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Roger Ballen
Roger and the Inner Voices, 2015. Portrait by Marguerite Rossouw
Roger Ballen
Roger Ballen

Roger Ballen

Country: United States
Birth: 1950

One of the most influential and important photographic artists of the 21st century, Roger Ballen's photographs span over forty years. His strange and extreme works confront the viewer and challenge them to come with him on a journey into their own minds as he explores the deeper recesses of his own.

Roger Ballen was born in New York in 1950 but for over 30 years he has lived and worked in South Africa. His work as a geologist took him out into the countryside and led him to take up his camera and explore the hidden world of small South African towns. At first he explored the empty streets in the glare of the midday sun but, once he had made the step of knocking on people's doors, he discovered a world inside these houses which was to have a profound effect on his work. These interiors with their distinctive collections of objects and the occupants within these closed worlds took his unique vision on a path from social critique to the creation of metaphors for the inner mind. After 1994 he no longer looked to the countryside for his subject matter finding it closer to home in Johannesburg.

Over the past thirty five years his distinctive style of photography has evolved using a simple square format in stark and beautiful black and white. In the earlier works in the exhibition his connection to the tradition of documentary photography is clear but through the 1990s he developed a style he describes as 'documentary fiction'. After 2000 the people he first discovered and documented living on the margins of South African society increasingly became a cast of actors working with Ballen in the series' Outland (2000, revised in 2015) and Shadow Chamber (2005) collaborating to create powerful psychodramas.

The line between fantasy and reality in his subsequent series' Boarding House (2009) and Asylum of the Birds (2014) became increasingly blurred and in these series he employed drawings, painting, collage and sculptural techniques to create elaborate sets. There was an absence of people altogether, replaced by photographs of individuals now used as props, by doll or dummy parts or where people did appear it was as disembodied hands, feet and mouths poking disturbingly through walls and pieces of rag. The often improvised scenarios were now completed by the unpredictable behaviour of animals whose ambiguous behaviour became crucial to the overall meaning of the photographs. In this phase Ballen invented a new hybrid aesthetic, but one still rooted firmly in black and white photography.

In his artistic practice Ballen has increasingly been won over by the possibilities of integrating photography and drawing. He has expanded his repertoire and extended his visual language. By integrating drawing into his photographic and video works, the artist has not only made a lasting contribution to the field of art, but equally has made a powerful commentary about the human condition and its creative potential.

His contribution has not been limited to stills photography and Ballen has been the creator of a number of acclaimed and exhibited short films that dovetail with his photographic series'. The collaborative film I Fink You Freeky, created for the cult band Die Antwoord in 2012, has garnered over 125-million hits on YouTube. He has taken his work into the realms of sculpture and installation, at Paris' Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature (2017), Australia's Sydney College of the Arts (2016) and at the Serlachius Museum in Finland (2015) is to name but a few. The spectacular installation at Les Rencontres d'Arles 2017, "House of the Ballenesque" was voted as one of the best exhibitions for 2017. In 2018 at the Wiesbaden Biennale, Germany, another installation "Roger Ballen's Bazaar/Bizarre" was created in an abandoned shopping centre.

Ballen's series, The Theatre of Apparitions (2016), is inspired by the sight of these hand-drawn carvings on blacked-out windows in an abandoned women's prison. Ballen started to experiment using different spray paints on glass and then 'drawing on' or removing the paint with a sharp object to let natural light through. The results have been likened prehistoric cave-paintings: the black, dimensionless spaces on the glass are canvases onto which Ballen has carved his thoughts and emotions. He also released a related animated film, Theatre of Apparitions, which has been nominated for various awards.

In September 2017 Thames & Hudson published a large volume of the collected photography with extended commentary by Ballen titled Ballenesque Roger Ballen: A Retrospective.
 

