Skip navigation
Help

Christer Str

warning: Creating default object from empty value in /var/www/vhosts/sayforward.com/subdomains/recorder/httpdocs/modules/taxonomy/taxonomy.pages.inc on line 33.

In 1959, Swedish-born photographer Christer Strömholm moved to the Parisian neighborhood of Pigalle. There, during the darkest hours of the night, he would comb the streets, not as a voyeur, but as a participant of the night’s activities. In time he would meet and form intimate relationships with the transsexuals of Place Blanche. At that time, France was ruled by General Charles de Gaulle, the man who led the Free French Forces during World War II, and his wife Yvonne, who were both devout Roman Catholics. Tante Yvonne (Aunt Yvonne), as she was known to the general public, held old-fashioned conservative views that created a puritanical atmosphere. As a result, Strömholm’s “friends of Place Blanche” found solace in each other, most having escaped a life of misconception. These friends, biologically born as men, were forced to flee their hometowns in search of a place where they could be at ease with themselves.

But life in Paris was just as difficult. It is a widespread belief that it was Aunt Yvonne’s influence on her husband that brought forth the reinstatement in of a 330-year-old draconian law that punished landlords who allowed prostitutes to work on their premise with the forfeiture of their property. There was no social security in Paris nor any chance of getting hired if the name on a person’s identification card did not match his appearance. Without the help of society, these ladies of the night had little choice but to sell their bodies in hopes of earning enough money to make it to the hospitals of Casablanca where they could physically be transformed into women.

The photographs in Les Amies de Place Blanche, a new re-edited version of the original book published in 1983, demonstrate the photographer’s compassion for these women and the intimate friendships he developed during the time he lived in Paris’ red light district. They do not reflect the cruelty that these women endured, perhaps because in their own world, life was that much brighter and hopeful. After spending all night working the street corners, Strömholm and his friends would gather at the brasserie on the place Blanche and order hot chocolate and walk quietly back to their hotel rooms. The next day Cobra, his next-door neighbor at Hotel Chappe, would knock on the wall to announce that coffee was ready just as dusk was breaking. Crumbs would fall into the creases of the sheets as they shared their thoughts in bed.

Christer Strömholm—Agence VU—Aurora Photos

Christer with Panama, 1968

Living side by side with these women, Strömholm perfected taking photographs at night. As these women got ready for work, so too did the photographer. With his Leica, Tri-X films and a pipe in his hand, he would walk down the boulevard from place Pigalle to place Blanche ready to capture fleeting moments of beauty.

Les Amies de Place Blanche, will be published by Dewi Lewis in the United Kingdom this February, and in the United States this March.

0
Your rating: None

Like much of West Africa, Liberia is a country of dark, heavy skies emerging from bloody civil war. But like everywhere else in West Africa, there’s also much more to the place — elements that make it unlike any other. A street friendliness that all but snuffs out Monrovia’s reputation for street violence. A patois that is both thuggish and warm. Strange points of excellence, like an ambition to become the first biomass-powered country in the world or the proud possession of some of the world’s best surfing breaks.

Liberia’s history is particularly arresting. The country was created in the 1820s by former American slaves shipped back to Africa by philanthropists who purchased their freedom — hence Liberia — only to watch their freed charges, dressed in top hats and hoop skirts, exploit the local population. It’s a tale that holds some hard lessons about human nature, and charity, and has divided the country between locals and Americos ever since. After more than a century of oppression, in 1989, the indigenous population staged a coup that led to two civil wars, the second of which ended in 2003. The fighting displaced a third of the country and left 200,000 dead. In a country of just 3 million, no one was untouched.

Glenna Gordon has been documenting Liberia since 2009. She made her latest collection of images during the run-up and aftermath of last October’s general election. In the images, she tries to present “a wider view of Liberia as neither a place filled with mythically strong women led by the cult of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf,” who won the Nobel Peace Prize days before the poll and is due to be inaugurated for a second term today, “nor merely a post-civil-war success/failure story.”

Johnson Sirleaf’s opponent was Winston Tubman, the nephew of the former President William Tubman, himself a grandson of a former American slave. During his nearly three decades in power, from 1944 to ’71, William Tubman ushered in massive foreign investment. One of the things Gordon examines most closely is America’s historical, cultural and economic legacy in Liberia. “I seek out signs of a time before the conflict — remnants of the past that are easy to romanticize today,” Gordon says. “I seek traces of war wounds — psychological and physical — and examine the improvisations used to hide the pain … and embrace the present.”

