Tag Archives: Grandmother

Re runs: Verner Soler

I’m stepping away from Lenscratch this week to work on a new personal website and prepare for upcoming photo activities…wanted to reintroduce you to some wonderful photographers featured several years ago, today with Verner Soler that was featured in January, 2009.

After growing up in a Swiss village, population 250, Verner Soler, has a unique window into a world we’ve only seen in the movies. Juggling a full plate as an art director, husband, and father, Verner does not get back to the village as often as he would like to. Several years ago, after being struck by how much his parents had aged between his visits, he decided to take definitive portraits of his parents, and more recently, has completed the typology with members of his extended family. It’s a powerful and fascinating series of genetics and love, (and for those of us living in Los Angeles, incredibly refreshing to see real faces). He will also be sharing images from his visits to Switzerland at Review LA.

From Heads (Grandmother, Mother, Father)

From Visits to My Village

Blake Odgen: Summer Re Runs

Looking at a post that originally ran in 2009…..

I received my SHOTS magazine in the mail the other day, and after flipping through a few of the pages, came across an image by Blake Ogden. It struck a chord and made me want to see more.

Second Husband by Blake Ogden

Blake received a BA from Bennington College and majored in Painting and Printmaking. While enrolled in the graduate program at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, he began serious work in photography.

In My Grandmother’s House is about capturing family history and explores the passage of time. “The idea for this ambitious project began nine years ago when Ogden had a common humanistic impulse to document his grandmother, Jacqueline Vaughan. Soon after the start of his photographic journey, Ogden was struck by the pressing fact that his grandmother was aging, giving him the motivation to capture all that he could on camera.”

Boston Week: Asia Kepka

While I am enjoying the Focus Awards hosted by the Griffin Museum and the Flash Forward Festival hosted by the Magenta Foundation in Boston this week, I featuring Boston photographers, today with Asia Kepka.  

I love Asia Kepka’s work, but also her person. David Hilliard took this amazing photograph of her:

In Asia’s words: 

The day I was born my grandmother cried.
The tears were not tears of joy, she cried because she had never seen such an ugly baby.
Many years later, I became a model and a whole new world opened up to me. It was fun, but even more fun awaited me when I landed in NYC 20 years ago. I arrived with $100 in my pocket but my boundless enthusiasm was priceless. My friend greeted me at the airport and gave me my first point and shoot camera. Things were never the same.
I felt like a dog hanging its head out of the window of a fast moving car. With camera in hand and very little English, I embarked on a career as a photographer. I was lucky to start with the best clients imaginable: Wired, Time, Fortune, and the NY Times.

Her work has pathos and humor and I am sharing her series, Bridget and I.

Bridget and I: In 2004 I found Bridget on Craigslist . I was  intrigued and decided to spend $100 not knowing really what will I do with her.

One day I took her out of my basement, dressed her up and started to set up a portrait. She looked bit stiff and the photo needed something.. never before I was a fan of doing self portraits but I decided  to jump in. Suddenly  I found myself in the midst of my most exciting project-don’t get me wrong- taking photos always brought me incredible rush and joy. 

Working as a photographer I feel like a dog with it’s head out of the window of a car on the way to the park. This project is even more exciting. It became my visual diary- place where I record  my dreams, my past, my everyday life .

My hope was to create a fairy tale that is timeless, independent of place, hermetically sealed from the outside world. This cathartic process has allowed me to explore issues of my identity as a woman and as an immigrant. Quite often images of me are reflection of my Mother and Grandmother back in Poland.

 “I feel like i’m watching Fellini’s movie” -said an onlooker  at the site of  Bridget and I in a hotel pool in Arizona. At times dragging mannequin in public places draws quite an attention and “being in a moment” is a challenge but seeing reactions of bystanders is always positive and at times priceless.

 All images are self portraits taken with 4×5 camera. The only exception are water shots. 

