Magazine


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Giles Clarke is a social documentary photographer based in New York City known for his work in Haiti, Bhopal, and with the Occupy movement. We met at Photoville in Brooklyn this summer and I am honoured to publish his work. His diverse career includes producing TV segments for Channel 4, and tour visuals for Paul Oakenfold. Clarke began his serious work and dedication to activism with a 6-week stint in Bhopal, India where he filmed and photographed the victims of the Union Carbide gas tragedy. Clarke continues working closely with the Bhopal Medical Appeal on raising awareness. An image from his series 'Prison Pit' made in El Salvador was featured in CNN's A Year In Pictures.


Driving through the gates of the Louisiana State Penitentiary, or "Angola," is a chilling experience. This is the "Alcatraz of the South," a Manhattan-sized compound in a remote area north of Baton Rouge. When we arrived, we tuned into KLAS 91.7 FM--the only prison radio station in the country--and an inmate DJ proceeded to string off a long list of trivia about the prison. We learned that Angola is the largest maximum security prison in the country, that it has the highest percentage of prisoners serving life without parole, and that it's so big that it's the only prison with its own zip code. It also has its own fully functioning rodeo.

Angola opened in 1901 on a former plantation estate, quickly establishing itself as one of the toughest penal institutions in the country, responsible for overseeing the hardest criminal elements in the South, in a state with notoriously rigid laws. Conditions up until the early 70s were often described as "medieval and squalid," and prisoner protests were common. The current warden, Burl Cain, operates Angola as a "working farm," one of the most efficient in the state, stressing that "keeping inmates busy and working is the most important thing we try to do."

"The rodeo, which was first started in 1967, continues on because we see it as a vital tradition and good reward for the inmates who deserve to be here today. It's a big privilege to be allowed to take part in the rodeo, and they know that," said Warden Cain. "It also allows us to raise much needed funds for our rehabilitation programs." Photos and text by Giles Clarke.
Assisted by Lawrence Sumulong.


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Rituparna Banerjee is a photographer based in New Delhi. Here is her story about the approximately 1,200 residents of what is essentially a two-square-mile slum at the Yamuna Bazaar in Delhi.
"A walk into these very spaces reveals a grim reality. Vials of familiar anti-allergic medication, syringes and needles lie littered about in the dirt; huddles of small groups of men, women and children with their backs to you; their decaying bodies and reddened eyes, are a clear giveaway. We approached one of them. "I have been using drugs since I was 12...it's been over 14 years now, my wife left me. I continue to live like this", says Siddharth. When asked how he can afford it, he narrates with interest how begging and picking pockets are popular sources of income. "Each packet of crack costs me about four hundred rupees ($7), it keeps me high for about two hours; I take it 2-3 times a day. I can't live without this," he adds. Siddharth is one of the hordes of homeless people in Yamuna Bazaar whose life, income and expenditure revolve around the intoxicating chemicals he consumes every day.    

Half the addicts encountered are children. Their days are spent in the nearby railway area of the Wazirabad cargo depot. Moreover, their addiction continues well into adulthood, as testified by Siddharth. The children often turn to violence in desperation to get their hands on chemicals to cause intoxication. Chintan, a minor barely thirteen, shows the slash marks of a razor blade on his friend's chest. They are both from Darbhanga in Bihar. Holding a the tube of rubber solution used by cobblers and packers as glue, a 10 year old says, "I inhale this all day," with most of his face concealed beneath a cloth towel doused in the substance.
 
Substance abuse has been reported in many instances to reach uncontrollable proportions, and these images essay the condition of occupants of the Yamuna Bazaar area. Their peculiar situation makes them unqualified for any government benefits and the societal life applicable to other underprivileged city occupants. With the authorities having a blasé attitude towards a huge responsibility, the addicts occupy a crack in society and governance and continue to waste away as prisoners to their own addiction."


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At a funeral. Tirana, Albania, 2012 © Enri Canaj

Thanks to Enri Canaj for this heartfelt story.

