The Photo Blog

July 11 2016 10:14 AM

These Images Show How Young Syrian Refugees See War

Brian McCarty makes a living photographing toys for high-profile clients such as Disney, Nickelodeon, and Cartoon Network. But in his own time, he makes photographs of toys that serve a vastly different and entirely noncommercial purpose.

Since 2011, he’s been traveling to the Middle East to make photos that represent children’s views of war and displacement for his project War-Toys. He partners with NGOs to find adolescent participants and works with art therapist Myra Saad, who helps the kids make drawings about their memories and talk about them. Then, using local toys in nearby environments, McCarty recreates the scenes and turns them into photographs.

The scenes are often devastating. Missiles drop from the sky, people bleed on the ground, and tanks menace homes. But McCarty doesn’t intend for his work to weigh in on specific conflicts. Instead, he hopes his images help focus attention on the ways violence impacts the world’s most innocent and vulnerable.

“It’s hard not to get outraged at the things you experience and the things you see and want to affect change the way you can,” McCarty said.

July 10 2016 10:24 AM

How a Painter Fell in Love With Photography

Elizabeth Huey first started taking photographs as source material for her paintings. She was painting scenes from the early 1900s and realized that the Hasidic community, a quick walk from where she lived in Brooklyn, were perfect subjects for what she wanted to paint. The more she took photos, the more she became attracted to the medium.

“What happened there was this progression for me,” she said. “Sometimes the painting would drive the photographic image, and sometimes I would find an image and that would drive elements to the painting. I had a discourse between painting and photography.”

Huey said that although painting was her first love, she enjoyed getting out into the streets to take photographs. She felt a bit like a hermit, holed up in her studio.

“I do see something in the world, and I think, ‘Oh, I should get a photo of that because I want to remember that for a future painting,’ ” she said. “But then there are other times when I think I better take a photo of that because that could never be a painting.”

As a teenager, Huey got in trouble a lot and was placed in the controversial treatment facility Straight, Incorporated, where she said she had to sit in chairs from 8 a.m. until midnight with nothing to do. It was particularly brutal for a kid who wanted nothing more than to express herself through her art.

July 8 2016 11:02 AM

Ansel Adams Took Gorgeous Landscape Photos—and Made a Mean Eggs Poached in Beer

If you only think of Ansel Adams as a master of black-and-white landscapes, you probably never ate his eggs poached in beer. Why limit William Eggleston to color photography? His cheese grits casserole is equally as impressive. Add “key lime pie supreme” to the list of great works of Stephen Shore, or Robert Heinecken’s “serious martini,” which is never made with Beefeater gin and always includes a “California” lemon.

July 7 2016 10:12 AM

The People Who Craft World-Class Steinway Pianos

Christopher Payne first toured the Astoria, Queens, factory where Steinway & Sons pianos are made in 2002 during a weekend open house. His father and grandmother were both pianists, and years later, after they died,his memories of the factory took on a spiritual significance.

“I felt an obligation to return to take pictures of the instrument so deeply connected to my family,” he said via email.

Between 2011 and 2015, Payne visited the factory more than 50 times to do just that. His photos are now collected in a book, Making Steinway, which was released in June through Steinway and New York’s Benrubi Gallery.

July 6 2016 11:24 AM

Are These Images of People Resting in New York Dreamy or Voyeuristic?

Michael Massaia’s dreamy black-and-white photographs of Central Park speak to his aesthetic of isolation and detachment. Landscapes like these can look hauntingly beautiful, but it’s tricky to create the same feeling using human subjects. For the past decade, Massaia has worked on a series with a focus on people, also taken in Central Park (although some are from Bryant Park) that he titles “Deep in a Dream.”

“I’m not a portrait guy,” he said. “I don’t like it when people know there’s a camera in the vicinity, even if a photographer uses the more ‘candid’ shots taken in between. People just act differently when they know there’s a camera around; when they understand that in some way, everything is different. They become an exaggerated version of themselves.”

When Massaia first began photographing his often-sleeping subjects, he did it from a distance, using a large-format camera with a long lens. But he didn’t like the results: The photographs, he said, were too “flat,” and it was obvious he was shooting from a distance. To mix things up, Massaia kept his bulkier camera but put on a much shorter lens and stood around a foot away from his subjects.

