Mikkel_Aaland_County_Fair_02.jpgThe photographer's favourite children's portrait © Mikkel Aaland

I met the delightful, exuberant photographer Mikkel Aaland at the Nordic Light Festival in Kristiansund, Norway, where he MC'ed, and moderated, and enlightened us as to his multi-faceted life in San Francisco.

Mikkel was showing prints from this portfolio one afternoon and I fell in love with the series. The book "County Fair: Portraits" was originally published in 1981; a Special Portfolio Edition is out now.

"My association with Harold Foote, the owner of the studio, began in 1971 when I went to the Pleasanton fair with two schoolmates in search of summer work. Foote had just pulled his studio onto the grounds and was busy setting up. He asked if any of us had photog­raphy experience. He noticed my slender frame and said, "You fit in the darkroom. A dollar-sixty-five an hour and the job is yours." The darkroom then was a dingy closet and there my career began. Two weeks later when the fair ended, Harold asked if I wanted to go on the road as a darkroom person and I agreed. Three years later I moved out of the darkroom and became a shooter and began this collection in 1976.

These portraits were made in a portable studio that was hauled from fair to fair between 1976 and 1980. The studio was complete with darkroom and a shoot­ing stage and it took a crew of three to run it: a shooter (me), a front person to handle customers and a darkroom person to develop and print the 4x5 inch negative. The entire process, when going smoothly, took about fifteen minutes.

The studio, a weather-beaten structure of wood and steel, was mounted on a trailer and covered with peel­ing orange, black and white paint. At a fair we disguised it as best we could with some of our most glamorous photos-smiling faces and beauty queens. The shooting stage was just inside a heavy orange curtain which only partially blocked out the roar of the fair. A 4x5 wood box Burke & James camera was mounted on a rigid turret, its 135 mm lens so old and scratched that our pictures came out happily softened, a qual­ity I could never achieve with a newer lens. For lighting we installed three Honeywell strobes around the room and a flood lamp above the camera. We painted the back­ground neutral gray. Our only props were three stools and a table for infants.

Because our prices were so reasonable, we often had lines of customers that lasted from ten in the morning to midnight. To give you an idea of our volume: on a busy day in Pleasanton, I shot over 450 portraits, averaging three people per print, meaning 1,350 mostly smiling faces.

Customers generally posed themselves. I directed them to the camera and tried not to interfere with their moods, unless a mother insisted that I make her kid smile. Most of the time I only clicked the Packard shut­ter once, provided the subject sat sill. The shutter speed was 1/30 of a second, which doesn't stop even a slow motion. I spent a couple minutes with each customer, but large families and fussy babies took longer. After I exposed the negative, the customer paid and I sent the film holder back to the darkroom with a color coded ticket, which told the crew what size and quantity to print.

The darkroom stood behind the shooting area, through a door stained with photo chemicals. It was divided into two rooms with space for four people, though we usu­ally worked two at a time. On one side was the small negative processing room secured from the printing area by a black curtain. The negative was processed in the normal manner, although we heated our developer to 92 degrees F and cooked the Ilford film for a brief forty seconds. Ilford was the only film we could work with; the others disintegrated at the high temperature.

The developed and fixed negative was then shoved through a small opening to the print room where a sec­ond person dipped it into a solution of Photo-Flo and squeegeed off the excess. The still-damp negative then went to one of our two Omega D-II enlargers, one for wallet-sized prints and the other for larger sizes up to 16x20 inches.

Since there was not time for guess work the exposure was determined by a densitometer. Once exposed, the paper was placed face-up in a Kreomatic proces­sor which developed, fixed, washed and dried the print in about four minutes. This machine was a luxury we only recently acquired. Before, we had four messy, open tanks which explains why our trailers' frame was so eroded by acid and fix.

The entire procedure, from negative to finished print went smoothly most of the time. Only when we at our busiest did blunders from inexperienced help, power blackouts, electrical shorts, contaminated chemicals, scratched negatives and a host of other disasters seem to occur.

We slept in cheap motels, on cots in campgrounds, in our cars, and often in the back of a 1966 Dodge stock truck. Inside its aluminum shell we installed three bunks, two closets, a refrigerator and an air-conditioner. Chemicals and photographic paper were stored sepa­rately up front. We parked the truck on the fairgrounds near the studio. It was convenient to sleep within walk­ing distance, particularly after a fourteen-hour workday.

