Feature Shoot is run by photographer and photo editor, Alison Zavos, and showcases work from up-and-coming photographers alongside work from established photographers who have completed a project or whose work has taken on a new direction.
It’s fair to say that Japanese artist Michiko Chiyoda is one of the more exciting photographers in the world right now. In little more than a decade, she has managed to earn features in multiple specialized magazines and her work has been showcased already in dozens of solo and group exhibitions in Tokyo.
Chiyoda’s work is characterized by gentle, introspective scenes that invite the audience to gaze at her visual compositions like one savours good poetry.
For these strikingly beautiful photographs full of silences and lingering thoughts, she has been the recipient of various accolades and distinctions, one of them being included in 2016 by Dodho Magazine in their list of 15 Talented Asian Photographers.
She’s most regarded for her black and white work but is currently delving into a colour series based on traditional Japanese calligraphy.
We had the pleasure to chat to Michiko about her art, the meaning of life and death, and her technical workflow.
Can you tell us a bit about how your career as a photographer began? What drove you to take pictures in the first place? And are there any photographers in particular that have influenced your style? “I majored in design at an arts university, where I also studied photography. After graduating, I went from working at an advertising agency to working in the public relations department of a photography-related manufacturer, where I started taking pictures. I started my very first solo exhibition as a photographer in 2002.
“I started because the thought of being able to get my hands on all the wonderful pictures in this line of work really fascinated me, and also because I wanted to create my own photography work.
“My latest solo exhibition took place in January 2019. In total, I have had 6 solo exhibitions since the beginning of my career. I also participate in annual group exhibitions.
“I have been influenced by Takuya Tsukahara, a teacher from my university, who I respect and have always been grateful for. As far as Japanese artists are concerned, I have been influenced by Shoji Ueda and Eiko Hosoe.
“My favorite non-Japanese artists are Josef Koudelka and Roger Ballen.”
Can you tell us about the technical aspects of your workflow? How big of a role does digital post-processing play in your photos? “Currently, I mainly use a full-sized digital single reflex camera. What’s so attractive about using a digital camera is the fact that you get to print your work on various sorts of paper.
“I like to print photos on washi – traditional Japanese paper. At the moment, I am making great efforts to create stunning prints.
“Digital editing is an important process, and I do a lot of digital editing to adjust the images before they are printed.
“I take most of my pictures in natural light.”
Compared to still photography, are there any differences in your creative approach when working on video? “I came up with the videos I have made so far as a way to gain a better understanding of still photography. In keeping with this habit, in the future, I would like to come up with independent work that is even better.”
Most of your work is black and white or features highly desaturated colors. What is the role of colour — or its absence — in your work? “Basically, I like black and white photography. I like to take figurative objects, use them as symbols and turn their messages and emotions into visuals.
“I think it is much easier to do it this way since the information on the screen is as organized as possible. This is why most of my work is black and white.
“Also, when it comes to making past stories, events, and memories as the motif of my work, I find it appropriate to work with black and white or sepia.
“I do plan on making some work with colours in the future.”
When you’re peeking through the viewfinder, what makes you press the shutter? What makes you feel that’s the moment you need to capture? “Even when I have decided what sort of pictures I will take, I usually let my feelings run loose when I am actually capturing images. I don’t really think about whether I can turn the pictures taken into actual work; I just shoot what comes to me naturally.
“What I am trying to say is that when I press the shutter, I don’t just consciously take pictures based on a predetermined theme. My pictures are, from time to time, taken to capture those intangible things that you just can’t quite put into words or those things that you just can’t put your finger on.
“So, before I actually go out there and shoot, I do have expectations as to what sort of pictures I will be taking, but when I am actually there and come across scenes that affect me, I feel as if I can connect with the land on both a conscious and unconscious level, and this fills me with a strong sense of gratitude.”
Death and the passage of time seem to be constants in your body of work. What drives you to explore these themes? “All living things die at one point or another, and as such, death is a fate that no one can avoid. I call this fate – one where everything will be gone, including my very own life, where everything is so unfair, where we realize how limited and powerless we are – ‘Sadness’. Mujokan – roughly translated as ‘a sense of the vanity of life’ – is the term with which ancient Japanese people referred to all of these aspects of mortality. They learned to deal with Mujokan and to live with it with empathy and consciousness.
“One theme I have been working on is ‘the power with which those left behind empathize with sadness and understand Mujokan’.”
“I started producing full-scale work in 2000. This theme has always vaguely existed in my work, but I guess it wasn’t until the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, during which I lost my parents and friends I loved so much, that I became fully aware of this theme and started creating work based on it.
“In memory of those who lost their lives in the earthquake, and with strong empathy for others who have lost their loved ones, I made “OSHICHI” from 2014–2016, and “Starting a New Journey” from 2016 to 2018.”
How do you think technology will change the concept and very meaning of death in society? “I have visited a long-term care hospital, and I will never forget what I saw there – beds lined up in rows, filled with elderly patients who couldn’t move by themselves, and a place devoid of all signs of life, with only the sound of life support machines beeping away for company.
“For them – those who couldn’t do anything but lie there in their beds – the most advanced medical devices that continue to improve every day, thanks to scientific advancement, have been keeping them alive. We have been trying so hard to shun death, and this is one of the results we are getting.
“In the future, with the development of technology, not only will we be able to extend our lives, but it might also be possible for us to manage and choose our own way to die as part of our freedom to live in a way of our own choosing.
