The Photo Blog

Jan. 13 2016 10:04 AM

How the Beauty of Transparent Is Captured in Still Photography 

A pivotal and profound scene in the Amazon series Transparent occurs in the second episode of the first season, appropriately titled “The Letting Go,” when Maura, played by Jeffrey Tambor, comes out, accidentally at first, as trans to her eldest daughter Sarah. Although there is a third character in the room, it’s a tight scene, focusing on the two actors while they are seated on a bed.  

Beth Dubber was about six feet from the actors while the scene played out with an aching back and trembling knees, hoping to get the image and not collapse before the scene was cut.

It wasn’t easy.

“I prefer to be a fly on the wall but in this scene everyone was conscious of everyone else,” Dubber said. “I was crouched in a corner with the camera operator and focus puller right next to me, as well as a boom operator capturing sound; luckily he was 6-foot-5 and I’m 5-foot-3 so I could fit under his armpit. It’s 100 degrees in there and we’re all scrunched together, a pile of sweaty people with equipment. … My thighs and calves were burning as I was in a mid-squat position, my back hurt but I thought I have to get this shot; this is the shot.”

Jan. 12 2016 1:18 PM

The Limitless Inventiveness of Walker Evans

Walker Evans may be best known for his 1935 and 1936 Farm Security Administration documentary photos, but he had a long career that explored a range of styles and techniques. Walker Evans: Depth of Field, which Prestel published in November, provides the most comprehensive book-length look yet at the work of one of the greatest artists of the 20th century.


Jan. 11 2016 11:36 AM

When Wild Animals Become Pets

Areca Roe’s love of animals often influenced her photography. Early on, she created images in a zoo but felt the human-animal relationship there was too one-sided and forced. That work lead into a series about pets and then further narrowed to work about pets that were a bit more out of the ordinary.

She wanted to create photographs that highlighted the contradiction between the wildness of the pets—including turtles, snakes, lizards, and pigs—and the domestic environments in which they lived with their owners. She calls the series “Housebroken,” and has been working on it on and off for three years.

“It just looks so strange to plop a lizard onto a couch, or a parrot in a car,” she wrote. “What do they make of this environment?”

Roe found all of her subjects around Minnesota and Wisconsin, within a few hours of her home, and contacted most of them through social media. She also found reptile owners through the Minnesota Herpetological Society, a group of avid lizard and amphibian lovers.

Jan. 10 2016 10:55 AM

Honoring Scottish History at Quirky Local Festivals

Each summer, 11 towns in Scotland’s Scottish Borders region honor local history in homespun and idiosyncratic Common Riding festivals, celebratory occasions devoted to pageantry, singing, and unique traditions centered around equestrian events.


Jan. 8 2016 10:44 AM

Elvis Presley’s Biggest Fans

Clémentine Schneidermann was living in Switzerland in 2010 when she learned about a fan club dedicated to Elvis Presley. She visited the homes of the fans and photographed them. A few years later, Schneidermann moved to Wales where she learned about the Porthcawl Elvis Festival, which bills itself as the largest festival in the world of its kind, where thousands of Elvis fans met every year to meet one another and compete in competitions including “the best Welsh Elvis” or “Elvis of the year.”

“At that time I was doing another project for my master’s degree and I never intended to fall into Elvis again!” she wrote via email. She decided to go to the festival anyway.

“Imagine a Welsh working-class holiday destination full of caravans, Elvis’s concerts and impersonators in pubs,” she wrote. “I shot 10 rolls that weekend, and I liked almost every picture. A few months later I received a grant from Magnum Photos and Ideastap [a British charity supporting the arts] to visit Memphis. I spent a month there, walking on Elvis Presley Boulevard and trying to understand how this place became such an important pilgrimage destination.”

Jan. 7 2016 10:54 AM

The Hands of Legends

Every photographer who shoots musicians occasionally shoots the musicians’ hands. But few have considered them as extensively as Joseph A. Rosen.

Jan. 6 2016 10:48 AM

This Polish Photographer Knocked on 20,000 Doors to Find Out How Her Fellow Citizens Lived

Who hasn’t peeked into an apartment as a neighbor exits, allowing for a quick glimpse inside as the door closes? Or gone to a local open house to investigate a home you might have passed hundreds of times but never knew what was inside. A friend of mine told me that she and her mother used to walk around their neighborhood in the evening when the darkening sky and illuminated picture windows made it easier to see what was inside.

Operating under a much less creepy method, Polish photographer Zofia Rydet spent two decades photographing the interior of Polish homes for a series titled “Sociological Record.” It’s an ambitious body of work that includes roughly 20,000 homes, made even more ambitious because the photographer began the work when she was 67.

The idea for the project took root when Rydet visited an office filled with cubicles in Jelcz, Poland. Fascinated by the employees’ working spaces that were decorated with newspaper clippings, personal photographs, religious images, and even erotic posters, Rydet began to question the ways in which we as a collective people define our private spaces.

The project took her to more than 100 villages and cities in the Polish regions of Podhale, Upper Silesia, and Suwalki. Eventually she also took photographs around Europe and in New York.

Jan. 5 2016 10:16 AM

Finding the Beauty in Life at Dallas’ Many Estate Sales

There are a lot of estate sales in Dallas, just ask Norm Diamond, who started visiting them a few years ago. For him, they perfectly the cycle of life: You can find objects from a potty chair to a funeral receipt. When he goes, he brings along his camera and, provided the light is right, photographs some of the objects that call out to him. Others times, he purchases the objects and takes them home to his makeshift studio and photographs them there.

“I look for items that reveal something about the person who owned it,” he said. “They also hopefully give some sort of comment about the life we live and the events that have shaped us as a country.”

An average week finds Diamond at six to 10 estate sales. He sorts through thousands of items looking for ones to add to his ongoing series “What Is Left Behind.” He said he prefers to spend around $10 or less for an object but will pay up to $30 if it’s really special.

Jan. 4 2016 11:04 AM

Documenting a Friend’s Daily Life With Asperger’s Syndrome

Hundreds of thousands of Americans have Asperger’s syndrome, a developmental disorder on the autism spectrum. Kelsey is one of them. For the last two years, Christian Wilbur has been photographing Kelsey, a high school friend he met when they were both in the viola section of the school’s chamber orchestra. 

Jan. 3 2016 10:18 AM

What Does It Really Mean to Come From Appalachia?

When Aaron Blum moved from West Virginia to attend graduate school at Syracuse University, he quickly realized his fellow students knew little about his home state.

“In earnest they would ask stereotypical, slightly offensive questions such as ‘Why do you have your shoes or teeth?’ or ‘Do you guys really eat road kill?’ ” he wrote via email.

Although he had grown up in West Virginia, Blum said that for most of his life he had misunderstood his own history. Before heading to Syracuse, he had spent an evening with his grandmother who told him about his Irish heritage; Blum had always thought he was German.