Renee Byer: A Photographer's Journey

Last night, Renee Byer took the stage at our IRIS Nights to discuss photos that ranged in topics from the economy to prostitution to serious illness. Renee had a refreshingly down-to-earth personality and a strong desire to enlighten as many people as possible about these subjects... subjects which she clearly feels very strongly about.

The first series of photos she presented focused on the difficulties faced by those affected by unemployment in California.

Included in this collection is a photo (above) of California Governor Arnold Schwazenegger, who found himself stuck in the middle of the state's job crisis. Renee has photographed him several times and found him to be someone who really wanted to make a difference in the state. She described how she loves this picture primarily due to the tension seen in his hands.

Renee shifted her talk to people in Ghana who, though they had jobs, were forced to work in a toxic environment at an e-waste recycling facility. She told us how she became fascinated with one girl there who suffered from malaria. The girl, no doubt sensing Renee's warmth and compassion, wanted to come back home with her.

One of the most heart-breaking moments of the night came when Renee discussed a series of photos devoted to a brothel in Bangladesh that employed young girls, many of whom had no other choice but to enter the oldest profession. Renee confessed that if she won the lottery tomorrow, she would return to the South Asian country and free all of them. After listening to her speak, there's no doubt in our minds that she would!

Renee explained that the visual presentation for her Pulitzer Prize-winning series "A Mother's Journey" typically runs an hour but she managed to squeeze in an abbreviated version for IRIS Nights. The edit didn't reduce the impact of the powerful images of a mother and her 11-year-old son as the two coped with his fight with terminal cancer.

Renee was obviously very moved by her year-long, intimate documentation of Cyndie and Derek. Cyndie told Renee that she can't imagine living without the above photograph that captured a very tender moment between her and her son.

She also showed a sweet picture where the two shared a rare smiling moment together which seemed to touch everyone in the audience.

During the Q & A, Renee was asked the requisite question about when she first sound herself interested in photography. Apparently, it all started when Renee, as child, shot "little teeny people" on the street from the top of the Statue of Liberty, with a brownie camera her parents had given her.

Through her wonderful photography, this warm, cheerful and talented woman now gets to tell stories about all kinds of people (not just the "teeny" ones) from around the world. Sounds to us like she's already won the lottery!

Click here to watch Renee's lecture online!

(All images by Unique for the Space)

Viewfinder

We have heard a lot of great chatter amongst our Annenberg Space for Photography attendees. After compiling some quotes, listening to what visitors thought about the Space and our lecturers, here is what they had to say:

The Andrew Southam lecture

"Loved it! It was so nice to listen to someone talk about art and communicate it so well... instead of just telling stories he got into how he did it and why." "I love the space. It is such a dream for photographers to not have to pay a lot to see such wonderful photos. I need to come and spend a couple hours here."
(Amy Cantrell, photographer, attending 2nd IRIS Nights lecture)


"It was really inspiring. I loved that he was so real about everything."
(Madison Enloe, aspiring photographer, attending her 2nd IRIS Nights lecture)

"[The Space] is an extraordinary gift to LA for both professional photographers and non-photographers. It allows them to interact. We are really gifted to have Annenberg here. Everything is really on the mark."
(Chad Slattery, regular attendee)


"I loved it! I am a non-photographer, unlike my husband. But that is the gift. There are a range of subjects and you don't have to be a photographer to love it - just a human being."
(Donna Lee Slattery, non-photographer, regular attendee)

The next time you're here tell Viewfinder what you think.

The Unpredictable World Of Celebrity Photography


© Tony Duran

By Tony Duran

What is so interesting about the world of celebrity photography is that it is so unpredictable and, quite frankly, out of the photographer's control.  My photographic style developed by shooting all kinds of celebrities in all kinds of situations.  My main partner in crime and collaborator who has given me,  without doubt, most of my tools of the trade, is Jennifer Lopez. Spontaneity, of the moment decision-making, and flexibility are the keys to capturing her larger than life persona.  Confidence in one's self as an artist has gotten me through many over the top moments and has brought me to what has ultimately led me to many memorable and iconic shots.

This shot was taken in 2002 for Jennifer’s album packaging shoot for her album, This Is Me…Then.  It was shot at the height of her romance with Ben Affleck and during all of the craziness that surrounded "Bennifer".  Jennifer's career was at a peak in all ways. I wanted the shoot to reflect what it was like to be Jennifer at that time.  My job for this two day shoot was to capture the fashion moments, the personal moments as well as the behind-the-scenes moments, all of which, were later to be included into the album packaging. I was also hired to shoot the behind-the-scenes of the making of  the “Jenny on the Block" music video..  Needless to say there was a lot to do in just a few days.  We were also shooting other magazine covers at the same time as the album shoot. It was all about managing time and being on point - very much like a sporting event.

