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Last Verve Photo Post – Geoffrey Hiller October 29, 2015

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in United States.
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Otto and Greta. Bus #75 Project, Portland, Oregon 2015 / Geoffrey Hiller

Editor’s Note:

This last entry is bittersweet for me. In March 2008 I wrote my first post for Verve Photo. Close to 1,000 photographers from nearly all countries in the world have appeared on this blog since then. I loved the energy in the images, like that of the jazz on the Verve record label. All of the portraits, landscapes, photographs from afar and close to home are testimony to the power of the still photograph. More importantly, the websites of the individual photographers that are linked on the Verve blog are the real proof of their dedication and vision.

When I started Verve, the second generation iPhone had not yet been released. It would take a couple of years to see the tide of mobile photography turn, with the advent of Hipstamatic and Instagram apps. But those are just tools. Verve has always been about the way that photographers see the world.

Looking back over the years I’m sure you will agree that the images featured on Verve Photo are nothing less then iconic. These images (which will now form an archive) have been a source of inspiration to me for close to eight years, as I have persisted as an independent photographer. Thanks to all of the contributors who made the time to respond to my emails and provide the backstory for the photographs that I chose. It’s a treasure trove of images that will no doubt stand the test of time.

Marylise Vigneau October 26, 2015

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Central Havana 2015

Marylise Vigneau (b.1968, France) developed an early taste for peeping through keyholes and climbing walls. She studied Literature at la Sorbonne and her thesis was about cities as characters in Russian and Central-European novels. During the past eight years Marylise has been mainly documenting life in Asia focusing on cities and on what time and development or isolation do to them. Her work has been shown in the Angkor Photo Festival, Foto Istanbul, Yangon Photo Festival, Nairang Gallery in Lahore and Focus Photography Festival in Mumbai. Her photographs have been published in Pix Quarterly (India), Asia Life and Milk (Cambodia).

About the Photograph:

“I stumbled across this scene and was seduced by the pattern made of thorns and tenderness, tentacles that surrounded the young couple, capturing the girl’s body in a double embrace. It’s part of my project About Time  where I intend to visit Havana once a year during the coming decade. In this city, time is an unavoidable character. Destructive or facetious, sardonic or nostalgic, political or imaginary, irreverent in any case, time sprawls its texture and shadow all over the city. Half a century of defiant isolation, embargo and excruciating austerity has done its work. The revolution seems to have been confiscated, the superb and sensuous fabric of the city has crumbled beyond repair. People have gone into exile building a very vivid absence, heroes have aged, swimming-pools have been left empty and disbelief and reluctance towards propaganda is everywhere. Time has collapsed here but time is on the verge of unwrapping. On Havana’s streets, there is a charge of anticipation, and one senses a people yearning to embrace the world.”

Corinna Kern October 21, 2015

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in South Africa.
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Tulie and Anezwa. Magenigeni Village, Tshabo, South Africa 2014

Corinna Kern (b.1986, Germany) completed her Master in Photojournalism at the University of Westminster in London in 2013 and was selected for the Getty Images Reportage Emerging Talent Award in 2014. She was nominated as a finalist for the Alexia Foundation Professional Grant 2015 and was featured on POYI and the NPPA Best of Photojournalism. Corinna has exhibited at Krakow Photo Fringe, Backlight Photo Festival and New York Photo World. Her work has been published TIME, CNN, Vice, Magazine du Monde, Die Zeit, De Standaard, Daily Mail, and Esquire.

About the Photograph:

“This photo is part of my series ‘Mama Africa, a documentary on transgender women in South Africa’s townships and rural communities. Due to the strong social stigma that are attached to transgenderism in African culture, it is a topic in need of awareness in order to provoke social change. Traditional beliefs entrenched in African culture consider nonconforming gender and gender expression un-African, contradicting one of the most liberal constitutions in the world in terms of LGBT rights. Hate crimes and institutionalized homophobia are common phenomenon and often force individuals to conform their gender according to society’s standards.”

“Despite the harsh realities that transgender women face in South Africa, my project resulted in a colourful and celebratory series. It documents four individuals in their endeavors to integrate themselves into a hetero-patriarchal society while experiencing a surprisingly high level of acceptance. One of my main characters is Tulie, a 23-year old transgender woman who was awarded Miss Tran’s and regularly participates as a model in fashion shows. She is very popular amongst her wider community and was joking around with her friend at the time the photo was taken. I would have loved to understand more of what they were saying since most of it was in Xhosa. Nevertheless, I picked up that many of their conversations were evolving around men or relationships.”

