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Robert Mapplethorpe
Self Portrait, 1980 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used by permission.
Robert Mapplethorpe
Robert Mapplethorpe

Robert Mapplethorpe

Country: United States
Birth: 1946 | Death: 1989

Robert Mapplethorpe was born in 1946 in Floral Park, Queens. Of his childhood he said, "I come from suburban America. It was a very safe environment and it was a good place to come from in that it was a good place to leave."

In 1963, Mapplethorpe enrolled at Pratt Institute in nearby Brooklyn, where he studied drawing, painting, and sculpture. Influenced by artists such as Joseph Cornell and Marcel Duchamp, he also experimented with various materials in mixed-media collages, including images cut from books and magazines. He acquired a Polaroid camera in 1970 and began producing his own photographs to incorporate into the collages, saying he felt "it was more honest." That same year he and Patti Smith, whom he had met three years earlier, moved into the Chelsea Hotel.

Mapplethorpe quickly found satisfaction taking Polaroid photographs in their own right and indeed few Polaroids actually appear in his mixed-media works. In 1973, the Light Gallery in New York City mounted his first solo gallery exhibition, "Polaroids." Two years later he acquired a Hasselblad medium-format camera and began shooting his circle of friends and acquaintances—artists, musicians, socialites, pornographic film stars, and members of the S & M underground. He also worked on commercial projects, creating album cover art for Patti Smith and Television and a series of portraits and party pictures for Interview Magazine.

In the late 70s, Mapplethorpe grew increasingly interested in documenting the New York S & M scene. The resulting photographs are shocking for their content and remarkable for their technical and formal mastery. Mapplethorpe told ARTnews in late 1988, "I don't like that particular word 'shocking.' I'm looking for the unexpected. I'm looking for things I've never seen before … I was in a position to take those pictures. I felt an obligation to do them." Meanwhile his career continued to flourish. In 1977, he participated in Documenta 6 in Kassel, West Germany and in 1978, the Robert Miller Gallery in New York City became his exclusive dealer.

Mapplethorpe met Lisa Lyon, the first World Women's Bodybuilding Champion, in 1980. Over the next several years they collaborated on a series of portraits and figure studies, a film, and the book, Lady, Lisa Lyon. Throughout the 80s, Mapplethorpe produced a bevy of images that simultaneously challenge and adhere to classical aesthetic standards: stylized compositions of male and female nudes, delicate flower still lifes, and studio portraits of artists and celebrities, to name a few of his preferred genres. He introduced and refined different techniques and formats, including color 20" x 24" Polaroids, photogravures, platinum prints on paper and linen, Cibachrome and dye transfer color prints. In 1986, he designed sets for Lucinda Childs' dance performance, Portraits in Reflection, created a photogravure series for Arthur Rimbaud's A Season in Hell, and was commissioned by curator Richard Marshall to take portraits of New York artists for the series and book, 50 New York Artists.

That same year, in 1986, he was diagnosed with AIDS. Despite his illness, he accelerated his creative efforts, broadened the scope of his photographic inquiry, and accepted increasingly challenging commissions. The Whitney Museum of American Art mounted his first major American museum retrospective in 1988, one year before his death in 1989.

His vast, provocative, and powerful body of work has established him as one of the most important artists of the twentieth century. Today Mapplethorpe is represented by galleries in North and South America and Europe and his work can be found in the collections of major museums around the world. Beyond the art historical and social significance of his work, his legacy lives on through the work of the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. He established the Foundation in 1988 to promote photography, support museums that exhibit photographic art, and to fund medical research in the fight against AIDS and HIV-related infection.
 

