Tag Archives: Personal History

Success Stories: Deborah Parkin

I was driving home one recent afternoon and Deborah Parkin’s wonderful photographs appeared in my head. It got me thinking about her amazing trajectory in the last year. Several years ago, I started seeing images by Deborah in magazines and online and wrote about her work in LENSCRATCH in 2010. Her timeless and poignant work has captured the attention of many in the photo world and I was interested in the fact that Deborah does not live in a big city, is a mother at home with her children, and yet her work is seen internationally through social media and other outlets.

from Stillness

Deborah recently shared the wonderful news that her first monograph is being published by Galerie Vevais and edited by William Ropp in October, and her first solo exhibition will open at The Theater by the Lake in Keswick in September.  How did she make it happen?  I decided to find out.  Deborah’s interview follows.

 To order the collection, go here

To order the book, go here.

 from Diary of Growing Up


I first wrote about your work two years ago, when I started to see
you images out in the world.  So much has happened for you in those two
years, including a book to be published this fall, but let’s start at the
beginning.  What brought you to photography?

I have always loved photographs.  I can spend hours with my family going through the family
album, but I think my passion for the photograph came through when researching for
a Ph.d in Women’s Holocaust writing. 
It was here that I saw the power of the photograph & it’s place in
personal history & memory.

However, when my daughter Fleur was born just over seven years ago,
I gave up my Ph.d (was supposed to be a temporary measure) & enrolled on a
local photography course – which I did for a couple of years.  From there I went to university to
study a part-time photography degree. 
I took these courses as a way of breaking the monotony of changing
nappies & cleaning the home.  I
loved having children but I needed to use my brain or do something creative
too.  So the passion for the
photograph turned into a passion for photography with the birth of my children.

 from Diary of Growing Up

What triggered you to leave school?

My daughter.  The course
was only supposed to take up 12 hours a week of my life but because of my
nature, it became more like a 50 hour week.  It was also an 80 mile round trip too & I needed to be
there at least 4 days a week.  I
set up a darkroom at home & would work into the early hours of the morning
learning my craft – the children would come in & help – Fleur would
sometimes fall asleep almost at my feet.  At university I studied all different genres of photography
from documentary, studio, street, historical processes & to the more
conceptual/staged photography.  It
was great to have a go at all of these but it was here that I realized that I
wanted to concentrate on things closer to my heart & photograph my family
& things personal to me.
It was at university that I started my series ‘memory’.  I used my children to recreate
childhood memories – mainly about my feelings of my parents’ divorce & my
troubled time at school.  However, Fleur
was becoming more unsettled at nursery & I knew she was starting school
within a year & I didn’t want history repeating itself.  I wanted her settled & happy. So, I
decided to leave. My tutors were very understanding.  They did try to persuade me to stay & said that I needed
to ease up on myself – don’t chase grades – but I knew that I would only ever
be happy if I put 100% into my work – I needed to find a balance.  University was great as it allowed me
to learn so much, but leaving was also the best thing I did as I liberated me
& allowed me to follow my own path.

 from Diary of Growing Up

Tell us more about the book, how did it come
about, etc?

The publisher Alexander Scholz from Galerie Vevais saw my work via
the photographer William Ropp and asked William to introduce us as he was
interested in buying some of my work.   After that we became friends on Facebook and he saw
that I was making my own books.  He
asked me if I would be interested in Galerie Vevais publishing my work (at this
point it was for the ‘September is the Cruellest Month’ series).  The books I had been making had tipped
in prints & handwritten text – Alex wanted to create a similar book, with
the same intimacy (although so much better).  It evolved from there. 
It started as one book, Alex then included my ‘Stillness’ &  ‘memory’ series into what has become the
Trilogy.  Originally William Ropp
was to be the editor with Professor John Wood (poet & editor at 21st
Century) writing the essay. Then, Alex had another idea.  He wanted to make a softcover version,
with a collection of my work that was more affordable to the public.  William Ropp has kindly edited this
book & John Wood has now edited the Trilogy. 

 from Memory

You are also mother with young children, and certainly have time
constraints…when do you make your work and how often?

I work mainly at weekends and school holidays.  It’s not that difficult really because
I work with my family – although saying that, every minute of my day is full
& I am constantly trying to catch up. 
I think it would be much more difficult if I was working on something
that outside of family life – like landscape or a documentary project for
example.  Photography fits into my
family life & not the other way. 
I also get up really early & have a wonderful husband who supports
me in everything I do.

 from Memory

What has working in historical processes
brought to your work?

