Archive for the “re: photographica” Category

Blue sky. As in, "blue sky" thinking. As in, the sky's the limit.

At a PRC board retreat this winter, one section of the day-long discussion centered around future planning—how do the board members, the leaders of this organization, envision its future? Provoking the session were a variety of open-ended questions about photography and the role of an organization that calls itself, as we do, a “resource center” for photography.

I believe that the board has a critical voice in the PRC’s direction. I also believe that as a membership organization we have a responsibility to listen to our constituency. We cannot function as an organization if we don’t consider, and do our best to meet, the interests of those who join us as members. You pay your money, you have a right to expect something in return. And we have an obligation to listen. While we can’t serve everyone all the time, we can mediate between points of highly concentrated interest and identify common ground among our members’ diverse passions.

We must make the most of the limited resources we have in order to provide the most valuable resources to our audiences. We want to know what you want and expect from the PRC. Call it a feedback loop, call it a membership survey, call it a desperate plea for blog traffic, or call it fodder for what I am planning as a “Vision Night” at the PRC this fall; I pass the following questions along to you, gentle reader, in hopes of stirring up a set of ideas that will grow into visions, discussions, and eventually new directions for this organization. Please contribute your thoughts here on the blog, and I will return to the list at intervals over the coming months.

(These are in no particular order, though the number may help organize responses.)

  1. What is the current state of photography as an art form? As a form that has value and meaning to our culture?
  2. Where do you see photography heading?
  3. Is the PRC in its current state still relevant? If so, how do we keep it relevant? If not, how to make it relevant again (if it every was)?
  4. What do you want or need from an organization dedicated to photography? Are you getting it?
  5. If you are not a member, what would induce you to become one?
  6. How do you envision the PRC in five years? Farther out (15 years)?

Just for reference, here’s our existing mission statement:

The Photographic Resource Center (PRC) at Boston University is an independent, non-profit organization that serves as a vital forum for the exploration and interpretation of new work, ideas, and methods in photography and related media.

Thank you for helping us envision the new PRC.

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There’s AIPAD, of course. Thursday through Sunday at the Park Avenue Armory. Knock yourself out looking for the best and brightest.

And some major shows at MoMA (and another), the Met (one, two), ICP (four shows there). I’d love to go the PS 1 to see the Winogrand animals on exhibit there.

If I was going to be in the city this weekend, and AIPAD wasn’t there (or if I had loads of time between strolls through the booths), here’s the south-to-north itinerary I’d make up for myself.

  • Lisa M. Robinson at Klompching 111 Front Street, #206 (DUMBO)
  • Michelle Bates at Soho Photo 15 White Street
  • Massimo Grimaldi at Team 83 Grand Street
  • Karlheinz Weinberger at Swiss Institute 495 Broadway (KW also in Chelsea, below)
  • Colleen Plumb at Jen Bekman 6 Spring Street
  • Frederick Sommer at Ricco/Maresca 529 W 20th (FS also at Silverstein on 24th)
  • Karlheinz Weinberger at Anna Kustera 520 W 21st
  • Sambunaris and Yamamoto at Yancey Richardson 535 W 22nd
  • Andrea Robbins & Max Becher at Sonnabend 536 W 22nd
  • “The Collector’s Guide to New Art Photography Vol. 2” at Chelsea Art Museum 556 W 22nd
  • Phyllis Galembo at Kasher 521 W 23rd
  • Shinichi Maruyama and Frederick Sommer at Bruce Silverstein 535 W 24th
  • Sandi Haber Fifield (Boston local!) at RWFA Fine Art 511 W 25th
  • Sze Tsung Leong at Yossi Milo 525 W 25th
  • Seton Smith at Winston Wachter Fine Art 530 W 25th
  • Michael Eastman at Barry Friedman Ltd 515 W 26th
  • Alina & Jeff Bliumis at Andrea Meislin 526 W 26th, suite 214
  • David Nadel at Sasha Wolf 548 W 28th
  • Philip Jones Griffiths at Howard Greenberg 41 E 57, 14th fl.
  • Karine Laval at Bonni Benrubi 41 E 57, 13th fl.
  • Mark Power at Amador 41 E 57, 6th fl.
  • Suzanne Opton at Robert Anderson 24 W 57, #503
  • Jean Pagliuso at Marlborough 40 W 57
  • Raphael Dellaporta at L. Parker Stephenson 764 Madison Avenue 4F (bet. 65th and 66th Streets)
  • Charles H. Traub at Gitterman 170 E 75th
  • Rachelle Mozman at En Foco at Aguilar Library, 174 E 110th

Then I’d have to decide what to do on Sunday.

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The Black Eye by Michal Chelbin, published by Twin Palms Publishers

Recently posted at photo-eye, this review of Chelbin’s body of work subsequent to Strangely Familiar, seen here at the PRC earlier this fall.

