Thursday, October 25, 2007

Featured Artist: Sarah Claire Ahlers

Sarah Claire Ahlers is a Boston-based photographer currently working on long-term photography projects. She will be featured in an upcoming Exposure Project exhibition at the Arlington Center for the Arts, showing work from series of landscape photographs that represent people through the depiction of their belongings. Sarah Claire makes thoughtful, autobiographical photographs that speak as much to her own history as they do to the history of the places she captures. As Sarah Claire states:

I photograph found items, places, collections and sometimes what is discarded to make a picture of what I think they are. My influences stem from my experiences of home life; the pictures I make are often illustrative of my family.

All photographs © Sarah Claire Ahlers

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Exposure Project at the Arlington Center for the Arts

The Exposure Project will be having an exhibition at the Arlington Center for the Arts opening in November. For anyone residing in the Boston-area who is interested in seeing the show, and celebrating with us at our reception, I have listed all the pertinent information below.

The Exposure Project
Gibbs Gallery @
The Arlington Center for the Arts
41 Foster Street
Arlington, MA 02474

November 12th-January 18th

Opening Reception: Friday, November 16th from 6-8

The exhibition will include photographs from Sarah Claire Ahlers, Ben Alper, Anastasia Cazabon, Adam Marcinek and Eric Watts. We will hopefully have copies of the first two issues of our self-published book on hand and for sale at the reception. We would love to see you all there!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

An Image A Week: Edyta Wypierowska

There was an interesting exhibition of Polish pinhole photography called Made in Poland: Contemporary Pinhole Photography at Mass Art that just recently came down. I am typically not an admirer of the pinhole technique, however the work of Edyta Wypierowska caught my eye. Her stark and surreal photographs of constructed still lives exude a wistful sense of adventure and mystery. Wypierowska has skillfully utilized the pinhole camera's distortion of space and scale to create relationships that challenge the viewer's notions of reality.

Untitled, 2004

Image © Edyta Wypierowska

Friday, October 19, 2007

Kate Emerson

Fellow Mass Art student Kate Emerson has been working on a impressive project of digitally composited, panoramic photographs. Her images depict commonplace, domestic environments and objects that are at once both familiar and strange. She photographed most of the images from this series at her father's house, envisioning what occurs in her absence. Kate is evaluating aspects of her familial past while simultaneously creating her own history within each composited photograph.

The panoramic format lends itself strongly to narrative possibilities, allowing the viewer to "read" the photograph, much like they would a book, from left to right or vice versa. Kate has utilized this aspect of the format quite nicely. Her photographs render domestic scenes with beautiful loneliness and mystery, hinting at something beneath the surface of regularity.

All photographs © Kate Emerson

Thursday, October 18, 2007

'Ruins In Reverse'

In September of 1967 Robert Smithson took a bus trip from New York city to Passaic, New Jersey. He disembarked, equipped solely with a Kodak Instamatic camera and a science fiction novel, with the intention of documenting the "monuments" of the Passaic landscape. The result of this excursion was the publication an essay in Art Forum Magazine entitled, A Tour of the Monuments of Passaic, NJ

The essay chronicles Smithson's journey through the tumultuously developed suburb as he photographs and describes the utilitarian fixtures situated in the landscape. He goes on to epically characterize outmoded bridges, sewage pipes, car garages, children's sandboxes and used car dealerships as "monuments", embellishing their character with humorous exaggeration. By placing epic importance on this form of suburban banality, Smithson further accentuates just how unimaginative places of this nature truly are.

While discussing the aesthetic and practical functions of these "monuments", Smithson refers to them as 'Ruins in Reverse'. Unlike typical structures that fall into ruin long after they're built, Smithson purports that suburban structures rise into ruin before they are even erected. The notion of landscape determinism is one that I had not really considered before reading this essay, but have been thinking about thoroughly since. More interesting still, are how these ideas have been explored photographically.

I have selected a few contemporary photographers who's work serves as illustration to the ideas put forth by Robert Smithson. Justin James Reed, J Bennett Fitts and Steven Smith are simply a few photographers exploring these issues.

