Tag Archives: Portraits

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



TIME’s Best Portraits of 2012

A great portrait captures the very essence of its subject, and this year, TIME continued its long legacy of storytelling with a number of compelling photographs. Search Engine Optimization . linkwheel creation . 2012 saw newsmakers in several categories and countries, so we sent photographers around the world to capture them as they made their mark. In Turkey, Peter Hapak photographed several Syrian families who had sought refuge in the country after fleeing their homeland to escape the brutality of Assad’s regime; in Iowa, Martin Schoeller captured Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas as the young gymnast trained both in the gym and at home; and in Israel, Marco Grob photographed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who, in 2012, proved that his influence is not only large, but lasting. Their portraits and the rest in this gallery are visual testaments to the diverse and colorful personalities who made 2012 memorable; herewith, a look at TIME’s best commissioned portraits this year.

My Belarusian Brides: Katherine Wolkoff’s Search for Family and Familiarity

In college, one professor regularly told photographer Katherine Wolkoff that she looked like the Belarusian woman whose face represented the nation on a 1975 National Geographic map that hung in a history department office. Her father’s family had in fact emigrated from Belarus in 1906, but growing up, Wolkoff had never considered it part of her cultural identity.

That changed after her father, whom she had always looked like, passed away in 2010. Suddenly, Wolkoff became interested in traveling to Belarus in search of other women who looked like her. “It was inspired by the idea of tracing this abstract family tree,” she says. “Sort of like finding this extended family that didn’t exist.”

In July, Wolkoff spent 10 days in Belarus photographing more than 50 women who shared her physical traits. With the help of a 25-year-old Belarusian guide and social media—and the sole stipulation that the women have blonde hair, be it natural or dyed—the photographer made a series of minimal but captivating portraits collectively called ‘My Belarusian Brides,’ a title that touches on family and the nation’s booming mail-order bride business.

Katherine Wolkoff / Courtesy Sasha Wolf Gallery

Katherine, 2012

Wolkoff traveled with a digital Hasselblad HD40 camera, which allowed her to see the images instantly. “I photographed a woman in front of these trees, and it became so clear that this was the image I’d intended to make,” she says. And to bring the idea of family full circle, Wolkoff even created a self-portrait for LightBox, capturing herself in the same light and setting seen in the series.

Some women showed up all dressed up and in full makeup, and many brought their friends or boyfriends. “In part, I think the shoot was a moment of fantasy for them—like the Hollywood fantasy of being photographed,” Wolkoff says. “Belarus is a pretty repressed society, particularly for women, and I think this was a moment of expression and excitement for them”

Wolkoff says she saw a piece of herself in each of the women she photographed, from the tenderly awkward teenager eating an ice cream cone, to the older, self-assured Svetlana who arrived in coral lipstick. “It was an incredible look at aging process—to see these women who weren’t my relatives, but looked very much like me,” she says. “It’s as if we were an ephemeral family.”

Katherine Wolkoff is a photographer based in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Steve Schapiro, Then and Now: Rare Images from a Photography Legend

Just the list of people Steve Schapiro has photographed during his career reads like a Who’s Who of the most influential politicians, celebrities and newsmakers in American history over the last five decades. But that Schapiro captured his subjects during their pivotal and seminal moments—Robert F. Kennedy during his 1968 presidential campaign; Marlon Brando on the set of The Godfather; Andy Warhol and muse Edie Sedgwick in The Factory, among others—lends his photographs an added significance. They aren’t just remarkable portraits of remarkable people, but snapshots into our country’s historical and cultural milestones.

Schapiro’s output over his more than 50-year career has been prolific, and many people have probably seen one of his photographs whether they realize it or not. But his new book, Then and Now, gives readers a look at Schapiro’s lesser-known work; the majority of pictures have never been published. “There were so many pictures that I loved but didn’t fit with the format of my previous books, so this was a chance to bring forth that work,” he says. The book is comprised of single images shown over a spread, as well as spreads of disparate images that share a composition or theme—one such example has a portrait of Martin Scorcese holding a gun and grapes on the left page, and a portrat of Mia Farrow holding a baby on the right. “I wanted to make a book that was interesting on every page,” says Schapiro. “That evolved into the idea of working with double pages where one picture worked with another.”

Schapiro first took an interest to photography at 9 while at summer camp. He fell in love with “the magic of photography” in the dark room, where he became fascinated by how pictures came to life after being dipped in various formulas. But it wasn’t until he discovered Henri Cartier-Bresson’s The Decisive Moment, as a teenager, that his interest really took hold. He began trying to capture his own decisive moments on the streets of New York City, before going to study the formal aspects of photography under W. Eugene Smith.

