Friday, June 24, 2011

Marc Riboud

Marc Riboud, copyright Xiao-Quan

"Taking pictures is savoring life intensely, every hundredth of a second."

"The idea of photography as evidence is pure bullshit. A photo is no more poof of any reality than what you may hear being said by someone in a bus. We only record details, small fragments of the world. This cannot allow any judgement, even if the sum of these details may convey a point of view."

"Photography cannot change the world, but it can show the world, especially when it changes."

Pekin, 1965

Cuba, 1963

Hollande, 1994

Paris, 1953

Londres, 1954

I am most grateful to Monsieur Riboud for his kind permission to reproduce his work here on my blog.


Marc Riboud is born in 1923 in Lyon. At the Great Exhibition of Paris in 1937 he takes his first pictures with the small Vest-Pocket camera his father offered him. During the war, he took part in the Vercors fights. From 1945 to 1948 he studies engineering and works in a factory. After a week of holiday, during which he covers the cultural festival of Lyon, he drops his engineering job for photography.

In 1953, he publishes his famous "Eiffel Tower’s Painter" photograph in Life magazine and joins Magnum agency after meeting Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capa. Robert Capa later sends him to London to see girls and learn English. He doesn’t learn that much English but photographs intensely.

In 1955, he crosses Middle-East and Afghanistan to reach India, where he remains one year. He then heads toward China for a first stay in 1957. After three months in USSR in 1960, he follows the independances movement in Algeria and Western Africa. Between 1968 and 1969 he’s one of the few photographers allowed to travel in South and North Vietnam.

In 1976 he becomes president of Magnum and resigns three years later; since the 1980’s
he keeps travelling at his own tempo.

Marc Riboud published many books, among which the most famous are "The Three Banners of China," ed. Robert Laffont, "Journal," ed. Denoël, "Huang Shan, Capital of Heaven," ed. Arthaud / Doubleday, "Angkor, the serenity of Buddhism," ed. Imprimerie Nationale / Thames & Hudson, and "Marc Riboud in China," ed. Nathan/Harry N. Abrams.

In 2004 his retrospective is exhibited at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris and visited by 100,000 people. Numerous museums trough Europe, as well as United States, China and Japan regularly show his work. He received many awards, among which two Overseas Press Club, the Time-Life Achievement, the Lucie Award and the ICP Infinity Award.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Natalie Young

"The West Room"

"Weeping Silo"


"Georgia & Sabine, #30"

"Georgia & Sabine, #31"

Georgia & Sabine, #19"

Georgia & Sabine, #34"


"Small World"


Natalie Young Biography from her web site:

Natalie is an award-winning photographer based in Los Angeles. She was nominated for the 2010 Baum Award for Emerging American Photographers and was a winner in PhotoLucida’s 2008 Critical Mass competition.  Her work has been published in Lenswork, SHOTS, and  Black & White Photography.  Recent exhibitions include Lightspace Gallery in North Carolina, Newspace Center of Photography in Oregon, as well as international exhibitions in  China and Lithuania.   Natalie’s work is in the collection of Museum of Fine Arts Houston, as well as private collections around the country.  Her first published monograph, Georgia & Sabine, was released in 2009.

Originally from the South, Natalie relocated to the west coast in 2000.  She now lives in Manhattan Beach, CA with her miniature dachshund, Georgia, and plays a lot of beach volleyball.

Natalie is represented by Kevin Longino Fine Photographs (see link above).

Artist's Statements:

The Farm:

My photographs frequently explore the connection of the past to the present, and the relationship of people to their environment.  Personal identity and cultural history are often attached to a sense of place, and this can have a strong influence over the texture and stories of our life.  I am very interested in the experience of family and cultural history ... the need for a story that ties us to a larger meaning, and the extent to which we either inherit larger stories or attempt to create newer ones.
‘The Farm’ series was photographed in Kansas over the past decade, on the family farm.  The land has been in the family for many generations and much of the family's roots, identity, and stories are tied to this particular plot of earth.  This project is about place and history, about memory and story.  It's about the things that tie us together, and the things that bring us back.

