Since 1948, the Overseas Press Club of America has recognized photographers and photojournalists for exceptional photographic reportage. On Wednesday night, the OPC will announce the four winners of the organization’s annual prizes.
The Robert Capa Gold Medal is awarded to a photographer producing “photographic reporting from abroad requiring exceptional courage and enterprise.” This year, Italian photojournalist Fabio Bucciarelli was recognized for Battle to Death, his project recording the harrowing battles in Aleppo in late 2012. “The battle for the conquest of Aleppo is a real massacre,” he told TIME. “It’s a pleasure to see my work recognized with such a significant prize, and see my name listed next to great photographers like James Nachtwey, Larry Burrow, Horst Faas and Eugene Smith. But the real pleasure is to spread what is going on in Syria and to have documented the lack of human rights in the country.” Associated Press photographer Manu Brabo was also recognized by the judges for his own work covering Syria’s civil war.
The Olivier Rebbot Award for “best photographic reporting from abroad in magazines or books” was given to Samuel James, highlighting The Water of My Land, a story on conflict over oil resources in the Niger Delta. Continuing to photograph the story even after it was initially published in Harper’s Magazine, James learned of the award while “waiting for sundown on a beach with a squad of oil thieves.”
The 2013 Feature Photography Award was awarded to Associated Press photographer Oded Balilty for his story, An Ultra-Orthodox Wedding.
The John Faber Award for “best photographic reporting from abroad in newspapers or news services” was given to Bernat Armangue for his photographs of the conflict in Gaza. “War is a strange universe full of extreme landscapes; also the best place to experience the best and the worst of every human being, starting by your own soul,” Armangue told TIME. “Winning the John Faber award was a total surprise. OPC has always been a reference of good journalism so winning the award has intensified my desire to keep doing what I know best: photojournalism.”
Founded by a group of foreign correspondents in 1939, The Overseas Press Club is an association of journalists working in the United States and around the world.
In 1999, Iranian students took the streets of Tehran in the fiercest unrest the country had seen since the 1979 Islamic revolution. The protests started out in response to the closure of a reformist newspaper, but after authorities raided a dormitory, setting fire to rooms and forcing students to jump from balconies, the violence spiraled into a week of full scale street warfare. We print reporters covering the story did our best, but it was the photographs that commanded the world’s attention: powerful, searing images that captured all those Iranian students’ anguish and bravery. As I cowered in back alleys and shop doorsteps — riot police and hard-line vigilantes patrolled the streets — I couldn’t imagine who was managing to take those extraordinary photos.
Later, when the photographer Newsha Tavakolian became my friend, I learned she had spent a week scaling trees and perching above with a zoom lens, bearing unique witness to an event that is a watershed in Iran’s history. She was disarmingly young in those days, girlish and funny in a way that made you forget she had already become one of the most intrepid and influential photojournalists in the country, and of her generation.
We went on to cover many of the same stories in the years that followed, sometimes working together, and I remember being struck by the sheer emotional intelligence of her work. Her eye for gestures, scenes, and moments that captured aspects of the modern Iranian experience that were hard to even formulate in words: the conflicted identities of young women caught between tradition and dreams of independence, the unspeakable betrayal of mothers of war martyrs, the suffocation felt by a generation of bright, talented Iranians increasingly cut of from the world and any real opportunity. Having grown up in that Iran, none of this was foreign or exotic to her, and in her images were often stories, saturated in an intense sympathy and understanding.
“I used to think that photographers should travel to wars and earthquakes to capture suffering, but its much harder to portray the atmosphere of those suffering in their normal lives,” she says. “When my heart hurts for someone, even my sister or neighbor, I want to tell their story.”
As her profile and portfolio grew more distinguished, more and more young photographers in Iran sought her out. She was emblematic of what was possible, and made working with these young photographers a part of her life, incorporating them into her vision for a better Iran. She saw that they had drive but lacked the resources and guidance they needed — she likens Iran in this way to “an island cut off from the world” to train their outlook — to develop their own creative, visual language. Even today she remains in this role, encouraging young photographers to focus on angles or stories, and most importantly, to see working in Iran as an opportunity and not a restriction: “I tell them they can take their best pictures in Iran, because they live here and it’s their story and their concerns. Ultimately they’ll find more here that they have meaningful things to say about.”
