Evolution (in Action): 20 amazing photos of skeletons, large and small

Evolution © Patrick Gries

Evolution © Patrick Gries


Spectacular, mysterious, elegant, or grotesque, vertebrate skeletons are objects of art, while they carry within them the traces of several billion years of evolution.  Patrick Gries captures the awe and beauty of nature in his photographs of more than 250 of the smallest to the largest vertebrate. See and read more in LensCulture.

Color Street Photography: New York 1980s

Train Conductor, Long Island City NY 1985 © Robert Herman-lensculture-blog

Train Conductor, Long Island City, NY, 1985 © Robert Herman, from the new photobook, “The New Yorkers”

Robert Herman’s new photobook of street scenes in 1980s’ New York is saturated with luscious Kodachrome imagery seen through the eyes and lens of a true New Yorker and a fine artist. See 24 more images and read his story in LensCulture.

Photographing the Exotic Other: from the Inside, Out



Family Stuff © Qingjun HUANG and Photoquai 2013 LensCulture

Family Stuff © Qingjun HUANG, courtesy Photoquai 2013, Paris

It’s often all too easy to become enraptured by the “exotic other” that we discover when we travel to cultures that are new and strange to us. The same is true of photography. Capturing a “great” photo while on vacation or on assignment in a foreign land is almost always easier than making a similarly great photo in our own backyard.

Since its creation in 2007, the PhotoQuai photography biennial has been highlighting photography from all around the world that allows us to glimpse other cultures as seen by people who live there, not outsiders. The selection this year reflects the diversity of ways of viewing the non-European world today that is quite different from the clichés frequently propagated by tourist photography. The focus here is not on reflecting photographic production from a large number of countries but on highlighting artists and their own works, making no claims to exhaustiveness in terms of geographical coverage.

PhotoQuai’s basic mission is to highlight and make publicly known non-Western artists whose work remains either unknown in France or rarely seen in Europe, to encourage the exchange of ideas and an interchange of perspectives of the world.

The 2013 selection, assembled under the slogan “Look at Me!”, has a common denominator: all the photographic series are related to the human figure. Landscapes, objects, fashion or architecture appear in the form of elements that accompany the human being. In these selected works, the body that acts as the unit of measurement for our universe.

This “Look at Me!” theme also reverberates with the Western world’s obsession with self-portraits or “selfies” uploaded incessantly to social networks — often unremarkable, banal photographs and endlessly updated profile photos, staged and constructed to look glamorous, privileged, above the ordinary. The photos in this exhibition from distant cultures certainly echo some of these same tendencies, but they have an exotic difference that in this case originates in those cultures from the inside. It’s a unique view through the eyes and lenses of other lands and people, made by insiders, and offered on a world stage.

See 39 high-resolution photos selected by our editors in this full-screen slideshow on LensCulture.

Editor’s Note: The free exhibition will be running until November 17th, on the banks of the Seine at the Musee Quai Branly. If you’re in Paris in the month of November, be sure to check it out!

Blurring the Boundaries of Landscape Photography

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Landscape photography is a rich and long-running genre, with a history almost as old as the medium itself. Within it are a few traditions which I would like to highlight. Some photographers take the awe-inspiring approach, creating monumental shots in the Romantic tradition, making the viewer feel the full splendor of the natural world (see: George Steinmetz). Other artists show a different side of things – the effect of man on nature. These photographs focus on humanity’s unparalleled power to shape the surrounding world, for good and bad (Edward Burtynsky’s work comes to mind). And then there are those that focus on the miracle of the detail and the beauty of what we can’t see with the naked eye (a popular category as it turns out, but Imamori Mitsuhiko’s work is a nice example).

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It is among these traditions which Evgeny Molodtsov’s work is operating, but in an intriguingly unorthodox way. His main method is reappropriation: the “Earth Herbarium” series takes us from the robotic scanning eye of GoogleMaps to the quirky personality of Instagram photos all the way to photos of Mars. Molodtsov also includes photos which he took: carefully composed infrared pictures of plants. From these disparate sources, Molodtsov creates a series of diptychs. Ultimately, the series goes beyond the usual environmental commentary to blur the line between the various forms of nature photography. By showing us the commonality between the bristles of a dandelion and the surfaces of planets, the series’ artistic achievement is connecting things that most of us usually keep safely apart.