Georgia & Sabine:

Georgia and Sabine are my two girls, miniature dachshunds, who I've been photographing for years.  Each image is a quiet moment on an ordinary day, just like a thousand other moments taken for granted. My relationship with them has always been very up-close and personal, as are my photographs. Taken at eye level in a domestic environment, the portraits have an intimacy that takes the viewer closer to the thin line that separates we human animals from our pets. There is a sense of waiting and anticipation in these photographs that is unique to the routine life of a domesticated pet. Yet I think this feeling of expectation often resonates with the viewer as part of the human experience, where much of our life is spent in ordinary activities with the anticipation of something bigger or more exciting around the corner.  These somewhat unremarkable moments string together to create a life, and it is often in their midst where we find beauty, joy, and peace.


I am equally comfortable immersed in an urban environment or in the natural world, and perhaps this is the reason for my attraction to the contest between the man-made and the organic, particularly where one seems to be holding the upper hand.  Urban development and nature are in constant negotiation, and we are witness to their many small dramas going on around us all the time. There is an aching beauty that hangs in the balance of the moment, and always hints at what just was, or what soon will be.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Rania Matar

"Amber, 16, Dorcester, MA," 2010

"Krystal, 17, No. 1, Boston, MA," 2009

"Veil Mannequins, Beirut," 2005

"Blissful Nun, Beirut," 2006

"Men at Church, Beirut," 2009

Rania, 13 - Reem, 11, Bethlehem," 2009

"Sisters,Beirut," 2007

Rania Matar Biography from her web site:

Born and raised in Lebanon, Rania Matar moved to the U.S. in 1984. Originally trained as an architect at the American University of Beirut and Cornell University, she worked as an architect before studying photography at New England School of Photography, and at the Maine Photographic Workshops in Mexico with Magnum photographer, Constantine Manos. She currently works full-time as a photographer and teaches documentary photography at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. She also teaches photography in the summers to teenage girls in Lebanon's refugee camps with the assistance of non-governmental organizations.

Matar's work focuses mainly on women and women's issues. Her previous work has focused on women and children in the Middle East, and her projects – which examine the Palestinian refugee camps, the recent spread of the veil and its meanings, the aftermath of war, and the Christians of the Middle East – intend to give a voice to people who have been forgotten or misunderstood. In Boston, where she lives, she photographs her four children at all stages of their lives, and is currently working on a new body of work, "A Girl and her Room," photographing teenage girls from different backgrounds.

Her work has won several awards, has been featured in numerous publications, and exhibited widely in the U.S. and internationally.

Her first book titled "Ordinary Lives" was released October 2009, published by the Quantuck Lane Press and distributed by W.W. Norton.

Project Statements:

"A Girl and Her Room"
"The Veil"
"Aftermath of War"
"Forgotten People"
"Behind the Wall"
"What Remains"

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Martin Munkácsi

"to see in a thousandth of a second that which the ordinary person passes without notice - this is the theory of photo reporting.  And to photograph what we see during the next thousandth of a second - that is the practical side of photo reporting."

"Peignoir in Soft Breeze," 1936

"Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera," 1933

"Eva Szaplone in Rumbleseat," 1932

"Katherine Hepburn," 1935

"Tibor von Halmay and Vera Mahlke," ca. 1931

"Woman on Electrical Productions Building,
World's Fair, New York," 1938

Martin Munkácsi Obituray from by Phyllis Tuchman:

For most of his life, Martin Munkacsi was a madcap adventurer, Candide with a camera. In pursuit of great pictures during the 1930s and ’40s, the Hungarian-born photographer traveled from his home in Berlin and, later, New York to such far-flung places as London, Liberia, Rio de Janeiro, Hawaii, Turkey, Seville and San Francisco. To this day, Munkacsi’s prints of sporting events, leisure activities, fashion, portraiture and political events remain unrivaled for their energy and flair. Using a 4x5 reflex camera by Adams of London for portraits and a 4x5 speed graphic camera for the outdoors, he combined formal inventiveness with a crack reporter’s nose for a good story. His admirers included colleagues as different as photojournalist Henri Cartier-Bresson and Richard Avedon, the fashion photographer.