The aftermath of Iran’s 2009 post-election uprising changed many things in Iran, not least among them the climate for photojournalism. The authorities used press photos to hunt down and arrest protesters, many of whom later suffered torture and rape at detention centers. Iranians, Tavakolian says, “developed a phobia toward having their picture taken, they were simply very scared.” That reluctance, together with her own fear about inadvertently endangering someone by taking their picture, propelled Tavakolian down a new path, toward a more artistic form of photography with a strong base in social documentary.
The shift marks a deepening and aesthetic maturing in her work, which has been shown by the British Museum and acquired by modern collections such as London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. She says this new approach reflects a turn away from demystifying Iran for the West, and toward a different audience as her interlocutor. She’s no longer moved to capture various forms of hijab or veiling, and sees young Iranians’ vibrant presence on social media as capable of presenting their own voice to the world.
“When we’re stuck on getting the West to understand Iran, our work remains on the surface,” she says. “I want to tell Iranians’ story to Iranians themselves, this is where I can challenge myself and go deeper into the more complicated layers.”
Her new exhibition, Look, which recently debuted in New York at the Thomas Erben Gallery, illustrates this change in tactics. The series of portraits of inhabitants of her own apartment building in Tehran, all taken at a twilight hour seemingly suspended between night and day, conveys all the deep anxieties and fears that middle-class young people in Iran have about the future. “They were all scared or anxious, and I saw that despite how much access they had to technology, despite not being at the edge of poverty, they were still lonely, perplexed,” she says. “I wanted to capture such a moment in their lives.”
Look is a devastating portrait of a middle-class in decline, squeezed by economic pressure at home, and dwindling access to the world, a generation of young people whose lives are not reduced to the twilight hour of melancholy that Tavakolian captures, but marred by it. In this mode, she is still the storyteller, but now in more command of the tale, relaying the truths that are closest to home.
Newsha Tavakolian is based in Tehran. Her work debuted at the Thomas Erben Gallery in New York on April 11. Tavakolian served as the secretary of the 2013 Sheed Awards, a prize awarded for Iranian Social Documentary photography.
Azadeh Moaveni is a TIME contributing writer on Iran and the Middle East. Moaveni recently reported on The Aftermath of an Acid Attack for LightBox. She is the author of Lipstick Jihad and co-author of Iran Awakening.
For France, the trauma of the Algerian War (1954-1962) was not unlike the experience of the Vietnam War for the United States. But, unlike the conflict in Vietnam, few photographic documents exist from that period in Algeria: it is as if the French responded with collective amnesia. Marc Garanger’s Algerian Women is one of the few photographic essays dedicated to that painful period.
In 1960, Garanger, a 25-year-old draftee who had already been photographing professionally for ten years, landed in Kabylia, in the small village of Ain Terzine, about seventy-five miles south of Algiers. Like many politically engaged young men, he had put off his departure for the army as long as possible, hoping that the war would end without him. He was soon selected as his regiment’s photographer.
General Maurice Challes, head of the French army, attacked the mountain villages occupied by two million people, some of whom had joined the Algerian resistance, the FLN. To deprive the rebels of their contacts with the villagers, he decided to destroy the villages and transfer the population into regroupment villages, a euphemism for concentration camps. Soon Garanger’s commanding officer decreed that the villagers must have identity cards: “Naturally he asked the military photographer to make these cards,” Garanger recalls. “Either I refused and went to prison, or I accepted. I understood my luck: it was to be a witness, to make pictures of what I saw that mirrored my opposition to the war. I saw that I could use what I was forced to do, and have the pictures tell the opposite of what the authorities wanted them to tell.”
The women that Garanger portrayed came from neighboring villages. Either Berber or Muslim, they had never before come into contact with Europeans. When Garanger arrived, there was a detachment of armed men with machine guns across their shoulders, an interpreter, and the commander. The women would be lined up, then each in turn would sit on a stool outdoors, in front of the whitewashed wall of a house. Without their veils, their disheveled hair and their protective tattoos were exposed. Their lined faces reflected the harshness of their life. The stiffness of their pose and the intensity of their gaze evoke early daguerreotypes.
“I would come within three feet of them,” Garanger remembers. “They would be unveiled. In a period of ten days, I made two thousand portraits, two hundred a day. The women had no choice in the matter. Their only way of protesting was through their look.”