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More Great Photographers To Discover

Joe Vitone
United States/Italy
1954
Joe Vitone is a documentary fine art photographer and educator living in Austin, Texas. His work consists of large format portraiture and landscape in the United States as well as panoramic and other views examining cultures abroad. He is Professor of Photocommunications at St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas where he has lived with his family since 1991. He teaches traditional as well as digital photography and electronic media. He has received a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in photography and been a Fulbright scholar in Costa Rica as well as a Fulbright Specialist in the Apulia region of southern Italy. In both Costa Rica and Italy, Vitone’s work centers around small-scale family based agriculture. In addition to presentations given in the United States, he has lectured on his photography in Australia, China, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam. Involved in international education, he has led American students on study abroad programs in China, France, Japan, and Thailand. With a focus on documentary photography, he has worked with students outside of the U.S. in Australia, Costa Rica, France, Italy, and Thailand. His work has been exhibited at a number of venues including one-person exhibitions at the Hungarian Museum of Photography, the Akron Art Museum, and the Instituto Cultural Peruano-Norteamericano. His work is held in a number of collections including the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Center for Creative Photography, the Museum of Fine Art, Houston, Hungarian Museum of Photography, and the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History. About Family Records: These photographs have been drawn from an ongoing series of 4x5 and 8x10 inch (10x12.5 and 20.3x25.4 cm) negative portraits called Family Records which was begun in 1998 to document members of immediate and extended families of the photographer and his wife. 2017 marked 20 years of work on the pictures. The majority of the portrait subjects live in an orbit around the Rust Belt city of Akron, Ohio, former home to the country's major rubber and tire producers including Goodyear, Goodrich, and Firestone. Doylestown, Barberton, and other rural communities neighboring Akron serve as locations for many of these images along with Akron proper. The photographs generate dialogues between one another at a number of levels, some directly, as in lineage and interpersonal relation of mother to daughter, father to son, or brother to sister, and some at less specific and more universal places as well. Comment is made on finding purpose or respite in what can be a painful life, on time and aging, on moving from childhood to adulthood, on relations sustained or lost through the years, on masculinity and femininity, on sensuality and beauty seen not only in youth but in age, and on our valuing of ourselves and others not only because of our strengths but, perhaps even more so, by reason of our vulnerabilities.
John R. Pepper
John Randolph Pepper, (1958) is an Italian photographer, screenwriter, theatre and film director, the son of sculptress Beverly Pepper and journalist/writer Curtis Bill Pepper, editor of Newsweek and manager of its Rome office. He was born and raised in Rome; lives in Palermo and works worldwide. Pepper started his career in Black & White analogical photography with an apprenticeship to Ugo Mulas at 14. He published his first photograph at 15 and had his first show at 17. He studied History of Art at Princeton University, where he was also the youngest member of the exclusive painting program, '185 Nassau Street'. He then became a 'Directing Fellow' at The American Film Institute, (Los Angeles) and subsequently worked as a director in theatre and film for 20 years. For thirty years, he dedicated himself to photography while directing both theatre and film. During that time he continued to take photographs with his Leica camera always using the same Ilford HP5 film stock. John R. Pepper, represented by the Art of Foto Gallery (St. Petersburg, Russia) and The Empty Quarter Gallery (Dubai, UAE), is a 'Cultural Ambassador' of numerous Italian Institutes of Culture in may parts of the world. Since 2008 he has exhibited his different projects 'Rome: 1969 - An Homage to Italian Neo-Realist Cinema', 'Sans Papier', 'Evaporations' in the United States, France, Italy, the Middle East and Russia. He has published three books and is represented in several major museums around the world. Since 2015 Pepper has been working on his project 'Inhabited Deserts', where he explores deserts and their effect on time, history and people. 