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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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Pieter Henket
The Netherland
1979
Pieter Henket is a Dutch photographer living and working in New York City. His notable work includes shooting the cover of Lady Gaga’s debut album The Fame, and photographing National Congolese acting out their mythologies in the Congo rainforest for the book Congo Tales published by Random House / Prestel Publishing in 2018. He is known for a photographic style that takes inspiration from the 17th-century Dutch Golden Age of painting. Henket was born in Geldrop, Netherlands. He is the son of the Dutch architect Hubert-Jan Henket and the nephew of the Dutch photographer Bertien van Manen. After high school in the Netherlands, Henket moved to the States to take a three-month film course at the New York Film Academy, followed by a documentary-film-making course at the NYU film school. Shortly after, Henket got his start by interning for director Joel Schumacher. In 1999, he worked on the set of the film Flawless, starring Robert De Niro and Philip Seymour Hoffman. He had a long-time collaboration with recording artist and producer Ryan Leslie. He has worked with celebrities such as Anjelica Huston, Mary-Kate Olsen, Sir Ben Kingsley, Kristen Stewart and Lady Gaga for whose debut album The Fame Henket shot. In 2010, the iconic image was presented at the American Woman exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. In 2015 Henket was commissioned by Tales of Us in Berlin to photograph Congolese from the Mbomo District acting out their mythologies in the Odzala Kokoua National Park for the book Congo Tales. Source: Wikipedia About Congo Tales In the deep heart of Africa lies a tropical rainforest second only in size to the Amazon – the Congo Basin. It measures 500 million acres, spans 6 nations, and is home to some of the largest swaths of intact tropical rainforest in the world, with the pristine Odzala Kokoua National Park as the crown jewel. Known to ecologists as the world’s second lung, the Congo Basin is the Earth’s other Amazon – as vital to preventing runaway Climate Change as the Brazilian rainforest and as vulnerable to deforestation and abuse. Yet the Congo Basin falls far short of the Amazon when it comes to the world’s awareness of it as a major player in the global environment, a cathedral of nature’s treasures, and a stopgap against looming ecological catastrophe. Published in 2018 by Prestel, Congo Tales is intended to help solve this lack of awareness, and help create a conservation infrastructure for this critical pillar of the world’s fragile ecological balance. Upturning the traditional conventions of fear-based environmental messaging and the portrayal of Africa solely as a place of plague and war, Congo Tales takes a completely different approach to communicating the urgency of conservation efforts in this region. Channeling the primal heartbeat of one of the world’s most powerful ecosystems and the people who call it home, the mythological tales of the Congolese – of supernatural forces in control of life and death, of ritualistic initiations into adulthood, of the laws of nature that lie outside the laws of people – are revealed as a treasure trove of universal wisdom that is both existential and pragmatic, with the unspoiled Odzala Kokoua National Park as stage and actor.Source: The Independant Photographer
Arnold Newman
United States
1918 | † 2006
Arnold Abner Newman was an American photographer, noted for his "environmental portraits" of artists and politicians. He was also known for his carefully composed abstract still-life images. Born in Manhattan, Newman grew up in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and later moved to Miami Beach, Florida. In 1936, he studied painting and drawing at the University of Miami. Unable to afford to continue after two years, he moved to Philadelphia to work for a studio, making 49-cent portraits in 1938. Newman returned to Florida in 1942 to manage a portrait studio in West Palm Beach. Three years later, he opened his own business in Miami Beach. In 1946, Newman relocated to New York, opened Arnold Newman Studios and worked as a freelance photographer for Fortune, LIFE, and Newsweek. Though never a member, Newman frequented the Photo League during the 1940s. Newman found his vision in the empathy he felt for artists and their work. Although he photographed many personalities—Marlene Dietrich, John F. Kennedy, Harry S. Truman, Piet Mondrian, Pablo Picasso, Arthur Miller, Marilyn Monroe, Ronald Reagan, Mickey Mantle, and Audrey Hepburn—he maintained that even if the subject is not known, or is already forgotten, the photograph itself must still excite and interest the viewer. Arnold Newman is often credited with being the photographer who articulated and who consistently employed the genre of environmental portraiture, in which the photographer uses a carefully framed and lit setting, and its contents, to symbolize the individual's life and work; a well-known example being his portrait of Igor Stravinsky in which the lid of his grand piano forms a gargantuan musical note representative of the melodic structure of the composer's work. Newman normally captured his subjects in their most familiar surroundings with representative visual elements showing their professions and personalities. A musician for instance might be photographed in their recording studio or on stage, a Senator or other politician in their office or a representative building. Using a large-format camera and tripod, he worked to record every detail of a scene. Newman's best-known images were in black and white, although he often photographed in color. His 1946 black and white portrait of Stravinsky seated at a grand piano became his signature image, even though it was rejected by Harper's Bazaar, the magazine that gave the assignment to Newman. He was one of the few photographers allowed to make a portrait of the famously camera-shy Henri Cartier-Bresson. Among Newman's best-known color images is an eerie portrait from 1963 that shows former Nazi industrialist and minister of armament Alfried Krupp in one of Krupp's factories. Newman admits his personal feelings influenced his portrayal of Krupp. On December 19, 2005, Newman made his last formal portrait of director James (Jimmy) Burrows at the NBC studio on the Saturday Night Live stage. This session was particularly special for Newman because he had photographed Jimmy's father Abe Burrows several times.Source: Wikipedia Arnold Newman (1918-2006) is acknowledged as one of the great masters of the 20th and 21st century and his work has changed portraiture. He is recognized as the “Father of Environmental Portraiture.” His work is collected and exhibited in the major museums around the world including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Chicago Art Institute; The Los Angeles Museum of Art; The Philadelphia Museum; The Tate and the