Photoville-Contact High

Walking around Photoville on a warm Thursday afternoon, I found choosing a single exhibition to focus on quite difficult. Though each exhibition was unique, nothing really screamed out at me. That is, until I saw Barron Clairborne’s iconic portrait of Biggie Smalls in the corner of my eye and stopped dead in my tracks.

“Contact High: Hip-Hop’s Iconic Photographs and Visual Culture” showcases the evolution of hip-hop through the eyes of more than thirty photographers. Portraits and contact sheets that span across 40 years line the walls, featuring an array of hip-hop artists that range from Public Enemy to Nicki Minaj.

“The exhibit starts here in 1979,” associate curator Syreeta Gates tells me, pointing to a photo of Larry Levan DJing with a poster of a young Robin Williams behind him. “It ends in 2017,” Gates says, staring at a portrait of reggae artist Chronixx. The exhibition is a sneak peek, as it will be turned into a book in Fall 2018.

Viewing the photographs in order is crucial, as it feels like you’re literally walking through time. Sophie Bramly’s photograph of Futura 2000 and Keith Haring with their backs against each other encapsulates the 1980s in the same way that the contact sheets of Tupac and Aaliyah are the epitome of the 1990s. In the last 40 years, hip-hop has evolved from a subculture to a defining culture. This exhibition captures that incredible journey.


Alt Photo Assignment/ Chernobyl Disater

Gerd Ludwig is a photojournalist who created a photo book from his twenty year long coverage of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. In describing the book Gerd states, ” I want this photo book to stand as a complete document of this man-made disaster, to remember the countless victims of Chernobyl, and to warn future generations of the deadly consequences of human hubris.”

On April 26th 1986, the worlds worst nuclear disaster to date occurred. The cataclysmic event occurred after a botched safty test. It was projected that 350,000 people were driven from their homes, from a radioactive fallout that spread over tens of thousands of square miles. The land around the reactor known as the Exclusion Zone is said to be inhabitable for the near future. Cleanup crews ranging from 800,000 were exposed to the harmful radiation. Thousands have died in the aftermath and, ” the long cloud of Chernobyl,” still lingers.

Gerd has entered the the Chernobyl Zone nine times, on assignment from National Geographic. His first visit was in 1993, exploring the pollution in the former Soviet Union. He returned several times in 2005, for a more in depth cover story. According to Gerd,” During my visits I captured post apocalyptic scenes of abandonment- trees growing through streets, schools rotting, and apartment buildings littered with personal belongings left behind by those who hastily fled their homes in fear.” In the Excusion zone Gerd photographed elderly returnees who, despite radiation,came back to live out their lives at home. Gerd has also been the closet to the damage reactor than any Western documentary photographer. On the Outside Zone, Gerd met and documented the victims, ranging from children suffering from physical and mental disorders, as well as those affected by the dramatic rise in cancers in the nuclear fallout area of Ukraine and Belarus.

On the eve of the twenty fifth anniversary in 2011, the fund me campaign knowned as Kickstarter sent Gerd back to continue his coverage. This visit led to several exhibitions for Gerd, in Europe, as well as an award winning IPad app,”The Long Shadow of Chernobyl, an interactive digital book.

Gerd once again returned in March of 2011, where an earthquake triggered a tsunami in Japan, causing the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Gerd reiterates, ” the accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant is a powerful reminders that disasters like Chernobyl are a possible outcome of nuclear power- anytime, anywhere.” Finally Gerd states, “Ultimately however at the core of my photographs are the people who continue to suffer this tragedy. I am driven by the duty to act in the name of these silent victims,to give them a voice.”This image requires alt text, but the alt text is currently blank. Either add alt text or mark the image as decorative.

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This image requires alt text, but the alt text is currently blank. Either add alt text or mark the image as decorative. Zolotoy Kluchik (Golden Key) is the name of a kindergarten in Pripyat. At present it is one of the few (out of the 16 some kindergartens that once existed in Pripyat) which is shown to tourists on a regular basis. Everything in the place is obviously rearranged either by tourist or to cater to their expectations. As this has been going on for quite some time now, many of the rearrangement show a patina and therefore feel authentic to the uncritical observer.

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alt photoville assignment

Jessica Earnshaw is a Brooklyn-based photojournalist, who focuses her pieces on criminal justice, health care, and music. Using funding from the Rita and Alex Hillman Foundation Fellowship & Grant, Earnshaw was able to gain unrestricted access into Maine and Indiana State Prisons, in order to photograph aging within American prisons.

Earnshaw’s prime reason for documenting this particular story was her interest in what happens when you are cut off and isolated from society, after being imprisoned for decades. Earnshaw’s piece focuses on aging inmates, who are either on death row, or have been serving long prison sentences for crimes committed nearly 30+ years ago.

