Interview: Michelle Dunn Marsh and Sylvia Plachy

Michelle Dunn Marsh, the founder of Minor Matters, the Seattle-based photography book publisher, has championed many photographers over the years, curating, editing, and shepherding their work into exceptional photobooks and exhibitions. Now, Dunn Marsh (who was the subject of a profile in photograph’s May/June 2018 issue) is publishing her own book through Minor Matters: Seeing Being Seen: A Personal History of Photography, which can be pre-ordered here. The book is a memoir of sorts, in which photographs that she lives with (by Will Wilson – who made the book’s cover image – Endia Beal, Stephen Shore, Paul Strand, Carrie Mae Weems, Eugene Richards, Mary Ellen Mark, Sylvia Plachy, and others) anchor and illuminate key moments in her life. I spoke with Dunn Marsh and photographer Sylvia…

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Focus On: Diana Markosian

Once upon a time, the United States billed itself as a beacon of hope, a land of opportunity and prosperity. Debatable, even prior to the last for years, that idea has nevertheless drawn people from around the world in search of a better life. Diana Markosian’s mother was one of those people, bringing her two children from Moscow to California when Diana was seven years old, shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union. That decision, and its consequences, is the subject of Markosian’s remarkable book, Santa Barbara (Aperture, 2020). The photographs in the series (scheduled to go on view at SFMOMA in June and at ICP in the fall) comprise a staged re-enactment of her childhood, with actors playing her mother, her father, her step-father, her…

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Focus On: Zora J Murff

Zora J Murff’s series At No Point in Between is a slow burn of a project. Based in the historically Black neighborhood of North Omaha, Nebraska, his portraits, landscape images, and found photographs build upon each other to form a quietly devastating indictment of the multiple ways that violence is inflicted on Black communities. There are references to specific violent incidents, like the lynching of Will Brown in 1919 or the murder of Vivian Strong, a 14-year-old girl killed by a police officer in 1969, both in Omaha, Nebraska. In a found photograph of Brown’s body being burned, Murff focuses on the group of 30-plus white men who gathered to watch, grinning shamelessly for the camera, claiming their white privilege and white power. By shifting the…

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Focus On: Jon Henry

Jon Henry is the recipient of the 2020 Arnold Newman Prize for New Directions in Photographic Portraiture for his series Stranger Fruit, portraits of Black mothers holding their sons in poses that suggest the pietà. Selections from the series are on view at the Griffin Museum of Photography through October 23. Born and raised in Queens, NY, Henry says the idea for the series, which he began in 2014, first came to him after the murder of Sean Bell in 2006 by police, on the morning before his wedding in Jamaica, Queens. “It felt like it could have been me or any of my friends,” he says, adding, “I’m 38, and to this day, my mother tells me to be careful; she still worries.” The religious…

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Focus On: Bill Hunt

“Photography, for me, is a life’s mission,” says collector, curator, teacher, writer, former dealer, onetime actor, and full-time storyteller Bill Hunt. “I think of the enormous pleasure that photography’s brought to me over the years, and I’m happy to share it, and I’m energized to talk about it and to direct people to it.” Hunt has been collecting photographs for some 40 years, amassing a couple thousand objects in his two main collections – one on the theme of closed or averted eyes, the other featuring American photographs of groups before 1950. Over the next three years, he is deaccessioning everything, beginning with an online sale at Christie’s, The Unseen Eye: Photographs from the W.M. Hunt Collection, that starts October 5 and runs until October…

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Focus On: Naima Green

Three years ago, the artist Naima Green was doing research at the New York Public Library when she came across a reference to a work by Catherine Opie that she’d never heard about, much less seen. Opie’s Dyke Deck (1995) is a set of 54 playing cards that is also a set of 54 small, black-and-white portraits, a snapshot of the Bay Area queer community in the 1990s. “I immediately felt connected to the form,” says Green, who promptly bought a Dyke Deck on eBay. “I felt seen and comforted in a lot of ways, but I also wanted to see more of my own community.” With Opie’s blessing, Green began shooting portraits for her own deck, Pur·suit, which reflects the queer community of color…

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March – April 2020 About The Cover

  ©Alison Rossiter, Density 1924, 1925, 1926, 1928, 2019, from the series Substance of Density. Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery. A selection of work from the series is on view at Yossi Milo Gallery March 6 – May 2.      

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Focus On: Rania Matar

  Those who have thus far been lucky enough to escape the worst outcomes of the Covid-19 crisis still exist in a surreal sort of limbo characterized by uncertainty and longing for contact with friends and loved ones. Smiles are concealed behind masks; there’s no shaking hands, much less hugging; and visits to friends and elders take place through windowpanes, at a distance, or not at all.  From her kitchen in Brookline, Massachusetts, where she has been quarantining at home with her husband and six young adults (including her four children), Rania Matar gazed daily across the yard at her neighbor, working in her own kitchen. One day, she saw her neighbor sitting in her bay window, reading. “I found that so beautiful,” says Matar,…

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Focus On: Mary Ellen Bartley

  Mary Ellen Bartley was in Bologna, Italy, in the midst of a residency at the Giorgio Morandi studio and library, when the pandemic hit Italy. She was three and a half weeks into the five-week residency, photographing Morandi’s books, when Italy began shutting down, and she had to leave. Bartley flew home to her house in Sag Harbor, New York, where she put herself in quarantine and regrouped. Bartley copes by working, she says. Until now, books have been the subjects of most of her photographs, often books in particular archives, like Morandi’s library. She’s also photographed the book collections of Jackson Pollock, Robert Wilson, and little Edie (Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’s cousin) in her East Hampton home, Grey Gardens. Bartley’s photographs emphasize the tactile qualities…

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