The Photo Blog

Sept. 26 2016 1:50 PM

A Jewish Photographer Challenges His Black-and-White Vision of the Holocaust

As a child growing up in the Midwest in 1950s and ’60s, James Friedman was acutely aware of anti-Semitism. He regularly heard vitriolic jokes at school about Jews and the Holocaust; a more extreme example saw his family’s house set on fire and riddled with gunfire. When he was 3 years old, he sat through a newsreel in a movie theater that featured intense imagery of the Jews who were killed and buried at the concentration camps; that reel stayed with him for years, and as he grew into an adult, shock grew into numbness as he looked at more and more disturbing photographs.

“I was … acutely aware of the events of the Holocaust and of the lasting impact of its images,” Friedman wrote via email.

Friedman said he was “determined to confront the very places where it happened,” so he traveled to Europe in 1981 and 1983. He visited a dozen camps to create a body of work titled “12 Nazi Concentration Camps” that are personal, sometimes humorous, and other times “confrontational, disturbing, unpredictable and about our collective memory,” he said. The work will be on view at the Skirball Museum in Cincinnati beginning on Oct. 13.

“Perhaps, the anti-Semitic events I experienced throughout my life also compelled me to travel to Europe in search of pictures that would connect me with audiences in ways that my photography had never done before,” Friedman wrote. “Once I was at the camps, I remember wanting to share visually my discomfort in being there and about what had happened at each site.”

Sept. 25 2016 10:11 AM

The Unforgettable Faces of Flood Victims in Their Homes

On an ever-warming planet, climate science indicates, expect to see more rainfall and more flooding. Moreover, expect to see more expressions like the ones worn by the solemn and quietly devastated people in Gideon Mendel’s photographs from flood zones around the world.

Mendel started his series “Submerged Portraits” in June 2007, when he photographed floods in the U.K. that put much of Yorkshire, Gloucestershire, and the Midlands underwater. That August, he also photographed monsoon floods in northern India and Bangladesh. At the time, he’d been looking for a way to address climate change in his work. In the sight of individuals wading through floodwaters in their wrecked homes, he found a visual that seemed to address the universal implications of a global phenomenon.

“There’s a shared vulnerability I seem to see across the world. There’s something quite unifying about floods,’ he said.

Sept. 23 2016 10:04 AM

The Unmistakable Style of Inge Morath, One of Magnum’s First Female Photographers

Inge Morath may have frequently photographed well-dressed people and many figures of the fashion world, but to call her a fashion photographer would be a mistake, according to John P. Jacob, the McEvoy Family curator for photography at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Rather than “the seasonal changes of attire,” the motif running through Morath’s best work was, he notes, “the endurance of the human creative spirit in conditions of transformation and duress.”

“Whether photographing festivals or artists’ studios, on films sets, the street, or the fashion runway, what distinguishes Morath’s photography is an unerring eye for life’s brilliant theatricality,” Jacob wrote in the afterword for a new collection of the photographer’s work published by Abrams, Inge Morath: On Style.

Sept. 22 2016 10:08 AM

How People Interact With Water Around the World

Mustafah Abdulaziz has spent the past five years traveling to nine countries around the world to photograph the way humans interact with water. Though many of his images document people and places affected by water scarcity and pollution, he doesn’t consider his project, “Water,” reportage or activism.

“The work I am creating is closer to a human study. The single idea I wish to call attention to already resides within the viewer: Their capacity for a profound connection to their planet. … Should a viewer come away from my work with a desire to create change, that is positive, but that is not my goal,” Abdulaziz said via email.

Sept. 21 2016 1:32 PM

These Photographs Make You Take Notice of New York Architecture

Throughout his childhood, Marc Yankus had a stepfather who often told him to go outside and play in traffic. Yankus instead took to the streets of New York, where his appreciation for architecture grew. His exploration also led him to the American wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a place where he said he “spent a lot of time pretending I was going back in time.”

As a fine art photographer, Yankus has created work that speaks to that background; his most recent photographs will be on view at Clamp Art in New York, opening Oct. 13, as part of his series “The Secret Lives of Buildings.”

The title is a nod to a feature published in the Paris Review in 2014 about Yankus’ previous show, one that he feels describes his work very well.

“Buildings are kind of like trees,” he said. “They’re silent. They’re tall. They’re all around you and they witness things. If they had a consciousness they would have seen all these different lives; people die, new people move in, there are all these changes to historical buildings.”

