Tag Archives: Photojournalist

Santa 24/7: Portrait of a Year-Round Father Christmas

For most of us, he’s that cheerful, rotund guy who drops by for a quick visit on the same night every December. For others, though, he’s a year-round presence. Or so Touko Hujanen found out in the summer of 2011, while working as a photojournalist for a Finnish newspaper. On assignment in Helsinki and looking for quirky stories, he came across a fully-costumed professional Santa named Timo Pakkanen sitting in a park, waiting patiently for tourist cruise ships to dock.

“It’s 140 days to Christmas!” Pakkanen exclaimed as Hujanen approached. Hujanen photographed the red-coated, bearded Pakkanen for his newspaper. The two hit it off pretty quickly, and so began a seven-month documentary relationship between Santa and photographer.

Hujanen hitched a ride as Pakkanen toured Japan, a country where he is popular, and also hung out with him in Finland. The resulting work he calls, simply, Joulupukki — Finnish for “Santa Claus.”

The portraits that came out of the collaboration are as playful as they are unexpected. After all, we’re not used to seeing Santa powdering his eyebrows, taking a dip or enjoying a cigar. This is Christmas at its most elemental, without the tinsel.

That said, Pakkanen is no novelty act: 68 years old, he has been playing the part since 1961 and has an office in downtown Helsinki. What started as a small gig for local Finnish families eventually saw him become the de facto national Father Christmas — a significant honor in a country that, by some accounts, is St Nick’s home.

“My job for me is bigger than life,” Pakkanen told TIME, speaking on the phone from Japan. “It’s much, much more than work.”

Touko Hujanen

Touko Hujanen

Pakkanen in the Saitama prefecture of Japan. In 2011 he met with children evacuated from Fukushima.

In some ways it was an obvious career, he adds. His mother, Kaija Pakkanen, was a prolific children’s author who told him stories as a child; his sister, Outi, is a writer, as well.

“I lived all my childhood in a fairytale world, and that is very good grounds to be a Santa,” he says, laughing.

Pakkanen often works 12-hour days during the holiday season, and for many years has spent Christmas Eve in a Tokyo hotel room, tired but fulfilled after weeks of hearing Christmas lists and visiting kindergartens. He likes to celebrate with a can of Yebisu beer and a cup of warm sake.

The best thing about his job? It allows him to not only see joy on people’s faces, but to experience it himself. He may seem old, but he claims he feels like a kid.

“First we are children, then we get older, and we return to our childhood,” he says. “That’s the circle of life.”


Touko Hujanen is a co-founder of Finland-based collective Yksitoista. Joulupukki is part of the Suomi/Finland exhibition and runs until Feb., 1o, 2013 in Tampere and May, 5, 2013 in Helsinki

Santa and Timo Pakkanen can be found year-round at santaclausforever.com



Tearsheet of The Day | Narciso Contreras from Aleppo in Time

Most of the world’s media attention has been on Gaza for the week or so, but the fighting in Syria hasn’t been any quieter. Just yesterday we saw news reports of airstrikes by Syrian government damaging a hospital in Aleppo which killed 15 people and left as many as 40 missing.

Time magazine (Int’l ed.) ran an article about the Syria’s largest city in their last weekend’s issue. Opens with a striking photo by Narciso Contreras who has been filing photos from Aleppo for the Associated Press and Polaris.

pp. SEO Experts search engine marketing . 26-27. Time (Int’l ed.). November 26, 2012 issue.
Photo Narciso Contreras
Text on the spread: Cat and Mouse. Both regime and rebels have snipers at the ready. Rebel fighters are reflected in a mirror as they watch for enemies

Narciso Contrerasis a photojournalist born in Mexico City, whose work focuses on ‘feature stories, reportage and documentary based on religious communities, human nature and conflicts.’

