Tag Archives: Family Members

‘Lakes, Trees and Honeybees’: Matthew Brandt at Yossi Milo Gallery

When photographer Matthew Brandt started studying for his MFA, he began with the earliest forms of photography, immersing himself in the history of the process. Studying at UCLA also allowed him to return to his hometown and catch up with friends and family members; it was only a matter of time before the photography and friendship collided in a series of portraits.

And then the collision furthered: one day, a friend who Brandt was photographing started to cry. Brandt asked for her tears. “I know it seems a little mean but at the time it seemed to make sense,” he says. He had been studying salted paper prints, a very early form of 19th-century photography that requires just salt solution and silver nitrate to add light sensitivity to a piece of paper. The sight of that naturally occurring salt water triggered an idea. He used the tears to create a portrait of his crying friend. “It was like this ‘eureka’ process in the dark room,” Brandt says. “I was like, ‘oh my God, this actually worked.’”

Brandt, whose work will be featured starting May 24 in an exhibition at Yossi Milo Gallery in New York City, finished his degree in 2008 but has continued to make photographs using the physical matter of the subject in the development process. The upcoming exhibition Lakes, Trees and Honeybees will include work from three series. For Lakes and Reservoirs, Brandt soaked photographs of lakes in water collected from the subjects, creating unpredictable colorscapes. In Trees, photographs of the title vegetation are printed on paper and with ink made from branches fallen from those very trees. The Honeybees photos are pictures of bees printed with a gum-bichromate process that required using a solution of the bees themselves in the developing process.

These photographs, of their subjects in both senses of the word, also share a certain degree of pathos and a somber tone, says Brandt. Each of the three series is imbued with its own particular sense of loss, a feeling that something is changing, maybe for the worse. The moment captured is one of crisis.

Lakes, for example, while also addressing the more obvious meanings of wetness, highlights the obsolescence of wet photography; color negative paper was becoming hard to get. The Trees series was made right around the time that Brandt graduated from UCLA and George W. Bush left office. The trees photographed are in George Bush Park in Houston; Brandt says he didn’t want to make an overtly political statement but rather to capture a sense of ambivalence about what the future could hold, an uncertainty that he felt in himself and observed on a national level. And Honeybees was made when Colony Collapse Disorder was making news, prompting the photographer to think of the bees as a clue that something was going wrong in the world.

But not everything is changing. The old-fashioned photography processes Brandt uses—not to mention the work involved in making his own paper and ink—are extremely labor-intensive, but Brandt has no plans to take it easy. The photographer, who cites classic American landscape photography as an influence, still sometimes goes hiking with a large-format camera, frequently returning to Yosemite with Ansel Adams in mind. “The guys who would travel with their wagons through these crazy hills—if they put that much work into making a picture, I should do the same,” he says.

Matthew Brandt is a California-based photographer. Lakes, Trees and Honeybees will be on view at Yossi Milo Gallery in New York City from May 24 – June 30. More of his work can be seen here.

Cynthia Morgan Batmanis

Cynthia Morgan Batmanis is a cinematic artist, using the night time hours to create her evocative images.  Cynthia also sets the stage using a home that reflects the past as a back drop for her series, And If I Do.  Using historical and alternative photographic processes, her photographs are a natural progression from her other interests of printing and drawing.  Cynthia received her B.A. and M.A from the University of Texas, Austin. Her work can be seen in exhibitions across the country.

For her project, And If I Do, Cynthia created intimate sizes of Ziatypes on salted gelatin Bergger paper.

As people age they redefine who they are to themselves and others. Redefinition becomes especially difficult when cherished family members are facing debilitating illnesses.Constrained redefinition brings about feelings of sadness and loneliness. Despair ensues and coping skills are tested. I decided to photograph a house built in 1870. 

Old houses evoke my past. The memories of families live there. I work at night and occasionally at sunset using any and all available light. My intent is to show the manifestations of debilitating illness on a family. My focus is on a home, a space devoid of family and a confined space filled with lamentable emotion.

The 2012 Pulitzer Prize Winner: Massoud Hossaini

Columbia University has announced the 2012 Pulitzer Prize winners — and they include Afghan photographer Massoud Hossaini, whose picture of a girl reacting to a suicide bombing took the title in the category of breaking news photography.

