From the Harlem series © Harvey Stein

Last year, there was much celebration of the launch of Harvey Stein's new book "Harlem Street Portraits," and his publicity tour continues. Stein will show and discuss images from his 20+ years taking photos in Harlem as well as other images from New York City, on Wednesday, March 5th, 2014, at the Mid-Manhattan Library. 

Stein was interviewed by the inimitable Miss Sara Rosen who kindly gave permission for us to reproduce her article. Enjoy!


Harlem Street Portraits reveals Stein's reverence and love for the friendliness and warmth of Harlem's everyday men and women, and the vibrant and bustling vitality of a historic place that has been the center of African American life and culture for over 100 years. Shooting with a wide-angle lens, Stein's close encounters with families, couples, friends, the elderly, and youth are honest, direct and involving. Each portrait is more than a depiction of a person; it is an intimate record that necessitates direct engagement between photographer and subject showing the mutuality between people.

We are pleased to have Stein here today to share his thoughts about the work he has done on this project for over a decade.

Please talk about Harlem as you know it, as a place you've described to me as "your office." What is it about the streets uptown, the people, the energies that exist on the sidewalks of this world, a place that makes public life an act of art ?

Harvey Stein: I enjoy going to Harlem since I feel it has a street intensity that isn't found in many places in New York City. It's busy, generally friendly, and really beautiful. The avenues (running north/south) are wide, broad and lovely, with old apartment buildings framing the pavements. The cross streets are often filled with brownstones and lots of trees. I have found that the people are quite friendly, open, and emotional. Indeed, the public life is robust, with people hanging out on stoops, and socializing. I seek out visually interesting environments in which to photograph people, and unfortunately in New York, these environments are being gentrified and commercialized. Harlem hasn't escaped this. It seems cleaner; there is less graffiti, nicer store fronts, new buildings and development, more white faces populating Harlem. It is changing, and I think that my images peripherally document that. But my focus is always on the people and how they interact and get along in their neighborhood.


Please talk about the portrait, the way in which people compose themselves, for to be asked to be photographed is not only a compliment, but an honor. I'm always interested in the response of subjects, and how it sets the stage for the photograph. What do you enjoy most about the moment?

HS: I'm not sure that people think it's an honor or compliment to be photographed on the streets. In Manhattan, at least in midtown or downtown, I'd say that 50% of the people I approach to be photographed say no, in Brooklyn only 25% refuse, in Harlem, maybe 20% say no. It depends on the day, whether there is an event going on, how I'm working, etc., etc. Some people grudgingly say yes, others seem to really enjoy it. You never really know what the response will be until you try. And that's what I do, I try and keep trying, never getting upset by a refusal, and always keeping on. I stay cool on the streets, not showing how much I might want a shot, and always remain friendly and respectful.

I try to be casual when photographing on the street; I don't really need or want people to do anything other than to be themselves. Poses are not of interest to me, just people being natural. I ask that they look into the camera and not smile. I believe that portraits are stronger and more engaging when the face is serious, and the gaze is direct. So I guide them somewhat, and am not interested in the subjects composing themselves or performing for the camera.

My street photography is different from most other photographers in that I always try to get close, and use wide-angle lenses to reveal my subject in his/her environment and context. I want the environment to suggest things about the subject that may add another layer to the image. For me, a face is usually not enough; I want their body language, the clothes worn, and some of the foreground/background elements. Ultimately, I am seeking to make as strong and evocative an image as possible, but with permission. I don't really enjoy photographing people candidly; this feels empty to me.


Please talk about that moment of connection, when you, your subject, and your camera connect, capturing a fraction of a second forevermore. After all these years shooting, do you know you "have it"? What do you think that illustrious yet elusive "it" is in the act of street photography ?

HS: I like to think about freezing time with my images, that a person or scene I just photographed will never exist like this again except in the photograph. Nothing makes the passing of time and hence aging more vivid than photography.

I try to speak to my subjects; I want them to be aware of me as I am of them. Perhaps it validates my existence. I seek a collaboration and connection between us, even if very fleeting. I think I enjoy this moment because I am curious and learning something about the person. And learning something about myself. That is my "high".

I sometimes think "wow, that was a great shot, that person really worked with me", and it will result in a wonderful image. It's a feeling not always correct. And it doesn't happen often. For me, that elusive "it" in street photography is when I do make a strong connection with an individual, when we might talk for a few minutes, share the passing scene, and that I photograph 5-10 frames and think I've made a really good image. It's rare, and since I still shoot mostly film on the streets, it takes weeks if not months, sometimes years to realize what I did.





Stein's archive includes many wonderful bodies of work. Here are some of my favourites from his series 'Coney Island 40 Years."






From the Coney Islan series. 
All images © Harvey Stein

Thanks to Harvey for his patience!

