Restraint and Desire

Ken Graves and Eva Lipman’s lifelong creative partnership highlighted in a publication from TBW Books

The first thing to notice in Restraint and Desire, Ken Graves and Eva Lipman’s collaborative publication, is its duality. Not only for the representation of kinship – a partnership between husband and wife – but it also induces a visual mirroring. With black and white imagery often presented on the right hand sided of the book, you’ll see pairings of subjects gestating, touching or moving in the dynamic and heavily contrasted stye of the photography. It would be strange to see a character on their own.

To witness two spouses collaborating together is not an uncommon occurrence in the art world; think Marina Abramović and Ulay, who produced work together for 12 years in total; Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre; Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivero to name just a small handful of examples. But in this specific union, there’s something so effortlessly harmonic in the way they have composed their imagery. In fact, it’s hard to determine who did what; the work appears like a single entity, which is a stark contrast to the distinctive narratives found in synergies like this.

Over the decades and until Ken’s passing, the pair have worked in alliance with one another, defining this merging of two minds – a melting pot of shared goals and ideals. The result of which is a survey of the rituals found in typical American culture, things like the awkward celebration of school dances, the cheer of football games and boxing matches; the archetype of American society. By shining their lens on these topics, the couple were able to douse it with their own sensibility, in turn highlighting the complexities of human nature and how these rites of passage can often go overlooked in the every day. Ken and Eva, however, were never oblivious to the subtle intricacies of humankind and, instead, sought a career in documenting these moments. 

But it wasn’t just the world around them that went on to inspire their work. It was also their relationship, which tended to reveal itself in their work together – the sexual tensions, dynamics and complexities that comes with sharing a life with someone. The resulting work illustrates feelings of tenderness, intimacy, lust, generosity, connection and communication; the elements that define what it is to really love someone. And equally, they also represent the more negative associations of love where boredom, fear and tiredness might rise to the surface.

“These pictures were made in collaboration with my partner in life and work, Ken Graves,” writes Eva in the book. ”I will forever be grateful to him for his love and generosity, his unfailing optimism, and for sharing with me his strange and unique worldview. I miss him everyday.

Restraint and Desire, then, is like an archival memory box of their relationship together. So even though Eva is no longer able to physically touch her husband, nor are they featured in the work themselves, these posing bodies are somewhat of an apt reminder – a visual cue that she can refer back to whenever she needs. As Eva says, “our work reflected back to us, like a mirror, the intensities and power dynamics of our shared life together”. Love, and this partnership in particular, will never fade, and this book is fine example of its enduring presence.

Restraint and Desire is published by TBW Books and available here.

Town of C

In the rural lands of the Rocky Mountains, Richard Rothman exposes the unsettling truth of American culture and its reliance on the environment

On the introductory page of Richard Rothman’s Town of C, a book published by Stanley/Barker, a naked couple pose starkly in front of the camera. The image, shot in a tonal shade of monochrome, depicts the pair in an embrace, standing amongst a prison cemetery located in the rural lands of Colorado – the part that’s allocated to the state penitentiary for inmate burials. This is unusual for a prison to be located in the middle of a town, but this one in particular was first a territorial prison (meaning medium security) that housed 25 prisoners, which was then formed into its own prison around 1874. The couple, more so on the woman’s side, instigated the idea to pose nude upon meeting with Richard, and this inadvertently set up what the photographer now goes on to describe as a metaphor “tied up with a bow” – that which hints to the biblical, spiritual and the natural.

“I met the woman in this photograph when she was a child,” says Richard, stating how the couple now live particularly close to the cemetery. “The man in the picture is the father of three of her five children, two of whom feature in another picture, in the doorway of a rehab house. He had a long association with LA gangs before moving out to Colorado. Anyway, she persuaded her partner to pose nude with her for me. As soon as I set up for this picture it began to rain, so I was in a hurry and it hadn’t occurred to me that this was going to be an Adam and Eve picture. Months later, on a visit to the Morgan Library, I came upon a postcard of the Dürer etching depicting The Fall of Man, and the expulsion from the garden. It had been an unconscious connection, because I grew up with that story and that particular image, which I was fascinated by, and I realised, much later, that it was a fitting opening to the narrative of the book that unfolds, that it spoke to the current environmental situation, and that it is an enduring, eloquent myth about the universal experience of loss of innocence.”

In this part of the world, more specifically the Front Range of the Southern Rocky Mountains, the landscape reigns supreme. The summits tower over the valleys, stretching around 300 miles from Colorado to southern Wyoming. Hikers and mountaineers are drawn to its vast populous of treks, climbs and views, where peaks exceed 4,000 metres and wrap around a variety of rivers. In contrast with this almost inimitable backdrop, there are also vast cities and towns resting on the banks and outer edges of the ranges. This includes the small rural town that Richard photographically paints through the pages of Town of C, one that remains unnamed. “I wanted to tell the biggest story I could, starting with a portrait of a small town, reflecting on the national culture at large and moving out to the mystery – the world beyond our planet – that we’ve all come from,” he adds. And it’s through the very town, its people, its architecture, roads and undeveloped lands, that Richard aims to shed light on the relationship between these two beings: the human and the environment.

A shy away from the typical American road trip conceived through the work of photography greats like Robert Frank and Walker Evans, Town of C does things a little differently. Instead, Richard looks at the archetypal town and, more specifically, a settlement that he’s visited regularly over the years, revealing the societal and economic complexities of the place through considered compositions and adequate time spent in each location. “Almost everything about the way we live in America, and so much of the world now, is obviously unsustainable and drastically out of tune with the environment we inherited,” he explains. 

“When I began work on the project, climate change wasn’t as widely understood. Today, you have to be wilfully ignorant not to be aware of it. I think there are people who are there because they appreciate its beauty, and I think there are many more for whom life is so challenging they don’t have the luxury to enjoy the beauty around them. So many of us are forced to look down at our shoes and live month-to-month, just taking one step at a time to survive. Americans in general aren’t encouraged to appreciate beautiful land. We don’t teach aesthetics to children in most schools, and it gets in the way of businesses that want to exploit natural resources for profit. Our relationship to nature is deeply troubled and ill considered.”

There are multiple layers hidden throughout Town of C, the most notable being the portrayal of nature’s fragility. Humankind’s reliance on the environment is massive, and in this book, we see this brought to the fore through the energy of the river that runs through Colorado and the Rocky Mountains – the lifeline to all that settle upon the water’s edge. Then, as we meander through the remaining parts of the book, this consuming visual narrative expels themes of the American dream and how, especially in the American small town, these ideologies and dreams of endless natural resources are dwindling. What does the future hold for these lands?