“Going from our current society, where we live until we die, to one in which we can all choose to die – with such a shift, even death shall become efficient, and death itself and the deceased shall gradually disappear from society.
“I feel a sense of resentment due to the fact that the deceased have been treated and managed as mere numbers, and that the world is on its way toward becoming one in which the deceased will no longer be thought of nor mourned.”
In your view, what makes a ‘good’ photo? “I respect the ideas of Eugene Smith as follows: I consider photos with such power to be ‘good’ photos. ‘A photo is a small voice, at best, but sometimes – just sometimes – one photograph or a group of them can lure our senses into awareness. Much depends upon the viewer; in some, photographs can summon enough emotion to be a catalyst to thought’ – W. Eugene Smith, quoted from Magnum Photo.
In the early 1990s, digital photography was just beginning to make waves, and few companies had caught onto the massive sea change on the horizon. In those years, digital cameras were available mostly to professionals, commanding high prices ranging from $1000 to $30,000. Many established brands continued to focus their energies on film.
Even back then, however, a man by the name of Doug Vandekerkhove knew something major was about to happen. In 1993, he founded ACD Systems International Inc., an independent image editing company for the digital generation. The next year, the first version of ACDSee gave users the ability to view and manage their digital files in a way that was previously inconceivable.
From there, the digital revolution overtook the industry like a tidal wave. By 1995, the first cameras with LCD screens on the back hit the market, and the first mobile phone camera arrived in 1997. That same year, the makers of the blockbuster film Titanic used ACDSee software to manage their image needs.
The history of photography and the heritage of ACD Systems International have always been entwined. In the last two decades, as the camera has continued to advance, so too have the powerful range of ACDSee products. Most recently, the historic company released ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2019, the editing software of the future. Here’s a look at just seven ways this new program can help photographers to reach new creative heights.
This is the very first digital asset manager and RAW editor with layers to hit the market. It has tons of advanced tools for both organizing and manipulating your images–including a stellar new roster of brush tools for color, white balance, and vibrance–all under one roof. Gone are the days of moving your files from one app to another. With Photo Studio Ultimate, you can do everything in one place without the hassle (and the expense of multiple subscription plans).
Photo Studio Ultimate 2019 speeds up your workflow and helps you get off your computer and back in the field ASAP. Not only is it faster than all its competitors when it comes to RAW export, but it also supports HEIF files (which are used in the most recent iPhone models). Truly, the speed at which you can open, scroll, and zoom in and out of images using this program is astonishing.
Note: In addition to the default keyboard shortcuts, you can also make your own for even quicker processing.
Access to your hard drive.
That’s right, don’t have to import your files into Photo Studio Ultimate. Just open them up, and they’ll be added to your database for easy keywording and editing. Those minutes spent importing can add up over time, and this software saves us all the trouble. ACDSee has also rolled out Mobile Sync, a convenient (and free!) app that allows you to send photos straight from your phone to your computer for easy editing.
Portrait, fashion, and lifestyle photographers, this one’s for you. Photo Studio Ultimate 2019 comes with the ability to recognize people, so you can label and sort your photos easily based on subject and client. You can also geotag your images quickly and painlessly and search them later based on location. When it comes to organizing and keywording, this software will do the work for you, meaning you can spend your time on creative endeavors rather than tedious tasks.
“We thought it was important to provide our users with this personalized way of finding photos,” Frank Lin, the CTO of ACD Systems, said last year. “You may not remember when or where, but often you remember the people.” This feature is one step in the company’s ambitious plans to introduce a complete AI Digital Asset Management system.
Applying filters and actions to your images has never been easier. Photo Studio Ultimate 2019 lets you apply color lookup tables and pre-recorded actions to any and all photos of your choice. Editing your shoots in batches is as simple as the click of a button. Don’t worry: you can see all your edits in advance to make sure you want to apply them.
Plus, you can also share your actions with colleagues and followers as handy, compressed packages! These are especially useful for photographers who have a signature aesthetic or color palette. They’re also ideal for Instagram, where sophisticated presets reign supreme.
Black and white editing.
A few years ago, a well-known photographer told me that there was no use in editing a black and white image digitally. No matter what, she said, no software could replace the effects you can achieve manually in the darkroom. She was probably right at the time, but ACDSee has since changed all that by bringing black and white well and truly into the digital age.
Photo Studio Ultimate 2019 comes with a vast array of intuitive tools for manipulating contrast, tint, brightness, and more in your monochrome photos. The magic of the darkroom is finally available with the click of a button.
Light EQ technology
Light EQ is just one of several patented technologies developed by ACD Systems, but it warrants a special mention. With Photo Studio Ultimate, you can alter the light in specific, targeted areas without affecting the entire image.
What’s more, the software can automatically improve the lighting of your photo with 1-Step lighting. Use Auto EQ to correct the exposure of any image easily and without any fuss. You won’t be able to find this tool anywhere else.
The market for image editing software is evolving at breakneck speed, and ACDSee has emerged as the leader of the pack. Twenty years ago, this company introduced products that forever altered the way we create images, and today, they’re still pushing the envelope.
Photo Studio Ultimate 2019 is the smart (and affordable) choice for photographers of all genres, offering a diverse array of intuitive and easy-to-use tools to help your images stand out. For beginners, it’s easy to learn and convenient, but it also offers a wealth of advanced editing capabilities for the experienced retoucher. Try it today!
Living in Kenya’s Mau and Mont Elgon Forests are the Ogiek — one of East Africa’s last hunter-gatherer populations. The name “Ogiek” means “caretaker of all plants and wild animals,” in acknowledgement of their way of life: hunting wild animals, collecting fruit, and practicing beekeeping in the trees for centuries.
