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proportional_1000_1479_largeview.jpgFourth of July #2, Independence, Missouri, by Mike Sinclair

Photographers, mark your calendars! 2009 Ne Plus Ultra Mike Sinclair's debut solo show in NYC, at Jen Bekman Gallery, is but mere days away. An opening reception for Public Assembly will be held on Friday, May 11th, 2012, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., and the show will be on view Saturday, May 12th, through Saturday, June 24th.

Mike impressed our panelists with his ephemeral portraits focusing on "crowds at sun-soaked fairgrounds, beaches and baseball games," and he adeptly captured a sense of nostalgic Americana that we simply couldn't get out of our heads and hearts. Soon, he was creating limited-edition prints with 20x200 to share with collectors all around the world. We are thrilled for Mike's success, which includes being published in the New York Times, Metropolis, Architectural Record and Interior Design, as well as having his work in private and public collections in the U.S.

+ Photographer Daniel Seung Lee, who was a contender in a past round of our competition, was selected to participate with 20x200. Two of his photographs are now available as limited editions on the site.

+ April is almost over, and with it the Month of Photography Los Angeles (MOPLA). If you're in L.A., there are major ongoing exhibitions you can catch, like Robert Adams: The Place We Live and Fracture: Daido Moriyama at LACMA, as well as In Focus: Los Angeles, 1945-1980, Herb Ritts: L.A. Style and Portraits of Renown: Photography and the Cult of Celebrity at The Getty.

+ Smaller shows were also taking place across town that featured Jen Bekman Projects artists. You can still catch Taj Forer's solo exhibition, Stone by Stone at LeadApron through May 19th.

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1696_largeview_nL.jpgGosling Lake, by Kurt Tong

After eight weeks of receiving amazing submissions, the Hey, Hot Shot! First Edition 2011 round of the competition closed on June 27th. So strong was the body of work this round that we are very eager to share it with everyone! So, beginning in July, at least one photographer that submitted will be selected each month (for at least the next three months) to fast-track a 20x200 edition. Our curatorial team is already poring over the extraordinary entries, which is no easy feat. Will you see a Contender's photography featured on 20x200? Or will your own photography be chosen first? To see which First Edition 2011 photographers make the cut, sign up for the 20x200 newsletter.

Meanwhile, we will continue to feature Contender posts until the Hot Shots are announced. For the latest on all things Hey, Hot Shot!—including announcements on the next round of the competition—be sure to check the blog frequently, keep up with us on Twitter and Facebook and sign up for our low-volume newsletter to get the latest news in your inbox.

+ Ruben Natal-San Miguel, who runs the eponymous photography consulting firm and is the blogger of ARTmostfierce, will present a fair tour entitled "How to Invest and Collect Fine Art Photography" for photoHamptons, which is taking place Thursday, July 7th to Sunday, July 10th. This is the first year ArtHamptons is featuring significant fine art photography.

+ 2009 Ne Plus Ultra Kurt Tong's series In Case it Rains in Heaven will be shown for the first time in Germany at Uno Art Space in For You, a two-person show. The exhibition premiered on July 1st and will be on view through the 28th of September, when Kurt will be attending the closing party to talk about the series.

+ Photographer and 20x200 artist Jeremy Kohm is featured on Prison Photography, which was recently named one of LIFE's top 20 photo blogs. You can also see Kohm's work in person as part of the group show Dawn Till Dusk, at Jen Bekman Gallery through July 30th.

+ Fall 2006 Hot Shot Shen Wei got glowing reviews in the New Yorker for his work from Chinese Sentiment, which was featured in the group show Moveable Feast at the Museum of the City of New York.

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Since we announced Chikara Umihara as our 2010 Ne Plus Ultra about two weeks ago, he has almost taken over this space with his images, and he himself has been quite the superstar here at the office - everyone who has met him has been eager to share their favorite Chikara moments. So, where is he now and what is he up to? With the First Edition 2011 competition now open, we thought it would be a good time to catch up with Chikara and share our conversation with all of our friends, both old and new.

