Category Archives: IM Magazine

A monthly presentation of new work by invited young women photographers.

Emily Kinni: The Bus Stop

Emily Kinni (USA): The Bus Stop
Inge Morath Award Finalist, 2018

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Huntsville, Texas is a prison town with 11 different prison units of varying degrees of security. The industry is one of the most prominent in the town both geographically and economically. The Walls Unit is the oldest prison in the state,which includes the currently active execution chamber. The Walls unit (the biggest unit in Huntsville) also serves as a regional release center for the state meaning many men are bussed in from other parts of Texas to be released.

On average there are 100 to 150 releases a day Monday through Friday. If the individual doesn’t have a family member picking them up they walk a block away to a designated Greyhound bus station and wait for their ride out of town. They can be easily identified in the town because they are wearing church donated clothes, often reffered to as “clown clothes” and have their belongings typically in red onion bags.

I have been going to this bus stop and photographing men interested in sharing their stories with me. I take their portrait on film, and then two polaroids, one for me and one for them to take with them making it more of an exchange. I was the most curious about this particular couple of hours while they wait for their bus to come to take them to the next phase of their lives. In particular, I wanted to begin to photographically explore the liminality of these few hours, and to question their sense of identity, and the meaning of freedom especially with a high recidivism state rate.

Peyton Fulford: Infinite Tenderness

Peyton Fulford (USA): Infinite Tenderness
Inge Morath Award Finalist, 2018

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I grew up in a religious household in a small southern town. My mother was raised in the Sanctified Holy Church and my father was raised Southern Baptist. As a result of the strict beliefs I had been taught since birth, I did not feel comfortable coming out as queer until I was 21 years old.

For the majority of my life, I was unsure where I belonged in the world. It was difficult to navigate the space I was growing up in because I could not relate to it or understand my place within it. I never felt like my truest, most open self when conforming to the culture and ideologies around me. As I came to terms with my own identity, the photo series Infinite Tenderness came to fruition.

In 2016, I began exploring the notion of intimacy and identity among the LGBTQ+ community in the American South. These are the people I have met and connected with along the way. Through this work, I am documenting the exploration of one’s body, sexuality, and gender that comes along with growing up and identifying oneself.

My intention is to empower others and create an accepting space for queer kids that grow up in small towns and rural areas. Each individual in this series is dependent on another for support and understanding of their ever-changing identities. This is a visual representation of today’s American youth.

Melissa Spitz: You Have Nothing to Worry About

Melissa Spitz (USA): You Have Nothing to Worry About
Inge Morath Award Recipient, 2018

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Since 2009, I have been making photographs of my mentally ill, substance-abusing mother. Her diagnoses change frequently—from alcoholism to dissociative identity disorder—and my relationship with her has been fraught with animosity for as long as I can remember. I am fully aware that my mother thrives on being the center of attention and that, at times, our portrait sessions encourage her erratic behavior.

My brother and I used to leave notes all over the house for our mother, one said, “Reminder: You Have Nothing to Worry About! Be Fucking Happy!” That phrase, You Have Nothing to Worry About, became our mantra, and the title for this body of work.

The photographs are simultaneously upsetting and encouraging; honest and theatrical; loving and hateful. By turning the camera toward my mother and my relationship with her, I capture her behavior as an echo of my own emotional response. The images function like an ongoing conversation.

You Have Nothing to Worry About has acted like a mirror for my mother and she attributes seeing the photographs as her reason for seeking help with alcohol abuse. The project’s Instagram @nothing_to_worry_about has spurred a community of mothers and daughters discussing addiction and mental health in the home. Today it has over fifty-five thousand followers, who contribute their own stories regularly, 90% of them identify as women.

Sarah Blesener: Toy Soldiers

Sarah Blesener (USA): Toy Soldiers

Rising Youth Nationalism in Russia and the U.S.

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On a Thursday afternoon, six teenage boys gathered in an abandoned warehouse in the town of Diveevo, Russia, and the drills began. The group, called “The Survivalists,” meets weekly to practice tactical skills and defense strategies. Artyom, who at 17 is one of the oldest of the group, was helping another student, Daniel, 11, to hide in the corner room and prepare for a surprise attack with his plastic weapon. Their instructor calmly tells me that the group is not looking for war, but is preparing young patriots to be ready for the future.

