Spring/Break kicked off Armory Arts Week on Tuesday with a lively and crowded opening at the former Conde Nast building in Times Square, Manhattan. One hundred and fifty curators premiered new artwork by over 400 artists under the theme "Black Mirror." Some of the work took on a political stance and all of it was a little weird and surprisingly functional, especially if you need a haircut by Eve Sussman. Below are portraits of both curators and artists from this year's roundup:
Artist Anthony Hayden
Artist Anthony Hayden
Work by artist Anthony Hayden
Artist Lisa Blas
Artist Leah Piepgras
Artist Serra Victoria Bothwell
Artists Andrea Wolf and Karolina Ziulkoski in their room, Future Past News
Caroline Tilleard of Cuvas Tilleard Projects
The Skin We Are In with works by Brendan Fernandes, Pryce Lee, Andrea Mary Marshall, Shantell Martin, Kristin McIver and Cleo Wade, curated by Emie Diamond and Anne Huntington
Artist LeRone Wilson and his work Ancestral Hive
Room curated by Nicole Grammatico and Christina Papanicoladu, The Pursuit of it
Artist Sean Fader in front of his work 365 Profile Pics curated by Denny Gallery
Michael Scoggins's piece in American/Woman curated by Katharine Mulherin
Artist Tiffany Smith
Work by Tiffany Smith
Artists in room 2370, Head Light, curated by Rachel Rossin and Toni Ann Fernandez
Artist Archie Lee Coates IV5
I Was Thinking About Everything and Then Again I was Thinking About Nothing curated by Justin Dedemko
Artist Azikiwe Mohammed
Campfire by Will Rahilly
Jonald Dude: Show Mein, curated by Chris Held and Lydia Cambron
Canadian-born photographer Chris Buck has shot everyone from Barack Obama and Donald Trump to Leonard Cohen, Kendrick Lamar, and Maragret Atwood. His portraits are compelling in their simplicity, a peeled-back look at the often unseen side of their subjects. HIs new book UNEASY: Chris Buck Portraits 1986–2016just launched this week. I spoke with him over the phone and asked him to take me behind the scenes of a few of his memorable shoots.
VICE: Why don't we start with this amazing Donald Trump portrait? Chris Buck: So this was shot ten years ago. He was not the president of the United States or anywhere close to it. He was just a TV personality and well-known real estate business guy. We initially had this conceptual shot where a bunch of my friends and my wife's friends dressed up in suits and held Donald Trump masks in front of their faces. The idea was Donald Trump is everywhere. At the end of the shoot, I gave him a print of another photo I'd taken of him. It was actually a pretty strange picture I gave him, but I gave him this 11x14 print. He took it out of the envelope and said, "What's this?" I said, "I want to buy more time with you, and I'm giving you a gift in exchange." He kind of shrugged and said, "OK." So he posed for this last shot for a couple of minutes, and now it's the shot you see that's in the book.
It's an incredible shot. So much of what we see of him now is the stereotype, the temperamental person. What was the mood like on set? I've photographed him three times now, and I was surprised the first time. I was genuinely surprised how kind of like low key he was. When I first photographed him, The Apprentice had become a big hit—it was the beginning of the first season, and I had known who he was already. [At that time], I found him to have an obnoxious presence and didn't really find him of interest, but in person, he is much more low key and kind of reasonable. I photographed his daughter a year before. I mentioned how I met his daughter, and she was very sweet and very polite. She was just in her early 20s at that time. I said to him, when a child is really well-put together like that, it's quite an accomplishment to the parent. I think he took note of that and kind of relaxed a bit and was more easy to work with after that. I think he appreciated the compliment.
In the second shoot, we had this little crowd, and he actually really came alive and really loved having the audience, and he was quite funny. One thing I have noticed during the election campaign when he has these private meetings with people—who he really should have no connection to or there's no reason why they should endorse him, like American Evangelicals or Bill Gates—they come out singing his praises. Having met him and spent time with him, I totally get it because he is an amazing, warm, great sales personality. He really is very likable and very charming in person. He's one of those rare people who is so different in person than he comes off in the media. I recognized that the first time I met with him, but it became much more pronounced the second time.
