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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.”

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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.

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The Father Figure

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June 12th, 2015

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

Photographer Larry Fink appeared on the main stage of the LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph last night for a freewheeling conversation with his friend, author Donald Antrim. Fink talked frankly about his formative experiences, the evolution of his motivations and his work, and the path of his illustrious career. It all added up to plenty of practical advice about how to approach subjects, follow your instincts, and make good photographs.

Fink’s career, spanning more than 55 years, has included shows at the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and other museums. He has published several monographs, including Social Graces (Aperture, 1984) and, most recently, The Beats (powerHouse, 2014), a retrospective of his earliest work from 1958. Fink is perhaps best known for his unflinching black-and-white photographs of society parties for Vanity Fair, W, GQ and other magazines. His work is delicious visual eavesdropping: It reveals the emotion and human interaction roiling below the surface of polite manners and social grace.

Fink told a packed house at Charlottesville’s Paramount Theater,  “I’ve photographed everything. Nothing was beneath me or above me. I’m just alive. I’m just hungry, hungry to experience, and the camera can translate these experiences in certain ways other things can’t.

“The idea is, is it possible for me…to make a picture that somehow or another assimilates that experience, and then has the miraculous transference to be able to be understood by many others?” Fink said. “How do I enter into you [the subject], pull you through me, clicking all the way, so that we merge inside? And that’s empathy on the deepest, primary level.”

January 20th, 2015

Behind Cosmo UK’s Honor Killings Protest “Cover” Photograph


This mock-up of a Cosmopolitan UK cover features an image from a series of photographs created by artist Erin Mulvehill.

Last week a mock Cosmopolitan UK cover that sought to protest honor killings drew attention and praise online. Honor killing is a horrific practice in which family members kill one of their own, often a daughter, who is perceived to have brought shame on a family.

The Cosmo UK mock cover depicts what appears to be a woman suffocating. In images of the cover circulated by the magazine and Leo Burnett Change, the agency that designed the cover, the issue is sealed in plastic bags, completing the impression that the woman on the cover is being asphyxiated. The cover was inspired by the 2004 murder of 17-year-old British Pakistani teen Shafilea Ahmed; Ahmed’s parents suffocated her in front of her siblings for perceived offenses that included refusing an arranged marriage. Ahmed’s parents were later convicted of murder.

After several outlets reported that the design would appear on the February issue, Cosmopolitan UK clarified that the cover was just a mock-up, created as part of a campaign the magazine is working on with UK women’s rights organization Karma Nirvana. (The actual February cover featured Khloe Kardashian.)

The provenance of the photograph depicting the suffocating woman is also interesting. The black-and-white photograph used in the mock-up is part of “Underwater,” a fine-art series created by Brooklyn-based photographer Erin Mulvehill in 2009. The images in Mulvehill’s series depict women who appear to be floating underwater, many with their hands pressing out towards the viewer. (more…)

January 12th, 2015

PDN Video Pick: Ed Kashi and Matt Black for The New Yorker

For PDN’s January 2015 print edition, we spoke with photographer Matt Black about the photo essay he made for The New Yorker about the drought in California’s Central Valley. Black, who lives in Exeter, California, has been documenting the valley—which produces much of the country’s food—for more than 15 years.

But the story in The New Yorker was assigned before Black ever got involved; months earlier, photographer Ed Kashi had successfully pitched a story on the drought to Whitney Johnson, the magazine’s director of photography. When it came time to shoot the story, however, Kashi realized that Black—his former assistant—was not just embedded, but invested, in the valley, and would be a perfect collaborator.

“I was thinking, I’ll never, in the week or so I have of field time, produce the body of still work that this man has produced over 15 years,” Kashi says. “So why try to reinvent the wheel?”

Kashi proposed that he would shoot motion, and Black would shoot stills, and Johnson was quickly on board. Sky Dylan-Robbins, a video producer at The New Yorker, would edit their work into the 7-minute video that ran on

“It was fun,” Kashi admits. “We were like two little kids in a way, photo buddies who were just looking for visuals and trying to figure out how to put the narrative together without getting bogged down in the weeds of the issue. Because the issue of water in California is insanely complicated.”


