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© Michael Massaia

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.

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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...

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Ice house, Minnesota border with Canada © Laura Migliorino

Minnesota-based photographer and professor Laura Migliorino was fascinated by ice houses as a kid. She had a rather skewed sense of what they were for, but they are in fact used as a base for people ice fishing on the lakes in winter. They look pretty spooky to me!

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Wild Ginger © Jim Fike

I just love James Fike's series of photogram-like plant portraits.

"These edible plants grow all around us, in yards, alleys, ditches, and empty lots. Each testifies to our symbiotic evolution with all of life, and functions as both poetic metaphor and concrete proof of our intimate tether to the natural world. It is my hope that this art foments contemplative wonderment by offering viewers both information and insights that if realized kindle a reconnection to the natural world and a mystical counterbalance to scientific objectivism.

"I envision this as a thoroughly inclusive catalogue that will result in hundreds of photographs. The aesthetic consciously combines empirical and visionary traditions, by taking advantage of digital imaging's capacity to create rhetorical shifts in the photograph. The resulting images are elegant, layered, historically aware and able to evoke mystery, amplify interconnectedness and offer a critique of classical taxonomy." J.W. Fike

Delicious!

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"These photographs portray people whose lives have been changed by accidents, medical malpractice, and defective products."


Hoping to reach some people who love this sort of thing, here's the story:
"Collin LaFleche and Bonnie Briant have been working with the photographer Bob Walden to put together a book of his photography, culled from his 20-year career as a legal photographer in and around New York City. He worked as a freelancer, hired by law firms to photograph accident victims or accident scenes for civil negligence cases (although he did work on a few criminal cases). Some of his photos were used in major legal cases - for example, the crane collapse a few years ago - but for the most part, he was working on low-level cases that would never make the news."

These guys are running a Kickstarter campaign to fund publication of a book - read more over there. Please spread the word.

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Images © Bob Walden
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Jana Cruder's "Great Expectations" ran here in the blog a couple of years ago. Through a series of vignettes, shown on two side-by-side films, Jana explores the societal and relationship roles through the icons of Barbie and Ken while creating a unique individual viewer experience: In order to display the series Jana built a replica Viewmaster stereoscope. This beast/beauty is now up for sale!

"Jana Cruder's 'VIEWMASTER' titled "All that Glitters is Gold" a piece that combines the artist's mild obsession with nostalgic nuances with her increasing curiosity of the moving image. Jana's golden VIEWMASTER is an exact replica of a 1956 Bakelite VIEWMASTER. This sculpture stands 5' 4" and spans over 36'' wide. This hand built, carved and sanded piece is meticulous in its execution. The golden reflective automotive painted finish gives the piece a real 'plastic' feel."

Check out the stop-motion film, and take a closer look at the Viewmaster below. If you're in the market, you can reach Jana via her website.

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Wendy at home, Havana © Mariette Pathy Allen

More on the topic of gender (see Jill Peter's lovely Hijras in the mag).

Daylight Books is proud to announce the publication of Mariette Pathy Allen's wonderful long-term project TransCuba. 

"For more than 30 years, New York based photographer and painter Mariette Pathy Allen has been documenting transgender culture worldwide; in 2004 she won the Lambda Literary Award for her monograph The Gender Frontier. In her new publication, TransCuba, Allen focuses on the transgender community of Cuba, especially its growing visibility and acceptance in a country whose government is transitioning into a more relaxed model of communism under Raúl Castro's presidency. This publication therefore records a cultural watershed within Cuba. In addition to color photographs and interviews by Allen, the book also includes a contribution from Raúl Castro's daughter, Mariela Castro, who is the director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education in Havana. In 2005, Castro proposed a project, which became law three years later, to allow transgender individuals to receive sex reassignment surgery and change their legal gender."

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Charito at home with one-week-old piglet, Camaguey

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Alsola, Santiago de Cuba

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Amanda at home, Havana

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Laura at home, Havana

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Nomi and Miguel watching television. All images © Mariette Pathy Allen
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Eleanor Roosevelt, 1957 © Yousuf Karsh

The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC launched the second round of a Karsh exhibition, as curated by Ann Shumard with Estrellita Karsh who generously donated over 100 vintage prints. The exhibition is on the ground floor and round one received between 250,000 and 300,000 visitors. 

This classic image of Ms Roosevelt is in the show, and has just been licensed by the National Parks Service for use in materials at the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site in New York. I thought I'd like to publish the other frame that not so many people are familiar with.

