Tag Archives: Art Photographer

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.

Filter Photo Festival: Jessica Tampas

This week, I am sharing a few of photographers that I met at the Filter Photo Festival in Chicago….

Born in Vermont, Jessica Tampas creates engaging work, mined from time with family and with possessions that define play. I met her last year, at the Filter Festival Portfolio walk and this year was so glad to discover her new work and get to revisit the older projects. I am featuring two series, Dolls and Michigan. Jessica earned a BFA from Simmons College in Boston and an MFA in Photography at the Massachusetts College of Art. After teaching photography in Holland for Emerson College, she relocated to Chicago where she works as a family, candid, and fine art photographer.


People often want to know
the history behind these dolls. Who were their previous owners? How did they
come to look the way they do? Do I collect them, alter them? My approach to
creating this series is far more subjective. I never set out to become a
collector, per se (though by now I’ve amassed more than 100 early- and
mid-century dolls), and I don’t alter them in any way. Frankly, I’m not so concerned
with these dolls’ history, even if I play an important role in it, giving them
a longevity they probably never expected to have. For me these little beings
are simply heartbreaking creatures, typologies of survival and loss, and, I
suppose, ultimately, psychological portraits of something inside myself that I
might not otherwise be able to express as an adult. We have all weathered
emotional traumas in the transition from childhood to now. By not altering the
dolls, I let their faces tell their own story — one that I feel is ultimately
about what it means to be both fragile and a survivor, and…human. 
A year ago when I began this project, I purchased a number of dolls made between 1902 and 1950, mass-produced, life size (20″ long), made of ‘composite,’ a material that pre-dates plastic. Some had human hair, others synthetic; some had detailed features like painted on eyelashes, teeth, tongues — others not. Many had limbs missing and stained clothing; one was even repaired with slathered cement. Living, as we do, in a Society saturated with images of perfect youth, these babies seemed to want to offer me an object lesson in honest aging. 

I have
been taking photographs since I was 14 years old.  My favorite subjects were my immediate family.  I went on to get an MFA in 1987 and
then spent the next 20 years as a portrait and wedding photographer.  The birth of my son in 2006 was a major
turning point in my life and my career. 
Instead of documenting other people’s lives, I began to focus on my son
and his world, inspired by the work of both Diane Arbus and Sally Mann.  I am grateful that, once again, I can
create images that are meaningful and personal, yet hopefully universal. 

Shen Wei, Self-portrait (Juniper)

Shen Wei, Self-portrait (Juniper)

Shen Wei

Self-portrait (Juniper),
, 2012
From the I Miss You Already series
Website – ShenPhoto.com

Born and raised in Shanghai, Shen Wei is a fine art photographer currently based in New York City. His work have been exhibited nationally and internationally, with venues including the Museum of the City of New York, Southeast Museum of Photography, Lincoln Center Avery Fisher Hall, the Harn Museum of Art and the CAFA Art Museum in Beijing. His photographs have been featured in publications such as The New Yorker, Aperture, ARTnews, PDN, American Photo, and Chinese Photography. Shen Wei's work is included in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Philadelphia Museum of Art, J. Paul Getty Museum, Museum of Contemporary Photography, Museum of Fine Arts St. Petersburg, Library of Congress, Florida Museum of Photographic Arts, Museum of Chinese in America, Rockefeller Brothers Fund and Kinsey Institute. He holds an MFA in photography, video, and related media from the School of Visual Arts, New York; a BFA in photography from Minneapolis College of Art and Design; and an AA in decorative arts from Shanghai Light Industry College.

Vintage Carnival Masks: iPhone portraits by Vee Speers


Vintage Carnival Masks: iPhone portraits © by Vee Speers

These impromptu portraits feature ordinary and eccentric Parisians wearing vintage hand-painted Carnival masks. Fine-art photographer Vee Speers made this series just for fun — with her iPhone — over the course of a few dinner parties with friends.

The effect of the cartoon-like painted faces on 3D human bodies flattens and expands the images, playing tricks on the eye in a dizzying manner.

See more photos, and read more, in Lens Culture.


Vintage Carnival Masks: iPhone portraits © by Vee Speers


Vintage Carnival Masks: iPhone portraits © by Vee Speers


Vintage Carnival Masks: iPhone portraits © by Vee Speers

Revisiting the Mastery of Mexican Photographer Manuel Álvarez Bravo

Often cited as Mexico’s most celebrated fine art photographer, Manuel lvarez Bravo, whose life almost spanned the entire 20th century, relentlessly captured the history of the country’s evolving social and geopolitical atmosphere.A Photographer on the Watch, a new show organized by the Jeu de Paume in Paris, features previously unpublished and unseen images from the master alongside lvarez Bravo’s most recognizable images, such as The Daughter of the Dancers (slide 6) and The Crouched Ones (slide 9).Together, they bring new attention and reconsideration of the work of the photographerwho died in 2002whose prolific output has not only been thoroughly scrutinized by critics, but also published in more than a hundred books and exhibited internationally (The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles staged a major retrospective in 2001).

