Magazine


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Some of my favourite features come about when one photographer refers another. Dara McGrath was referred by Miriam O'Connor, whose blog article was mentioned in the Life.com Photo Blog Awards in June. He submitted 'Boundaries', his series on Eastern European border crossings.

"My central concern lies in exploring transitional spaces, those in-between places where architecture, landscape and the built environment often intersect, and where a dialogue - of absence rather than presence - is created. My practice is driven by explorations of these charged, shifting entities - buildings that have come to the end of their functionality, the changing functionality of a landscape, human interruptions in the landscape - that exist in urban, rural and suburban contexts. The resultant photo works are realised both with the gallery space and as site-specific installations and interventions.

One of my most recent projects involved documenting the deconstruction of the former Maze Prison in Northern Ireland, culminating in a site-specific installation at the prison facility itself. Previous work has also included interrogating the dystopic architecture of the Parisian suburbs, the changing face of the new motorway system in Ireland, and the physicality of the planning system in the rural west of Ireland. I am now engaged in a long term and ongoing documentation of the European Borderlands, with a recent emphasis on Eastern Europe.

The deserted spaces of the East European national borderlands are spaces in flux. Devoid now of controls, they are in the process of being decommissioned and abandoned. No longer points on a map, but neither fully blank spaces, they are spaces-in-between, and are difficult arenas to absorb and comprehend. This photographic documentation looks at the transitory nature of the present day European border checkpoints and crossings and what it says about the relationship between society, identity architecture and the landscape in a united Europe."


Kudowa Zdroj Czech-Polish Border © Dara McGrath

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Darren Nisbett
and I share a common experience of the Chernobyl disaster, both British with strong memories of the events of April 1986 which, as Darren says, "got buried in the process of growing up, surfacing now and then through documentaries, movies and even video games." In 2010, he began his project.

"Walking around the ghost town of Pripyat, a city that once was the home to over 50,000 people, you can't help noticing the silence. Very few birds sing around this area and you are always aware of an invisible poison in the air, even if levels are safe enough that humans can spend prolonged amounts of time there without adverse health risks. There are areas where this radiation is still high though, certain metal objects and vehicles that were exposed during the accident, some buildings and, most noticeably, vast pools of moss which unlike the leaves on the trees, endure the cold winters and hot summers."

"My photography project spanned two trips to the exclusion zone, known as the 'zone of alienation'. The images are taken with a camera converted to capture in Infrared: a filter covers the sensor and blocks out the colour part of the spectrum. This creates higher contrast in the textures of the concrete and picks up the reflected chlorophyll in the plants making them almost glow; these combine to produce eerie images which show nature growing, surviving and reclaiming a city that the world's worst nuclear accident had rendered uninhabitable for humans."
 
View the full screen magazine photo feature.

There is an extensive personal diary and more images from the project at Darren's Dark Optics website. An exhibition opens July 1st at Rhubarb and Custard, Eton, UK.

Pripyat © Darren Nisbett

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Brian Shumway was introduced to me by Kellie McLaughlin, the director of print sales at the Aperture Foundation. Upon reviewing his work, rather than feature a single series, I decided to publish a range of his images.

"My work covers a lot of ground, from the life of children in Mormon-dominated Utah, to provocative images of models, to men who push the boundaries of gender. This diversity of subject matter is one of my work's strengths and is rooted in my background in anthropology. I'm curious about people. Whether they're family or strangers found online, I strive for every photograph to be personal, engaging, and telling. What ties my personal work together is that it speaks about people's everyday experiences, identity and fantasies."

Brian is a New York City based photographer whose worked for Reader's Digest, Smart Money, People Magazine, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Time, XXL, TV Guide and the New York Times, among others. His work has appeared in American Photography, Communication Arts, Shots Magazine and the Photo Review. Brian was one of Magenta Foundation's top 25 'Emerging Photographers' in the USA in 2006 and 2008. La Chureca, his story on the city dump in Managua, Nicaragua, was a finalist for the (Santa Fe) Center's 2008 Project Competition.

View the magazine full screen photo feature.

© Brian Shumway

Girl_David_Pace.jpgMy colleague Stella Kramer met David Pace this year at Photolucida and recommended his work. She thought I would particularly enjoy 'Friday Night', the week's end party in Bereba where David lives when he's in Burkina Faso. Upon visiting his website I was struck by all his images from this small, land-locked country in West Africa, so we decided to create a broader feature.

"Two of my colleagues from Santa Clara University formed a non-profit organization called Friends of African Village Libraries (FAVL) in Burkina Faso in 2001. Burkina Faso has one of the world's lowest literacy rates and FAVL builds small libraries in rural villages to help address this problem. In 2007 my colleagues invited me to visit them while they were doing research in Burkina and asked me to photograph the libraries. That was my first trip to Africa and my first experience of village life. I began taking portraits of the villagers and documenting everyday activities. It was a life changing experience.

