Thursday, August 30, 2007

An Image A Week: Wijnanda Deroo

Dutch photographer Wijnanda Deroo's work depicts the hushed melancholy of commonplace interiors found in hotels, cafes, courtyards and factories. Despite the lack of people present in Deroo's work there exists a tangible presence of human experience and activity, manifested in the subtle clues left behind from a once vibrant history. Her alluring use of color and composition invites the viewer into these spaces with emotive power, reinforcing that beauty can be found in the least likely of places.

Wijnanda Deroo's photographs were recently feature in Issue 34 of Blindspot Magazine.

Columbia Hotel

Image © Wijnanda Deroo

Monday, August 27, 2007

A Question Of Access

Last month Justin James Reed made a post on his blog discussing the issue of how viewing predominately restricted spaces affects our interpretation of photographs. He went on to elaborate about the work of Edward Burtynsky and Andreas Gursky, when saying:

"To me ideas of photographic artistry are stripped away to reveal a more documentary aspect to this work. This is not to say that they are both mediocre photographers, because to the contrary I think they are two of my favorites, and are fantastic image makers. I raise this issue because I wonder if my fascination with their work lies more on the idea(s) of spectacle and revelation then on pure artistic voice."

In the last couple of years, more and more photographers have gained photographic access to highly classified areas and institutions in our global society. These projects attempt to illuminate aspects of life that we may intellectually understand, but have very little visual interaction with. Images of prisons, oil fields & refineries, interrogation rooms at Guantánamo and Cryopreservation Units litter the consciousness of contemporary photography. Practitioners such as Edward Burtynsky, Taryn Simon, Richard Ross, Mikhael Subotzky and Luigi Gariglio, to name a few, have been granted entry and artistic freedom to render these spaces in whatever way they see fit.

My principle concern with projects of this nature is their innate reliance on the sensational. Our global fascination with emotionally and psychologically hyperbolic imagery, whether in film or photography, lends itself to projects that center around the unveiling of secret spaces. Mind you, I am not critiquing the aesthetic or conceptual validity of the work itself, but rather questioning its dependence on overt visual force. It is easy to assert that issues of social and political importance need to be seen, however the context of their viewing can be extremely subversive. Ultimately, unveiling unseen aspects of culture can bring with it a tremendous amount of power and influence, necessitating all the more tact and sensitivity in the rendering of these issues.

-Ben Alper

From Top to Bottom:

Mikhael Subotzky, Image from the series Die Vier Hoeke
(Photographs of South African prisons)

Taryn Simon, Cryopreservation Unit, Cryonics Institute
Clinton Township, Michigan

Richard Ross, Angola State Penitentiary, Angola, Louisiana

Edward Burtynsky, Oil Fields No. 24
Oil Sands, Fort McMurray, Alberta 2001

All Images © the Artists

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Paper Placemats (ATL)

Throughout the month of October, J & L Books will launch a public art project entitled Paper Placemats (ATL). The project was commissioned by Atlanta Celebrates Photography and curated by Jason Fulford in an effort to enrich and cultivate growth of the photographic arts in the Atlanta area.

J & L will print and distribute 80,000 photographic paper placemats throughout October to the following restaurants in the metropolitan ATL area:

The Globe, Aprés Diem, Flying Biscuit Café Midtown, Thumbs Up Diner, Flying Biscuit Café Candler Park, Village Pizza, Ria’s Bluebird, West Egg Café, Perk Place Coffee Shop, Canton Street Cafe, Havana Sandwich Shop, Watershed and Crescent Moon.

The curatorial powers of Jason Fulford have been exercised fully, having yielded an impressively diverse array of photographers to collaborate on this project, including:

Ethan Andrews, Roy Arden, Roger Ballen, Zander Blom, William Boling, Able Brown, Melissa Catanese, Reuben Cox, Paul Davis, Tim Davis, Jason Evans, Ted Fair, Harrell Fletcher, Lee Friedlander, Stephen Gill, Andrew Z. Glickman, Maury Gortemiller, James Hall, Kyoko Hamada, Cristobal Hara, Nicole Jean Hill, Margarete Jakschik, Dave Jordano, Ron Jude, Hee Jin Kang, Martin Kippenberger, David La Spina, Michael David Murphy, Ed Panar, Gus Powell, Greta Pratt, Shawn Records, Will Rogan, Sasha Rudensky, Michael Schmelling, Shimabuku, David Shrigley, Mike Slack, Camilo Jose Vergara and Douglas Weathersby.