It’s quite a difficult question to answer because I am living in a
time in which those working with historical processes are criticized for hiding
behind the process.  In other
words, creating weak work (whatever that is) and making it more interesting by the
process they use.  However, I do
feel that working with wet plate collodion has made my work feel more intimate,
more personal (although I do feel that working with a large format camera also
adds to this).   I love the
intimacy of the process.  It is really
wonderful working with your hands, it becomes more than seeing with your eye or
feeling with your heart  – I love
the tintypes as objects – I think it comes back to my love affair of the

The object also becomes part of the image or in other words the way
you craft this object –the way you pour your chemistry all adds to the way the
final image will look.  For
example, if you rush, or are nervous, under pressure (which you can easily feel
when working with children which requires you to stay calm & work
efficiently so that they relax and the plate doesn’t dry) this can be reflected
in the way you pour or develop or even focus your camera. 

 from Memory

As an emerging photographer, what insights can
you share?

For me, it’s always been about the work.  I never really imagined being published or having gallery
representation etc – things like that were for other people.  I just wanted to be a good photographer
and leave something, a legacy for my children & maybe grandchildren.  So ultimately I feel you need to work
hard, learn your craft & be passionate about your subject.  Do it for yourself because not everyone
will like what you do & you can’t please everyone, so you must love doing
what you do.  I have also found the
Internet to be an excellent way of sharing work & for being inspired by
other artists too.

 from Memory

Tell us some of the wonderful things that have happened for you in
the last two years?

Since I first appeared on Lenscratch I have had an amazing
time.  Naturally, it’s a
rollercoaster ride but thankfully the positive has outweighed the
negative.  During this time I have
been published in several magazines, both online & traditional print such
as Ag & Shots.  I have also
been in several exhibitions in the U.S including at Gallery Carte Blanche in
San Francisco.  And, as previously
mentioned I have had all my three series published by Galerie Vevais, which are
due to be released in October 2012.  I even have an image on a cover of a Cd, which is lovely.

On top of that I have been on workshops as a way of learning new
ways to present my work, such as Ethiopian bookbinding & more recently a
platinum/palladium, digital negatives. I have also helped assist Carl Radford
on wet plate workshops –who has been an amazing mentor to me. 
During this time I have met some absolutely amazing people, both
online and off.  I hope they know
who they are.  These people have
supported, advised and encouraged me in ways that I could never have envisaged.  

from September is the Cruellest Month

You live in a small, rural town in England…how did you connect
with a global photographic community?

The Internet. My husband set up an account with Facebook & a
blog.  I just posted as a way of
sharing work with family & friends but this grew. Tom Chambers kindly
suggested that I should send in one of my images for the Lenscratch family
exhibition – which I did.  I
remember he was so kind and actually came back and reminded me.  Then, I was featured on Lenscratch and
the photographic community opened up enormously – especially in the U.S.  Andy Adams of Flak has also been very
supportive of my work and again it has allowed me to connect to people I never
would have had the opportunity too living here in Hexham.  It’s quite funny really because I can
walk into the school playground to pick up my daughter and hardly anyone knows
that I am a photographer & yet I correspond with lots of people from around
the world.

Image from September is the Cruellest Month

Your Internet presence seems to be integral to your success, and I
notice that you post your work on FB quite a lot–has that helped get the word

I am not the most confident person and in some ways quite shy.  I know I would have never had the
confidence to go around galleries with my work & to be honest, I wouldn’t
have the money to travel around the country or abroad or go to some of the
portfolio reviews on offer.  
So the Internet has allowed me to be part of a community that would have
never otherwise happened.  As a
mother of small children, I never would have had the time either to be

If I hadn’t have posted on the internet & FB in particular I
would have never come into contact with many people who have become my mentors
and friends.

Image from September is the Cruellest Month

What’s next?

I still have more work to do with my wet plate series with the
children.  I am looking forward to
working with new children this summer (and my old friends too).  I will always photograph my children –
or as long as they allow me and I want to start on platinum/palladium
printing.  My Polaroid work is all
4×5 positives so would be lovely to convert them to a digital negative and print
them using this process – not sure how it will turn out but always need to be
learning something new.  Other than
that, I have no idea.  I will just
go with the flow in the way I always do.

from September is the Cruellest Month

And finally, what would be your perfect day?

