The Photo Blog

Feb. 5 2016 12:24 PM

For Photographers, Living Life Is a Constant State of Preproduction

Around six years ago, during what he describes as a “dark time” in his personal life, Gregory Crewdson left New York for the Berkshires, where he’d spent a large part of his childhood at his family’s home in Becket, Massachusetts. For a few years, he didn’t produce any photographs.

“It’s very difficult to be an artist who is not producing work … [it] can make you feel part of you is dead, or at least dormant,” he said.

Instead, he spent his time out in nature: hiking, swimming, and skiing. During one of his cross-country skiing treks, he ventured into a trail deep in the woods where he had a flashback to childhood.

“I came to the edge of a frozen lake, and the light came through the trees and it was just like I woke up,” he said.

Ready to take pictures, he knew the next series had to take place in Becket. The trail on which he had this reawakening also became the title of the body of work, “Cathedral of the Pines.” It is on view at Gagosian Gallery in New York City through March 5.

Turning the ideas that were developing in his mind into actual images took a bit of time. Crewdson breaks his process down into three clear and familiar parts: preproduction, production, and postproduction. He describes preproduction as a time when “life and the artistic process are very intertwined in my daily routine.”

Feb. 4 2016 12:02 PM

The Charming Record Stores of Southern California

For lovers of brick-and-mortar music stores, the businesses in Mike Spitz and Rebecca Villaneda’s book, The Record Store Book: Fifty Legendary and Iconic Places to Discover New and Used Vinyl, which Rare Bird Books published in April, will feel like home.


Feb. 3 2016 12:11 PM

How Do Our Homes Shape Our Identities?

When Patty Carroll’s husband was transferred to London in the 1990s, the Chicago couple expected a few culture shocks. For Carroll, already an established artist and photography professor, the cultural shift became an identity crisis as she became known more as Mrs. Jones—her husband’s last name—than Patty Carroll.

“Even though I was teaching, my identity was really through my husband,” she said. “And I realized it wasn’t just just me but the tradition of being in that traditional society; that’s really how you were known before your own identity.”

The bulk of Carroll’s photographic work was rooted in American culture: from hot dog stands to Elvis impersonators and life in Florida resorts. In England, she decided to work through her feelings by taking pictures of a model who she painted white and on whose head she placed domestic objects as a way of hiding her. “She became sort of a person you know through this stuff she was wearing,” Carroll said. It proved to be the first of a three-part series she titled “Anonymous Women.”

The couple then moved back to the Chicago area and bought a 1950s ranch house, which Carroll fell in love with the instant she discovered the original pink kitchen from 1951. Feeling conflicted about her own identity, she began obsessively decorating the home, filling the house with furnishings she found while visiting antique shops.

“It was like finding pieces to a puzzle and I didn’t know what the puzzle looked like yet,” she said.

During this time, Carroll’s niece and goddaughter, a marine, was sent to Iraq; it created an enormous sense of anxiety and fear for Carroll and the rest of the family.

Feb. 2 2016 1:28 PM

Photographing Beauty and Peril in the Arctic

Ever since he was a kid, Sebastian Copeland dreamed of the Arctic he read about in the books of writers like Jack London and in the accounts of explorers like Ernest Shackleton. As an adult, he’s become one of the best-traveled explorers of the region and combined his passion for photography, activism, and adventure into a unique career. His book, Arctica: The Vanishing North, which teNeues published in September, features 200 photographs depicting both the beauty of the region and the threats it faces from climate change.

Feb. 1 2016 2:24 PM

The People Who Call New York’s Affordable Housing Developments Home

New York City may have some of the most expensive real estate in the country, but the city has also been a pioneer in affordable housing policy. Over the course of 2½ weeks between the fall of 2014 and summer 2015, David Schalliol, an assistant professor of sociology at St. Olaf College, was commissioned to visit all five boroughs and photograph nearly four dozen affordable housing developments for Affordable Housing in New York: The People, Places, and Policies That Transformed a City, which Princeton University Press published in November. At baby showers, sewing classes, and bingo sessions, he captured a side of affordable subsidized housing that many New Yorkers rarely see: One that is functional, positive, and social.