"I was born in 1980, in Tirana, Albania. My family lived near the Enver Hoxha residence, (the Communist leader of Albania from 1944 to 1985), the most developed part of the city, during that time. I remember the beauty of that place: the parks, the shops, well-dressed people strolling around. When I turned 11, we came to Greece because of the political, social and economic situation that my country was going through.

Albania is a small country in the heart of the Balkans. Despite its rich culture, people outside do generally not know much about it. It is also my homeland, the place of my early childhood. I grew up separated from it, and returned later to pick up the threads that were left behind. What I found was modernity and tradition living together. I traveled a lot and started to know my birthplace, the people, their mentality, and their traditions. I felt very welcome, and was fascinated by all the people I met. They were kind, friendly and curious about my work.

I made this journey together with my wife. When people realized we were a couple, they were very open, they welcomed us inside their homes and extended wishes, blessings and congratulations. Marriage is very important in Albania. Everyone has to get married, it is considered to make men stronger and more respected in society.

In this photographic project I would like to show the everyday lives of Albanian people - the big picture, as well as the small, seemingly insignificant moments. What impressed me most was the strong family union, the connection among people. I found it everywhere - in married young couples and their babies, at a funeral ceremony where relatives shared their pain, at a wedding party, or when a son accompanied his father at work. I didn't see any lonely people."



Breezy Point, Queens, November 4, 2012 © Natan Dvir

Over the course of five days beginning October 22, 2012, a storm developed in the Caribbean Sea that would ultimately kill at least 286 people in seven countries. Hurricane Sandy hit New York on October 29, and New York-based Natan Dvir photographed the immediate aftermath. The Weather Channel recently sent Natan back to the exact locations, at similar times of the day, to show what has happened since.

Some of Natan's photographs are on show as part of 'Rising Waters,' an exhibition on now through March, 2014, at the Museum of the City of New York.


Award-winning photographer Natan Dvir was born in Israel, and now lives in New York. He "focuses on the human aspects of political, social and cultural issues." Dvir is widely published and exhibited in the US and abroad.

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Calcutta-based photographer (and painter) Subrata Biswas returned from Muzaffarnagar and posted some images on Facebook. I was fortuitously online, and Subrata agreed to a feature about this sad series of events.

"On 27th August, 2013, two Jat brothers of a girl kill a Muslim man for stalking their sister and later the stalker's family kills both of them. This revenge killing sharpens the communal violence in Muzaffarnagar in Western Uttarpradesh. The two Jat brothers are beaten to death by a gang of agitated Muslims when they go to talk to the family of the stalker in Kawaal, an interior village in Muzaffarnagar. Following the high tension of these brutal murders, situation escalates into a major communal riot claiming about 45 lives and injuring many. Many Muslims have fled away. Kawaal which was populated by Muslims and Hindus in equal numbers was now a Hindu-majority village. In fact Kawaal is not the only village in Muzaffarnagar to have witnessed such communal violence and a resulting transformation in population. In all villages where the Hindus were predominant, the Muslims have left their homes. And the reverse has happened in Muslim majority villages." Subrata Biswas.


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The Traditional Dutch. Westapelle, Urk, Marken and Scheveningen, Holland, 1985 © William Coupon

Prolific portraitist William Coupon's 'Social Studies Part One: Capturing Culture: The World's Tribes' features images from over three decades of shooting around the globe.

William Coupon is a self-taught photographer, whose study of people began at New York's Studio 54 and Mudd night clubs, in 1979, where the one-time aspiring musician says he "shot to the rhythm of the bass." Soon after, he set his mind to "photograph everybody... I had the idea that my mission would be to continue to document groups, or sub-cultures. The working title would be 'Social Studies.'" In 1979 he headed to Haiti; in 1980, to Australia; by 2010 had a collection of more than 30 groups and tribes.

"What I've tried to create is a mosaic, a sample of the world's peoples, through photography and through my own personal experience."

In amongst, Coupon has photographed many celebrities, musicians, and politicians, and this is how I knew of him; I recalled his name from the early 90s when my agency acted as a sub-agent for Coupon's syndication in the UK. Welcome back into my photographic life, William! We look forward to Part Two!