My image ‘Catbells’ sums up my perfect day.  A walk over the fells & mountains
of the lake district with my family & then sit by the lake in the evening
eating fish & chips & no-one else is around – it is so quiet and we are
so happy.  Of course my camera is
perched on its’ tripod ready to capture this & the branch is found that
will hang out my Polaroid to dry.
from September is the Cruellest Month
 from September is the Cruellest Month
from Stillness

from Stillness

from Stillness

from Stillness

from Stillness

from Stillness

Adam Wiseman

Adam Wiseman has a cultural heritage and personal history that has caused him to live in many paces. He was born in Mexico City, has lived in Mexico, NYC, Scotland and Brazil. He has a BA from NYU in Ethnographic Film and completed the Documentary Program at the International Center of Photography in NY. After living in NYC for 13 years working as a freelance photographer and as fine printer for the Magnum photo agency, Adam returned to Mexico City a decade ago, where he teaches and works as an independent fine art and documentary photographer.

His photographs have been published in numerous magazines and his work has been exhibited in Switzerland, Spain, NY, Mexico, Japan, at the 2006 Venice Biennial as well as having a photograph from 9-11 in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. and in the 9/11 Memorial in NY.

Adam has taken that world-view curiosity and turned it to the city where he resides with his new series, d.f.p.m.  Traveling the city at night by bicycle, he finds pockets of energy, little side shows of labor, lust, and solitude. Adam will be exhibiting this project in “Area Conurbada” at the Museo Archivo de la Fotografia in Mexico City May 31 to August 15, 2012. He is currently working on a book of d.f.p.m..

d.f.p.m. This project documents the nocturnal esthetics of Mexico City; the Distrito Federal (Federal District), locally referred to as the D.F. a city divided.

For as long as I can remember violence and paranoia has dictated where and how we live, what parts of the city we can roam, where we can shop, enjoy a meal, work, play. It is not unusual to meet people who happen to know the same people you know. Most consider these encounters as nothing more than coincidence, however, it is more likely a result of people knowing one another within these comparatively tiny circles created by an economically divided society.

d.f.p.m is a collection of photographs shot while getting lost by bicycle at night. It began as a group of 3 or 4 friends riding their bikes at night to unknown parts of the city trying to get lost, finding somewhere to have a drink or two and moving on to another part of the city and having another drink. It was a way to break the mold, to take back our city and escape the monotony of our designated environment. Documenting these experiences I quickly became attracted to the nocturnal urban landscapes we were riding through, the empty lonely bars, sleepy waitresses awoken by clients who were not locals, trucks delivering vegetables in one of the worlds largest food markets which is never closed and is most active from 2 to 6am. Intricate altars to Saint Death on street corners, lonely men in strip joints, a couple hidden by the cover of night in the corner of an empty over-lit cantina. Most of the time it was more subtle landscapes which caught my eye, landscapes created by artificial light: headlights from a passing car momentarily bringing into view a neglected wall, street light spilling over a groomed tree or a patchwork of light emanating from the façade of an apartment building.
Wherever I go I am considered an outsider, as a Mexican with a Scottish mother and American father I am not considered Mexican nor Scottish nor American. A documentary photographer is always an outsider, as an outsider I become invisible, an entity which is undefined. Nobody has a preconceived notion of what is expected of me so instead of standing out, I am often ignored and left to take my portrait of my city. d.f.p.m is just that; a nocturnal portrait of my city.

Andrew Jackson

I think some of the most meaningful work that a photographer can create is about personal history.  As photographers and artists, we can bring a nuanced way of seeing to our storytelling, and more often than not, that storytelling becomes a form of personal discovery and therapy.

Andrew Jackson has been exploring notions of identity and representation in his photographs, and his most recent work, From a Small Island, examines the legacy of post-war migration from the Caribbean to Britain by his own family members. Andrew was born in Dudley in the West Midlands of the UK. He completed an
MA in Documentary Photography at Newport (University of Wales) and has since
embarked on both commissioned and personal works. His work is held in
both private and public collections and he was recently nominated for the Prix
Pictet photography Prize.

From a Small Island

“No-one on that ship…thought
we’d be leaving home forever, but when my father hugged me on the dockside, for
some reason, I knew I’d never see him again…I still see my father; you know, in
my mind at least… after all these years…but I can’t see his face….no matter how
hard I try…I never see his face.”  
Amy Jackson
From a small island is a work in development that examines the legacy of migration via the experiences of my parents who came from the Caribbean to work in the factories of Britain. It seeks to examine the shifting patterns of power that has taken them from the rush of youth and self determination, to the universality of ageing and the loss of who they were.

