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In a business in which novelty and rarity are currency, World of Wonders is its own spectacle: It is the very last touring American sideshow. When husband and wife photography duo Jimmy and Dena Katz heard about this unique group online, they were instantly intrigued. “We’re always looking for American subcultures that have a very strong visual element to them that are also very honest,” Jimmy Katz said. “This is not like people dressing up for Halloween. That’s what the appeal of this was to us. These are people living a real lifestyle that is outside the realm of society.”
After some initial hesitation, the folks behind World of Wonders agreed to be photographed. Subsequently, the Katzes spent three years on and off photographing the roaming troupe, traveling to spend time with them along their tour in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Florida. They captured their subjects with a large-format 4-by-5 camera, resulting in images rich with detail and striking tones that are collected in the book World of Wonders. “We wanted to make sure this was not really a documentary project in a traditional sense,” Jimmy Katz said. “We really wanted to do environmental portraits with them, using them more in a casual way the way someone would normally shoot with a Leica. We tried to get certain mix of spontaneity and formality in the images.”
David Campany first got the idea for his photobook Gasoline after finding a captivating photograph in a second-hand shop. The photograph shows a woman in Hopper-esque light, slumping over her steering wheel as she waits in line for gas in Baltimore in 1979. A handwritten note on the photograph’s reverse side reads: “Gas Wait. Layfayette avenue near Charles street. Pat Sullivan, frustrated.” The woman’s car and strands of her hair were carefully painted over, in the style of the newspaper retouching of the time.
“When I first saw it I thought it might be a reproduction of a painting,” he told TIME’s Lightbox in an interview. “Perhaps by one of those 1970s photorealists who loved to paint shiny cars. I wanted to build a narrative around the predicament of that woman, but also the predicament of that image, that over-painted press photo thrown onto the rubbish heap of history.”
Gasolineis a forensic look at newspaper photography and retro Americana, drawn from archival press images of gas stations from 1944 through 1995. It’s a display of techniques of the pre-Photoshop era, where parts of the photographs were painted over or embellished, clarifying the images so that they could be transferred successfully to the half-tone dot of the newsprint pages.
Thomas Gardiner left Canada to pursue an education in New York in 2005. But soon enough, his thoughts turned to where he grew up, in the western part of the country. “Being a foreign citizen living in another country, you think back to where you came from,” Gardiner said in a phone interview.
While still a student at Cooper Union, Gardiner began revisiting the places of his youth on summer breaks and looking at them with a new perspective. “I hadn’t been back to the prairies for quite a long time. Coming back, it looked a lot different to me after being in big cities,” he said.
Intermittently over the next five years, Gardiner traveled by car through British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, staying with friends and family and photographing along the way. He went to familiar spots, like his father’s hometown and the rapids that he used to swim in as a child during the summer, but he also looked for novelty and had plenty of interactions with strangers. The result is an intensely personal tribute of the landscape that shaped him.
Illusions of the Body | Gracie Hagen
Chicago-based artist Gracie Hagen has created a photography series titled “Illusions of the Body” that captures nude bodies in contrasting poses. In the “attractive” image on the left, the models represent their bodies with straight backs, pulled-back shoulders, and demure expressions – many of them stand posed in positions that reflect classical sculpture. In the “unattractive” image on the right, the bodies are turned and the models push out their stomachs, hunch their backs, and evoke expressions of indifference.
Intimate X-Ray Portraits by Artists Ayako Kanda and Mayuka Hayashi
20 years old photographer from Poland Alicja Bloch creates intriguing surreal portraits
Desiring to bring her childhood fantasies to life, NYC-based photographer Lauren Poor crafts elaborate worlds and ethereal creatures for her seriesShrines. Recalling youthful dreams of inclusion and happiness, Poor constructs homespun hovels representing imagination and individuality free of judgment. The cacophony of pastels and glitz overwhelms each image and the garish shrines of dollies and castles are evocative of religious iconography if envisioned by a 6-year-old. The combination of handicraft and absolute abandon further emphasize the difference between childhood dreams and the harsh reality of the outside world. The sprites are made tiny and false in each installation, a reminder of how the fairytale shrinks in the light of day—Tinkerbell is sent back to the world of imagination, small and unseen until another girl awakes in dreamland once more.
As founder of The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species (T.I.G.E.R.S.), exotic animal trainer Dr. Bhagavan Antle has a unique opportunity to come face-to-face with a number of Bengal tigers on a daily basis. As a result of this direct contact, he has developed an extensive portrait series of the incredibly powerful animals extremely up-close.
In January 2004, at a time when the French government was debating the banning of religious and political signs from schools, Catherine Balet started taking pictures of signs, labels, codes and icons that have a social and aesthetic significance in the world of teenagers. Extending the project from Paris to London, Berlin, Barcelona and Milan, it quickly became a record of the dress codes in European schools, referencing the tribal subdivisions.
Teenagers in their struggle for identity and self-esteem and troubled by an urgent desire to be different, usually adopt the codes of a group, often inspired by music trends. In each city Balet discovered the same music, fashion, brands, bands and labels. Only details are different from one city to another as they reflect the complexity of the history of one country and the influence of its migrant population.
In London and Barcelona, where the uniform is a school institution, Balet captured the way these young pupils customised their outfits. Casting her subjects in the street, she composes large portraits always framed in the same way. Only the background reveals the location. Richly descriptive, these portraits combine a documentary style with a poetic sensibility, capturing this complex mix of fragility and determination in the eyes of the portrayed teenagers.
Paris-based, French photographer Alex Morvan’s series of self-portraits question male postures and attitudes expressed in popular video games. According to the website BGR.com, video game sales accounted for an estimated $1.3 billion in consumer spending in October 2013. But what are video games really saying about men and their behavior? Morvan uses himself as the subject to convey the characters in blockbuster video games of the last decade (Grand Theft Auto, Unchartered, Mafia, Tekken, Red Dead Redemption, Call Of Duty, Dead Rising, FIFA), and includes actual video game images as backdrops. “Each portrait depicts a different ‘hero’ or male archetype encountered in video games,” Morvan said in a statement about his project. “It reflects upon the influence of these virtual role models on the construction of self.”
In 2009, the British Council invited Olivia Arthur to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to teach a two-week photography workshop for women. She agreed with the hope that she would also have the chance to make some work of her own. Her photos from that time, as well as two subsequent trips, are collected in her book,Jeddah Diary, published by Fishbar. “I wanted to make a series that would open up some of this strange world to people who don’t know about it,” Arthur said via email.
But being a photographer in an ultraconservative country with strict rules on what women can and can’t do could be frustrating, Arthur found. Arthur was once berated in the street by a woman whose photo she hadn’t even been taking. And it was even harder for the students in her class. “They wouldn’t all be allowed out by their families to go and shoot as they wanted, but most of them managed to overcome this. One girl took her husband along on her shoots after he finished work,” she said. Arthur said the issue of people being generally suspicious about photography in Saudi was also an issue: One woman was banned from the workshop for taking pictures of her female cousin, and another was arrested for taking pictures out in public.
These days we live in a fast-paced, plugged in society where our computers and cell phones seem to get more face-time than our fellow man. And with the digital age, digital romance has become commonplace—”connecting online is truly the new normal,” says NYC-based photographer Jena Cumbo. In her ongoing project We Met On The Internet, Cumbo captures portraits of couples whose flame was first lit in the world of online dating. She has teamed up with writer Gina Tron who conducts interviews and writes short essays for each couple that Cumbo photographs. The duo is up to over 30 couples and they hope to publish a book soon that pairs photo with love story.