'Inhabited Deserts' debuted in Paris in November 2017; in September 2018, with the support of the Italian Embassy in Iran and the Italian Foreign Ministry, Pepper exhibited at the Aaran Projects Gallery in Tehran where he was one of the first Italian photographers since the Iranian Revolution of 1979. In November 2018, after participating at Paris Photo with the Galerie Sophie Scheidecker, 'Inhabited Deserts' went to Tel Aviv, Israel, representing Italy at the 6th International Photo Festival 'Photo Is:Rael'. From December 12th 2018 to February 15th Inhabited Deserts was presented at The Empty Quarter Gallery in Dubai, U.A.E. with curatorial text by Kirill Petrin. Subsequently the show opened on March 19, 2019 in Saint Petersburg, Russia, at the Art of Foto Gallery and shortly thereafter, on April 18th, it returned to Tel Aviv at the NOX Contemporary Gallery. In 2020 Inhabited Deserts will be seen in the United States and Italy. Per John Pepper "When talking about photography, we're talking about time. The image is fixed in time. We also talk about black and white and color, digital and film, reality and punctum - the critical concept of the French philosopher Roland Barthes, denoting the wounding, personally touching detail, which establishes a direct relationship with the object or person within it. Is a photographer an artist or not? The ones who feel they are, modestly define themselves as artisans. Still others, who do not think of themselves as photographers will snap photos relying on destiny's outcome. Finally, there are the ones who fantasize conceptual sequences snapped in extravagant situations - most of which without interest. About photography, much has been said. There are established masters, schools of thought, and many hopes. Yet whoever is sufficiently open to a vision within himself, who has cherished and assimilated the masters, will emerge with something new. Passion triumphs when backed by culture. When looking at one of John Pepper's photographs - the one with the group of people, friends and family, in front of their home, for example - I think of Paul Strand's image in his book, published with Zavattini 'Un paese' del 1955. There is a similar gathering of characters at the doorstep of their home. Time here is not just in the shutter time and lens aperture - a sixtieth of a second at eight - but in the transformation of the people, in the process of revealing themselves. With John, however, the appearances differ from those of Strand - moved up in time as evident in the shoes and pants, the motorcycle helmet, the technology of the wheelchair and the modern necklace of the young girl. They appear happy and to be speaking to the photographer. Despite some apparently expensive upper-class possessions, we perceive they are of a modest condition. In Strand's photograph, there is no doubt they are of peasant culture. Motionless, they stare at the photographer with a serious gaze, though ignorant of the world of images. Today, image is consumerism. It goes beyond diffidence. Everyone can have a camera, a motorcycle helmet and Nike shoes. People are well nurtured; they have even grown in height. With John the scene is of movement. The characters interact with ease, and the photographer is part of the game. He uses black and white film enhanced by the fine art of printing - images stemming from classical photography. John was just a boy when he came to my house in Milan, in piazza Castello, above the studio that once belonged to Ugo. I like to think that the darkroom at that time influenced him. Who knows? However, I do believe that Ugo's work helped him to become a photographer. His reportage in Italy is filtered through the memory of many great photographers - Diane Arbus, Cartier Bresson, Robert Frank, the first Richard Avedon, and William Klein to name a few. He has also traveled through Italy, in the streets and byways of youth, finding dramatic, enlightened faces in the theater of life. His portrait of the religious procession is most beautiful, with a perfect, compact, composition, among astonished angels and those bearing a religious float against a sharp background of light. John lives and works in Palermo, an outward antithesis of New York. An American born and raised in Italy, it is as an Italian that he grasps the vital spirit, the soul, and the humanity of people. His choice to live in a region like Sicily, so full of contradictions and archaic values, will surely help him in chronicling the history of change in our era. Then, apart from making art, he will have absorbed it as his own - a part of his life that will recur in defining time, space, and the evolution of the human condition." Antonia Mulas, Todi, May 5, 2012
Michael Young
United States
Michael Young is a New York-based photographer. His work has been shown internationally in Switzerland and Australia as well as nationally in New York City, Kentucky, Colorado, Oregon and Massachusetts. His work will be on display this coming spring at Fotofestival Lenzburg's "Search for Beauty" open-air show. He was a finalist in Shoot the Frame's Shoot the Face competition this past January and won 2nd place in color photography from the Plymouth Center for the Arts in Massachusetts. His work will be published later this year in the first annual Feature Shoot's The Print Swap book. Additionally, his work has previously been published in Spunk [arts] Magazine, Taking Pictures (Black Box Gallery), and The Literate Image (Plymouth Center for the Arts). Michael has a MA in Teaching from New York University and a BA in Spanish Language & Literatures