April 1, 2009
.ƃuol ʎɐp llɐ sɯǝlqoɹd pɹıǝʍ ƃuıʌɐɥ uǝǝq sɐɥ ɹoʇıuoɯ ʎɯ
.ƃuol ʎɐp llɐ sɯǝlqoɹd pɹıǝʍ ƃuıʌɐɥ uǝǝq sɐɥ ɹoʇıuoɯ ʎɯ
Whether he's shooting in Asia or India or the Middle East, Peter Bialobrzeski takes his 4x5 out in the world and makes evocative images. When he's shooting on the street and including people, because of their long exposure times and subject matter, the images evoke 19th century photography. But when he's shooting from a distance especially when he's shooting around Asia's megacities his work evokes Blade Runner using the same technique. It's a tension I like and find fascinating. Bialobzeski's site is actually a collection of links to other sites that showcase his work... While most of the images are presented too small you get a sense of how spectacular they could be as prints. Also of interest is Bialobrzeski's early work which is shot in a completely different documentary style. Fascinating to see what happened after he found his calling.
Recommended Bialobrzeski's books: XXX Jouney - Journeys into the Spiritual Heart of India & Heimat
The Kominek Gallery in Berlin is opening a show and selling a few precious copies of the cult classic book by Pekka Turunen, Against The Wall. I've loved this body of work for years and would be thrilled to see it in person (Tickets to Berlin anyone?). The website only shows a small fraction of this project which unfortunately isn't available anywhere I know of online. Turunen is in good company in this gallery which also shows Joakim Eskildsen, Misha Kominek, Andrew Miksys, Birthe Piontek, and Simon Roberts. An impressive crowd.
Here's a sample to inspire you go grab the book yourself:
I remember Kitty saying we shared a deep longing for
the consolation prize, laughing as we rinsed the stagecoach.
I remember the night we camped out
and I heard her whisper
"think of me as a place" from her sleeping bag
with the centaur print.
I remember being in her father's basement workshop
when we picked up an unknown man sobbing
over the shortwave radio
and the night we got so high we convinced ourselves
that the road was a hologram projected by the headlight beams.
I remember how she would always get everyone to vote
on what we should do next and the time she said
"all water is classic water" and shyly turned her face away.
At volleyball games her parents sat in the bleachers
like ambassadors from Indiana in all their midwestern schmaltz.
She was destroyed when they were busted for operating
a private judicial system within U.S. borders.
Sometimes I'm awakened in the middle of the night
by the clatter of a room service cart and I think back on Kitty.
Those summer evenings by the government lake,
talking about the paradox of multiple Santas
or how it felt to have your heart broken.
I still get a hollow feeling on Labor Day when the summer ends
and I remember how I would always refer to her boyfriends
as what's-his-face, which was wrong of me and I'd like
to apologize to those guys right now, wherever they are:
No one deserves to be called what's-his-face.
--David Berman. Actual Air
I don't know if she's recently updated her website, but the volume of Nadia Sablin's online output seems to grown significantly since I last checked in. I first encountered Sablin's work a few years ago via Hey Hot Shot, and had always found her portraiture compelling while simultaneously having the desire to make radically different edits of the work she presents... Of course wanting to make different edits of other people's is my general state of being (so much easier than editing your own!)... Sablin is a Russian expatriate who has lived in the US since she was 12.
I've been a big fan of Birthe Piontek the photographer and the person since seeing her work a few years ago at Review Santa Fe. She's just released a new project titled The Idea of the North, full compelling environmental portraits and quietly emotional landscapes.
The project was shot over three months in a small community in the Yukon, Piontek writes:
I experienced first hand the mystery and fascination of life above the 60th parallel, and met people who came here as part of their quest for the idea of North.
I’m not the first observer to be simultaneously intrigued, yet remain a visitor. Glenn Gould, whose work inspired the title, wrote after visiting the North briefly, "I've read about it, written about it, and even pulled up my parka once and gone there. Yet like all but a few Canadians I've had no real experience of the North. I've remained, of necessity, an outsider. And the North remained for me, a convenient place to dream about, spin tales about,” and in the end, return South.
For the last few weeks, the conversation I have with Gabriel (who turned 2 on Sunday) at bedtime goes like this:
Me: "What kind of story do you want tonight?'
Gabriel: "Rock story."
So I tell a story about a rock. If I try to tell a story twice I invariably hear the demand, "new one".
Anyway here are 3 new stories about rocks... more on the way...
THE LONELY ROCK
Once there was a rock.
