Farewell, Behold! Here Are the Five Posts That Stuck With Us.
Four years ago, former Slate photo editor Heather Murphy hired me to work on a brand-new photography blog called Behold. Since then, we’ve produced about six stories a week, covering art photography, documentary photography, and everything in between. We interviewed photographers—in person, via Skype, on the phone, or by email—and gave them a space to speak honestly and authentically about their work, in addition to introducing Slate readers to their beautiful, wild, and sometimes weird images.
Today marks the end for Behold. I hope you discovered something new, or maybe you fell in love again with work that was already special to you. I’m sure you also disagreed with some of our choices, but I hope you were able to open your mind a bit and try to understand what the photographer was after when he or she worked on a photograph. I’m happy Behold was able to give Slate readers a glimpse into the many worlds that exist within the photography community.
As a final sendoff, here are the five posts that had the biggest impact on me during my Behold tenure:
Using Portraiture to Explore Identity and Queerness in South Africa
If Zanele Muholi’s series “Faces and Phases” and “Somnyama Ngonyama” have one idea in common, it’s that identity is both powerful and malleable.
In the former, which comprises more than 300 photos of black lesbians and queer people in South Africa, identity is bravely expressed in the face of significant danger. Although same-sex marriage is legal in the country and discrimination based on sexuality is prohibited, violence against LGBTQ people is common. Muholi, who co-founded the Forum for Empowerment of Women in 2002, was an activist before she was an artist. When hate crimes spiked in her country, she started photographing the women in her community as an extension of that activism and as a way to assert their humanity and resist their oppression. Frequently, they face the camera head on, as though directly confronting those who would deny them their rights or their lives.
“The point of it is about creating this archive or record and making them visible. It’s an act of empowerment, of adding them to history,” said Kevin Moore, curator of “Zanele Muholi: Personae,” an exhibition on display at Cincinnati’s National Underground Railroad Freedom Center from Saturday until Jan. 23 as part of the FotoFocus Biennial.
This Photographer Playfully Blurs the Line Between Personal and Commercial Images
Roe Ethridge takes artistic and editorial conventions and turns them upside down.
In Ethridge’s practice, commercial work becomes artistic, and personal work looks commercial. Photographs of himself and his family are marked by the slick lighting and glossy finish more commonly found in magazines. His photographs for newspapers and corporate clients, meanwhile, are unusually intimate, and they often end up hanging in his art shows. Frequently, he digitally manipulates found professional images into something altogether messier and more interesting.
The results are often wryly humorous and sometimes uncomfortable, but they undoubtedly speak to the contradictions and ambiguities of visual culture in the 21st century. His work is on display beginning Saturday until March 12 at Cincinnati’s Contemporary Arts Center in the exhibition “Roe Ethridge: Nearest Neighbor,” as part of the FotoFocus Biennial.
Behind the Scenes at the First-Ever Miss Trans Israel Beauty Pageant
Tel Aviv, Israel, has long been celebrated as a rare bastion of tolerance for LGBTQ people in the Middle East. This May, it hosted the first ever Miss Trans Israel beauty pageant, which is sure to only add to that reputation.
Israeli Associated Press photographer Oded Balilty got more access to the event than most photographers. In addition to covering the show itself, he documented rehearsals at HaBima, Israel’s national theater, in the days leading up to it and photographed the contestants backstage as they prepared their makeup and outfits. His photos were recently on display in an exhibition presented by Shutterstock and the Associated Press as part of Brooklyn’s Photoville.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.