© Ima Mfon

An image from recent graduate Ima Mfon's wonderful series graced the publicity for the School of Visual Arts 2015 Thesis Exhibition in New York, and his large print there was very impressive. Ima agreed to a feature and his photographs look spectacular in the magazine! 

"As an African living in America, I find that the line between celebrating and exoticizing African culture is increasingly blurry. To add some clarity to the current discourse, I photograph my subjects in an elegant and direct manner. It is my hope that this will create a connection between subject and viewer. It's also my way of challenging viewers to understand what it is like to be 'the other.' Above all else, it is a reminder that the culture and identity of a people should be always be appreciated, respected and honored."

View the full screen magazine photo feature.

Ima's full statement on the project: 
"Nigerian Identity is a series of photographic portraits of my fellow Nigerians in which all people are presented in a uniform manner: photographed on a white seamless background, looking directly into the lens, and enhanced so that their skin tones are virtually identical. The idea behind this discipline stems from my experiences living in America.

"Black" has always been used as a generic descriptive label. "The angry black guy", "The new black sitcom". I see myself as being more than just black. However that is usually not how I am perceived in America. Regardless of my unique heritage, I am reduced to being just black. The homogenization of the skin tones in my project is my commentary on the tendency to reduce people to just a color. In these images, the skin tones are rich, deep and beautiful to celebrate our beautiful skin, for which we are often oppressed and marginalized.

Drawing inspiration from photographers who have created typologies of their subjects, including the German August Sander, the American Richard Avedon, and the Nigerian photographer J.D 'Okhai Ojeikere, I use a plain background to eliminate any cultural or ethnic context, whether of urban disrepair or African wilderness. I want to contest the superficial travel or tourist photography approach to peoples who may be unfamiliar to the photographs' viewers. The square format and plain background allows the viewer to fully engage the subject with their gaze and all the emotions conveyed.

As an African living in America, I find that the line between celebrating and exoticizing African culture is increasingly blurry. To add some clarity to the current discourse, I photograph my subjects in an elegant and direct manner. It is my hope that this will create a connection between subject and viewer. It's also my way of challenging viewers to understand what it is like to be "the other." Above all else, it is a reminder that the culture and identity of a people should be always be appreciated, respected and honored."

Follow Ima on Instagram @ima_mfon
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Studio 54 © Bill Bernstein / Reel Art Press

Bill Bernstein is well known for his work with musicians, celebrities, and much more, and not least of all as Paul McCartney's personal photographer of many years. 

Disco: The Bill Bernstein Photographs is out now from Reel Art Press. Bill was on assignment shooting an awards dinner at New York's notorious nightclub, Studio 54. As the dinner ended, the clubbers arrived. Short on film, Bill bought ten rolls off a fellow photographer and stayed for the night. Thus began a project shooting New York's then-vibrant and ever-notorious nightclub scene.

From the book's foreword, by Horse Meat Disco's James Hillard: "These shots capture the very essence of what going out was, is, and should be, all about. They showed the true democracy of the dance floor where anyone could be a star, as long as they had the right attitude and flair ... The pictures in this book are a document of an incredibly exciting and creative time, not only in music, but also in social, political and fashion history too.

"During this time of gay liberation, women's rights and racial equality, the dance floor transcended sex, age and status. As the Disco Bats glided across the ceiling at Barnum's, Wall Street suits partied beneath with transgender party people. Manhattan was the epicentre of disco, and Bill Bernstein captured it all."

Personally I am sorry I wasn't born a decade earlier to experience the disco scene but I have been happy to enjoy its legacy, House music.

The release will coincide with an exhibition at Serena Morton Gallery in Ladbroke Grove, West London, from 3 December 2015 - 24 January 2016. 
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© Sheri Lynn Behr

This is just one aspect of Sheri Lynn Behr's ongoing coverage of surveillance, "Be Seeing You." She began observing the daily intrusions several years ago and has only had more material to work with since. In the city we are recorded incessantly; some of the cameras blend sneakily into their surroundings, others feel stuck right in your face like the lens of Bruce Gilden. But Sheri also finds cameras in fields, seemingly surveilling sheep. 

