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"Photography is, first of all, a way of seeing. It is not seeing itself."—Susan Sontag 

Looking at Thomas Allen’s photographs, one is tempted to think these are photoshopped or digitally manipulated in some way. Instead, Allen carefully cuts, crafts and stages these three-dimensional scenes which are then shot on film using a large view camera and tilt-shift lens to achieve the special depth-of-field look. Allen is entirely self-sufficient and a confessed, “dyed-in-the-wool purist,” regarding his working technique. Everything must be as the camera captured it.

This latest series, “Beautiful Evidence,” inspired by his 8-year old daughter’s scientific curiosity, is currently on exhibit at Foley Gallery here in New York. The show ends on Sunday, but for a broader understanding, it’s worth visiting Allen’s site to discover more of this talented artist’s way of seeing.  —Lane Nevares

Spring in its fullest beauty, there is new life energy coming back to nature.

The rain is increadible, it is making the colours so much more intensive you can kinda feel the wet air around and the slight chilly atmosphere.

It was just a quick look out of my window when i knew i had to take a photo of this amazing moment. thats what photography is about sometimes ;)

8

"Fall in love. Every day. With everything. With life. If you can fall in love, you can be a photographer. I think that is absolutely essential."—Ruth Bernhard 

The Parisienne photographer, Lara Kiosses's, series Romantic Collection isn’t breaking any new ground, or charting any new territory. Using multiple exposures is nothing new, and using female models and flowers has a long, established history. Nevertheless, the results Kiosses achieves using these common elements are impressive. The richness and the romance shine through. The images are exactly what they’re supposed to be: beautiful, meditative, and romantic.

Kiosses, like many working photographers, has a diverse portfolio. She’s talented, and I can sense through her work, passionate about what she does. Her work reminds me how many wonderful photographers—many of whom I’ll never discover—are out there falling in love.—Lane Nevares

5

"Can the ubiquitous language of commodity culture and advertising be employed to speak to, and about, more than merchandise and celebrity?  If so, to what end?"Hank Willis Thomas

About an hour northwest of New York City, a small museum, The Aldrich Contemporary, is exhibiting from now until late September, the work of an artist who will make you think. Hank Willis Thomas’s series, “Strange Fruit,” isn’t pulling any punches. The title of a famous Billie Holiday song written to protest southern lynchings and racist violence, “Strange Fruit,” in the 21st Century, has even greater connotations.  

Thomas’s images confront and provoke. They’re beautiful and they’re troublesome.  Their impact, however, will be mitigated by what the viewer brings to the experience.  For the values and ideas we all bear, frame our interpretations. I find these images potent and dark. They’re reminders of the complexities surrounding economics, history, race and class in our visual culture.  But what others see, I can’t say.  And like Hank Willis Thomas, I also ask, “If so, to what end?”  —Lane Nevares

6

"I have been very single minded with how I want to live my life. Make pictures and create an environment that brings me a sense of happiness."—Cig Harvey 

I first came across Cig Harvey’s work earlier this year while touring The AIPAD Photography Show here in New York.  I found the work to be refreshing, striking and imbued with feeling.  In May, her monograph, You Look At Me Like An Emergency, was published, and I was once again reminded of her talent.

Cig Harvey is originally from Devon, a heartbreakingly beautiful place in the southwest of England, and now lives in the States.  She’s someone in love with photography, but perhaps it’s her ex-pat British sensibility that gives her photographs their unique point-of-view.  If photographs reflect ourselves and the photographers who take them, then Cig Harvey is one artist well-qualified to teach others how to find the magic.  —Lane Nevares

8

"A lot of the time you keep looking for beauty, but it’s already there. And if you look with a little bit more intention, you see it." Vik Muniz 

San Francisco-based artist Caren Alpert cares about the food we eat. A commercial food photographer by trade, Alpert’s series “terra cibus” aspires to "transform our food obsession into a newfound closeness with what nourishes us." Using a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM), Alpert is able to take incredibly sharp and detailed images of common food items revealing colors and details that express the wonder of nature.

