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Searching for the History of Humanity in the Landscape

British ‘blockhouse’ fortification,
built during the Anglo-Boer War, ‘Barton’s Folly’, Hekpoort.

The Cradle from “Spioenkop”, sniper outpost, used by Boers during numerous wars.

Just 31 miles northwest of Johannesburg lies the Cradle of Humanity, a paleoanthropological site that was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCP in 1999. Here, on 180 square miles, is a complex of limestone caves, within which some of the oldest hominid fossils have been found.

The excavations, which began in 1935, continue to this day, helping to lay out the bare bones, if you will, of the mysterious origins of humankind and have been met with worldwide fascination. Our desire to understand the process by which we came to be, to fill in the missing links of evolution, is one that has captured the human imagination for centuries.

In the 3.5 million years that have passed since the hominids of the oldest known fossils walked the earth, innumerable generations have come and gone without a trace. History is written by the victors, Winston Churchill observed – and then it is edited, revised, and expanded by those who simply cannot abide by a self-serving narrative.

Recognizing the challenges of photographing history long after the moment has passed, South African photographer David Lurie has turned to the landscape as a space for meditation on the relationship between the past, present, and future – the ever present absence of all that has come before guiding us like an invisible hand, driving us forward with a relentlessness that can only be considered when we press pause.

That pause can be taken in nature itself, in the space where change is perpetual – and yet, a consistency remains, the shadows of yore absorbed into the earth. The Cradle is both literally and figuratively the perfect place to reflect upon the profound nature of humanity.

In his new book, Daylight Ghosts – History, Myth, Memory (Hatje Cantz), Lurie explains, “The Cradle region is the scene of numerous epic battles: ancient conflicts as well as those between the many African chiefdoms that settled or tried to settle in the interior, during the period sometimes called the difaqane; between African chiefdoms and Boer pioneers, and between Boers and Britons, as well as several Afrikaner rebellions. The Cradle provides a lens through which to view and comprehend a series of absolutely pivotal and formative moments of South African history. It offers a privileged vantage point from which to understand what it means to be human and what it meant and currently means to be South African.”

Lurie takes us on an entrancing journey filled with spirits and ghosts, with a sense of intense energy that belies the horrors of the past. Consider the luminous view from of The Cradle from “Spioenkop” (Spy Hill), which Lurie notes was a sniper outpost, used by Boers during wars with African chiefdoms and the Anglo-Boer South African War between the British Empire and the two Boer states (the Republic of the Transvaal & the Orange Free State).

Knowledge alters perception and understanding, giving us a new way of considering that which we did not previously see. The photographs, already silent and somber, muted and melancholy, become sad sacraments of the perils of imperialism over the past five hundred years, overlaying an even older history still waiting to be revealed.

Dawn, Nirox sculpture park.

Forests, Kromdraai Valley.

‘Mount Savannah’ farm, Kromdraai valley.

Pioneer graves, Kromdraai valley.

Late afternoon, Kromdraai valley. ‘Burn sculpture’ by Hannelie Coetzee,
“Eland & Benko” in the distance on Nirox Sculpture.

Early morning, Kromdraai Valley #2.

All images: © David Lurie

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Arlene Gottfried Captured New York at Its Best

Angel and Woman on Boardwalk in Brighton Beach, New York, 1976

Women on Riis Beach, New York, 1980

Arlene Gottfried (1950–2017) was a paradox of the best kind: the infinitely shy artist who can blow the roof off the joint while singing gospel, or approach any person in order to take their photo. Hailing from Brooklyn, Gottfried spent her childhood in Coney Island where all kinds of characters loomed near and far.

She took up photography, casually snapping some of the greatest New York scenes ever caught on film, documenting an era of life that once defined the city, but has long since been erased. In Sometimes Overwhelming (powerHouse Books). Gottfried chronicles the charismatic figures she encountered on the streets and the beaches, the nightclubs and the parks, the boardwalks and the parades, the circus and the dog shows.

The result is a kaleidoscopic portrait of the times, of the magical and memorable personalities that peppered public life, when everyone was so distinctive, to really stand out meant you had to take it to the next level. It is those rarefied beauties that Gottfried loves most, the stars who fell to earth and glitter like fireflies of a summer night, floating past you down the street as they go about their business.

Gottfried too floated along, with her camera on hand ready to enjoy the scenes that unfolded as she went around town. She had an innate appreciation for those who put themselves out there, those who could not refrain from having their lives written all over their face. She loved the unusual and unlikely with unabashed aplomb, always celebrating the very qualities that catch others off guard.

