Tag Archives: documentary

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.

Henri Cartier-Bresson – Greenfield, Indiana, 1960

Greenfield, Indiana, 1960

Henri Cartier-Bresson
French, 1908-2004

Gelatin silver print
10 7/16 x 15 3/8 in. (26.5 x 39.1 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the photographer, Obj: 204759
©2010 Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos, courtesy Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris

August 22nd is the 109th anniversary of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s birth. To mark the anniversary in a personal way, I found an image by HCB that was taken in my hometown, albeit 10 years before my birth. The county political office shown in the photo above was still standing in the early 1980s; sitting empty with these same windows covered with newspaper. The entire building located on North State Street, one block away from the National Road, US Highway 40, was razed and an empty lot now stands where HCB’s photo was taken.

I find the image interesting and a bit surreal; the women in the photograph are wearing mock Native American ‘buckskin’ attire, and headbands — one with a feather —while exiting an political office with a sign to attract un-registered, Republican voters for the upcoming presidential election.

While I’m uncertain why HCB was in Greenfield, Indiana at the time, I can only hope the award winning Magnum photographer found Greenfield to be an interesting location, with some interesting people who don’t always match up with what you’d expect. Much like today.


Researched and found in the online archive generously made available by the Art Institute of Chicago

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

Through Darkness to Light by Jeanine Michna-Bales

Look for the Grey Barn Out Back. Underground Railroad Station with Tunnel Leading to Another Conductor’s House; Centerville, Indiana

They left during the middle of the night – oftentimes carrying little more than the knowledge that moss grows on the north side of trees. An estimated 100,000 slaves between 1830 and the end of The Civil War in 1865 chose to embark on this journey of untold hardships in search of freedom. They moved in constant fear of being killed outright or recaptured then returned and beaten as an example of what would happen to others who might choose to run. Under the cover of darkness, ‘fugitives’ traveled roughly 20 miles each night traversing rugged terrain while enduring all the hardships that Mother Nature could bring to bear. Occasionally, they were guided from one secret, safe location to the next by an ever-changing, clandestine group known as the Underground Railroad. Whether they were slaves trying to escape or free blacks and whites trying to help, both sides risked everything for the cause of freedom. From the cotton plantations just South of Natchitoches, Louisiana all the way north to the Canadian border, this series of photographs can help us imagine what the long road to freedom may have looked like as seen through the eyes of one of those who made this epic journey.

Moonrise over Northern Ripley County. Overlooking Southern Decatur County, Indiana

Much like fellow Hoosier Michna-Bales, I grew up hearing about how Indiana played a role in the Underground Railroad. I recently found myself travelling at night through some of the same towns listed in Michna-Bales’ photographic journey. Both Richmond and rural Centerville, Indiana appeared and disappeared in the headlights of my car while travelling recently on a clear, starry night. Driving these lonely country roads made me think about trying to navigate those same hills, valleys, and rivers with only the stars as a guide. As she mentions in her introduction, Michna-Bales’ experience of shooting her photos at night made her think about how she felt history surrounding her, and how strange and forbidding these remote places must have felt to the people making the journey. These words were on my mind as I travelled silently through the same countryside as so many had done before me.

Decision to Leave. Magnolia Plantation on the Cane River, Louisiana

Michna-Bales photographed numerous locations along a journey from Louisiana to Ontario, Canada. Her mysterious, haunting images of Underground Railroad locations are printed in the book on black paper stock, which intensifies that feeling of strangeness and uncertainty. The images emerge from the darkness and give even greater importance to the light captured during her long exposures. That same light was the guide and the hope that so many oppressed people were drawn by, and moved toward freedom. Light plays such an important role in this book. It is important enough that Michna-Bales chose the last image in the series, the sunrise in Canada, to be the only daylight image – symbolizing the final destination and realized freedom.