Non-Americans: she was an absolute powerhouse, it's worth looking her up. "Roosevelt was a controversial First Lady for her outspokenness, particularly her stance on racial issues. She was the first presidential spouse to hold press conferences, write a syndicated newspaper column, and speak at a national convention. On a few occasions, she publicly disagreed with her husband's policies." Can you imagine??

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Eleanor Roosevelt, 1957 © Yousuf Karsh

Karsh | Permalink |


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Wadi Zitoune Battlefield, Tobruk perimeter, Libya. © Matthew Arnold

"During a visit to Egypt in 2008, Matthew Arnold became enamored with the profound silence and enveloping isolation of the African desert. After a conversation with Steven Hamilton, a North African battlefield expert, Arnold was convinced that together they could trace the movement of Axis and Allied forces along the northern ridge of Africa.

"Over the course of the next two years, Hamilton and Arnold journeyed to discover undocumented World War II battlefield sites; they used cryptic wartime maps to identify locations within the landscape and uncover their historical significance. These maps transformed craggy hills strewn with desert detritus into the Bir Hacheim battlefield in Libya or the Sbeitla battlefield in Tunisia. 70 years have not yet eradicated traces of the fightin - campsites can still be foun - evident by the amount of ration tins, trench systems and pill boxes that still carry the marks of battle. Unexploded shells, barbed wire and mines still litter the landscapes of North Africa and occasionally claim yet another victim, as if the very land itself is reminding us of the tragedy of war. These photographs depict the peaceful landscape that it is today, so very different from yesterday."

Widely exhibited in the States, 'Topography Is Fate: North African Battlefields of WWII'  has also been published as a monograph by Kehrer Verlag. It includes a foreword written by Hilary Roberts, the Head Curator of Photography at the Imperial War Museums in Britain.

Arnold was recently awarded a 2013 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Traveling Fellowship for this project.

Learn more about this project over at Matthew's website.

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Designer Toby Mott talks about laying De La Soul on the floor for the 3 Feet High and Rising album cover.

Photos of the band are by the ridiculously fabulous Steve Pyke.

Snap Galleries hosted the launch of designer Mott's limited edition print of the album artwork at their space in London. The print is 20x20 inches in an edition of 60, for £480. Noice!
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© Rahul Talukder

I am deeply humbled to have received communication from Shahidul Alam regarding the exhibition 1134 Lives Not Numbers, a group show dedicated to the lost garment workers of Bangladesh, which opened yesterday at Pathshala South Asian Media Institute in Dhaka. 

"This 24th April will mark a year of Rana Plaza collapse and death of a thousand workers, thousand dreams. To observe this day, Artist practicing in different mediums including Photography, Installation, Performance Art, Sound, Film, Theater & Music will be holding a group exhibition." 

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© Rahul Talukder

A CBS news article said today "...promises of compensation for survivors of the disaster and the victims' families have been only partially kept, according to Human Rights Watch. The non-governmental organization says a financial trust fund, chaired by the International Labour Organization, was targeted to receive $40 million from global companies that purchased products from the Rana Plaza factories. However, only $15 million has been contributed so far. 

"The group also says none of the 15 international retailers whose clothing and brand labels were found in the rubble of the factory by journalists and labor activists have donated to the fund."


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Bangladeshi garment worker Mariyam, 30, who worked on the 6th floor of Rana Plaza, with her sister at Enam Medical College, in Savar, near Dhaka, Bangladesh. Mariyam had her right arm amputated to free her from the rubble when she was rescued nearly 72 hours after the building collapsed. © Suvra Kanti Das

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Bangladeshi garment worker Aroti, 16, who worked on the 5th floor of Rana Plaza, at Enam Medical College Hospital, Savar, Bangladesh. © Suvra Kanti Das

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© Suvra Kanti Das

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Siraj Uddin and Majeda Khatun, parents of New Wave Style factory's worker Shirin, 18, have found their beloved daughter's dead body in the morgue after 12 days. © Taslima Akhter

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Poly Akhter's mother, Shahana, grieves for her. Her other daughter, Dalia, also worked in the factory complex but did not go to work on the day of the collapse. © Taslima Akhter

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"Day 9: I was waiting on the backside of the building when demolition started with heavy machines and rubbles were removed then suddenly I saw few bodies were hanging." © Tushikur Rahman

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© Abir Abdullah

Please share the news about this exhibition.
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