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Irina Werning

Back To The Future 2

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I love old photos. I know I’m a nosy photographer. As soon as I step into someone else’s house, I start sniffing for those old photos. Most of us are fascinated by their retro look but to me it’s imagining how people would feel and look like if they were to reenact them today…  a few years ago, I decided to actually do this. So, with my camera, I started inviting people to go back to their future.

Back to the Future won the Burn Emerging Photographer Fund  2011. The EPF grant allowed Irina Werning to extend and finish the project. For Back to the Future, she shot 250 pictures in 32 countries.

 

Bio

• Born in Buenos Aires

• BA Economics, Universidad de San Andres, Buenos Aires, 1997

• MA History, Universidad Di Tella, Buenos Aires, 1999

• MA Photographic Journalism, Westminster University, London, 2006

• Winner Ian Parry Scholarship 2006

• Gordon Foundation Grant 2006

• Selected for the Joop Swart Masterclass (World Press Photo Organization), 2007

• Flash Forward, The Magenta Foundation, Canada 2011

• Winner Fine Art Portraits, SONY World Photography Awards 2012

 

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Vaughn Wallace

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

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.

 The Kennedy Photography of Jacques Lowe,”  opening April 12.

Sarah Mercier—Newseum

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.

Vaughn Wallace is the producer of LightBox. Follow him on Twitter @vaughnwallace.

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Power_thumb

Confession. I see the East Coast today and feel something (among many other things) unwelcome: jealousy. I moved back West only a month ago, leaving behind Maryland after five years. The landscapes and psychic geography are still fresh in my mind, and, for the past four days or so, the entirety of my online social life has revolved around Hurricane Sandy: stories, photos, worried exchanges; flickering lights, wine, Scrabble. Biking to the bar against solid sheets of water; planning Christmas decorations for downed trees; infrastructure losing the battle. I’m missing out on something, a chance to scratch that ugly itch for doom, to feel the unique and terrible pleasure of catastrophe.

It is terrible, of course. People are dead, at least 17 at last count, while many billions of dollars in damage has been done. That misery is real, and all of the blood and money extracted by any disaster comes from somewhere also very real. But the pull persists. Think of staring at the burning towers of 9/11 — and staring and staring and staring. Or at a car accident or fire-gutted building or train derailment. The feeling isn’t entirely repulsive. I’m not even sure it’s mostly repulsive. Isn’t that awful?

Maybe, but also maybe not so much. There’s a great many reasons why we love disasters, and none of them have to do with enjoying the suffering of others. So take some comfort. We’re not into disasters because we’re secretly evil villains; we’re into disasters (in large part) to connect to others. At the very root of human morality isn’t supernatural dictates — it’s empathy, or the ability to share in the experiences of others.

Perhaps you’ve had the experience of gawking at an auto wreck, your eyes passing a little too non-nonchalantly over the ambulance lights and crumpled car-frames and sizzling flares, when, unexpectedly, you meet the gaze of a victim. And you’ve gone cold, like a trapdoor opened in your body letting out all of the warm feelings and comfort in a gush. It’s not the feeling of being “caught,” rather it’s the feeling of connecting. We’re neurologically constructed to do this, put ourselves within the perspective of another.

We don’t enjoy that perspective, but, like a great many creatures, we need it. It’s fundamental to pro-social behavior, or the things we do to help to help others. Those things keep societies together, and societies keep their constituents alive and breeding longer. So, yes: evolution. We stare because we want to empathize and, at the very end of things, to survive.

But before you get to the end of things, you have some great stuff, like community and generosity. Which are things usually pretty well hidden behind a veil of assholedom and routine. But then something happens and people feel impelled to get together into groups — maybe just for boozing and board games — and maybe offer up their couch and electricity to someone they don’t know very well. Or maybe even do something really brave and selfless. The sky’s the limit.

Metro-North plus boat, via MTA

There’s other reasons we love disasters that are maybe more psychological. Perhaps there is a dark side. Psychologist Eric G. Wilson writes:

[Carl Jung] maintained that our mental health depends on our shadow, that part of our psyche that harbors our darkest energies, such as murderousness. The more we repress the morbid, the more it foments neuroses or psychoses. To achieve wholeness, we must acknowledge our most demonic inclinations.

Yes, I took pleasure in my enemy’s tumble from grace. No, I couldn’t stop watching 9/11 footage. Once we welcome these unseemly admissions as integral portions of our being, the devils turn into angels. Luke owns the Vader within, offers affection to the actual villain; off comes the scary mask, and there stands a father, loving and in need of love.