“It is this immediate look that matters,” Garanger continues. “When one discharges a condenser, a spark comes out: to me, photography involves seizing just that instant of discharge. In these sessions, I felt a completely crazy emotion. It was an overwhelming experience, with lightning in each image. I held up for the world a mirror, which reflected this lightning look that the women cast at me.”
In the Middle East, the veil is like a second skin among traditional people. It may be taken off only within the secrecy of the walls, among women or between husband and wife, but never publicly. Garanger’s portraits symbolize the collision of two civilizations, Islamic and Western, and serve as an apt metaphor for colonization. The women’s defiant look may be thought of as an ‘evil eye’ that they cast to protect themselves and curse their enemies.
Fifty years after Algeria’s independence was proclaimed, Garanger’s contested portraits have not lost their strength. When he went back to Algeria in 2004 to meet those he had photographed, he found that the pictures he had taken were often the only ones that the women ever had of themselves, and they welcomed his return: he had become the keeper of their memory. This month, his portraits will be exhibited in Algiers.
Garanger’s portraits are currently being exhibited at the Musée d’Art Moderne, Algiers (April 20 – August 30).
Carole Naggar is a photo historian and poet. She recently wrote for LightBox on Chim’s images of children in Europe after World War II and the visual fables of Pentti Sammallahti.
Columbia University has announced the 2013 Pulitzer Prize winners for breaking news and feature photography. A five-photographer team from the Associated Press was recognized in the Breaking News photography category for their photographic coverage of the ongoing Syrian civil war. Rodrigo Abd, Manu Brabo, Khalil Hamra, Muhammed Muheisen and Narciso Contreras were members of the team that contributed to the agency’s coverage of the two-year-old conflict.
“Rodrigo Abd, Manu Brabo, Narciso Contreras, Khalil Hamra and Muhammed Muheisen are some of the bravest and most talented photographers in the world and I am immensely proud of them for this tremendous and well-deserved recognition of their work covering the tragic and dangerous story of Syria,” said AP Director of Photography Santiago Lyon. “In addition, I want to underscore the tireless and careful coordination and assigning work done by Manoocher Deghati, our regional photo editor for the Middle East, whose broad experience covering conflict is an invaluable asset.”
Javier Manzano, freelance for Agence France-Presse, was recognized with the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography from his work in Syria.
Javier Manzano—AFP/Getty Images
This photo taken on October 18, 2012 shows two Syrian rebels taking sniper positions at the heavily contested neighborhood of Karmal Jabl in central Aleppo. Manzano, an AFP stringer, was awarded the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for feature photography in New York on April 15, 2013.
A full list of winners can be found on the Pulitzer Prize website.
Presidential photographers are afforded access to their subjects that most journalists only dream of. Pete Souza, David Hume Kennerly, Eric Draper — all are well-known names in the photographic community for their day in, day out documentation of the White House. Part journalist, part historian and part public-relations agent, the president’s official photographer chronicles both the official and the private workings of some of the most public men in the world.
The beauty of the job is that the photographer — spending nearly every waking second with the Commander-in-Chief, photographing cabinet meetings, foreign trips and ‘off the record’ family events — needn’t decide whether a given moment is important: instead, the official photographer records everything, letting history ascribe significance to the people and instances locked away in the images of the presidential archive.
But what happens when that archive is destroyed? That’s precisely what happened to some 40,000 negatives of the Kennedy family made by Jacques Lowe. Hired two years before JFK entered office, Lowe was charged with documenting the Kennedy family. Just 28 years old when he started in 1958, Lowe chronicled Kennedy’s Senate re-election campaign, his first years as president and the family’s frequent breaks from the spotlight in Hyannis Port, Mass. and McLean, Va. His images strongly shaped and influenced the public perception of the era that would come to be known as Camelot.
“There are no words to describe how attached my father was to his Kennedy negatives,” writes Thomasina Lowe, Jacques’ daughter, in the introduction to Remembering Jack, a book published in 2003 on the 40th anniversary of JFK’s assassination. “They defined who he was as a person and as a photographer. Those images were priceless, their value beyond calculation. So he stored them in a fireproof bank vault in the World Trade Center.”
