Strant Magazine Open Call - Faith

Strant is looking for work to be included in its forthcoming publication about faith as a system of beliefs.  Although faith can manifest itself within major religions, it can be found in other smaller organized religions or in strongly held beliefs and theories however obscure those beliefs might be. Faith can motivate people to be inclusive and compassionate as well as divisive and violent. It provokes distrust and hesitation as well as provides solace and understanding.

In this forthcoming issue, we hope to consider a broad understanding of faith as a system of beliefs, a standard of hope, and how whether in alignment with a particular set of beliefs or in stark contrast to, faith informs personal convictions. Strant encourages a varied study of faith but hopes to promote a considerate approach to any and all beliefs.




Strant VOL 004, ISS 002 will be published first online, Summer of 2015 to be followed by a print publication encompassing the entire year of online publications at the end of 2015/early 2016.
[ VOL 002, ISS 0010 ] in conversation with Hugo Martinez; On Food, Heritage, and Family Dynamic

LS 17 | Food

Hugo Martinez - Studio Wall: Food as Metaphor

Hugo Martinez is a photographer born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico  and currently living in Santa Barbara, California. He recently completed the Masters of Fine Art in Photography program at Brooks Institute for which he made the series, The Recipe Can Change which explores by using food and recipes as a metaphor for his Latin American family and the culture in which he was raised. 

HM: I felt three images constituted and represented the ideas that I wished to discuss with this project. From those three images came what is now The Recipe Can Change. First and perhaps most important was “Discoursing for 2 Hours & 20 Minutes”. That image turned everything around for me. It was made after a long discussion with my mother. From that discussion I came to understand all that  I wish to hold onto from my culture, my family and the basic ideas behind cooking and following a recipe that is passed down from generation to generation. Life is like a recipe. I learned from watching my mother that cooking is a little science, a lot of art, and a good amount of experimentation. Even if we follow the recipe exactly, most often it does not turn out as we hoped it would. There are traditions in my culture that we as Mexicans should always follow. “3 Second Decision” is about religious tradition and how we as Catholics should always listen to, follow and obey the Catholic Church. I feel at times I am turning my back to that which I was raised to believe and yet I am tired of being told how and why to behave solely on the promise of the afterlife. The church is always this tempting force that we are taught to reach for only to have it trap us within its grasp. Through it all my mother has been the strength that held us together for the sake of her children and out of fear of us growing up with a completely broken family. She has been broken herself at times yet she always managed to remain resilient. “3 Ounces of Concealed Strength” is about my family’s dynamics. It is about both my parents. I do not wish to keep certain recipes by following in my father’s footsteps. However, some recipes I have learned from my mother. They are ones that I will follow until the day I die, having even half the strength she has as a woman, a wife, but most importantly as a mother.


Photographer Shaun H Kelly talks about his creative process and the importance of producing his work in print. He also discusses the purpose of Strant Magazine, a new print publication he founded.