Hidden Passageway. Mammoth Cave, Kentucky

Eagle Hollow from Hunter’s Bottom. Just across the Ohio River, Indiana, 2014

I was especially glad to be able to review this book during Black History Month, and bring attention to this project and Michna-Bales’ photography. The book includes text by Fergus M. Bordewich, Robert F. Darden, Eric R. Jackson, and Andrew J. Young. Young is a former congressman, diplomat, and member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference as a key strategist and negotiator in the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. Through Darkness to Light is a wonderful collection of researched historic documents, engaging photographs and text that creates an insightful narrative to events that occurred over 170 years ago. When one considers how many people are still fleeing oppression and moving toward freedom around the world, the Underground Railroad is just as poignant today when seen through the lens of present day social injustice. The desire for freedom and the interracial assistance of others was, and is, an important lesson to be told and retold.

Freedom. Canadian soil, Ontario, 2014


Through Darkness to Light by Jeanine Michna-Bales
Hardcover: 192 pages
Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press (March 21, 2017)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616895659
ISBN-13: 978-1616895655


Jeanine Michna-Bales is an award winning photographer based in Dallas, Texas. To see more work, visit her website at http://www.jmbalesphotography.com. To purchase a copy of Through Darkness to Light, visit Amazon.com

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

Book Review: Palm Springs: The Good Life Goes On by Nancy Baron

the-promontory

Nancy Baron is a documentary filmmaker and photographer who lives in Palm Springs, Calif. In Palm Springs: The Good Life Goes On, she picks up where she left off from her 2014 book, The Good Life: Palm Springs, documenting her community of mid century modern enthusiasts. The collective community of self-proclaimed modernists are committed to the mid century modern lifestyle and the preservation of its architecture. Their homes, cars, and clothes pay homage to this carefree post-World War II time in US history that glows warmly in their vintage rear view mirrors. These informal images casually document the carefree Palm Springs lifestyle as though captured in passing, in the seemingly effortless way that most things happen in Palm Springs.

entry-to-paradise

“The dreamy Palm Springs vibe washes over the traveler at the first sight from land or air of the vast windmill farm sprouting from the Southern California desert, surrounding the town like guards at the gate to paradise.”

blue-gown-and-pooch

pompeii-del-las-palmas

In the book, Hugh Kaptur, an American architect of mid century modern residences and buildings throughout the Coachella Valley, writes: “Once after a meeting with William Holden, we stepped outside my office and I asked him why, with houses all over the world, was he settling in Palm Springs. Bill replied, ‘because the air is like velvet.’”

twin-palms

Baron’s photographs of the interiors and exteriors of the homes and buildings in Palm Springs evoke a sense of instant nostalgia – even for the newly initiated fans of this iconic design movement. One cannot help notice the influence mid century modern design has had recently in popular American culture. From high-end reproduction design furniture like Design Within Reach, publications like Dwell Magazine, and the home furnishings featured in Crate and Barrel catalogs – Americans have fallen in love all over again with mid century modern design. This makes paging through ‘The Good Life Goes On’ like sneaking a peek inside 1950s architects’ homes, or getting a guest role on Mad Men. The style Baron brings to the page is everything Palm Springs has to offer; sun drenched lawns, vintage automobiles, manicured-minimalist landscaping, and an invitation to the lifestyle that has so much to offer.

rembrandt-for-breakfast

dogs-on-bed-with-orange-headboard

For me, Baron’s photos bring back nostalgic memories of my grandparent’s house. It was a modest mid century modern home, painted green with a sun porch built out of decorative concrete blocks, with patterns that looked like flower petals when the open sections of the blocks intersected. Their Danish modern stereo cabinet sat in the entryway with geometric side lamps making soft shadows on the imitation terrazzo floor below, while a bakelite kitchen clock quietly hummed as time slowly slipped by. Their house sat unchanging for decades, a testament to the enduring, timelessness of the way they lived – much like the homes in Baron’s photos. They sit like time capsules, yet still retain the feel of homes that are lived in and have personal, human aspects about them… soccer balls amidst the greenery, price tags on the candlesticks, and worn doormats gracing the entryway to their ‘American dream’.
cover

Palm Springs > The Good Life Goes On (2016) by Nancy Baron
Hardcover 8.8 x 8.8 inches
120 pages, 63 color illustrations

To purchase a copy of Palm Springs: The Good life Goes On, please visit Amazon.com