The idea is simple and the execution is exquisite. I find these super-duper-macro images not only captivate, but they transform banal subjects into something quite extraordinary. The colors, textures, and form remind us that beauty, not always obvious, is already there.—Lane Nevares 

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"I was stunned and amazed, my childhood memories, slowly swirled past like the wind through the trees…"—Chrissie Hynde

The photographer Todd Hido's latest show, ”Excerpts from Silver Meadows,” opens tomorrow at Bruce Silverstein Gallery. The show coincides with his latest monograph of the same name published by the estimable publisher, Nazraeli Press.

Todd Hido grew up in Kent, Ohio, and as a Midwesterner brings a particular sensibility to his interpretation of suburban American culture. Excerpts from Silver Meadows, named after his old neighborhood, is a collection of memories and loose narratives that let us glimpse into the artist’s own psyche. In this video, Hido tells the tale, especially why creating a book is important to his work, and why he believes, as Lewis Baltz once remarked, that Photography uniquely occupies a profound space between Literature and Film.

Hido shoots analogue. He adores light and embraces its possibilities to convey mood and emotion—though dark and uncomfortable they may be. While his portrait work is even more impactful than his landscapes, Hido’s work transcends the ordinary, because let’s face it: in our world of image saturation, how many artists make work that is instantly recognizable as their own?  Way to go, Ohio. —Lane Nevares

10

"What appears in the pictures was the subject’s decision, not mine. I took what they presented—delicate moments—unadorned and unglamorous, yet tender and exquisite. —Ray Metzker 

Belgium isn’t a land of sunshine and smiles, but there is a no-nonsense, hardworking attitude that I’ve always respected. It’s this commonsensical approach to life that I see in the work of Belgian photographer, Jacques Sonck, who is currently on exhibit at L. Parker Stephenson Photographs here in NYC. Sonck, who trained as a photographer, did the practical thing in life: he got a job shooting images at the Culture Department of the Province of Antwerp. For 35 years he photographed their exhibition catalogs and earned a living, while doing his own personal work on the side. 

Looking at his images, we can conjure the influences of Arbus and Penn, but Sonck’s images are not derivative. He is straightforward and unapologetic about what he’s doing. He’s a skilled photographer who has no personal interest, at all, in the lives of his sitters. Indeed, he often doesn’t even know their names. What he’s after is the transcendence found in any great portrait. That is, the notion that through the alchemy of photographer and subject, the photograph, itself, elevates their brief experience into something greater that we can engage and project ourselves onto. They are looking at us, we are looking at them, and we are all looking at each other. —Lane Nevares

6

"I felt that children smoking would have a surreal impact upon the viewer and compel them to truly see the acts of smoking rather than making assumptions about the person doing the act." Frieke Janssens 

Last week, I attended the preview for, “Smoking Kids,” by the Belgian photographer, Frieke Janssens. I was impressed at how much fun an opening could be. Rather than a stuffy affair, it was packed with well-dressed Belgians out in support of one of their own, enjoying live music and good drink. In essence, a party.

Frieke Janssens images of smoking children may, on first take, seem real, but they’re not. With any photographic work, much lies in what we bring to the moment of engagement with the image. Understanding a photographer’s intent, therefore, can sometimes be a little ambiguous. With these beautiful portraits of children, I find that to be the case. Janssens is asking us to question the viewer’s relationship to smoking, and then what?  Do these portraits transcend their stylized appeal?  

