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Jacob Riis
Jacob Riis, American journalist, 1906
Jacob Riis
Jacob Riis

Jacob Riis

Country: Denmark/United States
Birth: 1849 | Death: 1914

Jacob August Riis was a Danish-American social reformer, "muckraking" journalist, and social documentary photographer. He contributed significantly to the cause of urban reform in America at the turn of the twentieth century. He is known for using his photographic and journalistic talents to help the impoverished in New York City; those impoverished New Yorkers were the subject of most of his prolific writings and photography. He endorsed the implementation of "model tenements" in New York with the help of humanitarian Lawrence Veiller. Additionally, as one of the most famous proponents of the newly practicable casual photography, he is considered one of the fathers of photography due to his very early adoption of flash.

While living in New York, Riis experienced poverty and became a police reporter writing about the quality of life in the slums. He attempted to alleviate the bad living conditions of poor people by exposing their living conditions to the middle and upper classes.

Riis had for some time been wondering how to show the squalor of which he wrote more vividly than his words could express. He tried sketching but was incompetent at this. Camera lenses of the 1880s were slow as was the emulsion of photographic plates; photography thus did not seem to be of any use for reporting about conditions of life in dark interiors. In early 1887, however, Riis was startled to read that "a way had been discovered to take pictures by flashlight. The darkest corner might be photographed that way." The German innovation, by Adolf Miethe and Johannes Gaedicke, flash powder was a mixture of magnesium with potassium chlorate and some antimony sulfide for added stability; the powder was used in a pistol-like device that fired cartridges. This was the introduction of flash photography.

Recognizing the potential of the flash, Riis informed a friend, Dr. John Nagle, chief of the Bureau of Vital Statistics in the City Health Department who was also a keen amateur photographer. Nagle found two more photographer friends, Henry Piffard and Richard Hoe Lawrence, and the four of them began to photograph the slums. Their first report was published in the New York newspaper The Sun on February 12, 1888; it was an unsigned article by Riis which described its author as "an energetic gentleman, who combines in his person, though not in practice, the two dignities of deacon in a Long Island church and a police reporter in New York." The "pictures of Gotham's crime and misery by night and day" are described as "a foundation for a lecture called 'The Other Half: How It Lives and Dies in New York.' to give at church and Sunday school exhibitions, and the like." The article was illustrated by twelve-line drawings based on the photographs.

Riis and his photographers were among the first Americans to use flash photography. Pistol lamps were dangerous and looked threatening, and would soon be replaced by another method for which Riis lit magnesium powder on a frying pan. The process involved removing the lens cap, igniting the flash powder, and replacing the lens cap; the time taken to ignite the flash powder sometimes allowed a visible image blurring created by the flash.

Riis's first team soon tired of the late hours, and Riis had to find other help. Both his assistants were lazy and one was dishonest, selling plates for which Riis had paid. Riis sued him in court successfully. Nagle suggested that Riis should become self-sufficient, so in January 1888 Riis paid $25 for a 4×5 box camera, plate holders, a tripod and equipment for developing and printing. He took the equipment to the potter's field cemetery on Hart Island to practice, making two exposures. The result was seriously overexposed but successful.

For three years, Riis combined his own photographs with others commissioned of professionals, donations by amateurs and purchased lantern slides, all of which formed the basis for his photographic archive.

Because of the nighttime work, he was able to photograph the worst elements of the New York slums, the dark streets, tenement apartments, and "stale-beer" dives, and documented the hardships faced by the poor and criminal, especially in the vicinity of notorious Mulberry Street.

A particularly important effort by Riis was his exposure of the condition of New York's water supply. His five-column story "Some Things We Drink", in the August 21, 1891, edition of the New York Evening Sun, included six photographs (later lost). Riis wrote:

"I took my camera and went up in the watershed photographing my evidence wherever I found it. Populous towns sewered directly into our drinking water. I went to the doctors and asked how many days a vigorous cholera bacillus may live and multiply in running water. About seven, said they. My case was made."

The story resulted in the purchase by New York City of areas around the New Croton Reservoir, and may well have saved New Yorkers from an epidemic of cholera.

Riis tried hard to have the slums around Five Points demolished and replaced with a park. His writings resulted in the Drexel Committee's investigation of unsafe tenements; this resulted in the Small Park Act of 1887. Riis was not invited to the eventual opening of the park on June 15, 1897, but went all the same, together with Lincoln Steffens. In the last speech, the street cleaning commissioner credited Riis for the park and led the public in giving him three cheers of "Hooray, Jacob Riis!" Other parks also were created, and Riis was popularly credited with them as well.

