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Roger Grasas
Roger Grasas
Roger Grasas

Roger Grasas

Country: Spain
Birth: 1970

Roger Grasas (Barcelona, 1970) begins his professional career as a photographer in 1998 documenting cooperation projects for national and international foundations and NGOs as well as for UNESCO. Since then, traveling becomes the core of his artistic work, translating his experiences and reflections into visual arts.

Between 2005 and 2009 he is the director of the BisouFoto communication studio and co-founder of the phototroupe Studio agency. In both projects he is in charge of the commissions related to travel photography, editorial portrait and social report. Regular contributor to several Spanish and international publications.

In 2009 he moves to Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) where he leads the foundation of the photography department at Imagine Communication, a high end quality agency for social photography and events. During his stay in Saudi Arabia and later on until 2016 he develops the project 'Inshallah', a personal project about the extreme transformation of Middle eastern societies through the urban contemporary landscape in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Emirates, Oman etc.

His body of work approaches the role and importance that technology reveals within the post-modern digital society, the state of strangeness and confusion that human being suffers in the contemporary landscape and the increasingly connections between art and science. Sociopolitical issues such as globalization and philosophical concepts such as the 'difference', 'hyperreality' and 'alienation' generated by the postcapitalist society and the accelerated implementation of new technologies are also common places of their work.

Since 1997 he has combined his professional activity with teaching in photography. Between 1997 and 2004 he teaches Photography and Landscape Production courses at the UPC's Image and Multimedia Technology Center. He also works as an academic at the Groc School of Plastic Arts (Barcelona), at the Communication Faculty of the National Autonomous University of Mexico and at the Mamori Art Lab Foundation in Brazil. He has also given various workshops and seminars related to travel anthropology and contemporary society such as "The Art of Travel: Photography and Travel" and "Why Travel? Ethics and Aesthetics of Leisure and Tourism".

His His works have been exhibited on galleries of Spain, France, Netherlands, Germany, U.S.A., El Salvador, Saudi Arabia and Mexico.

About 'Min Turab'

In the space of a few decades, the landscapes of the Arab Gulf region have undergone a wholesale mutation driven by increased income from the oil, globalization and mass tourism. These countries have seen so a huge transformation, moving from the nomadic lifestyle of the bedouin tribes to a hi-tech urban society. The work takes the title from an arabic expression meaning “from the land”, and is an observation of this process oscillation between these two poles: an austere, traditional civilization on one extreme, and a postmodern culture under the powerful influence of capitalism and consumerism on the other.

Founded on the idea of travel as an artistic method, these photographs hold up a mirror to the dyad of nature and technology in a place where the old and the new come together and the lines between them blur. This tension is evident both in the vast desert landscapes and in the images of cities, where the past and the future are compressed into the close quarters of the present. These representations of the landscapes of Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates and Qatar throw into sharp relief the binary opposition of the natural and the constructed. This sense of dislocation feeds into this idea of travel as an artistic dérive, drifting with no particular destination in mind, in search of new situations and experiences.

In these dreamlike images, the author reflects on the concepts of the real and the unreal, with viewers left uncertain as to what is really going on. Almost completely lacking in human presence, these photographs show the mark left upon the landscape by consumer society at the same time as they seek out the beauty in strangeness. With a dry wit, the artist focuses his gaze on the idea of the simulacrum. The visual and conceptual glimpses of this world documents the colonization of contemporary landscapes by technology and the alienation of human beings in the digital societies of the Arabian Gulf countries. These images of silent architecture do not offer viewers any conclusions, but rather invite them to reflect and leave the way clear for a multiplicity of interpretations that connect with viewers' own imaginary.