Gottfried had a great big laugh and appreciation for sincerity. Though her subjects may be quirky, she meets them where they are, and the result is quite often a mutual admiraton society. Gottfried’s subjects love to stand before her lens, affirming the affirmation until we’re all standing there, nodding in agreement: you right.

You could be rocking curlers and a Chihuahua, or be sunbathing in nothing at all. You might be slinking along the sofa at Studio 54 or doing pull-ups in the park. All that matters is that you are in your element, doing you to the fullest. It is then that Gottfried appeared, camera in hand, ready to capture this unlikely moment in time for all eternity.

Among her countless graces was her reticence to overshare. Sometimes Overwhelming has no text whatsoever – aside from captions that let you know who, what, where, and when. But why? On this, Gottfried remains mum. How? You’ll never know, but she did, and because of this, we won.

Wedding Party in Connecticut, 1977

Dracula, Halloween Parade in the West Village New York, 1978

KISS, Halloween Parade, West Village, New York, 1978

Luke Silverman, 1977

Dog, Coney Island, New York, 1976

All images: © Arlene Gottfried, courtesy of powerHouse Books.

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These Nostalgic Photos Capture the Spirit of NYC



When describing the American photographer Berenice Abbott, the French poet Jean Cocteau once said, “She is a chess game between light and shadow.” It’s been almost ninety years since Abbott made New York her stomping ground, but her ghost continues to haunt its streets. And perhaps if you look hard enough, you’ll see she left a few of those chess pieces behind.

Ian Robert Wallace knows how to find them. As the child of two architects, the young photographer and filmmaker always shared a bond with the city. “I knew when I was growing up that I wanted to live in NY at some point,” he admits. “I thought it was mesmerizing.” He finally made the move when he went to NYU in 2012, but in some ways, the much-anticipated arrival took him back in time.

Wallace carries with him particular kind of nostalgia for the past, one that is firmly rooted in the legacy of Abbott, Stieglitz, and their contemporaries. He refers to the people in his photographs not as “subjects” but as “characters,” giving them a poetic aura. He doesn’t always obscure faces, and when he does, it’s not intentional, but the anonymity of a few of his figures does allow them to exist in an almost fictional world. “There’s a strength of character that these people have to sort of exist with one foot in the past: what they wear, how they carry themselves, what streets they walk down,” he tells me. It has occurred to him that on some occasions, he might be photographing the very same individuals he’s seen in great photographs of NYC taken before his time; a child playing in the alley might now be an old man crossing the street.

In the beginning, Wallace walked “for days at a time” in search of these serendipitous scenes, carrying a trusty Leica. With time, photography and life blended together, and now he makes a point of bringing his camera wherever he roams. “I always see the best shots when I don’t have it,” the artist laments. When he does get his shot, Wallace thinks about the individual behind the photograph. When he can, he returns to show them the pictures or bring prints. Though dark and mysterious, his New York is an affectionate one, touched by the hope and pathos of the early 20th century.

There is, however, one crucial distinction between Wallace and his Modernist predecessors. In a sense, Abbott was enchanted by newness; she saw her city as quickly evolving, as evidenced by the book title Changing New York. But for Wallace, the magic of New York lies in its history and the way it colors our lives today. In 2018, the only true revelations and surprises are rooted in familiarity. “The city has always felt the same to me, and I think that is the best part,” Wallace tells me. “New York isn’t going to change for you. It doesn’t care.” Follow Wallace on Instagram at @ianwallace, and find prints here.









All images © Ian Robert Wallace

The post These Nostalgic Photos Capture the Spirit of NYC appeared first on Feature Shoot.

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Photos of 65 Iconic Artists In Their Bathtubs

Keith Haring, 1982. Photo © Don Herron, courtesy Estate of Don Herron and Daniel Cooney Fine Art

Phoebe Legere, 1988. Photo © Don Herron, courtesy Estate of Don Herron and Daniel Cooney Fine Art

The East Village, 1988: Phoebe Legere was preparing to pose in her bathtub for photographer Don Herron. The 25-year-old songwriter had signed to Epic Records—one of the most powerful in the world back then—and they poised to make her into some combination of Madonna, Barbra Streisand, and Liberace. At the same time, Legere says, Michael Jackson had reached huge commercial success, Cindy Lauper was past her prime, and few female singers or artists were depicted as strong or powerful figures in stardom. Not to mention there was a booming yet wholly male-dominated art renaissance emerging quite literally around the corner in New York, according to Legere. Even Keith Haring was showing at the now-iconic FUN Gallery just half a block away from Legere’s apartment, where she still resides today. “It was a boys club, no question about it,” Legere tells me. “Girls were not welcome, except as maybe a muse or a drug dealer.”