Earnshaw first began to contact multiple prisons across the country, and as a result, two Maine state prisons, one a women’s and the other a men’s correctional facility were among the first to grant her access. 

Earnshaw essentially shadowed four inmates, one of them being Norma, who at 74 years old, is the oldest female inmate in Maine. Norma is serving a 70 year sentence, and has a shocking 56 more years in the Maine prison system. Norma has three children, all of whom have ceased contact with her, and she hasn’t had any visitors in the 14 years that she has been imprisoned.

Prison sentences this long, especially when the inmate is as old as Norma, piqued Earnshaw’s curiosity, and mine as well. Yes, someone who committed a heinous crime 20-30 years ago at the time was violent, but the real question is, are they still violent today? When they are old and senile is it really imperative that they continue to spend the rest of their days in a penitentiary? Earnshaw questions this, and also wants to know how these inmates are doing after spending so much time in prison.

Before visiting Norma and the Maine Correctional Center, Earnshaw visited Maine State, where she spoke to Robert and Albert. Robert, (above) is 70 years old and has served 30 years in prison for murder. When Earnshaw left the prison, he told her that speaking to her about his time in prison was the best day of his life. 

Albert (above), is the oldest inmate in Maine State prison at 82 years old, and has successfully escaped from prison four times. He has been in and out of prison since the age of 16, and has served a 10 year sentence in solitary confinement. He says that he spent that sentence reading, writing, and designing a home.

Overall, Earnshaw’s experience within the prisons was smooth, considering major factors: the inmates have been imprisoned for so long that they missed the new technological advancements which in turn gave them “no reservations or self-awareness about being photographed”. Also, given that many of them are alone most of the time, human interaction, especially with someone who wants to know about their lives, was easily a highlight of their lengthy prison sentences.

Earnshaw hoped that her time in the prisons, and her subsequent article, would help to humanize those who spent so long in prison, and show people that they are humans as well.

Alt. Photoville Assignment

Michael Nichols created an exhibition called “wildlife” for Visa pour l’Image 2017.  His exhibition was sponsored by Canon and shots he took were truly incredible. The main focus of this exhibit is to give an inside look at natures wildest creatures and landscapes across the world.  As an award winning photographer, he decided to take his talents into the wildlife and take shots of some of the most incredible pieces that haveever come across to begin with the project.  He would send the exhibit some pictures to go with in order to add more flair to the exhibit.

Nichols in his efforts to contribute to the exhibit , wrote a book entitled “A wild life”.  It is said that this is an inside look at what he had to overcome in order to get the shots he needed and to get all the shots he took approved by his photo editor.  Nichols feels that every photo that he takes must tell a story and the story must be the worthy of being take.  In an interview with Time Magazine he said that “In a time where we are covered in either the truth or lies, it is best we look back at the pictures”.  The pictures are out number one source to get the information we need.  In that same interview he said that the pictures play the “strongest role” because data and readings aren’t always the truth but it is what it is.

As a kid, Nichols used to runaway into what he called the woods and he said in doing that continuously made his body used to what he would realize is the cold outdoors in order to get these phenomenal shots.  His works have influenced many in the photography community and served as a mentor to many as he shared his works with the up and coming photographers. He provides leadership and great opportunities to allow the youth to learn how he took those shots and what he did to make himself notably famous around the community.  His influence and style made photographers change the way they went about taking the shots the needed to go with all the shots All of these shots were hard enough for him to take but with time and practice, they were able to come out just perfect to be used in exhibitions in order to get the name out there as we speak.

alt. photoville assignment

While searching around for an interesting and powerful documentary photography project, I came across Thomas P. Peschak who is an assignment photographer for National Geographic. His main focus is on wildlife conservation, more specifically in the way humans affect marine life, and his photos are stunning.

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Peschak was originally a marine biologist, but realized he would have a greater impact on people with pictures rather than statistics, so he switched his career to become a wildlife journalist. He has published a handful of books loaded with statistics and serious research, along with his photography of sharks, manta rays, and other marine life.

While some of his pictures have a serene, peaceful feeling to them, Peschak’s goal in his book, Sharks and People: Exploring Our Relationship with the Most Feared Fish in the Sea, is to show the reality of human interference with these creatures who have been around for millions of years. Fisheries and the finning industry are huge threats to sharks.

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Shark’s Fin City in Hong Kong

In these photos, Peschak shows some unsettling moments of the finning industry, which is an extremely wasteful and cruel business, and has been banned in over 60 countries. Humans are killing sharks for less than 5% of the animal’s body, and this is clearly depleting shark populations. According to an article he wrote for Time Magazine, Peschak witnessed over 1,000 sharks auctioned off in just one single night and each year. In Sharks and People he writes that roughly 10 million kg of shark fins are auctioned off, equivalent to the weight of 2,000 African Elephants.

