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Original author: 
TIME Photo Department

Yolanda Cuomo is the curatorial voice behind some of the 20th century’s greatest photographic books. This year, alongside Melissa Harris, Cuomo is co-curating the LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph in Charlottesville, Va., June 13 – 15, 2013.

One word comes up again and again, like a shared mantra, when talking with Yolanda Cuomo, or when discussing Cuomo with people who know her: collaboration. Hardly surprising, perhaps, in light of the talent that, at one time or another, the 55-year-old art director and designer has worked with — including creative icons from Avedon and Sylvia Plachy to Twyla Tharp and Laurie Anderson. But one quickly gets the sense that, in Cuomo’s world, collaboration is not simply one way to approach a project; it’s the only way to approach a project.

As her longtime friend (“creative soulmate” might be a more apt description), Aperture Foundation editor-in-chief Melissa Harris, puts it: “Yolanda is simply one of the greatest people I know. She is so full of ideas, and our collaborations [on books, magazines, exhibitions] have been so fantastic because we always approach each project from an utterly fresh perspective. And we laugh,” she adds, making it clear that humor is an integral element of their long-time, enormously fruitful partnership. “We laugh a lot.”

The driving force behind the celebrated Yolanda Cuomo Studio, Yo (as all her friends and colleagues call her) has helped envision and produce some of the most striking and influential art and photography books of the past two decades, including Diane Arbus’ Revelations, Gilles Peress’ Farewell to Bosnia, Pre-Pop Warhol and scores of other titles.
(Incredibly, it was only within the last year, with New York at Night, that Cuomo got what she calls her “first spine.” She’d done 85 books through the years, she told LightBox, “but Norma Stevens and I published New York at Night in 2012 and, holy shit, there was my name on the spine!”).

A graduate of Cooper Union, Cuomo got her start in the publishing world as a junior designer at Condé Nast in the early 1980s. Under the mentorship of the legendary art director Marvin Israel, she not only was introduced to many of the people who would become part of her vast and cherished professional extended family — Plachy, Avedon, Peress, Nan Goldin and others — but also got her very first lessons, from a master, in the power of collaboration.

Yolanda Cuomo at her desk in her Chelsea studio, New York NY, February 4, 2012.

Pete Pin

Yolanda Cuomo at her desk in her new Chelsea studio in February.

“Marvin was so brilliant,” Cuomo says, “and one of the key things I learned from him — by his example, not by his making a big deal out of it — was that bringing other peoples’ voices and sensibilities to a project can make it so much stronger and more wonderful than if only one person holds sway over everything.”

The reason Cuomo got the job at Condé Nast in the first place, meanwhile, is emblematic of another type of creativity altogether.

“I lied,” she says, her mischievous laugh all these years later suggesting that she still can’t believe it herself. “When I was interviewed [for the Condé job] I told them that of course I knew how to do mechanicals. Then I went right out and immediately called a friend and was like, ‘What’s a mechanical?’”

Regardless of how she got her foot in the door, Cuomo learned the ins and outs of the art and publishing worlds from the very best. A quick study, she was eventually asked to oversee a new project by the Village Voice, and in 1985 Yolanda Cuomo was named art director of the Voice’s short-lived, tremendously creative fashion magazine, Vue. There, she and her small staff were afforded the sort of creative freedom that, for anyone working in magazines today, must seem something from another, near-mythical age.

Courtesy of the Village Voice/Yolanda Cuomo Design

Courtesy of the Village Voice/Yolanda Cuomo Design

Cover and spreads from the September 1986 issue of Vue. Photographs by Amy Arbus.

“It was total carte blanche,” Cuomo recalls. “We had to fill 32 pages that came out once a month. We sat in a room and just said to each other, ‘Okay, let’s call up people we love.’”

The names of those people they loved comprise something of a Who’s Who of talent of the era — each one of whom brought a unique sensibility to the pages of Vue. For one shoot, Sylvia Plachy photographed models posing in the trees of a New York cemetery. For another, Nan Goldin commissioned a pregnant bodybuilder friend to model lingerie in the East Village’s Russian baths. Phrases like “creative foment” seem to have been coined to describe exactly the sort of atmosphere that existed when Yolanda Cuomo was learning her chops.