Over the years I have developed several ongoing photographic projects in various parts of Burkina Faso. The Bereba Portraits and Friday Night portfolios are all shot in and around the village of Bereba in the southwest. The photographs of the Kiosks and the Tabtenga Quarry are taken on the central plateau near Ouagadougou, the capital.

I spend the fall teaching digital photography to American college students in a study abroad program through the University. My students stay in Ouagadougou, the country's capital, for the first weeks of instruction and then I take them to live in remote villages without electricity or running water where they photograph, experience traditional village life and do internships in rural libraries. The students study French & French Literature, developmental economics, environmental studies and digital photography. One of their main projects is to work with someone in their village and create two photo books which explore some aspect of village life. The students write texts in simple French for beginning readers. We publish the books in small quantities and take them back to the libraries."

View the full screen magazine photo feature.

© David Pace

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"By making a connection between one's inner life and the greater world, art transforms not only what we see but who we are. At the heart of this process is empathy."

David Wolf's series 'Nurturing Time - Life in a Backyard Garden' called to mind two of my favourite books, Michael Pollan's 'The Botany of Desire' and 'Second Nature', both about our relationship to and influence on the natural world.

"I unexpectedly became a gardener when I moved into my current home, allowing me to connect with Nature in an altogether different and deeply rewarding way. In the series, 'Nurturing Time', the intimacy of a backyard garden serves as a metaphor for the greater natural world, exploring how we shape and control Nature even as we nurture it. 

Our presence in Nature is depicted in arrangements I've made from plant and flower cuttings taken from my garden. I photograph the plants in isolation as types--often altering them by drying, tying or otherwise reconfiguring their appearance--and in arranged combinations that speak to associations, or suggest contradictions, presented by the assembled elements against a chosen background. A simple cardboard box acts as both neutral container and conceptual envelope to display the arrangements.

Beyond typology, 'Nurturing Time' offers us the richness of the garden and illuminates our connection to it. The assembled flower boxes resonate with a range of emotion, reflecting our own experience of the cycle of life that embraces vitality and decay, abundance and loss. Memory, Time's shadow, is present here, too, as events and lives are evoked and memorialized by these images." - David Wolf.

View the full screen magazine photo feature.

Wolf's photographs have been exhibited nationally at such venues as the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, the Griffin Museum of Photography, and the Photographic Center Northwest.  He exhibited his current series, Nurturing Time, Life in a Backyard Garden, at the Lishui International Photography Festival in Lishui, China.

Orange tree: blossom, leaves and fruit 2008 © David Wolf

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Welcome to Aoife O'Donnell's minuscule yet magnificent world. aCurator is fascinated by these photomicrographs.

"Art and science are moving towards each other, enabling both disciplines to discover common issues and methods. Once-clear divisions are no longer reliably separate, prompting this project to represent the potential for an increasing overlap of interests. While the outcome of studies in art and science often differs, the creative imaginative processes are similar.

Micro Portraits falls under what has been deemed the genre sci-art which seeks to locate connections between the arts and science through borrowed methods and collaborations. It is the result of an interdisciplinary collaboration between the photographer and Fergus Ryan, professor of biology at the Dublin Institute of Technology. The project is concerned with alternative imaging techniques used in laboratories and the element of non-human intervention in creating imagery. The photographer is using microscopes to record images of cells, tissue, DNA and various other effluvia from her family and herself.

Removed from their usual context of the laboratory, these new genetic portraits seek to interrupt the traditional notion of the family portrait in photography prompting the viewer to consider the transformations and changes occurring inside the body on a cellular level,and questions when the alternative portrait produced by scientific imaging moves from the generic to the personal. The photographer provides a privileged opportunity for the viewer to get up close and personal with elements of the body which may previously have eluded recognition."

View the full screen magazine photo feature.

Aoife O'Donnell is an Irish visual artist based in New York City, who specializes in photomicrography. O'Donnell completed a B.A. in photography at the Dublin Institute of Technology and has previously studied at Columbia College Chicago during 2008. Upon graduating she was awarded the Dublin Institute of Technology Medal for exceptional performance. Having exhibited her current body of work entitled Micro Portraits at the Gallery of Photography, she was selected to exhibit at the Photo Ireland Festival and at RUA RED's summer exhibition 2010. Her work has also been exhibited at Filmbase, The Joinery, The Back Loft, The Homeless Gallery and The Complex. It has been reviewed in the Irish Arts Review autumn edition 2010. O'Donnell has contributed to various companies including Merc London, Red Stripe UK and Starchild Chicago. She currently divides her time working at Griffin Editions, The International Center of Photography and Rick Wester Fine Art. Micro Portraits will be exhibited at Raandesk Gallery, New York City in October 2011.

Hair Follicle, 100x © Aoife O'Donnell

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With a somewhat long and multifarious background in photography, including being a 1982 Pulitzer finalist, a DP, and an educator, Walt Stricklin submitted his 'Made in China' series knowing that the full screen format of aCurator would do the images great justice.*

In 2010 Walt took an opportunity to travel to Inner Mongolia, attend the inaugural photo festival and enjoy the photo opp - favouring panoramic format he says "I want to go beyond the edge of the frame of my camera. The problem I had with most panoramas I had seen was their homogenized, static, and lifeless. I want my pictures to have context, a sense of place and most important, my vision of the scene." - and the results are some glorious 'Scapes.

