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Sumaya Agha
Sumaya Agha
Sumaya Agha

Sumaya Agha

Country: Syria/United States
Birth: 1970

Sumaya Agha is a freelance photographer based in Portland, OR, who began documenting the Syrian refugee crisis over four years ago in Jordan and Europe. She is of Syrian descent with many aunts, uncles, and cousins still living in Damascus. Sumaya holds a BS in Applied Art and Design with a concentration in Photography from Cal Poly State University in San Luis Obispo, CA and an MPA from Middlebury Institute of International Studies. Her worked appeared in the Huffington Post, BBC Focus on Africa, Forbes Africa, and NPR.org, and she was a still photographer for the Academy Award winning film “The Fog of War.” She has lived in Syria, Liberia, and the United States.

Watching from afar as civil war ripped apart Syria, I felt compelled to help the refugees whose lives have been destroyed by the conflict. And with dozens of close relatives enduring the horrors in their hometown of Damascus, I had a personal connection to the crisis. I moved to Amman, Jordan in 2012 and began working as a photographer for humanitarian organizations helping mitigate the crisis that had spilled over from neighboring Syria.

While in Jordan, I spent many days in the refugee camps and host communities, getting to know countless families living there and documenting their substandard living conditions. I heard myriad stories of heartbreaking loss and brutality and enduring spirit, and found that hopelessness is pervasive among the young, as they cannot see a future for themselves.

In January 2016 I went on assignment to Macedonia and Serbia to photograph the refugees migrating through the Balkans. Throughout the freezing winter, 2,200 refugees per day crossed into Serbia. Up to 10,000 a day crossed in warmer months. They came from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, from a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds, including many families with young children. The typical journey went like this: flee their home country, take a perilous raft ride from Turkey to Greece, and then move onward through foreign lands in search of a peaceful home.

Now that the Balkan borders are closed to refugees, thousands are stranded in Eastern Europe, hoping to be relocated to Western Europe. More than 60,000 refugees are in camps throughout Greece, including Ritsona Refugee Camp, where I went on assignment in July to document the crisis.

With no end in sight to the conflict in Syria and elsewhere, the refugee crisis is certain to continue right along with it. That means millions of regular people continuing to seek safety and some sense of normalcy in the absence of peace.
 

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More Great Photographers To Discover