As far as the rock knew, it was alone in the world — one rock sitting quietly by itself on a grassy field that spread out as far as the eye can see. But this rock had no eyes and it saw nothing, so it did the only thing it knew how to do, it rolled. It rolled through days and nights and rain and fog until it bumped up against another rock.
The two rocks enjoyed one other's company so there they stayed until they were bumped by a third rock and three was even nicer than two so they cuddled up for a very long time until along came another, and maybe a year later another, and another, and so on. After a more days than even I know how to count, where there had once been one rock in a field, there was now a great pile of rocks. Birds came and made their nests on the pile and grass grew up around the edges and the rocks forgot they were rocks and today they speak with one voice when they bother to speak at all, because they are happy bunch, happy to have found one another in such a wide world, happy to have found their place. And today they call themselves a mountain.
--Continue reading "3 Stories about Rocks" →
While I rarely link to purely abstract photography, I appreciate the difficulty of creating abstract images. In many ways, especially in photography, creating meaningful abstraction (minimalism also), is a more difficult than creating traditional images.
I recently saw one of Ellen Carey's "Polaroid Pulls" and was struck by her work's lushness, resonance (her process echos some of the very first experiments in photography) and irony (especially now that Polaroid is fading out of existence and chemistry is being replaced with pixels and bits).
I'm going to start with:
Guys who look like Kenny Rodgers
Guys who look like pirates
Guys who look like Kenny Rodgers trying to look like a pirate...
to be continued...
Li Wei is a Chinese photographer born in Inner Mongolia (part of China). He documents the region of his birth in a project titled simply The Earth. I've travelled through the region several times and have a great affection for the harsh emptiness of the land and the warmth of the people. His photos bring some of that back to me.
I know I'm late to the game in pointing out a project by Lucia Nimcová titled Rusyns: Lost Homes which documents an obscure Slovakian minority who were displaced when a dam was built and their villages inundated, but it's nicely done project and worth checking out if you haven't seen it. I only wish there were more photographers and more connections between images/maps/audio etc....
I love used book stores, but
there is always that forlorn melancholy
Of knowing that one day your copies
of Arabia Deserta, Stock Photographs: The Fort Worth Fat Stock Show and Rodeo, and
The Voyage of the Beagle,
will one day be jumbled amongst
someone else's cook books, Judy Blume,
and, God forbid, self help literature.
So I write notes in the margins.
I hide pictures between pages.
If I'm feeling magnanimous, I'll tuck a dollar near the good part of the story.
Sometimes I circle words leaving secret messages.
I see these things as little whispers
to the people of the future.
I want to let them know that
that these books too once had other lives.
It would be hard not for me to love Mark Ruwedel's evocatively titled new show Westward the Course of Empire in which Ruwedel photographed the sites of abandoned railway lines in the American and Canadian West. It opens tomorrow at the Yossi Milo Gallery. This new series jibes nicely with Ruwedel's Earthworks portfolio in which he documented the mark of man on the earth (shooting burial mounds, old footpaths, earth art etc), and the effect of time on those marks.
This is Mr. Ades here in Brooklyn a few months ago. He was always up for a chat about his business, his life, or the things he saw on the street. But the minute customers would show up, it was back to work. I last saw him about a week on a very cold day, occupying his regular spot in Union Square, making sales.
Some photographers have stories to tell, some find stories to tell, and some, I think, have internal compasses that are a few degrees off the norm, and are able to create stories, or at least the beginnings of stories, wherever they point their cameras, suggesting narratives, but never finishing them. Thobias Fäldt, a Swedish photographer, is in that last category. His images might not hold together as projects but individually all invite questions and are recognizable as the work an appealing, often humorous, off kilter vision. Fäldt's website is maddeningly obtuse, but contains many gems like the image above, titled White Visitor.
Twenty two years ago I was sitting in an empty dining car on a train from Princeton, New Jersey to Washington D.C., when a girl who I did not know slid into the seat across the table from me. I thought she must have mistaken me for a friend by the familiar way she bounded over. She was a few years older than me, preppy, and carried a copy of the New Yorker magazine with a man walking his dog in the snow on the cover. She smelled of vanilla. It was twilight out, a heavy snow was falling, and without looking at me she said, "I hate snow," to which I eventually answered, "Oh... How sad." She turned from the window looking at me carefully, pursed her lips, and began reading her magazine. I continued looking out the window. We sat there in silence for the good part of an hour and then she abruptly rose and said, "You will remember me," and left. I never saw her again.
