Tag Archives: Portrait

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



SW Regional SPE: Carol S. Dass

Sharing photographers that I met at the SW Regional SPE Conference hosted by the Center of Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins, Colorado….

Carol S. Dass has created a project, Mother, where she looks at the significant female figure in her life with a new perspective–not as the woman who raised her, but as a human being with her own history and dreams. As children (and even as adults) it is difficult to see our parents outside of our familial arena, but then again, it works both ways–as parents, our children will always be our children–people to be watched over and concerned about.

Carol was born in Oakland, California, raised in rural Missouri and she received her BA in Art from Northwest Missouri State University. She has lived in Colorado Springs for 30 years and has been an instructor of photography at the University of Colorado – Colorado Springs for the past 12 years. Carol’s work has been shown nationally and is in the collections of the Denver Art Museum, the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center and numerous private collections.

MOTHER 

Typed out in bold that word seems foreign to me. Partly because I have never been or will ever be a mother. As I move through this life, thinking about aging and one’s place in the world a lot of time has recently been spent with my mother. She has been alone for several years, and I have been seeing her with new eyes while listening to her history. It’s funny how growing up we tend to view our mother’s as just that “Mother”, unable to see beyond that role of the woman who carried me in her womb, raised me the best that she could, and will in many ways continue to view me as a child regardless of my age. 

My mother was forced to work to support us, went back to night school while working and taking care of nearby relatives. She was not at home to greet me with a plate of warm cookies when I came home from school asking after my day. I remember when I was an adult coming into my own finally seeing my mother as a “person”, a unique individual who had many adventures and stories to tell. 

The reasons behind perceived and real dysfunction became easier to understand. These images are a small documentation of “mother”, a reflection of what has occurred and what is ahead. 

TIME Picks the Top 10 Photos of 2012

Ten percent of all of the photographs made in the entire history of photography were made last year — an astounding figure. More than ever before, thanks in part to cell phone technology, the world is engaged with photography and communicating through pictures.

Nonetheless, a great photograph will rise above all the others. The ten photographs we present here are the pictures that moved us most in 2012. They all deliver a strong emotional impact — whether they show a child mourning his father who was killed by a sniper in Syria (slide #3); a heartbreaking scene in a Gaza City morgue (slide #1); a haunting landscape of New Jersey coastline after Hurricane Sandy, a rollercoaster submerged under the tide (slide #2); or a rare glimpse of President Obama moments before he goes out on stage during a campaign rally (slide #9). We spoke to each of the photographers about their images, and their words provide the captions here.

Over the past several days, we’ve unveiled TIME’s Best Photojournalism and Best Portraits of the Year galleries on LightBox. And in the next three weeks, we will be rolling out even more end-of-year features: the Most Surprising Pictures of the Year; the Best Photo Books of the Year; the Top 10 Photographic Magazine Covers of the Year and other compelling galleries. We will also recognize TIME’s choice for the Best Wire Photographer of the Year. Senior photo editor Phil Bicker is curating many of these galleries with help from the photo team at TIME. His discerning eye has been responsible for the curation of TIME’s Pictures of the Week throughout the year, galleries that regularly present the best of the week’s images, with surprising and sometimes offbeat takes on the news.  We will round off the year on December 31 with our second-annual “365: Year in Pictures,” a comprehensive look at the strongest picture of every day of 2012.

Kira Pollack, Director of Photography

Jacqueline Roberts

It is with great pleasure and excitement that I introduce Jacqueline Roberts as next week’s guest curator and writer.  She will be sharing the work of six contemporary European photographers over the course of the week, exposing us to image makers an ocean away. Today I will be celebrating her wonderful work that beautifully explores children and childhood.

Jacqueline is a Spanish photographer born in Paris and now lives and works in Wincheringen, Germany, with her husband Gareth and their children Madoc, Malen and Emrys–making her a perfect European ambassador of photography. Her work has been shown in France, Spain, Germany and Luxembourg and has won various international awards, including the International Photography Awards in New York and the Prix de la Photographie in Paris. Jacqueline works with different photographic mediums, both digital and analogue, as well as with photographic techniques from the 19th century. She has published two books with editor Galerie Vevais, within the collector’s series Werkdruck and she is currently preparing her third monograph Kindred Spirits, which will be published next year.
 Kindred Spirits is a celebration of childhood and by extension life, tinged with nostalgia; a constructed memory for the future… a family album, simply. At a time in my life where my children are growing up and my parents are ageing… a reminder of the trace of time and fleeting nature of life.
 images from Kindred Spirits

