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Margaret Watkins
Self Portrait, 1919
Margaret Watkins
Margaret Watkins

Margaret Watkins

Country: Canada
Birth: 1884 | Death: 1969

Margaret Watkins (1884-1969) was born in Canada. Best known for art and advertising photography executed in New York in the 1920s, Watkins was active in the Clarence White school of photography and a participant in the shift from pictorialism to modernism. Her working life spanned a Victorian upbringing in Hamilton, Ontario, and the witnessing of the first Soviet Five-Year Plan. Watkins' modernism, which involved experimentation and a radical focus on form, transgressed boundaries of conventional, high-art subject matter. Her focus was daily life and her photographs, whether an exploration of the objects in her New York kitchen or the public and industrial spaces of Glasgow, Paris, Cologne, Moscow, and Leningrad in the 1930s, strike a balance between abstraction and an evocation of the everyday, offering a unique gendered perspective on modernism and modernity.

Watkins established a studio in Greenwich Village and in 1920 she accepted the position of editor of the annual publication Pictorial Photography in America. Clarence White asked Watkins to join the faculty of his school, where Watkins met other notable photographers, including Alfred Stieglitz and Paul Strand. She worked for Macy's department stores and for the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency, capturing simple domestic objects with a clarity of modernist vision rare in commercial photography at the time. Her landscapes, portraits, nudes, still lifes, and abstractions received praise and attracted controversy. Exhibitions were held in the United States and in Europe.

In 1928, Watkins decided to visit her four elderly aunts in Glasgow, Scotland. She traveled throughout Europe, photographing extensively and producing a body of work documenting post-revolution Russia. Her aunts began to take ill, and Watkins remained in Glasgow to help care for them. She drifted from the spotlight of public recognition, and few photographs or negatives exist from this time. Watkins lived in Scotland in seclusion until her death in 1969.
 

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More Great Photographers To Discover