Empathy doesn’t usually extend to things, but our fascination with catastrophe sure does. Some of the most alluring photos from Hurricane Sandy are totally empty landscapes: the waterfalled construction site of the World Trade Center, a flooded FDR, empty Grand Central Station. We’re attracted to these in part because they’re empty. They are vulnerable.

Which is crucial because, in a city, it’s these landscapes that run us. There’s that odd, dull terror of urban claustrophobia, that we’re not in control. All of these buildings and tunnels we’ve created in the general interests of civilization, but we’ve also given up quite a bit to their grid-lines. There’s power and possibility in a big storm. Loss of control is its own power. And sometimes we don’t realize how disempowered we feel in the city, no matter that cities are where we go to feel just the opposite (to find possibilities). To, ahem, paraphrase the Anarchist Cookbook (with a wide variety of apologies), when outcomes are uncertain, anything is possible.

I think that’s true. Last night, in the depths of the storm, maybe you didn’t know how today would look. You had some idea, of course, but compared to last Tuesday, today was wide open. That’s pretty important. Even if your life in New York City is perfect and awesome and every day is ice cream and puppies and big fat checks, without possibility — even if most of them are bad — something isn’t quite complete.

Reach this writer at michaelb@motherboard.tv.

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Ira Block

9/11: Faces Of Hope

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Thousands of survivors have walked the difficult path of recovery since the September 11, 2001 bombings of the World Trade Center.

And although I began documenting this horrific event shortly after the attacks, focusing on the people who emerged from the burning twin towers alive proved to be not only a daunting, but also a highly emotional task. Previously, I shot a story on the efforts to rebuild the downtown area and I also photographed the Twin Towers of Light on the six month anniversary of the attacks, but this was a different challenge.

I started by photographing the personal objects that were carried out of the towers and also the items that were salvaged during the clean-up process from the rubble. A pair of men’s loafers worn during the escape from a crumbling tower, a framed family picture carried by a woman whose thoughts were of surviving for her children, a crushed fireman’s helmet discovered buried under debris, all speak of the personal experiences that keep the memory of history vivid and fresh, even as the immediacy of tragedy fades.

Taking these pictures was a very emotional experience for me, knowing that some of the items I was shooting belonged to people who had perished. I had access to Hangar 17 at Kennedy International Airport, where some of the large pieces of the Twin Towers were being stored. Photographing what were once the two tallest buildings in the world, now reduced to fragments of metal was unnerving. I began to realize that documenting personal items and pieces of the Towers was not giving me the mood I wanted to achieve. It was too somber, too devastating. Ten years after the tragedy, my goal was to focus on the positive. To achieve this, I shifted my perspective to the living.

If these photos have a mission, it if this: to capture the images of the survivors, those who have moved forward anchored by faith, fortitude or family and those who still struggle with a healing process that remains painful, drawn out and elusive. Each has a story to tell.

Following the 10 year anniversary of the attacks, these photos were exhibited at Fotocare in New York City.

 

Bio

Ira Block is an internationally renowned photojournalist, teacher, and workshop leader who has produced over 30 stories for the National Geographic Magazine and its affiliates N.G. Traveler and Adventure.

He began his career as a newspaper photographer, earning numerous press club awards. As an expert in lighting, Ira is sought after for assignments ranging from shooting ancient artifacts in Greece to photographing dinosaur fossils in the Gobi desert and documenting Moche mummies in Peru. His momentous coffee table book “Saving America’s Treasures” was a collaborative effort among the Clinton White House, National Geographic Society, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Ira’s unique vision and outstanding lighting skills have made him the “go to photographer” for complex assignments.

He taught the first creative, digital photography class at the School for Visual Arts in New York City and is frequently called upon to review and critique the latest digital cameras and lenses. He works closely with National Geographic Expeditions lecturing and teaching photography around the world. Ira has also taught workshops in Bangkok and Maine, Abu Dhabi and San Diego, Boston, Seattle and New York City.

In addition to his editorial work Ira shoots commercial and corporate images, portraits, promotional materials and advertising for leading institutions. He also produces corporate digital webcast videos. His photographic exhibit “Faces of Hope”, portraits of survivors and images of objects retrieved from the aftermath of the World Trade Center tragedy, are part of the permanent collection of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum.

His most recent story in the October National Geographic “Earth Before the Ice”, investigates a prehistoric global warming. Ira lives in New York City with his wife and is a frequent blogger on the latest digital camera equipment and gear, lighting techniques, and creative vision in photography.