Triptychs is primarily a tribute to my children, all born on the same day, which consists of three triple triptychs. With this series of portraits I wanted to emphasise the connection between them, the fraternal bond, the communion almost, that exists between them. Three distinct individuals yet connected. It was relevant therefore to present the work as triptychs, for the religious connotations it confers to the images but also to embrace the symbolism of the number three in a wider cultural realm. Three represents the triad of family: male, female, and child; the triad of the cycle of life: birth, life, and death; the triad of time: past, present and future; the triad of human nature: mind, body and soul and the Holy Trinity: The Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit… like an allusion to the sacred status of the child in our contemporary western societies.

images from Triptychs

Still Nutty: Portraits of Jerry Lewis by Marco Grob

Earlier this month, TIME sent contract photographer Marco Grob to the Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC) in Nashville to photograph comedian Jerry Lewis. Now 86 years old, Lewis, profiled by Richard Zoglin in this week’s issue of TIME, is filling his days directing a musical version of The Nutty Professor—adapted from the film he originally wrote and starred in back in 1963. The new stage version, in collaboration with the late composer Marvin Hamlisch and lyricist Rupert Holmes, is being performed at TPAC through the end of the weekend in a bid for a slot on Broadway.

Although he’s photographed subjects as diverse as Hillary Clinton and Lady Gaga, Grob still felt nervous as he waited for Lewis to arrive for his portrait shoot. Experience photographing other comedians led Grob to expect Lewis to be a handful—a worry that proved to be completely unfounded when the legendary funny man showed up.

During the ten-minute shoot, Grob learned that Lewis shared a passion for photography. ”He carries a camera with him everywhere he goes,” says Grob. “It’s pretty much the same equipment we use to film. He’s very professional.”

Grob was also excited to photograph a man he had grown up watching on television. “He’s a legend in Europe,” says the Swiss-born Grob. “It’s always fascinating to meet people who were around all my lifespan, especially someone with as crazy a career as Jerry.”

Marco Grob is a contract photographer for TIME. View more of his work for TIME here or on his website.

Ceremonies of Disappearance: Kimiko Yoshida’s Critique of Identity

“The preoccupation with I has become a cliché in contemporary art,” says Kimiko Yoshida. The Japanese photographer challenges that cliché by creating large, color photos of herself in which she wears elaborate costumes that reference a wide range of subjects, from haute couture and indigenous cultures to the canon of Western painting. By constantly changing what at first appears to be a self-portrait, Yoshida says, “I am basically saying that there is no such thing as a self-portrait,” she says. “Each of these photographs is actually a ceremony of disappearance. It is not an emphasis of identity, but the opposite—an erasure of identity.”

Born in Tokyo in 1963, Yoshida came of age in a tradition-bound culture where the conservative attitude towards the role of women left her alienated and unhappy. She studied literature and worked in fashion, which allowed her to hone her creative eye, but she remained frustrated. Over her father’s objections, she enrolled in the Tokyo College of Photography. Even after she had her degree in hand, she felt her options for a creative career in Japan were limited and moved to France to escape those stifling confines.

“Since I fled my homeland to escape the mortifying servitude and humiliating fate of Japanese women, I amplified through my art a feminist stance of protest against contemporary clichés of seduction, voluntary servitude of women, identity and the stereotypes of gender,” Yoshida says.

Yoshida critiques the idea of a firm and unchanging identity in a variety of ways, most obviously by physically changing it. In her “Brides” series, she often photographs herself in indigenous garb that she borrows from museums. Meanwhile, in her “Paintings” series, she and her husband repurpose items from the archives of Spanish fashion designer Paco Rabanne. But no matter what the source material is, Yoshida riddles the final product with playful anachronisms and cross-cultural references that undermine its perceived authenticity. The Paco Rabanne garments and accessories, made between 1965 and 2000, are themselves full of unusual materials, from plastic bottles to CD-roms. Yoshida adds a twist by refusing to wear them as intended: shoes become headdresses while dresses become hats. Yet another twist comes when you realize that Yoshida’s odd remixes actually reference paintings from Western art history, from Caravaggio to Picasso to Warhol. The fact that many of her images are nearly monochromatic threatens to drown whatever individuality that may remain. Finally, Yoshida often displays her images on walls in overwhelming numbers, thus minimizing their specialness.