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Larissa drying apricots, at the dacha. From the essay A Radiant Shoreline on the Horizon. © Simon Crofts

"Paradise is made from a mixture of cow shit and straw."

In the Land of Endless Expectations is a project consisting of six picture poems about the Slav heartlands, by Simon Crofts, with accompanying essays and stories. Simon is rolling them out so sign up for updates.

A rich project that you will lose yourself to. Get tea!

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Slava at home, Kherson, Ukraine

"Some, as I did, sink into a torpor and think of how to "shed the burden of time". Deep inside they often cherish the mad hope of surviving to a future in which they will recover their lost selves - something that will be possible only when true values have come into their own again. Their whole life consists of waiting for the first glimpse of a promised land, like a radiant shoreline on the horizon. Even though no such thing has ever existed on our planet, and never will, they have no eyes for anything else."
Hope Abandoned, Nadezhda Mandelstam

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Serguei and Svetlana at home, Kherson, Ukraine


Koktebel, Crimea. All images © Simon Crofts

Nadezhda Mandelstam's husband, the poet Osip Mandelstam, picked up pebbles from the beach of Koktebel, put them in his pocket and carried them back to Moscow. In his essay Conversation about Dante he consulted his Koktebel pebbles to help him understand Dante. He was not alone - in the film Roads to Koktebel, by directors Khlebnikov and Popogrebskiy, the village of Koktebel becomes a kind of place of pigrimage, a name symbolising some kind of promised land that you begin to doubt even exists, for a young boy crossing Ukraine on his own trying to be reunited with his father.


Cheesecake © Davide LucianoStyling by Claudia Ficca

Partners Davide Luciano and Claudia Ficca produce ridiculously fun images. Yes I'm a vegetarian and squeamish about catching meeces. But if I were a mouse and I saw one of these, I'd definitely call a meeting.

'The inspiration for Gourmet Mouse Traps came to Davide after a week-long cheese advertising shoot in NYC. "I was in a cheesy state on mind that week" says Davide. The idea came to him while he was riding the train after a long day on set. "When I told Claudia her eyes light up, she pulled out a pen and paper and instantly created the menu."' Brilliantly bonkers.




Mac & cheese






Poutine. Mmmmm.


Cheese board.

All images © Davide LucianoStyling by Claudia Ficca


© Paul Batt, "Untitled"

Lots of interesting series on Australian photographer Paul Batt's website, of strange spaces and odd portraits. I especially enjoyed these simple abandoned couches, from 2011. Paul has been widely exhibited and published both in Australia and abroad. 

"My primary interest in the 'Abandon Series' is the apparent state of flux and contrast the subjects exist in. These once intimate, comfort giving, interior objects have become surreally out of place, in the exterior world. Although their utilization is over, clues remaining of human habitation in the cushions and armrests formed to unknown bodies, over countless hours. It is this play between the interior and the exterior environments and the traces of human presence to absence that has informed the series as a whole."






All images © Paul Batt

Because I can not get enough.


All images © Karim Shokair

Karim Shokair and much of his imagery are exuberant, joyful, to say the least. Karim is from Cairo but is currently in Florence honing his photo skills. To quote him from his website "Your level of GRATITUDE will usually define the outcome of your day."

Karim has had a photo selected to be part of the 'Love' exhibition & catalogue at the Darkroom Gallery in Vermont, USA, which opens on February 4th, 2014. Congrats!







Cardinal © Joyce Lopez

The photographers I met at PhotoNOLA made me break all my own rules! "No dead birds," I said, but Joyce Lopez' project touched me. (See below for my compromise on "no children."

"Climate change is affecting migratory birds, others succumb to accidents, changes in available food, disease, etc. These birds are warning us about our impact on the environment, and to take responsibility." 

Images from the series will be exhibited at the Kiernan Gallery, Lexington, Virginia, opening February 7th, 2014.

News out of the UK this week: Cameron to rip up green regulations. As my old man commented, "Moving forward in leaps and bounds."






All images © Joyce Lopez


© Susanna Gaunt

aCurator has a wide open submission policy but I do not publish pictures of children, horses, dead birds or religious iconography. Usually.

Susanna Gaunt, a photographer based in Duluth, Minnesota, made me laugh aloud with a wry look at her kids, when we met over a portfolio reviewing table in New Orleans last December.

PhotoNOLA was good value for me and the attendees.





All images © Susanna Gaunt


Mikkel Aaland graced us previously with his fabulous county fair portraits from the 1970s. Here we share a momentous journey that he made in August 2013 traveling from Nepal, through western Tibet, to Mount Kailash. Mikkel weaves his own personal story, visa woes, and family history in with his typically honest imagery.

Mikkel has collected these into a book 'Pilgrimage to Kailash, Tibet's Holy Mountain' which you can buy from Blurb or get the iPad freebie through iTunes











"My work is bit true 
but like a fairy story about myself."

Images by Christo Viola (NSFW)


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