—Alexander Strecker

Is this the future of photojournalism?

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(Not pictured: real-time flopping. This is a screengrab from a full-screen video. © New York Times)

Over the weekend, I clicked on an interesting looking headline story on the New York Times website. I was expecting a traditional (well, digital) news story and was instead greeted by a full screen, automatically looping video. I usually prefer text to video, but in this case, I was immediately absorbed. I spent the next 20 minutes watching videos, looking at photographs, studying animated, color-coded maps and reading through text, becoming immersed in the conflict surrounding the Spratly Islands. In a short amount of time, I was able to delve into a complicated situation from a range of perspectives —  personal, visual, geopolitical — all in one place.

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(The map above is animated, effectively communicating the different layers of geopolitical intrigue. © New York Times)

Maybe people felt like this when Life magazine first came out? But unlike Life, with its heavy emphasis on the image, this piece felt particularly compelling because of its deft balancing of several kinds of media. The words, images and graphics all felt integral to the story and no one component could have stood alone (credit to the evidently great teamwork between the writer, Jeff Himmelman, the photographer Ashley Gilbertson, and the editor Joel Lovell). Hopefully this new format proves to be an invigorating force in the field of photojournalism.


© New York Times

—Alexander Strecker

What makes a photograph an award-winner? Experts say…

© Jessica Hines, Untitled #2, The Beginning, from the series My Brother’s War.
Grand Prize Winner, Portfolio Category, LensCulture International Exposure Awards 2010

Photography Awards and photo competitions often seem to have a mysterious quality about them. Inevitably I see some award-winning images that seem obviously great, and then others that really puzzle me. What is it about a certain image that makes it a winner?

As a member of several photo juries, I have an insider’s view to the deliberations, arguments, and subjective points of view of my colleagues (and of course my own subjective opinions). I always learn something from the process, and usually come away with increased appreciation of photography when seen through the eyes photography expert whose daily concerns about photography are different from mine (say, a museum curator, or a news assignment editor, or a photobook publisher).

As we approach the deadline for photographers to enter their series or single images to the 5th annual LensCulture Exposure Awards (deadline: October 31, 2013), I asked several of my fellow jury members to shed some light on what they look for while judging a photo competition. Here are some answers:

Alan Taylor, Editor of The Atlantic InFocus photography blog, says:

For me, it always starts with a gut feeling, something about the image that that reaches out and forces me to pay attention. Whether it’s the subject matter, or a powerful composition, or a masterful use of light, or a new way of seeing something I thought myself familiar with — something about the image really has to catch my eye. After that, I look for signs of craftsmanship, storytelling and intent. I am in awe of photographers who can manage to capture a fleeting moment with skill and artistry.

Based on the overall context of the competing entries, does the image powerfully evoke a reaction in the viewer, does it engage and tell a story well? It’s a subjective judgement, and relies on the composition of the competing entries, I have a feeling the decisions will be very tough in this competition.

Els Barents, Curator and director of the Huis Marseille photography museum in Amsterdam, says:

Judging is a special domain, professionally spoken that is. You have to go with the work at hand as well as with the eye of your colleagues, while still following your own intuition.

Dimitri Beck, Editor of Polka Magazine in Paris:

What are the qualities that I look for while judging a photo competition? To be surprised. To be touched. To learn something through a photo story.

What makes a series of photographs — or a single photograph — worthy of an Award from my specific point of view? When I feel I have learned something, that I have been told a story. And if I have cried inside, if not outside…

Michael Famighetti, Editor of Aperture magazine in New York, says:

I’m looking for a clear expression of an idea; I ask why is the photographer asking me to look at this?

When reviewing hundreds of submissions, exceptional, well-executed work that animates an idea and is visually exciting really stands out and deserves to be recognized.

So, there are some general guidelines, and of course there is no clear-cut formula for success (thankfully). Even if an image doesn’t win by group vote, individual judges often make careful notes of all of their favorites and follow up somehow with everyone who seems especially worthy of consideration. So, it’s a great way to have your work seen by a group of influential judges, whether you win or not. Why not enter your best work to see if your approach to photography makes an impact?

See what’s trending at Paris Photo this year…300+ preview picks!


