The Photo Blog

Sept. 19 2014 11:51 AM

This Is All That’s Left of New York’s Once-Thriving Borscht Belt 

For middle- and working-class Jewish New Yorkers, the Catskill Mountains were a paradise within reach. Beginning in the 1920s, the area, which became known as the Borscht Belt, thrived as hundreds of summer resorts emerged, offering food, leisure, and entertainment catered specifically to that population. 

Video Advertisement

Sept. 18 2014 12:37 PM

The Movies May Have Forgotten About Them, but Black Cowboys Are Thriving

American movies and media may have forgotten the role of black Americans in cowboy culture, but the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo certainly hasn’t. The all-black rodeo was created in 1984 by entertainment producer Lu Vason in order to “uncover the cultural past of the black cowboy.” It’s been traveling the country ever since.

Sept. 17 2014 11:06 AM

Inside the Exclusive World of Members-Only Clubs

Don’t even think about inviting Beatrix Reinhardt to join a club. The New York–based, East German–raised photographer doesn’t want to be a part of anything labeled “members only,” but it hasn’t stopped her from photographing society’s exclusive interior spaces—what she calls an addiction—for more than 10 years.

It all began in 2003, while she was an artist in residency in Canberra, Australia. “After work, my colleagues wanted to grab a beer and a lot of them insisted on going to a club, essentially because the beer was cheaper,” she said. Fascinated by the amount of members-only clubs she saw in Australia, Reinhardt began photographing the interior spaces beginning the ongoing series “Members Only.” Since then, she has added images from around the world, including the United States, India, China, Spain, and South Africa. 

Sept. 16 2014 12:59 PM

Ethereal Views of Earth From Way Up High 

While reading a Japanese guidebook about Bolivia in the mid-’90s, Asako Shimizu noticed a small black-and-white photograph of a salt flat with a seemingly endless horizon. The memory of the image stuck in her mind for 10 years until finally, in 2006, she was able to visit the South American country where, inspired by the image, she created the series “On Her Skin.” 

Shimizu went to the world’s largest salt flat, Salar de Uyuni, which covers more than 4,000 square miles and is roughly 12,000 feet above sea level. If you have friends who have visited, chances are your Facebook timeline has been filled with trippy photographs that play off the optical illusion of people balancing on odd objects or holding a mini version of fellow travelers in the palm of their hands. 

Sept. 15 2014 12:56 PM

The Hidden Beauty of New York City’s Basements

For apartment-seekers in New York, a building’s basement is usually not among the top concerns. But in 2010, when Gesche Würfel and her husband went looking for a new place in upper Manhattan, they proved different from typical renters. “My husband insisted on seeing the basements because he grew up in New York and he knew that you can judge the quality of a building from the look of the basement,” Würfel said. “When we went downstairs, I saw some really amazing spaces.”


Sept. 14 2014 11:00 AM

The Crumbling and Abandoned Remains of Italy’s Once-Grand Discotheques 

Through the 1980s and some of the 1990s, giant discotheques on the outskirts of Italian cities were at the center of the nightlife scene. Inspired by an economic boom, partiers frequented spaces designed to celebrate opulence and splendor, built, as Antonio La Grotta described them, “large enough to contain the dreams of success, money and fun of thousands of people.”

Sept. 12 2014 10:57 AM

These Serene Duck-Hunting Dens Look Like Giant Bird Nests

At first glance, there’s not much to a duck blind, a structure that hunters use to camouflage themselves while waiting for birds to fly overhead. They’re humble, often small structures made of simple materials—wood, paint, nails, netting, and bits of brush or grass—and are built with efficiency in mind more than comfort or architectural flair. But, as Wade Bourne wrote in Ducks Unlimited, “There's a lot more in a duck blind than meets the eye. There's hard work, ingenuity, and the hopes and dreams of the hunter or hunters who built it.”

That’s what Dave Jordano discovered in the winter of 2008 when he came across a bunch of duck blinds while traveling by the Mississippi River near Illinois’ border with Wisconsin. The Chicago-based photographer had been navigating the northern part of the state looking for “out-of-the-way places, things I found odd or eccentric or quirky, places that were indicative of rural life in a sort of odd way” for his series, “Prairieland.” Intrigued by the homemade structures, Jordano spent a single day hiking along the ice photographing the duck blinds. 


Sept. 11 2014 11:00 AM

Would You Play Basketball Here? 

Chris Tubbs was wandering around Havana when he came across an abandoned sports stadium and decided to hop over a wall to take a look. Inside, he found everything “overgrown and crumbling,” including a swimming pool, a diving board, and a bare-bones basketball court. “It was clear that their facilities were not up to standard and they had to make do with basic facilities that had fallen into disrepair,” he said via email. “What I came across that day brought back the memories of past glories forgotten. These emotions are similar to those of our childhood memories of play that often remain intact and even exaggerated while the physical locations are lost or simply abandoned to time.”

Sept. 10 2014 12:43 PM

Do You Think This Wallpaper Goes With My Feathers?

While searching for a toucan in New Jersey for a commercial photo shoot, Claire Rosen stumbled upon Bird Paradise, billed as the world’s largest exotic bird superstore. It turned out they did have a smallish toucan, but it was reported to be a bit cranky and uncooperative, so they recommended Rosen come to the store for a visit to see if the bird would be suitable for the shoot.

What she discovered at the superstore would end up inspiring her series “Birds of a Feather,” a whimsical series of portraits of exotic birds photographed with graphic wallpaper as backgrounds. 


Sept. 9 2014 12:13 PM

The Human Cost of South Africa’s Mining Industry 

For more than a century, South Africa has been known for its mineral wealth. Although the country is no longer the leading global exporter of gold, its mineral resources still account for a significant portion of world production and reserves, and the mining industry remains one of the country’s largest industrial sectors.

But mining comes with major social and environmental costs. In 2011, South African Ilan Godfreyreturned to his native Johannesburg from London with the goal of capturing “through the lens the forgotten communities that the mining industry has left behind.” His book, Legacy of the Mine, reflects two years of work looking at the personal tragedies of those who have suffered while business has thrived. “ ‘The mine,’ irrespective of the particular minerals extracted, is central in understanding societal change across the country and evidently comparable to mining concerns around the world,” Godfrey said via email. “This enabled me to channel my conception of ‘the mine’ into visual representations that gave agency to these communities. The countless stories of personal suffering are brought to the surface.”