October 20, 2008
An hour or two ago my 3 year old and I were walking down a dark and narrow road in Yosemite National Park at night under an almost full moon.
him: Is this a garden or a park or a forest?
me: It's a forest, but it's also a National Park.
him: It took a very very long time to plant all these trees. The trees are big and old.
him: When we sleep in the forest will bears come and try to eat us?
him: If we see a bear will you hold me very very tight.
him: This is a very very big park. In Brooklyn the parks are very small.
me: Yes indeed.
him: And there are no bears in Brooklyn.
me: No. Not any more.
him: That's sad.
him: Can I plant a tree when we go home? Maybe a lot of them?
me: Let's plant lots of them
Related: Olafur Eliasson
I recently saw the Beate Gütschow image above in person. She creates large scale idealized collage landscapes from scores of electronically grafted together images. The results are both seemless and unreal. For me the images evoke classic landscape painting more than they do other photographs and in thinking about this I realized that her process is probably not much different than tradtional landscape painters who generally either sit out in nature and take in a scene going from detail to detail or they sit in a studio culling details from memory. EIther way the result is idealized nature in which each element recieves more scrutiny than it would normally... These images are part of show/monograph by Aperture titled LS/S which features pastorals like the one above as well as similarly artifical black and white cityscapes. I haven't seen the book yet so I'm curious to see how the seemingly very different bodies of work work together.
More on Gütschow's work can be found on 52 photographers.
nothing can save a collection of words
from reading like bad poetry.
My advice to photographers who want to show off their work is simple:
1. Put your work up on the web. Photographers who don't promote their work online risk being completely ignored.
2. Showcase either tightly edited portfolios or stream work as you make it. If you do both keep the stream clearly separate from the portfolio.
3. Unless you are a photojournalist primarily selling images for web consumption, put up big images. Don't worry about people stealing your images. Nobody is going to make a decent print from something you post online. Look at web images as promotion. Also don't watermark you images. Yes, some of your pictures will float around unattributed, but it's better than looking like a douchebag. Photoshop allows you to include authorship info that will travel with your image, just choose File Info from the File menu.
4. Don't use flash (if you use flash people can't link to your images, and they can't propagate around the web. You WANT your images to travel).
5. Don't worry too much about fancy design. People just want to be able to see your images and to quickly navigate from one to the next.
6. Tell stories.
If you know nothing about how to make your own website use one of these excellent sites to showcase your work:
If you know a tiny bit about the web, use a cms, like tumblr, movable type, or wordpress. Really good gallery themes exist for all of them. Here's a simple tumblr theme that lets you upload very large images that scale to the size of the window.
I look forward to seeing your best stuff.
Updated 10/2009 with some new sites.
Someone named Henry send a short email today saying, "You said you would answer questions, here's mine: What's your thought process when you look a picture? Thanx.
-Henry in San Diego."
The collage evoked both Kelli Connell's work and Hockney's groundbreaking series of polaroid collage portraits:
That thought inspired me to dig up a book about polaroids which I found, but didn't end up reading because I picked up a book about photobooth art which was next to it in the shelf. And then thumbing through that book I thought about how photobooths allow the same sort of interplay of space and time, and how much I enjoyed all the photobooth art books featured on the photobooth blog this week. Here and here for example:
All this reminded me of how much I love photobooths and how, like polaroid film, they will soon be relegated to memory. And then I thought a day in 1975 when I went to a photobooth in Monterrey with my grandfather and how he told me to make a serious face and how he would make funny ones and how he kept half of the strip and I kept half of the strip and how that strip was our little secret. He kept his in the back of his wallet and I kept mine in the bottom of a treasure box. And I remembered how I always felt connected to him across the miles when I looked at my half of the strip. And then I imagined my treasure box rudely stuffed into some larger cardboard box and transported to some storage facility in the middle of nowhere in East Texas. And I thought about the heat and humidity there and how my picture of my grandfather with me wearing my most serious face in that photobooth in Monterrey is probably faded and yellow. And I missed my grandfather who I just realized has been gone for ten years now. I remember how at the end of each summer he and my grandmother would hug me tight and cry and tell me they would never see me again because they would be dead in the new year, and how I would cry too because I would believe them. Then I thought about how our youngest son has my grandfather's ears, and how our older son has his laugh and I felt that tug of a connection across both time and ether, so strong that it hurt. And I thought about how it always comes back to these things.
Plot summary of Madeline and the Bad Hat:
-The Spanish Ambassador and his family move in next to Madeline's boarding school.
-The son of the Spanish Ambassador, Pepito, starts to terrorize small animals (and the girls) with his slingshot.
