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Superman, Hollywood © Bjørn Opsahl

Bjørn Opsahl and I met at Nordic Light last week. We knew we were going to be on a panel discussion together but didn't know anything about each other. Fashion and portrait photographer Bjørn is obviously a bit of a heartthrob and hero, some of the students in the audience for his presentation were gooey. Bjørn was self-effacing during his great slideshow, claiming to be nervous to present in English - he was flawless. He talked about having been a roadie and a rocker and his progression to shooting bands, with no formal photographic education; how being ballsy is how to get great shots, especially when you're shooting celebrities; doing anything that's needed to get the shot (like getting a full back tattoo) and the skills required when handling handlers. 

This particular photograph was the culmination of a few days stalking a Hollywood Superman look-alike. Bjørn talked about how he crawled the curb each morning until he got the right shot. 

Bjørn, baby, how about a new website?

Robert Pledge's exhibition CONTACT/S, hosted most recently at Nordic Light, is monumental.

One would not expect anything less - the show, the layout, photographs from the building of the Berlin Wall to the falling of the Twin Towers, there's nothing to be done but really see, remember, hold photographers in awe and, if you're like me, let the tears run. Perhaps the one uplifting series was the gorilla who rescued a little boy who fell over the railings at the Chicago zoo showing us the humanity we can't see in most of the rest of the photographs. Even the first second of the new millennium, shot in Times Square, is full of Guiliani's disturbing mug.

And of course, the contact sheet is disappearing fast.

Leaving the show, I felt John Botte's interview deserved another airing.

John Botte: The 9/11 Photographs from In The Loupe on Vimeo.


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Title: untitled. Artist: unknown. January 2010, Berlin. Photo © Koen van de Wouw

"Last Expo is an online exposition. It is a collection of photographs taken of orphaned art in its final resting place. It's a commemorative album of forgotten human imagination."

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Title: untitled. Artist: unknown. March 2011, Amsterdam.

"I walked in the centre of Amsterdam, minding my own business, when I noticed a stray piece of artwork lying next to the trash. I thought maybe this was the first time that this painting had seen the light of day. I wanted to adopt it, but then I realized that this was a big moment for the painting - its debut".

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Title: untitled. Artist: unknown. July 2010, Los Angeles.

"For young artists, it is difficult to get your work onto a stage to be seen. It's not easy to get a place in a museum or at the current photo exhibitions. This is why I chose to create an online exposition. It's cheap and the whole world can see it."

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Title: untitled. Artist: unknown. April 2009, Amsterdam.

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All photographs © Koen van de Wouw

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'Cruel Story of Youth' © Jennifer Loeber

Counter Culture Summer Camp sounds wonderful; we uptight Brits didn't do this sort of thing... Jennifer Loeber enlightened me by sharing her project 'Cruel Story of Youth' and speaking from the heart.

"This series explores my personal reconciliation with the slowly fading memories that once had an indelible impact on my path to adulthood. I spent several weeks living with and documenting the emotional landscape of the current inhabitants of the counter culture summer camp I attended as a teenager as part alumnus, part outsider. Connecting with my subjects through a shared history afforded me the trust necessary to be able to watch events unfold without censorship. Drawing from my own self-discovery within this same space, I focused on conveying the spontaneity and supportive atmosphere that is the foundation and legacy of the camp."

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All images © Jennifer Loeber

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Every event is a highlight here at Nordic Light International Festival of Photography in Kristiansund. I feel fortunate to be spending real time with the people who have influenced me and who most likely influence you.  

Robert Pledge, ever-delightful founder and president of Contact Press Images, has mounted a show of contact sheets with the prints of the images that were selected from them. Seen all together, the show is incredibly moving and Robert followed up with a presentation of some 300 images he curated showing events from the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961 through to September 11th, 2001. I had not seen Annie Leibovitz' images from the Tutsi massacre before.


It was a real treat to go through the show with Robert who, as you can see, has not lost a jot of enthusiasm in the 35 years he's been running Contact.

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There's just so much good stuff going on here, including James Mollison's 'Where Children Sleep'; an Abe Frajndlich restrospective; sweet and delightful Bruce Davidson's 'American Photographs'; a selection from Mary Ellen Mark; Bjorn Opshal is my new friend-to-take-the-piss-out-of who is a great photographer with no formal training; and a wonderful new discovery for me - Annelise Kirsebom, an 82 year old woman who took up photography late in life but whose scenes might as well have been taken when she was in her 30s (and for whom I can't find a decent link.)

I'm completely blown away by Stuart Franklin but I'll address that separately.

I love this idea of having the students create a pop-up gallery by wearing their best image on a T shirt.