"We know that cameras are everywhere. We try to avoid people pointing smartphones and other hand-held cameras at us as we walk down the street, but are we conscious of all the cameras lurking above us? We know we're being watched, even in the most benign locations, yet as we become more accustomed to the presence of surveillance cameras, we stop paying attention.

"For NoMatterWhere, I photograph streets, buildings and walls, pointing my camera at the cameras that are watching me, some more noticeable than others. While I certainly believe that Big Brother can be useful in some cases, I also think we need to be more aware of the scope of surveillance in our daily lives-and how it impacts our privacy. I make these photographs to raise questions that come from the claustrophobic sense of being constantly observed, no matter where we find ourselves." Sheri Lynn Behr

View the full screen magazine photo feature.
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© Michael Massaia, 2015 

"The pull of the ocean surrenders to the pull of the sky."

The start of a new series, these inverted seascapes are hot out of Michael Massaia's magic darkroom. Massaia spent a lot of time by and in the ocean in his youth. Now he finds himself taking a different view of the elements he reveres.

He shoots black and white film, develops in pyro, and is hand printing 20 x 24 and 50 x 70 inch gold tone gelatin silver prints. Mmmmm.

Go full screen in the magazine for maximum photo feature enjoyment

See Michael's past features
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© Claire A. Warden

Claire A. Warden's 'Mimesis' series of mysterious, magical images, references her diverse ethnic background. She says "When looking at these images, the urge to ask "what is it?" echoes the question, "what are you?", a question that has been directed towards me countless times."

This confident young artist impressed me enormously when we met at the Photolucida portfolio reviews. I recognized her images immediately, having voted for her in a competition I judged earlier this year - in fact the exhibition of winners from Flash Forward opens in Toronto on October 8, 2015. She also has solo exhibition at the Center for Fine Art Photography with this same series, now until October 31, and has been selected as a Critical Mass finalist. No flies on her!

View the full screen magazine photo feature.

"I use saliva and manual manipulation as part of my photographic process, which steers the work away from the signifying functions inherent to the medium of photography. These methods are used as symbolic acts to expose the biologic and socio-cultural forces that stimulate the emergence and performance of an identity. This process produces a series of images that reveal certain truths in identity and simultaneously the inadequacies of language to describe oneself. Resembling systems of the natural sciences - microscopic, topographic and celestial - the photographs allegorize the complexity of systems that make up an individual and the perception of self."

Be sure to also look at Claire's beautiful series Salt Studies in Preservation and Manipulation.

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Xenia © Kevin Horan

What do you see here? Personality? Are the fauna of Langley, Washington, and the photographer relating to each other during their sitting? In Kevin Horan's project he photographs the neighbors, albeit four-legged hoof-footed ones. Thumbing through these, the resemblances to your friends may not be as clear as they are in, say, Jill Greenberg's monkey portraits, but still there's something in their faces and poses. Xenia here for example is clearly "working it." 

View the full screen magazine photo feature.

As great as these lovelies are online, Kevin's prints make for a whole other experience. Great blacks! Another fabulous portfolio as seen at Photolucida
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© Ben Marcin

Another find at Photolucida, I knew Ben Marcin's series 'Last House Standing' from having seen it in various settings and I was interested to hear about the rest of his projects. The photographs in this feature are from two ongoing series: Grids, and Street.

"'Grids' is about different types of structures found in urban settings. These buildings are designed to accommodate goods, cars and people. Viewed individually, few of them are particularly notable in appearance. However, by carefully assembling them into a series of patterned grids, I tried to produce an added dimension, a patchwork of the visual noise that surrounds us."