As the book comes to a close, I’m reminded again of the first image of the naked couple and its explicit synergy between place and person. For Richard, this single picture resonates with him for its rich symbolism, as well as its relationship to the Grant Wood painting called American Gothic – “of the stone-faced man and his ill-at-ease-partner, pitchfork in hand, all business and no joy,” he says. “I felt the graveyard picture had a potential iconic quality. The myths of American small town steely resilience and self-sufficiency have collided here with the relentless forces of contemporary socio-economics, and the finite nature of land and resources. The little metal places in the picture serve as gravestones, all of them identified with the initials CSP, which stands for Colorado State Penitentiary. The prison used to make the license plates for Colorado vehicles. The grave markers were made in the same workshop by prisoners for their fellow inmates. They represent people whose families couldn’t afford, or didn’t care enough, to place actual stones on their burial plots, and I couldn’t help but think that said something revealing about their lives, and perhaps why they ended up there in the first place.”

All photography courtesy of Richard Rothman

Town of C is published by Stanley/Barker

At The Night Garden

Published by Stanley/Barker, Paul Guilmoth’s new photo book is a loving and nostalgic ode to the garden

© Paul Guilmoth

When you imagine the luscious grounds of a garden, a handful of nostalgic emblems may rise to the surface: first the feeling of freedom, prancing through the long grass in the warm and sunny spells of summer – care-free and revelling in the goods that nature has provided. The second, a sense of safety, evoked by the familiar four walls of fencing or shrubbery. The garden, in this sense, is a sacred place and will remain to be one that’s loaded with memory – personal history – for those who enter. But how many have visited the leafy grounds at night, indulging in the moonlit shadows of the fauna as the spider webs thread from branch to branch?

Paul Guilmoth, a photographer based in New England, does just that in a new book aptly named At The Night Garden, which is now published by Stanley/Barker. Conceived through a stark yet weirdly calming monochrome lens, we see myriad of emblematic features prevail – the silky web taking on a sculptural form, the flash-lit structures of the leafs and bushes, and the glowing faces of their subjects only visible through the silver torch of the sky. But along with the magical, there’s also a sense of eeriness and longing that protrudes from the work. We observe the somewhat blank expressions of the people he photographs – their family and loved ones – as they stand hauntingly, sometimes posing and other times candidly raising an arm or glance, or cradling their head on a bed of florals. Their postures, along with the carefully chosen landscape of garden beds and trees, are more than aesthetic compositions: they’re telling us a story, Paul’s own personal story.

© Paul Guilmoth

Not only is it an elegy to a queer world and identity, At The Night Garden is also lovingly dedicated to Trula Drinkard-Goolsby, who died on July 17 2021 after one last day spent laying in the field – the setting at which Paul decided to centre this photographic study. “The week before Trula died,” says Paul, “she began spending entire days reclined in her field. Her body would be so still we’d come up closer to be sure she hadn’t left us. A slight movement of her head chasing a loose swallow, or a finger grazing a plucked blade of grass was enough. Tuesday night she had come into the kitchen after a particularly long 12 hours in her field. Her hair disheveled like a bird nest. She looked at a rhubarb stalk on the table and said to us ‘all this time I’ve never seen the flowers growing, but they’re taller every morning.’”

© Paul Guilmoth

For Trula, as perceived through this visual narrative, the garden is the safe space at which she spent her very last moments. It’s symbolic in a multitude of ways, nodding to the cycle of life and biorhythm of the natural world; commencing with energetic shots of place and people, the book’s sequence then concludes with an illuminated cave-like door that alludes to a passage. Once a human dies, do they then reincarnate into the lands, the trees and grasses, in which they passed? It’s humbling to think of it in that way, imagining the environment as a place that houses the memories of our loved ones. 

Paul’s At The Night Garden beholds many spiritual and religious references, from baptisms to funerals, to birth, folklore and the fragility of life. Multilayered and allegorical, it shows the non-permanence of everything around us, plus the uniquely human desire to preserve the things that we hold dearly – the garden, here, serving as the archive. So to make sense of the work in all but a sentence or two would be a tricky one, because most – if not all – will relate to the pictures in some form of another, giving the photographs new meaning with each and every viewing. It’s like a dreamworld, a place of past and present in which Paul records their memories of Trula. It’s a story that never ends so long as Paul, and we, will remember.

Paul’s At The Night Garden is available at Stanley/Barker

© Paul Guilmoth

© Paul Guilmoth

© Paul Guilmoth

© Paul Guilmoth

© Paul Guilmoth

© Paul Guilmoth

© Paul Guilmoth

I AM NOT INVisible

Thilde Jensen documents homelessness in America through her powerful four-year project, currently on show at Martin Parr Foundation

Laura feeling down. Las Vegas, Nevada 2017 © Thilde Jensen

In the spring of 2016, Danish photographer Thilde Jensen met Reine and Lost, two homeless men who lived under a highway in Syracuse, New York. Their openness and enjoyment for being photographed inspired Thilde to start work on her long-term project documenting homelessness in America – which is something that she holds personally having “survived living outside in a tent in the woods” due to a serious illness. Now part of an exhibition named I AM NOT INVisible held at the Martin Parr Foundation from 16 September to 19 December this year, the work journeys from Gallup to New Mexico, Las Vegas to New Orleans. Below, I chat to Thilde about her reasons for starting the project, the demise of her own American dream and what it’s really like to be homeless in the country. 

Bobby dragging his blanket to untangle the energy fields. Homeless for 13 years. Las Vegas, Nevada 2016 © Thilde Jensen

Can you tell me about yourself and how you came into photography?

I grew up in Denmark and my first love was with theatre and film, which led me to photography and photo books. I realised that a series of still images could convey a narrative and allowed for a much more personal artistic process, compared to the big productions involved in both theatre and film. Back in 1997 when I was a young photo student, I decided to move to New York City. Soon I fell in love, got married and ended up working and learning from some of the best in art and documentary photography. 

Unfortunately, my American dream quickly came crashing down when I found myself severely sick from an unknown affliction. Everything fell apart – my marriage and my career – as my immune system was crashing. My body was suddenly not able to deal with the vast chemical overload of our modern world. I had to leave my home in the city that I loved, as it had become a toxic war zone for me. Over the first few years, I survived living outside in a tent in the woods or simply sleeping under open sky, while wearing a respirator whenever I was going into public areas. This, at a time before masks were commonplace facial coverings, made me feel like a freak and I lived a life of deep isolation. I was lucky to have support and not end up in endless homelessness as others who were less fortunate. 

