Seph Lawless (real name unknown) is a pseudonymous American-based artist, political activist, and photojournalist who has deliberately chosen to conceal his identity although his work is globally recognized.
In recent years, he has maximized social media platforms to promote creativity and fight injustice and oppression, writing:
The Artivist (Artist + Activist) uses his or hers creativity to fight and struggle against injustice and oppression by any medium necessary. A pen, a lens, a brush, a voice even your body.
Seph Lawless is best known for his extensive documentation of deserted locations across the globe, and he has been photographing abandoned American cities since 2005. His images and video renderings are part of an ongoing project called ‘Autopsy of America,’ which depicts forgotten cities and towns across the United States and intimately portrays the individuals who still inhabit these areas, known as the ones who were “left behind.”
During an interview with ABC News, Lawless stated;
I wanted Americans to see what was happening to their country from the comfort of their suburban homes and smart phones.
This quote would later be used by the Amerkihaus Museum as a tagline for the Seph Lawless European showcase, similarly entitled Autopsy of America. The critically acclaimed exhibit opened in Munich, Germany on November 21, 2014, and museum officials invited Lawless to speak to some 2,000 in attendance at its ceremonial debut.
In 2015, Cleveland Magazine named Lawless among the Most Interesting People for 2015, recognizing him not only for his stunning work but also for his dark humor and musings during interviews, in which he expresses his frustration with war, government corruption, and civil and human rights violations. Lawless’ images went viral a total of twelve times in 2015, once for every month, and his photographs have been featured in every country in the world.
In 2014, Lawless was asked by Fox News talk show host Greta Van Susteren to appear on her show, but the network refused to interview Lawless on a live feed, fearing he may use the live format to promote his activist causes. The taped interview was completed without incident and was one of Fox News most watched segments of 2014, with Van Susteren calling Lawless’ images “stunning and beautiful.” The host was not alone in her praise, as numerous experts and celebrity names have joined in with accolades and favorites of their own:
Lawless’s work offers viewers a true diagnostic for some of America’s true ills. – Eric Sandy (Cleveland Scene)
Lawless exposes the America ravaged by economic decline, rampant unemployment, foreclosures, and the like, exposing not only the forgotten ruins but the forgotten people that were left behind to survive.” – June Steward (San Francisco University)
Photographer Seph Lawless is a master of the abandoned — his frames are filled with eerie portraits of shopping malls, factories, homes. All dilapidated, all empty, all but forgotten. He usually travels across the United States via hybrid vehicle, equipped with a camera and a knack for finding ways inside strange structures, collecting stories of his adventures along the way. – Katherine Brooks (Huffington Post)
I prefer absurdity over reality because it’s more honest, says Lawless –ABC News
As Lawless’s photos went viral this week, the reaction on social media showed him that he had touched a nerve with racing fans. ‘Racing for people in the South means a hell of a lot. So it needs to be respected,’ Lawless told ESPN – Gregory Sukiennik (ESPN)
It’s the human decay that troubles me the most,’ says photographer Seph Lawless – Aaron Smith (CNN)
Lawless’s work has been widely reported on CNN, FOX News, NBC News and ABC News. In late 2014, Lawless was hired by the Guardian newspaper to document the inside of an abandoned shopping mall for an interview about his book, “Black Friday,” which captured the images of several abandoned shopping malls across the United States. CNN and France’s national television network France 2 would later hire him to freelance similar projects. Several of Lawless’s projects have gone viral and trended heavily in 2014 and 2015, and Slate Magazine, Fast Company, and the Guardian ranked Seph Lawless projects among the Top Ten Most Popular stories for 2014.
In 2015, Seph Lawless was again hired by the Guardian, this time to document the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which sent him to some of the most dangerous parts of New Orleans. His photos revealed rampant devastation years after the storm’s aftermath, and the staggering images shocked readers around the world. Lawless’s images quickly went viral, initiating significant political discussion amongst city officials that drew even more attention to the devastated regions of New Orleans.
Sometimes words aren’t enough, so I started taking pictures- NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Seph Lawless has authored several well-known photo books which are typically released in limited quantities following popular long-term projects. To date, those books include: Autopsy of America, Black Friday, 13: An American Horror Story, Pet Cemetery-In Loving Memory, The Last Lap-North Wilkesboro Speedway, Bizarro: The World’s Most Hauntingly Beautiful Abandoned Theme Parks, The Variety Theater: The Night Motorhead Brought Down the House, Hauntingly Beautiful, Seasons in the Size of Days, and The Trolley Tragedy of 1957.
As of 2016, Seph Lawless has more than a half million admirers, followers, and supporters, a fan base which includes celebrities, politicians, and respected journalists.
This isn’t social media; this is a social movement. – Seph Lawless (NBC’s Today Show)
- HBO FILMS
- VICE DOCUMENTARIES
- The Guardian Newspaper
- Huffington Post contributor
- The New York Daily News contributor
- FOX NEWS