Photos by Ol’ Skool Sean
Read our interview with Zak Arctander, whose work is featured in this year’s VICE Photo Issue.
"Three years ago, I released a video for every single track from Alpocalypse. I’m not gonna say I’m the first person to do that. I’m sure someone did it before me. But what irked me was, when I came out with this eight videos in eight days thing, people were like ‘Oh, you’re pulling a Beyoncé.’ and I have to be like, ‘No, actually Beyoncé was pulling a ‘Weird Al.’"
Two Would-Be Jihadists, Two Very Different Responses from the FBI
One is a 19-year-old citizen from Arvada, Colorado, named Shannon Maureen Conley. The other is a 29-year-old, Pakistani-born permanent US resident who lived in North Carolina named Basit Javed Sheikh. Both—entirely separately—planned to travel to Syria for love and jihad, according to public records, and both came under close scrutiny of the FBI and were eventually arrested.
But in Conley’s case, the FBI gave the would-be jihadist every available out. Overt agents who identified themselves as being from the FBI repeatedly cautioned her against going through with her plans to travel to Syria and join the Islamic State in Iraq and al Sham (ISIS). According to a sworn affidavit, they warned her she would be arrested if she tried to board a plane to the region, but to no avail. Few, if any, targets in federal terrorism investigations have been given such apparently blunt warnings from openly identified agents. “That’s a first as far as I know,” says Trevor Aaronson, author of The Terror Factory: Inside The FBI’s Manufactured War on Terrorism.
Sheikh, however, wasn’t so lucky. The FBI didn’t openly try to talk him out of boarding a plane allegedly to join Jabat al Nusra, the al Qaeda–linked militant group fighting Bashar al Assad’s regime in Syria. Sheikh has even gone so far as to claim that an FBI informant, posing as a nurse in Syria, engaged in a romantic relationship with him, and he was traveling to marry her. An undercover agent—as opposed to an openly identified one, like in Conley’s case—told Sheikh he didn’t have to go through with his plan, something investigators often do to prevent an entrapment defense. Both cases are currently in the pre-trial motions phase.
Introducing the VICE Photo Issue 2014
A disclaimer: Nothing in this year’s VICE photo issue is as it appears to be. Each page of the magazine is actually a piece of paper that been decorated with ink by our printer in Sussex, Wisconsin, in collaboration with our team here at VICE, so that it looks like something it is not. To further illustrate my point: The image below is not a blue sky dotted with perfect clouds, seen through the gauzy curtains of a dream window; it’s actually pixels on your computer screen changing color, or some shit.
But you knew that already. I’m just trying to say that photographs are never reality—they’re always the subjective opinion of someone who is releasing the shutter of a camera at a certain moment. It’s more or less a 1/8th-second crop of the photographer’s reality, or whatever reality he or she wants you to think existed. Photographs are unreliable. Clearly, pictures lie to millions of people every day in more ways than we could list here. Even so, some images have the power to rally entire generations to a cause, move any one of us to tears in their presence, allow the dead to live forever, and more.
It’s from this slippery and uncertain vantage that VICE’s 2014 photo issue takes its perspective. Curated along an expanding of the term trompe l’oeil, this year’s edition is a showcase of smoke and mirrors, featuring photographic illusions and transformations of all kinds. The issue includes a wide range of visual tricks, deceptions, and transformations by some of the greatest artists working today. Contributions from venerated photographers whose images have changed the world—such as Weegee, Cindy Sherman, and Laurie Simmons—share pages with the visionaries of tomorrow. Here are just a few of the issue’s highlights:
The magazine has a double cover by Michael Bühler-Rose—there’s an eyeball with a hole punched through it you can rip off, and the reverse has instructions for a ceremony to remove the evil eye.
There’s a three-page foldout by Cindy Sherman—an early work made when she was in art school.
Kevin Zucker contributed sunsets photographed on color Polaroid film, though he removed most of the color by shooting them through gray plastic.
While photographs are never reality, I will admit they depict some kind of absolute. The camera is, after all, a mechanical device: The lens records whatever appears before it with a cold yet democratically unflinching eye. And that fickle kind of truth is an extremely powerful force, if you can harness it. So I urge readers to greet the 2014 photo issue with skepticism. Look closely and never take its pages at face value. But find comfort in the uncertainty of not knowing what happened before of after the shutter fell—in that hazy, brief window, the very essence of human existence can be crystalized, forever.
An exhibition of work from the VICE photo issue 2014 will open at Pioneer Works in Brooklyn on July 31st and remain on view through August 10th.
See more of the photo issue’s content here.
Download the iPad edition here.
Winogrand was a photographer of people, from rodeo performers in Texas to socialites in Manhattan to the regulars at Venice Beach. Humanity—or perhaps American humanity—in all its iterations and range of expression, was his subject matter.
Surveying Garry Winogrand’s American Epic
In order to enter the Garry Winogrand retrospective that opened last month at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, you exit the main auditorium into the south wing, where you are greeted by a long corridor of Greek art from the sixth through fourth centuries BC. It mostly consists of statues in various poses—some at war, some lost in thought, some proclaiming, some brooding. By the time you reach the Winogrand show on the second floor and begin to survey the work, it may occur to you that the Greek gallery provided something of an anachronistic prologue. Known for his routine of tirelessly walking the streets candidly photographing city life, Winogrand was a photographer of people, from rodeo performers in Texas to socialites in Manhattan to the regulars at Venice Beach. Humanity—or perhaps American humanity—in all its iterations and range of expression, was his subject matter.
The Met is the third stop of the exhibition’s tour, originating at San Francisco MoMA. The project began when gallerist Jeffrey Fraenkel asked photographer Leo Rubinfien to help compile a large retrospective book of Winogrand’s work. Rubinfien agreed, but in his own words, “it was immediately clear you needed a museum.” So Rubinfien approached San Francisco MoMA Curator of Photography Sandy Phillips, who jumped at the idea of doing an exhibition, in which Rubinfien, who is not a curator by trade, would act as such. This iteration at the Met was reduced from the original SF MoMA show by Jeff Rosenheim, curator in charge of the Department of Photographs at the Met. It is the first Winogrand retrospective in 25 years, a virtual eternity for an artist of Winogrand’s renown, let alone an artist no longer living.