Tag Archives: Rhode Island School Of Design

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.

 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.

Henry Horenstein

I had the great experience of meeting Henry Horenstein this spring–my dog-eared copy of Black & White Photography: A Basic Manual was my guide through the darkroom years of chemicals and enlargers and it was an honor to meet my very capable teacher.

Henry is bringing his own photographic skills to a new monograph, Honky Tonk: Portraits of Country Musicpublished by W.W. Norton & Co. this year and will be opening an exhibition on Oct. 26-28 at Grayduck Gallery in Austin in conjunction with the Texas Book Festival.

Henry received his MFA at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and studied under Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind. He is the author of over 30 books, including the monographs Show, Animalia, Close Relations, Humans, and Racing Days, as well as some of the most widely used textbooks in the field, including Black & White Photography, Beyond Basic Photography, and Digital Photography. He is a professor of photography at RISD and lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

Honky Tonk is a collection of black and white photographs captured between 1972 and 2011 that document the changing world of traditional country music and its fans. A photographer and ardent music fan, Henry covers it all—exploring bluegrass festivals, country music parks, dance halls and honky tonks. He captures country queens Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn, favorites Jerry Lee Lewis and Waylon Jennings, late nights at the famous Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge in Nashville, backstage at the Grand Ole Opry, and decades of colorful and devoted fans. Rich with character, culture and story, Honky Tonk is a piece of Americana we are grateful Henry has preserved.

Scott Alario, Animal Altruism

Scott Alario, Animal Altruism

Scott Alario

Animal Altruism,
Caratunk, 2010
From the Our Fable series
Website – ScottAlario.com

Scott Alario earned a BFA in photography from the Massachusetts College of Art (2006) and is currently working toward an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design (expected 2013). Alario’s work has been shown in Bloomington, Indiana, Providence, Rhode Island, and in Reykjavík, Iceland. He was the recipient of a Rhode Island State Council of the Arts Fellowship Merit Award in 2012, and selected for inclusion in “Exposure: 7 Emerging Photographers,” published in the November/December 2011 issue of Art New England. He lives and works in Providence, Rhode Island.

Henry Horenstein’s Honky Tonk

When photographer Henry Horenstein photographed Dolly Parton in 1972 he was bold enough to question her choice in clothing. So profound was his respect for her music, Horenstein wondered why Parton often dressed in over-the-top costumes for performances. Her answer was simple: “People don’t come out to see me looking like everybody else.”

“I thought it was good creative advice for everyone,” Horenstein said.

From the early 1970s to the present, Henry Horenstein has recorded onto black and white film the disappearing world of traditional country music. These pictures were collected into a monograph called Honky Tonk: Portraits of Country Music, which will be published in its second edition by W. W. Norton & Company this month.

After studying history at the University of Chicago, Horenstein moved back to his native New England to develop his photographic work at the Rhode Island School of Design under the instruction of legendary photographer Harry Callahan. Horenstein knew that he wanted to use the camera as a tool for recording history, but found himself looking for a place to begin. Callahan gave him the seemingly simple direction to photograph the people and places he was naturally drawn to.

Lewis Rosenberg

Henry with Mother Maybelle Carter, Lonestar Ranch, Reeds Ferry,
New Hampshire, 1973

Horenstein was raised on country music and was a regular at country venues, called ‘honky tonks,’ around Boston. So he began to make pictures in these lively establishments, capturing images of music performances, dancing and a touch of debauchery. Even if he got lousy pictures, Callahan told him, he was sure to have a good time.

Soon after starting his project Horenstein was hired by Rounder Records, a label that featured many of the leading country artists of the day, to shoot album covers. In Nashville he took pictures at the Ryman Auditorium during Grand Ole Opry shows and spent nights photographing bands and patrons at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, a rambunctious honky tonk and infamous local institution.

These pictures show country music at a turning point. As the United States transitioned from a primarily rural to a more suburban society, country music acts with traditional ties to “hillbilly” culture went out of style. Purists questioned the direction country music was headed in the 1980s, pointing to the influence of 1970s rock and roll. “People still wanted it to be country because that’s what they grew up on and they liked it, but they wanted it to be more softened, a little more generic,” says Horenstein.

