Monday, November 19, 2007

Photographic Typologies: Ed Ruscha

Ed Ruscha's series Thirtyfour Parking Lots in Los Angeles is a wonderfully deadpan study of the graphic qualities inherent in the built landscape when observed from a great height. Photographed predominantly in 1967, Ruscha's photographs depict, much like the title suggests, an array of vacant parking lots strewn throughout Los Angeles County. Each uninhabited lot protrudes from its environment, revealing traces of occupancy in the form geometric oil slicks visible in each individual space. Ruscha's detached view of urban sprawl presents the viewer with a seemingly objective representation, a mere social record. However, these photographs address the functional, and often wasteful use of public space and natural resources.

From Top to Bottom:

(Pierce College, Woodland Hills) 1967

(Good Year Tires, 6610 Laurel Canyon, North Hollywood) 1967

(Eileen Feather Salon, 14425 Sherman Way, Van Nuys) 1967

Photographs from the series Thirty-Four Parking Lots in Los Angeles

All Images © Ed Ruscha

Thursday, November 15, 2007

An Image A Week: Larry Sultan

Larry Sultan's Pictures From Home was a decade long project focusing on his parents retirement years in Suburban San Fernando Valley. Sultan had initially conceived of the project as an exploration into the feelings of powerlessness and frustration that his father Ivring was experiencing, as a result of a forced early retirement from his position as vice president of a major corporation. The project became far more encompassing with the inclusion of his mother, metamorphosing into a considerably more personal journey rooted in the complexities of family dynamics. As Sultan said in an interview:

When I was working on Pictures from Home, my parents’ voices – their stories as well as their arguments with my version of our shared history – were crucial to the book. They called into question the documentary truth the pictures seemed to carry. I wanted to subvert the sentimental home movies and snapshots with my more contentious images of suburban daily life, but at the same time I wished to subvert my images with my parents’ insights into my point of view.

Practicing Golf Swing

Image © Larry Sultan

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Work In Progress: New Photographs by Ben Alper

I happened upon this soon-to-be suburban development the other day that was neatly tucked into this beautiful wooded-area. After having photographed it rather extensively, a neighbor stopped me and asked what I was doing. I explained that I have been interested in suburban development and sprawl and hope to explore the ramifications, both environmentally and socially, that these developments promote. She told me she was an active member on a committee designed to try and halt unnecessary and eco-unconscious development. Sadly, 45 acres of land had recently been razed in order to erect the 20 or so homes that will eventually inhabit this area.

All Photographs © Ben Alper

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Adam Marcinek: New Work

New work from my time spent in Central Maine. Comments and feedback welcome.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Sarah Malakoff

I was browsing through the new issue of Esopus Magazine today and discovered the work of Sarah Malakoff. Enclosed were a selection of photographs from her series of domestic interiors, which depict oddly colorful and animated rooms and the objects that reside within them. It would be hard to deny that many of Malakoff's photographs would exude a completely different emotional quality if not for the extravagantly textured and colorful wall papers and rugs that can be found strewn throughout her work. That is not to say that the images rely on these decorative elements as an aesthetic crutch, they do not. These visual flairs only help to accentuate a strange psychological narrative that pulses through these spaces. Each one possesses a unique character, not unlike human beings. This anthropomorphic quality is what gives Malakoff's work the seemingly contradictory air it boasts; the engaging and energized stillness that exists within each image.

From Top to Bottom:

Untitled Interior (blizzard), 2005

Untitled Interior (green stairwell), 2005

Untitled Interior (boat bar), 2006

Untitled Interior, 2002

All Images © Sarah Malakoff

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Jimi Billingsley's Anyone's Elvis

I received an e-mail from Jimi Billingsley the other day who's project Anyone's Elvis I quite enjoy. The work explores the ways in which people identify or express themselves through the adornments that are placed in front yards, bars, churches or on city streets. The photographs from Anyone's Elvis have an immediate resonance that is rooted in their depiction of familiarly "American" sights. As Billingsley writes:

"I went to Upstate New York to explore what I call "domestic decoration", or "primitive expression". How people express themselves without any airs to "Art", and how in many ways, putting glass spheres and gnomes in ones lawn is akin to painting buffalo on the wall on ones cave, graffiti on subway windows, or for that matter, taking pictures."