Matt Black on Dorothea Lange

Matt Black and Ed Kashi Bring California’s Dried-Out Central Valley to The New Yorker The Dry Land

January 7th, 2015

New Instagram Feed Highlights Effects of Climate Change

Everyday Climate Change (photos © the individual photographers)

Everyday Climate Change (photos © the individual photographers)

An Instagram feed showcasing the work of photographers documenting the causes and effects of global climate change launched on January 1. Founded by Tokyo-based photographer James Whitlow Delano, @everydayclimagechange was inspired by the @everydayeverywhere feed, which presents selected images of daily life around the world, and will show how extreme weather and changes to the climate affect life in the developing and the developed world. So far, the feed has featured images by Sara Terry, Katharina Hesse, Michael Robinson Chavez, Janet Jarman, Paolo Patrizi, Ed Kashi, David Butow, John Trotter, Delano and other photographers who have covered such topics as water shortages, pollution caused by the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, forest fires, rising sea levels and the destruction of crops by infestations of funguses and insects.

Delano says that before launching the feed, he contacted photographers he knew who had completed bodies of work relating to climate issues. “I am looking for photographers who are able to see how local climate changes relate to the bigger, global picture,” he says. Delano, who has covered logging and deforestation in Southeast Asia, says he sought photographers based around the world. The contributing photographers are from five continents, and the images featured so far have shown diverse locations: a farm in Mexico; wetlands in Guinea Bissau; a denuded rain forest in southern Papua; a stretch of beach in Far Rockaway, Brooklyn. Says Delano, “I love the way that the photographs tell us that we must all consider how to deal with these issues.”

Though he gave contributors suggestions for hashtags, Delano says he wants to take a hands-off approach to editing. “I have told photographers that I will not curate or interfere unless photos go way off theme. As a photographer, I cherish latitude and freedom.”

Seven days after its launch, the feed has attracted over 1,600 followers. Photographers who have agreed to contribute in the future include Patrick Brown, Ron Haviv, Dominic Bracco II, Veejay Villafranca, Suthep Krisanavarin and Peter DiCampo, co-founder of @EverydayAfrica and @EverydayEverywhere. Delano says he’s happy with the work so far, but might expand the feed in the future. “In a month or so, we may start accepting hashtags or doing a Follow Friday like other everyday feeds. I like the democratization of the feeds that way,” he says. “First, though, I wanted to have a look how the feed functioned. So far, so good.”

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November 17th, 2014

With $10,000 Grant, Photographer Orchestrates Panoramic of Mile-Long Street

Tryon Street, Charlotte, NC: Charlotte Ballet Building, November 1, 2015. ©Jeff Cravotta

One of 138 images taken along Tryon St. in Charlotte, NC for a 100-foot long panorama. ©Jeff Cravotta

Photographer Sean Busher was looking for a project to herald the return of The Light Factory—a non-profit gallery and photo education center in Charlotte, North Carolina–when he hit upon an audacious idea: Recruit dozens of volunteers to create two panoramic images of both sides of Charlotte’s historic main drag. With months of preparation and a $10,000 grant, Busher pulled it off November 1. A two-sided, 100-foot exhibition of both panoramas is now pending at the Mint Museum of Art, the city’s main art museum.

Established in 1972, The Light Factory is a gathering place for photographers that hosts exhibits and offers classes. It closed in 2013 because of financial problems, but a group of local volunteers launched a Kickstarter campaign and managed to re-open it this summer at a new location.

Busher, a Light Factory board member, wanted to commemorate the re-opening and bring some publicity to the gallery. His idea was to photograph a single, vibrant moment on a mile-long stretch of Tryon Street in Charlotte. He dubbed the project “Moment Mile, the Ultimate Panorama.”

“I loved the concept, but I figured it would never happen,” he says.