Essay by Shaun H Kelly

On Strant’s Camera Reality blog I wrote a short piece titled, Not Too Many Blogs, Zines, Magazines, and Self-Published Books in which I said that “dissenters might argue that there are too many photographers out there producing blogs, zines, magazines, self-published books, etc. On the contrary however, I believe photographers are diversifying themselves and understanding photography better by writing, editing, and publishing.” I would like to expand on the topic a bit because, as photographers I believe we are often motivated by the consumption of our work rather than the self-reflection it allows. Self-reflection is not the end all of photography, but my argument here is that despite the hemming and hawing to be seen and heard, neither is its consumption. I would like to make an argument for the photographer as critic.In his book A Short Guide to Writing about Art, Sylvan Barnet says that “in putting words on paper we have to take a second and third look at what is in front of us and what is within us. And so writing is a way of learning… when we write we hope to make at least a little progress in the difficult but rewarding job of talking about our responses.” Those sentences are contained within the very first paragraph of the book. The book is, essentially a primer for college students learning critical writing about art. It is not however, without merit as advice for not just the young critical writer but any creative including the photographer. In The Liberating Role of Conflict in Group Creativity Charlan Nemeth writes that “the encouragement of debate—even criticism—may permit the generation of more creative ideas.” It is evident to the creative process that criticism is necessary, a process of better understanding by commentary and reply.Not Too Many Blogs, Zines, Magazines, and Self-Published Books was prompted after reading an interview in which the subject, a photographer, noted that the number of photography blogs with a need for new content daily are creating buzz around photography that isn’t good. Within days of reading that interview, a conversation by email came to an end as a potential contributor to a future issue of Strant declined to be included. I absolutely respect the photographer’s decision to decline, especially considering it was a potential conflict of interest with another opportunity by another publication for the project to be published. In the end however, it was not the conflict of interest that lead the photographer to decline but rather, an issue regarding technical decisions. This disagreement lead the photographer to explain, much like the subject of the interview, that there are too many photography publications out there anyhow. I share these stories not to spite either of these photographers (hence omitting names) or out of my own pity. Rather I shared them because I recognize the irony of the situations at hand. First, the interview I read was featured on a photography blog. Second, the would-be-collaborator for Strant is also a publisher of zines and photobooks. Both were arguing that there are too many publications out there. These are two photographers, one taking advantage of an online platform to presumably promote work and the second photographer, attempting to make a go at publishing the very thing of which there are supposedly too many. There is however despite the irony, accuracy in their assertions.What is the point of a photography publication be it a blog, zine, magazine, or self-published book anyhow? What is the point of the photographer? For one, it is in fact to introduce viewers to the otherwise unknown. Unfortunately for many publications and photographers, this is where it ends. Given the sheer magnitude of good and bad photographers alike, there is plenty of room for plenty of publications taking on this role and as well, there is always room for new commentary by a photographer, new juxtapositions to be explored or even existing ideas to be reconsidered in a more contemporary way. But as the subject of the interview said, and with which if certain presumptions exist I agree, there is too much of this going on. The presumption is that the only role of photography publications is to promote work of the unknown and to continue my vein, the photographer’s role to introduce the unknown. If this were the case, then I agree with the interviewee. But this is not true and there is not too much of this going on. It is simply not being done well, myself as a photographer and Strant not excluded. The photography publication and photographer, at least in principal, should offer up more than just a look at the unknown. There are other roles the photography publication and photographer should take on and if each were doing so, despite the number of photographers out there today (even if the “bad” photographers were included), I believe the notion of “too many” could be dismissed. In short, many photography publications and photographers are not focused on the right thing and instead, are focused on attracting a demanding but inattentive audience.Let’s consider then, what the role of a photography publication or photographer should be beyond promoting the unknown. To do so, I’d like to cite again Sylvan Barnet who himself cites poet and 20th Century writer W.H. Auden. Auden suggests six functions of the critic. I would like to adapt four of these functions for photography publications and in doing so suggest that in some regard, every photographer could benefit from functioning much the same. Each of the four are introduced below in italics. Words contained in brackets are what I have added or used as replacement for his original text. The full six functions of a critic as Auden wrote them appear in his collection of essays The Dyer’s Hand.1. Introduce me to [photographers] of which I was hitherto unaware.Given the platform of the internet and the recent boom in self-publishing, this one is pretty accessible and has been thus far, a focus of this essay.2. Give a “reading” of [the photography] which increases my understanding of it.This function should go hand in hand with introducing work. Unfortunately thoughtful consideration of work has been exchanged for a mill-churn style of pumping out work to be seen and liked by way of social media. This is almost an exploitation of the photographer, using her unknown status to promote not just the work, but the publication itself. In this form, the act of discovery takes precedence over any consideration of these newly discovered talents. We should give deserved thought to photography if we intend to introduce it to a new audience, which leads to numbers three and four…3. Throw light upon the [photographic] process.How a photographer arrived at the photograph or body of photographs should be taken into consideration. This is not an opportunity for a biopic understanding of the photographer, but rather how the relationship of creation and created serves as a framework to understand the work.4. Throw light upon the relation of [photography] to life, to science, economics, ethics, religion, etc.Most any art is a response, be it out of disgust or celebration, of some form of our existence. If we understand the photography in context to when or where it was created we can apply meaning (even if varied) to the work.We can assume that often we will fall short of these functions. Sometimes photography and photography publications will not be good. But good photography and good publications is not the point. Contributing to critical dialogue is. We often associate criticism with pointing out flaws. But critical thought is not about judgement but rather being self-aware by contributing to the conversation. It is also important that we consider the photographic process much the same as an on-going dialogue. And likewise a good photographer or good photography publication is self-aware and contributes to the conversation addressing how we see and understand ourselves both collectively and individually. This critical process can “both liberate individuals to be relatively free of evaluation apprehension and stimulate them to express ideas more freely. Further, such an atmosphere might also stimulate creativity subsequent to the interaction” writes Nemeth. Being self-aware means understanding one’s own voice. As Barnet wrote, “we turn to criticism with the hope that the critic has seen something we have missed[.]” This is, I believe, just cause for dialogue about our photographic pursuits be it criticism of our own work or listening to the criticism of others. And it can be easily said, that we turn to photography with the hope that the photographer has seen something we have missed. Sometimes a photographer is fruitful in this pursuit and other times, barren. But as I shared in Not Too Many Blogs, Zines, Magazines, and Self-Published Books, “the work might not be outstanding but it is that photographer at that particular time as evidenced by a body of work be it written or visual, but shared… what is valuable is the personal insight gained as the photographer understands his or her voice through means other than solely the photographic.” If we understand ourselves better, then perhaps we can make critical commentary on the world be it through our own photography or critical study of the photography of others.