This painful and nightmarish experience became the subject of my first photo book The Canaries about Environmental Illness, published in 2013. While working on this project, and after seven years of struggling with hypersensitivity, I was lucky to recover enough to slowly start photographing on the street again. A few years later and I was fortunate to receive a Guggenheim Fellowship to travel across the country photographing in different homeless communities. The end result being the photo book I AM NOT INVisible, published in late 2019. 

Faye Dunaway. Syracuse, New York 2015 © Thilde Jensen

What first inspired you to start documenting homelessness in America?

My own experience of being forced to live outside and knowing that, even though I had worked hard and made a decent living, there was no American safety net to catch me when I got sick. 

What stories are you hoping to share throughout I AM NOT INVisible? 

While photographing homelessness in America, I met so many wonderful people, many of them with life stories so full of trauma and neglect it was hard to believe they had made it this far. Being a photographer, my talent is to make the people I spend time with feel seen – to make them visible. I think the worst thing we can do to each other is to look the other way and thereby make the people pushed out invisible, non-existent. I also think it is important that we dare to look at reality, as complex as it may be, up close and in an unfiltered way. With my camera, I was hoping to be an honest mirror to the often brutal reality I was encountering on the street. I wasn’t so much looking to tell anyone’s individual story, but more so trying to create a tapestry of voices and experiences from the homeless streets of America. 

Drake, ‘I spent time inside, so much human potential rotting away behind bars’. Las Vegas, Nevada 2017 © Thilde Jensen

You first met Reine and Lost at the beginning of the project, and they were very open to sharing their lives. What did you learn about them both, and how did you want to portray them in your imagery?

I met Reine and Lost in the early Spring 2016 in Syracuse, New York, after they had survived yet another brutally cold winter huddled together on a concrete ledge right under the highway. Reine and Lost were close to me in age and were both struggling with alcohol addiction. They seemed to enjoy my company, and after spending time with them I was soon welcomed with my camera in most of the homeless community in Syracuse. Of course some people didn’t want to be photographed and I’m always very respectful around asking for permission. I learned early on that, for me, picture making is a collaborative process. If a person is unwilling it never makes for good pictures – it feels totally wrong to take pictures without permission. I’m a lousy street photographer in that way but my interest is in creating trust and an emotional connection. I feel my images more than I see them, I guess. Unfortunately Lost died some months after I started the project, which is often the sad outcome of long-term homelessness. Lost had been living most of his adult life on the street. 

Cindy with her wig. Las Vegas, Nevada 2016 © Thilde Jensen

Can you share any anecdotes from working on the series? 

A lot of the images are from Las Vegas, where I had never visited before. I drove across the country and found the homeless community in north Las Vegas to be heartbreakingly enormous. This is not the Vegas you see if you go as a tourist. At first, it was much too overwhelming to see so many people living on the street and it took some time to make enough connections there to feel safe to walk around with my camera. 

One morning, as I’m talking to people and taking photographs, Cindy, a woman my own age, asked me if she could pay me to photograph her. I of course refused any payment but gladly turned my camera to her, and that was the beginning of an intense connection which evolved over the following two years while photographing in Las Vegas. Her unique experience of reality was addictive, her mind would run wild and, on a good day, she was the funniest person to be with until suddenly the darkness and the voices overtook her. One of the last times I saw her she told me I better go now because she was afraid I would otherwise dissolve into the wall. I miss her; she was quite special. People on the street told me that she had arrived there some years back as she just got out of jail due to some petty theft charges. She had looked beautiful and was totally sane, but soon she had been taken advantage of. “This is what the street will do to you”, they said. 

I met many people who not too long ago had driven past the homeless, going to work, never thinking this could be them and here they were. Loosing their identity, their self worth, unsheltered, vulnerable to sexual assault and violence. Sleepless nights with drugs and alcohol to dull the pain, slowly the thin veil that separates you from madness starts slipping, as your reality no longer makes sense or becomes too painful to inhabit. 

Bobby’s keyboard. Las Vegas, Nevada 2016 © Thilde Jensen

How do you hope your audience will respond to the work? 

As an artist and documentary photographer, I think the end goal is to always create dialogue. If the viewer feels touched, like I have been, by the people in the pictures or even provoked or unsettled, then I’m happy. I also hope that people can see themselves in these pictures and maybe realise that we need to take better care of each other. The truth is that we all have the same need for love, food and shelter and would likely all benefit from a society that is more supportive and loving. 

Will you continue working on this topic?

I had just started photographing for my next photo project Tomorrow, which is about the future – but then Covid-19 hit so it’s been on pause. Instead, I have been taking a deep-dive into the natural world under the premise of recreating paradise in a sustainable manner; trying to create a model for how we can live in balance with nature. To do this, I have undertaken a scientific journey looking at and understanding the microbiological magic right under our feet that makes up the fertility and health of anything living on this planet. Though after spending many months looking at the alien lifeforms that inhabit our soils, I feel eager to get back to photographing people again. I’m trying to figure out what kind of future we can dream up together. 

Eric in the bushes. Syracuse, New York 2014 © Thilde Jensen
Mike’s black hand in roses. New Orleans, Louisiana 2018 © Thilde Jensen
Moody in the broken down truck where he sleeps. Las Vegas, Nevada 2017 © Thilde Jensen


I AM NOT INVisible by Thilde Jensen is on show at the Martin Parr Foundation from 16 SEPT – 19 DEC 2021, and is part of Bristol Photo Festival



American photographer Judith Black unearths intimate pictures from a six-week road trip with her family

Johanna and Self, March 27, 1995, (Chico, CA) © Judith Black

Most might quake at the thought of being sat in a car for no less than 5,000 miles with their family – kids included. What with the hum of “Are we there yet?” echoing out of the backseat every five minutes or so; the vibrational thud as a punch smacks the arm; the endless rounds of Eye Spy and toilet breaks; travelling with your family isn’t always an easy one. But it was a pursuit that American artist Judith Black was keen to embark on with her four children around 40 years ago, which is now the focus point of her new photography book Vacation, published by Stanley/Barker.

After being awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1986, Judith set out with the intention of a cross-country road trip to document the sweeping landscapes of the US, as well as the intimate and candid moments she experienced with her children – stopping off at New York, Chicago, San Francisco and various other memorable spots on the way. It took about six weeks in total from July 12 1986 to August 23; “We took some camping and a lot of photo gear,” she tells me, pacing the day’s drive to end up at a friend’s or family’s place. “We were on a tight budget. We kept track of the milage, gas, expenses and mostly to give the kids something to do.” Packed with snacks, entertainment, a 4×5 press camera, tripod, boxes of Polaroid Type 55 film, a flash and a bucket of sodium sulphite to process the negative, Judith and her family were prepped as much as can be. “I don’t remember how it all fit!”