Munkacsi’s mantra could not have been simpler. “My trick,” he wrote in 1935, “consists [of] discarding all tricks.” To be sure, his pictures of car races, amusement park rides and bathers in the surf as well as starlets like Greta Garbo, Leni Riefenstahl and Katherine Hepburn project an air of informality. “Never,” Munkacsi advised, “pose your subjects, Let them move about naturally.”  At the height of the Depression he declared, “All great photographs today are snapshots.”
Munkacsi is in the news with a batch of fresh gelatin prints, currently on view at New York’s International Center of Photography as part of the Extremely Hungary festival. They were developed from the photographer’s recently discovered lost glass negatives, which no one expected to see again. After Munkacsi died from a heart attack in 1963 at the age of 67, his archive was offered to several museums and universities. There were no takers. Two years ago, when the ICP mounted a 150-print retrospective of the Hungarian’s work, only 300 images were tracked down. After the New York show, more than 4,000 glass negatives spanning Munkacsi’s entire career turned up on eBay. They were in Connecticut filed in small boxes that collectively weighed more than 300 pounds. The ICP negotiated a price and bought them.

Morton Mermelstein was born on May 18, 1896, in Transylvania. His father, a house painter and part-time magician who had experienced anti-Semitism, changed the family name, working a twist on Munkacs, a Hungarian village. The fourth of seven children, the future photographer loved sports, particularly soccer, and was clever enough to make his own pair of ice skates.  As an adult, he retained his playful character. According to his daughter Joan, he “would never simply throw a piece of paper in a wastebasket. He would toss it first in the air, butt it with his head, bounce it off his elbow and kick it backward with his foot into the basket.”
At 11, Munkacsi started running away from home. He left for good when he was 16. Initially, he painted houses in Budapest. A year later, he joined Az Est, a daily sports journal, as a reporter assigned to cover soccer matches and car races. The precocious teenager also became an interviewer for two weekly publications. After war broke out, he also took photographs with a homemade camera for Az Est as well as a theater weekly.

In 1923, as he was riding a trolley to an out-of-town assignment, Munkacsi photographed street scenes with his latest camera. When he returned to Budapest a week later, he discovered he had unwittingly made a record of an explosive event. His snapshots proved that an old man accused of murdering one of the Kaiser’s soldiers had acted in self-defense. In 1966, after the opening of Michelangelo Antonioni’s film Blow-Up, which chronicles a photographer’s discovery of a murder, Joan Munkacsi’s mother said, “They stole your father’s plot!”

In 1927, at 31, Munkacsi moved to Berlin. He signed a contract with a large publishing house and a year later began taking photographs for Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung, a picture magazine with two million subscribers. His cover shots included one aloft in the dining room of the dirigible Graf Zeppelin; another with Greta Garbo’s legs appearing beneath a large, striped beach umbrella; and a third of Leni Riefenstahl on skies when she was acting in mountain-themed movies.
During his Berlin period, Munkacsi’s ebullient print of three naked boys running into the foam-crested waters of Liberia’s Lake Tanganyika caught the attention of Henri Cartier-Bresson, then a painter. In a flash, the Frenchman changed careers. “It is only that one photograph which influenced me,” he later said. “There is in that image such intensity, spontaneity, such a joy of life, such a prodigy…” The joyful scene seems typical of what Cartier-Bresson famously termed the decisive moment. Ironically, the negatives in Munkacsi’s lost archive now reveal that the Hungarian’s decisive moments were the result of cropping masterfully and setting the right scene.

On March 21, 1933, Munkacsi photographed the president of Germany turning over the government to Adolph Hitler in Potsdam. Munkacsi saw the writing on the wall. Within three months, he hightailed it to New York, where his future lay in fashion photography.
At Harpers Bazaar, Carmen Snow, the legendary — then fledgling — editor-in-chief hired him. The charming Hungarian with a great sense of humor treated fashion shoots as if they were sports events, bringing his models outdoors and setting them in motion. Early on, he photographed a beautiful woman in a flowing peignoir beside a large tree. Another print featured an elegant Manhattanite in a tweed suit and cloche hat, holding an umbrella and leaping across a puddle. With his penchant for animated, dynamic images, Munkacsi found Fred Astaire dancing to be his ideal celebrity subject. Heeding his own advice, the photographer would “pick unexpected angles. Lie down on [my] back.”
With Kurt Safranski, a fellow émigré, Munkacsi created a mock-up for an American photo weekly based on Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung. After William Randolph Hearst turned down the idea, the two men went to Henry Luce, who bought it. Safranksi became the first managing editor of Life magazine and Munkacsi a staff photographer.