 This adventure can be physically challenging  – Bridget is heavy and rigid , she endured being shipped via Fedex and  immersed in many bodies of water.She got slammed by the wind in a sand storm ,which caused her big cracks on her head and she is missing a toe.   I hope she lasts few more years as I plan on continuing this project for a avery long time. 

Goseong Choi

Goseong Choi submitted this powerful image to the Mother’s Day post and I wanted to know more:

Goseong looks at intimate domestic situations that focus on subtleties hidden in the daily routines of life. He seeks the emotion of everyday life, and “sometimes the appearance of simplicity in truth hides enormous depths”.  Being a participant observer, Goseong is able to access the relationship between things in space.  His series, Umma, looks at the sense of loss that his mother felt when her mother passed away.

Born in Sungnam, South Korea, Goseong recieved his MFA from Pratt Institute.  He currently lives in Brooklyn, NY. He has two upcoming exhibitions: one opening in September at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Wisconsin, and another opening in December at the Korean Cultural Service in New York.

Umma, Korean for “Mom: is a recent series of photographs witnessing a dramatic family event, my grandmother’s passing.  When I was in Korea photographing in January 2011, I was taking intimate domestic pictures of my family in their daily lives.  Then I went to a small village where my father was from and was photographing the rural life there when I got world that my grandmother had had a stroke.

She was in a coma for three weeks, and at the end of the third week, she died. She is my mother’s mother, and during the funeral and its anticipation and aftermath, I was particularly aware of my mother’s grief and emotion. I felt her deep sorrow and fear. And I photographed the sense of loss. The work that I had already been doing about her daily routine prepared us both for my role as a photographer during this momentous time.

Jean Laughton

I love all photographs about the west.  My father was a cowboy and though I never lived in Arizona, my heart is on the range.  There are lots of photographers making work about cowboy culture and the American West, but none are as authentic as Jean Laughton who lives it on a daily basis.  In fact, it took Jean awhile to send me images as she was busy with calving season.  Her commitment to her work is evidenced in this image:
Riding Drag on the Brunsch Ranch
Jean grew up in rural Iowa and spent a lot of time on her grandmother’s farm. She moved to New York City and began taking photographs.  In 1997, she had an overwhelming urge to venture across the country in search of disappearing Americana.  She met cowboys and country western legends and fell in love with all things western.  
After several more trips over the years, Jean eventually bought property, cattle, and a whole new way of life in South Dakota. She has since learned to cowboy from scratch and has been
ranching on Lyle O’Bryan’s Quarter Circle XL Ranch near Belvidere, South Dakota
while documenting her My Ranching Life series from horseback. Jean now manages
the ranch – riding and working alongside old time cowboy and mentor, Lyle O’Bryan
(age 78) while continuing to document the intersection of her life with the
The two consistent things in her life have been her love of photography and the glorious West. Jean write a blog about her adventures on the range, My Ranching Life.
I am featuring work from two series, Go West and My Ranching Life.
 Go West

I grew up in rural Iowa near the South Dakota border, on
the edge of the West. When I began this series I was living in New York City. I
was longing to GO WEST, back home and beyond, to photograph the people of a
region that so captivated me – to escape back to reality and wide-open spaces –
and travel across the vastness of the West on a journey that became not only a
photographic one but also one of personal discovery – finding links between
photo subjects and past family members, making friends with old bronc riders
from my great grandmother’s days – mingling with the past while documenting the
present as I looked to the future and the reinvention of my life.

I didn’t watch many Westerns but the fabricated reality of a scene from
John Ford’s ‘’My Darling Clementine” and so many from silent movies lit a
spark. I wanted to head West and document real people in their western
‘costumes’ of sort. Pull them out of their current reality into a constructed
one. So I left my then home of New York City, starting in 1995, for several
summers and meandered about the West in my Bronco loaded with backdrops and my
beat up $75 4×5 camera – stopping at selected rodeos and events. To me, this
was like walking onto a movie studio back lot with characters straight out of
Central Casting – but with the twist of naturally occurring authenticity. This
was the beginning of several years of experiences that would eventually lead me
to my current ten-year ranching adventure. What started as photographing the
myth with this series lead to me actually inhabiting it with my current series
MY RANCHING LIFE – stepping into a real life version of the backdrop scene and
going beyond the role of spectator.

