Tag Archives: Taking Photos

Back to School: Classroom Portraits by Julian Germain

Regardless of where we grew up, most of us spent many of our formative years sitting in a classroom. Four walls with colorful pictures on them and a teacher at the front. The language, customs and native dress might differ from place to place, but British photographer Julian Germain, who has spent eight years photographing students in classrooms around the world, found the experience of going back-to-school is universal.

His collection, which spans Brazil, Nigeria, Yemen, Russia, Taiwan, England, America and others, provides a window inside the classrooms of the world. It also represents a new vision of the traditional class photo. “Every year, your class is photographed; a photographer comes in, lines you up in almost a military fashion, but in those pictures you never see the classroom,” says Germain. “They are usually made against a brick wall or a curtain or something so you never really get a look at the space. I had this idea to examine the space where kids learn, and at the same time, examine the kids.”

(See more in Reinventing College, TIME’s special package on education)

Germain began taking photos of classrooms in 2004, not long after his daughter started school. He started by photographing a handful of schools in the northeast region of England where he lives. The following year for a trip to Argentina for a separate assignment his project took an international turn. “It had not been planned in advance, it’s something that happened very organically,” he says. “At a certain point it became clear it would be interesting to photograph schools anywhere I could.” Some of those schools are now part of a book aptly titled, Classroom Portraits.

Education, as Germain notes, is not often the subject of art. “It’s amazing, if you look around museums and things, school is never there,” he says. “Artists frequently go into schools to make art with the children, but never really to make work with education as the theme.” To that end, Germain carefully choreographed each class, just as he would any other subject. He took his photos in the last 15 minutes of the lesson. He made sure each child was visible, but otherwise left the room just as it was. Since he was dealing with often squirrelly children, he didn’t have much time. In the days of film, he says he would only shoot between two and four exposures. Now, thanks to digital, he takes about 10. “They just can’t concentrate for longer than that,” he says.

Unlike your typical school photographer, Germain never yelled, “say cheese.” “I don’t tell them to do anything,” he says. “I just tell them that the exposure is quite long and they need to be ready. I never tell them to smile or adopt a certain mood. I just tell them they need to be ready.” The result is a classroom full of students who appear just as they would to a teacher standing in front of the class delivering a lecture. In fact, Germain thinks of the camera as the teacher. “It’s not that they don’t look happy, they just aren’t grinning like a cheshire cat—they are paying attention to the ‘teacher’,” he says. Which is why you won’t find a teacher in his photos—he prefers to only photograph the students. “I found if teachers are in, they dominate,” he says. “I like the idea that the images are very democratic. I give everybody space. As soon as the teacher goes in there it kind of messes that up. I wanted to make it all about the kids.”

Making the students the focus gives them a sort of power. Because he photographed the children at eye level, when flipping through his book hundreds of eyes stare back at you. “I find that quite challenging,” he says. Indeed, he says, the whole world children inhabit has been built by adults—the education system they are in, the clothes they’re wearing, the textbooks, their notebooks, pencils, pen, the blackboard, the furniture. “It says to me, we are responsible for the world they’re in,” he says. “There’s a lot of mumbling and grumbling and despair about what young people are like, but who’s responsible for that? We are.”

Classroom Portraits was published this summer by Prestel.

Kayla Webley is a staff writer at TIME.

Aaron Hobson: The Tōhoku Project

My good friend Aaron Hobson, The Cinemascapist, was recently in Los Angeles, where he was working on a film. We met at a rooftop bar one evening and over drinks and a view of the Hollywood Hills, Aaron and I got caught up to speed.

Aaron has been working on a project about Google street views, and his international Internet street view surfing (done from his home in the Adirondacks), landed him in the Tohoku region of Japan that was devastated from the 2011 Tsunami/Earthquake. Seeing the current state of affairs in this area Japan hit him in a profound way and he knew he had to do something. When Aaron showed me this image, it so defined what that region faces…one lone man sweeping the road of a devastated landscape.

I’m turning over the rest of this post to Aaron, so he can share his plans to help:

So a few months ago I shared my streetview series from the Tohoku region
of Japan that was devastated from the 2011 Tsunami/Earthquake. Since
then I have not been able to get the images out of my head. I think in
part because I can relate to the people in these small remote villages
as I also live a very similar remote life.