The shot of Jennifer exiting the Bentley was an idea that Benny Medina, Jennifer's manager had at the end of the first day of the shoot.  It was shot after 10 pm and was all VERY last minute. What looks like a crowd of paparazzi are actually everyday people we recruited off of the street in New York City. We grabbed anyone we could and handed them our own equipment – all to the GREAT dismay of my first assistant, who already had a heart attack from setting up lights for an unknown shot in an entry of a hotel, in the middle of the night, in a matter of minutes.  Jennifer thought the shoot had wrapped and didn't even know the shot was going to happen.  

So at the last minute, we told her, throw on a fur coat and head down to the lobby.  She walked out the front door to see all these crazy people snapping shots and crawling on the prized Bentley.  I watched as the record label creative director practically have an aneurism! Without missing a beat, an already exhausted Jennifer simply walked to the car and immediately got into character.  And in usual form, I just shot as fast as I could capturing all of the timeless moments happening in front of me.  With Jennifer and I don't even have to speak. For the two of us, working together is like a quiet surgery in the midst of complete chaos- just a point of my finger or a look in my eye is enough to direct her into the shot.

Within minutes the shoot was over and as simply as she sauntered into the luxury car, she slid right out and walked directly to the street where her actual car was waiting to take her to the helicopter pad in Midtown so she could fly to Philadelphia to see Ben. I followed her all the way to the port with my camera with the only glitch being we had to stop the limo in order for me to get car sick because the whole time I was facing backward shooting.  All of this nuttiness to only return first thing in the morning to New York to continue the shoot.  We started our day with the front page of the New York Post showing us shooting in the carport of the hotel stating it was something completely different than it was. So typical in Jennifer's life, but kinda hysterical in the scheme of the shoot!

Tony Duran has shot for a plethora of magazines culminating in iconic photographic relationships with superstars Jennifer Lopez, Beyoncé, Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt to name just a very few. His Iris Nights lecture will take place on Thursday, July 11th, 2013 at 6:30pm.

He Shoots - He Scores! Leifer knocks it out of the park! (add in your sport metaphor)

Neil Leifer, Thursday, January 7 - © Unique for the Space
Neil Leifer kicked off 2010 with our first IRIS Nights lecture of the New Year and boy did he just raise the bar!

We had such an amazing turnout that we actually had to turn a few people away (we're SORRY!)... over 250 people filled our digital gallery AND our workshop area. Neil - always the prepared professional - was at the Space early to run through his slides and do an interview with KCAL (which they will be running on Super Bowl Sunday of course). He also took the time to chat in our Reading Room with one of our previous esteemed lecturers, David Hume Kennerly.

David Hume Kennerly and Neil Leifer at the Photography Space

Also in the house for Neil was recent lecturer Howard Schatz:
Howard Schatz at Neil Leifer's Lecture

Neil was so prepared he brought his own introduction, narrated by Alec Baldwin(!). He watched with great joy as Alec, Sly Stallone and numerous luminaries sang his praises before he even reached the podium. Neil Leifer waiting in the wings

Once he took 'the stage' we sat rapt, listening to the master regale us with tales of how a hard-scrabble hobbyist kid (yes that's him in the picture below!)

Neil Leifer at the Space for IRIS Nights Lecture

...became the youngest photographer to grab the cover of Sports Illustrated. Neil's a natural storyteller and a huge fan of his subjects...whether it's Muhammad Ali...

Leifer's images of Ali at the Space
...or it's Fidel Castro!

Leifer with Castro and Leifer

Neil peppered his lecture with threats to reveal the score of the Texas/Alabama BCS Championship game being played in Pasadena during the lecture, but he was loudly overruled by our guests who didn't want the surprise ruined.
Neil threatening to reveal the score

Whether you were a sports fan, a photography buff, a history nut or an A-List photographer, Neil offered a highly entertaining evening...looking quite at home talking from our podium.

Neil Leifer at the podium

Afterwards, Schatz and Kennerly hung out for a while, chatting...
Howard Schatz and David Hume Kennerly

...while Neil settled comfortably in for a long line of book-buying fans...for whom he signed everything...books, postcards, napkins.