For more information about Nancy Baron and her portfolio of projects, visit her website: http://www.nancybaron.com/


Nancy Baron’s background in documentary filmmaking has led to her current dedication to fine art documentary photography. She documents the world nearby, mostly in Los Angeles and Palm Springs, where she lives. Baron’s work is held in public and private collections and has been exhibited in galleries across the United States. Her work has been published in many notable magazines and newspapers, including The New York Times, Mother Jones, Photo District News, American Photo and California Homes Magazine. Photographs from her previous book The Good Life > Palm Springs (Kehrer, 2014) were exhibited in a solo show at the dnj Gallery in Santa Monica, among other venues.

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

screen-shot-2017-01-07-at-11-18-30-am

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

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

 

 

lo_image4

 

lolifeamericanclassic6

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

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

 

lo_image3

lolifeamericanclassicsmall

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

 

lo_image10

30lolifes2-blog427

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

 

cover-1470331112

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

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


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

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


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

North of Dixie: Civil Rights Photography Beyond the South

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

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

CHARLES BRITTIN, LOS ANGELES, CA, SEPTEMBER 1963. Los Angeles, Getty Research Institute. News media interviewing CORE activists waging a sit-in and hunger strike outside the Los Angeles Board of Education offices to raise awareness of segregation and inequality in the public schools.

UNKNOWN PHOTOGRAPHER, ST. LOUIS, MO, EARLY 1940s. Washington, DC, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Visual Materials from the NAACP Records. Members of the St. Louis Branch of the NAACP calling for victory at home and abroad and an end to racial violence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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


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

Photographer Blake Andrews – Because The Past is Just a Goodbye

1-e1466539056864
Emmett (2013) © Blake Andrews

Exhibit review by contributor Patrick Collier – Blake Andrews at Blue Sky Gallery, Portland, OR – June 2016

I’ve known about Blake Andrews for many years. He is a force to be reckoned with in the world of photography, particularly because of his minimally titled blog, B. Steeped in the history of and a dialog about photography, the blog is informative, but its real bite comes when Andrews applies his creative, incisive wit—sometimes so dry that how one interprets him says more about the person reading than what he writes—that makes it a must-read. Those who make the mistake of taking him at face value are said to start bleeding a good 24 hours later from the place his scalpel almost imperceptibly pierced their skin.

But I’m here to talk about his exhibit of photographs, specifically his exhibit this past June, Pictures of a gone world at Blue Sky Gallery. All framed by sprocket holes (not visible in the reproductions here), the 28, black and white, analog photographs carefully attend to a specific aesthetic and technical history of his craft. The subject matter is mostly his wife and kids, which some might consider a bit of a throwback. But the images illustrate the title for the exhibit, “Pictures of a gone world,”  which, the exhibit’s press release informs us, is also the title of Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s first book of poems.

“Gone?” If I were of a literal bent, I’d see no pending doom in these photographs. (Well, maybe in one photo, but we’ll get to that in a bit.) Quite the contrary: I see joy, even in the most chaotic of moments portrayed in these images, and a lot of fun being had.

14
Leo, Geoff, Dylan, Emmet, Tab (2005) © Blake Andrews

Oh! “Gone!” Like in “Gone, Daddy, gone,” as in “far out,” taking things to a new level, or being unconstrained. It is a vernacular older than Andrews; another time lost; still, albeit anachronistic, applicable for this exhibit.

The press release goes on to explain that this exhibit is inspired by a specific Ferlinghetti poem, “The World is a Beautiful Place,” which starts out: “The world is a beautiful place/to be born into/if you don’t mind happiness/not always being/so very much fun.” Continuing the theme, the poem finishes: “Yes the world is the best place of all/for a lot of such things as/making the fun scene/and making the love scene/and making the sad scene/and singing low songs and having inspirations/and walking around/looking at everything/and smelling flowers/and goosing statues/and even thinking/and kissing people and/making babies and wearing pants/and waving hats and/dancing/and going swimming in rivers/on picnics/in the middle of the summer/and just generally/’living it up’/Yes/but then right in the middle of it/comes the smiling/mortician”

I have gone to the bother of transcribing most of this poem for a reason, and it is not because these photographs are not capable of standing on their own. The majority were taken between 2006 and 2010, yet span a slightly longer period of time. As such, they function as a chronicle of his family as they age, and as one might suspect, there is a broad range of emotions portrayed.