Peschak also touches on ways that people are trying to understand and co-exist with sharks.

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A blacktip shark inspects a surfer paddling on a prototype surfboard fitted with a electronic shark deterrent built into its underside. The electronic shield was switched off during the test and the sharks approached closely. Peschak believes that these types of surfboards are a progressive step toward co-existing with sharks.

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Peschak tells Nat Geo that he often sketches out pictures he wants to capture before diving in the water, so he knows what to look for. He never uses any SCUBA gear, just a weighted belt, some flippers and a snorkel, and holds his breath for several minutes, giving him a lot more mobility in the ocean. Peschak has studied sharks long enough to understand their behavior and says they are not dangerous if you know what you’re doing.


Catherine Chojnowski: Photoville



This exhibition, presented by The Aftermath Project and curated by Sara Terry and Teun van der Heijden, consists of ten years of work by various grant winner and finalists of the nonprofit.

I spoke to Sara Terry, who is a documentary photographer and filmmaker. She was inspired to start The Aftermath Project while working on her own post-conflict series “Aftermath: Bosnia’s Long Road to Peace,” creating a grant-making educational nonprofit for photographers covering the aftermath of war to draw attention to post-conflict issues. She was inspired by the poetry of Nobel Laureate Wislawa Szymborska, whose poetry was incorporated in the narrative. The quotes used in this presentation were taken from two of her post-conflict pieces, titled “Reality Demands” and “The End and the Beginning.”

The project focuses on the aftermath of war and the process of reconstruction that many fail to pay mind to after all the violence and destruction has occurred. In her eyes, war consists of two parts: the actual war and destruction, and then the overlooked aftermath and rebuilding of both infrastructure and society. The Aftermath Project was made possible by grants from various foundations and people, including The Foundation to Promote Open Society, PhotoWings, The Compton Foundation, The National Endowment for the Arts, The Meyer Levy Charitable Foundation, The Douglas Cox and Edward Osowski Fund for Photography and Betsy Karel. This was the first time The Aftermath Project was presented in this format.

This presentation stood out to me because it not only incorporated the work of various artists, but depicted various post-conflict stories throughout different cultures, all in very different manners. The types of images presented were extremely diverse, yet all conveyed a cohesive message. I also really enjoyed the fact that she incorporated poetry into her presentation, which assisted in the narrative she was creating. The specific quotes she chose from the two poems gave the viewer a deeper understanding of the photographs and their meaning. Needless to say, I found this exhibition extremely compelling and inspirational.

Photoville Assignment – Samantha Martiny


“Lost Rolls America” is an exhibit curated by Ron Haviv, Robert Peacock, Lauren Walsh, and Roger Gorman. Their aim was simply this; to publish and develop forgotten film from people’s pasts. Their stories showcase poignant memories that often recall a yearning for the past, and a nostalgic flair was brought to life in this exhibit with the utilization of the R.V, amongst other various items, such as 35 mm cameras and record players. Photojournalist Ron Haviv explained to my boyfriend and I that he takes submissions on the website, if interested, on It is an ongoing project that has spanned over the course of 6 months, and it is still being curated to this day. Fujifilm North America will scan and develop your images free of charge, and a short description of the selected images is needed to be in the book of photos that Haviv plans to publish later this year.

Class Agenda – Monday, Sept. 18

Upcoming due dates:

No class on Wednesday.

First draft of photo projects is due by end of class on Monday, Sept. 25. Monday’s class will be a production day where I can come around to check in with you all individually, assist you with last-minute edits and with structuring and posting the photo essays, etc. I will get you feedback on your projects as quickly as possible so you can have as much time as possible to incorporate those edits by the due date.

Final draft of photo projects is due Monday, October 2.

Pitches for your radio piece will be due Wednesday, October 4.

For those of you who were unable to make it to Photoville in person, here is your alternative assignment: Research a documentary photo project and write a blog post of about 400 words describing what this project is about. See if you can find interviews with the photographer where they talk about their process, how they went about shooting it, whether they received any kind of support or funding, etc. Please include relevant links, sample photos, etc. A good place to find examples of powerful documentary photography, apart from the Photoville website itself, is at the site for the International Festival of Photojournalism aka Visa Pour l’Image (which happens every year in Perpignan, France, around this time), or by following photographers who have done the Eddie Adams Workshop, or by checking out the latest World Press Photo winners. Please get these posts to me by Monday Sept. 25.

Today we’ll discuss the basics of photo editing in Lightroom and how to post your photo essays.

I recommend Google Slides, Exposure or Imgur.

If there’s time, we’ll also take a look together at your posts about Photoville.

Stephanie Edwards – Photoville Assignment

On September 17, 2017, I took an exciting adventure into the many crates filled with breathtaking stories captured by determined, phenomenal photographers. A crate I favored was Women Photograph & United Photo Industries’s “INSIDER/OUTSIDER” exhibit that was hosted by photographer, Cassandra Giraldo.