From Top to Bottom:

J Bennett Fitts, Minimal Office

Justin James Reed, Willow Grove, Pennsylvania . 2007

Steven Smith, Draper, Utah, 2004

All Images © The Artists

Monday, October 15, 2007

Laurenz Berges

There's nothing better than discovering the work of someone who you were previously unaware of, and that you subsequently thoroughly enjoy. This is the case for me with the work of German photographer Laurenz Berges, a former student of Bernd Becher at the Academy of Art in Düsseldorf. Berges extensively photographed the abandoned military barracks that once housed the Soviet Army during the years of the Nazi regime. His deceptively simple compositions are imbued with striking natural light, often bringing an air of hope to his otherwise melancholic imagery. Berges' work speaks to a culture's history that, much like these structures that stand vacant, strives to be forgotten. The subtle traces of human experience captured in Berges' photographs address how memory, whether of a personal or cultural nature, is preserved in photographic form.

From Top to Bottom:

Potsdam V 1994

Wünsdorf II, 1994

Hannover, 2005 (# 2282)

Cloppenburg, 2006 (#2383)

All Images © Laurenz Berges

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Richard Barnes' Animal Logic

I got a chance to see the Richard Barnes exhibit at Hosfelt Gallery the other day. The show consists of two bodies of work, Animal Logic and Murmur. The photographs from Animal Logic explore the installation and preservation of animals and fossils at natural history museums. These images examine the historical and scientific indexing of species throughout the ages, simultaneously drawing attention to the way in which they are viewed and understood. The formal manner in which Barnes has photographed these installations mimics the way they are ultimately viewed upon completion. The museum experience exudes a rigid formality that constantly inhibits the proximity and intimacy of the viewer to the subject. There are always barriers we are not allowed to cross, glass cases we are not permitted to penetrate. These things, although admittedly necessary at times, often promote an emotionally detached experience. By showing us these static and incomplete moments where history and artifice meet, Barnes underscores how inherently unnatural this process of archaeological conservation really is.

Photographs from the series Animal Logic

All Images © Richard Barnes

Thursday, October 11, 2007

An Image A Week: Dan Boardman

Recent Hot Shot Dan Boardman's project Home is an intimate and lonely look at small town living. He has set out to reexamine the unexplored spaces and objects of his past, while trying to assimilate these things with the present. Boardman's images address the function of memory in the cataloguing of the past, and emphasizes the importance of maintaining these connections. Boardman writes:

"To grow up in a small town is to always be looking for something bigger; to be looking out to the next chapter, waiting, daydreaming. To move away from a small town leaves a longing for its innocence and its comfort. This work was an investigation into memory, how it changes and what traces trigger a relationship between then and now."

Tim Atherton's Peripheral Vision

I received an e-mail yesterday from Tim Atherton, a Canadian photographer currently residing in Edmonton. He was writing to share some images from his new series TRACES- Alleyways & Spandrels, a wonderful project examining the interaction between people and public spaces and the subtle traces left by these encounters. I also discovered an older project of Atherton's called Peripheral Vision. His work is very sensitively addresses issues of land use and appropriation, commenting simultaneously on the topographical and psychological connotations of suburban development. As Atherton himself says:

"There no longer appears to be a clear division between the suburbs and either the urban or rural environment. There now seems to be a generic suburban condition that may be a potential quality for all inhabited spaces. This extended suburban condition does not easily show up on maps, it is in many ways more of a suburban state of mind than a topographic location."

Images from the series Peripheral Vision

All Images © Tim Atherton

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Paige Largay

Paige Largay, a recent graduate of the MFA program at Mass Art, explores the familiar spaces from her past. The images were photographed predominately at her childhood summer home, which now lies empty and uninhabited save for these remaining relics. Largay approaches these spaces with respect to the personal significance they hold in her memory, while simultaneously alluding their unique existence outside of this familial context. The spaces she captures evoke a loneliness and nostalgia that speaks universally to the faded memories of once familiar spaces. While looking at Largay's work, I was transported back to my own childhood visits to my grandparent's summer home in Pennsylvania; flooding my mind with memories that had not been triggered in many years.

All Images © Paige Largay

Monday, October 8, 2007

Daylight Magazine

A few years ago I discovered Daylight Magazine while browsing through magazines racks at Barnes & Noble of all places. I had never seen this particular publication before, but after purchasing I left with sense that I had discovered something special. Daylight Magazine highlights the work of contemporary social documentarians addressing issues as varied as, global trade and commodification, man's interaction with nature, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the ramifications of living in a nuclear world. With all the instability found in the world today, it is refreshing that a magazine such as this exists to help evaluate these complex issues.