Neil Leifer, signing post-lecture
He was so comfortable, in fact, and the audience was so appreciative, that we're going to have him come back on February 13 for a special Saturday IRIS Nights lecture -completely new, unlike his first program.

What can we say? We love having Neil here and we're glad the feeling is mutual!
Neil Leifer

Dennis Dimick comes full circle back to the Space


Dennis Dimick returned for a fourth visit to our Space - this time to gave a special inside-edition lecture about National Geographic 's current magazine issue, "Water" and other environmentally-focused previous issues.

Dimick was National Geographic  magazine's representative who first brought the concept of the special Water issue to our board last year as a potential exhibit and partnership between National Geographic  magazine and the Annenberg Space for Photography. He told us that his original presentation was based on a feature story from 1992 that he edited for the magazine about the coming freshwater crisis. Prescient!

He came for a second visit once the Water issue was coming together with actual images from around the world to show to us ... and of course he was here a third time for our opening in March. Now he returned to discuss National Geographic  magazine's leadership in combining photojournalism with environmental issues to study our planet's fragile state.

As the executive editor in the area of environmental issues, it is clear that Dennis' dedication to these issues has brought National Geographic  well-deserved praise.

Along with a catalogue of some amazing photographs, he brought a surprising tone of practicality to the endless debate of going green and going greener - or as Dennis puts it, moving from competition to collaboration and learning to do better with the resources you already have. His inspiration, he said, was rooted in his own upbringing on a farm...

...and his own personal journey shifted - as did the journeys of many of us attending - when he first encountered the famous image of the Earth from space on the cover of the Whole Earth Catalog.

Covering some dense perspectives of our current environmental challenges, i.e., responsible disposal of electronic waste or recyclables, Dennis began the lecture with some personal inspirations that have led to his part in the creation of National Geographic 's stories.

Our growing population,

and the attendant rise in CO2 output,

the frightening reminders of our shrinking glaciers,

and the resulting climate changes that have brought about new flooding,

as well as new droughts,

and draining reservoirs.

It wasn't what I would call a feel-good lecture but it was amazingly clear, level-headed and informative. This is a testament to the clarity with which Dennis approaches the global view of our climate changes and water crises.

Dennis was cool enough to hang out after the lecture to answer questions and view photographic work of lecturer goers, including some large prints in 3D by photographer Stuart Sperling.

Thank you for coming back Dennis...

...your presence is always welcome here!

The LA Times Hearts The Space


Last month, The Los Angeles Times launched Framework, a top-notch photo blog we've fallen in love with. Not only are we big fans of the site but they're also big fans of the Space! They had nothing but nice things to say about the Space and our IRIS Nights lecture series: "The lectures are informative and entertaining and the space is spectacular — it simply engages you. In an odd way, I feel like I'm in an amazing home with the most incredible entertainment system and equally incredible photography in the hallways."

Thanks for the kind words and great blog! We're hooked!

Everything Is Beauty: Lecture With Fadil Berisha

What a treat it was to have fashion photographer Fadil Berisha present during our IRIS Nights lecture series yesterday evening.

Fadil has had a global influence throughout his career. He has not only worked with such figures as Tyra Banks, President Bill Clinton, Snoop Dogg and numerous Miss America contestants, but he also played an incredible role in campaigning against the Kosovo massacres.

During his presentation, Fadil explained that his work stems from a genuine love for beauty.

"Beauty is what I really love... I like to live happy and see pretty things all the time. With photographers it has to do with how they feel on the inside and that's what comes out on the photo," proclaimed Fadil during the lecture. "I love to feel happy."

Fadil took a moment during his lecture to speak about his experience photographing the horrific war in Kosovo. Since the topic wasn't related to beauty itself he placed his visual slideshow on pause because he felt it was important to take some time to talk about his experiences with the conflict.

About 10 years ago Albanian photographers contacted Fadil asking him to help promote their cause in the Kosovo war. He told the audience that the pictures they sent him changed his life. He then spent the next couple years raising money and campaigning for awareness. His work and the photos he took made an international impact and helped pressure the United States to get involved.

Fadil told the audience about his first time working with the stunning Carmen Dell'Orefice, the legend who was his inspiration for a Rolex campaign. He said he fell in love when he realized how she stayed young at heart and continued to exude beauty throughout her whole life.

Fadil also gave shout-outs to models Beverly Johnson and Nikki Haskell, who were both in attendance. He raved about how they each possessed that same confidence and beauty he found so alluring in Carmen.