Did he see this photo? Yes. Actually, I met with him again, about a year and a half ago for my third shoot with him. I had the mock up for this book together. I showed him the book, and I showed him this picture, and he really liked it. I mean, I think he liked it because it's a picture of him. I asked him for an endorsement; he said he'd give me one; I haven't got it yet. He was very cordial. What can I tell you? I tried showing him more of the book, but he really was only interested in the picture of him. He was just kind of funny. He was very decent about it. I've got these amazing pictures of him looking at my mock up. It's very bizarre. What can I say? I was surprised when he became president.
I think we all were. Moving on to this image of Barack Obama. I don't want to compare the two, but there seems to already be a different energy to this photo. This was in 2013, basically right before his second inauguration. Yes, he's obviously a very different personality than Trump, but they do have things in common, too. I think they're both pretty self-involved. I think they both are kind of all about themselves, so in that way they're kind of similar. I think in a way their little competitiveness with each other makes sense because they both love their internal narratives. Obviously, Obama is more a detailed person and more of a traditional intellectual. Anyone who runs for president isn't that different from one another. Occasionally, some presidents genuinely fall into it kind of by accident, like Gerald Ford. I think he never really intended on being president. But most of them have this intense ego that brings them to run for president. In that way, I actually think they're more alike than dissimilar. At least they have things that are alike.
Do you think that's true of politicians in general—that narcissism? I think when you get to the point of prime minister or president, you're in a different level of ego than ministers in Parliament or whatever. I think a lot of them genuinely get into it out of the sense of service. I think when you become party leader or prime minister it moves onto a whole other level. Like with our current prime minister, I really like Justin, and I've met him a couple of times. He's a very sweet guy, but really, he loves being prime minister. He's gone feet first. He's in. He loves it.
Have you done his portrait? I haven't, but I did a talk in Toronto—I guess 15 years ago—and he was at the talk, and he approached me afterward and said hello. Actually, I've got a great story with him. Do you want to hear it?
Oh, yeah. For sure. We stayed in touch a little bit after we met. I never became close to him or anything, but I ended up being in Ottawa one time for a social thing with friends. He was hosting an event in the same building that I was in. I went by to say hello to him. I guess he was a guest of honor or something. This would be eight years ago or something, and so I went over and said hello. Of course, he remembered me, and I invited him to go drinking with my friends and me. He very politely declined and said he was invited by this group, and he really should stay for the duration. He appreciated the invitation, but he really couldn't take me up on it. I ended up talking with a friend about it who was on that trip with me. When he became prime minister, we were kind of recounting the story, and he said, "Yeah, but there's more to it." I'm like, "What do you mean?" He said, "You don't remember?" I said, no. He said, "You invited the prime minister to come to the strip club with us." I said, "I did not." He said, "You may not have asked explicitly, but you certainly implied that this is something we were going to do and that he was welcome to come join us." I was like, "OK, I don't remember that, but if you say it, I'm sure it's true."
I like it that he very politely replied like, "Oh, I'd love to, but I have to fulfill these obligations." He was already planning his ascent then. It's not like he made it a secret. He's been on that track for a long, long time.
Moving to another seminal Canadian figure. Tell me about this portrait of Leonard Cohen. When was this one taken? It was taken in 2001, in Los Angeles, where his home was. That was a big deal for me. I was a big fan. I mean, I'm really like—of all the people I've shot, there's really maybe just a dozen who were genuinely like heroes to me. He was one of them. It was quite daunting. I was well into my career at that point, so I managed the anxiety or whatever, and it worked out fine. We had two hours with him. One of these things that's interesting about him, that I think you might appreciate, was that when we walked to him, he was huddled over the stove wearing a suit and a hat, and he had a cigarette hanging over his mouth. He was frying up some eggs for his breakfast. He was all hunched over; he literally had a hunched back. He looked like Humphrey Bogart or something, kind of short and kind of aged. He looked amazing in his suit and everything. But then, when I started taking pictures, he straightened out and became very proper. He always looked so elegant, every picture of him. My whole thing is getting to the more vulnerable side of people. The book is called, Uneasy, that's where I really connect. I was trying to get him to let down that guard, but he clearly has this... he wants to look his best, which I respect, but it's my thing to get beyond that kind of presentation.