-Pepito dresses up as a bullfighter and invites the girls to see the animals he has trapped from around the neighborhood.
-The girls refuse his invite. This sets him off on a mini rampage.
-The headmaster of the the girls school gives Pepito a toolkit in the hopes it will calm him down.
-He builds a guillotine and starts beheading chickens.
-Later he puts a cat in a bag and takes it out into the countryside so the cat can be attacked by a pack of dogs.
-Pepitio manages to get mauled himself but is saved in the nick of time by Madeline (she also saves the cat).
-A bandaged and repentant Pepito becomes a vegetarian and is so reformed he starts freeing animals from the zoo.
-The girls all love Pepito now and they watch him in his pajamas (and he them) through their adjoining windows.
Children's books are better weird.
In 2007 at Review Santa Fe I got a chance to check out a new body of work by Ferit Kuyas. The project, a series he had been working on for some time on the city of Chongqing had just been renamed City of Ambition, a play on the iconic Steiglitz body of work documenting New York's rising skyline. The images stuck with me and I've come back to them many times. There are scores of photographers trying to capture a rising China, but Kuyas has a poet's feel for the place. His images feel like Chongqing to me. Anyway I wanted to report that Ferit's website has recently been revamped and he now has a full set of images from this epic project online. Even better, if you happen to be in London, you can see his beautiful prints in person at Photofusion where he has a solo show running. Also he will be speaking at the gallery on September 18th.
20x200 turns one today. Yay us!
I noticed that one of Bertien Van Manen's photos, Couple and Painting, Grooves Bar - Shanghai, 1998 (not the image above), is available as an edition via MOCP. If you don't know about the MOCP store you should check it out, MOCP offers prints from a super lineup of contemporary phtographers. Couple and Painting led me to revisit Van Manen's website which has several more pictures from that project which expertly evokes a certain stratum of urban life in late 1990's China. More images as well as other projects over at Yancey Richardson
"Message to my future self.
You were at Silvercup Studios tonight. It had been a long shoot and nothing much was going according to plan. When the director wrapped you walked up onto the set, a beach scene, took off your shoes and built a sand castle when nobody was watching. In the car home you passed a bar and remembered they had a photobooth. The place was closing up, but you decided to tell the driver to stop. You got out and made this series of pictures.
At home you have three varieties of tomato plants on the fire escape (Green Zebras, Black Krims, and De Pintos); all are in full bloom. You will eat tomatoes like apples before you sleep.
Lately you have fallen into dreams in which your room falls away and you are out under starry mountain skies.
You see beauty all around. Maybe you will read this in 2004 and think it naive. Maybe you will forget it or lose it. Maybe you will read it and remember what it was to be alive on this day.
-September 4th 1994."
My grandmother had a painting of the sea in her dining room. The canvas depicted a violent sea at night. It was painted by an aunt and was both totally amateurish and utterly compelling. I can't tell you how many times I drowned myself in those waves. It was a scene not unlike the one below by Willem van de Velde (the great Dutch painter of the sea) or of the seascapes of countless artists, known and unknown, who have tackled versions of the same theme - a dramatic sea, threatening clouds, nature unfurled.
Photographers of course even at the birth of the medium were photographing the sea.
Gustave LeGray was out photographing the sea a few years after photography was invented and (I believe) was trying to recreate the drama of canvases of the great Romantic seascape painters of his day, artists such as Frederic Edwin Church,William Turner, and Winslow Homer. But LeGray was faced with a problem. If he properly exposed for the ocean, the sky would be blown out to white. And if he exposed for the sky, the ocean would be an underexposed featureless black so he pioneered a technique of double printing sky and sea from two negatives and 150 years later he is remembered for his seascapes (his work sells for hundreds of thousands of dollars).
The photographer DoDo Jin Ming is obviously steeped in all these traditions and by using vintage techniques similar to LeGray's (printing sea and sky from separate properly exposed negatives onto one image) and by managing to have herself placed almost directly within the maelstrom of crashing waves (often lowered by rope from rocky cliffs) she's managed to capture what some of the great seascape painters imagined while looking down into the froth from the safely of the cliffs above. In doing this, she manages to elevate this most banal of subject matter into something sublime.
Amazon UK has a copy of her book available. Doesn't seem to be available in the states.
I first came across the Bianca Brunner's work at Aperture's ReGeneration show a few years ago where the image above from her Limbo series was prominently featured. Google Brunner a Swiss born photographer living in England and most of the top results are bloggers wondering where they can see more of her work. A bit of digging reveals work from both her Limbo and Hotel series on commentart.com (text here). Another enigmatic series titled Wood is also online. Enjoy.
