Monthly Archive for October, 2010

michal luczak – the white house

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Michal Luczak

The White House

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Excerpt from a letter to Barack Obama, president of the USA.

“Dear Mr. President of the United States of America Barack Obama, We are students of a village school in Ukraine. Please, accept our sincerest congratulations on your election for the president of the USA. Our school is located in the village of Czernomin in the Vinnytsia Oblast. The school building comes from early 19th century. Its design is based on that of the White House in the USA. (…) We too have a school president, who has his own school ministry. We need substantial funds to restore our White House to its former beauty. Mr. President, we would like to ask you to help us renovate our monument. Your help will strengthen the relationships between our great nations: the American and the Ukrainian people. And our school will become a bridge of friendship between the children of both countries….

Yours Sincerely, Students of the Czernomin school complex”

It is the third time that the children of Czernomin are trying to save their school building this way. The two predecessors, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, were not able to help. Clinton did not reply at all, and Bush maintained that the school is located within the territory of Ukraine, so America cannot get financially involved.

The Czernomin White House, or “the twenty-dollar bill palace” as the locals call it, was built nearly 20 years after its American counterpart. It was built for a Polish man of wealth, Mikołaj Czarnomski. He came to his riches thanks to a love affair with countess Zofia Potocka, for whom he worked as a treasurer. He stole money from his mistress until the truth came to light, and the romance came to an end. Czarnomski used the money he had stolen to build the palace, which was designed by the Italian architect Francesco Buffo.

The palace used to be a vibrant place. Mikołaj used to organize sumptuous balls attended by distinguished guests. In 1918 the idyll came to an end. The building was taken over by the Bolsheviks and turned into a proletarians’ home. In the years that followed the Czernomin White House was a German prison during World War II, and then an orphanage. Today it houses a school with nearly 180 students.

Music by the children from Czernomin school.

Bio

Michal Luczak was born in 1983 in Silesia, a region of southern Poland. In 2002 he studyied at the Institute of Creative Photography, Silesian University in Opava, Czech Republic. At the same time he studied Spanish at the Silesian University in Katowice, Poland, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree. In 2010, he graduated from the Institute of Creative Photography in Opava (M.A.).

He deals with documentary photography, producing long-term projects, such as Nikisz, presented at the Fotofestiwal in Łódź in 2007. His photo essay, The White House, was presented at 2009 edition of the Photomonth in Kraków and awarded with Gradn Prize in the Mio Photo Award in Japan. Since 2008 he has lived in Warsaw, where he works as a freelance photographer for Przekrój Magazine, among others. He has also published in Tygodnik Powszechny, Pozytyw and Private Magazine. He also works with the IMAGO MUNDI Foundation.

In 2009, he was awarded the Alexandra Boulat Scholarship for the Toscana Photographic Workshop, where he participated in a workshop with Anders Petersen. His latest project, Young Miners (a working title), was awarded an honorable mention in the 2009 Magnum Expression Award.

 

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www.michal-luczak.com

 

october moonlight

_DGO0321photo by Diego Orlando

lesley louden – “evelyn, nothing fancy”

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Lesley Louden

Evelyn, Nothing Fancy

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For over a decade the regal life of an exceptional  U.S. mid-western woman and her plush apartment situated in a small town on the banks of Lake Erie has been documented and compiled into a series of photographs, “Evelyn, Nothing Fancy.” The photographs invite the viewer inside to experience Evelyn’s domain, a common place transformed into a personal work of art, filled with precious powder blue and pink possessions. Evelyn’s hand-sewn garments, made of fabrics from Harrods and Liberty of London, and specially designed accessories are just as lovely as each of her idiosyncratic arrangements. The culmination of each object transformed her home into a dollhouse of human proportion, providing a haven for her personal happiness.

“Love Makes the World Go Round,” reads one of Evelyn’s pillows in the blue den. Romantic touches and feminine symbols of love and partnership are sprinkled throughout the apartment. Has a loved one passed away, or does the representation of love surrounding Evelyn stand for a peaceful, light-hearted and happy existence? At Evelyn’s these passionate decorating touches kept love in the air. When I visited Evelyn she gave me baked zucchini nut bread and we listened to classical music broadcast from Windsor, Ontario.