How do you do that? Part of it is sometimes they will let their guard down when I'm not actually shooting. At one point, we were just talking, and he was sitting. He was sitting this way where he had his hands sort of draped down. They look like dolphin fins... it looked like a fin or something. The way his hands were sort of set, I was like, "Hold it, don't move!" I dragged the camera over on a tripod, and I just insisted, "Do not move." I just gently set the focus, and I executed these frames, and that's how I got that shot. He's pretty proper, but there was something about his hands. It was sort of strange and fish-like. I thought it was just so beautiful and strange, and that's how I got that shot. For whatever reason, he trusted me enough to let me get that moment.
How often do you have to break that barrier by making yourself uneasy to get that shot? In some ways, I get the vulnerability from people in ways that are relatively artificial. I just make them go into a place in a room that just forces them to be like physically constrained, and I guess I do kind of expose my own vulnerability. I don't know. It's not that conscious; it's funny. As a photographer and as a journalist, I'm sure you know, you have your whole little bag of tricks that you kind of roll out to get people to open up. You do what you have to to get people to reveal themselves and to let that barrier down. You try different things with different people, and you see what works. As a journalist, people have done it with me where they'll kind of tell a kind of awkward or a vulnerable story, hoping I'll go there, too, knowing perfectly well that their vulnerable story is not going to end up in the piece, which is fine—like I get it because I do it, too. But it's a thing one does to get people to open up. That's our job—to get people to show something of themselves.
What are some of your other tricks? You've talked about showing your own vulnerability. What else do you use to get people out of their own heads? I don't really spend a lot of time trying to make people super comfortable. In a weird way, I don't want people to feel comfortable enough to say no to me. So when I ask them to do the thing that's kind of strange or vulnerable, they just do it, and they don't question me. When I say, "Go on your hands and knees," or "Go in that corner," or whatever, they kind of obey. I don't want them comfortable enough with me to say, "You're really cool. I just don't want to do that." I want them to say, "Yes," and just do it. I want them to be a little intimidated by me. I will be friendly enough, but I do like to convey a sense of "I'm in charge, and it's best you just obey."
One other thing I'll do is I'll bring a gift for people, like with that Donald Trump shoot where I brought him a print. I would give people a print. If I know they're a fan of someone and I photographed them, I'll bring them a print. It's amazing how that will create this sense of indebtedness that becomes implied in the shoot. They will give me more because I've given them something. Even though I'm just a photographer, I'll study people. I'll read interviews with them, I'll learn their history, and I'll have conversations with them that show that I know their story, and I think that helps, too. People will tell me, you know more about us than the people at our own record label. I think that endears me to them, and they'll more likely say yes.
How did you choose the people who made it into the book? What is it about these portraits that connected them for you? I think it's a mix of who they are and also the images themselves. I think it's also a balance of different people or different vocations. I think that was important to me. I didn't want to have just actors and musicians. I want to have lots of photographers and writers and politicians. I love super niche celebrities—people who, in their field, are super well respected, but outside their field, they're barely known. Like Vince Cerf, who is one of the inventors and innovators of the internet back in the 70s and 80s. I photographed him in the mid 90s, and he's still an important person. That was super cool to put him in the book, and people who know who he is are like, "Whoa, Vince Cerf, that's so cool." Obviously, it's well and good to have people like Barack Obama or Kendrick Lamar but to have people who only very specific people are going to know—it's a way of me curating who I think is important.
Maria lost her parents at the age of seven. Until she was 80 years old, she and her siblings provided for the family by working from dawn until dusk on their corn plantation near the city of Itabaianinha in the Brazilian state of Sergipe. Maria never grew taller than three feet.
Itabaianinha, Brazilian photographer Luisa Dorr explains, is sometimes called "the city of dwarfs" because of its unusually large population of adults under 1.45 meters (4'9") tall. The city of 40,000 is home to a estimated 70 to 150 dwarfs—they prefer that term over little person—meaning as many as one in 266 residents are short-statured. (For comparison's sake, the rest of Brazil has one dwarf to every 10,000 average-sized people.)