Photographers line up November 1 to photograph Tryon Street simultaneously on signal. ©Rodney Nichols

Photographers line up November 1 to photograph Tryon Street simultaneously on cue. ©Rodney Nichols

But the more he explored the idea, the more excited he got about making it work. He needed funding, so he called the Charlotte-based Knight Foundation, which supports innovative journalism, media and art projects. Knight Foundation program director Susan Patterson surprised Busher by saying she had already heard of his project and wanted to help.

Knight Foundation provided a $10,000 grant, which Busher will use for marketing, and to cover the cost of printing and mounting the panoramic images. He also used some of the money to cover the costs of parking and a pizza party for the volunteers who showed up to help with the shoot.

Based on some shoot tests, Busher determined that he needed approximately 150 volunteer photographers spaced 36 feet apart to get the best panoramic, a measurement that provided some overlap to guarantee one continuous picture. He put out a call for volunteers, requiring them each to bring their own DSLR with a 50 mm lens.

Prior to the shoot, Busher made 4×6 test shots from each designated position along the street, and asked the volunteers on the shoot day to use his test shots as guides for framing their images. He also instructed volunteers to shoot at 1/125 or faster to ensure sharp capture. He didn’t specify aperture or ISO, but advised everyone to give priority to depth of field, rather than low ISO.

Busher woke up to cold, rainy weather on November 1, the day of the shoot. “We thought we were going to have to cancel the whole thing,” he says. “But about two hours before the shoot, the sun came out and it was beautiful.”

Out of the 150 photographers who volunteered, 138 showed up. Busher had created a website with a countdown for the first picture, scheduled for 6:15 pm, which was just before sunset and around the time the street’s Saturday night bustle begins. The volunteers took their positions along a 15-block stretch of Tryon Street, and monitored the countdown to 6:15 on their smartphones. After the first picture, they all crossed the street to photograph the other side exactly five minutes later. Then they gathered at a pizza restaurant where Busher and his team downloaded everyone’s flash cards onto computers.

“When you get that many people together a lot can go wrong—camera batteries, compact flash drives. It kind of had me freaked out,” Busher says.

He used Photoshop to combine the individual images into a panoramic. Because Photoshop only allows about a 500,000 pixel-wide image, he had to break the document into two different parts. Originally, he planned to stitch the pictures together as one seamless image, but as he was laying it out, he decided to juxtapose the images without stitching them so viewers get a sense of each individual frame.

“To get 138 photographers together at the same time to do something unified like this shows real dedication and support,” Busher says. “This couldn’t have gone better. I’m happy and relieved and thrilled.”

No date has been set for an exhibition at the Mint Museum, but Busher hopes to show the panoramas there this fall. He’s also looking for a corporate buyer for the panoramas. If he succeeds, he says, the proceeds will go to support The Light Factory.

–by Sam Boykin

October 21st, 2014

ASMP Names Tom Kennedy as New Executive Director

The board of directors of American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), the 70-year-old trade association for photographers, has named multimedia consultant and photo editor Tom Kennedy to be its new executive director.

Kennedy, who was Alexia Chair Professor of Documentary Photography in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communication at Syracuse University, has been working as a multimedia consultant to photographers. He was previously Managing Editor of Multimedia for the Washington Post and Director of Photography at National Geographic. He serves on the board of the Eddie Adams Workshop and has been a frequent speaker at photo conferences.

Kennedy’s appointment ends a search that began this summer after the ASMP board voted not to renew the contract of Eugene Mopsik, the organization’s long-time executive director.

In an announcement about his appointment, Kennedy says, “ASMP needs to help its members navigate through the turbulence induced by changes to the media landscape. That turbulence, which affects how our ASMP members make their living, requires building of community, wise positioning, and agility in the face of the changes being unleashed. Notwithstanding these challenges, I see this as a tremendous time for professional photographers to be in the vanguard for visual storytelling.”

October 15th, 2014

2014 Eddie Adams Workshop Award Winners Announced

The annual four-day Eddie Adams Workshop for emerging photographers ended Monday with presentations by students and announcements of awards. Winners included:

Palestinian photojournalist Eman Mohammed, who received the $2,500 Chris Hondros Fund Award.

Zack Wittman, a junior at Central Michigan University, recipient of the Nikon Award, including a Nikon D4S camera, three NIKKOR zoom lenses and Speedlight flash, worth approximately $11,000.