Over 200,000 Russian youth are currently enrolled in patriotic clubs, with 10,000 in Moscow alone. Each club functions independently with their own structures and philosophies. In 2015, the Russian government proposed a program called the “Patriotic Education of Russian Citizens in 2016-2020” which envisions an eight-percent increase in patriotic youth over the next ten years, and a ten-percent increase in new recruits for the Russian armed forces.

There is nothing inherently wrong with patriotism. However, these two terms, patriotism and nationalism, easily blur. There is a thin line between devotion to a place or way of life and to a feeling of superiority or aggression towards “outsiders.” Because youth are always easy targets for new ideologies, for the last year I have been focusing my work on clubs, camps, and alternative groups for youth that combine patriotic education and gun training with a mix of fun that makes the whole experience seem like a game.

The first chapter of this project began in April of 2016 in various regions throughout Russia. Building on this past year of work, it is my intention to extend the project to the United States, where the issue has been underreported. The evident rise of nationalistic sentiment, along with the current political climate, has made this work become a necessity for me. By focusing solely on the country of Russia, I feel that the work can easily be misinterpreted as a phenomena happening in an isolated region. The rhetoric and parallels I see in my own country are something that I want to challenge and visually document.

My intent is to raise questions about how beliefs and traditions are passed down to younger generations. I want to challenge ideas of patriotism. I am interested in youth culture and movements and beyond politics, my photographs intend to tap into this vital essence of youth: camaraderie, bonding, and how our identities are constructed at a young age.

Nationalistic tendencies and biases are part of the make-up of most of us, whether we like it or not. However, I agree with George Orwell when he states, “whether it is possible to get rid of them I do not know, but I do believe it is possible to struggle against them.”

Riel Sturchio: Chasing Light

Riel Sturchio (USA): Chasing Light

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Since birth, my twin sister, Bianca, and I have uniquely struggled with cerebral palsy, illness, and our inherent identities as twins. Over the past several years Bianca has worked with me on this long-term project to document of our lived experiences as twins. Images are made with medium format color film and a Pentax camera.

Authentic and vulnerable images depict a distinct yet universal reality that can help shift the landscape of non-normativity and disease away from disempowering associations and connotations. Stigmatized labels are maintained by dialogues that often disengage, or exclude those who don’t fit into a social norm. Chasing Light is inclusive to all individuals able-bodied or not, by engaging those who relate to challenges with the body’s physical appearance, capabilities, one’s own social identity, self-identity, self-stigma, and shame. The project shows what disability can look like, including scars, the body, pain, and also shows moments of calm, peace, and beauty, a sense strength and courage. The project allows myself and others a greater understanding of non-normative ability and disability. It also entails an inherent political aspect as it looks at a marginalized body that is disabled, queer, and female.

Isadora Romero: Amazona Warmikuna

Isadora Romero (Ecuador): Amazona Warmikuna
Inge Morath Award Finalist, 2017

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Amazona Warmikuna is a photographic project that portrays in a subjective manner the life of the indigenous women in the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest. This series is inspired by the myth of the Amazonas by whom the region receives its name.

According to history, the Amazon Rainforest is one of the few places on Earth that was called after a female character, casually fictional. In the first community I visited, I was struck by the temperament of the women living there; they never stop defending life and their territory. Thanks to their organization, they have managed to unite the community in the fight against mining, a serious threat nowadays. This project is a tribute to their strength, to their mystical vision of the world. It is a tribute to the women building history.

Throughout my career I have been interested in the role women play anonymously in the world. I think that in addition to denouncing the inequalities, it is essential to spread stories of resilience, strength and empowerment, like Amazona Warmikuna, which invites the observer to a mystic journey. This path is just the beginning. My strategy will be to follow the indigenous women’s worldview, which professes that everything in the jungle is alive, that every plant, animal, object has its spirit, its magic and must be protected in order to achieve a harmonious life.

Johanna-Maria Fritz: Like a Bird

Johanna-Maria Fritz (Germany): Like a Bird
Inge Morath Award Recipient, 2017

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When seventeen, I started to accompany the East German family circus “Zirkus Rolandos”. During my education at Ostkreuzschule in Berlin I intensified my pursuit with “Rolandos” and searched all over Europe for extraordinary circuses. I stumbled upon the first and only circus in Iceland, Sirkus Islands, which I visited and whose staff I’ve been documenting since it’s early years. I presented this series of photographs in an exhibition as my graduation work.