I have found myself thinking about them over and over again and realize I
need to help. Not by taking photos to make a donation to red cross, but
actually hands-on physical labor. I found a great nonprofit group that
will put me up and I will be working 10-12 hour days rebuilding homes
and cleaning up the miles and miles of debris that still remains. I also
hope to raise awareness again for the region. The scale of damage is
mind boggling. They estimate anywhere from 10-15 years to rebuild. The
damage was greater than Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined.

I hope to raise enough funds to stay there for a bit of time rebuilding
and taking photos in what little free time I have so that I can do an
annual trip to document the rebuild over the next 10 years. 100%
proceeds go to requisite travel with all remaining funds going to the
relief group that I will be working with.

Anyway, long story short, images are priced to sell at $25 for signed
20″x10″ prints in edition of 25. To get the ball rolling, the well known
collector/curater John A. Bennette has bought the first 5 images of
this goal. Hopefully it will sell fast at this price and small edition

More than one year after the Tōhoku earthquake and resulting tsunami,
the devastation remains visible and the amount of work still to be done
seems exceedingly daunting (some estimate 10 years). What remains of
fishing villages and small cities, has been organized into huge mounds
carefully separated by category: cars, boats, household debris, metal,
fishing and oceanic supplies, with piles reaching as high as five
stories and encompassing 5-10 city blocks. The following images were
gathered from hundreds of miles of “virtual travel” along the eastern
coast of the Tōhoku region via Google Earth Street View. During these
travels it was extremely rare to come across any street view in the
region that didn’t have a crew diligently working or small groups of
fisherman trying to go about their daily lives.

I want to help be a part of the
rebuild… and not by just taking photos or print sales to donate cash
to foundations like the Red Cross, but with actual hands-on physical
labor. I plan on working with the nonprofit Disaster Relief
Organization It’s Not Just Mud (INJM). After “visiting” hundreds miles
of coastline via streetview during the creation this series, I have not
been able to stop thinking about the people affected from this
disaster. Maybe I can relate to these small remote villages because I
also live in a remote village, or maybe it was seeing the destruction so
clearly in near real-time, block by block for miles and miles?
Assisting in the relief efforts is something that I NEED to do, not just
want to do. My goal is to assist in any capacity necessary with INJM,
as well as, making this an annual effort on my part. I will be
documenting my efforts and will post photos both during and after my

I can’t make this happen without your
help. All the images in this series are all for sale and 100% of the
proceeds contributing to any requisite travel costs. Any remaining funds
will be donated to It’s Not Just Mud to help aid in their continued
efforts. For more information about It’s Not Just Mud and its recent
projects, visit the website at itsnotjustmud.com.

The 9.0 undersea
megathrust earthquake off the Pacific coast of Tōhoku, Japan, occurred
on Friday, March 11, 2011. It was the most powerful known earthquake to
have ever hit Japan, and one of the five most powerful earthquakes in
the world, since modern record-keeping began in 1900. The earthquake
triggered powerful tsunami waves that reached heights of up to 40.5
meters (133 ft.) in Miyako in Tōhoku’s Iwate Prefecture, and which, in
the Sendai area, traveled up to 10 km. (6 mi.) inland. The earthquake
moved Honshu 2.4 m. (8 ft.) east and shifted the Earth on its axis by
estimates of between 10 cm. (4 in.) and 25 cm. (10 in.).

On March 12, 2012, a Japanese National
Police Agency report confirmed 15,854 deaths, 26,992 injured, and 3,155
people missing across twenty prefectures. The report also indicated
129,225 buildings were totally collapsed, with a further 254,204
buildings ‘half collapsed’, and another 691,766 buildings partially
damaged. Around 4.4 million households in northeastern Japan were left
without electricity and 1.5 million without water. Early estimates
placed insured losses from the earthquake alone at $14.5 to $34.6
billion (in U.S. funds). The World Bank’s estimated economic cost was
$235 billion (U.S. funds), making it the most expensive natural disaster
in world history.