I asked Evelyn what influenced her fashionable affection for unique clothing made of such prints as leopard and camouflage and earrings created from shells by a woman in Florida who is sent a swatch of fabric to match each dress. She shared with me that when she started as a secretary at an accounting firm over fifty years ago, where she continues to walk to work today, that she wanted to look professional in suits she made herself, ensuring no one else would arrive in the same dress. Everyday Evelyn appeared on her own red carpet, and for that I am grateful. The “Evelyn, Nothing Fancy” photographs describe an independent woman, deserved of honor for her expression of individuality through color and adornment. “Evelyn” relays an emotional connection between one individual and her intimate surroundings. Different from the portrayal of current life as seen in the media, these works explore the mysterious beauty that is present behind what inspires an individual to be unique within a world of conformity.

 

Bio

Lesley Louden works as an independent documentary photographer and Professor in Photography in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her recent project “Learning to Hope: Children, HIV, and Education in Lesotho” is included in Moving Walls 15 Documentary Photography Exhibition at the Open Society Institute, Soros Foundation Network on display in NYC and Washington DC from December 2008 – April 2010. Lesley works as a still photographer with filmmaker Anne Evans on projects for social change. Recent projects include documentaries for the African Library Project in sub-Saharan Africa and for the Columbian Environmental Agency CORALINA in the western Caribbean, and BUILD in East Palo Alto and Oakland, CA. Lesley received her BFA in photography from Ohio Wesleyan University and MFA in photography from Cranbrook Academy of Art. She worked as an assistant for fine art photographer Ralph Gibson prior to beginning her own career. Her work has been exhibited in museums and galleries in the US and Australia.

 

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www.lesleylouden.com

 

roberto boccaccino – rītdiena

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Roberto Boccaccino

Rītdiena

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In this period of my life, maybe because of my age, I often try to understand what will be my way and my future, and I always find myself talking with my contemporaries about the hard times for our generation. So when I heard about the strong economic crisis in the Baltic countries I immediately thought it would be very interesting to see how youngsters were dealing with the situation. In Latvia the changes happened quickly, and I wanted to know how that crisis modified the outlook and thoughts of the future for the young generation. This is also the reason why my project doesn’t focus so much on the crisis, but much more on mood and feelings. The crisis is just the context in which I attempted to know and show the people.

The final outcome is a work which tries to tell the sensations of that generation. They’re living these times very confusedly, neither the cause of the crisis nor feeling that they can solve it. Most young people (not all of them, I have to say) are just waiting; it’s like they are in a bubble, in a kind of limbo which is very difficult to escape, particularly because of their patriotism and the attachment to their country. The pictures tell the story of this waiting. It is not extremely dramatic or depressing, the Latvian youngsters are not really worried about the future, they just feel stuck in a down time. Maybe just like other youngsters elsewhere. Rītdiena is a Latvian word that means tomorrow.

 

Bio

Roberto Boccaccino is a freelance photographer. He’s mostly after social and geographical storytelling. After a two-years-collaboration with Grazia Neri Photoagency in Milan, today he works independently. His pictures have been published by Foto8 Magazine, Private Magazine, L’Espresso, Il Venerdì, D La Repubblica delle Donne, Euroman, IO Donna, Panorama, Stiletto France, First Panorama, Psychologies. He has shown his projects in personal and collective exhibitions and festivals in Milan, Florence, and Perugia. In autumn 2009 he attended the diploma course “Advanced Visual Storytelling” at the Danish School of Media and Journalism in Aarhus. The diploma project is Rītdiena (tomorrow), where he tells the feelings, the lives and the outlooks of the youngsters living in the country with the gloomiest economic crisis in Europe.

He is currently based in Copenhagen.

 

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Roberto Boccaccino

 

tilde de wandel – gaza

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ESSAY CONTAINS EXPLICIT CONTENT

Tilde De Wandel

Gaza

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Winter 2008-2009. Israel bombs Gaza for 3 weeks. Operation ‘Cast Lead’ kills over 1400 people. I watch the news channels and develop the strong desire to go there and experiencing the life in a war zone. I leave but I don’t get further than the West Bank.

Life under occupation intrigues me. An external power dominating your life. Being a prisoner in your own country.

June 2010. I finally manage to enter Gaza. I am confronted with a harder external structure, Israel.

I notice the ruins of a war and a besieged life. A smashed down economy and a dangerous underground replacement. A constant threat overhead, and a life that tries to find its way while constantly being watched over and controlled.

I discover the buffer zone. The literal boundary between life and death. I meet the inhabitants and their ‘we are already dead’ slogan. It feels like a suicidal struggle.

The buffer zone, the emptiness of life snatched away. A constant threat of death while inside. External forces make decisions over the life of those who want to fight, but also those who just want to live and survive.

