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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.

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Original author: 
Eugene Reznik

Variously characterized as the “private land of God,” the “land of flowers” and the “diamond” of the subcontinent, the state of Kerala—perched on the southwestern tip of the Indian peninsula—is renowned for breathtaking landscapes and, in contrast to much of South Asia, an uncommonly high standard of living. Despite enjoying India’s highest life expectancy and literacy rates, however, Kerala also struggles with staggering numbers of homeless, alcoholics and suicides. The rate at which someone takes his or her own life in Kerala is three times the national average. These blots on an otherwise near-flawless reputation have puzzled researchers for years.

“The rapid economic development has left many people behind and amplified social taboos,” photographer Paolo Marchetti tells TIME. “All of these problems are really linked together—single pages of the same book.”

In 2009 and 2011, the Italian photojournalist traveled to India, embedding himself in NGO orphanages and mental hospitals, in slums and bars peopled by the most marginalized populations of Kerala, abandoned by family and government. He photographed children born out of wedlock, alcoholics and the (supposed) mentally ill. In the process he captured the complexities inherent in development and, especially, the clash of new opportunities and old traditions.

In Kerala, where reputation rules, “the good name of the family,” Marchetti says, “determines one’s ability to integrate into society at every level—professional and especially marital. [One's reputation] has to be something clean, something limpid.”

Many of the problems he explored, he says, can be traced to the traditional market rules of marriage—essentially an economic transaction managed by the head of the household and one that necessitates proof of a healthy lineage.

“The abandonment of a relative is a common practice, a response to the least manifestation of a mental deficiency or dependence on alcohol,” he says, “some little problem, problems that in our society we have every day.”

“It’s not necessary to be—forgive my word—mad, to be crazy,” he adds. “Depression, for instance, this is enough to be abandoned on the streets.”

Marchetti, who had previously documented incarcerated youth in Nicaragua, describes the facilities where the abandoned are held captive, hidden from view, “exactly like a prison.” These places are improvised, overcrowded, unsanitary and inadequate. Far from any kind of serious rehabilitation, the majority volunteer-run NGOs offer little more than some food—when they have it—and a place to sleep.

“Most of the money,” he adds, “comes from the church, so there is a condition that you have to respect if you want help.” This means following Catholic teachings and praying several times daily, starting at dawn, even though over half of Kerala’s native population practices Hinduism, and a quarter are Muslim.

To document the scope of the problems, Marchetti adopted a fly-on-the-wall approach, staying silent and as invisible as possible, attempting to forget his own cultural background and immerse himself in the environment. He’d spend hours each day in a facility observing, and when possible, spending the night, if only “to breathe the sensation.”

“If you want to take a good picture, it’s not only a technical gesture, it’s something about you,” he says. “You need to listen, you need to understand, to spend time and spend yourself, your emotions.”

The most vivid thing that he remembers from his experience was a personal connection he made in a mental hospital. “I was taking pictures of someone who seemed perfectly normal—normal like me.” And though he knew little of the local language and could not speak with his subjects, Marchetti notes that “it is incredible how I could easily communicate with my eyes. Respect is a universal language and you can convey it without words.”

That respect not only gained him access, it also elevated his imagery. His intent, he says, was not to make art of other people’s misery, but to come away with an honest and useful report that can generate questions, especially about reforms on the government level.

There’s a delicate balance in that sort of mission, however, and a visually stunning image that grabs your attention, he says, “is the best that I can give back to these people, even if you have to wait for that picture for three minutes, three hours, three days, three months… It is really hard sometimes, but it’s the minimum price that you can pay.”

Paolo Marchetti is a photographer based in Rome and Rio de Janeiro. In 2012, Marchetti received a Getty Grant for Editorial Photography.

Eugene Reznik is a Brooklyn-based photographer and writer. Follow him on Twitter @eugene_reznik.

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Joel Meyerowitz was part of a group of pioneering photographers that revolutionized the art world 50 years ago by taking color pictures at a time when everyone thought serious photos had to be in black and white. Over his decades-long career, he’s proved himself to be a master of street, landscape, and portrait photography. He is 74 years old. Olivia Bee is one of our favorite new photographers, and we featured her work in our most recent photo issue. She is 18 years old. We thought it would be fun to see how two nonsequential generations of photographers would interact, so we had Olivia interview Joel about photography, life, art, and his massive, two-volume retrospective book, Taking My Time, which was just released by Phaidon.