Johnson took the microphone during the Q & A session but she didn't have a question for Fadil. Instead, she took the time to praise the photography by calling him "brilliant" and telling the audience she could not wait to work with him again.

Thanks for an outstanding lecture, Fadil! For more information about him, check out his official website. You can also watch his IRIS Nights lecture online.

(All lecture images by Unique)

TIM WALKER STORYTELLER: Fashion into Fairytales


Jonas Kesseler in blue spitfire, Glemham Hall, Suffolk, 2009

By Ruth Ansel

“For fashion photography to resonate, for people to believe in it, it has to be a real moment.” -- Tim Walker

The model-as-protagonist is the most vital component among the many that knit together to make a successful photograph says the photographic historian Robin Muir. She must in Walker’s words behave like a ‘silent movie actress’, who possesses a ‘sense of performance’. ‘You are persuading models to act; you try to show them where your inspiration comes from and hope that they understand it and relate to it. Then you all get lost in it…’ Tim Walker: Storyteller is a book about photographs that is made up of fictional narratives that turn fashion into fairy tales.Tim’s love of fashion as a means of realizing his dreams is all about telling a story. I believe every fashion shoot tells a story beyond the fashion. A story about a woman, a story about the time we live in, a story about longing and desire — in this instance a story about always seeing the world through the eyes of an irrepressible child. This process of reaching deep within his unconscious creates photographic magic. What Tim has is a simultaneous sense of elegance, wit, romance and daring. When you think all is light and sunny suddenly a surprisingly dark side emerges. A crying skeleton appears in a field of flowers with beautiful Malgosia Bela in a red wig. He conjours up all these moods with unerring intuive skill. One ingeniously crafted set after another appears in the midst of unlikely places. All this together with a ravishing palette of intensely saturated colors makes for a thrilling visual experience as the book unfolds from page to page.


Karlie Kloss on yellow brick road, Dior couture, East Sussex, 2010

In the last few years Tim has set out to explore a deliberate contrast between his subjects facing the lens in carefully arranged poses against simple backgrounds as opposed to his cinematic narratives. He is always sketching situations and scenes in his notebooks which soon come to life. He is able with a devoted team of makeup artists, painters, builders and stylists to realize his elaborate dreams– worthy of any great film director. What is amazing is that his sets are constructed life-size in real time and space.These are not manipulated images artificially created on the computer.


Tilda Swinton and aviator goggles, Yves St. Laurent, Reykjavik, Iceland, 2011

We had met briefly in New York in the mid-nineties when I worked at the Richard Avedon studio as Dick’s in-house designer and Tim was one of his lowly fourth assistants.Tim reminded me he used to silenty change the lightbulbs in my studio space and empty the “dust-bins” as he referred to the wastepaper baskets.


Malgosia Bela and Chi on motorway, Givenchy Couture, Cambridgeshire, 2010

As I recall we hardly exchanged a word, but Tim assures me we did, and continually teases me about my memory lapse. Soon after leaving the Avedon studio Tim became a creative force on the fashion scene contributing major portfolios to magazines like W, and American, British and Italian Vogue. Before a brief visit to London in the Fall of 2011, it was at the ICP Gallery’s opening celebrating Avedon’s latest fashion exhibition we really connected. Very soon after Tim asked me if I would be interested in designing his new book. I was thrilled and didn’t look back. At first it felt risky being that both of us are “hands on” kind of people working on two different continents. We knew we would have little chance to work side by side as the book progressed. Nevertheless the layouts took shape pretty quickly thanks to the computer so that everything came together with ease. The book turned out better than I could’ve imagined. It was the beginning of an ongoing alliance between a photographer and an art director that reflected our deeply held shared beliefs to never play it safe.I always believe it is the love of what you’re interested in pursuing that really matters. Without passion you cannot create something of value that truly connects with other people.Usually my experience is you never do it as well as you ought to do it—but every now and then there is an exception— and working on this book with Tim, this remarkable young master, has been that exception.

© 2013 All written content property of Ruth Ansel unless otherwise noted. © Images by Tim Walker.

Ruth Ansel made her debut as a designer as one of the youngest art directors in the history of magazines for Harper’s Bazaar in 1962. Ever since, she has pushed the boundaries of magazine design. Her Iris Nights lecture will take place on Thursday, August 8th, 2013. Learn more about Ansel on her official website, www.ruthansel.com.

See more of Tim Walkers Images in his book Tim Walker: Storyteller. To learn more about the photographer and his work visit his official website at www.timwalkerphotography.com.

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