Their mission statement pretty clearly spells out their goals and aspirations as a publication:

"Founded in 2003, Daylight Magazine is the biannual printed publication of Daylight Community Arts Foundation (DCAF), a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the use of photography as a tool for effecting social change. By reimagining the documentary mode through collaboration with established and emerging artists, scholars and journalists, Daylight Magazine has become one of the premier showcases for contemporary photography.

In addition to publishing Daylight Magazine, DCAF seeks to help underrepresented communities share their stories by distributing cameras, establishing darkroom and digital imaging facilities, administering photographic workshops, and curating local and traveling exhibitions. Ultimately, DCAF’s goal is to provide these communities with access to the resources and equipment necessary to participate in the global visual dialogue."

Despite Daylight Magazine being somewhat hard to find, I would advise people trying to seek it out. It is important that photography explore and embrace the avenues of social change that are inherent to the medium, not to mention its history.

From Top to Bottom:

David Maisel, From Issue 3, Winter 2005

Ahikam Seri, From Issue 4, Spring 2006

Joel Sternfeld, From Issue 3, Winter 2005

Paul Shambroom, From Issue 6, Fall 2007

All Images © The Artists

Friday, October 5, 2007

An Image A Week: Grant Ernhart

I came across the work of Grant Ernhart today (via Conscientious) and quite enjoyed his series' Alone at Sea & I Trust You'll Take Care. His photographs often explore the anomalous beauty found in the landscape, which initially made me think of the work of Ian Baguskas. Ernhart's attention to the idiosyncratic relationships between the built and natural world are shown as simultaneously harmonious and discordant. There is a nice duality in his work, not to mention in Ernhart's life. He used to be a biathlete (the combined skill of cross-country skiing and rifle shooting) before laying down his rifle for a camera.

Silverstein Photography Annual

Another great exhibition in New York of emerging photographers is the Silverstein Photography Annual which will be on view until October 13th at the Silverstein Gallery (535 W 24 St). This inaugural year of the show features ten curators who have each chosen an artist.
The curators are:
Philip Brookman, Corcoran Gallery
Joshua Chuang, Yale University Art Gallery
Julian Cox, High Museum of Art
Jeffrey Hoone, Light Work
Lisa Hostetler, Milwaukee Art Museum
Carol McCusker, Museum of Photographic Arts
Miriam Romais, En Foco
Britt Salvesen, Center for Creative Photography
Rod Slemmons, Museum of Contemporary Photography
Anne Tucker, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

The artists chosen are:
Noelle Tan
Phillip Pisciotta
Barret Oliver
Zoë Sheehan Saldaña
Sonja Thomsen
Lisa Robinson
Lola Flash
Michael Lundgren
Curtis Mann
Will Michels

Bruce Silverstein summarizes the ideas and context behind this exhibition: “We are constantly seeking ways to enhance our representation of photography, offering a greater perspective on the past, present and future of the medium. SPA gives us this opportunity - to continue to embrace new and important ideas, to reach out to the art community around the world, and to welcome those who deserve to be seen and heard but who might not have had the chance. We are grateful to be in a position to make such a commitment.”

I found most of the work in the show to be intriguing, but I kept coming back to three artists; Michael Lundgren, Noelle Tan, and Lisa Robinson.

Michael Lundgren's desert landscapes truly captivated my imagination. His photographs, taken during a seven year residency in New Mexico take a new look at the desert landscape with the use of the traditional black and white process. He uses extremely long exposures to give the viewer a unique experience of time within the spaces he photographs. There are prints which seem to be abstracts at first with almost completely black or white surfaces; the viewer is forced to adjust to their eyes to the print to make out the details of the image. These subtle details kept me coming back and wanting to look again at his prints.

Interestingly enough, Noelle Tan's images draw a comparison to Michael Lundgren's in her use of the black and white medium in its most extreme tonalities to represent landscapes. Her work is generally all black with spots of white or vice versa. This use of abstraction brings an interesting quality to her landscapes. The viewer is able to break the prints up into geometrical forms, but a sense of reality within the photographs is lost. Curator Philip Brookman put it best when he said, "These images veer back and forth between abstraction and representation. They do not sit for long in one world or the other. The figures that populate her sparse topographic environments are sometimes indistinguishable from other inert forms: trees, roads, power poles. There are no details in her art, just sweeping generalizations in rich tones of crushing black and white."