Their ancestral homeland, the Mau Forest Complex, home to 30,000 Ogiek, is the main water catchment area for numerous rivers that drain into five major lakes including Lake Victoria, the third largest fresh water lake in the world. In recent decades, human encroachment for agriculture, tea plantations, charcoal, logging, illegal and poorly planned resettling of other tribes have devastated the forest complex, making the area vulnerable to soil erosion and flooding.
In 2017, after eight years, the African Court of Human and People’s Rights’ decision recognized that the Kenyan government had violated the Ogiek’s right to their ancestral land, and demanded that the community was appropriately compensated — but the government has done little to pay reparations for their violations.
In December 2018, Slovak/Hungarian photographer Diana Takacsova was introduced to the Ogiek, through Minority Rights Group International, an NGO that worked closely on the court case. Here Takacsova shares The Ogiek, a story of identity, culture, resistance, natural resources as a political struggle and an interconnected ecosystem that influences the life of millions.
Could you speak about the lawsuit the Ogiek brought against the Kenyan government and the significance of their victory?
“The Ogiek have a long history of resistance, which dates back to colonial times — and is ongoing since, with different actors. The Ogiek have a distinct culture and traditions tied to their natural environment, but the Kenyan government insists that the community is a threat to the Mau.
“The ecosystem of the Mau Forest Complex supports about 25 million people in Kenya and Tanzania – but it is also generating a serious political and economical interest. The Mau’s area has decreased over 100 000 hectares in the past fifteen years. Today, the result is visible: part of the area are fields, other parts are home to carefully planted, man-made forests or meadows. The microclimate has changed and the number of floods increased. The situation has been described as critical, taking the toll of years of plundering.
“The 2017 victory on the African Court of Human and People’s Rights was significant. The 70-page decision provides a detailed overview of the case and its specifics. The Court however found that the Ogiek’s eviction could not be justified, especially in the face of considerable evidence indicating that indigenous peoples play a role in conserving natural resources, and showing that the Ogiek had not in fact been responsible for the forest’s destruction.
“Two years after the landmark decision, there was little progress in the implementation of the African Court of Human and People’s Rights’ decision. A glimmer of hope emerged in February 2019, when members of the Ogiek community finally had a chance to present their memorandum to the members of the task force working on implementation of the court’s decision. The community, however, remains skeptical.”
Could you describe your process for creating these photographs?
“It was great to be welcomed and guided by members of the community, being able to learn more about the history and the challenges the Ogiek face, visiting important places and speaking to, among others, the community’s elders.
“I was able to visit the forest complex’s important water source, have seen the man-made charcoal forests and a number of the newly built roads as well as the original forest with the abundance of flora which they know well and the community’s beehives placed high in the trees. Ogiek honey is unique and is gathered by the men, who are climbing up with ease, burning dry moss to smoke the hives prior harvesting honey.
“I also visited houses and fields. I aimed to capture the strong contrast in the landscape but also how this and other aspects affected the lifestyle, meaning largely shifting to growing crops and keeping livestock.
“I felt that it is also important to understand and underline that change is naturally present and that the lifestyle of the community is transforming, including the presence of technology or social media. Many young people are also studying or working in the nearby towns and keep returning to the community.”
Did the Ogiek share with you what they would like the world to understand about their community and way of life?
“Yes. There are several points important for the community: one of them is to bring their cause and the challenges they face into attention.
“While this is a community of about 30,000 members, I believe that this is also an important part of the bigger picture – a story of identity, culture, resistance, natural resources as a political struggle – and an interconnected ecosystem that influences the life of millions.
The community would also like to emphasize the court’s ruling. While a little was done to implement the court’s decision in the past two years, the government of Kenya did set a task force to study the judgment that the Ogiek won in Arusha, Tanzania. The task force held its first public hearing on 6 February 2019 where Ogieks attended in hundreds. They, however, remain skeptical.
“Ogiek activist Leonard Mindore says, ‘In as much as we are optimistic about the task force, we are also aware that the government of Kenya has never been a good implementer of such recommendations as we have previously witnessed with many other task forces and commissions whose findings are gathering dust in government offices shelves.’
“It is, therefore, important to closely monitor the next steps. If you would like to support the Ogiek community in the Mau Forest Complex, please see their ongoing crowdfunding campaign following the recent events.”
Cody Bratt is a San Francisco-born photographer with an almost uncanny ability to capture the glamour of pain. He’s one of those artists, like Rimbaud. Bukowski, or Lana del Rey, that somehow, some way, are able to portray decadence and loss in an irresistibly alluring and cinematic way.
Bratt has exhibited his work internationally at the Berlin Art Week, Brighton Photo Fringe festival and the Colorado Photographic Arts Center among others.
Love We Leave Behind is Cody’s first monograph, a series that serves as an “emotional documentary” that revisits the memories of a fervent, formative relationship from the past.
The series is captured like a road movie, portraying the ups and lows of that kind of love that is so passionate and self-destructing it’s almost impossible to quit. The work is meant to be taken as a recollection of unreliable memories, a portrait of those moments of broken promises and intimate secrets that only walls keep.
The series was a finalist in the 2016 Duke University CDS/Honickman First Book Prize and was included in Photolucida’s 2018 Critical Mass Top 50.
We had the good fortune of chatting with Cody about his book, his approach to photography, and of course, love.