It's been a little while since we last saw you in New York. First of all, congratulations on becoming the 2010 Ne Plus Ultra! Do you mind telling us how you'll use the $10,000 grand prize? What's the next step for you? Are you working on anything that you can tell us about right now?

First of all, thank you so much and I'm still very surprised to be named the 2010 Ne Plus Ultra! It is a great honor to be selected from the pool of diverse and exceptional submissions from the 2010 Hey, Hot Shot! finalists. I'm in Bangkok now and started a new project. (I've wanted to start this project for two years.) Also, I'm starting the MFA program in Photography at the Hartford Art School. The grand prize will definitely help keep me moving forward.

You have already participated in the Hot Shots group show in February with the Aggressive Girls series. Any plans for your upcoming solo show at Jen Bekman Gallery?

Aggressive Girls is an ongoing project, and I try to shoot more every time I come to New York. I've just started photographing in Thailand and have another project I want to start this summer. So, I have to see which series would be the strongest body of work to be presented at that time.

21.jpgBedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, 2009 by Chikara Umihara

Tell us your most memorable moment while working on the Aggressive Girls series? The hardest part?

There was always surprise and sensation when working with them. It is a world I've never known. If I had to pick one most memorable moment, it would be the first night I stepped into their party. That sensation, I won't forget. I think every time was challenging to me: from the beginning of this project, to getting to know them, to explaining the reason why I wanted to photograph them and, also, to think about what kind of significance or importance I found between our relationship. It took a while before I took my first shot on this project. Some days I'd go meet the person who promised to be photographed, would wait for three hours and she'd never show up. However, that was just part of my whole experience with this project. So, I've learned a lot from this project.

Untitled, from the Aggressive Girls series, by Chikara Umihara

You got into photography at a relatively late age. Do you think that has any influence on your work? Do you think it has brought you any benefits or challenges?

Before, I studied literature while in university. I've been influenced a lot by the various methods and the way photography pursues the truth. I practiced martial arts for over 15 years and found a similar discipline in both martial arts and photography. I started photography late (I think I was 32 then). My family and friends were surprised when I told them I was going to New York to start photography. However, I had my own experiences in my life and trained in literature and martial arts. For me, the devotion and the quality of
practice is important. I've never thought about the advantage or disadvantage of starting late. Yet, surely I have so much to learn and so much work to do. But it is exciting. I love challenges.

What's been the biggest/main obstacle for you as an emerging photographer? What keeps you moving forward?

Like the many emerging photographers I've known, balancing the act of art making and surviving has never been easy. I work different jobs to save enough money to start a project, and sometimes I don't have the time to photograph because of that. But during these times, I read books, study art history and look through photography books, etc. There are so many counter-practices I can use. I'm trying to learn and shape myself from diverse aspects. I want to make unique and original work.

Rainfall, from the Silent Water series, by Chikara Umihara

What's your experience with 20x200 been like? Your latest edition has been selling quite well. Did you expect that?

I love working with the 20x200 staff. They are brilliant, intelligent, very open and supportive to artists. Meeting with them and having editions on made a big shift in my career. It is an innovative place that has introduced a whole new output for the art world. As an image-maker, I want my work to be seen and be shared, and I want to be able to communicate with the audiences. This is one of the most fascinating parts of making work, I think. I hoped, but honestly didn't expect, to sell well. I sincerely thank the people that purchased and took time to look at the edition. And I am most curious about the kind of dialogue happening between the image and the viewer.

You've spent quite some time here in NYC, so I have to ask you - what's your favorite restaurant in Brooklyn?

That's hard. There are plenty of good restaurants in the neighborhood. Well, I choose the party at my friend's place, where we often hang. We cook amazing Japanese food.

SW3.jpgUntitled, from the Silent Water series, by Chikara Umihara

Special thanks to Chikara, who did this interview on a weekend while traveling. See more of his photos on his website, and check out his 20x200 editions.

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