Janssens is an accomplished photographer bold enough to follow her imagination wherever it may lead. She understands how to produce good work, and I salute her. I suspect that despite some finding her depiction of children controversial, much of the work will sell here, as it has in Europe. The exhibit is up until the 8th of February at the VII Gallery in Dumbo, Brooklyn. Stay tuned, you’ll be hearing more about Frieke Janssens. —Lane Nevares

7

"Any photographer who says he’s not a voyeur is either stupid or a liar."—Helmut Newton

The artist Miroslav Tichý, who passed away in May 2011, was born in 1926 in what is now the Czech Republic. Although trained as a painter at The Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, Tichy’s life took an altogether different direction after the Communist takeover in 1948. Tichy had a problem with authority and rather than acquiesce to the new demands of the State, chose a marginal lifestyle in his hometown of Kyjov.

With handmade cameras fashioned from bits and pieces of old cardboard tubes, cigarette boxes, plexiglas and other ephemera, Tichy would wander around his hometown taking surreptitious photos of individuals, generally young women, at the local pool, markets, or walking around town. Most of his subjects weren’t (in many cases) aware that his cameras were actually real, choosing to believe instead that the unkempt eccentric standing in front of them was harmless. He allowed himself three rolls of film a day. These recorded images would then be brought to his home where he processed, developed and printed them for himself.

Through the strange alchemy of his vision and the eroticized intensity of his photographs, Tichy’s work garnered attention late in life. He was internationally “discovered” in 2004 during the Seville Biennial. Since then he has gone on to have solo shows at such premier venues as the Georges Pompidou Center in Paris and his first American show at the International Center of Photography. Today, his work is widely collected, exhibited and for sale by dealers like myself.

Although his photography and artistry break all the rules in terms of focusing, exposure, poor printing, and careless handling, none of this mattered to Tichy who once told an interviewer, “A mistake. That’s what makes the poetry.” —Lane Nevares

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"Who controls the media—the images—controls the culture."—Allen Ginsberg

The artist Tim Parchikov, whose work is currently on exhibit in Cologne, Germany at the Priska Pasquer Gallery, has a quality to his images that is hard to define, yet easy to sense. Based in Paris and Moscow, Parchikov is part of a younger generation of Russian artists whose broader outlook reflects new approaches to political and cultural questions.

While he’s particularly attentive to beautiful light and composition, there’s a wry attitude behind his work. It speaks of someone who isn’t afraid to question, someone who understands that political and cultural meanings are up for grabs. Parchikov’s video work is similarly charged. In an age where the public is fighting for net neutrality, we should all question who controls the flow. --Lane Nevares

3

“I want to sing like the birds sing, not worrying about who hears or what they think.” —Rumi

The Tehran-based photographer, Newsha Tavakolian’s, conceptual series “Listen” and “The Day I Became a Woman” are now on exhibit at LACMA, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. This series focuses on Iranian professional female singers who have been unable to perform solo or to produce their own music since the revolution in 1979. Tavakolian brought these singers to a private studio, and filmed/photographed them performing in front of a chintzy ‘70’s-era backdrop to an imaginary audience. The power of the series lies in the absence, the silence of their passionate performances. In “The Day I Became a Woman,” Tavakolian explores the rite of passage for young muslim girls, who at age 9, transition into women in the faith.

In addition to the portraits of singers, Tavakolian also created these fictional CD covers (which metaphorically remain empty) that portray her own interpretation of Iranian society. Tavakolian writes, “For me a woman’s voice represents a power that if you silence it, imbalances society and makes everything deformed. The project ‘Listen’ echoes the voice of these silenced women. I let Iranian women singers perform through my camera while the world has never heard them.” For anyone interested in hearing more from Tavakolian, here is a brief video interview.

Like Shadi Ghadirian and other contemporaries, female Iranian photographers prove that despite the odds, contradictions, constraints, and milieu in which they work, there is always hope for art. Sometimes what is not said is the most important thing to hear. —Lane Nevares

10

“To photograph truthfully and effectively is to see beneath the surfaces and record the qualities of nature and humanity which live or are latent in all things.”—Ansel Adams

The photogravure process, when done well, can yield magnificent results. The photographer Fritz Liedtke’s series and book “Astra Velum” (Veil of Stars) embraces this vintage technique. These penetrating portraits of freckled and scarred faces are wonderful to behold online, however, to actually hold them, is to truly appreciate the craftsmanship, the tonalities, and the tactile luxury of the Japanese paper.