Alford and Amy Jackson, left Jamaica, one by plane, the other by ship; both unknown to each other, and yet, both destined to meet at the end of their travels that would see them leave behind all that they knew and loved – fathers, mothers and brothers – never to see them again.  Yet, for those who travelled with them, on the long journey to the Motherland of Britain, no monuments will be built to bear their names and no wreaths will be laid to remember the hardships or intolerances they faced as they helped rebuild what war had broken.  This is why I have chosen to photograph my family, if only to make a mark that says that they were here and that they cannot be forgotten. There is of course much more work to be done on this series, work that will explore the spaces their lives touched in Britain and the spaces too that they left behind in Jamaica. 

Time though is not ours to own, as we are all powerless to prevent its passage and powerless too to prevent our march into infirmity and the loss of whom we once were.  But, as we all march on upon this inevitable journey, across the sea of life, from cradle to the grave, all that we can hope for is that our mark has been made and a legacy of our passing remains long after we are gone.

Interview with Lorena Guillen Vaschetti: HISTORIA, MEMORIA Y SILENCIOS

“My mother and I are the only members left of a big Italian family. Convinced that she was lifting the heavy weight of the family past off my shoulders, she called me to let me know that she had thrown away all the family slides: “It happened already”, she said…” — Lorena Guillén Vaschetti

Lorena Guillen Vaschetti has just published her first monograph, Historia, Memoria y Silencios through Schilt Publishing, and Postcart Publishing in Italy. The project is an unusual exploration of personal history and power through family photography–what the photographs reveal and what is hidden. Lorena approaches the work as an anthropologist, and the simplicity of her work allows the viewer to bring their own stories, conclusions, and realities to the project.

In 2009, Lorena’s mother threw away all the family slides to protect her daughter from the family history. Lorena was able to recover only one box from the many that her mother had discarded. She re-photographed the contents from her perspective, choosing to leave the slides that were wrapped in packages unopened.

Lorena Guillén Vaschetti was born in Rosario, Argentina in 1974. She studied Architecture and Anthropology before committing to Photography. Her work has been exhibited in solo and group shows throughout South America, the United States and Europe, and is included in a number of public and private collections.

The book is in two parts and begins with photographs of the loose slides Lorena found in the box. She re-photographed the slides from a depth of field that leaves portions of the images out of focus, and the faces of her family members blurred. This gives the series a dreamlike, mysterious quality that reflects the passage of time, and poses intriguing questions about the relationship between family members, and what other unknown stories exist in between the picture frames.

Images from Historia, memoria y silencios (Historia, memoria)

In the second half of the book (tied in a Japanese binding) – Unopened/Sin Abrir – Lorena presents photographs of the packages of slides that she chose not to open. Bound in elastic bands, and concealed in film canisters, these photographic artifacts conceal family secrets that the artist will never learn. Lorena is most interested in what we cannot see, and how powerful constructed memories of our past shape what we ultimately believe to be true.

Images from Historia, memoria y lilencios (Silencios)

Congratulations on the book! It’s a unique approach to exploring the idea of family photographs and history. You studied Anthropology and Architecture before committing to photography. Does that education inform your work?

I can easily imagine that if I would have studied other careers my work would be different. Let me think about it with you: Architecture has been present in the way I thought the book as an object. I faced it as I think an architectural project. First the idea and then the factuality of it. To make an idea become a final object and all the process in between.

Let me give you an example: to express the “Un-openess” through japanese binding is different way to transmit the feeling of the impossibility of accessing those moments that already happened. A more physical way.

Last but not least technology: in this area my education did not informed the work directly: my the designer and the printer thought me about the technology in this particular field of book making.

Regarding Anthropology, it relates in so many different levels!

From understanding family links to reading codes through Semiology (in the first “vintage” images). And it can also be approached from an archeological point of view (mainly in the last ones, the “packages”).

Can you tell us how the book came about?

I met Maarten Schilt in Paris in November 2010. As soon as he saw my work he said that this work would make a great book. I had not considered the possibility of a book about this before but I thought it was a wonderful format for this body of work. We worked from February to August and in October the book was released in Europe and now, February, in the United States.