What was your workflow when making this project? It almost feels as if you drove through the U.S. in a Cadillac with a couple of models and your gear, Elvis playing on the radio… “What a vivid description! That sounds better than any explanation I can give. If I were perhaps more into tall tales, I would respond: ‘Yes, yes, that’s exactly how it went down, except less Elvis and more Bonnie Prince Billy.’
“My girlfriend, Nicole Lippman, is a wardrobe stylist. We have been discussing hitting the road with a model or two for a few days to see what we can make. If you’re a model and would be interested, shoot me an email.
“In all seriousness, though, the work of making the landscapes and portraits never formally overlapped in terms of the time spent making the photographs themselves. You’re not far off with the process of making the landscapes. Those photographs were made on many road trips crisscrossing the California, Nevada and Arizona deserts at all times of day and year, many times alone.
“I’ll talk about this a little later, but music is a significant part of my overall creative process, so the companions on many of those late night wanderings far from home were musicians — too many to individually list.
“The portraits were made in 2-3 hour blocks in collaboration with each of the models in a single room in different cities: New York, Palm Springs, and even Berlin.
“I’d usually describe the vibe I was aiming for and we’d play it by ear from there. By the end of the project, I’d sometimes have a landscape or portrait that I thought was missing a companion to make it a pair. So I’d either show the model where I thought their spot in the edit fit or I’d bring workprints of the models on the road with me.
“I’m glad to hear the two strands of work felt seamless enough to feel like they were made on the same timeline. They say a film is made in editing and I feel like the same is true for a photobook like this one.”
Speaking of gear, what gear did you use for this series? How did you approach the scenes, lighting-wise? “Most of the photographs in the book were made on a Leica M 240 with either a 35mm or 50mm lens. There is one photograph in the book made on the Canon 5D Mark II. The biggest difference between the two in my mind has less to do with technical image quality and more to do with how each one offers a distinct method of making the photographs itself.
“I switched to the Leica M after I had the opportunity to work with a loaner and the first few photographs of what would become the book popped out – the photograph of the model huddled behind her knees with her arms criss-crossed.
“What I found – and continue to find – using the rangefinder is that the camera seems to just get out of the way. It allows me to have a much more immediate and present dialog with my subject, even if that’s the landscape.
“With regards to lighting, I take a lot of my cues from cinema.
“In the book, I’m either using found light or a couple of small continuous lights. For the first several years when I started learning how to make photographs I was exclusively making night photographs on a tripod with long, multi-minute exposures.
“There’s a scene in The Dark Knight Rises where Bane tells Batman: ‘Ah you think darkness is your ally? You merely adopted the dark. I was born in it, molded by it. I didn’t see the light until I was already a man, by then it was nothing to me but blinding!’. That’s how I was raised as a photographer who refused to shoot in the daylight for many years.
“Luckily, I moved past that phase, but the experience made me fall in love with shadows more so than the light itself. I describe myself as attempting to paint with the shadows more than trying to paint with the light. Most of my lighting choices are driven in service of the shadows; what “facts” do I want obscured?
“I once had a reviewer exclusively get on my case about the lack of shadow detail in several spots and I thinking to myself: ‘Fuck that. If I wanted you to see what’s there, I’d make you look there. But I didn’t, did I?’
How do you approach your framing and composition? Is there something in particular that you usually look for? “Looking back at the period in my life that serves as the ‘bedrock’ of the series, my memories are frequently full of midnight drives and run down motels, since where else are two cheap college students going to stay?
“Like those recurring memories, most of the landscapes in the book were shot from the vantage point of the driver’s seat of my car. In a few rare instances – don’t try this at home kids – made while driving. Shooting from your driver’s seat forces you to do funny things to get the framing you want, like drive way too close to objects at odd angles.
“With the models, I wanted something more intimate, so I usually avoided any large wide angles with considerable negative space particularly things like walls. The few very wide-angle images that involve people are also jam-packed full of other details so they’re more tableau than studio.”
How do you approach working with models? What do you do to achieve the moment you’re looking for? Any tips for those just starting out? “I hit on this a little bit earlier, but I tried to approach the sessions with models as a collaboration. I didn’t go into them with pre-visualized concepts or sketches, though I am starting to do that on my next body of work.
“I’d usually relied on the model to bring a handful of wardrobe options and we would pick out the final outfits on location depending on the location and how the session was feeling.
“Since I was aiming for more natural and emotional scenes, I tended to cast freelance art models who I find have a bit more emotional range than agency models. Many freelance art models can also tend to be figure models, so in those cases, I had to coach a bit less of a posed performance from them.
“I’m a pretty silent type director which I find more often than not opens some nervous tension which can be leveraged at the right points between poses for something that feels more authentic. That strategy can backfire if the model has less experience or if the two of you happen to be off the same wavelength, so your mileage may vary.
“A few tips for those just starting out working with models? Be patient, kind and understanding with your models, especially if you’re working in the context we were.
“They’re likely doing something much braver than you are.
“Pay your models and try not to haggle with them unless you’re legitimately struggling to pay them in the first place. Paying your models has a few positive side effects besides just being the right thing to do: you (usually) make better photographs since you’re both invested properly and you always get a model release.
“Clearly set the expectations of the session with regards to any potential nudity when negotiating rates and always respect the model’s boundaries during the shoot, regardless of what was negotiated up front.”
If you were to pick three songs that would serve as the perfect companion for Love we leave Behind, which ones would you pick? “I’m so glad you asked this question! Music is the other foundation besides cinema upon which my photographic practice is built. I even made a Love We Leave Behind playlist while shooting and editing the series.