The Voice shut down Vue after just a half-dozen issues, but its young staff, thrilled by what they’d accomplished together, was not ready to quit working as a team. With her assistant and two others, Cuomo found a small office space in Manhattan, and her design studio was born.

The studio’s first photo book was Unguided Tour, a collection of work by Sylvia Plachy.

“When we work together,” Plachy says of her collaborations with Cuomo, “we both have an intuitive sense about editing and designing. Yo is open to new things; she responds to things in the moment. She doesn’t force her point of view. Instead, it’s a free-flowing enjoyment of the evolution of the ideas, and moving toward something new and exciting.”

For Cuomo, inspiration can come from anywhere, from any time and from anyone. An old French book about the Eiffel Tower, for instance, discovered in a bookstore in Paris decades earlier, might influence the design of a photography book today. Closer to home, while making Paolo Pellegrin’s 2012 artist book — designed in a single, breakneck week — Cuomo found a visual muse in her assistant designer’s workspace.

“Bonnie [Briant] had a little color copy of a dog photo that she loved taped to her notebook on her desk, and I saw it and thought, ‘That is so beautiful.’”

A scan of the notebook — Scotch tape and scratches included — became the cover of the Pellegrin book. “That’s the way I like to work,” Cuomo says. “Spontaneously inventing.”

The fact that Cuomo has a full life outside of her work — a life that helps inform everything she does — speaks volumes about her ability to find balance in both the spontaneous and the thoroughly predictable. Living in Weehawken, New Jersey, Cuomo rides her bike every day from her home to the ferry, which she takes across the Hudson River to the West Side of Manhattan and her studio. At day’s end, she heads back across the river, to her “big old Victorian house,” her garden, her family — in other words, to a world that adds meaning and color to her vocation as an art director, designer and teacher.

In the end, that might be the greatest collaboration of them all: the way Yolanda Cuomo weaves family and work, leisure and labor, vision and vocation into a fully realized world of her own making.

Alissa Ambrose & Ben Cosgrove

See more of Cuomo’s work at Yolanda Cuomo Design.

Alissa Ambrose is a freelance writer and photo editor based in New York. Ben Cosgrove is the editor of LIFE.com.

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Fred Ritchin

What do we want from our media revolution? Not just where is it bringing us—but where do we want to go? When the pixels settle, where do we think we should be in relationship to media—as producers, subjects, viewers? Since all media inevitably change us, how do we want to be changed?

There used to be a time when one could show people a photograph and the image would have the weight of evidence—the “camera never lies.” Certainly photography always lied, but as a quotation from appearances it was something viewers counted on to reveal certain truths. The photographer’s role was pivotal, but constricted: for decades the mechanics of the photographic process were generally considered a guarantee of credibility more reliable than the photographer’s own authorship.

But this is no longer the case. The excessive use of photographs to “brand” an image (whether of oneself online, of celebrities, of products, of major companies, or of governments), and to illustrate preconceptions rather than to uncover what is there (presidents are made to look presidential, and poor people are generally depicted as victimized), as well as the extraordinary malleability of the photograph due to software such as Photoshop, make photography more of a rhetorical strategy, like words, rather than an automatic proof of anything. Photographs must now persuade, often in concert with other media, rather than rely on a routine perception that they inevitably record the way things are.

The billion or so people with camera-equipped cellphones, meanwhile, make photography, like all social media, an easily distributed exchange of information and opinions with few effective filters to help determine which are the most relevant and accurate. The professional photojournalist and documentarian, now a tiny minority of those regularly photographing, often are unsure not only how to reach audiences through the media haze, but also how to get their viewers to engage with the often extraordinarily important situations they witness and chronicle.

This moment of enormous transition forces a rethinking of what photography can do, and what we want it to accomplish. For example, if a young person wanted to become a war photographer, we have hundreds of books showing how others have photographed war. But what if a young person wanted, instead, to become a photographer of peace? The genre, unfortunately, does not yet exist.