A few days before her photo shoot with Herron, however, Legere had an idea. The up-and-coming musician could use the session to reveal another one of her talents: painting. Using black bathtub glaze, she adorned her bathtub in paintings of fish—which she calls her “totem animal”—and voluptuous women. She didn’t think her beauty alone was enough to would hold anyone’s attention. By the time Herron arrived, after he climbed 80 stairs to Legere’s fifth floor walk up, the paint on the tub had not yet dried and the water had turned black.

According to Legere, Herron’s process as a photographer was one of compassion and intimacy. “If you look at the photo you’ll notice I’m quite shy,” she tells me. “I held up a sheet from my bed and I’m turning away from the camera. I was crippled by my own shyness and even put glasses on to sort of cover my face.” Legere adds that she is grateful that Herron captured this moment in her career—the moment in which she was beginning to emerge from her chrysalis, she says.

This story is just one of almost 100 ‘Tub Shots’ taken by Herron from 1978 to 1993 showcasing black and white portraits of underground luminaries in their bathtubs. From emerging musicians like Phoebe Legere to iconic figures like Keith Haring or Ethyl Eichenberger, Herron collaborated freely with his subjects to construct each set. Some simply sat in their bathtubs; others played games, wore costumes, or exposed themselves freely. Collectively, this series paints a picture of the complex landscape of the New York bohemian creative community in the 1980s, from the art renaissance in the Lower East Side to the AIDs epidemic sweeping the city.

“I decided to do a series of photographs of people in containers,” Herron stated simply to The Village Voice in 1980. “The bathtub was the logical container to use. I started with friends and it grew from there.”

In 2012, Herron passed away near his home in Newburgh, NY. Over the years, images from this series have been published in New York Magazine, The Village Voice, and Art Forum. From Sept. 13 to Nov. 3, a selection of 65 vintage ‘Tub Shots’ will be exhibited at Daniel Cooney Fine Art in Chelsea, New York. On Sept. 29, the gallery will host a panel discussion about Herron’s work and living and making art in the 1980s, moderated by Sur Rodney (Sur) with Jon Kelly, Phoebe Legere, and Agosto Machado.

“Although this series only shows one generation of a long history of creative people living in New York—and a little bit of San Francisco—people can get a look into the backgrounds of their predecessors,” says Gallerist and Curator Daniel Cooney. “This is a large body of work that covers an important time in cultural development.”

Charles Busch, another one of Herron’s subjects, tells me about his experience with the photographer. It was 1987 and he had struggled for almost a decade to make it as an actor and playwright. He spent most of his twenties as a solo performer, doing dramatic monologues, and figuring out how to break through. But when he stepped into the Limbo Lounge—a funky art gallery quasi-performance space on the Lower East Side—things started to change. He was performing in a new Off-Broadway show called Vampire Lesbians of Sodom. The show was an overnight success. It was also the first time Busch wore drag, which he considers an early peak in his career.

He recalls: “I was still living in a very crummy apartment on West 12th Street. The bathroom was dingy no matter what you did to it, but I think the picture looks rather grand. I’m kind of an amateur art director, so I moved a potted palm tree into the bathroom to dress it up. Then I got in. Don was delightful. And it was kind of sexy. After we finished the sixth close up he climbed in the tub with me. Since I had been doing so much drag, it was very appealing for me to photographed as a boy in a somewhat more sexualized way.”

This “early peak,” as Busch describes it, is another key element of Herron’s ‘Tub Shots.’ More than just capturing the camp, the joy, and the tragedy of New York’s creative community during this era, many of these images showcase his subjects at a time when they were just beginning to taste success—they reveal the passion and wonder people radiate when finding new hope after years of deep struggle.

“Even my deep-rooted pessimism couldn’t spoil the feeling that everything was working out in my life…a wonderfully exciting moment of new found confidence and great hope for the future,” Busch writes about his portrait.

It’s hard not wonder how this series would look if Herron continued his work today. Cultural landmarks of the East Village have undergone commercial renovations. Tourists take selfies on every corner. Urban Outfitters sells tee-shirts for 50 bucks. Would it have been possible for Herron to continue his ‘Tub Shots’ in our modern version of New York City?

“I think he would still be connecting to creative souls, who are still very active in New York even if the location is different,” says Cooney. “A lot of people try to say ‘artists can’t survive in New York anymore,’ but I know a lot of young artists and performers who do.”

Thirty years later, creative people trying to make it in New York are living different narratives in a familiar story. The East Village has become Bushwick. The Avant Garde is now hipster. The AIDS epidemic gave way to the Opioid Crisis. Female artists are still fighting for representation equal to that of their male counterparts. And Phoebe Legere’s bathtub was never repainted.

