Archives

December 2009

SELECT A MONTH:

Dec 31

Recreating historical images using models is nothing new, but in the case of Bradley Wollman’s The Little War, images of the Iraq war, there is an added dimension: Most of the original images, recreated by the artist, were either carefully staged - or at least controlled - themselves (such as the infamous tearing down of Saddam Hussein’s statue - here is CNN’s original report, and this is what the crowd really looked like, see this story), or they were leaked. Wollman’s images can thus be seen as questioning what the original images are really telling us in the first place.
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Dec 30

Remember how I talked about Mark Steinmetz’s South Central, the third book of the (actually not a) trilogy that also includes South East and Greater Atlanta? You can’t really get South Central any longer - or so I thought. Not so, several readers told me via email (thank you!): Light Work still has some signed copies!
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Dec 30

Detroit photographer James D. Griffioen’s The Disappearing City is a series of projects depicting just that: Wilderness where there used to be a city.
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Dec 30

One of America’s finest social documentary photographers, Milton Rogovin, is celebrating his 100th birthday today - Happy Birthday!
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Dec 29

Hubert Blanz’s photography is digitally assembled. What makes it interesting for me is that you can see that things are not the way they should be, but the different elements of the images are still believable enough. (via)
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Dec 28

Just before the Christmas Eve Mass 2009, a woman with apparent mental problems jumped a barrier and tried to reach Pope Benedikt who was moving towards the altar at St. Peter’s Basilica. Bodyguards managed to tackle the woman, but in the ensuing scrum, the Pope ended up falling to the ground. It was probably inevitable that video footage of the event would make the news - taken by someone a few rows away from the event. Stills from the low-resolution movie were used in news articles to show the event, and I was struck by the similarities with the famous Zapruder film.
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Dec 28

“Common Place is a visual exploration of Ireland during the recent period of rapid cultural and economic change and trace the visual contradictions embedded in urban and rural topography. Photographed throughout Ireland these photographs look to the everyday landscape, at the often overlooked local place and space.” - Eoin o Conaill
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Dec 24

It’s that time of year - so from my homestead in chilly Western Massachusetts Happy Holidays and all the best wishes for the New Year 2010!
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Dec 23

A while ago, I was wondering why there weren’t more collectives of photographers working together. Today, I came across Dream Boats Collective - four photographers, based in four different cities, pooling together resources.
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Dec 23

Daniel Barthmann’s “St. Pauli”, a part of Hamburg (in)famous for its red-light district.
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Dec 23

I’m sure that those who follow this blog regularly have noticed that I don’t cover fashion photography all that much. If you miss seeing fashion photography on the blog, here’s a little fix. This year, Mallard/Janvier published “Steven Meisel, three hundred and seventeen and counting”: “For over two decades, Steven Meisel has created every cover and lead editorial story for each issue of Italian Vogue. There may be no other photographer-magazine relationship in any other field of such long-lasting commitment and innovation.” A copy of the book could be yours - as part of an exclusive Mallard/Janvier Conscientious Christmas Giveaway!
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Dec 22

Here’s an interesting post by DLK Collection, with a lot of statistics and this general intro: “According to our tally, we wrote in-depth reviews for a total of 173 photography shows at galleries and museums this year. With the notable exception of the tireless Vince Aletti of the New Yorker whom we doubt we can ever match, we likely reviewed more photography shows in the past 12 months than any other publication on the planet.” (I personally wouldn’t compare Mr Aletti’s typically rather short reviews with DLK’s way more detailed ones, but then that’s just me). Clearly, DLK have made an invaluable contribution to the photo-blogging scene, and I’m looking forward to more to come!
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Dec 22

I’m hearing more and more complaints about pretty badly done digital postproduction of large-format photographs, often by very well-known photographers. Just this morning, I received another email with such a complaint. Those who follow this blog closely will remember a recent exhibition review where I bemoaned it myself. (updated below)
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Dec 22

Some of Tuomo Manninen’s Group Portraits are very entertaining, in a camp sort of way - not sure that was the intention, but it’s oddly fascinating.
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Dec 22

