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Simon Roberts
Portrait of Simon Roberts by Francesco Niccolai, 2010
Simon Roberts
Simon Roberts

Simon Roberts

Country: United Kingdom
Birth: 1974

Simon Roberts is a British photographic artist based in Brighton, UK. Often employing expansive landscape photographs, his approach is one of creating wide-ranging surveys of our time, which communicate on important social, economic and political issues.

Roberts has been exhibited widely with We English touring to over thirty national and international venues. He’s had solo shows at the National Media Museum, Bradford, Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, and Museum of Contemporary Art, Shanghai, and been included in numerous group exhibitions. Recent shows include Observers: British Photography and the British Scene (From the 1920s to Now) at Galeria de Arte SESI, Brazil, and Landmark: The Fields of Photography at Somerset House, London. His photographs reside in major public and private collections, including the George Eastman House, Deutsche Börse Art Collection and Wilson Centre for Photography.

In recognition for his work, Roberts has received several awards including the Vic Odden Award (2007) - offered for a notable achievement in the art of photography by a British photographer, along with bursaries from the National Media Museum (2007), John Kobal Foundation (2008) and grants from Arts Council England (2007, 2010, 2011, 2014). He was commissioned as the official Election Artist by the House of Commons Works of Art Committee to produce a record of the 2010 General Election on behalf of the UK Parliament. In 2012 he was granted access by the International Olympic Committee to photograph the London Olympics and most recently was made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, UK (2013).

He has published three critically acclaimed monographs, Motherland (Chris Boot, 2007), We English (Chris Boot, 2009) - voted by Martin Parr as one of the best photography books of the past decade - and Pierdom (Dewi Lewis Publishing, 2013).

One commentator has described his photographs as “subtle in their discovery and representation of forms of cultural character, which, upon closer inspection, reveal a richness of detail and meaning. They exhibit a disciplined compositional restraint, a richness of palette, and a wealth of narrative incident.

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More Great Photographers To Discover

David Stewart
United Kingdom
1958
David Stewart began his career by photographing punk bands including The Clash and The Ramones. He also took to photographing the passing parade of colourful characters on Morecambe Promenade with squirrel monkey's Joey and Queenie. After graduating at Blackpool and The Fylde College, Stewart moved to London in 1981 where he persued a career in photography, rapidly establishing himself as one of the UK's most highly accomplished photographers. In 1995 he directed and produced a short film "Cabbage" which was nominated for a BAFTA. Accompanying the film is a series of surrealist photographic images in tribute to the much-maligned vegetable. In 2001 he published a body of work titled Fogeys comprising of kitsch, cartoon-like photographs of people growing old disgracefully. Exhibited at the Institute of Contemporary Art London "Fogeys" won a Silver Award at the Art Directors Club of New York. The book "Thrice Removed" was published in 2009. While still singular and mischievous, the book includes works that are more muted in colour and personal in tone. The projects "Indecision" and "Intension" return once again to the surreal providing an intriguing study of young women. "Teenage Pre-occupation" which takes a look at teenagers and the changes they go through and was published in May 2013. The short film "Stray" 2013 was screened at the London Short Film festival. Stewart won The Taylor Wessing portrait prize in 2015. He had been previously shortlisted for the Photographic Portrait Prize in 2007 and accepted a further fourteen times between 1995 and 2012 each time exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery, London. In 2016 Stewart was presented with The Royal Photographic Society award for outstanding achievement and excellence in the fields of Editorial, Advertising and Fashion Photography. 2018 saw the publication of "Paid Content" which uses the setting of the advertising agency to explore the changing face of workplace culture and the wider dehumanising effect that is occurring due to the growth of large, faceless corporations and globalisation. 2020 saw the publication of "Geoffrey Valentine" which presents unflinching portraits of his dead father lying in a coffin in a chapel of rest. Geoffrey Valentine at Wren London
 Jonk
France
1985
