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Last Verve Photo Post – Geoffrey Hiller October 29, 2015

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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.

Zack Wittman​ October 12, 2015

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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!”

Paulo Patruno October 4, 2015

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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

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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.”

Chris Occhicone September 23, 2015

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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

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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.”

Anne Rearick September 13, 2015

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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.”

Miska Draskoczy September 10, 2015

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Egret above the Gowanus Canal. Brooklyn, New York 2013

Miska Draskoczy (b.1975, United States) is a photographer and filmmaker whose most recent project, Gowanus Wild, explores nature and wilderness in the notoriously polluted industrial neighborhood of Gowanus, Brooklyn where he lives. Miska’s photography has been exhibited in the US and abroad including solo shows at the Vermont Center for Photography, Ground Floor Gallery in Brooklyn and Davis Orton Gallery in Hudson, NY. He was recently named a Photolucida Critical Mass finalist and his work has been featured in The New Yorker’s Photo Booth, Time Out, PDN, and many other publications. Miska also works as a director, editor and animator on documentary and commercial projects through his production company snow23.

About the Photograph:
“I was taking pictures for the series at the end of this particularly tortured alley which ends in a tangle of metal and trees above the Gowanus Canal. I decided to go for a look right at the edge, pushing through a dense mass of vegetation with my tripod. Emerging onto a small rail precariously balanced 15 feet above the murk below, I was shocked to see a snow-white Egret perched in the tree next to me just a few yards away. I was suddenly thrown into the unfamiliar role of wildlife photographer, trying to shoot four second exposures on a clattering Rolleiflex without scaring the bird off, a seemingly hopeless task. Somehow I got a roll off before it flew away and luckily one shot came out sharp. It still amazes me this beautiful creature could survive in such a damaged environment. It’s these sorts of contradictions I find fascinating and they encourage me to keep looking.”

Rob Hart September 7, 2015

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Red Neck Fishing Tournament in Bath, Illinois 2014

Rob Hart (b. 1982, United States) is an Adjunct Faculty of Photojournalism at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He spent 12 years working for the Chicago Sun-Times Media and was named the 2013 Chicago Journalist of the Year.  Rob’s work has appeared in US News & World Report, The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, The New York Times, USA Today, The Miami Herald, The Detroit News & Free Press, and many other newspapers and magazines.He has worked for corporate clients like Adidas and Nike.

About the photograph:

“My photos of the Red Neck Fishing Tournament in Bath, IL exist because my amigo and Weird Sports lover Sol Neelman roped me into going in 2011. It was a great adventure and at the time I was still working for a newspaper, so it was really nice to just go make photos for no reason on a boat in southern Illinois. Huge monster size Asian carp jump from the water and drunk people try and catch them with nets, and then bash them with bats. It’s equal parts disgusting and amazing. A completely  genius way to deal with the invasive species and draw attention to the problem.”

“When the opportunity came around to spend more time there last summer I couldn’t pass it up.  It’s a lot of everything I want to do as a photographer. Hang out, have a ludicrous amount of fun, and take great photos. I found a pantoon loaded with fun folks and we spent three hours with boats following us as the noise of the motor makes the carp jump. I just hung off the back and worked getting everything to line up, and let the world happen. Whenever I’d speed past another photographer in a boat covered in mud and fish guts we’d just look at each other with huge smiles, like it’s unbelievable this is a real way to live. It’s a unique experience, defiantly a top five day.”

Yeong-Ung Yang July 13, 2015

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Bus Terminal Waiting Room. Sands Casino. Bethlehem, Pa 2013

Yeong-Ung Yang (b. 1984, South Korea) graduated from the Photojournalism & Documentary Photography Program at the International Center of Photography in New York City where he received the Rita K. Hilman Award. He was recently recognized as one of the 2015 PDN’s 30. Yeong-Ung completed an 2013 Emergency Fund Fellowship at the Magnum Foundation. His multimedia piece ‘Endless Bus Trip won Best of Show in the 2014 NPPA Northern Short Course Contest and Honorable Mention in the fourth Lumix Festival for Young Photojournalists. Yeong-Ung is based in New York City and his clients include the New York Times, Newsday, Corbis Image, Vogue Korea,and DAUM Media.

About the Photograph:

“Among thousands of people who ride the bus to the Sands Casino in Bethlehem, Pa, many of the patrons use the daily trips to make money by selling the free-play card that comes with each bus ride. The people who take the Chinese buses are from heavily Asian-populated neighborhoods mostly from Flushing, Chinatown and Brooklyn. They sell the gambling voucher worth 45 dollars in credit for 40 dollars cash. This earns them 25 dollars a trip subtracting the bus fare. Many of them go straight to the waiting room in the bus center without entering the casino fearing they may spend it inside the facility. In order to take the bus back home, they have to wait five hours. There is not much to do in a casino if your not gambling so most people sleep. I shot this image in the early stage of the project, and was surprised to see the waiting room packed with people all night long. Many of them sleep, some even play traditional Chinese board games or cards betting in coins.”

Sean Carroll July 2, 2015

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Grazing Buck, Yosemite National Park, California, 2013

Sean Carroll  (b. 1978, United States) is an artist working in photography and video raised in coastal Massachusetts now based in New York City. His works have been shown in exhibitions in New York, Detroit, Washington, DC, Northern Virginia, and North Carolina, including most recently, at Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts and Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art. His photos have been featured by PDN, Fraction Magazine, Ain’t Bad, and Lint Roller. He received an MFA in Photography from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and a BA in Visual Media from American University in Washington, DC.

