Archive for the “re: photographica” Category

PRC Board Member Susan Lewinnek wrote to inform us about a show in Manhattan that was arranged in tribute to her brother, Lee Lockwood (whose death we noted earlier on the blog). Here’s an excerpt from the press release:

The Center will also pay homage to its founder, photojournalist Lee Lockwood, who died July 31 at the age of 78. Lee began photographing the Cuban Revolution from the first day, January 1, 1959 and the 20 photographs the Center will show from its extensive collection of his work continue Cuba’s story from where Arias leaves off. The photographs are from the first decade of the Cuban Revolution.

On-line, we received the following notice from Dirck Halstead, who’s been helming a web site called The Digital Journalist since 1997.

Date: August 27, 2010 2:09:48 PM EDT
Subject: A Letter to the Viewers of the Digital Journalist

As you are aware, The Digital Journalist at http://digitaljournalist.org has been on hiatus for several months.

This is due to the loss of our key sponsor Canon USA, after 10 years of support. Industry changes have put great pressure on camera manufacturers, and the economy itself is a key factor. We also want to thank those of you who sent generous contributions to keep us going. They actually did keep us going for another few months, but ultimately, the effort was not sustainable.

We are using this hiatus to create an App, that you will be able to access on your mobile devices. We hope to have this ready later this fall.

In the meantime, all of our archives will remain open. They are among the most valuable in the industry.

In addition, we will be linking to other sites that have features of interest.

This issue, we link to “http://20inthecar.com.” That was the call sign Topeka Capital Journal Director of Photography Rich Clarkson would send out every morning to the photo desk, dating back to 1957. In the coming decades Clarkson would create and inspire what may arguably be the best newspaper photo staff in history, including such renowned photographers as David Alan Harvey, Brian Lanker, Jim Richardson, Bill Frakes, Mark Godfrey, Perry Riddle, Gary Settle, Bill Snead and Susan Biddle. He continued to assemble the talent as the Director of Photography for Sports Illustrated.

Last month, 60 of those former Clarkson protégés turned up to honor him. They presented him with a book, and a website in which they recounted the turbulent days they spent working for him. We would like to share these memories of an extraordinary force in photojournalism with you.

Halstead’s work as an editor, curator, teacher of still and video imagery through his Platypus workshops, and archivist is worth commendation, support, and more than a cursory look. The Digital Journalist is full of content; that is, there’s meaning to the stories, not just gloss or celebrity. The work he’s circulated is evidence of the power of story-telling using digital tools, which formally may be amazing and “wow”-inducing, but must ultimately take a back seat to content within the context of journalistic narrative. Not sure how TDJ will play as an app, but I trust that Dirck will find a way to make it sing.

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Kyohei Abe, Imaginary Scape, Untitled #3, 2008, from the Gallery 339 exhibition "In Review"

I finished my fourth set of PRC portfolio reviews yesterday. Since my first set of reviews in May I’ve met and reviewed work by 27 photographers who have been willing to update their PRC memberships to have a chance to spend a half-hour presenting themselves and their images to me face-to-face. I feel honored and privileged by this, and I believe that the exchange of favors is mutually beneficial. The PRC can certainly get something in the form of new work to show on walls, on-line, or in print; in fact, five of the 27 have already been featured in Spotlights on our site, and several more will appear in forthcoming issues of NEO, our rejuvenated online portfolios (starting next month), and Loupe, our redesigned magazine, the first issue of which will appear in October. The reviews are critical—the best, most effective means for us to learn what our members are doing, how they are shaping the evolution of the medium.

During reviews I strive to give back something personal, something inspired by what I’m experiencing at the moment. Honest responses, insights, advice, references—in the best cases, work strikes a chord with me and I am in synch with both photographs and maker, but in all cases I remain open to what is in front of me. All work reveals something about the medium. Anyone who comes to a review has questions about their practice. My job is to identify, even help frame the questions, and point the way toward answers and increased knowledge. These encounters can be introductory exchanges in some long conversations about photography.

Regarding the process of selecting work from reviews, I was struck by a show that is still on the walls of Gallery 339 in Philadelphia, having opened there in June. In Review includes ten artists who met with the gallery’s representatives during reviews in the latter part of 2009 and early 2010. There was no organizing principle given for the show other than “our intent…to preserve a sense of the depth and variety that we saw [in the reviews].…Collectively, the works of the ten artists in In Review suggest a medium that is engaged in a lively, complex, and intelligent dialogue about meaningful issues.” The Gallery 339 staff are dead-on in their assessment of these events as being “inconsistent at times, yet exciting in their diversity,” and that “the sessions…offer a messy yet more complete view of what is happening in contemporary photography.”

