By now you all know that Jennifer Little received the first annual Dotphotozine Award for Excellence in Photography. What you probably don’t know is that we had 97 entires, and so choosing Jennifer was not an easy task- not because her work didn’t stand out, but because of the many fine portfolios to choose from.
There is a lot to see here and I’ve only included one of image from each of the finalists, so I encourage you to visit each artist’s website to learn more about these photographers.
I hope you will consider applying for the Award next year. Deadline for submissions is July 1, 2015.
MAUREEN RUDDY BURKHART, KIBERA: A SLICE OF HEAVEN
Kibera, Africa’s largest urban slum, has a bad reputation, but there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye. At a propitious time in my life, I accepted a volunteer position with a Kenyan-based hygiene and women’s empowerment project. Seeing past the obvious obstacles of this life of poverty, I found the resilience and hard working ethic of these residents inspiring. I couldn’t help but see the ties that bind us together: a sense of community, family ties, pride and joy.
MICAH CASH, Dangerous Waters
My work examines how landscapes and their social histories influence cultural geography. Themes of ownership, demarcation, and utilization are explored through photographs that bear witness to the social narratives within landscapes altered in the name of progress, utility, and social welfare. This collection of photographs, titled Dangerous Waters, explores the contemporary social impact of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). They are images of the infrastructure that controls a river and the surrounding recreational area around those locations. To those that live and work there, the landscape is one of compromise. The sacrifices are privately internalized while the social benefits publicly celebrated. Citizens coexist with the industry, and are constantly reminded that while the river is controlled, it is far from safe. TVA is the largest public provider of electricity in the country. Established in 1933, it provides wholesale electricity throughout a seven state area while managing the navigable waters of the Tennessee River and its tributaries. The massive project and the modernization it promised the region came with a cost, and that cost was land. Overall, the government purchased 1.3 million acres of land, forcibly removed over 13,000 families, and relocated 20,000 graves. Within twenty years of its founding, TVA had radically altered the topography and economic prosperity of the region, replacing the vistas of river bottom farmlands with lakes held in by monumental walls of concrete and steel. This was not a one-time transaction. Social and cultural consequences continue to reverberate throughout the region. Ultimately, TVA has cultivated a particular ecosystem – one of quiet control and social welfare. It is a manicured landscape of power and ownership, utilitarian in practice and utopian in concept. The dams have become the iconic backbone of the region, solidifying a cultural identity that is both uneasy and empowering.
Between the water of the San Francisco Bay and the cities that huddle to the interior of the land is an area in conflict. This area was once called a wetland; marshy ground that was the home of birds and bacterium, fish and foliage. It was conquered over 100 years ago, when the need for more space and more productive land to support a growing population forced these lands to be blocked off, dried up and developed. It is now in a state of panic and regression. With barely one tenth of the original wetland remaining there is a feeling that the space between the water and the land will be lost forever. With that feeling comes the urge to act, to take back this space and revert it to its original form.
The photographs in this project attempt to depict a land that is caught between all of these forces and the main unifying presence along the waterfront, the Bay Trail. Conceived of as a way of unifying and connecting the urban and natural areas around the bay, the Bay Trail also seeks to protect the natural habitats, provide information on the status of the Bay’s wetlands and provide a recreational place to attract visitors to the Bay. The Bay Trail was conceived of and started over 30 years ago and is still in progress today. This adds to another disparate feeling to the watershed area: that of a land between time. The Bay Trail is a collection of new and old routes. With an infrastructure designed to withstand the test of time, what we really see is a space lost in the ages.
Taken in black and white 4×5 film, the images represent a timelessness to the Bay Trail. They show that the space between the land and the water is still a space that is being controlled, even by the very people who wish to revert it back to its original state and function, while it is constantly being taken back by natural processes of erosion, time and weather. There is a quiet battle being waged just beneath the surface which goes unnoticed when running or biking along the trail, but is revealed through the stillness of these photographs.
VICTORIA HEILWEIL, 47 Years
My photographic art practice transforms images of the mundane into the sublime. The ordinary is invisible; we see it and pass it by. I make visible that which we take for granted. Inspired by Wabi Sabi, a philosophy and aesthetic that comes from Japanese Buddhism, I utilize marks as temporal narratives. Vestiges are intimate and revealing, unique and historical. My images capture the beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete; of things modest and humble.
For my series 47 Years, I photographed my mother’s apartment before it was emptied and sold. The title indicates the time lived in that apartment. Here the marks are an indictment of my parent’s relationship, and of my mother’s anxiety and loss. It is an uncomfortable and melancholy view of mortality, fear of the unknown, and what we leave behind. They images are of a place, but more so, are portraits.
These are not sentimental photographs.
Most of my artwork over the past twenty years has been the result of my ongoing obsession with the integration of the organic and the artificial in all areas of our human experience. I am continually drawn to landscapes where human development is intertwining with natural phenomena. Often this occurs subtly, along the fringes of occupied spaces. But sometimes this collision transpires on a grand (or even grandiose) scale, as people build huge artificial islands or consume entire segments of the earth’s resources.