Jonk discovers photography at the age of 11 when his parents send him for a language exchange to the USA, where each of the ten children forming the group lives with a different host family. The few souvenir pictures shot with the famous disposable orange cameras were his firsts. For the following six years, he travels each winter to a new family in a different state, and in the meantime upgrades his gear with a basic analogue camera. After having swapped it for a pocket numeric device, he realizes his first solo trip, at the age of 19. This trip to Barcelona changes his life, and he comes back with two passions that won't leave him: travels (he has since visited more than 70 countries) and urban art (street art and graffiti), whose discovery gave him his first photographic subject that still occupies him today. Living in Paris, he discovers urban exploration at the end of years 2000 through rooftops, subways and the city's unofficial catacombs. At that time, he finds another subject: documenting the unseen side of the city and invest in his first digital reflex camera, an APS-C. Climbing roofs to see her from the top, going at night in subway tunnels or spending whole days underground in the catacombs exploring the tens of kilometers of galleries looking for beautiful carved rooms: he finds in that activity a thrill, the adrenaline that he looks for in his life. These urban explorations, and his search for unseen graffiti, bring him to abandoned places, where graffiti artists often go to paint, to be alone and able to take time to make bigger and better paintings. After some time frequenting these artists, he starts himself to paint there and adopts the nickname “Jonk”. At that time, he also sticks his travel pictures on the walls in the streets. Visiting abandoned places looking for graffiti, he realizes the intensity of the atmospheres and the beauty of the spectacle of time passaging: rust, decaying and peeling painted walls, broken windows, Nature taking over create unbelievable, highly photogenic sceneries. For him, such sceneries feel like infinite poetry. Traveling, painting, sticking, photographing, roaming on roofs, metros and catacombs, a very time-consuming job don't leave him enough time to do everything. At the hour of choices, he drops the spray, the pot of glue, the height and the undergrounds to stay with the photography of lost places, even if he could not get rid of his nickname, symbol of his graffiti artist times, highly important to him. He then continues to travel, almost exclusively looking for abandoned locations to shoot, with or without graffiti. He upgrades his gear again with one, then two, full-frame reflex. Today, he has visited more than one thousand and five hundreds of them in around fifty countries on four continents. With time, his interest focuses on what appears to him to be the strongest in this vast subject of abandonment: Nature taking over. It is poetic, even magic, to see this Nature retaking what used to be hers, reintegrating through broken windows, cracks on the walls, spaces built by Man and then neglected, until sometimes guzzling them up entirely. This topic naturally imposed itself to him due to the ecologic consciousness that moves him since his youngest age and to the strength of the message it carries: the question of the place of Man on Earth and its relationship with Nature. She is stronger, and whatever happens to Man, She will always be there. In March 2018, he releases the book Naturalia on the topic and currently works on volume II for which Yann Arthus-Bertrand wrote the preface. In June 2018, at age 33, he quits his job in the finance to fully dedicate himself to this project. With this series, as a photographer Jonk tries to humbly contribute to make people aware of the critical ecological situation we are all in. Since, four other books were released. His work has been featured in prestigious paper publications (Der Spiegel, Corriere della Sera, Lonely Planet, Le Monde, GQ, Telerama…) as well as on prestigious web platforms (National Geographic, New York Post, Smithsonian, ArchDaily, AD, BBC, The Guardian…). He received various distinctions in recognized international contests with Honorable Mentions (International Photography Awards, ND Awards), nominations (Fine Art Photography Awards), Silver Awards (Tokyo International Foto Awards, Moscow International Foto Awards), places in shortlists (Arte Laguna Prize, Environmental Photographer of the Year, Royal Photography Society, Felix Schoeller Photo Award, Siena International Photo Awards), places of finalist (InCadaquès International Photo Festival, Nature Photographer Of The Year, Umbra Awards) and winner of the Chelsea International Photography Competition and the Earth Photo 2020 Photo Competition. His work has been part of many group shows across the world (Paris, London, Lisbon, Rome, Athens, Budapest, Moscow, Seoul, Tokyo, Singapore, Los Angeles, Palm Springs, New York…) as well as many solo shows in Paris, the main ones being in Paris 20th district City Hall “Salon of Honor”, at the OECD, the Forum des Halles and the Nicolas Hulot Foundation for Nature and Man. In October 2020, Jonk realizes his first solo shows abroad. The first one is the central show of Home Expo in Luxembourg, the most important Fair of the