Olivia Bee: I’ve been reading your book the last few days and it’s so beautiful. Like, it’s so amazing. I love it.
Joel Meyerowitz: That’s nice to hear. You’re the first person to have actually read the book and say something about it. Thank you for saying that. I don’t know how the book is going to read. I’m not a professional writer, but I felt I had to say something intimate and personal about the 50 years I’ve been working in this medium. I do think I found a certain tone, a voice that came out of me. And when I read it, I feel gratified, but who knows what anybody else thinks.

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Stanley Kubrick’s professional career began April 12, 1945, as the high school junior — with a prolific track record of absences — wandered the streets of the Bronx and snapped a picture of a crestfallen newsstand dealer surrounded by headlines announcing the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. As childhood friend Alexander Singer tells the story, Kubrick immediately ran to his home darkroom, which his father had built to encourage the scholastic underachiever’s budding interest in photography, printed the picture and made a sale that same afternoon to Look Magazine. The following year, when no colleges would accept Kubrick because of his poor academic record, Look hired him as a full-time staff photographer.

Singer and Kubrick had forged a bond over shared scholastic apathy and mutual respect of each other’s extracurricular achievements — Singer as editor of the school literary arts magazine, and Kubrick as the kid with a camera around his neck: “almost a caricature of what you’d imagine a teenage cameraman would look like,” as Singer describes. When plans to photograph a feature-length cinematic adaptation of Homer’s Iliad written and directed by Singer proved too ambitious, Kubrick struck upon the idea to instead translate one of his own photographic essays to the big screen.

That essay was Prizefighter, published by Look in January 1949, and described by Kubrick biographer Vincent LoBrutto as the moment he came of age as a photojournalist. The seven-page story depicted scenes from the life of Bronx-born middleweight boxer Walter Cartier as he trained and prepared to enter the ring against moments from his romantic and domestic lives. Often working under stark, overhead light with infrared film (also favored by his idol, Weegee), Kubrick captured high-contrast images that emphasized Walter’s physique and cast brooding, incisive shadows on his face.

Prizefighter would go on to define Kubrick in other ways, though. It might have been his dawning moment as a photojournalist, but the essay would also serve as the basis of the first film Kubrick would direct, called Day at the Fight, released two years later.

The 20-year old Kubrick made the decision to shoot his first film on 35mm rather than the lighter, more economical 16mm format favored by amateurs—a bold decision by someone who later described the entirety of his motion picture camera training as a hands-on demonstration at an equipment house. Kubrick and Singer used Bell & Howell’s Eyemo, a lightweight camera introduced 1926 for use in newsreels and military applications and advertised, perhaps over-optimistically, “as convenient to carry as the average size ‘still’ camera.” Kubrick photographed most of the project solo, and Singer joined on a second ringside camera to capture the live fight scene. A third camera operator also filmed from high in the auditorium.

Comparing the Prizefighter contact sheets side-by-side with Day of the Fight, one gets the sense that much of the creative legwork had been worked out during the photo essay, which, despite its ostensible documentary subject matter, was chiefly constructed through deliberately-staged scenes. But Day of the Fight is a distinctly cinematic work; particularly remarkable is Kubrick’s ability to control time and add an element of suspense in portraying Walter’s anticipation of the fight, a trait missing in Prizefighter. The first-time director was also aided by the fact that the physical spectacle of boxing lends itself to cinema. After all, the first feature-length film ever released was a 1897 St. Patrick’s Day fight between James J. Corbett and Bob Fitzsimmons. Many of the same setups from the contact sheets and short film are repeated in Kubrick’s subsequent work, particularly his second feature, Killer’s Kiss, a seedy yarn about a down-on-his-luck fighter.