Giraldo is a representative for Women Photograph; its mission is to change the gender perceptions of the photojournalism community and promote diversity in all aspects.

Cassandra Giraldo

Giraldo told me that “photos are part of a dialogue.” Photographers transition from outsiders to insiders through bonding with the people they’re documenting. Hence, the exhibit’s title “INSIDER/OUTSIDER.”

Another crate capturing my interest was Sylvain Cherkaoui’s 5 Women for 5 Countries exhibit.

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The outside appearance of “5 Women for 5 Countries”
Sylvain’s film documentary of “5 Women for 5 Countries”
The beautiful seating and carpeting inside of Sylvain’s crate.

Cherkaoui documented the stories of 5 powerful women from Senegal, Gineua, Niger, Nigeria, and Liberia.

Photo of Safia Ibrahim

Safia Ibrahim of Zinder, Niger fights against child marriages despite how normalized that is in Niger. She doesn’t want children to encounter that experience like she had, thus she helps other women in similar predicaments through creating workshops and providing them education.

Photo of Jeanette Kebe Lamah

Jeanette Kebe Lamah of Koula, Guinea was impeccable in recruiting a workforce of women to help promote peace and profitable income when there was war occurring in her village.

Photo of Jumama Varmah

Jumama Varmah of Goernodean, Liberia is 32 with 8 children. She decided to return to school, and just finished 12th grade. She is also fighting against corporations to keep her land.

Photo of Maah Kouida Keita

I met Maah Koudia Keita of Dakar, Senegal who plays for a famous band in Senegal with her brothers. She is also hugely apart of the association, Care Albinos, which supports the minority groups of African albinos.

Photo of Uduak Isong Oguamanam

Uduak Isong Oguamanam of Lagos, Nigeria is a Nollywood self-made writer and producer that advocates for feminism. She wants her daughter to follow her passion and choose whatever profession she wants without adhering to society’s expectations.




Class Agenda – Monday, September 11


Instead of holding class on Wednesday, I’ll be taking those of you who are available to the opening day of Photoville, the annual photo festival at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Unfortunately, it doesn’t kick off until 4pm, slightly later than class time, so I understand that some of you may not be able to make it.

As a class, we’ll chat with a couple of photographers about their exhibitions; then we’ll split off from each other so you can each pick one exhibition to focus on. Take a few photos, ask the photographer some questions (“How long did you work on this?” “How did you get access?” “What was the hardest part?” “How did you fund this?” etc.), and write a short blog post (200-300 words) about it, with your photos. Be prepared to present it in class next week.

If you’re unable to attend the festival on Wednesday with the rest of the class, you can always go on a different day and do the assignment on your own. It runs for about two weeks:

Wednesday September 13: Open to the Public 4pm – 10pm + Opening Night Celebration (7pm – 10pm)
Thursday, September 14: 12pm – 10pm + Education Day (10am-1:30pm and 4-6pm for After School sessions)
Friday, September 15: 12pm – 10pm + Photoshelter’s Luminance Professional Development Seminar (10am – 6pm)
Saturday, September 16: 12pm – 10pm + Talks at St. Ann’s Warehouse (12pm – 7pm)
Sunday, September 17: 12pm – 10pm + Talks at St. Ann’s Warehouse (12pm – 6pm)

Monday, September 18 – September 20: PHOTOVILLE TAKES A BREAK

Thursday, September 21: 12pm – 10pm + Exhibitions, Beer Garden & Activities
Friday, September 22: 12pm – 10pm + Exhibitions, Beer Garden & Activities
Saturday, September 23: 12pm – 10pm + Exhibitions, Beer Garden & Activities
Sunday, September 24: 12pm – 8pm + Exhibitions, Beer Garden & Activities

If for some reason you are unable to go on any of the days I’ve listed, let me know and I’ll come up with an alternative, but related assignment for you to do instead.

An Introduction to DSLR Photography

In-class assignment: Photo Scavenger Hunt

An image that captures at least one of each of the following elements of composition (some images will include multiple elements):

  1. Leading lines
  2. Monochromatic colors
  3. Layers that tell a story
  4. Repeated patterns
  5. The decisive moment
  6. Portrait
  7. Contrasting colors
  8. Movement (could be artistic blur or crisp action shot, your choice)
  9. Rule of thirds

Bring these photos back to class and we’ll edit them together in Lightroom. You may use a school camera if you will also be using it to work on your photo essay this week (remember that they are limited in number) but you are also welcome to use your own camera or your phone for this assignment. (If you would prefer to leave early and do this assignment in your own neighborhood or out and about in the city, you’re welcome to, but make sure you send me your images by midnight tonight.)