On one stop, Judith and the family traversed to Lake Michigan to the summer cottage where her aunt lived. A hot day, Judith’s daughter “insisted on the punk look”; she snapped an image of them by the water’s edge, dunes in the background and her subjects caught in a moment that’s halfway between posing and candid. Her daughter placed in the middle in jet-black attire – almost as stark and monochrome as the series itself. Another depicts her sister’s newborn Matt at just a couple of weeks old. “They were on a swing at the park. The little frown on his brow…” It’s moments like this that make looking back on the series so momentous in its ability to mark an epoch of familial life; it’s like flicking through an old family album, a record of place and time where endless anecdotes can be uncovered. Below, I chat to Judith to hear more about the series, what family life means to her and the importance of documenting those closest to you. 

Erik, Laura, Johanna, July 20, 1986, (Lake Michigan) © Judith Black

What inspired you to go on a road trip with your family, and why turn it into a photographic series?

American photographers are aware that the cross-country trip of 4,000 to 5,000 miles one way is something of a quest. The road trip is made for discovering the country, having adventures, exploring the land (it’s huge, beautiful and ugly). The tradition goes back to the early exploration of the west, and the use of the new medium of photography to chart and record the land for the government, the amateur and the artist. Fast forward to the 1980s when I applied for a Guggenheim Fellowship, many recipients in photography have used the road trip to get out of their comfort zone… it was part of the idea of the fellowship: to travel. At the time, railroads joined the east and west coasts, American families of enough means travelled to see the national parks, the great cities, the wonders of the landscape. My thought was to follow in the footsteps of Edward Weston, Robert Frank and many others, but with my family in tow.

I set out on the journey partly because that was the focus of the Guggenheim grant, and partly just to see if we could make such a trip. I didn’t need to produce any results from the trip, so we were free to see what happened as we drove from place to place. My grant proposal was to make this journey from the east coast where we lived, to the west coast with my four children, and to photograph along the way. The kids were 18, 16, 15 and 12. Rob, my partner and step-father to the children, had traveled extensively, mostly by hitch-hiking; the hippie way. I didn’t know how the trip would work out, but it was a response to the more male adventure trip from Weston to Frank to Soth. 

Hank and Christian, May, 2, 1993, (Palo Alto, CA) © Judith Black

What memories or anecdotes can you share from the trip?

The first photo in the book is one that I took with my first Brownie camera at age seven in 1951 – capturing Aunt Edie with her dog, Lance, at the family cottage in Michigan. In 1986, I was able to take another photo of her with her dog Rover in almost the same spot. The titles and notations in the book hint at the narrative by suggesting familial relationships. There are many other anecdotes, probably at least one for every stop we made! And for each of the trips included in the book. 

A trip with four kids who were teens? We didn’t kill anyone! Five people in the car for a long trip can cause some irritation, to say the least. We finally resolved who could sit next to whom on the last couple of days. My brother was driving by that time. One child could sit in the front, I could sit in the middle of the back seat and each child could touch me. Otherwise, we had a lot of ‘He touched me’, ‘She looked at me’; we were ready to be home!

Maggie and Matt, March 1, 1986 (Seattle, WA) © Judith Black

The work is immensely intimate, which appears to be an intentional move photographically. Why work in this manner, and what stories are you hoping to share about your family?

I have been a mother since I was 23. With four children by the age 29, there was no time to leave home to explore even the streets close to home. I was about 34 when I returned to school to earn a masters degree so that I might be able to support my family. Photography seemed like a better choice pragmatically, rather than painting! So, I quickly realised that the intimate self-portraits and portraits of my family were what I knew best and could reveal with some kind of honesty. The photos in Vacation are about those times when I was on ‘vacation’ from being home. Sometimes it was the cross-country trip, sometimes it was when the kids were on vacation with their father, sometimes it was during visits to see my folks on the west coast. These are times most of us experience and they can be really fun or they can be upsetting. 

Dianna, Miki, Angie, August 15, 1986, (Concord, CA ) © Judith Black

Any particular meaning you’re trying to convey in the work?

What is that Tolstoy quote about families? ‘Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’ Not all family stories are happy. Not all are really awful. But all have some kind of complication. The memories that our family album photos hold are different for each member. There is a complicated story for almost all the photos in this book, especially since we are looking back over almost 40 years.

What’s next for you?

Right now, I’m enjoying the success the two books I’ve published – knowing that people around the world will connect somehow with our ‘family album’ amazes me in some way. The people are particular to our family, but the stories hidden or written in the titles are more universal. It would be wonderful to have an exhibit of the vintage prints. I loved working in the darkroom and it would be nice to do that once again before too long. That would be a big project!


Judith Black’s Vacation is published by Stanley/Barker

Lynne, Milt and Christopher, August 31, 1986, (New York City, NY), Rob’s family © Judith Black
Til and Robbie, February 15, 1987, (Ithaca, NY) © Judith Black
Angie, September 17, 1989, (Concord, CA) mud monster © Judith Black
Pierre and Pig, July 6, 1991, (Ithaca, NY), 40th birthday bash © Judith Black
Jim and Rob, August 1986, (Chicago, IL) © Judith Black

Godlis Miami

David Godlis’ new book captures a community of Jewish retirees on the balmy coastline of Miami Beach in the 70s

Sitting on the Coral Wall, Ocean Drive © GODLIS

Miami’s South Beach has continued to be an enduring subject throughout the history of modern photography. Its sandy coast and the people that inhabit its shores, beds and promenades have captured the attention of many image-makers over the years, especially that of its declining elderly Jewish community. A prominent example is Andy Sweet, an American photographer known for his documentary work and momentous Shtetl in the Sun: Andy Sweet’s South Beach 1977-1980. And now, David Godlis – a street photographer based in New York – has released his very own book on the subject, titled Godlis Miami and published by Reel Art Press. He, like Sweet, has captured a community of Jewish elders from the 70s, those of whom are bathing and basking in the heat of the famed coastline as they enjoy the late years of retirement.

Aged 22 at the time, David set out from Massachusetts to Miami Beach with the intention of visiting his grandma who lived near Ocean Drive. During the 10 days spent there, he had a profound realisation; in January 1974, he learnt how to take good pictures. “Not other people’s – mind,” he writes in the book’s introduction. 60 rolls of film later and he unearthed not only a collection of fascinating, humorous and touching photographs, but also a new way of documenting life around him. Two years later, for instance, he’d go on to capture punks for his series at the venue CBGB, documenting a piece of history as he’d capture, without a flash, the crowds swarming to see the likes of The Ramones, Blondie, Patti Smith and Talking Heads in the bustling New York music scene. The capital has long been a consistent subject of David, but here, we’re seeing a new turn for the photographer; a documentation of the magical – almost fictional – scenes of Miami Beach.