“Someone once described a few of the images in the book as ‘Lana Del Rey songs come to life’, which was a keen observation given the number of her appearances on the playlist.
“Getting down to three songs is difficult, but here it goes.
“Ride by Lana Del Rey. Where to start with this song? It’s the perfect combination of that open roading feeling and the impulse to run and escape emotionally when you’re right on the edge of breakdown. That combination of elements is lethal, really. I feel like the book is trying to distill this song and reconstitute it into those two raw component parts displayed visually.
“The Desperate Kingdom of Love by PJ Harvey. This song also has a striking dose of emotional loss and forward momentum. She says it all in the first 15 seconds of the song: ‘Oh, love, you were a sickly child and how the wind knocked you down. Put on your spurs, swagger round, in the desperate kingdom of love.’
“The Moth by Aimee Mann. Of the moth unable to resist the flame: ‘he’ll beat his wings till he burns them black.’ Has anyone ever written a more vivid depiction of codependency than Mann has with this song?”
The book was born out of the cinders of a very important relationship in your life. What does your ex think about the project? “Her and I haven’t spoken in close to 10 years, so I doubt she’s seen it. I would hope it would resonate on some level though I am sure that her version of the journey was in some ways similar, but altogether distinct.
“She was 18 and I was 22 when the relationship started. In hindsight, destruction and youth are in some ways always deeply intertwined so I’d say that the book is only loosely rooted in these events.
“The way I describe it is using the vague recurring memories I recall throughout the time period of that relationship and the period that immediately followed as the initial seeds.
“Those memories are so re-interpreted – on top of their inherent inaccuracy – that I wouldn’t describe them as anywhere remotely resembling fact. I’m not sure the journey described in the book even necessarily must remain rooted in romantic love.”
If you had the chance to live your life again, would you go through that relationship one more time? “It would be easy to say, ‘of course!’ But I honestly think it depends. What set of rules are we playing by for this specific scenario? Do I have all the knowledge I’ve accumulated the first time or am I simply re-starting as if I had no memory of what has preceded?
“If I knew everything that experience taught me and I chose willingly to go through it again in the same fashion, I think I would not have truly learned all the lessons of the experience to begin with.
“On the other hand, if you’re asking if I could magically redirect my stupider and younger self in a different direction in hindsight, I’d say no. I had to experience the ups and downs of that journey in order to not only learn how to be a better partner myself, but this book ultimately wouldn’t exist.”
Why did you pick Fraction to publish Love we leave Behind? As far as I understand, there have been plans for it since Fall 2017. “This is a descriptively complex question. There are a lot of factors that go into selecting a publishing model, in general, and then an individual publisher, specifically.
“You’ve got to ask yourself all sorts of questions: do I have the time and skill necessary to self-publish? What aspects of the book do I want to collaborate on? What is my budget? Can I distribute it and how would I distribute it? – amongst many, many others.
“I’ll bottom line why I ultimately chose to work with Fraction: One, they believed in the work in a really honest fashion, I could trust them to be a champion of it.
“Two, they brought skills to the table that made the book greater than it would have been if I had executed it on my own. David Bram and Bree Lamb both have a razor-sharp editing and sequencing eyes and Shawn Bush pulled the whole package together from a design perspective utilizing color in a way I wouldn’t have been able to.
“Three, the economics of the project were feasible for everyone involved.”
What is the easiest way for the public to acquire your book? “I’m selling both signed and unsigned copies, though I can’t imagine why you’d want an unsigned copy. They’re available at my website.
“Folks should order fast, there are only 500 copies and they won’t be around forever. I’ll even throw in free shipping for those reading this interview.
“Use the promo code FEATURESHOOT at checkout.”
Love We Live Behind is currently available as a gorgeous 10 in. x 13 in. hardcover limited to 500 copies, and a in special Collector’s Box Edition of just 25.
“There was a real sense of no future… I wanted to do work that addressed this sense of despair that I felt,” wrote American photographer Mimi Plumb on her new series and book, Landfall – published by TBW Books. As a collection of photographs taken during the early 1980s, offers a jarring yet illuminating insight into an American dystopia and the anxieties of a world on the brink of devastation.
During 10 days in November 1983, the United States and the Soviet Union nearly started a nuclear war. All because of a system malfunction, the Soviet Union reported the launch of multiple missiles from bases in the US – these were luckily identified a false alarm, caused by a rare alignment of sunlight on high-altitude clouds and the satellite’s orbit. If otherwise, mutually assured destruction was impending.
Picture a scene back then; a young girl goes about daily life in school, plays with friends and spends time with family. Suddenly, she is told by her mother that the world is potentially under threat – that there may be a nuclear war. Her world is frozen.
Inspired by this tremendous sense of unease, Landfall is a depiction of the emotions that Plumb experienced during this time. Flash-lit portraits of friends and strangers are paired with eccentric landscapes, video arcades, dioramas, and house fire remnants – while disquieting poses and embraces with high-tech weapons are symbolic of a community spinning out of balance.
Plumb comments on the series and on one image in particular: “Years later the burnt lamp reminded me of when I was nine years’ old, during the Cuban missile crisis in 1963, my mother told me there might be a nuclear war. For a period of time, I would wake up in the middle of the night to repeatedly look at the hallway clock, and worried about not sleeping. At school, my classmates and I practiced getting under our desks.”
Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Plumb is known to explore intimate and distressing topics, with subjects ranging from her suburban roots to the United Farm Workers movement in the fields during union elections. She often shoots long-term projects across northern California, and has been accredited for creating these tender and vulnerable portraits.