Source: Wikipedia


 

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Dora Maar
France
1907 | † 1997
Henriette Theodora Markovitch (22 November 1907 – 16 July 1997), known as Dora Maar, was a French photographer, painter, and poet. A love partner of Pablo Picasso, Dora Maar was depicted in a number of Picasso's paintings, including his Portrait of Dora Maar and Dora Maar au Chat. She was the only daughter of Josip Marković (aka Joseph Markovitch) (1874–1969), a Croatian architect who studied in Zagreb, Vienna, and then Paris where he settled in 1896, and of his spouse, Catholic-raised Louise-Julie Voisin (1877–1942), originally from Cognac. In 1910, the family left for Buenos Aires where the father obtained several commissions including for the embassy of Austria-Hungary. His achievements earned him the honor of being decorated by Emperor Francis Joseph I, even though he was "the only architect who did not make a fortune in Buenos Aires", but in 1926, the family returned to Paris. 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She signed many manifestos, including one titled "When Surrealists were Right" in August 1935 which concerned the Congress of Paris, which had been held in March of that year. In 1935 she took a photo of fashion illustrator and designer Christian Berard that was described by writer and critic Michael Kimmelman as "wry and mischievous with only his head perceived above the fountain as if he were John the Baptist on a silver platter". In the 1980s she made a number of photograms. Maar spent her last years in her apartment in Rue de Savoie, in the Left Bank of Paris. She died on 16 July 1997, at 89 years old. She was buried in the Bois-Tardieu cemetery in Clamart. Her experiments with photograms and dark-room photography were only found posthumously.Source: Wikipedia
Khanh Phan Thi
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Joseph-Philippe Bevillard
United States/Ireland
Born in Boston, Joseph-Philippe started drawing and painting after he lost his hearing at the age of 3. He took up photography during his senior year at a private school in Massachusetts. In 1985, he enrolled at the Rochester Institute of Technology to study photography where he remained there for 2 yrs before changing direction in career due to financial circumstances, In 1990 he return to photography to study at the Art Institute of Boston. It was in 1990, Joseph-Philippe developed a style for his square B&W portraitures of people he met in the nightclubs and on the street. After working for several major photo labs in Massachusetts in the last half of 1990, he moved to Ireland during the millenium to start his property management business. In 2007, he went back to photograph portraits using the same camera and style as he did in the early 90's. In 2010, he started a new project, photographing the Irish Travellers and four years later, he formed the Irish Travellers Photo Workshop. 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This in turn has forced some families to set up their own camps in disused fields, but because seen as illegal encampments the local councils are constantly trying to move the families on, and will not provide basic needs such as fresh water, electricity or sanitation. There is a small amount of Irish Travellers who wish to settle and have gone on the housing list. This can also be a tricky situation settled neighbours usually oppose having a travelling family living on their road, these leads to tension and racial abuse at times. So this discourages many families from settling. While education is mandatory for all children living in Ireland, the Irish Travellers usually drop out by the age of 15, a lot of this is due to the children being needed at home to tend to the younger or some just find mainstream school boring and not suited to their culture. 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What I have written is brief with some facts about these fascinating people who have made me feel utterly welcome at all times for the past 11 years. I am clearly not a writer, so I have recorded some facts and a brief synopsis into the life of Irish Travellers. I hope my photographs portray what I could not begin to write, and captured some of the Irish Travellers Lifestyle and Culture that is steeped in traditions, full of colour, celebrations, and hardships. Joseph-Philippe Bévillard, September 2020
Petros Kotzabasis
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As soon as I reached my destination and opened the car door, I saw the frame that was created , took the picture and felt such a fulfillment that I realized there was no point in taking any more photos; so I instantly closed the door and returned with that one single photo.AAP: What or who inspires you?Literature and poetry have always been a source of inspiration for me.AAP: How could you describe your style?I would characterize what I am trying to do as visual poetry. In my photos there are no extraordinary events; I seek magic in the ordinary people on the street, in my neighbors, in passers-by. I seek the moment when narration is no longer needed with the aim of creating a new universe where all will be evident yet something will be left unrevealed, not with symbols but with hints. Starting point for me has been a quote by Odysseas Elytis “with lime twigs you may capture birds; yet you will never capture their singing…”AAP: What kind of gear do you use? Camera, lens, digital, film?The gear that I use is rather simple; a digital camera-Canon 5D- and a 35mm/f1,4 lens. I am against using several kinds of gear that may give you more opportunities; I like putting limitations and making particular choices, as they render you less “garrulous” and more conscious.AAP: Do you spend a lot of time editing your images?Once I take a picture, I don’t spend so much time on it. At the end of the day I have a look at what I’ve shot and in very few minutes I sort out the one or ones that I am interested in. I always show the selected lot to a specific person who is not in any way involved with photography or any other form of art, but who I trust otherwise, and once I get