The explosion of which the young girl, Tarana Akbari, is a survivor killed more than 70 people. Among the dead were seven of Akbari’s family members, who had traveled to Kabul in honor of the holiday Ashura; nine other relatives were wounded. The Pulitzer announcement calls the photograph, featured here, “heartbreaking.” Hossaini, who works with Agence France-Presse, is a native of Kabul and was raised in Iran. He was a political activist prior to taking up a camera, and got his start photographing Afghan refugees living in his adopted country. He returned to his home country in 2002 and is still based there.

The Pulitzer for feature photography went to Craig F. Walker of the Denver Post for his story about an Iraq war veteran.

A full list of winners can be found on the Pulitzer Prize website.

Re Runs: Gilda Davidian

This was first posted in 2009…

I’ve been meaning to write about Los Angeles photographer, Gilda Davidian for sometime. Gilda knows how to take a Portrait (with a capital “P”) and her website and flickr pages are full of wonderful imagery of her friends and Armenian family members, taken with a an artist’s eye. “(I am) interested in using photography to explore ideas involving home, familial relationships, and the process of forming identity through the act of portraiture.”

Gilda graduated from Cal Arts with a BFA in 2006 and soon after helped start the Los Angeles photo collective, From Here to There, which allows fellow Cal Arts graduates to create exhibition possibilites as a group. J. Wesley Brown has an interesting interview about the collective with Gilda on We Can Shoot Too.

Two series are featured below: Portraits and Portrait Studio. In her portrait series, Gilda manages to tell a story within each image, where the setting, the clothing, the color, and the person combine to provide the viewer with significant insights into the sitter.

Images from Portraits

One of my favorite series, Portrait Studio, is a wonderful look at those behind the camera. The fact that these Armenian portrait photographers, mostly from Glendale or Pasadena, spend day after day in small, unassuming studios, working to create memories, has a sad poignancy as they pose next to faded images of by gone days.

Images from Portrait Studio

Thanksgiving Tradition: Gillian Laub’s Turkey Day

For as long as she can remember, Thanksgiving has been photographer Gillian Laub’s favorite holiday. “So many of my memories from childhood are around Thanksgiving because I have a huge family, and that was when everyone from all sides came together.” Ten years ago, Laub began photographing her family’s annual gatherings—which take place at Laub’s childhood home or her sister’s house in upstate New York—an experience she says has allowed her to watch her family grow up and record the process for posterity. “I really started photographing Thanksgiving because there’s something incredible about the time of the year,” Laub says. “The changing and transitioning of the seasons and the aging of my family members—there was something symbolic that I wanted to mark and document.” Beyond the photos, Laub also created a poignant video of her family titled “Four Generations”, which premiered at LOOK 3 photo festival this June.

There’s one gap in the decade-long series. In the summer of 2007, Laub’s grandfather Irving passed away, and that November, she found herself unable to take any pictures. “Everyone felt a marked change that Thanksgiving,” she says. “It was my grandfather’s favorite holiday, and he was the patriarch of the family. I just remember it was almost like a religious ceremony—his carving of the turkey—and the whole family just felt an incredible sense of loss that year.” Since then, her grandmother’s health has also deteriorated, which Laub says has made looking through the photographs painful at times. “The photographs mark the aging process, which can be beautiful and difficult at the same time,” she says. “But that’s why I have this annual tradition of documenting the holiday. It allows me to really reflect on the year—what has changed, what has been lost, what has been learned, and what we have to be thankful for.”

Gillian Laub is a photographer based in New York and a frequent contributor to TIME. She is currently working on a project about the American South. See more of her work here

Summer ReRuns: Gillian Wearing

I ran these amazing self portraits several years ago and they are worth revisiting….

These self-portraits (yes, that’s her in every image) are from a body of work titled, Album. “Based on photos of family members when they were younger and filled with the hope and optimism of youth, the portraits seek to examine the psychological imprint that one’s family impacts upon an individual. We are all a composite of that imprint and Wearing explores in her ‘self portraits’ a depiction of this influence. Using locations, props and prosthetic devices Wearing seeks to adopt the identity of each family member, and her younger self, using the mask as a source of exploration and inspiration.”

She has a number of other intriguing series and I look forward to seeing this work in person at some point.