For anyone residing in the Atlanta area, or for that matter dining in any of the above-mentioned establishments during October, I would keep an eye out for these unique placemats. Unlike the first installment of the Paper Placemats project, these placemats will only be available in restaurants and will not be purchasable in the foreseeable future.

From Top to Bottom:

Roy Arden, Solar, 2005

Nicole Jean Hill, Audie

All Images © the Artists

Friday, August 24, 2007

Josef Schulz

I am extremely fond of the work of Josef Schulz, a German photographer who studied under the likes of Thomas Ruff and Bernd and Hilla Becher. In the same school of photographic thought, Schulz photographs industrial, mass manufactured architecture in all of its utilitarian beauty. His minimal compositions avoid placing qualitative judgement on these structures, instead exploring their form and relationship to their surroundings. Schulz has depicted his subject matter with formal detachment and found beauty in the banality of contemporary industrial construction. In addition, his work raises questions about photography's ability to aesthetically enhance something that is in essence, mundane.

From Top to Bottom:

Form # 15, 2004

Form # 14, 2004

Form # 10, 2004

Form # 7, 2004

Form # 2, 2004

All Images © Josef Schulz

An Image A Week: Alessandra Sanguinetti

Alessandra Sanguinetti's series The Adventures Of Guille and Belinda and the Enigmatic Meaning Of Their Dreams is a psychological look at the transformations and explorations of childhood. As Sanguinetti herself has stated:

"I have attempted to interpret the ending of their childhood by entering their imaginary paces. The time when their dreams, fantasies, and fears fuse seamlessly with real day-to-day life are ending, and the photographs I have made intend to crystalize this rapidly disappearing very personal and free space."

Sanguinetti has captured the playful abandon of childhood, while not overlooking the inherent insecurities and questioning that accompany it. She met her subjects while photographing On The Sixth Day, a meditation on the relationship of farmers, their animals and the land.

Image from the series The Adventures Of Guille and Belinda and the Enigmatic Meaning Of Their Dreams
© Alessandra Sanguinetti

Monday, August 20, 2007

Robert Ball's British To An Extent

I received an e-mail today from British photographer Robert Ball, who's work I had not seen before but thoroughly enjoyed. Among the numerous projects on Ball's website, I was the most fond of British To An Extent. This project explores the communities and landscapes of the British territory of Gibraltar.

"The mix of cultures, the colonial landscape and the dominance of the rock are all evident in the landscape images. It may be a small area but the thirty thousand inhabitants of Gibraltar exist much like a small town, be it in Spain or England."

Some of the work from British To An Extent can be found in the new issue of Ag Magazine.

Images from the series British To An Extent

All Images © Robert Ball

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Work In Progress: New Photographs by Ben Alper

From Top to Bottom:

Mandy & Joe's, Brighton, MA 2007

Rt. 9, North Cambridge, MA 2007

Reserved, Central Square, Cambridge, MA 2007

Lyons Street, Watertown, MA 2007

All Images © Ben Alper

Tokion's King Of The Road Photo Contest

Hidden in the pages of the new issue of Tokion magazine, one can find a pull-out booklet of photographic postcards. These postcards comprise the winners of the King of the Road photography contest, dedicated to road trip photographs and the artistic inspiration found on said journeys. The competition was judged by Christian Patterson & Ross Evertson among others, who elected photographs from Dustin Aksland, Flynn Larsen, Rob Hann and Jorn Tomter to name but a few.

From Top to Bottom:

Dustin Aksland, Hector-Modesto, California

Flynn Larsen, St. Louis, Missouri

Rob Hann, Little America, Wyoming

All Images © the Artists

Friday, August 17, 2007

Corey Arnold's Articness

I have been really enjoying the work of Corey Arnold lately, found via Humble Arts Foundation's Solo Show gallery. As a means of escaping suburban Southern California, Corey headed north to become a fisherman and elude the monotony of suburban life.