Maybe the struggle, the passion, and the idiosyncrasies of New York’s creative class will never wither. Maybe the culture will evolve but never truly change. And maybe soaring rent prices will someday drive artists out of Brooklyn.

But if one thing is certain, it’s that the work of Don Herron continues to give artists hope for the future.

Robert Mapplethorpe, 1978. “I was to photograph Robert at 3pm in his hotel room, but at 3 Robert wasn’t in his room, so I waited in the lobby. At 3:15 he walked in and apologized: he had forgotten all about the shoot and was just getting in. As I photographed him in his bathtub he kept saying that he couldn’t remember much about his opening the night before, or much about our conversation at the gallery, but if I was willing to photograph him in his current condition, he was willing to pose. I took 18 shots and they all look exactly alike, he just lay in the tub and occasionally blinked.” – extracted from a letter from Herron to a friend. Mapplethorpe (1946-1989) died of AIDS at the age of 42. Photo © Don Herron, courtesy Estate of Don Herron and Daniel Cooney Fine Art

Jackie Curtis, 1980. Jackie Curtis (1947-1985) was a playwright, director and performer known as one of Warhol’s Superstars. Curtis came to prominence at The Factory along side Holly Woodlawn and Candy Darling. Curtis died of a heroin overdose in 1985 at the age of 38. Photo © Don Herron, courtesy Estate of Don Herron and Daniel Cooney Fine Art

Ethyl Eichelberger, 1982. Ethyl Eichelberger (1945-1990) is seen here with his 1981 portrait by Peter Hujar. Eichelberger was a legendary performer on the New York theatrical scene in the late 1970’s and 80’s. He was best known for his many roles and various wig designs for the Ridiculous Theatrical Company. In 1990 Eichelberger was diagnosed with AIDS. Unable to tolerate the medications he committed suicide at home in Staten Island. He was 45. Photo © Don Herron, courtesy Estate of Don Herron and Daniel Cooney Fine Art

International Chrysis, 1988. International Chrysis (1951-1990) was a transgender performer who had long red hair and an engaging smile. Friends compared her to Rita Hayworth and some say she more closely resembled a plump Raquel Welch. Chrysis’s breasts, which she christened Johnson and Johnson, helped bring about her death in 1990 at the age of 39. They were injected with wax that hardened into painful lumps and eventually seeped into her bloodstream. Along with her unregulated use of female hormones, that seepage contributed to a fatal case of liver cancer. Photo © Don Herron, courtesy Estate of Don Herron and Daniel Cooney Fine Art

Agosto Machado, 1992. “Don was so generous. He told me to present myself in the way I wanted to be remembered. I chose to cover myself diplomatically ‘above the tits’ with packing peanuts and muscle men figures that are my protectors and my fantasy.” Photo © Don Herron, courtesy Estate of Don Herron and Daniel Cooney Fine Art

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Call for Submissions: The Print Swap Exhibition at ROOT Studios

Images:  © Samuel Hicks© Murielle Etc© Andrew Heiser , © Dani Gros© Chiara Zonca© Brad Curran© Alex M. Smith© Rebecca Webb.

The Print Swap is coming to Manhattan for our second annual holiday exhibition and party, and photographers who participate in the swap between now and November 11th will be part of the show! In the past, we’ve exhibited in Los Angeles, London, Berlin, Sydney, and Hyderabad and we’re thrilled to be coming back to ROOT Studios in New York City this winter. This will be the ninth-ever Print Swap exhibition but the first to include every Print Swap photographer who submits during the open call.

Simply tag your photos #theprintswap on Instagram to be considered. We also accept submissions emailed to

Launched by Feature Shoot Founder Alison Zavos back in 2016, The Print Swap connects photographers all over the world. Selected artists each give a print of their own, and in exchange, each participant receives a print from someone else. The element of surprise is a big part of the project; because we mail prints randomly, you could end up with a photograph taken just around the block or halfway across the globe. We’ve had participants from dozens of countries across six continents so far. While it’s free to apply, selected photographers pay $40 per image to participate, and this covers all printing and shipping costs.

Since all Print Swap photographers will be exhibiting work, this show promises to be our biggest yet. All genres are eligible, and our team of Print Swap editors will be selecting images. As with all of our shows, photographers who have submitted prior to this call for submissions will not be eligible to exhibit, but everyone is more than welcome to submit again. As a reminder, the deadline for submissions for this exhibition November 11th, 2018. Learn more at our website and follow along at @theprintswap on Instagram for updates. We can’t wait to see your photos!

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