You are currently browsing an author archive.

September 8th, 2015

Educator, Consultant Mary Virginia Swanson Named New Executive Director of LOOK3

© Tom Daly/courtesy LOOK3

The Paramount Theater in Charlottesville, Virginia, during LOOK3 2015. © Tom Daly

The board of directors of LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph today announced they have hired Mary Virginia Swanson, a long-time photo educator, workshop leader, author and consultant to photographers and arts organizations, to be its new executive director. She succeeds Victoria Hindley, who had been executive director of the non-profit photography organization based in Charlottesville, Virginia, since 2014.

© Steven St. John

Swanson (left) teaching at Santa Fe Workshops. © Steven St. John

“I am thrilled to come back to my roots of developing educational programs and events that draw together diverse members of our photography community,”  said Swanson, who had previously participated in LOOK3 as a workshop leader and mentor.

Photographer Michael “Nick” Nichols, cofounder of LOOK3, said in a statement,  “We are thrilled and honored that such a well respected long-time member of the community will be calling LOOK3 home. With her over 30 years working with photographers she will take LOOK3 to new heights.”

Swanson says that as LOOK3 enters its tenth year, she hopes to put more emphasis on the week-long festival’s educational programming, which has sometimes been overshadowed by its exhibitions and public talks by photographers.

Swanson notes that LOOK3’s stated mission is “to celebrate the vision of extraordinary photographers, ignite conversations about critical issues, and foster the next generation of artists.” The festival began when photographer Mike “Nick” Nichols held slide shows annually in his backyard; it became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 2006. Throughout its history, Swanson says, LOOK3 “has had a rich legacy of supporting three generations of photographers,” including emerging talent, mid-career photographers and the master photographers who have spoken during the festival at Charlottesville’s Paramount Theater. At times, she says, its educational mission has been “less visible” than its other programs. “I’m keen on photographers having a window onto the business as it’s evolving,” she says. “I want to continue our mentorship of young photographers and meet the need of long-standing professionals for continuing education. We all need to be lifelong learners.”

The LOOK3 board of directors, which was recently expanded, will hold its first meeting this month to discuss next year’s festival.

Before her appointment was announced, Swanson informed her photographer clients that she will be limiting her private consultations. Swanson says she will honor commitments to teach seminars this fall for Aperture Foundation and PhotoPlus Expo, and she plans to continue giving lectures and attending portfolio reviews. As a reviewer, lecturer and teacher, she says,  “I will wear different hats at PhotoNOLA  and [Houston] Fotofest. I’ll be an advocate for LOOK3 as well as an advocate for photographers.”

Related Articles
PhotoPlusExpo 2014: Mary Virginia Swanson on Publishing Your Photo Book

LOOK3 2015: Larry Fink on
Experience, Empathy, and Being “Stuck” with a Successful Career

LOOK3 2013: Josef Koudelka on the Measure of a Photographer

August 26th, 2015

Zun Lee’s Polaroid Archive Preserves African-American Self-Representation

© Zun Lee

The @faderesistance Instagram feed.

Photographer Zun Lee is dedicated to countering stereotypical, often negative views of the African-American family. While he was working on Father Figure, his book about African-American fathers, he stumbled on some old Polaroids that appeared to have fallen from a family photo album. He was intrigued to see how the Polaroids —”the Instagrams of their day,” he calls them — reflected “the way black people saw themselves in private spaces and in ways not intended to be seen, or judged, by others.” By searching yard sales and e-Bay, Lee has amassed 3,000 of these now “orphaned” mementoes and recently began posting them on a Tumbler and an Instagram feed named “Fade Resistance.”  After winning a Magnum Foundation Fellowship last week, Lee now plans to develop his Fade Resistance collection into an interactive digital archive that will allow the public and collaborators from other disciplines to add their own stories, videos and images. His long-term goal, he says, is “to encourage new ways of understanding black identity and representation in today’s world.”

courtesy of @faderesistance/Zun Lee Photo

A Polaroid as it appears on the @faderesistance feed.

