Author Archives: Feifei Sun

My Belarusian Brides: Katherine Wolkoff’s Search for Family and Familiarity

In college, one professor regularly told photographer Katherine Wolkoff that she looked like the Belarusian woman whose face represented the nation on a 1975 National Geographic map that hung in a history department office. Her father’s family had in fact emigrated from Belarus in 1906, but growing up, Wolkoff had never considered it part of her cultural identity.

That changed after her father, whom she had always looked like, passed away in 2010. Suddenly, Wolkoff became interested in traveling to Belarus in search of other women who looked like her. “It was inspired by the idea of tracing this abstract family tree,” she says. “Sort of like finding this extended family that didn’t exist.”

In July, Wolkoff spent 10 days in Belarus photographing more than 50 women who shared her physical traits. With the help of a 25-year-old Belarusian guide and social media—and the sole stipulation that the women have blonde hair, be it natural or dyed—the photographer made a series of minimal but captivating portraits collectively called ‘My Belarusian Brides,’ a title that touches on family and the nation’s booming mail-order bride business.

Katherine Wolkoff / Courtesy Sasha Wolf Gallery

Katherine, 2012

Wolkoff traveled with a digital Hasselblad HD40 camera, which allowed her to see the images instantly. “I photographed a woman in front of these trees, and it became so clear that this was the image I’d intended to make,” she says. And to bring the idea of family full circle, Wolkoff even created a self-portrait for LightBox, capturing herself in the same light and setting seen in the series.

Some women showed up all dressed up and in full makeup, and many brought their friends or boyfriends. “In part, I think the shoot was a moment of fantasy for them—like the Hollywood fantasy of being photographed,” Wolkoff says. “Belarus is a pretty repressed society, particularly for women, and I think this was a moment of expression and excitement for them”

Wolkoff says she saw a piece of herself in each of the women she photographed, from the tenderly awkward teenager eating an ice cream cone, to the older, self-assured Svetlana who arrived in coral lipstick. “It was an incredible look at aging process—to see these women who weren’t my relatives, but looked very much like me,” she says. “It’s as if we were an ephemeral family.”

Katherine Wolkoff is a photographer based in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Steve Schapiro, Then and Now: Rare Images from a Photography Legend

Just the list of people Steve Schapiro has photographed during his career reads like a Who’s Who of the most influential politicians, celebrities and newsmakers in American history over the last five decades. But that Schapiro captured his subjects during their pivotal and seminal moments—Robert F. Kennedy during his 1968 presidential campaign; Marlon Brando on the set of The Godfather; Andy Warhol and muse Edie Sedgwick in The Factory, among others—lends his photographs an added significance. They aren’t just remarkable portraits of remarkable people, but snapshots into our country’s historical and cultural milestones.

Schapiro’s output over his more than 50-year career has been prolific, and many people have probably seen one of his photographs whether they realize it or not. But his new book, Then and Now, gives readers a look at Schapiro’s lesser-known work; the majority of pictures have never been published. “There were so many pictures that I loved but didn’t fit with the format of my previous books, so this was a chance to bring forth that work,” he says. The book is comprised of single images shown over a spread, as well as spreads of disparate images that share a composition or theme—one such example has a portrait of Martin Scorcese holding a gun and grapes on the left page, and a portrat of Mia Farrow holding a baby on the right. “I wanted to make a book that was interesting on every page,” says Schapiro. “That evolved into the idea of working with double pages where one picture worked with another.”

Schapiro first took an interest to photography at 9 while at summer camp. He fell in love with “the magic of photography” in the dark room, where he became fascinated by how pictures came to life after being dipped in various formulas. But it wasn’t until he discovered Henri Cartier-Bresson’s The Decisive Moment, as a teenager, that his interest really took hold. He began trying to capture his own decisive moments on the streets of New York City, before going to study the formal aspects of photography under W. Eugene Smith.