Ladies in the Sun, Lummus Park © GODLIS

A decade prior and David made his first visit the to beach. He’d take the train with his mum, and later planes and jets; he’d go fishing with his grandfather while his grandmother entertained herself in the background. It was more than exciting for David at the time, who goes on to describe his past memory of Miami Beach as being likened to a “Jewish Disneyland”. He writes on the matter: “When I returned to Miami Beach in 1974 with a camera, all these memories of Florida came flowing back to me. As I tripped the shutter over and over, taking pictures on those beaches I had walked upon as a little kid, everything clicked. Pun intended.”

Impeach Nixon Protester, Lincoln Road Mall © GODLIS

The book begins with a gold-tinted vision of what appears to be David as a young boy, proudly holding a fish in his hand. A page flicks by and the work turns monochrome, revealing four years’ worth of imagery and the candid, almost intrepid, moments of his characters. Throughout, you’ll find men cooling down in the shallows; ladies resting on benches; palm trees adorning the pavements; dog walkers; Bingo players; tanners; strollers; sleepers; and theatre-goers. Everyone here in David’s matte and contrasted world are revelling in a restful point in their lives, where leisure matters more than most other things. It was a thronging community at its peak, and little did David know that, the next time he’d visit, it would all disappear.

“In 1985, 10 years after I shot these photographs, I returned to Miami Beach with my wife, Eileen,” writes David’s introduction of this pivotal moment. “I took her down to Ocean Drive to show her where they were taken and was astonished to find that most everyone was gone. I don’t think even in my early 30s I understood how fast time flies. Of course, many of the retired people I shot pictures of were dead 10 years later. But also many of them had been driven out by the Mariel boatlift of 1980. You can see what became of Ocean Drive in the bathroom shootout scene with Al Pacino in Brian DePalma’s Scarface. So Eileen and I stayed a little further up Collins Avenue the year. And I had to be very careful taking photographs on Ocean Drive that my camera wasn’t stolen.”

On Lincoln Road Mall © GODLIS

In the 70s, around 80% of the population on Miami Beach was Jewish, peaking in the 80s to around 230,000 inhabitants. Miami at the time also saw the influx of Caribbean and Cuban immigrants, the latter were emigrating to the US from Mariel Harbour which resulted in much of the Jewish community moving north. The community declined and many of the older generations had passed. So when David revisited the beach and expected to see the once-thriving community he laid eyes on years before, he was surprised by the emptiness and speed in which the community had vanished. 

Much has changed since then, and David is a witness to this transformation – Godlis Miami is respectively a documentation of these shifts. He’s seen the disappearances of spots such as Wolfie Cohen’s Rascal House, a Jewish delicatessen founded by Wilfred “Wolfie” Cohen who also launched three of South Florida’s most famous eateries. Meanwhile he saw how The Yiddish American Vaudeville and Hoffman’s Cafeteria became nightclubs. “But not all is lost.” he continues to state in the book. “In 2017, when I last returned to Miami Beach, I stayed in the little Century Hotel, looking pretty close to how it looked in 1974 when I first came upon it. I walked around to see where most of these pictures had been taken. To dream the dream I had photographed 40 years earlier. And I could still see it all. Even my cover girl in her cool Oliver Goldsmith sunglasses. The ocean and palm trees have a way of making those dreams come true. If only for a 1/125th of a second.”

Godlis Miami is published by Reel Art Press. RRP £29.95 / $39.99 / €33.12

Collins Avenue Corner View © GODLIS
Fishing Pier, Lower Ocean Drive © GODLIS
Insulin Lady, Collins Avenue © GODLIS
Ordering at Wolfie’s, Collins Avenue © GODLIS
Sitting In the Ocean, Ocean Drive © GODLIS
Yiddish Theater, Washington Avenue © GODLIS

Orejarena & Stein

What’s it really like working with your other half? A photographer and video artist discuss

Andrea 2020

Some could say that working with your other half is as polarising as Marmite; it can either break or make you, with half thriving on its divisive flavour while the other forever steering clear. For two creatives Caleb Stein and Andrea Orejarena (aka Orejarena & Stein), their partnership is like spreading it on toast; it’s a logical pairing and natural mediation between communication, flexibility and a shared vision (to name a few benefits). Caleb, on the one hand, is a photographer who was born in London. He lived in New York for a decade before moving to Poughkeepsie in 2013 to study at Vassar College, which is where he met Andrea. He’s gone on to explore many wondrous and timely topics such as memory, mythology and narrative in relation to the United States. Meanwhile, Andrea is a Colombian-born American video artist who looks at play, fantasy and the American dream. Combined, they’re a powerhouse. And their ongoing project Andrea is pinnacle of that. 

Ever since their first meeting in university, Caleb has continued to take Andrea’s portrait. And what first started out as a documentation of their time together – not to mention the early stages of their relationship – soon evolved into a long-term collaboration between them both, aptly named Andrea. Below, I chat to Caleb and Andrea to find out more about the series and, more importantly, what working with each other is really like.

Andrea 2018

I’d love to begin by hearing about how you both met.

Andrea: It was great. We met on our first day of our freshman year at Vassar College. Caleb’s mother was dropping him off at the dorms. She flagged me down and asked if I could show them the dining hall. I happened to know where it was and I walked them over. When we arrived she said, “good I’ll stay here, and now can you show my son to his dorm?” It was hilarious. 

Caleb: She’s a yenta.

What’s the process like while working together? What roles do you take on, and how is it split?

A: We move fluidly between roles, without rigidity. We are working towards a shared vision, making something emergent that neither person could make on their own, something that could only be made between those two people. In terms of the physical act of photographing or filming, we are both involved in all of the decisions. The conceptual framework for the work stems from long term, in deep exchanges with each other. People often ask us who clicks the shutter (we both do). We pass the camera between each other and we never have two cameras on site.

C: That fluidity is very important, it allows us to remain open. In many ways, working as an artist duo is an exercise in questioning conservative (but still widespread) conceptions of authorship, and it’s an effort to move away from an individualistic, ego-driven practice towards something more collaborative and meditative. 

Andrea 2021

Tell me about your ongoing series, Andrea. What’s it about, and what stories are you hoping to share?