You wouldn't guess it from this blog, but my first love in the arts is not photography, but film and part of every film lover's bookshelf is Truffaut/Hitchcock in which the Truffaut interviews Hitchcock. Today I was googling a quote from the book when I found a site that contains recordings of the interview sessions. 25 MP3s in all. Exciting stuff for your inner film nerd.
Related: pranks in Vertigo, Hitchcock psychology, NYTimes review of Rear Window, NYTimes review of Pycho, NYTimes North by Northwest review, on MacGuffins, Hitchcock cameos, and A wonky but interesting essay on color symbolism in Vertigo.
Ian Baguskas who I've linked on this site before and who has worked with us at 20x200 has a nice series of South Korea portfolios worth checking out. My favorite of these is titled Haenyeo. Haenyeo translates as 'sea women' and is the name used for the female divers of Jeju Island. For about 3 centuries these ladies have been diving up to 80 feet to collect octopus, abalone, and sea weed and until recently drove the economy of this island known for it's many rocks, winds, and women. Korean tourism promotes the haenyeo as mermaids but it's a a hard scrabble life and partially because of this, their numbers are declining precipitously. Only around 5200 are thought to be left, down from 20,000 in the 1960's and 40,000 in the 1930's. More than half are in their mid-60's.
The kids dug up some old Halloween costumes today. Blame the camerawork on Jenn.
Related: Happy Halloween
Sure Olafur Eliasson is famous for his blockbuster art projects like Waterfalls that currently graces this fair city, and sure his big museum installations are thought provoking and spectacular, but I am most moved by this artist's photographs which are usually presented as series in a grid. They are simple and soulful and for me at least are humanizing. There are several photo series on the official Eliasson website, although they are shown in horribly small image sizes. If you are interested you are better off seeking out his books.
. . . . .
Note to artist's everywhere. Show decent sized pictures of your work online. It's 2008, time to size up.
I pointed to Denis Dailleux's Cairo work last year. I'm happy to report that this excellent photographer now has a new website with many more bodies of work online. If these images don't inspire deep wanderlust, well, you just don't have wanderlust.
Last Year's Entry: Cairo
My grandfather made ladies shoes. He didn't physically make them himself, he would cross the border and buy good ladies shoes in Laredo and then have a network of local leather men and cobblers make meticulous copies which he would then label with his Rudy brand (He was also a loan shark on the side). Everyone said his shoes were better than the originals. The leather was better, they lasted longer, etcetera. So some days he would drive around Monterrey and meet with men who tanned leather, cut leather, or dyed leather or who stitched shoes, or fitted soles, or manufactured shoe boxes. Some days he would drive around to the various shoe stores in the surrounding villages making deals for his shoes, and some days he would collect money or collateral from the people who owed him. I used to love to make the rounds with him always up front in those big wide seats of his 70's era Cadillacs or his stylish Ford Elite listening to Pedro Infante on the radio. We covered hundreds of miles on our summers together crisscrossing Monterrey and 50 miles in every direction. My memory of that time is dreamlike. This was pre-Nafta Mexico in the 70's before everything started to look like everything else and many of the things I saw burned into the brain forming the foundation of my visual memory palace. I mention this, because Graciela Iturbide's images remind me of my memories and recalling people and places I saw on street corners and in markets maybe for a few seconds but who were unforgettable. There is not one good site showcasing the range of Iturbide's work, but you can find some of images here and here. If you are really interested, her books are a better bet.
I saw Man on a Wire last week and the documentary has lingered with me. The film has several annoying elements: the main character is basically a mime (he's not actually a mime, but let's just say he has a mime-like personality, and who among us does not discriminate against the mimes), the film uses cheesy low-fi reenactments mixed with archival footage (a technique more suited to television than film), and the movie has been overpraised (always suspicious), but despite all that I can't deny the movie's resonance. It's a tale that touches on the act of creating art, mortality, creation, destruction, and ultimately vanity and betrayal which is more than I can say for most films I've seen recently. The filmmakers never mentioned 9/11 as the connection is implicit: the planning that went into this performance was the poetic inverse of the planning that went into the towers' destruction and perhaps this is why the film inspires such emotion in its audiences (many in our audience jumped to their feet and clapped at the end). A. O. Scott wrote in his New York Times review,
"It is easy to imagine that, in contemplating the scale and solidity of those brand-new towers, Mr. Petit saw them at least partly as the vehicle of his own immortality (whether or not he survived the crossing). No one looking up at the New York sky on a hazy morning 34 years ago and seeing a man on a wire could have suspected that the reverse would turn out to be true."Go see this film if you have the chance.
