Karen Kasmauski: A Born Observer

Karen Kasmauski came to our IRIS Nights lecture last night and explained to us why she does what she does. "I was born an observer," she told those in attendance. An observer, yes, but also a storyteller.

While trying to figure out what she wanted to do with her life, she said that she settled on photography as a way to tell stories. The former newspaper photojournalist's only formal training in the field was what she describes as a life-long thirst to learn more about other people's lives.

In college, a palm reader predicted Karen would pursue a career in medicine. Obviously, that prediction didn't come true.

Still, maybe that palm reader was on to something. Over the course of her career, Karen has done several stories on health and medicine.

It was these stories that placed in her in some of the greatest danger. During one story about radiation, she was unknowingly contaminated with radiation after eating reindeer and moose meat from Sweden that was contaminated from the Chernobyl disaster.

Karen shared the story behind an amazing image of a survivor from the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. During the shoot, this man, who was severely burned, asked her if she would be interested in seeing the charred and tattered jacket he was wearing on the day the bomb was dropped. She responded with a resounding "yes!" What a profound story in a simple yet powerful image.

Not only were Karen's many colleagues in attendance during last night's IRIS Nights lecture but so was her family. Here she is with her proud husband and daughter.

Great job, Karen! We can't wait to hear more of your observations in the future!

Click here to watch Karen's IRIS Nights lecture online. For more information about Karen, visit her official Website.

(All images by Unique for the Space)

Photo Link Round Up

Check out what is happening in the photography world this week!

1. In honor of Kodak's ten year anniversary of its first digital zoom camera,

DC Views has compared elements of photography from when it was a 'digital science' to the 'easy sharing' aspect of today.

2. In a timely web 'service' offering Military personnel are remembering their time in service with photo books offered specially by the Military Yearbook Printing Company....but sometimes uploading pictures to a website can be extremely complicated.

3. Hollywood photographer David Strick is suing the Los Angeles Times for illegally publishing 174 of his photos.

The law suit could potentially cost $150,000 for each infringement, and there are 510 alleged violations!

4. When David Strick seemed to deliver too many photos, wedding photographer Gerald Randolph Byrd didn't deliver enough.

In fact Byrd refused to hand over the photos and is now serving two years of house arrest for fraudulent intent. The original sentence was eight years in prison.

5. But on a lighter note National Geographic has announced the "Best Travel Pictures of 2011" and they are incredible.
Photograph by Robin Moore

Click here to check them out.

Photograph by Becky Kagan Schott

We hope you have fun surfing the web for more photography updates!

Neil Leifer returns...this time it's personal!

He came back! Yes that's right...Neil Leifer returned to our Space and gave an unprecedented 2nd IRIS Nights lecture!

(photo © Damon Webster)

Neil is truly a one-of-a-kind photographer. His one-of-a-kind work is on display at the Space through March 14. Don't miss it if you haven't seen it yet! Neil's so "one-of-a-kind" that we asked him to come back and offer a second lecture.

I love this pic...so Hitchcock!

Neil's lecture was an all new look at the subject of Football - the images coming from his insta-classic Taschen book "Guts & Glory: Golden Age of American Football," which he was very happy to show and tell us about.

If you have never had the opportunity to hear Neil Leifer speak you have to add this to your bucket list. His funny, fact-filled forays into the history of modern sports are truly unique.

Of course every good Neil Leifer lecture starts with ... well ... NEIL!...and no one can talk about the brash young teenage photographer breaking onto the scene like Neil can. Here he is facing off with his own history:

(photo © Damon Webster)

...and here he's consulting his current favorite authority on the subject...

As always, his images are historic, innovative and - at times - humorous!

Does ANYONE remember when football cheerleaders looked like this?

Amazing. For a man who has witnessed and participated in over 5 decades of sports history,

...Neil remains ever-grateful, ever-enthusiastic, ever-engaging and ever-entertaining about his life.

Thank you once again Mr. Leifer for another wonderful night!

(All photos © Unique for the Space except where noted)

Brian L. Frank and our rivers

Wearing his signature baseball cap, Brian L. Frank, POYi award winning photographer whose work is prominently featured in this exhibition's digital video, gave an awesome lecture at the Space on Thursday.

Brian covered his current portfolio as well as images of the Colorado River that brought him international success as POYi's Global Visionary Award recipient. Brian spoke at length about his inspirations, including the WPA photographs of the country during the depression.

Brian's tip for success was as simple and clear as his personal presentation... respect the story and respect the voice of the subject regardless of how unpopular the point of view is.

Understanding the perspective of the subject is critical to the success of the image and the impact it has.

Brian shared some of his current multimedia projects as well as his thoughts on the industry's use of audio still projects and how it can be improved.