All images are for sale

Public Assembly: The Photographs of Mike Sinclair

For this week’s issue, we combed countless archives in search of the perfect photograph to accompany a history of the American Dream, the subject of the cover story by Jon Meacham. In the end, we turned to photographer Mike Sinclair, who’s been rigorously documenting America’s heartland near his home in Kansas City, Mo. When asked about his photos, he modestly says, “I never really set out to photograph the American Dream or western culture. These are not projects. The edits come out of thinking about themes. I like going through my work and then figuring it out.”

For more than 30 years, Sinclair has documented places where people gather, like state fairs, sporting events and parks. “I grew up in the heyday of LIFE and photojournalism. I realized early on that I was better at visual things,” he tells TIME.

Sinclair decided to pursue journalism at the University of Missouri, but after one year, he realized that it wasn’t a great fit. “I came under the spell of Winogrand and Friedlander and found them more interesting as a budding photojournalist. I eventually went to Southern Illinois University, where they had an undergraduate program in fine art photography. Once I got there, I was in heaven—it combined my interest in the fine arts and photography.”

“I just like everything about taking photos and going to these events. It’s a great counterpoint to photographing modern architecture,” says Sinclair, who does the job professionally to make a living between his documentary projects. All of his images reflect the rigor of an architectural photographer with the straightforward style of masters like Walker Evans, Joel Sternfeld and Stephen Shore.

“I switched to architecture because I thought after 30 or 40 years I’d have some kind of record of this time and what happened,” he explains.

Sinclair’s understated and introverted approach to documenting an event feels easygoing, placing viewers in the shoes of a local rather than an outsider. He photographs on trips he plans and usually goes with his family. “I kind of plant the camera in front of people and spend time with them,” he says. In all his images, he almost feels invisible.

Sinclair has no real plans for his work except to keep making it. In the beginning, he says, “I first shared the work to the owner of the Dolphin Gallery in Kansas City and was encouraged by him to show it [elsewhere]. Eventually, through them, my work found its way into collections around the country.” These collections include The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, also in Kansas City.

Sinclair disagrees when people label him as a certain type of photographer. “I don’t think of myself as a Midwestern photographer. I think the same sort of things happen everywhere I’ve been.” His image of the Fourth of July (featured above) speaks to his claim—it feels like it could represent almost anywhere in America.

“Part of what I’m interested in is this idea of public space and the preciousness of it. It’s something that we all need,” he says.

Mike Sinclair is a photographer based in Kansas City, Missouri. His current exhibition ‘Public Assembly’ is on view at Jen Bekman Projects in New York City until June 24. 

Boston Week: Asia Kepka

While I am enjoying the Focus Awards hosted by the Griffin Museum and the Flash Forward Festival hosted by the Magenta Foundation in Boston this week, I featuring Boston photographers, today with Asia Kepka.  

I love Asia Kepka’s work, but also her person. David Hilliard took this amazing photograph of her:

In Asia’s words: 

The day I was born my grandmother cried.
The tears were not tears of joy, she cried because she had never seen such an ugly baby.
Many years later, I became a model and a whole new world opened up to me. It was fun, but even more fun awaited me when I landed in NYC 20 years ago. I arrived with $100 in my pocket but my boundless enthusiasm was priceless. My friend greeted me at the airport and gave me my first point and shoot camera. Things were never the same.
I felt like a dog hanging its head out of the window of a fast moving car. With camera in hand and very little English, I embarked on a career as a photographer. I was lucky to start with the best clients imaginable: Wired, Time, Fortune, and the NY Times.

Her work has pathos and humor and I am sharing her series, Bridget and I.

Bridget and I: In 2004 I found Bridget on Craigslist . I was  intrigued and decided to spend $100 not knowing really what will I do with her.

One day I took her out of my basement, dressed her up and started to set up a portrait. She looked bit stiff and the photo needed something.. never before I was a fan of doing self portraits but I decided  to jump in. Suddenly  I found myself in the midst of my most exciting project-don’t get me wrong- taking photos always brought me incredible rush and joy. 

Working as a photographer I feel like a dog with it’s head out of the window of a car on the way to the park. This project is even more exciting. It became my visual diary- place where I record  my dreams, my past, my everyday life .

