Bilo Hussein is one of the delightful and impressive students from NY's School of Visual Arts I met during the class thesis review this year. Here are a few images from her heartfelt series "Never Home."
"When I was growing up in Saudi Arabia, my Sudanese parents often reminded me that the country we lived in was not our home. It was only years later that I understood the implications of this - that it might become impossible for me to 'belong' to any culture and that there was no place I could comfortably call home."
"Never Home is an ongoing project driven by the sense of segregation in religion, culture and gender that I experienced as a child in Saudi Arabia. I also express my continuing wish to find a place where I can fit in regardless of belief."
"As I went on to arrange and shoot the portraits, I directed my subjects to think about their formative experience in their culture of origin - on the good and the bad. I found myself almost subconsciously placing them next to a window, for reasons beyond its value as a light source. I came to the realization that they were really me sitting by the window as a child, locked up in our house in Jeddah wondering if I were ever to leave this place if would find another land I could honestly call home."
Of course, she found much in common with the women she chose to photograph, all transplants from elsewhere, domestic and abroad. In post-production, Bilo layers images of New York that are significant to her and textures that relate to the person's original home. Simply lovely.
Yousuf Karsh "American Portraits" exhibition is still on at the National Portrait Gallery in DC through November 4th, 2014. A representative of the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity got in touch having just seen the Wiesel portrait which is on view. The exhibition includes the colour image, but here is a black and white for good measure.
Karsh stopped working in 1992, and Mr Wiesel was among the last people photographed. Although, 1991 was still an interesting year - he also photographed Cesar Chavez, Marilyn Horne, Arnold Palmer, David Rockefeller, and Billy Wilder.
LA-based photographer Pej Behdarvand's assignment for Car & Driver magazine, to record a BMW's final moments, ("Our Bimmer Gets Gutted") progressed into his brilliant series "Deathbed." Some of the absolute best work I see is made as "personal work" when the photographer takes their idea and executes it under their own steam. Successful projects like this can then boost a photographer's assignment work and gain them important exposure both inside and outside of the photography world.
Instead of shooting the cars in the grave junk yard, Behdarvand isolated them on a black fabric backdrop, rendering them emotionally discomfiting. They are only cars, not even one you yourself have owned, yet they pull on your heartstrings and their last gasp is almost audible! Behdarvand says:
"The vehicles in this photo series are depicted as if museum objects, yet
unlike museum objects these wrecked cars are not to be physically
preserved intact for posterity, but will be crushed for reuse in another
form. The photo is the only document of the auto in this unique,
temporary state: after its useful life, before it is reincarnated into
recyclable material. What information is captured in these images? A
glimpse of the nebulous phase of a manmade thing, with remnants of
brand choice and societal status, with evidence of family and pride,
categorized indifferently with grease-pencil marks. In Deathbed, the
photo is a relic, a relic of a car relinquished to the junkyard to be
held until it is no longer a car."
In Terri Gold's ongoing series she explores "universal cross-cultural truths," capturing the traditions of disappearing indigenous cultures. The Omo Valley is in southern Ethiopia, in Africa's Great Rift Valley. It is known for its culture and diversity and for the discovery there of the earliest human fossils.
Terri's final prints are really beautiful. She uses very particular processes, which she describes: "I use a specially converted infrared digital camera and the digital darkroom to create my split-toned imagery. There is a mysterious quality to the invisible, iridescent world of infrared light that illuminates another dimension. When shooting, processing, and printing an infrared image, one must be open to the journey that reveals the subtle colors within. I enjoy the unexpected elements that arise when working with light beyond what the eyes can see. I also pursue the unexpected through multimedia, and often paint with encaustic wax and oils on the surface of my prints. Instead of photographic realism, I think of the work as magical realism."
A few fun images from Bolivia, and Dortmund, by Berlin-based photographer Daniel Hofer, "Born in 1982 in Düsseldorf, Germany. Great parents."
"Salar" refers to: "'Salar de Uyuni' a 10.000 square kms large salt lake, which is dried out for most of the year. It lies at an altitude of 3653 Meters in the Bolivian Andes and contains, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, one of the largest amounts of lithium in the world. Critics say that it's not possible to unify the plans for the lithium extraction, tourism and the protection of the environment in the Salar. At the moment, tourism is one of the most important sources of income to many people around the salt lake." Thanks Daniel!