GO WEST summers alone on the road were some of the best times – driving
throughout the cinematic landscape of the West as an outsider with no ties,
with a feeling of awe – watching a continuous ever changing ‘drive-in movie’ of
the West through my windshield. They were such days of discovery for me. And
the first time I actually stopped someone to ask to take their portrait.
Watching me set up my backdrop in the wind behind the scenes of rodeos and go
through the process of photographing each person with the 4×5 while talking at
top speed was probably just as entertaining as the rodeo itself and I liken it
to some sort of Buster Keaton silent movie scene from The Cameraman.  I mostly did one shot of the people I met in
Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado and Montana.

When I asked each person to step in front of my backdrop, it transformed into a miniature movie set and they became the leading actor from the countless legends of the true and imagined West of the past. Their look, stance or clothing evoked many a character from many a movie scene and made me aware of movie characters based on real life and real life based on movie characters and the blur between the two. I shot most of the B&W images from this series with the beloved Type 55 Polaroid film – which allowed for a endless array of accidental blemishes and ‘instant’ timelessness.

What started my thousands of miles driving throughout the West was a
personal photography project that eventually morphed into me searching for
something. As with many from the past, I headed West to transform my life –
moving to the tiny Last Picture Show back
lot of a movie set Badlands town of Interior, South Dakota and stepping into my
current cowboying role.


My Ranching Life
I have always used my photography as a tool for attempting
time travel. And working on the Quarter Circle XL Ranch is a bit like stepping
back in time onto a Western movie backlot. The ranch was once home to Earl
Thode – first world champion bronc rider of 1929 and his family. It is quite a
thrill riding across the same land and the same White River as the cowboys from
the past. I feel as if I have stepped ‘inside the photograph’ – riding my Pony
around and photographing in a diorama of the West somewhere between the past and present – between reality and fantasy.

The area of ranches south of Belvidere, South Dakota is rich
with western heritage – with all cattle work done on horseback. Creating quite
the historical visual against the backdrop of the land and cyclorama sky. I
photograph these scenes from horseback, while cowboying, with a Noblex 120
swing lens panoramic camera I carry in my saddlebags. The Noblex gives me a
medium format negative suitable for large-scale printing. The panoramic format
lends a cinematic quality while also conveying the vastness of the landscape.
And the black & white film helps reverse time. My horse’s ears
intentionally appear in some of the photographs – announcing my presence as
part of the crew.

These photographs are a visual diary of what appear to be
‘film stills’ of some of the many scenarios I have been a part of while
learning to cowboy and eventually taking over managing the Quarter Circle XL
Ranch. I have had the pleasure of working alongside a crew of rugged
hardworking cowboys on the ten area ranches we ‘neighbor’ with. This allows me
to learn a lot, cover many miles of pasture on horseback and document within a
variety of landscapes. Offering an insider’s perspective of the beauty and
timelessness of present day family ranching. With photographs that, at first glance,
could have been taken during another era – depicting a profession that has
changed little over the past century. The land, as backdrop, has a permanence
all its own but the cast of characters are bound to change. I am proud to be a
part of it all.

I continue to ranch and photograph and am ever grateful to
Lyle O’Bryan for being my cowboy mentor. These are the years of my life I will
never forget. It has been quite the adventure so far.

Honoring thy Mother and Father

There are a couple of days coming up that are ways of celebrating those who brought us into the world, or celebrating others who brought our children into the world, or celebrating those who guided us in some way: Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Last year on Lenscratch, we had our first exhibitions celebrating those persons, The 2011 Mother’s Day Exhibition and the The 2011 Father’s Day Exhibition.