By the 1940s, Munkacsi was a celebrity in his own right. He boasted of his big contracts, his penthouse triplex in Tudor City, his extravagant house in Sands Point on Long Island’s North Shore. A heart attack he suffered in 1943 was the start of a slow decline. Though he’d been earning as much as $4,000 a month from Ladies Home Journal for a series devoted to “How America Lives” — between 1940-46, he shot 65 of its 78 features — he did not adapt to working in color when the magazine was redesigned after WWII. His contract wasn’t renewed, and a year later Harper’s Bazaar dropped him as well.
Munkacsi got by on freelance work, from Reynolds Aluminum, Ford and Kings Features, among others. At this point, his life sounds like a cross between Funny Face, the film that’s a veiled portrait of Richard Avedon, and this year’s The Wrestler, which depicts a down-on-his-luck legend. Munkacsi even sold his cameras to make ends meet. He was practically destitute and all but forgotten at the time of his death.
Avedon eulogized his predecessor in Harpers Bazaar, remembering the Munkacsi pictures that had inspired him. He praised the Hungarian who “brought a taste for happiness and honesty and a love of women to what was before him a joyless, loveless, lying art…. He wanted his world a certain way and what a way!”

Friday, June 3, 2011

Doris Ulmann

"The faces of men and women in the street are probably as interesting as literary faces, but my particular human angle leads me to men and women who write. I am not interested exclusively in literary faces, because I have been more deeply moved by some of my mountaineers than by any literary person. A face that has the marks of having lived intensely, that expresses some phase of life, some dominant quality or intellectual power, constitutes for me an interesting face. For this reason the face of an older person, perhaps not beautiful in the strictest sense, is usually more appealing than the face of a younger person who has scarcely been touched by life."

"Woman on Porch," 1930, from Smithsonian American Art Museum

"Aunt Cord Ritchie, Basket Maker"

"Albert Einstein"

"Southern Mountaineer"

"Old Woman in Sunbonet"


"Grace Combs, Hindsman, Kentucky"

Doris Ulmann Biography from Western Carolina University Craft Revival:  Shaping Western North Carolina Past and Present:

Doris Ulmann (1882-1934) was already a successful photographer when she met Allen Eaton in the 1920s and became involved with the Craft Revival.  In the 1930s, when Eaton began organizing exhibitions of southern mountain crafts, Ulmann’s photographs of craft makers at work provided context.  An indefatigable artist, Ulmann made photographs right up until her death in 1934.  In 1937 fifty-eight of her photographs were published in Eaton’s Handicrafts of the Southern Highlands.  In 1971 her assistant John Jacob Niles published sixty-three photographs in The Appalachian Photographs of Doris Ulmann.  In 1976, the art department at western Carolina University mounted a retrospective exhibition of her work.

Like many non-makers who participated in the Craft Revival, Doris Ulmann was born outside the region to a wealthy family.  The daughter of a Jewish textile industrialist, Ulmann was raised in New York City’s fashionable Upper West Side.  She spoke German, French, and Italian in addition to her native tongue.  In 1923, after ending a failed marriage to Charles Jaeger, an orthopedic surgeon and fellow photographer, she moved to an apartment at 1000 Park Avenue, where she lived until the end of her life.  Always frail, Ulmann stood five-feet-four and weighed just over 100 pounds.  She was a smart dresser who employed a dressmaker and Fifth Avenue boot-maker.  Ulmann enrolled at Columbia University and the Clarence White School of Photography, which attracted such notable photographers as Margaret Bourke-White and Dorothea Lange.  She was among the founding members of the Pictorial Photographers of America, a group that attempted to make pictures that were expressive, artistic, and beautiful.  Through her interest in the Ethical Culture Society, which advocated that cultural differences contribute to a democratic society, Ulmann began looking at her photographic subjects not as individuals, but as universal cultural types.

