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.

America in a Trance — Photographs by Niko J. Kallianiotis


America in a Trance – by Niko J. Kallianiotis

Combining punches of color, intense natural light and ironic visuals, this photographer commentates on the gloom of dying industries in the wake of political promise.

Niko J. Kallianiotis’ first monograph, America in a Trance, dives into the heart and soul of Pennsylvania’s industrial regions, a place where small town values still exist, and where sustainable local businesses once thrived under the sheltered wings of American Industry. In his explorations, he offers a quiet assessment of the cultural and economic state of the nation, as seen through a number of cities and towns in Pennsylvania. The approach to this book shares some stylistic similarities with some of the great documentary works that precede it, like Joel Sternfeld’s witty insight, Robert Frank’s ‘outsider’ observations of America, the use of color and light in the street photography of Saul Leiter, and Walker Evans’ landscapes and portraits of the same region. While the work of Kallianiotis is an homage to these influences, it is also a departure from them.

There is far more to Kallianiotis’ images than an expected patina of fading industry, waning prosperity, and portraits of the people who call this place home. He uses evocative color and an artful use of light to convey the dynamics of the scenes he encounters. Flat light from an overcast afternoon helps bring out the texture of American flag-like awnings, which partially obscure the alleyway side of an apartment building’s back porch.

Braddock I © Niko J. Kallianiotis

He captures signage and language on buildings and advertisements with visually ironic placement — both physically, and in respect to this point in history. Political references are not avoided. In the case of political campaigning by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election, Kallianiotis visually pits them against each other in a two-page spread. But the end result of the book is not overtly slanted to one side or the other. Optimism for a better future and pessimistic views of the current landscape balance the scales.

Trump v Clinton, spread from “America in a Trance” © Niko J. Kallianiotis

Kallianiotis is Greek by birth, but is also an American citizen, and has lived in the country for 20 years, so his commentary on the current political climate is influenced by strikingly different factors than the average Pennsylvanian. In a 2017 interview with PBS, Elizabeth Flock asked Kallianiotis about the meaning behind the title for his project. He replied, “The meaning is the way the country is right now. I’m sensing that after the election, people walking in these towns are disoriented and alienated…including me. I’m in every picture, too, in terms of the loneliness and trying to assimilate. I’m trying to blend with the culture, since I have two countries. I’m a U.S. citizen and I’m Greek, and I love both. This hybrid situation is complicated. The trance is: you’re aware, you’re listening, but you can’t really respond. I think that’s where we are right now.”

Braddock II © Niko J. Kallianiotis

That place in the middle is bitter-sweet. His decades spent in America have taught Kallianiotis how beliefs from both sides of the fence in the current political climate have a direct effect on these towns. And yet, he achieves a certain level of neutrality within the work. Whether it is the hard Pennsylvania coal towns to the East, the shadows of looming steel stacks to the West, or every faded American Dream in between, Kallianiotis explores an illumination of hope through his own relationship with the land. Within America in a Trance, there is the silhouette of what once was: streets and storefronts thriving, and the reflections of that time coming back to us through his mindful eye.

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Coal Lights © Niko J. Kallianiotis
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El Camino © Niko J. Kallianiotis
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Capitol © Niko J. Kallianiotis
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Helfers © Niko J. Kallianiotis
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Home Turf © Niko J. Kallianiotis
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Falcon Pride © Niko J. Kallianiotis
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Jessup RR © Niko J. Kallianiotis
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Leaned © Niko J. Kallianiotis
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Lady in Green © Niko J. Kallianiotis
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Lost Love © Niko J. Kallianiotis
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Melodrama © Niko J. Kallianiotis
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Lady in Red © Niko J. Kallianiotis
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No Worries © Niko J. Kallianiotis
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Rain Drop © Niko J. Kallianiotis
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Disconnected © Niko J. Kallianiotis
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Supply © Niko J. Kallianiotis


America in a Trance by Niko J Kallianiotis
Publisher: Damiani
ISBN: 9788862085953

To find out more about America in a Trance or to see more work by Niko J. Kallianiotis, please visit his website: www.nikokallianiotis.com.