Perhaps, then, we might want to begin focusing less on the spectacle of war and more on those impacted by the consequences of war—as Monica Haller has done, along with many others. The all-type cover of her book, Riley and His Story, disputes any conventional reading: “This is not a book. This is an invitation, a container for unstable images, a model for further action…. Riley was a friend in college and later served as a nurse at Abu Ghraib prison. This is a container for Riley’s digital pictures and fleeting traumatic memories. Images he could not fully secure or expel and entrusted to me…. This is not a book. It is an object of deployment.”

The collaboration is intended to help Riley Sharbonno resurrect buried memories and deal with some of what he went through in a war that destabilized his life. There are pictures that he does not remember taking of events that he does not remember witnessing. Photographs, once rediscovered, sometimes assuage his guilt, providing a reason for what has happened. Some of the grand half-truths about war are diluted. But there is anger, too: “I want you to see what this war did to Riley.”

Similarly, Jennifer Karady revisits the enduring trauma of violent conflict in her collaborations with soldiers, working for about a month with each one to re-stage calamitous situations in civilian life that they had experienced in war. Finding a discarded tire on the side of the road in Virginia evokes memories of a possible IED, for instance, or looking out of a window in upstate New York while protected by sandbags recalls a vulnerability to attack—each of these pictures is made with family members participating. Karady views the procedure as potentially therapeutic for those involved, while helping to make the legacy of war somewhat more comprehensible to family and friends stateside. And unlike the imagery from so many war photographers, her pictures are not at all glamorous.

Some are also using their photographs to make sure that the violence is not forgotten by the broader society. In her project “Reframing History,” Susan Meiselas returned to Nicaragua in 2004 with nineteen murals created from her own photographs made during that country’s Sandinista Revolution twenty-five years earlier. She placed the murals at the sites where the imagery was originally made, collaborating with local communities in visualizing their own collective memories and also helping to better acquaint Nicaraguan youth with their own past. (Imagine then if it were possible to place photographs from Robert Frank’s landmark book, The Americans, made in the 1950s, on billboards around this country where the photos were made—given the critical nature of many of his photographs, it would be an extraordinary way to gauge societal change, or the lack of it.)

And some are trying to share the vagaries of war as they occur in a sort of real-time family album. Basetrack, created by Teru Kuwayama and Balazs Gardi, was an experimental social-media project that consisted of a small team of embedded photographers primarily using iPhones, which focused upon about a thousand Marines in the 1st Battalion, Eighth Marines, during their deployment to southern Afghanistan in 2010–11. They curated a news feed alongside their own efforts, employed Google Maps as an interface, wrote posts in addition to photographing, all with a view “to connect[ing] a broader public to the longest war in U.S. history,” intent on involving their audience, many of them family members, in the discussion. Trying to establish transparency, they created an editing tool for the military to censor photographs and texts that might put soldiers in danger, and asked the military to supply reasons for the censorship, which were then made visible when a viewer placed the cursor over the blacked-out section.

It was a relatively effective system, until in 2011, when the Facebook discussion became too difficult for the military to handle and the photographers were “uninvited” a month before the troops’ deployment ended. Apparently a good deal of the content that military officials found problematic was about relatively minor matters, such as parents complaining that their sons and daughters had to wear brown and not white socks on patrol. Now only the Facebook page is still active, with curated news and continuing audience discussions. One mother’s response to the project: “It has truly saved me from a devastating depression and uncontrollable anxiety after my son deployed. Having this common ground with other moms helped me so much and gives me encouragement each day.”

And then there are others who, rather than wait for the apocalypse, are attempting to see what can be done to help prevent it. In James Balog’s long-term photography project, “Extreme Ice Survey,” cameras are positioned in remote arctic and alpine areas, automatically photographing the melting of the ice to help more precisely calculate the impact of global warming, and to create a visual record of a planet in crisis. According to the EIS website: “currently, 28 cameras are deployed at 13 glaciers in Greenland, Iceland, the Nepalese Himalaya, Alaska and the Rocky Mountains of the U.S. These cameras record changes in the glaciers every half hour, year-round during daylight, yielding approximately 8,000 frames per camera per year.”