What’s trending right now in the fine art photography marketplace? LensCulture has compiled an extensive preview of 300+ photographs that will be presented (along with thousands more) to international art collectors by the world’s top photo galleries at Paris Photo in November 2013.

We hope you’ll settle in to a comfy chair, and enjoy the full-screen slideshow presentation of our preview picks.Paris Photo is Europe’s largest (and most important) photography fair. So in many ways, what will be on show represents a defining overview of the global fine art photography marketplace right now. Don’t miss it. 

Seduction and Power: Cathedrals and Capitalism


 From the series “Seduction” © Cyril Porchet

In his two-part series, “Seduction” and “Meeting”, Cyril Porchet examines the nature of spectacle, comparing Baroque churches to the modern-day corporate shareholder meeting. Porchet created “Seduction” by photographing from the choirs of Baroque churches across Europe. In person, these places feel enormousAnd indeed, Porchet’s prints are giant, 1.2 m x 1.6 m, allowing the viewer to fall into the details almost as if they were present at the churches themselves. But Porchet’s works are not mere re-creations. His photographs transform these massive spaces into a series of flat, but still nearly infinite, displays of extravagance. Although these churches, as physical structures, took decades to build and remain with us today, they were also spectacles, designed to elicit a much more immediately felt sense of wonder and piety.


From the series “Meeting” © Cyril Porchet


In “Meeting”, Porchet shows one modern-day analogue to the religious altar: the stage at corporate shareholder meetings. These constructed stages are similarly enormous and the projection screens dwarf the endless rows of chairs in front of them. But the photographs contain neither a single CEO nor one shareholder. The series hints that these meetings are completely ephemeral, gone by the following day. As with Sugimoto’s photographs of cinema screens (an inspiration that the artist readily acknowledges), we sense the ephemerality in all of today’s spectacles, even when originating from some of the most powerful companies in the world.

Cyril Porchet’s work is, at once, sensually overwhelming, visually spectacular, and philosophically thought-provoking.

See the full slideshow and read his excellent accompanying text at LensCulture.

—Alexander Strecker

Spotlight on Past Winners of the LensCulture Exposure Awards

Over the past four years, we have received an incredible array of submissions for the LensCulture Exposure Awards. With the 2013 Awards submissions now open, we decided it would be nice to look at a couple of previous award winners.


                                          Through My Looking Glass © Gayle Stevens

Above is the second prize winner at the 2011 Awards in the Single Image Category. Gayle Stevens’ image came from her series titled Calligraphy, in which she created wet plate collodion tintype photogenic drawings of plant and animal specimens. In the artist’s words, “the silhouettes of the photogenic drawings are rendered as black shadows and echo the brushstrokes in Chinese calligraphy, sparse yet expressive.”


                                                      Teresa’s Legs © Martine Fougeron

Above is another single image winner. This photo won first prize at the 2010 Awards in the Single Image Category. In her series, Tête- à-Tête, Fougeron examined the rite of passage of the post-prom party. Fougeron describes how her series “captures the abandon and the ambivalence of this moment when the comfort of what is familiar begins to slip away.”

The Exposure Awards have always included prizes for portfolio awards as well. We will be highlighting some of those winners later in the week.

Burnout: Images from the Greek Crisis

                                                From the series, “Burnout” © Dimitris Michalakis

I’ve read countless articles about Greece in the past four years. From the printed words, the facts are clear: the unemployment rate keeps climbing, the economic forecasts stay grim, the deficit grows and the stories of daily life get harder, sadder, and more painful. But all these words can only convey so much; in my mind, all the texts run together. In terms of images, there seems to be a different kind of deficit. Besides the token photograph of a burned out building or a flipped over police car (with the tired headline, “Rioting in Athens”), I have long felt that there were no pictures that told the story of what was happening in Greece.

After spending some time with Dimitris Michalakis’ moving series “Burnout“, I can say that the ongoing crisis in Greece finally has a visual accompaniment. Michalakis’ work is grim, honest, and heart-wrenching. It is also intensely personal. In the artist’s words: “Burnout has to do with my own crisis too: I know it is a part of my life. This series is deeply experiential. Although it started four years ago, I still do not know when and how it will end.” Nobody does, but at least now we have a visual chronicle to help us understand what the people in Greece are facing in their daily lives.

See more of Michalakis’ series at LensCulture.