Ragnar Axelsson

Ragnar Axelsson, 59, is an Icelandic photographer who is well-known for chronicling the lives of subsistence hunters, fishermen, and farmers in the Arctic, the North Atlantic, Northern Scandinavia, and Siberia. Rax, as he is affectionately called, started photographing (professionally) at the age of 16 and joined Morgunblaðið, the leading Icelandic newspaper, two years later. He still contributes to the paper. His books, Faces of the North and The Last Days of the Arctic, tell a poignant story about climate change and its impact on our planet.


Climate change is one of the most hotly debated topics of our time, and often these debates devolve into arguments and lose all meaning. But when you can see the changes in our world, it shakes you deeply. That is how I felt when I first discovered the work of Ragnar “Rax” Axelsson. A longtime Leica photographer, he was featured in a documentary where he talked about Leica M Monochrome. I bought his books and was mesmerized by the photographs and their poignancy. Inspired by Rax, I decided to visit Iceland with my Leica M Monochrome and a single 50-millimeter lens and use them as my primary tools to make landscapes of one of my favorite countries. While in Iceland, over a coffee, I asked Startup Iceland founder Bala Kamallakharan if he knew Rax. He didn’t, but he knew someone who did. And before I knew it, Rax and I were chattering away about photography, life, and climate change. This is a highly edited version of our conversation.

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Joshua Allen Harris

Joshua Allen Harris is a 39-year-old New York–based visual artist and photographer. After studying graphic design and illustration, he worked for brands such as American Eagle and J.Crew as a men's wardrobe stylist. He became internet-famous with his Air Bear project in 2008, and he picked up a camera in 2012. Harris lives in Brooklyn with his wife Cameron.


I was introduced to Joshua Allen Harris a few years ago by friend and photography enthusiast Bijan Sabet. I had admired Harris’ work on Instagram: His reductionist style of visual storytelling was something that spoke to me on a deep level.

Harris told me about a project he had been focused on: taking photos of Broadway, a street in Brooklyn. He wanted to chronicle the story of the street. He recently released his visual narrative essay in the form of three books: Tahoma, Belmont and Broadway.

As soon as they came out, I ordered the books and asked Harris to chat again, this time for pi.co. We ended up talking about his journey, the concepts behind the trilogy and the changing concept of photography, from art to language.

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Vincent Laforet

Photographer and film director Vincent Laforet has worked for The New York Times, Vanity Fair, National Geographic and more, and in 2002 he won a Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography for his coverage of post-9/11 events in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Vincent lives in New York and Los Angeles, where he directs commercials for brands like Nike as well as short films. Born in 1975, he got his B.S. from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 1997.


You can't be in the news business for as long as I have been without hearing about the “great ones,” the writers and photographers who shape the world we live in. Vincent Laforet is one of those guys — a news photographer par excellence whose photos for The New York Times have captivated the residents of the Big Apple. But he is so much more.

His work has also appeared in Vanity Fair and National Geographic, among many other places. He has won a Pulitzer Prize. He turned tilt-shift photography into an art form. I could go on, but then it would take too long. The short story: I ran into him sitting on a bench in South Park in San Francisco.

He had just put the first of his AIR Gotham photos on the Internet and the visual story had gone viral. For the first time someone had gone up over 7,500 feet in a helicopter, used high-end Canon cameras and snapped photos of Manhattan. The result? Something truly spectacular. These photos were initially taken for a magazine and had literally no impact. However, the internet is a whole different story. Vincent's Storehouse story was picked up by many publications and blogs, and that initial set of photos has turned into Project AIR. Vincent has photographed Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Francisco, and he wants to visit many more cities around the world and collect the resulting art in a photo exhibit and book.

Vincent likes to talk, and he has a lot of stories to tell. I like to listen and ask a lot of questions. We just started talking, and we didn't stop for a long time. Sometime during the conversation, I turned on the voice recorder on my iPhone.

With a love for photography, the news business and the unknown, Vincent and I are kindred spirits. We both share a skepticism about current media entities in the face of the inevitability of the internet. Since that first conversation, Vincent has become my friend and photo professor. We have gone on many photo walks and even suit shopping, always talking, talking, and talking.

Here is a tiny slice from our first conversation, about changing media, the reality in the world of Instagram, the role of a news photographer in today's age and what he's thinking about next. I hope you find it worth your time to read this all the way through.

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Cole Rise

Cole Rise is a San Francisco–based photographer and entrepreneur. He recently launched Lite.ly, an iPhone app that commercializes his Lightroom presets and Instagram filters. He has worked for both Yahoo and Apple, and he was a design consultant for Instagram. He was the founder of Subatomic Systems, Particle Progammatica, and Flagr. You may have seen his work in a few magazines, art blogs, CD covers, and the like, or perhaps used one of his filters on Instagram. You can follow him on Instagram and on his blog.


Visual storytelling was not part of my vernacular until the launch of Instagram. It was the start of my enduring love affair with digital photography, and I have since become immersed in visual computing. But only recently have I started to grasp the long-term implications of this brave new world in which we are surrounded by cameras — big and small, embedded, personal and political.

My exploration of the visual realm and somewhat unhealthy obsession with Instagram has led me to form many friendships, learn a lot about my own limitations, and, most importantly, discover many new worlds. One such world is carefully captured, curated, and re-created by Cole Rise, a San Francisco–based photographer with a substantial following on Instagram. His photos speak a language that has always resonated with me. He recently released an iPhone app called Lite.ly that commercializes some of Cole's Lightroom presets and Instagram filters.

Intrigued by his work, I reached out to see if we could have a conversation about the growing presence of visual sensors and how that shift might impede our ability to create memories. We delved into the concept of a "silicon traveler." Our conversation ended up being a reflection on technology, in particular mobile phones and how they are changing our sense of self, as individuals and social animals. Of course, Rise also shared some of his photography tips and talked about his favorite photo.

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