Estate of Jacques Lowe
Jacques Lowe at work
Lowe’s original negatives were destroyed on September 11th, 2001, during the terror attacks on the World Trade Center. But miraculously, some 1,500 of Lowe’s contact sheets and prints from the Kennedy file escaped destruction, stored safely at another facility in New York City.
A new exhibition at the Newseum in Washington D.C. highlights 170 of the salvaged images. Restoring them to recognition, however, was far from easy: a team of seven imaging specialists spent more than 600 hours diligently bringing to life iconic images from fading contact sheets, unpolished work prints and creased proofs.
Indira Williams Babic, the senior manager of visual resources at the museum, explained her team’s exhaustive process to TIME.
“There wasn’t anything first-generation that we could work off of,” she said. “We pored through around 40,000 images, give or take.” Pairing down the initial selection to around 1,000 images, Babic then sorted the photographs into smaller groups by content or location.
After this initial inventory, the Newseum’s design team began to figure out what the show would look like. These decisions dictated the specific restoration challenges ahead, e.g, if the design team wanted 60-inch prints from a 1-inch contact proof covered in pen markings and scratches.
“You know it’s going to be incredibly challenging,” Babic explains, “not to make it look artsy and beautiful, but the way it was supposed to look. We’re a news museum, so at the top of the list, we have to respect the photojournalist and his vision. We’ll make it big, make it beautiful, but make it real — that was the tough part.”
Many of the contact sheets were marked with scratches and printing notes. Babic points to the paradox of finding one of Lowe’s particularly-recognizable images amongst the thousands: the best photographs frequently had the worst damage. More often than not, the iconic frames on the contact sheets were covered with the photographer’s writing or surrounded by an excited scribbled circle. Every inch of stray pen mark could add numerous days to the restorationist’s workload.
Babic described the process as a dance — restoring the recognizable frames that the public expects from Lowe while also remaining realistic about what could be salvaged from the limited sizes of the original proofs.
And even after the team “restored” an image, the team often wasn’t satisfied. In some cases, they started the process over — even after hours of work — when the quality of restoration didn’t feel quite right. “You can click on white specks only so many times…but we didn’t give up,” Babic jokes.
A Newseum staff member installs a framed gallery print of John F. Kennedy in the exhibit, “Creating Camelot: The Kennedy Photography of Jacques Lowe,” opening April 12.
Restoring from contact sheets also had this unique advantage: the images immediately surrounding the iconic frame often provided important historical details that the team could use as references. Rather than guessing about a detail that might have been obscured on a well-known image, the team was able to verify objects hidden beneath a scratch or a pen mark by comparing the picture to other, nearby frames.
Thus, more than a decade after the single most horrific and memorable day in modern American history, and just over 50 years after the short, legendary JFK presidency, important pictures that might have been lost to history have, in a sense, been pulled from the ashes.
Creating Camelot: The Kennedy Photography of Jacques Lowe is on view at the Newseum in Washington D.C. from April 12 through January 5, 2014.
TIME LightBox presents a new monthly round-up of the best books, exhibitions and ways to experience photography beyond the web—from Charles Fréger’s folkloric Wilder Mann at the Gallery at Hermes to the monumental exhibit WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath at the Annenberg Space for Photography, Los Angeles, and Sebastião Salgado’s epic book Genesis, to the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize at London’s Photographers’ Gallery.
‘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 April 25, 2013. We’ll also be updating this gallery throughout the month.
There’s a line from Henry David Thoreau that’s an old favorite of environmentalists: “In wildness is the preservation of the world.” Not many people have taken that idea so much to heart as the great Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado, who spent much of the past nine years trekking to the last wild places on earth to take the pictures collected in his new photography book, Genesis (Taschen; 520 pages), a window into the primordial corners of creation.
The Genesis project grew out of two dilemmas in Salgado’s personal life. In the late 1990s, his father gave him and his wife Lélia the Brazilian cattle ranch where Salgado, now 69, spent his childhood. He remembers the place in those days as “a complete paradise, more than 50% of it covered with rain forest,” he told Time on the phone from his home in Paris. “We had incredible birds, jaguars, crocodiles.” But after decades of deforestation, the property had become an ecological disaster: “Not only my farm, the entire region. Erosion, no water—it was a dead land.”
