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)

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!

Larry Towell: 'A Story Is The People In Front Of You'

Larry Towell's life is all about human beings and being human (his business card even says "human being") so it should come as no surprise that he incorporated those themes into last night's IRIS Nights lecture.

The first thing Larry did during the opening of his lecture last was explain why he would not be doing much speaking during his presentation. The reason? The hiccups. Larry explained that he suffered with the hiccups for 2 weeks earlier this summer and decided to put together a photographic slideshow, complete with pre-recorded audio, just in case there was a sudden resurgence of his hiccups while he was up on stage.

Some of the multi-talented photojournalist's slideshows consisted of his poetry and guitar-playing which narrated the photos with forceful artistry.

Larry said that he sometimes collects the ambient sound of places uses that as a soundtrack to his slideshow.

You can hear this natural soundtrack in his series dedicated to the Mennonites.

The Magnum photographer has photographed people all over the globe and spent a chunk of his time talking about his photo series from Palestine. Larry reminded us that "a story is the people in front of you."

Larry, who studied visual arts in college, pointed out: "When you're studying art you're made to believe that you're the center of the universe. But when you actually go out into the universe, you realize that it revolves around you ...and the people that are in front of you become the story." In other words, it really is all about human beings!

Larry's most personal slideshow came at the end of his talk when he showed a series of photographs that focused on the most important people in his life: his wife and children. The beautiful black and white images show the family frolicking in nature as well around their quaint country home.

During the Q&A Larry revealed how he goes about establishing a relationship with his subjects: it takes time. For example, the project with the Mennonites, who rarely allow themselves to be photographed, took him 10 years and 3000 roles of film to complete!

Congratulations, Larry, on a great presentation - and no hiccups!

(All images by 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)

Pages