The Photo Blog

Jan. 18 2015 10:19 AM

Life Never Ran These Striking Images of What It Was Like to Be Black in 1950s America

Gordon Parks hadn’t been to his hometown, Fort Scott, Indiana, in more than 20 years when he returned there in 1950 as a photojournalist on assignment for Life magazine. Growing up as the youngest of 15 children, Parks attended the Plaza School, an all-black grade school in the heavily segregated town. Now, as the first black man hired full-time by the magazine, Parks wanted to find and photograph all 11 of his classmates from grade school as a way of measuring the impact of school segregation. The photo essay he created, which was never published, will be on display at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in the exhibition, “Gordon Parks: Back to Fort Scott,” beginning Jan. 17. 

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Jan. 16 2015 9:59 AM

Making Beautiful Images Out of the Most Disgusting Things on Earth

Marcus DeSieno likes to play God, collecting and breeding bacteria into a “luscious ecosystem” on photographic film of appropriated images from outer space he then coats with chemistry. The bacteria strip away layers on the film creating colorful abstract images that DeSieno then scans to make prints. Some of those results are part of his series “Cosmos.”

“I have a large collection of dead parasites floating in jars of alcohol on my shelves, half-disassembled ham radios stuffed under the desk that holds my microscope, Petri dishes of bacteria growing everywhere, (badly) taxidermied animals and skeletons from all sorts of creatures, and specimen incubators that I ‘liberated’ form an abandoned life-sciences building at a university,” he wrote via email.

When he began working on “Cosmos” a year ago, DeSieno collected samples from restaurants and hotels, as well as television remotes, iPhones, and even his own body. He then decided to push things further. Inspired by old Dateline specials about “what’s really in your hotel room” he went after a more human, often humorous experience, taking samples from rides at Disney World, glory holes in adult bookstores, and motel hot tubs “in a quest to find the most exotic locations, to explore the foulest, most alien places this country has to offer as I searched to find this invisible life.”


Jan. 15 2015 10:43 AM

This Photographer’s Creative Way of Processing a Relationship

The cliché that time heals all wounds might be true, but, for Matthew Swarts, after a painful end to a long-term relationship, the passing of time only created a sense of confused detachment, especially when looking at old photographs.

So Swarts decided to use those images to process the end of the relationship, creating his series “Beth.” He reworked the images by blending them with patterns he created from scans of graph and architectural paper.

While working on “Beth,” he was also involved in a new relationship he describes as “powerfully healing and sustaining in important ways.”

As a result, he began working on a second series, “The Alternatives,” that further explored his consciousness and his art. Using images he had collected online for more than a decade—including optical illusions, children’s illustrations, maps, and even school papers—Swarts mixed them up to create unique patterns. Using Photoshop, he then layered those patterns over the collection of images he kept from his ended relationship.

Jan. 14 2015 10:13 AM

Learning How to Cope With Seasonal Affective Disorder

As celebrations surrounding the new year end, the reality for people living in colder climates begins to settle in, one filled with freezing temperatures and days that are long and dark.

For a number of people, winter also marks the beginning of a recurring bout of depression known as seasonal affective disorder, classified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a specifier for major depressive disorder.

Arko Datto moved to Denmark in 2013 to study at the Danish School of Journalism. He arrived in January during one of the coldest winters Denmark had faced in recent history. “It was minus ten degrees for a long time,” Datto recalled. “It kind of hit me in a very big way. I retreated myself into a shell and had low energy levels.”

Datto said that although he doesn’t believe he had a clinical case of SAD, for a long while his lack of energy and motivation contributed to his inability to take pictures. Part of the reason he was able to overcome his feelings of depression was the knowledge that he would be returning to India within the year. When he was finally ready to pick up his camera again, he felt he had a better understanding of what people who suffer from SAD were dealing with and began working on a series about the disorder.

Jan. 13 2015 10:28 AM

Stunning Photos of the World’s Most Beautiful Theaters 

From the ancient to the ultra modern, theaters are among the most visually diverse and awe-inspiring buildings in the world. A new book, Reflections: Theatres, which was published by Roads in November, pays tribute to these architectural gems. 

Jan. 12 2015 11:29 AM

These Images Are Designed to Trick You

Other peoples’ junk—dated encyclopedias, vintage photography manuals, and snapshots—is the stuff of Sara Cwynar’s art. 

Jan. 11 2015 11:00 AM

Children Photographed With Their Most Prized Possessions 

Anna Ream tried careers in both investment banking and financial advising, but often felt like a fraud. When she started studying photography in 2008, things finally clicked.

“I find with photography I don’t care how dumb my questions sound because I’m so driven to know the answer,” she said. “I’ve always been on the quiet end of things, and this has given me a voice that nothing has in my life and I want to learn how to use that effectively.”

Early on in that process, Ream turned her camera on what was both near and dear: her children.

Jan. 9 2015 11:40 AM

This Guy Took a Photo Every Time He Saw Someone Reading a Book on the Subway

Reinier Gerritsen doesn’t think books will be around much longer. That’s why you see them everywhere you look in his series, “The Last Book,” which is on display at New York City’s Julie Saul Gallery through Feb. 7. 

Like a scientist cataloging the last of an endangered species, the Dutch photographer wandered the New York City subway system for weeks, snapping pictures of readers of printed books among an increasingly dominant population of iPhone and Kindle readers.


Jan. 8 2015 11:00 AM

What’s Left of Former Soviet Cultural Centers 

In the former Soviet Union, Palaces of Culture—known in Russian as Dvrortzi Kultury, or DKs—were important community centers. They hosted dance performances, hobby groups, and movie screenings. Today, many still stand, but few are operational or properly funded. 


Jan. 7 2015 11:00 AM

A Look at How Youth Violence Affects Communities in Philadelphia and Chicago

Carlos Javier Ortiz began working on what would become his series “We All We Got” in 2006, when stray bullets in Chicago killed two young girls—one was celebrating her 11th birthday in her home, the other was getting ready to go to school.

Ortiz wanted to tell the entire story of youth violence that focused on both the despair and resilience of the affected communities. He began introducing himself to the people who lived in neighborhoods in Chicago and Philadelphia where youth violence had occurred and asked if he could photograph them.