Yankus feels one of the biggest shifts between his new work and what he has produced previously is a departure from the rough texture he employed as backgrounds. He said this new work has a more realistic feel to it and that he has included more detail and more of an environment by zooming out more. Many of the photographs don’t include people since Yankus wanted to lend a quietness to the work.

Sept. 20 2016 12:05 PM

Brooklyn in 1958, as Truman Capote Saw It

David Attie was still a student in his first ever photography course at the New School when he got his big break.

His instructor was Alexey Brodovitch, the famed art director of Harper’s Bazaar, and he’d taken a liking to Attie’s unique photo montages, which Attie created one night in a panic from film he’d accidentally overexposed. Brodovitch asked him to recreate the process to illustrate Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s, which was to be published for the first time in the magazine.

Attie worked for months to make the images, but the novella didn’t end up running in Harper’s under a directive from Hearst, the magazine’s publisher. Capote resold the novella to Esquire, but when it appeared in the magazine, only one of Attie’s images ran alongside it.

Soon after, when Holiday magazine asked Capote to write an essay, “Brooklyn Heights: A Personal Memoir,” about living in the borough, Attie was again enlisted to provide the accompanying artwork. In March 1958, the young photographer, himself a Brooklyn native, and the young writer spent a day roaming Brooklyn Heights and Dumbo together. Capote posed for Attie and introduced him to some of the people and places he loved. Their work ran in the February 1959 issue of Holiday.

Sept. 19 2016 10:17 AM

The Staggering Beauty and Fragility of North America’s East Coast

David Freese hadn’t considered an East Coast version of his book West Coast: Bering to Baja, a dramatic aerial look at the West Coast of North America. That changed in 2012 when Superstorm Sandy struck and Freese visited New York and New Jersey. Once he saw the devastation, he decided to begin a project that showcased how the rising waters were affecting cities, islands, national parks, and national wildlife refugees through aerial photography on North America’s eastern shore. The work, published as a book titled East Coast: Arctic to Tropic, will be released in November.

If you’re going to tackle another ambitious and expensive project, the best place to save on both time and money is on Google Earth, “without a doubt my greatest travel aid,” Freese wrote via email. He was able to scout locations and charter companies that would help him get to remote locations in Greenland and Canada, including the Torngat Mountains on the northern tip of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Freese said his goal was to find photographs that would “add or relate to the story of climate, weather, geology, and human impact” and about the “profound interconnections within nature and the effects of civilization.”

He spent time over cities including New York, Boston, Washington, and Miami, as well as a lot of “nooks and crannies” in between. As he journeyed down to the Florida Keys, what he saw from the air was shocking.

Sept. 16 2016 10:55 AM

The Birds, Bones, and Other Beautiful Specimens in Museum and National Park Collections

Leah Sobsey started working on what would ultimately become her book, Collections, which Daylight published in July, when a tufted titmouse crashed into her kitchen window nearly a decade ago.

“I went outside to see what was going on, and unfortunately the bird didn’t make it. My instinct was to photograph it,” she said.

Sept. 15 2016 12:30 PM

An Italian and a Native American’s Quest to Give Voice to American Indians

When Italian Carlotta Cardana was in high school, she spent a year as a foreign exchange student in Nebraska. While there, she met Danielle SeeWalker, an enrolled member of theStanding Rock Sioux Tribe. The two became fast friends and kept in touch when Cardana left the U.S. Fifteen years later, during a meeting in London, they began to talk about the American Indian culture and how it was often misrepresented or ignored in the media. They set out to create a project that gave voice to an often-silenced population through Cardana’s images and SeeWalker’s words in the ongoing work “The Red Road Project.”

They began by photographing and interviewing SeeWalker’s relatives, since they found it difficult to meet strangers willing to participate. Many people weren’t certain what to make about the project. “[The Native community] have suspicions toward everyone who works in the media and everyone who is not Native,” Cardana said. “They weren’t really trusting us.”

The more people they included in the project, the more word began to spread on social media, adding some weight to their project and slowly convincing other people that their intentions were positive. Still, another obstacle they faced was to convince people about the importance of visibility.

“They’re very humble and they believe in humility and can’t handle putting themselves in that light,” Cardana said. “We said, ‘You’re doing important things and people need to know so other Natives can be inspired.’ They want the best for their community, and they see our project as an opportunity to tell their side of the story.”

Sept. 14 2016 11:12 AM

Capturing the Uncertainty and Vulnerability of Adolescence

Laura Pannack’s work with young people is a glimpse into the often tempestuous and bewildering emotions felt during adolescence. She wonders if the intensity of adolescence is tempered by the relationships young people seek during that confusing period of time.