Liedtke’s work is currently on view in Miami as part of the group show, “Historical Process/Contemporary Vision,” at the Dina Mitrani Gallery. While his explorations of skin and freckled faces represent a straightforward portraiture, these portraits also offer emotional resonance and beauty. If the eyes are our “windows to the soul,” then these images ask us to look inside beyond the “veil of stars.” —Lane Nevares

8

"If I have anything to say, it may be found in my images." —Josef Koudelka

This weekend the Art Institute of Chicago opens a significant exhibition, Josef Koudelka: Nationality Doubtful. The Czech-born, French nationalized photographer isn’t the settling down type. Since vacating his country in 1970 for greater political freedom in England, where he joined the photo agency Magnum, Koudelka has led a life, at the age of 76, of wander and wonder.

This new show will exhibit the complete surviving 22 photographs of the début presentation of his famed 1967 Gypsies, along with original photobooks and ephemera. While the exhibition, sadly, will not be coming to NYC, it later travels to the J. Paul Getty Museum (LA) and the Fundación MAPFRE (ES). 

What makes Koudelka’s work exceptional? It’s his intangible ability to suffuse images with the poignancy of loss, emptiness, and a feeling that above it all, life is a fascinating mystery in all its pathos and beauty. I often find myself coming back to his work again and again. It’s poetry for the eyes.—Lane Nevares

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"Everything shifts as you move, and different things come into focus at different points of your life, and you try to articulate that."—Chris Steele-Perkins 

Few photographers understand their compatriots as well as British photographer, Chris Steele-Perkins. Born in Burma in 1947 to an English father and Burmese mother, two years later he moved with his family to England where he would grow up and later embark upon a career as a photojournalist. In 1979, at the age of 32, he joined Magnum Photos and his first book, The Teds, was published.

Teddy Boy culture developed in the London of the 1950’s. This new alchemy of teen culture fused Edwardian fashion, rock ‘n’ roll, drinking, dancing and, at times, collective violence into an original youth subculture. And like everything in Britain, social stratification and class played their customary roles. The Teds, for their part, were decidedly working class.

While Chris Steele-Perkins has enjoyed a long, storied career as a social documentary photographer covering a wide variety of issues, “The Teds” is something special. I pulled the book off my shelf yesterday, and as I smiled poring over the stories and images, I was reminded again why, thirty-four years later, “The Teds” remains a classic. —Lane Nevares

5

"Once we realize that imperfect understanding is the human condition, there is no shame in being wrong, only in failing to correct our mistakes."—George Soros

Since 1998 the Open Society Foundations’ commitment to documentary photography and its role in revealing wider global issues has been made manifest through its Moving Walls exhibition. The 21st installment opened last week in New York, and will continue later this year on to Washington, DC and London.

The five photographers represented in Moving Walls 21—Shannon Jensen, Mark Leong, Nikos Pilos, João Pina, and Diana Markosian—are a diverse lot, but their work shares a commonality of compassion and concern for people and their plights. Whether it’s Sudanese refugees, Hong Kongers under Chinese rule, the legacy of Operation Condor, the collapse of Greek industry, or the lives of young women in Chechnya, the commitment to sharing these stories is impressive.