Ali Shokri
Iran
1982
In our family culture, the tree is a symbol of life." Nature photographer Ali Shokri grew up in Iran. It was in his beautiful home country that he would begin to develop his passion and love for nature – more so, trees. Years later, his passion would become the centerpoint of his life's ambitions. For the last 16 years, Shokri has been photographing trees. His mission? To show everyone how important and beautiful they are to the world. His body of work has since been turned into a photo book, The Passion of Trees. Showing his collection of images and highlighting his message, Shokri spoke to us about a topic he holds tightly close to his heart. Statement "To me, each tree, like a human being, has a tale to tell," Shokri says. "When a tree dies, a whole story is interrupted, a destiny is altered for the worse. I feel as if the trees, bundled at the back of trucks, are cursing us with their broken hands, wounded faces, and severed roots. "Perhaps this is how we are led towards damnation, little by little stripped of our humanity, when man's 'abounding foliage moistened with the dew' is reduced to ash and smoke." The nature is a mirror to show us what is going inside us. Why we cant be kind with the nature and the lungs of the earth- trees-? Yes, the lungs of the earth. How we can damage her lungs. As an artist, I beilive that the art brings us responsibility and introducing the lungs of the earth is my responsibility. I know I can't save our trees with my photographs," Shokri says. "I can't restore Nature to her imperious verdure, yet I try to capture the lonesomeness and exile of the trees and encourage the viewers to look at nature with a different gaze, to remember that in the absence of trees the birds are homeless and there's no air to breathe, to remember that if there are no trees humanity has already vanished..."
Anton Gorlin
Australia
Joël Tettamanti
Switzerland
1977
Joël Tettamanti was born in 1977 in Efok, Cameroon, and grew up in Lesotho and Switzerland. He studied photography at ECAL, Lausanne, where his teachers were Pierre Fantys and Nicolas Faure. Following his studies, he worked as an assistant to the photographer Guido Mocafico in Paris. Tettamanti is established as a commercial and media photographer for clients such as Wallpaper*, Kvadrat, and international architects. His work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions in Europe, and has been the subject of several monographs, including Local Studies (2007) and Davos (2009). He lives in Lausanne. The Swiss photographer Tettamanti creates works that focus on the impact of human settlement on the landscape, from Asia to the Arctic Circle. The images are often without people, examining instead the contradiction of human frailty and resilience, and the relationships people form with the land. His work is a vast archive of the structures, villages, and cities people create, and of the landforms and climates that shape them. Like many photographers who have been drawn to archive the world, Tettamanti’s interest lies beyond collecting artifacts of the human imprint on the land. The questions he asks of a place – why things look the way they do, and how they came about – lead to profoundly social narratives about the people who are uplifted and sometimes defeated by the land they inhabit. Tettamanti gravitates toward inhospitable environments where these relationships play out in spectacle: the juxtaposition of sublime natural beauty and buildings of startling banality, or ingenuity, or of land seemingly without limit and the meager architecture put upon it. The story can be one of use and misuse, where urban sprawl or industrial incursions have degraded the land and corrupted its beauty, as well as one of human adaptability and resourcefulness. The land is shaped by people as much as it shapes them. His quest as an artist recalls the expeditionary photography of the American West in the nineteenth century, when territories previously unexplored by Americans were opened to visual imagination by the camera. Today, when technology and globalization make distant cultures accessible, there is still a sense of revelation in Tettamanti’s work. For this artist, much like the nineteenth-century pioneers of the medium, photography remains a means of understanding the world, and retains the power to astonish with images of places that exist beyond the imagination. Source: MIT Museum
Robert Frank
United States
1924 | † 2019
Robert Frank is one of the most acclaimed photographers of the 20th century. His seminal book, The Americans, is arguably the most influential publication of photography among artists that followed. In 2009, a major substantial touring monographic exhibition and scholarly catalogue organized by Sarah Greenough made stops at the National Gallery of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Looking In: Robert Frank's The Americans coincides with the 50th anniversary of the publication of The Americans, first released in 1958 by Parisian publisher Robert Delpire, and in 1959 by Grove Press, which made the book available to a wider audience.Source: Robert Mann Gallery Robert Frank began studying photography in 1941 and spent the next six years working for commercial photography and graphic design studios in Zurich, Geneva, and Basel. In 1947 he traveled to the United States, where Alexey Brodovitch hired him to make fashion photographs at Harper's Bazaar. Although a few magazines accepted Frank's unconventional use of the 35-millimeter Leica for fashion work, he disliked the limitations of fashion photography and resigned a few months after he was hired. Between 1950 and 1955 he worked freelance producing photojournalism and advertising photographs for LIFE, Look, Charm, Vogue, and others. He also garnered support for his independently produced street photographs from important figures in the New York art world, including Edward Steichen, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, and Walker Evans, who became an important American advocate of Frank's photography. It was Evans who suggested that he apply for the Guggenheim Fellowship that freed him to travel throughout the country in 1955 and 1956 and make the photographs that would result in his most famous book, The Americans, first published in France as Les Américains in 1957. After its publication in America in 1959, he devoted an increasing amount of time to making films, including Pull My Daisy and Cocksucker Blues, both of which exemplify avant-garde filmmaking of the era. Since 1970, Frank has divided his time between Nova Scotia and New York; he continues to produce still photographs in addition to films. The Americans was one of the most revolutionary volumes in the history of photography, and it was a source of controversy when it was published in the United States. Frank's cutting perspective on American culture, combined with his carefree attitude toward traditional photographic technique, shocked most Americans who saw it at the time. During the next decade, however, these qualities of his photography became touchstones for a new generation of American photographers; indeed, Frank's work continues to shape contemporary photography.Source: The International Center of Photography