Within Landfall, a young woman viewed only from the side with her hair hiding her face is clutching a bottle alone and leaning against a wall. Another shot sees a girl turned with her back facing the camera, her long dark hair and white dress hanging free and anonymously. Both are typical of how Plumb can make a portrait look ambiguous and off-kilter.
As much alluring as it is ominous, the narrative throughout this series, although set in the 1980s, is poignantly relevant to the present. Whether it’s an uncomfortable juxtaposition between the environment and human destruction, or a child hiding in the sand (perhaps referring to the trenches from a war scene), each reflects the instability of the world. But at the same time, these images are exquisitely atmospheric, reminding us that there is beauty even in the hardest of times.
Carrie being made up for a drag ball in Harlem, 1984. .
Harlem Drag Ball, 1984.
The many expressions of identity that exist on the gender spectrum is a subject of tremendous depth and breadth, though it has largely existed underground in realms secreted away from the masses. It has given birth to a culture so innovative and rich that, 50 years after Stonewall, the underground has emerged and center itself with impeccable aplomb.
Over the past half-century, artists like Mariette Pathy Allen have been deep in the trenches, using their work to fight for dignity, respect, and rights — taking on the tyranny of ignorance, bigotry, and oppression.
In celebration, The Museum of Sex presents Mariette Pathy Allen: Rites of Passage, 1978–2006, a stunning survey of the artist’s archive that includes photographs, interview transcripts, personal correspondence, and materials from her career working with trans, genderfluid, and intersex communities over the past four decades.
It all began during Mardi Gras, 1978, when Pathy Allen traveled to New Orleans for the holiday. “By fluke, I stayed in the same hotel as a group of crossdressers who invited me to join them for breakfast on the last morning,” Pathy Allen writes on her website. “When I took a group picture, I was moved by the experience of looking into the eyes of one of the people in the group: I felt as if I was looking at the essence of a human being rather than a man or a woman.”
Working from a place of empathy, understanding, and appreciation Pathy Allen’s photographs are infused with love, with the pleasure of recognizing the spark of divine that illuminates the soul that lays beneath the gorgeous gowns and sumptuous flesh. Through Pathy Allen’s eyes, a new beauty emerges, one infused with the tender courage to be true to themselves in a world that would just as soon as deny, denigrate, or destroy their right to live.
Pathy Allen’s work is a testament to the importance of living on the right side of history. Her first of five books, Transformations: Crossdressers and Those Who Love Them was rejected by more than 50 publishers before it was finally published in 1989, and became a landmark publication for gender variant awareness.
In Pathy Allen’s portraits, gender is just one aspect of her subject’s identity, and in this beautifully integrated state we can consider each person fully actualized — and get past some any of our own lingering ignorance, biases, or assumptions.
“To depict them where they belong, in the daylight of daily life, rich in relationships with spouses, children, parents and friends is my tribute to their courage,” Pathy says in the exhibition statement.
“Anatomy, sexual preference, and gender identity and expression are not bound together like some immutable pretzel but are separate issues. Most of us are born male or female, but masculinity and femininity are personal expressions. With the breaking apart of this pretzel, an exhilarating expansion of freedom is possible…a rite of passage out of the tyranny of sexual stereotypes altogether.”
The art of order is imperative to the human condition. We appreciate the beauty and simplicity of everyday life: rows of trees and pots placed in unison; pastel-hued doors and shutters built in perfect form; white walls, white gates and white fences guarding our homes and the contents within.
At first, this seems ordinary, like something we’re born into – yet this particular type of decor and its impeccable symmetry connotes social status, a far-reaching ideology of living and, indeed, when captured through the lens of this photographer, notions of the surreal.
Thus goes the work of Italian photographer, Luigi Ghirri, whose Colazione sull’Erba series dances between fiction and reality. Born in Scandiano in 1943, Ghirri spent his working life in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy, where he produced an incredible body of work that rose to great prominence within the medium photography. He has been widely published and exhibited in his home quarters and across the globe, and, as stories of the greats often go, was at the height of his career at the time of his death in 1992.
He first began working full-time as a photographer in the 1970s at the age of 30 – following a career as a building surveyor – and then proceeded to create numerous publications. His first book, Kodachrome, (1978) – republished by Mack in 2012 – was considered an avant-garde manifesto for photography and a pinnacle marker to his oeuvre. Concurrently, his first series Atlante (1973) featured his to-be-signature style of cropped landscape imagery, which came with a pinch of ironic wit and an anthropological engagement with his surroundings.
To say that Ghirri was a prominent artist of the late-90s would be an understatement. And to mark his profound influence on the medium, Mack has released Colazione sull’Erba (which translates to ‘Breakfast on the Grass’) – a series of photographs taken between 1972 and 1974 on the outskirts of Modena.
From 1970, Ghirri strolled the streets, squares, suburbs, and houses in his adoptive town of Modena, observing the profound and, in some ways, theatrical relationship between nature and the man-made environment. Having once stated that he “visited in an ironic and anxious manner,” this series, Colazione sull’Erba, expresses an unnerving yet charming documentation of Modena in all its well-formed glory. Featuring immaculate symmetries of cypress trees, and palm trees and cacti with their promise of somewhere else, each image, heavily influenced by conceptual art, blurs the line between what’s real and what isn’t.