“It was a very positive and relaxed atmosphere. I always felt very comfortable and safe walking around with Tulie, be it through the township where she lives or the rural areas of Tshabo where she grew up and where this photograph was taken. On that day, Tulie visited Tshabo to help her family with preparations for a traditional ceremony where the tombstones of recently deceased family members are unveiled. I was particularly intrigued by the contrast of Tulie, being a very fashionable, self-confident and outgoing character, in a rural and conservative environment, adding to the ambiguity and fluidity of gender while challenging the stereotypical notions of African gender identity.”

Tamsin Green October 18, 2015

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Kazakhstan.
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Two Bathers. From the series Sleeper. Astana, Kazakhstan 2012

Tamsin Green (b. 1982, England) is an architecturally trained photographer and book artist. She moved to London in 2000 to study Architecture and Design and later won a scholarship to continue her studies in Tokyo. Since 2010 she has worked on a series of projects that explores issues of transit, pace and urban change. Sleeper, a slow overground journey from London to Mumbai. UnBuilding China, a look at the widespread UnBuilding of Chinese cities, taken on a series of long and short trips between 2010 and 2014. You Don’t Hear Dogs Barking, a zine inspired by Juan Rulfo’s short story of the same name about hope on a seemingly never ending journey in Mexico.

About the Photograph:

“I travelled 3,105km to reach Astana, 59 hours on board the Belgorod 72 from Moscow. A stuffy cabin with condensated windows, through which I watched as vast expanses of snow saturated steppe passed by. Astana was the ninth stop on a long journey that I embarked on in 2012. Travelling by sleeper train, carpooling with locals where the train lines ended, I never quite new what I would find when I disembarked and walked the city.”

“Exiting Astana station I headed South and it was not long before I reached the Ishim River. The water freezes from late November to March becoming an icy thoroughfare. I followed the bends in the river passing skaters, hockey players and fisherman before coming across a small pool in the ice. I backed up and watched as two women walked down the road dressed only in their swimwear and trainers. It was bitterly cold that day, but it did not deter the two bathers.”

Kris Graves October 14, 2015

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in China.
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Wires, Beijing, China, 2012

Kris Graves (b. 1982, USA) creates photographs of landscapes and people to preserve memory. The images’ stillness cause the viewer to acknowledge the inevitability of change and the passage of time. Kris suspends his belief and knowledge of this change, not to document a moment or state, but rather to sustain it. He has a BFA from SUNY Purchase College and currently works as studio manager and photographer for the Guggenheim Museum. He has won the Juror’s selection for Center Forward at The Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins, Colorado and has been exhibited widely across the United States. He has published four books of his photographs and operates a limited edition publishing company named Kris Graves Projects.

About the Photograph:

“I was born, raised, and  reside in New York. In the summer of 2012, my girlfriend was studying abroad in China and I made a plan to visit on the backend of her trip. We decided to organize a trip that would have us visit Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing. Beijing is a congested, difficult city to navigate without a knowledge of the language and that was made even more difficult being a black man. I am convinced that black people are seldom seen in the city, I was followed, stereotyped, and stared at. I hope that this was more from ignorance then racism. Anyway, I always try to make the best of bad situations and said: I will photograph this place as well as I can and was lucky enough to make a few nice photographs. This photograph is common across the world, but the pure mass of wires stood out to me as a cultural signifier.”

“I consider myself a large-format photographer, but about a decade ago, I realized I also wanted the ability to walk 20 miles a day making photographs especially on vacation to places that I will most likely never see again. So I leave my view camera inside for portraiture and the occasional landscape within walking distance of my apartment. This photograph was taken with a DSLR. However, I still see in view camera format.”

Zack Wittman​ October 12, 2015

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in United States.
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Dorchester, Mass, USA 2014

Zack Wittman​ (b.1992, United States) recently graduated from Central Michigan University’s photojournalism program. He has been featured in Time Lightbox, PDN Magazine and various newspapers including The Boston Globe, where he interned in 2014. Zack was an intern at The Flint Journal and is interested in continuing to work as a newspaper photographer. He is the three-time Michigan College Photographer of the Year, placed second in the 2014 Hearst Photojournalism Championship and was selected for the Nikon Award at the Eddie Adams workshop in 2014.