Bonus: Here are a few images from The New Wave and Punk, New York, 1979.


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All images © William Coupon

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A photographer attempts to lessen the horrendous stench of Yellowstone National Park's thermal vents by making beautiful images of them. 

"My daughter and I took a road trip out to Yellowstone in May of 2012, hoping to see some wolves. We saw bison, elk, deer, antelope, moose, mountain goats, coyotes, black bears, grizzly bears, all up close, but only one very fleeting glimpse of a pair of wolves several hundred yards away."

"Yellowstone is a unique place; a microcosm so rich and varied that pictures can't possibly do it justice. The thermal features are other-worldly - the sight of elk and bison at sunrise, picking their way through fields of rock and vegetation, punctuated by steaming thermal vents, patches of snow, and divided by impossibly lurid streams and pools, completely oblivious to our presence, was something I'll never forget. The contrast between the hyper-saturated colors of both the water and the stream beds, and the sometimes overpowering, acrid stench of the gas escaping from thermal vents was what moved me to take these pictures. In my mind, somehow they balanced each other out."


Editor's note: The government of the USA "shut down" today; they make up for the stench you'll miss by not being able to go Yellowstone National Park while Dave's photos make up for the beauty.



Jason Florio and Helen Jones had completed a trip on foot around the perimeter of The Gambia in 2009 and had resolved to make another, this time following the source of the River Gambia through three countries - Guinea, Senegal and The Republic of The Gambia - to the Atlantic Ocean. Inspired by Scottish explorer, Mungo Park, who made trips to West Africa in the late 1700's, they resolved to find a way to fund a two to three month photographic expedition and document the communities living along the River whose lives rely upon it. To create "[a] modern-day account of the people, societies, and life along the length of one of Africa's last, free-flowing, major rivers. There has been talk of damming the river. This journey will also be about the impact to the communities, and the environmental impact of damming."

They set up a Kickstarter campaign in September, 2012, and raised above their goal. 

"23rd November, 2012 - 21st January, 2013, after 400km overland in the Fouta Djallon Highlands of Guinea-Conakry into Senegal and then putting our two canoes into the water in Kedougou - we paddled (no engine!) over 700km of the River Gambia to its end, at the Atlantic Ocean in Banjul, The Gambia."

Sponsors received regular updates during the trip, including thanks along the way and the promise of great print-rewards! The trip was a huge success as you will see. 

Inspiring!


Prints from the expedition will be on-view at Photoville, in Brooklyn Bridge Park, September 19 - 29, 2013.

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Less than two miles long, the Gowanus Canal nips through Red Hook and Park Slope in New York's borough of Brooklyn, and was once a hub of water-based activity and a good spot for clamming. Fast forward to the 21st century and here is what Bill Miller found instead. "Brooklyn's Gowanus Canal is one of America's most polluted waterways. More than a century of unfettered industrial abuse was followed by decades of bungled attempts to clean it up. Its contaminated waters hold the evidence of its history. It is murky and clouded over but if you look closely you can see life and light reflected in the mercury, feces and coal tar that drift in the canal like malevolent clouds. There's a lot of mistaken perspectives, like the confusion of looking down to see the sun. I'm trying to wade, visually, into the space between water, shit and the sky."


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I had the great pleasure of being invited to New York's School of Visual Arts Master of Professional Studies in Digital Photography thesis review, where, among other interesting youngsters, I met Masha Ermak and was taken with her project, 'Strangers.'

"This project started out with food photography. One day, I was photographing a raw, plucked chicken carcass, and it reminded me of a naked human figure. So, I took off my clothes and got into the picture, contorting myself to mimic the shape of the chicken. I then playfully discovered how to put my body into abstract, often uncomfortable positions, to develop new creatures or 'strangers.'

"In this work, I want to go against the grain of the artistic and social conventions that tell us the human body is beautiful and graceful. This is also why I maintained the soft, all-revealing light that I was using for my still life images, and why I made the pictures as sharp as possible. Too often, photography flatters the human figure for no good reason other than to make us feel better about ourselves. In this project, I wish viewers to see human body in a new way."

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