The genetic difference between a gorilla and a human being is tiny—we share 98.4% of our DNA. But the gorillas of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the people who care for them share far more than just genes. Both are victims of an endless war that has ravaged Central Africa, killing humans and gorillas alike.
Jimmy Nelson spent his early days in Nigeria—his father was a geologist for Shell—and his adolescence at a Jesuit boarding school in northern England. He was 16 when he contracted cerebral malaria while visiting his parents in Africa, but when he returned to school he was “treated” with the wrong medicine. The next morning, his hair had fallen out. Two years later, tired of living like an outcast—he’d had enough of being judged by his appearance—he fled to where bald heads were not only accepted, but seemingly the norm. By then, he had also found photography.
VICE Loves Magnum: Chris Steele-Perkins Can’t Let Go of England
Chris Steele-Perkins studied psychology before turning to photography. His early work focused on social ills in British cities, at the time working with the EXIT collective. His time with EXIT culminated in a book by the group called Survival Programmes. In 1979, he released his first solo book, Teds, examining the British Teddy Boy subculture of the 50s, 60s, and 70s. After that, Steele-Perkins started to travel more widely, photographing Africa, Afghanistan, and later Japan. A Magnum member since 1979, we talked to him about all that and his obsession with England.
VICE: Your background seems pretty varied, having studied things like chemistry and psychology. Has that informed your work at all?
Chris Steele-Perkins: I’m not sure about that. I was obviously searching for something that I wanted to do, so I started off with chemistry and I soon figured out that wasn’t where I wanted to be. Psychology was interesting and fun, but again didn’t feel right. It was during that time that I got to working for the student newspaper as a photographer and that kind of got me going. When I finished my degree, I realized that was the route I wanted to follow.
Going back to the psychology bit, it feels like you have a strong connection to the personal aspect of photography. Clearly you’re shooting a lot of people, but you seem to really get to the soul of a lot of personal issues. Do you think studying psychology made you more easily connect with people and their plights?
I think that’s more to do with common sense, honestly. I could argue that the best connection psychology offered was the fact that it wasn’t nuclear physics. It was a relatively easy course, I must say, which gave me a lot of time to develop my photography. I think my interest indeed is, without meaning to sound pretentious, the human condition. How people live around the world and in the world. I was also hugely influenced by the great humanist photographers; Kertész, Cartier-Bresson, Eugene Smith, people like that. They were a powerful influence early on, when you’re most influenced.
“For centuries, Cuba’s greatest resource has been its people,” writes Pico Iyer in an extended essay on the Caribbean nation in this week’s magazine. In the twilight of the Castro era, Cubans are finding that change brings both hope and anxiety.
To pair with Iyer’s tome, TIME called upon Danish photographer Joakim Eskildsen. Eskildsen, who previously photographed a large portfolio for TIME on the state of poverty in America, traveled to Cuba for ten days, photographing urban housing projects in Havana and rural settlements across the countryside. With the help of local journalist Abel Gonzalez Alayon, Eskildsen photographed tobacco plantations, roadside fruit vendors, migrant workers and beachfront resorts — capturing all in the vibrant saturation of medium-format color film.
“I immediately fell in awe with the complexity of this country,” says Eskildsen. “The more you learn about the situation and how people are living, the more difficult it becomes to understand. It was like learning to view the world form a Cuban angle that kept surprising and inspiring me.”
Abel Gonzalez Alayon is a journalist based in Cuba. Follow him on Twitter @abelcuba.
For the last two years, Spanish photographer José Antonio de Lamadrid has quietly documented the daily lives of the Morillo Aguilar triplets; three 18-year-old boys at various stages on the autism spectrum. The Morillo Aguilar boys, Álvaro, Jaime and Alejandro, will likely never live independently, and rely on one another to navigate the world around them.
Lamadrid, whose own nephew is autistic, met the Morillo Aguilar triples through his volunteer work at Autismo Sevilla, a non-profit that offers support for parents of autistic children. “I thought that by taking pictures of these three, it would help people understand more about the illness,” says Lamadrid. “Although they are dependent on their family, it is possible for them to live normal and happy lives.”