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More Great Photographers To Discover

Joel Meyerowitz
United States
1938
Joel Meyerowitz is an award-winning photographer whose work has appeared in over 350 exhibitions in museums and galleries around the world. He was born in New York in 1938. He began photographing in 1962. He is a “street photographer” in the tradition of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank, although he works exclusively in color. As an early advocate of color photography (mid-60s), Meyerowitz was instrumental in changing the attitude toward the use of color photography from one of resistance to nearly universal acceptance. His first book, Cape Light, is considered a classic work of color photography and has sold more than 100,000 copies during its 30-year life. He is the author of 17 other books, including the newly released book by Aperture, Legacy: The Preservation of Wilderness in New York City Parks. In 1998 he produced and directed his first film, POP, an intimate diary of a three-week road trip he made with his son, Sasha, and his father, Hy. This odyssey has as its central character an unpredictable, street-wise and witty 87-year-old with a failing memory. It is both an open-eyed look at aging and a meditation on the significance of memory. Within a few days of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, Meyerowitz began to create an archive of the destruction and recovery at Ground Zero and the immediate neighborhood. The World Trade Center Archive consists of over 8,000 images, and was created with the sponsorship of the Museum of the City of New York, to whom a set of digital files was donated for their archives and for exhibition. The Archive is an historic, photographic record of the immediate aftermath of the tragedy and the neighborhood as it evolved. The U.S. Department of State mounted 35 exhibitions of this work and they were shown around the globe from their inauguration by Colin Powell in Spring 2002 until 2005. Over 4 million people have seen these shows from Jerusalem to Islamabad, Rome, Paris, London, Kuwait, Moscow, Istanbul, and 200 other cities. Meyerowitz’s photographs from the World Trade Center Archives were also on view when he represented the United States at the 8th Venice Biennale for Architecture in 2002. Meyerowitz created a traveling exhibition of 117 vintage and modern prints entitled Out of the Ordinary 1970-1980, which premiered at the Jeu de paume in Paris, France. It has been exhibited at the Museum der Modern in Salzburg, Austria, and the Nederlands Fotomuseum in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, the Musee de la Photographie in Charleroi, Belgium and the Thessaloniki Museum of Photography in Thessaloniki, Greece Meyerowitz completed the ambitious project of documenting and creating an archive of New York City’s 29,000 acres of parkland. It is the first long-term visual documentation of NYC parks since the 1930’s when they were photographed as part of Franklin Roosevelt’s WPA program. Adrian Benepe, Commissioner of Parks and Recreation, has invited Meyerowitz to produce a comprehensive database for future use by the Parks department and to share these images of the parks with communities in all 5 boroughs. Legacy: The Preservation of Wilderness in New York City Parks was published by Aperture in the fall of 2009, accompanied by a large-scale exhibition of the same name at the Museum of the City of New York. Meyerowitz is a two-time Guggenheim fellow, a recipient of both the NEA and NEH awards, as well as a recipient of the Deutscher Fotobuchpreis. His work is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and many others. Source: Wikipedia
Mitch Epstein
United States
1952
Mitchell Epstein (born 1952) is an American fine-art photographer, among the first to make significant use of color. Epstein's books include Sunshine Hotel (2019), Rocks and Clouds (2018), New York Arbor, (2013) Berlin (2011); American Power (2009); Mitch Epstein: Work ( 2006); Recreation: American Photographs 1973-1988 (2005); and Family Business (2003), which won the 2004 Kraszna-Krausz Photography Book Award. Epstein's work has been exhibited and published extensively in the United States and Europe, and collected by numerous major museums, including New York's Museum of Modern Art and Whitney Museum of Art, The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Tate Modern in London. He has also worked as a director, cinematographer, and production designer on several films, including Dad, Salaam Bombay!, and Mississippi Masala. Epstein was born and raised in a Jewish family in Holyoke, Massachusetts. He graduated from Williston Academy, where he studied with artist and bookmaker Barry Moser. In the early 1970s he studied at Union College, New York; Rhode Island School of Design, Rhode Island, and the Cooper Union, New York, where he was a student of photographer Garry Winogrand. By the mid-1970s, Epstein had abandoned his academic studies and begun to travel, embarking on a photographic exploration of the United States. Ten of the photographs he made during this period were in a 1977 