For Like a Bird I travelled to Palestine (Westbank and Gaza), Afghanistan and the Islamic Republic of Iran. I was especially curious about the role of women in circus life and the environment the circus is based in – thankfully I was able to get access to the female culture in conservative societies like Iran and Afghanistan as I am myself a woman. With my work I pursue the object of overcoming prejudices and show how small communities are able to function in these conservative or conflict-ridden countries. I direct a spectators view to different worlds: The one of the circus as well as the society surrounding it and how the social fabric of the circus influences the outside and gets influenced itself in reverse.

Anastasia Vlasova: The Invisible Warriors

Anastasia Vlasova (Ukraine): The Invisible Warriors

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There was one boy there (at the checkpoint). What was his name? Vadik? Yura? Not sure I even knew his name… On his way up the hill he turned back to me and said ‘bye, mama’ and waved his hand. About a week after I got a call from a comrade who told me that a shell had landed exactly where their tent was… That kid got killed right away. The others got wounded pretty bad. When I realized that that kid died, even though I didn’t even know his name and spent just about an hour with him, his ‘bye, mama’, which he said as my own son could, is still haunting me. It really did get to me a lot, even though he was a stranger

Oksana Shakhray with a call sign “Mama” (mother) recalls her service at Ukraine’s National Guard as a paramedic. At home, in Odesa, Oksana has two sons and a grand-daughter, while at the war zone in Eastern Ukraine she has dozens of soldiers whom she treats like her own children.

Oksana joined the army in awareness that her 27-year-old son might be conscripted, so she wanted to be near him in case he gets wounded. He never was, while Oksana stayed to serve in the army and became a mother to many soldiers. Continue reading Anastasia Vlasova: The Invisible Warriors

Rachel Boillot: Silent Ballad

Rachel Boillot (USA): Silent Ballad

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“Down in the valley,
Valley so low
Hang your head over
Hear the wind blow

Down in the valley,
Walking between,
Telling our story
Here’s what it sings.”

Down in the Valley ballad, as collected by Carl Sandburg and published in The American Songbag, 1927.

Silent Ballad: Time Sings in the Cumberland Plateau is a quiet look at musical heritage in America’s Appalachian region. Old-time musical traditions, faith, and story-telling all inform this portrait of place. Reflective, mysterious moments of pause punctuate portraits of the musicians and artists themselves, highlighting the vacuum of time and space that separate these songs as they ring out in a rural, mountainous landscape.

These photographs were made along the serpentine mountain roads between Signal Mountain and Cumberland Gap, tracing the Cumberland Trail corridor in East Tennessee. They detail my own exploration of the region as I listened to its sounds and considered how they might translate to visual imagery. I’m still out somewhere on one of those roads – and I’m still listening. Continue reading Rachel Boillot: Silent Ballad

Tamara Merino: Underland

Tamara Merino (Chile): Underland
Inge Morath Award Finalist, 2016

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It is a hot day in the desolated Simpson Desert, Australia. A man walks through the tunnels of his underground house with a torch in his hand. He lives twenty-five meters under the red soil, where he has been finding opal. It was an old mine that he transformed into a roof over his head: a home that promise to have plenty of opal in the walls. “I got my own bank if I want to get a shovel out,” says Martin, an English miner.

Coober Pedy, which derives from the aboriginal name Kupa-Piti or, white man hole, is a small town in the southern Australian outback over 500 miles from the nearest city. Coober Pedy inhabits a subterranean culture, in which the majority of the population goes after the great wealth of opal. This is an unconventional town where most of social and personal life takes place under the vast and lonely land itself.

Coober Pedy is the largest opal mining area in the world and since 1915 has been mined for its opal, a valuable gemstone worth millions. Cobber Pedy breaks all of the social structures and rules of a conventional town, and for a moment, it deceives you; at first glance this is nothing but a ghost town. In reality, it is a subterranean culture that is as mysteriously dark as it is bright and beautiful.
Among a population of 1695 habitants, Coober Pedy offers a home to forty-five different nationalities of immigrants, ex-prisoners, and veterans of the World War who have decided to escape their past lives and take refuge in underground houses called dugouts.

Each year, mining work has been decreasing on all fronts. There are less miners working on the fields and young people don’t want to commit to it because of the eminent danger and its unstable source of income. It is a crazy and unusual life; they could be millionaire any day or they could not find anything for years. This gem reveals the hidden motivations of those that follow its illusion of wealth, and an atmosphere of distrustful eyes and mystery await those who go after its allure. Opal fever takes place and that’s when the madness, ambition, greed, despair, distrust and obsession begin.