Dear <<First Name>>

“Photographs never have a single meaning; neither, it turns out, does photography as a whole” – Geoffrey Batchen

Photography by its nature is selective; what it includes in the frame.  At the same time, still photographs have a powerful impact on our understanding, perspectives and emotions.  In fact, photography is used because of its impact on various aspects of our lives.

As Marvin Heiferman, the editor of “Photography Changes Everything”  notes “the most sustained and promoted discourse about photography has tended to focus only on a specific category of images:  those made as art, as well as the handful of vernacular images that managed to get upgraded to the status of art." However, billions of pictures are taken every year for reasons that have nothing to do with art.  These photographs deliver news, sell clothes, get you a date and cause you to get speeding tickets in the mail. 

As Heiferman notes, “photographs don’t just show us things, they do things.  They engage us optically, neurologically, intellectually, emotionally, viscerally, physically. He goes to note:

  1. Photography changes what we want. It influences how we define our needs and the experiences we want to have.
  2. Photography changes what we see. It can show us what the human eye cannot see, such as mars, or a magnified spider web or snow flake.
  3. Photography changes who we are. How we choose to represent ourselves individually or in groups when we are photographed impacts the shaping of self-expression and stereotypes.
  4. Photography changes what we do. It enables us to explore or carry out professional responsibilities, such as in engineering where it is used to inspect structures, or in medicine where the x-ray or MRI determines what the doctor does next.
  5. Photography changes where we go. The photograph can take us to places beyond our everyday experience, helping map the ocean floor or opening up new places to explore.
  6. Photography changes what we remember. It helps us remember things that happened to us, along our life journeys -- a family vacation or celebration, a relative and a friend

In the foreword to “Photography Changes Everything” Merry A. Foresta points out that “most of the billions of pictures that are taken with cameras every year are made for purposes that have nothing to do with art...and their value is dependent on how well they serve a purpose that, more often than not, has nothing to do with photography itself." 

For a great review and further synopsis of the book, check out this post by John Edwin Mason.

As a society we are exposed to photographs for all kinds of reasons.  The images are increasingly sophisticated and frequent.  We know photographs work…but we don’t fully know how they work. In schools, at home, in our day to day lives, we might think about the need for a broader understanding of visual literacy and the impacts images have on us.

In our contemporary society, one so over-inundated with imagery, it is easy to overlook the power of a single frame to change the way we look at the world or rally disparate hearts to a single cause. Yet, ours is a society shaped by this very phenomenon - Steve McCurry

Behind the Scenes: From Simple Creative Expression to Stories that Change Perspectives
When I first picked up a camera, I simply took infrared images to do something creative for myself, rather than my job being the only recipient of my creativity and problem solving. Then I came to realize that others appreciated the images for their beauty.  For me, making the images then became more than just creative expression but an escape from the rational and busyness of business to something more contemplative, something beautiful that others might also enjoy. 

Today, both of those ideas still inform my image making, but the projects, both Roadside America and Scarred Places, add a further element of meaning to the image making.  Both of these photographic projects seek to tell stories that explore the roots of political, economic, and cultural histories.

Scarred Places focuses on difficult histories and explores who we are and how and what we remember. Roadside America explores memories of the past, and also looks at social and economic changes. Both projects reach beyond beauty or creativity to explore how we remember, who we are and maybe even what we want for our future and where we choose to go.  

In the image and story below, simple as it is, about motels and pools, it is also about a past; it's about economics and business; it's about travel; it's about mass consumption and service standardization.  And, when thought about in today’s world, it is also about a cycle society goes through -- as people increasingly look for customization through things like AirBNB, boutique hotels and Vacation Rentals By Owner (VRBO).

Motels and Swimming Pools

What is: the fenced in pool in the middle of the motel parking lot.  Vegetation growing through the concrete, Santa Rosa, NM. 
What was: In the 1930’s, hotels began having pools built as marketing tools.  The Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Florida was one of the first and certainly one of the most historic in the United States to add a pool. As motels emerged to serve the American traveling public after WW II, pools became one of the added bonuses, to lure and attract customers. 
By the 1950s and 1960s, the pinnacle of the motel industry in the United States, older mom-and-pop motor hotels added newer amenities such as swimming pools or color TV (a luxury in the 1960s).  The main roads into major towns became a sea of orange or red neon proclaiming VACANCY (and later COLOR TV, air conditioning, or a swimming pool) seeking precious visibility on crowded highways.  In 1951, Memphis residential developer Kemmons Wilson, after being disillusioned with the wide variations of quality of motels during a family vacation, built the Holiday Inn chain – based on a standardized experience across the country that would include  TV, air conditioning, a restaurant, and a pool.

Binhammer Photographs Website

Ukraine, The War and PhotoJournalism

“There is a job to be done…to record the truth. I want to wake people up!” – James Nachtwey

Speaking of photographs as informing and delivering news, as I prepared this newsletter a war in Europe broke out. Russia needlessly and illegally invaded Ukraine.  I’m not sure I ever thought that in my lifetime we would see a war in Europe…or at least, I think, that was my thinking after the end of the cold war. But, here we are…

As a result, I thought I would share some recent websites I have visited to see some of the photographs relevant to the place we are in...
Since 2014, the French photographer Guillaume Herbaut has been going to Ukraine several times a year to cover the war in a country divided between those turned toward Europe and those drawn to Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has launched a sophisticated misinformation campaign alongside his invasion of Ukraine. If you want objective visual reporting, here are the best verified photographers on the frontlines of the war.
Check out the Los Angeles Times’ story about Lauren Walsh’s Conversations on Conflict Photographywhich was published in October 2019. A series of interviews with photojournalists, the book focused primarily on questions about photographing overseas conflict of the kind that is dominating the news with Vladimir Putin’s revanchist invasion of Ukraine.
The Russian military operation in Ukraine is being conducted via land, sea, and air. This is what it looks like from the ground.

I am writing this as war has broken out in Europe. It is Terrible! Horrific! It makes the future uncertain and scary. We are privileged to live on this continent. I hope you are having success "processing" these current events. I am struggling with it and the current state of our nation -- banning books, affronts to the LGBTQ community, etc. On the bright side, Im looking forward to putting COVID into a manageable place.

 Excited in the next few days to hit the road for 10 days...a happy place for me.  Photographing Roadside America and Scarred Places images, and just some needed chill time. 

Thanks for being here. 
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5807 Harbour Hill Place, Midlothian VA, 23112
Copyright © 2018 Binhammer Photographs, All rights reserved.

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Binhammer Photographs · 5807 Harbour Hill Pl · Midlothian, VA 23112-2120 · USA

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