As a self-appointed pundit, I spend a fair amount of time criticizing the photography industry, but I have a little secret … I love photography! And 2013 brought yet another year full of strange, interesting and inspiring moments in photography. Let’s go on a little journey … in no particular order.
1. Haley Morris-Cafiero Examined Our Reaction to Her Weight
We’ve all done it. Stared at the fat guy/girl on the street or in a store. Haley Morris-Cafiero’s Wait Watchers documents people reacting to her weight, the result of her hypothyroidism, and makes a strong cultural statement on how we judge people in our daily lives. When we think no one is watching, our honest, visceral reactions come through. Using an assistant to trigger the shot, this particular image of a not-so-svelte policeman mocking her with his hat perfectly illustrates the degradation of decorum in our society.
2. Portraits of Children Around the World with Their Prized Possessions
What was that special toy or item you had as a child that meant everything to you? Whether they inhabit the first or third world, Galimberti captured those unique items beside their child owners. I’m fascinated by the lack of gender-specific toys in this image from Malawi, where I suppose the most prized possessions are the ones you can get your hands on. This particular image, shot with a Mamiya RZ67, is a stark contrast to the Barbie dolls and dresses in some of his other images.
3. And Where Those Kids Sleep
James Mollison’s revealing essay looks at the diversity of where children sleep along with a portrait of a child. The portraits are masterful, and the “beds” can be heartbreaking like this one of Alex in Rio de Janeiro.
4. A Photographer Documents Domestic Violence
Echoes of Donna Ferrato resonate from the work of graduate student Sara Naomi Lewkowicz, who photographed the abusive relationship of a Shane and Maggie in Southeastern Ohio. In one particular incident, Maggie was choked, and after confirming that the police had been called, Sara continued to photograph the scene and produced this disturbing image.
Lewkowicz was criticized for not intervening in the situation, but like Ferrato’s work, her images helped to raise more awareness into the pervasiveness of domestic violence, and for her work, she was awarded the 2013 Ville de Perpignan Remi Ochlik Award at Visa Pour l’Image.
5. Capturing the Plight of Evicted
People generally don’t like having their photo taken by strangers. I’ve found that this is especially true of the Chinese. So it was with a very curious eye that I pored over her essay on the immigrant residents of 81 Bowery, who were forced to leave their miniscule homes over safety violations. They say access is everything, and Annie Ling certainly earned the trust of her subjects, perhaps in part because her own tenement burned down in 2008 leaving her homeless for a year. The work earned her an exhibit at the Museum of Chinese in America.
This 6×6 portrait of Zhu Benjin is a perfect example of the intimacy of trust that Ling earned.
6. Are They Diving or Flying
Many photographers have photographed divers in mid-flight from the 10 meter platform (especially from picturesque Barcelona), but the series from Brad Harris is largely devoid of backgrounds, and his light is highly refined. The end result is a certain starkness that is reminiscent of September 11th’s “Falling Man” – devoid of the backdrop of a terrible day.
7. Freedom’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades
Usually by the time the plane takes off, I’m passed out in my seat with earplugs and an eye mask. James Kastner obviously knows something I don’t because he captured this magnificent photo of the Freedom Tower (er, I mean “One World Trade Center”) gleaming in the late afternoon as he took off from Newark Airport. I love the way the light has receded from New Jersey (no pun intended) while casting a beaming reflection in the water.
8. Studio Portraits Make Me Wish I Was an Animal
New York-based Brad Wilson has spent the bulk of his career photographing people, but he switched gears to pursue a personal project photographing “trained” animals, which he says aren’t trained like a dog, but rather, trained to not “try to attack you.” Armed with his Hasselblad and a bank of strobes, he produced stunning images like this one of an owl. How do you like them strip light reflections in those eyes? Head over to his website to buy a print.
9. A Final Embrace is a Haunting Portrait of Love
We don’t know the story of this couple — whether they were indeed a couple at all. But in the brief moment when a garment factory collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh killing more than 1000 people, a man gripped a woman in an embrace.
An act of kindness? Love? Fright? Activist & photographer Taslima Akhter captured this most haunting photo as the slow excavation moved forward to find any survivors, and has spent months trying to identify the deceased to no avail. It’s a stunning contrast to Rich Lam’s “Vancouver kiss couple” from 2011. It makes me cry when I see it.
10. Experts Confirm Integrity of Contest Winner
“Why do photo contest winners look like movie posters?” was my query in a blog post aimed towards the trend in retouching images for photo contests. Much ado was made across the industry, and World Press Photo took the unprecedented step of submitting Paul Hansen’s winning photo to forensic experts.