The title of the project, Fade Resistance, echoes a phrase critic bell hooks used in an essay about vernacular African-American photography, in which she wrote that these snapshots are “sites of resistance” against pervasive stereotypical and racist depictions of African Americans. That the images were shot on Polaroid film appeals to Lee for a few reasons. First, he says, the instant cameras gave image makers the power to make their own narratives, without relying on a photographer or a lab. Also, the objects are one-of-a-kind, therefore more precious and fleeting, making preservation more urgent. In his proposal for the Magnum Foundation Fellowship, Lee wrote, “What had to happen to these families that they were no longer able to hold on to these valuable documents?” Lee scans the images as well as the notes written on the bottom or back of some images, which provide some clues to the subjects, and invite speculation: We can only wonder what happened to the man who wrote, “To Evelyn with love, hope and respect. Norris Turner. Good things come to those who wait. I’ve been waiting long enough (smile).”

On the @faderesistance Instagram feed, people frequently comment on the locations visible in the background of the images, as well as the hairstyles and clothing seen in the photos, which date from the 1970s to the early 2000s. Expanding the archive and its reach can help widen the search for more information about the stories behind each photo.

The Fellowship will allow Lee to work with the Brown Institute at Columbia University and collaborate with programmers on the development of the archive. In the future, he says, “multi-disciplinary collaboration would not only happen in the digital realm. I’m envisioning not just traditional print shows, but multimedia installations of this work in the future.”

The project may take years. Lee tells PDN, “I have a feeling this archive will be the gift that keeps on giving.” Until the interactive archive is complete, we can view —and enjoy—the photos of graduations, parties, beach outings and proud parents on Lee’s Tumblr and Instagram feed, and perhaps be reminded of our own special moments circa 1989.

Related articles

Magnum Foundation Grants 2 Fellowships to Support Collaborative Documentary Projects

The Father Figure

PDN’s 30 2014: Zun Lee

August 21st, 2015

Magnum Foundation Grants 2 Fellowships to Support Collaborative Documentary Projects

© Peter DiCampo

Unfinished latrines. Wantugu, Northern Region, Ghana. 2014. © Peter DiCampo

Magnum Foundation, the nonprofit arm of Magnum Photos, has announced the winners of a new fellowship supporting photographic projects that invite public participation. Magnum Foundation has partnered with the Brown Institute for Media Innovation at the Columbia School of Journalism to create the Photography, Expanded Fellowship, which will help photographers “collaborate with technologists to expand their practices and to develop new forms for narrative storytelling to more effectively address social issues.” The 2015 Fellows will work with programmers, designers and advisors at the Brown Center to create public platforms for sharing their projects.

The winners of the first Photography, Expanded Fellowships are:

Peter DiCampo for a participatory photo project, “What Went Wrong,” looking at the impact of foreign aid money in Africa. DiCampo, the co-creator of the Everyday Africa Instagram feed, says the debate over the effectiveness or detrimental effects of aid needs “journalistic investigation, local perspective, visual history and frank discussion on what forms of ad do and do not work.”

Zun Lee for his “Fade Resistance” series, which aims fill gaps in the history of American snapshot photography by incorporating found Polaroids of African-American families. The fellowship will support the creation of an interactive platform that invites the public to participate in the collection, organization and narrative arrangement of the snapshots. The goal is to make the archive available to writers and historians.

Magnum Foundation has also awarded a project development grant. The winners are:

Zara Katz and Lisa Riordan Seville, for “Women on the Outside,” a series of portraits and dialogues among women who have loved ones who are currently incarcerated. Katz and Riordan Seville are part of the group of photographers producing the Everyday Incarceration Instagram feed, comprised of images that examine mass incarceration in the U.S. With the grant, “the Everyday Incarceration team will create a web-based platform that invites viewers to witness and engage in the realities of women who are separated from incarcerated partners, family members and friends,” the Magnum Foundation says.

Magnum Foundation has previously organized symposia and workshops as part of their Photography, Expanded initiative to encourage documentary photographers to expand their storytelling beyond still photos.

