Tag Archives: family

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.

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.

orestes_cover

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.

 

Cig Harvey – You An Orchestra You A Bomb

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Cig Harvey’s third monograph is a vibrant and bold book, capturing moments of awe, icons of the everyday, and life on the threshold between magic and disaster. The breathless moments of beauty in her images propel us to fathom the sacred in the split-seconds of everyday. A raw awareness of fragility permeates this work.

I cannot fully understand the life events that take a woman through her youth and into middle age. However, I am a parent, a husband, and am squarely in middle age. My wife is a writer, and has introduced me to a number of poets. This expansion of my previously limited knowledge of great writers has made an immense difference – and thus, Harvey’s book spoke to me. The rawness of Harvey’s written passages and relevance to where she finds herself in life struck home. But you don’t need to be a peer of Harvey to get the drift. She photographs and writes with the passion of a Beat poet. To quote, and slightly edit, the poet Neal Cassady, “One should write, as nearly as possible, as if she were the first person on earth and was humbly and sincerely putting on paper that which she saw and experienced and loved and lost; what her passing thoughts were and her sorrows and desires.” Harvey does not hold back – with understated power, she records her broad experiences with the world. Harvey’s moments captured in her camera speak to the temporal nature of life, and her intimate poetry weaves them together in this memoir of symbolism.

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“In my 20s I wear vintage dresses every day. / 1940s ball gowns to get coffee. Fringed flappers to the post office.  / They are itchy and smell of someone else’s transgressions. But I am fearless and my life is a photograph. / When I turn forty, I retire them all in favor of tight jeans and high boots. / I put one thousand dresses in a room upstairs. / A room now a galaxy of velvet, taffeta, crinoline, lavender, silk, fur, cashmere, magenta, chartreuse, and moths like stars in the night sky. / I like the idea of the moths taking back the clothes of these women, slowly making dust of our stories.”

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Cig Harvey’s hugely successful books You Look At Me Like An Emergency (2012) and Gardening At Night (2015) both sold out rapidly. Her photographs have been exhibited widely and are in the permanent collections of major museums, including The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the International Museum of Photography, George Eastman House, Rochester, NY. She has been a nominee for John Gutmann fellowship and the Santa Fe Prize, and a finalist for the BMW Prize at Paris Photo and for the Prix Virginia, an international photography prize for women. You Look At Me Like An Emergency was first exhibited at The Stenersen Museum, Oslo, Norway. Cig’s devotion to visual storytelling has lead to innovative international campaigns and features with New York Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar Japan, Kate Spade, and Bloomingdales.

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Design: Deb Wood
ISBN 978 90 5330 893 6
Format: 22.5 x 22.5 cm
Hardbound with cloth cover
144 pages with 72 photos in full colour
Schilt Publishing, Amsterdam

To order a copy of the book from the publisher, please visit their website here

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/

ECHOLILIA by Timothy Archibald – Artist Talk at Fort Wayne Museum of Art, April 8th at 10 am

17424841_10155068208997356_6715294596662139966_nECHOLILIA is an eleven-image curation from a larger body of work, a collaboration between photographer Timothy Archibald and his eldest son, Eli. Taken at their home in El Sobrante, California, these primarily unstaged images intimately narrate a tense but respectful artistic and personal relationship between father and child, when the two are learning to understand the meaning of autism and importance of awareness.

Acquired by the Fort Wayne Museum of Art in 2017, Timothy’s affecting and technically impressive photographic prints visualize a poignant message that is applicable to humanity as a whole: The indispensability of empathy when regarding the human condition allows us to understand that idiosyncrasies exist among us all. 

This exhibit is presented along with Sharon and Expressions of Existence, forming a triad of exhibitions exploring the impact of disability on the creation of art. They are made possible by the AWS Foundation.

Join us for an artist talk and tour with the creators of the ECHOLILIA photographs, Timothy Archibald, and his son Eli. Sign language interpreter will be present. Free with museum admission.

