Tag Archives: Future Generations

‘Americans’: Christopher Morris Captures a Nation Divided

My latest book, Americans, is the second in a series about America, even though I had no idea it would become a series when my first book, My America, was released in April 2006. That book examined Republican nationalism in the country during George W. Bush’s two terms as president. But in Americans, I’ve taken real pains to make sure there’s no political photography. There aren’t any portraits of Barack Obama or Mitt Romney, and no pictures of rally signs. Instead, I sought to make an anthropological study of America—not for this week, or for this past election cycle—but a body of work that future generations could look back on to get a sense of the country’s mood.

What I found, in the eight-year period during which these photographs were made, is an America severely divided. With two long-running wars and an economy slow to recover, there is a real sense that the country is in a depressed state. Traveling across America in several road trips, I found that the mood among citizens wasn’t upbeat or lively; people are really polarized in their political positions, yet everyone is concerned about the economy and what that means for the welfare of their families.

The book contains only a handful of formal portraits. The rest is reportage—pictures taken when people were alone, pensive in thought. I looked for these moments to convey this feeling of loss and depression that I felt across the nation.

Americans recently headed to the polls to elect their next president, and on Election Day eve, there wasn’t a clear frontrunner. In fact, many polls showed voters divided near evenly between Obama and Romney—a poignant indicator that despite the winner, Americans may very well continue to be divided.

Christopher Morris is a contract photographer for TIME and represented by VII

Americans, published by Steidl, will be available in early December.

Ellen Wallenstein

New York photographer, Ellen Wallenstein‘s ideas and interests navigate in and out of all sorts of interesting arenas, and maybe that is just part of being a New Yorker where inspiration is never an issue.  Her bodies of work reflect a broad range of approaches and subjects from projects such as Dead Men from New Fairfield, CT, Ellis Island Self Portraits, Pocketbook of Drag Queens, and the project I am featuring today, Respecting My Elders. Ellen is an engaged photographer, teaching photography and book arts at School of Visual Arts and Pratt and writes articles and book reviews for PDNedu and Fraction magazines. She received  a B.A. in art history from SUNY Stony Brook and an M.F.A. in photography from Pratt Institute and was nominated for the Santa Fe Prize in 2011.

Her project, Respecting My Elders, Ellen was supported by UnitedStatesArtists.org, a “micro-philanthropy” which supports artists projects across the country. She raised funds for an upcoming website and a first catalogue of (26) portraits of creative elders, which should be in print by the end of the year. She will be giving a public talk on her portraits at the Center for Alternative Photography/Penumbra Foundation  in NYC, on October 23rd. (It will be streamed live, as well)

Respecting My Elders:
I most often work on long-term documentary projects that mesh into the fabric of
my daily life. For the last few years I’ve been making portraits of older people in
their environments.”

Respecting My Elders” is a collection of color portraits of creative individuals over the age of eighty, photographed in their homes and studios. They are artists and intellectuals born at the turn of the last century, whose wisdom and insight are important to our nation.

Editta Sherman, b. 1912 photographer, nyc 2009

Known as The Greatest Generation, and coming of age between the two World Wars, the effect of their contributions upon future generations is evident in their productions. These include books, poems, paintings, photographs, plays and performances, as well as important breakthroughs in education, philanthropy and the sciences. I believe these persons deserve to be celebrated: my photographs are meant to capture their spirit and beauty, and to inspire admiration by future generations.
A. R. Gurney, b. 1930, playwright, roxbury, ct 2010
The photography sessions become collaborations between my sitters, many of who pose with objects of significance, and myself. I work alone, with a handheld camera in natural light. 
David Vestal, b. 1924, photographer, bethlehem, ct 2008

This endeavor builds upon a previous project, “Opus for Anne,” which documented three years of weekly visits to an elderly Hospice patient who became a close friend. After she died I felt inspired to contact others of her generation who had influenced me artistically and intellectually.

Dr. Billy Taylor, b.1921, jazz musician-educator, riverdale, ny 2009

I began in a “sixdegrees- of-separation” manner, starting with my mother and her circle, asking friends and colleagues for suggestions and introductions, as well as contacting strangers I was interested in meeting. This led me to some fascinating people who in turn recommended me to their friends and colleagues.

Edward Albee,b. 1928, playwright, NYC 2010
I’ve been taking these portraits slowly but steadily, as I continue my teaching. I feel that this project is going to be my life’s work.

