Podcast: Photography Wins! Sara Bennett and Joseph Holmes

I don’t know if we’ve ever had two photographers with such divergent styles on the same episode. It would make little sense to even have them on together, except that their individual work is exceptional, and they are married to each other.

This week on the B&H Photography Podcast, we return to a format that has served us well in the past—speaking with a couple who both work in photography. We really hit the jackpot this time, with Sara Bennett and Joseph Holmes, not simply because they are interesting photographers and really nice folks but, between them, they embody a wide range of photo skills, from the technical and artistic, to the narrative and journalistic, from portraiture and art photography, to advocacy and social documentary. It’s quite an interesting situation and Holmes and Bennett, each in their own way, offer personal insight into their varied projects, and they also generously allow us a glimpse into how they work together as a couple, raising a family and supporting each other’s work.

Sara Bennett’s photography, which has been published in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, and the PBS/News Hour, grew from her years working as a lawyer, primarily on cases related to battered women and the wrongly convicted. Her portraiture of women in prison and transitioning from incarceration humanizes as it advocates and educates. Her books, Life After Life in Prison, The Bedroom Project, and Looking Inside: Portraits of Women Serving Life Sentences, are beautiful and simple documents that serve a higher purpose, and we talk with Bennett about her intentions and the long process to find the right women to photograph and the complications and joys of photographing in prison.

With Joseph Holmes, we start the conversation with New York City—and I don’t think we ever leave. Holmes could make a great image in a dark closet, but his work has such an understanding of our city and the subjects he has chosen to photograph—“Cooks on Breaks,” “Urban Wilderness,” “Streit’s Matzoh Factory,” and “Tracing the Underground,” are so New York, without ever touching the boiler plate. Blending portraiture, documentary, and street photography, Holmes’s dedication to the photo series and his technical aplomb represent the best of fine-art reportage. His work is represented by Jen Bekman Gallery, and pieces are included in the permanent collection of several museums, including the Lower East Side Tenement Museum and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Check out his photo annuals and enjoy this wonderful conversation as much as we did.

Guests: Sara Bennett and Joseph Holmes

Photograph © Joseph Holmes

Karen, from “The Bedroom Project,” 2017 © Sara Bennett
Karen, from “The Bedroom Project,” 2017 © Sara Bennett
Traci, from “The Bedroom Project,” 2017 © Sara Bennett
Traci, from “The Bedroom Project,” 2017 © Sara Bennett
Jennifer, from “Looking Inside,” 2018 © Sara Bennett
Jennifer, from “Looking Inside,” 2018 © Sara Bennett
Sahiah, from “Looking Inside,” 2019 © Sara Bennett
Sahiah, from “Looking Inside,” 2019 © Sara Bennett
Patrice, from “Looking Inside,” 2018 © Sara Bennett
Patrice, from “Looking Inside,” 2018 © Sara Bennett
Kat, from “Looking Inside,” 2019 © Sara Bennett
Kat, from “Looking Inside,” 2019 © Sara Bennett
from “Tracing the Underground,” 2017 © Joseph Holmes
from “Tracing the Underground,” 2017 © Joseph Holmes
from “Tracing the Underground,” 2017 © Joseph Holmes
from “Tracing the Underground,” 2017 © Joseph Holmes
from “Streit’s,” 2015 © Joseph Holmes
from “Streit’s,” 2015 © Joseph Holmes
from “Streit’s,” 2015 © Joseph Holmes
from “Streit’s,” 2015 © Joseph Holmes
Walter, from “Custom Machinery,” 2009 © Joseph Holmes
Walter, from “Custom Machinery,” 2009 © Joseph Holmes
Hugo, from “Custom Machinery,” 2009 © Joseph Holmes
Hugo, from “Custom Machinery,” 2009 © Joseph Holmes
Bridgeport Vertical Milling Machine, 2009 © Joseph Holmes
Bridgeport Vertical Milling Machine, 2009 © Joseph Holmes
Van Norman Duplex Milling Machine, 2009 © Joseph Holmes
Van Norman Duplex Milling Machine, 2009 © Joseph Holmes
Joseph O. Holmes and Sara Bennett © Allan Weitz
Joseph O. Holmes and Sara Bennett © Allan Weitz
Allan Weitz, Joseph O. Holmes, and Sara Bennett © John Harris
Allan Weitz, Joseph O. Holmes, and Sara Bennett © John Harris

Host: Allan Weitz
Senior Creative Producer: John Harris
Senior Producer: Jason Tables
Executive Producer: Lawrence Neves

3 Comments

I was a member of a NYC Flickr group of photographers who had taken a photography class with Joe, I believe in 2008. The group was so inspired by Joe's class, they decided to continue on their own, photographing and sharing images on Flickr. By chance, I found the group, joined and became friends, attending many photo outings. So inspired from the diversity of the members and their work, we did a book! Each member submitted two photos. After the book was completed, we all met for dinner and each of us signed each other's copy. Joe wrote the intro for us. None of us most likely will win any awards, but the photos are a snapshot of time where a dozen total strangers came together, produced a book that we all cherish. Joe's photography and lessons inspired so many of us. Photography has become our passion and I am grateful. I was so glad to learn of this podcast and of Sara's work. It is refreshing to hear such intellects whom through the medium of photography, tell stories and show us how photography can impact lives in a positive way. Thank you Joe and Sara and thanks to B&H for producing this podcast.

Thanks so much Ivan, I really appreciate this feedback, it makes what we do all the more worth while.  And after speaking with Joe (and getting to know his work) I have no problem imaging him as the inspiring teacher you described... his love for photography is palpable.  Thanks again, John  

Ivan -- Nice to hear such fond memories from you! I've still got my copy of that book on the shelf with all my treasured photo books.

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