Related articles:

Magnum Foundation Announces Emergency Fund Grants

How to Win Grants That Support Your Photo Projects

Zun Lee: PDN’s 30 2014

Founders of Everyday Feeds Launch @EverydayEverywhere, “Family of Man for the Modern Age”

Are Visual Storytelling Platforms a Good Thing for Photographers?

August 19th, 2015

5 Winners of 2015 Aaron Siskind Fellowships Named

© Juan Arredondo.

2015 Grant Winner Juan Arredondo’s “Born into Conflict” documents the lives of current and former child soldiers in Colombia. © Juan Arredondo.

The Aaron Siskind Foundation has announced the winners of its 2015 Individual Photographer’s Fellowship (IPF) grants on August 17. This year’s recipients are:

Juan Arredondo of West Orange, NJ
Amy Finkelstein of Takoma Park, MD
Robyn Hasty of Brooklyn, NY
Ed Kashi of Montclair, NJ
Natalie Krick of Longmont, CO

The first-round judges for this year’s fellowships were Hank Willis Thomas, artist; Lyle Rexer, critic; and photographer Tomas Roma. The jurors for the final round of judging were Renée Cox, photographer, activist, and curator; Britt Salvesen, Department Head and Curator of the Wallis Annenberg Department of Photography, Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and Aidan Sullivan, Vice President, Getty Images. The Foundation received over 1,100 applications for its 2015 IPF grants.

The Aaron Siskind Foundation awards cash grants of varying amounts, up to $10,000, to support projects by photographers of all levels who reside in the US, are 21 years of age or older, and make work “based on the idea of the lens-based still image,” according to the grant guidelines.

The Foundation was created in 1991 to administer the grants, in keeping with photographer Aaron Siskind’s request that upon his death his estate would be used to support and inspire contemporary photography. Past recipients of the IPF have included Wayne Lawrence, Gillian Laub, Chris Jordan, Peter van Agtmael, Matt Eich, Gregory Crewdson, Ashley Gilbertson, Deana Lawson, Ron Jude and Lori Wasselchuk.

Related articles
Aaron Siskind Foundation 2014 Grant Recipients

How I Got That Grant: The Aaron Siskind Foundation’s Individual Photographer’s Fellowship

Aaron Siskind Foundation Announces 6 Winners of 2013 Grants

August 14th, 2015

Álvaro Laíz Wins 2015 FotoVisura Personal Project Grant

Photo By Álvaro Laíz

Kostya, a 33-year-old Udege hunter, looks out at the taiga from his cabin. © Álvaro Laíz

Visura announced today that Álvaro Laíz has won the 2015 FotoVisura Grant for Outstanding Personal Project for “THE HUNT,” his project documenting the shamanistic Udege people of Russia’s Far East taiga, or boreal forest. He received a $2,000 cash prize, a paid commission from the Washington Post to publish his work on its In Sight blog, as well as a lifetime sponsored GUILD membership with Visura.

Laíz became acquainted with the Udege when he traveled to Southeast Russia for the first time in the fall of 2014. He worked with national parks, scientists, rangers and Udege hunters. He lived with them for a month, making portraits and documenting their hunt. One hunter he met (seen in the above photo) died just hours after Laíz photographed him. The Udege practice animism, a belief that non-human life forms such as plants, animals and inanimate objects possess spirits. “Animism and the relationship among nature and culture are not really new to me,” Láiz told the Post. “I have been working on those topics for the last six years.” In fact, it was a legend of a poacher killed by the dark spirit of a tiger he had killed is partly responsible for his initial interest in the culture.

Three finalists for the Visura grant were also named.  Linda Forsell’s “Children who have Children” was named “Top Finalist,” and both Annie Flannagan’s “We Grew Up With Gum in Our Hair” and Aaron Vincent Elkaim’s “Where the River Runs Through were named “Finalists.”

The entries for the FotoVisura grant were evaluated by a six-member jury: MaryAnne Golon of the Washington Post; Judy Walgren of the San Francisco Chronicle; Simon Barnett of CNN Photos; Grey Hutton of VICE; Elizabeth Griffin of Esquire; and photographer Sebastian Liste, a member of NOOR.

