Category Archives: L E N S C R A T C H

SW Regional SPE: Vivian Keulards

Sharing photographers that I met at the SW Regional SPE Conference hosted by the Center of Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins, Colorado….

Meeting Vivian Keulards in Colorado was a complete pleasure and her wonderful projects set the tone for a new friendship and fan club. It’s hard not to respond to an image like the one below, simply a portrait of a neighbor, but obviously there was more to the story from her series, 80439, Bloody Mary and Sloppy Joe

And then there was her adoration of redheads, in her series, Elusive Beauty…

Vivian was born and raised in the Netherlands and currently lives in Evergreen, Colorado. In 2009 she received a degree from the Photo Academy in Amsterdam and she gained a Master Degree in Communication Science at the KUN University (Nijmegen, Netherlands). She also participated in inspiring Master classes of Carl de Keyzer, Rob Hornstra and more.

Vivian was a Critical Mass finalist and she was selected for the NEW Dutch Photography Talent book (by the makers of the magazine GUP) this year. Her work is part of several public collections and the work has been exhibitied widely.  Six of her portraits from the series Elusive Beauty are currently on display at the Ogden Museum in New Orleans and her  project 80439, Bloody Mary and Sloppy Joe will open in January 2013 as a solo exhibition at CPAC in Denver.

Elusive Beauty 

They will likely be extinct in the next 100 years: red headed children. Only one percent of the human population carries this unique red head gene. 

 For years now those children take my breath away; the orange/red hair, their pale skin with clusters of freckles and their bright light eyes. At times they even seem to be translucent. When they look into my eyes I’m staggered. Sometimes I even feel intimidated. Their fragile and sensitive appearance is often accompanied by their very powerful and strong willed character. I experienced it myself and this surprising combination makes them even more exclusive to me.

I know by saying this all out loud, a lot of them feel offended. They don’t want to be examined as special, different or exotic. And they don’t want to be generalized, stereo-typed or even fetishized. They are a group with a history of bullying, discrimination and abuse, all because of their looks. So I understand their skepticism towards me.

In my photos I create scenery where their strong looks come to life and capture the moment where you can feel their power. I desperately want to show that red hair is admirable and desirable, instead of a reason to be treated differently.

80439, Bloody Mary and Sloppy Joe

In 2010, I moved from The Netherlands to Evergreen, Colorado, for three years. My new home environment is very different, confusing, and intriguing at the same time. Of course I grew up with watching American movies, shows, and videoclips. And of course, in real life up here, I sometimes recognize similar places and people from those fiction scenes. In truth it feels like I’m living in a constructed reality show – the fiction and the reality confuse me. More important, I fear my new life will fade like a dream when I go back home…that all this will be forgotten. 

Re Runs: Takeshi Shikama

Running a post from two years ago…

Takeshi Shikama‘s beautiful Platinum/Palladium images from two series will open at the Corden/Potts Gallery in San Fancisco on November 2nd and run through January 8, 2011. Silent Respiration of Forests and Evanescence–Lotus is a celebration of “The Gentle Flow of Time”. Takeshi has exhibited world wide, and will travel from Tokyo to be in the gallery on December 4th for a special reception with the Japan Society of Nothern California.

Takeshi attributes his special connection to forests, which was the inspiration behind Silent Respiration of Forests, to the fact that he is a Japanese national living in Japan where seventy percent of the land is made up of mountains and forests. “Owing to Mother Nature’s rich blessings, we Japanese have continuously partaken in the long history and tradition of doing our best to preserve nature and even worshipping nature,” he said. After living in Tokyo for almost forty years, his sensitivity toward nature was fully reawakened when he spent ten years building a lodge in a forest.

“Time flowing ever so gently in the forests proved to be far more pleasant than the sound of the clock ticking away,” he says. “Through the experience of building a lodge with my own hands, I found myself following in the footsteps of our forefathers in terms of lifestyle. I believe that this experience awakened the feelings of yearning [and] appreciation, as well as awe in the face of nature which had been lying dormant in my genes as a Japanese, and these feelings which had surfaced came to be imprinted in all corners of my soul.”