If you are intersted in sharing something with us (and it’s a really inexpensive gift!),check out the Lenscratch Exhibition Opportunites. Feel free to submit an old family photo, and if you’d like up to three sentences about the person. Due dates are firm!

Submission Guidelines:
Image size: 72dpi at 1000px on the long side

Send name, title, location (where you captured the image), and link to your work (website or other)

Aline Smithson, The Red Rose, Los Angeles, CA (http://www.alinesmithson.com)

In the subject of your e-mail, type the name of the exhibition (example:LOVE) and e-mail to:
[email protected]

If your images are sized incorrectly or the submission is incomplete, they will not be posted.

Submission Categories and Due Dates:

Image by Aline Smithson

Due Date: May 5th
MOTHER Exhibition to run on Mother’s Day, May 13th.
Photographs can be old family photos-all interpretations open…use this to create a wonderful Mother’s Day tribute! Feel free to add up to 3 sentences about your mother, grandmother or whoever you are showcasing.

Image by Aline Smithson

Due Date: June 10th
FATHER Exhibition to run on Father’s Day, June 17th.
Photographs can be old family photos-all interpretations open…use this to create a wonderful Father’s Day tribute! Feel free to add up to 3 sentences about your father, grandfather or whoever you are showcasing.

Jonathan Stead

Sometimes I see projects where the imagery, process, and presentation are a perfect fit–and Jonathan Stead’s compelling and poignant series, Fragile Mind, about his grandmother’s journey through dementia and ultimately into death is one of them. His images are perfect reflections of an experience layered with fragility, sadness, and memory.

Jonathan lives in Sheffield, UK, where he runs workshops in analogue photography. He received his undergraduate degree in graphic design at the University of Lincoln and is currently in the process of finishing of his MA in photography at Manchester Metropolitan University. His work concentrates on the hand crafted and “considered nature” of analogue photography. Jonathan’s work uses historic and alternative processes and techniques to create work that is timeless and has an ethereal beauty.

Fragile Mind: Fragile Mind documented my Grandmothers struggle with dementia and, as it turned out, the last few months of her life. During my weekly visits I became fascinated by the syndrome and how it began to claim her personality and ultimately her identity.

It led me to ask questions about our memory, it’s fragility and how it defines us.

The events that led to this project began over three years ago when my Grandmothers husband died and she started to become increasingly withdrawn and confused. Perhaps it was the lack of focus, the lack of someone to care for but over the following year or so she became increasingly vulnerable and dementia started to become noticeable which led to her being moved to a care home.

I was struck by how this condition made her withdraw and become increasingly isolated and internal. As destructive as the syndrome is, it is also fascinating in terms of how the various stages affect a person. Her stock answer became ‘no’ (to cut the conversation), she began to talk less and less, and in the last six weeks she never opened her eyes. At this point the only things that seemed to get through were music (she used to tap her feet to the beat) and touch.

When she was younger my Grandmother’s two passions were sewing (she was a professional seamstress) and dancing. There were a few times when I would visit her and she would be in her own little world tapping her feet or trying to hem the dress that she sat it, I found these moments fascinating – was she lost in some kind of dream state? Her version of now seemed to be the reality of twenty years ago.

My work does not usually follow this documentary route especially involving people and at times I felt a little intrusive and almost as if I was doing something wrong. But the more the project developed the more documenting this time in my Grandmothers life became appropriate. I never set out to create a beautiful body of work I wanted to capture the monotonous nature of her days, the glimpses of emotion and the sense of loss I was witnessing.

The project aims to convey the vulnerable nature of us and of our minds. I chose to use glass plates to reflect the fragile nature of my subject. Showing the translucent glass plates without any frame echo’s the fragility that I saw in my Grandmother. The plates that I am most fond of are the ones where the emulsion was made to come away from the glass during processing. These fragmented elements, the mistakes and the organic qualities of these flaws were what I was searching for, they for me, sum up her last few days.

Installation Images

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