country. Consisting of 91 photos, this exhibition is also his biggest show to date. He simultaneously conducts five solos show in China for the Franco-Chinese Environmental Month. They take place at the Park View Gallery of the magnificent Design Society in Shenzhen, the French Institute of Beijing, the Kingold Century Center of Guangzhou, the Westred Art Museum of Harbin and the Parc Hongmei of Shenyang. Jonk had set a first foot in China the year before by giving a conference on his Naturalia series in Shenzhen. It was his second after a TEDx given in Paris in 2018. Several exhibitions of Naturalia are planned for 2021 and 2022. Naturalia: Chronicle of Contemporary Ruins As a child, I saw a wildlife documentary that marked my life. It focused on the melting of the ice caps and its consequences on polar bears' life. I still remember this bear that struggled to swim and find a piece of ice floe. It seems that "children are like wet cement. Whatever falls on them makes an impression." (Dr Haim Ginott). This vision marked me so much that during all my childhood, every time any of my parents did anything that seemed bad for the environment, it told them this sentence: «Watch out, you kill the bears!!" This ecological consciousness, that moves me since my youngest age, has little by little focused my interest on abandoned places reclaimed by Nature. She is stronger, and whatever happens to Man, She will always be there. Moreover, Naturalia: Chronicle of Contemporary Ruins asks a fundamental question: that of the place of Man on Earth and his relationship with Nature. Far from being pessimistic, and at a time when Man's domination of Nature has never been so extreme, it aims to wake our consciousness. Man builds, Man abandons. Every time for his own peculiar reasons. Nature does not care about those reasons. But one thing is for sure, when Man leaves, She comes back and She takes back everything. In his poem Eternity of Nature, brevity of Man, Alphonse de Lamartine writes "Triumph, immortal Nature! / Whose hand full of days / Lends unlimited strengths / Times that always rise again!" In her inexorable progression, She starts reclaiming the outsides of a Taiwanese reservoir (Picture 1) before infiltrating the insides of a Croatian castle (2) or a Belgian greenhouse (7). Then, She grows in the atrium of a Polish palace (8) or a Cuban theater (9) before invading a Montenegrin castle (10). Then, given more time, imprisons a Taiwanese mansion with her strong roots (20). The next steps? Collapse and burial. French poet Léo Ferré said "With Time goes, everything goes". So, when Nature and Time will have taken back what Man abandons, what will be left of our civilization?
John Novis
United Kingdom
1950
John Novis is photographer and story teller working on environmental issues, particularly climate change for the last 30 years. Climate Change is the biggest global threat ever known to mankind, yet it is the most challenging and difficult subject to visualize to any great effect. Any image presented, be it extreme weather events, scientific evidence or global protests can be argued against by a sceptic media, governments and industry. It is precisely this challenge that drives concerned photographers to push ever more creative photos into the image pool to drive home the importance of this emergency of our times. We are getting somewhere thanks to Greta Thunberg and Environmental groups such as Greenpeace, Extinction Rebellion etc. which provide scope for compelling pictures. Social media has also provided a valuable platform for citizen journalism reporting climate related events as they unfold in real time. How I got there I stared my career in photography in London during the 'swinging 60's 'years working with high profile photographers in Vogue, Apple Corp (Beatles), top Fashion and Industrial photo studios Adrian Ensor Labs up until 1977 when I enrolled on a 3 year 'Creative Photography' course in Nottingham University under the guidance of Thomas Joshua Cooper and Raymond Moore. In 1980 I received a grant from UK South East Arts to make a 30 minute, 16mm film called 'Our trip to the Zoo' analysing the family snapshot with the old Kodak slogan – 'to capture life'. Throughout most of the 80's I worked as a freelance commercial photographer and then in 1989 I joined Greenpeace as an in –house photographer where I was employed until 2015. Just before I joined Greenpeace, I was becoming disillusioned with photography as an instrument for advertising and generating profit. It was though Greenpeace I was able to employ my expertise in photography to produce images that would serve as a wake-up call to the critical state of our environment. As photography became more important to the organisation I became Head of Photography at the international headquarters in Amsterdam, directing major photo projects such as: - Ocean and whaling expeditions, Amazon – Illegal logging, Yunnan, China campaigning against the introduction of GMO rice to the rice growing communities, Climate in Crisis - Yellow River drying up, the