Workers who work for a state owned company that seeks to extract lithium from the salt desert are surveying at a contruction site in the middle of the Salar
Tourists undertaking guided jeep tours through the salt at lunch break
From the series "Sunday morning," taken in the city of Dortmund, Germany, which show the members of a local pentecostal church who are mostly from Ghana.
We're helping out "Headphones for Haiti" - here's some of the press release.
Monster personal audio is partnering with the Enigma Performing Arts and Convention Center of Haiti (EPAC HAITI), for the "Headphones for Haiti" fundraising initiative that will benefit the people and culture of Haiti.
As part of the initiative, Monster is donating 100 pairs of its Inspiration headphones to be used as "blank canvases" that will be hand-painted by ten renowned Haitian Master Painters, including Frantz Zephirin, St. Jean Saint Juste, Richard Barbot, Mario Benjamin, Patricia Brintle, Joseph Eddy Pierre, Yael Talleyrand, Pascal Merisier aka "Pasko", Levoy exil, Harold Dessalines, Pascale Monnin, Philippe Dodard and Patrick Ganthier aka "Killy".
Each Master Painter was given ten headphones to transform into unique, personalized works of art. Ten of the completed hand-painted headphones will also have accompanying canvas paintings by the artists, which will be auctioned off at the celebratory launch event in New York City on June 25, 2014.
The additional hand-painted headphones will be auctioned on eBay from June 23 to July 1, 2014. All money raised at both the New York silent auction and the online auction will be used to help fund construction of the new performing arts center EPAC HAITI. In addition to helping fund this ambitious construction enterprise, the goal of the "Headphones for Haiti" program is to generate positive awareness about the art, culture and people of Haiti as the Caribbean nation continues to rebuild in the aftermath of the devastating 2010 earthquake. The "Headphones for Haiti" project is part of Monster Cares™, Monster's charitable division that was created to support local charities with education, music, sports and technology.
Italian artist Alessandro Falco was a finalist in a competition I co-judged in 2012. He has kept busy and kept me posted, and I am thrilled to see what he is producing in Rio, where he headed for three months to make photos about and around the World Cup.
We present two series in the magazine. The first is of a Colombian community in a favela in Rio watching their team play Greece; the second is about a young dental technician who dresses as Batman to protest against the spending around the World Cup in a country where so many people lack even the basics.
After an update reminding me of his "father series" I'm running a few images from Jay Sullivan's series "Glove" for Father's Day, but we're not talking about a Hallmark moment...
"When I was five years old, my father suffered a bipolar breakdown and was sent to a psychiatric institution. It started him on a long descent from top IBM salesman to homeless on the streets of Brooklyn some 20 years later. Our relationship followed a similar trajectory. When he died we had spoken only twice in his final ten years.
"I began "Glove" seeking to reconnect with my father by photographing the childhood objects that I most associated with him. Over time it became a journey into the emotional core of these objects, unearthing the feelings and memories associated with a black wallet, wingtip shoes, zippo lighter, baseball glove and many other long forgotten items."
Jay is producing some remarkably emotive images. See more of this and other projects, including My Father's Ashes, a photography-based installation that documents the journey of his father's ashes from 1992 to the present day, over on Jay's website.
Young master photographer and printer Michael Massaia's "Deep in a Dream" series has until now shown us images of Central Park made in the wee-est hours of the night. Sometimes up to the top of his waders in the lake, or being cruised by guys, chattered to by rats or growled at by dogs, the long-exposure photographs he takes are finessed to within an inch of their beautiful lives in his homemade darkroom where he spends days mixing chemicals to outstanding effect. His prints need to be seen to be believed; they are stunning.
It turns out that Massaia has been making these sunbather photographs since 2006, concurrently with his other series, many of which are long night-time exposures: "Afterlife" consists of stunning images of a Jersey Shore pier before and after Hurricane Sandy; "In The Final Throes" shows the streets of suburban New Jersey; "Seeing the Black Dog" renders long-haul trucks at rest in stark beauty. "I tried in every way possible to visually/graphically make the environment come to life in its most lifeless moments," he says of Afterlife.