Although Kubrick is regarded as the most critically and commercially successful photographer turned full-time feature filmmaker, this mainstream acclaim might also be the reason his name rarely enters the discussion of the legendary New York-based photographers and their progressive contributions to avant garde and non-narrative filmmaking. This tradition includes Paul Strand (Manhatta, 1921), Rudy Burckhardt (The Pursuit of Happiness, 1940) Helen Levitt (In the Street, 1949), Ruth Orkin & Morris Engel (The Little Fugitive, 1953), William Klein (Broadway by Light, 1958) and Robert Frank (Pull My Daisy, 1959), among whose varying innovations include discrete handheld photography, examples of “life caught unawares,” and blurring lines between documentary and staged situations. Kubrick’s perceived youth and inexperience may be another factor in this oversight: though several writers have supported their praise of The Little Fugitive by recalling that the ten-years-senior Engel claimed a 25-year-old Kubrick attempted to rent his uniquely-constructed equipment for his own first feature (Fear and Desire), Kubrick’s production predates The Little Fugitive by several months. Furthermore, much of Kubrick’s early work has not been widely available to the public — per Kubrick’s wishes, Fear and Desire only recently resurfaced after decades of suppression.

One could hardly argue Day of the Fight is a major work in the context of documentary film or Kubrick’s entire oeuvre, but it remains a fascinating key to understanding the development of Kubrick as an artist and entrepreneur—an under-appreciated example of the maverick cinematic approaches developed by street photographers. Undoubtedly, Day of the Fight is one of the most assured and mature endeavors undertaken by someone approaching a film camera for the first time.

Jon Dieringer is an independent curator and the editor and publisher of Screen Slate, a daily online resource for listings and commentary of New York City repertory film and independent media.

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Batman

I haven’t posted in awhile so here’s a special Hallowed Eve photo just for those that still visit.

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Technology has given us an incredibly wide-ranging view of modern presidents; chief White House photographer Pete Souza’s images of Barack Obama show him in countless locations and situations, from meetings in the Oval Office to candid shots of the president eating ice cream with his daughters on vacation.

The photo archive of Abraham Lincoln, the subject of this week’s cover story, is a much smaller set due to the technological limitations of the time; most of the existing photographs of the 16th president are posed portraits, the majority of which only show Lincoln from the chest up—and all are black-and-white.

But TIME commissioned Sanna Dullaway to create a more vibrant document of Lincoln through a series of colorized photographs produced in Photoshop. After removing spots, dust and scratches from archival Lincoln photographs, Dullaway digitally colorizes the files to produce realistic and modern versions of the portraits, which look like they could have been made today.

The 22-year-old Swedish artist began colorizing images in January 2011, when she was listening to the debut album by rock band Rage Against the Machine. The self-titled album’s cover art is a black-and-white picture of a self-immolating monk taken by AP photographer Malcolm Browne. “I thought the normally fiery flames looked so dull in black and white, so I…looked for a way to make them come alive,” she says. Dullaway colorized the flames, and eventually, the entire picture. She then posted the image on Reddit, and it instantly went viral.

Since that first experiment, Dullaway has continued to colorize a wide range of historical figures, including Albert Einstein, Che Guevara and Teddy Roosevelt, each of which has generated viral buzz online. She’s also used the approach on a number of iconic photographs, such as Eddie Adams’ harrowing image of a Vietnam police officer the moment before he’s about to execute a Vietcong prisoner. In each of these renderings, Dullaway’s use of color is subtle and sophisticated—yielding images that maintain the photographic integrity of their originals, while presenting a look at how these photographs may have come out had color photography existed at the time. That nuanced ability to handle color runs in the family; Dullaway’s father is painter.

The images take anywhere from 40 minutes to three hours to produce, and for the young artist, it’s a way of bringing a contemporary perspective to older works. “History has always been black and white to me, from the World War I soldiers to the 1800s, when ladies wore grand but colorless dresses,” Dullaway says. “By colorizing, I watch the photos come alive, and suddenly the people feel more real and history becomes more tangible.”

Lincoln is at the heart of her next project, a book of Civil War images rendered in color. “I felt like it was a good place to start because the war is well documented in the Library of Congress and started roughly around the same time the camera was first used commercially,” Dullaway says. “And a war offers to chance to cover many subjects at once, and present the events of that time as our eyes would see it today—in color.”

Sanna Dullaway is a photo editor based in Sweden. See more of her work here.

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Swedish photographer Mårten Lange is of that rare breed of people to whom you can give a camera and, no matter what he takes a picture of – be it a shower curtain, a puddle or a cavity in a rock – he’ll make it look so great it’ll give you goosebumps. I could reel off a whole list of adjectives to describe his work, like “inspiring”, “universal”, “sentimental”, “larger-than-life”, blah-blah-blah, da-da-da, but what’s the point when you can just admire the photos above and make up your own mind?

More Photos + Interview

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