August 12th, 2015

Why All The Articles in PDN’s New Issue Are About Women Photographers

© PDN/Photo by Lauren Dukoff

© PDN/Photo by Lauren Dukoff

The articles in the September issue of PDN, now available to subscribers and in the iTunes store, offer our standard mix of technical advice, interviews, and insights into the photography business. The one difference is that all the photography we are featuring, from our news pages to End Frame, is by women photographers. Why are we interviewing and showcasing only women photographers in this issue? Because we can.

It didn’t take much extra effort to find women photographers who could provide valuable insights and inspiration on every topic we wanted to cover: lighting, video post-production, pursuing and publishing a long-term project, marketing, meeting the demands of fashion and portrait clients, and many other issues relating to establishing a name in today’s photography business. Women photographers have to contend with lingering stereotypes about what women can or can’t excel at. By filling every section of this issue of PDN with images and insights by women photographers, we hope to emphasize the breadth of talent, expertise and experience of women photographers working in every genre and style.

This issue, whose theme section focuses on portraiture and fashion photography, seemed like an opportune time to make such a statement. Zanele Muholi’s beautiful, searing exhibition “Isibonelo/Evidence,” which opened in May at the Brooklyn Museum, exemplifies a powerful (and empowering) use of portraiture in social activism. In the spring, Aperture announced it would be publishing a compilation of celebrated photojournalist Mary Ellen Mark’s advice on portraiture. When we arranged to publish an excerpt, we didn’t know that Mark was ailing, or that the book would be published posthumously. It seems fitting, however, that PDN‘s first all-women issue includes words and images by a photographer who blazed so many trails.

Another timely story is our feature on the proliferation of groups formed by and for women photographers. We’ve noted before that, in today’s fractured marketplace, photographers have benefited from forming peer networks, both online and in person, to exchange advice, support, and job referrals.  A few of these groups, we’ve noticed, look like all-boys’ clubs. Women have responded by creating their own networks and gatherings. Some, like Women Photojournalists of Washington, have been around for years, but new ones seem to be forming every day.

Why now? Organizers of these groups point out that while there are more women working in photography than ever, men still get the majority of solo gallery shows, editorial assignments, and other opportunities that lead to greater recognition. In an interview in the current issue, photojournalist Maggie Steber notes that the market is hard for every photographer now—not only women. Competition can be particularly intense for the few token slots set aside for more diverse voices and talents. Expanding the opportunities for success requires new ideas and cooperative effort. “Instead of going back to the same shrinking pie, we should be thinking differently,” says Jennifer McClure, who recently formed the Women’s Photo Alliance in New York City. “We should be thinking, ‘How do we make more pies?'”

–Holly Stuart Hughes, editor

August 3rd, 2015

Amanda Demme on Photographing Bill Cosby’s Accusers for New York Magazine

A photo posted by Amanda Demme (@amandademme) on

When New York magazine posted a blockbuster story in the early hours of Monday, July 27, to its website, many of the names involved were familiar: Bill Cosby, the iconic entertainer accused of drugging and assaulting dozens of women, outspoken victims such as Janice Dickinson and Beverly Johnson, and Jody Quon, the magazine’s director of photography, who got the story on the magazine’s cover. But one name was relatively new: Amanda Demme, the photographer who shot the striking cover. Featuring seated portraits of 35 of the women who have accused Cosby of sexual assault (plus one photo of an empty chair)—its visual impact was arguably as important as all of the interviews inside the magazine.

Demme has had multiple careers as an artist manager, music supervisor and nightclub producer. Relatively new to photography, she’s landed credits in LA Weekly, Rolling Stone and New York, and a solo exhibition at Obsolete Gallery in Venice, California in just two years. Because of her work for New York, she was fresh in photo editor Sofia Guzman’s mind when it came time to assign the ambitious project (“She’s the one who kind of spearheaded the whole concept,” Demme says of Guzman). Demme’s portrait style is both stoic and expressive, well-suited to capture the quiet dignity of Bill Cosby’s victims. “I was telling them to sit erect, don’t smile,” Demme says of her directions to the subjects. “When you look at me, you’re not looking at me, this is not a camera. You’re looking at Cosby. And you’re not mad, you’re not in pain…what you are is empowered.”