Sean Proctor, a Michigan-based photojournalist, winner of the inaugural Bill Eppridge Memorial Award, a $1,000 cash prize. The prize was created this year in memory of the long-time LIFE photographer who died in October 2013 at age 75.

Rachel Woolf, a student at Ithaca College, who received the Colton Family Award for the student who best embodies the spirit of the workshop, including a $1,000 cash prize.

New York-based Nancy Borowick, recipient of a $1,000 grant from the visual storytelling app Storehouse for innovation in storytelling. (For more on Borowick’s work, see “Picture Story: Love in a Double Shadow of Cancer” on PDNOnline.)

Jonas Wresch, a German photographer based in Colombia, and Adriane Ohanesian, an American photographer based in Kenya, who each received a $1,000 cash award from National Geographic.

Numerous awards in the form of photo assignments and internships were given by the Associated Press, The Denver Post, Education Week, Getty Sports, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Newsweek, The New Yorker, Sports Illustrated, Washington Post, a Lightbox feature on and a one-week internship at the White House.

The four-day, tuition-free workshop hosts 100 photo students and emerging pros with an international mix. Among the more than 20 workshop speakers and coaches at this year’s event were veteran photographers James Nachtwey, Eugene Richards and John White and contemporary talents Barbara Davidson, Gillian Laub, Phil Toledano and Marco Grob.

More information is available at the Eddie Adams Workshop website

October 7th, 2014

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

everydayTwo years after photographer Peter DiCampo and writer Austin Merrill launched Everyday Africa to share images that defy stereotypes about the continent, the popular Instagram feed has spawned multiple imitations, including Everyday Asia, Everyday Middle East, Everyday Iran, Everyday Sri Lanka, and Everyday USA. Now photographers behind 11 of the feeds have launched @EverydayEverywhere
and have invited photographers around the world to contribute by posting images to Instagram with the hashtag #everydayeverywhere.

The central feed will share a common mission: To disseminate images that promote greater understanding of the world. “We hope that when you put this body of work together, it’s a ‘Family of Man’ in the modern age,” DiCampo says, referring to the ambitious 1955 exhibition which featured 273 photographers, “celebrating commonalities, and fighting stereotypes in each region.”

He adds that the loose roster of photographers contributing the feeds are not a photo agency or a collective. “We’re happy this has become a promotional device for [photographers] but we don’t want them participating because of that. We want them to be excited about the project.”

DiCampo says that one or two images a day will be posted to @everydayeverywhere. Guest curators, working on the feed for two weeks at a time, will select the images that appear on @everydayeverywhere. For now, current contributors to Everyday feeds will serve as curators, but the contributors plan to invite an international group of curators to participate. DiCampo explains, “We want a variety of people: photo editors, artists, scholars, thinkers, musicians.”  Since the launch of Everyday Everywhere, Grant Slater and Austin Merrill have been the first and second guest curators, selecting images that had been posted on Everyday Eastern Europe, Everyday Bangladesh, Everyday Black America, Everyday Iran and Everyday NBNJ, which shows images from New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Contributors to Everyday decided to create a centralized Everyday feed during three days of meetings at the Open Society Foundations in New York City. The meetings, held during the Photoville photo festival, where an exhibition of work from 11 feeds was hosted by Instagram, gathered more than 30 contributors from around the world, says DiCampo. Though many had previously shared advice and ideas via Skype or email, few of the contributors had met in person.

“We’ve been talking for a long time about how to organize all this, how to encourage the Everyday concept to continue spreading while at the same time having some central structure,” DiCampo says in the press release the group issued on September 30.

To support the expansion of the Everyday project, the contributors who met in New York City also formed committees to address concerns common to all the feeds. “There’s now an events committee, an educational committee, a technical committee to help,” says DiCampo, who along with Merrill has used Everyday Africa imagery to conduct a visual literacy class in the Bronx where students can contribute to Everyday Bronx. He adds that a book of images posted to Everyday Africa is also in the works.

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Picture Story: Everyday Africa on Instagram