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How the pandemic led this documentary photographer to make her work more collaborative

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How the pandemic led this documentary photographer to make her work more collaborative

Nitya Kansal (left) and her husband, Arvind Kansal (right), pose in front of their home in Cupertino, Calif.

Art inputs by Nitya Kansal/Ashima Yadava


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Art inputs by Nitya Kansal/Ashima Yadava

Ashima Yadava’s project Front Yard captures a moment in time where we all were seeking connection. In 2020, the pandemic gave Yadava the time to reflect, and so she looked to photography. She turned to her community, reaching out to her entire network, wanting to make portraits of them from their front yards, at a safe six-foot distance.

“I, just on a whim, sent an email to my entire network of neighbors and friends in the area, saying, ‘I want to record this time that we’re in. Can I please make a portrait of you?’ ” Yadava recalls.

“And because we had to keep a distance, I was, like, ‘I’ll do it across the street from your house, so can it be in your front yard?’ And the first set of responses were brilliant. People were, like, ‘Oh, yeah! We haven’t seen a person in a month! Please, come on over!’ “

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Hamida Bano (right) and her husband, Dr. Anil Chopra (left), with their daughter Nasreen Chopra (center) in their Orinda, Calif., home in April 2020.

Hamida Bano (right) and her husband, Dr. Anil Chopra (left), with their daughter, Nasreen Chopra (center), in their Orinda, Calif., home in April 2020.

Ashima Yadava


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Sunitha Seshadri (left) an engineer by profession, with her daughter Shriya, her son Veer (right) and husband Harshit Chuttani (center) outside their Campbell home.

Sunitha Seshadri (left), an engineer by profession, with her daughter, Shriya, her son, Veer (right), and her husband, Harshit Chuttani (center), outside their Campbell, Calif., home.

Art inputs by Sunitha Seshadri/Ashima Yadava


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Art inputs by Sunitha Seshadri/Ashima Yadava

Sonya Pelia (right) and her husband Mathew Lutzker (left) reside in Menlo Park, California. Following the shelter-in-place orders in March, their daughter Jasleen (center)  had to return home from college in Edinburgh, Scotland. May, 2020.

Sonya Pelia (right), her husband Mathew Lutzker (left) and their daughter Jasleen Pelia-Lutzker in Menlo Park, Calif., in May 2020.

Ashima Yadava


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Ashima Yadava

Yadava’s project was welcomed with enthusiasm and positivity by people who were excited to share their space with her. Families would come outside to set up. She would stand across the street with her large-format and digital cameras, ready to take their portraits.

As the project progressed, the work developed into a more personal reflection. She began to realize how this work helped her reclaim her relationship with the medium and her role as a photographer.

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“I grew up in India. The one thing about documentary photography that had bothered me and that has made me feel a little weird about documentary photography [are] that power dynamics that come with photographing someone — it’s your perspective: It’s one perspective. It’s a single story,” Yadava said.

“The fact that I had this camera that was so slow, it allowed me the time to figure out my relationship with what I was doing and the people I was photographing.”

Noreen Raza savors the strange spring of April 2020 with her husband, Harry Robertson in their Morgan Hill, Calif., home.

Noreen Raza (right), savors the strange spring of April 2020 with her husband, Harry Robertson (left), in their Morgan Hill, Calif., home.

Art inputs by Noreen Raza/Ashima Yadava


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Art inputs by Noreen Raza/Ashima Yadava

Nitya and Arvind Kansal with their dog Kuku, seen here in their front yard of their Cupertino home in California in April 2020.

Nitya and Arvind Kansal pose with their dog, Kuku, in front of their Cupertino, Calif., home in April 2020. 

Ashima Yadava


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Art inputs by Shriya Manchanda (center left) who is a rising senior, with her sister Sanvitti (right) and parents Shruti and Alok Manchanda (left) in Sunnyvale, California.

Shriya Manchanda (center left), who is a rising senior, with her sister Sanvitti (right), and parents Shruti (center right) and Alok Manchanda (left) in front of their home in Sunnyvale, Calif.