I’m sure everybody else noticed this, too, but Greater Atlanta by Mark Steinmetz is the only book you can find in Alec Soth’s, 5B4’s and my list of the best photobooks 2009.
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Dec 21

Paddy Johnson just announced a year-end fundraiser for Art Fag City, a blog I’m sure you’re very familiar with. Support for independent sites like Paddy’s is crucial if we want to keep the blogging landscape what it is - and allow it to grow.
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Dec 21

By now you’ve probably seen that Alec Soth has returned to blogging. Check out his Top 10 Photobooks!
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Dec 21

As Sarina Finkelstein’s Prospectors shows, there’s a new gold rush in California (or maybe the old one never really ended).
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Dec 18

The 20th Century was filled to the brim with atrocities, war, and genocide. So far, there is no indication whatsoever that we have learned anything from those - just notice, for example, that “the International Rescue Committee (IRC) estimates that 3.9 million people have died from war-related causes since the conflict in Congo began in 1998, making it the world’s most lethal conflict since World War II.” (source) Maybe this is because we are still unable to understand what actually happened. The suffering of a single person is often beyond our comprehension - and what does it then mean to hear about ten thousand people killed, or one hundred thousand, or millions? If anything, we have learned how to displace that which might cause us distress. In the snippet I just cited, the war in Congo is merely a “conflict”; and it’s easy to find similar euphemisms in your newspaper.
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Dec 18

One of the photo festivals I wish I had attended was the third Mannheim Ludwigshafen Heidelberg one. How do I know I really missed something? They published a book (Images Recalled), which is not simply just a catalog of the photography on display, but which also contains abundant text. In essence, it’s the next best thing after going to the festival in person.
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Dec 17

When I first saw Oswaldo Ruiz’s illuminated houses at The Black Snapper, I was reminded of how Myoung Ho Lee isolated trees from their environments, the differences being, of course, the objects and the ways they are made to appear against the background. Ruiz’s approach adds more visual drama, even though, at the end, I’m not sure it succeeds to move beyond the gimmicky (which is my main objection about Lee’s work, too).
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Dec 17

There’s an old story that you can boil a frog if you put it into cold water and then gradually increase the temperature. Since it’s not smart enough to notice the change of temperature, it will eventually boil. That’s not true, though. Frogs aren’t that stupid. But humans are. If you replace the frog with humans and the cold water with the Earth’s atmosphere, then you have the situation humanity is in right now. We all know how well our efforts to prevent global warming are working out: Not so terribly well - it seems frogs are smarter than humans! Olaf Otto Becker’s Above Zero, currently on view at Amador Gallery (until 9 January, 2010), tackles the issue photographically. Above Zero shows images of the melting icecap in Greenland and of snow/ice blackened by soot particles. Just like Edward Burtynsky’s Oil, Becker’s Above Zero uses photography to show us the consequences of our life style.
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Dec 17

Michael Collins’ photography shows contemporary British landscapes, with a focus on industry - out of commission, under construction, or working.
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Dec 16

Barry Underwood’s photographs of altered landscapes remind me of Tokihiro Sato’s. I like this way of changing a landscape - or maybe of creating an installation that is really only made to exist inside the camera.
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Dec 16

A complaint I hear a lot about contemporary photography is that the sizes of photographs are inflated. I think a discussion about print sizes certainly can be - maybe should be - had, but it might disappoint all those bemoaning large sizes. I thought I’d write down some of my thinking about this; hopefully, someone will disagree and publish her/his thoughts.
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Dec 16

The first (and only) time I went to the New Museum, and of course I was snapping some photos with my little digital camera (mind you, not of the utterly forgettable art on display, but of the building). A “security” guard approached me and told me “You can’t take pictures here,” and I almost responded “Oh yeah? I just did.” But I ended up being a good boy and put my camera away. This experience will be familiar to many people taking photos, and a new post over at the Smithsonian talks in length about the various cases (the UK seems to have become a particularly bad place for photographers; see Michael’s new post).
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Dec 16

