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Original author: 
David Walter Banks

Florida isn’t like other places. In fact, in some ways, Florida isn’t even like Florida. For centuries, from the time the 16th-century Spanish explorer Ponce de León first landed in Florida on his (perhaps apocryphal) search for the Fountain of Youth right up to the present day, people from the world over have looked to that large, water-logged peninsula jutting toward the Caribbean as a kind of fathomless fantasy land. Or, as photographer David Walter Banks nicely phrases it below, as “an epicenter of escapism.” Of course, no state as large and as diverse as Florida (or, for that matter, as small and as seemingly homogeneous as, say, Delaware) is ever just one thing. But again, as Banks suggests, the myth of Florida — the Florida of our tacitly agreed-upon collective imaginings — endures not because of, but despite, the state’s colossally variegated landscapes, cultures, communities and attractions. In his at-once fond and forthright portraits, Banks manages to illustrate much of the Floridian myth, while deepening the mystery of the Sunshine State’s singularly odd appeal.

A long-standing interest in escapism and seeking the surreal in the every day led me to train my lens on the manifestations of those ideas in American society. Eventually and inevitably, this practice led me to Florida, an epitome and epicenter of escapism in the United States.

In 2012, 1 in 4 Americans, or 89.3 million people visited the state of Florida, bringing in over $71.8 billion in tourism spending to an industry that directly employs well over one million individuals. Even after the economy crashed in 2008, Florida’s tourism numbers continued to climb in what is estimated as the most popular tourist destination in the world.

I am interested in the people who comprise these statistics, the environments in which they immerse themselves and the altered realities both the people and places project. I seek not to make a critique, nor to create a comprehensive factual documentation. I aim to create a vicarious experience–that of a tourist seeking fantasy.

My fascination with Florida started at a young age. Like so many Americans, my family would load up our wood-paneled Chevrolet station wagon every year and head down the highway toward the ‘Sunshine State’ for our annual Summer vacation. We would stay in a stereotypical stucco condo building on the beach called the Summerhouse. It was there that I produced some of my fondest childhood memories. It was there that I built sandcastles with my mom and dug giant holes with my dad for no apparent reason. It was there that I first met an older girl and hitchhiked to a club before I was laughed away at the door for my prepubescent appearance – I was 12, after all. It was there that I snuck off to smoke cigarettes stolen from a friend’s parents during my height of preteen angst.

These family trips were something that I looked forward to every year. I eagerly awaited the escape from our everyday life, even if only for a brief while. It is the memories of this escape that keep luring me back.

The theory of collective memory refers to the shared pool of information amongst a group of people. As Americans, our collective memory of Florida has become almost as much of a folk tale as it is based on reality. My recollections from childhood and adolescence are not necessarily how it actually looked and felt, but instead the world that I constructed from those fragmented memories. Such is our collective idea of the state, which has been fed and fueled by the masterminds of advertising and marketing.

Reality, on the other hand, is a different matter all together. Perhaps our fantasized version of Florida does exist, but if so, it is masked under layers of lines and litter, overpriced tourist traps and drunk teens who would steal the shirt off your back – This literally happened to me while photographing Spring Break. If anything is my charge while on the road for this project, it is peeling back these layers.

David Walter Banks is a conceptually based documentary and portrait photographer living in Atlanta. Follow him on Twitter @dwbanksphoto.

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Original author: 
Liz Ronk

Elaine Mayes might well be the most accomplished photographer and photography educator that many passionate photography aficionados have never heard of. As one of the very first women teachers of photography who learned her craft primarily in art school, Mayes has influenced generations of photographers while quietly, steadily and tenaciously pursuing her own vision as a creative artist. This summer, Mayes’ work from her seminal Autolandscapes series will go on display through January 2014 at the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum, alongside work by Steve Fitch and Robbert Flick.