By 1999, Salgado was also completing Migrations, a six-year photographic chronicle of the human flood tides set loose around the world by wars, famines or just people searching for work. The project took him to refugee camps and war zones and left him wrung out physically and emotionally. “I had seen so much brutality. I didn’t trust anymore in anything,” he says. “I didn’t trust in the survival of our species.”
So as a kind of dual restoration project—for himself and his Brazilian paradise lost—Salgado and his wife began reforesting his family property. There are now more than 2 million new trees there. Birds and other wildlife have returned in such numbers that the land has become a designated nature reserve. As his personal world regenerated, Salgado got an idea: For his next project, why not travel to unspoiled locales—places that double as environmental memory banks, holding recollections of earth’s primordial glories? His purpose, Salgado decided, “would not be to photograph what is destroyed but what is still pristine, to show what we must hold and protect.” He likes to quote a hopeful statistic: “45% of our planet is still what it was at the beginning.”
As part of the Genesis project, Salgado has made 32 trips since 2004, visiting the Kalahari Desert, the jungles of Indonesia and biodiversity hot spots such as the Galápagos Islands and Madagascar. He hovered in balloons over herds of water buffalo in Africa (“If you come in planes or helicopters you scatter them”). He traveled across Siberia with the nomadic Nenets, people who move their reindeer hundreds of miles each year to seasonal pasture. “I learned from them the concept of the essential,” he says. “If you give them something they can’t carry, they won’t accept it.”
Traveling to the Antarctic and nearby regions, Salgado found vast flocks of giant albatrosses off the Falkland Islands and “the paradise of the penguins” on the South Sandwich Islands. “Islands at the end of the world,” Salgado calls them. “Or as we say in Brazil, ‘where the wind goes to come back.’” And where Salgado went too and came back with glimpses of paradise in peril—but not lost, not yet.
Sebastião Salgado is a Brazilian documentary photographer living in Paris. He has produced several books, and his work has been exhibited extensively around the world. His latest work, Genesis, premieres at The Natural History Museum in London on April 11, on view through Sept. 8, 2013. The exhibition will have its North American premier at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Ontario, Canada from May 1 through Sept 2.
Richard Lacayo is an art critic and editor-at-large at TIME.
“[In nature] we may even glimpse the means with which to accept ourselves. Before nature, what I see does not truly belong to anyone; I know that I cannot have it, in fact, I’m not sure what I’m seeing.” —Emmet Gowin
The allure of the American West has captivated photographers since the earliest days of the medium. Photography was used as a tool to decipher the vastness of the new and unknown frontier. One can see a rich photographic form of manifest destiny stemming from pioneering documentarians like Timothy O’Sullivan in the 1800s to preservationists like Ansel Adams in the 1960s. Although the intentions of these photographers have shifted over time, the landscape has provided consistent inspiration for our deepest desires. In more recent history, our concerns about our footprint on the environment have led photographers to investigate deeper than what’s easily accessible.
David Maisel is a photographer of the current wave of contemporary artists concerned with hidden land — remote sites of industrial waste, mining, and military testing that are not yet indexed on Google Maps. His latest book, Black Maps: American Landscape and the Apocalyptic Sublime (Steidl), observes the land from a god-like perspective of the sky and with an obsession with environmental destruction.
“The original impetus for the work was informed by looking really closely at 19th-century exploratory photography,” explains Maisel, “and then, an arc through the New Topographics work of the 70s.” He cites the work of iconic black-and-white image makers like Lewis Baltz and Robert Adams — photographers who focused on man-altered landscapes — but felt inspired to “push it further.”
This epic project began almost thirty years ago in a plane over Mount St. Helens. Maisel, a 22-year-old photography student, was accompanying his college professor, Emmet Gowin, with his work. “That experience of being at Mt. St. Helen’s was really formative,” says Maisel. “I don’t even know if I’d be a photographer. It was an essential moment for me.”
Flying in to view the crater of the volcano formed by the extreme force of Mother Nature, he photographed a large swath of deforestation, something the young photographer had never seen growing up in the suburbs of Long Island, N.Y.
“As a kid at that point who had grown up in the suburbs of New York, I just never had seen a landscape put to work in that way by industry. Especially on that scale,” says Maisel. The phenomenal destruction revealed a conflict in modern life that he’s been fixated on since.