Given that Roger Ballen’s Boarding House is one of my favourite books this year, I was looking forward to seeing the body of work on the walls of a gallery. It is currently on view at Gagosian’s Madison Avenue location (which makes for an interesting experience this time a year, when one steps from the surreal world of very high-end consumerism into the equally surreal world of Boarding House). Boarding House is by far Ballen’s strongest achievement so far - a sentiment I’ve also heard from literally every person I talked to about the work.
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Dec 16

Lorena Ros’ project Survivors is “based on a series of portraits of adults as survivors of sexual abuse who believe that showing their faces and disclosing their stories to the world will contribute to the prevention of future abuse.” (via)
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Dec 15

On his website, under “My Approach”, Touhami Ennadre writes “The sense of my work is to reveal the essential, never to illustrate.” An exhibition at Priska C. Juschka Fine Art (on view until 2 Jan, 2010) provides an opportunity to see whether he succeeds in doing that. The show contains a selections of his photographs, hung in a dimly lit space.
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Dec 15

Unless you have been living under a rock, you will be very familiar with Lens Culture, Jim Casper’s truly wonderful site dedicated to contemporary photography. Just like Conscientious, Lens Culture has been self-funded, and as Jim notes it has been content-rich and clutter-free. He is now asking for donations so Lens Culture can stay the way it is.
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Dec 15

Josh Quigley still doesn’t seem to have his own website to feature his carefully staged images - which is too bad, since I know there are a lot more images than these 16 here.
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Dec 14

Malwine Rafalski’s Holon portrays people (and their environments) who moved back to Nature (c.f. Thoreau’s Walden).
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Dec 14

Marino Balbuena is an Argentinian artist who studied architecture before becoming a photographer. Not all his work is centered on architecture, though (thanks, Thomas!)
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Dec 14

Incredibly sad news this morning: “Larry Sultan, a highly influential California photographer whose 1977 collaboration, ‘Evidence’ - a book made up solely of pictures culled from vast industrial and government archives - became a watershed in the history of art photography, died on Sunday at his home in Greenbrae, Calif. He was 63.” - full obit
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Dec 11

When I grew up, which is not that long ago (or so I want to believe), Europe was cut in half by what people called the Iron Curtain. The Iron Curtain was more like a fence, albeit one that featured automatic guns (plus an assortment of other gruesome stuff). With a few exceptions, the western half of Europe was part of what was called the European Community, a group of countries, whose sole purpose appeared to be to determine how much milk and butter its farmers could first produce and would then destroy (at least that was my impression - I was a young boy, what did I know of economic realities? Now, I’m a grown man, and from what I heard they’re still doing that. Looks like I never learned to understand economic realities). If you wanted to travel from one country to another one, you would cross a border, which featured border posts and people who would pretend as if there was something to inspect in your passport. I remember once my family went to Holland, and there was no control. I thought “Did that just happen? Did I just get into another country without somebody checking?”
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Dec 10

And another wonderful find by Peter: Rebecca Sampson’s portraits taken at an eating-disorder treatment center (“Aussehnsucht”). Very moving work, beautifully shot.
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Dec 10

With his series Rural landscapes in Transylvania, Horatiu Sava is “showing villages far from the main traffic arteries, places where the progress isn’t fully visible.” (via; only after picking the image I realized that it provides support of the idea that if you buy a red car, it’ll really make people look)
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Dec 10

Marc wrote a response to my post about photo books, so this seems like a good opportunity for me to expand what I was thinking about a little.
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Dec 9

“A new collection of images by Manhattan photographer Yasmine Chatila is causing quite a buzz throughout the city. […] Seems as thought Chatila sees an open window as an invitation to snap what’s going on in front of it; she doesn’t get permission to take the photos.” PDNPule writes. Gasp! Oh, no, she didn’t! Well… Wasn’t there something just like this, about ten years ago maybe? Also b/w, a bit grainy, if I remember it correctly… Problem is I can’t remember the name of the photographer (anyone?), but I’m really certain it also had something to do with naked people shot through their windows. Which, unless I misremember things, would make these kinds of buzzes appear once a decade, almost as if they’re art-world cicadas… Update: Readers Don Hamerman, Mike Lim, and David Simonton reminded me what I was thinking of (thank you!), it’s Merry Alpern’s Dirty Windows (many photos here). Update: And here is a broader look at “Voyeuristic art photography”. I would probably add Alison Jackson to the list.
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Dec 9