Demme was able to photograph 35 of the 46 women who have come forward to accuse Cosby of assault, but when she began, there were only 18 on board. She started shooting at her studio in Los Angeles in March, and would repeat the process six more times at multiple locations across the country as more women were recruited into the project. She describes a general uneasiness among the subjects at the start: “There’s always an uncertainty,” Demme admits, “because nobody knows why I’m shooting it a certain way.”

A video posted by New York Magazine (@nymag) on

Though Demme “wanted to immortalize these women in a really beautiful way,” she was still a stranger to these women. In the course of each shoot, she earned their trust. The network of victims has become quite large, and after she had photographed a few of the women, they spoke to each other (or their lawyers) and vouched for Demme and her work. “They were like, ‘Oh no, they’re really cool,’ and so the word of mouth amongst their community helped bring in others,” Demme explains.

Quon gave her minimal direction, asking merely that the portraits not be “dark,” like much of Demme’s published portraiture. Quon insisted that the women not be styled. “She wanted to keep it journalistic,” Demme says. “So the only request we made was that each of the women bring a set of black clothes and a set of either white or cream or really light gray clothes.”

At the first shoot at her studio in Los Angeles, Demme and her producing partner Stephanie Westcott set up multiple sets, then decided afterwards on which one to re-create at the subsequent shoots. To maintain consistency, she recorded the location, distance and settings for her lighting setups. Some locations required adjustments, like when a smaller studio necessitated the use of a different focal length than she had started with. “I would also have each woman turn their body, put their heads down, and in that moment, I said: ‘What you are showing me is where your head has been at for all these years. What are you feeling at this one moment that you used to feel when you were alone or in pain, or just trying to figure it all out?”

She shot some in pairs, and several group portraits. The shoots could be intense, with lots of laughing, crying and hugging, but Demme says having several women at each shoot helped put the women at ease, that “as each woman saw the next woman doing it, they knew how to handle themselves.” She also shot video interviews, and encouraged the women to support and converse with each other.

Demme shot tethered with a digital camera, but she always imagined the shoot in black-and-white. “I shot it with an intention and a look that was monochromatic…where it looked like an army,” she explains. “I wanted it to look like clinical and army-like, so you didn’t see what they were wearing, you didn’t notice the body language.”

As Demme’s images came rolling into the New York offices, Quon realized they had something, and began to campaign for the story to be on the cover. There were concerns about it not being in color, so Demme went back and tried converting a few files to color. But it didn’t have the same impact, so Quon pressed for the atypical black-and-white cover. It’s “why Jody is so dope at what she does,” Demme says.

Demme filed portraits of each woman sitting and standing, and several that featured “clusters” of the women in group portraits. Then the team at New York conceived the cover, with all 35 women seated in a grid, with a single empty chair at the end of the sequence. Demme calls the empty chair “an invitation” to not only the women that Cosby abused that they couldn’t get in the story, but also to “an entire movement of women speaking up. That is their chair and these women are behind them, supporting them all the way.”

August 3rd, 2015

Mexican Photojournalist Murdered in Mexico City, after Fleeing Threats in Veracruz

photo courtesy SinEmbargo

photo courtesy SinEmbargo

Ruben Espinosa, a photographer who had covered social protests in the Mexican province of Veracruz for the newspaper Proceso, Agencia Cuartoscuro and other news outlets, was found shot dead in Mexico City on July 31, according to CNN, AP, The Guardian and other news outlets. His body was found in an apartment along with the bodies of four other individuals, all shot to death, according to the local prosecutor.