My hope was to create a fairy tale that is timeless, independent of place, hermetically sealed from the outside world. This cathartic process has allowed me to explore issues of my identity as a woman and as an immigrant. Quite often images of me are reflection of my Mother and Grandmother back in Poland.

 “I feel like i’m watching Fellini’s movie” -said an onlooker  at the site of  Bridget and I in a hotel pool in Arizona. At times dragging mannequin in public places draws quite an attention and “being in a moment” is a challenge but seeing reactions of bystanders is always positive and at times priceless.

 All images are self portraits taken with 4×5 camera. The only exception are water shots. 

 This adventure can be physically challenging  – Bridget is heavy and rigid , she endured being shipped via Fedex and  immersed in many bodies of water.She got slammed by the wind in a sand storm ,which caused her big cracks on her head and she is missing a toe.   I hope she lasts few more years as I plan on continuing this project for a avery long time. 

David Guttenfelder: A New Look at North Korea

Since the 1948 creation of separate governments for North and South Korea after World War II, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in the North has remained behind an iron curtain, an isolated and secluded state. Our image of the country has been pieced together from pictures taken across the border at the DMZ, photographs provided by government news agencies or unauthorized surreptitious photographs taken by western photographers inside the country—until now.

In January, the Associated Press opened a bureau in Pyongyang for full news coverage within North Korea. AP’s Chief Asia Photographer David Guttenfelder—who first traveled to North Korea as a pool photographer in January 2000 to cover the visit of Madeline Albright—has made a dozen trips to the country over the past 18 months as part of the negotiating team and on reporting trips with Jean H. Lee, AP bureau chief for the Koreas, taking photos each time. Guttenfelder’s approach to showing North Korea to the world has been shaped by his long and prestigious career with the AP.

Guttenfelder has just received two honors from the Overseas Press Club, which announced their annual awards this morning. The Olivier Rebbot Award for best photographic reporting from abroad, in magazines or books, and the Feature Photography Award for best feature photography, published in any medium on an international theme, recognize his recent work from last year’s Tsunami aftermath in Japan and his work inside North Korea.

In 1994, Guttenfelder traveled to the former Zaire to cover the Rwandan refugee crisis as a freelance photographer. “I thought if I ever wanted to do something more serious, this was it,” he says. Guttenfelder stayed in Africa for five years, stringing for the AP, among other outlets, and eventually became an AP staff photographer. He hasn’t lived in the States since. In the ensuing years, he has worked all over the world, from Kosovo to Israel and Iraq to Afghanistan. In 1999 he became AP’s Chief Asia photographer and moved to Japan.

Guttenfelder says when he first worked in Asia he wondered if he had made the right decision. “In the beginning it was really hard, I’d only ever covered conflict and had not done anything else,” he says. One of his first assignments was covering family reunions between North and South Koreans in Seoul. “I wasn’t used to taking photographs in an organized event surrounded by other photographers in such a modern context,” he says. “Now I look back and it was really important work. I only really spoke one language at that point—fighting, refugees and hard news—so it was an important transition for me.”

Fittingly then, when Guttenfelder was in Iraq during the U.S. invasion, he focused on trying to cover the Iraqi side of the war rather than embedding with U.S. troops. “I always thought of myself as the guy on the other side of things,” he says. Then, a year later, when Baghdad fell, Guttenfelder found himself confined to the Palestine Hotel and his role and means of covering the conflict changed again.

“We needed local photographers to cover the streets, someone who could bring back regular pictures of normal people’s lives,” he says. He solicited photographers, but found that they needed extensive training. Although the people Guttenfelder worked with barely knew the fundamentals of photography and worked with primitive equipment—including a camera that used floppy disks—they produced important work. Several of the regional photographers that Guttenfelder and his AP colleagues trained, Khalid Mohammed, Samir Mizban and Karim Kadim, became Pulitzer-Prize winning photographers when AP received the award for breaking news photography in 2005.