 

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Ira Block

 

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Beach-Bomber

Cover-3
Françoise Mouly is one of my heroes. She and her husband Art Spiegelman published RAW, an astounding large-format comic book that was a big inspiration to me when I started bOING bOING as a print zine in 1988. (I'm still waiting for a full-size hardback that reprints the first 8 issues of RAW, Volume 1). For the last 20 years, Françoise has been the art editor of The New Yorker.

Blown Covers: New Yorker Covers You Were Never Meant To See is her new book. It's a collection of New Yorker covers that were either rejected, caused an outrage, or have an interesting story behind them.

Of the cover above, Françoise says, "In 1993, we published this cover by David Mazzuccelli as the trial of the four men suspected of the bombing of the World Trade Center got underway. There were bomb threats to the magazine, and the image was vehemently denounced -- at the time, most in the media were weary of labeling the men involved as Arab or Muslim terrorists."

Below, 11 more covers and cover concepts for The New Yorker, with commentary by Françoise Mouly.

Chris-Ware

We asked Chris Ware, who drew this week’s cover, “Mother’s Day,” to discuss the New Yorker covers that inspired him. He wrote a charming ode to the women artists of The New Yorker, where he confessed to having “a soft spot for Gretchen Dow Simpson’s blank observations of beaches, grass, and whitewashed homes -- the peopleless screen doors, walls, shingled roofs, and beach pebbles of the nineteen-seventies and eighties.”

Art-Tattoo

Each cartoonist I work with has his own approach and understanding of what makes a good
New Yorker cover. In 1993, Tina Brown, who was only the 4th editor since 1925, turned to
cartoonists like Art Spiegelman to revitalize the magazine. This was Art’s published Mother’s
Day cover at a time when tattoos were becoming widespread.

Art-Pregnant-1

A few years later, Spiegelman offered this other sketch for a Mother’s Day image—it didn’t
get approved.

Wardrobe-Malfunction

Sometimes it looks like an artist is poking fun at the more sedate New Yorker covers. This was proposed by M. Scott Miller, years before Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction. He claims that the inspiration for this jeté is an experience familiar to anyone who follows classical ballet.

Marilyn-2

Marilyn-1Cartoonists use clichés, but a good image will use clichés and well-known images to say something new. Harry Bliss make us realize that, sadly, time passes (left). When female bombers made their appearance in the news, in 2002, Danny Shanahan used the same trope to make an entirely different point (above).

Monica-L

“I have an idea for a back‐to‐school issue,” said Anita Kunz back in 1998, “It’s Monica Lewinsky sucking a 'Presidential' lollipop... It could be drawn in crayon, very child‐like. Please let me know if you can use it.” Once the artist has a good idea, she can strengthen her point with the style she uses to render it.





Clintons-Last-Request

At the height of the Lewinsky affair, Art Spiegelman proposed this sketch titled ‘Clinton’s Last Request.’ “When a word like ‘blow job’, which you never dreamt of finding in the paper is on the front page every day,” he explains, “I had to find a way for my image to be as explicit without being downright salacious.”

I-Have-A-Nightmare

In a sketch that Art Spiegelman proposed during George W. Bush’s first term, King’s dream becomes a nightmare as black leaders like Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice provide cover for George W. Bush.

Mentos

In the fall of 2005, videos began making the rounds showing what happens when pieces of Mentos candy are dropped into bottles of Diet Coke. Barry Blitt first tried his idea with two children or two businessmen before finding the right and frightfully funny combination—two Arab men. All versions make fun of terrorism, but only that one makes fun of our own fears.

Freedom-Tower

As of this week, the Freedom Tower has now become the tallest building in New York City -- and the third tallest in the world. Speaking of my own personal fears, we’ll be moving into that tower in 2014. Back in 2002, when models of the projects for the World Trade Center site were put on display, Blitt sketched Osama bin Laden and his second-in-command reviewing the proposed designs.

Cover-2

When this image by Barry Blitt came in, David Remnick, the editor who makes all the final decisions was o on a trip, but he asked me to show it around. My colleagues, all word people, laughed heartily yet they concluded it didn’t ‘work’ because neither the Pope nor the scandals plaguing the Catholic Church had anything to do with Marylin Monroe. “Oy vey!” said the artist, Barry Blitt, and we moved on.

Buy Blown Covers: New Yorker Covers You Were Never Meant To See on Amazon

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I think they should have had a go at explaining it in semaphore, but instead they’ve gone for the fashionable route of a glitzy video which shows off the space-time rip story that serves as a backdrop to Firefall’s territory-conquest alien-world crossover activities. Go take a look at that, below, and then at my preview, which is the most handsome preview you will read all day.
(more…)

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