Gordon has been photographing and writing about Africa for various publications since 2006, including TIME. You can see more of her work on her website and blog.

Perry is TIMEs Africa bureau chief. His latest book Lifeblood: How to Change the World, One Dead Mosquito at a Time was published in September.

0
Your rating: None

More often than not, some of the best observers of places are those not originally from there. Leon Borensztein was born in Poland, settled in Israel and emigrated only later in life to the U.S. in 1977. But unlike de Tocqueville and other aristocratic travelers of old, he had to make ends meet and stumbled into taking commercial pictures of average, normal Americans as a fly-by-night job to pay the bills. Borensztein’s portraits—comprised in his new book, American Portraits, 1979–1989, published this month by Nazraeli Press—took place on the sidelines of commercial gigs. His tools and techniques were dictated by his means: a generic backdrop, a camera, simple and spare.

Yet the depth and quality of Borensztein’s oeuvre place him in a storied canon of chroniclers of America, stretching past those intrepid visionaries of the Farm Security Administration, photographers who voyaged out into a country blighted by the Depression and returned with snapshots of its soul — weary, defiant, beautiful. Early portrait photography — be it conducted by socialist sympathizers during the New Deal or the ethnographic work of turn-of-the-century imperialists — all sought after a kind of authenticity. Gone was the age of outsized oil-canvas monarchs. Now was the time of the quotidian and real, a moment imbued not only with a sense of place, but of human feeling.

Borensztein brings this tradition to bear in his work, but does not belabor it. There is, after all, as the first picture above of the man in Native American headdress makes plainly clear, an artifice involved. He shot modest homes, inhabited by unassuming people. He instructed his subjects specifically not to smile, a marked contrast from the faux-mirth and conviviality of his commercial work, which often relied on the same subjects. Reflecting on what the portraits represented, Borensztein once suggested his “black and white images reflect the alienation so typical of today’s America.”

But even a brief sampling of his pictures would communicate far more to the viewer. They are at once hemmed with a wry, sardonic edge, yet brim over with Borensztein’s genuine empathy for his subjects. Still, “they are not sentimental,” writes Sandra S. Philips, a curator at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Borensztein gives us a world of feeling with a light, almost imperceptible touch. The subjects radiate loneliness and coziness, an empty despair and a glowing hope for the future. Gazing at Borensztein, the man with the camera and that background, “they partly represent him,” writes Philips. “They partake of his curiosity, amazement and tenderness when he looked at these American people.”

Leon Borensztein’s book American Portraits, 1979–1989, was published this month by Nazraeli Press.

Ishaan Tharoor is a writer-reporter for TIME and editor of Global Spin. Find him on Twitter at @ishaantharoor.

0
Your rating: None

Joseph Szabo has photographed teenagers for the past four decades. His images perfectly capture the nuances and emotions of adolescence, and they document his subjects in moments of uncertainty, reflection, longing, bravado, exuberance and awkwardness as they dip a toe into the waters of adulthood.

As Cornell Capa wrote in the foreword of Szabo’s first book, Almost Grown, “Szabo’s camera is sharp, incisive, and young, matching his subjects. One can use many adjectives: revealing, tender, raucous, sexy, showy… in Szabo’s hands, the camera is magically there, the light is always available, the moment is perceived, seen, and caught.”

Over the last 40 years, Szabo has quietly built a reputation and cult following as the quintessential photographer of the teenager. While he has published books and had gallery shows, an exhibition at the Heckscher Museum, in Huntington, New York, that opens this month marks Szabo’s first major retrospective. Appropriately located on Long Island—where the majority of the work was made—the show draws from the photographer’s extensive archive and features images from his four books: Almost Grown, Teenage, Rolling Stones Fans and Jones Beach.  Work from his recently rediscovered suburban landscape series Hometown are also on display.

The setting for his first museum show is also significant because Szabo was a young art teacher at Malverne High School, in Long Island, in the early 1970s. He began photographing his disinterested and undisciplined teenage students as a way to connect with them, and Szabo found himself drawn to the kids, gaining a sense of what was happening in their lives. “It was always the emotional aspect I was looking for,” Szabo said in a recent documentary called The Joseph Szabo Project. “I wanted them to express who they are. There’s a beauty to that honesty, and I wanted to get below the surface to reflect their lives in a nonjudgmental way.” The resulting body of work, which starts in the classroom before branching out to the school grounds, parties and Jones Beach, is a celebration of teenage experience. Or as Szabo describes it: “The years of restless desire and blossoming sexuality. The world of high school, parking lots and street corners, and the uniquely American culture in which all of us have grown up.”