Art inputs by Shriya Manchanda/Ashima Yadava

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“I would get the negative back and I started printing just to see and study if I’m doing it right, getting the colors right, and somewhere in that moment, I thought, ‘Wait. What if I give this back to the people and continue this conversation about how they want to be seen? This is how I saw them, this is what it is, but how do they want to be seen and what do they have to say?’ “

Thus began this collaboration of allowing those she’d photographed to become a part of the process. These black and white prints were suddenly brought to life by colors and drawings that these families would work on together.

“They would work on it as families — they would fight about it, they would talk about it, they would text me back and forth, ‘Do you think we can do this?’ It was truly a collaboration. It was something that saved all of us at that time, because I would enjoy that. I would be, like, ‘Yes, do whatever you want!’ “

Each family would contribute a unique perspective to their portraits and what emerged was a beautiful vignette of the different ethnicities that make up the Bay Area.

Manju Ramachandran, in the front yard of her Sunnyvale home with her son Varun (top right).

Manju Ramachandran stands in the front yard of her Sunnyvale, Calif., home with her son, Varun.

Art inputs by Manju Ramachandran/Ashima Yadava

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Weeks into the pandemic, Aishwarya Ramaswamy (left) and Mukundan Swaminathan juggled their careers and parenthood, trying to keep their kids Krish and Mayura entertained. Union City, California in April 2020.

Weeks into the pandemic, Aishwarya Ramaswamy (left) and Mukundan Swaminathan worked to juggle their careers and parenthood out of their Union City, Calif., home in April 2020, as they tried to keep their kids, Krish and Mayura, entertained.

Ashima Yadava


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Sonya, Mathew and Jasleen Pelia outside their Menlo park home.

Sonya Pelia (right) and her husband, Matthew Lutzker (left), with their daughter, Jasleen Pelia-Lutzker, outside their home in Menlo Park, Calif.

Art inputs by Sonya Pelia and Jasleen Pelia-Lutzker/Ashima Yadava


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Art inputs by Sonya Pelia and Jasleen Pelia-Lutzker/Ashima Yadava

Yadava called it “inverting the process,” where she, as the photographer, documented her observation and returned black and white prints to the families so that they could share their feelings through how they decided to fill in the image. Each family had a different perspective: Some filled their images with flowers on branches, and others covered their walls with spiders. The results that emerged were always a joy for Yadava to discover.

Our homes were a sacred place during the pandemic, and these families welcomed Yadava to capture a glimpse into their realities. It was created during a time of tragedy and disconnect, but lives on as a record of time.

Since then, Yadava has continued the series and plans to release a book. Her decision to expand the project in a post-COVID world was ignited by the joyful exchange with families and how barriers between neighbors can come down. With this collaboration, Yadava hopes that people are reminded of the resilience in humanity and that we can find connections between us all if we open our worlds up to it.

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Smita (left) and Manoj (right) with their daughter, Aria, outside their Milpitas, Calif., home.

Smita Rao (left) and Manoj Mhapankar (right) with their daughter, Aria, outside of their Milpitas, Calif., home.

Art inputs by Smita Rao and Manoj Mhapankar/Ashima Yadava


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Art inputs by Smita Rao and Manoj Mhapankar/Ashima Yadava

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Ashima Yadava is a conceptual documentary photographer and printmaker. She in based San Francisco, where she works in digital and analog methods. See more of Ashima’s work on her website, AshimaYadava.com.

Photo edit by Grace Widyatmadja. Text edit by Zach Thompson.

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Françoise Hardy, renowned French singer-songwriter, has died at 80

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Françoise Hardy, renowned French singer-songwriter, has died at 80

The French singer and actress Francoise Hardy wearing a fur coat in Piazza Sant’Ambrogio. Milan, 1960s (Photo by Mondadori via Getty Images)

Mondadori Portfolio/Mondadori via Getty Images/Mondadori Portfolio Editorial


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Mondadori Portfolio/Mondadori via Getty Images/Mondadori Portfolio Editorial

Françoise Hardy, a renowned French singer-songwriter, actress and model, has died at age 80, according to reports. Over her career, she released more than 30 studio albums and appeared in over a dozen films — and enchanted the likes of Mick Jagger, David Bowie and Bob Dylan, who wrote a poem for her that appeared in the sleeve notes of his 1964 album Another Side of Bob Dylan.

