly affordable.

 

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60 pp / 200 x 150mm
Perfect Bound
Fedrigoni paper:
300gsm cover, 170gsm text
Edition of 150
APP010
ISBN 978-0-9935688-9-3


Saleem Ahmed is a photographer, writer and educator based in Philadelphia.

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.

Photo Exhibition Explores the Way Disruption Impacts Our Lives

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Now through June 11th, the curated exhibition, Disruption is being held at The Factory in Long Island City, Queens, NY.

Each distinguished artist was selected based on work developed independently, for an extended period of time. Each artist uses documentary directness, humor, pathos and poetry in their images. Separately, they address the connective topics of lives interrupted, lives cut short, lives spent separated from family, their own cultural identity and of quiet personal sacrifices made every day. They bring the perspective of being outsiders, as well as insiders to the world we live in and sometimes struggle to understand and come to terms with.

The international group of artists chosen for Disruption are Verónica Cárdenas, Kris Graves, Griselda San Martín, G.D. McClintock, and Orestes González.

The Factory
4th floor
30-30 47 Avenue
Long Island City, Queens, NY

www.disruptiontheexhibit.com

Through The Wall
© Griselda San Martin
triple wedding
© G.D. McClintock from the series Triple Wedding
michael brown
The Murder of Michael Brown © Kris Graves
disqualified
Disqualified, Qualified Girls © Orestes González
castile
The Murder of Philando Castile © Kris Graves
trump
© Verónica Cárdenas

 

Book review: Nirvana: The Spread of Buddhism Through Asia by Jeremy Horner | Goff Books

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Nirvana: The Spread of Buddhism Through Asia, authored and photographed by geologist Jeremy Horner has been awarded the Silver award in the Best Coffee Table Book category by the 29th Annual IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards. The IBPA celebrates vibrant independent publishers through the Benjamin Franklin Awards for excellence in book editorial and design and is one of the highest national honors for independent book publishers.

This is a journey of spiritual as well as visual enlightenment, as the reader traces the origins of Buddhism and following its evolutionary paths from its birthplace at Bodh Gaya, India to northeast Asia, along the Silk Road through China, down to Sri Lanka, and across to southeast Asia.

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From its origins at Bodh Gaya on the plains of northern India, the book leads the reader through travels up into the Himalaya of Ladakh, where Buddhism thrived and split in the five different sects. The journey takes us to Nepal, historically a receptive home for Buddhism, to Tibet in Exile in Dharamshala, and to Sikkim and Bhutan paying homage to the sacred sites of Mahayana Buddhism along the way. Maps with reference to the photographs will guide you along the routes.

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Then we venture along the silk route into the mountainous region of Xinjiang in China, and to the largest monastery in the Buddhist world at Labrang in Gansu Province, home to the Yellow Hat sect. We visit the Longman Caves and the legendary Shaolin Monastery, with its extraordinary Kung Fu monks, before eventually embarking for Korea and Japan to trace Tantric Buddhism. There we sample the tranquility of Zen temples and the fresh mountain and sea air of the most sacred pilgrim sites.

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We follow the story of how the once precarious belief emerged as Theravada Buddhism and found a haven in Sri Lanka before progressing eastwards to Burma, and on into southeast Asia, as far as central Java.

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We explore the exquisite temples of Luang Prabang in Laos, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and Sukhothai in Thailand where Buddhist art reached a certain zenith. Finally we traverse the Tibetan plateau to reach the fabled capital of Lhasa, with its spiritual center of the Jokhang Temple and the iconic Potala Palace, the abandoned home of HH the Dalai Lama. Maps with reference to the photographs will guide you along the routes. The illuminating text by Denis Gray provides an authoritative perspective of Buddhism in 21st century Asia and assists in navigating the reader through the book’s journey.


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About the author: 

Nomadic by nature, and as a qualified geologist, Jeremy wandered into the Himalaya in 1987, teaching himself photography. His work from the Nepali Himalaya was immediately published in Hong Kong to high acclaim, sparking a romantic career which has taken him to over a hundred countries across the globe.

 

To purchase a copy of Nirvana: The Spread of Buddhism Through Asia  please visit: Goff Books website

GenderQueer – Intimate and Genuine: An interview with Chloe Aftel

Chloe Aftel — ejlandsman

GenderQueer — Intimate and Genuine

Gender is a current topic of discussion and debate — politically, and socially. A political debate wages on in several states to decide who should use which restroom based on their assigned gender at birth, versus the gender with each person identifies themselves. Time Magazine’s cover story for March 27, 2017 is ‘Beyond He or She’; how a new generation is defining how they relate and interact with the world. This ‘non-binary’ sense of self-awareness is not just something one might encounter in psychology or sociology studies; It is literally front page news.Benbow-TIME Mag Bookstore shelf

Genderqueer, along with the alternate term nonbinary, are umbrella terms that address individuals who feel that the terms man and woman, or male and female, do not adequately describe the way they feel about their gender and/or the way they wish others to see them. Members of the genderqueer community generally try to distinguish themselves from people who call themselves transgender, because that term more closely relates to a different sense of self in a binary comparison. Generally, it means the individual identifies with a different binary gender than their gender assigned at birth.

