Thursday, March 15, 2018

Jesusa Vargas reviews James Rodriguez

James Rodriguez graduated from UCLA in 1996 with a degree in Cultural Geography. In 2004, James    was a human rights observer in Guatemala focused on documenting post-war issues, human rights abuses and social conflicts. Some of his recognitions include:
2016 Scholarship recipient for International Center of Photography
2016 NPPA Best of Photojournalism: Honorable Mention
2015 1st place in POY Latin America
2015 Latin American Fotografia 4: Selected for "Los Diez" Exhibit

The 3 photos below highlight the after effects of the brutal Guatemalan civil war (1960-1996) that have resulted in efforts of locating the victims and identifying the bodies so that they may be returned to family for proper burial. This was not only a healing process but also a testimony and evidence of the horrific crimes of genocide committed during this time period.

In the photo below, the photographer focuses in on a woman awaiting for the return of the remains of her deceased relatives killed during the war. The dark black shadow surrounding the central focal point is a stark resemblance to the realities of death and dark news. The light casted on her face from above, the face of another person waiting behind her and on the clenched hands of yet another person waiting for the sad arrival, present the subtle sadness of the grim event as they patiently stand by. Choosing to display this strong contrast between the strong highlights on the subject matter and the dark black surrounding them conveys a strong sense of loneliness and hope.
Nebaj, Quiche, Guatemala, 2017.

It is difficult to discern, at first glance, the event that is being photographed below without the caption given. The vibrant colors that we associate Guatemala culture with and the assembly of Guatemalans capture our attention and demand that we visually take in all that is occurring in the composition. We must evaluate the faces closer of those standing and sitting. No smiles, no laughter or captured moments of joy are presented to us. This juxtaposition of the situation and the vibrant culture is disheartening. The people in the photo are awaiting for forensic anthropologists to return the remains of relatives murdered.

Nebaj, Quiche, Guatemala, 2017.

In the deadpan approach taken in the photo below, we are confronted with a Guatemalan woman sitting on the edge of her bed, staring directly at us. A sadness comes over her face, we are left to evaluate the surroundings and her body language to draw our own emotions about the subject. We are left with a direct relationship to the woman as we look at her and she looks back at us. This person witnessed family members taken away during the massacre and never to return. It is likely that her family members were exhumed from a training center where they were murdered.

Pacux, Rabinal, Baja Verapaz, Guatemala, 2016

Saturday, March 10, 2018


            French artist, Christian Berthelot’s series, CESAR was inspired by the birth of his son during an emergency caesarean. Through a six-month training and permission from parents, Berthelot was able to shoot in a surgical environment during emergency C-sections. Personally, on his first day in the surgical room, Berthelot, in a sense relived his own experience when shooting these babies. The beauty of these images emerges with knowing that these babies were captured at only a few seconds of being in this world. Berthelot captures these babies at the purest moment of their lives, not yet corrupted by the outside world. Further, for those who have not experienced birth other than our own, Berthelot exposes the reality of what babies look like when they are born, the image before the babies are cleaned and exposed to the world. Additionally, the shapes of the babies’ body in which both the doctor and the babies collectively form are captivating. The forms are authentic and unapologetic. With the use of the dramatic spotlight lighting, these images are reminiscent of paintings depicting the carrying of Jesus. At this point in life, these babies cannot hold themselves up and mimic the same body language of Jesus as he lays limp in the arms of his people, particularly seen in the image of baby Liza.


Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Jill Enfield by Augustine Chavez

Photography has always fascinated me, and now, Alternative Process feels really fascinates me. Jill Enfield is a Alternative Process Photographer in New York. I do appreciate work in photography and perhaps, it can be said that a photograph needs to be "right on" in order for it to work. But what attracts me to Alternative Process is the process of making the work and I think because of the process, the process should be visible in the work. Jill Enfield allows for the process to be seen in her work and in her work, we can see that it is about the process as much as it is about the subject matter. In her work, I appreciate the subtleness of the figure in parallel with the process. I appreciate how the artists allows us to see the figure, but at the same time, if feels very abstracted and calls to question the meaning of the work.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Jessica Kolkmeier reviews Gillian Wearing

Wearing's work, I think, would draw anyone's attention due to the sheer extreme nature of her process. Each photo in her Album series portrays Gillian herself, under a waxy, almost disturbing realistic mask of each of her closest members. With the help of these masks, appropriate backdrop, specific clothing and styling, she is able to transform herself into the likeness of each person. This technique literally brings "take a walk (or photo) in someone else's shoes" to life. Personally, it's interesting to me because seeing old photos of my parents always makes me wonder what I would've been like in that era, as well as draw fantasies of what they were like. Often I've tried to imagine their past lives as mine, and this project really brings that idea forward. In a statement, she mentions that she purposely chose younger versions of her parents so that they seem unaffected by life's pressures that come later on. Seeing as Wearing herself was young at the time of each photo, further meshes her life with that of each person she is portraying.

Jessica Kolkmeier reviews Hellen Van Meene

Hellen Van Meene's work attracted me because it's almost the opposite of what I've always gone for. Her portraiture subjects are adolescent, puberty stricken boys and girls, unsure of how to act in front of the camera. While some seem uncomfortable and certainly out of place in a fine art photograph, others just seem unaware, innocently posing for Van Meene as if it's a school project. The lighting varies in each photo, some inside and some outside, though she always utilizes soft natural light. When I views these photos, tension is the first thing that comes to mind. However, as you realize the nature of the subjects, you almost get a sense of empathy, and remember the struggles that come with such a transformative age.


            Photographer, Leslie Hall Brown discusses a controversial subject matter in her series, Not My President. Although, not particularly involved in politics, like many others, and myself, Brown used this series as a response and therapeutic measure. Not planning to share this series, in doing so Brown was invited into a community with shared beliefs and frustration over the current political power. This process showed Brown the power of art to unite the public and hopefully change it. Essentially, Brown digitally manipulates found photographs of Donald Trump and creates surreal imagery often seen in her work including images of Nazi soldiers, other political figures and animals. Additionally, text is another important aspect to this work in plainly sharing opinions. Not My President is somewhat a game of eye spy, locating the imagery and text, using context and concluding Brown and much of the population’s commentary. Clearly Brown’s work is commenting on Donald Trump’s presidency, as a political figure and as a person. This series makes numerous comments such as Trump’s immaturity, his lack or morals, narcissism and so on. The images are ordered specifically in the order they were made to act as a timeline of his presidency. While at first appearing humorous, the commentary is rather serious.

Friday, February 23, 2018


            Marcus DeSieno works mainly in the darkroom with alternative processes seen in his series Parasites in which he uses a dry plate method. DeSieno points out that with these processes, it differs each time and individual characteristics appear such as his fingerprints. Using science, DeSieno also combines this interest with the invisible to create works that challenge his fears (being a germaphob). In this specific series, DeSieno obtained contacts with laboratories, to shoot a variety of parasites. Although they appear large, the image is actually a micro shoot of these specimens. Fusing new imaging systems and old photographic processes, DeSieno uses the Scanning Electron Microscope to create the notion these specimens are larger than they before exposing it on a dry plate. Further, he exposes on a dry plate to avoid the coldness of a microscope image. The combination of the parasites as subjects and the photographic process of a dry plate are fitting in that the background of the images have a filmy substance from the chemicals that act as the “juice” from which the specimens could derive from. The way in which DeSieno positions these specimens gives them a sense of character and gives them life, although they are not and still forms. Overall, DeSieno uses science including alternative processes and microscopes to create his series.