Witty and all too charming, Brian's ability to establish genuine relationships with his subjects was evident in his ease of establishing a relationship with those of use who gathered to hear him speak and see his images. His down-to-earth connection with his subjects and the environment he captures has produced some of the most remarkable images of Mexico City and its people we've ever seen.

He even demonstrated his ability to establish ease with his subject on a few of our attending guests!

Thank you Brian L. Frank...you are a humble inspiration.

(PS On July 23 Brian appeared on NPR's discussing his photo essay "Death of the Colorado" - very cool!)

(All Photos © 2010 Unique for the Space)

George Steinmetz Documents The World From The Sky

Those of you who suffer from acrophobia may want to proceed with caution while reading the rest of this blog post. That's because the breathtaking images of the world's deserts you're about to see have been taken by last night's IRIS Nights lecturer, photographer George Steinmetz, from high up in the sky...

...on board his own motorized para-glider!

As George explained to the audience, for him to really understand the desert, he needed to get high above the ground. His para-glider is lightest powered aircraft in the world.

His method of photography is certainly not all that safe. He shared a photo of himself that showed injuries he'd received when his glider once crashed during take-off in China. Several busted teeth and 17 stitches didn't stop him from getting back into the pilot's seat!

George told the audience that he has always been a very curious man. The camera is his excuse to explore the world and share his knowledge with the rest of the world.

Don't just think that the deserts are located in hot climates. George gave us all a geography lesson by reminding us that Antarctica, which he has beautifully documented with his own camera, is the largest and driest desert on the planet!

Stropping by to hear George's lecture was his friend Art Streiber, a very talented photographer in his own right.

But George's most important visitor last night was his own mother who watched him with great pride throughout the entire lecture.

Congrats on a great talk, George! Fly safely!

Click here to watch George's IRIS Nights lecture online. For more information about him, visit his official website.

(All images by Unique for the Space)

Nikki Sixx Rocks The Space

A bona fide rock star lecturer, Mötley Crüe bass guitarist NIkki Sixx, rocked IRIS Nights last night! Some people may not be aware but bass guitar isn't the only instrument Nikki takes seriously - cameras also play a large role in his life.

Visitors lined up outside of the Space well before doors opened at 6pm.

Joining Nikki for this lecture was journalist and author Kristine McKenna. The long-time Los Angeles music writer did a stellar job picking Nikki's brain about his photography in a revealing and candid discussion.

Nikki told Kristine that he has been photographing for over 30 years but started to take it more seriously in 1989. Quite impressively, he's completely self-taught in the medium.

Nikki told a poignant story about the Coney Island clown in this photo. He told Nikki said that most people took his picture because he was a "freak" but felt that this image captured his outer beauty.

Nikki doesn't believe beauty is only defined in the pages of People magazine's "100 Most Beautiful People" issue. He reiterated throughout the talk that beauty is everywhere: "being an individual is so rewarding."

Here's a recent photo taken by Nikki of a female teenage fan paying homage to the rock star by replicating one of his looks from the 1980s. Check out a photo of vintage Nikki here.

Kristine asked Nikki about the kind of cameras he uses in his photography and he revealed that he uses everything from Holgas to Leicas. But he stressed that it doesn't matter what kind of camera you use to take pictures. Use the best tool in your hand to capture the moment!

Nikki takes loads of self portraits. Why? According to him it's simply because no one else is ever around!

While Nikki said he doesn't feel ready to publicly exhibit his photos quite yet (he'd like to first nail down a theme), we can't wait until the time comes.

Nikki's girlfriend, model Courtney Bingham, was also in the audience. As his muse of sorts, Nikki said that she has inspired him to start to dabble in fashion photography.

Annenberg Foundation executive director Leonard Aube stopped by for a post-lecture chat.

Nikki couldn't resist adding his own answer to the white board question about beauty and age located in our workshop area.

Nikki showed us tonight that not only is he a rock star in the music world but a rock star photographer as well! Thank you Nikki and Kristine for an awesome night!

For more information about Nikki's photography, visit his tumblr site.

(All lecture images by Unique for the Space)

Jimmy Chin is TOO Nice!

Jimmy Chin came to the Space to offer an IRIS Nights Lecture about his unique form of sports photography. What's so unusual about Jimmy's work you might ask? First of all he comes off as the nicest most unassuming guy you could ever meet.

He's almost cartoon character cute with an ever-present smile and a talent for understatement that would be hard to beat.

You would never guess by looking at him that he has climbed to the top of Mt. Everest a few times...and skied down from the top! Yes - this is him dutifully recording his friends walking across a ridge so that they could get to the best face to ski down. That little thing popping up from the ridge all the way to the right is a human being.