 

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Alicia Moneva
The common thread in all my work is the footprint of the human, with humanized objects and spaces made by man, architectural painting and photography, trying to explain social and psychological concepts through the figure.Coming from the world of painting my type of photography is built. Based on a generic idea, will be taking individual photos that will form part of the final work. Each shot in digital format, will later join with the help of photoshop. This tool is almost exclusively used for the matrix composition. All these pictures are real, the waters of colors are stained for each session, lights, ropes, etc. are used maybe that way I put me more in the concept that I want to express.My work models are people I know, in my environment, there is a complicity and prior understanding, they bring to the session his way of expressing the idea, much enriched the work. Also, say the interest that raised me shadows, which is evidenced in my way of photographing. Penumbra, in my opinion, they dimension the vacuum of space, they materialize it, make it real. My work is the antithesis of the photography, which I would call operating room, without just shadows.Overhead view of my work, is strongly influenced by the years that I was in contact with the architects. At the end of my studies of biological sciences I worked continuously with them. My task there was the explanation of the urban projects through roof planes. With a pictorial abstraction were given a human scale. I was very lucky, I found interesting people that opened a world of possibilities, which taught me to see after looking at. At the same time, painting was transformed into something serious in my life, I started to exhibit and to devote myself more professionally to art.Photography was in principle a work tool, a tool more for my collection of data, it helped me to paint everything you had no way of doing so natural. Little by little I found comfortable with the photographic image and the human figure to express the ideas that were emerging. I went through a very unproductive at work time, since I opposed the painting to photography, when they were actually for me very complementary. At this time that seemed to lost went back to College, first studying psychology and later philosophy. None of the two races ended them, as it was not so important to have an academic degree, but if you continue learning, similar of being alive. My exhibitions were photography, although in principle and respect for the world of photography, I thought that I was an intruder, had the desire and the security to do so, also the need.Self-portrait I submit for publication to reflect a state of confusion we all, from time to time we have suffered, when a mesh does not let you see clearly the reality. As if it were a necessary self-deception on occasions.Alicia Moneva Madrid, October 2013All about Alicia Moneva:AAP: When did you realize you wanted to be a photographer?It was progressive. I needed to work with the human figure and I felt more comfortable with photography.AAP: Where did you study photography?I didn't study painting or photography. My teachers were architects who knew the method and had perception.AAP: How long have you been a photographer?I have been taking photographs for 20 years but, professionally, just 10.AAP: Do you remember your first shot? What was it?They were objects that I wanted to paint in my Studio and I couldn't move them from the place they were. And also black and white portraits, many portraits.AAP: What or who inspires you?I am inspired by philosophy, anthropology, biology... and now also particle physics. Science and arts basically.AAP: Do you have a favorite photograph or series?My favorite series are the last I have been working on: "the disease in our culture", which is about chronically ill people, the unknown heroes of our time. It is a tribute to them, their carers and families. AAP: What kind of gear do you use? Camera, lens, digital, film?When I started I used an old Pentax, with black and white rolls for portraits and color rolls for objects I painted later. Now I work with a Canon 5D Mark II and a Canon 7D. The lenses are also Canon.AAP: Do you spend a lot of time editing your images? For what purpose?My pictures are made of many individual photographs. I use photo editing programs to assemble and compose the final image. For me it is important to convey the idea I have in mind and I edit the photos until I think the concept is understood.AAP: Favorite(s) photographer(s)?I really like Spanish creativity. My favorite are perhaps Chema Madoz for his pulchritudinous images which I would summarize in "less is more". And Cristina García Rodero because she transmits me all the strength of human feelings.AAP: What advice would you give a young photographer?To be passionate about what he is doing, to follow his instincts. And, especially, to be honest with what he thinks, beacuse that will be his way of looking at what the others see.AAP: What mistake should a young photographer avoid?Wanting to be very original? Or thinking you already know everything?AAP: An idea, a sentence, a project you would like to share?I would mention a fragment of one of José Hierro's poems that summarizes well how sometimes a moment can be turned into something timeless. "...But there are things that do not die and others who never lived. And there are some that fill the universe, And it is not possible to get rid of its memory". (José Hierro / "Alegría" 1947).AAP: What are your projects?I have been working lately on a new project with another Spanish photographer, Judith Sansó. It is shared project with a performance which combines photography and video art. The first of these series is called "the distance between her and yesterday is a photo" and talks about memories and how they shape our personality. These are some of the links to the performance and the making of the video work.YouTube video (In Spanish)YouTube videoYouTube videoAAP: Your best memory as a photographer?None in particular. I like when I start a new project.AAP: Your worst souvenir as a photographer?I can't remember. A well-known neurologist (Á. Pascual Leone) once said that it's more important to forget than to remember, especially bad memoriesAAP:If you were someone else who would it be?I would have liked to be a good silent film director like Fritz Lang, Renoir or Murnau.
