July 2010, Greenpeace-commissioned photographer Lu Guang documented the
aftermath of the massive oil spill at the city of Dalian in China. A
couple of weeks ago, the dramatic series of pictures he shot during this
assignment portraying the death of firefighter Zhang Liang was awarded
with the third prize in the Spot News Stories category of the World Press Photo competition. In this video Lu Guang provides his personal perspective on this tragic event.
British photographer Hester Jones' series 'Call Yourself a Mother' explores "the maternal ambivalent feelings and fantasies many mothers experience towards their children" in a handful of stark and ambiguous constructions. Jones does not include the mother's face, denying us the look that the mother would be giving and prompting us to question the action taking place.
A graduate of London's prestigious LCC and, among several other exhibitions, with work just shown at 2010 Brighton Fringe, Hester's work can be seen here in the States at the Mpls Photo Center in 'Woman As Photographer: Picturing Life as a Woman' which opens March 4th and coincides with International Women's Day.
Klaus Pichler introduced aCurator to his work and I decided to publish from his ongoing project 'Middle Class Utopia'.
"This series focuses on Austrian allotment gardens in and around Vienna called 'Schrebergärten'. These tiny gardens were invented in the late 19th century, mainly to provide space for the working class people to grow their own vegetables and fruits. Over time, the use of these gardens changed and now they are mainly used for recreational purposes. 26,000 of these gardens exist in Vienna, not only located in the boundaries of the city. It's a special kind of people who live there - mostly older people, but also younger families who combine the advantage of urban life with the escapism of the garden colonies. Due to the strict rules of these colonies, concerning both the look of the gardens as well as the behaviour of the occupants, a special mood surrounds the gardens. The artificial idyll of the garden gets foiled by feelings of paranoia, fear and sometimes loneliness that surround the people who live there.
Nature is declared friend and foe at the same time. On the one hand, the occupants enjoy the beauty and peace of nature - on the other hand, the natural growth of the plants is seen as enemy and needs to be fought with scissors, lawnmowers and hedge-trimmers. This dichotomy leads to a slightly grotesque appearance of the gardens, looking like outdoor living rooms. 'Middle Class Utopia' is a portrait of the strange world of the garden colonies and their inhabitants - daily and nightly, throughout a whole year." - Klaus Pichler
I met Norman Borden at an ASMP portfolio review. Says he, "This is a project about smokers - people who are a vanishing breed and often pariahs but who still enjoy the nicotine rush, the feel of a cigarette between their fingers or lips, and how the act of smoking defines them as individuals." I encouraged Norman to continue this project and to photograph in other cities.
The mayor of New York City recently announced that he is enacting a smoking ban in parks, beaches and pedestrianized areas such as Times Square. Thankfully, the NYPD is not going to be collecting $50 fines; apparently the ban will be enforced by the people around you, defenders of public health and morality! "if a person does not stop when you request, then you can call 311 to
report it, or you can notify a Parks Department employee or a Park
Enforcement officer." I'm renaming these city employees Enjoyment Spoilers as they do a great job ensuring you don't ride your bike, smell the flowers, or just have too good of a time in a public space that you pay for out of your taxes.
We are not at all invested in preventative healthcare. We are not invested in intelligent ways to help people stop smoking. We are not invested in reducing pollution - how about all those cars idling their engines for half an hour while they wait to switch side of the street? There is no shame being attached to that, to a department store air conditioning the street in summer.
Here's an example of a more unusual portrait by Yousuf Karsh. Taken in 1967, it is of Emilio Pucci, fashion designer and politician, and his wife Baronessa Cristina Nannini. Mike Hartley of bigflannel, designer of both the Yousuf Karsh website and aCurator, says it's his favourite Karsh.
Robyn Twomey is a great editorial and fine art photographer from the Bay Area whose first solo exhibition, a series about users of medical marijuana, opens March 3rd, 2011, at Patricia Sweetow Gallery in downtown San Francisco. Maybe one day when New York grows up we too will be able to treat our sick neighbours with the magical weed.
