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Luigi Photographs

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In the digital age, touching the work of established photographic masters can be sensitive business. Recently a Swedish artist named Sanna Dullaway applied her colorizing skills to several historical photographs that included Dorthea Lange’s “Migrant Mother” and Eddie Adams’ harrowing image of an on-the-spot execution of a Vietcong on the streets of Saigon. The debate surrounding these modified versions was whether the interpretation was an improvement that could somehow be more powerful emotionally—due to addition of a color palette and the ability to reach newer generations who disconnect when they see black and white images—or simple vandalism.

The artist Pavel Maria Smejkal in his Fatescapes series took his appropriation of historical images one step further by digitally removing the people from images such as Nick Ut’s photograph of a young Vietnamese girl running from a napalm attack and the aforementioned Adams image. By leaving only the landscapes or streetscapes to play on our subconscious memory of historical places and events, he questions the limitations of a photograph’s accuracy at the representation of history.

Perhaps the most provocative example in terms of potential copyright infringement is when the artist Sherrie Levine re-photographed some of Walker Evans’ famous images from the 1930s Farm Security Administration project and presented them unaltered and with her name (the series was called After Walker Evans). Many viewers were outraged. Her act called into question many issues regarding a photograph’s author, copyright (Legally the FSA photographs are owned by the American public, which financed the project so there is no copyright infringement case that could be brought against Levine) and the portrayal of the poor. To some it was Art, but to others, it amounted to Blasphemy.

After Evans, Robert Frank may well be the most influential photographer the medium has seen. Frank’s book The Americans, published in the United States by Grove Press in 1959, was equally celebrated and reviled for its view of the U.S. and its citizenry. Today there is hardly a contemporary photographer who does not acknowledge that Frank accomplished greatness while photographing America for two years on a Guggenheim Fellowship.

The Americans hasn’t escaped its own touches with appropriation. In his newest bookwork Less Américains, London-based artist Mishka Henner takes his humorous title from the French Edition of Frank’s book Les Américains, published in 1958 by Robert Delpire in Paris. By scanning and applying Photoshop to Frank’s images, Henner has proceeded to remove most of the vital subject matter from all 83 photographs—leaving only small details hovering around the frame like background props on an empty theater stage.

Of course, as the title suggests, Less Américains does away with the “Americans” in Frank’s photographs so all that remains, for example, of the Hoboken City Fathers are a line of hats and some political bunting hanging on a two-by-four. And what has been spared in the most famous of all New Orleans street car picture which so perfectly expressed the implied race hierarchy of Jim Crow in the United States? A few vague, unidentifiable shapes that sit within the frame like mismatched puzzle pieces. To quote Jack Kerouac, who wrote an introduction to the American edition of Frank’s book, “The humour, the sadness, the EVERYTHING-ness and American-ness of these pictures (!)” linger like a ghost in these secondary elements.

Less Américains includes an introduction by the artist Elisabeth Tonnard that takes the form of a concrete poetry version of Kerouac’s prose. Tonnard’s approach was to systematically white-out the individual letters A.M.E.R.I.C.A.I.N.S. from Kerouac’s text, leaving an incomprehensible soup of vowels and consonants. His “…basketa pittykats…” becomes the even more cryptic “…B k t p tty-k t …”

Well, what can we make of Henner’s reworking of this masterpiece? I think Kerouac said it best: “What poem this is, what poems can be written about this book of pictures some day by some young new writer high by candlelight bending over them describing every grey mysterious detail.”

Less Américains was published earlier this year.

Jeffrey Ladd is a photographer, writer, editor and founder of Errata Editions. Visit his blog here.

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Among the ‘stans of Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan is something of an outlier. Remote and mountainous, the tiny republic is home to the region’s only parliamentary democracy and a vibrant civil society. Not once, but twice, its people have taken to the streets to force out their rulers—a considerable exception in a part of the world dominated by iron-fisted, post-Soviet apparatchiks.

Yet Kyrgyzstan is also a microcosm of Central Asia as a whole. A significant proportion of its impoverished population ekes out a living as migrant labor abroad. The rusted traces of a Soviet past line its cities and towns, while Moscow’s long history of gerrymandering borders and resettling whole communities gives it a complex, volatile ethnic make-up. Tensions between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in the south of the country flared in 2010 and riots led to as many as 2,000 deaths. Its legacy still smolders.

Over the span of some four years, French photographer William Daniels chronicled Kyrgyzstan’s tumultuous progress. His work, entitled Faded Tulips, documents the false dawn of democracy: in 2005, the country’s quasi-authoritarian regime was toppled in an uprising hailed the “Tulip revolution.” But the man drafted in to oversee democracy’s blooming across the Central Asian steppe—President Kurmanbek Bakiyev—proved to be cut from the same cloth as petty despots elsewhere in the region.