Arkady Shaikhet
Russia
1898 | † 1959
Arkady Samoylovich Shaikhet was at the beginning a locksmith apprentice at a shipyard in Nikolaiev where he was born. He came to Moscow in 1918. At first he worked in a photographic studio were he retouched images of others but in 1924 his career as a photojournalist started. He worked for Rabochaïa Gazeta and the weekly Ogonek/Ogoniok. He was a pioneer in a new style of documentary photography called " artistic reportage". He became a member of the union of proletarian russian photographers (ROPF), a rival group of the other "October" founded by Aleksander Rodtchenko. Shaikhet favored a rigorous journalistic point of vue and his work was very sensitive to sociological problems. His images were at the frontier of documentary and artistic photography. In 1931 with two of his friends, M. Alpert and Sergueï Toules and also the editor in chief Mezhericher, he took 80 pictures in four days and called his series "24 hours in the life of the family Filippov, steelworker in the red proletarian factory of Moscow" These documents were published in the German magazine "Arbeiter Illustrierte Zeitung (A.I.Z.) and then in the Russian magazine "USSR in Construction". They had a huge international impact. In 1928 Shaikhet presented 30 images at the big exhibition "Ten years of Soviet photography" and won the first prize. In 1930 he helped Russian photojournalists show their work at the Camera Club in London. During the 30s he took a lot of images of the economical and social changes happening in his country. He followed the Turkestan–Siberian railway, that connects Central Asia and Siberia but also the first cars and tractors. He was a war reporter during World War II for the newspaper Frontavaïa Illioustratsia.
Charles Nègre
France
1820 | † 1880
Charles Nègre (French: 9 May 1820 - 16 January 1880) was a pioneering photographer, born in Grasse, France. He studied under the painters Paul Delaroche, Ingres and Drolling before establishing his own studio at 21 Quai Bourbon on the Île Saint-Louis, Paris. Delaroche encouraged the use of photography as research for painting; Nègre started with the daguerreotype process before moving on to calotypes. His "Chimney-Sweeps Walking", an albumen print taken on the Quai Bourbon in 1851, may have been a staged study for a painting, but is nevertheless considered important to photographic history for its being an early instance of an interest in capturing movement and freezing it forever in one moment. Having been passed over for the Missions Héliographiques which commissioned many of his peers, Nègre independently embarked on his own remarkably extensive study of the Midi region. The interesting shapes in his 1852 photograph of buildings in Grasse have caused it to be seen as a precursor to art photography. In 1859, he was commissioned by Empress Eugénie to photograph the newly established Imperial Asylum in the Bois de Vincennes, a hospital for disabled workingmen. He used both albumen and salt print, and was known also as a skilled printer of photographs, using a gravure method of his own development. A plan commissioned by Napoleon III to print photographs of sculpture never came to fruition, and in 1861 Nègre retired to Nice, where he made views and portraits for holiday makers. He died in Grasse in 1880.Source: Wikipedia
R.J. Kern
United States
1978
Abelardo Morell
Abelardo (Abe) Morell (born 1948 in Havana, Cuba) is a Boston-based photographer. Morell and his family fled Cuba in 1962, moving to New York City. Morell earned a Bachelor of Arts from Bowdoin College in 1977, and a Master of Fine Arts from Yale University School of Art in 1981. He received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from Bowdoin in 1997. Morell is well known in the photographic community for creating camera obscura images in various places around the world and photographing these. Morell was awarded the Cintas Foundation fellowship in 1992 and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in 1993. Morell is currently a professor of photography at the Massachusetts College of Art. He is represented by Bonni Benrubi Gallery, NYC. A documentary on elements of Morell's life and work, Shadow