I have participated in professional portfolio reviews in Houston, Portland, New Orleans, on-line, and elsewhere for many years, and have often wanted to do a show just like this, a show that reflects the Protean, prodigiously multifaceted nature of photographic creativity. A show that also suggests the enormous challenges facing any curator of contemporary photography (let alone contemporary art as a whole), the challenge of an embarrassment of riches and far too few opportunities for utilization (not to mention shipping costs).

Here’s the breakdown of the artists in the show. I was curious to know if any of them were from New England, and was pleased to see not only past exhibitors but also current members among an international crew.

Kyohei Abe, Rochester, Michigan (no PRC exhibits found to date); Peter Ainsworth, London, United Kingdom (no PRC exhibits); Gabriel Benaim, Tel Aviv, Israel (current member, not shown at PRC); John Chervinsky, Somerville (active member, exhibitor and frequent contributor to PRC); Chang Kim, New York City (no PRC exhibits); Joel Lederer, New York City (no PRC exhibits found); Isa Leshko, Houston, Texas (active member, contributor to auctions, selected by former PRC curator Leslie Brown for 2005 New England Photography Biennial at the Danforth Museum of Art); Hannah Price, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (no PRC exhibits); Dustin Ream, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (no PRC exhibits found); Phillip Toledano, New York City (no PRC exhibits).

All of this commentary reflects me acclimating to the conditions “out East.” I want to share with readers some of the concerns that underlie the process of guiding photography into an organization, a process that may seem mysterious, inexplicable, or frustrating to an observer. Believe me, it’s not rocket science or the United Nations, but it has a lot to do with knowledge, relationships, and a desire, on both sides of the table, to communicate.

[Thanks to PRC intern Lindsay Rogers for her background research on the artists.]

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As photographers go, I’m not an artist. I post a lot of pictures on Facebook, but that’s as much a way to prompt conversation, to let people know what I’m seeing in my day-to-day life, as it is a creative outlet. I don’t hesitate to call myself a photographer; anyone with a cell phone can say that (are there any cell phones that don’t have cameras?). Not to belittle photographers, but there are countless ways one can employ this malleable medium. I decided in my twenties that I was fascinated and motivated by what other people were saying with photography, and that I hoped that I would, through writing and curatorial activities, be able to contribute something to what the world understands about the territory of photography as it was being mapped by its most able practitioners.

I’ve seen a lot of change in the medium, and in the art world, since my early twenties. I admire the dedication that drives photographers to make a career of their art. I wish, always, that it would be easier for them to chart a course. Everyone takes a different path, it’s true; what works for one doesn’t always work for someone else. Passionate engagement with your art, and a sense of direction, guided by a lodestar of intention and purpose, is a critical part of moving forward. But it doesn’t hurt to have some additional direction from the field.

Enter a newly-published book, Accelerating on the Curves, from Katharine T. Carter and Associates. This collection of essays by Carter and numerous associates will soon be available for reference in the PRC library and can be previewed and ordered on-line here. I hesitate to recommend anything before I’ve had a chance to immerse myself in it, but the thoroughness of Carter’s outline for development, the range of essays by associates (clustered under the subtitle “Hare Pen Curves”), and the presence of a set of templates for press kits and presentation packages bodes extremely well for the effectiveness of this new guide. At $95 (shipping and tax included) it may not be something that everyone wants to buy, but a group could certainly split the cost and share the book. Call it a business investment; there’s probably a chapter to help determine if you can write off the expense.

I look forward to recommending parts of the book to you in future blog posts.

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As the weather is so nice, and the summer seems to have settled down into beautiful conditions for being outdoors, I’m sure everyone is eager to find excuses to sit in front of their computers glued to web sites.

Maybe not.

But if you are looking for a dreamy, content-rich space on the web, you could click over to Pedro Meyer’s web site and easily meander around for an hour or two. There are essays, curated collections of his work, autobiography, and a wealth of mediated imagery from one of the pioneers of magical realism in photography.

http://www.pedromeyer.com

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reGeneration2, published by Aperture

If anyone was tempted to think that there are only a handful of people and places that matter in the photography world, try this project on for size.

This second volume of reGeneration, just released by Aperture, comes five years after the first; not enough time to measure whether the project organizers, William A. Ewing and Nathalie Herschdorfer, are fulfilling their mission, which is to publish and exhibit work by photographers likely to be known in twenty years’ time. Nor is it entirely clear that focusing one’s curatorial efforts on art school graduates will always yield work of the most lasting value.

But it is clear that Ewing and Herschdorfer have reached out to gather in photography from all over the academic world. The eighty artists in this book have affiliations with some 120 schools, located everywhere from Finland and France to Australia, Lebanon, China, Japan, Argentina, India, and Ecuador. Nearly 720 artists from those schools were “candidates” for the selection, so inclusion in this volume was no mean feat.