26
Zane, Leo, Tab (2004) © Blake Andrews

Andrews is known as a street photographer, a practice that is said to depend heavily on the “decisive moment,” that critical and optimal split second in which the photo comes together in both form and content within the frame. These street skills become paramount when capturing the half-feral, gleeful chaos that can be found in a child’s exuberance. Even so, to be both parent and photographer must pose some interesting problems: To be both in the moment and outside of it; enjoying/enduring the time in a dual capacity; and then capturing it as best he can. Stopping to appreciate that which has just passed is an indulgence he may not be able to afford, that is if he is to follow the photographer’s dictate: Take it all in, watch, watch, watch to see and be ready before the moment becomes a missed opportunity. (And, I would add, capturing the decisive moment is only an attempt, the actual accomplishment something else, closer, perhaps, to the happy accident in one of ~36 frames.) Only at a later time might he make something of the experience.

Taken as such, the option of staging a photo doesn’t seem like a bad decision. And there is one photo in this group that does have that flavor, a photo that, somewhat understandably, was not available for reproduction here. It shows one of Andrew’s sons at a fairly young age, naked and holding a large pair of garden shears—the limb-lopper variety—in front of himself.

Despite this psychoanalytic show-stopper, I can hear someone ask incredulously, “Pictures of his children are worthy of an exhibition?” and perhaps continue with a litany of photo history references that amount to an argument of “been done a thousand times.” Sure, if the work simulated the times I’ve been trapped on someone’s couch with their photo album in front of me. Instead, Andrew’s combination of the candid moment and his composition skills set a stage from which to dismantle the contempt of even the most hardened, wow-me-now gallery-goers—and perhaps not just the ones who have watched their own children grow.

24
Emmett, Ella, Chris (2008) © Blake Andrews

Still, is the temptation to ask such a question telling of another gone world? There is a certain cynicism as well as disregard that lurks in the contemporary art arena; both attend to our need to expect the unusual. In the face of such a reaction, Andrews might smirk. The yearning for the quirky or unique creates a disconnect, both passive and active (seen that, done that), and manifests as a loss. In spite of all of the obvious fun his kids are having, these images could very well flip around and act as a stand-in for anyone’s loss of innocence or sense of wonder.

21
Leo (2010) © Blake Andrews

On the surface, cynicism is antithetical to sentimentality. A closer look finds something not always easy to perceive, let alone embrace and utilize: cynicism and sentimentality are two sides of the same coin. What if, then, we were to accept this kinship? What if cynicism was just as hackneyed as sentimentality, and just as much from the heart? After all, in the quest for artistic contemporaneity, should we distance ourselves from a substantial part of what has nurtured us?

We learn to anticipate loss. The loss all parents experience as their children’s autonomy burgeons is just one aspect of this life-long lesson. Blake Andrews’ images celebrate playfulness—including his own with a camera—all the while making us look more closely at what we have lost in our sophistication as adults. After all, it is the adult, not the child, who worries about that garden tool.

 


Blake Andrews is a photographer based in Eugene, Oregon, who has been “shooting photos since 1993, with occasional one hour breaks.” His work has been exhibited nationally and internationally at venues such as Artget Gallery in Belgrade, Photofusion Gallery in London, Drkrm Gallery in Los Angeles, Rayko Photo Center in San Francisco, Lightbox Photographic Gallery in Astoria, and Newspace Center for Photography and the Art Gym in Portland.

Patrick Collier is an artist and writer in rural Oregon. He most often writes art criticism for Oregon ArtsWatch in Portland. A daily updated sampling of his photographic work can be found at http://twentymileperimeter.tumblr.com 


 

This is an edited version of an article originally published in Oregon ArtsWatch

Interview with photographer Carrie Schreck

carrieschreck08

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.

carrieschreck10

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.

img_1388

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.

mg_8248

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.

carrieschreck12


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

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