Andy Freeberg, Sean Kelly, Art Basel Miami, Artist: Kehinde Wiley

Andy Freeberg, Sean Kelly, Art Basel Miami, Artist: Kehinde Wiley

Andy Freeberg

Sean Kelly, Art Basel Miami, Artist: Kehinde Wiley,
, 2010
From the Art Fare series
Website – AndyFreeberg.com

Andy Freeberg was born in New York City where he learned at an early age to be a critical observer of the world and the people in it. He studied at the University of Michigan, began his career as a photojournalist and now concentrates primarily on fine art projects. Freeberg has recently emerged on the contemporary art scene as a wry commentator on the art industry itself. Long fascinated with the gallery and museum worlds, he often turns his camera on the dealers, gallery patrons, artists, museum guards, and their interplay with the works of art on view. His project Guardians, about the women that guard the art in Russian museums, won Photolucida’s Critical Mass book award and was published in 2010. The Guardians will be on view at the Cantor Museum at Stanford University through January 2013. His series, Art Fare, documenting another side of the art world, will open at Kopeikin Gallery in Los Angeles in September 2012. Freeberg’s work is in many public and private collections including the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, The Portland Art Museum, the George Eastman House, and the Museum of Fine Arts Houston.

Michael Mergen

Now that we know who will be living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for the next four years, we might want to consider who else lives at that very famous address.  As a bookend to his series, VOTE, that ran on Lenscratch yesterday, Michael Mergen has created a terrific series about a very famous address.

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

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue 

With 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, I sough to explore and document the American landscape using the constant of the country’s most famous address – the White House. Using this address as a constant, I made straightforward images of everyday America. What followed is a vernacular, kaleidoscopic view of this country: lower and middle class homes of all sorts, mundane structures of a waste water treatment plant, and bland, nameless brick and cinderblock buildings. And it is this contrast to the regal white columns of the White House, its manicured lawn and historical context that makes these buildings so interesting, the familiar humdrum of the American landscape, that simple happenstance of sharing an address with the most significant of all.

 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,
Pine Bluff, AK
, 2008

 1600 Pennsylvania
Street, Gary, IN
, 2008

 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,
Irwin, PA
, 2008

 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,
Lorain, OH
, 2008

 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,
McDonough, GA
, 2008

 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,
Miami Beach, FL
, 2008

 1600 S Pennsylvania Avenue,
Morrisville, PA
, 2008

 

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,
Newton Falls, OH
, 2008

 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,
Whiting, NJ
, 2008

 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,
Guilderland, NY
, 2008

 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Salem, OH, 2008

 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,
Stoughton, MA
, 2008

 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
NE, St Petersburg, FL
, 2008

 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,
Tyrone, PA
, 2008

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,
West Mifflin, PA
, 2008

Michael Mergen: Vote!

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Photography to Film: Stanley Kubrick Enters the Ring

Stanley Kubricks professional career began April 12, 1945, as the high school junior with a prolific track record of absences wandered the streets of the Bronx and snapped a picture of a crestfallen newsstand dealer surrounded by headlines announcing the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. As childhood friend Alexander Singer tells the story, Kubrick immediately ran to his home darkroom, which his father had built to encourage the scholastic underachievers budding interest in photography, printed the picture and made a sale that same afternoon to Look Magazine. The following year, when no colleges would accept Kubrick because of his poor academic record, Look hired him as a full-time staff photographer.

Singer and Kubrick had forged a bond over shared scholastic apathy and mutual respect of each others extracurricular achievements Singer as editor of the school literary arts magazine, and Kubrick as the kid with a camera around his neck: almost a caricature of what youd imagine a teenage cameraman would look like, as Singer describes. When plans to photograph a feature-length cinematic adaptation of Homers Iliad written and directed by Singer proved too ambitious, Kubrick struck upon the idea to instead translate one of his own photographic essays to the big screen.

That essay was Prizefighter, published by Look in January 1949, and described by Kubrick biographer Vincent LoBrutto as the moment he came of age as a photojournalist. The seven-page story depicted scenes from the life of Bronx-born middleweight boxer Walter Cartier as he trained and prepared to enter the ring against moments from his romantic and domestic lives. Often working under stark, overhead light with infrared film (also favored by his idol, Weegee), Kubrick captured high-contrast images that emphasized Walters physique and cast brooding, incisive shadows on his face.

Prizefighter would go on to define Kubrick in other ways, though. It might have been his dawning moment as a photojournalist, but the essay would also serve as the basis of the first film Kubrick would direct, called Day at the Fight, released two years later.