Szabo’s images are a candid document of coming of age in small towns and suburban America. “You try to capture life in the moment that speaks to you,” he says in the Joseph Szabo Project. “They are fleeting—one moment it’s there and then its gone.” His intimate and iconic images are picture-perfect proof of these fleeting moments—memories magically captured and frozen forever.

Coming of Age in America: The Photography of Joseph Szabo is on display at the Heckscher Museum of Art, Long Island, New York through March 25.

To see more of Joseph Szabo’s work on LightBox, click here.

0
Your rating: None

Mitt Romney made history Tuesday night as the first Republican to win both the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary since 1976. Ron Paul came in second and Jon Huntsman finished third, while Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Rick Perry trailed in their wake. Photojournalist Christopher Morris’ latest collection for TIME explores the journey behind this historic primary and the strange mix of enthusiasm, fear and anticipation that accompanied it.

In 2006, the Morris released his first monograph, My America, which began on assignment for TIME during the George W. Bush administration. Now he journeys into Republican America again for TIME in this collection.

Morris trains his lens on those to whom the political grasp for power is most dear—not solely the candidates, but perhaps more poignantly, the voters. Complex and diverse faces drew Morris’ attention in New Hampshire. “A true visual palette awaits any photographer who ventures up here to experience the very American process called a primary,” says Morris. “Not only was I captivated by the looks of the New Hampshire voters, but equally interesting were the campaign staff, the journalists and the odd-man-out characters on the campaign trail.”

Morris’ ability to capture the tension that connects the inner human spirit with outward communal realities is unparalleled. He describes his anthropological style as “straight and modern.” To that, we would add distinct and cinematic.

His insight into America’s young faces—the children whose future many of the candidates claim they are running to save—conveys a fresh look into the candidates’ audiences. His images here of blue sequined boots and twisted American flags provoke deeper wonderment at both the American social realities and political processes. Then there is his soon-to-be priceless snapshot of Ron Paul—in all his White House runs, we’ve never seen Paul look quite like this. Enjoy a moment to soak in these pictures before the race sprints onward to the Palmetto State.

Christopher Morris is a contract photographer for TIME and represented by VII. See more of his work here.

Elizabeth Dias is a reporter in TIME’s Washington bureau. Find her on Twitter @elizabethjdias.

0
Your rating: None

A game of hopscotch. A toothpaste ad. Filthy slums. This, for better or worse, was New York life in the 1930s. Many looked but few saw until the Photo League—a pioneering group of young, idealistic documentary photographers—captured that life with cameras.

The Manhattan-based League, which incorporated a school, darkroom, gallery and salon, was the first institution of its kind when it was founded in 1936 says Mason Klein, curator of fine arts at The Jewish Museum, which is currently presenting “The Radical Camera,” an exhibition in collaboration with the Columbus Museum of Art in Ohio. “There was nothing like the Photo League, where people could exhibit their work, students alongside their mentors, be taught a kind of history of photography and start understanding what the meaning of the photograph might be.”

Many of its founding members, including Sid Grossman, Sol Libsohn and Aaron Siskind, were first-generation Jewish immigrants with progressive, left-wing sensibilities. “They were very conscious of neighborhoods and communities,” says Klein. “I think it was very natural for Jews to form an egalitarian group and understand that the ordinary citizen of the urban scene was as much a valid subject as any for photography.”

The League thrived for fifteen years, generating projects like the Harlem Document, a collaborative effort by ten photographers to document the living conditions in poor black neighborhoods. It also fostered the careers of notable photographers such as Lisette Model, Weegee and Rosalie Gwathmey.

Despite its progressive agenda, the League’s mission was far from simplistic. Founder Grossman, who was just 23 when the group started, encouraged its members to look beyond documentary and question their relationship with the image. “Sid taught people to challenge their habitual ways of seeing the world,” says Klein. “A more poetic and metaphoric expression of how one saw the world was what Sid wanted from his students.” Under Grossman’s guidance, the League’s young muckrakers became artists.

