Tag Archives: Culture

Winners Announced: Lens Culture International Exposure Awards 2012

Lens Culture and its international jury of experts announced nine top winners and 27 honorable mentions for the International Exposure Awards 2012: the best in global photography and multimedia. See the full details online at Lens Culture.

The 36 winners represent work from 17 countries. squido lense . This is the 4th year for the annual Awards competition, and the judges reviewed work submitted by artists in 52 countries. Enjoy!


Michael Mergen: Vote!

Virginia photographer, Michael Mergen, has one of the best series I’ve seen about where and how we vote.  His project, VOTE, shines a stunning light on how “mom and pop” our voting system is and reflects the head-scratching realization that it is truly a miracle that we get anyone elected.  These images speak to the potential of error, but they also speak to the fact that much of America is built on a mom and pop reality, where the corner store is still the heart of the community.

Michael earned a BFA in photography from the Rochester Institute of Technology and an MFA in photography at the Rhode Island School of Design. He began his career as a photojournalist, working for national newspapers and newswire services in Boston and then his hometown of Philadelphia. His current work focuses on ideas and notions of America and its institutions.  He has exhibited nationally and internationally and his work is held in several public and private collections. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Art and Photography at Longwood University in Farmville, VA.

 Photographed on Election Day from 2008-2010, Vote documents the spaces where the ideals of our political system meet the mundane realities of participatory democracy. These polling places in unusual, privately owned locations, pointedly do not live up to the majesty of American democracy, yet still speak to a kind of vernacular Americana. The work suggests a collision of public and private.

When a voter is confronted with the decision to vote or shop, vote or eat, vote or skate, which role is expected of us, the role of citizen, or the role of consumer? What happens when confronted with both simultaneously? What does voting in a private home say about the encroachment of government into private life? Or does locating polling machines in places such as supermarkets and shopping malls make voting more convenient and spur a higher turnout? 

The series also points to the temporal quality of Election Day – the days’ brevity contrasting with the perceived permanence of the space it briefly inhabits. In all works, I emphasize the apparent incongruity between the primary function of the space and the temporal use of the space as a polling place. The voting machines act as stand-ins, set up and waiting for voters to activate them. As if transported from another world, the machines remind us of the often haphazard way in which elections are conducted.

Through extensive research at the state, county, and local level, I indentified the locations I intended to photograph. Using Google maps, I created a map of each state or county to determine an itinerary for the particular Election Day, making edits based on proximity of each location, keeping in mind the relatively short day and sometimes hundreds of miles between polling places.

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

Nude in New York: Photo Self-Portraits by Erica Simone

Web Design Worcester .


Deli on Varick Erica Simone, from the series Nue York: Self-Portraits of a Bare Urban Citizen

It is not uncommon for people to have nightmares in which they dream they are stark naked out on a crowded city street. Photographer Erica Simone decided to create a series of nude self-portraits at locations throughout New York City to discover for herself, “What would the world feel like, naked?” She seems to have enjoyed the experience, and it has become an ongoing project.

Read and see more (including a high-resolution slide show) here in Lens Culture.

High-resolution slideshow: 12 photo finalists Prix Pictet 2012

Lens Culture just published a high-resolution slide show of 115 images presenting portfolios of the 12 finalists for the prestigious Prix Pictet. squido lense . The broad theme this year is Power.


This photo by finalist Daniel Beltr. Oil Spill #1.

Living Legend: Polish Photographer Jerzy Lewczynski


© Jerzy Lewczynski. Portrait of Zdzislaw Beksinski, 1959.
Photograph from the collection of the Museum in Gliwice.

One of the many delights of attending smartly curated photo festivals, such as the yearly Krakow Photomonth in Poland, is discovering a previously unknown (to me) genius. This year, I was knocked out by a wonderful retrospective of the wildly creative and experimental work of Jerzy Lewczynski, who was born in 1924, and was present and pleasantly talkative at the opening of his exhibition in 2012.


© Jerzy Lewczynski. From the Negatives cycle, 1975.
Photograph from the collection of the Museum in Gliwice.

The retrospective is accompanied by a limited edition book, as well as a catalog that includes a great interview with the photographer. Lens Culture is honored to be able to share many of the images, as well as the full text of the interview (in Polish, as well as in an English translation).


© Jerzy Lewczynski. Doors, 1970.
Photograph from the collection of the Museum in Gliwice.

Discovering this lifelong body of work all at once was really stunning. And I walked away with great appreciation for Lewczynski’s visionary sense of humor, respect for history and humanity, and love of the photographic image.

Celebrate Japan’s White Day with Joseph Maida

Joseph Maida, an American photographer who has been working on a Japan-based project since 2007, was in a department store in Kyoto when he first saw the little plastic miniatures of Western consumer goods. The toys sparked nostalgia but were clearly not the product of his own culture. “On the surface they seem completely Western,” he says, “but at their core they’re actually based on something Japanese.”

That collision formed the basis for his ongoing project, selections from which are featured in the gallery above. The series, Dream Factory, is his take on how Western culture is filtered through Japanese culture. The simplest example of the phenomenon, he says, is in the country’s food, where a dish can look like hamburgers or spaghetti but cater to the taste buds of a Japanese palate. Other instances, such as the scene of a woman playing a keyboard in what looks like a glass bubble (shown above), are subtler, as they require the viewer to think about a Japanese instrument based on a European instrument, played during a Japanese winter festival that uses Western ideas of what a “winter wonderland” should look like.

Joseph Maida

Locked Heart (Osaka)

And another example will be on view tomorrow, March 14, when, all across Japan, men will present women with gifts: chocolates, candies, lingerie. That’s because tomorrow is White Day, a Japanese holiday that exists to counterbalance Valentine’s Day, celebrated a month earlier. First women give, then men give. First red, then white. First one gift and then another. Both Valentine’s Day and White Day are widely observed in relationships of both romance and respect, with distinction made between gifts of love and gifts of obligation. It’s a particularly Japanese twist on the common February holiday that was imported from the West, a way to make America’s Hallmark holiday fit in with the Japanese concept of Okaeshi, the social rule that requires one who receives to subsequently give.

“I’m interested in this tension between what has been traditionally understood as Japanese and is still taught to young people,” Maida says, “but then how you make sense of that in a culture that has been oversaturated with Western material culture.”

Maida says that he isn’t trying to understand Japanese attitudes toward Japanese life, but that the backdrop of Japan has proved to be a rich source of introspection about his own Western culture. At the same time, he says that much of the research he did about Japan was out-of-date or full of misconceptions, and that the pervasive nature of Western culture may be to blame. But a day like White Day can put the juxtaposition into focus.

“Visual confusion is easily misread,” he says. “What’s really fascinating is the way that Japan is able to bring in so many outside influences and take what’s maybe the best parts of them or the most beautiful parts of them or the most useful parts of them and celebrate those aspects, while not being bombarded by the aspects that they’re a little less interested in.”

Joseph Maida is a photographer based in New York City. See more of his work here.

New — Lens Culture Curated Online Photobook Shop

We love photobooks, and whenever we can, we browse and buy at our local bookshops. We also shop online for those titles that are hard to find. Now there is a simple way for you to help support Lens Culture while shopping for those hard-to-find photobooks.


If you shop on Amazon for photo books, camera equipment, gifts, or anything else at all, please consider using this link to Amazon. Lens Culture will earn a small commission on everything you purchase, and that will help us a lot.


You can find more than 100 photobook reviews on Lens Culture, and we’ve just created an easy way for you to browse and shop right here for a lot of the books we like. We’ll be adding new reviews and new titles as often as we can. Cheers!