There also is an Italian edition by a publishing house in Rome called Postcart Edizioni.

Postcart came to know about the book when we were finishing it and offered to make the italian edition which was wonderful because most pictures are taken in Italy and both my grandparents (the photographer) were italians. And so am I !

Your early series about black boards appears to have a connection to your current work. It’s work about a structure, wherein the narrative is obscured, and it feels nostolgic, in the past. Did you see this connection?

You are completely right !!! and you said it wonderfully well….
I saw the connection later than I would have imagined. I work very intuitively and only later I think about the reasons why I did what I did.

What made you decide to reinterpret and rephotograph your family photographs?

A complex and sometimes sad family history. They became something else now.

I can’t imagine to allowing myself to NOT look at family photographs. Do you ever think you will explore those images? Is there a truth you don’t want exposed? The act of not looking is quite powerful.

Thank you Aline…
I understand what you say. As I mentioned earlier, I work very intuitively. For the time being I feel comfortable having them as objects holding unknown moments.

The fact that they became something else, larger perhaps than only the images they would offer is important to me.
I don’t know if I will ever open them. They are in a transparent box now. They are like archeology objects in a way.

Admittedly, I have had my own experience cleaning out my parent’s house and throwing away carousels of slides– that is one reason that this work really resonates with me. Have you given thought as to what our generation will pass on to our children, now that physical photographs are rare–most people keep them on their computers.
Very true! I have no idea what they will hold on to for the construction of memory. I would imagine a few objects and a few stories that will eventually wash with time. At the end of the day it is like it happened in history before photography existed.

And the next generation will have to deal with the problem of having too many (files): when we have too much it is usually hard to see what is important….
It is a very interesting matter.

Regarding your own story, I believe that even if you would have kept all your parent’s slides, only very few would have been meaningful to you. You probably already have that “space” of your memory filled with other objects or images (photographs or memories in your mind). In my experience that is enough.

In fact most of my family slides where already gone with the trash truck when I came to know. Perhaps if I would have had a million or they would not have been in such risk I would have never paid attention. (But let me confess that when I saw how wonderful they were I wanted them all back! )

As an Argentinian photographer, how do you connect with the rest of the world? Is Argentina supportive of photographers? Have you attended portfolio reviews outside of South America?

Argentina is a very difficult country for artists to live in terms of the lack of governmental support, especially economical. But there is a big artists’ community that is very interesting.

Yes, I attended portfolio reviews in different places such as Fotofest (Houston) Santa Fe Reviews (New Mexico) Paris photo and Bratislava!

Are you working on a new project?

I need to let it grow a bit more before I can speak about it. But it has to do with the need to fill in the blanks.

And finally what would be your perfect day?

Any day when I am in peace with myself, conscious of how lucky I am.
If it would be sunny, had nice simple food and I would have my loved ones around, then it would be the perfect, perfect day!

Displaced: The Cambodian Diaspora

As a son of the Killing Fields born in 1982 in the refugee camp to which my family had fled following the Cambodian genocide, I have struggled for most of my life to understand the legacy of my people. Over the last year, I engaged in a series of conversations with Cambodian-Americans about our history and the complexity of their experience while photographing community members in Philadelphia, Pa.; Lowell, Mass. and the Bronx, N.Y.

The Cambodian people are among the most heavily traumatized people in modern memory. They are the human aftermath of a cultural, political, and economic revolution by the Khmer Rouge that killed an estimated two million, nearly a third of the entire population, within a span of four years from 1975-1979. The entire backbone of society—educated professionals, artists, musicians and monks—were systematically executed in a brutal attempt to transform the entirety of Cambodian society to a classless rural collective of peasants. That tragedy casts a long shadow on the lives of Cambodians. It bleeds generationally, manifesting itself subtly within my own family in ways that I am only starting to fully comprehend as an adult. It is ingrained in the sorrow of my grandmother’s eyes; it is sown in the furrows of my parents’ faces. This is my inheritance; this is what it means to be Cambodian.

After surviving the Killing Fields, my family, along with hundreds of thousands of survivors, risked their lives trekking through the Khmer-Rouge-controlled jungle to reach a refugee camp in Thailand. There, my mother had what she believes to be a prophetic dream. In a field, an entire city’s worth of women were clawing with their bare hands in bloodstained dirt searching for an elusive diamond. To the disbelief of everyone in the dream, she serendipitously stumbled upon it wrapped in a blanket of dirt. The following day she discovered she was pregnant with me. The significance of this didn’t dawn on me until I started photographing this project. It was a vision of hope and renewal, that we as Cambodians are endowed with an incredible resilience and strength in human spirit. I have seen this in the faces of Cambodians I have photographed and have been incredibly humbled. In the words of my mother, it is a miracle to simply exist.