Allegations of corruption mounted as well as reports of voter fraud and intimidation of dissidents and the media. In 2007, Daniels arrived in a Kyrgyzstan where the illusion of democratic change was beginning to slip. He was on hand in 2010 when protests broke out against the Bakiyev regime, eventually forcing the putative strongman to flee into exile in Russia. Months later, as an interim government tried to right Kyrgyzstan’s listing ship, ethnic riots between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in the country’s south led to hundreds of deaths and a geo-political crisis. Neighboring countries closed their borders, while up to 400,000 people—mostly Uzbeks—fled their homes. Daniels’ pictures of charred, gutted neighborhoods in the southern city of Osh—an ancient Silk Road town that’s long been a rich crossroads of peoples and faiths—bear stark testament to how lifelong neighbors can wake up one day as enemies. “I particularly tried to understand how this small country could descend so quickly into extreme violence,” Daniels says.

But while much has yet to be reconciled following that spasm of violence, there are real glimmers of hope in Kyrgyzstan. The country’s seemingly successful transition into a multi-party parliamentary system has weaned it off the grip of a domineering executive—the main impediment for real political change elsewhere in Central Asia. But the country’s economy is still in desperate shape, and new President Almazbek Atambayev, who has so far engendered cautious optimism among most analysts, has to steer Kyrgyzstan through a maze of competing American, Russian and Chinese interests. “We will see how and where Atambayev will lead the country,” says Daniels. His photos, though, show a Kyrgyzstan as haunted by the past as it is uncertain for its future.

William Daniels is a photographer based in Paris. See more of his work here. He is currently engaged in a crowdfunding effort to publish Faded Tulips as a book; the drive is still ongoing, but the funding goal was reached while Daniels was reporting for TIME in Syria. Read about his harrowing escape from that situation here on LightBox.

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During her last year of college at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, photographer Ina Jang began weaving paper cutouts into her images as a way of problem solving. “I started it because I was struggling to make images at the time,” the Brooklyn-based photographer says. “I was forcing myself to like everything—from the people I was working with to locations where I was shooting, so I started getting rid of the elements I didn’t like in the picture.”

Among her inspirations is Martin Margiela, a notoriously private fashion designer who avoids being photographed. “I admire how he visually deconstructed the language of fashion,” says Jang, who wanted to create her own language through the series featured here. “I liked the idea of using optical illusion and the two-dimensional quality of photography. I always go back and forth in experimenting with the combination of analog and digital manipulation in photographs. While working on the series, I enjoyed making images that allowed me to explore both approaches to photography. Additionally, having an anonymous character in the images have given me more freedom to relate myself to them. I wanted the images to effortlessly create its own language.”

From portraits to still-lifes, Jang covered up faces, shapes and spaces that she didn’t like and used paper to make new images. “I started with white space and filled it with stuff I like, such as painting or illustration,” she says. Jang graduated in 2010 with a B.F.A in photography, and though she’s no longer working on this particular series, Jang says she’ll continue incorporating layers into her photographs. Some of her new work is included in the gallery above, and her more recent work with paper cut-outs will be exhibited at the Hyères Festival of Fashion & Photography beginning April 27 in Hyères, France. “I’m still really into shapes and cutouts and collages,” she says. “So I think you’ll always see part of that in my work.”

Ina Jang is a Brooklyn-based photographer. Read more about her here. Her work will be exhibited at Christophe Guye Galerie in Zurich March 29 through June 2 and at the Hyères Festival beginning April 27.

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The relationship between the state and society in China has been ground for producing controversial works of art such as the iconic photograph of Tank Man — the lone civilian standing up to the People’s Liberation Army in Tiananmen Square — or Ai Weiwei’s Study in Perspective, both of which seek a spiritual redress in their defiance of authority. In this sociopolitical tradition stands the work of the Beijing-based artist Liu Bolin, who employs photography as a means to explore the Chinese national identity while silently protesting its government. His series Hiding in the City was born out of the governmental eviction and subsequent destruction of his Beijing studio in 2005. As a result, Liu began to use the city around him as a backdrop, painting himself to blend in with a landscape in constant flux. By literally blending into the city, Liu, who considers himself an outsider, creates a tension that challenges the viewer to question what is on and beneath the surface.

