The Photo Blog

April 28 2016 12:19 PM

A Chinese Artist Addresses Food Safety and Other Social Issues by Hiding in His Photographs

There’s a good chance you’ve seen some of Liu Bolin’s work. There’s also a good chance you haven’t seen him within that work. The Chinese photographer is known for “disappearing” into his photographs that have been viewed around the world; he even gave a TED talk about his process.

Liu is one of five photographers from around the world included in the United Nations’ exhibit “We Are What We Eat” that touches on concepts linked to population, economic growth, malnutrition, and overconsumption. Other photographers in the exhibition are Edward Burtynsky, Jim Draper, Pepe López and Vik Muniz. In addition, Bolin will also be bestowed the Global Ambassador award on May 7.

Liu’s work has always touched on social issues. In a story that ran on Behold in 2013, Liu said, “The locations I choose must be strongly referenced to some symbols like politics, environment, culture, etc., that I intend to bring up. In my works, the backgrounds express the most important information, conflicts are caused when my body vanishes in different backgrounds, a reflection of society from my point of view.”

April 27 2016 11:04 AM

What Exactly Is Life After Death if You’re a Cryonicist?

While there’s plenty to debate about life after death, what about life after a deep-freeze at minus 196 Celsius (minus 320 Fahrenheit)?

For many people in the cryonics community, this is a very serious and expensive question, one that begins with the definition of death itself. The preservation process begins as soon as possible after “legal death”—the point when a person can no longer be resuscitated by current technology— is announced, and a person can pick to have only his or her brain frozen or the entire body. Many cryonicists, according to the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, believe in theoretical death, that a person’s memory, identity, and personality remain stored inside the brain even after a human being is legally declared dead. They equate the brain to a hard drive in a computer—simply because you turn off a computer doesn’t mean the hard drive is wiped out. They hope in the future the medical community can figure out a way to turn back on whatever caused the body to die so that the mind can once again live.

For a decade, Murray Ballard spent time in the United States, the United Kingdom, and around Europe and Russia meeting with individuals and institutions in the cryonics community. His book, The Prospect of Immortalitywas published by Gost last month.

April 26 2016 10:03 AM

What Learning to Be a Real-Life Crime Scene Investigator Is Like

If you’re a fan of crime shows such as CSI, you might have fantasized about a career in forensics. Jeroen Hofman is a fan of that genre, but instead of abandoning his photography career, he decided three years ago to begin “Forensics,” a project that covers forensic detective studies in academies around the Netherlands. While working on another project about where police, army, and fire departments trained for catastrophes and conflicts, Hofman was introduced to people who work in the forensics industry and was eventually given permission to photograph their facilities.

April 25 2016 10:07 AM

Where the Rich, Famous, and Beautiful Go for a Swim

If you’ve been invited to a pool party at Johnny Pigozzi’s house, Villa Dorane, during the Cannes Film Festival, it means you’re doing pretty well in life. That’s because Pigozzi, a businessman, art collector, and photographer, likes to fill his guest lists with the rich, the famous, and the beautiful.

For decades, gatherings at his family’s Cap d’Antibes home in the south of France—which his father, Simca founder Henri Pigozzi, built in 1953—have welcomed a who’s who of actors, artists, musicians, politicians, and other elites. The proof is in the thousands of photos Pigozzi has taken over the years of his well-to-do friends relaxed and happy in the summer sun. Some of the images are now leaving his vast personal archive and seeing the light of day in an exhibition at New York’s Gagosian Gallery until May 28 and a book, Pool Party, published by Rizzoli.

April 24 2016 10:11 AM

These Gorgeous Images Are What Happens When Science and Photography Collide

To make the image titled Solar PlexusCaleb Charland lay on back at his home in Maine for two hours with his camera resting on the pit of his stomach, shutter open, while mosquitos buzzed around him. Airplanes flew in and out of the frame, and when they appeared in his peripheral vision, Charland held his breath so they would create a straight line.

April 22 2016 10:04 AM

What One Photographer Saw Traveling the U.S. by Train 

In the summer of 2011, McNair Evans took a train from Raleigh, North Carolina, where he’d been visiting his girlfriend, to Richmond, Virginia, for a friend’s wedding. The experience was a transformative one.

“I felt in love at the time, so the romance of this short ride really swept me away. We passed the backs of manufacturing facilities, Little League Baseball games, and tobacco fields where individuals worked with traditional hoes and rakes. I was drawn to the passengers on that route that not surprisingly mirrored the surroundings. They were very receptive to my camera,” he said.

