Sometime soon, almost everything will have been photographed. If not by an artist, then by a phone. The idea of finding something different, of going out and searching high and low for new subject matter, will run its course. There is a nagging voice that kicks in and tells us we are not looking hard enough or that we have to leave where we are in order to make an interesting image. I need to go somewhere or do something brand new; it is harder and harder to find a photograph that hasn't already been taken.
The four photographers whose work I chose to show have all documented where they are, choosing subject matter they felt a strong connection to, and that is also tied to their home; either where they live now or where they are originally from. This is an instinctual choice they are making. As photographers, our own personal stories are only as interesting as the images that visually supplement them. To share parts of ourselves effectively, we must be captivated by our own experiences first. It is inspiring to see photographers looking inward, drawing from their own experiences. The end product of these images is felt on both an intimate and universal plane.
Emine Ziyatdinova was born into the Crimea Tatar community in Uzbekistan and grew up on the Crimean Peninsula. She came to the United States to study photojournalism at Ohio University. During her time at school, she heard about the neighborhood Brighton Beach, a community in South Brooklyn that is nicknamed "Little Odessa" based on its large population of Ukrainian and Russian immigrants. She was thousands of miles away from her home in Crimea but felt the need to take photos of the people in an area, where the text on the signs, food, and language were familiar to her. Her photos document the restaurants, apartments, boardwalk hobbies, and lifestyles of the residents. The images are both intimate and far removed as she embraces the familiar while showing a longing for her home.
Fittingly, since he has lived most of his life in Manhattan, I sometimes think of Devin Yalkin's work when I am waiting for the subway. His photos can be jarring and forceful, producing a feeling similar to a train going by at full speed. Simultaneously, there is a stillness and a calm that lingers in many of his images, comparable to the instant that the train is gone and only the empty tracks remain. He has no issue being in the center of the crowd and puts his camera into the middle of everything — having even taken a punch when he and his Leica got too close during an underground boxing match. His hometown has been photographed countless time but between his long exposures, blown out sections, soft focus subjects, and areas lost to darkness, he has given the city texture of his own.
Andi Schreiber has spent much of her children's lives taking photos of them. Documenting the small details of her own home, community, and family very closely, she brings value to everyday moments as she zooms in on bath toys, penne, band aids, and various body parts. Her ability to experience these moments through photography, although stemming from personal connections in her life, is capable of extending beyond her own home. Maybe in someone else's house penne is not the dish of choice, but the ability to find common ground and equivalent subject matter is still present. She lives and works in a suburb of New York City but her images could be made in many places as long as she continues to connect with the moment in front of her. An overall theme of being present for each moment, wherever she is, dominates the work. Her visceral experience becomes our visual one.
Ruth Prieto Arenas, born and raised in Mexico City, moved to New York City to study at the International Center of Photography. In her series, Safe Haven, she documents women who moved from various towns in Mexico to New York City. Inside their apartments, kitchens, and bedrooms, they have created new homes for themselves. The level of intimacy and connection that comes through in her photos show that there is a shared culture between the photographer and her subjects. She is not an outsider but an equal, as she makes her new home in New York as well. The small pieces that make up each photo — the green broom cutting across the yellow wall, the hot pink comforter nestled into the corner of an aquamarine room, the electric blue of the flames warming the tortillas — all contribute to the idea of building something new, keeping parts of your old home even after you have left.
Abigail Smithson is a Brooklyn based multi-media artist originally from Redwood City, California. Her work focuses on the subjects of femininity, symbolism and societal roles, and has been exhibited at Temp art space in Tribeca and The Impossible Project's space in Soho. She received her B.A. in studio art from the University of Colorado at Boulder. She is also the author of The Photographer Discloses, a blog where she speaks with contemporary photographers about their current projects.