The Photo Blog

Aug. 15 2016 10:05 AM

Rolling Stone’s First Staff Photographer Reflects on Woodstock on Its 47th Anniversary

Forty-seven years after the Woodstock Music and Art Fair, it’s arguable whether there has since been anything like it. Baron Wolman, Rolling Stone’s first staff photographer, photographed the inaugural festival, which actually took place an hour’s drive from Woodstock, New York, in Bethel, New York, beginning Aug. 15, 1969. No one knew what to expect, he said, except the music lineup “was dynamite.”

“Like a bee is attracted to a flower, the people couldn’t resist,” he wrote via email. “For me, the moment I encountered that enormous stage and a crowd of untold thousands, I was literally blown away. I had never, ever experienced anything like it. Nobody had.”

During the festival, Wolman shot about 30 rolls of black-and-white film, a number of images that might today be equaled in a few hours by someone with an iPhone. Wolman didn’t shoot in color because Rolling Stone didn’t print in color at that time. In addition,  Wolman and Jim Marshall were working on the book Festival! A Book of American Music Celebrations that took them around the country documenting a variety of music festivals. Wolman’s images also became part of the book Woodstock, and the work is currently being shown in London at Proud Camden Exhibition and in Los Angeles at Mr. MusicHead Gallery, which also features Wolman’s music portraits.

Wolman approached shooting Woodstock as a documentary project, since he had already photographed most of the bands by that time. “The people and their experience at this unique festival became my focus,” he wrote.

Aug. 14 2016 10:11 AM

This Is What Life Looks Like for Pakistanis With and Without Clean Water Access

As temperatures skyrocket this summer, heat-related illness isn’t the only threat to public health. Water scarcity is also a major concern. Rainfall gets scant when the mercury runs high, and according to the Washington Post, ascending sea levels in the Middle East are making groundwater too salty to use for drinking or agriculture.

For those living in the Indus River Delta in southeastern Pakistan’s Thatta region, these issues are a daily reality. Water is hard to come by, and many have to spend hours traveling every day to get it from canals connected to Keenjhar Lake. Since the region is near the coast, it’s particularly susceptible to saline intrusion and flooding. In 2010, when devastating floods tore through the country, the Indus Delta was one of the worst affected areas.

For two weeks this February, New York–based photographer Malin Fezehai, on a commission from the H&M Foundation and WaterAid, visited the region to document how water scarcity and climate change affect the lives of the area’s poor and marginalized families. Her photos are featured in the exhibition “Noori Tales: Stories From the Indus Delta,” which is on display at Kungsträdgarden in Stockholm from Monday until Sept. 4.

Aug. 12 2016 11:34 AM

A Pittsburgh Photographer Wants These Images to Change Your View of His Hometown

Jake Reinhart and his wife, Julie, live in a house in Pittsburgh that her grandfather built. It’s in the same neighborhood their parents grew up in. Both of them have family buried in the cemetery down the street.

That history resonated with Reinhart. “I started thinking of this sense of deep roots that go on for generations and just trying to make sense of it, this sense of belonging,” he said.

He decided to explore photographically his own sense of home and, on a wider scale, how the people and landscape of Pittsburgh have evolved over the years. The images he made are part of the series “Homespun.”

Reinhart’s influences range from some of Pittsburgh’s most famous photographers, including Walker Evans, Eugene Smith, and LaToya Ruby Frazier, and he thought of them and their experiences as he began to explore their shared hometown.

“I was already familiar with the fact that this is a topic that has been out there and discussed and presented a number of times, so I wanted to think about the history of Pittsburgh, not just the history in terms of the steel mill, but for generations of people who have lived here and what this region represented,” he said.

He also considered the influence of the French and Indian War, the ways in which the three rivers have segregated the landscape and the city’s various communities, how as industries—from timber to fur to steel and coal—have gone from boom to bust, and what kept people living there.

Aug. 11 2016 11:12 AM

Your Summer Grilling Meats Could Have Come From These Colossal Animal Feedlots

While Mishka Henner was searching for satellite images of oil fields in the United States for a project, he came across a lot of small black-and-white microbial-looking dots. The dots turned out to be cattle on feedlots—essentially large-scale animal feeding operations that raise livestock quickly and cheaply for slaughter and consumption.

Because he didn’t know about feedlots or how they worked, Henner scanned through thousands of images and downloaded state registers for feedlots; he read government studies and research reports and became fascinated by what he learned. From the images he downloaded, he edited his search down to seven feedlot sites that are part of his series “Feedlots.”

Henner said he wanted to create images that highlighted how the meat industry works, as well as our culture’s approach to eating animals. “[T]his is so central to our attitude to food and to profit and to mass production and mass consumption; it was almost an ideal image that manages somehow to be mysterious and at the same time to have the entire logic there in one single frame,” Henner said.

Even with the satellite technology, Henner said he wasn’t able to include the largest feedlots in his edit—including them in their entirety would have created images that would have been 5 or 6 meters tall. Still, he feels the subjects he included in the series are able to convey a lot of what is happening on the ground.

“We live in a world where the scale of these industries are so vast,” he said. “We can’t see them, and we have no way to visualize them and as long as we can’t, then we struggle to conceptualize them and to get our heads around it to understand the scale and the consequences.”