Self Portrait at 4




Self Portait as a teenager


Sean Lee

Sean Lee is a talented twenty-five year old photographer who lives and works in Singapore. His commercial work is stylized and dynamic, but his personal work is, well, personal. His series, Homework, will be on exhibition at Galeria Tagomago in Barcelona from July 7th – September 10th. In his short photography career, he has already garnered awards and solo shows, including the Discovery Award at the Arles Photo Festival, the Special Jury Prize at the Angkor Photo Festival, and the Icon de Martell Cordon Bleu, a photography prize that recognizes the most outstanding artist in Singapore.

On ʻHomeworkʼ:
I started making images about my family on a regular basis upon completing my course in the School of Theology in Singapore. It was also around that time that I started having a sneaky suspicion that the reason why I have always felt the need to create is because I was first created by an uncreated God. For some reason, this time spent in school in many ways elevated my love for making images. Strange, especially considering how nothing we learntat all was particularly related to photography.

I have always felt that the only kinds of work worth doing are the ones that we are utterly concerned about, whether in photography or otherwise. This is perhaps the reason why I turned to making images at home. There is a kind of quiet delight in photographing the members of my family. In many ways, the process of making pictures has made life at home a little less mundane and uneventful. Sometimes, itʼs almost magical. Like the time when I made my parents hug each other. That was the first time I had ever seen them being so physically intimate. It was pure joy for me.

I do different things with my family members in this work. Sometimes, I use them to say something about my thoughts on faith, desires and fears. Other times, I just want to make them touch each other, which is something that is very new to us. We never touch. And then there are times when I make them do completely weird and crazy things so that we can all laugh it together. That to me is one of the most magical things, making comedy with the camera.

I notice little things, like how looking at my family through the viewfinder feels so different from just looking at them. I am always surprised by their willingness to have their pictures taken and how they have gradually become more involved in the process, often giving me advice and opinions on the end products and setup. More recently, my dad and sister have been asking me to explain my work. I think I might just show them this.

To me, the best thing about this work has been how it has begun to affect all of us in the family and how we interact. This is what Iʼve been looking for ultimately: to be changed by what I do. It is not enough for me to just make images. Ultimately, I want my images to also make me. This work started off as a way for me to organise and to make sense of how I feel towards my family.Iʼm glad that it has turned into something more. I hope that you, too, will get something out of them.

Gay Block

I was introduced to the work of Houston photographer, Gay Block, by Frazier King from the Houston Center of Photography. Gay has been a portrait photographer for a good long while, and her site has many wonderful series worth exploring. I’m going to feature several in order to peak your interest. As a portrait photographer, Gay began in 1973 with portraits of her own affluent Jewish community in Houston and later expanded this study to include South Miami Beach and girls at summer camp. Her landmark work with writer Malka Drucker, RESCUERS: Portraits of Moral Courage in the Holocaust, both a book and traveling exhibit, has been seen in over fifty venues in the US and abroad, including the Museum of Modern Art, NY, in 1992.

A few of her terrific portraits:
In these first pictures, I became interested in the way families looked together. I had never noticed that family members sometimes assumed identical gestures. When this happened, I stopped the interview and asked them to stay that way so that I could photograph it. I almost never gave a direction about the way someone should look or sit, except that I usually asked them not to smile, explaining that a smile put on expressly for the camera would create a facade which might give a superficial quality to the picture.

“And I’ll say that I got a knot in my stomach when I realized that, well by golly, it has happened. A son of mine is engaged to a non-Jewish girl, and I didn’t like it. That was my immediate reaction. I didn’t like it, and I was a little surprised at my own reaction.”

I came to understand that children are simply short people….The first time I asked a child to go into his own bedroom for the picture, I realized later that I had done it because his room was his domain and the place he was most comfortable. He relaxed, he became himself, and began to collaborate with me. Children do not need to be coached not to smile; they do not yet have the adult’s involuntary response of smiling the minute they are in front of a camera.

Gay has focused some of her work on her mother. She created a book, Mother exPosed, in 2003 of images that were created over a 20 year period.

How do you like my new necklace?, 1997/2003

In 1981, Gay decided to photograph the girls at Camp Pinecliffe, and re-photographed them as women almost 25 years later.


Images from The Women the Girls are Now 1981-2006

Images from Underwear