The 20-year old Kubrick made the decision to shoot his first film on 35mm rather than the lighter, more economical 16mm format favored by amateursa bold decision by someone who later described the entirety of his motion picture camera training as a hands-on demonstration at an equipment house. Kubrick and Singer used Bell & Howells Eyemo, a lightweight camera introduced 1926 for use in newsreels and military applications and advertised, perhaps over-optimistically, as convenient to carry as the average size still camera. Kubrick photographed most of the project solo, and Singer joined on a second ringside camera to capture the live fight scene. A third camera operator also filmed from high in the auditorium.

Comparing the Prizefighter contact sheets side-by-side with Day of the Fight, one gets the sense that much of the creative legwork had been worked out during the photo essay, which, despite its ostensible documentary subject matter, was chiefly constructed through deliberately-staged scenes. But Day of the Fight is a distinctly cinematic work; particularly remarkable is Kubrick’s ability to control time and add an element of suspense in portraying Walter’s anticipation of the fight, a trait missing in Prizefighter. linkwheel . The first-time director was also aided by the fact that the physical spectacle of boxing lends itself to cinema. After all, the first feature-length film ever released was a 1897 St. Patricks Day fight between James J. Corbett and Bob Fitzsimmons. Many of the same setups from the contact sheets and short film are repeated in Kubricks subsequent work, particularly his second feature, Killers Kiss, a seedy yarn about a down-on-his-luck fighter.

Although Kubrick is regarded as the most critically and commercially successful photographer turned full-time feature filmmaker, this mainstream acclaim might also be the reason his name rarely enters the discussion of the legendary New York-based photographers and their progressive contributions to avant garde and non-narrative filmmaking. This tradition includes Paul Strand (Manhatta, 1921), Rudy Burckhardt (The Pursuit of Happiness, 1940) Helen Levitt (In the Street, 1949), Ruth Orkin & Morris Engel (The Little Fugitive, 1953), William Klein (Broadway by Light, 1958) and Robert Frank (Pull My Daisy, 1959), among whose varying innovations include discrete handheld photography, examples of life caught unawares, and blurring lines between documentary and staged situations. Kubricks perceived youth and inexperience may be another factor in this oversight: though several writers have supported their praise of The Little Fugitive by recalling that the ten-years-senior Engel claimed a 25-year-old Kubrick attempted to rent his uniquely-constructed equipment for his own first feature (Fear and Desire), Kubricks production predates The Little Fugitive by several months. Furthermore, much of Kubrick’s early work has not been widely available to the public per Kubrick’s wishes, Fear and Desire only recently resurfaced after decades of suppression.

One could hardly argue Day of the Fight is a major work in the context of documentary film or Kubricks entire oeuvre, but it remains a fascinating key to understanding the development of Kubrick as an artist and entrepreneuran under-appreciated example of the maverick cinematic approaches developed by street photographers. Undoubtedly,Day of the Fight is one of the most assured and mature endeavors undertaken by someone approaching a film camera for the first time.

Jon Dieringer is an independent curator and the editor and publisher of Screen Slate, a daily online resource for listings and commentary of New York City repertory film and independent media.

Latin America Week: Adriana Zehbrauskas

This week, Argentinian photographer Eleonora Ronconi is taking over as guest curator, featuring work created by Latin American photographers…

Esta es la cuarta edición de la semana, y me da mucho placer presentarles a Adriana Zehbrauskas, fotógrafa brasileña que reside en el DF hace varios años.

Adriana is a photojournalist with an amazing eye. Her work caught my attention while I was looking for images on Faith, and these images had everything I had in mind: great compositions, grittiness and a lot of heart.  I am sharing her series Faith in Brazil and Mexico. 

Adriana was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil. She received a degree in Journalism and moved to Paris where she studied Linguistics and Phonetics at the Sorbonne Nouvelle. She worked as a staff photographer for  Folha de Sao Paulo for 11 years and is currently based in Mexico City, where she contributes regularly with the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Le Figaro and The Guardian, among others.

The series Faith in Brazil and Mexico was awarded an Art & Worship World Prize by the Niavaran Artistic Creation Foundation and a book is currently under production to be published by Bei Editores in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Image from Faith in Brazil and Mexico
What does your Latin heritage bring to your work?

