David Soffa (b. 1987) was awarded a fellowship to Yale University Summer School of Art in 2009. He received a BA in Photography from Bard College in 2010. Primarily a landscape photographer, his images investigate the uncanny in everyday situations. Soffa’s photographs have been exhibited nationally in venues such as the Garrison Art Center and the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition. His work can also be found in the 2013 competition issue of The Photo Review and an upcoming installment of Dwell Magazine. He currently lives and works in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Douglas Ljungkvist is originally from Goteborg Sweden. He is a self-taught photographer whose work examines places and environments, both public and private. After a long career in sales & marketing Douglas started photographing about eight years ago and full time for the past four. His work has been exhibited at the New York Photo Festival, Hereford Festival, London Street Photography Festival, Bridge Art Fair, and more. In 2011 he was awarded the gold prize at the Px3 Fine Art Book proposal category and participated at Review Santa Fe in 2010. His first monograph, Ocean Beach, will be published in the fall of 2013. He lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.
Lois Bielefeld grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She graduated in 2002 from Rochester Institute of Technology, receiving her BFA in Advertising Photography. Soon after she made the mass migration with all the other photo graduates to NYC where she lived for seven years. After assisting photographers she began shooting commercial and fashion work. In 2008 she started The Bedroom when she shared a bedroom for one year with her eight year old daughter in their small Brooklyn apartment. She is very close to completion of the 100 portrait series and aims to publish a book of all the work. In 2010 she relocated back to Milwaukee with her eleven year old daughter, partner, guinea pig and their cat. Besides photography, Lois loves to bike, cook, eat and dabble in Midwestern things like trap shooting.
Sarah Palmer was born in San Francisco, and lives in Brooklyn. She received her MFA in Photography, Video and Related Media from School of Visual Arts in 2008, where she was awarded an Aaron Siskind Scholarship, and her BA from Vassar College in 1999. Her work has been exhibited in the US and in Europe, at the Center for Photography at Woodstock, in satellite exhibitions at the New York Photo Festival in 2009 and 2011, and at Foam_fotografiemuseum, Amsterdam, among others. Her photographs and writing have been published in print and online journals and exhibition catalogs. She was awarded the 2011 Aperture Portfolio Prize2011 Aperture Portfolio Prize in spring 2012 and has had solo exhibitions at the Wild Project, in 2010, and at Aperture Gallery in fall 2012. She is on the full-time photography faculty at Parsons The New School for Design and the Board of Directors of Rooftop Films.
Rachelle Mozman grew up in New York City, and New Jersey and currently makes work between Brooklyn and Central America. As an artist working in photography and video her practice intersects document and narrative tendencies. Mozman is fascinated with ideas of ethnography and her work engages themes around family, class and gender divides. In 2012 Mozman will exhibit Casa de Mujeres at Catherine Edelman Gallery. In 2012 she was awarded an AIR at The Camera Club of New York. In 2011 Mozman participated in The (S) Files Biennial at El Museo del Barrio, she received a Lens Culture 2nd Prize Award and was an AIR at Smack Mellon. In 2010 Mozman exhibited her series Costa del Este through En Foco’s Traveling Exhibition program and she participated in 31 Women in Art Photography. A selection of photographs from her Costa del Este series were published in the Light Work annual Contact Sheet as well as Humble Foundation’s, The Collectors Guide to New Art Photography Vol. 2. She is a Fulbright Fellow and her work has been exhibited nationally and abroad. She lives with her husband, musician Caito Sanchez, their son, and cat.
An Irish Catholic upbringing contributed to photographer Shannon Taggarts lifelong interest in the rituals and art of religion. After photographing Spiritualistspeople who believe they can communicate with the deadin upstate New York, Taggart has since been documenting the Haitian religion of Vodou since moving to Brooklyn in 2005.
Taggarts project began when she met a Mambo, or female Vodoupriest, named Rose Marie Pierre, who runs a temple in the basement of a nondescript storefront in the working class neighborhood of Flatbush. It was here that Taggart made these images of priests and laymen undergoing possession by the Loapowerful spirits that act as intermediaries between humankind and Vodous distant god, Bondye. Most Loa are benign, some are malevolent, but every spirit has a distinct personality, role in the world and set of demands and services. In their different ways, practitioners believe, these spirits determine our fate and must be consulted and appeased.
Beckoning the Loa requires elaborate preparations unique to the particular spirit desired. Practitioners indicate the Loa they want to call upon by drawing its vever, or symbol, in cornmeal sprinkled on the floor. They place offerings on an altar and perform particular songs and dances. When the Loa possesses the worshiper Taggart says the scene becomes wild, very physical and intense. Though she works with black-and-white still images, Taggart is able to convey the noise and energy of these rituals.There is screaming and thrashingsometimes [congregants] run around the room as if confused. It can happen suddenly, so it’s often jarring. People immediately gather around the one possessed and assist them with what they need and catch them if they collapse. Practitioners say the experience induces short-term amnesia; Mambo Rose Marie is always surprised (sometimes shocked) to see my documentation of what has taken place while she was possessed, recalls Taggart.
Popular culture often depicts Vodouas dark and menacing, but fails to understand its more unusual elements. One example, animal sacrifice, exists to rejuvenate the Loa after exhausting ceremonies. Taggart says that the chickens, pigs, goats and cows are killed humanely and eaten immediately. In Haiti, where there was no safe way to store meat, the practice provided people with a regular source of safe nourishment, Taggart explained.
Another often misunderstood practice is the presence of weapons in Vodouceremonies. A man in slide #2 is shown possessed by a warrior spirit named Ogou. He holds a large machete symbolic of that Loa. But as Taggart explains, weapons like these are not used to harm others. Instead, they are relics of Haitian slavery that Vodoupractitioners have appropriated as symbols of their faithmuch as the cross is a relic of Christian persecution that Christians have turned into a symbol of their faith. These exercises, born of practical and psychological necessity, are far from the spooky behavior that appears so often in film and folklore.
This December, several of these Brooklyn practitioners will undergo a two-week long initiation rite in Haiti. Accompanying them will be Mambo Rose Marie and Taggart, who will photograph the ceremonies. Blog Commenting . I don’t know what I will find there, but I am assuming it will be a special experience, she says.
Shannon Taggart is a Brooklyn-based photographer. See more of her work here.
Matthew Schenning is a Brooklyn based photographer originally from Baltimore, MD where he spent his youth playing in the abandoned spaces under highway overpasses. After studying sculpture at the University of Maryland he turned his focus toward photography as a means to understand his relationship to his surroundings. Making most his work while travelling, he photographs the landscape with a large format camera favoring the slow and deliberate way of working. He has been included in many exhibitions both in the United States and Europe. His work was featured in the first edition of The Collector’s Guide to Emerging Art Photography published by the Humble Arts Foundation and most recently in the exhibition catalogue for If This Is It published by Waal-boght Press.