Francine du Plessix Gray, b. 1930, writer, warren, ct 2010

James Earl Jones, b. 1931,actor, nyc 2012
Joan Copeland, b. 1922, actress, nyc 2010
Milton Glaser, b. 1929, graphic designer, nyc 2009

Ned Rorem, b. 1923, composer/writer, nyc 2010

Richard Howard, b. 1929, poet, nyc 2010
Romulus Linney, b. 1930, playwright, nyc 2010

Rosalind Soloman,b. 1930, photographer, nyc 2011

Will Barnet, b. 1911, painter, nyc 2010

Wolf Kahn,b. 1927, painter, nyc 2010

Larissa Leclair and the Indie Photobook Library

A couple of years ago, I started hearing the buzz about the indie Photobook Library, created by Larissa Leclair. I first saw the library at the Photolucida Portfolio Review last year, where Larissa had set up shop on the second floor of the Benson Hotel. I visited the library again this spring at the Flash Forward Festival in Boston, where I had more time to absorb the profound importance of this very special collection, and was not only excited by what I was seeing, but was inspired to start creating my own “indie” books, three of which were recently submitted to the library.

I have tremendous respect for Larissa and what she has accomplished. Our community owes her a big debt of gratitude for collecting, preserving and cataloguing our publications for future generations, and for taking the library on the road where hundreds of photographers can spend time with the books. This Friday, September 14th,Larissa and the Indie Photo Book Library will be at the Carte Blance Gallery in San Francisco for a Survey of Documentary Styles. (see below).  I had a chance to ask Larissa about the iPL and her interview follows.  Thank you, Larissa, for your heroic efforts and for having the foresight to create this remarkable collection. You can read more about the genesis of iPL on the Hey Hot Shot blog.

Let’s start at the beginning and understand what brought you to photography and to books…did you start off as a photographer?

I did start off as a photographer, or at least a photography student. I went to Washington University in St. Louis where I graduated with a BFA in Photography and a BA in Anthropology in 1997. I envisioned putting the two together somehow and traveling and photographing. I spent some years working in the industry in different facets, looking to find my fit. But when I went to graduate school in 2001, I made a conscious choice not to go back as a photographer. I pursued an MA at Yale and spent my time working in Manuscripts & Archives on historical photographs.

iPL at Review Santa Fe, 2011, image by David Bram

What brought you to books?

After interning at Outside Magazine in the photo department, I spent some time working for a photobook publishing company in Santa Fe, New Mexico. This was 1999. Around that time, I found photo-eye and first met Darius Himes. I remember sharing my three photobooks on the shelf with a friend from the Santa Fe Workshops. How ridiculous is that. But my personal collection of photobooks has grown from those initial books. A few years later, Darius invited me to be a contributing writer to the photo-eye Booklist and my love and interest in photobooks really took root then.

I never looked far back on my life in relation to books, but last year, Blake Andrews and I chatted about the iPL at a time when my mom had just found and given me my childhood book collection. His questions helped to spark the memory of loving to set up and play “library” as a kid. (http://blakeandrews.blogspot.com/2011/09/memories-cant-wait-q-with-larissa.html) So depending on how we want to look at it, the Indie Photobook Library may just be completing a circle I began as a child.

The iPL at the Flash Forward Festival in Boston, 2012

You were ahead of the curve with the idea of collecting self-published, indie photo books (thankfully so). I think we can only begin to appreciate the legacy you have created for this genre of publishing. Can you talk about that?

Thank you Aline for seeing that in the collection. Begun in May of 2010, the iPL was the first independent archive for self-published photobooks being created today. Most of the collection includes books published from 2005 to the present. I am interested in collecting history as it happens rather than in hindsight and believe that this collection, and the photographers within it, will shape the history of photography and the photobook. I am also interested in the concept of an accessible archive; one that can be browsed easily online and in person giving the person the chance to stumble upon something they were not looking for.

a table of submissions…

What are the objectives of iPL?

The iPL has three main objectives: promoting, showcasing, and preserving self-published and independently published photobooks – Promoting and engaging an international audience. Showcasing the photobooks in the collection at venues around the world for people to experience them in person. Preservation as an archive for the future. Having a specific collection dedicated to these kinds of books allows for the development of future discourse on trends in self-publishing, the ability to reflect on and compare books in the collection, and for scholarly research to be conducted in years, decades and centuries to come. This last long term goal and impact is what I am most interested in.

installation at the Corcoran, 2011

How many books does the Indie Library include?