The verdict? The position of pixels had not changed, but there was “a fair amount of post-production,” and thus there was no need to retract the award. Nevertheless, a few months later, World Press Photo announced that they will be changing the rules and protocols “to create more transparency” in the selection process.
11. Camera Manufacturers Tried Hard
I’ve been critical of some of the designs that have emerged from the major camera manufacturers in the past year (here, here), but in truth, I’m glad that someone is trying new things. It’s true that the best camera is the one you have with you, but it’s also true that inspiration and excitement can be found in a new gadget. Maybe it’s lighter, maybe it’s wireless, maybe it’s a new form factor, or inspired by an old one. Give us choice, and we will shoot!
12. Lightroom Got One Step Closer to the Star Trek Transporter
Using your keyboard and mouse to make adjustments in Lightroom is so 2012. The folks at PFixer use MIDI (musical instrument device interface), which was developed in the 80s to digitally control instruments, through an audio mixing board to allow you adjust multiple parameters with sliders and knobs. Contrast me up, Scotty.
13. Register Your Copyright and Make Your Images Available for Sale
Johannes Hirn’s graduate photo project on an unknown boxer suddenly went viral when people started Googling for “Tamerlan Tsarnaev” following the Boston Marathon bombing. Early in the morning of April 19, twitter user @suleyman_u tweeted Hirn’s PhotoShelter site, which he found by through Google.
Hirn’s site housed a large set of images complete with quotations. But the images weren’t set up for licensing, and they soon started to appear all over the Internet until he finally sought out Landow Media late in the afternoon to help with distribution rights. You just never know what images you have in your possession.
14. A Lovely Tribute to Boston
Boston Magazine design staff Brian Struble and Liz Noftle came up with the idea to take the shoes of marathon finishers and arrange them such that the negative space created a heart. They solicited shoes from friends and friends of friends, and shipped them off to product photographer Mitch Feinberg. Their ode to a city rocked by terrorism: “We Will Finish The Race.”
15. Documenting Civil Unrest is Still a Key raison d’etre
Victor R. Caivano’s image of an unarmed, solitary woman being pepper sprayed in Rio de Janeiro on an empty street brought back memories of the UC Davis Pepper Spray Cop and the Occupy Wall Street NYPD cop — all of which show a clear abuse of power. Without photos or video, abuse is nothing more than he said, she said, and thus photography continues to play an integral oversight role.
In Egypt, Ed Ou continued to produce stunning work in harm’s way like this image in Cairo overlooking Tahrir Square taken from an apartment balcony.
And in Russia, Dmitry Lovetsky caught this tragic image of gay rights activist who had been beaten by anti-gay protesters in St. Petersburg after Putin signed a bill banning “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations.”
16. Portraits of Survivors Show Strength and Beauty
In a summer camp in 2011 off the coast of Oslo, Norway, a lone gunman massacred 69 young adults. Many survived the harrowing incident, but not without physical and emotional scars. Andrea Gjestvang captured beautiful portraits of some of the survivors as a testament to their resilience in the most difficult of situations.
Like Joe McNally’s “Faces of Ground Zero” series from 9/11, the images simultaneously capture the fear, strength and vulnerability of a small subsection of survivors who represent many more who suffer from a tragic event.
17. Peak Action Still Rules Sports Photography
They say there is only one moment that counts in sports photography. Ball on bat. A football dangling inches above a wide receiver’s hands. Hector Gabino’s image of Ray Allen’s clutch 3-pointer that sent the NBA Finals Game 6 into overtime not only captured the moment of release, but faces filled with anguish and anticipation.
But my favorite sports photo of the year was this unbelievable moment from the USC/Notre Dame football game when running back Cam McDaniel lost his helmet but proceeded to plough through the defense. Getty Images’ Jonathan Daniel absolutely nailed the moment with this fantastic photo. The internet immediately crowned him as this year’s “ridiculously photogenic” guy, taking the mantle from last year’s winner, Zeddie Little.
18. Selfie is the Word of the Year
The Oxford Dictionaries Online named “selfie” as the word of the year, beating out “twerk” for the honors. We love selfies! Once thought to be an exercise of vanity, the selfie also is an extension of photography as language and can be used in communication to show a person in context of a location, or simply personalize a text or Snapchat.
Subsets of selfie that we like? The bookshelfie for nerds to show how many and what types of books reside on their bookshelf.
The cop selfie.
The pregger selfie:
But we really don’t need the funeral selfie.