“Maman est partie,” her son Thomas Dutronc wrote on Facebook Tuesday, which translates to “mom is gone.” He shared a photo of her holding him while he was a baby.

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While the exact cause of her death was not disclosed, Hardy had battled lymphatic cancer since 2004, and also had laryngeal cancer, according to Variety. In an interview with the French magazine Femme Actuelle in June 2021, she shared that she had been diagnosed with a tumor in her ear, and that her health had become so poor that it took her more than five hours a day to prepare food that she could swallow. In that interview, she also argued for the legalization of assisted suicide in France. The same month, she gave an interview by email to The Guardian because speaking had become so difficult.

The French Prime Minister, Gabriel Attal, wrote a personal tribute on social media Wednesday: “French icon, singular voice with a fierce tranquility, Françoise Hardy rocked generations of French people, for whom she will remain anchored in life’s moments,” he wrote. “For me, she is my entire childhood. “Message personnel” [Personal Message], listened to on repeat by my mother in the car. Or “Puisque vouz partez en voyage” [When You Leave on a Trip], which I sang with my sisters: they were Hardy and I [singer Jacques] Dutronc.”

Hardy was born in 1944 in Paris, during an air raid in the Nazi-occupied city, and was raised there by her single mother. Hardy received her first guitar at age 16 as a present from her largely absent father, and immediately began scribbling down songs.

Hardy came to fame when she was still just a teenager; she became France’s It Girl in 1962 at age 18, when she released a song she had written called “Tous les garçons et les filles” [All the Boys and Girls]. Nearly instantaneously, she became one of the most popular figures among France’s so-called “yé-yé” generation – “yé-yé” like the “yeah, yeah,” choruses of anglophone acts such as The Beatles.

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The melancholic lyrics of “Tous les garçons et les filles” belied Hardy’s immense appeal. “All the boys and girls my age walk along the street two by two,” she sang mournfully, her blue eyes flickering out from beneath her dark bangs. “But I go alone along the streets, my soul in pain … because nobody loves me.”


Françoise Hardy “Tous les garçons et les filles” | Archive INA
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Unlike other yé-yé singers, Hardy built a lasting musical career. In distinct contrast to the sunny tunes performed by many of her peers, her songs often kept a pensive edge. She recorded in English, Italian and German as well as French, and employed a mix of her own songs as well as those written by other songwriters.

A fashion icon, she became omnipresent on French magazine covers, and was photographed by the likes of William Klein and Richard Avedon for Vogue and other publications. Bob Dylan refused to go onstage during his first concert in Paris in 1966, until he was sure that she was in the house.

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She also appeared in films including Château en Suède (1963), What’s New Pussycat? (1965) and Grand Prix (1966). Later in life, Hardy began writing books, ranging from titles on astrology to fiction. Her autobiography, Le désespoir des singes…et autres bagatelles [The Despair of Monkeys and Other Trifles], was first published in 2008. In 2012, she published her first novel and an album that shared the same title, L’amour fou [Crazy Love].

In 1967, she began a relationship with fellow singer Jacques Dutronc; their son, Thomas, was born in 1973. The couple married in 1981 and separated seven years later, though they remained legally married until Hardy’s death.

Hardy told All Things Considered in 2018, before her final health decline, that she was still excited to make new music. “I cannot resist to the temptation of a beautiful melody,” she said. “It’s one of the things which make me really very happy. And if a musician offers me a beautiful melody, I cannot resist.”

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North Texas pastor gets 35 years for stealing $800,000 in church properties

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North Texas pastor gets 35 years for stealing $800,000 in church properties
A North Texas pastor is on his way to prison after stealing real-estate from three churches in a property deed scheme. Dallas County prosecutors on Monday announced that Whitney Foster, a pastor leading True Foundation Non-Denominational Church, was sentenced last month to serve 35 years in prison for the charge of stealing more than $300,000 in property. Foster, 56, who was previously convicted of identify theft and arson, had been leading the…
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'Horror Movie' questions the motivation behind evil acts

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'Horror Movie' questions the motivation behind evil acts

William Morrow


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William Morrow

Paul Tremblay’s Horror Movie is a peculiar horror novel that takes a refreshing look at the haunted film subgenre, while also eliminating the line between novels and movie scripts.