Mayes, who defines her aesthetic, in part, as a “Walt Whitman approach” to photography — i.e., embracing influences found in “everything and in nothing” — has taught both photography and film at the University of Minnesota, Hampshire College (where she was a founding member of the faculty), Pratt, Bard and several other schools. (She’s currently Professor Emerita in NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.)  She studied with Minor White; was friendly with the likes of Bruce Davidson, John Szarkowski and Diane Arbus in the 1960s and beyond; has shown her work at MoMA New York, MoMa San Francisco, the Brooklyn Museum and elsewhere; and cites fellow artists like Paul Caponigro and Wynn Bullock as major influences on her photography.

Her work belongs to no “school.” Instead, across six decades, Mayes has employed a deeply individualistic sensibility — nowhere more evident than in the Autolandscapes (1971). She had just gotten a job teaching at Hampshire when, after requesting an NEA grant for $3,000, she won a grant for a mere third of that. Undeterred, she drove across country with her husband and four cats, chronicling the landscape — other automobiles, gas stations, homes, factories, road signs, cows, empty tarmac. The result is a marvelous, unadorned, understated and perfectly “of its time” document of early Seventies Americana. Focusing on the horizontal plane witnessed outside of her moving car, the photos formalize the idea of capturing movement in a way that also seems to slow, and even stop, time.

The work seen in this gallery, meanwhile, is primarily comprised of photos that are part of an ongoing series Mayes began when she moved to Minnesota to teach in the 1960s, and has continued to work on through today. With her keen interest in photos that have a mysterious quality, and images where the scene is big, but the tiniest details are still cleanly visible, Mayes characterizes her own goal as an effort to make photographs by “responding [to her environment], but not knowing why.”

This body of work will be on view as part of a group exhibition, Landscapes in Passing: Photographs by Steve Fitch, Robbert Flick and Elaine Mayes, at the American Art Museum in Washington D.C.

Liz Ronk is the photo editor of LIFE.com.

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Original author: 
Lily Rothman

When the Swedish photographer David Magnusson created the pictures for his series Purity — now on view at the Malmö Museer as part of his first solo show — he followed the same procedure every time. One hour with a large-format camera. Sixteen pictures taken; one used. In front of the lens, a father and his daughter(s).

“I want to see your relationship as a father and a daughter,” Magnusson says he would tell his subjects, “in light of the decisions you have made.”

Those decisions were very particular ones. The subjects of Magnusson’s series are participants in Purity Balls, an American phenomenon in which girls promise to remain virgins until marriage and their fathers pledge to help them do so. The photographer spent three years—and four trips to the U.S. for a total of five months—capturing these images. Magnusson first heard about Purity Balls when he stumbled across a short magazine story about them, and was fascinated: although Sweden is a Christian country, he says the culture is generally very secular and the idea of religion so affecting one’s life seemed unusual.

But, by spending time with Purity Ball participants, he learned that maybe they weren’t so different from him after all. Each person in front of the camera was his or her own person with his or her own reasons, but the core motivation was something Magnusson could understand, even though he has no children of his own.

“I found out that the fathers participated out of the best intentions. They had been taught this is the best thing for their children, and a lot of the young girls had themselves taken the initiative to attend the purity balls,” he says. “I got the idea that maybe the difference between us wasn’t more than the culture of how we grew up.”

And though the movement is controversial, he strives to present the images without commentary. His aesthetic goal was to make the portraits beautiful and his subjects proud, while still allowing people coming from other perspectives to reach their own interpretations.

“I’ve done a lot of photojournalism in the past and I was at a point with my photography where I felt that I presented a lot of answers. My pictures were being read quickly – you could see, oh, this is sad, then you move on – and I was a bit fed up,” he says. “I had wanted to do something with the goal of passing along a lot of questions and information, letting the viewer make up their own mind.”

And sometimes that information was beyond his control. Though he did give each of his subjects the same instructions, the details each brought — the pose of their hands, how close they stood to each other — were impossible for him to predict. “That,” he says, speaking of the father-daughter relationship, “can’t be directed.”

David Magnusson is a Stockholm-based photographer. His series Purity is on view at Malmö Museer in Malmö, Sweden, through Sept. 8, after which it will tour. The work will be published in book format by Max Ström this winter.

Lily Rothman is a reporter for TIME.com.