19. All You Need Is Just a Little Patience
Have you ever tried to take a photo of yourself every day like Noah Kalina? Impossible right? I mean sometimes I can’t even remember to bathe, let alone take a photo.
But I love looking at photos taken over the course of years like this series of PE teacher Dale Irby, who wore the same outfit for his teacher portrait for 40 years. The same clothes. Not similar looking clothes. The same freaking clothes. Even better than a longitudinal photo series is a guy with a sense of humor.
20. Alternately, You Could Just Recreate the Original
Maybe you lost the sweater. Maybe you grew too much. No worries. Just recreate the childhood pic yourself. I traveled each and every highway, and much more than this, I did it my way.
21. Colorized Photos are Cool
In the 1980s, Ted Turner announced that he was going to colorize old black-and-white classic films much to the chagrin of, well, everyone. But talented Photoshop users around the world have created a crowd-based movement to colorize historical photos with awesome results. Take this photo by Toni Frissell for Harper’s Bazaar from 1947 entitled “Lady in the Water” as colorized by Las Cruces, NM designer Michael Catanachapodaca.
22. …And so are Apollo Images
We love us some Don Pettit photography from the International Space Station, but equally as cool are historical photos from the Apollo missions. Lynchburg College’s Kipp Teague took it upon himself to re-scan negatives from the historic missions, and the images are stunning. This one reminds me of a certain movie for some reason…
23. Even the TSA is on Instagram
The TSA finally understood that Instagram is a distribution tool that can be great for marketing. That’s why they decided to post images of confiscated contraband like knives and guns.
Did I really just wait in line for 30 minutes for this? No, suckah! I’m TSA Pre✓™!
24. It Ain’t a Knife or a Gun
Over at Thumbs & Ammo, the crowd has been sourced to Photoshop images from popular culture and replace a gun with a thumbs up. Does this mean they turned my Like button into a gun?
25. Rise of the Drones
It’s not quite Skynet, but drones, the catch-all name for radio controlled craft with the awful connotation made waves this year as the price of a quadcopter dropped into the sub $500 region and people like our friend Eric Cheng produced cool videos with a GoPro on a gimbal. Learn more about how you can get started with drones his PhotoShelter webinar.
26. If You Only Had One Lens
The first lens I used with my Olympus OM-10 in junior high school was the 50mm f/1.8. The “normal” lens. The one they say is most similar to the focal length of your eye. But as I got older and acquired more gear, I turned to zooms, and finally settled on a 35mm focal length because I just can’t seem to “see” enough with the 50mm.
Jerome Daly only uses a 50mm lens. It forces him to be disciplined. It avoids the distortion so typical of wide angles like my 35mm. And the compact lens allows him to go unnoticed in dangerous areas. His photography is more proof that it’s not the equipment, it’s the photographer. This photo feels like a wide angle image to me, and yet, it’s not. The longer focal length with the wide aperture also gives such a nice shallow depth of field.
27. Those Creative Parents are at it Again
I mean, I wouldn’t advocate subjecting your daughter to this type of photo project, but to each his own. Joshua Hoffine decided to place his four daughters into various scenes of classic childhood fear. This must be some sort of immersion therapy, but I saw “Insidious” and this photo creeps me out!
Over in Japan, Toyokazu Nagano took photos of his 4-year old daughter, Kanna, on the same stretch of road with different poses at different times of the year. This photo is what we refer to as “kawaii!”
Babies need up to 14 hours of sleep per day through age 3. You might as well optimize your time, right? California mom Sionin Queenie Liao imagined a fairy tale scenes and built different sets out of household items. When her baby, Wengenn, fell asleep, she gently placed him in the center of the frame. Lucky little dude.
28. Some Guys Photograph Their Kids, While Other Guys Photograph Themselves
St. Paul Pioneer photographer Ben Garvin made one of the cutest and creative stop motion videos EVAR as he set out to shave off his bushy beard. When he showed it to his 7-year old son, “he laughed so hard a small puddle appeared at his feet afterwards – a high bar!” Sadly, I cannot grow facial hair. Fortunately, I did not pee my pants watching this video.
29. BTW, I Didn’t Love Everything
When you’re arrested and booked in the US, you get your mugshot taken. Unfortunately, these images become part of the public record, and unscrupulous entrepreneurs have built businesses around publishing the photos on their websites and using Search Engine Optimization to rank the subject’s names. Potential employer searches for your name, and voila, your mugshot front and center.
How do you get one of these websites to remove your mugshot? You pay them. Ah, the American way. Of course, sometimes, your mugshot goes viral and you become a meme like this one of Meagan Simmons.
