• /the-shot-blog/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.

  • /the-shot-blog/story-time-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)

  • /the-shot-blog/susan-andersons-illusion-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

  • /the-shot-blog/jill-greenberg-launches-iris-nights-beauty-culture-version

    Opening up the BEAUTY CULTURE season of IRIS Nights last night was award-winning photographer Jill Greenberg. Jill has shot for such magazines as Time, Wired, Newsweek, Entertainment Weekly - the list really just goes on and on and on.

    Jill has been taking photographs since she was a little girl. She showed us this adorable photo of herself holding a toy camera, portending things to come in her adult life!

    Jill's photographic work has a strong feminist point of view. One of her series features the United States Olympic synchronized swim team wading in a swimming pool - all while wearing heels!

    Jill has quite a bit of experience photographing some of Hollywood's most famous beauties. She's shot her signature style of portraits for a slew of female celebrities including Hollywood stars Drew Barrymore, Jada Pinkett Smith Lindsay Lohan (above).

    Jill has found herself under criticism for her "End Times" series in which she photographed several two-and-a-half and three-year old crying children. During the shoot, Jill took candy away from the kids in order to make them cry.

    Jill defended herself explaining that the toddlers's tears don't mean that they were in any sort of pain during the photo shoot or will have any kind of permanent damage. As she said, her own kids cry when they refuse to go to sleep at bed-time!

    Jill's been photographing animals pretty often these days. She's taken portraits of bears, horses and monkeys. Art collectors all over the world have been buying up prints for her popular monkey series.

    The local NBC affiliate in LA came down to cover the exhibit and interview Jill about her IRIS Nights lecture. You can watch that news clip here.

    Thanks to Jill and everyone who attended the lecture for making the first BEAUTY CULTURE version of IRIS Nights such a big success!

    Watch Jill's entire IRIS Nights lecture here and learn more about her on her own website.

    (All lecture images by Unique for the Space. Childhood photo by Jill Greenberg)

  • /the-shot-blog/donna-omeara-make-your-own-dreams-come-true

    Donna O'Meara is the last "Extreme Exposure" featured photographer to participate in our IRIS Nights elcture series. You may remember that her husband (and fellow volcanologist) Stephen O'Meara was the very first lecturer for the exhibit. Donna delivered a terrific, inspirational lecture about volcanoes, passion and the journey of life.

    Donna, who lives on top of Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, started her lecture by reciting a traditional Hawaiian thank you chant - a first at IRIS Nights.

    She showed the audience photos from her wedding to Stephen, which took place on top of Kilauea. You can't tell in the photo above, but they both wore sneakers during ceremony - just in case they needed to run for their lives!

    Donna recounted the time when National Geographic first hired her and Stephen for a photo shoot. The magazine let them choose the volcano they wanted to photograph. The two eventually decided on one located in Stromboli, Italy where they camped out for 39 days and survived 534 eruptions.

    This expedition led to her and Stephen's own National Geographic television special titled Volcano Hunters!

    Donna's theme of accomplishing what you want no matter the obstacle carried over to her story about her journey to Antarctica in 2009. It was on that trip that she met Barbara Jones, the 94-year-old only living child of Edward Nelson, the explorer who was part of the first official British exploration of Antarctica.

    Donna became close to Barbara during the trip. She explained that she had always wanted to see the place where her father worked on the continent. Tragically, Barbara passed away during the trip.

    Donna's volcanologist boots have been on display during the entire run of "Extreme Exposure." She said that even though she has a new pair, she wants her old ones back because they are so comfortable.

    Donna ended her talk with words of inspiration and encouragement. No matter how old you are, make sure your dreams come true!

    She stuck around to sign copies of the several books on volcanoes she has written over the years.

    Thanks for the motivational talk, Donna. And don't worry,  your boots are on their way back to your home in Hawaii!

    Watch Donna's entire IRIS Nights lecture here and learn more about her on her own website.

    (All lecture images by Unique for the Space. All others are by Donna O'Meara)

  • /the-shot-blog/paul-nicklen-chills-out-polar-regions

    "Extreme Exposure" featured photographer Paul Nicklen's photos of wild animals in the polar regions have awed many who have seen this terrific show. Last night, it was Paul's time to awe IRIS Nights lecture attendees with his amazing stories of what went into capturing those images.

    The Space was jam-packed! Over 200 people attended the lecture, which sold out in a matter of seconds when tickets first went on sale a couple of weeks ago.

    Paul's message is clearly one of environmental conservation. He cares passionately about the environment and explained that if the polar caps lose their ice, they will also lose polar bears an absolutely frightening thought!

    One of the many death-defying moments he recounted in his lecture was the story related to the photograph above. During a trip to the Arctic, Paul's lightweight aircraft experienced engine trouble though he still kept taking pictures during the entire incident! According to Paul, it was all worth it because being able to photograph thousands of narwhals in the Arctic is not all that common!

    Why does Paul enjoy taking so many close-up images of animals? He does it because he feels people would care more about them when they are seen in a more intimate light.

    During his talk, Paul played several "on location" video clips of himself photographing in the wild. It was great to see how someone in the situation above...

    ...could end up with this amazing photo!

    Paul also recounted the story of his four-day interaction with a female leopard seal who repeatedly attempted to gift Paul a penguin while both were underwater. Despite their sharp teeth, Paul insists that they are very gentle, kind animals.

    Paul re-iterated his message of environmental protection throughout his lecture but he managed to inject quite a bit humor into his talk with a his funny deadpan delivery.

    How can you help the environment? Paul wants us all to "chill out."

    Before he left for the night, Paul stuck around to sign copies of his book, Polar Obsession. The cover of the book features one of his favorite photos - that of a polar bear and his reflection in the clear, glassy waters!

    Thanks for sharing the incredible stories and the worthwhile message, Paul!  You can watch his entire IRIS Nights lecture here and learn more about him on his official site.

    (All images by Unique for the Space)

  • /the-shot-blog/recent-developments-julius-shulman

    Juergen Nogai ( R) seen here with his wife, Jeannie ( C) and POYi/Water photographer and lecturer Gerd Ludwig ( L)

    When we caught up with Juergen Nogai (Julius Shulman's shooting partner) at our last opening, he told us about an amazing retrospective of Julius' (and also Juergen's) work. It was planned well in advance to celebrate Julius' 100th birthday. Sadly, Julius passed away in July of 2009 at the age of 99 leaving us with an impressive life-time of amazing work (see our tribute to him here).


    It was decided that 'the show must go on,' and the exhibit, which is the most complete collection of Shulman's work to be shown in one place, opened in October of last year (Julius' 100th birthday would have been 10/10/2010). It's called "Cool and Hot" and it will run until February 27, 2011 at the ZEPHYR Gallery in Mannheim, Germany.

    While it might not be likely for you to see this exhibit before February, Juergen did mention that it is likely to hit the road for a mini-tour. We can hope that it makes its way across the pond to us, but so far it doesn't look like that's in the cards. We'll keep you posted.

  • /the-shot-blog/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)

  • /the-shot-blog/george-steinmetz-documents-world-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)

  • /the-shot-blog/karen-kasmauski-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)

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