group exhibition at Light Gallery in New York. In 1978, he journeyed to India with his future wife, director Mira Nair, where he was a producer, set designer, and cinematographer on several films, including Salaam Bombay! and India Cabaret. His book In Pursuit of India is a compilation of his Indian photographs from this period. From 1992 to 1995, Epstein photographed in Vietnam, which resulted in an exhibition of this work at Wooster Gardens in New York, along with a book titled Vietnam: A Book of Changes. “I don’t know that Mitch Epstein’s glorious photographs record all of what is salient in end-of-the-twentieth century Vietnam,” wrote Susan Sontag for his book jacket, “for it’s been more than two decades since my two stays there. I can testify that his images confirm what moved and troubled me then… and offer shrewd and poignant glimpses into the costs of imposing a certain modernity. This is beautiful, authoritative work by an extremely intelligent and gifted photographer.” Reviewing an exhibition of the Vietnam pictures for Art in America, Peter Von Ziegesar writes, “In a show full of small pleasures, little prepares one for the stunning epiphany contained in Perfume Pagoda… Few photographers have managed to make an image so loaded and so beautiful at once.” Having lived and traveled beyond the United States for over a decade, Epstein began to spend more time in his adopted home of New York City. His 1999 series The City investigated the relationship between public and private life in New York. Reviewing The City exhibition at Sikkema Jenkins in New York, Vince Aletti wrote that the pictures “[are] as assured as they are ambitious.” In 1999, Epstein returned to his hometown of Holyoke, Massachusetts, to record the demise of his father's two businesses—a retail furniture store and a low-rent real estate empire. The resulting project assembled large-format photographs, video, archival materials, interviews and writing by the artist. The book Family Business, which combined all of these elements, won the 2004 Krazna-Kraus Best Photography Book of the Year award. In 2004, his work was exhibited during evening screenings at Rencontres d'Arles festival, France. From 2004 to 2009, Epstein investigated energy production and consumption in the United States, photographing in and around various energy production sites. This series, titled American Power, questions the meaning and make-up of power—electrical and political. Epstein made a monograph of the American Power pictures (2009), in which he wrote that he was often stopped by corporate security guards and once interrogated by the FBI for standing on public streets and pointing his camera at energy infrastructure. The large-scale prints from this series have been exhibited worldwide. In his Art in America review, Dave Coggins wrote that Epstein “grounds his images… in the human condition, combining empathy with sharp social observation, politics with sheer beauty.” In the New York Times, Martha Schwendener wrote: “What is interesting, beyond the haunting, complicated beauty and precision of these images, is Mr. Epstein's ability to merge what have long been considered opposing terms: photo-conceptualism and so-called documentary photography. He utilizes the supersize scale and saturated color of conceptualism, and his odd, implied narratives strongly recall the work of artists like Jeff Wall.” In 2008, Epstein won the Berlin Prize in Arts and Letters from the American Academy in Berlin. Awarded a 6-month residency, he moved to Berlin with his wife and daughter from January to June 2008. The photographs he made of significant historical sites were published in the monograph Berlin (Steidl and The American Academy in Berlin, 2011).Source: Wikipedia In 2013, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis commissioned and premiered a theatrical rendition of Epstein’s American Power photographic series. A collaboration between Epstein and cellist Eric Friedlander, the performance combined original live music, storytelling, video, and projected photographs and archival material. Epstein and Friedlander also performed at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Ohio (2014), and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (2015). His new series, Property Rights, was exhibited at Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York and Galerie Thomas Zander, Cologne in the fall of 2019 and at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, Texas in 2020-2021. Recent solo exhibitions include: Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow (2020), Museum Helmond, Netherlands (2019), Andreas Murkudis, Berlin; Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York; Galerie Les Filles du Calvaire, Paris (2016-17); as well as Fondation A Stichting in Brussels (2013); Sikkema Jenkins & Co., NY (2012); Galerie Thomas Zander, Cologne (2012); Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris (2011); Kunstmuseum Bonn (2011); and Musee de l'Elysee in Lausanne (2011). In 2020, Mitch Epstein was inducted as an Academician to the National Academy of Design. In 2011, Epstein won the Prix Pictet for