i am so pleased to be profiled on The New York times Lens Blog. This project is very special to me. i want to thank Rena Silverman for writing such a sensitive and thoughtful article about this Korean cultural tradition. Click here to view.
in 2007 stacey delorenzo at glamour magazine sent me to colorado springs to cover a purity ball, an elaborate party where a father signs a vow to protect his daughter and his daughter pledges her chastity to her father until she marries. the ball was conceived by pastor randy wilson of the generations of light ministry. unsurprisingly, he is a father of 5 daughters. i was lucky enough to cover a purity ball hosted by its originators.
i was so excited to photograph this event. it's such an unusual occasion, a curious mixing of religion, sex, childhood, and valor. the coupling of tuxedo-ed men with young women and girls dressed in white party dresses ensured great visuals. photographing the purity ball was an exercise in keeping an open mind. regardless of my beliefs this was an event that had tremendous significance to the participants, half of them young girls. i had no desire to ridicule them or to make them look naive.
the evening started with a dinner, then came the reading and signing of the oaths (a few of the very young girls couldn't write yet), some exchanged rings or jewelry, next came a dance showcase performed by young ladies. some of the dancers were attendees, others were siblings or friends who had attended their own balls. the evening culminated with father and daughter walking beneath upraised swords to lay a white rose at the base of a large, wooden cross the dancers had carried into the ballroom.
the evening presented a surprise; another photographer, from O magazine (who was also a client of mine). neither of us knew the other was going to be present. we introduced ourselves and were polite but as the night wore on it started to get a little competitive! not only were we vying for the best angles i had to make sure not to get him in my framing. i felt i had to keep track of whom i was selecting to profile and made sure we were not photographing the same father and daughter. i had the advantage of being able to approach the young girls without suspicion or threat just becasue i was a woman. i was so glad i wore a black cocktail dress and asked my assistant to wear a jacket and dress shoes for this shoot. we blended in well and our semi formal attired implied a respect for their ceremony.
in addition to the documentary style photos of the event i set up a portrait studio in a little used hallway just outside the ballroom. i photographed fathers with the daughters prom style on my 4x5 film camera and gave away polaroids to my sitters as momentos of the evening.
as i write this is surprises me how much has changed in less than 10 years, not only in my own work flow and choice of camera equipment, but with photography in print and social media. personally, i started out shooting film on a 4x5 linhof, to shooting digital on an alpa and leaf back, to canon 35mm digital, and recently reintroduced a 4x5 linhof to my camera case.
anna nozaki at B magazine asked me to photograph the incoming freshman on move in day at barnard college this past august. it's not often i get asked to photograph documentary/reportage style stories so i was super excited. it's a luxury to have all day to flesh out a story, instead of the more common hour or two for a portrait. i covered the full day from new students waiting patiently in the check in line with all of their possessions backed into suitcases and shopping bags from bed bath and beyond, the orientation welcome ceremony, the family lunch on the lawn, to the emotional farewells. the most intriguing part of the day for me was documenting the freshmen as they moved into their dorm rooms. the young ladies were clearly excited, anxious, scared, apprehensive, hopeful...all of it at the same time.
the scene i found behind every dorm room door was different. some came from far away with both parents, others came from queens or the upper west side and seemed to be moving in alone, secure in the knowledge they'd be going home for dinner that weekend. beds were being made, suitcases unpacked, furniture put together, decorations were carefully arranged on walls so visitors could see at a glance their allegiances, interests and passions. they were busy turning the blank canvas of their dorm room into an expression of who they were.
some observations: a record player. a ukelele. lots of brand new bedding. framed baby photos. bored younger siblings. one young lady's collection of stuffed lions, tigers and bears. another contemplating a farewell to arms and les miserables with a hand painted quote by albus dumbleldore hanging on a shelf in front of her.