Nature’s rich blessings, we Japanese have continuously partaken in the long history and tradition of doing our best to preserve nature and even worshipping nature,” he said. However, he went on to explain, that that connection between nature and humans has been broken in contemporary Japan, “especially in cities which have developed at a most rapid pace.” In fact, he added, he never had an affinity for forests during the almost forty years he lived in Tokyo, a modern megalopolis. But then he spent ten years building a lodge in a forest and his sensitivity towards nature fully awakened.

Love The One You’re With

image by Aline Smithson

I’ve been on the road since September, visiting photo festivals across the country and I’ve been thinking a lot about the experiences and the photographers I have met and wanted to share some thoughts. I have to say, it’s an amazing community, filled with good will, curiosity, passion, and really, really good people.  I think there is something special about those who use a visual language, who are reinterpreting the world close-up and far away.  I left each event filled up with friendships, with images, with experiences that make this journey a richer one.

I have always told my students that it is equally important to meet fellow photographers at these events, and not to solely focus on meeting with people that they think might change one’s career. Sometimes at photo events, photographers can be a bit myopic and self-focused, trying to tug on the sleeve of important reviewers. They don’t realize that those who don’t make it all about themselves, benefit the most–and often times, it will be a peer that makes something happen in their career. More has come to me, and to my career, from my relationships with other photographers than from anywhere else–the evidence of this statement seems profoundly evident after my recent travels–just looking at this fall, almost every invitation came from a relationship with a photographer.

I truly marvel at how many photographers are changing the photographic landscape by giving their time and energies to promote work that is not their own. Photographer Scott B. Davis created the Medium  Festival of Photography in San Diego this September, photographer Sarah Hadley created the Filter Photo Festival in Chicago, I went to the SW Regional SPE conference, all run by photographers.  I attended Fotoweek DC started by Theo Adamstein (a photographer) and was invited to teach at the event by photographer E. Brady Robinson who I had traveled with in China.  Photographers Jennifer Shaw, Millie Fuller, and Lori Waselchuk, privotal players at PhotoNola, not only invited me to teach a workshop and review, but Jen helped me secure a gallery in New Orleans.

As I sat in the portfolio reviewing room at Photo Nola, I looked over at Blue Mitchell, a fellow photographer who started Diffusion Magazine, a publication that features historical and non-traditional ways of approaching photography, then I looked at photographer Gordon Stettinius who has not only become a publisher, but opened Candela Gallery and is working on creating a significant collection of photographs for gallery.  I looked at photographer Bryan Formhals who  champions the online community (especially Flickr) and has celebrated many image makers in his terrific LPV Magazine.

At the Medium Festival photographer Susan Burnstine found work to celebrate in her articles for Black and White Magazine (UK), photographer David Bram reviewed as editor of Fraction Magazine and in Chicago, photographer Kevin Miyazaki looked for new work for his amazing Collect.Give program and photographer Christy Karpinski reviewed for her long time publication, F Stop Magazine. Photographer Russell Joslin also reviewed for his labor of love, SHOTS Magazine which he has edited for years, photographer Bill Schwab shared his sage insights from years behind the lens and as a workshop educator and photographer Kyohei Abe reviewed for the Detroit Center of Photography where he is now the director. And there are more that I am sure I am forgetting.

I am not diminishing all the amazing curators, editors, and gallerists that make up our photography community, but I wanted to recognize the tremendous support that photographers lend to each other, often without recognition or financial compensation of any sort.

So next time you are at a photo or review event, remember that the person sitting next to you clutching their portfolio box, just might change your life one day.