of the House, was released in 2007. (Source: Wikipedia) He has received a num­ber of awards and grants, which include a Cin­tas grant in 1992 a Guggen­heim fel­low­ship in 1994 a Rap­pa­port Prize in 2006 and an Alturas Foun­da­tion grant in 2009 to pho­to­graph the land­scape of West Texas. He was the recip­i­ent of the Inter­na­tional Cen­ter of Pho­tog­ra­phy 2011 Infin­ity award in Art. His work has been col­lected and shown in many gal­leries, insti­tu­tions and muse­ums, includ­ing the Museum of Mod­ern Art, The Whit­ney Museum of Amer­i­can Art, the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Art Museum in New York, The Chicago Art Insti­tute, The San Fran­cisco Museum of Mod­ern Art, The Hous­ton Museum of Art, The Boston Museum of Fine Art, The Vic­to­ria & Albert Museum and over sev­enty other muse­ums in the United States and abroad. A ret­ro­spec­tive of his work orga­nized jointly by the Art Insti­tute of Chicago, The Getty and The High Museum in Atlanta will be on view start­ing in the sum­mer of 2013. His pub­li­ca­tions include a pho­to­graphic illus­tra­tion of Alice’s Adven­tures in Won­der­land (1998) by Dut­ton Children’s Books, A Cam­era in a Room (1995) by Smith­son­ian Press, A Book of Books (2002) and Cam­era Obscura (2004) by Bulfinch Press and Abelardo Morell (2005), pub­lished by Phaidon Press. Recent pub­li­ca­tions include a lim­ited edi­tion book by The Museum of Mod­ern Art in New York of his Cliché Verre images with a text by Oliver Sacks. He lives with his wife, Lisa McE­laney, a film­maker, and his chil­dren Brady and Laura in Brook­line, Massachusetts. Film­maker Allie Humenuk has made a film enti­tled Shadow of the House, an in-depth doc­u­men­tary about Morell’s work and expe­ri­ence as an artist. (Source: www.abelardomorell.net)
Elisabeth Sunday
United States
Elisabeth Sunday has been photographing indigenous people across the African continent for the last 26 years. Using a flexible mirror she created for the purpose (and hand carries unaccompanied to some of the most remote and dangerous spots on earth), Sunday has created her own analog process that prefigured Photoshop that she calls "Mirror Photography". Her method of photographing her subjects emphasizes and enhances their grace, elongating the body and the folds of their garments, creating an impressionistic effect one might be used to seeing in painting but which is unexpected in a medium from which we often expect a more literal representation. The effect is closer to that of dance, in which the body has reshaped itself and learned to move in a way that proclaims and exaggerates all its best qualities, while momentarily silencing its flaws, and in which movement itself has an aesthetic, rather than merely practical, purpose. Typically Sunday captures an elongated vertical reflection, rushing and bleeding like a single expressive brush stroke. Although Sunday herself is never visible in the frame, she is as much actor as she is director within the drama of these photographs, as she strives to represent not so much the personal characteristics of her subjects, but an essential gesture that connects a given incarnation with the long history of the soul. In her Anima and Animus series, Sunday mediates on eternal masculine and feminine energies, using warlike Koro men and nomadic Tuareg women as subjects. The Anima women are hidden under flowing garments, slanting to left or right or reaching upward like dark flames against the steady white curve of a dune. The Animus figures rise like tough young trees or spears, rooted somewhere beneath the picture plane. Grace and violence here seem cast together in a solid block, As with so many of Elisabeth Sunday's figures, these seem composed of stone or bone more than living flesh. Elisabeth Sunday has shown in galleries and Museums the world over including the Cleveland Museum of Art, Centre cultural Calouste Gulbenkian, Paris, France, the African American Museum, Los Angeles; International Photography Biennial, Brecsia, Italy, UC Berkeley Art Museum; Salle d' Exposition, Arles, France, Le Maison de la Photographie, Aosta, Italy, Exploratorium Museum, San Francisco, CA Smithsonian Anakostia Museum, Center for African American History and Culture, Washington D.C. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and The Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Her work is included in major collections: The Corcoran Art Gallery, The University Art Museum at Berkeley, The Cantor Art Center at Stanford University, The Los Angeles Museum of Art, The Museum of Fine Art-Houston, Le Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris, France, The San Francisco Museum of Art, and The Eastman Kodak Collection. Her private collectors include Graham Nash, Quincy Jones, Gloria Steinem, Linda Grey, Bill Cosby, Bonnie Raitt and Alice Walker.Source Frank Pictures Gallery
Mary Anne Mitchell
United States
Mary Anne Mitchell is a fine art photographer working primarily with analog processes. Her most recent series Meet me In my Dreams is shot using wet plate collodion. The images depict situations, often mysterious, which evoke her southern roots. She recently was a finalist in the 8th Edition of the Julia Margaret Cameron Awards and has been invited to exhibit some of this series in the 4th Biennial of Photography to be held in Berlin. Her work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions across the country and can be found in private and corporate collections across the US, Dubai, Taiwan, and Canada. She lives in Atlanta, GA. Source: www.maryannemitchellphotography.com About Meet Me in My Dreams 2018 This series is inspired by my poem "Meet Me in My Dreams". The setting for many of the images is a fairytale landscape. My use of the young people celebrates the universal feeling of limitless potential that most people experience in their youth. The ghostlike figures are reflections of the later years when beauty and youth begin to fade. They suggest the feeling that one is becoming invisible and yet still present and powerful. The work speaks to family, memory, and the ethereal passage of time. The images are created using wet plate collodion. I scan and enlarge them to enhance the organic qualities of the medium. These are the elements of my dreams. Meet Me in My Dreams Walking through the forest of my dreams I see a varied cast of characters. Some are known And some are strangers. Some are real, Some imagined. I catch a glimpse of something yet I look again and nothing is there, perhaps scattered by the wind. My eyes are tricked by the play of light on each and every tree. I sometimes sense I am not alone and someone watches me. The stories told are mine alone. Imagination fuels my memories and my vision is revealed. I invite you to come and meet me in my dreams. All about Mary Anne Mitchell:I am a Georgia native and have exhibited my work in solo and group exhibitions throughout the United States. My photographs have been featured in online publications such as Burn and Plates to Pixels and can be found in private and corporate collections around the country.AAP: When did you realize you wanted to be a photographer?As a freshman in college, I bought a 35mm camera and took a class to learn how to use it and fell in love!AAP: Where did you study photography?Received a BFA from UGA in Athens, GAAAP: What or who inspires you?I always loved Edward Weston and Cartier Bresson as far as the masters of photography. My kids are currently my muses.AAP: How could you describe your style?Much of my work captures authentic moments in atmospheric b/w.AAP: What kind of gear do you use?I shoot film and use mostly 35mm Nikon cameras or Holga or Blackbird Fly plastic cameras.AAP: Do you spend a lot of time editing your images?In darkroom some dodging and burning.AAP: Favorite(s) photographer(s)?I always loved Edward Weston and Cartier Bresson as far as the masters of photography. There are so many contemporary photographers doing amazing work...hard to pick...really love Vivian Maier and her whole backstory is so fascinating.AAP: What advice would you give a young photographer?Shoot constantly but selectively.AAP: Your best memory has a photographer?Strolling anywhere in Europe, camera in hand!AAP: Your worst souvenir has a photographer?A soaking wet Nikon and lens after being knocked over in a canoe while trying to get an incredible shot!