About the Photograph:

“The Globe’s office is right off the water, just a few blocks from the beach. It was an overcast, slow day in the newsroom and after sitting restless behind my computer for a while I went out looking for a feature. In my experience, I always have more luck finding features when walking instead of driving, so I took a stroll through some Dorchester neighborhoods and found myself at Castle Island beach. The only people out in the sand that day were this lovely Haitian family who welcomed me to take photos while they buried the little ones in the sand! I sometimes get nervous approaching people for features, but I always think back on photos like this as a reminder of the work that can come from feature hunting!”

Li Qiang October 8, 2015

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in China.
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Memorial Service, Beijing 2010

Li Qiang (b. 1985, China) was a staff photographer at the Beijing News and vice director of Photography at Newsweek Magazine. He has covered breaking news all around China for ten years and has won the China International Press Photo Contest (CHIPP) for consecutive years. Li has also won the Annual Outstanding Photographer in 2010. His works focus on the vulnerable groups in China. At the end of 2014, he set up an independent organization called Yihe Media Training Workshop in order to connect photographers in China and promote Chinese photographers in the world through holding international workshops with foreign photographers. His work was awarded  by World Press Photo and POY in 2015.

About the Photograph:

“In 2010, when I was a staff photographer for the Beijing News I shot this photo of the memorial for the eight soldiers of the Chinese peacekeeping force. Beijing citizens mourned the soldiers who died in Haiti’s earthquake. Eight soldiers of the Chinese peacekeeping forces in Haiti were buried in a building and more than ten were missing after a powerful earthquake struck in Haiti. Their remains were later sent back to China.”

Paulo Patruno October 4, 2015

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in United States.
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Orlando, Florida 2014

Paolo Patruno (b. 1972, Italy) is a freelance photographer and video maker. He traveled throughout Africa over the past ten years, documenting topics such as health care, education, human rights and sustainable development. Since 2011 he has ben working on a long term project called Birth is a Dream about the rising awareness of maternal health in Africa. The project has already been shot across Cameroon, DRC, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Uganda and Zimbabwe. His clients include Amref, Save the Children, United Methodist Women, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Paolo’s works have been awarded by MIFA, Pollux Awards, PhotoAnnualAwards and the Photo Philanthropy Activist Award.

About the Photograph:
“This image is from my documentary project called American Dream about maternal health for African-American women in the USA. The United States has the highest maternal mortality rate of any industrialized country in the world. And while the vast majority of countries have reduced their maternal mortality ratios, for the past 25 years the numbers of women lost during pregnancy, birth or postpartum have increased dramatically in the US. African-American women in the US are at especially high risk. They are nearly four times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications compared to European woman. Last March, I traveled to Orlando, Florida and documented women’s maternity experiences. Joanne is 32 years old and mother of five children and pregnant with the sixth. I took this photo of her and her son Alfonzo at he end of a full day just when I had already started packing my gear. That seems to be the rule, the best photographs, the most intimate ones, arrive after having built a personal relationship with the people of the stories.”

Thomas Boyd October 1, 2015

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in United States.
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Rodeo dance in Eugene, Oregon.  2007

Thomas Boyd (b.1966, USA) graduated from Portland State University after a four-year enlistment in the Marine Corps. In 1993 he was hired as a staff photographer at The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Washington. In 1997 he was hired as a staff photographer at The Register-Guard where he was recognized as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the Thurston High School shooting. In December, 2007 he joined the The Oregonian. His work has been published in a broad range of publications such as National Geographic Traveler, Sports Illustrated, the Washington Post, ESPN The Magazine and U.S. News and World Report. In 2006, he was a featured speaker and team leader at the Eddie Adams Workshop.

About the Photograph:

“When I shot this photo, I’d been shooting extensively in various nightclubs and bars across the U.S. In this case, I heard there was a dance after the Eugene Pro Rodeo so I stayed to check it out. This was a very different venue than I had ever shot in. It was actually a huge indoor horse arena.”

“The guys were real rodeo cowboys and were comfortable with the cameras. Some had remembered me from behind the chutes during the rodeo. It’s always nice to have free run of a place. Like any nightlife venue, I look for interesting light first and station myself there. I shoot mostly available light and always like when there are two or three colors of light. The biggest problem I had was not lack of light, but one color of light, which is deal killer. There’s just no way to make that work for what I’m trying to do. For the building blocks of this photo, I just needed to wait for the right moment. I always like seeing quirky body language and thought it was interesting the way the woman raised her full glass of beer when the guy came in for a kiss. She managed to dance, kiss and not spill a drop. This photo is part of a series called Cover Charge.”