The end result is evocative of Cindy Sherman, another artist who dons costumes in front of the camera and who even references art history like Yoshida. And while the meanings of Sherman’s work reside in its surfaces, Yoshida’s work provides the artist with an internal, metaphysical space. “Art is above all the experience of transformation,” explains Yoshida. “All that’s not me, that’s what interests me. To be there where I think I am not, to disappear where I think I am, that is what matters.” In the end, perhaps the photographs themselves are simply evidence of this performance. But it is interesting that Yoshida, an artist who is driven by the denial of the self, has made them with such a singular and memorable voice.

Yoshida has solo shows at St. Jakobshalle in Basel, Switzerland, and the Musée Pavillon Vendôme-Dobler in Aix-en-Provence, France, both opening June 13. Her work is also in a group show at the Musée de la Tapisserie in Angers, France that opens June 29. More of her work can be seen here.

Harlem Revisited: A New Look at Dawoud Bey’s New York Portraits

Present-day Chicago is not Harlem in 1979. Present-day Harlem isn’t even Harlem in 1979. But at the Art Institute of Chicago’s new exhibition Dawoud Bey: Harlem USA, some things have stayed the same. The show comprises the 25 original prints from Bey’s noteworthy 1979 exhibition of the series at the Studio Museum in Harlem, plus five previously unpublished prints from the same era.

Dawoud Bey

Smokey, 2002

The impetus for Harlem USA, which was made throughout the 1970s, was Bey’s visit to the Harlem on my Mind show at New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1969; it took him ten years to start and finish the work. And although the images in the show don’t superficially resemble Bey’s later work—they are small, made with a handheld 35mm camera, impromptu and monochromatic, unlike the later work seen at right—the photographer says that the series contains the seeds of his later work. “They gave me my initial sense of how to engage people in front of the camera,” Bey told TIME in an email. “I first learned how to translate the physical experience of the human subject into compelling photographic form during the years I spent making pictures in Harlem.”

He is not the only one who sees the thread running through his work. Matthew Witkovsky, a curator at the Art Institute of Chicago, says that some artists show from their first work a strong sense of who they are and what they want to do. Bey, according to him, is one of those lucky people.

Dawoud Bey

A Boy in Front of the Loews 125th St. Movie Theatre, Harlem, NY, 1976

And Witkovsky says that the photographs, though they remain unchanged, are still fresh. “[Bey] managed to take that ability that cameras have to give you total specificity and imbue it with some kind of other-time-other-place quality,” he says, pointing out an example: in Bey’s picture of a boy outside a movie theater, seen at left, the clothes are quintessential 1970s but the pose is a classic contrapposto. “It’ll always be timely,” says Witkovsky, “because it’s a little bit out of time.”

Bey, who now lives in Chicago, says the photographs themselves are not the only constant. “My feelings about the work haven’t really changed,” he says. “I am still concerned with trying to make resonant photographs of ordinary people.”

Dawoud Bey is a Chicago-based photographer and professor. See more of his work here.

Dawoud Bey: Harlem USA will be on view at the Art Institute of Chicago from May 2 – Sept. 9. The Renaissance Society in Chicago will also present a retrospective of his work, entitled Picturing People, which includes the later work featured in this post, from May 13 – June 24.

TIME Looks Back at The Best Photos… of Photos from 2011

Whether it’s a time of happiness or sadness, celebration or condolence, pictures capture the essence of a moment in time and preserve it, so we can look back and recall — if only for a second — how that moment made us feel.

For this reason, photographs tend to elicit strong reactions. And for the picture-holder, these mementos are also deeply personal, representing a life left behind, a new beginning, or a rest stop in our fast-paced lives.

Here, LightBox curates a crop of images that give us a glimpse into others’ memories. These are photos of photos — a nostalgic, if not somewhat contemplative look into a world within a world, where blissful instants are lost among a sea of uncertainty, and moments from the past are frozen in the present, stark in the contrast between then and now.

Some of the most emblematic photos of photos from the past year came from Japan, as family portraits smiled up from among the post-tsunami dust and debris. The photographs pictured are reminiscent of lives that were lost — either by death or through the sheer magnitude of this disaster — with only the vast unknown remaining.

In Libya, photos of burning, destructed images of Muammar Gaddafi diverged from framed pictures of the fallen dictator that were constantly brandished by his supporters. Back in the U.S., photos of lost loved ones were posted alongside their names at the 9/11 Memorial, in New York City, in a tribute to people who will never be forgotten. Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, mourners paid their respects to actress Elizabeth Taylor by surrounding her picture with flowers on her Hollywood Walk of Fame Star.

These photos of photos leave us reminiscing about those pictured, and what their lives must have been like before everything changed. But even the tattered remains of photographs can’t erase what lies in the mind, where memories flourish undisturbed and these moments are never forgotten. —Erin Skarda