American Power. Among his other awards are the Berlin Prize in Arts and Letters from the American Academy in Berlin (2008), and a Guggenheim Fellowship (2003).Source: mitchepstein.net At Cooper Union, Epstein was a student of photographer Garry Winogrand and was influenced both by Winogrand and William Eggleston's use of color. Epstein helped pioneer the redefinition of color photography as art form, as he was one of the earlier practitioners of fine-art color photography. He is well known for documenting his projects as books, which he feels allows him to form a narrative structure for his photographs. Epstein shoots film, as he believes he would not get the tonal rendering and detail for his large prints if he were to use digital.Source: International Center of Photography
Rosita Delfino
I started getting interested in photography in 2009 and since then I have been emotionally struck by the picture's power of communication. Photography is a dimension where pictures enhance the words and become means of expression of our inner world, through the filter of our eyes they have the power of changing the reality. It is a never ending dialogue between appearing and being, a wonderful journey in the female dimension, where the body is no more bound to space and time but opens to a dreamlike atmosphere. I often think of a sentence by Francesca Woodman, 'you'll get excited when looking at an image but you'll never know what's behind it'.Rosita DelfinoAll about Rosita Delfino:AAP: When did you realize you wanted to be a photographer?In 2009 I realized that the camera has a big power for communicating the feelings of my soul. So I decided to start taking pictures. When I take picture I feel free.AAP: What or who inspires you?I bought a lot of photographic books and I was amazed by Francesca Woodman, Christy Lee Rogers, Alexei Vassiliev's pictures and so on. They express the concepts of their soul through a non-objective representation of the reality, where the time is hanging and feelings, fears, desires are mixed. I find myself through the style of these photographers.AAP: Do you spend a lot of time editing your images?I usually work with a photographic project. Using digital editing I feel in front of a painting and I create the pictures depending on my state of soul and it takes a lot of time.AAP: An idea, a sentence, a project you would like to share?I imagine myself in this Francesca Woodman's sentence: "Ti ecciterai osservando un'immagine ma non saprai mai cosa vi è dietro". ("You will be excited seeing a picture, but you'll never know what is behind that.")
Oliver Stegmann
Switzerland
1970
I was born in 1970 in Basel, Switzerland. Since my late teen years, photography has become a key medium for me to express myself. Professionally, however, I took a different path, studying economics and now working in a management position. I'm married and a father of two lovely daughters. On many trips to different continents, I have continuously worked on improving my skills as a photographer and on developing my own visual language. I participated in various workshops of well-known photographers such as Mary Ellen Mark, Anders Petersen or Ernesto Bazan. Until 2007 I photographed exclusively with black-and-white film and made all prints in my own darkroom. In 2005, I started scanning the negatives, editing them in Photoshop and creating fine art prints. Two years later, I started to use also digital cameras. My long-term project on circuses behind the scenes is planned to be published as a photo book in 2021. My other on-going personal project is to document the childhood years of my children. Statement I love music, but I have never played an instrument. So the camera has become the "instrument" for my creative work: I compose images instead of songs. I prefer black and white photography because leaving out the colors, the way we usually see the world, directs the viewer's eye to the essence of the image. I have always had a passion for observing people. Their emotions, facial expressions, interactions, activities and personal moments inspire me. Photographing people is a way to communicate with them, to capture perhaps just a fraction of their lives. A powerful photograph becomes a true gift of the moment when it manages to capture some sort of mystery or magic. My photos are meant to transport the viewer into a world less known to them, perhaps reminding them of experiences long past or leading them mentally into a possible future. With my photos I do not want to tell everything, but deliberately suggest unanswerable behind what is shown.
Larry Clark
United States
1943