Disappearing Glaciers on Everest, Climate and Poverty along the Silk Road in Gansu Province, China - Palm oil production in Riau, Indonesia and 'Forest Solutions' global communities living from the forest management towards a sustainable solution. In addition, I have also worked on numerous successful publications including the nuclear industry of Russia with Dutch photographer Robert Knoth, (Panos) and Bhopal – '' with Raghu Rai (Magnum). My professional services outside Greenpeace have included, organizing and hosting the Beijing Photo Master Classes with World Press Photo winners, member of the jury for the 2007 CHIPP (China International Press Photo Contest) and Member of the Jury and visiting lecturer to Fotopub, Slovenia July 2008. Directing a major exhibition and slide show at 1999 Perpignan, Visa Pour L'image with an interview with Jean Francois Leroy on stage. In 2012 I ran a photo workshop and curated a renewable energy exhibition at the Angkor Photo Festival in Siem Reap, Cambodia and was invited as guest speaker for Wild Photos at the Royal Geographic society in 2011. I am currently working on Climate Emergency events and supporting on line publications with consultancy and archive picture material.
Stefano De Luigi
Born in Cologne in 1964, Italian photographer Stefano De Luigi currently lives in Paris and started his career working for the Grand Louvre Museum as a photographer from from 1989 to 1996. He has published 3 books: "Pornoland" (Thames & Hudson-2004), "Blanco" (Trolley, 2010), and "iDyssey" (Edition Bessard 2017). His numerous awards include four World Press Photo awards (1998, 2007, 2010, 2011), the Eugene Smith fellowship grant (2008), the Getty Grant for editorial photography, the Days Japan International Photojournalism Award (2010), and the Syngenta Photography Award (2015). Stefano works regularly with several international publications including The New Yorker, Geo, Paris Match, and Stern and has exhibited his work in New York, Paris, Geneva, Milan, Rome, London, Istanbul, and Athens. Stefano De Luigi has been a member of the VII Agency since 2008. Source: VII Photo T.I.A Africa is a continent. But Africa is also a well-defined place in my mind. Africa is unique. Every time I have had the opportunity of going there I have come face to face with incredible tragedies but also with the unwavering hope of its people. Ever since my first journey to South Africa in 1989, where I saw Walter Sisulu walk free in Soweto after years of imprisonment, I continue to be both deeply moved and deeply shocked by all the stories I have witnessed and heard. Every time I step onto African soil I know I will experience something deep, something that inevitably leads to a search for the meaning of life, something that, for me at least, surfaces from deep within when I am in Africa. The questions raised call for humbleness, since often they are without answers. We know that the truth often lies in the middle folds of things. This project aims to raise questions and provoke thoughts which could, perhaps, lead to some answers and which in turn could correspond to some truths. I have tried to conceive this project as a poem. Or perhaps it would better be described as a ballad. The ballad with verses which challenge and play with each other. In the space between two facing photographs there is a story. One of the thousand stories I witnessed in Africa, one of the thousand questions I asked myself, one of the thousand experiences I was fortunate to live. The photographs represent the two extremes of the story that links them: the beginning and the end. I couldn't find a better form of expressive language to convey how Africa is an all-encompassing experience for any human being wishing to embrace it to its full. A painful yet joyful ballad of my personal and ongoing relationship with this continent. This is why I have called it "This is Africa". I should probably have called it "This is my vision of Africa" but it didn't sound the same. By no means does this mean it is the only view of Africa. I know it may seem inadequate and subjective. But so is everything in life, I guess. So, This is Africa. Blanco How does the look of a blind person look like? Can the blind show joy, happiness, disappoint, pain, suffering, pity, regret, with the only use of their eyes? The absence of sight can mean also the absence of complicity behind the camera's lens? We always use the term blind to characterize a person, such as blond, fat, poor, rich. And maybe, in some way, it is the truth. It doesn't matter if it happens in Africa, Asia, or the old Europe. The fact is, they cannot see the light, the colors, the daily scenes, how awful or gorgeous they can be. The blind are a contrast. It is easier to ignore them, their handicap is hidden, but they do have it. It's not necessary to turn the face to something or someone else, they won't see it. They seem 'normal', but they're not. They have their own world, the same and another than ours, made of different feelings, different images, different colors. And dark.