A: Andrea is a selection of portraits made as an artist duo. When we first met, Caleb began photographing me in passing and I wouldn’t mind or give it much attention. I grew up with my father recording every moment—we have hours and hours of Wiseman-style footage— so I am comfortable with the camera and I forget it is there quite easily. Eventually, for some reason, I started getting interested in the photos Caleb was taking of me. Then I started having opinions about them, and then, when he continued to ask for feedback, started directing him with the photography in the same way I directed him as the cinematographer for my videos. He’d take his photo, then we’d give it my take, then we bounce off each other’s ideas until it snowballed into a photo we both loved. The collaboration started quite smoothly and it took us a second to realise it was happening. There was a moment where it began to blur between Caleb asking me for advice, and me becoming invested in the formal aspects of the photograph from an auteur perspective. That crossing of the blurred line was what interested us. Blurring these lines is a way of challenging and subverting the male gaze and the long history of men photographing their partners. 

C: Yes, that’s an important aspect of the project – pushing back against a one-sided, only-male perspective. The photographs are made as a collaboration with a realtime, live monitor facing Andrea so that we can both contribute in equal parts to the final image. In other words, all of the creative decisions about the image, including the post-production process, are made as an artist duo. 

A & C: We are interested in questioning the traditional idea of who has a say in how their image is made. This work is also a personal archive intended to function as a set of lyrical, personal documents of our creative and romantic partnership.

Andrea 2018

What’s it like switching from photographer to model?

A I get to skip the step where I have to articulate a creative concept because I am directing myself. Caleb and I basically read each other’s minds so that doesn’t count either. In some ways, this work is a self-portrait, but made as an artist duo. I feel comfortable moving between the roles and blending the two. Apart from anything else, it’s a fun way to make work as an extension of our relationship. It’s also a natural extension of our life; we’re always photographing and filming, so this work comes about, just by living and embracing life. 

Can you share any stories or anecdotes from working on this series?

A: The curtain?

C: That’s a good one.

A: Ok, so, probably one of the first photos that I asked Caleb to make with my ‘take’ was of me behind a curtain. He was photographing me with my hand sticking out and then I asked him to take one for me, where I totally hid behind the curtain and then called it a self-portrait. We thought it was hilarious and had a lot of fun with this and then this opened up to us collaborating in making the photo of me behind the curtain with my face showing and looking directly at the camera. 

C: We were on the floor laughing about this. It was just a photo of a curtain, no one in sight. Very “conceptual”.  

Is it ever difficult working with your partner?

C: No! 

A: Not at all. There’s no thin ice.

What are the benefits?

A: We trust each other very much. Living life and making art get mixed together in a way I’m drawn to.

C: As am I. We talk about this often, and it feels like our love for each other finds a way into the work. 

A: Making work can take many forms, but we’re both interested in working from a place of love. That’s what it’s all about. 

Andrea 2020

What advice would you give someone who’s looking to work with their partner?

C: Listen to each other and let go of your ego as much as possible, it will open up into something rewarding and surprising. 

A: Have fun with it, don’t compromise – keep talking and debating until you both have a shared epiphany, then move forward with this decisively and with energy. 

What’s next for you both?

A: We are working on our next project American Glitch, which is a look at the slippage between fact and fiction and how this manifests in the American landscape. We are traveling to every state in the U.S. and living out of our car for the next year. We’ll also continue to work on Andrea throughout the year. 

Andrea 2020
Andrea 2021
Andrea 2020
Andrea 2020
Andrea 2021

Photography courtesy of Orejarena & Stein

Vanishing Points

Over nine years, Michael Sherwin has documented significant sites of Indigenous American presence across the United States

Wild Horses and Road, Crow Indian Reservation, MT © Michael Sherwin

In 2011, Michael Sherwin uncovered a piece of history: he came to learn that his local shopping centre had been built atop a sacred burial ground. Located in what’s now western Pennsylvania, western Maryland, eastern Ohio and West Virginia, the area is linked with the Monogahelan culture – what Mary Butler had named in 1939 after the Monongahela River, which runs through the vast majority of the culture’s sites. Known for practicing maize agriculture, building villages, pottery and structures, the culture disappeared, evaporating along with around six hundred years’ worth of history. 

Michael was born and raised in Southwestern Ohio on “unwed and stolen territories”, which includes the Hopewell, Adena, Myaamia (otherwise known as Miami), Shawandasse Tula (known as Shawanwaki or Shawnee) and Wazhazhe Maⁿzhaⁿ (Osage) peoples, “who have continuously lived upon this land since time immemorial,” he tells me. This is where he studied for a BFA in Photography from The Ohio State University during the late-90s, followed by an MFA from the University of Oregon a few years proceeding. After nine years spent working deep in the American West, he returned east for a position at West Virginia University in Morgantown – which is where he currently works as a coordinator, and professor of photography and intermedia.

Mural, Point Pleasant Riverfront Park, Point Pleasant, WV © Michael Sherwin

So upon discovering the roots of the Monogahelan culture, Michael was predisposed to unearth more of its mystery; he shopped at the centre regularly, too, so this slice of information undeniably transformed the ways in which he viewed the landscape. “Reflected in the scene in front of me was an ancient, spiritually important and hallowed landscape clouded by the tangible constructions of modern Western culture,” he shares. “I’m really interested in the stories the land holds, both seen and unseen, and in the contrast, or intersection of spiritual beliefs between indigenous and colonial, native and non-native traditions.”

Having always fostered an interest in the physical world, Michael was more than intrigued after exhuming the origins of his hometown. To such lengths that it inspired him to pick up his camera, harvesting the books and historical research on the mid-Atlantic and Ohio River Valley region. The more he read, the more he was pushed to find out more. And that’s exactly how Vanishing Points came into fruition – a long-term photography project of nine years shot on a large format Wista field camera throughout significant sites of indigenous American presence. Composed over several trips to southern and central Ohio, the project took him to the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site and various nearby spots in Illinois and Missouri, during which he’d traverse across the American West and visit sites in South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah.

Antelope House Ruins, Canyon de Chelly National Monument, AZ © Michael Sherwin

Michael never set out with a clear intention in mind, and rather, the project arose from a mix of personal and cultural catalysts. Paired with an undulated interest in the project’s history, Vanishing Points also references his quest for a deeper connection to the ancestry of the land, “acknowledging and challenging erasure and exploring complicated histories,” he notes. “It’s an effort to form a new understanding and perspective of the place I call home.” The photographs, in this sense, represent a kind of duality. One that documents the earth as we see it, as well as the stories hidden beneath the rocky terrains, grasslands and buildings.

Past and present are equally exposed throughout these pictures, where man-made structures, picnic benches and entertainment venues are built above the lands that were once occupied by prehistoric cultures. But rather than addressing or respecting these histories, mankind has constructed a new narrative; the type of story arc that monopolises such sacred locations. This gives the work – and even the title – an incredibly powerful meaning. It’s a double entendre, he says, “referencing the literal visual aid used to depict depth on a two-dimensional plane, while also suggesting sites in the landscape where the traces of events, or remnants of a previous cultures’ existence has all but faded from view. I’m certainly not trying to suggest that the indigenous American people have vanished, but I am interesting in highlighting how many have been removed from view, especially here in the East.”