In New England, these schools were “invited to participate”: Harvard; Mass Art; RISD; SMFA; Art Institute of Boston; and Yale.

From these programs, these photographers surfaced (in alphabetical order): George Awde; Jen Davis; Dru Donovan; Shane Lavalette; David Molander; Richard Mosse; Sasha Rudensky; and Robert Watermeyer.  They were born between 1978 and 1987, some outside of the United States. Some had not finished their programs when the book went to press, so this is truly a speculative venture, a prediction based on a snapshot of time and taste.

I don’t know many of the artists in the book, but I do have to admit to a certain thrill at seeing that Dru, Shane, and Jen were selected—wonderful photographers all. Congratulations on “passing the grade.” Remember, our eyes are on you for the next twenty years.

Link to information about the book.

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Two exhibition catalogues recently acquired for the PRC’s library:

Joshua Chuang’s First Doubt: Optical Confusion in Modern Photography (Yale University Art Gallery, 2008)

and

Sylvia Wolf’s The Digital Eye: Photographic Art in the Electronic Age (Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, 2010)

These two volumes form a useful compendium of the challenges of reading photographs as “truth.” Wolf’s exhibition in Seattle includes many of the blue chip names in what is emerging as the canon of digital imaging, represented by work made before 2000: Paul Berger, MANUAL (Suzanne Bloom and Ed Hill), Nancy Burson, Peter Campus, Martina Lopez, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, Pedro Meyer, and Esther Parada. Also included are those whose digital imaging has evolved in step with the evolution of the tools, less avant garde, or ahead of the digital wave, than riding it in full splendor. Digital Eye is largely concerned with this group, from which I’d identify Tom Bamberger, Aziz + Cucher, Noriko Furunishi, Ben Gest, Anthony Goicolea, Simen Johan, Chris Jordan, Isaac Layman, Loretta Lux, Jason Salavon, Paul Shambroom, and Angela Strassheim as leading exemplars.

“First, doubt” is a useful mantra when reading photographs. Bring skepticism, or at least a momentary suspension of disbelief, to the encounter with any image. Don’t believe everything you see. The work in Chuang’s exhibition, selected from the Allan Chasanoff collection at Yale, is resolutely anti-digital, or at least committed to the ambiguities that are inherent to photographic syntax. Blurs, cropping, overlapping objects, unusual angles–all of these contribute to “difficult reading” and a distinctive pleasure of many photographs, which is knowing just what you’re seeing. Not always easy, and there are many noted photographers present here who have realized this over time, including Brassai, Ray Metzker, Lee Friedlander, Claude Cahun, Gilles Peress, Larry Fink, David Maisel, and John Szarkowski (the photographer as much as the curator). One of my all-time favorite “optically confused” images is present here, by Terry Husebye from the 1979 series Ocotillo Flat.

Terry Husebye, Untitled, from the series Ocotillo Flat, 1979 (plate 93 in First Doubt: Optical Confusion in Modern Photography)

These two volumes also reproduce work by a number of New Englanders. As I settle into my role at the PRC and as a member of the Northeast photography ecosystem I find myself increasingly drawn to the locals, those who’ve graduated from one of the local schools, grown up and/or taken up long-term residence here, or those who’ve had connections with the PRC, and I want to point them out when I find them in good exhibition company. Annu Palakunnathu Matthew, Lorie Novak, Nick Nixon, Karin Rosenthal, Julie Blackmon, and Penelope Umbrico (Brooklyn, not Brookline–former New Yorker/native Midwesterner’s misread) are among those who show up in the books and on the PRC database.

And, I’d like to give a special tip of the close catalogue-reading curator’s cap to Stephen Marc. Marc, a photographer and art professor at Arizona State University’s Herberger College of Fine Arts, appears in both volumes. He is without doubt a first-rate digital eye, but his work in First Doubt, recording a wild mess of wind-tousled hair (plate 41, an untitled work from 1981), meets Chuang’s adigital criterion. (He is also one of the world’s fastest talkers, as I learned during his presentation of his new book, Passage on the Underground Railroad, at the Visual Studies Workshop Photo-Bookworks symposium in Rochester earlier this month. There’s a lot of information in his work, so he’s got to talk fast to communicate all the essentials.) Is he the only one to crossover from analogue doubt to digital preeminence? I’ll leave the answer to that question to anyone intrigued enough to come in and compare the books side by side.

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Plum Pudding and Roast Beef are the same penguin!

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde! Not sure we should get to know them.

Tell me if I’m wrong. Compare the photographs in the T stations, or online. I’ve already challenged the Aquarium to repute the emergence of Sphenisciform schizophrenia in its facility.

Hold onto your fish!