After that, Evans decided to take a three-week, round-trip train ride from his home in San Francisco to Rocky Mount, North Carolina, where he’d discovered that a rail car belonging to his late grandfather was on display at the city’s newly remodeled historic train station. This cross-country journey was to be the first of many. For more than three years, Evans has taken biannual two-week-long Amtrak trips, beginning and ending in California, photographing the people and places he’s encountered along the way. His photographs are on display in the exhibition, “In Search of Great Men,” at San Francisco’s City Hall until Nov. 18.

April 21 2016 12:26 PM

“Female Masking” Is Proof That There Is a Fetish Community for Everything

As you might expect, if you Google words such as sex dolls and fetish, you’re going to uncover some unique websites.

That’s what happened in 2003, when Daniel Handal was working on a project about RealDolls—essentially expensive, made-to-order sex dolls. A couple of years into the work, Handal learned another photographer, Elena Dorfman, had been working on a similar project and was about to release a book about it.

The news caught him off-guard, and he decided to find another angle to pursue. Researching similar subjects, he found the female masking community, a group of (mostly) men who like to put on women’s fetish wear and latex masks to transform themselves into living dolls. In his artist statement, Handal writes that those interested in female masking “create multi-layered alter egos and assume fictional characters while documenting their role playing with photographs and sharing stories on community blogs.”

“When I saw the first picture of a female masker, I remember electricity going through me,” Handal wrote via email. “My favorite photos were not the sexualized pictures, but the ones that mimicked domesticity. They reminded me of Leigh Bowery a bit, but I didn’t know anything about this fetish and had not seen anything like it in art or popular culture—a rare find.”

Handel began the work in 2006, but the majority was done in 2008 and 2009 when he traveled to the Rubber Doll World Rendezvous, an annual conference of sorts. At first Handal staged his photos, but he felt they looked contrived. Because female masking involves role-play and exhibition, he felt trying out a documentary approach would be better and used a medium-format film camera for the series. He said that because “normal wear” is discouraged in common areas, he had to dress up, which made picture-making difficult, even though documenting what’s happening is part of the fetish.

“I had to look through a small hole in my mask and into the rangefinder to manually focus and adjust exposures and focal range on the spot,” Handal wrote. “A very exciting way to make a picture.”

April 20 2016 10:22 AM

What’s Left of the CIA’s Notorious “Black Sites” Secret Prison Network

If the secrecy and brutality of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp bothered you, photographer Edmund Clark and counterterrorism investigator Crofton Black’s book, Negative Publicity: Artefacts of Extraordinary Rendition, will make your blood boil.

The book, which Aperture and the Magnum Foundation published in February, shows how, between 2001 and 2008, the CIA operated secret prisons, or “black sites,” around the world and transported detainees to them through so-called extraordinary renditions without legal process or public records. Many of those prisons have since disappeared, and many sites used by operatives during renditions carry no evidence of their former uses. But Clark’s photographs of what remains of them, presented alongside documents gathered by Black and his sources that trace the operations, ensure they won’t be forgotten.

April 19 2016 10:02 AM

Here’s What People Look Like After One, Two, and Three Glasses of Wine

Drinking wine doesn’t just change how you feel—it also changes how you act and how you look. Marcos Alberti’s series “3 Glasses Later” is proof.

“There is a saying about wine that I really like and it's something like this: ‘The first glass of wine is all about the food, the second glass is about love and the third glass is about mayhem.’ I really wanted to see for myself if that affirmation was in fact true,” he wrote in a statement about the series.

Over six nights in January 2014, Alberti conducted his experiment with friends at his studio in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Upon arrival, Alberti took a photo of each sober guest in front of a door. After finishing a glass of wine—which he provided—he instructed them to head over from the bar to the camera for another portrait. In the final photos, which comprise the four images taken over the course of the boozy night, articles of clothing disappear and smiles emerge. 

April 18 2016 11:06 AM

Remembering Photographer Malick Sidibé, Who Captured the Spirit and Style of Mali

With the death of Malick Sidibé last week, the world is mourning the loss of a towering figure in the African art world.

The 80-year-old photographer was best known for his black-and-white images of the stylish residents of his native Bamako, Mali, as the country transitioned from colonial rule to independence in the 1960s and beyond. Shot in his studio as well as at nightclubs and in the streets, these photos, as the Guardian’s Priya Elan notes, “changed the idea of black beauty in fashion.”