Courtesy of David Maisel
In the 1980’s, talking about the environment through art seemed out of step with the dialogue that was happening around Maisel as a young art student. Looking back, his formative work now stands somewhere between classic documentary and abstract expressionism. “Just bringing up Robert Smithson (the pioneering land artist) makes me remember. When I first got interested in him in the early 80′s, that’s not where the art world was at all. And it’s not where this society was at all. This idea of looking at the environment and changes to the environment, was like, ‘oh, that’s ecology, that died in the 60s, we’re done with that.’”
In no way did that attitude derail his fascination in the environment — instead, he began creating an artistic dialogue in nature as the inspiration. But it’s Maisel’s distinct intentions and conceptualization that separates the photographer from your average eco-activist, who’s motivation to shoot may be based in a desire to preserve natural spaces or reveal the evils of industry.
The work in Black Maps, unlike more polemic natural disaster photography, relies on abstraction. He creates full-frame surrealist visions of toxic lakes and captures the maddening designs of man-altered landscapes. In the abstract series The Lake Project (slide 15), viewers are overwhelmed by alien colors, allured by frame after frame of man-made destruction. The repetitive nature of viewing this destruction from a distance creates a sublime beauty in a classical sense. In less abstract work such as Oblivion (slide 7), which looks at the cityscapes of Los Angeles, the images become scorched black and white metaphors for the complete obliteration of a natural state.
Over the years, Maisel published a few of these projects as separate volumes, but in Black Maps, the intention is to see their power as part of a dialogue with each other. “I think the feeling of being kind of overwhelmed is almost part of the aesthetic of the work,” he says.
“There are just certain real conundrums on how we are developing the planet and changing the planet, and I think that’s what I still want to pursue,” says the photographer. But where Maisel could accuse, he instead becomes reflective on these issues, providing evidence of what he’s seeing and crafting in his printing process.
“I was also really conscious that these sites were American,” says Maisel. I was making a book about the country that I live in and that I know the best.”
He’s also keenly aware of the ethical contradictions of making photographic work in this way — with chemicals, computers and papers. “On that first excursion out West, I came back and I processed all my film and made my contact sheets and then I thought, ‘what the hell am I doing? How can I? — I can’t,’ I was paralyzed. And it took me a while to work through that, to realize that I’m embedded in this. At that moment in my life, I was living on the coast of Maine in this renovated barn that we heated with a wood stove, and it was about as far off the grid that I have ever gotten. I just realized I can’t remove myself from the society I live in and from my own way of wanting to communicate. But yes, I’m as guilty as the next person and I am complicit and I think that we all are complicit. This work isn’t meant to be a diatribe against a specific industry or industries.”
With that understanding of the interconnectedness of man and industry, and the conundrums involved in being a human in this era, Maisel’s work becomes a meditation on ourselves and what we’ve done to the planet. He say’s, “I think that these kind of sites correspond to something within our own psyches.”
“I think that … maybe these are all self-portraits. There’s something — we collectively as a society have made these places, that’s my take on it. And so, they really do reflect us. And so, it’s not ‘them’ making these places, it’s us.”
Black Maps: American Landscape and the Apocalyptic Sublime is published this month by Steidl. The work is on view at the CU Art Museum, University of Colorado Boulder, February 1 – May 11, 2013, and will travel to the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Scottsdale, Arizona, June 1 – September 1, 2013.
Paul Moakley is the Deputy Photo Editor at TIME. You can follow him on Twitter at @paulmoakley.
At this late date, in an age when seemingly every significant photograph of the past 150 years has been anthologized and analyzed, how many major 20th-century photographers can possibly remain under the radar of both the general public and photography aficionados? How many discoveries of unknown, genuinely great photographers can we possibly expect?
A show of pictures made by Russian-born Roman Vishniac, opening Jan. 18 at New York’s International Center of Photography, answers both questions with an emphatic, at least one.
It should be noted at the very outset that Vishniac did not toil in utter obscurity. In fact, he has long been celebrated in the Jewish community for his empathetic and intimate documentation of shtetl life Central and Eastern Europe in the years prior to the rise of the Third Reich and the cataclysmic onset of the Second World War. One Vishniac book in particular, A Vanished World, has for decades held pride of place in countless Jewish homes — a secret history, of sorts, that at-once documents and partially mythologizes a cultural landscape that was all but wiped away by the Holocaust.