Strant VOL 004; ISS 001 considers what perhaps defines each of us most whether in relation to or by contrast, by obligation, love or distance. The notion of family is part of our most basic form. In this issue we look at the understanding of people related to one another by blood, marriage and other familial ties. Regardless of whether we seek distance or proximity to those with whom we share this bond, it lends us our existence, understanding and perspective. Family is a fulcrum. Everything else, better or worse pivots upon it.

Included in this issue is featured work by John & Emily O’Connor, Bradley Peters, Sophie Barbasch, Nathan Pearce, Michael McCraw, Kay Westhues, Natalie Krick, Samantha Belden and Samantha Harthoorn. This issue also includes my essay Family Like A Wishbone and The Unknown in the Familiar by Jesse Groves along with a photobook discussion with Milly West about Come Again When You Can’t Stay So Long by Tara Wray and interviews with Aaron Turner and Evelyn Cervantes.

Read Strant VOL 004; ISS 001

(Photo by Michael McCraw)

Strant | Camera Reality blog

In this forthcoming issue, the first for 2015, Strant will look at what perhaps defines each of us most whether in relation to or by contrast, by obligation, love or distance. The notion of family is part of our most basic form. Strant VOL 004, ISS 001 will be considering the understanding of people related to one another by blood, marriage and other familial ties. (Photograph by John O’Connor)



Strant VOL 003, ISS 005

An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar by Taryn Simon was recently reviewed for Strant VOL 003, ISS 005Originally it was published in 2008 and is now hard to find without a high price tag.In 2013 however, it was published a second time by Hatje Cantz and is still available for a more affordable price which makes it all the more worthwhile. It is a book that leaves one proud, angry, and often confused. It is a time-capsule of a complex and consumptive American identity.

Excerpt from review:
” ‘Confronting the divide between those with and without the privilege of access, Simon’s collection reflects and reveals that which is integral to America’s foundation[.]‘ That ‘privilege of access’ has convinced our consumerist culture that a fulfilling life is one marked by what one can acquire and I suppose, sets one apart from those who cannot live life markedly by accumulation. We therefore understand ourselves as Americans in this way and we then understand America defined as collectively amassed. Consumer’s choice becomes our freedom.”