Or, if we want to make sure that the opinions of the subjects photographed are better understood, why not at times show them their image on the back of the digital camera, and ask what they think of the ways in which they are depicted, and record their voices?  An even more collaborative exchange of perceptions is that between Swedish photographer Kent Klich and Beth R., a former prostitute and drug addict living in Copenhagen whom he began photographing in the 1980s. In the 2007 book Picture Imperfect, his photographs, along with case histories and images from Beth’s family album as a child, are paired with an enclosed DVD of Beth’s daily life for which she herself was the primary filmmaker.

Finally, when making pictures, maybe they can serve another, more practical function. For French artist JR’s 2008–2009 project, “28 Millimeters, Women Are Heroes,” photographs were not only used to document the faces of women living in modest dwellings in various countries, but in Kenya he began to make the oversize prints water-resistant so that when used as roof coverings the pictures themselves would help to protect the women’s fragile houses in the rainy season

Countless innovators, often working far from the spotlight, are today creating visual media that can be useful in a variety of ways. Rather than simply attempting to replicate previous photographic icons and strategies, these newer efforts are essential to revitalizing a medium that has lost much of its power to engage society on larger issues.

And then what is needed are people who can figure out effective and timely ways to curate the enormous numbers of images online from all sources—amateur and professional alike—so this imagery too can play a larger role. As badly as we need a reinvention of photography, we also will require an assertive metaphotography that contextualizes, authenticates, and makes sense of the riches within this highly visible but largely unexplored online archive.

Fred Ritchin is a professor at NYU and co-director of the Photography & Human Rights program at the Tisch School of the Arts. His newest book, Bending the Frame: Photojournalism, Documentary, and the Citizenwas published by Aperture in 2013.

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TIME Photo Department

TIME LightBox presents a new monthly round-up of the best books, exhibitions and ways to experience photography beyond the web—from the Reportage Photography Festival in Sydney and a new Mitch Epstein book to Martin Parr’s ‘Life’s a Beach’ at Aperture in New York and an André Kertész show in London.

‘The Guide’ on LightBox will be published monthly. If you have submissions or suggestions for upcoming round-ups of the best books and exhibitions, feel free to pass them along via email before May 10. We’ll also be updating this gallery throughout the month.

See the previous Guide for April 2013.

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A woman in a white shirt poses seductively on a plush bed. Across the hall, a handsome doctor stands tall, stethoscope hung loosely around his neck. No, this isn’t a scene from Fifty Shades of Gray. It’s the stage set of the hotbed of telenovela production at the Televisa Studios in Mexico City—and the subject of a new photography collection named after it: The Factory of Dreams by San Francisco native artist Stefan Ruiz.

Televisa, the largest Spanish-language broadcaster in the world, produces nearly 50,000 hours-worth of telenovelas each year and exports them to about 50 countries. These soap operas hold a central place in Latin culture, arguably far more than their mainstream American counterparts. Ruiz had rare access to photograph the stars and sets of Televisa’s telenovelas for the past eight years.

Ruiz says he saw actors, sets and lighting as a fresh lens to examine issues of race, class and beauty that he’d previously examined with traditional documentary portraiture. “I was interested in the various types [of actors], and in how the definitions of beauty and class are often defined by race,” he explained in the book. “Generally, the stars look European. The maids do not. And the villains vary.”

The sets also provided Ruiz an ideal space to explore the concept of fame. “It was interesting that many of the telenovela actors were huge stars in much of the world, but virtually unknown in the U.S. and northern Europe,” he said.

Ruiz’s collection captures the stars in the moments between their public and personal lives. He exposes the “seams between fiction and reality” as an essayist in his book put it. Yes, his audience may enjoy the brief telenovela vignettes that accompany the photos. But fans will almost certainly love Ruiz’s subtle glimpse into the private lives of their stars.

So what did Ruiz find most fascinating about his close proximity to these stars? For one, the Televisa system resembled old-time Hollywood. The soaps were filmed quickly and big-name actors were on set much of the time. “Once I had access from Televisa, the stars were generally pretty accessible and were almost always up to being photographed as long as time permitted,” he says. “There were no agents or publicists on set.” The actors themselves were actually fairly down-to-Earth. “For years the film industry in Mexico was almost dead, and this was the only steady acting work around,” Ruiz notes. “I got the feeling that they were appreciative of their jobs.”