As a result of the unique demographic circumstances of the genocide, there has been a paucity of reflection within the Cambodian community. Many second-generation Cambodians I have interviewed learned about the Killing Fields through secondary sources, from the Internet and documentary films. Such conversations were non-existent at home. Exacerbating the silence is an inter-generational language barrier; most young Cambodian Americans cannot speak Khmer, the Cambodian language, while their parents and grandparents are incapable of speaking English. As a result, we are the literal manifestation of Pol Pot’s attempt to erase Cambodia’s history and culture. However, in spite of this void, there exists a growing movement of young and empowered Cambodians—academics, artists, musicians, and activists—who are trying to bridge this generational chasm.

For months, the senior surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge have been tried for crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide in Cambodia by a United-Nations-backed international tribunal that was established in 2006. Over half a decade later, and at a cost of an estimated $200 million, the court has prosecuted only one individual, Kaing Guek Eav, known as Duch, who presided over the execution of more than 16,000 in Cambodia’s most infamous prison. On Feb. 3, the tribunal extended his sentencing to life in prison. In spite of this ruling, the court is on the verge of collapse because of corruption and a lack of political will by the government to proceed beyond the trials of only the highest ranking surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge. This is heartbreaking. I asked my mother how she felt about this: she responded, almost tearfully, that this in and of itself could never take back her suffering. Many Cambodians I have spoken with in the course of photographing this project have echoed this sentiment. But I am convinced that justice and healing must emerge from the collective will of my people.

Pete Pin is a Cambodian-American documentary photographer based in Brooklyn, N.Y. He was a Fellow at the Magnum Foundation Emergency Fund, which supported the Bronx portion of his long-term project on the Cambodian diaspora. More of his work can be seen here.

Nadia Sablin

Nadia Sablin has a unique world view, with roots in two parts of the world. She was born in the Soviet Union and moved to the United States when she was twelve. Nadia packed her suitcase full of rich visual memories with an ability to tell stories and create portraits that allow us a window into her personal history. Nadia now divides her time between St Petersburg, Russia and New York City, where she is pursuing several photographic projects. I am featuring two of those projects, Two Sisters and Together and Alone.

Two Sisters: In 1952, my grandfather began to lose his vision as a result of being wounded in WWII. Wanting to return to the place where he grew up, he found an unoccupied hill in a village in the Leningrad region of Russia, close to his brothers, sisters and numerous cousins. He took his house apart, log by log, and floated it down the Oyat river to its new location and reconstructed it. This house, with no running water or heat, is the place where my father and his siblings grew up, each moving to the big city after finishing school.

Now, more than half a century later, the house still stands, occupied by two of my aunts in the warmer months. They plant potatoes, bring water from the well, and chop wood for heating the stove. For the last three years, I’ve spent the summer in the village, photographing my aunts’ quiet occupations, and the small world surrounding them. Their life spent in the routine of chores, handiwork and puzzles seems untouched by the passage of time.

Together and Alone:I was conceived, mistakenly, as a twin, although nobody knew this but me. There were two of us, in the womb, identical from our underdeveloped heads to our microscopic toes. She was a Russian girl, just like me, a secretly Jewish Russian girl, prone to emotion, impatient, bookish. She hid. I knew her well before we left. We conspired on hot days in the village, outwitted the demons in the marshes, looked for treasure among the reeds. We parted ways in ’92, when I was brought to greener pastures, great-grandmother’s pillows and iron skillet in tow. She is still breathing magic. She, the other one, is beautiful. Her braid is down to her feet like my aunties’.

Our life packed in six check-in suitcases, three carry-ons. I was alone here in your new world, so I tried to replicate her, mold her out of my mother, out of American girls, out of mirrors. I search for her in images by Dutch painters, in stories by Marquez and Bulgakov. She lives off drywall, in an attic, in a well; she ascended to heaven, she is a mother by now, she walks the outskirts of St. Petersburg as a whore, she is still a child, while I’ve grown bigger, and am good at paying my bills on time.