By the 1940s, the League had turned away from its narrow political focus, capturing the squalor and splendor of everyday New York. The country was moving in the other direction, however, zeroing in on those suspected of harboring leftist sympathies. On December 5, 1947, the U.S. Attorney General blacklisted the League as “totalitarian, fascist, communist or subversive.” In 1951, it closed its doors forever.

The League’s reputation has never truly recovered, says Klein. “They were condemned to a kind of ideological shelving and, I think, unfairly treated by history. We’re trying to rectify that with this show, because they really were always about pushing the photograph and understanding it as art.”

The Radical Camera is on display at The Jewish Museum in New York through March 25. 

Sonia van Gilder Cooke is a reporter in TIME’s London Bureau. Follow her on Twitter at @svangildercooke.

0
Your rating: None

Though somewhat of a complex craft, the art of photographic printing isn’t exactly rocket science—that is, until an artist like Boris Savelev approaches the process, and decides to push it further.

Savelev, who spent his working life in the former Soviet Union as a rocket engineer, brings the same methodical eye to his photography and printing process. He has experimented with color photography since the 1980s, but those early attempts left Savelev unsatisfied with the resulting colors. That dissatisfaction has become a theme for his artistic trajectory; since then he has tried various printing techniques for his photographs. Color Constructions, a new exhibition of his work, represents the apex of his experimentation in printmaking.

“I am writing my biography with them,” Savelev says of his images and the reasoning behind the one-of-a-kind process he prepares himself. “With each new image prepared for printing, my impressions are sharpened and the final print takes on a bright expression, a personal character.”

Savelev got his first major photographic opportunity in 1986. At the start of perestroika in the Soviet Union, Thomas Neurath of London’s Thames and Hudson book publishers visited Moscow in search of “unofficial” artists, and selected Savelev’s work. A selection of those images would eventually be published in 1988 as The Secret City, the artist’s first monograph. Though a success that would gain him international attention, the color quality of the images still left Savelev wanting more from his prints.

The materials used in the process for Color Constructions are surprisingly industrial; for this particular series, the images appear printed on sheets of aluminum, which Savelev prefers for its archival quality and says ensures the “colorful saturation of the hues” in each image. But the process, which does give the appearance of a broader tonal range of color, requires unique preparation for each image. Each panel is coated in gesso, an artistic primer usually used for painting, in order to receive the pigment from each photograph, and is waxed after the image has been printed. Because of the large size and uncommon materials, the image is made with a multi-layer, flatbed printer, custom-made in conjunction with Factum Arte, a Madrid-based studio. According to Factum Arte’s Adam Lowe, in designing the process the studio became filled with 3D scanners and disassembled digital printers.

Courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery

Savelev's Color Constructions on display in London.

The journey, physical as well as artistic, was a necessary one: “In Moscow no one knows or imagines what a multi-layered print on aluminum is,” Savelev says. “The culture of printing is lost, the tradition of master printers is forgotten, the studios are closed.”

The result is anything but synthetic. Many of Savelev’s images are from his hometown of Czernowitz, where he lived until 1966 when he moved to Moscow. A photograph of a vacant barber shop, dramatically cast in shadows, is an homage to a photographer friend of Savelev’s. The artist, also from Czernowitz, snapped a frame of the same barber shop in black and white that inspired Savelev with its beauty, and he dedicates his own uniquely moody color image to his late friend’s memory. The sum of Color Constructions is a nostalgic view of a Russia no longer in existence; the intent of the printing process is not as a technical exercise, but rather as a means to express the quiet, lonely scenes of former Soviet cities as faithfully as possible. The soft, dreamy colors that Savelev’s process renders are true to his film and his eye, which appear timeless—indeed, the series remains cohesive while including images shot in the past year as well as in the mid 1980s—and show the Russian landscape in an extraordinarily contemplative manner.

Savelev’s images belie the story of an artist seeking to overcome the gap between the image’s original emotive quality, and its representation on the printed surface. Through a process he’s honed slowly since beginning his career in photography decades ago, the complete control over the images is worth the effort, both for the viewer and the artist.

“I do not regret the time spent in search of new technology, or studying early methods and solutions, opening up for myself something personal,” Savelev says. “For me, the final goal is the print.”

Color Constructions is on display at the Michael Hoppen Gallery in London through Jan. 21.

0
Your rating: None