Stefan Ruiz is a photographer and San Francisco native. More of his work can be seen here. The book Factory of Dreams will be published June, 2012, by Aperture.

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The locations are the battlefields of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The images are made with the Cold War-era satellite film Aerochrome, a discontinued Kodak infared color film originally designed for reconnaissance and camouflage detection. The film sees normal foliage as magenta or red, showing camouflage as purple or blue. In the vivid pages of Infra, the question of objectivity is moot, as we are invited to appreciate a metaphor stretched to its limit. Our personal experience “colors” all that we see, and making us imperfect observers and less-than-neutral witnesses.

Photographer Richard Mosse writes: “My work is not a performance of the ethical. I’m concerned less with conscience than with consciousness. And so I became enthralled by Aerochrome’s inflation of the documentary, mediating a tragic landscape through an invisible spectrum, disorienting me into a place of reflexivity and skepticism, into a place in consonance with my impenetrable, ghost-like subject.” With this new book from Aperture, Mr. Mosse ventures into territory typically covered by photojournalists or “war photographers.” In doing so, he joins ranks with a small group of fine-art photographers who have made similar forays—this time adding a new layer of dissonance to painful photographs of the mutilated, prisoners, and child soldiers.

All images and captions by Richard Mosse


Men of Good Fortune, 2011. Tutsi Pastureland near Mushaki, Masisi Territory, North Kivu.


General Février, 2010. CNDP rebel on day of integration into FARDC, near Mushaki, Masisi Territory, North Kivu.


Colonel Soleil’s Boys, 2010. CNDP rebels being integrated into the Congolese national army, the FARDC, at Mushaki, Masisi Territory, North Kivu.


Rebel Rebel, 2011. Young APCLS rebel, Lukweti to Pinga Road, Masisi Territory, North Kivu. Photographer’s own sunglasses.


Nowhere To Run, 2010. The mountains of South Kivu are home to a large population of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) rebels, a Hutu paramilitary group that has lived in exile in Congo since the 1994 Rwandan genocide. These hills are also rich in rare minerals like gold, cassiterite, and coltan, which are extracted by artisanal miners who must pay taxes to the rebels.

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As we increase our understanding of the history of photography as defined by its great accomplishments in bookmaking, the question of the availability of that printed history becomes central. The coveted first edition of a classic photo book can at times demand a higher price tag than even original photographic prints. The art of “the book,” in some circles, has overshadowed the offerings of the gallery world.

Reprints of older photobooks, commonly known as second editions, have been one way for newer generations of photographers and students of photography to become familiar with and learn from artists who came before them. Books have served me by informing and inspiring me throughout my own photographic practice for more than two decades.

But where multiple printings are common with books of literature or non-fiction, reprints are not as common for many visual books after they are considered out of print. This usually rests on two main factors: First, in the world of art book publishing, there is rarely financial gain for the publisher involved, let alone the artist. The second factor is that artists tend to be resistant to repetition, thinking that reprinting the same exact book, edition after edition, seems to be an unnecessary act.

The result is that the books tend to become rare and increasingly valuable to collectors, leaving them sought-after but difficult to see firsthand. In a medium where the book plays such an important role in its progression, it is an unfortunate fact that so many examples of some of the greatest photobooks have been essentially lost to history. That notion fueled my own publishing project, Errata Editions, which offers studies of rare photobooks that won’t see a traditional reprint because of the aforementioned reasons.

In the Errata series of “books on books,” each volume is dedicated to the study of one photobook that has been recognized as important to the history of the genre. They present images of all of the page spreads contained in the original books, along with contemporary essays about the book. Within three years, we have published twelve volumes that include studies of books by Eugene Atget, Walker Evans, Chris Killip, William Klein, Paul Graham, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, David Goldblatt and others.

Artists open to reprinting their books often tinker with their creations by reediting. However, a complete reenvisioning of the book in its entirety was apparent with Josef Koudelka’s book Gypsies. That book represented a kind of revisioning in reverse, as the 2011 edition is actually closer to Koudelka’s original vision for the book, whereas the 1975 edition was a construction of Robert Delpire, the editor and publisher.

