The Photo Blog

Aug. 10 2016 10:42 AM

Take a Look Inside Bangkok’s Last Phone Booths

In Bangkok, as in many parts of the world where cellphones now dominate, phone booths are a dying breed. While thousands have already been removed, many thousands still stand, and they play an evolving—and fascinating—role in the urban landscape. On a visit to Bangkok in 2012, Frank Hallam Day walked by a booth one night and, as he observed headlights from a passing car brighten its glass walls, he was inspired to photograph it. He then started photographing booths all over the city and has continued to do so on annual trips to the city ever since.

Aug. 9 2016 10:12 AM

Photos of Merfest, BronyCon, and Other Delightfully Quirky American Conventions

They may be a little kooky and more than a little niche, but conventions are invaluable social spaces where Americans can get together and express themselves without reservation. Arthur Drooker knows this better than most. For three years, he photographed conventions all over the country where people gathered to celebrate shared interests, from ventriloquism to My Little Pony to taxidermy.

His first, in 2013, was the annual gathering of the Association of Lincoln Presenters in Columbus, Ohio. He’d gone there merely hoping to make some fun photographs of the 115 members who dress up as 16th president, but he emerged with a desire to explore conventions in depth. In so doing, he discovered something novel about American culture. In Conventional Wisdom, which is now available for preorder from Glitterati Press, he presents strange and often humorous photographs from 10 of his favorite gatherings.

Aug. 8 2016 10:16 AM

Elvis Presley “Tribute Artists” Are More Than Their Sideburns and Flashy Outfits

Erin Feinberg has always been an Elvis fan, but her book of Elvis impersonators came about serendipitously. Feinberg’s boyfriend was in Memphis recording an album, so she decided to join him. She didn’t realize they were there during Elvis Week, an annual festival that brings together Elvis fans from around the world the week before the anniversary of his death on Aug. 16.

“Sideburns and pompadours were swarming the streets,” Feinberg wrote via email. “And I just happened to be staying at the hotel where the biggest Elvis impersonator contest in the world is held every year!”

Feinberg was mesmerized by what she saw and decided to return to Memphis the following year to document the festival and to try to learn who these impersonators were. She made the pilgrimage to Memphis four times and set up a studio in the lobby of the hotel that hosted the contest. She created more than 100 portraits that eventually became the book King for a Day, published by Kehrer Verlag.

Feinberg described working on the job as exciting, easy, and a lot of fun, mostly due to the joyful nature of her subjects. She told each impersonator to do whatever he wanted in front of her camera.


Aug. 7 2016 10:13 AM

What It’s Like to Hang Out With Shark Fishermen

Although Maggie Shannon grew up in Massachusetts’ Martha’s Vineyard, the former site of the Monster Shark Tournament, she didn’t photograph the competition until 2014, when she was living in New York and the tournament had moved to Rhode Island.

Before then, Shannon had worked on a project that focused on the impact the filming of Jaws had on Martha’s Vineyard. Documenting the competition “seemed like a natural progression,” Shannon wrote via email. She recently self-published the work as a book titled Swamp Yankee.

At first, Shannon was given access to the weigh-in area, where the dead sharks are brought in by the crews and measured. While working there, Shannon met the crew of the Swamp Yankee. She described them as casual: As their boat pulled into the dock, they had “beer cans rolling around on the deck, and they were shouting and singing songs.”

She photographed their captain and eventually was allowed to join his crew to photograph them in action.

Shannon met up with them around midnight and woke up miles away from land.

“It was very surreal, waking up at dawn and looking out to see just ocean, not even a sliver of land, just all blue,” she wrote. By then, the crew was already up and preparing for the day, creating bait that included dog food, which “really attracts the sharks and it smells pretty awful, too.”

Aug. 5 2016 12:32 PM

The Power and Poetry of Italian Church Confessionals

The confessional is a special place in any Catholic Church, but in Marcella Hackbardt’s series “True Confessionals,” it takes on a distinct significance. Centered in their frames and largely shown in churches empty of people, Hackbardt’s confessionals strike viewers not as merely one feature among many in the architecture of faith, but as a theatrical space that services some fundamental human need—one that possibly transcends any particular religious dogma. As Hackbardt sees them, they’re “a powerful metaphor for self-perception and the examination of conscience.”