After the Mexican Revolution that began in 1910, lvarez Bravo’s career emerged during a creative renaissance that was a reaction to the resulting paradigm shift in the political environment. Alongside the major uprisings against then-Mexican president, Porfirio Daz, brought forth by political revolutionaries, such as Emiliano Zapata and Pancho Villa, significant artists including Diego Rivera also came to prominence. backlinks . lvarez Bravo’s work, which evolved during this period, addressed what curators Laura Gonzles Flores and Gerardo Mosquera identify as the country’s “gradual abandonment of rural life and traditional customs, the rise of a post-revolutionary culture with international influences, and the espousal of a modern culture related to the urban maelstrom.”

Perhaps the most noticeable part of lvarez Bravo’s career is his breadth of approaches, coursing through modernism (like Edward Weston, his personal friend) with formalist photographs of abstract paper forms, before moving on to address recognizable motifs. People, things and objectsfor example, a sheep fallen down against a sidewalk curbare shown in real habitats, but captured in a perspective which elevate the purpose and meaning of the photograph, beyond that of pure documentation (like Eugne Atget).

Although considered to be a part of the Surrealist movement, Alvarez Bravo’s images aren’t exclusively Surrealist in its denotative meaning; his lens captured the uncanny and mythic qualities of things that tangibly existed, such as an optical store plastered with eye illustrations, as seen on Optical Parable(slide 10), that evoke the work of pure Surrealists.

lvarez Bravo’s career is one which can be easily seen as a story of tireless work full of laborious attempts and devout experimentationleading to iconic masterpieces. As Gerardo Mosquera states in an essay inside the exhibition’s catalog: “while [Henri] Cartier-Bresson seized the decisive moment, lvarez Bravo laid a trap for decisive momentsa statement which both captures not only lvarez Bravo’s dedication to his practice, but his ability to compose and very purposefully create photographs saturated with poetic complexity.

Manuel lvarez Bravo: A Photographer on the Watchis on view from Oct. 16 through Jan. 20 at Jeu de Paume in Paris. See more info here.

Mike Sinclair, Bandstand

Mike Sinclair, Bandstand

Mike Sinclair

Ames, Iowa, 2012
Website – MikeSinclair.com

Mike Sinclair is an architectural and fine art photographer living in Kansas City, Missouri. His photographs are frequently published in the Architectural Press and elsewhere, including the New York Times, Metropolis, Architectural Record and Interior Design. His work is in several public and private collections, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City; and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, also in Kansas City. He is represented by Jen Bekman Gallery.

Medium Festival: Claire Warden

Several weeks ago, I had the great pleasure of attending the inaugural year of the Medium Festival of Photography in San Diego, CA, conceived by the very capable Scott B. Davis.  It was a three day event kicked off by a keynote lecture by Alec Soth, and continued on with workshops, artist lectures and portfolio reviews.  Most importantly, it was an opportunity to connect with a wonderful community of photographers.  Over the next week (and into the next), I will be featuring a few of the photographers who attended the festival.

Claire A. Warden, a photo-based artist working in Los Angeles, California, brought a terrific project about preserving the natural world, titled Salt: Studies in Preservation and Manipulation. The project includes methodically captured images of plant life preserved in salt, but when exhibited, also includes some of that flora and fauna under bell jars and on the wall.  The fragile quality of the salt is reminiscent of snow and only adds to the delicate nature of the object and the approach to her image making. The images are timeless and exquisite.
Claire received her BFA in Photography and BA in Art History from Arizona State University where she worked along side Guggenheim fellow Mark Klett and former Eastman House curator, Bill Jenkins. She now works in Los Angeles as a fine art photographer and photographing and working at the Getty Research Institute. Claire’s work is in personal collections and has been displayed in galleries nationally and internationally, including Rayko Photo Center in San Francisco, CA, the Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins, CO and the Center for Photography at Madison, WI with upcoming shows at Soho Photo in New York, NY and Agripas 12 Gallery in Jerusalem, Israel. Her SALT series has earned her the Ted Decker Catalyst Artist Grant. 
Salt: Studies in Preservation and Manipulation: Despite the best efforts of science, authentic preservation of living matter is an impossible act. It is an ideal that stands in tension with the transient ephemerality that qualifies life. And yet – or perhaps because of it – this tension makes the humble ambitions of the botanical sciences intriguing. In order to preserve and document specimens for future study, scientists must ‘fix’ the organic complexity of the botanical specimen through human intervention.  

It is a process that, ultimately, restructures the essence of the specimen. In this way, botanical life can only endure as a specimen in a liminal state, the extended occupation of a pause between natural growth and decomposition. It is in this otherwise invisible moment, one reachable only through the intervention of the preservative act, that I find a deep and uncanny beauty. 

I emphasize the manipulation that manifests from preservation through the use of salt. This paradoxical mineral, that is necessary to sustain life—yet, if the delicate balance is outweighed, can extinguish it—reflects the structure of a preserved specimen and acts to preserve it. I submerge each living plant in a bath of salt water and allow the salt to crystallize on and within the living form.