The photojournalist, who spent three days meeting the dwarfs of Itabaianinha, initially had trouble explaining her intentions to the community. Many assumed she, like so many before her, was just another producer trying to break into the comedy television circuit. Some requested money to sit for photographs; Dorr, though not morally opposed to paying subjects, chose not to do so.
The photographer was able to form connections within hours of her arrival. She bonded with one dwarf by purchasing a hot dog from his snack bar and striking up a conversation. She found a man named Sergio on Facebook, and he and his friends showed her around and invited her to attend a local dwarf soccer game.
Itabaianinha is sweltering in March, when the photographer visited. She limited shooting mostly to the hours when the sun wasn't directly overhead, but she gained a real understanding of the hard work of some of these families. Though they might adjust their houses and cars to suit their size, the dwarfs work the same jobs as everyone else.
The type of dwarfism most people in Itabaianinha have is not the most common type found elsewhere in the world; they share a genetic mutation that causes them to be shorter, with the same proportions as average-height people.
The photographer met dwarfs who felt secure and home at their current height. Maria was one of them. She was confident at the size she was, and she didn't wish to be like average-sized people. Still, the dwarf population in Itabaianinha is decreasing, probably due to the increased prevalence of marriages with average-sized people. Most of the remaining dwarfs fall into an older age bracket.
When Dorr visited, she made a point of sharing her pictures with those she met along the way. "It's a poor area in Brazil," she says, "Many of these people never had their photographs printed."
Dorr got news a few months ago that Maria had passed away, at the age of 101. Looking back on the day she spent at Maria's plantation, the photographer writes, "It's a simple family with a beautiful story. Even though they worked so hard their entire life, they were all happy and thankful."
Valerio Fonseca Melo, 65, is retired now but used to be a farmer and soccer player.
Beatriz Nascimento da Cruz, 75, owns a poplar market in Itabaianinha where she sell sweets, ice cream, water, and so on. Her brother, Joao Nascimento da Cruz, 71, had a bar but has since retired. Beatriz is a virgin—she said she never had a boyfriend and that in her day dwarfs did not marry; she continues the tradition to this day.
Fransico Jose dos Santos, known as Dodinha, is 91, the oldest dwarf in Itabaianinha. Dodinha had a bad fall two years ago while trying to mount his horse and almost died. His passion for horses has not diminished, however.
Juvencia Maria de Melo, 65, worked on a farm until the age of 62, picking lemons and oranges.
Soccer players from Itabaianinha.
Maria das Piaba, 101 in this photo, passed away last year. She lost her parents very early, at the age of seven, and their house was built thanks to small donations from local residents. They grow beans on their family farm.
Cruz Juárez, 52, has struggled with alcoholism and stopped drinking three months ago after he had an accident that left him in a coma for three days.
Joaldo 26, and his girlfriend.
Aldileide Francisaca da de Santana, 30
Clecio Ribeiro, 35, works at Supermarket Prado Vasconcelos. In his free time, he likes to play music with his brother.
All photographs by Luisa Dorr. You can follow her work here.
Many of those deaths are the result of robberies, kidnappings, gang disputes, and sometimes police violence. Since 2014, Venezuelans have regularly taken to the streets to protest the violence (among other things that plague the country, like hyperinflation and corruption)—protests that sometimes also end in violence.
Thinking about Venezuela's murder rates is harrowing but mostly abstract, so I decided to visit some Venezuelan women whose children have been murdered. They talked to me about their loss, while I photographed them in their homes.
Albis Hernández is the mother of Esteban, a 17-year-old student shot and killed by a police officer. Esteban was riding on the back of a moped with a friend. They were coming back from school and were both in their school uniforms.
While they were riding home, news broke that a neighborhood bakery had been robbed, and the owner told police that the thieves had been two young boys. When the police officers shouted at them to stop their moped, Esteban's friend got scared and rode on. One of the police officers fired a shot and hit Esteban in the back. He died on the spot. The owner of the bakery later confirmed that Esteban and his friend weren't the ones who had robbed him.