"Articness is a group of images from the far North that I've compiled over the past 3 years. These are outtakes from the visual journal of my life as a fisherman in the Bering Sea, and my wanderings around Artic Norway during the off season. With these photographs, I strive to inspire the adventure of escaping common life."

Arnold's photographs have achieved what he intended. When I look at his work, I am tempted to leave my comfortable routine behind and set out to explore places that I've only seen in photographs.

From Top to Bottom:

Finnmarkscape, 2006

Sei Sunset, 2005

Finnmark Boy, 2005

Road To Somewhere North, 2006

All Images © Corey Arnold

Thursday, August 16, 2007

An Image A Week: Phillip Pisciotta

Phillip Pisciotta's portraits possess an unnerving intimacy. At times melancholy, vulnerable and humorous, Pisciotta's photographs render his subjects with humanistic sensitivity. As emotionally revealing as his images can be, it is never at the expense or well being of his willing sitters. The line walked between exploitation and admiration is often a fine one, but Phillip Pisciotta has aired on the side of respectful artistic integrity.

As a prologue, I had a great deal of trouble finding more than a handful of Pisciotta's photographs online. He has seemingly avoided having a substantial web presence. If anyone has any good leads on where to find more of his work, I would be grateful.

Phillip Pisciotta, A. Lone, Portland, Maine. 2000
Image © Phillip Pisciotta

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Robert Frank: The Complete Film Works Vol. 2

Robert Frank's influence as a photographer is without question, paramount in scope. After publishing The Americans, Frank attained profound photographic notoriety and arguably authenticated the photography book as a legitimate form of artistic expression. Subsequently, his focus shifted from making still photographs to making films. He spent the better part of the next 20 years building an impressive body of filmic work, one that for a long time was not widely accessible to the masses. Steidl has taken it upon themselves to bring Frank's achievements in film to a broader audience. They will release Robert Frank The Complete Film Works Vol. 2 in September, which includes OK End Here, Conversations In Vermont and Liferaft Earth. Below are descriptions of each of the films.

OK End Here is Frank’s 1963 short film about inertia in a modern relationship. The film alternates between semidocumentary scenes and shots composed with rigid formality, and appears to have been directly influenced by the French Nouvelle Vague and Michelangelo Antonioni’s films. The characters are often only partially visible or physically separated by walls, doors, reflections, or furniture, and the camera relays the story with little rhyme nor reason, a roaming gaze, which seems to lose itself in things of little importance, while at the same time capturing the dominant atmosphere of routine, alienation, and apathy.

Conversations in Vermont
“This film is about the past … when Mary and I got married…. the past and the present … Maybe this film is about growing older … some kind of a family album.” Robert Frank in the Prologue. Produced in 1969, this was Frank’s first autobiographical film, telling the story of a father’s relationship with his two teenaged children, and his fragile attempts to communicate with them by means of a shared story. The shared story is partly told through Frank’s narration over filmed images of his photographs, family photographs and world famous images.

Liferaft Earth begins with a newspaper report from Hayward, California: “Sandwiched between a restaurant and supermarket, 100 anti-population protesters spent their second starving day in a plastic enclosure…. The so-called Hunger Show, a week-long starve-in aimed at dramatizing man’s future in an overpopulated, underfed world….” This film accompanies the people on this “life raft” from 11 to 18 October 1969, and was made by Robert Frank for Stewart Brand, the visionary founder of the international ecological movement and publisher of the bestselling Whole Earth Catalog (1968-85).

Conversations In Vermont, 1969
Image © Robert Frank

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Chuck Hemard

Chuck Hemard, a Georgia based Photographer introduced to me by David Wolf has been working on an interesting series of landscapes depicting highway off-ramps in multi-framed large format panoramas. Hemard's initial interest in the highway landscape started as a child as he explains "As a young person, I imaged riding a dirt bike or skateboard into these sculpted spaces. I still feel a sense of significance and potential exists in this public, yet off-limits space. I began to photograph these places in order to clarify my personal connection to these spaces and refine what this sense of importance could be."