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Here's me having a sneaky fag with the inimitable (the word was invented for him) British attorney Rupert Grey. Since I always thought I might have been a lawyer if only I was inclined to study hard, I enjoy talking rights and cases with Rupert and this is the first time we've met face-to-face in the twenty years we've known each other.

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We're not done yet and tonight we'll be treated to a conversation with Mary Ellen Mark. Tomorrow I have four hours of portfolio reviews and I can't count how many photographers have come up to me and told me how nervous they are. I don't know why... 

Poor photos © Julie Grahame

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© Ted Morrison

With this marvelous series, Ted Morrison demonstrates the importance of personal work. Fully embracing a challenge he set for himself, the results prove that personal projects can rejuvenate your creativity, broaden your interests and perhaps keep you sane. Ted, who might spend months on a project with a client, suggests being busy with paid work tends to lead to a death of proactivity outside of the job you're doing. Hearing how I bang on about the importance of coming up with and embracing ideas for new projects, Ted literally got off his chair and headed to Maine accompanied only by his cameras and a new obsession.

Only accessible under certain conditions, Ted made trips to Acadia during summer and autumn last year. The results are beautiful and dramatic. I'd like to be under the sea!

View the full screen magazine photo feature.

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Man smoking in 14th Street Diner, NYC, 1974 © Harold Feinstein

Panopticon Gallery is proud to announce 'Harold Feinstein - A Retrospective' published by Nazraeli Press. Feel free to pre-order it for my birthday gift.

Feinstein was born in Coney Island, joined the Photo League at 17 years old, and is widely know for his work in New York, indeed helping to define the 'New York School'.

'Harold Feinstein, A Retrospective' is the first career-spanning monograph showcasing the brilliance of a small camera master of black-and-white photography. Feinstein began his career in photography in 1946. Within four short years, Edward Steichen, an early supporter, had purchased his work for the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and exhibited it frequently. Feinstein quickly became a prominent figure in the vanguard of the early New York City photography scene where he exhibited at Helen Gee's Limelight Gallery, was a designer for historic Blue Note Records and was a member of the NY Photo League. Feinstein is best known for his six-decade love affair with Coney Island, which has resulted in a collection unsurpassed by any other photographer. While his Coney Island work is much celebrated, Feinstein's breadth and exposure is far greater. His black-and-white portfolios include photo essays from the Korean War, documentary street work, nudes, landscapes, and still life. Feinstein's photographs have been exhibited in and are represented in the permanent collections of major museums including the Museum of Modern Art, International Center of Photography, and the George Eastman House. "When your mouth drops open, click the shutter." - Harold Feinstein

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Coney Island Teenagers, 1949 © Harold Feinstein

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GI in photo booth, Kilmer, 1952 © Harold Feinstein
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Man with daughters at the Side Show, Coney Island, 1949 © Harold Feinstein
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Tattooed man, Coney Island, 1990 © Harold Feinstein

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Peaches Geldof © Rayon Richards

Work-satisfaction-wise, not much beats witnessing a young photographer develop... I met Rayon Richards several moons ago when he was assisting the one-and-only Ernie Paniccioli. Rayon has always been positive, working super-hard on his career and turning out some great editorial, commercial and personal portraits. He has just launched a new website - a healthy improvement on the last (no offense, but those Livebooks sites sure can be soul-crushingly treacly.) Partake.

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Denise and Toni; Dani Filth; Half Pint; Bat For Lashes. All images © Rayon Richards
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Keeping me entertained today is Ohio-based photographer Stephen Tomasko's current project 'First Place and Our Congratulations'. 

"The start of this project, seen here, is the fruit of twenty days at sixteen midwest county fairs, examining the intense culture of competition surrounding the events."

This body of work will be part of the Proj'ekt LA series at MOPLA.

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All images © Stephen Tomasko

British county fairs feature massive vegetables, and I particularly enjoyed the story of the enormous swede that prompted Snoop Dogg to invite a Welshman backstage...

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In The Final Throes, New Jersey, 2011 © Michael Massaia

Michael Massaia is an incredibly productive, young, self-taught, technically impressive photographer. He doesn't look like a stalker, he isn't creepy, but he does sneak about a lot in the wee hours in places he probably ought not. Obviously Michael works with large format cameras; there is no trickery, just patience and masterful film processing and printing techniques. Michael describes his images as one-shot scenes that have been pushed to their limit. He talks about developing with Pyro allowing for huge, grainless prints that he makes himself. 

Michael has already been on the walls at AIPAD so I suspect all he needs to continue on this stellar path is a few more hours in the day (or night). At Gallery 270 in New Jersey, they reckon he eats only occasionally and may sleep just two or three hours every other day...

See Michael's work in its best format - large prints from the compelling series Seeing The Black Dog, Massaia's project on long-distance trucking will be on view at J Cacciola Gallery in NYC, opening May 3rd. 

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