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motherboardtv:

The Wild and Crazy World of AR-15 Modification

The AR-15 has become the most infamous gun in America in the last few month. The rifle, originally designed for United States troops in Vietnam, has been flying off the shelves since the Newtown and Aurora shootings. In fact, the AR-15, which fans also refer to as the Black Rifle, has been flying off the shelves for years. There are now around five million AR-15s in the hands of everyday Americans.

Exactly why the Black Rifle has become so insanely popular is up for debate, but Wired’s Jon Stokes makes a strong case in an article that declares “The AR-15 Is More Than a Gun. It’s a Gadget.” Among other revelations, Stokes attributes the AR-15’s popularity in part to the gun’s hackability. Like the hot rod craze, high definition stereo trend, and the fixed gear bike phenomenon before it, the AR-15 appeals to the American desire for individuality and customizability.

CONTINUE

- by Adam Clark Estes

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American citizens—and those applying for the title—learn early that they have two primary civic responsibilities: voting and jury duty. As voting booths are installed in our common areas across the nation—in schools, gyms, firehouses, grocery stores and municipal buildings—we realize the true weight of our duties as citizens.

Michael Mergen, an assistant professor of photography at Longwood University in Farmville, Va., became particularly interested in voters—and voting locations—while working as a photojournalist during the 2004 presidential election. When he walked into a barbershop-turned-polling center in west Philadelphia, Mergen thought to himself, ‘This has to be preserved.’

In the years since, Mergen has photographed countless voting booths, jury rooms and naturalization facilities in his quest to document what he considers essential parts of being an American. After combing through thousands of polling sites on Excel spreadsheets, the photographer then chose stations located in private homes or unusual businesses; his journeys have taken him to pizza parlors, living rooms, garages, funeral homes and other eccentric spots scattered across Philadelphia. His eight years of work have yielded three revealing yet non-partisan series aptly titled, Vote, Deliberate and Naturalization, which collectively seek to underscore the importance of citizen-driven governance.

“There are few instances in our lives where as an American you can say, ‘I was a citizen today,’” Mergen says. “We are citizens everyday going about our business, but it’s rare when that becomes an actual tangible event. It’s kind of amazing that casting a vote at Bud’s Tire in Murfreesboro, Tenn. actually [contributes to] President Obama or Governor Romney winning.”

Michael Mergen is a Virginia-based photographer. 

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Kadir van Lohuizen

Vía PanAm

play this essay

 

In 2011, Kadir started a visual investigation on migration in the Americas.

In 12 months, he traveled along the Pan-American Highway from Terra del Fuego in Patagonia to Deadhorse in Northern Alaska.
Vía PanAm is a unique social documentary MULTI MEDIA project made into an iApp for the iPad.

 

Bio

Before Kadir van Lohuizen (The Netherlands, 1963) became a photographer, he was a sailor and started a shelter for homeless and drug addicts in Holland. He was also an activist in the Dutch squatter movement.

He started to work as a professional freelance photojournalist in 1988 covering the Intifada. In the years following, he worked in many conflict areas in Africa, such as Angola, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, Liberia and the DR of Congo. From 1990 to 1994 he covered the transition in South Africa from apartheid to democracy.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kadir covered social issues in different corners of the former empire. He also went to North Korea and Mongolia. In 1997 he embarked on a big project to travel along the seven rivers of the world, from source to mouth, covering daily life along these lifelines. The project resulted in the book “Rivers” and “Aderen” (Mets & Schilt).

In 2000 and 2002 Kadir was a jury member of the World Press Photo contest.

In 2004 he went back to Angola, Sierra Leone and the DR of Congo to portray the diamond industry, following the diamonds from the mines to the consumer markets in the Western world. The exhibitions that resulted from this project were not only shown in Europe and the USA, but also in the mining areas of Congo, Angola and Sierra Leone. The photo book “Diamond Matters, the diamond industry” was published by Mets & Schilt (Holland), Dewi Lewis (UK) and Umbrage editions (USA) and awarded with the prestigious Dutch Dick Scherpenzeel Prize for best reporting on the developing world and a World Press Photo Award.

In that same year, Kadir initiated a photo project together with Stanley Greene and six other photographers on the issue of violence against women in the world.