Eagle Feather, Medicine Wheel National Historic Landmark, Bighorn Natio- nal Forest, WY © Michael Sherwin

Vanishing Points certainly provokes a sense of questioning from the viewer; a motive that forces us all to question our roots and links with colonialism and the imposition of western civilisation. And throughout Michael’s own journey – one that’s lasted for a lengthy nine years – he’s set foot into many wonderful encounters as he progressively learned about the land. For example, one of the sites he was most excited about visiting was the Bighorn Medicine Wheel, located over 10,000 feet high in the mountain range of northeastern Wyoming. “I drove for two pitch black, predawn hours without seeing another vehicle and dodging all sorts of wildlife to reach the trailhead,” he recalls, hiking for two miles with nearly 50 pounds of camera gear strapped to his back, before eventually reaching “the wheel” at sunrise with the entire landscape to himself. “Before setting up my camera, I walked the full circle of the wheel as the sun crested the horizon. Being present and experiencing the sensations of a place that warrants so much reverence and wonderment is more important to me than the actual photograph.” The resulting image from this memory presents a feather stuck onto a post – a seemingly simple event that signals to heaps more than just a beautiful composition.

“With these photographs,” he continues, “I am not attempting to tell you how to live, or what we’ve done wrong, but rather to reckon with my own belonging in the physical and spiritual world. Having said that, I think this work can also promote awareness of indigenous land rights and the importance of protecting cultural and historical sacred sites. Spending time with these images may encourage one to reconsider their own presence in this country and the land they live and work on. There are still countless stories to be told and lessons to be learned as long as we are willing to sit quietly and listen.”

Michael Sherwin’s Vanishing Points is available here.

John Wayne Point, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, NM © Michael Sherwin
Prairie Juniper, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, ND © Michael Sherwin
Shrum Mound, Columbus, OH © Michael Sherwin
Big Bottom Massacre State Memorial, Morgan County, OH © Michael Sherwin
Stockade Wall, Fort Phil Kearney State Historic Site, Banner, WY © Michael Sherwin
George Washington, Black Hills National Forest, Keystone, SD © Michael Sherwin
Laundry, Indian Mound Campground, New Marshfield, OH © Michael Sherwin
Suncrest Towne Centre, Morgantown, WV © Michael Sherwin


Mabel, Betty & Bette

Yelena Yemchuk’s mixed-media project delves into the identities of three make-believe characters

In a time not too long ago, Yelena Yemchuk had found herself at a flee market, marvelling at a collaged photograph she picked up of two girls sitting on a sofa. Their heads had been replaced by starlets from the 1950s, think Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly and Marilyn Monroe; the famed and beautiful symbols of golden era Hollywood. It was in this very moment that Yelena, a visual artist from Ukraine who immigrated to the US at the age of 11, started to think deeply about the context of identity. “Who are we? And how much of it is based on the society that we live in, and how thin is the line between dream and reality?”

To answer these questions, Yelena began working on Mabel, Betty & Bette, a mixed media project that delves into the lives and identities of three make-believe characters. Played by a cast of models dubbed after popular names in America during the 1950s, the subjects – who are adorned in wigs and garb from this era – are composed from Yelena’s childhood memories of these “otherworldly women” she saw in postcards while living in the Soviet Union. It’s a marriage of fiction and hyperreality, and a commentary on what defines us beings in a certain time or place. Below, I chat to Yelena to hear more about the project.

What inspired you to start Mabel, Betty & Bette; why tell this story?

Mabel, Betty & Bette began quite by chance. I wanted to start a new project that was more fictional and had a narrative. I’ve always been fascinated by the mystery of time – the meeting of the dream world and reality – as well as disguise, a different appearance in order to conceal one’s identity or become someone else. I wanted to capture the psychology or the dream states of a person who is at loss with their identity. I wasn’t sure how to go about starting this adventure and, by chance, I found a photograph at a flee market; it was a collage where two girls were sitting on a couch and their heads had been replaced by 1950’s starlets.

It set off a bunch of ideas about identity, about the complexity of self and the projections of self and society. I wanted to explore this vulnerability and this confused state of identity: who are we and who do we try to imitate in our daily life? Who are idols and why have we chosen these particular stereotypes? I started to question the loss of self and what being vulnerable means. Thats how it began. 

Who are Mabel, Betty and Bette, what do they represent?

I created three fictional characters. I looked up popular names from the Americana era of the 50s. I wanted to create these characters from my memory as a child, of these otherworldly women that I saw in postcards as a kid in the Soviet Union – those Western ideals mixed in with the Italian and French actresses like Sophia Lauren, Brigit Bardot and Elizabeth Taylor. It was this mix of fantasy as well as a certain kind of sadness and strength that I remembered as a kid in their faces, so different than the images of the ideal Soviet women.

Also, my immigration to the United States at such a fragile age of 11 played a big part in the project. When one is changing so quickly as a pre-teen, and then to all of a sudden be in a completely different world in every way, I think that has triggered a lot of these questions at an early age. And once I started making art, those questions became part of my work. Who are we? And how much of it is based in the society that we live in, and how thin is the line between dream and reality?

You’ve cast over 50 women for this project, where did you find them and who did you want to photograph specifically?

Each photograph portrays one of the three fictional women – Mabel, Betty, or Bette – as conveyed by a cast member in one of three corresponding wigs, playing out three different storylines written by me. I casted mostly recognisable fashion models (which was also the first time I worked with models for a personal project). Rarely seen as themselves, these women are a template upon which ideas are formed. Their inclusion in this project was a knowing gesture towards the continued malleable nature of female identity in the 21st century. 

I contacted a lot of models that I have worked with though various projects, but the process had to be changed when the shoot was taking place. Destabilising their own working process to intentionally disrupt them from their known actions and poses, I worked quickly (no more then 20 minutes per shoot, sometimes only five minutes) and in scenarios that were often unknown to the model. For the moving image part of the project, the short film that was shot in Odessa, Ukraine, and I worked with one women, an artist Anna Domashyna, who played all three characters  


Can you talk me through a couple of favourite images from the project?

I am going to pick three different medias: a photograph, a collage and a film still, since all three makeup the project. This image of Hannelore was taken in a playground around the corner from my house, and Hannelore is someone I’ve worked with a lot and I’ve always admired her as a person, and as a model. She was one of the first women I asked to be in the project. I knew she would trust me to put her in this strange disguise and understand this feeling that I was trying to portray for each of the women: this moment of change, crisis or loss of self; this intersection between dreaming and waking, and the alarm and confusion that accompanies the void.