I remember the sound of the train, the snow swirling by, and the color of the sky which turned from lapis to midnight. I remember I was wearing a plaid shirt with a missing button under my father's overcoat and I remember in my pocket I was carrying a polaroid picture of a lady in black carrying a black umbrella in the snow. I remember the blackwatch scarf the girl wore draped around her neck, cashmere probably, and I remember that smell of vanilla, but I couldn't tell you a single thing about her face, her voice, or even the color of her hair. So, if by some strange fate, you happen to read this girl on the train: "No. It turns out I haven't remembered you, you have flickered away."
Tomoko Yoneda is a Japanese photographer based in London whose books I've been studying lately. I'm intrigued by her quiet photos that reveal histories hidden in plain sight. In one portfolio she shoots the locations of foreign spy rendezvous, in another she documents the indirect impressions we make on houses (discolorations from radiator heat for example), and in another she photographs banal landscapes that were the scenes of battles and historical events (a pretty sea view at night turns out to be the location where Dr. Mengele drown himself for example). Her portfolios are little puzzle poems, and reminders that we are all surrounded by ghosts.
I was looking around for a picture that summarized the inauguration for me when as if by telekinesis I received an email from photographer Rachel Feierman with the above image attached. I hope she posts more from the inauguration in her Politics series...
Related: Rachel Hope Feierman
Here are the full texts of all the inaugural addresses past.
And a few snippets that stuck out for me (in no particular order):
"My fellow countrymen, on this occasion, the oath I have taken before you and before God is not mine alone, but ours together. We are one nation and one people. Our fate as a nation and our future as a people rest not upon one citizen, but upon all citizens.
This is the majesty and the meaning of this moment.
For every generation, there is a destiny. For some, history decides. For this generation, the choice must be our own.
Even now, a rocket moves toward Mars. It reminds us that the world will not be the same for our children, or even for ourselves in a short span of years. The next man to stand here will look out on a scene different from our own, because ours is a time of change—rapid and fantastic change bearing the secrets of nature, multiplying the nations, placing in uncertain hands new weapons for mastery and destruction, shaking old values, and uprooting old ways.
Our destiny in the midst of change will rest on the unchanged character of our people, and on their faith." (video)
" Yet, after all, though the problems are new, though the tasks set before us differ from the tasks set before our fathers who founded and preserved this Republic, the spirit in which these tasks must be undertaken and these problems faced, if our duty is to be well done, remains essentially unchanged. We know that self-government is difficult. We know that no people needs such high traits of character as that people which seeks to govern its affairs aright through the freely expressed will of the freemen who compose it. But we have faith that we shall not prove false to the memories of the men of the mighty past. They did their work, they left us the splendid heritage we now enjoy. We in our turn have an assured confidence that we shall be able to leave this heritage unwasted and enlarged to our children and our children's children. To do so we must show, not merely in great crises, but in the everyday affairs of life, the qualities of practical intelligence, of courage, of hardihood, and endurance, and above all the power of devotion to a lofty ideal, which made great the men who founded this Republic in the days of Washington, which made great the men who preserved this Republic in the days of Abraham Lincoln."
We are provincials no longer. The tragic events of the thirty months of vital turmoil through which we have just passed have made us citizens of the world. There can be no turning back. Our own fortunes as a nation are involved whether we would have it so or not.
And yet we are not the less Americans on that account. We shall be the more American if we but remain true to the principles in which we have been bred. They are not the principles of a province or of a single continent. We have known and boasted all along that they were the principles of a liberated mankind. These, therefore, are the things we shall stand for, whether in war or in peace.
The American people stand firm in the faith which has inspired this Nation from the beginning. We believe that all men have a right to equal justice under law and equal opportunity to share in the common good. We believe that all men have the right to freedom of thought and expression. We believe that all men are created equal because they are created in the image of God.
From this faith we will not be moved.
The negroes are now Americans. Their ancestors came here years ago against their will, and this is their only country and their only flag. They have shown themselves anxious to live for it and to die for it. Encountering the race feeling against them, subjected at times to cruel injustice growing out of it, they may well have our profound sympathy and aid in the struggle they are making. We are charged with the sacred duty of making their path as smooth and easy as we can. Any recognition of their distinguished men, any appointment to office from among their number, is properly taken as an encouragement and an appreciation of their progress, and this just policy should be pursued when suitable occasion offers.
Care for the property of the nation and for the needs of future settlers requires that the public domain should be protected from purloining schemes and unlawful occupation.
The conscience of the people demands that the Indians within our boundaries shall be fairly and honestly treated as wards of the Government and their education and civilization promoted with a view to their ultimate citizenship, and that polygamy in the Territories, destructive of the family relation and offensive to the moral sense of the civilized world, shall be repressed.