Massaia said often spends a week at a time walking from Bryant Park up about 70 blocks to Central Park’s Great Lawn. He said he looks for sculptural poses and might get one usable image during that period. Grass, he said, is important, because it allows him the chance to produce deeper blacks in the darkroom. (By contrast, he said, he would never be able to pull off the work if his subjects were on sand.) He also uses a flash to create even richer tones.

July 5 2016 10:12 AM

These People Were Likely Victims of a Swedish Eugenics Institution

In 2005, Norwegian artist Anne-Karin Furunes was browsing in the library at Sweden’s Uppsala University when she happened upon a curious collection of photographs. They were photos of unidentified people categorized according to groups such as “criminals,” “Gypsies,” and “Jews.”


The photos, she learned, were from the archive of the State Institute for Racial Biology, a eugenics institution established in 1922. Its first director, the physician Herman Bernhard Lundborg, believed that unsavory genes needed to be rooted out of the Swedish population to ensure the dominance of a superior race. The institute’s research was ultimately used to justify a shameful government program that led to the forced sterilizations of nearly 63,000 people—a vast majority of whom were women—between 1935 and 1975. Many European nations created similar programs in the years leading up to World War II.


“I believe the photos were made as part of a process of mapping their so-called ‘research.’ Lundborg was systematically mapping the Swedish people,” Furunes said via email.

July 4 2016 10:39 AM

Powerful Photos From America’s 1960s and ’70s

Ken Light knew he would become a photojournalist on April 28, 1970. While studying at Ohio University, Light traveled to Ohio State University where he photographed the student riots that took place a week before the tragic events at Kent State University.

“Those pictures were published all over the world and it was kind of like, wow, this is really, really powerful,” Light said. “It was at that point I realized I loved doing photography and loved the idea of having a powerful voice and being able to observe the world I was interacting in a seeing things that needed to be changed; things that people were ignoring.”

Light spent the next four years traveling around the country documenting one of the most turbulent periods in American history. He followed Richard Nixon, war protests, POWs coming home, as well as some quiet, profound moments of daily American life. He recently self-published an edit of the work in the book What’s Going On? 1969–1974.

July 3 2016 10:06 AM

Imitation Is the Highest Form of Flattery for These Americans and Europeans

Naomi Harris remembers the thrill of visiting Europe when she was in her 20s and returning home with something special that wasn’t available in North America. Today, you don’t need a plane ticket to track down those unique items; you simply need access to the Internet.

“We are able to go online and learn about one another and there aren’t as many differences,” Harris said. “It’s harder to be unique and harder to have your own culture be unique and stand out because we are all using those things that make a Frenchman a Frenchman or a Dutchman a Dutchman; everyone wants to be the same. Or maybe it’s more: everybody is the same whether they want to be or not.”

July 1 2016 10:17 AM

These Portraits Prove Old Dogs Are the Best Dogs

Nancy LeVine spent nearly a decade documenting her dogs Maxie and LuLu, which taught her valuable lessons about art and life. As the pups showed signs of aging, around 2004, LeVine found inspiration in the way they managed their changing bodies.


“They [aged] so exquisitely and naturally as part of their disposition; it was something I just wanted to spend more time with and observe,” she said.


For the next 12 years, she did just that. As she traveled across America, she contacted animal sanctuaries, rescue groups, veterinarians, and friends in order to find elderly dogs to photograph. Her book, Senior Dogs Across America, which is published by Schiffer Publishing, presents 86 of her best portraits.

June 30 2016 10:06 AM

Guess Which Environmental Scourge Is the Star of These Gorgeous Images

Has a plastic bag ever been as profoundly captured as the one that dances in the wind during American Beauty? Vilde Rolfsen was also inspired by plastic bags, although instead of filming them, she decided to photograph them for a series titled “Plastic Bag Landscapes.”

As a child, Rolfsen said she was an abstract painter but was also always interested in documenting things. She got her first camera when she was 15, and when she moved to Paris a few years later, she said she began recording everyday life around her.

Rolfsen wanted to work with an everyday object, and she stumbled on to the plastic bag in a serendipitous way: While adjusting her camera, the inside of a plastic bag was over the lens. She was inspired by what she saw and set out to find bags to photograph. Because she didn’t want to contribute to landfill waste, she found all of the bags in the street, at school, or in the house where she lives with roommates; she would then take them back to her studio to photograph them.