Fort Wayne Museum of Art, Fort Wayne, Indiana – http://www.fwmoa.org

To see more work by Timothy Archibald, visit his website: http://www.timothyarchibald.com

Photographer Blake Andrews – Because The Past is Just a Goodbye

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

A Process of Healing – Interview with photographer Tarah Sloan

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

TarahSloan-2- New Day
New Day

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

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

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

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

TarahSloan-5 Staying in Bed
Staying in Bed

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

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

TarahSloan-11 Classroom
Classroom

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

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

“I started documenting my mother a few months after my brother Daron passed away in July of 2015.
 I watched her daily struggle with grief after the loss of her husband, sister, and her only son – each who had suffered with cancer; all within 5 years.
I watched her put on the daily brave face and try to continue with life as usual.
I watched as the feelings of depression kept her in its grip.
After many lonely hours, days, and nights, I began to see her gaining strength as she finds new life in the comfort of her garden and the surroundings of her music and art students.”
TarahSloan-8 Yard Work
Yard Work

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

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

 

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

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


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

Interview with photographer Nathan Pearce

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Cary Benbow (CB): Can you please explain the idea behind your portfolio images submitted to the Family exhibition in this issue? How do they relate to your other projects, or how is it significantly different?

Nathan Pearce (NP): The photographs of family that I submitted for this issue are all part of my major projects. Mostly my main project Midwest Dirt. Family is important in my life and it’s something that I see as a major theme when I am photographing the Midwest.

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

NP: I love making photographs and zines that include my photographs. It is the most satisfying  and important thing in my life. I am constantly compelled to make images. It’s probably because it is so satisfying and rewarding that I do it so often. I simply love making photographs. I’m not sure what originally compelled me to start but I do remember that it was a really long time ago.

 

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

NP: Everywhere. I usually shoot in Southern Illinois and the Midwest acts as both the backdrop and subject of my work. Where I am from is very inspiring to me.

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

NP: Aside from the inspiration that the Midwest gives me, I often look at the work that my friends are making and at my collection of zines and photobooks. I am often collaborating with friends on projects, and that is pretty inspiring as well. I most often make work with Rachael Banks and also frequently collaborate with Jake Reinhart and Matthew David Crowther. Most of those collaborations involve zines created and are released on Same Coin Press; which is a project I co-founded with Claire Cushing.

 

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CB: How are these images different (or similar) to the majority of work you do?

NP: Much of the work that I submitted for this issue is part of my main project Midwest Dirt. Family plays a big part in my work. Family is one of the main reasons I returned to the Midwest and I explore it a lot in my photographs.

Almost all of the pictures I submitted, with the exception of one or two, are of my own family. Several photos are of my nephew Journey. I have photographed him his entire life. I photographed him when he was less than an hour old, and I photographed him yesterday on his 6th birthday and hundreds of times in between. We even worked on a split zine together recently.

CB: Tell a little more about your project, Midwest Dirt.

NP: In the statement for Midwest Dirt I mention a beauty in having nothing to do. I am often photographing the stillness and the slow pace of life here offers a lot of material and inspiration for photographs. I felt like street photographers in New York often photograph people in a rush on the street, and the constant busy feeling in the city. I try to photograph the opposite here. Midwest Dirt is a project that I started upon returning to the Midwest after years of being away. I photograph the stillness of my native rural Midwest and the restlessness of people in it.

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For more information about Nathan Pearce, and to see more of his work, visit his website – http://www.nathanpearcephoto.com


 

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

Suicide Machine – an interview with Dan Wood

 

Suicide Machine – Living in the Town with No Hope?

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McDonald’s, 2014 (Hear Dan Wood talk about making this image here)

The work of Dan Wood is probably not what you might expect from the stereotypical assumption based on the title of his project. Don’t judge a book by its cover. The title stems from a regionally publicized statistic that Bridgend, Wales was experiencing a high rate of suicides in the early 2000s. Wood’s decision in 2013 to document his hometown of Bridgend was different from the skate culture he had been photographing earlier in his photo career. He started to see his town through a different sort of lens; that of a husband, father, and ultimately as a person coming to terms with the love-hate relationship many people have with the place where they grew up. Through his photos, Wood is asking the big question of ‘What does my community mean to me, what impact does it have on myself, my family, and my own child?’

“The simple truth is that you can understand a town. You can know and love and hate it. You can blame it, resent it, and nothing changes. In the end, you’re just another part of it.” ― Brenna Yovanoff from ‘The Replacement’

The resulting landscape of Wood’s beautiful, somewhat melancholy images depict a place where the social fabric is woven with views of a community persevering in the current economic downturn, and people working hard to make a living. One has to wonder if Bridgend’s residents are also coming to terms with the question of whether it is better to tough it out despite the odds, or seek out greener pastures elsewhere. ‘What should we do?’ is a tough question to answer unless it’s done in hindsight. But by then, it may be too late, or the confirmation so desperately desired at the onset feels hollow.
The wait is a bittersweet limbo.

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Plastic Flower, 2012

Q & A

Cary Benbow: What is the idea behind your Suicide Machine series?