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BP needs better Photoshop technicians. Know anybody?

Check out the story on AMERICAblog. Apparently BP’s image doctors want to give the public the impression that screens are pumping information and streaming awareness in all of its corporate control rooms. No idle moments there, America. But their image manipulating skills are about as good as their leak containment. “Needs improvement,” the teachers would say.

AMERICAblog: A Great Nation Deserves the Truth

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I will never cease to be amazed at how many talented photographers there are in the world. Do you suppose that the numbers are increasing in direct proportion with the number of cameras that are being manufactured? I think that there are visions that are nurtured out of the glare of exposure and expectation, visions that gain power from being focused on a topic and not worrying about who is seeing the results, when and where the work is reaching an audience, how quickly it goes to market.

Our current exhibition at the PRC features four photographers whose work was new to me. Tomasz Tomaszewski, judged the first place winner in the contest organized by SocialDocumentary.net that led to the show (see Mark Feeney’s Boston Globe review here), is perhaps the most accomplished of the group. I tracked down a copy of his massive 2008 book, Rzut Beretem/A Stone’s Throw (published by National Geographic Poland) and acquired it for the PRC Library. (The book is signed by the photographer and inscribed “To H— with my friendship.”) It can easily share the table top with Salgado’s Workers and Nachtwey’s Inferno, at least on the basis of quality of vision; the table top would have to be fairly large and sturdy to handle these three biblo-behemoths.

Tomaszewski’s black-and-white imagery in this book offers an eloquent and evocative tribute to modern Poland’s rural landscape and its accommodations of former agricultural lands and buildings. Some of these environments are in complete decay, others are being reclaimed and rebuilt after decades of post-WWII indifference. Land is again being tilled and grazed, social rituals are being replayed and space is repopulating. But throughout there is a grittiness, a resolute, unshaven quality that lends the emotional landscape an elegiac tone. These Polish spaces may be alive, Tomaszewski implies, but life has shown everyone its tenuous, fleeting nature. There is nothing to take for granted, no saccharine pleasures to absorb thoughtlessly.

When you come in to see the show, be sure to see this book in the library; it complements Tomaszewski’s vibrant work on the walls with a view that is at once deeper, more somber, and more personally rendered. I think that Rzut Beretem/A Stone’s Throw deserves to be ranked among the most accomplished compendia of insider documentary imagery of the last several years.

–George Slade

p.s. The call number for this book is “UT 60 oversize”–which means it’s in the Uncatalogued section (if it’s not still a “New Arrival”). It’s a big black book with no spine title, no dust jacket, and red letters on the cover.

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I brought a few books with me on my last trip back from Minnesota. Having discovered early in my time here that for some inexplicable reason the PRC’s otherwise impressively thorough Siskind Library was missing some books I’ve contributed to, and having realized that I had extra copies sitting around my house in St. Paul, I felt compelled to contribute a few pieces of my publishing history to the collection here. I trust no one will consider me overly self-serving in this.

There are essays of mine in Todd Deutsch’s Gamers (FPEditions, 2008) and Priya Kambli’s Color Falls Down (photolucida, 2010), both of which are now part of the Siskind holdings.

More to the Minnesota point, I did an introduction to Home: Tom Arndt’s Minnesota (University of Minnesota Press, 2009), writing for and about a good friend and a great photographer, and sharing the stage, book-wise, with a foreword by Tom’s old friend Garrison Keillor.

Way back in the mid-1990s, I got involved with a documentary photography project at the Minnesota Historical Society, which ended up as the “Minnesota 2000” project. Twelve photographers were commissioned to carry out self-designed projects on various aspects of daily life and change in the state at the turn of the millennium. They did their work in 1997, 1998, and 1999, and in early 2000 the MHS Press published Minnesota In Our Time: A Photographic Portrait. I edited and contributed text to it. The book, along with 360 prints by 12 photographers, project notes, and related research materials, form a searchable archives at the Minnesota Historical Society’s History Center in downtown St. Paul.

One major inspiration for the Minnesota 2000 project was John Szarkowski’s book, The Face of Minnesota, published in 1958 by the University of Minnesota Press. Szarkowski, who was working at the Walker Art Center as their photographer at the time, was hired by the Minnesota Statehood Centennial Commission to create the photographs. I had an extra copy (signed, even, though lacking a dust jacket), which I brought out, only to discover that PRC’s library already had one catalogued and on the shelf. Well they should have; it’s a gem, and it describes Minnesota in visual language that is eloquent, economical, and as loving as a Wisconsin native could make it. (There’s a newer reprint of it, too (UM Press, 2008), but I’ll let someone with shallower Minnesota roots donate that one.)

Links to: Deutsch Kambli Arndt Minnesota 2000MN2K Archives Szarkowski

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