PHOTO CAFÉ Event Recap: The Continued Relevance of Film & Darkrooms

The 2nd edition of Photo Café at BKC, moderated by our very own Justin Lin on the topic of analog. Photos courtesy    Lanna Apisukh   .

The 2nd edition of Photo Café at BKC, moderated by our very own Justin Lin on the topic of analog. Photos courtesy Lanna Apisukh.

Last Friday was our second PHOTO CAFÉ talk with Seeing Collective and it was amazing – and so was the turnout!  The room was filled with photographers and analog fans and the open discussions were entertaining and insightful – our hearts are filled ❤️

Thank you to our awesome speakers, Geoffrey Berliner of Penumbra Foundation, Birgit Buchart of Lomography, Rachel Jun of Gowanus Darkroom and Penn State University professor and photographer, Lonnie Graham for sharing their personal experiences and wonderful insights on the world of analog + photography! 

*Video of this talk is coming soon (!) but you can enjoy some photos below and clips from our last discussion on Seasoned Photographers hosted on the Seeing Collective YouTube channel.

Analog Group Photo! Pictured from left to right: Fiona Veronique, Megan Mack, Lonnie Graham, Geoffrey Berliner, Lanna Apisukh, Justin Lin, Birgit Buchart, Rachel Jun and Sina Basila.

Analog Group Photo! Pictured from left to right: Fiona Veronique, Megan Mack, Lonnie Graham, Geoffrey Berliner, Lanna Apisukh, Justin Lin, Birgit Buchart, Rachel Jun and Sina Basila.

Last but not least, a special shout out to Foto Care for their continued support in our events. If you're looking to buy or rent photo gear, we highly recommend you pay them a visit as they are the best in town and offer the friendliest customer service. Look out for some of the exciting events they have going on this month!

BKC Student Spotlight: Yoon Choi

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Some of the most interesting people to photograph are located right here on our city’s subway system. Over 4.3 million people ride the subway everyday, so it’s easy to imagine what you can find. However, capturing the right moment can often be a difficult task. For one, it’s a tight space with commuters jammed in like sardines during rush hours and for two, you never know if someone will notice and how they might react. This is what makes photographing people on the subway thrilling and challenging at the same time, but BKC student and photographer, Yoon Choi makes it look like a breeze.

On inspiration and how she gets the shot:

“NYC has an unlimited resource of incredible personalities. Every time I ride the bus or train, I am fascinated by all the riders. When someone catches my attention I have a strong need to make their photo whether it's candidly or specially requested. I usually make the photo on my phone and sometimes with my Ricoh GR.  Because almost everyone is on their phones while riding, it's easy to make a photo discreetly although I have been caught once or twice but not too often. Sometimes I only have time to make one photo and other times I can make 10 and I'll pick my favorite. I truly love the people of New York!”

Below, some of Yoon’s MTA greatest hits which you can also find on her Instagram @yoon.sun.choi.

BKC Student Spotlight: Gloria Cook

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Inspired by her local produce section and the still life work of a Brooklyn artist she had admired, BKC student and photographer, Gloria Cook followed her inspiration and ended up making some amazing images of her own.

“I thought about shooting stills every time I was distracted by the unique textures of exotic fruits in the produce section,” explains Cook, who typically shoots lifestyle and fashion portraiture.

The tantalizing photo series was produced for our Embrace Your Curiosity class taught by Sally Bozzuto which challenged students to dig deep, embrace their fears, vulnerabilities and try something new through visual art. The work culminated in a wonderful group show and we are happy to share this stunning work that Gloria had contributed to it.

Follow Gloria on Instagram (@cookwithfashion) and see more of Gloria’s delightful work on her website.

Women in Photography: Helen Levitt (1913-2009)

“Halloween.” One of Helen Levitt’s most celebrated photographs of all time.

“Halloween.” One of Helen Levitt’s most celebrated photographs of all time.

Born a Russian-Jewish immigrant in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn (1913 – 2009), Helen Levitt was a New York City photographer and has been described as one of the most celebrated and least known of her time. Levitt’s work, often playful and candid comprised of the city’s street activities, people going about their day, family pets and children. She loved photographing children and particularly the chalk drawings that they had left behind on sidewalks and city streets. Documenting the chalky ephemera left by kids was in fact how she got her start in photography and ultimately resulted in work published in 1987 as In The Street: Chalk Drawings and Messages, New York City 1938–1948.

Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Levitt continued to take her camera to working class neighborhoods to capture her beloved streets of New York City. She documented life in the Garment District, East Harlem and the Lower East Side and honored the people and its ever-changing city surroundings through her poetic photo journalism.

