The Photo Blog

July 28 2015 11:41 AM

It Used to Be Impossible to Find Black Dolls in Stores, So People Made Them at Home

Before the 20th century, manufactured black dolls were virtually non-existent. In the 1930s, they were still tough to find in major cities. For decades, if black American parents wanted their children to have black dolls, the only way was to make them. Today, these dolls are treasured examples of American folk art.


Deborah Neff has been buying these dolls from flea markets, auctions, high-end antique shows, and dealers for decades. Her collection is the best in the world. The book, Black Dolls, which was co-published in April by Radius Books and the Mingei International Museum, features Ellen McDermott’s photographs of more than 100 dolls from the collection.

Video Advertisement

July 27 2015 12:20 PM

Is the 1 Percent That Different From the Rest of Us? 

Last year, Harvard Business School asked 55,000 people what they thought CEOs were earning compared to blue-collar workers. The median American guessed 30-to-1, a far cry from the actual estimate of 354-to-1.

Myles Little, an associate photo editor at Time, sees a lot of photography related to wealth inequality. A couple of years ago, after a conversation with the curator Daniel Brena in Mexico, Little began working on curating an exhibition that sought to highlight, through contemporary documentary photography, a glimpse into “the ecosystem of privilege, from work to education to leisure.”

July 26 2015 12:27 PM

One of NASCAR’s Most Storied Speedways Is Now a Decaying Wreck

For nearly 50 years, the North Wilkesboro Speedway in North Carolina was a landmark destination for racing fans. In 1947, it became the first NASCAR-sanctioned track, and, over the years the 0.625-miles of asphalt saw amazing victories from the sport’s legends, including Jeff Gordon and Richard Petty. In 1996, however, the speedway closed, and, besides a brief re-opening in 2010, it has since been left to decay.

July 24 2015 10:58 AM

This Is Where Your Coffee Comes From

A cup of coffee prepared quickly and consumed on the go may seem like one of life’s simplest pleasures. But the journey from bean to barista is not an easy one; it involves hundreds of people and thousands of miles. Over the past three decades, Steve McCurry met some of the small coffee farmers around the world who help make it happen and photographed them for his book, From These Hands, which Phaidon Press published in May.

July 23 2015 10:24 AM

How the Dutch Celebrate Their Birthdays: From 1 to 100 

Ilvy Njiokiktjien isn’t interested in celebrating her birthday. It’s not just the planning, opening of gifts, and making certain to thank everyone—for her, being the center of attention is an overwhelming and unwelcome experience.  

It’s not exactly the background one would expect from a photographer who, over the course of a couple of years, photographed 140 birthday celebrations, from a first to a 100th, in the Netherlands. The project, which became the book Cream Cake and Paper Chains, The Netherlands in 100 Birthdays that was published by Schilt, began when Njiokiktjien was named the national photographer of the Netherlands in 2013. The responsibilities that went with the honor were twofold: to create a body of work that represented Dutch culture and to act as a type of ambassador of Dutch photography.

For the photography project, Njiokiktjien decided to focus on the theme of family and from there narrowed it down to birthdays. She announced on national television that she was looking to find people to document and received thousands of emails, many of which she quickly realized wouldn’t work.

“Dutch people like it when something is free,” Njiokiktjien said. “They would get free pictures and some of them also wanted free advertising for their companies, so that was definitely one of the reasons they contacted me. I had to look hard to find the ones who wanted to do it to show Dutch culture.”

July 22 2015 11:24 AM

The Neurotic, Sexy, and Gross World of Food-Eating Competitions

In one photograph, neon orange hands dig into a vat of greasy looking chicken wings. In another, chunks of chili cascade out of overflowing mouths. A third features blueberry stains covering a woman’s face.

They’re all part of Nina Berman’s ongoing project “Eat to Win,” a look at some of the food-eating contests that take place around the United States.

Berman began working on the series when Noor, the photo collective of which she is a member, decided to focus on food for their annual group project. “At first I resisted participating in this project,” she said. “I didn’t want to just shoot garbage cans of wasted food; I wanted to come in with something strong.”

July 21 2015 11:13 AM

Magnum Photographers Show How Covering Civil War Has Changed

Since the beginning of the Magnum Photos cooperative agency, its elite photographers have been covering conflicts, including civil wars, around the world. But in the decades since its founding in 1947, the nature of warfare has changed, as has the nature of photojournalism. The exhibition, “Failing Leviathan: Magnum Photographers and Civil War,” which is on display at the National Civil War Centre in the U.K. until Nov. 5, shows those dual evolutions through the work of 11 photographers in 11 conflicts.

July 20 2015 10:49 AM

Meet the Scientists Who Helped Make Those Groundbreaking Pluto Photos Possible

When Kyle Cassidy got a call Friday afternoon from his longtime collaborator Kate McKinnon to see if he wanted to photograph the scientists behind NASA’s New Horizons space probe, he didn’t think twice before he agreed. He threw a bunch of equipment in a suitcase, got in his car, and drove from Philadelphia to Laurel, Maryland. By the evening, he’d set up a small studio in the lobby of mission control at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

McKinnon is married to William B. McKinnon, one of the mission scientists, and so she already knew all the people who worked on the craft, whose flyby past Pluto last week captivated people around the world. As more than 40 of the scientists came in and out of briefings that night and the next day, she wrangled them for Cassidy to photograph for a minute or two. Some of the scientists came in to the lab during their first day off in months just for the photograph. Others were still on the same hectic work schedule they’d been operating under for years.

“New Horizons is bringing back incredible amounts of information. No one thought Pluto would be as interesting as it’s turned out to be,” Cassidy said. “They were elated and overjoyed that there was all this stuff coming back, very relieved and excited. This was something they'd been waiting for 10 years—some for 14 years—to see.”

July 19 2015 9:12 AM

The People You Meet While Traveling Cross Country on a Greyhound Bus

Ian Willms has always had a bit of wanderlust. His desire to see the world has informed his photography, whether he is taking a literal journey retracing Mennonite ancestors around Europe, or an emotional one with his ailing father.

It’s unsurprising then that the Canadian photographer is also a fan of Jack Kerouac and the Beat poets. Inspired by the writings and philosophy of the Beats, as well as the bus travel found in the songs of the Delta blues musicians, Willms decided to work on cross-country project. In 2013, coincidentally on the eve of the 100th anniversary of Greyhound, Willms and a friend traveled from New York to Los Angles, taking pictures and recording audio along the route.

Willms writes a bit about his Greyhound experiences on what would become the series “The Hound”: “A man told me about the parasites that the government puts in your brain to control you. Someone snorted coke off a toilet seat while I took a piss in the next stall. … A man told me he was headed to Phoenix because no one there would know him. … Someone had a grenade in their luggage so the bomb squad shut down the bus station in Atlanta.”

July 17 2015 12:44 PM

This Crumbling Amusement Park Used to Be One of the Best in the U.K.

Built in 1920, the Dreamland amusement park in Margate, Kent, became world famous for its Scenic Railway, an innovative wooden rollercoaster that required a brakeman on board to operate. In 1921, nearly 1 million people rode the Railway, and, for the next 60 or so years, Dreamland was one of the most popular parks in the UK. By the 1980s, however, tourists stopped coming in the same numbers and by 2003 it was closed.


Among the millions who enjoyed Dreamland, even during its slow march toward closure, was Rob Ball. In his book, Dreamlands, which Dewi Lewis Publishing published in June, he revisits the park and explores its history through archival images, tintypes, and photographs of objects he found there.