The Photo Blog

April 24 2016 10:11 AM

These Gorgeous Images Are What Happens When Science and Photography Collide

To make the image titled Solar PlexusCaleb Charland lay on back at his home in Maine for two hours with his camera resting on the pit of his stomach, shutter open, while mosquitos buzzed around him. Airplanes flew in and out of the frame, and when they appeared in his peripheral vision, Charland held his breath so they would create a straight line.

April 22 2016 10:04 AM

What One Photographer Saw Traveling the U.S. by Train 

In the summer of 2011, McNair Evans took a train from Raleigh, North Carolina, where he’d been visiting his girlfriend, to Richmond, Virginia, for a friend’s wedding. The experience was a transformative one.

“I felt in love at the time, so the romance of this short ride really swept me away. We passed the backs of manufacturing facilities, Little League Baseball games, and tobacco fields where individuals worked with traditional hoes and rakes. I was drawn to the passengers on that route that not surprisingly mirrored the surroundings. They were very receptive to my camera,” he said.

After that, Evans decided to take a three-week, round-trip train ride from his home in San Francisco to Rocky Mount, North Carolina, where he’d discovered that a rail car belonging to his late grandfather was on display at the city’s newly remodeled historic train station. This cross-country journey was to be the first of many. For more than three years, Evans has taken biannual two-week-long Amtrak trips, beginning and ending in California, photographing the people and places he’s encountered along the way. His photographs are on display in the exhibition, “In Search of Great Men,” at San Francisco’s City Hall until Nov. 18.

April 21 2016 12:26 PM

“Female Masking” Is Proof That There Is a Fetish Community for Everything

As you might expect, if you Google words such as sex dolls and fetish, you’re going to uncover some unique websites.

That’s what happened in 2003, when Daniel Handal was working on a project about RealDolls—essentially expensive, made-to-order sex dolls. A couple of years into the work, Handal learned another photographer, Elena Dorfman, had been working on a similar project and was about to release a book about it.

The news caught him off-guard, and he decided to find another angle to pursue. Researching similar subjects, he found the female masking community, a group of (mostly) men who like to put on women’s fetish wear and latex masks to transform themselves into living dolls. In his artist statement, Handal writes that those interested in female masking “create multi-layered alter egos and assume fictional characters while documenting their role playing with photographs and sharing stories on community blogs.”

“When I saw the first picture of a female masker, I remember electricity going through me,” Handal wrote via email. “My favorite photos were not the sexualized pictures, but the ones that mimicked domesticity. They reminded me of Leigh Bowery a bit, but I didn’t know anything about this fetish and had not seen anything like it in art or popular culture—a rare find.”

Handel began the work in 2006, but the majority was done in 2008 and 2009 when he traveled to the Rubber Doll World Rendezvous, an annual conference of sorts. At first Handal staged his photos, but he felt they looked contrived. Because female masking involves role-play and exhibition, he felt trying out a documentary approach would be better and used a medium-format film camera for the series. He said that because “normal wear” is discouraged in common areas, he had to dress up, which made picture-making difficult, even though documenting what’s happening is part of the fetish.

“I had to look through a small hole in my mask and into the rangefinder to manually focus and adjust exposures and focal range on the spot,” Handal wrote. “A very exciting way to make a picture.”

April 20 2016 10:22 AM

What’s Left of the CIA’s Notorious “Black Sites” Secret Prison Network

If the secrecy and brutality of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp bothered you, photographer Edmund Clark and counterterrorism investigator Crofton Black’s book, Negative Publicity: Artefacts of Extraordinary Rendition, will make your blood boil.

The book, which Aperture and the Magnum Foundation published in February, shows how, between 2001 and 2008, the CIA operated secret prisons, or “black sites,” around the world and transported detainees to them through so-called extraordinary renditions without legal process or public records. Many of those prisons have since disappeared, and many sites used by operatives during renditions carry no evidence of their former uses. But Clark’s photographs of what remains of them, presented alongside documents gathered by Black and his sources that trace the operations, ensure they won’t be forgotten.

April 19 2016 10:02 AM

Here’s What People Look Like After One, Two, and Three Glasses of Wine

Drinking wine doesn’t just change how you feel—it also changes how you act and how you look. Marcos Alberti’s series “3 Glasses Later” is proof.

“There is a saying about wine that I really like and it's something like this: ‘The first glass of wine is all about the food, the second glass is about love and the third glass is about mayhem.’ I really wanted to see for myself if that affirmation was in fact true,” he wrote in a statement about the series.

Over six nights in January 2014, Alberti conducted his experiment with friends at his studio in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Upon arrival, Alberti took a photo of each sober guest in front of a door. After finishing a glass of wine—which he provided—he instructed them to head over from the bar to the camera for another portrait. In the final photos, which comprise the four images taken over the course of the boozy night, articles of clothing disappear and smiles emerge. 