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This book was published by the Massachusetts Arts and Humanities Foundation, Inc. in 1978, to acknowledge the recipients of its fellowships in three years of the program. Susan R. Channing was the editor, a natural fit given her role as the Artists Fellowship Program Director. Estelle Jussim wrote the Introduction, “Looking at Winners,” and one of my favorite designers, Katy Homans, did the graphics and layout. It was printed by Thomas Todd Company in Boston.

Title page of "Art of the State"; click here to go to Google books' page

I was struck by a number of things when I read through this modestly-scaled paperback book, which spotlights the period in which the PRC was emerging on the Boston scene.

First, the panelists. The three panels consisted of: Berenice Abbott, Ben Fernandez, Charles Harbutt, Lotte Jacobi, Syl Labrot, William Larson, Joan Lyons, Nathan Lyons, Mary Ellen Mark, Ray Metzker, and Barbara Morgan.

Second, the 18 fellowship recipients. The list is almost as impressive, in retrospect, as the panelists: Ken Brown, Carl Chiarenza, Stephen R. Elston, Chris Enos, Benno Friedman, Ruth Green, Bruce Kinch, Kipton Kumler, Jerome Liebling, Wendy MacNeil, Chester Michalik, Kevin Monaghan, Jonathan Morse, Thomas J. Petit, Nancy Rankin, John Rizzo, Lauren Shaw, and Jim Stone. Each artist is represented in the book by a compact biography and four nice duotone reproductions. (A nifty surprise to see Chiarenza, Enos, and Liebling all awarded in year one. Within a couple of years they were all involved with the PRC.)

The competition for the awards was fairly tough. The first year, five recipients were chosen from 450 applicants. The second year, six from 305. In year three, seven from 485. When I ran the McKnight Photography Fellowships program in Minnesota, we typically had about 120 applicants for four $25,000 awards. Clearly, there are a lot of photographers who considered themselves eligible for this support in Massachusetts.

The first paragraph of Jussim’s introduction was prescient, if a bit premature. It began:

Photography is in its hey-day. It has reached the apex of its popularity, its influence, its critical acclaim. It is chic. It is fashionable. It is produced, exhibited, purchased and pursued with the same modish flamboyance which once erupted over abstract expressionism and pop art. It is perhaps the only visual art which demonstrates such vigor, such exuberance, such accessibility. Schools of photographic practice, university programs in the history of photography, journals devoted to photographic criticism, books about, by, and for photographers proliferate in all languages, all countries, on all levels of quality.

The apex of photography’s popularity certainly hadn’t been attained in 1978. If anything, the chic quotient of photography continues to rise, however inexplicable or mysterious that phenomenon may be. Like the housing bubble—when will it burst, and what will the fallout be?

I do like the pleasures that Jussim celebrates in the work chosen for these awards; her writing is very thoughtful, but always deferential to and respectful of the experience of direct encounter with images. Especially when she writes the following about a hero to both Massachusetts and Minnesota photography: “A new conception of what constitutes a collision with reality emanates from the work of Jerome Liebling, where the outer realities are unflinchingly squeezed by a fierce individual perception which has the willingness to confront the painful fragilities of humanity, to press hard against the meaning of objects.”

The amount of the grants? $3,000. Enough, today, to buy a pretty decent digital camera, or a computer with enough oomph to process its images, but not both. Times have changed. Ever present, though, are those who question and doubt photography’s qualifications, its rights to be considered an enduring medium worthy of attention. Jussim sensed their presence thirty years ago. “It seems obvious,” she wrote toward the end of her introduction, “that the doom-sayers who have recently begun to prophesy the imminent demise of photography have been entirely too pessimistic.” Indeed.

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I was intrigued to read Stephen Tourlentes’ comments about his night photographs of prisons, courtesy of the Massachusetts Cultural Council and their web feature, ArtSake. If you are unaware of ArtSake, here’s what the MCC has to say about it:

ArtSake is a place to dig into the creative, innovative work of Massachusetts artists. It’s hosted by the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC), the state’s arts agency.

We chose the name ArtSake because support for the arts is often framed in terms of its additional benefits: to education, to the economy, to communities. But we wanted to carve out a space where we celebrated art and art-making for its inherent merits, for its own sake. We’ll use this space to celebrate our state’s innovative and creative minds, highlight new projects, and feature ideas and content straight from the artists.

Above all, we hope to encourage readers to participate in the advancement of Massachusetts arts – especially their own.

I was pleased to discover the state doing this for the arts. I will try to make a habit of checking ArtSake for features on photographers, though I would probably benefit from reading all its offerings, as a way of further acquainting myself with the arts and artists of Massachusetts. I note, though, that the ArtSake archive has 70 items tagged with “photography,” so maybe I should confine myself to my home medium.

Link here to Stephen Tourlentes on ArtSake.

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Cover of Loreti's book. Click on the image to go to Blurb.