The laws should be rigidly enforced which prohibit the immigration of a servile class to compete with American labor, with no intention of acquiring citizenship, and bringing with them and retaining habits and customs repugnant to our civilization.
FDR's First Innagural (mp3)
There may be little solidity in an ancient idea that congregations of men into cities and nations are the most pleasing objects in the sight of superior intelligences, but this is very certain, that to a benevolent human mind there can be no spectacle presented by any nation more pleasing, more noble, majestic, or august, than an assembly like that which has so often been seen in this and the other Chamber of Congress, of a Government in which the Executive authority, as well as that of all the branches of the Legislature, are exercised by citizens selected at regular periods by their neighbors to make and execute laws for the general good. Can anything essential, anything more than mere ornament and decoration, be added to this by robes and diamonds? Can authority be more amiable and respectable when it descends from accidents or institutions established in remote antiquity than when it springs fresh from the hearts and judgments of an honest and enlightened people? For it is the people only that are represented. It is their power and majesty that is reflected, and only for their good, in every legitimate government, under whatever form it may appear. The existence of such a government as ours for any length of time is a full proof of a general dissemination of knowledge and virtue throughout the whole body of the people. And what object or consideration more pleasing than this can be presented to the human mind? If national pride is ever justifiable or excusable it is when it springs, not from power or riches, grandeur or glory, but from conviction of national innocence, information, and benevolence.
We're featuring the Lyon based, Portuguese photographer Christian Chaize on 20x200 in the next few weeks. I can pre-announce because the cat's already out of the bag (Our Chaize image, not the one above, was featured in the Febrary Domino magazine). Chaize's images have an easy appeal, are also interesting studies on time and group dynamics, and are the perfect antidote to a cold winter's night.
One of the great pleasures in life is jumping into a car and just driving for a couple of days or weeks with no particular destination in mind.
I don't know the story behind Patrick O'Dell's Natives (shot for Vice Magazine), but I'm guessing he hopped into a car and ended up on a reservation somewhere way out west. Feels exactly right and I like it because of that.
The rest of the portfolio can be found here.
My son Gabriel who is 22 months old had growing pains last night. At some ungodly hour he started, began moaning, and then sobbing loudly. When we asked what was wrong he simply cried "hurts" and pointed down at his legs, a much simpler and direct diagnosis than is found in medical literature which describes these pains as "non-inflammatory musculoskeletal pain syndromes, non-articular, inter-mittent bilateral aches" (but so far provides no clues as to why they occur).
Holding Gabriel's legs tight made him feel better; his moans dissolved into whimpers, and he faded back into sleep. When we would let go of his his legs, even in slumber, he would guide our hands back. I have foggy memories of my own growing pains and I have no idea if someone held my legs, but I distinctly felt the rush of sense memory so I think it must have happened. And in those half remembered moments in the middle of the night you also get the impression that this memory will be passed on through some subterranean reptilian channel. And I wonder which is the deeper comfort: knowing on some primitive level that someone is there to hold your legs at night when they hurt, or being the person who was able to be there?
South African photographer Pieter Hugo has produced yet another intriguing punch-you-in-the-gut project titled Nollywood. It's a collection of portraits of actors in the Nigerian Film Industry recreating typical scenes from Nollywood movies which are produced by the thousands often direct to video. I haven't seen many Nollywood films but what I have seen reminds me very much of pulp-filled Mexican cinema of the 60's of the 70's which were filled with stories the extreme and the macabre. I grew up on the Santo series for example in which El Santo a masked hero would battle vampire women, martians, the blue demons, and of course (always) the armies of the undead. There were similarly extreme Mexican westerns, telenovelas (soaps), musicals, and science fiction. All were making movie magic and capturing the popular imagination of millions of people with the slimmest of budgets and improvised props. These were not mainstream films, but rather pulp shown on late night TV and later distributed by video. The pulp Nollywood films I've seen are similar. If you had undertaken an analogous photography project in Mexico 30 years ago you would have ended up with many similar archetypes— images influenced by Western cinema, but made uniquely local and encoded with popular mythologies.
Pieter's work also always brings up questions of race, identity, and of the photographer's gaze and this project like so many of his projects provokes questions, demands attention, and is at once intriguing, maddening, and exhilarating.
Related: Stefan Ruiz and Pieter Hugo worked together at Colors Magazine for a few years and intentionally or not they seem to influence each other. Check out Stefan's project called Telenovelas in which photographs the stars of telenovelas on the Mexico City sets of their shows.