i remembered my own move in day when i started college and feeling the pressure to define myself for this world of strangers while i was simultaneously trying to figure out who i was. it seemed impossible i would sift through all those people to find like minded friends. i could feel the same struggle going on with the new barnard students. many were unpacking a few feet from their new roommate(s) without any interaction. it's difficult to know how to intimately share a small space with a total stranger, albeit one that may be your future best friend.
every parent was required to sign in and wear a guest pass. i couldn't help but notice this significant reversal as the parents were now considered guests in their children's new residence.
i really enjoyed being in the midst of so many young women again. it reminded me of my years photographing the teenagers for my mendham girls project. i saw only potential and power in every lady i met and i was excited for them. as a parent it was touching to see the different degrees to which some of them were still hanging onto their childhood selves.
there are two other documentary style stories i have worked on that i'd like to share. more coming soon!
two portraits of creative men for wsj: designer and pentagram member michael bierut and glass artist thaddeus wolfe. wildly divergent personal styles.
another lovely interior from tacklebox.
one of my longest standing and favorite clients is B, the barnard college alumni magazine. this is solely becasue of anna nozaki who art directs, designs, photo edits and produces each issue. she is a one woman whirlwind of talent and creativity. she's got a fantastic eye, likes to challenge herself and pushes me in just the right ways to get some of my best work out of me. and she's a terrific knitter. some of my favorite shoots together were shot in black and white, the first one was shot on type 55 (this is how far back our relationship goes.)
for the next issue of B anna asked me to document the freshmen move in day and it was one of the most interesting and exciting assignments i have been asked to photograph. i'm known primarily for my portraits but photographing move in day surrounded by glowing young ladies really too me back to my days photographing the teenage girls for my mendham, new jersey project and i think i got some good pictures that day. i loved being around the young women while they were filled with excitement, anxiety, hope and fear. it was an intensely emotional day. i'll post photos as soon as the issue is out!
caroline bauman standing in the conservatory amid stacks of unopened furniture a week before the grand reopening of the cooper hewitt. the cooper hewitt has been closed for three years for renovations.
i met the brothers at tompkins square park. jiro ran over when he saw me burying my son in the sandbox and asked me to bury him too. i'd seen him and his dad around the playground but really got to know them that day when jiro's dad found me dumping huge amounts of sand all over his son's legs. thankfully he was really laid back and didn't mind that i had just covered his child in sand! jiro has grown up to be an awesome skateboarder and i wanted to do some photos of the brothers together near the skate park. jiro broke his arm in an innocuous fall at the school jungle gym just before our shoot which scuppered those plans. i'll be going back to shoot him skating once he's all healed. in the meanwhile here are a few photos from that afternoon with the brothers just hanging out at east river park.
the fantastic photo editor erica ackerberg recently contacted me to ask if i'd be interested in shooting panoramics for the metropolitan section of the new york times newspaper. while i've photographed for the times magazine i'd never worked for the newspaper and i was excited to do so and to try my hand at this very unusual (for me anyway) panoramic format. i love candid street photography of new york. no one does it better than bruce davidson. mr davidson offered me an internship while i was a student at risd one summer, and while i loved his work and so wanted to learn from him, i turned down the offer becasue i was a little fearful of the famously grouchy photographer when i interviewed with him. i don't quite regret turning down the offer, i think i'm still a little scared of the man! i had never tried to shoot candid street photography in new york but was excited to try.
this assignment was unusual in that it was open ended. i could choose to shoot anything as long as i submitted it in the panoramic format. i had a few ideas, carried my camera with me everywhere and realized how hard it was to just happen upon a great image. when i received a newsletter from il buco announcing the sagra del maiale festival i bought tickets for the whole family and brought along my camera. there was such a fantastic visual display of pig everywhere! i tried as best as i could to keep the panoramic format in mind while shooting but kept going back and forth as i also wanted to just get great, full frame pictures too. my camera does not have the option to create a mask so when cropping full frame images to the 9.27x2.8 format later that day it just killed me how much info i had to cut out! i had to decide what i liked better, the meat hanging off the hooks at the top edge of the frame, or flames at the bottom of the frame. as you can see i opted to keep the hanging meat. i'm including the full frame of the images so you can see what the whole pictures looks like. further below are more festival of the pig photos, in case you need more meat in your visual diet. at the very end are a few of my favorite bruce davidson images.