Espinosa had decided to leave Veracruz in early June when he noticed his house was being watched and he had been followed, he told the website SinEmbargo, which is devoted to freedom of the press.  Espinosa had covered the murders of journalists in Veracruz in recent years, and advocated for the administration of Governor Javier Duarte to investigate the killings. He also complained that members of the local media were taking bribes.

“We are talking about a place where there have been 12 colleagues killed, four disappeared, and from 2000 until today, 17 forced into exile,” he told SinEmbargo in an article published July 1. “And every time a congressman or the governor organizes one of their ‘Freedom of Expression Breakfasts,’ it fills up, because disgracefully, the press of Veracruz is at the service of those who feed it.”

On August 2, journalists held a demonstration in Mexico City demanding that the government clarify that Espinosa was targeted for his journalism, and not killed in the course of a robbery, as police investigators had first suggested. Journalists told SinEmbargo that Espinosa had felt threatened by the Veracruz government, which has been suspected to have played a role in the deaths of at least 12 journalists and the disappearance of others. Many of the protestors carried photos of Espinosa.

Related articles
Body of Newspaper Photographer Found in Saltillo, Mexico

Fleeing Violence Against Journalists, Veracruz Photographer Seeks Asylum in US

July 22nd, 2015

PDN Video Pick: Casey Brooks and Acre Creative for Aéropostale

In a new 30-second spot for Aéropostale set to appear on a video billboard in Manhattan’s Times Square, Casey Brooks directs a squad of midriff-baring female dancers to illustrate the extreme elasticity of the brand’s new jeans. Creative director Brad Shaffer at the agency Acre Creative brought in Brooks to make the spot for Aéro, giving her a brief to capture an “appropriately sexy” vibe, evidenced by sweeping steadicam closeups of the stretchy jeans hugging the dancers’ curves.

“It’s not provocative, more positive,” Brooks says. She credits choreographer Mishay Petronelli with bringing an abundance of energy to the screen, choreographing seven different 30- to 45-second routines to seven different songs for Brooks to choose from when assembling the final cut with editor Manuel Barenboim. “It’s better for editing,” Brooks says of the music selection. “It gives you different energies to pull from.” The final spot features the Angel Haze track “New York.”

The dancers rehearsed for three days for the two-day location shoot in New York City. One took place on a rooftop in Brooklyn, and another in a warehouse in the Bronx. Petronelli, who has served as Beyonce’s stand-in on a recent world tour and will tour with Janet Jackson later this year, also appears in the video (you can catch her freestyling in front of a giant window). Brendan Stumpf was director of photography, and Ruy Sánchez Blanco the post producer.

The spot will run online as well as on a video billboard.

July 10th, 2015

JH Engström, Wiktoria Wojciechowska Win 2015 Leica Oskar Barnack Awards

© JH Engstrom

© JH Engstrom

Swedish photographer JH Engström has been awarded the Leica Oskar Barnack 2015 Award, which comes with a 25,000 Euro prize, for “Tout Va Bien,” a project consisting of landscapes, portraits and diaristic snapshots. Engström’s award, announced this week at the Rencontres D’Arles in France, also includes a Leica M camera and lens.

Wiktoria Wojciechowska, who is Polish, has been named the winner of the Leica Oskar Barnack Newcomer Award. She will receive 5,000 Euros and a Leica M camera and lens. Her winning project, “Short Flashes,” consists of street photos she made while living in China in 2013 and 2014.

The festival Rencontres D’Arles continues through this weekend and includes the announcement of several other awards.

The LUMA Rencontres Dummy Book Award, supporting the production of proposed photo book, was announced July 7. Yann Gross will receive 25,000 Euros towards the publication of his book titled The Jungle Book.

Yesterday photographer Tommaso Tannini’s book H. Said He Loved Us (published by Discipula) was named the winner of the Author Book Award, which comes with an 8,000 Euro prize. The juried award honors an outstanding contemporary photography book. Honorable mentions were given to Miguel Angel Toneron for his book The Random Series (published by Dalpine) and to Dima Gavrysh for his book Inshallah (published by Kehrer Verlag).

Related Articles
Evgenia Arbugaeva Wins Leica Oskar Barnack Award 2013