Inspired by the intentions of botanical illustrations as a method to understand and control one’s environment, I seek to impress the human urge to order nature and in the process fundamentally change it. Using the platinum-palladium photographic process for its chemical stability and long-lasting image, these direct contact prints complicate the ideal of preservation, albeit, at the expense of the most authentic act of living matter, decay.

Carrie Mae Weems: A Look Back on Three Decades

The cover image of Carrie Mae Weems’s engaging book finds the artist and photographer wearing a long black dress as she stands at the shoreline with her back to the camera, looking at the ocean. It looks as if she is contemplating the morning. We, the “reader” or “viewer,” wait in anticipation to open the book and look into her world. The cover image is our invitation! The photograph is from Weems’s Roaming series from 2006. She becomes our narrator to history. She states: “This woman can stand in for me and for you; she leads you into history. She’s a witness and a guide.”

Weems is an art-photographer, performance artist, activist and videographer—well known for her photographic series and multi-screen projections relating to themes focusing on family, beauty and memory. For the last 25 years, she has relied on stories from the ‘kitchen table’ and of life in the low country of South Carolina, antebellum New Orleans, cities in Senegal, Cuba, Ghana and Italy to create a body of work that engages in history. An artist concerned with iconography, she has constructed a series of works questioning black women’s presence in popular and material culture as well as art history. Throughout her 30-odd year career, Weems has re-staged historical moments and created images that re-imagined everyday life from family stories to political history. Weems focused her camera on her own body to create multiple conversations. She interrogates and assembles old stereotypes and disassembles them.

In 1992, she refused to accept the scientific racism that prevailed in the 19th century circulating about black Americans. In re-imagining the photographed experiences of some of the blacks enslaved on a South Carolina plantation photographed by J. T. Zealy, a daguerreotypist commissioned by zoologist Louis Agassiz, Weems used the narrative of slavery and re-purposed the images. The title of her series From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried is a text and image installation of large scale framed images printed with a red tint, possibly to signify the life’s blood still flowing through the memory of their enslaved experience.

Born in Portland, Oregon, and now living in Syracuse, N.Y., photo-artist Weems interweaves a narrative of black female subjectivity, black beauty and the gaze in her work on beauty. Weems’s photographs are ‘performing beauty’ through lighting, posing, acting and fashion. Weems confronts historical depictions and restages them with ‘what if…’ questions. In her series, Not Manet’s Type, Weems critiques the white male art “masters,” and how beauty is defined through their paintings. The ironic series of five self-reflexive photographs with text, questions not only Manet but also Picasso, DeKooning and Duchamp.

Weems is the ideal model and she is well informed about the history of art, using her own partially dressed and nude body. The posing reveals her formal training as a photographer, and her choice of props is influenced by her sharp observation as a builder of ideas. The series’ power lies in her narrative voice and her ability to create a scene. At first glance, it looks as if the photographs are all the same because of the square format and the centered art deco-style vanity dresser. The setting is the bedroom, a private but inviting space. We, the viewer, peer through the square mat into the round mirror that frames her body, which lends an effect of peeping at a private moment. Her sensitivity to the historical gaze is quite evident, the time of day, the lace on the brass bed, the large white vase holding dried flowers, and the art work framed on the wall offer a sense of reality, as the bright sun bleaches the lower half of her body and the bed. Weems stands with her back to the viewer; the bold red text reads:

“It was clear, I was not Manet’s type… Picasso—who had a way with women only used me & Duchamp never even considered me.”

The series’ text clearly shows her vulnerability as she attempts to empower her image. The next images states: “Standing on shakey [sic] ground I posed myself for critical study but was no longer certain of the questions to ask.”

Women artists like Weems, Barbara Kruger, Cindy Sherman, Lorna Simpson, Renee Cox and Carla Williams challenge ideas of beauty and desire, which are both critical components in Weems’s work. All of these artists dare her viewer to rethink their understanding and the positioning of contemporary art practices. Mirrors are often found in Weems’s self-portraits; she’s gazes at her statuesque frame which is reflected in the mirrored image. Gates states, “An artist does not make a work called Not Manet’s Type (1997) without a keen sense of her own authority, a respect—not reverence—for those artists who came before her, and an ability to laugh in the midst of serious thinking.”

Deborah Willis is a photographer, photo historian and professor at New York University. Her recent work includes a book and exhibition of the same title Posing Beauty in African American Culture on exhibit at the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa.

Willis’s writing is featured in Carrie Mae Weems: Three Decades of Photography and Video, which will be released by Yale University Press in October.
A retrospective exhibition of the same name is also on view at the Frist Center in Nashville from Sept. 21, 2012 to Jan. 13, 2013.

It will then travel to the following locations:
Portland Art Museum:  Feb. 2–May 19, 2013
Cleveland Museum of Art:  June 30–Sept. 29, 2013
Cantor Center for Visual Arts, Stanford University: Oct. 16, 2013–Jan. 5, 2014
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York: Jan. 24–April 23, 2014