In 2006 he launched a magazine called Katrina – An Unnatural Disaster, The Issue # 1, in collaboration with Stanley Greene, Thomas Dworzak and Paolo Pellegrin with an essay by Jon Lee Anderson.

After hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans, he has made several trips to the USA to document the aftermath of the storm. In the summer of 2010, to mark the fifth commemoration of Hurricane Katrina, Kadir exhibited images of Katrina’s devastation and the aftermath in a truck-exhibition that drove from Houston to New Orleans, a project in collaboration with Stanley Greene.

Kadir is a frequent lecturer and photography teacher; he’s a member and co-founder of NOOR picture agency and foundation and is based in Amsterdam.

 

Related links

Vía PanAm

Twitter

NOOR

 

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Like the work of most great artists, the best of Walker Evans’ pictures are marvels of contradiction. Or, rather, they acquire their power through the contradictions they deftly reconcile. One especially striking example: a photograph from 1930 (slide 11 in this gallery) comprised of elements so incongruous that, taken together, they really should not bear scrutiny for more than a few moments before the viewer, shrugging indifferently, moves on.

But through Evans’ uncanny visual alchemy, that particular photograph’s disparate graphic elements—family photos; a half-hidden American flag; dried flowers; a truly hideous plant growing with almost unseemly vitality from a battered wooden bucket—appear not only to belong together, but to need one another in order to make sense.

MOMA

Cover

As seemingly chaotic and even unappealing as the image might feel at first glance, those wildly variant aspects of the photo—the flag, the plant, the faces—somehow cohere into something far more than the sum of their parts. Despite its initially jarring message, “Interior Detail of Portuguese House” does not, in fact, spurn scrutiny—it commands, and rewards, scrutiny. And what’s more amazing is that, after a time, the photograph appears to be gazing back. It is the viewer, and not the picture, that is the subject of an unblinking inquiry—and it’s unsettling.

But if Evans’ pictures are evidence of a rare facility for both creating and resolving contradictions, his career might be seen as his masterpiece. A fierce, determined artist, Walker Evans was for decades on staff at Time Inc.—a salaried editor at, of all places, Fortune magazine from the 1940s until the mid-1960s. That the man behind one of the seminal photographic efforts of the 20th century—the 1938 masterwork, American Photographs—went to the office each day, like any other nine-to-fiver, might astonish those photography buffs who have always, understandably, imagined Evans as nothing if not an irresistible creative force.

And yet, here again, Evans’ intrinsic contradictions—managed as Rodin might handle a lump of clay, or Koufax a curveball—are ultimately resolved in the photographs, singly and collectively, that he produced. He is both iconoclast and working stiff; company man and virtuoso.

This year marks the 75th anniversary edition of American Photographs, reissued by the Museum of Modern Art in an edition that recaptures, for the first time since its original release, what might be called the book’s radical purity. (The book itself, as a physical object, is a pleasure to hold; the duotone plates are gorgeous and crisp, and the size of this edition—an at-once solid and easily handled 7.75″ x 8.75″ hardcover—does justice to the serious, unfussy, thrilling nature of the work inside.)

As in the first edition, Evans’ pictures in the MoMa release appear only on the right-hand side as one turns each page, the utterly blank page on the left—without even a caption to distract the eye—adjuring one to look, to really look, at each picture, one after the other. And as the pages (slowly, slowly) turn, Evans’ accomplishment grows more evident, more impressive, more engaging.

The standard line on Evans is that no one—with a camera or a paintbrush—had ever captured America in quite the clear-eyed, unsentimental, honest  way that he did. But that patently true declaration still fails to encompass the scale and the sustained excellence of his achievement. In American Photographs, in images made during the Great Depression in places as divergent as Pennsylvania, Alabama, New York City and Havana, Cuba, Evans did not hold a mirror up to his country and his time: no mirror ever made, after all, could so clearly reflect what he saw, and what he wanted others to see.

Instead, each and every one of Evans’ pictures provides a window—or an unadorned window frame—from which even the glass has been removed, and through which we witness a scene of such clarity and immediacy that our own contemporary surroundings, if only for a moment, seem somehow less freighted with history. Less grounded. Less real.