30. On The Other Hand, If My Mugshot Looked Like This
Curator Peter Doyle of Sydney’s Justice and Police Museum has published two books of vintage mugshots from the 1920s and 1930. And by golly, these criminals look pretty darn dapper. I might just keep that mugshot online…
31. Observatories with Frickin Laser Beams
Astronomy Graduate Student Sean Goebel assembled a time lapse video of the observatories atop Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawai’i. At 13,796 feet, the observatories provide the best viewing of the night sky in the Northern Hemisphere, and they use lasers to track atmospheric turbulence (like I know what that means).
32. Follow This Guy on Instagram
Attractive girlfriend: Check. Travel to exotic places: Check. Come up with great concept: Check. File under “I wish I had thought of this”: Check. Murad Osmann decided to use Instagram to photograph his outstretched arm grabbing ahold of his girlfriend’s hand as she leads him through various scenic vistas like this one of a field of yellow flowers against a blue sky following the girl in a red dress? As David After Dentist once declared, “Is this real life?”
33. STOP Instagram FOMO
Do you ever experience FOMO (fear of missing out) when viewing other people’s Instagram feeds? Maybe there cavorting in some exotic location or eating at the best new restaurant in town. Japanese photographer Keisuke Jinushi solved that problem by simulating romantic adventures with his own arms.
NPR’s commuting project solicited photos from people in their daily commute. Amateur (and awesome) street photographer Jabali Sawicki captured this photo of a mother reading to her son and submitted it via the hashtag #pscommute. Unbeknownst to Jabali, the mother Megan Freund was following the NPR project and saw the photo. NPR writes:
“I started crying because I was so overwhelmed,” she says. “He’s sort of curled up next to me and I’m reading him a book about dinosaurs, actually, my father had given to me when I was 8 years old for Christmas. It was pretty incredible that somebody had noticed that moment.”
In an age where photos are everywhere, but people are leery to have their photo taken by strangers, this story proves that serendipity combined with intent makes all the difference in the world.
35. 8×10 in the Hands of a Master is Stunning
About ten years ago, I wandered into a gallery and saw amazing large format images taken in Italy, and thought how nice those photos my look in my apartment. But I forgot the name of the photographer and the gallery. This year, a set of images entitled “County Fair” made the rounds on the web, and I couldn’t stop staring. Perfectly lit and composed, Greg Miller takes photos the way I wish I could like this one from a Brooklyn Fair in 2007.
As I browsed his website, I came across his “Primo Amore” series, and those were the images that I first fallen in love with a decade ago. How apropos. Santa, how will I ever choose?
36. 20×24 in the Hands of a Master is Stunning Too
Sure, anyone can composite two photos together in Photoshop. There are even apps for that. But Jeff Enlow went old school with a KickStarter-funded project to take some beautiful double-exposed nudes on a 20×24 polaroid.
37. Speaking of Large Format, Photos Finally Got Big and Glorious Online
Redesigns at The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, Washington Post, Sports Illustrated and PhotoShelter brought us images as large as our screens, and boy, they have never looked so good online!
38. More Proof that Photographers Put Themselves in Harm’s Way
Animal online magazine continues to produce some provocative imagery including a series of images by Aymann Ismail when he traveled to Egypt and was jumped by the Muslim Brotherhood. His account is harrowing as is this perfectly composed image of some burly men who had just defaced a church before turning against him. It’s hard to be any closer to a dangerous situation.
39. The Animated GIF Continues to Evolve
Smilebooth started incorporating them into their digital photobooth technology.
And even Equinox got into the mix with highly stylized GIFs that show exercise moves. Much more practical than a video, and more informative than a still.
40. Dance, Dance Revolution
Find a breakdancer, hand him an LED wand, make him dance, and drag your shutter. Polish photograph Joanna Jaskolska captured all the fun and spontaneity of dance with her series entitled “Breakdance Baby!”
41. Milk, It Does a Body Good
Speaking of Polish photographers, London-based Jaroslav Wieczorkiewicz decided to shoot a pin-up series. Except he didn’t use clothes, he used milk. No, really. A series of milk splashes were composited into a final photo and the results are stunning. You might want to pre-order the calendar.
42. An Autistic Son
A fantastic photographer starts shooting images of his autistic son, and learns to accept all the idiosyncrasies of this curious diagnosis through his own photography. Timothy Archibald’s “Echolilia” created a visual language shared between father and son in one of the most poignant essays of the year.