Alexey Titarenko
Russia/United States
1962
Alexey Titarenko is a Russian American artist. He began taking photographs at the beginning of the 1970s, and in 1978 became a member of the well-known Leningrad photographic club Zerkalo, where he had his first solo exhibition (1978). Titarenko graduated from the Department of Cinematic and Photographic Art at Leningrad's Institute of Culture in 1983. Since this was creative activity that had no connection with the official Soviet propaganda, the opportunity to declare himself publicly as an artist came only at the peak of Perestroika in 1989 with his "Nomenclature of Signs" exhibition and the creation of Ligovka 99, a photographers' exhibition space that was independent of the Communist ideology. Titarenko has received numerous awards from institutions such as the Musee de l'Elysee in Lausanne, Switzerland; the Soros Center for Contemporary Art in St. Petersburg; and the Mosaique program of the Luxemburg National Audiovisual Centre. He has participated in many international festivals, biennales, and projects and has had more than 30 personal exhibitions, both in Europe and the United States. His works are in the collections of major European and American museums, including The State Russian Museum (St. Petersburg); the Getty Museum, Los Angeles; the Philadelphia Museum of Fine Art; George Eastman House (Rochester, N.Y.); the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston); the Museum of Fine Arts (Columbus, Ohio); the Museum of Fine Arts (Houston); the Museum of Photographic Arts (San Diego); the Davis Museum and Cultural Center at Wellesley College (Mass.); the European House of Photography (Paris); the Southeast Museum of Photography (Daytona Beach, Fla.); the Santa Barbara Museum of Fine Arts (Cal.); the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University (N.J.); the Reattu Museum of Fine Arts (Arles); and the Musee de l’Elysee Museum for Photography (Lausanne). Major photo series include "City of Shadows" (1992-1994), "Black and White Magic of St. Petersburg" (1995-1997), and "Time Standing Still" (1998-1999). In those series Titarenko paints a bitter picture of a Russia (seen through the lens of St. Petersburg), where people live in a world of unrealized hopes and where time seems to have stopped. Titarenko's photographic series from the 1990s won him worldwide recognition. In 2002 the International Photography Festival at Arles, France, presented all three series at the Reattu Museum of Fine Arts in the exhibition "Les quatres mouvements de St.Petersbourg" curated by Gabriel Bauret. (Source: www.nailyaalexandergallery.com)
Bissera Videnova
Bulgaria
1966
Bissera Videnova is a contemporary photographer, poet, writer, and editor in her native tongue. She became interested in photography at a very young age when she had already participated in movie and television productions and wanted to be in front of and behind the camera at the same time. Mrs. Videnova has published both poetry and prose for academic and online articles in her country. In 2012, she won the Mediterranean Women Forum with a short story. She had a collection of poems published in her native tongue (2017) She is the editor of the first book released in Bulgarian about the artist Christo and Jeanne-Claude. She translated the upcoming issue, again in Bulgarian, of Cyril Christo's poems about Christo and Jeanne-Claude's projects. Her poems and prose were translated and published in English, Korean, Italian, Romani, and French. She participated several times in poetry readings of the Yale Poetry Club in Manhattan. As a photographer, she participated in group exhibitions in Sofia/Bulgaria, Venice/ Italy, and Tampa/ Florida. She is a member of FMoPA (Florida Museum of Photographic Arts), finalist of Siena International 2020,2021; BECA Photo Awards 2021; July 2020 Bissera published her first photo book "The Speed of My Life" inspired by her poem on early emotional loss. Statement Globalization, which overtook after the collapse of communism, the nations enclose in capsules because of the language, are the most common parts of my themes. My quests are in the dissolving of the human ego into the ego of the rest around and into the demands of society. I am interested in both theories of time - one is that time flows linearly in our physical world and the other is metaphysical, that everything happens at the same time. Photography as an art is also relevant to the time. For me, it is not an immediate record of reality, a testimony, but a process that I go through myself first while shooting, then while editing and finally, if necessary, to manipulate the images. I seek the real personal story and not the person as a role model. As a poet, I need wordless images that contain apparent emotionality. I try to find the detail or the anchor remaining in the unconscious after disappearing from the picture; where are the limits of individuality versus the society at large. I am interested in my role as a bridge between the generations. Has what I have learned and what I pass on broken down somewhere on the "wire" and when communication is disrupted in the modern world, even more so now, in a time of the pandemic, are only technologies to blame? Is there a conflict between people and machines - a question I often think about and is the subject of an unfinished play? More and more people are reaching out to photography as a means of expression. Just like poetry and prose, they are beginning to heal their emotional body by separating their personality and life from themselves and starting to look away. The narration of yourself also contains the topics you work on and how you approach the technique. "Regarding the Pain of the Others" on Sontag is also a choice. The books are a testament to the time and culture in which the author lives. Besides, the photographs have one more advantage - the light that can immediately unveil the secret of the photo.
Anne Helene Gjelstad