Liu’s Hiding in the City series, along with other work by the photographer, is currently on view at the Eli Klein Fine Art gallery in New York City. For Liu, the most important element of his images is the background. By using iconic cultural landmarks such as the Temple of Heaven, the Great Wall, or the remains of Suo Jia Village where his studio was housed, Liu seeks to direct awareness to the humanity caught between the relics of the imperial past and the sleek modern monoliths of the 21st century China. Each image requires meticulous planning and execution: as both artist and performer, Liu directs the photographer on how to compose each scene before entering the frame. Once situated, he puts on his Chinese military uniform, which he wears for all of his Invisible Man photographs and, with the help of an assistant and painter, is painted seamlessly into the scene. This process can sometimes take up to 10 hours with Liu having to stand perfectly still. Although the end result of Liu’s process is the photograph, the tension between his body and the landscape is itself a manifestation of China’s incredible social and physical change. Simultaneously a protester and a performance artist, Liu completely deconstructs himself by becoming invisible, becoming a symbol of the humanity hidden within the confines of a developing capital.

Liu Bolin is a Chinese artist whose work has been shown around the world. The exhibition Liu Bolin: Lost in Art will be on view at the Eli Klein Fine Art gallery in New York City through May 11.

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Neil Leifer’s 1965 photograph of Muhammad Ali hovering over a knocked-out Sonny Liston may be the most famous sports shot of all time, but you will not find it at “The Sports Show,” a photography and new-media exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Nor will you find a single picture of the most famous athlete of the past 15 years, Tiger Woods, or of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team celebrating its miracle win, or of American soccer player Brandi Chastain ripping off her shirt after clinching the 1999 World Cup. Can you really mount a worthwhile retrospective of sports photography without these iconic athletes and moments? Turns out you can. In fact, “The Sports Show” (on view through May 13) is better off for it.

When I checked out the exhibit on opening day, I expected a greatest-hits compendium of sports images. But curator David Little took a more surprising approach, choosing photographs that offer more social commentary than celebration. For example, the circa-1899 portrait of female high school students playing basketball in dresses sends the message that women, too, could participate in emerging sports. (The picture was taken by Frances Benjamin Johnston, whom LIFE magazine once called “the closest thing to an official court photographer the United States has ever had.”) More than a century later, that message continues to resonate: Title IX has delivered athletic opportunities to millions of girls, but female athletes still fight for the same opportunities and recognition that boys get.

The exhibit casts a skeptical eye on the emotional energy we expend on sports. In 1970 photographer Tod Papageorge toured the country capturing fans at big events like the Iron Bowl (the Alabama-vs.-Auburn college-football rivalry) and opening day at Yankee Stadium. Some people in the crowd are goofing off, but many others appear pensive. The photographs invite the viewer to wonder what the spectators are thinking and feeling. Is their favorite team losing? Or are real-life stresses still on their minds? Papageorge bitingly called this project—a portion of which is on display in Minneapolis—American Sports, 1970, or How We Spent the War in Vietnam.

Read More: “Big Shots: The impact of sports on society, seen through the camera’s eye.”

The Sports Show is on view at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts now through May 13.

MORE: Check out TIME.com’s new sports blog: Keeping Score.

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AP cameraman Ahmed Bahaddou and I sneaked into Syria from Turkey, traveling with the rebels’ Free Syrian Army. Our aim was to understand and cover the conflict in the country’s northwest region, as well as in the hard-hit Homs neighborhood of Bab Amr, under siege for weeks by government forces.

Almost as soon as we arrived, news broke of a massacre and the military victory of Bashar Assad’s forces in Homs. But after traveling in the country for about 10 days it became clear that the rebel stronghold of Idlib was likely to be the next source of news.

Saturday, March 10, was a horrifying day in Idlib. Ahmed and I had slept the night before in a hospital for security. The city was completely dark, making it impossible to drive in the city, and the sounds of the fighting could be heard everywhere.

Turky

Rodrigo Abd—AP

March 12, 2012. A Turkish man drives a tractor on a dirt road in Turkey, meters away from the Syrian border.

After waking up that morning, we began documenting the chaos as dozens of civilians and fighters brought the wounded and dead to the hospital. We could hear that the fighting was very close, with the sound of bullets whizzing nearby. Assad’s forces were taking control of all the neighborhoods and it was clear they were not going to welcome the presence of journalists.

It was time to leave.

In the last light of the evening, we saw fighters celebrating the destruction of a tank, and we ran with them, trying to avoid the direct line of fire. A sudden big explosion that spewed a huge grey smoke over a group of wounded soldiers created a terrific scene that I quickly photographed.

After we ran back to the hospital I encountered some of the most moving images of the conflict: a group of rebel fighters weeping over their dead comrades. They may not be my best photographs, but I think they tell a lot about the situation in Syria.

