The Photo Blog

Dec. 19 2014 11:07 AM

How a French Photographer Captured a Seminal Period in American History 

Jean-Pierre Laffont’s extensive photo archive seems almost mythological: How could one photographer cover so many seminal events with such a unique vision?

Laffont arrived in New York from France in 1965, an important time for photojournalists in the United States with both the Watts riots and the Selma to Montgomery marches taking place. But Laffont didn’t have the money to travel around the country to document them—instead, he decided to dig deeper into local stories, specifically in the Bronx and Brooklyn.

“It was so beautiful from the air, but when you were down on the ground the garbage wasn’t collected the city was in shambles, they were throwing the garbage out of the windows,” Laffont said about his first look at New York.

Video Advertisement

Dec. 18 2014 9:52 AM

These Beautiful Old Books Are a Bibliophile’s Dream

Beyond the tales within their pages, old books have stories of their own. The weathered and sometimes seriously battered books in Simon Brown’s ongoing series, “The Weight of Knowledge,” which is on view at Benrubi Gallery in New York City until Dec. 20, are prime examples.

Dec. 17 2014 10:49 AM

What It’s Like to Be a U.S. Marshal

The U.S. marshals currently employ just 5,431 people nationwide, but they get a lot done: In 2013, the organization arrested more 110,000 fugitives, moved federal prisoners nearly 300,000 times, and cleared more than 134,000 warrants. Brian Finke witnessed some of that activity first hand over the course of three years shadowing the country’s oldest law enforcement agency. 

Dec. 16 2014 12:30 PM

What Hollywood Movie Sets Look Like When the Camera Stops Rolling

David Strick’s great aunt, Gale Sondergaard, won the very first Best Supporting Actress Academy Award, but it took a while for him to feel comfortable on Hollywood film sets.

“There were plenty of competent adults working the sets and I would have felt like Bart Simpson trying to work alongside King Kong,” Strick said about shooting on set early in his career. “What I did manage to absorb was a sense that the work the grown-ups were doing was a high-stakes deadly serious one, and to some extent a comically inexplicable version of let’s dress up and pretend. I don’t think that sense of confused awe ever left me.”


Dec. 15 2014 10:22 AM

Some of the World’s Coolest Animals Don’t Have Spines

Photographing animals is never easy, but marine invertebrates—underwater creatures without backbones—are especially tricky: They tend to be small, sometimes they’re transparent, and they’re often quite fast moving. But the effort, Susan Middleton says, is worth it if it helps educate the public about these creatures, which make up more than 98 percent of the known animal species in the ocean and are an important part of our evolutionary history.

“I like to think of humans riding on the ‘shoulders’ of the marine invertebrates—even though most of them don’t have shoulders. We are the beneficiaries of many of their inventions: bilateral symmetry, a central nervous system, respiration, a circulatory system, and on and on. We wouldn’t be here without them; they are the foundation of everything,” she said via email.

Dec. 14 2014 10:23 AM

When Celebrity Photography Was Cool

Growing up, Brad Elterman’s father wanted him to follow in the footsteps and become a dentist. But like many kids growing up in Los Angeles in the late 1960s and ’70s, Elterman was far more interested in the booming music industry. It was a time when there weren’t as many agents and publicists surrounding rock stars and Elterman—who was clearly precocious—managed to locate, and meet some of the people he admired.

He also wasn’t afraid of taking their pictures. Elterman would then sell some of the images to American music magazines such as Cream or Rock Scene, but was only able to get around $5–$20 per shot. Not terrible for a teenager, but not exactly a dentist salary. He heard a rumor that many of the European and Japanese magazines were willing to buy photos for much larger sums of cash so, when he was 19, he hopped on a plane and flew to Europe.

Dec. 12 2014 11:02 AM

America’s Quirky Rest Stops Are Vanishing

Before national chains like McDonald’s and Dunkin Donuts largely supplanted them as destinations for relaxation and amusement, publicly funded rest stops were an integral part of driving for interstate travelers.

Ryann Ford started paying attention to rest areas while on assignment for Texas Monthly. After doing some research online, she learned how rest stops developed alongside the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s, but were being closed or demolished as the recession shrunk state budgets. 

“You’d think these picnic tables were pretty cheap but there’s a lot of monthly maintenance costs to mow the grass and take out the trash. A lot of states just started with barricading them off and closing them. They didn't tear them down at first, thinking the recession would get better,” she said.

Dec. 11 2014 10:38 AM

Even Paris’ Rooftops Are Beautiful

When Michael Wolf’s wife Barbara wanted the family to move to Paris around eight years ago, the photographer wasn’t too excited about the decision. He had moved to Hong Kong in 1994 and traveled around the region creating a number of photo series about life in the sprawling, rapidly modernizing cities. In “Architecture of Density,” he focused on the dizzying size of high-rise apartment buildings in Hong Kong; in “Tokyo Compressions,” he explored the claustrophobic look at life on the Tokyo subways.

“I was used to the excitement and constant change in Asia,” Wolf said about the move. “It was so difficult to find something [in Paris]. The Haussmannian architecture didn’t interest me because it was more of less the same and photographing people is difficult because of the privacy laws.”

Dec. 10 2014 10:46 AM

These American World War II Re-Enacters Dress Up Like Nazis for Fun

Stacy Kranitz doesn’t shy away from violent, uncomfortable situations—as a photographer of cockfights and drunk, bloody, rowdy men, they’re practically her specialty. That’s part of what drew her, as well as her friend and fellow photographer Marisha Camp, to photograph American re-enactors of Germans in World War II for her series, “Targets Unknown.” Half out of necessity—those who attend the re-enactments are required to dress for the occasion—and half out of a desire to test the boundaries between subject and artist, Kranitz became an active member in the events she photographed.

Dec. 9 2014 12:38 PM

Anti-War Protests, Broken Down VW Buses, and Other Snapshots of American Life in the ’60s and ’70s

From a very young age, Jonathan Sa’adah had two hobbies: the news and mechanical objects. At 11, he bought his first camera, a Polaroid 95b. Then, on the advice of his older brother, he began working with a somewhat bulky Miranda Sensorex that he used through his enrollment at Dartmouth College.

During a one-year program at MIT, Sa’adah ended up working with photography legend Minor White, who encouraged Sa’adah to learn how to properly print in the darkroom. But it was a lunch with Gary Winogrand, who held workshops and photography contests at Dartmouth, that really influened Sa’adah’s photography career.

“He said you’re using a big bulky reflex camera. Get a Leica, you’ll be so happy that way,” Sa’adah recalled. “So after that, in 1969, I had an M4 Leica that was part of my hand. It still has the chrome rubbed off of it from me using it all the time.”