Dan Wood: It all started with my audition of an old Hasselblad 500cm. From somewhere I had the epiphany that I’d make a project about my hometown; and in colour.
Originally the project was going to be skateboard culture related, with long exposure night shots of the street spots that the local skaters frequent. The title, ‘Suicide Machine’ was there from the beginning, and when thinking more about the project I realised that I’d already covered the skate scene in enough depth already. The idea was then stored at the back of my mind whilst I worked on another series. Then my wife became pregnant with our first child and something clicked in my brain which made me start to think very differently about things – mainly being, shall we bring up our daughter here or shall we move away – probably overseas. So I started forming a synopsis (which has evolved somewhat) and photographing different parts of the town and also shooting some portraits. It felt so refreshing and new to be using the Hasselblad and colour film, but I was also contemplating our own destiny at the same time – should we stay or go? – this is what the project is ultimately about.

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Windmill, 2013

 

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Caroline Street, 6:55 am, 2014

CB: How long have you been working on Suicide Machine, and are you still adding images to it? Why did you decide to shoot color for this project? What has been the reaction to it from people from that area?

DW: I’ve been working on the project for 3 years and I shot the last roll of film for the series last week. It’s time to move on to something new – which I’ve already started.
The work has been exhibited at three venues in the last year: Including Bridgend itself – thankfully the reaction was nothing but positive. I did receive some challenging remarks on Twitter about the title suggesting I was being ‘insensitive and glamourising suicide’. Their attacks and attempts to drag me into an argument were totally ignorant as it was obvious that they hadn’t ever read the synopsis, only the title, which I refused to change.
Colour was fundamental to the project, I just knew it had to be in colour. After shooting black and white exclusively for 10 years and had become incredibly bored with it the time felt right to switch and conveniently coincided with the start of a new project. I still enjoy making black and white prints in the darkroom every now and again.

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Empty Warehouse, 2014

CB: Do you feel the increasing expansion and widespread use/display of images through social media outlets like Instagram has watered down the impact that medium format photography has/used to have?

DW: Definitely. The majority of people view pictures on their phones these days, so for instance, if you’re posting medium format photos on instagram they’re basically looking at a version of the photo that’s smaller than the actual negative, so the impact is undeniably affected and can’t be fully appreciated.

Medium format photography seems very popular once again, which is fantastic, considering the fact that film/development, etc. is expensive.

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Fortified House, 2013

 

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Jade, 2014

 

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Jade, 2015

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

DW: For me personally, a good photograph should ask questions and/or tell a story – aesthetics/intelligent composition has to be in there too. I have an eclectic taste when it comes to photography, I love raw/gritty right through to fine art/minimalistic. It’s all subjective of course, and everyone is entitled to like whatever they want.

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Shipping Container, 2013

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

DW: I find that just being outdoors is great inspiration. I like to shoot street and road trip photography, too, when taking breaks from projects. My main source of inspiration comes from photo books, and I’m completely addicted to collecting them – it’s becoming a pleasant problem. Visiting photo exhibitions is something I find enriching and really enjoyable, too.
I truly admire photographers that can make the mundane, interesting – it’s just so clever. That kind of gift can open up a whole new world, and i’ve been fascinated with unlocking it for a long time. Some of the photographers whose work I admire would be: Trent Parke, Stacy Kranitz, Alec Soth, Joel Sternfeld and Todd Hido.

CB: Do you see your work being stylistically similar and making a statement in a similar fashion as those whom you call your influences? What is your intent for the viewer?

DW: There’s no doubt that there is some influence in my work from these photographers, after all, they have a lot to do with what drives me. I don’t want to seem like I’m imitating them, as I take great pride in the fact that I have developed my own style and approach over the years.

To me, these photographers are ‘real life’ photographers (in the broadest sense) – they tell stories about real life, and they all have their own styles and methods in which they do it. That’s all I’m interested in when it comes to photography, it is real life and real people, that’s what I want the viewer to understand.

CB: What do you feel are the obligations of a documentary photographer?

DW: The obligations would definitely include Honesty, sensitivity and non-exploitative. I see some styles of street photography these days that I find really intrusive and/or crudely voyeuristic. There are unwritten rules to Documentary photography and a certain etiquette to follow. Most successful documentary photographers adhere to the etiquette, and I like to see that.

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Marc, 2012
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Graffiti, 2015

 

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Rebecca, 2014

CB: In a recent interview you did with ffoton, you had a great quip: “With a digital camera, you’re always looking at the last shot, but with film you are looking for the next shot”. What importance has film photography had for you? 