Delving in and further analyzing his connection to these spaces through photography, Chuck discovered, "Departures and Junctions considers the push and pull as humans interact with the natural world. This series is at once analytical of somewhat recent human development and an insightful investigation of American culture through an examination of people, nature, and cultural markers. The work utilizes the roadside environment to provide insight concerning our place in the natural world as participants in contemporary American society. How are highway interchanges designed to withstand loss and time? Are these spaces more than byproducts of man’s conveniences? It even makes me consider how primordial are our attempts at progress truly are."

Further explaining and clarifying, Hemard states, "The notion of the crossroads seems too romantic in contemporary times for today’s busy interstate and highway systems. It is often overburdened with the traffic and mass transit that drives the distribution portion of American capitalism. Only a generation ago some of these very intersections would have been rural enough to carry such romantic undertones provided by such a title. The more recent development of land at intersections functions as a cultural and evolutionary marker of sorts. For instance, our need to mark the land with a badge of regional culture is seen in Above Gravel (Phoenix Airport). Acting as a larger-than-life greeting for the air traffic, the design would have not been necessary on such a scale prior to affordable air travel. Does this offer a glimpse of what is to come as air travel develops with each generation? Are vehicle grounded passers-by feeling left out or stranded from the optimal view? In a way, this space visually adds the z-axis to the contemporary crossroads."

"In Bunny, a sea of kudzu threatens to engulf its entire environs including a residential dwelling, and the local government has intervened just in time to hold back the tide of green leaves. A large form looming on the right mimics a rabbit, seen here not as one of nature’s furry friends, but instead as a menace, threatening to pounce on the small house. Is this nature telling us to respect her presence, subtly or otherwise? Should we feel awe towards her? Here, as well as in other images, the roadside at this junction speaks about a more universal set of conditions found in life."

Bunny, Reverence, and The Beginning are being exhibited this fall at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, in Atlanta in a group exhibition entitled Responding to Home.

From Top to Bottom:

Mound Ideal
The Beginning
Above Gravel

All images © Chuck Hemard

Monday, August 13, 2007

Monograph Addendum

In a moment of embarrassing oversight, I realized that I omitted a few key players in the photographic publishing world; namely Nazraeli Press & Phaidon. So to make amends I will report on their upcoming offerings. Phaidon will publish a retrospective monograph of the work Stephen Shore, aptly titled Stephen Shore. It will span Shore's career from his early residence at the Warhol factory, to his explorations with conceptual photography and his influential examinations of the American landscape. Nazraeli Press will publish Habitat 7, Jeff Chien-Hsing Liao's book of large-scale composite photographs taken along the IRT "7" subway that runs from Times Square to Northwest Queens. As a long-time resident living along the "7" train, Liao became interested in documenting the complexity and ethnic diversity found in the neighborhoods adjacent to the "7". The result is an exploration into the settlement patterns of immigrants to this country and the hope for a better, "American" way of life. Nazraeli will also publish Aaron Ruell's book of witty and playful photographs, wryly named Some Photos. As a side note, Ruell is better known for his portrayal of Kip, Napolean Dynamite's deadpan older brother. Also of note is Kazuumi Takahashi's High Tide Wane Moon, a meditative look at the relationship between the moon and the ocean.

From Top to Bottom:

Aaron Ruell, Image From the Book Some Photos

Jeff Chien-Hsing Liao, Long Island Rail Road, Hunter's Point.

Kazuumi Takahashi, Image From the Book High Tide Wane Moon

All Images © the Artists

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Forthcoming Monographs: A Fall & Winter Preview

This coming Fall & Winter will provide the Photography world with an impressively diverse, albeit large, amount of new monographs. After scouring the websites of some of my favorite publishers, I found new offerings from both seasoned veterans and an array of contemporary, international photographers.

Aperture offers Richard Ross' Architecture of Authority, a collection of photographs exploring architecturally dominant spaces and the psychological power they wield over the people who inhabit them. Ross photographed a myriad of politically charged spaces including, the Iraqi National Assembly Hall, segregation cells at Abu Ghraib and capital punishment death chambers. These images investigate the abuse of power and loss of personal freedom in a fear-based, post 9/11 world. In addition Aperture will also publish LS/S, the fist monograph from German photographer Beate Gütschow. In the tradition of Lewis Baltz & Bernd and Hill Becher, Gütschow has created two accompanying bodies of work assessing mankind's relationship with nature. In the series (LS), pastoral scenes are seamlessly collaged to create the "perfect" manifestation of nature. These images are juxtaposed in the series (S), which depict utilitarian structures in Urban environments. Richard Misrach's On The Beach and Sylvia Plachy's Going On About Town: Photographs From the New Yorker will also be published this fall by Aperture.

