Saturday, 31 August 2013

Portraits from Orchard Beach, The Bronx, Wayne Lawrence

Although New York’s Bronx is considered one of the most diverse communities in America out of which many subcultures originated, such as Hip Hop and Salsa, it’s still viewed as a no man’s land by many of the city’s inhabitants. Perhaps it is a matter of simple geography that many refuse to venture to the northernmost of the city’s five boroughs or, quite possibly, it may be the Borough’s malevolent reputation lingering from its tumultuous past.

From its earliest years, the Bronx has been a hotbed of immigrant working class families, but its image has largely been defined by the urban blight of the late 1960’s through to the 1980’s when arson, drug addiction and social neglect decimated many of its neighborhoods. For the families who have called this scarred landscape home, Orchard Beach, the only beach in the borough, was and remains a treasured respite from the sweltering confines of the concrete jungle. Built in the 1930s by urban planner Robert Moses, the beach carries the stigma as being one of the worst in New York and is commonly known as Horseshit Beach or Chocha Beach.

I began shooting portraits of Orchard Beach’s summertime regulars in 2005 shortly after moving to New York, realizing that the stigma attached to this oasis was largely unjustified - I felt compelled to engage with this community of working class families and colorful characters. The photographs in ‘Orchard Beach – The Bronx Riviera’ celebrate the pride and dignity of the beach’s visitors, working-class people.

Immediately catching the viewer’s eye is the extravagant style of many of the photographs’ subjects – a quest for identity and sense of belonging. Some individuals carry scars and markings that hint to their own personal histories, which often reflect the complex history of the borough itself. Within the gaze of those portrayed we see a community standing in defiance of popular opinion.

The six years I spent photographing Orchard Beach have not only given me the time and space to reflect on the importance of family and community, but also a sense of belonging and purpose. After having experienced the most profound grief when my older brother was brutally murdered, photography has not only offered me an opportunity to give a voice to a community often misunderstood but also a means of healing from the loss experienced.

— Wayne Lawrence / INSTITUTE

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Colin LaFleche, right after

Freshly recalling his own turbulent final year of high school, photographer Collin LaFlecherequisite teenage triad of drugs, drinking and sex. LaFleche affirms: "There are depictions of drugs and drinking and sex because they're part of the story, but they don't constitute the story or even a majority of it." Equally inspired by Herzog and themes of alienation, LaFleche is less interested in the obvious outward signs of youthful rebellion than what what motivates them in the first place.   trained his camera lens on high school senior Will and his friends in order to capture "something that felt more poetic and elusive" than just the 

What inspired you to take Right After?
I realized that teenagers are the same everywhere that they’re exposed to
Western culture. Everybody has to deal with sex and drugs and parties and
trying to be cool and rebelling against authority. Being a teenager can be
very exciting, sometimes frightening, but also lonely and boring. I found
myself drawn to the quiet moments that I felt expressed these ideas
without being sensational or melodramatic about it. 
What influences your work? 
I find the world to be surreal and terrifying in all sorts of bizarre ways.
 I’m fascinated by the power dynamics between humans, animals, and the
 environment at large. Movies that deal with these questions have influenced
my work most significantly, especially Werner Herzog.
What are you trying to achieve?  
I investigate alienation through systems of representation.
For example, the diptychs inPromenades look at the question of agency
 between the synthetic and the organic. A vending machine and a pile of fish
are a stark illustration of the triviality and the incongruity of the modern condition. 


Thursday, 22 August 2013

Ilona Szwarc - Rodeo Girls

Rodeo Girls is an ongoing portrait project about young girls from Texas who compete in rodeos.
These individuals have a fundamentally different idea about their femininity and a contrasting attitude towards gender roles. They are engaged in activities that traditionally were reserved for men; they possess great physical strength and demonstrate their dominance over animals. I am interested in the limitation these girls face in expressing their femininity and the transference of it onto animals.

Ilona Szwarc

A lifestyle or hobby may be familiar to some and highly unusually to others. By Photographing its intricacies an audience can learn and find images engaging. Of course fantastic use of outdoor flash/strobe lighting in combination with a strong ambient light can also get their attention

Gerry Balfe Smyth - St Teresa's Gardens

Below is a sample of Smyth's attempt at capturing the community surround the St Teresa's Gardens in Dublin. Capturing communities via a photographic body of work is a difficult element of documentary photography. What springs to mind is, did the photographer have a angle, a bias, a history with the area, a story to tell before they set on the project or did they adopt a technique like Eugene Richards who was not too familiar with the area and move into it for the project like in Cocaine True, Cocaine Blue. To have a pre set purpose before starting a project is fine as a photographer, but a project must naturally evolve naturally and the photographer should project this with the final images.