Lisa Robinson explores the transformation of landscape through weather patterns in her series Snowbound. Growing up in the South, Robinson became fascinated with snowstorms and their effect on daily routines and regularities once she relocated to New York. She uses minimalist compositions and, a muted color pallet to paint the picture of the snowed in landscape. Curator Carol McCusker expressed her interest in the work, "What drew me to Robinson's photographs was my own experience of snowstorms, which first and foremost, force stillness. Daily Routines are disrupted. Street and air traffic cease; a quiet descends. By erasing familiar streets, sidewalks, and gardens, snowstorms create a palimpsest for us to decipher from our living room windows. The skeletal trees, the absence of people, and winter's destructive potential make it a season emblematic of death. Walking in the winter landscape can evoke contradictory feelings of dread and comfort. The cold emptiness terrifies; its still beauty soothes."

Images from top to bottom:

Moon over River Valley and Lion's Kill by: Michael Lundgren

Untitled #11 and Drawing V by: Noelle Tan

Mirage and Invisible City by: Lisa Robinson

Thursday, October 4, 2007

New Photography 2007 at MOMA

New Photography at The Museum of Modern Art is an annual exhibition for emerging or lesser known photographers making individual contributions to further the medium. The show has taken place since 1985, and holds an impressive alumni including Phillip Lorca Dicorcia, Thomas Roma, and Thomas Demand, among others. The curatorial duties of this exhibition shift from year to year. This year the show was curated by Eva Respini (Assistant Curator, Department of Photography), who I was lucky enough to meet with to look at the show.

This year's exhibition includes the work of Berni Searle, Tanyth Berkeley and Scott McFarland. With these three photographers, Respini has highlighted with great depth the diversity in content and approach being explored in contemporary photography.

Berni Searle (born in South Africa in 1964), has been widely exhibited in her native country, but has had little to no exposure in the United States. She received her MFA from Capetown in 1995. Exhibited in the show are two recent projects, including Approach from 2006, and works from About to Forget from 2005.

Searle works in a very personal manner, but her photographs have universal appeal. Approach, for example, is a seven paneled self portrait of Searle walking over mounds of grape skins. The photograph depicts a contemplative, inward journey while referencing larger political overtones. The grape skins, her bare feet, and stained dress all allude to the wine making process and the political framework that surrounds it. Searle portrays herself, alludes to the political climate of her country, and appeals to the broader human experience in just this one piece.

Tanyth Berkely (American, b. 1969) works in and around New York. She received her MFA from Columbia in 2004, and is represented by the Bellwether Gallery. Eva has watched Tanyth's work steadily pick up momentum over the past few years. There are two series of Berkely's works represented in the show, Orchidaceae from 2004, and a newer series from 2006-07.

Berkely's newer works were the most interesting to me. They are all life sized standing portraits of people in their homes. The subjects are people Berkely has met and developed close relationships with through the intimate process of photographing them. Many of her subjects are originally strangers she meets in public. She builds a strong rapport with her subjects through her collaborative process of portraiture. The size and scale of these images give them a palpable confrontational feeling. They feel odd; lifelike from far away, and slightly smaller than life-like up close. This feeling of confrontation is heightened by the idiosyncratic appeal of her subjects. Her subjects include performers, transsexuals, albinos, as well as her muse, a young Vasser student named Ariel she met on the train. These people are true individuals in the same way that Arbus's subjects were individuals. Confronted with near life sized portraits of this non-traditional beauty, the viewer feels uncomfortable, yet intrigued to explore the images further. In Berkely's psychological portraits, the viewer can see an intense dialogue with painting with acute attention paid to color, light, and tone; which is further enhanced by the matte surface of the prints.

Scott McFarland (Canadian, b. 1975) works in and around Vancouver. He received his BFA from The University of British Columbia in 1997 and is represented by Monte Clark Galery and Regen Projects. McFarland shoots large format film, drum scans it and creates digital composite images of multiple (sometimes hundreds) of negatives.

Using this composite process, McFarland photographs artificial landscapes man-made to look naturalistic. He uses multiple exposures of the same place to convey a passing of time. In Orchard View With the Effects of Seasons (Variation #1) 2003-06 plants and tress are seen blooming and fading in the large scale (roughly 3"x8") panoramic of a park. With this scale, the viewer can look into the exquisite details of the print.