From Top to Bottom:

Waiting Room, Sharon Springs, NY, 2006

Deliverance Tabernacle, Schenectady, NY, 2006

Broadway Joe's, Kingston, 2006

All Images © Jimi Billingsley

Photographic Typologies: Jeff Brouws

Jeff Brouws is one of the most successful contemporary employers of the photographic typology. He has subjected numerous projects to this format of comparative observation; among them are Signs Without Signification, Strip Malls, Surveillance Cameras and Freshly Painted Houses. Unlike many other typological studies that retain an almost scientific neutrality, Brouws' explorations possess a drab, deadpan humor that elevate his subjects beyond their rigid portrayal. One can also draw many parallels between Brouws' work and the work of Ed Ruscha. This correlation seems the most founded in Ruscha's Twentysix Gasoline Stations and 34 Parking Lots in Los Angeles.

From Top to Bottom:

Slightly Salmon, Daly City, California, 1991

Coral Surprise, Daly City, California, 1991

Tawny Taffy, Daly City, California, 1991

Tango Blue, Daly City, California, 1991

Photographs from the series American Typologies: Freshly Painted Houses

All Images © Jeff Brouws

Saturday, November 10, 2007

A Very Long River

Over at The Sonic Blog I learned about the photographer Stephan Kaluza, who recently finished an eight month long project photographing the entirety of the Rhine River. He generated 21,449 photographs of the river, which have somehow been combined into a single photograph with a length of 4km (or 2.5 miles)!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Shawn Records' Beaverton

I got an e-mail from Shawn Records today, and after checking out his website I discovered a number of interesting projects. Beaverton, La Playa and Portland Grid Project are all worth investigating. Many of his photographs have an anthropomorphizing effect on inanimate objects and structures in the landscape, a phenomenon I find fascinating. This is probably in part due to how people tend to humanize stationary objects in photographic representations, but also due to Records' compositional juxtapositions.

Shawn was also recently a part of J & L Books' Paper Placemats (ATL), a public art project curated by Jason Fulford.

Photographs from the series Beaverton

All Images © Shawn Records

Thursday, November 8, 2007

An Image A Week: Adam Bartos

The work of Adam Bartos, although obviously influenced by the photographs of William Eggleston, Stephen Shore and Joel Meyerwitz, possesses its own unique interpretation and use of the American vernacular. Taken in the 1970's, the photographs from Los Angeles explore the unexceptional and commonplace neighborhoods of a city known for its sprawling network of streets and back alleys. This is predominantly where Bartos has photographed, focusing his camera on parked cars, driveways, highway overpasses and telephone poles. By paying close attention to the minutia of the American landscape, Bartos has joined the prestigious list of photographers whose iconic depictions of America have transformed the mundane into the monumental.

Image © Adam Bartos

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Robin Friend

I came upon the work of British photographer Robin Friend today. I really enjoy the images in the Landscape series, which explore the exploitative relationship between man and nature. In a statement on the artist's website, Friend says:

"I am drawn to landscape where this struggle is not so obvious. In my work the power of nature is felt but not directly witnessed. I approach man’s exploitation of nature with a certain passiveness. In photographing animal stock, quarries, the December harvest of Christmas trees I do not mean to pass a value judgement, I simply offer an image to be interpreted."