She brushes her hair one hundred times before bed. A wolf guards her virtue. I see her in the eyes of strangers. Her gestures overtake theirs for a split second, and she is gone before they know what has happened. With my trap, I wait for her to appear there, and if I’m quick enough, if I press the button at the right moment, none of this will be real. We will be together again, she and I, conspirators, sisters, laughers of derisive laughter, whole.

ReRuns: Kendall Messick’s The Projectionist

I am re-running last year’s post on Kendall Messick as The Projectionist still remains one of my favorite projects and books of the past couple of years ….

After I returned home from my travels this summer, the pile of mail held a box I wasn’t expecting. I didn’t know who it was from and hadn’t ordered anything, but quickly discovered it had been sent by the Princeton Architectural Press . It contained, hands down, the most wonderful book, story, and photographs that I have seen in a long time. I was stunned, excited, and couldn’t wait to learn/see more.

I have always been drawn to the quirky side of life, to people that stand outside the norm, and to stories that are magical and marvelous, and The Projectionist provides all of that.

But let me start at the beginning.

Kendall Messick is a well regarded photographer, having studied at the International Center of Photography and the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Kendall is a natural storyteller, and has produced a number of significant projects, several culminating into feature length documentaries, including The Projectionist. But let’s go back a little farther in his personal history to about age 6, when he lived across the street from the town’s movie theater projectionist, Gordon Brinckle, in Middletown, Delaware.

Mr. Brinckle had a like-long dream of owning and operating a movie palace. He was a bit of a loner, so decided to fulfill his dream, downstairs, in his own basement. He created a fully operational theater, The Shalimar, complete with theater chairs, drapes, paintings, marquee, and a red carpet. It became a passion and an obsession. Kendall had the opportunity to see the theater only once as a child, but many years later he returned home on a visit and asked Mr. Brinckle to show it to him again. Marveling at this amazing creation, Kendall knew that he had to photograph not only the theater, but the theater’s owner and creator. And fortunately, the timing was perfect. Mr. Brinckle, a very elderly man, was extremely concerned about what would happen to his masterpiece after his passing. Their collaboration has resulted into something quite remarkable.

Gordon Brinckle as the town projectionist

Kendall creates a wonderful juxtaposition of the upstairs images captured in black and white, while the downstairs images are in saturated technicolor.

The Brinckle home

Gordon Brinckle in his 90’s

Mr. Brinckle’s hand a top some of his drawings for the theater

And now, will you take your seats please….and turn off your cell phones.

In 2007, Gordon Brinckle passed away, but fortunately Kendall was able to reconstruct the theater for exhibition, and Gordon was finally able to share his creation with the sunlight.

This is not only a wonderful book, complete with photographs of his drawings and papers, but soon there will be a traveling exhibition and a film to celebrate “The Shalimar”. What a wonderful story about making dreams into a reality.

The theater for exhibition

Gordon and Kendall

2011 Auction Catalog Now LIVE! Auction Spotlight: Sasha Rudensky

Aperture’s 2011 Benefit and Auction catalog is now online and open for bidding! This year’s catalog features many talented artists, from emerging to established photographers. You can bid online through our website, and at the event on Monday, October 17th. The proceeds from our 2011 Benefit, Auction, and SNAP! Party—our most important fundraising event of the year—are essential for Aperture’s publications, exhibitions, and public programs, which provide unmatched exposure for artists and scholars working in photography.

In this clip, auction-featured photographer Sasha Rudensky explains how her work is related to her personal history. She describes her practice as being in between documentary and staged photography in a “loose way.” Rudensky also speaks about the polished, aesthetic style that emerges from the reGeneration2 artists, and her experience being a part of the group.


Rudensky’s image Red Square is part of our SNAP! Benefit Party Emerging Artists Auction. She writes, of the image:

Red Square was taken from a friend’s window in January of 2010. Initially I wanted to climb out on the roof deck in order to shoot from outside but due to heavy snowfall, the door has been barricaded. As it often happens, limitation became a source of strength, so when I set up to have the view framed by the window I realized it clarified the ideas behind the work. The iconic glitter of the red square presented as a projection, rather than a real space, sets up for the underlying theme of the project, an interweaving between illusion and fantasy as well as every day reality in post-Soviet Russia.

Stay tuned for weekly blog posts giving insight into select items from our Benefit’s Live, Silent, and Emerging Artists Auctions!

Click here to start bidding online for this work and others!

Click here for more information about our 2011 Benefit & Auction.