In 1961, amid the height of the Civil Rights movement, Schapiro started working as a freelance photographer for publications such as LIFE, Rolling Stone, TIME and Newsweek. Over the next 10 years, which Schapiro calls “the golden age of photojournalism,” he would cover the decade’s most significant events, including Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1963 march in Selma, and later, King’s abandoned motel room after this assassination, as well as the “Summer of Love” in Haight-Asbury and Robert F. Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign. “It was an incredible time to be a photojournalist because there was more of an emotional flow—an ability to do more emotional pictures that captured the spirit of a person,” says Schapiro of the period. “I was able to spend a lot of time with people—Bobby Kennedy went to South America for four weeks and I got to go with him. When I got really sick there, Ethel Kennedy brought me Bobby’s pajamas to wear. Bobby was someone who I became friends with, but everyone who worked with him loved him.”

Despite his success as a photographer, Schapiro maintains that he hasn’t taken his most important picture yet—and doesn’t have any idea what it might be. In the meantime, there’s one subject who continues to elude him: “President Barack Obama. I would love to photograph him.”


View more of Schapiro’s work here.



Photo News – Mute: The Silence of Dogs by Martin Usborne book signing

How could I resist posting more photos from Martin Usborne’s marvellous book of doggie portraits, Mute: The Silence of Dogs? Especially as the book signing took place this afternoon at at the Kerher Verlag Publishing stand at Paris Photo. Book price: Euros 39.90

All photos © Martin Usborne, The Silence of Dogs

And for four more, read more…


All photos © Martin Usborne, The Silence of Dogs

Filed under: Photographers, Photography Books Tagged: Kerher Verlag Publishing, Martin Usborne, Mute: The Silence of Dogs, Paris Photo, photobook

Europe Week: Salva Lopez

Guest editor, Jacqueline Roberts shares a week of European photographers, starting with Salva Lopez. A huge thank you toJacqueline for her insight and efforts. Her statement for why she selected the photographers follows: 


 I chose these photographs because they move me. They are portraits of people, young or old. They tell a story, maybe theirs, maybe ours. Some speak softly, hushing over us like in Lopez’ muted portraits of old people. Others exude exuberance and vitality, like in Laboile’s family life. Some are languid portraits, others raw pictures of a sore existence. Some stare right back at us, like in Videnin’s photographs; others gently lower their gaze. Yet for me, they all share that essential quality that turns a good photograph into a great one: immediacy. We know a good photograph when we see one. When I look at these images, I relate to them immediately, to the people they portray, to the narrative. They have their own language, a language that speak to me, a language that I understand. There is an intuitive connection that synchronises our own experience with a photograph. A reciprocal flow. An empathic exchange. 


I was at Getxophoto this summer, an international photo festival near Bilbao (Spain), and it struck me when two passers-by paused in front of a photograph and remarked: “Oh that’s very nice, but what does that mean? What was the artist trying to tell us?” searching for answers. Images carry meaning, they do; but in my case, it is the quest for questions that I relish when looking at a photograph. To me, these photographs tell us about loneliness, joy and pain; about dreams, beauty and hopelessness; about search and loss… Vehicles for meanings, emotions and thoughts. Stories of bodies and souls… ultimately, metaphors of life and what lies underneath.–Jacqueline Roberts


image by Salva Lopez


Salva López (Barcelona, 1984) trained as a graphic designer but when he discovered photographers Stephen Shore, Joel Sternfeld and Alec Soth, he realised that photography was what he wanted to do. Since then Salva has gained recognition in Spain as an emerging talent, winning many awards (e.g.Fotoactitud, Photoespaña) and showing his work in exhibitions and photo festivals.

Salva is currently working on his project “The Green Curtain”, about the mount Montjuïc in Barcelona. He is also co-editor of the blog “Have a Nice Book” about photography books that he edits with his friend and also photographer Yosigo.

Roig 26 is a project that I have carried
out bit by bit through observation, reflection and from my experience of living
with my grand parents, Marina y José, for five years in their modest apartment
on Roig street, in the Barcelona “Raval” district. An apartment that
has been the stage of their relationship for more than 60 years. A whole life
inside these same walls and these same fears.

With Roig 26 my intention was not to draw a true portrait of their own reality, but rather to recreate one, through what I have experienced with them.


What does your cultural heritage bring to your work?