Since 2007, I have been hiring small planes to explore a long-standing interest in the unintentional mark-making we lay across the land, in the form of our ever-expanding infrastructure. As the child of an airline employee, I clocked countless hours with my face pressed against the windows of various aircraft, or scrutinizing maps of my next destination. My aerial images synthesize these practices as I trace the relationships between the abstraction of “drawing” and the very real physicality of the built environment below me.
My photographs are often recognized for their engrossing color and graphic beauty, which encourage viewers to spend time with subjects that represent far more complex conceptual tensions. Recent subjects have included mining operations in Utah, expansive housing developments in Las Vegas, and artificially constructed landscapes in Maryland, Florida, and Dubai. Through these projects my work has been evolving toward a more documentary posture, in which the political, cultural, and economic circumstances of these places have become increasingly central to the meaning of the images.
CHAD JOINER, Site
sīt/ noun an area of ground on which a town, building, or monument is constructed.
With this current series I have captured areas throughout the country that illuminate both the degeneration and design of desolate landscapes. These scenes embody a feeling of remoteness and contain some form of marker that provides the viewer with evidence of their former life. Since growing up in rural Illinois I have been interested in these types of locations. There was always a sense of exploration with these areas and that fascination has continued into my photography.
SUSAN KAE GRANT, Night Journey
Night Journey is an on-going body of work examining the perceptual and psychological aspects of dreams, memory and the unconscious. The series consists of three complimentary forms; a forthcoming book, a suite of large-scale black & white photographs and a room-size installation of murals printed on chiffon with sound recordings. The series currently consists of 75 images with the goal of creating 100 for a final book edit of 80.
Using the shadow as metaphor, I create images that provide pictorial access to the unconscious and unexplainable experiences. These works oftentimes conjure up childhood imaginings, fairy tales and nightmares while deliberately portraying a sense of surprise and wonder. By using mythic characters and ambiguous objects, I delve into the fantastic to create phantomlike tableaux’s. These tableaux’s capture lost and forgotten fragments of experience and emotion.
The inspiration for Night Journey came from an inquiry into the nature of REM sleep, dreams, memory and the unconscious. This project is the culmination of research conducted at the Southwestern Medical Center Sleep Laboratory in collaboration with sleep scientist, Dr. John Herman. Using myself as subject, I was tape recorded in the laboratory on many occasions while awakened from REM sleep. These awakenings provided vivid access to the dream-state. Audio recordings captured in the sleep laboratory served as inspiration to create the photographs for this series.
Within this work, I seek to create theatrical worlds that reference the ridiculous, the tragic and the unexpected. These worlds portray a mysterious space between illusion and reality and provide entry into imaginary and whimsical creations that portray life on the lyrical and playful edge of balance and stability.
To create the images, I photograph shadows of models and props in my Dallas studio using a 4×5 view camera with a digital Leaf back. The gestures and narratives in the images take inspiration from sleep laboratory audio recordings produced in the sleep laboratory, memory and journal sketches. The printed images consist of limited edition photographs printed on Hahnemüle 308 Rag, which is a 100% cotton museum-quality paper. The combination of the paper surface and dark color palette illuminates the emotional quality of the dream-state. To see a video documentation and Hahnemüle endorsement of a set being created in the studio, go to: http://www.susankaegrant.com/skg864px.mp4.
ADAM J. LONG, Kenwood Avenue
As I walk to my front door I ask my neighbor how he is doing. He responds with “fine, how are you?” I tell him that things are great… But things are not great, and things with him are not fine. Realistically, I know that being honest means that I will be imposing and moreover, I will be exposed. If I am honest with myself I know I don’t have enough time for everyone, and furthermore, there’s something inside of me that doesn’t want to be open about myself to others.
The photographs within the Kenwood Avenue series explore this idea: we put up a façade and seem to exist comfortably within our space, yet we are dealing with a variety of things that complicate this veneer. We collectively experience one another in varying degrees of intensity – many relationships barely break the surface of humanity.
ISABELLA LA ROCCA
Like most people, I am attracted by the shiny, brightly colored facade of fast food restaurants. Fast food is widely available, cheap, filling, and super savory or sweet. For some people, there are few affordable or accessible alternatives.
As a first-generation American, I’ve approached fast food with fascination. My parents came to the U.S. as adults from Italy and Mexico respectively. I grew up speaking their languages, visiting my extended family in Mexico and Europe, and eating the way they ate. The cuisine in both their countries of origin is varied and based on whole foods. Most meals are eaten slowly and with others. Fast food was foreign to us.
As a social justice activist, I regard fast food with distress. Many of the workers employed by this industry are egregiously exploited and barely paid subsistence wages. Two thirds of the industry’s workforce in the U.S. is comprised of women. They are mostly women of color who are supporting children and families on minimum wage, no benefits, and few hours. Fast food, heavily processed and based largely on animal agriculture, has been linked to diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and cancer. Fast food wastes imperiled resources – water, energy, and grain – and contributes to world hunger.