In 1961, amid the height of the Civil Rights movement, Schapiro started working as a freelance photographer for publications such as LIFE, Rolling Stone, TIME and Newsweek. Over the next 10 years, which Schapiro calls “the golden age of photojournalism,” he would cover the decade’s most significant events, including Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1963 march in Selma, and later, King’s abandoned motel room after this assassination, as well as the “Summer of Love” in Haight-Asbury and Robert F. Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign. “It was an incredible time to be a photojournalist because there was more of an emotional flow—an ability to do more emotional pictures that captured the spirit of a person,” says Schapiro of the period. “I was able to spend a lot of time with people—Bobby Kennedy went to South America for four weeks and I got to go with him. When I got really sick there, Ethel Kennedy brought me Bobby’s pajamas to wear. Bobby was someone who I became friends with, but everyone who worked with him loved him.”

Despite his success as a photographer, Schapiro maintains that he hasn’t taken his most important picture yet—and doesn’t have any idea what it might be. In the meantime, there’s one subject who continues to elude him: “President Barack Obama. I would love to photograph him.”

View more of Schapiro’s work here.

At the Fights: How Howard Schatz Gets His Best Boxing Shots

In his six-year journey to comprehensively capture the world of professional boxing, Howard Schatz learned that the sport is one of courage, but also of constraints. Boxers risk getting injured, knocked out or killed when they step into the ring, all while navigating limited space, compared to the size of a basketball court or football field. Plus, they’re somewhat limited in their motions, too. “Some sports require several movements, like basketball—players jump, run, turn, pass, shoot—but boxers are essentially just ducking and throwing punches,” Schatz says. “I was interested in the tremendous challenge of making a photograph of boxers because of this limited range of human motion.”

That interest inspired his newly-released tome, At the Fights: Inside the World of Professional Boxing, in which Schatz chronicles the industry and its most prominent players—from boxing champions and club fighters to managers and promoters—over 256 large photographs.

The majority of the photographs were taken in a single frame, even if their special-effects aesthetic suggests otherwise. “I had to find a way to make a photograph that had the energy and power that boxing has,” Schatz says. “I always say that what boxers do has movement and depth, while the resulting image is still and flat.”

To make images that exuded the dynamism inherent in boxing itself, Schatz experimented with flash, lighting, shutter speed—and even threw water, salt and powder on the athletes—to create the stroboscopic effect.

For a portrait of Argentine boxer Sergio Martinez (slide #1), Schatz timed how long it took him to complete two jumps of the rope—.6 seconds—and then set off a strobe light to go off every .01 seconds, creating 60 flashes, while he photographed him. A special light that went off at the half-way mark added extra drama.

In another shoot with Amir Khan, the photographer set up his camera 40-ft. away from the boxer and had an assistant throw salt on him. Schatz then asked Khan to swing at the salt—hard enough to hit his camera—creating a spray effect that resulted in a highly energetic shot.

Schatz began exploring with these different methods after a Sports Illustrated shoot of baseball player Albert Pujols a few years ago. Photo editor Steve Fine had asked him to do a stroboscopic study on the great hitter, and Schatz was disappointed by the fact that he needed to create two frames—one for the bat, and one for the player—for one picture. Ever since, he’s relished at the idea of playing scientist in the studio. “I photograph to surprise, delight and amaze myself, so this constant, unending learning process has been enjoyable,” Schatz says of photographic journey of making the book. “It’s been a phenomenally rich education—a thrilling experience.”

Howard Schatz is a New York-based photographer. See more of his work here.

A Vibrant Past: Colorizing the Archives of History

Technology has given us an incredibly wide-ranging view of modern presidents; chief White House photographer Pete Souza’s images of Barack Obama show him in countless locations and situations, from meetings in the Oval Office to candid shots of the president eating ice cream with his daughters on vacation.

The photo archive of Abraham Lincoln, the subject of this week’s cover story, is a much smaller set due to the technological limitations of the time; most of the existing photographs of the 16th president are posed portraits, the majority of which only show Lincoln from the chest up—and all are black-and-white.

But TIME commissioned Sanna Dullaway to create a more vibrant document of Lincoln through a series of colorized photographs produced in Photoshop. After removing spots, dust and scratches from archival Lincoln photographs, Dullaway digitally colorizes the files to produce realistic and modern versions of the portraits, which look like they could have been made today.