For her series “Genderqueer,” Aftel photographed self-identified genderqueer individuals in their homes in an effort to explore a community that she says is too-often misunderstood. Aftel says that a few years ago, she and a friend were talking about the GenderQueer movement and she felt she wanted to explore it further on her own. Aftel feels her gender identity never fell neatly into one group or another, so she was curious what this discussion was grappling with.

She had shot three portraits in her project, when she was assigned to shoot Sasha Fleischman for an editorial piece in San Francisco Magazine. In the fall of 2013, Sasha was set on fire on an Oakland, California public bus because they (Sasha doesn’t use she or he as identifiers) wore a skirt with a men’s shirt. After this terrible event, more people were willing to be photographed and take a stand about the basic human rights that should be extended to any person regardless of gender identification. Aftel has photographed this evolving culture that consists of those living outside or in between the gender binary, refusing to define themselves as strictly male or female.

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Q&A

Cary Benbow (CB): Beyond your project statement, please talk about the idea behind your GenderQueer portfolio. Does it relate to other work of yours?

Chloe Aftel (CA): Gender, identity and sexuality have always been subjects I enjoy exploring. Pieces of that permeate all my projects, I don’t think people fit neatly into boxes, nor should they, so I want to see what that looks like in real life.

Chloe Aftel — micha
Chloe Aftel — emma

CB: It has been a few years since you first started this project, is this an ongoing series? How much do you add to this project on a regular basis?

CA: Yes, I am constantly shooting for this series, until it is close to comprehensive, 1–2 times a month at least. I’ve been working on it since 2012 and it’s been interesting watching how the movement has grown and in what directions. I’ve never had a project that has been completed quickly, sadly! When I begin these, it’s with the knowledge it takes years to do correctly.

Chloe Aftel — emily

CB: As a photographer, what obligation do you feel to the people in your photos?

CA: I think my job is to portray subjects honestly, whatever that means. It’s not about a message or my intent, it’s about letting people be themselves and finding a way to shoot that.

Chloe Aftel — viola

CB: What photographers or artists do you take inspiration from? How does it affect how you work?

CA: I love a lot of the dead and older people, Arbus and Eggleston are favorites, as well as Gordon Parks, and Avedon, but there are so many who are still alive and awesome, like Steven Meisel, Alison Scarpulla, Joe Szabo, Matt Eich…. I don’t know if I am often inspired. I think I just like the work. I like problems and mistakes.

CB: Do you see your work as a way of documenting your life experiences in a way, or commenting on them with intent?

CA: I don’t discuss intent, as i want people to take from them what they will. Hopefully the images have enough structure to stay something and enough room for the viewer to take away what they will.

Chloe Aftel — sarah
Chloe Aftel — amanda
Chloe Aftel — sasha

CB: Is the GenderQueer series specific to a certain place or community or would it be applicable to anyone who identifies as non-binary?

CA: The people in it are from all over the country, from rural Ohio, to Detroit, to Seattle, and a million other places. I hope this series speaks to people no matter where they live and how able they currently feel to be themselves.

Chloe Aftel — lux

CB: What compels you to make the images you create — for this project or otherwise?

CA: Oh man, I love taking pictures, I love making shit, I love making the technical change the visual. I also love making a living. I just don’t want the say the same tired crap that’s already been said. If i can do that, it’s very gratifying. I want to shoot a million different subjects, and I don’t want all the images to look homogenized, so it’s much less about adhering to a certain genre and much more about understanding a subject, if that makes sense.

Chloe Aftel — chris

CB: From the standpoint of a working professional, how do you decide to take on new projects? What type of balance do you try to make between editorial and commercial clients?

CA: I think you always have to do both. They do inform one another, but you need to eat and you need to do work that really pushes you. Once in a while, ad jobs do that, but the personal work is where you just have to figure it out. I think that’s what makes you better in all aspects of the job. You make mistakes and can take some joy in what they teach you.

Chloe Aftel — aiden

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

CA: Yes, many! One on what it means to be a woman now, another on portraits of artists and intellectuals, and a few more. It’s the best work to do aside from making a living.

Chloe Aftel — edie

CB: What advice would you give to someone who wants to take on projects like GenderQueer?

CA: To be patient, it takes a lot of time and learning to figure out how to best do it and there will ALWAYS be problems and challenges that come up. One has to stay the course and remain focused while being open to changing as one’s understanding of the project evolves.


To see more of Chloe Aftel’s work, visit: www.chloeaftel.com


Originally published at F-Stop Magazine.