Anne Helene Gjelstad is an award-winning photographer and educator. After graduation from the Norwegian National Academy of Craft and Art Industry in 1982 she had her own fashion studio in Oslo for 25 years. Among her clients were HM Queen Sonja, Norwegian artists, magazines and the textile industry. In 2006 she felt the need for a change and decided to follow her childhood dream and become a photographer. She took the two-year class in photography at Bilder Nordic School of Photography (2007-08) as well a numerous workshops by some of the leading photographers of our time such as Joyce Tenneson, Mary Ellen Mark, Greg Gorman and Vee Speers. Anne Helene's works has been has been exhibited worldwide; in the National Art Museum of China in Beijing, in Centro Fotografico Alvarez Bravo in Mexico, in Ljubljana in Slovenia, around Estonia including the Lobby in the Estonian Parliament in Tallinn and in the National Museum in Tartu as well as in The House of Photography in Oslo. Anne Helene Gjelstad has her photo studio in an old barn surrounded by beautiful landscape just outside of Oslo. She also gives lectures and teaches portrait photography and postproduction. For her portraits, she is rewarded numerous awards. Statement For eleven years, since 2008, I have worked on portraying the lives of the older women on the small Estonian islands of Kihnu and Manija in the Baltic Sea. Colourful, interesting and friendly, they represent a culture and a way of life that is changing despite the strong anchor of tradition. These robust women are used to working hard, and take care of almost everything. They bring up the children, make the clothes, plough the fields, drive the tractors and take care of the animals. The men spend much time away from home, fishing or working on the mainland or abroad. Life is often hard. This is normal here. Nobody asks questions. You do what you must. This is how you get a big heart and strong hands. The voices of these hushed culture bearers need to be heard and kept for generations to come in a small society that is rapidly changing towards western standards, and where the traditional culture and identity is naturally slipping away. I have aimed to tell the women's stories truthfully and I have photographed their daily lives and activities, clothing and bedrooms, kitchens and farmhouses, the details, the surroundings and landscapes as well as the ceremony held in a deceased person's kitchen only three hours after she had passed away. To tell the fuller story, I have also interviewed some of the women about their lives, their experiences during war and occupation, family life, work, food and thoughts about the future. My book is my contribution to record and help preserve this unique culture for the future and give these old, wise women the voice they deserve as the quiet nation builders they really are.
Joel Sternfeld
United States
1944
Joel Sternfeld (born June 30, 1944) is an American fine-art color photographer. He is noted for his large-format documentary pictures of the United States and helping establish color photography as a respected artistic medium. Sternfeld's work is held in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Sternfeld earned a BA from Dartmouth College and teaches photography at Sarah Lawrence College in New York. He began taking color photographs in 1970 after learning the color theory of Johannes Itten and Josef Albers. Color is an important element of his photographs. American Prospects (1987) is Sternfeld's most known book and explores the irony of human-altered landscapes in the United States. To make the book, Sternfeld photographed ordinary things, including unsuccessful towns and barren-looking landscapes. On This Site: Landscape in Memoriam (1997), is about violence in America. Sternfeld photographed sites of recent tragedies. Next to each photograph is text about the events that happened at that location. From 1991 to 1994 Sternfeld worked with Melinda Hunt to document New York City's public cemetery on Hart Island, resulting in the book Hart Island (1998). Sternfeld has also published books about social class and stereotypes in America: Stranger Passing (2001), an abandoned elevated railway in New York: Walking the High Line (2002), and Sweet Earth: Experimental Utopias in America (2006). When It Changed (2007) contains close-up portraits of delegates debating global warming at the 2005 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Montreal.Source: Wikipedia Joel Sternfeld is an artist-photographer whose work is concerned with utopic and dystopic possibilities of the American experience. Ever since the publication of his landmark study, American Prospects in 1987 his work has maintained conceptual and political aspects, while also being steeped in history, art history, landscape theory and attention to seasonal passage. It is a melancholic, spectacular, funny and profound portrait of America. The curator Kevin Moore has claimed that the work embodies the “synthetic culmination of so many photographic styles of the 1970s, incorporating the humor and social perspicacity of street photography with the detached restraint of New Topographics photographs and the pronounced formalism of works by so many late-decade colorists” (Kevin Moore, Starburst: Color Photography in America 1970-1980). On This Site (1996) examines violence in America while simultaneously raising significant epistemological questions about photographs as objects of knowledge. Sweet Earth: Experimental Utopias in America (2006) “can be seen as a generous respite from the traumatic history in On This Site... It is a survey of American human socialization, alternative ways of living, of hopeful being” (Elin O’Hara Slavik, 2018). All his subsequent work has sought to expand the narrative possibilities of still photography primarily through an authored text. All of his books and bodies of work converse with each other and may be read as a collective whole. His work represents a melding of time and place that serves to elucidate, honor, and warn. The images hold a certain urgency, as their histories survive solely through their photographic representation— they are an archive for the future. Sternfeld is the recipient of two Guggenheim Fellowships and spent a year in Italy on a Rome Prize. He teaches at Sarah Lawrence College, where he holds the Noble Foundation Chair in Art and Cultural History.Source: www.joelsternfeld.net Joel Sternfeld is well known for large-format color photographs