Honey Lazar: The Year My Sisters Died

I first met Ohio photographer, Honey Lazar when I curated a photograph of her knees into a self portrait exhibition at the PhotoPlace Gallery in Vermont.  She wrote to me and we began a correspondence and a friendship. Honey has a wide body of many wonderful projects, including her book, Loving Aunt Ruth, that celebrates a very wise woman. I had the great pleasure of spending some time with Honey in Chicago at the Filter Photo Festival and felt somewhat helpless as she shared that both of her sisters had passed away this year, creating such a profound sense of loss and devastation that she was struggling just to be in the world.  
As we all know, art is often a form of therapy, and Honey has created a series of images that describe what it feels like to be frozen in grief, not wanting to get out of the sanctuary of bed and finding solace from the television screen and the bedroom window.  These images, all shot from her bed, serve as Honey’s visual diary through loss, transition, and mourning.

The Year My Sisters
I considered myself to be comfortable with the subject of
death and dying. I really “got” the termination thing.  My father died when I was 3, and my
grandparents were gone before I turned 10.  I worked in a hospital HIV unit in the 80’s.  I was seasoned. 
My father, a gifted and prolific photographer/film maker
left behind a legacy of photographs that kept him alive for me.  Photographs equaled immortality.  At 13, I picked up a Brownie Starflash
and snapped pictures of everything I wanted to keep forever.  The Starflash became a Polaroid, and I
used it to photograph everyone who came to my house.  I traded Polaroid for Kodachrome when my first son was born.
My bookshelves of albums are proof that during those years
no one left me.

 My middle sister, Jane, was diagnosed with rheumatoid
arthritis when I was 24, and she was 30. Jane and I were very close.  She lived in CT; I live in OH, but I visited often and called
daily.  I idolized her.  Before disease took her hair, teeth,
and mobility, people mistook her for Kim Novak or Marilyn Monroe.  She had pins put into her toes, so she
could wear shoes, but eventually, her toes curled, she stopped walking, and
shoes were simply decoration on a girl who never lost hope.  She ran her life from her bed
surrounded by windows.  She was an
artist who never stopped creating. 

I have another sister, Phyllis. …had another sister,
Phyllis.  She was 11 years older
than I, and I idolized her as well. 
She was super smart.  She
graduated from Pratt where she was snow queen and designed dresses for 25
years.  She taught me everything I
know about style and composition.

Phyllis moved to New York 5 years ago to live closer to her
daughters and granddaughters.  She
sold her house, packed her car, and faced an unknown housing situation with
gusto. I took a lot of pictures of her house being packed and the moving van
taking her away.  I’d be fine
without her, filling my sad places with her happiness and looking at photo

On Phyllis’s 71st birthday she was diagnosed with
pancreatic cancer, 2 years after moving to New York. While Phyllis was being
treated, Jane was hospitalized 5 times with pneumonia, and we barely noticed.
Pneumonia didn’t seem serious in the face of pancreatic
cancer… except to Jane,
who felt exhausted, terrified, and alone.

Phyllis died in October, and in July, Jane was hospitalized
with pneumonia…for the last time.  I
was with both of my sisters when they died. It turns out I am not so good at

Illness forced my beautiful
and active sisters into a horizontal life.  They were television watchers and HSN shoppers.  I find comfort and a connection to them
in this position, television on with my window worldview.  A horizontal life is a universal
experience.  Illness, depression,
and disability create lateral living, and I suspect each of us has either known
someone in this position or perhaps has been supine as well.

 I am in mourning with my camera right here next to me on the

Lisa McCord

Some people are born storytellers and a lot of those storytellers are born in the South.  As they narrate their lives, there is a cadence to their speech, to their images–a slowed down lyrical way of conveying information.  Lisa McCord is one of those storytellers, and I am letting her do the talking today (just throw in a Southern accent as you read).  Lisa has been a photographer for a long time and I am sharing a long ago body of work, Rotan Switch, about the community she grew up in, and also celebrating her inclusion in the Holiday exhibition at the Lisa Kurts Gallery in Memphis opening tomorrow night, December 7th, where she keeps excellent company with William Eggleston and William Christenberry.