In these photographs, he captures a world deluded within the artificial. By visually identifying these cultural codes – that is, well-kept lawns and the art of hedge-trimming precision – Ghirri questions the human desire to keep nature intact. Our affair with the environment is precious, delicate and necessary – so how should we treat it? With kindness and respect, or by turning the wild bushes into identical tiered cakes? Either way, whether it’s mocking, political or just aesthetically pleasing, the Colazione sull’Erba entices the viewer into a rose-tinted fantastical world that is completely mesmerising.
James Van Der Zee, Eve’s Daughter, c.1920 Gelatin silver print; printed c.1920, 6 1/4 x 4 1/4 inches
James Van Der Zee, Marcus Garvey with George O. Marke and Prince Kojo Tovalou-Houe?nou, 1924 Gelatin silver print; printed c.1924, 5 x 7 inches
Picture it: Harlem. 1918. James Van Der Zee, 32, opens Guarantee Photo Studio on 135 Street just as the Harlem Renaissance was coming into bloom during the first wave of the Great Migration.
As northern Manhattan became the Mecca for Black America, Van Der Zee was the to record it all inside his studio and on the streets. James Van Der Zee: Studio, recently on view at Howard Greenberg Gallery, is a portal into the past, into a time when Black society thrived and set the pace for music, art, poetry, literature, dance — well, you name it.
Van Der Zee was no exception. He set himself apart by using painted backdrops and luxurious props in the studio to create elaborate tableaux for his subjects, and bathed them in sumptuous lighting to evoke a painterly touch, imbuing each photograph with the hand of the artist.
The first exhibition of Van Der Zee’s work in New York in over 15 years, Studio delves deep into the artist’s vast archive of Harlem history. With images of storefronts, parades, and church groups, Van Der Zee locates his subject in the community, and the community in the street to reveal the ways in which Harlem naturally embraced the culture of Black America, no matter where one was from.
This was New York; most of it is gone, eaten away by decades of benign neglect and gentrification — government policy designed to undermine and destroy Black economic and political viability. But in the works of Van Der Zee we can return to Black America as a powerhouse of culture, creativity, capital, and commerce fueled by the spirit of community and communion — of generations moving north in search of a better life and finding the magic that begins where Central Park ends.
Van Der Zee’s studio photographs show us Black America as an expression of self, of beauty, style, grace and soul that has inspired artists for the past century. Born in Lenox, Massachusetts in 1886, Van Der Zee arrived in Harlem in 1916 at the age of 30. He set up his first portrait studio in his sister’s music conservatory and two years later, with his second wife, Gaynella Greenlee, he established the studio that would make his name.
It wasn’t until 1969 that the art world finally caught up, featuring his work at the center of Harlem on My Mind, the controversial exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Experiencing a renaissance of his own, Van Der Zee came out of retirement to photograph Jean-Michel Basquiat, Miles Davis, and Muhammad Ali — his visibility and success a beacon that shone as far as the eye could see.
James Van Der Zee, Untitled (dancer holding scarf), 1924 Gelatin silver print; printed c.1924, 10 x 8 inches
James Van Der Zee, Young Girl with Dog, 1921 Gelatin silver print; printed c.1921, 4 3/4 x 2 3/4 inches
James Van Der Zee, Broadway Delicatessen, c.1925 Gelatin silver print; printed c.1925, 9 1/2 x 7 1/2 inches
James Van Der Zee, Strolling, 1925 Gelatin silver print; printed c.1925, 6 5/8 x 5 7/8 inches
James Van Der Zee, Bobby Sabu, Lightweight Golden Gloves Champ, 1954 Gelatin silver print; printed c.1954, 6 1/4 x 4 1/2 inches
We’re thrilled to announce the Print Swap summer exhibition will open at the esteemed FOLEY Gallery in New York City’s Lower East Side in July! Launched in 2016, The Print Swap is a global project connecting photographers far and wide. Here’s how it works: all photographers are welcome to submit photos via Instagram by tagging #theprintswap. Our team of curators selects the best images to be part of the swap, and every participating photographer gives a print and receives one too. During our fixed judging periods, Print Swap photographers are also considered for our offline exhibitions. Submissions are open for the NYC show now through June 20th.
The renowned gallerist Michael Foley will curate the show, and the final exhibition will include twenty-five and thirty photographs from The Print Swap. Foley has been a leading figure in the fine art photography world for thirty years, serving at some of New York and San Francisco’s most prominent galleries for fourteen years before opening the FOLEY Gallery in 2004 with a focus on photography. As the “United Nations of the art world,” the FOLEY gallery now represents groundbreaking artists working across media and continents–photography, collage, drawing, cut paper, sculpture and more. Throughout his career, Foley has kept a keen eye on rising and emerging talents, fostering new generations of artists as an educator at School of Visual Arts and the International Center of Photography and as the co-founder of The Exhibition Lab, a study space for fine art photographers.
As a reminder, we invite all photographers to submit to The Print Swap by tagging #theprintswap on Instagram, but you can also email your submissions to [email protected] It’s free to submit, and selected photographers pay just $40 per image to participate. This covers printing and shipping in full. We’re also pleased to announce that going forward, photographers will be able to choose their prints. While it’s been exciting and fun mailing out your prints randomly over the last few years, we’ve decided to change things up and have you choose the photo you’d like to receive! To learn more, please visit our website, and follow along at @theprintswap for updates!
Man with the Black Hat, 2016 Archival print mounted between dibond aluminum and anti-reflective acrylic glass 59 x 59 inches (150 x 150 cm)
Etienne Rougery-Herbaut Harlem Twins, 2018 Archival print mounted between dibond aluminum and anti-reflective acrylic glass 31.5 x 31.5 inches (80 x 80 cm)
French photographer Etienne Rougery-Herbaut marks his U.S. debut with Cornerstone, a selection of photographs made on the streets of New York that present a timeless portrait of the people who embody the spirit and soul of the city.