The ICP exhibition, meanwhile, Roman Vishniac Rediscovered, will feature largely unpublished photos, with the stated aim not only of introducing Vishniac to an audience that knows little or nothing of his work, but of positioning him as one of the great social documentarians of the mid-20th century, whose pictures stand comparison with Cartier-Bresson or Eugene Atget.
According to ICP’s Maya Benton, who curated Rediscovered, Vishniac’s known body of work is really a narrow (albeit excellent) entry point to a much broader appreciation of his vast and varied archive. A mere one to two percent of his photos have ever been published, Benton points out, suggesting that the exhibition’s broad scope — including his work in photo microscopy, personal correspondence and other treasures — will be a revelation not only to the uninitiated, but to those who might have felt that they already knew all there was to know about the long-unheralded master.
Liz Ronk is the photo editor for LIFE.com.
In an age when “everything is changing, everything is moving,” photographer Nadav Kander has sought to find moments of reserve, reverence and human vulnerability in his latest series, Bodies: 6 Women, 1 Man, opening this week at Flowers Gallery (Cork Street) in London, and published by Hatje Cantz later this month.
Kander told TIME in a recent interview that his work in Bodies — featuring white, smooth figures cast against a stark black background — serves, in part, as a visual homage to fine-art history. But the alabaster forms, naked and undefended, also communicate Kander’s underlying motivation as a photographer: to capture “the paradoxes of the human condition.”
“I don’t like to ignore that there is beauty without imperfection or that there’s health without disease,” Kander says. This interplay between the perfect and the flawed, the pure and the corrupt, suggests an elemental truth — a truth that is central to Kander’s aesthetic and method.
“The nudes,” he told TIME, “are another way of satisfying the quest that I’ve always [pursued] in my work.”
Originally from Israel, the 51-year-old Kander might be best known for his portraits, often uniquely framed and staged in dramatically lit environments. Subjects have ranged from President Barack Obama (for TIME’s 2012 Person of the Year issue) to professional athletes, politicians and Hollywood royalty.
But the range of Kander’s photography extends well beyond the intimate portrait: his documentary photography, for example, has merited awards — most notably Yangtze: The Long River, which won the Prix Pictet prize for photography and sustainability in 2009. With Bodies, however, he has returned to a theme that can sometimes feel archaic, as if abandoned by many in his field.
“In recent years, photographers have stayed away from the nude,” said Kander, noting that the process had become almost “nostalgic.” “I wanted to work with the nude in a new way.”
As if embracing the theme of paradox, Kander’s “new way” required peering into art’s distant past.
“The mixture of dust and cream [applied to the subjects] served as gentle reference to renaissance paintings,” he explained to TIME. Before long, and in spite of his evident reverence for his predecessors in both paint and pictures, his project evolved into a riveting amalgam: fine-art photographs that felt at once deeply familiar and utterly distinct from anything that might have come before.
“While the models are very present and there for your eyes, they are also turned away and quite private,” he said, noting details that contrast with most Renaissance art, which often made use of a Raphaelite “gaze” — that is to say, a portrait’s subject engaging the viewer with direct, and occasionally unsettling, eye contact.
While the bodies in his photos might well relay a vulnerability unseen in more traditional works, the positioning of the figures — the arch of their hands, the flexion of their feet and toes — communicates a Renaissance aesthetic further evident in his casting and choice of models.
“I was into the ideas of effigies, these white marble statues,” he said. To replicate that look Kander chose models without tattoos or piercings, bodies that were — in his words — “unencumbered by modernity.”
In his interview with TIME, Kander noted the influence Edward Weston, a renowned American photographer, has had on his work and approach to photography.
In 1932, Weston and 10 of the industry’s most notable names created the f/64 Group in San Francisco. The loose collective of photographers was staunchly committed to photography at its most accurate. In Weston’s words, “The camera should be used for a recording of life, for rendering the very substance and quintessence of the thing itself, whether it be polished steel or palpitating flesh.”
For Kander, this same sensitivity meant little editing or post-production work on his own images — images that at-once mirror a specific reality and inform his personal life.
“I don’t want to make art that’s simple, ‘correct for the times,’ or merely to fit a gap in the market,” he said. “I make things that nourish me.”
Nadav Kander is a London-based photographer. Kander photographed President Barack Obama for TIME’s Person of the Year Issue in 2012.