I was precocious child, born to a young mother and grandmother who were painters and creative
spirits. My mother’s art determined the course of my life. If my mother wanted to paint in a new place,
we simply moved. We moved 13 times before I was 18. I often accompanied her to the Arkansas Arts
Center where she took figure-painting classes. During class, I shaped clay sculptures, based on the nude
model on the other side of the divided painting studio. She taught me to use my imagination and find a
sense of home in my self-expression. Like my mother, I too, lived in many places, following my
photographic curiosities. It wasn’t until after graduate school, that I settled in one place, Los Angeles
with my husband and son. 

Since we moved so many times, my sense of place is based on my grandparent’s home, a
cotton farm in Arkansas on the Mississippi Delta, where they lived for most of their lives. My
grandparents and their home was the only permanent thing in my life. Much of my work draws from my
relationship with permanence and transience. 

While studying at an all-girls boarding school in Michigan that is connected to Cranbrook
Academy of Art, I became interested in photography. I pursued an education in photography at schools
in New York, Paris, and Greece, and California. I lived and photographed in London, Guatemala, Haiti,
and throughout the United States. After finishing graduate school, I taught photography at several
high schools and universities in the LA area. I am now working full time as a fine art photographer,
allowing the camera to take me places both in the past and present, creating photographs that explore
my memories and tell my stories. 

Rotan Switch

Growing up in the South is very different than growing up anywhere else. The unique social
norms of the south colored our life with a richness that made us who we are. My immediately family, my
mother, sister, brother, and I, moved thirteen times before I was eighteen. Although we lived all over
the United States, the southern nuances remain dominant in our characters. There are many southern
archetypes in my family. My mother, Sherwood, a painter, was the rebel of our family. Uncle Eldon, Dr.
Eldon Fairley, the country doctor, was the caregiver of our town. My grandfather, Harold Ohlendorf, a
tenant farmer and self-made businessman was the town benefactor. The encouragement of these
three personalities, along with the influences of other family members, freed my siblings and me to
dream big, be kind, remember our P’s and Q’s, and always say, “Hallelujah!” after God’s graces.

Susan Swihart

Los Angeles photographer Susan Swihart has a front row seat as she observes the phenomenon of identical twins.  She has begun a long-term project, About Face, that documents her daughters where she explores the nuances of their similarities and differences. She reveals just enough to give us insight, but also leaves space for their privacy.

Born and raised in Newton, Massachusetts, Susan was raised by a large extended family where her solace was time spent with paint brush and pencil. After college, she began a career in advertising and now works as a fine art photographer. Susan will be exhibiting in the Family Exhibition, opening at the Detroit Center for Photography in January, and her work has been exhibited across the country and often seen in F Stop Magazine.

About Face

Sometimes two people start as one. They split apart, but continue to grow in parallel day by day, inch by inch. They develop separately and distinctly. They have different dreams and fears. Yet, to many, they will always look the same. Be interchangeable. Be treated as if they’re still one. 

As the mother of twin daughters, I have been observing the phenomenon of their connectedness since birth. As a photographer and participant observer in their lives, I have set out to explore the psychological components, the similarities and differences, of my daughter’s union. Their realization that they are seen as one causes many different emotions. At times, they too will see themselves as a unit, but they will also wrestle with finding their own voice, identity and place.

They pull, push and compete. Occasionally one pushes ahead and grows faster than the other. One is left behind, until it’s their turn to squeeze by. Most other times they cling to the comfort of one another. The comfort in same face confusion. An ally to hide with from the fame of their twinness. It is a complex, but pure love for the person that was created at the same time. Head to toe in the womb. Side by side in life. And I want to be their witness and chronicle their unique journey into the world of individuals.