The 22-year-old Swedish artist began colorizing images in January 2011, when she was listening to the debut album by rock band Rage Against the Machine. The self-titled album’s cover art is a black-and-white picture of a self-immolating monk taken by AP photographer Malcolm Browne. “I thought the normally fiery flames looked so dull in black and white, so I…looked for a way to make them come alive,” she says. Dullaway colorized the flames, and eventually, the entire picture. She then posted the image on Reddit, and it instantly went viral.

Since that first experiment, Dullaway has continued to colorize a wide range of historical figures, including Albert Einstein, Che Guevara and Teddy Roosevelt, each of which has generated viral buzz online. She’s also used the approach on a number of iconic photographs, such as Eddie Adams’ harrowing image of a Vietnam police officer the moment before he’s about to execute a Vietcong prisoner. In each of these renderings, Dullaway’s use of color is subtle and sophisticated—yielding images that maintain the photographic integrity of their originals, while presenting a look at how these photographs may have come out had color photography existed at the time. That nuanced ability to handle color runs in the family; Dullaway’s father is painter.

The images take anywhere from 40 minutes to three hours to produce, and for the young artist, it’s a way of bringing a contemporary perspective to older works. “History has always been black and white to me, from the World War I soldiers to the 1800s, when ladies wore grand but colorless dresses,” Dullaway says. “By colorizing, I watch the photos come alive, and suddenly the people feel more real and history becomes more tangible.”

Lincoln is at the heart of her next project, a book of Civil War images rendered in color. “I felt like it was a good place to start because the war is well documented in the Library of Congress and started roughly around the same time the camera was first used commercially,” Dullaway says. “And a war offers to chance to cover many subjects at once, and present the events of that time as our eyes would see it today—in color.”

Sanna Dullaway is a photo editor based in Sweden. See more of her work here.

The Men Behind Lincoln: Daniel Day-Lewis and Steven Spielberg by Marco Grob

Ever the director, Steven Spielberg was already thinking about the next shoot at his portrait sitting with Marco Grob for this week’s issue of TIME. Spielberg was curious about the photographer’s plans to photograph Daniel Day Lewis, who plays the 16th president in the director’s forthcoming Lincoln, later in the day. His schedule was free—so Spielberg offered to come back and help Grob with the shoot. “Spielberg is an icon, and to have him shoulder to shoulder with me as I shot was quite amazing,” Grob says. “He ended up directing Daniel’s gazes and poses, and talking to him during the shoot to create a really casual atmosphere.” Spielberg limited his creative input to Lewis, though, even at Grob’s insistence that he review shots, which ultimately suited the photographer’s nerves just fine. “To have a very famous voice in your ear, at your shoulder, as you shoot could be quite stressful, to put it mildly,” Grob says. “But this was obviously an incredibly fun and memorable experience.”

Marco Grob is a contract photographer for TIME. View more of his work for TIME here or on his website.

Imaginary Universe: Richard Kolker’s Computer Generated Images

London-based artist Richard Kolker has been working exclusively with computer generated imagery (CGI) for the last six years. But the fact that he comes from a traditional photographic background, having previously worked as a commercial photographer for Getty Images, would surprise no one: Kolker’s imagined pictures of still lifes, interiors and landscapes are rendered with such precision and clarity that they appear like true, documentary shots.

Inspired by the online virtual world Second Life and games such as World of Warcraft, which both rely heavily on GCI, Kolker sought to create images that were the antithesis of the aesthetic found in these programs. “I wanted to create images that reflected a more mundane nature, as opposed to the more fascinating environments people were experiencing through the anonymity of an avatar,” he says.

TIME Magazine

Richard Kolker’s computer generated image featured in the Oct. 29, 2012 issue of TIME.

That quieter mood is seen in the image created for Kolker in this week’s education-themed issue of TIME. For a story that examines the potential of free online courses to upend traditional higher education, Kolker created a dark image of an empty classroom. “A lot of my photos have this dark shadowy entity to it,” he explains. “I wanted to convey the emptiness with this classroom image—like all the life has been taken out.”