Erwin Blumenfeld
Germany/United States
1897 | † 1969
Born in Berlin in 1897 to Jewish parents, Blumenfeld began his career working as an apprentice dressmaker to Moses and Schlochauer in 1913. He opened his own company in Amsterdam in 1923, the 'Fox Leather Company', a leather goods store specialising in ladies handbags. After moving to new premises in 1932, Blumenfeld discovered a fully equipped dark room and began to photograph many of his -predominantly female- customers. The company went bankrupt in 1935, just as Blumenfeld's photographic career was beginning to take an upward turn. Following a move to Paris in 1936, Blumenfeld was commissioned to take the portraits of personalities including George Rouault and Henri Matisse and secured his first advertising work for Monsavon. Blumenfeld quickly captured the attention of photographer Cecil Beaton who helped him secure a contract with French Vogue. After World War II in 1941, Blumenfeld moved to New York where he was immediately put under contract by Harper's Bazaar and after three years, he began freelance work for American Vogue. Over the next fifteen years, Blumenfeld's work was featured on numerous Vogue covers and in a variety of publications including Seventeen, Glamour and House & Garden. During this period, he also worked a photographer for the Oval Room of the Dayton Department Store in Minneapolis and produced advertising campaign for cosmetics clients such as Helena Rubinstein, Elizabeth Arden and L'Oreal. In the late 50s, he also began to create motion pictures, hoping to use them commercially and began work on his biography and his book 'My One Hundred Best Photos' which, despite being a renowned fashion photographer, only included four of his fashion images. Following Blumenfeld's death in 1969, numerous books on his work have been published, namely 'The Naked and the Veiled' by his son, Yorick Blumenfeld, and his photographs have been exhibited at international galleries including the Pompidou Gallery in Paris, The Barbican in London and The Hague Museum of Photography in the Netherlands. In the 1960s, he worked on his autobiography which found no publisher because it was considered to be too ironic towards society, and was published only after his death.Source: Wikipedia Erwin Blumenfeld is considered to be one of the early pioneers of fashion photography alongside George Hoyningen-Heune, Cecil Beaton, and Horst P. Horst. It was not only his employment of experimental techniques in the darkroom, Dada and Surrealist influences, and groundbreaking street work, but Blumenfeld’s unique and masterful combination of elegance and eroticism that transformed fashion into high art and paved the way for Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Herb Ritts, and other photographers who enjoyed such prominence and recognition in the history of art. In addition to holding the record for the most covers of Vogue, Blumenfeld’s works were abundantly reproduced within the pages of Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar, Life and Vogue during the 1930s, '40s and '50s. Many of the images from these shoots will be featured in this exhibition and have since become icons of the history of fashion photography. Some have never been seen before. But all of the prints showcase not only Blumenfeld’s innovation as a photographer of fashion but also his spectacular skill as a printmaker. In his retrospective examination of Blumenfeld’s work, William Ewing writes, “His highly original and visionary work was a seamless blend of the