Aug. 4 2016 12:14 PM

What It Was Like to Be a Twin Before Multiple Births Were Common

In the early 1970s, during his daily walks around New York to take photographs, Harvey Stein ran into three sets of twins. Those encounters inspired him to begin a six-year project of photographing twins that eventually led to the publishing of Parallels: A Look at Twins in 1978.

Back then, Stein said, twins were more of an anomaly than they are today; between 1980 and 2009, the birth rate for twins has risen by 76 percent. Finding twins was difficult in the pre-internet era, so instead of putting out a call on Facebook or an ad on Craigslist, Stein would reach out to friends, hope to run into twins on the streets, comb through stories in the newspaper, or go to a twin convention. He ended up photographing and interviewing more than 150 sets of twins; 55 made the final cut.

Stein said a lot of the twins he interviewed said that if they had the choice, they would rather not have been born a twin, partly because finding their own identity was difficult. It didn’t help their names often were linked by rhyme or some other quirk. One set, in fact, was named Peter and Paul and were constantly given nicknames: Pete and Repeat; St. Peter and St. Paul; Peter, Paul, and Mary; Peter, Paul, Almond Joy; and so on.

Aug. 3 2016 10:11 AM

15 Years of Hope and Fear in Afghanistan

Paula Bronstein has seen a lot of Afghanistan since she first visited the country nearly 15 years ago during the first few months of the American invasion in October 2001.

Aug. 2 2016 11:49 AM

Gorgeous Portraits of the Luminaries of the Harlem Renaissance

How did Carl Van Vechten—a white man from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and a latecomer to photography—become the premier portraitist of the Harlem Renaissance’s black luminaries?

It took a slightly confounding combination of social climbing, strategic spending, and a passion for the subject matter. Van Vechten arrived in New York in 1906 and soon started working as a music and dance critic for the New York Times. During the 1920s, he found booming Harlem enthralling and quickly went about befriending and championing some of the movement’s most famous figures. While his patronage and enthusiasm earned the trust and allegiance of many of them, more than a few were wary of him, in no small part because of his controversial 1926 novel, Nigger Heaven, designed as a tribute to contemporary Harlem.

It might not be exactly clear if his involvement with black artists constituted, as the New York Times’ Luc Sante put it, “nothing more than a kind of cultural tourism,” or whether, as the New Yorker’s Kelefa Sanneh speculated, “he was far more loyal and earnest than he sometimes pretended to be.” But by the time he started making portraits in 1932, there was no question about the ferocity of his desire to be a part of their world. He considered photography “probably the most fascinating of the arts,” and he was determined to use it to capture the most fascinating people he knew.

Aug. 1 2016 10:11 AM

These Still Lifes Feature Food That Was Headed for the Dumpster

The food gorgeously displayed in Aliza Eliazarov’s series “Waste Not” looks good enough for a feast. But before she and food rescue organizations in New York City salvaged it, grocery stores and markets thought the stuff looked ready for the trash.

She got the idea for the series in 2011, while on assignment for a local newspaper, AM NewYork, to photograph a freegan—an anti-consumerist who strives to salvage rather than spend—on Earth Day. As she watched the man save food from dumpsters outside markets in Harlem, Eliazarov, an environmentally concerned photographer whose documentary work has focused on sustainable farming and the backyard poultry movement, knew she wanted to explore the issue of food waste in a deeper way.

“It was just a one-day little assignment, but the idea of food waste is one of those things that stays with you and nags at you. I realized it was something I wanted to make a project out of,” she said.

July 28 2016 10:17 AM

This Photographer Made It His Mission to Capture the “Forgotten” Lives of the Working Class

“The rich have their own photographers,” said the late Milton Rogovin, who devoted his entire career as a documentarian to highlighting the other half—the poor and working classes—with the respect they deserved. He will soon be celebrated at the San Jose Museum of Art in the exhibition “Life and Labor: The Photographs of Milton Rogovin” from Aug. 18 until March 19.