Iraq was not the only place Guttenfelder worked training and developing regional photographers; he also did so in Afghanistan, Israel and Palestine. His work in Afghanistan, which he considers the most important of his career, included the recruitment of Farzana Wahidy, the first Afghan woman to work as a news photographer after the fall of the Taliban. Between 2001 to 2010 Guttenfelder made at least 20 trips to Afghanistan, staying for as long as six months to a year at a time. Early on he covered the first election, and projects on the Afghan civilian side of things. But from 2007-2010 Guttenfelder focused on embeds and did multiple military trips including a stint in the Korengal Valley and was part of all of the major U.S. Marine operations into Helmand.

Guttenfelder eventually moved back to Japan in 2006, and he still lives there today. His first news photography in Japan came in March 2011, in the aftermath of the tsunami. Although his work there is highly regarded, he says he feels that his photographs could not capture the magnitude of what he saw.

Still, his experience with being dropped into a new place and quickly capturing the sense of its culture proved invaluable. “There is a known language to disaster pictures; you see the same things, people reaching through chaos, people reaching for food, a lot of emotion. Photographers were trying to find those pictures that existed in other places. It’s just not like that here. That’s just not how it is in Japan,” he says, noting that the emotionally moving picture embedded here, of a woman, on her knees, caressing and singing to her mother’s body, would seem subtle in another place but is a very “loud” picture for Japan.

David Guttenfelder—AP

March 19, 2011. Tayo Kitamura, 40, kneels in the street to caress and talk to the wrapped body of her mother Kuniko Kitamura, 69, after Japanese firemen discovered the dead woman inside the ruins of her home in Onagawa, Japan.

Although he continues to be based in Japan, Guttenfelder has spent much of the past year in North Korea in preparation for the new AP bureau, which opened in January. Guttenfelder has been part of the negotiating team at meetings that have taken place in Pyongyang and New York over the last eighteen months. “At the first meeting, we left with an agreement that we would hold a photo exhibition and workshop and work towards an AP office in the country,” he says. The joint exhibition, Window on North Korea, on view earlier this month at the 8th Floor Gallery in New York, featured images from both AP and the KCNA archives and a workshop held in North Korea offered an opportunity for KCNA photographers get technical training, for the AP to recruit staff and for the two parties get to know one another.

“We are starting from zero in a system that is so different from anything we’ve done before,” he says. The photo exhibition and workshop were an overture to build trust and collaborate on something, and Guttenfelder has already begun working with a regional photographer, Kim Kwang Hyon. But the most interesting result of the collaboration is the opportunity it has afforded for Guttenfelder to photograph inside North Korea.

Although he is accompanied by a guide wherever he goes and has to request in advance where he wants to go, the daily life photographs that he has taken—often one-off shots made on the way to or from an event—provide a stark contrast to the highly orchestrated government news-agency photos that are more commonly seen out of North Korea.

Despite the normalcy portrayed in these photographs, Guttenfelder says they are actually the most important images because they paint a picture of a place that has been hitherto a mystery. And that can open the window for understanding in both directions. “At the beginning I would take a picture in the street of people standing waiting for the bus. I could tell they didn’t really understand and thought it looked bad, looked poor,” he says. “I would spend a lot of time explaining that people wait for the bus and commute to work everywhere in the world and that someone beyond North Korea could make a connection—that picture breaks down barriers.”

Recently, a select group of photojournalists from western agencies have been allowed into North Korea to cover the celebrations of the birth of the country’s Eternal President Kim II-sung and a missile launch. How long they will be able to stay is in question, but Guttenfelder and AP are committed for the long term. “It’s a really good time to have an office here and to see how things evolve,” he says. “I feel a huge responsibility because this is the first time the country has allowed this much access to one of us.”

David Guttenfelder is AP’s Chief Asia Photographer he is currently based in Japan to see more of his work click here.

To see more of AP’s coverage of North Korea click here.

Yvette Meltzer

I recently had the great honor to juror the Imagination exhibition that opens at the The A Smith Gallery today and runs through April 1st. The first place photograph, Revolutions in Green, was awarded to Yvette Meltzer for an image from her Revolutions series. I selected this work because she captured something ordinary and but able to make it extraordinary. As Yvette states, “Freshly washed laundry stirs in me a sense of hope with its freshness and renewal. Capturing the laundry revolving in the clothes dryer presented even more of a rebirth in its transformed state.”