The digital composite process mirrors the places photographed by McFarland. Both are naturalistic, yet artificially created realities. His process is also an analysis on the nature of photographs. Photographs have always represented distilled moments in time, but what is a photograph made up of hundreds of unique, but related moments? The representation of time now folds into many specific instances marking the passage of time almost cinematically.

New Photography 2007 will be on view through January 1, 2008 at The Museum of Modern Art

Images From Top to Bottom:

Berni Searle, Approach

Tanyth Berkely, Ariel

Scott McFarland, Orchard View With the Effects of Seasons (Variation #1) 2003-06

All Images © The Artists

Digital Encounters & the 'Loss of the Real'

I recently read an essay by Michelle Henning entitled Digital Encounters: Mythical Pasts & Electronic Presence. The essay addresses the introduction and usage of digital technology to contemporary society, consequently raising many questions about how we interact with 'new technology'. She frames the tenets of her essay in relation to the ideas and philosophies of the famed Marxist social/literary critic Walter Benjamin. Henning speaks at length about Benjamin's discussion on the effects of mechanical reproduction and the ensuing byproducts of an increasingly mechanized world. Benjamin thought that technology, in and of itself, did not produce shifts in consciousness and perception; but rather these shifts occurred as a coping mechanism to the increasing intensity of everyday existence. He argued that as life becomes filled with routine (mandating the repetition of unimaginative labor) that people were no longer able to acquire knowledge through experience.

Henning goes on to talk about these issues of industrial development and technological innovation in the framework of modern society, and in specific respect to digital imaging. Where once a photograph's authenticity had previously been based in its physical interaction with the world, this interaction no longer proved true, or applicable. Henning writes, "digital technology presents the possibility of photographically 'real' images of people who had 'never existed'." The seamless shift from analog to digital photography contributes to what Henning coins as the 'loss of the real', a form of simulated reality experienced through manipulated or composited photographs. She makes the important distinction that 'new technology' is in essence not new, but rather an interpretation and extension of previous technologies. In regards to digital photography, this idea is central to understanding how digital imaging has affected cultural perception. It has not done so as a new and unique function, but rather as a reworking of history.

The persecution of digital imaging when blaming it for the 'loss of the real' is ultimately counterproductive. The technology has reached a point where discerning the difference between analog and digital representation is near impossible. I like to think about this technological evolution as a logical, and potentially eye-opening one. If you considered digital photography as a new means for understanding aspects of the world that were previously unavailable to us; then the 'loss of the real' is instead supplanted with the acquisition of a new reality. I have used the photographs of Beate Gutschow, Barry Frydlender and Matt Connors to help illustrate the seamless, digital representations that I speak of. These artists all examine aspects of culture, history, landscape and technology in similar ways as more "traditional" practitioners. However, they have done so with the aid of technology in an attempt to shed new light on the constantly shifting perception surrounding our complex world.

-Ben Alper

From Top to Bottom:

Beate Gutschow, UNTITLED (LS_10)

Matt Connors, Untitled

Barry Frydlender, Blessing

All Images © The Artists

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Upcoming Photography Lectures in Boston

Mass Art has organized a stimulating and diverse program of visiting lecturers for the fall, including Dawoud Bey, Kelli Connell and the founder/director of The Center for Land Use Interpretation, Matthew Coolidge.

For anyone who doesn't know about CLUI, they are a research organization based in Culver City, California devoted to the exploration and understanding of contemporary land use issues. They focus mainly on the evaluation of mankind's interaction with, and subsequent perception of the earth's surface. For anyone who hasn't visited their website I implore you to do so. They have compiled an impressive Land Use Database, comprised extensively of photographs and maps of every state categorizing various methods of land use.

Anyways, on to the lectures!

Kelli Connell
Tuesday, October 30th
5:30 pm
@ Mass Art, Kennedy Building Room 406
621 Huntington Avenue, Boston

Dawoud Bey
Friday, November 2nd
@ Howard Yezerski Gallery
14 Newbury Street, Boston

Matthew Coolidge
Tuesday, November 6th
5:30 pm
@ Mass Art, Tower Building, 11th Floor
621 Huntington Avenue, Boston

For anyone in the Boston area who is interested in getting more information on these lectures, just follow this link.

From Top to Bottom:

Kelli Connell, Carnival

Dawoud Bey, A Boy In Front Of The Loews 125th Street Movie Theater, 1976/2005

Matthew Coolidge, Photograph from the CLUI Photography Archive

All Images © The Artists & the CLUI Photography Archive