Kitra Cahana - Mature Work From A Young Photojournalist

Yesterday we were host to Kitra Cahana, the photographer whose powerful portraits of nomadic youth became our street banners for the current exhibit "The Year".

We all have Kitra Cahana's father to thank for encouraging her interest in photography starting at a very young age. Last night, Kitra described to the audience at IRIS Nights how, as a young teen, he would ask her to capture her emotions with a camera.

Amazingly, Kitra's never had any kind of formal training in photography - going out and photographing the world was her only education in the medium. Talk about being born with a keen eye!

Kitra's professional career began at the very young age of 17 when one of her photographs covering the Israeli Disengagement of Gaza made the front page of the New York Times. A few years later, she would go from the pages of the Times to their physical offices where she ended up as an intern with the paper.

One advantage of photodocumenting dangerous conflicts in places like Gaza and the Congo at a young age, is that you may not realize how much your life is in jeopardy while in these situations.

Kitra revealed that the danger aspect of the job never crosses her mind! This kind of wide-eyed invincibility might be what helps Kitra produce such riveting pictures from around the globe.

In attendance were several members of the Rainbow Family, whom she featured in her popular Rainbowland series.

It's nice to see that she's remained friendly with some of her photo subjects!

Kitra's talents don't lie exclusively in photography. During the lecture, she read some of her own poems inspired by and created from her still images.

Kitra explained that she uses poetry to create a more comprehensive body of work and intends to continue to explore the marriage of different artistic mediums in future projects.

Such great insight into the mind of an incredible natural. And to think, Kitra still has many more decades of work ahead of her!

Can't wait to see more!

For more information about Kitra and her projects, visit her official Website.

(All images © Unique for the Space - except iPhone photo of the Street Banners)

Susan Anderson's Illusion of Womanhood

Susan Anderson, an internationally known photographer and expert on the High Glitz culture of child pageantry, recently gave us her take on the industry at our Iris Nights Lecture.

Although she abstained from giving any formal opinion on the controversial subject of beauty contests, she did claim that this is not a new issue we are dealing with. Anderson put on the screen a classical painting of Aphrodite and the golden apple and posed the question, "could this have been the first beauty pageant?"

Her question was meant to explain that society has always idealized women and we have always been fascinated with the fairy tale ending.  The fake eyelashes, the artificial tans, the thousand dollar hair dos, and the sparkly dresses all play into a preexisting culture that we are all partially responsible for creating.

Anderson admits that the most popular responses to her work are either to moralize or to laugh.  But she offers a different response: to just present.  She suggests that the little girls collaborate with her, that they have fun with it and it is their way to act, play a role and take a reality and make it their own.

She offers and interesting perspective because from where she stands it is simply art, it is fascinating and it is visually stunning.

To see more of Susan Anderson's work click here

Henry Rollins Rocks IRIS Nights

It was an honor to have Henry Rollins take part in IRIS Nights last night. Rollins spoke about his travels around the globe and the photographs he took of the different people and cultures during those trips. The Photography Space was packed - standing room only! One of those in the crowd was featured photographer, Ed Colver, whose photo of Rollins greets visitors as on an oversized layover on the front door of our building.

Rollins, Colver, and his giant image of the rocker on the door in the same place at the same time? That's a rare moment so there was only one thing we could do: post-lecture, we had Rollins and Colver pose in front of the door and we got the cool shot above!

We'll have Rollins' lecture on our site soon and Colver himself will take the IRIS Nights stage in September.

Photo by Unique Nicole for the Space.

Balazs Gardi returns to the Space

POYi winner Balazs Gardi, who was one of the featured photographers in the 66th POYi Exhibit last year, returned to the Space to present an insightful and heartfelt lecture on marginalized communities facing water crisis.

Balazs, whose works are mostly independent, started his presentation with his images documenting conflict situations in Afghanistan. His presentation also covered communities experiencing water related crisis in Australia, Dubai and even Las Vegas.

Balazs is known for using photography as a base but layering it in way that reaches out to people. His unique presentation was a multimedia feature that included audio, still images and motion graphics.

At the end of the lecture, Balazs shared his views on modern social utilities, such as Twitter, as an independent voice and alternative to traditional media outlets. Social media is a new way for like minded people to share experiences on water related issues that won't appear in traditional media sources.

The lecture was followed by some very pointed and interesting questions from the audience, fielded by an unflappable Balazs.

