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The Photo Blog

July 19 2016 11:04 AM

Creem Magazine’s Office Life Was As Entertaining As the Musicians It Covered

In 1969, Barry Kramer and Tony Reay founded the music magazine Creem. Its irreverent tone quickly gained a dedicated readership, and during its peek, Creem’s circulation was second only to Rolling Stone for a music magazine. After two decades, the magazine closed in 1989, with  a brief second life in the 1990s.

A new documentary from director Scott Crawford, a music magazine editor, and J.J. Kramer, son of Barry Kramer, looks to “explore the sometimes larger than life personalities of the magazine’s staff and their relationships to the artists they covered,” according to a Kickstarter campaign launched to help fund the film.

Crawford said that as a kid, he published a punk rock fanzine inspired by Creem. “When I got older and was fortunate enough to make a living at running my own music magazine,Creem served as a template for me,” he wrote via email. “It’s an attitude and a sensibility that I’ve carried with me since first discovering Lester Bangs (an early editor of Creem) as an awkward kid. It’s a story that’s long overdue.”

The documentary, according to J.J. Kramer, will tell the story of “a group of self-described misfits [who] came together in Detroit and created what is arguably the most vital music magazine during that era.”

July 18 2016 12:51 PM

What It Means to Be Young, Black, and Male in the U.S.

As George Zimmerman stood trial for the death of Trayvon Martin in 2013, 26-year-old Joshua Rashaad McFadden couldn’t help but reflect on what it meant to be black and male in America.

In the years since, as he observed the culpability and character of black boys and young men gunned down by police endlessly dissected in the media, his thoughts zeroed in on questions of identity and image: How do black men in America see themselves? And how are they seen by others?

Last year, he started looking outward for answers through interviews and photo shoots with fellow young black men. The results are collected in a book, Come to Selfhood, which is available for preorder now from Ceiba Foto.

July 17 2016 10:07 AM

The Dwindling Facial Tattoo Tradition of Myanmar’s Lai Tu Chin Tribe

When the military gained control of Myanmar, also known as Burma, in the 1960s, it was the beginning of decades of abuse for the ethnic Chin people, a minority of more than a million people spread across dozens of tribes in the western part of the country. According to a 2009 Human Rights Watch report, the Chin suffered “forced labor, arbitrary arrests and detention, torture, religious repression and other restrictions on fundamental freedoms” at the hands of the junta.

The military’s grip on the country had already begun to weaken by 2010, but its reign was long enough to significantly suppress Chin culture and all but erase the old Chin tradition of facial tattooing for women. The exact origin and original meaning of the tradition is unknown, but it’s clear that by the time the practice was banned, the tattoos were considered coming-of-age symbols and marks of beauty. While the practice continued to a much lesser extent after it was outlawed, young Chin women today no longer receive the tattoos. The women who carry them now are likely the last of their kind.

Seoul-based family photographer Dylan Goldby was on vacation in the town of Mrauk U in Rakhine state in June 2015 when he decided to take a boat trip to some nearby villages. That’s where he first encountered members of the Lai Tu Chin tribe, whose remaining tattooed women, the Hmäe Sün Näe Ti Cengkhü Nu, bear a distinctive spider-web pattern of ink on their faces.

Like many foreign visitors before him, Goldby found the women intriguing and began photographing them over the next couple days as he and his guide traveled along the Lay Mro River, beyond the villages the local government designated for tours. Goldby returned to the area in February, this time with videographer Wesley Chang, and visited around 20 villages, photographing more than 100 tattooed women along the way. He also photographed Lai Tu Chin people with cultural artifacts and clothing they’d managed to hide from the military.

“There wasn’t any question of whether I should do it. It was just, ‘You kind of have to do this.’ Compulsion is probably a good word for it,” he said.

July 15 2016 10:58 AM

A Black Photographer Changes Her Race in These Portraits to Challenge Ideas About Identity

Stacey Tyrell believes that a good start when talking about race relations would be to acknowledge that whichever race we are, we are all human beings entitled to basic human rights. “Then we can discuss issues that need to be dealt with, regardless of how messy or ugly they might be,” she wrote via email.

Unfortunately, the ways in which we deal with and define race is often simply by looking at people and placing them into specific boxes.

Five years ago, Tyrell began working on a series that sought to challenge our ideas of race through a performative photography project titled “Backra Bluid.” Although Tyrell identifies as black, her background also includes English, Irish, and Scottish heritages. As a child growing up in a predominately white neighborhood, Tyrell felt alienated when her classmates would acknowledge a heritage in which she shared but was never included. It created a sense of confusion, both for her and for her classmates, a trend that she says has continued into adulthood.

“The weariness and discomfort that I perceive from a lot of people has a few parts to it,” she wrote. “I think part of it stems from not really having the basic vocabulary in which to speak on racial issues. When I say this I specifically mean if someone has never been on the receiving end of negative racial bias or stereotypes and therefore has no life experience with which to speak from, there is only so much they can perceive things as being problematic.”

July 13 2016 10:39 AM

These Photos Ask: What Does It Mean to Be an American?

Ruben Natal-San Miguel became disenchanted with the often heated and insensitive conversations about what it means to be an American that flood his social media feeds.

“Witnessing how friendships were destroyed due to difference in politics, religion, sexual orientation, race, gun culture and social/economic class differences, everything exploded and the true colors of some came out,” he wrote via email. “Then all of these questions came to mind. What is it to be an American and who is an American? Who has the rights and true values to be considered an American? Does one’s skin color, social strata, wealth, power, religious or political views make one more American or not?”

Natal-San Miguel, a photographer and curator, wanted to find a way to explore what was happening online and curate an event that would turn the negative, confrontational climate into something positive. He wanted to “provide a platform of hope, togetherness, something that will mirror the current times that we are living and that by showing the wonderful range and kaleidoscope of people, places and situation the artists and the public could see themselves in a unifying manner.”

He approached Leah Oates, owner of Station Independent Projects in New York’s Lower East Side, about co-jurying an exhibition they titled “WE:AMEricans.” The “Me/We” part of the title is a reference to a Glenn Ligon installation based on a Muhammad Ali speech; separating out “Ricans” is a nod toward Natal-San Miguel’s Puerto Rican heritage whose “status and acceptance is yet to be resolved,” he notes.

July 12 2016 9:58 AM

Cruising Low and Slow in New Mexico, Where Cars Are Works of Art

Some car enthusiasts look for speed or power in their ideal rides. But in northern New Mexico, where lowriding thrives, it’s all about height—or the lack thereof.

Hispanic Americans have been dropping their cars to mere inches off the ground since at least the mid-20th century, when lowriding developed as a laid-back alternative to a high-octane hot rod culture largely dominated by whites. Drivers in Los Angeles and El Paso, who weighed their cars down with sandbags, were early innovators. Today, drivers around the world use hydraulic systems to not only drop their vehicles but bounce or “hop” them several feet in the air.

For many in northern New Mexico, lowriding is a way of life and an essential outlet of local artistic and cultural expression. In the exhibit “Lowriders, Hoppers, and Hot Rods: Car Culture of Northern New Mexico,” which is on display at the New Mexico History Museum until March 5, curator Daniel Kosharek presents more than 120 images from 31 photographers of spectacular vehicles and their owners and mechanics, as well as car show attendees.

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.

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