I can’t count the dead and injured any more since I arrived. I can’t get used to the brutal circumstances in which this occurs.

There is more, there is the emptiness of life, the stolen dreams. Fantasies seems to be reduced to a strict observance of religion. As if Allah is the only one who cares about them.

Belgium seems far away, but it means I experience this life entirely. The best way to understand is to undergo.

What I get, I can’t put aside. I’m a photographer, I grab what I feel and I share.

 

Bio

I live my life on the go, physically and mentally. I choose to displace myself physically in different atmospheres.

I started my photographic work while watching myself in a changing environment. The only thing I don’t want is to get locked into the structure of day to day life. I reject it, and launch myself at completely different structures. I bump, discover, rediscover and improve my thinking, my understanding of the world.

I was born in Belgium, 1981. I studied nutrition and worked in South Africa before pursuing a degree in photography at the Academie voor Beeldende Kunst- Gents, which I finished in 2009. I have been working in Gaza since June 2010, and plan to continue working in the region.

 

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Tilde De Wandel

Tilde’s Blog

 

federica valabrega – daughters of the king

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Federica Valabrega

Daughters of the King

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Since I was a little girl I have always been curious why Jewish women have to pray separately from men. Having to look down while the men read and carried the Torah around the temple often made me feel like an external presence in this spiritual experience.

Why are women not allowed among men and why they are not to touch the Torah with their bare hands? Why are they to braid the Challah and why are they the ones who have to light the candles on Shabbat, but they cannot be more involved in the tradition of Jewish learning?

For years I left those questions unanswered. I rebelled against my Jewish roots because I feared the answers I was going to get were never going to convince me that it was right for women to be considered different than men.

Having moved to Brooklyn, where every other person I meet is an Orthodox Jew, I felt compelled to explore the Jewish woman’s identity further. And what better way to do so than by getting to know orthodox Jewish women, share their stories of spiritual growth and photograph them?

From this came the idea of a long-time photography project on the Bat Melech, the women of God, the ones “who bare the children of the Torah,” the pillars of the Jewish traditions.

These three months of work, digging into the tradition of such Jewish women, spending time with them in their homes, praying with them, and getting closer to their spiritual beauty, has lead me to understand that there is nothing inferior about being a woman in the Jewish faith.

 

Bio

Federica was born in Rome, Italy in 1983, but spent most of her adult life between Boulder, Co. and Washington, D.C. where she pursued her education. Since 2009, Federica has been the foreign correspondent for Shalom, a Jewish Italian magazine based in Rome and an active, touring staff photographer for the Professional Beach Volleyball Tour (AVP.com).

Her breaking-news freelance work (photos and articles) has appeared in a number of Italian newspapers (La Repubblica, La Gazzetta dello Sport and La Stampa), magazines (Panorama and L’Espresso) and press photo agencies (Ansa, Iber Press and Cubo Images) abroad. When she is not on shooting assignment, or at her desk editing pictures, she can be found teaching Power Vinyasa Yoga classes in Brooklyn or training for the 2010 New York City marathon.

 

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Federica Valabrega

Federica’s Blog

 

jo straube – meltdown Iceland

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Jo Straube

Meltdown Iceland

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“The future is no longer what it once was,” an Icelandic friend told me during the early months of 2010. Iceland was severely affected by the global recession after the financial crisis of 2008. Once a highly developed country, Iceland now owes many times their gross national product to foreign countries. The island’s vast monetary and natural resources, spread out among a population of only 320,000, were lost in a haphazard economic gamble spearheaded by a small financial elite. Governmental institutions and the national press failed spectacularly at predicting the impending economic disaster, and were consequently totally unprepared for the financial collapse of 2009.

Debt accumulated by the few is now owed by many. As in many other debt-stricken countries, the taxpayer must pick up the bill. Inflation, tax increases, and rising unemployment have left Icelanders facing an uncertain future.

I spent two months in Iceland last winter, covering the financial crisis and the Icesave referendum. I wanted to explore how the financial crisis affected a population that went from wealthy to poor, and what the long-term consequences could be.

 

Bio

Jo Straube was born in Norway, 1983. After finishing his bachelor’s degree in photojournalism at the Oslo University College this spring, he is now trying to establish a career as a freelance photojournalist. His clients include the Norwegian dailies Dagbladet and Bergens Tidende, and his work has been published in national and international magazines, including The New York Times. He is currently working on independent projects as well as assisting photographer Jonas Bendiksen (Magnum Photos).

 

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Jo Straube

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