Revolutions in Green

Currently living in Evanston, Illinois, Yvette has been exploring photography for thirty years. Along with a career as an educator, conflict resolution specialist, mediator and mother, she continues to be inspired by the photographic world. Taking daily photographs for the last five years, Yvette is now exhibiting work that is a convergence of color, light, and form in the abstract.

Revolutions: Whether hanging on clotheslines or over rocks or from windows in Europe, drying laundry has long fascinated me. After taking a multitude of outdoor laundry images over the years, it was while in Chicago in February 2007 that I wondered where I might find laundry drying. My curiosity took me into a variety of Laundromats where I began taking photos.

I was drawn to the twirling colors of the laundry spinning in the dryers but I never imagined what I would ultimately find when I went to the computer to view these digital images of the laundry. Therein I saw faces and forms – both human and animal-like. And I was hooked. Thus was my laundry project born.

What has been most exciting for me is moving from capturing concrete laundry images to the abstract forms that have emerged on this journey. As Picasso said, “There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterward you can remove all traces of reality.” I believe that is what this series does. I start with fabric and a dryer, and in collaboration with my camera, we transform the reality.

Most people can’t fathom why I am taking photos of the dryers or clothes in a dryer. When I go into a Laundromat with my camera some are suspicious and some are even fearful. Believing I might be a government agent seeking to identify undocumented residents I have sometimes been asked to leave. Others personalize it and ask why I want to take pictures of their clothes. Why are you taking pictures of my clothes? one indignant woman asked me. Another woman shouted, “Don’t take my laundry!” behaving as if I were actually physically taking her clothes out of the dryer.

After having been told I was not allowed to photograph even my own laundry spinning in some Laundromats, and not even allowed entry with my camera to some other Laundromats, I have begun to carry a small portfolio with me with to show some of my dryer images to the Laundromat attendant and they will usually then grant me their permission to stay.

In the course of focusing on this laundry project, I have had a host of interesting conversations with customers, attendants and/or owners of the Laundromats. I enjoy photography as a vehicle to relationships. It is usually the children who are in the Laundromat with a family member that are the most curious and the most interested. That could be because they still have imagination!

Photo Stroll Four – the final bit drawn from the permanent collection of San Diego’s Museum of Photographic Arts

Finally, the conclusion of a four-part photo stroll through the various photo exhibitions, including in previous posts Streetwise, on at San Diego’s Museum of Photographic Arts. And a big thank you to John Mann from SD who kindly took me round Balboa Park, the botanical gardens and the show.

The exhibitions have various running times: Streetwise: Masters of 60′s Photography has just finished. Inside Out: Portraits from the Permanent Collection runs until 25 September, and Imagine That! is on until 29 January 2012. I recognised the name of one of the photographer’s whose work is included in the permanent collection Ruth Thorne-Thomsen. I met her carrying a large pinhole camera in 1999 on a beach in Mexico. She was taking photos in difficult conditions with her large format pinhole camera and sent me a couple of her tests when I got back from my trip. I still have them, somewhere.

To get a glimpse see over for more, but it’s no substitute for the real thing – nor should it be. Tomorrow, photo news catch up and some show openings…

All photos Miranda Gavin, 2011.


As museums and public art institutions use social media networks and third-party sites to share content, think flickr, youtube, etc, audiences are being asked to participate in various ways. With this show, San Diego’s Museum of Photographic Arts called members of the public to send in photos from the 1960s that have social meaning for them Where were you between 1960-1969?. Follow this link to the Streetwise page

And if you want, you can see more photos that have been uploaded by members of the public from their sitting-moon portrait sessions on the chair at the gallery. Follow this MOPA link for more.


Filed under: Documentary photography, Photographers, Photography Shows, street photography Tagged: Imagine That!, Inside Out: Portraits from the Permanent Collection, Museum of Photographic Arts, photo shows, portraits, portraiture, Ruth Thorne-Thomsen, San Diego, San Diego’s Museum of Photographic Arts, Street photography, Streetwise: Masters of 60s Photography