The film for the project was shot in Odessa, Ukraine. I met Anna while photographing her for a book that I am doing on Odessa, and I was immediately blown away by her. It was like she embodied all the three women in one – her being so otherworldly in every way. I asked her if I could take her picture for the project and showed her some images I already took. She looked at them and said ‘yes I get it, I am the girl’, and I said ‘yes you are!’ Six months later and I was back in Odessa to make the film with her. This is a still from the film I love, you can’t see her face but you can feel the story unfolding from her gaze in what she is seeing. There is a sense of mystery and nostalgia.

The collages came as the last part of the project. Bauhaus, surrealism and Dada deeply influenced me as an artist, and those were my original inspirations when I started making art. In my working process, chance encounters and subconscious influence are always present – while details from my dreams as well as a large cultural anthology of images come into my practice. Working from my archive of old media as well as new materials, I found Soviet Life as well as Hollywood Factory magazine. These collages came to life by splicing Brigit Bardot in half, and I placed her with an image of Elizabeth Taylor. The two women appear as one and as a collage from the cover of Mabel, Betty & Bette. Symbolically their shared features speak to a form of representation that I am interested in analysing.


Jim Goldberg publishes unseen polaroids from his seminal body of work, Raised by Wolves – a documentation of marginalised youths in LA and San Fransisco

© Jim Goldberg, Untitled Polaroid from Raised By Wolves

Many will be familiar with the work of Jim Goldberg. An American artist, photographer and member of Magnum photos, Jim has spent a healthy career documenting class and power – lensing those neglected from mainstream society. He’s a storyteller of truth and fiction, and his pictures have long been cemented in the photography canon for his collaging of narratives, experiences and histories. Shown through a characteristic mix of text and image, this distinctive output has now been extended into a new publication titled Fingerprint, published by Stanley/Barker and depicting a series of unseen polaroids taken throughout the 80s and 90s.

Jim’s photographic voyage first began with Rich and Poor (1985), a juxtaposition of San Francisco’s wealthy and impecunious. Capturing the class divide in the West Coast and shot between 1977 and 1985, the work instantly gained notability in the art world. Jim’s second book, Raised by Wolves (1985), reached similar acclaim – if not more so – for its frank documentation of marginalised youth in California. Shortly followed was Nursing Home (1986), a portrait of the harsh realities with growing old; Coming and Going (1996-Present), capturing birth and death in the USA; Open See (2003-2009), a project addressing the experiences of migration, immigration and trafficking; plus The Last Son (2016), the more reflective and biographical; then Ruby Every Fall (2016), Candy (2013-2017), Darrell & Patricia (2018) and Gene (2018).

© Jim Goldberg, Untitled Polaroid from Raised By Wolves

Raised by Wolves, however, is considered to be his most seminal; a mixed-media composite of photography, texts, films and objects narrating the lives of runaway street kids as they navigate addiction, abuse and violence. Shot over a 10-year period between LA and San Fransisco, the pictures occupy the precarious and fragile space between documentary and fiction, highlighted through Jim’s ardent camera sensibility and the inclusion of his subjects’ written word. In an interview with Magnum, for example, Jim wrote that it’s a “work of fiction that’s completely true”. An apt and contradictory phrasing, the work sees honest storytelling about real-life people merge with the subjects’ very own sagas – like Dave, who refers to his mother as a ‘junkie slut’, and father a ‘biker from Hell’. “His parents lived in Texas. They were devout Christians. They weren’t junkie sluts,” continues Jim in the interview.

Comparatively, the captions allude to the more realistic side of this feathery dance, striking the audience with the harsh realities of those in front of the lens. “Runaway from Florida who stole her Daddy’s credit card. 14 year-old girl who says she is pregnant with triplets,” writes one of his pictures, a monochromatic portrait of a girl picking at a box of Cheerios, shot in Hollywood in 1991. “Napoleon plays chicken, hanging over the wire guardrail of the Hollywood freeway,” writes another for the image Hollywood Freeway #1, depicting a disorientating photo of a man leaning over the wires, cars out of site, and taken in 1989. The latter is accompanied by text stating how the subject doesn’t remember why he ran away in the first place, “walking around for hours and hours and not being able to stop. Freezing all the time – exhausted, dazed.” 

© Jim Goldberg, Untitled Polaroid from Raised By Wolves

Fingerprint, in this case, is an offshoot of such. An anthology of previously unseen polaroids, the images were taken during the making of Raised by Wolves. “Since the 80s, polaroids have been an integral part of my work,” Jim tells me. “They have been a way to give back images immediately to my subjects, as small gifts of our interactions.” As well as offering an instant, physical snippet of that particular moment, the polaroids also serve a more methodological purpose. They’re Jim’s drafts; his tool for mapping out what would later become the images seen Raised by Wolves.

In signature scribbling fashion, Jim’s polaroids present the scriptures of his subjects, decoding information about their identities, challenges and resilience. One image writes, “Fucked a movie star today for $100”, while another says, “Going to Texas to save my life. Change my ways. Too bad I have to leave S. F. to do it. You all just wish you looked this good!” Jim adds:“The whole point is that everything is written is by the kids themselves.” Coupled with chromatic depictions of the teens, most, if not all, have a certain strength in their demeanour as they pose for the camera; arms placed to the head and one to the hip; a rose held to the face; or a defiant stare into the lens. It’s a personal expulsion of their lives.

Having spent 10 years getting to know his subjects, naturally he was going to build up a stack of personal stories. Which begs the question; without the texts, would the images alone have such pertinence on what’s undeniably a politically charged and important subject matter? In short, the pictures – and polaroids – are both forthright in their documentation of poverty and youth, but the straight and oftentimes explicit words add an extra layer to the image’s impact. The combination of both succeeds in telling a story of class division, and even though these pictures were taken decades back, the struggles and suffering can still be felt today. As Jim conclusively states: “It makes me wonder if we have learned anything about supporting at risk youth.”

Jim Goldberg’s Fingerprint is available to purchase at Stanley/Barker

Photography by Jim Goldberg

© Jim Goldberg, Untitled Polaroid from Raised By Wolves
© Jim Goldberg, Untitled Polaroid from Raised By Wolves
© Jim Goldberg, Untitled Polaroid from Raised By Wolves
© Jim Goldberg, Untitled Polaroid from Raised By Wolves
© Jim Goldberg, Untitled Polaroid from Raised By Wolves
© Jim Goldberg, Untitled Polaroid from Raised By Wolves
© Jim Goldberg, Untitled Polaroid from Raised By Wolves