We left Idlib that night, traveling again with the Free Syrian Army. After walking in the dark in complete silence through a passage, we then hiked more than 11 kilometers to avoid military checkpoints in hopes of reaching a friendly city.

Anything we suffered to tell the story was nothing compared with what the Syrian people have experienced in nearly a year of conflict: broken families. Human rights abuses. Children severely injured. More than 7,500 people dead. The cruel realities of a country with a dark future.

Rodrigo Abd is a photographer with the Associated Press. See more of his work here.

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Fifty years ago today, a young Bob Dylan released his self-titled debut album. In the ensuing years, Dylan has written music and lyrics for some of the most eloquent and acclaimed songs of our generation. A polarizing figure at times, Dylan has been both glorified and vilified in the media, all the while proving to be a constant moving target—often cryptic, sometimes playful, intensely private but always enigmatic. His life and work have been obsessively analyzed, dissected and pored over by critics and fans alike. Yet Dylan has refused to be labeled—neither protest singer nor folk singer—or pinned down to be understood. Despite the scrutiny, famous relationships (including one with folk singer Joan Baez), a mysterious motorcycle crash and his subsequent reclusion from the accident, and the constant touring, Dylan, the troubadour, has marched to his own beat.

Dylan Rock Explosion, a new exhibition at Cité de la Musique in Paris, tracks the pivotal path of Dylan’s development from 1961-1966. The show, which runs through July 15, features photographs and films—and related ephemera—that capture the young Dylan as he came to prominence and sparked a musical revolution. Featured in the exhibition is photographer Daniel Kramer, who documented the musician during the span of one year and one day from 1964-1965, a period in which Dylan shifted from acoustic to electric guitar.

Kramer had no idea who Bob Dylan was before he noticed him perform “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” on the Steve Allen television show in 1964. “I hadn’t heard or seen him,” the photographer told TIME. “I didn’t know his name, but I was riveted by the power of the song’s message of social outrage and to see Dylan reporting like a journalist through his music and lyrics.” Kramer says he was taken by the fact that the 23-year-old Dylan could get up alone with his one instrument and capture us through his music, lyrics and presentation. “Being a photographer my response was—that’s someone you want to photograph,” he says. Kramer found out who Dylan’s management was and contacted them, only to be told Dylan wasn’t available. It took Kramer six months to negotiate and secure a one hour portrait session in Woodstock with Dylan; that session ultimately ran to five hours. An invitation for Kramer to travel by car with Dylan to a performance at Town Hall Philadelphia immediately followed. Kramer then photographed Dylan during the next 367 days.

“It was my idea, my story and I did it totally on my own hook,” says Kramer of the first self-initiated session with Dylan. “I didn’t want any money. I just wanted the opportunity to do the story and then we see where we go. Interestingly, when I first started photographing Dylan, a lot of places were not interested in using his pictures because he was on the verge of becoming very, very important—but still just on the verge. Within six months the photographs started finding homes. Everyone eventually picked them up: Look, Saturday Post and, internationally, Paris Match.

The work was also responsible for introducing Kramer to W. Eugene Smith, which ultimately led to a lasting friendship. The legendary photographer helped bring attention to the work after becoming enamored with Kramer’s photographs. At the time, Smith was coincidentally looking for an essay to work on as an editor. Kramer’s images of Dylan would be that project. “He was like a midwife to the project,” Kramer says. A book—the first about Dylan—edited with Smith, written by Kramer and featuring 140 photographs from that period was published in 1967. Today, Kramer’s images have graced the covers of three Bob Dylan albums—Biograph, Bringing It All back Home and Highway 61 Revisited.

“I photographed a lot of wonderful and tremendously exciting subjects in my career, but Dylan remains one of the few at very the top of my list,” Kramer says. “I have always admired his courage as a performer who—as he wrote once in one of his books—steps out. He’s said incredible things and moved a lot of people. His lyrics and music have had an amazing influence on his time, and for a photographer, this is always great when you have an opportunity to document a part of that.”

Photographer Daniel Kramer is based in New York. His images have graced the covers of three Bob Dylan albums—Biograph, Bringing It All back Home, and Highway 61 Revisited. His work has also been published in LIFE, TIME, Fortune and other publications. In addition to documenting Bob Dylan, he photographed Norman Mailer extensively over a three-year period.

The exhibition Bob Dylan, Rock Explosion is on view at Cité De La Musique in Paris from March 6 – July 15. For more classic photos of Bob Dylan, see LIFE’s 96-page book, Forever Young: 50 Years of Song, on newsstands now.

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