Jimmy said "we encountered a few minor obstacles getting across..." which meant that they had to rappel down one side of a gap in the ridge more than 40 feet until they could get the right angle to SWING to the other side of the gap - AT 28,000+ FEET!!!! - where they could keep creeping along until they got to this side:

Then they skied down at a descent angle of more than 50 degrees.

The whole time he described this as is it were the most normal thing in the world. Or should I say the most normal thing at the TOP of the world.

And here's an intimate little portrait of the top of the world. The weather gets a little weird 5 miles up - who knew?

Can you tell what this is? Sure! Just a person walking across some rickety ladders strapped to each other to form a rickety bridge that I wouldn't walk across at 10 feet no less 28,000.

But THAT is what these crazy mountain people do!


A couple of Jimmy's mountain goat friends came to lecture to show support, including Emile Hirsch. Back in January Jimmy led a weeklong all-star Summit on the Summit expedition up Mount Kilimanjaro to bring awareness to the climate summit. Emile joined as did Jessica Biel, Lupe Fiasco, Isabel Lucas and Elizabeth Gore.

That kind of activism takes dedication.


Emile was kind enough to pose afterwards with his mountain mentor Jimmy.

So that was what Jimmy and Emile did on their Winter vacation...while I caught up on my Tivo'd episodes of Heroes.

Kate Orne - "May You Never Be Uncovered"


Kate Orne - our 48th IRIS Nights lecturer - came to the Space to share her research on victims of the Pakistan sex trade. For over four years Kate has been documenting this dark demimonde and its oppressed population.

Kate's collection of images represents a fragile and honest portrayal of the women and girls living in Pakistan's brothels. Her work is the result of developing long term friendships, trust relationships and complete, non-judgmental acceptance between her and her subjects.

Kate's presentation was frank, direct and - surprisingly - humorous! A highlight from the Q&A was Orne saying, in reply to how Pakistani men resolve being Muslim and going to prostitutes: "there is something stronger than religion, and that is SEX! Everyone wants to get laid!"

But going beyond the humor, Kate expressed a powerful personal passion and eagerness to resolve a history of abuse where women are forced into sex trade - and yet she also demonstrated a gentle and compassionate tone discussing these victims who continue to work the sex trade without force.

Kate encourages those interested in learning more to visit her website. To protect the identity of the subjects photographed, the images shown during the presentation will not be posted online.

(All images © Unique for the Space)

Mark Moffett And His Adventures Among Ants

One of the featured photographers in "Extreme Exposure", Nick Nichols, has been rightfully nick-named "The Indiana Jones of Photography," so it's only natural that we include the so-called "Indiana Jones of Entomology" as part of the exhibit's IRIS Nights lecture series. Mark Moffett has been photographing ants and other insects for the magazine for years.

During his lecture last night, Mark delivered what could be described as a science and photography lesson - one with his characteristic flair for engaging and intelligent humor. He had the audience in stitches!

The Space is just one of the many places in which Mark regularly finds himself speaking in front of a large audience. He lectures to thousands of people across the country and has even appeared on The Colbert Report and Conan O'Brien's show. That's certainly no ant-sized audience!

Mark's sense of humor mixed with education kept those in attendance roaring with laughter throughout the entire lecture. His story of how he once photographed a frog boogie down (a la a disco-era John Travolta) led to a re-enactment of the dance for the entire audience! For more about that particular story, read this piece about his lecture on The Huffington Post.

After his presentation, Mark signed copies of his book, Adventures Among Ants. The book as entertaining to read as it is hearing him speak. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy for yourself.

Here's a nice shot of Mark with his partner in life, his wife Melissa Wells. Check out some gorgeous pictures from their unorthodox and charming wedding on Easter Island here.

Watch the first few minutes of Mark's IRIS Nights lecture here and learn more about him at his appropriately named site, doctorbugs.com.

(All images by Unique for the Space)

Announcing Our 100th IRIS Nights Lecture!

Hard to believe that we've almost made it to the big 100 considering we're still only 2 1/2 years old!

We couldn't be more excited that we're thisclose to celebrating our 100th IRIS Nights lecture. The momentous occasion takes place later this month on when David Fahey and Mark McKenna take the stage to discuss the life and body of work of Herb Ritts.

No need to wait until the week before to secure tickets. We're giving them away now and up until a couple of days before the lecture on September 29th. In order to win tickets you must participate in our IRIS Nights trivia contest, running on our Facebook page ("like" us here if you haven't already). We'll publish trivia questions about past IRIS Nights photographers on that page. The first person to respond with the correct answer in the comments wins a pair of tickets to the lecture on September 29th. Now is a great time to brush up on your IRIS Nights knowledge!

Thanks to all of you for making IRIS Nights the big success that it is each and every Thursday night! We couldn't have made it to 100 without you!

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