negative and positive: taking the picture in the studio and making it in the darkroom.” In the studio, Blumenfeld often employed mirrors, glass, and backgrounds reproduced from paintings, images of cathedrals, or mosaics of magazine covers. He often used veils, which could distort or elongate the figure, confident that a woman partially concealed was more erotically charged that one seen fully nude. He also believed the printing of the image was as every bit as important as the process of capturing it, and like Man Ray, he was tirelessly inventive in the darkroom, deploying a variety of optical and chemical tricks, including multiple exposures, solarization and bleaching.Source: Edwynn Houk Gallery
Cecil Beaton
United Kingdom
1904 | † 1980
Born in 1904 in London and coming of age at the peak of the 20's, Cecil Beaton was in love with the worlds of high society, theater, and glamour. Beauty in his hands was transformed into elegance, fantasy, romance, and charm. His inspired amateurism led to a following among fashionable debutantes and eventually a full fledged career as the foremost fashion and portrait photographer of his day. He was so attunded to the changes of fashion that his career maintained its momentum for five decades; from the Sitwells to the Rolling Stones. Beaton died in 1980.Source: Staley-Wise Gallery Sir Cecil Beaton, in full Cecil Walter Hardy Beaton, photographer known primarily for his portraits of celebrated persons, who also worked as an illustrator, a diarist, and an Academy Award-winning costume and set designer. Beaton’s interest in photography began when, as a young boy, he admired portraits of society women and actresses circulated on picture postcards and in Sunday supplements of newspapers. When he got his first camera at age 11, his nurse taught him how to use it and how to process negatives and prints. He costumed and posed his sisters in an attempt to re-create the popular portraits that he loved. In the 1920s Beaton became a staff photographer for Vanity Fair and Vogue magazines. He developed a style of portraiture in which the sitter became merely one element of an overall decorative pattern, which was dominated by backgrounds made of unusual materials such as aluminum foil or papier-mâché. The results, which combined art and artifice, were alternately exquisite, exotic, or bizarre, but always chic. Many of these portraits are gathered in his books The Book of Beauty (1930), Persona Grata (1953, with Kenneth Tynan), and It Gives Me Great Pleasure (1953). During World War II, Beaton served in the British Ministry of Information, covering the fighting in Africa and East Asia. His wartime photographs of the siege of Britain were published in the book Winged Squadrons (1942). After the war Beaton resumed portrait photography, but his style became much less flamboyant. He also broadened his activities, designing costumes and sets for theatre and film. He won Academy Awards for his costume design in Gigi (1958) and for both his costume design and his art direction in My Fair Lady (1964). Several volumes of his diaries, which appeared in the 1960s and ’70s, were summarized in Self Portrait with Friends: The Selected Diaries of Cecil Beaton, 1926–1974 (1979). Beaton was knighted in 1972.Source: www.britannica.com © All photographs wer scanned and released by the Imperial War Museum on the IWM Non Commercial Licence. The work was created by Cecil Beaton during his service for the Ministry of Information during the Second World War as an official photographer of the Home Front.