“Tian Taiquan’s complex, constructed images use China’s Cultural Revolution as a departure point to explore, and reflect on, ‘the most severe setback and heaviest losses suffered by the party, the state and the people since the founding of the Peoples Republic of China’”. (source) More images here, and there’s a presentation of the work here.
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Dec 9

“The best criticism is written for only one person. It is up to the writer to decide who this person should be. Of the thousands of art reviews I have written over the last 40 years, the most effective, in my view, have been the great many silently addressed to my sister, Erin. […] Erin is a traveller; she is socially active, interested in art and writing and architecture, and open to new experiences, but not easily impressed. I have always believed that, if I could convince Erin that such-and-such an artwork or work of architecture was worth her attention - if I could argue my way past her flourishing scepticism - then I could convince anyone. I would urge every new writer to adopt this approach—to find one questioning person to write for, framing every review as a fervent message to him or her.” - John Bentley Mays (via)
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Dec 9

Having just published my list, here is Jeff’s.
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Dec 9

Mike Sinclair’s personal work contains some nice shots, such as this one from Fairgrounds (a nice picture for the season, isn’t it?).
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Dec 8

Herman Nicholson’s Stand guard over the solitude of the other is a study of portraiture via the use of just one subject. There are quite a few very nice portraits in the project, even though the large edit dilutes their power a bit.
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Dec 8

The above image is from a photo project Torben Weiss shot in a psychiatric unit. Unfortunately, the website only has a few photos for each project (maybe there aren’t more?).
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Dec 7

Richard Polsky’s I Sold Andy Warhol (Too Soon) sounds like a follow-up of I Bought Andy Warhol, and that’s probably what it is (I admit I haven’t read the first book). It’s not hard to figure out what I Sold Andy Warhol (Too Soon) in part is about, namely how Polsky ended up selling an Andy Warhol painting before the most recent art-market bubble had reached its maximum point of expansion. Of course, it’s easy to sell art works at the wrong time - especially if there is a bubble developing, but you really have to know it’s a bubble to feel better about it. Thankfully, the book is about more than just that, though.
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Dec 7

It’s that time of the year again, so without further ado, these are the photo books that impressed me the most this past year. I’m listing them in no particular order, with the exception of the very first one: jpegs by Thomas Ruff. Cutting-edge work, challenging the way we think about photographs, presented beautifully in a large (but not too large) book, maybe in the best possible way (since I don’t think the work gains anything from blowing it up even larger and hanging it in a gallery or museum). It’s tempting to dismiss this work as too simple or too obvious or too cerebral, but I don’t think it qualifies for any of these dismissals.
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Dec 7

Some of Jose Javier Serrano’s work might have been inspired by other artists’ work, but once you start looking through the various portfolios you’ll probably be surprised by some of the stuff you’ll find.
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Dec 7

Todd Walker has a response to my post about photo books. Magazines as the answer to why photo book publishers shun experimentation? I’m not convinced at all. I’d like to think there are publishers (or photographers) who want to aim a little higher.
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Dec 4

Over the past few years, there has been considerable wailing and gnashing of teeth going on about the funding of photojournalistic and/or documentary work. Needless to say, a democracy relies on its citizens receiving the information they need to be able to make smart decisions, so the implications of what at first sight looks like a mere business problem are considerable. When Rob Hornstra and Arnold van Bruggen decided they wanted to document the area around Sochi (Russia), where the 2014 Olympic Games will be held, their solution was quite simple: They created The Sochi Project, offering people to become supporters and to get unique and exclusive contents in return.
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Dec 4