Jan. 31 2016 11:01 AM

Seeing New York City in the ’70s and ’80s Through the Eyes of Blondie’s Legendary Guitarist 

There is a nostalgic love affair with the photographs of New York in the 1960s and ‘70s, specifically the art, music and nightlife scene that thrived there during that time.

Chris Stein, a Brooklyn native and one of the co-founders and guitarists of Blondie, studied fine arts, including photography, at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in the late 1960s and ‘70s. SVA was a “hipster breeding ground” back then and it proved to be an influential place for him. While there he noticed a flier for the band the New York Dolls, decided to check them out and – to cut to the chase - became involved with the New York underground music scene, eventually meeting Debbie Harry with whom he formed the band Blondie. He also always carried around his camera.

In 2014, on the 40th anniversary of the founding of Blondie, Rizzoli published a collection of the images Stein took during the 1970s and ‘80s, the bulk of which are of Harry whom he also dated, titled, Chris Stein/Negative: Me, Blondie and the Advent of Punk.

Jan. 29 2016 10:20 AM

The Last of Mongolia’s Eagle Hunters

The vast, barren landscape surrounding the Altai Mountains in western Mongolia is unforgiving. In the winter, temperatures dip to negative 40 degrees. Only the toughest survive. This is where the world’s 60 or so remaining burkitshi—Kazakh men who hunt on horseback with golden eagles—carry on a centuries-old tradition. 

Jan. 28 2016 10:00 AM

These Brothers Barely Left Their Apartment for 14 Years. This Is the World They Created Inside.

For 14 years, the six Angulo brothers almost never left their Lower East Side apartment, where an authoritarian father kept them hidden along with their mother and sister. They learned about the outside world largely by watching movies, which they imaginatively recreated with their own homemade sets, props, and costumes.  

Jan. 27 2016 10:19 AM

From Clothing to Cars: Living Like It’s 1950 With America’s Rockabillies 

As a child growing up in Chicago, Jennifer Greenburg loved looking through her grandmother’s collection of vintage jewelry, so much that she began a lifelong passion for collecting vintage clothing and furniture. It also helped to shape a project Greenburg would work on for 10 years on the rockabilly culture; it was published as a book, The Rockabillies, by the Center for American Places in 2010.

Rockabillies adhere, both culturally and aesthetically, to a 1950s version of America. They aren’t necessarily looking to turn back the clock on everything from that period, but instead they borrow elements such as clothing, hairstyles or furniture they incorporate into their daily lives.

Greenburg approached the work in a similar manner, by taking pieces of something and putting her own spin on it. She said her work is interpretive, not documentarian, although she made sure her knowledge of the people and culture she set out to photograph was profound.

“I never wanted to be a tourist,” she said about the work. “I don’t like tourist photography if you will. I don’t think you should go into a situation you don’t fully understand and haven’t done extensive research on and take photos because no matter what people assume – and anyone who knows anything about photography knows the camera doesn’t project anything factual – it’s always an interpretation of what’s in front of the lens at the hands of the person operating the camera.”

That’s not to say that the subjects in the photographs weren’t and aren’t real to Greenburg. As a child she had seen rockabillies and to a point idolized them, imagining what it would be like to be a part of their culture. As she began to meet people, first at flea markets where she purchased vintage items, her young thoughts of their positivity were confirmed. When Greenburg began the project, before the Internet was what it is today, she relied on word of mouth to meet more subjects, many of whom also offered her a place to stay while she worked on their portraits; she felt accepted into a big family.

Jan. 26 2016 10:30 AM

Why Are These Subway Cars Sinking Into the Ocean? 

The next stop is … the Atlantic Ocean? Indeed, for more than 2,500 New York City out-of-service subway cars, the bottom of the ocean is the final destination after they were enlisted for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s artificial reef program. Today, the sunken cars have been populated by marine invertebrates, which bring in crustaceans and fish, and ultimately, fishermen.