The Photo Blog

Sept. 13 2016 12:34 PM

Photographing the Bold and the Beautiful in the Bronx

Kevin Amato makes photos for fashion campaigns, album covers, documentary series, editorial clients, and himself. But as they’re presented in his new book out from Phaidon this month, The Importants, without any way of distinguishing one type from another, it’s clear they’re all part of a singular aesthetic pursuit.

“There’s no difference between commercial and personal. I approach everything the same,” he said. “It’s all just a means of exploration and to make sense of things and to share it with other people and just expose them to it, and just fuck with people’s comfort zone and open them to the world as I think it is now.”

Sept. 12 2016 2:44 PM

What It Looks Like to Be Behind Bars in Four Different Countries

After photographing civil servants in eight countries across five continents for his book, Bureaucratics, Jan Banning thought looking at criminal justice systems around the world seemed like a logical next step. In his new book, Law & Order: The World of Criminal Justice, which will be released in the United States this fall, the Dutch photographer brings readers up close to prisons, police, and courts in Colombia, France, Uganda, and the United States.

“I’m interested in these aspects of society that are vital but not necessarily considered to be picturesque,” he said. “Basically, it’s an attempt to visually cope with the question of how we handle crime. I think it always makes tremendous sense to compare different societies as I’ve done with Bureaucratics because, of course, in comparison, the character of a specific society comes out.”


Sept. 9 2016 1:26 PM

How the World Trade Center’s Presence (and Absence) Changed New York’s Backdrop

In 1977, Brian Rose came to New York to study at Cooper Union. Like many other musicians and artists at the time, he spent most of his time downtown; he had very little interest in the twin towers, seemingly part of an entirely different city.

“The twin towers were essentially high-end urban renewal, an attempt to bring money and prestige to the fading financial district,” he wrote via email. “They were not in themselves something I was interested in, but they functioned as a backdrop for the visual urban drama that did fascinate me.”

That fascination propelled Rose to document a lot of lower New York during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Although they were often an afterthought for Rose and many other New Yorkers, the towers were a centering presence, used to get a sense of one’s bearings when exiting the subway stations.

“They were minimalist art, like Donald Judd boxes, cool and aloof from the passions of the street below,” Rose wrote. “So, when I photographed Lower Manhattan, the twin towers were always there, and the framing of my pictures naturally locked onto them even if they were far in the distance.”

Eventually, Rose moved to Amsterdam, although he made frequent trips back to New York for work. It was from Amsterdam where he watched the events of Sept. 11 on CNN; he was on one of the first planes out of Europe a few days later headed for New York.

Although he isn’t a photojournalist, Rose did document his experiences during the aftermath of the tragedy. “I stayed back, observing, as is my usual modus operandi,” he said. “Later, I looked for a way to purposefully re-engage with the city that clearly meant so much to me.”

Sept. 8 2016 12:18 PM

All of These People Are at Least 100 Years Old

While working on his book If I Live to Be 100, published by Rizzoli, Paul Mobley listened to a lot of advice from the subjects he photographed and interviewed. “Some would say the key to long life: Don’t go to the doctor,” he said.

A lot of them recommended getting a dog. Many suggested drinking, which ranged from having a daily beer to a “standing breakfast date every morning with Mr. Jack Daniels.” Many people worked outside for a lot of their lives, kept physically fit, and didn’t take much medicine.

Mobley said he enjoyed spending time around a demographic that is often celebrated for reaching that milestone (there are more than 70,000 centenarians in the United States) yet is often ignored. “People at that age have so much to say,” he said. “If people would take the time to ask them or listen to them … they’re so full of life and want to share it with other people.”

The idea for If I Live to Be 100 took root while Mobley was working on a book about American farmers, when he noticed parents or grandparents of his subjects hanging around their houses. “I would ask, ‘Is that your dad? How old is he?’ ” Mobley recalled. “And they would say, ‘Oh, he’s 103.’ ”

Over the next couple of years, Mobley, along with his wife and dog, traveled around the Lower 48 by Airstream RV meeting with and photographing his subjects. (He also traveled to Alaska and Hawaii.)

Sept. 7 2016 12:52 PM

Why Has This Egyptian Photojournalist Been Imprisoned for More Than 1,000 Days?

When supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi clashed with Egyptian security forces on Aug. 14, 2013 in Cairo’s Raba'a Al-Adawiya Square, freelance photographer Mahmoud Abou Zeid, better known as “Shawkan,” like any other working journalist in the city, was there to cover it.

The clashes turned violent, and hundreds were killed. Shawkan, meanwhile, was detained with journalists from France and the United States. While they were eventually released, Shawkan was not. He was charged, along with hundreds of protesters, with weapons possession, illegal assembly, murder, and attempted murder—all of which he has denied.

