The Photo Blog

Nov. 15 2015 11:34 AM

Lovingly Celebrating and Criticizing Utah With Candid Photographs

For Steven B. Smith, a professor of photography at the Rhode Island School of Design, growing up in a Mormon-dominated Utah during the Cold War was “a pretty dark time,” one filled with “conservative oppression and a culture of fear.”

He wasn’t quite certain how to handle all of it, but in college he discovered the work of Garry Winogrand and Robert Frank and decided to try to make sense of his childhood by picking up a camera. To Smith, Winogrand’s work showed “his sense of humor and sadness … I thought, here’s a way to use your instincts and also try to figure out how to criticize and celebrate the things that you love.”

“I know that’s not exactly what Winogrand was trying to do, but the emotional resonance of his work was what I took away from it. This is how I try to figure out how I was raised and how to navigate this culture.”

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Nov. 13 2015 10:13 AM

Early Soviet Photography Was Surprisingly Avant-Garde 

After the Russian Revolution, artists, many of them Jews enjoying their freedom from czarist anti-Semitism, turned to photography to document their young state. As the Soviet Union’s leadership changed, however, so too did its photography. This progression is shown in the exhibit, “The Power of Pictures: Early Soviet Photography, Early Soviet Film,” which is on display at New York’s Jewish Museum through Feb. 7. 

Nov. 12 2015 10:39 AM

These Portraits Capture People’s Essences From Their Backs 

Susan Barnett often takes long walks around New York snapping photos of whatever catches her eye. She calls it “sketching with my camera.” During one of those walks six years ago, Barnett noticed a girl. Or rather, she noticed a silkscreened African mask on the back of the girl’s shirt and decided to take a photograph of it. When she developed the roll of film, filled with shots of playgrounds and street scenes, that image stuck out to her.

“I realized I was looking at her back and yet it was a portrait,” Barnett said. “I knew a lot about her from the indicators on her back … and yet, I knew nothing about her.”

Ever since, Barnett has been photographing the backs’ of strangers around the world, collecting “a typology of how we communicate and identify with one another through what we wear.”

Nov. 11 2015 11:31 AM

Turning a Big Box Store Into an Artist’s Playground

Upon entering a big box department store, many shoppers quickly fall into a zombie-like trance, only able to focus on the list of what they need to purchase. Carson Brownwas feeling a bit like that when he was in the automotive isle of a Meijer store in Michigan. He was texting with a friend who was collaborating with him on a photo shoot when he suddenly looked down the aisle.

“I noticed everything was yellow,” he said. “I did a double take.”

He grabbed a few objects and created a very small structure out of them that he placed in front of a sun drop background. He then took a photograph and sent it around to his friends.

Nov. 10 2015 10:14 AM

The Rare Foreigner Who Could Capture the Essence of Ancient Peking

In 1870, 29-year-old Thomas Child packed his camera and traveled to Peking (now known as Beijing) for a five-year contract as a gas engineer with the Imperial Maritime Customs Service, leaving behind a wife and three children in England. Before 1861, the city was almost entirely closed to foreigners, and by the time Child arrived, there were still only around 100 foreigners living there. The city was rarely photographed.

Nov. 9 2015 11:32 AM

The Pacific Northwest in the ’90s Was More Than Just Nirvana 

When Alice Wheeler first came onto the Seattle scene in the early 1980s, most male photographers told her that her style of photography, especially the ways in which she photographed women, wasn’t up to par.

“It took me years to figure out what they meant by that,” she said. “I think it was photo language for you’re making work that’s not popular; you’re a little too edgy or bright. Why are you photographing these girls? Their boobs aren’t big enough.”

Nov. 8 2015 10:00 AM

Honoring the Polish Airmen Who Helped Allied Forces Win World War II

This Sunday, the United Kingdom observes Remembrance Sunday to honor the men and women who served. Michal Solarski wants to make sure Polish Air Force veterans of World War II are also duly considered.

Nov. 6 2015 9:02 AM

Ugly Dogs Need Love Too

Just because you’re homely doesn’t mean you can’t be a champion.

That’s the message at the World’s Ugliest Dog Contest, held annually at Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds in Petaluma, California. This July, more than 500 people came to cheer on the 27 frightful pooches participating in the event. Ramin Rahimian was there too, intent on celebrating the competitors by photographing them. 

Nov. 5 2015 12:37 PM

A Memoir in Photos: New York’s Sassy 1970s 

During graduate school in the 1970s at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Meryl Meisler discovered Jacques-Henri Lartigue’s family photos. Inspired by the lighthearted images, on her next trip back home to Long Island she started taking photographs of her friends and family, as well as a self-portrait series wearing some of her childhood uniforms. When she returned to school, her professor Cavalliere Ketchum couldn’t believe the quirky photos of people shot against wild backgrounds Meisler had captured on film.

“I said, this is where I come from,” Meisler recalled.

When she graduated in 1975, Meisler moved to New York City and took her camera wherever she went—looking at her photographs, that was seemingly everywhere: CBGB, Fire Island, Jewish and Gay Pride parades, protest movements, and legendary nightclubs. This year, she published her Long Island and New York City work in the bookParadise & Purgatory: Sassy ’70s Suburbia & The City.

Nov. 4 2015 12:42 PM

Using Old Marquees to Display Clever, Poetic Messages 

Victoria Crayhon spends a lot of time in her car. Over the past 10 years, she has driven cross-country eight times. During those long rides, the Providence, Rhode Island–based photographer and professor at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth says her main sources of entertainment are the billboards she passes. Inspired by a project she did in graduate school where she altered the surgeon general warnings on cigarette advertisements with her own words, she decided to post her own words on movie theater and motel marquees for her series “Thoughts on Romance From the Road.”

The sayings and expressions Crayhon puts up on the marquees are pulled from a collection she’s written, most of which come to her on the drives. She is interested in people reading her words in a context in which they would normally expect to find a type of propaganda and said she intentionally choose language that feels personal but could also be found in an ad campaign. She also sees humor in it.