Related: Philippe Petit's Wikipedia page which includes scans of the the famous New Yorker covers he inspired. Also read Paul Auster's Red Notebook which contains a great short story inspired by the walk.
. . .
While browsing around for this article I found a neat little homemade site called Walking Art with many examples of epic walks. The site fails to include the great walking artist Hamish Fulton who is an artistic inspiration and whose family has been very kind to my family.
They are building a building in the vacant lot next to the firehouse we call home. Rather they were building a building. One morning 2 backhoes trundled in and dug a hole about 15 feet deep and 20 feet wide. Workers put up a big fence blocking the lot from the street, and then everyone left. The diggers rumbled away and the lot has been quiet ever since. Two months have passed and... nothing. We have back door onto the lot so we can go out there, not that there's anything to do. If we were smokers it would be the type place we would excuse ourselves for a minute or two to have a cigarette.
I don't smoke, but I do eat plums and drink coca cola. My family has been visiting my mother in law all week leaving me here alone. You can live alone for 20 years and never notice silence, but after 4 years of marriage and 3 years with kids, the silence is heavy. So all week I keep finding myself venturing outside with a coke or a plum in one hand and chair in the other. Tonight it was a plum.
People who study plums trees are called pomologists (Pomology is the study of fruit trees—not specifically plum trees). Can you imagine how great it would be to have a business card reading Your Name, Pomologist. (I've always imagined the Pomologists have an intense rivalry with the Olericulturists who study vegetables and who take pomological abuse in silence: "You study the radish?! Celery?! Cucurbits?!! Live man, for once in your life, live! Get your head out of the dirt and consider the glory of the peach and the pomegranate! Persimmons! We KNOW the persimmon. Go now, enjoy your arugula. Be gone.") Many Pomologists think the plum tree originated near the Caspian Sea in the Caucasus Mountains, but nobody really knows for sure. I've seen plum trees in the Hunza valley in Pakistan and a man there told me his valley was the site of the Garden of Eden and that it wasn't an apple that Eve ate but a plum. He also claimed to be the bastard son of the Mir of Hunza and to be one hundred and three years old, but that's another story. Anyway, I was sitting there in the dark, I ate my plum, and then I said out loud to no one in particular, "There are sweeter things." With that I finally felt the day was done and it was time to start dreaming of tomorrow when the house would be quiet no more.
As sort a quiet coda to Paul Fusco's profoundly moving RFK Funeral Train Exhibition which closes this week at Danziger Projects, Square America (a photographic ephemera site) released a set of found pictures of RFK's funeral as seen on television which the the site has titled What Was On (June 1968). I was one year old in 1968 but the pictures evoke images of my childhood living rooms, some of my first memories. Both sets of pictures in very different ways evoke the emotion of that year and need of the photographers to hold on to those emotions.
If you didn't get a chance to see the Fusco exhibition first hand, Aperture is re-releasing an expanded version of his book. It is available for pre-order. I can't wait for mine to arrive. The Square America guys are releasing their own book titled "Who We Were: A Snapshot History Of America", no pre-release link yet.
Every year or so I look for an excuse to blog about Konstantin Melnikov's architectural masterpiece, his own home. This year's excuse is that house now has it's own website: Melnikov House and that Melnikov's wikipedia page has been considerably beefed up with many good links including one to the Russian Avant-garde Heritage Preservation Foundation (which led me to the excellent Russian Utopia Depository of Paper Architecture). This web meander started because I was looking at Richard Pare's work online. Pare spent 14 years shooting architecture in Russia for his celebrated book/exhibition The Lost Vanguard: Soviet Modernist Architecture, 1922–1932.
You can read more about Pare's work in the NYTimes or via this interview. Also of interest for Melnivkov fans is this obituary of his son Victor who was a well known painter. Now off with you until next year when I'll be back with more Melnivkov updates.
1. Bite the apple.
2. Pass the apple.
3. Wait for a bite.
4. Receive the apple.
5. Repeat steps 1-4 until done.
6. Break open the core.
7. Consider each seed.
8. Go start the day.
The George Eastman House has joined the flickr commons and has included a set of early 20th Century autochromes which have been a source of fascination and inspiration for years.
Flickr Commons is a fantastic idea. My wish is that the whole thing could be taken further. Imagine an open source version of flickr dedicated to showing artwork and photography from public institutions in which users had the opportunity to contribute scholarly work or to group images into collections.
Note I did a quick and dirty color correction to the images I've posted above.
Related: Early Color Photography