Ewa Zebrowski: Finding Wyeth

Ewa Zebrowski‘s new book project takes a look at the quiet world of a master painter, revealing a sense of place, light, and New England sensibilities. Ewa’s wonderful limited edition artist’s book titled, Finding Wyeth, captures images of the Olson House located on the Cushing Peninsula in Maine, where for 30 years Andrew Wyeth created over 300 paintings, including his famous painting, Christina’s World.  The book comes in an edition of 20 and is available through Ewa: [email protected]

 I walked in, went upstairs, and suddenly I was startled.
There was another figure standing there.
It was me in a dusty mirror…
The reason I did it was that I wanted a portrait
of the dryness of the place,
that special sort of dryness of dead flies
that are left in a room that’s been closed for years.
                                                      Andrew Wyeth
                                           on painting The Revenant, 1949
The Olson House
 Andrew Wyeth spent a lot of
some three  decades (1939-1968), at the Olson House (which belongs to the Farnsworth Art Museum)on the Cushing Peninsula in Maine, talking, sketching, painting, finding inspiration.

Alvaro and Christina Olson, the bother and sister who lived there, became his friends.  He used an upstairs room as his studio, where he painted over 300 paintings.  It was the view from a third story window that inspired his well known/iconic painting, Christina’s World.

I visited the empty house during the summer of 2010, a house filled with tangible emotion and light.  A house pregnant with stories and secrets.

       A bouquet of tangled wildflowers,
       tiny seashells in a bird’s
       empty glass canning jars,
peeling wallpaper
and silence,
the residue of so much emotion
in this old weathered wooden house
on a hill,
filled with light
and vanished dreams,
the black horse wandering lost,
the apples ripe on the ground.

Caleb Cole

One of my favorite people and photographers is Caleb Cole.  His work touches on themes of identity, of not fitting in, of the search for self–and much of this exploration is done with humor and an off-filter sensibility. This quote from his bio will give you a idea: “Born in Indianapolis, Caleb is a former altar server, scout, and 4-H Grand Champion in Gift Wrapping. His mother instilled in him a love of garage sales and thrift stores, where he developed a fascination with the junk that people leave behind.”  My kind of guy, indeed.

I am featuring work from two of his new series, Odd One Out and Dolls, recently exhibited at Gallery Kayafas in Boston. Cole is a 2011 St. Botolph Club Foundation Emerging Artist Award winner, 2011 Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellowship Finalist, 2011 Somerville Arts Council Fellowship awardee, 2010 Magenta Foundation Flash Forward Winner, 2009 Artadia Award winner, and a 2009 Photolucida Critical Mass finalist. He regularly exhibits nationally and was featured in Boston Magazine (HOME) as an emerging photographer who is “shaking up New England’s visual arts scene.”

The images in Odd One Out began as found photographs, purchased in antique stores and estate sales, of groups of people during special events, reunions, and family gatherings. The photographs are the spoils of a hunt, the proceeds of afternoons spent looking into the eyes of people I do not know and who may no longer be living. I select images of people who, unlike the rest of the smiling faces in the frame, bear looks of loneliness and longing that stop me in my tracks.

Removed from their original context and meanings, I then digitally alter these photographs to segregate the one from the many, isolating the person from their surroundings by a field of white. The shape of the crowd is maintained, hinting at details of the group of which the person is a part, but with which they do not feel at home. The negation of the group serves to emphasize the presence of the one, to make visible the person who feels invisible. In constructing these images, I tell the story of the outsider, the odd one, those who are alone in a crowd.

Often thought of as toys for children, dolls are models of not only who those children are expected to become as future parents, but also of where they came from, of who they used to be as infants.  Children’s selection o certain dolls is about personal identification, a blank canvas onto which they can project their desires, and caring for the dolls becomes a process of understanding themselves–how is this doll like me or unlike me?  who am I and who will I become?

This is how I approach the selection and alteration of vintage and antique dolls. Through the use of paint, clay, thread, and hair, I remake the dolls in my image, distilling my likeness down to the secondary sex characteristics of a balding head and sideburns, leaving the bodies of the dolls naked and ambiguously gendered.  The process of transformation is a meditation on my body as it once was and will be, my gender and sexuality, how I relate to myself as I age, gain weight, and how I make sense of my mortality.  The dolls serve as external reference points for my own understanding of how my body fits in, how similar or dissimilar it is to those around me, as well as that which makes me recognizable as myself.