National Portrait Gallery, London; The Israel Museum, Jerusalem; and many other prominent museums in Europe, Japan, South America, Australia, etc. Newman was an important contributor to publications such as The New Yorker, Newsweek, Vanity Fair, LIFE, Look, Holiday, Harper's Bazaar, Esquire, Town and Country, Scientific American, New York Times Magazine, and many others. There are numerous books published of Newman’s work in addition to countless histories of photography, catalogues, articles and television programs. He received many major awards by the leading professional organizations in the U.S. and abroad including the American Society of Media Photographers, The International Center of Photography, The Lucie Award, The Royal Photographic Society Centenary Award as well as France’s “Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters.” In 2005, Photo District News named Newman as one of the 25 most influential living photographers. In 2006, Newman was awarded The Gold Medal for Photography by The National Arts Club. He is the recipient of nine honorary doctorates and has lectured and conducted workshops throughout the country and the world. Arnold Newman died on June 6, 2006 in New York City. He was 88 years old.Source: arnoldnewman.com Arnold Newman is widely renowned for pioneering and popularizing the environmental portrait. With his method of portraiture, he placed his sitters in surroundings representative of their professions, aiming to capture the essence of an individual’s life and work. Though this approach is commonplace today, his technique was highly unconventional in the 1930s when began shooting his subjects as such. He is also known for his carefully composed, abstract still lifes.Source: Howard Greenberg Gallery "We do not take pictures with our cameras, but with our hearts and minds,” so said Arnold Newman, one of the world's best-known and most admired photographers to have ever lived. Known for his “environmental portraits” of artists and politicians, he captured the essence of his subjects by showing them in their natural surroundings. As he said, “I didn't just want to make a photograph with some things in the background. The surroundings had to add to the composition and the understanding of the person. No matter who the subject was, it had to be an interesting photograph. Just to simply do a portrait of a famous person doesn't mean a thing.” Newman was a master at composition and was meticulous about his work. He even used a large-format camera and tripod to ensure that every detail of a scene was recorded. His signature image, the one most will remember him by, is the last one in this post. It's a beautiful, black and white portrait of Russian Composer Igor Stravinsky seated at a grand piano. Look closely and you'll notice that the piano was strategically silhouetted against a blank wall, creating an illusion that the lid is an abstract musical note.Source: My Modern Met
Jeff Wall
Canada
1946
Jeffrey "Jeff" Wall, OC, RSA is a Canadian artist best known for his large-scale back-lit Cibachrome photographs and art history writing. Wall has been a key figure in Vancouver's art scene since the early-1970s. Early in his career, he helped define the Vancouver School and he has published essays on the work of his colleagues and fellow Vancouverites Rodney Graham, Ken Lum, and Ian Wallace. His photographic tableaux often take Vancouver's mixture of natural beauty, urban decay, and postmodern and industrial featurelessness as their backdrop. Wall received his MA from the University of British Columbia in 1970, with a thesis titled, Berlin Dada and the Notion of Context. That same year, Wall stopped making art. With his wife, Jeannette, a native of England whom he had met as a student in Vancouver, and their two young sons, he moved to London to do postgraduate work at the Courtauld Institute from 1970-73, where he studied with Manet expert T.J. Clark. Wall was an assistant professor at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (1974-75), associate professor at Simon Fraser University (1976-87), taught for many years at the University of British Columbia and lectured at European Graduate School. He has published essays on Dan Graham, Rodney Graham, Roy Arden, Ken Lum, Stephan Balkenhol, On Kawara, and other contemporary artists. In 2002, Wall was awarded the Hasselblad Award. In 2006, he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. Jeff Wall was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in December 2007. In March 2008, Wall was awarded the Audain Prize for Lifetime Achievement, British Columbia's annual award for the visual arts.Source: Wikipedia Jeff Wall was born in Vancouver in 1946. Attentive to the accidental encounters that can inspire an image, he recreates flashes of inspiration obtained from sources as varied as personal recollections to something noticed on the street, to daydreams, and encounters with paintings or photographs. With an idea in mind, Wall goes to exacting lengths to produce the picture, which may include constructing a scene from scratch, factoring in the position of the sun over several weeks, and improvisational rehearsals with performers. Wall’s pictures include both fantastical scenes—a picnic with vampires, dead troops conversing, a grave flooded by the ocean—and vernacular images of people on the margins of society or in moments of exchange and quiet contemplation. Orchestrating his compositions with the creative liberties that a painter would take, the curious magic and discipline of Wall’s work is that it all takes place in a state of photographic realism where every action, object, and condition is simultaneously artificial and entirely natural. Often printed on the grand scale of a history painting - exhibited either as backlit lightboxes akin to advertising displays or as crisp inkjet and silver gelatin prints - Wall’s works reveal their poetic potential through portraying empathetic characters, picturing impossible vantage points, and capturing elusive moments.Source: Art21 Wall has said, "The only way to continue in the spirit of the avant-garde is to experiment with your relation to tradition" (Artnews, Nov. 1995, p.222). In 1977, during a visit to the Prado in Madrid, he was moved by the paintings of Velázquez and Goya. He felt that, due to what he saw as the dominance of photography and film, it was no longer possible for modern artists to paint like the great masters. Seeking a new method to represent everyday life pictorially, Wall found a suitable medium in advertising hoarding lightboxes, and made his first backlit transparencies in 1978. Early works, such as The Thinker (1986) based on Rodin's sculpture of that name, referred directly to great works in the history of art. Recently, he has more actively explored the literary and filmic aspects of his art. The majority of his pieces are set in Vancouver and contain references to art, the media, and socio-economic problems.Source: Tate
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