The iPL online catalog features almost 1000 photobooks, but there are more here on my desk and shelves that need to be cataloged. There is a steady stream of books that come in each week from all over the world.

one of many tables at Photolucida, 2011

How can photographers contribute books to the library?

In the spirit of DIY books, in many ways the iPL is a DIY archive. If you want to be part of the collection, you can. If you have self-published a photobook or worked with an independent publisher, please visit the iPL submissions page.

Larissa lecturing at Georgetown University, image by Roberto Bocci

How can we support the organization?

Photobook makers can support the mission of the iPL by being part of the collection and donating their books. Organizations can support the iPL by hosting an exhibition of photobooks. I’d love to share the collection in person to more countries outside the U.S. And the iPL is a self-funded project, so for those interested in supporting the project financially, there is a donate button on the bottom of the iPL homepage.

Where will the library be on display this fall?
San Francisco, Jersey City, Cleveland, Guatemala City, and Washington, DC (you can find the iPL schedule here)

Chinese photographers enjoying iPL at 
the Lishui Photography Festival, China

Larissa in China, image by Dave Anderson

If we are in DC, is there a way to visit the library?

Aline, you are welcome anytime! I do show the books by appointment when I am not traveling for an iPL event. Until I find a donated space for the library, the books are stored in my home office. Recently Barbara Tannenbaum from the Cleveland Museum of Art sat at my dining room table and spent the entire morning looking through books that I pulled from the collection.

Thoughts for the future?
Just keep on going!

And finally, what would be your perfect day?
I think I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to look at all these amazing books every day. A perfect day is sharing them with others.

submissions from around the world….

And finally, what would be your perfect day?

I think I am
very fortunate to have the opportunity to look at all these amazing
books every day. A perfect day is sharing them with others.

iPL at NYPH, image by Stephanie Obernesser

iPL at ACP in Atlanta, 2011

Some of the books going to the Carte Blanche Gallery
 The Election Project by Simon Roberts

 Concresco by David Galjaard

 Estaría bien poner un título aquí by Alba Yruela

 ODO YAKUZA TOKYO by Anton Kusters

The Story of Four Generations by Yee Ling Tang

Alison Turner

I first discovered Alison Turner’s work when I was selecting images for the Center for Fine Art Photography’s exhibition, Dreams. Alison had a haunting image and I was happy to include it into the exhibition. This image was also included in the recent Art of Photography Show in San Diego, CA.


Alison is a traveler, and for the last three years as lived on the road with a tent, her dog, and her cameras. She’s interested in people and the real world, and along the way, she’s created some wonderful projects, one being the project featured below, Bingo Culture.

Bingo Culture: In 2010, I hit the road to photograph America solo; living out of a tent and bringing along my dog for the ride. I did not have a preconceived agenda, rather, I wanted to discover worlds that were unfamiliar and meet people I would not have otherwise encountered. Each day I would make a decision on what direction I would take. While traveling in Maine, I discovered a Bingo hall and it provoked a curiosity about a subculture that I was aware of but hadn’t given any thought towards. What I discovered was a community of dedicated players who travel to the same place, set up in the same spot, and bring along the same good luck charms with the hopes that this will be the day they win big.

It’s a place where hope and despair come hand in hand throughout the night as the mind lets go of everything but what numbers are being called. Each location I encountered would bring in a true sense of community, each with their unique set of personalities and characters. As I continued my travels and visits to Bingo Halls across America, I realized I was looking at a cultural phenomenon that will be lost to future generations.

Beauty and Wisdom: current photos of American women from another era


Mrs. limousines . Milner, from the series Beauty and Wisdom, Robbie Kaye

Beauty and Wisdom documents a fast disappearing aspect of American culture (Americana) as well as a diminishing population of women who are part of a generation that is often overlooked. More important than their weekly ritual of going to the ‘beauty parlor’ is the fact that these women are extremely vibrant, wise and humorousand committed to maintaining their life-long ritual for rejuvenation and connection.

As baby boomers age, the rituals of their mothers and grandmothers will fade and become obsolete. Beauty and Wisdom documents a generation of women, aged 70 and over, who have been going regularly to the beauty parlor once a week not as a luxury, but as a necessity, for most of their adult years. This project explores the grace and courage in which these women age in a society so heavily focused on the beauty of youth. Ironically, these are the women who opened doors for future generations of women to walk through, yet they are now part of an invisible generation.

See and read more in Lens Culture.