It’s estimated that autism affects over 2 million Americans and tens of millions worldwide. As with the three brothers, symptoms vary depending on where a person falls on the autism spectrum.
Since he has the most normal social abilities, Jamie is the spokesperson for the three boys, and has a startling intelligence for trivia. “If you give him a random date, like May 2, 2001, he can very quickly tell you if that was a Friday or Saturday,” says Lamadrid. “He is the voice of the children and will often represent the three.”
Alejandro speaks significantly less than Jamie, but has his own unique skill of putting together entire 1,000 piece puzzles in only a couple hours. Alvaro, who has significant brain damage hardly ever speaks, but he still enjoys watching movies with his brothers. Although the three boys arelegal adults now, Lamadrid says they have the mental state of three-year-olds.
Lamadrid says the three boys are some of his favorite–and most cooperative—subjects to photograph. Whether the boys are getting dressed for the day in matching outfits or riding the public bus through Sevilla, Lamadrid says they never questioned his constant trailing as he snapped pictures. “They allowed me to be in their life, and didn’t care about me or my camera,” he says. “They’re the subjects all photographers want to have in their life.”
The mother of the three boys, Noelia Aguilar, stuck out the most to Lamadrid during his work. “I was stunned by her,” says Lamadrid. “She is really trying to give them a normal life. Both parents are taking care of them on their own and they know when to push them and when to stop and listen.”
Through his photos of the triplets, Lamadrid hopes he will spur greater support from the Spanish government and autism organizations for families like the Morillo Aguilars. “I’ve learned that despite the condition, this family lives very positively,” says Lamadrid. “Every day is quite hard for them, but they go to bed happy.”
Alexandra Sifferlin is a writer and producer for TIME Healthland.
Almost 1500 photographers applied for the Individual Photographer’s Fellowship grants this year presented by the Aaron Siskind Foundation, honoring the legacy of the legendary photographer best known for pioneering lens-based modernist abstraction.
“He was a wonderful teacher, he was always interested in new ideas and in things that challenged us,” says Charles Traub, president of the Aaron Siskind Foundation and Chair of the MFA Photography, Video and Related Media Department at the School of Visual Arts. “We’re interested in all aspects of the creative photographic medium and all genres of photograph investigation — as long as the work is new and fresh.”
The eligibility requirements for the $5-10,000 grants are exceptionally democratic. They’re open to any professional, a citizen or resident of the United States, “who’s working on a serious body of work, who is trying to do something imaginative, important, moving the dialogue of our medium forward,” Traub says, and adds: “the term ‘professional’ is of course a loosely defined word.”
“There are no strings attached. It’s not like you have to have five million references, and a complete bio and all this stuff. It’s really just what you present.”
The Foundation selects three new judges each year — one from the editorial field, one artist and one curator — with an effort to avoid being East Coast-centric. This year’s judges were Natalie Matutschovsky, senior photo editor at TIME, photographer Andrew Moore, who recently published a new book on Cuba, and Tim Wride, curator at the Norton Museum of Art, formerly at LACMA.
“[The jury] tends to lean towards younger photographers,” since they are the ones who usually bring forth the newest, yet-to-be-recognized work, but occasionally, Traub says, “there is a better known older photographer who does submit new work that surprises the jury.”
This year, six photographers were each awarded $8,000 grants. “We gave six instead of our usual five this year because we just couldn’t pare it down any further,” Traub says. They are:
Michelle Frankfurter presented her series Destino which portrays the “perilous journey of undocumented Central American migrants along the network of freight trains lurching inexorably across Mexico, towards the hope of finding work in the United States.”
Wayne Lawrence documented the diverse experiences of African-American Orthodox Jews living in New York City.
Joshua Lutz presented a conceptual portrait of his mother’s descent into mental illness as “she slowly slipped away from the aggressive paranoia of my youth to an almost calming sense of delusion,” he writes. The series was published as a book titled Hesitating Beauty by Schilt in 2012.
Justin Maxon documented life in Chester, Pa, where industry has collapsed and the murder rate is among the highest in the nation, “a place where a domino effect of socio-economic issues and a long history of government corruption have revealed the community to be a microcosm of the wounds of racism that stain this country today.”