"I have been working seriously in composite panorama landscapes since 2008. I love the freedom it allows me to open my vision and shoot pictures that are not possible any other way. I have tried to carry it beyond the traditional landscapes and make them a blend of reality and my interpretation of any given situation.

These images are from a recent visit to Xiang Sha Wan (a tourist destination in the Gobi), Inner Mongolia, China. I was one of 10 American Landscape photographers invited to participate in an exhibition for the inaugural photo conference presented by Photo China magazine."

View the full screen magazine photo feature

*And, it does! In fact, this particular series would look very impressive on the largest monitor you can find at your local Apple Store. Go ahead, pull up aCurator, and bring some full screen eye candy to your fellow shoppers!

Whispers of the Singing Sand © Walt Stricklin

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"Interstate 40 divides the state of Arizona from north and south where two cultures touch. AAA maps call it Indian Country to the north and state land to the south. I went to photograph the Four Corners, inspired by an image Robert Frank took in the Americans, Number 35­ US 66, between Winslow and Flagstaff, 1955. Four adults stand over a blanket covering the bodies of a fatal car accident during a snowstorm outside Winslow Arizona. As they gaze on the victims under the blanket multiple stories unfold about the place and the incident. I wanted to look under that blanket and get the story to understand what had happened, somehow put the incident to rest."

"With camera in hand I looked under the blanket to find the borderlands of two cultures unresolved migrating along the crossroads of the past and the future. A border that tries to preserve an old culture with respect for the land and one that has tried persistently to take advantage and change that land into the next American theme park. But with each attempt the land takes back in an attempt to cultivate the truth leaving hints of the last attempted theme park. This is an ongoing dialogue that will move forward with additional trips and one that will not answer the query, as the blanket may never be lifted from this accident." - Kurt Jordan, April 2011

View the full screen magazine photo feature.

The first photo book I ever bought myself had a Robert Frank photograph on the cover. At the time, 16 years old and living in the suburbs of London, I had no idea of the weight and influence of his work. It's fulfilling to be publishing this work of Kurt's as I continue to learn about photography and its important place in history. - aCurator, April 2011


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I spent a long time wading into Sonja Thomsen's work. Although each of Sonia's series warrants its own feature, I decided to chose from across Oil, Water and Re:Current. I encourage viewers to visit Sonja's own site where the layout and information add to the appreciation of her work.

Thomsen has been widely exhibited across the US since graduating from San Francisco Art Institute in 2004. Currently, images from "Oil" can be seen as part of the exhibition Earth Now: American Landscape Photographers and the Environment at the New Mexico Museum of Art, now through August 28, 2011.

View the full screen magazine photo feature.

"The winter of 2006 diverse circumstances came together, in which oil seemed to be the unifying factor. Trying to navigate my relationship to this war, my family, and my consumption of noxious petroleum I began photographing oil. I remain captive of this elusive and complicated substance that affects our economy and politics."

"Re:Current considers time and its cyclical nature through an installation including projection, thirty-seven still images, and motion sensitive light boxes. Conceptually the installation points to time's ephemeral constancy and considers how the stillness of a photograph can represent and distort this seeming contradiction."

"Churn is a series of 7 photographs of Lake Michigan in winter. Watching the quiet surging under the surface of water is a visceral experience. I am drawn to the aggressive movement hovering under the surface and the contrasting soft palette of the water." / "Swept is a series of 12 photographs of a white river. Each image is taken seconds apart capturing the water's response as the wind so sporadically dances across it. Each moment is its own and through the sequence one can see the invisible." / "Surface is a series of 17 images. The series explores the potential of waiter and the seductiveness of looking. Small puddles of water become glass, dense fog, toxic haze, bodily fluid, and primordial soup in my viewfinder. The unfathomable potential of water to sustain life is a phenomenon that preoccupies me."

Re:Current, Abyss 2008 © Sonja Thomsen

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Maria de la Iglesia was born in Madrid and currently lives in London. She took a Bachelor Honors Degree in Photography in Dublin Institute of Technology and a Master in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at London College of Communication. There are several very interesting projects on her website but I was most taken by 'Pueblo'.

In Maria's words "'Pueblo' is a portrait of a Spanish village in 2010. The pictures create an intimate, sometimes absurd representation of a remote village in a period of economical crisis. Elderly people are the protagonists facing the decline of the population. The land shapes the village and its characters, suspending them in an age from long ago.  This is a place where animals roam the streets and death is ever present, a place that refuses to accept modernity, preferring to stay close to the ghosts of tradition... 'Pueblo' is not only a personal journey into the absurd, but it has also become an exploration of the human condition. It is a visual and psychological observation that looks with irony and dark humour at the individuals themselves in a context of contrasts."

View the full screen magazine photo feature

Main street, 2010  © Maria de la Iglesia

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