For many other artists, what might be seen as the flaws of youthful instinct give way, over time, to a desire to clean up the editing or design in any given book, or to revisit contact sheets and give new life to many images that were left out of the original book. The Magnum photographer Bruce Davidson has republished some of his classic books, such as East 100th Street and his recent new edition of Subway, both of which present newly edited material. Davidson has also taken the advances in printing technology to heart as additional attention has been made to color-correct the images to Davidson’s current slightly colder palette.

An interesting case in point is William Klein’s masterwork Life is Good & Good for You in New York, first published in 1956. When Klein revisited those same photographs in the mid-1990s, he completely redesigned and reedited the work—removing much of the original’s energetic and experimental design—until there was little, if any, similarity to the original book. “The first book was about graphic design. The second was about the photography,” he says of the two editions. Whether you agree or not, that resistance to repeat is apparent.

Over the years a resurgence of reprints has hit bookstores, and a few have come from the German publisher Steidl. Last December saw a set of facsimile reprints of several important, if somewhat obscure, political photobooks with The Protest Box, edited by the British photographer and photobook historian Martin Parr. Elsewhere, Dewi Lewis has released another printing of the Dutch photographer Ed van der Elsken’s exquisite 1954 Love on the Left Bank, which is faithful to the original. And a new edition of one of the top-selling photobooks of all time, the 1972 Diane Arbus monograph from Aperture, is now available.

While not all photobooks considered great or groundbreaking will see a reprint, one can hope that enough will exist to maintain a full sense of photobook history.

Jeffrey Ladd is a photographer, writer, editor and founder of Errata Editions. Visit his blog here.

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This year we continued to see the rise of tablet computers and digital publishing, and we even wrote about a few digital books on Lightbox like Stephen Shames’ Bronx Boys.  But elsewhere in photography, artists were working on photobooks for those viewers who may have wanted something a bit more lasting, a bit more tangible.

Here LightBox spotlights some of the best photobooks of the year as chosen by a group of photographers and photography experts from around around the world…. and of course a few from the photo editors of TIME.  From the selection one can see the art of the photobook continues to flourish in all genres from reportage to fine art photography, fashion and everything in between. This year’s books range from luxurious tomes like Catherine Opie and Alec Soth’s collaboration for Rodarte to smaller precious books like Fred Hunning’s Drei. Overall the selection shows that even as masses of information come at us from all our digital devices, people still enjoy a singular vision and the process of sitting down with a good book—especially one that pushes the boundaries of the format. Herewith, the photobooks we loved the most in 2011.

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Easily one of the most impressive photography books of the year, “The New York Times Photographs”, published by Aperture and edited by Director of Photography Kathy Ryan, brings together a collection of four hundred photographs shot for The New York Times Magazine from the late 1970′s to 2011.

In an insightful foreword Kathy Ryan explains the unshrinking approach to assigning photographers that the New York Times Magazine has become known for: “Why not send a veteran war photographer to photograph the Oscar- worthy actors one year? Or commission a gallery of Olympians by an artist with a very personal iconography, rather than by a sports photographer? “Cross-assigning” is a signature of this magazine, an approach that came clearly into focus with the publication of the “Times Square” issue in May 1997—an issue devoted entirely to images by a group of photographers working within all genres of photography.”

As Kathy Ryan notes, cross-assigning takes faith. Of course this approach can be risky, but perhaps no more hazardous than always doing the expected. Turning the glossy pages of this substantial book, the reader will see that its rewards are rich and varied.


Ryan McGinley, Courtesy the artist/Team Gallery, New York. Emily Cook, 2010 Olympic freestyle skier (aerials). From “Up!,” published February 7, 2010.


Lars Turnbjork, 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue. March 23, 1997.


Gregory Crewdson, Courtesy Gagosian Gallery; Untitled. From “Dream House,” 2002.


Malick Sidibé, Courtesy André Magnin. Assitan Sidibé in Marni polka-dot top, Christian Lacroix striped top, Marc Jacobs dress, and Christian Louboutin.


Laura Letinsky/Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York.


Simon Norfolk/Institute, One section of a particle detector in the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest and highest-energy particle accelerator, 2006.


Sebastião Salgado/Amazonas images


Stanley Greene/NOOR, the road to Samashki in Chechnya, 1996.

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