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© Claire Lawton

Burn and Dodge: A Field Guide to Photo Manipulation

In May of 1920, hundreds of soldiers gathered in Sverdlov Square in Moscow. They’d been called by the new leaders of the Soviet Union — members of the Bolshevik party that had overthrown the Tsar and seized power to create the first communist country in the world. The soldiers were on their way to the front lines of

The soldiers were on their way to the front lines of war in Poland. But before shipping off, they assembled for a rally given by Vladimir Lenin and his comrade, Leon Trotsky. As Lenin addressed the crowd from a makeshift, an iconic photograph was made, and as the shutter opened and closed, photo paper was exposed to forever encapsulate what would become a historic moment.

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Published: The Issue, a bi-annual photography publication of The Photographers Collective Of Hunter College (May 2016)

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Put a Cactus on It — a Succulent Grows in Brooklyn

To spot the latest cool-kid trend, swing by a bodega in Brooklyn. The small, brightly lit convenience stores are on almost every corner in the U.S. capital of hipsterdom, and the owners keep tabs on their neighborhoods before stocking up on organic condiments, fair trade snack bars, and jars of coconut oil.

On a humid night in July, a trip to a bodega in south Brooklyn yields a four-pack of eco-friendly toilet paper and a small potted cactus. When asked about the new makeshift shelf of cacti in front of the store, the clerk barely looks up.

“We sell so many of these things,” he says, attempting to wrap the cactus in a plastic bag. “I don’t get it.”

Corner bodegas in Brooklyn aren’t the only spots repping desert plants. Across the country, icons of the desert abound. But anyone who’s spent time in the West knows the desert hasn’t always been hot.

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Published: Phoenix New Times, September 2015

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Aidy Bryant’s Made It Big on Saturday Night Live, But Phoenix Still Feels Like Home

On a warm Wednesday night in June, a hip, young crowd formed a long line along 26th Street in Manhattan. They laughed among themselves, eyed the number of people in front of them, and clutched their blue ticket stubs to AIDY/TAMI/SPO, a sold-out three-woman show at Upright Citizens Brigade.

Billed as a performance by “three improvisers that you will either want to fuck, marry, or kill by the end of the show,” AIDY/TAMI/SPO was an hourlong showcase by three improv greats, including Tami Sagher, Shannon O’Neill, and Aidy Bryant.

As the three entered the packed underground theater through two doors on stage, the crowd cheered and an excited (but failed) whisper reached the middle of the crowd: “She’s on SNL!”

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Published: Phoenix New Times, October 2014

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Letterpress Is All the Rage — and Part of Its History Is Being Preserved in Arizona

If there’s a modern Mecca for the followers of letterpress, it’s got to be the Chapel of the Blessed Eutectic in Prescott, Arizona.

From downtown Phoenix, it’s less than a two-hour drive. Take I-17 to State Route 89 and you’ll find yourself in big-sky Prescott. And just a few miles from the city’s center — down Pioneer Parkway, around a few sharp turns, and up a very steep driveway — you’ll find Sky Shipley and his working tribute to an industry more than 500 years old.

It’s here, in his own backyard, where Shipley’s built a home for nine printing presses and 18 750-pound typecasting machines. Affixed to a wall near the entrance of the detached studio in his backyard is a plaque that reads: “Chapel of the Blessed Eutectic” — eutectic coming from the Greek metallurgical term for metal in a molten state. Through the door, you’ll see Shipley’s immaculate studio full of shiny machines, neatly labeled type drawers, and buckets of tiny bits of scrap metal waiting to be melted down and poured into molds to create metal type.

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Published: Phoenix New Times, May 2013

Disappearing Ink: What will happen to all the books?

On a cool Thursday evening in January, several women gather around folding tables in a Central Phoenix warehouse to sort thousands of books, pausing only to pull out a greeting card used as a bookmark or to show off a rare find.

The volunteers quickly pull worn copies of Amy Tan’s The Hundred Secret Senses, Relationships for Dummies, and anything by Maurice Sendakout of grocery bags, stick them with color-coded price tags, and place them neatly into a maze of tall shelves filled with salvaged produce boxes labeled by genre and topic.

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Published in: Phoenix New Times, River Front Times, Houston Press, February 2013

Commercial Art Is Keeping Phoenix Artists Afloat — But At a High Cost

It’s not hard to find an open dumpster in this town.

Ask any college kid looking for a few moving boxes or urban forager looking for a meal. But there’s something weird about the set of three tan dumpsters in the parking lot of a building on 14th Street and Indian School Road.

They’re fitted with padlocks and monitored by surveillance cameras. But inside, you won’t find blueprints or old computer equipment or sensitive financial documents. Pry one of those dumpsters open and chances are good that you’ll be faced with a pile of last season’s hotel art.

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Published: Phoenix New Times, August 2012

SB 1070 Has Been Bad for Arizona and Worse for Mexicans, But It Inspired a Year’s Worth of Great Art

On the morning of April 23, 2010, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed Senate Bill 1070 into law. Later that day, an artist named Nomas threw 10 posters and a few spray cans into his bag, grabbed a bucket of paste, and jumped on his bike.

A few hours later, images of Sheriff Joe Arpaio in a military uniform with a swastika on his forehead and stenciled Hitlers saluting “SB 1070” were pasted and painted on public walls, light poles, and the backs of street signs in downtown Phoenix.

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Published: Phoenix New Times, April 2011

Tag, You’re Art: Local Street Artists Are Tagging Over Murals and Calling It Art

Monsters of Folk was coming to the Orpheum Theatre last fall, but Charlie Levy didn’t have the cash to buy a billboard. So the Tucson-based music promoter hired a friend to paint a mural.

They made it a happening. On the First Friday in October, an artist named Joe Pagac balanced on a small, makeshift scaffold outside the west wall of eye lounge, a gallery near Fifth and Roosevelt streets. Small crowds gathered all night to take pictures and ask questions as the 29-year old painter from Tucson hastily followed his design.

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Published: Phoenix New Times, September 2010