DW: Film is what drew me to serious photography in the first place. I was totally fascinated by the idea that a split second in time could be frozen onto a piece of celluloid and become a physical thing. It’s something that you can actually hold in your hand – this obviously comes from my materialistic nature. But it’s always been about film: shooting, developing, printing, scanning, the cameras, I love it all, especially the pace in which you work. For some reason, digital has never interested me, it’s incredible for certain, and I do own a Nikon D90, but there’s no allure there for me to fully switch from film. 


CB: Your work is specific to Wales, but do you feel your work makes a comment on a universal level, as well as the personal level?

DW: To me, Wales feels kind of neglected by the outside world, like we get the raw deal every time – the ‘nearly’ nation that’s living in the shadow of England and Scotland. Everyone is just plodding along with their lives. Art and Culture are something not to be taken for granted either, and we have to grab onto any hint of that as possible. In regards to the ‘Suicide Machine’ series, I’ve looked at many ‘small town’ projects over the last few years and it’s the same story everywhere. Small towns are suffering a dark depression at the moment – especially evident here in the UK, and probably even globally. Conclusively, Wales is much like so many other places in the world, and I do think it will translate. I really want people from all over to look at my Welsh projects and be able to identify with something in there.

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Rugby Pitch, 2014
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Terraced Houses at Night, 2015

CB: Do you feel comfortable categorizing your work as documentary, or using that label?

DW: I met somebody a couple of weeks ago that I hadn’t seen for a long time and when he asked what I was doing I said ‘documentary photography’ which resulted in a confused, perplexed look on his face (I’m almost certain that most folk are only aware of fashion/sport/wedding photographers) So I tried to explain that I tell stories through pictures and that there is such a thing. I think he got it, unless he was just being polite. So Yeah, I’m happy being called a documentary photographer – I’m completely self-taught and still learning all the time. These days, documentary photography incorporates fine art photography. Great documentary photographers are really taking time to research and engage with their subjects, working slowly and carefully to achieve high quality photos that are technically, visually and intellectually perfect.

CB: What’s your opinion on the role of a photographer as publisher and what you think about the recent increased push for photographers to publish photo books?

DW: We’re in a golden age of the self-publishing photographer, which is wonderful, and I’m sure will be looked back on fondly if the trend ever dies out. There are so many admirable photographers creating beautiful photo books, which are pieces of art themselves. The only downside is the flooding of poor quality photo books by mediocre photographers, which can sometimes make it difficult to discover the good ones. There’s lots of fantastic little independent publishing houses popping up all over the place too, which is definitely another good thing.
I made a few dummy books over the last few years and really like the fact that the photographer has full control over how their book will look at the end result – there’s also absolutely no stigma attached to self publishing these days.

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Andrew, 2014

 

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Lee, 2015

CB: What aspects of Bridgend do you wish to show to viewers through your portraits of residents?

DW:I always knew that I wanted to include portraits, in fact it was fundamental to the project. I wanted to show what the people of Bridgend looked like. At first, I focused on folk that were kind of stuck here for life, but as the project developed I became interested with the people who had left for a better life somewhere else. Bridgend is quite a small town so everybody knows each other in some way.

I’d never plan the portraits, it was always a spur of the moment thing if I felt the time was right. My camera was always with me so it was just a matter of getting that feeling and then asking the person if it was okay.

Over the three years, I inevitably ended up re-shooting the same person, either hoping for a better picture or because I had learned more about their circumstances and needed a fresh shot that consciously included the new knowledge I had acquired of them.

CB: Was your approach making images for this project organic, or did you have a brief of what you wanted to show?

DW: The project was around 90% organic. There was a brief but that kept changing slightly as time went by and the project matured. A project like this was a first for me , so I really wanted to see what would happen and where it would take me – I guess that was why the brief kept evolving too. But the main brief remained –  what did the future hold for Bridgend, and would I want to bring up my daughter here?

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Pink Stilettos, 2015

Dan Wood’s project, Suicide Machine is being published as a photo book by Another Place Pressa 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.

To order the book, visit the Another Place Press product page here.

Also, check out Another | Place website for a showcase of contemporary photography edited by Iain Sarjeant.


Dan Wood is from Bridgend, South Wales, UK. Wood’s work has been featured in many publications including CCQ and Ernest Journal. He has participated in over 40 exhibitions both nationally and internationally; including four solo shows. Wood is also a member of the artist collective: Document Britain

See more of Dan Wood’s work at his website: www.danwoodphoto.com, or on Instagram: @danwoodphoto