During those years with Foote I shoot nearly 60,000 portraits. Of those I saved 700 negatives, 25 of which make up this portfolio."

View the full screen magazine photo feature.

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Back in New York I discover Janette Beckman has an original copy.

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© Demond Meek

More fabulous personal work: Demond Meek's series "Slum Beautiful" was photographed around his home town of St. Louis, Missouri. 

In my opinion, this compelling and haunting series is a taste of the current and impending state of the States.

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All images © Demond Meek

In May, Instagram featured the series and it was really well received - follow Demond @dmeek.

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© Guilherme Zauith

I'm loving this project from Guilherme Zauith documenting the London Borough of Hackney. Many of the great projects I'm seeing lately are by dedicated photographers immersed in producing straight-forward documentary series. Sometimes simple is superlative. Other work on his site includes demos last year in London, prawn fishing in Ullapool, Scotland, and a trip to Kosovo.

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"E5 is a postcode district within the Borough of Hackney, East London. Chatsworth Road used to have the biggest street market in East London. After the 1970s recession the market started shrinking, with the last four stalls closing down in the mid 1990s. From then on the reputation of the area was associated with derelict buildings, street gangs and squats."

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"From the late 1990s young artists and students began to move to East London, including E5, triggering the gentrification of the area. There are now coffee shops, a delicatessen, a cręperie, bars and other new businesses."

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"During 2011 a Traders and Residents Association formed to bring a voice to the local community, and to re-introduce the Chatsworth Road street market. I saw a place not yet as standardized as other street markets in East London which attract high prices and tourists. Instead, it was an area with a strong community spirit, independent shops and a vibrant local economy. So I began to hang around with my camera and talk to people and discovered a colourful place with interesting characters, traditional shop fronts and stories that made me return over and over again, for the next seven months."

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"This year the London 2012 Olympics will be happening only 15 minutes walk away, and the impact on this traditional East London neighbourhood can only be speculated."

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A cręperie in Hackney?!

All images © Guilherme Zauith

Marc_Wilson_Last_Stand.jpgFindhorn, Moray, Scotland © Marc Wilson

The UK connection has been kind to me of late and Marc Wilson's beautifully pensive project is the latest series that I am honoured to publish.

This is the landscape as witness to war, a project I heard about through the crowd-funding site Indie GoGo. Receiving regular updates on something that you've contributed to is thrilling; the pleasure of publishing the final results? Priceless!

Here's Marc in his own words:

"Since late 2010 I have been researching, reccieing and shooting the photographs that make up The Last Stand, which aims to document some of the remaining physical remnants of war in the 20th century, along the coastlines of the UK and Northern Europe. These man-made objects and zones of defence now sit silently in the landscape, imbued with the history of our recent past. Some remain proud and strong, some are gently decaying. Many now lie prone beneath the cliffs where they once stood. Through the effects of the passing years, all have become part of the fabric of the changing landscape that surrounds them.

Whilst I capture the individual beauty of these objects in their landscapes, the series of photographs become much more than a set of traditional landscapes. My aim is that the collection will become a permanent photographic record of the past. A testament to the subjects physical form and the histories, stories and memories contained within, both of these wartime objects and the landscapes themselves.

With each passing year the evidence and memories fade a little more and it is especially for this reason that I have undertaken this project. I see every landscape as a witness to war and the passing time, each with a story to tell, whether it is one of unfulfilled defiance or one of tragedy.

This project takes in locations throughout the UK, from Cornwall in the south west of England to the far north west of Scotland; and along the northern coasts of Europe including those of France and Belgium.

The project is being supported by Spectrum Photographic in Brighton."

View the full screen magazine photo feature.

Follow Marc on Twitter.

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Darth does chores ©
Julie Schuchard

Not much to add here really. Young photographer Julie Schuchard, whom I met recently at the end of a panel discussion at Adorama, "...just drove across the country to launch a new portrait series called 'Darth Across America.'"

He can kill you with a single thought.