Still, for more than 1,000 days since his arrest, Shawkan has been held in Cairo’s Tora Prison, where his health has deteriorated. For the first two years of his imprisonment, he was not granted a trial. Now, finally, he’s included in a mass trial that involves more than 700 other defendants. While, on paper, that’s an improvement, says Yasmin El-Rifae, the Middle East and North Africa research associate for the Committee to Protect Journalists, it’s “not anything that one can describe as being just.”

Sept. 6 2016 1:09 PM

These Fun and Fantastical “Dress Tents” Explore Female Identity and Politics

The idea to make a dress tent came to Robin Lasser and Adrienne Pao in a sudden burst of inspiration.

“Robin and I just kind of came up with this idea of what it would be like to have a woman be completely self-sufficient, where she can carry her home on her back and travel anywhere in the world—kind of like a snail in a way,” said Pao, associate director of the graduate photography program at Academy of Art University in San Francisco.

Sept. 4 2016 10:17 AM

This New York Street Photographer Took 30,000 Images in a Decade

Richard Bram’s new book, Richard Bram New York, published by Peanut Press, contains 51 photographs that were edited down from an astonishing 30,000 frames.

“This is not an exaggeration,” Bram wrote via email. “Editing is the other half of the skill equation. This is the hardest task for any photographer. … This is a very painful process.”

When Bram started thinking about putting together a book, he said it became clear that it should be like a greatest-hits album. He pulled images from 2005–15, with the majority coming from the latter five years. He feels it’s a summary of his time living in New York; he is currently preparing to return to London, where he has worked and taught off and on since the 1990s.

New York and London offer strong settings for street photography because they are both dense, with sidewalks teaming with people almost all of the time, Bram says. “In some ways, it is easier to work on the streets in New York,” he wrote. “It is so crowded that no one notices another guy with a camera in a city swarming with tourists. … There are more neuroses on view per square meter than any place I’ve ever been.”

Sept. 2 2016 10:16 AM

In Front of This Photographer’s Camera, LGBTQ Bangladeshis Can Be Themselves

The LGBTQ Bangladeshis in Gazi Nafis Ahmed’s series “Inner Face” look by turns joyous, tranquil, and carefree, but outside the small worlds of love and acceptance they’ve built together, life in Bangladesh is precarious. Same-sex relations are criminalized in the country, and LGBTQ people there can be arrested based on their appearance alone. They’re also in danger of verbal, physical, and sexual assault, and the threats have increased alongside the rise of Islamist fundamentalism. In April, Xulhaz Mannan, the founding editor of Bangladesh’s first and only LGBTQ magazine, Roopbaan, and his friend, Tonoy Mahbub, were hacked to death by extremists in Dhaka.

“I explore love in my work. Love is what matters—love for each other and the love that we pour into the art we feel compelled to share. We human beings are here for a certain period of time, and during this time if we’re not allowed to be who we are, we are not appreciating the gift that was given us. We are only saved by love,” Ahmed said.

Sept. 1 2016 12:20 PM

These Simple yet Stylish Portraits Celebrate American Sikhs

Three years ago, British Sikh photographers Amit Amin and Naroop Jhooti began noticing that beards had become a popular fashion statement among hip Londoners. That got them thinking about Sikh men, for whom facial hair isn't merely a fad. For the next year and a half, they photographed 36 Sikhs of all ages and occupations, including a boxer, a magician, a watchmaker, and a filmmaker, for their series, “The Singh Project.” Their studio photographs highlighted the distinct ways they wore their turbans and beards, both ancient signifiers of Sikh identity.

Aug. 31 2016 10:46 AM

170 Years of the World’s Greatest Sports Photos

If you’re missing the excitement of the Olympic Games, no need to worry—there’s an exhibition currently on view at the Brooklyn Museum that celebrates more than 170 years of sports photography.

Show curator Gail Buckland, who also curated the Brooklyn Museum exhibition “Who Shot Rock & Roll: A Photographic History, 1955 to the Present,” enjoys bringing every genre of photography into the exhibition fold. “When I did ‘Who Shot Rock and Roll,’ I realized I could not only enlarge the canon, I could bring people into an art museum who have never gone in before,” she wrote via email. “And do so without compromising the aesthetic, intellectual, societal, historical requisites of a major museum.”

“Rock and roll is big, but sports is even bigger,” she added. “It has a longer history. The drive to stop the boy in motion is as old as the Greeks and a perennial subject of artists.”

The exhibition incudes roughly 230 photographs taken by more than 170 photographers, including well-known sports shooters such as Bob Martin and Al Bello; iconic images such as the raised fists of Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City; and photographers who were known for images they took of athletes when they weren’t competing.