As an environmental activist, I regard fast food with anxiety and a sense of urgency. The industry is responsible for devastating ground water, river, and ocean pollution. According to the U.N., animal agriculture produces more greenhouse gases than all the transportation in the world. It displaces wild life habitats and contributes to the mass extinction event we are currently experiencing. The animals bred for this industry live under torturous circumstances for most, if not all, of their lives until they are slaughtered. Industrialized animal agriculture, from which 99% of all meat, dairy, and eggs comes, is the final, horrifying stage of a practice that has never been sane or just: the enslavement and slaughter of sentient beings.
I am an artist, educator, and activist working primarily with photography. My work is part of a long tradition in photography: to bring to light and find beauty in the disregarded – hidden, unconscious, commonplace – not in the service of commerce or reportage, but with integrity, compassion, and generosity. I received a B.A. in Fine Arts from the University of Pennsylvania and an M.F.A. in Photography from Indiana University. Awards for my work include the Ferguson Grant from the Friends of Photography in San Francisco, CA for excellence and commitment to the field of photography. My photographs have been exhibited throughout the United States including a solo show at the Center for Photography in Woodstock, NY. I currently teach Multimedia Art at Berkeley City College in Berkeley, California, and Photography at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, California.
“Yes, at this time, everything becomes image, and the essence of the image is to be entirely outside, without intimacy, and yet more inaccessible and mysterious than the innermost thought; without signification, but summoning the profundity of every possible meaning; unrevealed and yet manifest, having that presence-absence that constitutes the attraction and the fascination of the Sirens.”
I have always been drawn to roadsigns and billboards, images and words jutting out of the passing landscape. In “significance,” ignoring their specific messages, the signs became symbolic of the general link they create between the physical landscape in front of the camera and the invisible world of language and concept; metaphors for metaphor. From behind, their meaning and purpose is lost and they become just things, signifiers without a signified, monuments of absence.
A photograph, like a sign, creates a link between the physical world and an imaginative, metaphoric one. More like the backs of signs than the fronts, the meaning of these photographs is left ambiguous, more aesthetic than semiotic. They are intended to stand on their own as images, outside of any conceptual framework, as the signs become only objects and find a place in the landscape.
The First Frontier rodeo circuit is one of twelve circuits across the nation and is comprised of the states that made up the original thirteen colonies. This reminds us of the origins of rodeo, and is a fierce defense of country-western culture in a region that is little known for harboring it. Since 2010, I have been competing and photographing as a bull rider on the First Frontier.
While fleeing Connecticut by car in July 2009, I stayed at a Michigan dude ranch on my way to Seattle. I volunteered for, and won, their onsite rodeo’s audience-participation bull riding contest. Upon learning there was a bull riding school near my Connecticut residence, I decided to ride in earnest when I returned. Rodeo was be a much-needed return to the rural environs of my early childhood on my paternal family’s farm in Idaho, and a psychological respite from the Yale School of Architecture, where I felt alone among peers who had, it seemed, all come from families who were at least middle class. It is also the only sport that has ever held my interest. After my father’s death in 1987, my Japanese mother raised me as a single parent in suburban Tacoma, WA. We drifted apart from my rural, white paternal lineage, and I identified primarily as Asian for most of my life.
Initially, I did not photograph rodeo. My interest didn’t originate as a photographic project, and I did not want other riders to suspect me of being an artist. Eventually I photographed out of exasperation with the disbelief of my friends, and to prove that my skin abrasions were not the result of partner violence. While rare, there are other women bull riders, other Japanese bull riders, and other queer bull riders, but I’ve found no others who combined even two out of the three. Understanding that even “documentary” photographs and the situations within them are constructed, I insert myself in the flow of images, not as a hero or a performer, but as one of the many who are involved. And the First Frontier welcomed me. I defend rodeo to its outsiders far more than I justify my presence to participants.
Each ride exercises the grand archetypes: mastery over nature, nationalistic sentiment, winning and losing power. Like other sports, rodeo provides a highly controlled and freely chosen stage-set, albeit one with legitimate risks, upon which to confront the threats and anxieties lurking beyond its protocols. Cowboys risk delusions of rugged individualism, but a rider is never truly alone with a bull. At least four people must help each rider rig up, pull open the chute, and defend her in the arena. At the local rodeos, one’s own competitors set up each rider and protect one other’s safety.
Riders joke that everyone who mounts a bull is insane. Even macho men fear it. Many riders have either recently joined the military, or just returned from deployment. Fresh recruits ride to inoculate themselves against fear in advance of combat. Veterans ride because, after a war, what’s the fuss about getting on a bull? Still others, mostly tradespeople and farmers, aspire to the glamour and cash prizes of professional rodeo. With few exceptions, we are very poor. Generally, we are traumatized. My family is military but combat is far outside my own experience. Instead, my terrors are simply the exhausting inanities of adolescent homelessness and financial destitution that followed well into adulthood, a history of sexual and physical assault, and the loss of my child, which preceded that cross-country drive away from the First Frontier. What’s so frightening about a bull, after all that? The practice helps me function through the physical sensations of fear. The photography helps me understand my place in history via each inevitable arc through the air and each body strike against dirt, gate, and hoof. I no longer avoid things solely because I fear them. I still fear every ride. This is unlikely to ever change.