Read the full review of An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar by Taryn Simon in Strant VOL 003, ISS 005
Strant Magazine Open Call for Photos, Essays, and Photobooks about Family

Many thanks to southernglossary for this gracious feature about my own work and the current open call for Strant Magazine. Follow the title link above to read the feature and follow them here on Tumblr to find out more about Southern Glossary and their “examination and enthusiasm to the dialogue about Southern art and culture." 

External image

Strant magazine has an open call for submissions of photo projects, essays, and photobook publications centered around the theme of family for the first issue of 2015. The deadline is December 10th. Based in Oxford, Mississippi, Strant is an "Online and print publication with the intent to foster dialogue and collaboration through photography and the belief that we are supposed to live together, not alone.” Strant presents four themed issues throughout the year, and while not exclusively southern in nature, themes like faith, food, and geography have all been explored. There will be a end-of-year print publication drawing from all the issues. For the first issue of next year’s volume, founder Shaun H. Kelly has chosen the topic of family with the full awareness that that term is much more fluid now than it has ever been. Photo essays and photobooks will be considered for inclusion (along with a statement). Writing on the family theme should also relate to photography in some manner. Kelly is a photographer himself, and his interest in the conversations between photography, history, and writing about how imagery shapes our understanding (or misunderstanding) of the world around us permeates the whole Strant project.  In “The Overgrown South," a particularly interesting essay on southern photography from earlier this year, Kelly explores the difference between documenting southern surroundings and chasing after subjects or themes that the giants of the genre made famous: "We should be careful not to force juxtaposition, conscious that at some point past can usurp present as then we are left with a gap of photographic knowledge, a contemporary world undocumented and a lack of understanding of our contemporary existence that photography can provide. Photography is a wonderful medium to present nothing more than what we recognize each of us individually, Southern or not, to be true. It is the concern of the photographer to react, to implicate and at the same time reaffirm and to hold that truth is defined in relation to but not by the past.” Get in on the conversation and get all the details about submitting to Strant.

Stranthouse Archive & Future Plans for Strant Magazine

Strant has recently moved its archives to a Tumblr page titled, Stranthouse. Given that Tumblr is more accommodating for sharing and following, the site serves hopefully to revisit photographic work that has been included in past issues and relate it to work in current issues. I will make an attempt with new content to relate it as much as possible to interviews, photobook discussions and reviews, and essays from past issues and provide links to those posts. My desire is that given the nature of online content, relating new work to work from the past will help to continue and encourage dialogue about photography and help to relate photographic work, rather than forgetting that which has fallen out of our immediate attention. Archived posts will also periodically appear on Strant’s Twitter feed, @strantmag

Issues from the current volume as well as posts to Camera Reality blog will still appear at STRANTMAG.COM. For example, VOLUME 003; ISSUES 001 – 005 which spans 2014, are now the only issues that appear on the main page. As 2015 approaches, those issues will migrate to Stranthouse. This will leave room to focus on new work without it getting cluttered by all the previous issues but still grant access to both. At least for now however, by utilizing the related posts feed you will be able to access those old posts. The related post feature is aggregated based on keywords and is something that might be phased out with the new year in favor of more intentional relationships between content.

Strant VOL 003, ISS 005 was the last issue for 2014. I still have scheduled features on Camera Reality blog for the remainder of the year and room for more features. See submission guidelines here. Next year, as I attempt to do each year, I will be revamping Strant in hopes to focus the intent and make reading more worthwhile. Currently there is an open call for submissions for Strant VOL 004, ISS 001 which will serve as the inaugural issue of the revamped magazine. The plan is to publish four online issues, each centered on a theme. The first issue theme is family. More about the open call can be read here. At the end of the year a print publication will be produced encompassing the four issues that originally appeared online throughout the year.