I
think that in my specific case (not even sure if it is due to my
Latin heritage) it is an obsession with organizing the chaos in my
frame. I was born and raised in São Paulo and have lived the past
eight years in Mexico City, two huge metropolis where the visual
stimulation was always too much, there was always too much going on
at the same time ( São Paulo has now banned all outdoors including
even those hideous gigantic Mac Donald’s Ms). I felt this need to
clean my view, to calculate exactly what I wanted in my frame.

On
another level, Latin America is very religious and that permeates
every level of society in an everyday basis. The reference for the
sacred is constant and really difficult not to notice. I was always
very curious about this subject and I think I always find a way to
portray this angle into my stories.

Do you see a difference between work created in Latin America and
work created in the States?

It
is not a general rule, and I cannot speak for the whole Latin
America, but I see more long-term documentary projects coming out of
the US ( or US photographers) than out of Brazil, for instance.

What is the state of
photography in your country–is it well supported, are galleries
selling, do photographers have an outlet to show their work? 

I
don’t think it’s well supported, either in Brazil or Mexico.
It’s the effort of a handful of people who actually make it
happen. Outlets for showing work are dwindling by the day, newspapers
and magazines have less and less money /space so we have to get
creative now. The internet is a vast space, but we have to still
figure out the best way to use it. It’s just not a matter of
showing the work. Photographers are like any other people in the
world, we have to make money to survive!



Images from Faith in Brazil and Mexico 
 This
project was born from my inquisitiveness and deep curiosity about
religion. Living in Brazil, a country of immense cultural and
socioeconomic diversity and an extreme fertile ground for a plethora
of popular and religious manifestations, it was impossible to grow up
ignoring their intensity and strength.
Have
faith and you will go far”, “faith moves mountains”, and “one
must have faith” are expressions that permeate the day-to-day lives
of people from all social classes and religious beliefs.
With
their millenary experience, the major religions constitute powerful
intellectual structures capable of providing each individual with a
philosophy of life. They attend to the spiritual aspirations of the
human being and to the need to believe in noble values. They provide
answers to the individual’s anxieties when confronted with fear,
suffering and death. They assert that which is true, good and just,
helping each person interpret the world.
The
spiritual search is natural to every human being. It represents the
search for the meaning of life, humanity and coexistence. Religion is
unique to humankind. The cornerstone of any religion is faith. 
This
is a sample of a large photographic essay on  faith in Brazil
and Mexico, focusing on the similarities and differences of that
which is perhaps the only common denominator of all religion.

Violentology: Stephen Ferry Documents the Colombian Conflict

Photographer Stephen Ferry has spent ten years documenting the ongoing internal armed conflict in Colombia — a situation that, he says, is often overlooked or miscast as a ‘drug war’ outside of the country. In his recently-published book, Violentology: A Manual of the Colombian Conflict, Ferry presents a comprehensive look at this incredibly complicated and brutal conflict with the use of his own photographs, historical imagery and text.

Printed on heavy newsprint and produced on the rotary press of the Bogota daily newspaper El Espectador, Violentology’s physicality references the tradition of print journalism  an industry which has played a central role in shedding light on many of the atrocities committed in Colombia.

“The point here is not just to present photographs but also that they be accompanied by an investigation that is very serious,” said Ferry. “And all of that really detailed and important and dramatic information is information that came from the Colombian press. So, I wanted the design to reflect my respect for their practice.”

The book’s outsize pages are the width of magazine spreads, another nod to print journalism, but also, Ferry said, a way to get readers to spend time with the tome.

“The topic is a very serious one and its not necessarily a topic that is in the headlines, so I wanted to use whatever visual and design strategies I could in order to slow the readers’ down and keep people’s attention on the subject,” he explains.

Ferry’s Violentology project was awarded the inaugural Tim Hetherington Grant in 2011 by World Press Photo and Human Rights Watch. Additional support from the Open Society Institute has helped to make the book available in both Spanish and English versions. Selected chapters are also available as downloadable PDFs.

Stephen Ferry is a photojournalist whose work has received numerous honors from World Press and Magnum Foundation among others. See more of his work here.

Violentology was recently published by Umbrage Editions. See more about the book here