Michael Ackerman
Israel/United States
1967
Born in Tel Aviv, Israel. His family moves to New York in 1974. Lives and works in Warsaw. Since his first exhibition, in 1999, Michael Ackerman has made his mark by bringing a new, radical and unique approach. His work on Varanasi, entitled "End Time City," breaks away from all sorts of exoticism or any anecdotal attempt at description, to question time and death with a freedom granted by a distance from the panoramic – whose usage he renewed – to squares or rectangles. In black and white, with permanent risk that led him to explore impossible lighting, he allowed the grainy images to create enigmatic and pregnant visions. Michael Ackerman seeks – and finds – in the world he traverses, reflections of his personal malaise, doubts and anguish. He received the Nadar Award for his book "End Time City" in 1999, and the Infinity Award for Young Photographer by the International Center of Photography in 1998. In 2009, he won the SCAM Roger Pic Award for his series "Departure, Poland". His last book "Half Life" has been published in 2010 by Robert Delpire. In 2014, he collaborated with Vincent Courtois, cellist, and Christian Caujolle, behind the project, in a show called “L'intuition” which proposes a dialogue between photography and music creation. This show was presented, in particular, as part of the festival Banlieues Bleues and for the Rencontres d'Arles 2014.Source: Agence VU Selected Publications 2wice, Abitare, Aperture, Art On Paper, Beaux Arts, Die Zeit, Doubletake, Eyemazing, French Photo, Granta, Harpers, India Magazine, La Humanite, Internazionale, Les Inrockuptibles, Liberation, Le Matin, Le Monde 2, Metropolis, New York Magazine, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, The New Yorker, Ray Gun, La Repubblica delle Donne, Rolling Stone, Stern and The Village Voice. Awards SCAM Roger Pic Award, 2009. Prix Nadar, End Time City, 1999. Best Documentary of 1999, photo-eye, 1999. Infinity Award, Young Photographer, International Center of Photography, 1998. 2014 L’intuition – A projection in collaboration with musician Vincent Courtois, curated by Christian Caujolle. Performed In la Friche Belle de Mai, Marseille, 4 Fevrier Le Lux Scene national de Valence, Festival Banlieues blues, Paris and Rencontres photographiques d’Arles SUSPENSION Noun: Suspension, Verb: suspend: “To cause to stop for a period, hold in abeyance; suspend judgment.” In Michael Ackerman's work, documentary and autobiography conspire with fiction, and all of the above dissolve into hallucination. The particular journeys of his book Half Life encompass New York, Havana, Berlin, Naples, Paris, Warsaw, and Krakow, but the locations aren’t necessarily recognizable at all. Michael has been moving towards this erasure of geographical and other distinctions in his photographs for some time. It hasn’t become dogma - the Smoke photographs shot in Atlanta’s Cabbagetown remain a beautifully regional document, but they document a neighborhood as a particular dream state rather than a set of facts, and the photos could wander easily into his other bodies of work. In all cases, there is surely a trajectory away from the constraints of a traditional documentary mode towards a very different way of getting at the world. Some notes about particular photos in Half Life: A family, seen on a decaying porcelain tombstone portrait - solarized by decades of exposure - is falling apart, as families do, is holding on together, as families do. The shape of their little monument is uncannily like that of the Hotel Centrum on a later page, where such a family, had they existed in the same era, would not have been able to stay. The Centrum, a modern Polish megalith, floats absurdly in the frame, freed from all scale but heavy on the page. A naked man kneeling on a bed; we find him in supplication or some unspecific bondage. He is trapped, caught between stations, and the terrible but accepted scratch lines on the negative make it feel like TV or video, as if the man is seen through some screen, receding. It’s no longer a portrait of a particular person. It seems as if the man has become some vague entity, a sick feeling, a migraine headache, I don’t even know. A man goes up stairs or an escalator and his hand is ridiculously long, maybe like that of Nosferatu in Murnau’s silent film. The stairs begin in Lodz but, according to the next page, pass a landing in Havana. Suspension... A woman, naked, holds her arms against her torso. She looks up, somehow in simultaneous surprise and recognition. I can’t say if her face shows love or sadness or fear, but there’s something inevitable in her expression. It’s strange how she seems so caught in flux, while her shadow, so dark on the wall, is just the opposite, permanent.