About the Photograph:

“Yosemite Valley is one of the most visited natural sites in America. A lush river valley surrounded by dramatic waterfalls and sheer granite cliffs it attracts crowds of tourists to it’s famous vista points. To serve the visitors it is filled with a myriad of options for lodging, dining, transportation, and shopping. The diverse wildlife that call the valley home must coexist with the crowds and live within the shadows of hotels, parking lots, RVs, and gift shops. Late afternoon in September I came upon this male mule deer grazing in a small meadow in Yosemite Valley adjacent to the historic Ahwahnee Hotel and it’s bustling outdoor restaurant. For nearly an hour the deer enjoyed a late afternoon snack before slipping back into the forest as a steady stream of visitors, weary from the day’s adventures, made their observation of the wildlife.”

Gergely Szatmari June 25, 2015

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From the series “Meadowlands”. New Jersey 2009

Gergely Szatmári (b. 1966, Hungary) is a former university adjunct of the Photography Department, MOME, Budapest. He received his diploma from the same establishment, and also completed the doctoral programme there. Recently his activity turned towards his autonomous long-term photographic projects. His interest extends from documentary through narrative to conceptualism. His works has been exhibited at Viennafair, the Hungarian Cultural Centre in London, the Museum der Arbeit in Hamburg, the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin, in Miami Scope, at London Art Fair and in the Lucca Photofestival in Italy. In 2008, he spent a year in the USA as a guest researcher, at Montclair State University (NJ). Alongside pedagogical activity, he also works as a curator.

About the Photograph: 

“Construction cake: The story takes place somewhere in New Jersey on a sleepy Saturday afternoon, when days are usually slowly passing by, but today is a special occasion. My Uncle and his wife drive to their daughter’s place, to the next street, to celebrate their grandson’s birthday. The boy loves cake and cars and construction vehicles. In the morning his grandparents had to drive to a neighbouring city, to pick-up the cake from a Mexican pastry shop to fulfill these desires. This is the only local place where you can commission such a cake. This shot was made using 10 by 8 inch film focused on a typical suburban moment of human engagement.”

Jason Tannen June 18, 2015

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Chinatown, San Francisco 2011

Jason Tannen (b. 1950, USA) is a photographer, curator, and photo educator. For over three decades his work has explored the urban landscape, utilizing both an observational street photography approach, and a more controlled and cinematic style. Recent exhibitions have included SF Camerawork, Black Box Gallery, Portland, OR, Index Art Center, Newark, NJ, Bakehouse Art Complex, Miami, FL, and Fukushima Contemporary Art Biennale, Fukushima, Japan. From 1998 to 2014 Jason was the curator at the University Art Gallery at California State University, Chico, where he also taught Film as Visual Art and the History of Photography. He is currently developing Two Truths and A Lie, an exhibition featuring work by New York tabloid photographer Weegee (Arthur Fellig 1899-1968) for the University Art Gallery, California State University, Chico.

About the Photograph:

“In 2010, I started a project photographing San Francisco’s Chinatown neighborhood. I was drawn to Chinatown’s physical and visual density of buildings, storefronts, signs and symbols. For me, those elements could best be explored in black and white. Over time, I was struck by the neighborhood’s ever-present cultural mixing of East and West, especially a unique, personal and sometimes highly eccentric approach to commercial display. When I photographed Pyramid, I was shooting close to the windows, looking deep into the storefronts and allowing foreground objects to loom around the edges of the frame. The result here is a composition featuring diagonal lines and crossing shapes, the reflected urban backdrop, and a reference to the human presence.​”

Jessica Auer June 11, 2015

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Las Vegas, Nevada, 2004

Jessica Auer (b.1978, Canada) is a documentary-style landscape photographer concerned with the study of cultural sites focusing on themes that connect place, journey and cultural experience. Jessica holds an MFA from Concordia University and is the recipient of several awards such as the W.B. Bruce European Fine Art Travel Fellowship and the Roloff Beny Prize. Her work has been exhibited in galleries, museums and public spaces across Canada and abroad. Her first book, Unmarked Sites, was noted by Photo-Eye and the Indie Photobook Library as one of the top ten photography books published in 2011. Jessica is a co-founder of Galerie Les Territoires in Montréal and teaches photography at Concordia University.

About the Photograph:

“This was the first photo that I produced for a series titled Re-creational Spaces, a project that I pursued for seven years and became my best-known work. At that time I considered creating a photographic series exclusively about Las Vegas and booked a cheap ticket to do some scouting. I had just read Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown’s Learning from Las Vegas as part of my MFA thesis research and the opening sentence stuck with me, Learning from an existing landscape is a way of being revolutionary for an architect. Having long been interested in landscape and the built environment, I was curious to see for myself how the Strip had shifted and evolved since the 70’s.”

“When I arrived camera in hand, I gravitated towards the hotels that were smaller-scale replicas of other places in the World – Paris, New York, and in the case of this photo, Venice. What I remember most about the moment I took this photo was contemplating how this site must have looked before the city was built, and this image in mind – a nearly blank desert landscape – was such a stark contrast to what I was witnessing. When I later looked at this image in print and was able to spend more time with all details, such as the gondola driver on his PDA, and the words Mirage repeated over and over, I decided to only use this one photograph. From there, I began a series linking different tourist destinations, showing how the landscape has been altered and commodified for sightseeing.”

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