Dark, surprisingly violent, and incredibly multilayered, this narrative is a superb addition to Tremblay’s already impressive oeuvre that shows he can deliver the elements fans love from him — while also constantly pushing the envelope and exploring new ways to tell stories.

In June of 1993, a small group of young people got together and spent a month making a bizarre horror movie titled Horror Movie. With one camera, a skeleton crew, a script that broke a lot of rules, and almost no budget, they managed to make their film after a few setbacks and plenty of blood and accidents. While the film was never released, three scenes and a few stills were made available online, and they became the stuff of legend over the years, collecting a cult following and sparking a frenzy of speculation, online debate, and conspiracy theories.

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Now, 30 years after the original, unreleased film was made and after all the drama —psychological and emotional as well as legal — that ensued, Hollywood wants to make a big budget version and release it. The man who played “The Thin Kid,” perhaps the original film’s most iconic and mysterious character, is the only surviving cast member, and they want him to reprise his role. He still has the mask he used in the movie, and also the scars the filming process left behind. He remembers the strange things that happened on the set, the brutality that quickly became normalized while they shot dark scenes, and the chaos and destruction the film brought to all of them. Still, he agrees to help with the reboot. As things move forward and he deals with directors and movie people, the past comes back to haunt him — but “The Thin Kid” pushes forward, as always.

Reading a Tremblay novel is entering a universe in which confusion and ambiguity —”My answer was not no. I didn’t say the word ‘yes’” — reign supreme. Horror Movie is no different. In fact, this might be Tremblay’s most Tremblay novel to date. For starters, the author once again eschews the traditional novel format, this time in favor of a mix of novel and screenplay in which one bleeds into the other frequently, switching chapters and effortlessly taking readers from past to present and back again. Also, the screenplay itself is unique in format and makes the reader part of what’s happening, constantly shattering the fourth wall an acknowledging that the events are communal, that we are there, witnessing what the characters are witnessing and feeling the same sense of dread and anticipation that they feel.

While the structure of this novel is unique, the narrative itself is very easy to follow — until it’s not. The story is there, but with many purposeful holes. We know bad things happened while the movie was being filmed — accidents, injuries, extreme violence that occurred with consent — and that the whole thing ended up in court, but we don’t know how or why. And the author holds those secrets until the very end, which, as with any other Tremblay novel, holds a few surprise twists.

Most importantly, this is a narrative that questions the motivation behind evil acts. During the filming, The Thin Kid is horribly tortured: The kids who keep him hostage throw things at him, put out cigarettes on his body, and cut off part of his pinky finger. Some of that happens for real, partly to make it look convincing on screen and partly for reasons that aren’t too clear. There are several unsettling moments in this novel, and at the core of each of them are people acting horribly just because they can. Tremblay’s work has often interrogated the nature of horror and bad behavior, but never as clearly and he does here.

While Horror Movie is the kind of creepy narrative that can be enjoyed without much thinking, it’s also a multilayered novel that almost demands intellectual engagement. Besides the way the author studies awful behavior, the story also explores the unreliable nature of memory. The Thin Kid, now the adult who narrates the novel, is self-deprecating and unreliable. He remembers things a certain way, but knows that his memories might not be accurate: “We laughed. I think we laughed, or I choose to remember we laughed. I think we’re in more control of what we remember or what we don’t remember than we assume.” This purposeful lack of certainty is designed to keep readers wondering, and it succeeds at that.

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Horror Movie is strange and unsettling in the best way possible. This is a novel that’s also a screenplay, but the story all blends together perfectly. Tremblay’s unique voice and chameleonic style have made him one of the leading voices in speculative fiction, and this is one of his best novels so far.

Gabino Iglesias is an author, book reviewer and professor living in Austin, Texas. Find him on X, formerly Twitter, at @Gabino_Iglesias.

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