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John Foster
Essays | Biography | Contact

The Focused Obsession of Photographer Rob Amberg

In 1973 photographer Rob Amberg moved to Madison County, NC and became a documentary photographer. Though other great documentary photographers in the past have simply  “dropped in,” taken their images and left (take the WPA photographers, for example), Amberg and his wife live on a small farm in the same county he photographs. His subjects have been neighbors and acquaintances, friends of friends and strangers he has met.

READ MORE | COMMENTS

Found, Cut, and Rearranged: The Art of John Stezaker

For almost four decades, the artist John Stezaker has steadfastly been appropriating “found” press photographs, film stills, imagery from books, old postcards, and the like, to create a strikingly new way of seeing photography. One can tell that the artist is profoundly infatuated with images, whether he is subtracting from them (by cutting parts of them out) or adding them to another source.

READ MORE | COMMENTS (2)

The Greenville, NC Daily Reflector: 1948 to 1967

One of the best ways to investigate the life and times of a region is to look at the local photo files from the daily newspaper. We can do that today, since more and more photographic images are being digitized and available for viewing. Local and regional newspapers give us a closer view of everyday life, much of it rather mundane — like ribbon cuttings, grip and grin photos of politicians, the local sports scene, community celebrations and the like.

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The World of Tomorrow in 1939

Seventy five years ago this April, the 1939 New York World’s Fair (“Building the World of Tomorrow”) opened to the public in Flushing Meadows, NY. For a nation just coming out of the Great Depression and about to enter the Second World War, this fair is considered to be an important benchmark in visionary design thinking, and did much for New York City history and the culture of the nation.

READ MORE | COMMENTS (6)

The Essence of a Teapot

If you had to guess what is considered to be one of the most collected archetypal forms in the craft world, what would it be? Before you spend too much time with that question, I will tell you. It’s the teapot. While the traditional teapot should be at the very least functional — that is, have the ability to hold and pour a liquid, I recently viewed an exhibition that turns all that on end with the “idea of a teapot.”

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Blues, Baptisms, and Prison Farms: The Lomax Snapshots of 1934-1950

Many of us have heard of the great sound recording work by John A. Lomax, Sr., his son Alan, and his wife Ruby Terrill, as they embarked on an expedition sponsored by the Archive of American Folk Song and The Library of Congress between 1934-1950. That priceless sound archive of over 700 field recordings has given much understanding into the culture of our nation, which was enhanced by their snapshot photographs taken along the way.

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Shoe Designs Before 1900

Whenever I see a period movie on television or at the theatre, I am always impressed with the meticulous and historically accurate work that goes into creating the set and costumes: Signage is period, furniture, clothing, hats, gloves, even the accents. While I am sure that shoes are just as big a part of the costume designer's mix as other things, it is something that is more difficult to notice, in the fact that they are at the bottom of the screen most of the time, quite small and always moving.

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The Dreamland Motel

Much has been noted over the years about the vanishing signage of our American landscape. As weather and rust, neglect and blight take its gradual and sometimes total destruction of the grand signs of mid-century America. Corey Miller, a screenwriter and producer from Los Angeles has been saving these signs with his outstanding photography on Flickr.

READ MORE | COMMENTS (2)

Face Time

The human face. It has been proven that humans are hardwired to recognize the human face, even to the point of finding it in the world around us with manmade and natural objects. The renowned designer and photographer François Robert and his brother Jean are well-known for their photographic discovery of "faces" they find in inanimate objects. This week, I look at the endless fascination we have with the human face and the myriad ways it can be transformed.

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The Private World of Martina Kubelk

A photo album containing 99 pages and over 380 photographs of a man in women’s clothes grant insight into the private world of Martina Kubelk, the pseudonym of a man unknown and deceased. These images give us ruffled dresses, latex underwear, a portrait of the parents on the wall, a cat poster, leather couches, 1970s wallpaper, and the focus on “Martina”, who photographs herself over a period of seven years in various outfits with a self-timer.

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John Foster and his wife, Teenuh, have been longtime collectors of self-taught art and vernacular photography. Their collection of anonymous, found snapshots has toured the country for five years and has been featured in Harper’s, Newsweek Online and others.


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DESIGN OBSERVER JOBS




JOHN FOSTER: RECOMMENDED BOOKS


Stieglitz, Steichen, Strand
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