Loretta Lynn, who is among the famous faces pictured in Horenstein’s book, expressed her faith in the contemporary music scene to TIME. “Country music ain’t country anymore, but that’s ok,” she said. ” Used to be country music was not just a sound but also a life. An artist brought who they were and where they were from to their music. It defined them and their songs. But everything changes and we grow. I guess now with folks getting to hear so many kinds of music it’s all mixed together. Remember how people didn’t like when Elvis came along? Could you imagine no Elvis? There are some great singers out there and great songs.”

Horenstein’s photographs preserve a time many consider to be the golden age of the genre. Today country music is undergoing a renaissance. Bands whose sounds harken back to the golden age of country such as Old Crow Medicine show and Gillan Welch fill stadium-sized venues. This revival has come with renewed enthusiasm for Horenstein’s country music work. The second edition of Honky Tonk includes pictures documenting country music from 1972 until 2011, and is accompanied by two gallery exhibitions. The book is a nostalgic ramble though backcountry hideaways and big city venues where footlights and camera flashilluminate faces from the past and present alike. To borrow a phrase from country great Ernest Tubb, Honky Tonk: Portraits of Country Music reminds us to “Say goodbye like we said hello, in a friendly kind of way.”

Henry Horenstein’s Honky Tonk: Portraits of Country Music is available this month by W. W. Norton & CompanyPhotographs from this series are on view at ClampArt in New York City from Sept. 6 to Oct. 13 and in Boston at Caroll and Sons from Sept. 5 to Oct. 27.

Lucas Foglia, Alex with Gourd

Lucas Foglia, Alex with Gourd

Lucas Foglia

Alex with Gourd,
North Carolina, 2009
From the A Natural Order series
Website – LucasFoglia.com

Lucas Foglia was raised on a small family farm in Long Island and is currently based in San Francisco. A graduate of Brown University and the Yale School of Art, Lucas exhibits and publishes his photographs internationally. His work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the Pilara Foundation and the Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Fine Art, and has been published in Aperture Magazine, the New York Times Magazine, the Washington Post Magazine, British Journal of Photography, Contact Sheet, and PDN’s 30. His first book, A Natural Order, is available from Nazraeli Press.

Louisa Marie Summer: Jennifer’s Family

Some photographers do the hard work.  They approach strangers and integrate themselves into new worlds, and through that integration, give us insights into situations and experiences we might never encounter. This hard work also connects us to our humanity and to the human condition. Louisa Marie Summer is one of those photographers, and Schilt Publishing has recently released a powerful book of her series, Jennifer’s Family.

Louisa was born in Munich, Germany, received her undergraduate degree in Photo Design at the University of Applied Sciences in Munich, and her MFA in Photography at the Rhode Island School of Design in 2008. She now lives and works in New York and is working as a freelance photographer and teaching for non-profit art organizations with students with special needs. Together with the NYC non-profit organization “Rehabilitation Through Photography”, she helps people to improve their lives through photography.

Louisa’s work has been exhibited worldwide, and has received numerous awards and nominations.  She was a selected student of the Edie Adams Workshops, and has been featured in a range of publications.

The photographs of Jennifer’s Family share my experience with Jennifer, a 26 year-old
first-generation Puerto Rican woman, whom one day I approached in South
Providence, RI. This area is an urban neighborhood with a large
African-American and Hispanic population, high unemployment and crime rates,
and where many families live well below the poverty line. 

For more than two years I have been portraying the daily life of
Jennifer, who lives with her Native American life partner Tompy and their four
children in a rundown three-bedroom apartment at or near the lower end of the
socioeconomic ladder. In spite of difficult living conditions, poverty, and
illness, Jennifer remains optimistic while thoroughly caring for her children.

Over time I literally became part of the daily life of an America family
I care for and who cares for me. The quote of Jennifer’s life partner and also
the title of my short video documentary, Respect
Goes a Long Way
perfectly expresses our relationship based on mutual trust,
respect, and understanding.

To support the
family’s voice, I included short essays from interviews in the book
reveal details about their relationships and emotions, as well as their finances
and child-rearing philosophies. The words reflect them as trustworthy human beings,
while also revealing the contradictions and tensions between what they say and
how they act. 

 With this work I want to give
people a voice, particularly those who cope with poverty and despair. I am
convinced that honest and compassionate images play an important role as a
“social conscience” that can change people’s views or at least raise awareness.