Lawrence Donald Clark (born January 19, 1943) is an American film director, photographer, writer and film producer who is best known for his controversial teen film Kids (1995) and his photography book Tulsa (1971). His work focuses primarily on youth who casually engage in illegal drug use, underage sex, and violence, and who are part of a specific subculture, such as surfing, punk rock, or skateboarding. Larry Clark was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He learned photography at an early age. His mother was an itinerant baby photographer, and he was enlisted in the family business from the age of 13. His father was a traveling sales manager for the Reader Service Bureau, selling books and magazines door-to-door, and was rarely home. In 1959, Clark began injecting amphetamines with his friends. He attended the Layton School of Art in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he studied under Walter Sheffer and Gerhard Bakker. In 1964, he moved to New York City to freelance, but was drafted within two months into the United States Army. From 1964 to 1965, he served in the Vietnam War in a unit that supplied ammunition to units fighting in the north. His experiences there led him to publish the 1971 book Tulsa, a photo documentary illustrating his young friends' drug use in black and white. Routinely carrying a camera, from 1963 to 1971 Clark produced pictures of his drug-shooting coterie that have been described by critics as "exposing the reality of American suburban life at the fringe and ... shattering long-held mythical conventions that drugs and violence were an experience solely indicative of the urban landscape." His follow-up was Teenage Lust (1983), an "autobiography" of his teen past through the images of others. It included his family photos, more teenage drug use, graphic pictures of teenage sexual activity, and young male hustlers in Times Square, New York City. Clark constructed a photographic essay titled The Perfect Childhood that examined the effect of media in youth culture. His photographs are part of public collections at several art museums including the Whitney Museum of Art, Museum of Photographic Arts, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. In 1993, Clark directed Chris Isaak's music video Solitary Man. This experience developed into an interest in film direction. After publishing other photographic collections, Clark met Harmony Korine in New York City and asked Korine to write the screenplay for his first feature film Kids, which was released to controversy and mixed critical reception in 1995. Clark continued directing, filming a handful of additional independent feature films in the several years after this. In 2001, Clark shot three features Bully, Ken Park, and Teenage Caveman over a span of nine months. As of 2017, they are his last films to feature professional actors. Ken Park is a more sexually and violently graphic film than Kids, including a scene of auto-erotic asphyxiation and ejaculation by an emotionally rattled high-school boy (portrayed by James Ransone, then in his early 20s). As of 2015, it has not been widely released or distributed in the United States. In 2002, Clark spent several hours in a police cell after punching and trying to strangle Hamish McAlpine, the head of Metro Tartan, the UK distributor for Clark's film Ken Park. According to McAlpine, who was left with a broken nose, the incident arose from an argument about Israel and the Middle East, and he claims that he did not provoke Clark. In a 2016 interview, Clark discussed his lifelong struggle with drug abuse, although stating he maintained total sobriety while filmmaking. He confessed that the only exception made to his practice of abstinence while filming was Marfa Girl. Clark explained that while filming that movie he used opiates for pain due to double knee replacement surgery. In 2015, Clark collaborated alongside notable skateboard and clothing brand, Supreme, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Kids with a collection of decks, T-shirts, and sweatshirts that feature stills from the iconic film. The collection was released on May 21, 2015 in Supreme's New York, Los Angeles, and London locations and on May 23 in their Japan location.Source: Wikipedia Larry Clark, born in Tulsa, worked in his family's commercial photographic portrait business before studying photography with Walter Sheffer at the Layton School of Art in Milwaukee, Wisconsin from 1961 to 1963. He served in the military during the Vietnam War and has been a freelance photographer based in New York since 1966. During the 1960s, Clark documented the culture of drug use and illicit activity of his friends in Tulsa, and his photographs from those years were published as Tulsa (1971). Considered shocking for its graphic portrayal of the intimate details of its subjects' risky lives, the book launched Clark's career. After Tulsa, he produced Teenage Lust (1983), a series of photographs depicting adolescent sexuality, Larry Clark (1992), and The Perfect Childhood (1993). His work has been included in group and solo exhibitions since the early 1970s, and he was the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Photographers' Fellowship in 1973 and a Creative Arts Public Service photographers' grant in 1980. Clark has also produced films; Kids (1994), based on his experiences with New York City teenagers and their culture of drugs, alcohol, and sex, and Another Day in Paradise (1999). Larry Clark's photographs in Tulsa are unflinching portrayals of difficult and often unsightly circumstances viewed through a participant's eyes. Their first-hand intensity recollects the work of Danny Lyon and Bruce Davidson, but Clark's raw voyeurism and insistent exposure of detail results in a somberness that differentiates his work from that of others in the early 1970s. His recent photography addresses similar subjects, but with the distance of an observer, and a more prominent formal sensibility.Source: International Center of Photography