Jenny Riffle presented a complex portrait of Riley, a scavenger who as a child read “Mark Twain’s stories of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn and decided he wanted to be like those mythical boys. He wanted a life full of treasure and adventure.”
Sasha Rudensky presented her series Brightness which focuses on “an orphan generation of Russians, Ukrainians and Belorussians that came of age in a social vacuum, having disowned their past but lacking any means of orientation within the present.”
“I thought these were all wonderful photographers from diverse backgrounds, ethnicities, from different parts of the country,” Traub says. “Largely, the work had a kind of narrative in it, a sort of structure of a story not told in a linear way and not told necessarily in a traditional documentary way. There was a great deal of technical competence and a kind of idiosyncratic look at life.”
Eugene Reznik is a Brooklyn-based photographer and writer. Follow him on Twitter @eugene_reznik.
Amateur astronomers call it the Penguin, and no wonder. Even through a good-size backyard telescope, that’s exactly what seems to be out there, hanging in distant space 326 million light years from Earth. With the clear-eyed vision of the Hubble Space Telescope, the resemblance is even more striking: it’s as though some cosmic artist has captured a bright-eyed, sharp-beaked bird leaning protectively over a reddish egg, with two stars — one shooting — in the skies above.
Both bird and egg are fully certified galaxies, though, lying in the constellation Hydra. The bird is a spiral galaxy, officially known as NGC 2936, and it would normally look like the Milky Way — a great, majestically spinning pinwheel made up of hundreds of billions of stars.
But the egg has changed all that. It’s a blob-shaped elliptical galaxy, NGC 2937, and its gravity has pulled and elongated the spiral, stretching one side into a sharp, beak-shaped projection and smearing the other side into the penguin’s body. (The reddish streaks are clouds of interstellar dust that formerly permeated the galaxy’s spiral arms). The two bright spots hovering above the penguin’s head are plain old stars within the Milky Way that just happen to lie in the same direction as the two galaxies — and the streak that seems to be flying away from the right-hand star is yet another galaxy, far in the background.
Back in the 1960s, astronomer Halton Arp included this weird configuration in his Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies, but as telescopes have gotten more powerful, scientists now know that such distorted shapes are usually caused when two or more galaxies venture too close to each other, “exchanging matter and causing havoc” as a press release puts it.
The explanation is prosaic, but the image, taken recently in both infrared and visible light by the Hubble’s Wide Field Planetary Camera 3, is anything but. It’s just one more in a long list of space objects that look at least passingly biological — the Horsehead Nebula, the Crab Nebula, the Cat’s Eye Nebula, Jupiter’s moon Europa (which looks something like a bloodshot eyeball), and the infamous Face on Mars are just a few examples. Even the structure of the universe itself resembles the structure of the human brain, according to some scientists.
It’s no surprise, though: humans are hard-wired to see patterns in nature. That’s why we see all manner of creatures, not just in the heavens, but also in clouds. It’s a consequence of evolution — but it also transforms the world around us into a sort of living poetry.
Michael D. Lemonick is a regular contributor to TIME, writing on science, space and technology.
Presidential elections are always a time for hope. Nowhere is that more clear than in Iran, where a fervent desire for change is tempered by fears that the people’s voice might not be heard, or, worse yet, altered through fraud and manipulation. Still, Iranians thronged the election rallies, vibrant and noisy affairs that took place in gymnasiums and sports stadiums across the country. As Election Day loomed, candidates, get-out-the-vote volunteers and Iran’s own Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei exhorted citizens to vote, and they did, in record numbers. Polling station hours were extended late into the evening of June 14th, and, unlike the elections of 2009, when the results were announced almost immediately, the count took an agonizing 24 hours.
But on Saturday evening, hope blossomed into joy. Hassan Rouhani, the sole moderate on the ballot, exceeded all expectations to sweep a field made up of five other candidates, winning 51% of the vote and narrowly avoiding a runoff. Iranians celebrated in the streets with dancing and music, an infectious jubilation that led even the White House to grudgingly admit that despite expectations for fraud, the Iranian people finally had their say.
Aryn Baker is the Middle East bureau chief for TIME. Follow her on Twitter @arynebaker.