Doris Ulmann’s earliest portrait subjects were those who shared her world.  She invited well-known writers to sit for her in her Manhattan apartment.  But, more and more, Ulmann photographed what she called “vanishing types.”  She made an early picture series of esoteric religious sects: Shakers and Mennonites in Pennsylvania, and Dunkards (German Baptists) in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.  In the late 1920s she traveled to rural Kentucky where she took pictures of mountain families and to coastal South Carolina where she turned her camera on the African American Gullah people.

Although she worked on the cusp of the modern age, Ulmann’s photographic method belonged to the 19th rather than the 20th century.  She used a heavy 6 ½” x 8 ½” view camera that required a cumbersome setup.  Composing a picture with a view camera was complicated by the fact that the image appears upside down and backward to the photographer looking through the view finder.  Ulmann did not use a light meter to measure how much light an exposure required.  Instead, she removed the lens cap by hand to allow light to reach the film.  Exposures were made on glass plates, producing full-sized photographic impressions that were then printed on platinum paper.  Although expensive, platinum allowed for a subtle range of grays, resulting in a wide tonal palette.

 During her lifetime Doris Ulmann created portrait portfolios of medical doctors (1919 and 1922), editors (1925), and African Americans in the volume Roll, Jordan, Roll (1933).  She mounted a solo exhibition of her work at the Library of Congress only months before she died.  Most of her Appalachian portraits were published posthumously with many printed from some of the 10,000 glass plates left at her death in 1934.  In 1937 many of Ulmann’s Appalachian images were published in Handicrafts of the Southern Highlands, Allen Eaton’s survey of the Craft Revival.  As an independently wealthy artist, Ulmann was in a position to determine the circumstances of her work.  She rejected Eaton’s request that she follow him, taking portraits of every craftsman he visited.  Instead, she set her own schedule and spent lengthy afternoons with one subject.  Ulmann approached her portraiture of craft makers and movement leaders in much the same way as she did her Manhattan subjects.  Using a soft-focus lens, she posed each with some tangible symbol of the sitter’s role.  Revival leaders were often posed with books, makers with the tools of their trade.

Ulmann’s portrait lens began to focus on Appalachian craftsmen in the 1920s.  Asked first by the Southern Woman’s Educational Alliance of Richmond, and later by author Allen Eaton, Ulmann began regular photographic pilgrimages to eastern Kentucky, southwestern Virginia, and western North Carolina.

In the summer of 1933 Ulmann traveled for the first time to the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina where she met school founder Olive Dame Campbell.  Campbell became a close friend and colleague, putting her in touch with western North Carolina craft makers.  But Olive Campbell was more than just a friend to Doris Ulmann; she gave advice and drew itineraries for the photographer to follow.

Most of the photographs Doris Ulmann took in western North Carolina were made during the last two years of the artist’s life.  With frail health exacerbated by chain smoking and a poor diet, 1933 and 1934 were spent on the road, punctuated by shorter and shorter stays in Manhattan where she would develop pictures, recoup and repack, before heading out again.  Ulmann ventured out from her Park Avenue apartment in a large Lincoln driven by a German chauffeur.  With equipment in the trunk and map in hand, they often left on extended photographic tours at midnight.  She sometimes processed photographic plates in hotel bathrooms, renting out an extra room for that purpose.  Niles wrote of one of their last departures, “On about the 10th of April (1934) the 7th Ulmann Niles Folk Lore Photographic Expedition will set out.  With cars and trailers and cameras and note books.”

Doris Ulmann’s last photographs were made on Turkey Mountain, not far from Asheville, North Carolina.  Ulmann knew that her health was failing and wrote to her friend Olive Campbell the prophetic words, “I wish that I could look forward to the time when I’ll be visiting you at Brasstown again.”  A month later Doris Ulmann collapsed and was taken by car back to New York City.  She stopped in Pennsylvania to rest and wrote two last letters to Campbell.  She noted her weakened condition, explaining her handwriting “is scrawly because I am writing in bed.”  Doris Ulmann died on August 28, 1934 at her Park Avenue apartment.