Via my work with 20x200 and Hey Hot Shot I see the portfolios of hundreds if not thousands of photographers, and I'm struck by is how very few photographs—even photographs by very good photographers—are truly memorable. Juliana Beasley has a knack for taking memorable photographs often of subjects who live in the underbelly of society (drunks, strippers, the insane, and the unloved). When I first encountered Beasley's project "Rockaways" a few years ago I think my impression was that the images were striking but that the work showed little compassion for their subjects. But over time the portraits of broken men and hard weary women photographed in harsh light worked their way into my subconscious. I realized my original assessment was completely off base. I mistook her bracing clarity for sarcasm. Many of the images are simply unforgettable. They stick with you. I've since been impressed by the range of Beasley's work and her ability to tell stories most people don't want to hear. She recently started a blog and I'll definitely be following along.
Note: The image above is from Beasley's series on Cambodian land mine victims, it came to mind today while watching this tangentially related but equally courageous story on Cambodian Sex Slavery by Nicholas Kristoff in today's New York Times.
Dear Santa Claus,
I miss you. Why are your presents so beautiful? Why do you... why do you...why do you live in the North Pole? I want you to live closer so we can be friends. I had a very good idea, I would like to give you a Christmas present. Maybe a guitar. I hope you like it.
Age 4 and 17 days
Dec 24, 2008
a few hours later:
While browsing the brand new Radius Books website I came across a a photographer named Debbie Felming Caffery whose work I did not know, but now feel I should have known. She's a super story teller. The images above are from a portfolio titled Night Life in a section of her website titled Other Worlds.
In my file cabinet I have several folders dedicated to letters. There is a section for letters received, a section for unsent letters, another for half-finished letters, and one labeled 'unwritten letters' containing fragments of letter ideas.
In the spirit of the Unwritten Letter file here are a few of the unwritten blog entries I started over the last two years... partial ideas for posts. Here are a few I wish I had fleshed out. I can't recall writing most of these and have no idea how I was planning to finish them off.
You're directing Clash by Night, a B movie but things could be worse. Marilyn Monroe is starring. No need to push her down the stairs as you had done to Peter Lorre.
It's been twenty years since M, seventeen years since defying Goebbels and losing your wife to the Nazis. The Americans will come to know you for The Big Heat, but that's two years away and eight years after that you'll direct your last movie. A horror flick. For the next 16 years after that you'll try to make another film but will never will.
guy bullet pants: I'm gonna call that bitch Happy Meal.
guy puffy jacket: Grins is fine enough for me.
guy bullet pants: I got it. We call him Emoticon.
A modest proposal. It's not a stretch to say that museum websites are generally, terrible. They are over-designed or under-designed, are often overproduced, and generally lack the very thing people are coming to find within them- pictures, audio, and video of the items within the said museums. Instead of all the Smithsonian and MOMA and everyone else reinventing the wheel with each website, why not spend some money to license a version of flickr that can be customized for all museums. Include all the normal flickr-like features substituting institutions for users, but with organizational levels beyond mere commenting and single institution-set making. Give it depth. Allow for scholarly documents to be attached to images. Allow wiki-style editing of explanatory text as well as official texts. And allow connections to be made between objects/images. Allow users to curate collections, and allow any and all organizations that play by certain rules to join.
The best images I think are sensual, not sensual in the libidinous modern sense of the word, but in the original meaning of the word... that they provoke the senses and give us shorthand for experience... (Aside: Milton coined sensuous to avoid the sexual overtones that were attached to sensual, but sensuous was also soon co-opted as shorthand for infused w/ sex)... Sometimes all I need to get through the day is one great image, something to hang onto before I close my eyes at night. Here is today's image:
[there was no image]
I walked into the kitchen tonight and found my wife sitting alone at the table and upset. "What's the matter?" I asked. She tells me the story of 3 young friends of friends who died in a car accident, one was killed on impact, 2 others were burned alive while people tried in vain to rescue them. I noticed she was holding our new baby's socks. "You raise a child for twenty years and then THAT?" she said quietly.
Sometimes it takes half a lifetime to think of a retort. Twenty years ago today after a longish hike in the Welsh countryside I walked into a pub and met a man who said
Christopher Handran, in his project Happy Birthday To Me rephotographs his own birthday snapshots using macro lenses he modifies himself. The results are intriguing and evoke Gerard Richter's candle paintings. At the risk of sounding arty, for me they also speak to the gauzy uncertainty of memory and the mutability of time. I like 'em.