Twin Palms will publish Jean Luc Mylayne's endearing book of photographs depicting bird-life in his native France. Painstakingly photographed over the course of 30 years, Mylayne often returned everyday to locations waiting for his "actors" to pass by his lens. With intimacy and respect he has captured the complex workings of the avian kingdom. Twin Palms will also reissue Bill Burke's seminal book I Want To Take Picture, a visually raw document of Southeast Asia in the early 80's. Burke focused heavily on the collapse of the Khmer Rouge regime and the affects this had on the Cambodian people.

To round out the fall/winter line-up, Steidl is releasing an impressive array of monographs into the photography world. Some of the highlights include, Alec Soth's Dog Days Bogota; a portfolio of photographs taken in Columbia's capital city while waiting for the adoption of his daughter to be finalized. Soth set out to create a photo album for his young daughter, documenting the evident hardship in her birth city. Both Ray Metzker and Harry Callahan are also being given the monograph treatment. Metzker's Light Lines compiles the retrospective work of a truly unique and influential artist. This publication is especially exciting, as Metzker's work (in book form) has been extremely hard to find, and when found, extraordinarily expensive. Callahan's posthumous collection Eleanor features photographs of his wife, who became one of his greatest photographic inspirations. Other books of note are: Chauncey Hare's Protest Photographs which depict interiors of working-class homes and workplaces across the United States in the 1960's & 70's, a limited edition printing of photographs by David Lynch entitled Snowmen, and Lewis Baltz's project Sites of Technology will finally be available in print form. This body of work explores Baltz's journey through technological workplaces throughout Europe and Japan in the early 1990's, raising questions about man's creation and subsequent dependence on man-made technologies.

For a more comprehensive list of upcoming titles, you can visit the Steidl website and download the 93 page PDF (that's right 93!), which will undoubtedly leave no question unanswered.

From Top to Bottom:

Richard Ross, Los Angeles Police Department, Fifth and Wall Street

Beate Gütschow, Untitled (LS # 14)

Richard Misrach, Untitled #696-05, 2005

Bill Burke, Boy with bicycle, at the Bayon, Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Alec Soth, Image From The Series Dog Days Bogota

Ray Metzker, Philadelphia, 1963

Lewis Baltz, Image From the Series Sites of Technology

All Images Copyright the Artists

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Work in Progress : New Photographs by Anastasia Cazabon

I have started two different portrait projects. Both are at the beginning stages. These are the photographs I'm fond of so far.

Robert, Maura and Cat, Austin, Tx 2007
Nino and Blue Car, Watertown, MA 2007

Nik, 2007
Ben, 2007

An Image A Week: Alana Celii

I recently received an e-mail from Brooklyn-based photographer Alana Celii. Her series The Wild explores artificially constructed landscapes in Urban settings.

"As viewers we know that these habitats are false, but we accept them as life like. The spaces are realistic in that they house the same temperature, plant life, soil, etc.; yet, we experience the space much like we experience art in a museum. There are barriers in place for us to not get too close, and the paths quickly guide the viewer through and out of the space; there is rarely a place for one to take in the scene."

Celii's images expose the utilitarian design inherent in these scenes. In their attempt to mimic reality, these spaces ultimately transmit an even greater level of superficiality. Conclusively, her work raises questions about the substitution of artifice for reality; and what consequences this can bring with it.

Image from the series The Wild
© Alana Celii

Errol Morris on Photography

About a month ago, the New York Times posted an essay written by influential documentarian Errol Morris. The essay dissects our personal and cultural associations with photographs, and calls into question the notion of "truth" and "falsity" within the medium. Morris asserts that without contextual information, photographs are neither true or false. They can only be judged as so when accompanied by descriptive written information, or, "with respect to statements that we make about them or the questions that we might ask of them."

Errol Morris filming at Auschwitz for his 1999 film MR. DEATH
Photograph by Nubar Alexanian