Aug. 10 2016 10:42 AM

Take a Look Inside Bangkok’s Last Phone Booths

In Bangkok, as in many parts of the world where cellphones now dominate, phone booths are a dying breed. While thousands have already been removed, many thousands still stand, and they play an evolving—and fascinating—role in the urban landscape. On a visit to Bangkok in 2012, Frank Hallam Day walked by a booth one night and, as he observed headlights from a passing car brighten its glass walls, he was inspired to photograph it. He then started photographing booths all over the city and has continued to do so on annual trips to the city ever since.

Aug. 9 2016 10:12 AM

Photos of Merfest, BronyCon, and Other Delightfully Quirky American Conventions

They may be a little kooky and more than a little niche, but conventions are invaluable social spaces where Americans can get together and express themselves without reservation. Arthur Drooker knows this better than most. For three years, he photographed conventions all over the country where people gathered to celebrate shared interests, from ventriloquism to My Little Pony to taxidermy.

His first, in 2013, was the annual gathering of the Association of Lincoln Presenters in Columbus, Ohio. He’d gone there merely hoping to make some fun photographs of the 115 members who dress up as 16th president, but he emerged with a desire to explore conventions in depth. In so doing, he discovered something novel about American culture. In Conventional Wisdom, which is now available for preorder from Glitterati Press, he presents strange and often humorous photographs from 10 of his favorite gatherings.

Aug. 8 2016 10:16 AM

Elvis Presley “Tribute Artists” Are More Than Their Sideburns and Flashy Outfits

Erin Feinberg has always been an Elvis fan, but her book of Elvis impersonators came about serendipitously. Feinberg’s boyfriend was in Memphis recording an album, so she decided to join him. She didn’t realize they were there during Elvis Week, an annual festival that brings together Elvis fans from around the world the week before the anniversary of his death on Aug. 16.

“Sideburns and pompadours were swarming the streets,” Feinberg wrote via email. “And I just happened to be staying at the hotel where the biggest Elvis impersonator contest in the world is held every year!”

Feinberg was mesmerized by what she saw and decided to return to Memphis the following year to document the festival and to try to learn who these impersonators were. She made the pilgrimage to Memphis four times and set up a studio in the lobby of the hotel that hosted the contest. She created more than 100 portraits that eventually became the book King for a Day, published by Kehrer Verlag.

Feinberg described working on the job as exciting, easy, and a lot of fun, mostly due to the joyful nature of her subjects. She told each impersonator to do whatever he wanted in front of her camera.


Aug. 7 2016 10:13 AM

What It’s Like to Hang Out With Shark Fishermen

Although Maggie Shannon grew up in Massachusetts’ Martha’s Vineyard, the former site of the Monster Shark Tournament, she didn’t photograph the competition until 2014, when she was living in New York and the tournament had moved to Rhode Island.

Before then, Shannon had worked on a project that focused on the impact the filming of Jaws had on Martha’s Vineyard. Documenting the competition “seemed like a natural progression,” Shannon wrote via email. She recently self-published the work as a book titled Swamp Yankee.

At first, Shannon was given access to the weigh-in area, where the dead sharks are brought in by the crews and measured. While working there, Shannon met the crew of the Swamp Yankee. She described them as casual: As their boat pulled into the dock, they had “beer cans rolling around on the deck, and they were shouting and singing songs.”

She photographed their captain and eventually was allowed to join his crew to photograph them in action.

Shannon met up with them around midnight and woke up miles away from land.

“It was very surreal, waking up at dawn and looking out to see just ocean, not even a sliver of land, just all blue,” she wrote. By then, the crew was already up and preparing for the day, creating bait that included dog food, which “really attracts the sharks and it smells pretty awful, too.”

Aug. 5 2016 12:32 PM

The Power and Poetry of Italian Church Confessionals

The confessional is a special place in any Catholic Church, but in Marcella Hackbardt’s series “True Confessionals,” it takes on a distinct significance. Centered in their frames and largely shown in churches empty of people, Hackbardt’s confessionals strike viewers not as merely one feature among many in the architecture of faith, but as a theatrical space that services some fundamental human need—one that possibly transcends any particular religious dogma. As Hackbardt sees them, they’re “a powerful metaphor for self-perception and the examination of conscience.”

Aug. 4 2016 12:14 PM

What It Was Like to Be a Twin Before Multiple Births Were Common

In the early 1970s, during his daily walks around New York to take photographs, Harvey Stein ran into three sets of twins. Those encounters inspired him to begin a six-year project of photographing twins that eventually led to the publishing of Parallels: A Look at Twins in 1978.

Back then, Stein said, twins were more of an anomaly than they are today; between 1980 and 2009, the birth rate for twins has risen by 76 percent. Finding twins was difficult in the pre-internet era, so instead of putting out a call on Facebook or an ad on Craigslist, Stein would reach out to friends, hope to run into twins on the streets, comb through stories in the newspaper, or go to a twin convention. He ended up photographing and interviewing more than 150 sets of twins; 55 made the final cut.

Stein said a lot of the twins he interviewed said that if they had the choice, they would rather not have been born a twin, partly because finding their own identity was difficult. It didn’t help their names often were linked by rhyme or some other quirk. One set, in fact, was named Peter and Paul and were constantly given nicknames: Pete and Repeat; St. Peter and St. Paul; Peter, Paul, and Mary; Peter, Paul, Almond Joy; and so on.