This book is available for purchase at www.nikokallianiotis.com/book or at the publisher’s website: https://www.damianieditore.com/en-US/product/669


This is an edited version of the article originally published at http://www.lensculture.com 
Photographs by Niko J. Kallianiotis
Book Review by Cary Benbow

Out of the Ordinary, Vol. 2: A Journey Through Everyday Scotland

A Personal Portrait of Everyday Scotland

The second volume of Out of the Ordinary by Iain Sarjeant is a continuation of the project he has been working on for a number of years. The project, and two books thus far, has developed from the approach of Sarjeant’s spontaneous wandering, exploring, discovering, and observing. “The series explores the kind of places that most of us walk or drive past every day,” says Sarjeant, “without really noticing – places where the infrastructure of human habitation interacts with the natural environment. These are dynamic landscapes, constantly being altered, and part of the fascination for me is the element of chance involved in the photographs – coming across scenes that may look very different the following week or month.”

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As with Volume 1, this new book captures scenes of the land Sarjeant encounters across Scotland. The witty interplay between geometric shapes, colors or textures is a strong part of his work. His body of work includes images that feature vehicles in all manner of use and function (or disfunction), buildings both commercial and residential, markings on pavement, graffiti, shadows and shipping containers. From a visual standpoint, Sarjeant takes advantage of Scottish overcast skies to give extra punch to the color that is either featured or included in the scenes. He compresses the space to heighten the sense of rhythm or repetition of shapes, or knows when to pull back to include more of the scene to set the stage. He has valuable use of line and it draws the viewer through the images, and the layout of the overall book as well. Artful placement of the images in sequencing this book make smart visual connections. Power lines and playground structures are connected visually, as are fence rows and street markings, or old growth hedges and growing saplings. Sarjeant’s use of visual association and interplay are used to their best again in this book. Out of the Ordinary, Vol. 2 is a joy to view and admire the craft of creating a multi-volume series of photography books.

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Over several years, Another Place Press has been quietly building a cache of wonderful photo books dealing with the subject of the land, and peoples’ relationship and interaction with it.  Out of the Ordinary is one of the books that anchors this theme. The third and final volume of Out of the Ordinary will tentatively publish at some time in 2018. 


Iain Sarjeant is the founder and editor of Another Place, and Another Place Press which showcases contemporary landscape photography. He has worked with the photo collective, Documenting Britain, and works as a stock photographer.
To purchase a copy of Out of the Ordinary, Vol. 2 – please visit Another Place Press.

For more information, or to view Sarjeant’s personal work; please visit these sites:

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


This is an edited version of the piece originally published in F-Stop Magazine in January, 2018.

After the Firebird by Ekaterina Vasilyeva

Magical images from the hidden world

The photo book After the Firebird is now available. The photo project by the same name is the result of a 7-year project in Pskov region (Russia) by award winning photographer Ekaterina Vasilyeva.

After the Firebird talks about the mystery and magic of the hidden world and the amazing discoveries that can occur in front of everybody. You need only to look around carefully.
To view samples and purchase the book, please visit : http://www.ekaterinavasilyeva.ru/books/after_the_firebird/

Interviews and/or coverage of the project has been published at: Critical Mass, Wobneb Magazine, Art Narratives, Dodho Magazine, C41 Magazine, PDN Magazine, Edge of Humanity Magazine, F-STOP Magazine, WorkshopX, Fotografia Magazine, Private, Saint Lucy, Phosmag Magazine, Tonelit and LensCulture.

To see more images from After the Firebird and read the interview in Wobneb Magazine: click here or to read the interview as it appeared in Art Narratives on Medium, click here

After the Firebird by Ekaterina Vasilyeva
Designer: Ekaterina Vasilyeva
Limited edition of 85 copies (numbered and signed)
Handmade binding

Sise: 24 cm x 32 cm
48 pages + 1
37 color illustrations
1 Firebird for the Incantation
Inside paper: Materica Gesso 120 gr
Cover paper: Materica Gesso 250 gr
Languages: English, Russian
Self published and printed in St. Petersburg (Print Gallery) in 2017


Ekaterina Vasilyeva is an independent photographer from St. Petersburg, Russia, working at the intersection of the genre, documentary and art photography.

In most of her projects, she explores the theme of a particular place (space, territory, it changes in the context of time and historical landmarks, environment problems, interaction with human activity, personal relationship and the myths of the place. To see more of her work, please visit her website: http://www.ekaterinavasilyeva.ru/

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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“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.”

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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.’”

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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.

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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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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


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

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


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