Yves Marchand & Romain Meffre
Marchand (b.1981) and Meffre (b.1987) live and work in Paris. Initially pursuing photography individually, they met online in 2002 and started working together with the beginning of their Detroit project in 2005. Steidl published The Ruins of Detroit in 2010. A second printing is planned for later this year. They are currently completing their Gunkanjima book, also to be published by Steidl, and they continue to work on a project documenting American theaters that have either fallen into decay or been transformed entirely. Their work has been exhibited extensively throughout Europe and has been featured in the New York Times, The Guardian, The British Journal of Photography, Time Magazine, amongst others. (Source: Edwynn Houk Gallery) About Theaters (2005-Ongoing): In the early 20th century, following the development of the entertainment industry, hundreds of theaters were built across North America. Major entertainment firms and movie studios commissioned specialized architects to build grandiose and extravagant auditoriums. From the 60's, TV, multiplexes and urban crisis made them obsolete. During the following decades, these theaters were either modernized, transformed into adult cinemas or they closed, one after the other; many of them were simply demolished. About Gunkanjima (2008-2012): In the South China Sea, 15 kilometers off the southwest coast of Nagasaki among the thousands of verdant landmasses that surround Japan, lies a mysterious island. With the geometric silhouette of a dark gray hull, perforated by hundreds of small windows, the island resembles a battleship. As one moves closer, approaching by sea, the figure takes shape again and the ghost ship turns into a block of concrete surrounded by a high wall on which waves crash - the island looks like a Japanese version of Alcatraz. Only 40 years ago, this tiny island was home to one of the most remarkable mining towns in the world and maintained the highest population density in the world. During the wave of industrialisation in the nineteenth century, a coal seam was discovered on the tiny Hashima island. In 1890 the Mitsubishi Corporation opened a mine on the island. For decades coal production sustained Japan's modernisation and helped establish its position as an industrialised nation and imperial power. Workers settled on the island and the population increased. Mine slag was used to expand the surface of the colony; piling up on itself like an ant hill. The small mining town quickly became an autonomous modern settlement (with apartment buildings, a school, hospital, shrine, retail stores and restaurants) which mimicked the other settlements on the Nippon archipelago. One multi-storied concrete apartment block with its brutal and rational style followed another, until the tiny island became the most densely populated place in the world per square meter with over 5,000 inhabitants in the 1950s. About The ruins of Detroit (2005-2010): At the end of the XIXth Century, mankind was about to fulfill an old dream. The idea of a fast and autonomous means of displacement was slowly becoming a reality for engineers all over the world. Thanks to its ideal location on the Great Lakes Basin, the city of Detroit was about to generate its own industrial revolution. Visionary engineers and entrepreneurs flocked to its borders. In 1913, up-and-coming car manufacturer Henry Ford perfected the first large-scale assembly line. Within few years, Detroit was about to become the world capital of automobile and the cradle of modern mass-production. For the first time of history, affluence was within the reach of the mass of people. Monumental skyscapers and fancy neighborhoods put the city's wealth on display. Detroit became the dazzling beacon of the American Dream. Thousands of migrants came to find a job. By the 50's, its population rose to almost 2 million people. Detroit became the 4th largest city in the United States.
John Kenny
United Kingdom
In 2006 I developed my style of portrait photography within traditional communities, heavily influenced by the dramatic pictures of chiaroscuro artists. Chiaroscuro is an Italian term which literally means light-dark. Back then, at the very start of my Africa journey, I was buzzing with energy having met people of real magnetism just days into my trip. I was excited by extraordinary people and fascinating cultures and wondered how I could possibly communicate and express these feelings of excitement to friends and family back home.The solution, I imagined, would involve abstracting the remarkable from the not so remarkable: put simply, I felt that the vibrant and intense individuals that I had met in traditional communities would best show their magnetism on camera when they were removed from the (often) dull and dusty backgrounds of their immediate environment. After a few days I started to imagine each of these people in front of me emerging from the nothingness of darkness, with no distractions, hoping that this would provide a real feeling of proximity between the viewer and the person in the picture. I made a conscious decision at that time to leave a more documentary style of environmental portraiture to others. Practicing this new technique in remote African villages in 2006 I had nothing but sunshine and a hut available as a great ‘open studio': so I used these parameters and started experimenting (I've never really liked flash anyway). So it's simply the illumination of natural sunlight, and sun on dry earth, that reaches into the darkness of huts and lights up these remarkable people. Sun and dry earth are the only ingredients required for the lighting in my prints. And of course, you also need to find exceptional people!Falling in love with photography, and the origins of this series:I first fell in love with photography around 2003. I had not been fortunate enough to receive an art or photography education, but I knew back then, when I picked up my first SLR camera, that