April 18 2016 11:06 AM

Remembering Photographer Malick Sidibé, Who Captured the Spirit and Style of Mali

With the death of Malick Sidibé last week, the world is mourning the loss of a towering figure in the African art world.

The 80-year-old photographer was best known for his black-and-white images of the stylish residents of his native Bamako, Mali, as the country transitioned from colonial rule to independence in the 1960s and beyond. Shot in his studio as well as at nightclubs and in the streets, these photos, as the Guardian’s Priya Elan notes, “changed the idea of black beauty in fashion.”

April 17 2016 10:07 AM

These Photographers Use Geotagged Tweets to Make Intriguing and Uncanny Images

The internet may seem abstract and placeless, but Nate Larson and Marni Shindelman know better than most that every digital communication has an origin in the real world. 

In 2009, the photographers came across a post showing the location of a geotagged tweet written by someone who’d just been laid off in downtown Chicago. They decided to go there and make a photo of whatever they found. Seeing the mostly empty street scene paired with the tweet was a revelatory moment.

“We both were kind of dumbfounded and were like, ‘This is really powerful.’ It was kind of an Oprah ‘Aha!’ moment,” Shindelman said. 

Ever since, they’ve been making excursions like that one, sometimes separately and sometimes together, for their series “Geolocation.” Using publicly available embedded GPS information, they’ve tracked tweets across the country and beyond, recording the often uncanny ways the virtual realm interacts with the physical one.

April 15 2016 10:06 AM

What a Historically Black College Looks Like After Bankruptcy

Morris Brown College, founded in 1881 by the African Methodist Episcopal Church, is a rare historically black college and university established by blacks. For more than 100 years, its Atlanta campus proudly produced writers, civil rights leaders, and business leaders, among other notable alumni. Things took a bad turn in 2002, however, when financial mismanagement caused the school to lose accreditation and federal funding. Hundreds of students left, and faculty and staff lost their jobs. As part of its 2012 bankruptcy filing, the school sold many of its buildings in order to avoid closing altogether.


Photographer Andrew Feiler, a fifth-generation Georgian, knew a number of alumni and faculty at the college and was already familiar with the institution’s HBCU legacy when he learned of the school’s bankruptcy filing. Right away, he knew he wanted to photograph the campus. 

“It felt like an important story along multiple dimensions: race, class, social justice, economic opportunity, religion, history. I wasn’t sure where it would lead, but it was a story I wanted to explore,” Feiler said.

With support from Sonny Walker, the Morris Brown board’s vice chair, and Stanley Pritchett Sr., the college’s president, Feiler spent a year photographing the campus. His images are collected in Without Regard to Sex, Race, or Color: The Past, Present, and Future of One Historically Black College, which University of Georgia Press published in October. 

April 14 2016 9:38 AM

Feathers Are Even More Beautiful Up Close

Robert Clark would know. In 2011, he made the photos accompanying Carl Zimmer’s National Geographic article, “Feather Evolution: The Long, Curious, and Extravagant History of Feathers,” which took him all over the world to study the ubiquitous appendage’s long history, all the way back to fossilized feathers that appeared on birds’ predecessors. Driven to continue exploring on his own, Clark has since seen thousands of varieties of feathers and photographed hundreds, including those designed for warmth, camouflage, and sexual competitiveness. 

April 13 2016 10:55 AM

Intimate Portraits of Mothers Breast-Feeding Their Babies

Francesca Cesari said she had never aesthetically appreciated the breast-feeding bond until a friend of hers took a break from their portrait session to breast-feed her baby.

“I was not living that situation anymore,” Cesari, who breast-fed her son until he was 9 months old, wrote via email. “So I had the chance to observe the scene with new eyes, keeping a huge amount of empathy and knowledge but also being free of the emotional involvement I had experienced in the past.”

The next day, she picked up her camera to begin an intimate, ongoing project of mothers breast-feeding their babies she titled “In the Room.”

Cesari said using her camera to record the experience gave her the “chance to isolate the gestures and the subjects from their daily context and to highlight that intimate, symbiotic atmosphere I encountered the first time.”

She found the mothers in the series through friends and then friends of friends and word of mouth in Bologna, Italy, where she lives, as well as in nearby cities. Although many women were comfortable posing for her, some were shy and asked her not to photograph their nude bodies.

“One of the great things about this work and in general about dealing with people is to experience how in front of the same situation you can have a multitude of different reactions,” she wrote. “The fact of me being a woman helped a lot because even with strangers there always was a silent understanding and solidarity.”