Richard Alexander died from a gunshot to the head while on his way to the supermarket. His mother, Consuelo Palacios, has no idea why her son was killed.
All she knows is that a couple of men attacked him with baseball bats and that the fight ended with a gunshot—or maybe two. She's not sure. His body was found two days later, on a bit of wasteland near that supermarket.
When he was nine, Omar got caught in the middle of a shootout on his way home from school. His family lives in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods of the city of Petare, where gangs of heavily armed boys, aged 15 to 20, make the rules.
Omar and his mother were just getting off the school minibus at the moment a territorial shootout between rival gangs started. Gloria was holding Omar's hand and felt the weight of her son's body fall. He was hit in the head by a stray bullet.
María del Carmen
A gang murdered María del Carmen's sons Ronnie and Jorge in their neighborhood, where they used to live with their her. Their pictures now hang on the wall in her new house—she moved away from her old neighborhood, after gangsters threatened to kill her third son.
She says that her sons weren't involved in anything illegal—that they just wanted to leave the area, but they were stopped. She is now responsible for bringing up the daughter of one of her murdered sons.
Three of María Helena's children and one of her nephews were murdered. Her son Wilmer was shot in the face at 39, while getting off a bus. He was caught in the middle of a shootout between rival gangs. The same happened to her 20-year-old son, Yender—he was shot three times and died in the hospital three days later.
When her daughter, Eliana, was 12, she was shot in the head and died on the doorstep of her house. María Helena's nephew, Erasmus, died from a stray bullet, aged 20.
Julián Julián, nickname JJ, was killed when his car was stolen. His mother Olga says JJ was "one of the good ones"—a busy veterinarian from Barquisimeto, who died at 29.
One day, at lunchtime, he went out to buy a roast chicken. On the way back to his car, he saw a man approaching with a gun in his hand. The man tried to take his car, but JJ apparently made a gesture that he didn't like, so JJ was shot five times. His murderer fled the scene, but did not take the car.
Yngris's son William was murdered at a street party, by someone who Yngris is sure was the boyfriend of a famous Venezuelan model.
William tried to break up a fight between the murderer and one of his friends and was killed for it. His suspected murderer fled the country and was never caught.
Jeneth's son Bassil became an icon of Venezulela's 2014 protests, against the government's lack of action against violence and hyperinflation. During one of those protests, on February 12, Bassil was hit by a police bullet and went down in the center of Caracas.
During anti-government and anti-violence protests in San Christóbal in February 2014, Carmen's son Jimmi Vargas was hit with rubber bullets and tear gas, which made him fall off the roof of the building he was standing on. The blow to the head he suffered turned out to be fatal, but while he was lying there, still alive, the National Guard allegedly kept shooting rubber bullets at him.
The last thing Carmen heard from her son was a text message that read: "Could you make me a snack? I'm on my way home."
A portrait is often defined with a little depth of field of effect that makes the person in focus really pop. Most smartphone’s can’t produce this effect, but How-To Geek shows off a way to use a single Photoshop effect to create the same look.
Shooting photos using your camera’s built-in flash can lead to harshly lit, unflattering photos, but if you’re in a dark space you need something to light your subject. Try using a white balloon as a pocketable flash diffuser that you can have ready to use in seconds.
One way to take a good portrait photograph is to keep the subject in focus, while adding a little blur to the background. It’s difficult to achieve, but if you take multiple close-up photos of your subject and stitch them together, it’s easy to do.
Usually when you’re taking a portrait photo of two people and one of them is significantly taller, you’d get something like an apple box for the shorter person to stand on. But what if there’s nothing on hand? To adjust the taller person’s height without hunching over, have them spread their feet apart.
If you’re a budding portrait photographer, you don’t really need to drain your budget on a whole slew of backdrops for your shoots. It’s better to choose a highly adaptable color that can change dramatically depending on your lighting, like gray.
Here’s a trick for more advanced photographers to shoot against a bright background without blowing out the exposure. In this video, portrait photographer Joel Grimes shows how he uses a thin net to darken a backdrop while setting the exposure for the face of his subject.