As the country’s most epic point of immigration with no less than the Statue of Liberty to welcome new arrivals to these shores, New York has long been the point of entry for people from all around the globe. As ethnic enclaves generations deep have nestled throughout the five boroughs for centuries, a new scourge presents itself in the form of gentrification.
The systemic whitewashing of New York has had a devastating effect but as Rougery-Herbaut’s portraits attest, they preserve perhaps simply because they are New York. In Cornerstone, the inaugural exhibition at Brannan Mason Gallery in Los Angeles, Rougery-Herbaut paid tribute to the people who represent the heart and soul of the city, despite all efforts to eradicate their presence.
Here, Rougery-Herbaut shares his journey with us.
Etienne Rougery-Herbaut Onwards and Upwards, 2016 Archival print mounted between dibond aluminum and anti-reflective acrylic glass 47 x 47 inches (120 x 120 cm)
Could you take us back to the day in 2000 when you were documenting a student demonstration in Paris, and how that events of that day became an integral part of how you approach photography?
“I started photography at the age of sixteen. I was taking portraits of a student demonstration in Paris. As I was observing the crowd, I witnessed a very violent scene between a protester and the police. I got thrown violently on the ground. When I got up, I couldn’t remember what had happened to me.
“It’s only later, when I developed the pictures of that scene that I remembered everything and realized I had caught a unique moment. That day was important for me. Through photography I had found a way to remember. Today, I believe this event draws my projects as an artist.“
Could you speak about the artists who inspire and guide your vision?
“A couple of years ago, I was working with Agnes Varda and JR on the movie Faces Places. I was in charge of the production and I did most of the scouting with Agnes.
“During the shooting, her poetry, her determination for work, the way she used the camera as a pretext to meet people meant a lot to me. We were shooting this documentary for a year and I discovered by her side a deep consideration for people’s confidences. She was a dear friend, the sweetest and the greatest artist I know.”
Could you speak about how working with JR has informed your approach to photography?
“I worked for JR as a line producer for seven years. I was in charge of the production for the pasting actions. We pasted with the team in many different cities all around the world. JR is an impressive artist. His works involves communities and create powerful images. Working with him inspired me to write my own story and developed my own vision through art and photography.”
Etienne Rougery-Herbaut Wheeling and Dealing, 2018 Archival print mounted between dibond aluminum and anti-reflective acrylic glass 59 x 59 inches (150 x 150 cm)
Could you speak about the work you made in New York that is on view in this show, and the themes you are exploring in this series of portraits?
“The New York City series presents portraits of people I met randomly in the streets of New York between August 2016 and August 2018. By bringing these portraits together, I try to show the beauty and the diversity of the city.
“The people I photographed are from Puerto Rico, China, Chicago, Tennessee. Whether they were born here or not, whether their family arrived several generations ago, or not — they are all New Yorkers wandering among the stones of their city, in Harlem, Brooklyn, Soho or Manhattan. The exhibition Cornerstone is about immigration and solidarity to me. My approach was close the spirit of the original motto of the United States: ‘E pluribus unum,’ Out of many, one.
“I met man with the black hat on Pacific Avenue in Brooklyn while I was on a bike with my camera. I had to stop and cross the street to meet him. I asked if I could make a quick portrait of him — an image that I could send him back later by email. He told me he didn’t have an email and that I could take my time. He had such a natural elegance and I wanted to pay homage to his dignity and generosity.
“He told me that he was a preacher in Brooklyn. Later when I developed the photo I remembered his confidence by noticing that he was standing in the middle of the picture with a bright and a dark side over his shoulders! I always like to keep in mind that life has much more imagination than us.”
Could you speak about the process you developed in conjunction with JR to create these prints?
“I developed that mounting with ‘Le Colleur’ (that means ‘the paster’ in English) from the Atelier Image Collée in Paris because I wanted to have a frameless picture.
“Through photography, I try to share the experience of an encounter. I would love to share exactly the memories of my encounter. That’s also the reason why my pictures are often linked to a story or a confidence. When I take pictures, I try to find the right balance between what I see, the geometry, and what I feel, the inspiration.
“Finding the right frame was a beautiful nightmare to me but le colleur is an expert and he understood my purpose since the beginning. The framing is the reflection of my vision as an artist because its connected to my three important words for me: the inspiration, the creation and the sharing.“
Etienne Rougery-Herbaut Downtown Chinatown, 2017 Archival print mounted between dibond aluminum and anti-reflective acrylic glass 31.5 x 31.5 inches (80 x 80 cm)
Etienne Rougery-Herbaut Security!, 2018 Archival print mounted between dibond aluminum and anti-reflective acrylic glass 31.5 x 31.5 inches (80 x 80 cm)
Etienne Rougery-Herbaut The Iceman, 2016 Archival print mounted between dibond aluminum and anti-reflective acrylic glass 47 x 47 inches (120 x 120 cm)
Etienne Rougery-Herbaut American Garage, 2016 Archival print mounted between dibond aluminum and anti-reflective acrylic glass 47 x 47 inches (120 x 120 cm)
Etienne Rougery-Herbaut The Road from Puerto Rico, 2017 Archival print mounted between dibond aluminum and anti-reflective acrylic glass 31.5 x 31.5 inches (80 x 80 cm)