Despite the gravity of the discussion, the lecture was well balanced with fear, hope and even some humor.

One question in particular focused on the frustration of solving the problem of water crisis and whether an actual solution exists.

Balazs answered very adamantly with "I think every problem has an answer to it...

...I am a very optimistic person with a lot of cynicism."

(All Photos © Unique for the Space)

IRIS Nights Proudly Hosts Katie Falkenberg's First Lecture

We first met Katie Falkenberg during last year's POYi exhibit when her "Sugarcane Worker" portrait had just been honored by the acclaimed photojournalism contest. Her work is featured again in the current exhibit and this time she made sure to come out and speak at IRIS Nights. You wouldn't know it based on how at ease she was in front of the audience, but last night's IRIS Nights talk was the first time Katie had ever given a lecture. What a natural! She displayed an immensely charming presence and a warm smile that captivated the audience the entire evening. Katie divided her lecture into two halves, dedicating each part to a specific photography project. The first half focused on her series of photographs about domestic violence in Pakistan titled "In The Name of Honor." Shockingly, 70-90% of women in Pakistan are victims of domestic violence and Katie's moving images helped shed light on their stories.  Her series "Mountaintop Removal" tells of the drastic effects Mountaintop coal mining has on certain communities in Kentucky. At the end of the evening, a still smiling Katie shared more about her work by graciously spending time answering questions from those who came out to hear her speak. We're honored to have hosted your first lecture, Katie. You did a great job! We hope to see you speak again at the Space very soon! For more information about Katie visit <a data-cke-saved-href="http://www.katiefalkenbergphotography.com/" href="http://www.katiefalkenbergphotography.com/" "target="_blank">her official Website. (All images by Unique for the Space)

Story Time with Mark Laita

It was my first week on the job interning for the Annenberg Foundation and already I was sent to cover one of our IRIS Nights lectures, a favorite among dedicated fans.

That night Mark Laita spoke about his new photobook, Created Equal, a collection of black and white photo diptychs contrasting the portraits of everyday Americans by putting, for example, a picture of Baptist minister next to members of the Ku Klux Klan or nuns next to prostitutes. The inspiration for the project is incredible: Laita left behind his polished life in the advertising world to find the real America he grew up with, the one he wanted to make sure the world would never forget.

But what stuck out to me was not necessarily his professional or captivating photos (which are absolutely incredible) but the way he engaged us in the process.  I found myself leaning forward, completely engrossed in every word, waiting on the edge of my seat for the next description of the photo pair.

His tales of having breakfast with the Hell's Angels, coercing an Amish man into being photographed or becoming best buds with some weed farmers had me and the rest of the audience rolling in laughter. It felt like you were getting to know his subjects personally and the portraits became more than pictures, they were real life people who were living in the same country as myself.   But that was the point.  He wanted to elevate the raw and rugged America to a place of glamor and importance.

"I was trying to find hidden gems that are normally overlooked," said Laita during his presentation, "It's not about finding these grand/great people, it's about finding the ordinary people and making them look great."

Later someone from the audience asked him what statement he was trying to make with comparing nuns to prostitutes.  Laita just smiled and said he meant to pass no judgment; he simply wanted to ask the question, "How then can two girls grow up in the same county and have two completely different fates?"

And from where I was sitting it was mission accomplished for every picture I saw I asked myself the same question. There are two men who look strikingly similar and I asked myself so how is it that one became a CEO and the other a janitor?   

Learn more about Mark on his official website.

(All lecture images by Unique for the Space)

Spotted at the Space: Ted Danson & Mary Steenburgen

Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen stopped by the Space last night to take in last night's IRIS Nights lecture, which was presented by their pal (and featured Who Shot Rock & Roll photographer) Guy Webster. Look for his lecture to be added to our past lecture videos page in the very near future!

Photo by Unique Nicole for the Space

"Burden of Thirst" with Lynn Johnson and special guest Jim Thebaut

Lynn Johnson, one of the featured photographers in our current exhibition, WATER: Our Thirsty World, was joined at the Space on Thursday by documentary filmmaker, Jim Thebaut.

The two environmental activists delivered a moving recount of the water crisis that included a blend of powerful imagery and stories of local heroes who act for change in their communities.

For what she describes as one of the most meaningful photographic works of her life, Lynn traveled on assignment for National Geographic to Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia to learn and document the stories of women and children and their struggle to gather water.