These images of shoes from Shannon Jensen’s series Long Walk, while ostensibly simple, tell a difficult story of survival, migration, and human resilience. In this case, the captioning and stories behind the shoes are as poignant as the images themselves. Jensen’s photographs, as well as the others featured in Moving Walls 21, remind us to never forget that our capacity for understanding, no matter how imperfect, should never prevent us from caring. —Lane Nevares

9

"I gotta roll, I can’t stand still. Got a flamin’ heart, can’t get my fill. …Didn’t take long ‘fore I found out, what people mean by down and out."Led Zeppelin

Philip-Lorca diCorcia was awarded a prestigious National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in 1989. He took the $45,000 grant money, his 6 x 9 Linhof camera, an assistant, and headed to Los Angeles to create, what has since become, one of his most memorable series, “Hustlers.” These dispassionate portraits of male prostitutes, including a forthcoming monograph from Steidl, are now on display at David Zwirner gallery in New York.

This important exhibit marks 20 years since diCorcia’s first solo show in 1993 at the Museum of Modern Art. The new show offers 40 photographs (along with 15 newly produced works) each notably captioned with the name, age, hometown, and the amount of government-sponsored money diCorcia paid for the hustler’s time.

More than twenty years later these classic, diCorcia images still resonate. What’s different, however, is that now in our 21st Century of universal, instantaneous information, the transaction cost for human flesh is widely understood. —Lane Nevares

6

"The exercise of democracy begins as exercise, as walking around, becoming familiar with the streets, comfortable with strangers, able to imagine your own body as powerful and expressive rather than a pawn."—Rebecca Solnit

The photographer Richard Renaldi isn’t afraid to talk to people. For nearly seven years he has been approaching strangers throughout the United States and asking them to pose, along with another complete stranger, for his large format 8 x 10 camera. This ongoing series, “Touching Strangers,” is now a new monograph from Aperture, with an exhibit opening tomorrow night. 

In these images, body language reveals everything. We look at these folks looking at us and understand that we’re all sharing a moment. Once the shutter’s released, the magic is frozen. Yes, we know it will never happen again, these individuals will probably never again meet each other, but what remains is the touch. And most importantly, the idea that we are, despite the negative aspects of our culture to dictate otherwise, humanly connected. —Lane Nevares

7

"We tremble at the feelings we experience as our sense of wholeness is reorganized by what we see."—Emmet Gowin

The Finnish-born photographer Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen is once again garnering the attention she merits. Experiencing something of a notoriety renaissance for her “Byker” series beginning in the late 60’s (currently on view at L. Parker Stephenson Photographs until May 11th), it’s exciting to see Ms. Konttinen reaching new audiences. 

Konttinen’s images, taken within the communities of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, sought to capture the humor and dignity of working-class Geordie culture as they, like other poor neighborhoods in the north of England, saw their homes devastated by developers keen to tear down the “slums” and replace them with architectural and planning fantasies that bore no connection to the people actually living there. Konttinen and friends, as part of the the still extant Amber Collective, lived in Byker from 1969-76 and documented the impact over a ten year period until 1980. These photographs should, therefore, be understood for their political and social undertones.

Aside from their didactic message, Konttinen’s images possess the power of intimacy and connection. The wonderful compositions and tonal ranges add to their beauty; however, it is the emotive energy in the images that sets them apart. I, for one, feel the love. —Lane Nevares

6

"It (taking photographs) is all about longing…without longing—no pictures at all."  —Anders Petersen

One of the nicest gifts I received this year is Anders Petersen’s latest monograph, ”Soho.” In collaboration with London’s noted Photographers’ Gallery and Mack Books, Petersen was given a four-week residency last year to shoot images of an area in London known for many things to many people. For Petersen, it was an opportunity to return to a place he’d known in the 70’s and could re-discover, thirty years later, through the lens.

While there are many impressive photographers working today, Anders Petersen is one of the finest. I am consistently astonished at the power of his photographs. His ability to infuse images with a poetic gaze that senses fragility and yearns for Beauty is the mark of an artist in love with his craft, and more importantly, in love with people. I can keep returning to his work and always find something deeper, more resonant. 

For a peek inside the book here’s a video. But I recommend discovering his work, first hand, in print. Call me old-fashioned, but I still believe in the magic of the photobook. —Lane Nevares

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