* * * In the early stages of his building the Half Life book, Michael and I talked about where to put the series of pictures taken from train windows, mostly in deep winter. At one point they were scattered throughout, at other times they fell together in a bloc, but in any case, the body of work, and the book as a whole, started to feel to me like they ran on rails in the snow, and the places and people within them were stops, things seen or felt in passing. They’re encountered, drift away, are longed for, returned to, left behind again. If Michael’s work is sometimes tough, the landscapes remind us back to a balancing delicacy, a faith in beauty. Michael deeply loves the snow trains that cut archaically through Europe, especially through Eastern Europe, especially the overnight trains which he and I share as our transportation of choice. On these you travel but are nowhere for the duration of the trip, floating through whiteness if it’s wintertime. This nothing in which things float is echoed in his prints, though the white is sometimes heavily vignetted, as if darkness wants in. Alternately, the backgrounds can be of total blackness, and then the subject radiates like a candle. But back to the snow trains, which often run through the most ignored and beautiful parts of cities, where commercial facades drop away like forced smiles into debris and frozen mud and warehouses, which then give way to fields. Riding on one of these trains outside of Katowice, Poland en route to Paris, Michael spotted in the distance the warped row of dead train cars seen in the book. Desperate to photograph them, he guessed at their location and eventually returned. He got off at the closest stop, trudged through the snow, and found the trains, but approaching across a frozen field, camera in hand, his legs suddenly plunged through a chasm in the whiteness, a missing manhole cover. In what he referred to as a “rare case of quick thinking,” he stuck out his arms, breaking the fall, and managed to pull himself out. No one knew he was there, and if he’d perished, it would’ve been for the love of trains, and of wreckage, and of course, of pictures. * * * Many in the panel of men at the beginning of Half Life were photographed in bars. Some were found in a bar in Paris where the old and ageless proprietor became one of Michael’s favorite people, not just in the city, but in the world. Her bar was a special refuge, and though she was difficult, she truly took Michael in. This tiny bar remains a constant, a place of return, but many of the regulars he’s met over the years are now gone. For some moments however, they drew, or seemed to draw, terribly close, with alcohol as glue and pictures proof -- but of what… mutual need, eventual isolation, or the pendulum swing between the two… A bar is something like the center of an hourglass: at the top is time disappearing, and at the bottom, time spent. But to those in the place, the regulars, the middle is the only thing apparent and there time has stopped. (An interesting circumstance for others in the time-stopping business, and not just still photographers. The phenomena is beautifully understood in Daumier’s paintings of drinkers or Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son). It is illusory, of course; the people are held in that place where, like the proverbial cartoon character who’s gone off a cliff, they just don’t realize the ground has dropped away beneath their feet. Once again, suspension. Which also has a musical definition: The prolongation of a tone in one chord into the following chord, usually producing a temporary dissonance. This prolongation of tone, an ongoing search, gives the work continuity, as does the dissonance, which can be restlessness or loss. I won’t talk much here about the emotional drive behind the work, or the personal ramifications, but that’s my hesitation, not Michael’s. There’s a picture in Half Life of the photographer and a woman, both with shaved heads, a troubled mirroring, a last strange union. The photograph is a pact: see you now, see you later, so long... In the last few years, such goodbyes have given way to a series of welcomings, explorations of the concrete changes and dream states of immediate family, wife and child. These pictures, deeply caring but by necessity fearless, reverberate with bluntness, warmth, shock, matter of fact erotics, and of course love, which when regarded honestly, includes a steamer trunk of contradictions. So, there is fear mixed in with the fearlessness, the joy includes some trepidation, the innocence is utterly real, but tangled and fleeting. How disappointing it would be if a photographer so open to the wrenching truths of the world would suddenly pull all punches when faced with the most intimate situation of all. How unfortunate it would be, for all of us, if investigations of intimacy were left to the whitewashers and the advertisers, the puritans and the pornographers. And so, in the recent work, new tightropes are stretched and new risks are taken. But in looking back at Michael’s work as a whole, I’m reminded that one of the great challenges artists face is when to pull back from the proverbial edge - those addicted to pushing the envelope sometimes fall into a negative trap which has its own complacency. A kind or subtle or purely beautiful image might actually be the risk that they can’t seem to take. The walking of tightropes has always been integral to Michael’s work, but I don’t see him falling into that dark trap, which is why the work is thorny but never cynical, heavy but also sweet. Beyond all of that, I still don’t understand how the pictures happen, how he gets them. It certainly isn’t about the equipment, the cameras come and go, sometimes literally broken but still pressed into use. I think Michael feels that taking pictures and taking chances should be kindred enterprises. I’ve met