I had found the perfect way to express myself. Every time I had the camera in my hand I was looking to improve, needing to know what everything and anything looked like once it had been through the photographic process. It was a bit like a mad pursuit of alchemy - throwing everything into the mix to see if any magic came out of the other side. The process of photographic learning is very rarely a simple one, but to me it remains beautiful: discoveries, experimentation and seeing for the first time how a camera distorts and enhances the world.In Africa I seem to have made it my goal to travel through some of the remotest areas of the continent where the reaches of urbanisation and 21st century living are barely detectable. Looking back, this wasn’t my intention when I first arrived there in 2006, but somehow I keep returning to Africa to photograph because I'm fascinated to encounter societies that are able to survive in some of the most arid, isolated and difficult environments that people have settled in. If you haven’t visited these places then the reality of living is not nearly as romantic or idealised as one might imagine. Life takes place against a backdrop of very uncertain resources and enormous hardships, but traditions and hospitality towards outsiders remain intact.I specifically chose to photograph the individuals that you see in these galleries because I had a very real sense of wonder when I met them. Each one of these people had something that attracted me, sometimes a piercing intensity, or an uncommon beauty, that I felt compelled to try and capture. It’s true that I photograph for myself, first and foremost, but a close second is my desire to show others this magnetism that draws one into the eyes of these fascinating people.I have usually travelled alone or with a guide on these journeys, along the way walking and hopping onto overloaded vehicles of every kind to head to remote settlements. Often the destination is a transient, weekly market where hundreds of vibrant, colourful people assemble somewhat incongruously against a dull, dusty backdrop for a few hours. Later in the day they will all melt away with their animals and traded possessions, until the location is again a patch of bone-dry ground with almost nothing to separate it from the rest of the featureless land that typifies much of the African Sahel. It is fascinating to observe this process play out in almost exactly the same way across countless African countries, many of which are separated by hundreds or thousands of miles across this huge continent’s surface.My favourite tools are sharp prime lenses and cameras that let you capture the tiniest pieces of detail: whilst these details may be insignificant alone, when aggregated I feel they help paint the picture of the environment and how each person adapts to theirs.My favourite series of work remains the Northern Kenya series which involved 6 weeks of intense travelling with my guide, Mo, across remote areas without a vehicle and often without any semblance of an idea how to get to the next tiny settlement. The trip was full of unique encounters in locations that seemed to be famous, to me at least, as places where no transport seemed to be heading. On one particular occasion we came across a lone Moran (warrior) emerge into the dawn light, miles from anywhere. He seemed like a mirage: a vibrant vision in pink cloth and bright colourful jewellery, and more acutely so when set against the hazy yellow monotone of land that he emerged from. Even for Northern Kenya, I thought he seemed to be in a remote, featureless location: devoid of any water, and within an hour it would again be blistering hot. Despite these uncomfortable realities - which clearly weighed more heavily on my mind than his - the warrior seemed confident of his bearings and stopped for a moment to exchange pleasantries with Mo and I. A couple of minutes later, after sharing cigarette with my guide, he purposefully set off walking again, to God knows where. This place that looked barren and foreboding, to me at least, was clearly his home.
Fan Ho
China
1931 | † 2016
Fan Ho's (born in Shanghai in 1931) photographic career started at the early age of 14 when given his first Kodak Brownie from his father. Within the first year he won his first award in 1949 in Shanghai. At the age of 18, he acquired his twin lens Rolleiflex with which he captured all his famous work after he moved to Hong Kong with his parents and continued to purse his love for photography. Dubbed the "Cartier-Bresson of the East", Fan Ho patiently waited for 'the decisive moment'; very often a collision of the unexpected, framed against a very clever composed background of geometrical construction, patterns and texture. He often created drama and atmosphere with backlit effects or through the combination of smoke and light. His favorite locations were the streets, alleys and markets around dusk or life on the sea. What made his work so intensely human is his love for the common Hong Kong people: Coolies, vendors, hawkers selling fruits and vegetables, kids playing in the street or doing their homework, people crossing the street… He never intended to create a historic record of the city's buildings and monuments; rather he aimed to capture the soul of Hong Kong, the hardship and resilience of its citizens. Fan Ho was most prolific in his teens and 20s and created his biggest body of work before he reached the tender age of 28. His work did not go by unnoticed at his time. He won close to 300 local and international awards and titles in his day through competing in the salons. His talent was also spotted by the film industry where he started out as an actor before moving to film directing until retiring at 65. Fan Ho is a Fellow of the Photographic Society and the Royal Society of Arts in England, and an Honorary Member of the Photographic societies of Singapore, Argentina, Brazil, Germany, France, Italy and Belgium. He most recently won a "Life-time Achievement Award, the 2nd Global Chinese International Photography Award, China, 2015" by the Chinese Photographic Society (Guangzhou). During his long career he has taught photography and film making at a dozen universities worldwide. His work is in many private and public collection of which most notable are: M+ Museum, Hong Kong, Heritage Museum, Hong Kong, Bibliothèque National de France, Paris, France, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, USA, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, USA and many more. Source: fanho-forgetmenot.com
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