Here you have it, the behind-the-scene-stories from PhotoShelter members recognized in PDN’s Photo Annual 2012. Each year a panel of judges including photo editors, curators, and creative directors come together to select the best photography in 10 different categories. While each member contributed dramatically different work, they were all recognized in the same high regard. From the streets of Austin to the cross fire in Libya, we’re honored to work with these photographers from all over the world and share their stories behind the acclaimed shot.
Austin based photographer Ben Sklar had a vision of photographing the over 100,000 visitors that flock to Austin each year for the annual South By Southwest music festival. “I wanted to show the diversity and style of all the people, but do something that was more complex than what you would see on a street style blog,” he said. So Ben came up with the concept of surrounding the street walkers with a completely white background.
“I had already gotten my rentals, purchased my materials, and hired an assistant. Then the day before SXSW started I got a phone call from The New York Times Style photo editor Beth Bristow asking me to collaborate with my friend and NYT colleague Melena Ryzik on something for the style page. Beth left it completely open for me to work with Melena and come up with something. It was really a dream assignment,” he recalls.
Ben’s concept, which he originally was going to shoot on his own budget, ended up being fully funded and featured both in print and online in the NYT Fashion & Style section. Ben gives a shout out and thank you to all those photographed for their candid participation.
Documentary photographer Rob Hornstra’s long term project in Sochi – a Russian city on the Black Sea – documents singers in the city’s local restaurants. His photo book, Sochi Singers, explores the fierce competition between the city’s local dining businesses, and the eclectic mix of Roman, Greek, and other unidentifiable cultural elements that make up the decor.
Focusing on the atmosphere of these restaurants, Honstra’s project touches on the entire dining experience for the locals, and how conversation is not the main reason for dining out. Sochi Singers has also won first prize at World Press Photo (Arts & Entertainment Stories) and the Sony World Photography Awards (Arts & Culture stories).
Rob has recently finished his newest photo book, Life Here is Serious, documenting wrestlers from the North Caucasus. See his entire Sochi Singers series on his website.
French documentary photographer Benedicte Desrus focuses on humanitarian and social issues around the world. Her long term project documenting global obesity first began when she photographed Donna Simpson (above). The complex nature of the topic compelled Benedicte to continue exploring and create this series.
Obesity has “serious social and psychological dimensions that affects all age and socioeconomic groups,” she explains. “I hope my work can bring awareness to the issues and encourage people to discuss what can be done to make people healthier.” She’s also particularly interested in how different cultures treat obesity. “Although America is one of the fattest countries in the world, obesity is highly stigmatized.” Through her work, she seeks to highlight the root causes and reveal the true reality behind this sensitive subject.
Benedicte chose to submit her image of Donna to the PDN Photo Annual because she was the first person photographed for the project. “Her story, experience, and voice are important in my project. I think the image shocks some people but it also invites them to think about their reactions. Obesity is increasing and people have to face it.”
Photojournalist Heidi Levine spent time in Libya, documenting the rebel fight against Qaddafi loyalists, with “full access from the rebels, until it was apparent they were losing. We would wrap our heads in scarves like them, jump on the back of pickup trucks and let the scarves’ pom-poms fly in the wind. Wherever we went, it was clear how unprepared the rebels were. Many said they’d never picked up a weapon before in their lives.”
For this particular shot, Heidi found herself in the crossfire, with the desert terrain offering no cover. “We were dependant on luck,” she says. “The wounded man in my photograph was conscious as he was surrounded by medics, ducking themselves from incoming fire. Their own expressions of horror could not be hidden as he lifted to see the extent of his wounded leg.” Of all the images in her series, she believes this particular image truly “magnifies the intensity of the risks that were taken by the medics.” You can view Heidi’s entire series Operation Free Libya on her website.
A big congratulations to all those recognized and awarded this year. To see all the winners be sure to check back on the PDN Photo Annual 2012 site.
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