43. We’re Still Finding Troves of Photography
At some point, it will end. In the meantime, we’re still finding old film prints in closets, basements and attics. Santa Fe Workshops Digital Lab Manager, William Van Beckum, came across a box of old photos while helping his father and step-mother move. And contained in that almost discarded box was an Andre Kertesz photo worth $30,000.
44. White Guy Photography Or Great Portraits?
Nick Vossbrink penned a provocative article about the proclivity for what he calls “white guy photography” – the tendency to travel to some “exotic” place with the intent of “documenting and photographing so as to ‘explain’ or ‘capture’ it for others.”
This is exactly what British photographer Jimmy Nelson did with his “Before They Pass Away” essay, by visiting 31 remote tribes around the world. But these are no iPhone photos, Nelson uses a 4×5 and obviously spends time gaining the trust of the various groups.
45. You’ll Be Swimming with the Fishes
Thai photographer Visarute Angkatavanich loves fish. But one fish is not enough. Instead, brilliant photos of Siamese fighting fish is more his style.
46. The Condition of the Frog, However, is Uncertain
Zach Braff did it. Johnny Football did it. But why leave all the photo bombing fun to the humans. A NASA remote camera with an acoustical trigger captured this frog in mid-air as the LADEE spacecraft lifted off from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The photo was authenticated to be real, but according to NASA, “The condition of the frog, however, is uncertain.”
47. Cute + Cuter = Cutest
You know what’s cute? Puppies. You know what else is cute? Babies. But what happens when you take two great tastes and combine them into one? Puppies and babies, dude. Jessica Shyba ain’t no fool, fool.
48. We Don’t Need No Stupid Lens Mounts
F-mount? EF-Mount? Nah, that’s not how they do it in Mother Russia. Alexey Kljatov taped a $50 lens to his point and shoot camera and then photographed snowflakes. Why? Because they look like this!
49. Maybe I’ll Meet My Friends in Real Life After All
I love my computers. And the Internet. But Julien Mauve’s “Lonely Window” series makes me want to throw my laptop out of the window. What sort of self-hypnotic trance have we fallen under?
50. Shed a Tear for Photography
First it was bees, and now Rose-Lynn Fischer has aimed her microscope at tears. “I started the project about five years ago, during a period of copious tears, amid lots of change and loss—so I had a surplus of raw material.” Amen to that. Strange landscapes emerge from the crystalized salts that form on her slides like this one entitled “Tears of Change” that combines geometric and more organic shapes with a beautiful vignette.
51. Photographing the Lion Kings
Nikon Ambassador Chris McLennan isn’t satisfied photographing lions from a jeep, so he teamed up with HP engineer Carl Hansen to refit an old camera “blimp” with a remote-controlled buggy. Inside the housing was a 36MP Nikon D800E, which provided Chris with much sharper images than the GoPro he previously experimented with. The result, great photos and over 4 million views on YouTube.
52. We Said “Photograph” not “Shoot”
Television personality Melissa Bachman found out the hard way that shooting lions (legally, mind you) and then posting your victory photo to Instagram is frowned upon by pretty much everyone.
53. If Only for a Second
At some point in your life, you will be affected by cancer. Cancer of a friend, loved one, family member or even yourself. This horrible disease can sap the energy and optimism from even the heartiest of souls. But what if you could, for even one second, restore joy and happiness. The Mimi Foundation works to improve the quality of life of cancer patients, not from a medical view, but by striving to improve emotional well-being.
The Foundation worked with Leo Burnett France to make-over 20 patients and then photograph their reaction when they finally saw themselves in a one-way mirror. Maybe the sensation was ephemeral and fleeting, but the photos will last beyond their dying days as a testament to their vivaciousness.
54. Why Do You Take Photos?
I took over 60,000 photos this year — more than I ever have before in a year. Photos from my Nikon D4, D800 and Sony RX-1 live on two separate RAID sets and on PhotoShelter. A few thousand more reside on my iPhone, and many were lost forever to Snapchat. But why bother? Photos are a visual language that connect me to places, people and memories. They are a reminder of all the things that make life interesting, banal, happy, sad, and the entire gamut of human experience.
A few weeks ago, I headed over to the Big Island of Hawai’i for the first time since 1981. We hiked down into Waipio valley, a sacred place to the ancient Hawaiians. As the sun dropped low in the sky, we made our way back across where the river meets the ocean. It was a magical moment with great friends. Photons bombarded a sensor which converted analog into digital, and when my own memory fails me, the photo will be an indelible reminder of an incredible day.
I love photography.