from Yale University. Artist Statement Starla, Photographer in Her Studio is part of of the series Ashes to Ashes/Dust to Dust that I began eight years ago when I first visited my partner's family, the Groves, in western Kentucky. Since I grew up in the northeast, my upbringing was different from my partner's, and initially I thought that I had little in common with his family. As an outsider I received a lukewarm welcome by many, but I remained intrigued by his family. It was my camera that afforded me an invitation into their lives and helped me build meaningful relationships with his relatives. As the project has continued, not only have I become closer to my partner's family, but I have also been fortunate to document a part of the US that has been ignored by many and deemed "flyover country." The Groves, who have lived in Muhlenberg County for generations, are a microcosm for Muhlenburg county. Most are hardworking coal miners, farmers, nurses, and entrepreneurs looking to better their lives. Sadly, however, some have lost parents to addiction and others have passed due to overdoses. Like many rural towns in the Bible Belt, industry continues to leave the area. While well-paying jobs in the coal industry disappear, miners must travel about an hour to find lucrative work. When Trump announced promises to rollback legislation restricting coal emissions, many in the community grew excited for a return to the prosperous past that has for many years been slipping away. These images show the dichotomy between the current stark realities and flickers of hope and beauty as the county works to rebuild and redefine itself.
Marie-Laure Vareilles
- Testify to the variety of cultures on our planet.Education: Interior architect. I travelled on all continents, camera in hand, to testify of the diversity of countries on our planet. Over the years I have experienced different cultures, landscapes, encounters … The cultures of the entire world are in constant evolution. My work is to serve the memory of the people and their countries all around the world.- Creation of photo montage : imagine a universe of possibilities, elaborate the encounter of the unlikely. Mixing elements, transforming scale relations, rejecting logical constructions... Today I give a new life to the thousands of negatives taken, recreating imaginary worlds where poetry, dreams and surrealism alternate.- Permanent exhibition : Marseille : galerie Massalia; Vaison la Romaine, in the old town : atelier ANSATU & MAILOAll about Marie Laure Vareilles:AAP: When did you realize you wanted to be a photographer?It was not my dream.AAP:Do you have a mentor?I remember about the first exhibition I have visited : it was Salgado with beautiful works in black and white. The subject he had worked on was men working by hand, all over the world... Beautiful.AAP: How long have you been a photographer?I took my first photo in 1985, while traveling in Turquey. It was my first trip alone abroad and I wanted to share my impresion with my family. Taking photos seemed to be the best medium for sharing places I had visited, people I had met.AAP: What or who inspires you? Since I am travelling and taking photos, I have realised how fast our world is changing. Faster and faster. Shooting is a way to keep testimony from a time which doesn’t exist any more : the more I travel, the more I realise that our differences are less and less visible.AAP: How could you describe your style?I shoot what I see, very quickly. But as soon as light is changing I shoot again ! Landscape, architecture, sky, people... many subjects can be interesting for the montages I create when I come back in my studio.AAP: What kind of gear do you use? Camera, lens, digital, film?Since the begining, I am working with Nikon cameras. During the last few years, I have definitly adopted digital camera. My last one is the D-800.AAP: Do you spend a lot of time editing your images?Not enough : after shooting, I spend a lot of time creating montages. For this reason I keep each photo, just in case ! But it might be a problem in the futur with hardware !AAP: Favorite(s) photographer(s)?They are so many. Editing a list would be a nightmare. Especially if I forgot to mention some of them.AAP: Your best memory has a photographer?I will never forget my experience in Bangladesh. I had never seen so many people working by hand, what ever they do, transport, create, make… they do not use use any machine. They work hard in bad conditions but they keep smiling!AAP: Your worst souvenir has a photographer?I had a bad time in Guinea. Working for an editor who wanted me to take photos from the Niger river and the every day life. The problem is I had to deal with blackmail from the people who were supposed to help me.
Aaron Blum
United States
1983