One ought probably to not ever be surprised by Michael, but still when the first "Deep in a Dream - Sheep's Meadow" sunbathers dropped in, I was bowled over. All I could imagine was him laying flat in a hide in camo. I couldn't understand how he'd get his 8x10 in there. But in fact, he's in plain sight. The final prints are small gold toned silver prints. Divine.
"Though people are the focus, my objective was to wait to capture the moment they turn into unassuming sculpted objects." It's hard at first to work out what is going on in these images. The subjects have surrendered to their environment and must have no pretensions of privacy (unlike the spying in "Through Their Windows" by Arne Svenson, which I happen to really enjoy.)
aC: I understand you set out with a large format, 8x10 camera - was it one of your handmade ones? Impractical setting up a tripod in Sheep Meadow and trying to surreptitiously photograph people sunbathing, you decided to downsize to just an RZ... All the conversations these days are about how much less intrusive an iPhone is to taking photographs, how on earth do you manage to make these with a 6x7? MM: For about 1/4 of the portfolio I used an 8x10 camera. It was not a fancy modified one, just a standard Sinar F2. It became quickly apparent that I simply could not handle the pressure of getting so close to the subject while using such a large camera. I literally felt like I was going to have a nervous breakdown when I was using the view cameras for this portfolio, but it was tempered by my excitement over the results I was getting.
The problem was also, not so much the people I was photographing, but all the people surrounding me. It was pretty clear I had to change my working method, so that's when I switched to using a RZ67 (along with several other cameras.)
I basically used every camera I could get my hands on to accomplish this job at the highest quality.
Ironically, when I started the portfolio in 2006, I used a Sony digital camera that I hacked up to do some test pictures, and get some readings/measurements. Looking back on the images I was actually very impressed with the look of them, so I asked my friend/gallery owner, Tom Gramegna, (of Gallery 270, in Bergen, New Jersey) who has a very long relationship with Leica, if I could borrow their flagship medium format digital camera - the S - to also use on the portfolio. I've been very impressed with the results from that camera, and while it's a digital camera, I still create analog negatives from the files that are in turn contact printed on traditional fiber based silver gelatin paper.
aC: You mentioned a camera where it's not easy to tell the front from the back. MM: It's a Sinar f2 with standard bellows on it. As you can see from the picture it's very hard to tell the front from the back (especially when I use recessed lens board with a wide angle lens on it.)
aC: What inspired you to make a series in the broadest of daylight in the first place? MM: I think the inspiration came from simply trying to create a portfolio that involved people in some way. The majority of my work over the past eight or nine years has been void of any people, and I thinks that's a result of my inability to connect to most people in an earnest way. As a result, I usually set out to document a world I can more relate to, which is usually an isolated/slightly disconnected world. But back in 2006, I saw these people laying out in the Sheep Meadow and was very drawn to how "out of their bodies" they appeared. All of the pretense was gone, and what remained was this perfect unassuming figure. I found myself being very connected to the honesty/perfection of the people at that moment. My goal was to then figure a way to photograph the people in the most exacting/intimate way. During the printing process is where I started to severely "burn" out everything surrounding the subject. This way, there is no distraction. It is just the viewer and the person.
aC: Why gold tone? Were you inspired by the burnished bathers? MM: Gold toning silver prints can create many different types of looks. I gold toned the prints in this portfolio to create what many people would consider to be the opposite of what gold toning is supposed to do. I use a warm-toned fiber-based silver gelatin paper to print the portfolio, and for the most part, when you use gold toners on warm toned paper, it cools down/introduces subtle shades of blue to the print. The gold toning helps in making the image and print more hyper-real. I was inspired by the skin tones of the people, but my goal was to cool them down a bit, creating a bit more of a ghostly appearance.
aC: You are not a gregarious person and you seem to like to work in solitude and often at night when you might be hassled by security, or mad dogs. What about annoyed sunbathers? MM: To this day, no one I've ever photographed, has noticed me. The last thing I ever want to do is to make someone feel uneasy or uncomfortable, but no matter what, I have to see my ideas through until the bitter end. Hopefully my luck keeps up...