I talked about doing something good while shopping for photographs the other day. Turns out, if you want to get a truly unique photo book and contribute to a good cause, there are options, too. Alec Soth just produced Allowing Flowers, designed to exclusively support CommonBond Communities, which is raising money to create “4,000 affordable living spaces that over 6,000 people can call home sweet home.” There an interview with Alec about the project (and more) here.
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Dec 4

I have been thinking about photography books a lot lately (for various reasons), and I have been noticing that there isn’t much of a variety in photo books, is there? Basically, you have monographs - bodies of work by one artist, and you sometimes have books about collections or museum shows. As much as I love looking at the books produced these days (not all of them, of course), it’s just amazing to see that there does not look as if there was a publisher willing to take a risk (at least not one of the big ones), willing to do something completely different. I know, it’s a tough and expensive business - but in principle, the medium photo book could offer so much more than, well, just monographs or books about collections/shows.
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Dec 4

It would seem odd to review Mark Steinmetz’s South East and Greater Atlanta at the same time, given that the former was already published last year, while the latter is a current release. But it is worthwhile to look at them together - and if I had a copy of South Central I’d include that, too. The photographer’s website informs us that South East covers the years 1994-2001, whereas Greater Atlanta was shot over a slightly longer period of time, until fairly recently (1992-2008). Whether or not that is an important detail I am undecided about (it might be a bit academic), but what unites these two books is that it is not very obvious when the work was produced. I’ve heard photographers say that they prefer to work in b/w because it gives more of a timeless look. How much sense that makes is not clear given that people’s clothes or cars or even advertizing in the background usually give away the time. That said, both South East and Greater Atlanta do not easily give away their time periods (while I looked at one of the books, my wife kept guessing, not very successfully).
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Dec 3

Today, I came across Rodrigo Abd’s photo essay about undertakers in Guatemala. A lot of great images, but not for the squeamish.
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Dec 3

“The art world is already divided into unknowns, emerging, established, mid-career, international artists, and according to what graduate program you went to, who you’re friends with and your social pedigree. It’s more like a high-school cafeteria.” - William Powhida
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Dec 3

Just a few weeks ago, the 20th anniversary of the Berlin Wall opening was celebrated, and we were subjected to the usual imagery again - mostly from the first few days. Norbert Enker’s Grenzfall has images taken over a much longer period of time (180 of them!), which show the Wall coming down/disappearing.
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Dec 3

Frank Schirrmeister’s Plain City shows us not only a Berlin (mostly) devoid of people, but also stays clear of the usual Berlin photo cliches.
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Dec 3

I rarely link to abstract photography, but Markus Bruckner’s is well worth the visit.
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Dec 3

“For three periods of one month, I have let the Trans-Siberian train guide me alongside forgotten villages, from living room to living room. Some Russian words, scribbled on a little piece of paper, allowed me to be welcomed and absorbed in the warm chaos of a family. Accidental encounters led me to the places where I could sleep. The living room, the epicentre of their life, establishes an intimate contact between the Russian inhabitants. In this room, they sleep, eat and drink as well as cry. For a brief moment, I was part of this.” - Bieke Depoorter
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Dec 2

Stuart Griffiths has been documenting the lives of veterans in both the UK and the US for years now, and his portfolio is filled with many haunting images. (via)
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Dec 2

It’s that time of the year again, and if you’re thinking that there surely must be some affordable photography around to get for someone, here are a couple of suggestions. Why not combine buying original art works with doing something good? collect.give is a new site whose photographers “have pledged to donate 100% of the profits from their print sales to worthwhile causes they support.” And there is Fraction Magazine’s print sale - see the individual posts on their blog - where “one hundred percent of the sale goes to the photographer.”
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Dec 2

I am very fascinated by unusual people, so Amanda Jackson’s British Eccentrics is right up my alley. I just wish there were a few more pictures.
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Dec 1

I’m impressed by Margaret M. de Lange’s project Daughters. While it occasionally seems to be a bit influenced by other photographers, it avoids the kind of sentimentality that always risks turning this type of photography into kitsch.
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Dec 1

There’s a great interview with Jon Edwards here.
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Dec 1

You might know Blake Andrews from his blog (B), but he’s also a photographer.
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