It is difficult to know which type of cultural heritage has influence my work. Obviously I have my own cultural references, my region, my surroundings, Catalonia, Spain, the Mediterranean and Europe. But in a global world, my influences come also from the United States, through their movies, their music, their literature and particularly through their photography. William Eggleston or Stephen Shore have had an impact on me from the start. 

What difference do see between work created in Europe and in the States?

Ummm… I would say that in the United States a formal approach often predominates along with a more intuitive and visual narrative. I believe that in Europe we perhaps make it more intellectual, we try to find a concept for each photographic work. The ideal work, for me, would that which is visually strong and has an intellectual dimension, that is interesting but not necessarily explicit. In my work, there are days when I wake up as a European and others as an American. Here in Europe we too often “split hairs”.

What is the state of photography in your country (how is photography perceived in the art scene, is there support, are galleries selling, etc.)?
As everybody knows, Spain is going through a massive crisis and the first budget cuts have affected cultural activities. Most grants are gone now, and what is left will not last long. I am not too familiar with galleries so I can’t really say, but one thing is sure, sales have fallen dramatically.
Having said that, I think that Spanish photographers are getting better and we are gradually reaching European levels. People are very motivated and there are more and more groups that support young talented photographers. I know quite well the world of photography books and I can see the progression. Publishing houses are publishing very interesting things and photography books are now making the Top 10 list for best books. Last year for instance, Ricardo Cases with ‘Paloma al aire’ and Julian Barón with ‘CENSURA’ were among the top 10. And it is very likely that Cristina de Middel’s book ‘Afronautas’, will make it this year. 
There is still loads more to do, support and funds are scarce, but luckily and thanks to the Internet it is now much easier to access information and promote your work. The intermediaries who were once indispensable are less so today.

TIME’s Class of 2016: The Political Leaders to Watch

As Barack Obama and Mitt Romney fought for the presidency this fall, TIME contract photographer Marco Grob was crisscrossing the country to meet the men and women who may be doing the same four years from now.

From September to October, Grob, a Swiss photographer based in New York, traveled to 10 states and Washington, D.C., to shoot the 13 political leaders who comprise TIME’s Class of 2016 (Hillary Clinton and Andrew Cuomo were photographed earlier this year). “This series was very exciting because the fact that one of these politicians could be the next president was always on my mind,” says Grob, who took a variety of different kinds of shots and snapped extra rolls of photos to memorialize the moment.

Some of the subjects in Grob’s essay are American political royalty. Among the luminaries on TIME’s list are a First Lady (and now Secretary of State), a First Brother, six current and former governors and the current vice-president. Others, like San Antonio mayor Julián Castro and Florida Senator Marco Rubio, are rising stars – members of the fastest-growing demographic group in the U.S., men marked for higher office within their parties.

In the space of a single 48-hour stretch, the whirlwind assignment whisked Grob from Palo Alto, Calif., to Columbus, Ohio, to Baton Rouge. None of the subjects hinted at their political aspirations, and Grob preferred not to ask. “I don’t talk to them about their plans. I actually think it’s better if they don’t think I know much about their political careers,” he says. “They feel they can open up more.”

Breaking through that veneer of formality was one of the tasks confronting Grob, whose portfolio of portraits for TIME includes comedians and actors, world leaders and Ground Zero first responders. Politicians are trained are trained to stay on script. Grob’s challenge was to get them to veer from it. “Politicians, of all my subjects, are the most self-aware. They’re careful not to lose any voters, so they don’t get into anything controversial,” he says. His trick? “I always let them smile for a couple frames, but then I aim to make a more thoughtful portrait,” he says. “When you smile, you cover up your true face—that’s just what humans do.”

Alex Altman is a Washington correspondent for TIME. Follow him on Twitter @aaltman82.

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

Guillaume Grasset: California Dreamin’

Imagine arriving in Los Angeles at the age of 20, fresh off the plane from a childhood in Paris and looking to break into the photo world, packing a suitcase full of visual references that come from the created realities of Hollywood.  Guillaume Grasset did just that, and turned his camera onto a state capturing a smorgasbord of images that are far from those on the flickering screen. Guillaume has just opened California Dreamin’ at the Carte Blanche Gallery in San Francisco, an exhibition that will run through November 28th.
Guillaume cut his photographic teeth working with Herb Ritts, LaChapelle, Lindbergh, Steven Klein, Craig Mc Dean, Sante
d’Orazio, Michel Addi on fashion stories for Vogue, and François-Marie
Banier on portraits for New York Times. In 2000, he returned to Paris to start his own practice and now works in all areas of the photo arena.  The one thing that stays consistent is his focus on all things California.
Images From California Dreamin’