Kolker’s images typically take a couple days to create. And while the method may be seen as unconventional, he says the process itself feels similar to actual shooting. “I build a model like I would with plastic or cardboard, and I light it as I would in real life—but just with digital tools,” Kolker says. “And then I photograph it with a computer tool [Maxon Cinema 4D] that has a shutter speed and aperture—so in many ways, it’s fairly conventional.”

For the most part, Kolker relies on his self-described “vivid imagination” to conceptualize pictures, although he’ll use an actual photograph as a starting point from time to time. In one series, “Reference, Referents,” Kolker looked to famous works by artists whose pieces recalled photographic elements, including David Hockney, and tried to recreate the perfect picture that might have inspired said work.

He still carries cameras around when he travels, but says he never takes pictures anymore, preferring to continue his CGI work. “The whole world is shifting from analog to digital, and I love thinking about this digital code that you can use to create images of places around the world without ever having to go there,” Kolker says. “I love the total freedom of it—the ability to create whatever it is in your imagination or fantasy.”

Richard Kolker is an artist based in the U.K. See more of his work here


Behind the Cover: Bill Clinton Photographed by Mark Seliger

Nearly 20 years after he photographed Bill Clinton during his first term in the White House, Mark Seliger reunited with the former president earlier this month to produce this week’s cover of TIME.

Clinton had just come off an electric speech at the Democratic convention in Charlotte, and his energy was palpable during the sitting. “He had a lot of enthusiasm about the big week, and he looked on top of the world,” Seliger said. “You could see it in his personality and his approach to life that he was content and very jovial.”

Seliger with Clinton at the cover shoot.

Seliger with Clinton at the cover shoot.

Fittingly, Clinton makes the case for optimism—and how things are improving around the world—in his cover story. To illustrate that idea, Seliger had Clinton hold a simple and elegant globe as a prop during the sitting. “There are tons of photos where Clinton is smiling—he is naturally a very inspiring and happy person—but I wanted to show a more introspective moment because he is someone who has changed the way we see and do things, and I felt it was my responsibility to connect with him that way,” Seliger said.

The idea of photographs having a backstory and meaning served as the inspiration behind Seliger’s new online video series called Capture, which features photographers talking about their work alongside notable people outside of the industry, such as Clinton and musicians Mick Jagger and Willie Nelson. The latest episode even featured photographer Martin Schoeller talking about his breast-feeding cover shoot for TIME.

Seliger’s own sitting with the former president isn’t a likely contender for Capture, though. “I wish I could say I had a chance to get philosophical with Clinton, but it didn’t happen,” he says. “I had just 15 minutes, and it was all about work.”

Mark Seliger is a photographer based in New York City. See more of his work here.

TIME Style&Design: Peter Hapak Photographs Marion Cotillard

To prepare for his cover sitting with Marion Cotillard for TIME Style&Design’s fall issue, photographer Peter Hapak hit the archives, collecting pictures of Paris and Parisian fashion during the 1930s, including the work of famed French photographer Jacques Henri Lartigue. Studying images of women in restaurants, chatting with friends or simply roaming the streets of the city, Hapak easily understood why Paris has long been considered a fashion capital of the world. “All of the women looked like they had walked out of a fashion magazine,” he says. “Fashion is such a big part of the culture there, and you can even feel that history when walking through the city today.”

Peter Hapak for TIME

TIME Style&Design Fall 2012

On set in Paris this August, Hapak tried to evoke this era, capturing Cotillard in designs by French fashion houses Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior, along with other designers like Andrew Gn and Dries Van Noten. “She’s the representation of the French woman for me—elegant, but not too stylized,” says Hapak of Cotillard, who won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 2007 for her portrayal of French singer Édith Piaf in La Vie en Rose. “With the cover look, it felt like she was pulling a dress out of her own closet. It went so well with her style, and she felt really confident in it, that you would have never known she was dressing up for a shoot.”

Peter Hapak is a contract photographer for TIME. In December of 2011, Hapak photographed The Protester, TIME’s Person of the Year. 

More: See all of TIME’s Style&Design coverage