that extend the tradition of chronicling roadside America initiated by Walker Evans in the 1930s. Sternfeld's projects have consistently explored the possibility of a collective American identity by documenting ordinary people and places throughout the country. Each project he embarks on is bound by a concept that imbues it with subtle irony, often through insightful visual juxtapositions or by pairing images with informational text. Another characteristic aspect of Sternfeld's work is that color is never arbitrary; it functions in highly sophisticated ways to connect elements and resonate emotion. Sternfeld earned a BA in Art from Dartmouth College in 1965. He began making color photographs in the 1970s after learning the color theory of Johannes Itten and Josef Albers. He initially made street photographs with small- and medium-format cameras, but by the time he produced what would become a seminal project, American Prospects (1987), he was working with an eight-by-ten-inch camera. This enabled him to achieve the crisp details his work is known for. Sternfeld's style-his careful attention to visual qualities combined with an insightful and often ironic view of his subjects was first articulated in American Prospects. One of his best-known images, for example, depicts a fireman shopping for a pumpkin as a house burns in the background. The pumpkins' vibrant oranges match the autumnal colors of the countryside, and ironically, the fire's flames.Source: The J. Paul Getty Museum
Giorgio Di Maio
Giorgio Di Maio (1963, Naples) begins to take photos during his Architectural studies (1990),where he understood the strength of the photography as a mean to extrapolate from the reality a piece of the reality itself, independent in the shape and in the substance having a own narrative meaning. The expositive activity (since 1992) and the professional one (since 1993) went forward together, and every kind of restructuring activity is an opportunity for linguistic research. In 2003 he held a Master in "Fotografia dello spettacolo" by Silvia Lelli, At European Institute of Design in Milano, that introduced him to a deep research into the American Photography. Between 20017 and 2010, in Basilicata, he developed the series "Paesaggi lucani" and tried in the same period the digital photo machine. In Di Maio, then, woke up his environmental soul that bring the artist in 2011 to a new exhibition "Non è Napoli" dedicated to his own city and its beauty during the rubbish scandal. Since 2013 he slowed down the architect profession starting to study philosophy as theorical support to the practical photography, going from Naples to Milan very often, and vice versa. Then he creates" Armonia nascosta", from his studies, that is written with a specific modus operandi, aware of his reasons and purpose. Starting form Heraclitus, the Hidden Harmony show the transmigration of the mystical and philosophical roots of Paul Klee e Vassilij Kandinskij's abstract art til the photography, transforming it into a growth process both spiritual and social of a man, who goes through the evidence of the visual data looking for the Hidden Harmony as it appears today. Some projects "I sentieri dell'acqua e Chiaroscuro" (2013-2014), "Feminine, Photokina" (2016), "Cristianesimo Arte e Paganesimo" (2017), "Correspondances" (2018), "Milano in Armonia" (2018), "Il mare di Leopardi (2020), always continuing his studies of the immaterial in the material world. In 2017 he published his Photographic-philosophic web site of his research, that will be considered by different international photographic magazines. Then he started an intense exhibitions period, among public exhibition and festivals, having so many positive feedbacks from the public but also from the sector critical. In 2019, the Prof. Guido Ferraro, full professor of "Semiotica e Teoria della narrazione" at Torino's University, named Di Maio's research with those by Franco Fontana, Luigi Ghirri and Mario Giacomelli. Giorgio di Maio goes from a city to another, looking for the Hidden Harmony in nowadays reality. About Hidden Harmony The project that I would represent is the mystical and philosophical roots of Abstract Art transmigration into the Photography. The Art as knowledge tool to understand the sense. Going over the phenomenon, the appearances, searching for the law that create each event, for everyone also individual or being part of a whole. Basically there is the rejection of materialism, the faith in progress and particularly the faith in the spiritual progress of the men helped from the artist which "has in himself a mysterious visionary force....to see and to show". The photographer artist isn't a perfected camera who think that the knowledge and the experiences are only a replica of reality, who limit to reproduction of the exteriority, closed from the barriers of the phenomenon, but he know and must to express an ethical content which he gets from the sensitive data. The equilibrium that comes out from the tens and integration of differences, where the opposites converge completing themselves and the materiality falls to leave space to the spiritual presence, transform every shot in a travel through the space-time instances, instead of being the static representation of the place. In the Photography the language remain the same, using shape and color like the musical notes that touch the soul when you press a key and the human spirit vibrate. The research is the Harmony: to identify in the reality different elements in contrast with each other but in a unitary composition to create a mutual stimulating of the sense of balance and rest. The Peace. The expressionism of Der Blaue Reiter started in the of age of the new spirituality. Instead the wars and the extermination camps comes. It doesn't mean that the materialism has won but only a wrong idea of the temporal date. We don't know how much time need to achieve the spiritual progress of the humanity, maybe thousands of years or more. The important thing is that each era made a new step in right direction and in the contemporary era the Photography could be the most powerful means to give a contribution in this way.
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