The Photo Blog

June 17 2016 10:08 AM

Using Photography to Connect With an Ailing Father

While studying at the San Francisco Institute of Art, Michael Santiago would return to his parents’ home 2,000 miles away and snap some photographs of his family. He said at the time he wasn’t taking the photos seriously, but when he accidentally sent some of them to a professor, she encouraged him to go deeper into the work.

Santiago’s father had health issues, including prostate cancer and kidney failure, that required three days of weekly dialysis. Santiago shadowed his father during medical procedures and when he was resting at home or hanging out with friends and family. Santiago said taking these photographs was a way for him to reconnect with his father.

“It was a way for me to try to understand what he was going through,” Santiago said.

Although Santiago said he felt as if he and his father were reconnecting, there were times when reality became complicated, such as when the family learned his father’s cancer had spread to his lungs. “I used my camera as a shield to not let the news hit me so much,” he said.

June 16 2016 10:11 AM

The Wild, Final Nights of Vienna’s Vanishing Dive Bars

Vienna’s rapidly disappearing old dive bars may be rough around the edges, but for their colorful customers, they’re rare, under-the-radar refuges in a changing city. 


Branntweiner only sell hard liquor, while beisln only sell beer, and weinstuben only sell wine. Across the board, the drinks are cheap, the food is nonexistent, and the interiors are small and shabby. Regulars will tell you that each operates like a little kingdom, where culture and law are determined by the owner and disputes are settled the old-fashioned way—by fists.


Journalist Clemens Marschall started visiting these places about a decade ago. He was working as a street cleaner at the time, and some of his older colleagues took him to the bars, whose “rough spirit” he found charming. In 2012, Marschall started noticing more of the bars closing down as their owners and customers died out, so he asked photographer Klaus Pichler to work with him on a project to document their unique character while it was still possible. Their book, Golden Days Before They End, which Edition Patrick Frey published in June, is a swan song for a fading culture.

June 15 2016 10:07 AM

Growing Up Gay and Asian in Memphis

While studying photography for an MFA at Yale, Tommy Kha began to explore his upbringing and what it was like to grow up gay and Asian in Memphis, Tennessee, where he often felt like an outsider. Although he crafted those images into A Real Imitation, which was recently published by Ain’t-Bad, his intention wasn’t to base the project solely on his ethnicity or sexuality.

“I’d rather make a body of work that is about complexity and not knowing,” he said. “There’s a lot of uncertainty I try to bring into [the book] that works really well with the way I’ve experienced reality.”

Kha’s work, including A Real Imitation and the intimacy-focused series “Return to Sender,” tends to be autobiographical. The images in the book—a mix of self-portraits and images of Kha’s friends and family—have as much to do with Kha’s background and feelings of otherness as it does with his experimentation with the idea of what exactly self-portraiture is.

June 14 2016 10:03 AM

Hanging Out With Partiers, Sex Workers, and Bouncers in Uganda’s Capital

Italian photographer Michele Sibiloni moved to Uganda’s capital city, Kampala, in 2010 with no contacts and no clear job prospects. But after reaching out to several news agencies, he was soon crisscrossing the continent to cover major events, including the independence of South Sudan and the M23 rebellion in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Though the work was paying the bills and indulging his adventurous side, it wasn’t satisfying his creative impulses. He wanted to work on a series that communicated something about how he saw the world.

June 13 2016 10:56 AM

A Photographer’s “Sneaky” Street Shots Capture Four Decades of New York City Life

For nearly five decades, Harvey Stein has been photographing around New York. He sees his work, specifically in the neighborhoods of Coney Island, Harlem, and Midtown Manhattan, as ongoing projects, although he has now published a book on each neighborhood. An edit from all three books will be on view at Leica Gallery in San Francisco through July 22.

In many ways, Stein is a throwback photographer. While he does studio work, he is mostly known for his street photography that is shot on film using two short lenses; he still spends a lot of his time printing his work in a black-and-white darkroom. He calls his process for making the majority of his street photography work “collaborative confrontation.”

“I confront them with a camera, and I talk to them and give them a chance to say yes or no, and I get them to collaborate with me to make a portrait,” he said. He said this is how he approached all of the images found in his collection of photographs in Harlem Street Portraits and many in Coney Island: 40 Years.

Stein describes himself as a somewhat shy person and said over the years he has met a lot of people during this collaborative process.

“The camera gives me a reason to approach somebody,” he said. “I met my ex-wife in Central Park while photographing; it didn’t work, but it was fun while it lasted. I’ve made friends, but sometimes it’s hard [to ask for a photograph]. I pass up shots and get mad at myself thinking they’re not going to want it or I’m too shy.”

June 12 2016 10:16 AM

Meet the Women Who Work as Professional Disney Princesses 

Professional Disney princesses are experts at bringing magic and fun to any occasion. Off the clock, they’re real people just trying to make a living. 


Vanessa Golembewski’s March feature for Refinery 29 takes a look at five such women— Omaris Contreras, Sapphire Nova, Eiphany Elease, Brittney Lee Hamilton and Lisa Scrivanich—in the New York City area. Brian Shumway made the accompanying photos over five days between January and February. 

June 10 2016 10:16 AM

Moving Photos That Capture the Joy and Pain of Returning From War

By the time he was hired as a New Yorker staff photographer in 2008, Platon, who goes by his first name only, had already photographed more than a hundred of the world’s most powerful leaders for editorial assignments. So when he started talking with photo editor Elisabeth Biondi about his first photo essay for the magazine, they decided it would spotlight another kind of leadership—that of military service members.

June 9 2016 11:32 AM

Capturing the Beauty of Colombia With a Polaroid Camera

When Colombia makes international headlines, the news—drug trafficking, violence, crime—often isn’t great. But since his first visit to the country more than a decade ago, Matthew O’Brien has seen it through a different lens. His book, No Dar Papaya: Fotografías de Colombia 2003-2013, which will be released in the United States for the first time on July 20, is a refreshingly positive portrait of a nation and its people.

June 8 2016 10:36 AM

Senior Citizens and the Cats and Dogs They Love

When David Williams was a child, his mother rescued pugs. Being around animals influenced Williams, and as a photographer, he has developed a number of series that examine the relationships between animals and humans.

June 7 2016 10:05 AM

These Aerial Photos of Toxic Waste Show the Environmental Costs of Modern Life

How do you make busy and hardworking consumers see the environmental consequences of their consumption? 


Often, J. Henry Fair finds, the best way is to show it to them obliquely, but in a way that inspires curiosity. From a bird’s-eye view, the toxic waste created by the industries behind our modern world is colorful, interesting, and abstract. When people see Fair’s photos of the murky, swirling mess, they can’t tell what it is, but they want to find out. In Fair’s forthcoming book from Papadakis, Industrial Scars, which he recently funded on Kickstarter, these photos of waste—as well as images of the giant machines that produce it—will appear alongside expert explanations of the processes depicted.