In 1939, one of Levitt’s most widely-known photographs, Halloween, was selected as an integral part of MoMA’s newly launched photography exhibition. It was only a few years later (1943) when she would present her first solo exhibit at the renowned museum receiving a spotlight she so deserved.

Below, some of Levitt’s striking black and white images and color photography works.

We hope you are as inspired as we are to shoot our beloved city’s streets and its amazing cast of characters that makes this place truly unique.

Women in Photography: Lorna Simpson

Stereo Styles, 1988

Stereo Styles, 1988

As a follow up to our intro on Berenice Abbott, another important pioneering female photographer we’re spotlighting for Women’s History Month, is African-American visual and multimedia artist, Lorna Simpson. Born in 1960, the Brooklyn native’s work revolves around young black women and explores themes of history, culture, race and gender identity through photographic portraiture. Over the past years however, the artist has brought drawing, painting and photo collaging into her toolkit to create some fascinating art.

Best known for her conceptual work Stereo Styles 1988, Simpson presents ten instant black and white film photographs of African-American women’s heads modeling hairstyles that were popular in the 80s. Their backs are turned to the viewer and we don’t see their faces suggesting that they could be adaptable to any narrative.

Words such as Daring, Sensible, Magnetic and Country Fresh are written between the images as if were an advertisement on hairstyles available. However, each image is not paired with a word description, which might enable the viewer to form their own opinion on what they are looking at.

Simpson’s conceptual photographic work continued to build on the themes of identity, race, history and memory in her work, Gathering – an exhibit of found photographs of mostly 1950s pinup images of young black women, paired alongside with her self-portrait recreating the exact same scenes.

1957-2009, interiors. 2009.

1957-2009, interiors. 2009.

The interplay of fact, fiction, history and identity comes to mind in this meaningful work comprised of found vintage images she procured from eBay and her own self-portraits.

Building on the theme of identity arrives Simpson’s recent book Lorna Simpson Collages – a collection of found photographs drawn from vintage magazines she skillfully collaged with colorful ink washes on paper. The vibrant and dream-like images Simpson created in this body of work continues to explore memory and identity of black women and their complex language of hair.

Author of the book writes:

“In Lorna Simpson’s collages … black women’s heads of hair are galaxies unto themselves, solar systems, moonscapes, volcanic interiors … It is sinuous and cloudy and fully alive … Watercolor is the perfect medium for Simpson here because of how it holds light and appears to be translucent. But it is also a wash, a shadow cast over what we cannot know in these women.” – Elizabeth Alexander

In an interview with the Paris Review, Simpson explains that this work is:

“a discovery I made of these old Ebony magazines belonging to my grandmother. I found them really satisfying to look at, because they’re so contextual … For me, the images hearken back to my childhood, but are also a lens through which to see the past 50 years in American history.”

– Lorna Simpson

To learn more about Lorna Simpson, visit her website and browse her fascinating work.

Women in Photography: Berenice Abbott

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, we’re taking a look back at some pivotal contributors to the photographic medium. Since the early innovation of the daguerrotype process, women had been experimenting with photography and have been using this expressive form of communication as a method to tell meaningful stories, archive history, visualize style and illustrate dreams.

Our first focus is the photographer Berenice Abbott (July 17, 1898 – December 9, 1991) , born in Springfield, Ohio and later pursuing sculpture in Paris, Berlin and New York, working as a studio assistant to Man Ray, a landmark figure in photography. Thus begun her road in the medium, soon meeting the French photographer Eugene Atget whose now-famous depictions of Paris streets and their transformation during the 1920s were not at the time well known. Her appreciation and promotion of his work, to the point of purchasing his estate after his death, has been instrumental towards Eugene Atget being a household name among photographers today.

Abbott returned to the US in 1929, and secured funding from the Federal Art Project to photograph the transition of New York City during the Great Depression. These were published in her best known series Changing New York (1936-38) which showed the movement of people within the ever-changing landscape of the city.

“A photograph is not a painting, a poem, a symphony, a dance. It is not just a pretty picture, not an exercise in contortionist techniques and sheer print quality. It is or should be a significant document, a penetrating statement, which can be described in a very simple term—selectivity.”

— BERENICE ABBOTT

Today Berenice Abbott is considered a pillar of photographic history, particularly among the street shooters, documentary and archivalists, and architecture buffs. Through her imagery, Abbott was able to express a significant and almost ominous dynamic of scale between people of New York and the increasingly large buildings that surrounded them. Her work remains as a passionate document of city life during a critical time in our history.