Chen Jiagang
China
1962
Born in 1962 in Chong Qing, Chen Jiagang began his career as a celebrated architect and real estate developer before making the transition to photography. In 1999, he was named one of twelve "Outstanding Young Architects" by the United Nations. Jiagang is the founder of the Sichuan Upriver Museum, the first private museum in China and the author of Third Front (Timezone 8 Limited, 2007). He currently lives and works in Beijing.Source: Edwynn Houk Gallery Although originally trained as an architect (and awarded by the UN the accolade of being one of the 12 ‘outstanding young architects' in China), Chen Jiagang has been a practicing photographer for over 12 years, and has exhibited widely since 1999. He has twice been awarded the Excellent Works Award at the annual China Photographic Arts Exhibitions. Chen photographs often feature obsolete and useless factories, hidden away in his country's hinterlands. Among these monumental, abandoned ruins, these industrial leftovers, he places ghostly human figures, reminding us of the workers who lost their jobs and were sent back home to start again. He documents the effects on society of China's extraordinary development drive in these large, sumptuous compositions.Source: Waterhouse & Dodd 1980-1984 studied in Architecture Department of Chongqing Architecture College from 1980 to 1984. 1984-1992 worked in Southwest Architecture Design Institute as a National Certified Architect, and had been awarded grand architecture prizes in various types for many times. 1992 founded the Company of Chengdu Haosi Property Development. 1996 the Company of Sichuan Gangjia Architecture Design. 1997 founded Sichuan Upriver Stock Co., Ltd. 1997 founded Upriver Art Gallery, the first private Art Gallery in China. 1998 founded Chengdu Upriver Guildhall and Kunming Upriver Guildhall. 1999 elected as one of the twelve "Outstanding Young Architect" of China by UN. 2001 Bigining to be an artist from then on. 2002 The excellent works prize of the 20th China Photographic Exhibition. 2003 The excellent works prize of the 21th China Photographic Exhibition. Personal Exhibitions 2012 Diseased City, Paris-Beijing Photo Gallery, Paris, France Chen Jiagang photography, Galerie Forsblom, Helsinki, Finland
Jesse Alexander
United States
1929
Jesse Alexander is an American photographer that covers motorsports, portraits, birds and travel. He also published several books. One of his first photo expeditions was in 1953 to the Carrera Panamericana race in Mexico. Since 1954, he covered large European races such as 24 Hours of Le Mans in France, and the Mille Miglia and Targa Florio of Italy. While in Europe he also photographed culture celebrities for New York Times, and was the European editor for Car and Driver magazine. He has exhibited at the Birmingham Museum of Art, the Akron Art Museum, and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.Source: Wikipedia Jesse Alexander has been involved in photography and especially motorsports photography since the early 1950s when he covered the original Mexican Road Race. He then spent many years in Europe covering Formula One and the famous long distance sports car races, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Mille Miglia and Targa Florio. In that period of time he also photographed theater and music personalities for the New York Times. “As a young boy growing up during World War II, I was captivated by the imagery that came out of the war through the eyes of legendary photographers like Edward Steichen and W. Eugene Smith. My other heroes include Henri Cartier-Bresson, Jacques Henri Lartigue, Mary Ellen Mark, Bruce Davidson and Robert Capa”, he said. Jesse’s current body of work includes travel photographs of Iceland, the Galapagos Islands, and birds.Source: Fahey/Klein Gallery In the wake of World War II, a golden age of motor sports emerged in Europe, pitting competing countries against each other on the racetrack instead of the battlefield. A young photographer at the time, Jesse Alexander followed "the circus" and captured on film the adventure, glamour and innocence of this influential period in racing. In one image, Phil Hill waves after winning the 1960 Italian Grand Prix in his Ferrari; in another, Piero Taruffi celebrates his 1957 victory at the Mille Miglia in Brescia, Italy. Since then, Jesse Alexander has remained one of the most acclaimed and commercially successful racecar photographers in the history of the sport. Jesse Alexander's photographs have been exhibited in numerous museums and galleries in the United States, including the Birmingham Museum of Art, the Akron Art Museum, and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Source: Robert Klein Gallery
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