their opinion, I make my final choice. Because I browse through the photos very quickly every evening, I feel that in my hard disks there may be photos I have never noticed and I have always had the urge to have another look at them but I never did.AAP: Favorite(s) photographer(s)?A lot of photographers are my favorite. The first one I had ever studied and really made an impression on me was Koudelka, then I “met” and fell in love with Kertész and Bresson. Also, Robert Frank , Plossu , my compatriot, Economopoulos and many others.AAP: What advice would you give a young photographer?The most important thing for someone who is about to take up photography is to gain a deep insight into themselves; it’s this process of personal development and cultivation that will enable them to express themselves through photography and take photos that will be the real them and provoke the interest of others.AAP: What mistake should a young photographer avoid?When one sets out on this photographic trip, they browse through the internet and magazines and try to shoot at some point what they have seen. I consider this a great mistake since they are drifted away in an attempt to imitate and they are caught in a deadlock.AAP: An idea, a sentence, a project you would like to share?Since my intention is not to depict something specific or recount an event through my pictures, I couldn’t claim that I am currently working on some kind of project and once this is over, I’ll start with another one. The point is to decode what’s inside me and this “project” will be over once I am over with photography or once I am no longer alive.AAP: Your best memory has a photographer?What I find important, is that some say or write that one of my photos triggered a burst of emotion in them. I find this the most significant gift photography could grant me. AAP: Your worst souvenir has a photographer?Since I mainly photograph on the streets, the police have arrested me twice as a suspect. I believe these are my worst experiences as a photographer. AAP: If you could have taken the photographs of someone else who would it be?As I mentioned before, I love and admire the work of many photographers; thus, it would be impossible for me to pick one.
Maciej Dakowicz
Poland
1976
Maciej Dakowicz is a Polish street photographer, photojournalist, gallerist and educator based in Poland. He studied computer science in Poland (2000). He lived in Cardiff, Wales, between 2004 and 2012, where he worked and studied for his PhD at the University of Glamorgan (now the University of South Wales) where he also worked. He left work at the university in 2009 and completed his PhD in 2010. In 2010 he set up and ran Third Floor Gallery along with Joni Karanka and Bartosz Nowicki. He left Cardiff for London, and since 2013 has been based in Mumbai, photographing in Tunisia, Yemen, India and Bangladesh. Dakowicz is best known for his series of photographs of Cardiff nightlife titled Cardiff after Dark, also the name of his later book. Photographed over four years, photographs from the series have featured in magazines and been exhibited in galleries. Individual images from the series have also been used out of context and with misleading captions by the British tabloid media to support a single narrative about alcoholic excess. This tabloid practice has been criticized; for example, Jonathan Jones wrote in The Guardian that "Humour is the most obvious thing about his pictures, and their attraction lies in the way they balance grotesque abandon with poised, coolly beautiful lighting." Sean O'Hagan said in The Guardian that "it is not all outrageousness and vulgarity: Dakowicz also catches the sense of camaraderie and celebration in Cardiff on a Saturday night. He has an outsider's eye for telling detail, a way of showing us, in often brilliantly dramatic fashion and with a degree of gleeful humour, what is right under our noses." In March 2013 Dakowicz became a member of the In-Public street photography collective. His book Sonepur Mela (2021) contains photographs taken at Sonepur Cattle Fair in India between 2010 and 2017. Currently he is mainly occupied with teaching his popular street photography workshops in Asia and Eastern Europe.Source: Wikipedia
Neal Menschel
United States
Neal Menschel has been a photographer for over 25 years. He has photographed five presidents and traveled the world covering third world politics and development, and environmental issues. He began his career as a photographer for the Anchorage Daily News in Anchorage, Alaska.   As a freelance photographer, Neal’s clients have included The New York Times, Newsweek, MIT, Tufts, Wellesley College, People, Geo, Front Line, Yankee, as well as other publications and numerous corporate clients. Neal also worked as an associate producer and sound recordist on a series of award-winning documentary films for WGBH-Boston, and WBZ-TV, Boston, additionally teaching photography/documentary photography at Boston University. Neal was the Director of Photography and Senior Photographer for the Christian Science Monitor. He has traveled extensively, both nationally and worldwide, specializing in third world politics and development, environmental issues, domestic politics, humanitarian, social, and cultural issues, always with a focus on people and matters of the "human heart." Neal was the Director of Photography for the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies, a graduate and undergraduate training program in photography, radio, and writing, in Portland, Maine. Neal led their photography program for nine years before moving to the San Francisco Bay Area. Many of the students Neal has taught, mentored, and shared his passion for photography and visual storytelling are now successfully carrying on careers in photojournalism and fine art photography. Neal is currently working on a book about West Virginia culture.  He teaches in Stanford University's Continuing Studies Program while he continues his work as a photographer, journalist, teacher, and workshop instructor/leader. Source: nealmenschel.photoshelter.com
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