When a Picture is Worth 1,000,000 Words- Stephen Mayes September 28, 2015

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Essays, Writing about Photography.
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Portland Oregon 2015,  Geoffrey Hiller

When a Picture is Worth 1,000,000 Words
by Stephen Mayes

It’s time to stop talking about photography. It’s not that photography is dead as many have claimed, but it’s gone. Just as there’s a time to stop talking about girls and boys and to talk instead about women and men so it is with photography; something has changed so radically that we need to talk about it differently, think of it differently and use it differently. Failure to recognize the huge changes underway is to risk isolating ourselves in an historical backwater of communication, using an interesting but quaint visual language removed from the cultural mainstream.

The moment of photography’s “puberty” was around the time when the technology moved from analog to digital although it wasn’t until the arrival of the Internet enabled Smartphone that we really noticed a different behavior and adolescence truly set in. It was surprising but it all seemed somewhat natural and although we experienced a few tantrums along the way with arguments about promiscuity, manipulation and some inexplicable new behaviors, the photographic community largely accommodated the changes with some adjustments in workflow. But these visible changes were merely the advance indicators of deeper transformations and it was only a matter of time before people’s imagination reached beyond the constraints of two dimensions to explore previously unimagined possibilities. And so it is that we find ourselves in a world where the digital image is almost infinitely flexible, a vessel for immeasurable volumes of information, operating in multiple dimensions and integrated into apps and technologies with purposes yet to be imagined.

The big change came with the adoption of digital capture, which quietly but definitively severed the optical connection with reality, that physical relationship between the object photographed and the image that differentiated lens-made imagery and defined our understanding of photography for 160 years. The digital sensor replaced to optical record of light with a computational process that substitutes a calculated reconstruction using only one third of the available photons. That’s right, two thirds of the digital image is interpolated by the processor in the conversion from RAW to JPG or TIF. It’s reality but not as we know it. For obvious commercial reasons camera manufacturers are careful to reconstruct the digital image in a form that mimics the familiar old photograph and consumers barely noticed a difference in the resulting image, but there are very few limitations on how the RAW data could be handled and reality could be reconstructed in any number of ways. For as long as there’s an approximate consensus on what reality should look like we retain a fingernail grip on the belief in the image as an objective record. But forces beyond photography and traditional publishing are already onto this new data resource, and culture will move with it whether photographers choose to follow or not. As David Campbell has pointed out in his report on image integrity for the World Press Photo, this requires a profound reassessment of words like “manipulation” that assume the existence of a virginal image file that hasn’t already been touched by computational process. Veteran digital commentator Kevin Connor says, “The definition of computational photography is still evolving, but I like to think of it as a shift from using a camera as a picture-making device to using it as a data-collecting device”. (more…)

Chris Occhicone September 23, 2015

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in United States.
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Amateur boxers line up for registration and weigh-in. Passaic, NJ 2012

Chris Occhicone (b.1978, USA) is photojournalist based in Northern New Jersey. Before coming to photography he received his BA in history from Fordham University and did graduate work in public health at Harvard and international relations at the Whitehead School of Government. He decided to pursue his passion for photography on a full time basis by enrolling in ICP. His project Fringe was screened at the 2014 Visa Pour L’Image festival in Perpignan Chris attended the Eddie Adams Workshop and was awarded the Time Magazine Award for his work there. His photographs have been published in TIME Lightbox, and Al-Jazzeera.

About the Photograph:

“I had really just started photographing and considering changing directions career wise and a few lessons that came out of taking this photo have been important. After meeting some trainers at a gym in Passaic, NJ I had started shooting amateur boxers in gyms in Passaic, Patterson, and Newark. I had seen a lot of the younger kids train in the gym and was always impressed by their confidence. When I saw them lining up for registration and weigh-in they looked much more vulnerable than at the gym. The guys running registration all had the hard look of older fighters and I wanted to see what they saw. So, I squeezed behind them and shot a few frames. What’s funny is that, while I was shooting one of them grabbed me and dragged me out and started to loudly say you like taking pictures of little boys with no shirts on, telling me he was calling the cops and I better erase the images.”