Bruce Myren

Bruce Myren is one of those lucky individuals whose terrific Kickstarter project has been fully funded, and he still has a month still to go…but Bruce still needs funds to fully complete a fascinating body of work that looks at the Fortieth Parallel across the United States. It allows us to travel across the country in a straight line, and experience the landscape through Bruce’s exquisite lens. This is a significant documentation of our country and I hope you consider backing his efforts.

The idea for “The Fortieth Parallel” came to me while I was living in
Boulder, Colorado in the 1990s. My friend Eric and I were sitting on top
of Flagstaff Mountain gazing at the plains. I noticed that a road,
Baseline Road, went east in a straight line towards the horizon. Eric
explained that that particular road marked the 40th degree of north
latitude and was the baseline for the surveying the Kansas and Nebraska
Territory. At that moment, I knew I had a project: I was going to
document the 40th parallel across the whole country, creating a new
survey along this historic line.

Bruce lives in Cambridge, MA and holds a BFA in photography from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design and an MFA from the University of Connecticut, Storrs.  He is deeply committed to education and is the current Chair of the Northeast Region of the Society for Photographic Education, as well as a Critic at the Rhode Island School of Design, Adjunct Faculty at the Art institute of Boston at Lesley University, and a Visiting Lecturer of Art at Amherst College.  He had exhibited and been published widely.

Images from The Fortieth Parallel
 N 40° 00’ 00” W 74° 03’ 32” Normandy Beach, New Jersey, 1998

My work
investigates issues of place and space and boundaries and borders through the
exploration and employment of various locative systems.  I am most interested in how macro
systems relate to micro experiences of land and landscape.  My recent series include an
investigation of the Fortieth Parallel of latitude; a study of the poet Robert
Francis’s one-person house in the woods of Amherst, Massachusetts; and a piece
that documents the view from every place I have lived to where I live now.
 N 40° 00’ 00” W 77° 00’ 00” East Berlin, Pennsylvania, 2006

I am fascinated
with location-based systems and my work engages the nature of how humans
measure the world.  I often use or
create rules to govern the location or approach in order to make a series of
This method
stems from my interest in maps and mapping, historical photographic surveys,
and conceptually-based art practices. 
It is through these influences that I started to see and make pictures:
by measuring, coordinating, and locating myself within the world.
 Currently my work has been progressing from more universally
recognized ideas of place towards more personal re-presentations.  

 N 40° 00’ 00” W 78° 00’ 00” Harrisonville, Pennsylvania, 2006
The Fortieth Parallel is a panoramic examination of precise yet arbitrary places found along this important parallel of latitude across the American landscape.  Since 1998, I have been photographing the 40th degree of latitude across the United States at every whole of degree of longitude using a GPS.  At each confluence, there is approximately a 20 square foot area in which I can compose a view.  

 N 40° 00’ 00” W 79° 00’ 00” Somerset, Pennsylvania, 2006

This important baseline was used in surveying state boundaries and creating townships and homesteads, and was a key marker in particular for the settlement the West.  I am interested in the relationship between the 19th century’s understanding and construction of landscape, location, and place and our 21st conceptions.  There are 50 confluences on land, with 2 at landfall on each coast.  To date, I have been to 32 of the 52 sites; in the June 2012, I launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the finishing of the project.

N 40° 00’ 00” W 81° 00’ 00” Belmont, Ohio, 1999

N 40° 00’ 00” W 83° 00’ 00” Columbus, Ohio, 1999

N 40° 00’ 00” W 95° 00’ 00” Fillmore, Missouri, 2007

N 40° 00’ 00” W 97° 00’ 00” Hollenberg, Kansas, 2007

N 40° 00’ 00” W 98° 00’ 00” Webber, Kansas, 2007

 N 40° 00’ 00” W 102° 00’ 00” Saint Francis, Kansas, 2008
 N 40° 00’ 00” W 103° 00’ 00” Otis, Colorado, 2008

 N 40° 00’ 00” W 104° 00’ 00” Hoyt, Colorado, 2008

 N 40° 00’ 00” W 105° 00’ 00” Broomfield, Colorado, 2008

 N 40° 00’ 00” W 108° 00’ 00” Meeker, Colorado, 2000

N 40° 00’ 00” W 124° 00’ 00” Whitehorn, California, 2012