Aaron Blum is an eighth generation West Virginian, and creates art deeply linked to his home. Most of his work centers around a single question, what does it mean to be Appalachian? Through this question he address many different artistic concepts from idealized memory vs. stereotypes to ideas of folk taxonomy. His creation process is a diversified approach of image-based media to create a glimpse into his own concepts of Appalachia, and the social fabric of a very large and misrepresented people and place. He pays close attention to the quality of light and the landscape as well as cultural markers to produce a unique version of life in the hills. After graduating with degrees in photography from West Virginia University and Syracuse University, Aaron immediately began receiving recognition for his work including Center of Santa Fe, Silvereye Center for photography, Critical Mass, and FOAM. About The Prevailing Winds of Hills and Heritage Appalachia pulls at me like a haunted memory. There is an ineffable force that compels me to suspend reality and embrace superstition and myth. It is a longing to hold on to my culture and history in spite of the modern world. The nebulous forests, enveloping moss and dark corners seem to tell a purer truth. Storytelling in Appalachia has a long-standing tradition, and it infuses the region with mystery. Using lore, pseudo-scientific study, and personal experiences as a compass I see this place through idealized eyes of wonder, and these images become my personal folklore. They bring to life the fantasies and memories I carry with me. This is a place where you can wash away sin in cool stream waters, where corpse birds come to ferry away souls to the next life, rocks burn and kudzu conceals. This is the place where the prevailing winds whisper old stories to those who know how to listen.
Giuseppe Cardoni
He lives in Umbria, is an engineer, he prefers B/W reportage. He has been part of the Leica Photographic Group where he had the opportunity to attend Masters of Italian photography such as with Gianni Berengo Gardin, Piergiorgio Branzi, Mario Lasalandra. He is co-author, with the RAI journalist Luca Cardinalini, of the photographic book STTL La terra di sia lieve. (Ed. DeriveApprodi, Rome, 2006); with Luigi Loretoni he published in 2008 the photo book Miserere (Ed. L'Arte Grafica), in 2011 Gubbio, I Ceri (Ed. L'Arte Grafica) and in 2014 Kovilj (Ed. L'Arte Grafica). Also in 2014 he published Boxing Notes (Edizionibam) reportage on the world of boxing with which he won international awards. He has dedicated himself for some years to the photography of musical events and in 2019 he published "Jazz Notes" a personal intimate point of view on jazz atmospheres. He has exhibited his work in numerous solo and group exhibitions in Italy and abroad. Award-winner or finalist in national and international competitions (has achieved these personal results in more than forty contests over the past three years). I am interested in making photographs with a strong personal connotation, which correlated with my interiority represent a reality poised between the flow of time and abstraction. Giuseppe Cardoni All about BOXING NOTES Nonna Mira, the real boxing enthusiast of the family, set her alarm for 3 a.m. and called my father and me (just a boy) to watch big matches live from Madison Square Garden in New York. With this memory, I went looking for those atmospheres and values of the great boxing of the sixties and seventies. Ropes, wooden planks, nails, torn carpets, peeling walls, worn-out shoes, feet, gym bags, towels, robes, sacred images, iron stairs, neon lights, grimaces of pain, laughter of victory. Boxing. For instance from the "poor" gym, Academia de Boxeo Henry Garcia Suarez, in Holguin (Cuba), have come Olympic and world champions. And you’d never guess.I was attracted by the almost paternal respect for the coaches and champions, the discipline for training, friendship among companions, the rhythm of legs and veins, pride and courage.Boys begin training at the age of 10 years, sometimes without headgear and shoeless, chasing victory with bare hands and with many dedications: for themselves, their families, their country. As the President of Italian Boxing Federation said "It seems a paradox, but the ring is one of the few places in the world where men are really equal, where they fight for their dreams regardless of status, race or culture. Alone, without even difference in clothing, they face each other as equals, without the help of machines, without external support, without any outside help"
Deb Schwedhelm
United States
Born in Detroit, Michigan, Deb Schwedhelm was originally trained as a Registered Nurse and subsequently spent 10 years employed as an Air Force Nurse. Although she has been passionate about photography since her early 20s, it wasn't until Deb left the military that she was able to pursue the medium as a full-time career.Deb's photographs have been exhibited widely and featured in numerous publications throughout the world. She has received awards from Photolucida, Portland, OR; PhotoNOLA, New Orleans, LA; MPLS Photo Center, Minneapolis, MN; The Perfect Exposures Gallery, Los Angeles, CA; A. Smith Gallery, Johnson City, TX; Santa Fe Photographic Workshops, Santa Fe, NM; and The Art of Photography Show, San Diego, CA. Her photographs have also been selected for the permanent collection of The Center for Fine Art Photography, Fort Collins, CO.Deb is married to a Naval Explosive Ordnance Disposal Officer and she is the mother to three children, who