The Photo Blog

Jan. 27 2015 10:23 AM

The Many Modern-Day Kings and Queens of Nigeria

Up until the 1960s, kings and queens controlled hundreds of ethnic groups in Nigeria. Today, the descendents of those rulers still play important roles as intermediaries between politicians and the people in their communities and as custodians of the cultural heritage.

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Jan. 26 2015 10:25 AM

Questioning How Much You Can Tell About a Person From a Photograph

Birthe Piontek has always used art as a way to explore how we choose to identify ourselves. This includes various photographic series that describe the transitional periods of adolescence or how we change our environment in order to explore ideas of who we might become. That’s because Piontek sees photography as one way we reassure ourselves of our existence, after all, photographs are simply representations of our original self. Her ongoing series, “Mimesis,” goes deeper into this train of thought by reinterpreting found photographs.

Piontek describes the early stages of her work process as a time when she sees things through a blurred vision. She relies on her feelings during this period since it’s easier for her to follow than outlining a clear objective. Beginning “Mimesis” was no different.

Jan. 25 2015 10:29 AM

Exploring Shanghai With Sidecar Motorcyclists

When Paris-based photographer Aurelien Chauvaud came to Shanghai to visit a friend one August, it was so insanely hot that after about three days he was already plotting a trip to Hong Kong, where he hoped it would be cooler. But instead of giving him tips for how to get out of Shanghai, Chauvaud’s friend told him to meet with Thomas, who could take him out on his sidecar, for a different—and breezier—perspective on the city. When Chauvaud met Thomas and took a spin with him on his customized Chang Jiang, an old Chinese military motorcycle modeled after a 1930s BMW bike, he knew he had a photography project on his hands. 

Jan. 23 2015 11:24 AM

It Is Illegal to Kiss With a Mustache in Nevada, and Other Crazy U.S. Laws

Chances are you probably wouldn’t have thought to break any of the laws Olivia Locher portrays in her ongoing series “I Fought the Law,” which examines the weird, outdated, and unbelievable laws found in all 50 states. After all, have you ever really wanted to make love to an automobile? (If so, stay away from Oklahoma.) Many of them would be extremely difficult to enforce, yet, based on her research, Locher said that many of them are still on the books. She has about 10 states left to photograph since beginning the project after a friend’s observation sparked the initial curiosity.

“I had a conversation with a friend who told me about how in Atlanta it’s illegal to have an ice-cream cone in your back pocket,” Locher recalled. “Tons of time passed since that conversation but I kept thinking about it. I’m a firm believer that if a creative idea pops into your head more than three times you have to do something about it!”

Once the idea was planted, Locher began researching other bizarre laws around the United States and said she knew she wanted to work on a series and decided to photograph them as clearly—and cleanly—as possible.

Jan. 22 2015 12:09 PM

How a Daughter Connected With Her Hunting Heritage Without Actually Hunting

Clare Benson grew up on Drummond Island, Michigan, the daughter of a hunter with generations of hunters before him. Though she learned to shoot a bow and arrow as a child, her father never took her hunting.

Benson’s ongoing series, “The Shepherd’s Daughter,” is her way of discovering a tradition that, in many ways, is her heritage, but, in other ways, still remains a mystery. It includes photos of her father and siblings engaged in real and imagined hunting scenarios, as well as self-portraits in similar truth-blurring situations. The idea for the “The Shepherd’s Daughter” originated while Benson was working on a series about her mother, who died when she was 11.

Jan. 21 2015 10:39 AM

No Matter What You’re Into, There’s Probably a Convention for You 

From pimps to taxidermists to dry cleaners, if there’s a group of Americans with common interests, there’s probably a convention made for them to mingle. 

Jan. 20 2015 9:32 AM

Can You Find the German Snipers and Experts in Camouflage Hiding in These Photos? 

Simon Menner contacted the German army in 2010 to see if they’d be interested in helping him create images where members of the army are hidden, or, “Camouflage,” like the title of his series. Turns out they were, and the images ended up going viral.

Menner arranged two separate shoots, one in a “boring” forest in northern Germany with soldiers who were young and inexperienced. The second shoot, in the German Alps, was done with a group of elite soldiers.

“I found it quite interesting to work with soldiers who had been ordered to follow my instructions,” Menner wrote via email. “I tried to be as respectful to them as possible, but nothing of what I told them was questioned in any way.”

Jan. 19 2015 11:00 AM

Weegee’s Classic Photos of New York City Moviegoers in the 1940s 

Weegee is best known for his images of urban crime, death, and nightlife. But a series of photos from the International Center for Photography’s collection, which are on display at the newly reopened Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas in New York City through June 14, show another side of the famous photographer’s oeuvre.

Jan. 18 2015 10:19 AM

Life Never Ran These Striking Images of What It Was Like to Be Black in 1950s America

Gordon Parks hadn’t been to his hometown, Fort Scott, Indiana, in more than 20 years when he returned there in 1950 as a photojournalist on assignment for Life magazine. Growing up as the youngest of 15 children, Parks attended the Plaza School, an all-black grade school in the heavily segregated town. Now, as the first black man hired full-time by the magazine, Parks wanted to find and photograph all 11 of his classmates from grade school as a way of measuring the impact of school segregation. The photo essay he created, which was never published, will be on display at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in the exhibition, “Gordon Parks: Back to Fort Scott,” beginning Jan. 17. 

Jan. 16 2015 9:59 AM

Making Beautiful Images Out of the Most Disgusting Things on Earth

Marcus DeSieno likes to play God, collecting and breeding bacteria into a “luscious ecosystem” on photographic film of appropriated images from outer space he then coats with chemistry. The bacteria strip away layers on the film creating colorful abstract images that DeSieno then scans to make prints. Some of those results are part of his series “Cosmos.”

“I have a large collection of dead parasites floating in jars of alcohol on my shelves, half-disassembled ham radios stuffed under the desk that holds my microscope, Petri dishes of bacteria growing everywhere, (badly) taxidermied animals and skeletons from all sorts of creatures, and specimen incubators that I ‘liberated’ form an abandoned life-sciences building at a university,” he wrote via email.

When he began working on “Cosmos” a year ago, DeSieno collected samples from restaurants and hotels, as well as television remotes, iPhones, and even his own body. He then decided to push things further. Inspired by old Dateline specials about “what’s really in your hotel room” he went after a more human, often humorous experience, taking samples from rides at Disney World, glory holes in adult bookstores, and motel hot tubs “in a quest to find the most exotic locations, to explore the foulest, most alien places this country has to offer as I searched to find this invisible life.”