Photographs from the series Landscape

All Images © Robin Friend

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Photographic Typologies: Stephen Shore

I have been extensively reading and thinking about the photographic typology, and contemplating the function it serves as a means of categorical documentation. In a effort to try and understand the typology as a social record, I have turned to the work of the Becher's, which serves as an comprehensive and reliable model. I am currently trying to amass research for a paper chronicling the influence of the Becher's work on contemporary practitioner's who also employ photographic typologies in their work. Stephen Shore was an obvious choice with his commonplace examinations of food at eating emporiums around the country. I will try to enact this as a regular feature on this blog, however, if anyone has any good nominations for photographic typologies that I might not be aware of...let me know.

From Top to Bottom:

Trail's End Restaurant, Knab, Utah, August 10, 1973

New York City, New York, September – October 1972

Granite, Oklahoma, July 1972

Washington, District of Columbia, November 1972

All Images © Stephen Shore

Monday, November 5, 2007

Claire Beckett's Simulating Iraq

I got a chance to see Claire Beckett's show Simulating Iraq the other day at the Bernard Toale Gallery. Beckett has been photographing American troops, pre-deployment, at training camps across the country for the last couple of years. She has set out to examine the psychological and physical gravity of what it means to serve in the armed military forces, and how this participation impacts her young subjects. I think there is the potential for tremendous power in work of this nature, however, actualizing this potential requires a deep emotional connection to the subjects. I have not been able to find this emotional resonance in Beckett's work. Perhaps this is a result of emotionally reclusive subjects who are grappling with their tentative futures, or maybe it's due to the manner in which Beckett has approached them.

The exhibit will be up until November 10th so anyone in the Boston-area who hasn't seen it yet should go before it's taken down.

From Top to Bottom:

Blue House, 2007

SPC Brandon Jones, 2007

PVT Dan Floyd, 2007

All Images © Claire Beckett

Thursday, November 1, 2007

An Image A Week: Michael Vahrenwald

I first encountered the work of Michael Vahrenwald in an issue of Blindspot Magazine a few years ago. Struck by the enigmatic quality of his photographs, I remember spending a lot of time trying to decipher exactly what, or at least where these spaces were. The titles give slight indications, but for the most part Vahrenwald's work remains shrouded in cryptic mystery. Universal Default is a project that explores the outer lying spaces of newly constructed chain store lots, rendered at night with the help of surrounding ambient light. Vahrenwald's photographs exist as examinations of coporate land-use and expansion, while concurrently subsisting as explorations of the more formal aspects of the medium. In the words of Vahrenwald himself:

My subject is a byproduct of economics, a leftover landscape. My work is strongly indebted by generations of artists before me, especially the American photographers of the 1960’s and 70’s whom responded to a need to re-examine the American landscape in a time of political, economic and cultural crisis. The work is not an all-encompassing narrative of “America” but rather a visual or archeological exploration grounded by a conceptual structure.

Straw Hill, Wal-Mart, Bloomsburg, PA 2005
From the Series Universal Default

Image © Michael Vahrenwald

Tierney Gearon: The Mother Project

Tierney Gearon: The Mother Project is a feature length documentary exploring the work and intimate relationships of photographer Tierney Gearon. The film was shot over a period of three years, capturing an especially tumultuous time in Gearon's life as she relocates from London to Los Angeles and has her third child at the age of 41. The primary of focus of The Mother Project, however, revolves around Gearon's relationship with her mother, who's affliction with mental illness has greatly impacted the lives of those close to her. She therapeutically examines this relationship while simultaneously exploring the dynamic that exists with her own children. In 2001, as Gearon was making a name for herself, her work aroused intense controversy regarding a her series of intimate portraits taken of her children in the nude. As directors Jack Youngelson & Peter Sutherland write:

The documentary addresses the questions that have long been associated with Tierney's controversial work, and by extension, questions that face all artists who draw on their family for inspiration. Are the photographs as therapeutic for her subjects as they are for her? Is the camera Tierney's way of communicating with her family, or is it a protective shield?

For anyone in the Boston area, the Museum of Fine Arts will be showing The Mother Project throughout the month of November. For specific showtimes, click here. The film will also be airing on the Sundance Channel (check here for details) and is also available for purchase here.

Image © Tierney Gearon