The details of a house in Maine (slide 17)—the surprisingly jaunty, seemingly tilted windows; the elegant shapes, graceful patterns and, above all, the textures that give the structure its personality—are not merely the handiwork of people who obviously cared about their hard work; the details of the house are reminders of, and tributes to, the enduring value of hard work and the attention to craft.

The stance, the clothing and the unreadable expression on the face of a lean, dapper citizen of Havana in 1932 (slide 9) are not merely separate elements of a snapshot: like the details of a portrait by an Old Master, they combine to suggest a time, a place and an attitude (defiant, dignified) that have survived the passing decades intact—even if, by now, the man himself must be long dead.

These pictures, and the other pictures in American Photographs, are intensely daring precisely because the man who made them worked so hard to hide—to efface—the effort that went into creating them. Each image stands on its own, while at the same time each picture references the photograph that comes before, and the photograph that follows. It is a straightforward book that stirs complex emotions. It is a treasure.

‘Walker Evans: American Photographs (Seventy-Fifth Anniversary Edition)’ is available through the Museum of Modern Art.

Ben Cosgrove is the editor of LIFE.com.

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Up to 44 percent of America’s new HIV/AIDS infections are clustered in 12 major cities, including Chicago, Washington, New York and Los Angeles, CDC data show. Within these communities, HIV rates are highest among blacks, Hispanics, gay and bisexual men of all races. As researchers gather for the International AIDS Society’s 2012 conference, photographer Mike Segar documents patients, their caretakers and peer educators from the African-American community.

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For this week’s issue, we combed countless archives in search of the perfect photograph to accompany a history of the American Dream, the subject of the cover story by Jon Meacham. In the end, we turned to photographer Mike Sinclair, who’s been rigorously documenting America’s heartland near his home in Kansas City, Mo. When asked about his photos, he modestly says, “I never really set out to photograph the American Dream or western culture. These are not projects. The edits come out of thinking about themes. I like going through my work and then figuring it out.”

For more than 30 years, Sinclair has documented places where people gather, like state fairs, sporting events and parks. “I grew up in the heyday of LIFE and photojournalism. I realized early on that I was better at visual things,” he tells TIME.

Sinclair decided to pursue journalism at the University of Missouri, but after one year, he realized that it wasn’t a great fit. “I came under the spell of Winogrand and Friedlander and found them more interesting as a budding photojournalist. I eventually went to Southern Illinois University, where they had an undergraduate program in fine art photography. Once I got there, I was in heaven—it combined my interest in the fine arts and photography.”

“I just like everything about taking photos and going to these events. It’s a great counterpoint to photographing modern architecture,” says Sinclair, who does the job professionally to make a living between his documentary projects. All of his images reflect the rigor of an architectural photographer with the straightforward style of masters like Walker Evans, Joel Sternfeld and Stephen Shore.

“I switched to architecture because I thought after 30 or 40 years I’d have some kind of record of this time and what happened,” he explains.

Sinclair’s understated and introverted approach to documenting an event feels easygoing, placing viewers in the shoes of a local rather than an outsider. He photographs on trips he plans and usually goes with his family. “I kind of plant the camera in front of people and spend time with them,” he says. In all his images, he almost feels invisible.

Sinclair has no real plans for his work except to keep making it. In the beginning, he says, “I first shared the work to the owner of the Dolphin Gallery in Kansas City and was encouraged by him to show it [elsewhere]. Eventually, through them, my work found its way into collections around the country.” These collections include The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, also in Kansas City.

Sinclair disagrees when people label him as a certain type of photographer. “I don’t think of myself as a Midwestern photographer. I think the same sort of things happen everywhere I’ve been.” His image of the Fourth of July (featured above) speaks to his claim—it feels like it could represent almost anywhere in America.

“Part of what I’m interested in is this idea of public space and the preciousness of it. It’s something that we all need,” he says.

Mike Sinclair is a photographer based in Kansas City, Missouri. His current exhibition ‘Public Assembly’ is on view at Jen Bekman Projects in New York City until June 24. 

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