“My first reaction was to laugh at the absurdity of his accusation. They were live streaming the event- an event where the same kids were going to shirtlessly punch each other in the face in front of a crowd with cameras. He didn’t find my observation funny. Also, the guy had been a boxer so I didn’t have a chance to physically back him off. I had gotten to know a lot of trainers, several of who were local law enforcement and I waved them over to explain that I was not some pervert. The whole incident taught me how important it is to shoot what I see as an important moment and deal with any problems afterwards. It also was a good lesson in dealing with people who don’t get what you are doing and in standing my ground as a photographer. I knew I had the photo I was looking for and there was no chance I would delete it.”

Lydia Panas September 21, 2015

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in United States.
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Turning to the Phoenix. Kutztown, PA in 2007

Lydia Panas (b. 1958, USA) has degrees from Boston College, School of Visual Arts, New York University and ICP. Her work has won numerous awards and has been featured in the New York Times Magazine, Photo District News, Popular Photography and is held in numerous public and private collections including the Brooklyn Museum; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Allentown Art Museum of the Lehigh Valley; Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; and the Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego among others. She has received a Whitney Museum Independent Study Fellowship. Her first monograph The Mark of Abel (Kehrer Verlag), was named a best book of 2012 from PDN and the Daily Beast.

About the Photograph:

“I was working on a series of portraits about family relationships when I made this photograph. Vanessa is a gentle and quiet woman. She is fiercely political, but always soft and discreet. I admired how she spoke about her daughter. She and Abby’s father divorced early and Abby was raised between two homes. I remember thinking how difficult it would feel to share my daughter with another woman/mother but Vanessa was always generous about the time Abby spent with her father and stepmother. I would ask her, how do you feel having to share? Do you resent it? Do you feel pushed aside when she is with them? Vanessa, measured perhaps, but also thoughtful indicated that Abby had a second perspective and extra love in her life. I think it was somewhat painful, but she did not waiver, referencing Abby as most important in the equation.”

Gianfranco Tripodo September 17, 2015

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Spain.
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From the project Frontera Sur, Ceuta, Spain, 2012 

Gianfranco Tripodo (b.1981, Philippines) has a degree in Media Science and Semiotic fromt Bologna University. After graduation he spent a brief period in Milan and then I moved to Spain, where he has lived since 2005. His work has been published in: The New York Times, The Financial Times Weekend Magazine, Monocle, Der Spiegel, L’Espresso and Rolling Stone. Gianfranco is represented by Contrasto.

About the Photograph:

“This image is part of my on-going project about migration in the far southern border of Europe, in the two Spanish enclaves, Ceuta and Melilla. The project is called Frontera Sur, and is about the path that thousands of migrants travel from Morocco to the border of the enclaves until they reach Spanish soil. This particular photograph was taken during an Easter celebration inside the offices of Elin, a Ceuta based NGO that help sub-Saharan migrants with Spanish language classes and general assistance. It was a very intense moment while they were praying and wishing to finally reach Europe.”

Anne Rearick September 13, 2015

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in United States.
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Glenn’s Ferry, Idaho 2014

Anne Rearick’s (b. 1960, United States) work as a photographer has taken her from exploring life in Basque villages in the French Pyrenees to the culture of amateur boxing in the US and Kazakhstan, to post-apartheid South African townships. Anne has received numerous awards and grants in support of her photography, most notably a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Fulbright and the European Mosaique Prize among others. Anne Rearick’s Eye, a monograph of her Basque photographs, was published by Editions Atlantica in 2004.  She has recently completed work on her latest book, Township, Life after Apartheid, slated for publication in 2016 Collections include the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, the Centre Nationale de L’Audiovisuel in Luxembourg, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.  Her work is distributed by Agence VU.

About the Photograph:

“This  photograph was made on a scorching  July day in Glenn’s Ferry, Idaho. Glenn’s Ferry is a small town (population 1319) located on the Snake River in southwestern Idaho. I’d parked a few blocks away and was walking up and down streets looking for pictures. It was a ghost town, I hadn’t seen a soul.  Finally, I came across this group of teenagers. Hot and bored, they were lounging under a great tree, totally unaware of me. One of the boys, the oldest I think, had a pellet gun trained on the house across the street. I approached the group and talked with them for a bit about what they were up to. The boy told me that he was waiting for his older brother to come out of the house they shared with their father and stepmother. He was going to shoot at him for laughs. Thankfully, the brother never came out, and I stayed and photographed the kids for awhile. They reminded me of myself as a teenager, trying to survive those long hot summer days.”

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