Back in September I received a lovely little self-published book from Belmont-based photographer and teacher Tony Loreti. He offered to donate it to the PRC Library, and we’re happy to accept it. I should have passed it along to our librarian at that point, but it’s been kicking around my desktop since then, refusing to go until I paid it proper attention. Certain books are like that—they refuse to be ignored.

As I approach the end of my first half-year in Boston, I realize more and more how little I’ve entered the community. Rather, how very much community there is to enter, and how every step into it suggests the greater distances and myriad directions yet to travel. Like false peaks as you climb mountains. I’m grateful for the patience and indulgence of many people as I fit all the pieces together, though each time I think I see the narrowing end of a trail, the path of discovery turns a corner and a new panorama opens for me. No complaints, just a new scene to absorb.

This is also a moment at the PRC when we’re looking at what we did then in order to create programming now. As we consider 35 years of existence, 35 years of providing resources to the photography community of Boston in the form of information, exhibitions, publications, insight, and inspiration, we must remember how much we’ve forgotten, or have never known. We can still be taken aback by how many facets there are to the spectrum of photographic practice. Knowing it all is impossible. Knowing all of Boston’s contributions to photographic history would be herculean. Grasping a significant fragment of it takes dedication and diligence. We aspire to comprehensiveness, but will inevitably fall short of being encyclopedic. Please bear with us.

I don’t know Tony personally (though how can I dislike someone whose mailing address puts him on Slade Street!). But I’m pleased to see what he’s seen during the last three decades and shared in his book. Arranged chronologically, it covers ground from Allston, Charlestown, and East Cambridge to Roxbury, North End, and South Boston. (I don’t know what that sentence means geographically, whether it’s inclusive or meaningful in terms of representing Boston, but it sounds good and all of those places appear in A Boston Portrait along with many others among about 75 reproductions.) I enjoy the Boston he’s portraying, and I almost recognize it (the newbie talking again). He has a good sense of how close he needs to be to capture the energy and vividness of the lives he has encountered. He seems to be at ease in the city, and with its people in a great number of circumstances. These street photographs are of an engaged, embracing nature; they are exquisitely pedestrian, in that they honor life at street level.

Thanks, Tony, for contribuing to the PRC and to the visual history of Boston. And for helping me deepen my knowledge about the city.

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Announcement received via email from Gallery Kayafas

We’re not sure what “Eden” consists of for the Triiibe triplets and Cary Wolinsky (their photographic Boswell), or how much progress they’re making as they search for it in the provocatively closed-off space up the street from the PRC. Or whether their installation has anything to do with photography, aside from the history of intriguing images that all admiring spectators bring to encounters with this creative enterprise. But I know that the gallery hours there will see some of us wandering over to check it out; stay tuned for reports from the neighborhood.

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Zoom in for some awesome java.

Not sure how Canon feels about their name and lens-related form being used in this manner, but loads of people passing through the PRC have asked about my mug. Besides everything cited in the product description on (link through the image above), it comes in a believably lens-like Canon box, for the heights of campy verisimilitude. I wish I could say that the company making the lens-mugs was recycling old lens bodies instead of cloning them, but I can’t have everything.

I ordered mine, for a few dollars less, from, though the shipping charge from Hong Kong erased the cost savings.

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Two more publications that deserve notice.

  • Prefix (Scott McLeod, editor/publisher), appearing biannually from the Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art in Toronto, now on its 21st issue
  • Photoworks (Gordon MacDonald, editor), published biannually in Brighton, England, now on its 15th issue

We have examples of these in the PRC Library. I find myself drawn to Photoworks; its selection of artists and the tone of its writing seem like a good fit with my general aesthetic and insights about photography.

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As the PRC moves closer to releasing its revamped magazine Loupe in October (renew your membership now to insure delivery), I’ve been collecting odd lots of contemporary magazines that explore photography in various ways. They’ll be in the library; take a look.

  • Fantom (3 issues, nos. 2, 3, 4, from 2010): Published in Italy editors Cay Sophie Rabinowitz, Selva Barni
  • Foam (2 issues, nos. 22 and 23, from 2010): Published by the Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam editors Marloes Krijnen (editor in chief), Marcel Feil, Pjotr de Jong, Sara Despres
  • Light Leaks (5 issues, nos. 12-15, 17, since 2009): “Low Fidelity Photography” (journal of toy and plastic camera photography) published in Canada editor Steph Parke
  • The Sun (7 issues from 2007 and 2009): Published in Chapel Hill, North Carolina editor Sy Safransky art director Robert Graham (literature and photography; “Unless otherwise indicated, photographs are independent of writings published in The Sun: photographs do not illustrate incidents, events, or characters depicted by writers; writings are not intended to describe incidents, events, or characters depicted in photographs.” small print disclaimer note on contents page)

There are several more that are left over from Minnesota Center for Photography’s library that will arrive soon; I’ll send an update once they’re in the house.

If anyone feels strongly about these, we can look into getting a subscription, or fleshing out the back issues.

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