amazing work by bruce davidson.
meet matt sabato, he is jill's visual merchandiser. he also wears her jewelry extremely well and gives it a funky youthful spin. following are a few images from my shoot with him and his friend aeriel wearing jill's jewels.
i grew up one of three sisters, in a home filled with girls. when i got pregnant and i found out i have having a boy i worried i would not know how to raise a son. now i have two boys and they could not be more different in personality and temperament. perhaps becasue i have two boys i seem to know many parents with only boys. we compare notes and anecdotes, trying to see if there is some secret answer to building bonds and kinship between the brothers. of course there are no answers and every relationship is different. but the fun is in the sharing, comparing and trying to see if there IS something that binds all families and siblings and if so how to preserve it, nurture it. i am starting a new series photographing brothers. i always thought this picture i took of my boys at the tuilleries in paris totally exemplified their relationship. my older son is helping my younger son out of the car by undoing his straps for him. you'll notice the casual elbow to the throat, the puzzled yet still trusting younger brother who is accepting his help in good faith. that false and brazen smile on my older son's face is the kicker though. like he thinks he can charm me into not seeing what is right in front of me. i wish i could say it's gotten better. but i have hope!
more from this series to come.
the first person to ever hire me for a job was stuart spalding, then at the face magazine. i was so excited that someone actually wanted to work with me. the first time he called he asked me to photograph alan vega of suicide. as a young grunt i would have been extremely happy shooting just about anything. the next few times stuart called he asked me to photograph equally experienced older gents and while they were interesting to meet, i very often found the shoots that made their way to me, the beginner photographer, rather challenging. there was so budget, no location, no groomer or stylist or money for a studio or lighting. i don't necessarily want or need any of those things to make a great portrait. but if none of those things are even options then a great subject or some sort of affinity to the sitter is key. those sort of inspirational stories tended to go to more experienced photographers so i found myself in that weird paradox where the inexperienced newbie often gets handed the most difficult shoots to be shot under the most challenging circumstances with the least amount of budget. but i was just happy to be working.
at some point i worked up enough courage to ask stuart to consider me for portraits of people other than aging men. thankfully he took it in good humor and actually listened. one of the best assignments he sent me soon after was to photograph philip seymour hoffman. boogie nights had already come out in the states and was about to premier in england. i was so impressed how seymour hoffman had managed to play such a weak and vulnerable character like scottie, who was such an emotional and messy embarrassment, but didn't embarrass himself in the process. he arrived alone at my 6th floor walk up in the lower east side and was game to try anything i asked him to do. he was such a good sport and even wore some tiny, tiny t shirts and cut off jeans doing a few poses that were intended as a send up of the calvin klein "porno" commercials that were running at the time. posing next to a step ladder and all! i still can't believe i asked him to do that! in the end i only submitted frames from the above shot as i thought he deserved more dignity than an easy laugh. just as he was leaving he quietly asked he if he could see the photos afterwards and gave me his number. i couldn't believe philip seymour hoffman had just given me his phone number! i was so amazed by that encounter and yet in some way too intimidated to show him the pictures that i never called him.
just got finished watching true detective in a less than 24 hour marathon of rapt absorption. and yes, it is a fantastic series. well acted, well, written and beautifully filmed. i especially enjoyed the title sequence, pleasantly surprised at the use of double exposure photography.
they clearly found inspiration from the same double exposure images i found so captivating from this page of their mood board.
they made excellent conceptual connections between the physical absence of self, replaced by a void or the geography that has a hand in shaping who we are.
here are some of my favorite images from their true detective title sequence.