"Our cities are almost completely carpeted in concrete and asphalt. According to the NYC Department of Transportation, there are over 12,750 miles of sidewalk throughout New York alone. Streets and sidewalks are an essential, although oft-maligned, component of our urban infrastructure. They allow us to get from Point A to B efficiently and relatively cleanly. However, like the air we breathe and the water we drink, all of this hard stuff goes largely unnoticed - unless we're trying to avoid a pothole or protruding crack or some other small mess that presents itself on our path to wherever. Rarely do we really look at what we're walking on."

View the full screen magazine photo feature.
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© Rob Hann

If you are a regular here at aCurator you will be familiar with Rob Hann's photographs. This is his sixth magazine feature!! Rob took off on his annual road trip out west earlier this year and I always love what he comes home with. 

Happy summer to our northern-hemisphere-dwelling friends.

View the full screen magazine photo feature.

"I took my first road trip shooting in the American West in 2001. It felt like a faraway place, exotic and mysterious to a person living in London. I moved to New York City in 2003 and I hit the road with my camera whenever I can. I've come to realise that going to faraway places is an important part of my practice. 

"I like to feel a little bit lost out there, to not know what I might come across as I head out at sunrise each morning. On my latest trip I concentrated on California, a place that still feels faraway, exotic and mysterious to a person living in New York City."

Read more about Rob Hann, and how he sells his work in New York, in a piece we did over at aPhotoEditor.

Click here to see all of Rob's previous aCurator features.
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© Jordan Campbell

Jordan Campbell's series stood out among a few hundred entries to a competition I judged earlier this year. Jordan lives in Canada; in his bio you learn that "Before moving to Toronto, Jordan worked in the sail training industry for seven years and holds a Master 150 ton and a Chief Mate 500 ton ticket with Transport Canada." I frequently remind photographers to tell us something interesting about themselves that is not photography related because you never know when it will inspire someone to work with you. 

Jordan's artist statement tells us all there is to know about his project:

"The Thorns We Walk Upon is a social documentary, which gives a glimpse into daily life at the Samburu Handicap Education and Rehabilitation Program (SHERP), an NGO in Maralal, Kenya. Grace Senia, a teacher in the local community, established SHERP in 2001. Since then, and in an effort to accommodate a variety of needs, SHERP has become a home, a community, an orphanage, and a dormitory for children with disabilities.

With help from the Samburu town council, county council, and the Japanese embassy, Grace managed to acquire a plot of land and build two dormitories in Maralal. Over the past thirteen years, various international donors have helped build SHERP's infrastructure, however despite the available facilities SHERP's needs continue to outweigh available resources. Water, food, staff, and full time management are never present in unison, creating a challenging and complicated environment for the kids."

View the full screen magazine photo feature.

"Each child at SHERP has his or her own unique story. Some are left at the front gate, while others come from supportive families, which see SHERP as an opportunity for their child to receive an education. To varying degrees both the semi-nomadic culture, and the traditional misunderstanding of disability in Samburu are a part of each child's story. Their lives have been marked by much pain. In spite of this kids at SHERP come together to lean on each other.

The Thorns We Walk Upon attempts to place individuals before their disability while speaking towards the questions and landscape they must navigate. Theirs is a path marked by layers of hostility. What is taken for granted by most, even in the arid hills of Samburu, are real and immediate concerns for kids with a disability. Their struggle for food and a sense of home, in many ways, is an odyssey for self worth.

Despite living at SHERP these glimpses were viewed as a guest. The Thorns We Walk Upon tries to acknowledge as much. This series reflects both an expression of the kids' lives and the challenges of working across difference and privilege."

Beautiful. Thanks Jordan! 

View the full screen magazine photo feature.
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© Michael Massaia

Michael Massaia's Deep in a Dream portfolio continues to expand as he spins his sunbathers to create a new performance.

It is no secret that Michael Massaia is among my very best most favourite photographers. His capabilities are exceptional. He is compelling and bemusing. His images are spectacular online and his photographs simply glorious when printed, by himself, mixing his own chemicals, cutting his own paper, mastering new talents, blowing you away.

View the full screen photo feature.

See Michael's past features:
Deep in a Dream
Borrowed Time
Quiet Now
In the Final Throes
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