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All images © Julie Schuchard

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Setting up before the rain, Friday June 23rd, Brooklyn. Courtesy of Rock Paper Photo

Photoville opened this past, steamy weekend. The festival features some 30 shipping containers showing mini-exhibitions curated by some great people and organizations, with photographs hung using various creative methods. The other rather wonderful element is the quality of talks and presentations being hosted. Happily, I will be one of the talkers this coming weekend, on June 30th, where I am thrilled to be hosted by Rock Paper Photo with two of their photographers - my long-term colleague and dear friend Baron Wolman, and the impressive, prolific, relative-newbie,  Anna Webber. Join us at 1.30 pm for "Beyond the Picture: The Art of Selling Music Photography" What does it take for music and entertainment photographers to successfully market and sell their work?

Photoville and all the talks are FREE so come on over to Brooklyn Bridge Park. We'll see you on Saturday!

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"Blinded By The Light" Rock Paper Photo's container, packed with great music photography.

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From Biggie and Tupac... (by Chi Modu)

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...to Hendrix and Joplin (by Baron Wolman)
All images Courtesy of Rock Paper Photo

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@cigaretteburns_ © Travis Hodges

When Travis Hodges joined Twitter, he wanted to meet the people he was communicating with. "I photographed the most active person I followed and asked them to select the next subject from those they follow. Online social networking is changing the way people build relationships and I set out to illustrate one thread within this interconnected web."

The project is the manifestation of an enjoyable part of online networking - actively appreciating someone you're connected to, whom you really don't know. I was surprised that Travis and I have only @JAMortram in common so I'm now following everyone in this story. With the publication of this feature, I hope to connect with more. I have had the pleasure of a cup of tea or two with people I've 'met' on Twitter - it's a great feeling to take these online relationships offline.

Follow Travis.

View the full screen magazine photo feature.

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Dorothy Tyler (High jump) © Katherine Green

This year, London will host the Olympics for the first time since 1948. (Good luck with that. I'm grateful they are not being held here in NYC.) For the past 6 years, photographer Katherine Green has been meeting and documenting the 1948 British Olympic Team.

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John Peake (Hockey)  © Katherine Green

Katherine Green is a social documentary photographer, from East London, who studied postgraduate photography at Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design. Katherine's work often focuses on documenting communities through photography and oral history, exploring what community and a sense of belonging means to different people. Her work aims to highlight and celebrate members of the community who may otherwise go unseen.

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Jimmy McColl (Football) © Katherine Green

Katherine says of this work: "At the same time as drawing parallels between 1948 and the 2012 Olympic Games, I do hope these portraits and oral histories go some way to demonstrate the knowledge and experience of a valuable generation of people who are often overlooked in our society. It has been a great privilege to spend time in the company of such interesting and modest people."

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George Weedon (Gymnastics) © Katherine Green

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From Heidi & Ed: The fight for our children © J A Mortram

Jim Mortram is up-front about his own situation as a full-time caregiver, and in what spare time he has he photographs people in the margins, people in difficult circumstances - mentally or physically ill or just plain in-trouble. He gives them space to tell their stories, and the results are intimate and non-judgmental. Jim photographs warmly, with obvious compassion and investment in people's lives. "No matter who I shoot I want to shoot them forever!"

Mortram is a member of Aletheia Photo collective. Read a short interview with him at sevenbyfive or view his work with 'Independent Arts and Minds' over on the Beeb.

Visit his site for the full stories, be inspired - you will find yourself wanting to know how things turn out.

View the aCurator magazine full screen photography feature.

Update: a piece focusing on Jim's series Simon: Living With Epilepsy over at DuckRabbit's top blog.

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© Sean Lotman

Sean Lotman is a native of Los Angeles residing in Kyoto. "I am drawn to individuals who, lacking means and opportunity, nevertheless convey a poignant dignity."

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"They say power is seductive but in my travels I've often been drawn to the social underdog. It's easy to forget in our fast-paced, high-tech lives, how many of us struggle to make ends meet. But such striving does not go for naught, often making the man, transforming an underdog into a talented, multifaceted individual... We're talking a kind of person who can fix a bicycle chain, remove a carburetor, tune a guitar, make a fire, and speak two or three languages despite dropping out of school at the age of twelve. Many walk the fine line between chaos and order on two dollars a day and for all that economic repression, stay sane and start a family too. I've been awfully fortunate to not only meet these hardy individuals but to take their portraits as well."

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All images © Sean Lotman

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