are often the subjects of her photographs. Deb is currently based in Tampa, Florida and will be moving to Yokosuka, Japan summer 2014. All about Deb Schwedhelm:AAP: Where did you study photography?I purchased a DSLR and began teaching myself photography in 2006. Prior to that, I was a Registered Nurse in the U.S. Air Force for 10 years.AAP: Do you have a mentor or role model?Jock Sturges has been mentoring me for the past few years and I'm so grateful for all that he has shared with me.AAP: Do you remember your first shot? What was it?While I don't remember my first shot (because I was too busy trying to learn photography at that time), I do remember my first commissioned portrait session. It was with a family that lived down the street. One of the photographs (boxer boy) still remains one of my favorites, especially remembering back to how new I was to photography.AAP: What or who inspires you?As cliche as it may sound, I truly draw so much inspiration from my children. My middle child (10 yo) very much gets me. When I take her out to photograph, I leave with a vision and a plan, but based on her actions, I typically end up dumping any plan that I had and we just mesh with one another. She'll tell you that I often say to her, "just keep doing what you're doing." I also am very much inspired by dance and music.AAP: How could you describe your style?Raw, real and emotive.AAP: What kind of gear do you use? Camera, lens, digital, film?Above water: Nikon D3S, 35mm f/1.4, 50mm f/1.4 and 85mm f/1.8In the water: SPL housing,Nikon D700 and a 35mm f/2.0.AAP: Do you spend a lot of time editing your images? For what purpose?No, I don't really spend a lot of time editing my digital images. I do my best to get it right in camera, which makes the editing process very simple. I work mostly in Lightroom but I do bring my black and white images into Photoshop for a bit of fine-tuning. Basically, I want my editing to look pure, while gently enhancing the overall essence and feeling of the photograph.AAP: Favorite(s) photographer(s)?Sally Mann, Jock Sturges and Mary Ellen Mark have been my favorites from the very beginning.AAP: What advice would you give a young photographer?Work to master your technique -- and your artistry. Work really hard. Be dedicated, committed and determined. Never stop exploring, reflecting, learning and growing. Have patience. Know that the journey of photography is not always an easy one, but it is an absolutely amazing one. Be authentic and make genuine connections. Remember to be grateful, kind and giving. Do your best and don't ever give up!AAP: What mistake should a young photographer avoid?The greatest gifts a photographer could give themselves is allowing time and being patient. AAP: An idea, a sentence, a project you would like to share?I would love to share a couple of photography projects that I recently learned about and am inspired by...I had the opportunity to take a workshop from Mary Ellen Mark and I'm greatly inspired by her work and authenticity (both professionally and personally). She and her husband recently launched a kickstarter campaign, which I am thrilled to support: STREETWISE: Tiny RevisitedAnd 'The Return' kickstarter is another project I am happy to support. It is so incredibly beautiful and heartfelt: The return: Book ProjectLove these words shared in the project video: "State the intention for spirit to be present in your finished object, it will be. My soul need these images."AAP: What are your projects?For the past few years, I have been working on my 'From the Sea' series. This summer, I am planning to travel the US for a few months and will not only be photographing in various bodies of water across the US, I am also planning to launch a new project. While I'm not quite ready to release details of my new project, I hope you'll stay tuned.AAP: Your best memory as a photographer?Wow, that's a tough question. Receiving that first message from Jock Sturges was pretty darn amazing and winning photoNOLA was such an incredible gift. I never saw either coming.AAP: The compliment that touched you most?Every compliment greatly touches me. I truly am so appreciative for all that others share with me.AAP: If you were someone else who would it be?I'm quite happy being me and can't imagine being anyone else. AAP: Your favorite photo book?Oh how I love photography books. I have so many that proudly grace my bookshelves -- books which I've collected over the years. Sally Mann's Immediate Family was the first photography book I owned so it's pretty special. I also had the opportunity to have Sally Mann sign my books last summer, while attending her talk at the University of Michigan.AAP: Anything else you would like to share?No matter what your personal journey, don't be afraid to dream and dream big -- you just never know what's possible with a little dreaming and a lot of hard work. Don't forget the importance of authenticity and don't ever forget to share your gratitude with those who have assisted you.Thank you so much for this wonderful opportunity to share. This has been the most amazing journey and I'm beyond grateful.
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