"In the fall of 2009, Twomey was on assignment with Fortune Magazine covering the medicinal marijuana gold rush in California for the article, Medical Marijuana's High Society. While photographing behind the scenes at the dispensaries, she met 19 year-old Jordan Mays, a medical marijuana client who has a rare form of leukemia. Though not originally part of the assignment, the photo editor of Fortune Magazine encouraged Robyn to accompany Jordan to his house and photograph him. Thus began the journey for Robyn into the personal stories of Medical Marijuana prescription patients from Harborside Healthcare in Oakland, CA. Robyn has photographed over 30 clients, with an array of stories; the large-scale portraits are staged in the client's environment while each administers their medication. The photographs give voice to the diversity of those who rely on cannabis for relief, despite the frail legal framework, and the menacing social stigma."
'The Dealership Wreck' continues Kirk Crippen's work on The Great Recession that began with his 2009 series 'Foreclosure, USA', photographed around Stockton, California.
"In the first quarter of 2009, one in every twenty-seven housing units in the area received a foreclosure notice, against a national rate of about one in one hundred and fifty-nine. Foreclosure, USA explores Stockton's foreclosed homes and the abruptly suspended housing developments in its hardest hit neighborhoods."
Kirk says in some areas "the pride of ownership soured", a sad statement for the capitalism-centric USA.
"I never noticed the monolithic deserted auto dealerships alongside the freeway until recently, when I began to notice empty dealerships everywhere I traveled. I researched the phenomenon and discovered that since 2009, over 2,300 auto dealerships in America shut down. The closings, which happened largely as a result of the US governmentʼs auto industry bailout and restructuring, put 70 million square feet of commercial real estate on the market. Thousands of industry workers lost their jobs. During recent visits to auto malls in California, Oregon, and Texas, I explored many of these abandoned structures. I've witnessed a foundation being poured for a brand new auto dealership directly across the street from two closed dealerships. I've observed that some of the buildings are scheduled for demolition; some are being repurposed; and a few are reopening as new dealerships. At a time when GM is emerging from a structured bankruptcy and things are looking up for auto manufactures, I hope this series captures a glimpse of the fragile and changing infrastructure of this iconic American industry."
Azhar Chougle is "a fine-art
documentary photographer, based in Mumbai, India and New York, NY." He's
been keeping me abreast of his work over the last few months with his
eloquent, thoughtful submissions.
"The New York city subway always felt like a teleport to me. Descending down the stairs from a concrete jungle and emerging at the edges of urban existence. 'The Last Exit' is a conceptual documentary series exploring the very edges of the subway system." I love the bucolic 6 train platform, and the exit to the Milky Way.
Also check out Bombay Taxi, Azhar's essay on the individuality of the taxi cabs he takes through India's most populous city.
Harold Ross' series 'Night' is other-worldly, uncanny, ethereal, and rooted in his childhood fear of the bogeyman.
Harold is a practitioner of light painting: a specialized technique which requires working in a completely dark environment, opening the camera for an extended period of time, and 'painting' the light onto the subject. This reveals greater shape, texture and color, and is very much sculpting with light. What you see in his work cannot exist in nature nor in one moment in time. Instead, it's the result of a 'merging' or 'gathering' of light.
"When I was young, I often went camping in the mountains of southern New Mexico. One of the strongest memories from those trips is being absolutely terrified of whatever was beyond the light of our campfire. It didn't help that my older brother, Norman, and his friends told me horrific stories! During those sleepless nights, I was convinced that some murderous renegade or rabid coyote was just waiting to pounce on me.
I'm sure this has something to do with why I started this project. In some ways, I think that I'm dealing with the childhood fear of being out in nature in the dark. As it turns out, the first image I shot in this series (Quaker Cemetery Wall) was photographed in a place you would have never found me as a kid! I'm not afraid anymore, at least not when I have a helper with me...
One of my motivations in making these pictures is curiosity. I'm curious about just what will be revealed by the very descriptive lighting techniques that I employ. I don't really start shooting projects at the beginning, but somewhere in the middle.
The details that are present in these images can't be seen normally, as the lighting is built up over time. Normally, when using artificial light, especially light painting, one tries to be consistent with direction of light in order to make the lighting appear as natural as possible. In this landscape work, I'm not overly concerned with this, and, in fact, I'm interested in the interplay between the reality of the scene and the purposeful artificiality of the lighting." - Harold Ross, February 2011.