few artists less uptight about the technology and intricacies of gear and production, though he does of course become completely intimate with what he needs in order to get at what he feels. Once I heard him suggest in a Q & A that he just doesn’t care about technique, but knowing the time and tortures he’s given over to darkroom work, I thought that was a touch disingenuous. He meant that technique and technology are never the core of the matter, and that he doesn’t like to be precious about them. And he needs accidents; they might reveal something, break something open. Sometimes they might go too far and the image itself is obliterated: again, necessary risk. I’ve seen him photograph without putting the camera to his eye, as if to confirm that what he was after wasn’t primarily even about seeing. (That too is deceptive; with time, some photographers know what the camera is getting, regardless of where it’s held). Maybe I mean that compared to many other photographers, Michael’s work isn’t so concerned with sight itself. If he could have been a writer, painter, or a musician, that might have worked too. In any case, the results speak for themselves, and the results are often kind of insane. Sadly, because of the madness of these photographs and the digital times we’ve entered, people increasingly assume that certain pictures must be computer manipulations. Michael is no purist, but that simply isn’t what is going on here. Do you see how it matters that even if these are accidents of light and the distorting lens, they are things that somehow happened, that were? They come out of the real; however unlikely or impossible, they are measurements - not constructions. They are measurements, but in the end, of the interior as much as of the world. But like I said, Michael’s not a purist, and in his impure searching, he occasionally walks a thin line between accepting pure actuality and giving it a nudge. We argue about it. I don’t know what to make of the picture where someone else’s old portrait of Anna Akhmatova is held up and rephotographed. I guess Michael wanted to invite her into that streetscape, felt she was part of his history or emotional landscape; maybe he just loved her profile and wondered, what the hell, why not? Sometimes the work is funny. The absurdly mismatched nude couple in the book aren’t funny but they are, as is the man who wears a monocle made of smoke. The Coney Island hotdog signs reading ‘Franks’ and the American flag they stutter towards comprise a whimsical tribute to one particular, beloved photographer; first name - Robert. Occasional whimsy aside though, Half Life is a rough ride through damaged places and situations. And what’s it like to be with Michael when he’s photographing such things? Well, it isn’t necessarily comfortable, or easy, or pleasant. Sometimes artists push their work, and their luck along with it. Sometimes Michael just plunges in. I was crossing the street with him on the Lower East side once when a woman suddenly appeared, coming towards us in the intersection. Something in her presence struck us instantly with force -- she might have been beautiful or she might have been mutilated -- we had no time to register anything; but he lunged and got off one picture as I stood by and winced. I doubt she noticed at all, but what if she had? (The picture is in Fiction; it appears to be of a ghost in a miniskirt, perhaps with a black eye.) Such pictures do not come out of discretion, or delicacy, or fair exchange. In many of Michael’s pictures mutual understanding simply may or may not have existed. There is a harshness to this observation; it troubles me, and yet I can say that Michael’s pictures are always, deeply made without judgment, in total acceptance. That in itself is a kind of love. And the subjects obviously extend him enormous trust. (Well... except when they don’t. Walking with Michael on a street in Krakow, he photographed another approaching woman, a middle-aged matron. She yelled angrily at him in Polish; he kept walking but yelled back, in Polish: “You’re beautiful.”) It is probably no accident then that the gesture of the embrace recurs again and again in Michael’s work. Which leads me to what may be my favorite set of pictures that Michael has taken, of the couple on the stairs: To what do we owe this strange and tender record ? And what is the record of? An older man and his young girlfriend collapsed in drunken surrender… or perhaps a father and son broken together on a subway staircase ? Who is holding who up? Was the man once a boxer? If the younger one is in fact a woman, is she his lover? The stairs are at once unyielding and rippling, bending and unbending. This couple, whatever their relationship and circumstance, are attended to then in a series of photographs, equally harsh and gentle, unwrapped over time. But what time is given - minutes, hours, or an unending day or an unending night? You can just about hear the tinny loudspeakers in the background of the train station, and thinking of stations, I am reminded that the 13th station is the descent from the cross. The actual circumstances, the truth of it, the year and the gender, hardly matter, don’t matter at all. At its best, the work speaks past such details, and even beyond photography.
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