Eric Kunsman
United States
1975
Eric T. Kunsman (b. 1975) was born and raised in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. While in high school, he was heavily influenced by the death of the steel industry and its place in American history. The exposure to the work of Walker Evans during this time hooked Eric onto photography. Eric had the privilege to study under Lou Draper, who became Eric's most formative mentor. He credits Lou with influencing his approach as an educator, photographer, and contributing human being. Eric holds his MFA in Book Arts/Printmaking from The University of the Arts in Philadelphia and holds an MS in Electronic Publishing/Graphic Arts Media, BS in Biomedical Photography, BFA in Fine Art photography all from the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York. Currently, he is a photographer and book artist based out of Rochester, New York. Eric works at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) as a Lecturer for the Visual Communications Studies Department at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf and is an adjunct professor for the School of Photographic Arts & Sciences. In addition to lectures, he provides workshops on topics including his artistic practice, digital printing, and digital workflow processes. He also provides industry seminars for the highly regarded Printing Applications Lab at RIT. His photographs and books are exhibited internationally and are in several collections. He currently owns Booksmart Studio, which is a fine art digital printing studio, specializing in numerous techniques and services for photographers and book artists on a collaborative basis. Eric's work has been exhibited in over 35 solo exhibitions at such venues as Nicolaysen Art Museum, Hoyt Institute of Fine Art, Los Angeles Center for Digital Art, and numerous university galleries. His work has also been a part of over 150 group exhibitions over the past 4 four years including exhibitions at the Center for Photography, A. Smith Gallery, SPIVA, San Luis Obispo Museum of Art, Spartanburg Museum of Art, Atlanta Photography Group, CEPA Gallery, Site:Brooklyn, Colorado Photographic Arts Center, Philadelphia Photo Arts Center, and many more. Eric was named one of 10 B&W photographers to watch of 2018 by BWGallerist, B&W Best Photographers of the Year 2019 by Dodho Magazine, and won the Association of Photography (UK) Gold Award for Open Series in 2019, Finalist, Top 200 Critical Mass 2019, Top 15 Photographers for the Rust Belt Biennial. His Project Felicific Calculus was also awarded a Warhol Foundations Grant through CEPA Gallery in Buffalo, NY. Eric's work has also been published in magazines such as; LensWork, Dodho, B&W Photography along with online articles by Analog Forever Magazine, Catalyst: Interview, Texas Photo Society, and others. He is currently represented by HOTE Gallery in Los Angeles, CA and Malamegi in San Daniele del Friuli (Udine), Italy. There's no "given," formula for what demands Eric's focus as a photographer. Eric is as drawn to the landscapes and neglected towns of the American southwest as he is to the tensions of struggling rustbelt cities in the U.S. northeast. Eric is attracted to objects left behind, especially those that hint at a unique human narrative, a story waiting to be told. Eric's current work explores one of those relics: working payphones hidden in plain sight throughout the neighborhood near his studio in Rochester, NY. Associates suggested they signified a high crime area. This project's shown Eric something very different. Statement Felicific Calculus: Technology as a Social Marker of Class, Race, & Economics in Rochester, NY The felicific calculus is an algorithm formulated by jurist and reformer Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) for calculating the moral rightness of an action by balancing the probable pleasures and pains that it would produce. Bentham, a utilitarian philosopher, believed this calculus could, in principle, help determine the moral status of any considered act. In 2017, I relocated my studio to a different part of Rochester, NY. Colleagues immediately started making comments along the lines of: "...that area's a war zone." My experience with the new neighborhood was positive, so I wanted to discover what visual cues others might be seeing as indicators of a dangerous environment. Several people had mentioned the number of payphones in the area, inferring that only criminals use payphones these days. There really were a lot of payphones in my neighborhood. I began documenting them, and quickly saw that far from being used by criminals, these phones served as a lifeline for some of the poorest residents in the area. Looking deeper, I found the story behind Rochester's payphones reflected an unusually altruistic ‘felicific calculus' by Frontier Communications. Instead of focusing on profits, they had decided to maintain the payphones in poorer neighborhoods for the good of the community. Many policymakers have opted to view payphones as a social indicator of crime, unfortunately leading to ignorant or even dangerous decisions. In Detroit, Michigan, politicians had all public payphones removed without studying or surveying their actual use.They simply assumed the criminal connection. This decision was based on a further assumption that everyone today must own a mobile phone. Decision-makers lacking facts or any real understanding of issues facing citizens from a different economic class just acted on a misperception. Witnessing that type of reflexive judgement from my colleagues drove me to educate myself. I photographed payphones and mapped their locations, then overlaid them with census maps showing economic status, ethnicity, age and sex, and the city crime map. There was an immediate, direct correlation between the poverty level and location of the payphones. Areas with the most payphones coincided with Rochester neighborhoods where the average family incomes are lower than $20,000 annually. There was also no correlation with high crime neighborhoods. Through Felicific Calculus I hope to challenge negative perceptions of social markers that conflate poverty with crime. Though they are relics to most of us, payphones remain important for residents trapped in lower economic circumstances.
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