To find these stories, National Geographic partnered with WaterAid, an NGO nestled in the community - that has helped to implement responsible and sustainable solutions to overcome the crisis in these areas.

With the help of WaterAid, water committees made up of local constituents including women, have been established providing women the resources and education to organize and manage water and sanitation facilities.

Lynn's images depict the burden of water and the burden of violence as a connected conflict facing all women in these communities-

the sickness and disease experienced due to contaminated water and lack of hygiene education,

...inadequate human waste disposals due to water inaccessibility,

...and sexual violence and physical abuse due to long distance travels to find safe water.

While Lynn and Jim's lecture focused on the challenges of the water crisis,

it delivers a message of how individuals can create change with global impact right from their very own back yards.

To learn more about how you can create change visit WaterAid.com.

Francine Orr: The Listening Comes First

This is what Francine Orr revealed early on in her IRIS Nights talk: "photojournalism is my passion." The LA Times photographer showed just how much she cares about the people she photographs by giving an awfully touching and moving lecture.

The first series of photographs in Francine's presentation focused on her documentation of people in Africa who live on just pennies a day. She told the audience that she had a hard time talking to people suffering from poverty but spoke to them anyway due to a strong urge to tell their stories.

Francine spent a bit of time talking about one photo in particular, that of a wide-eyed African woman named Margaret who was dying of HIV.

She described the moment she convinced Margaret's children to allow her to photograph their mother. She told them that the haunting image would tell the world her story and in turn this would help others.

Francine uttered several fervent soundbites during the lecture. One of our favorites was "Poverty sucks!"

Orr has spent a large amount of her career ensconced in dangerous places all over the world. She recounted one story about a time when she was in Africa and suspected her "fixer," the man she hired to protect/translate for her, planned to rob her of her expensive camera equipment.

She remembered how she'd been told by others in her field to go with her instincts. One morning, she wisely ditched him and went out on her own for the rest of her trip.

Francine also went into detail about how she befriended several homeless people she documented who live under the 7th Street Bridge in LA.

During the presentation of her final slideshow, Francine held a brave 7-month old baby boy who is the subject of a story to be published in an upcoming edition of the LA Times - a truly touching moment. That night he became the youngest person to go up on our IRIS Nights stage!

When asked by an audience member if she records interviews with her subjects before she starts photographing them, or shoots them first and then interviews them, Orr responded that's it's neither. For her, the listening comes first. When dealing with a story, she says, "the number one thing I try to do is listen." Quite a statement for a photographer.

Her two years working for the Peace Corps, on the island of Yap in Micronesia, was where she said she really learned to listen. She taught in a school there with no electricity, no outside communication except for visiting documentary film crews and anthropologists. Gathering around oil lanterns at night the Yapese people would share stories with her and each other...with not a single distraction. One of her former students from Yap - now living in the US - recently found her on Facebook and came to the lecture with a sister in tow!

Thanks, Francine, for sharing such moving and inspiring stories. We hope to hear more of them in the future!

For more information about Francine visit her upcoming official Website.

We at the Space are very excited to bring you videos of IRIS Nights lectures in a more timely manner. Click here to watch Francine's lecture online!

(All images by Unique for the Space)

Make Me Beautiful


Matthew Rolston, an icon in fashion photography, came to entertain us at the IRIS Nights lecture yesterday. He also brought his long time friend, journalist Merle Ginsberg. Her questions and insight into Matthew's work helped reveal exciting information about his unique body of work.

Rolston confessed that he didn't see himself as simply a photographer or director but rather an 'idea' person, wanting to extend his talents into all areas of the creative world.

Rolston also explained his process of creation as collaborative and told stories of working with Anna Nicole Smith or Christina Aguilera. Aguilera actually came to him a year in advance in order to plan a photo idea for her upcoming album release.


Rolston then provided insight to his role in the industry and his vision for expanding the cannon of beauty. "For me photography is worship." said Rolston, "Human desire is about genetics - survival. The things we consider to be beautiful...go to the core of survival."

In a surprise turn of events the two guest speakers invited the entire audience to join them in a drink, outside on the plaza at our first IRIS Nights complimentary cocktail party.

Needless to say it was a glamorous night out with the Annenberg Foundation and two hundred of Rolston's closest brand new friends

Thank you Mr. Rolston for a lovely evening.

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