Sunday, November 30, 2008

Phil Jung's Car Interiors

Phil Jung is currently pursuing his MFA in Photography at Mass Art. His series Car Interiors explores the vernacular of automobiles and the ephemera that often adorn them. I've had the pleasure of seeing some of Phil's prints hanging up around school and they're really stunning.

His thesis show will be on display sometime toward the end of the spring at Mass Art's Sandra and David Bakalar Gallery. I'll post further details as they materialize.

All photographs from the series Car Interiors

All Images © Phil Jung

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Ward Roberts' Landscapes About Us

Ward Roberts contacted me recently to share a link to his website. I thoroughly enjoy his series Landscapes About Us, a collection of quiet images depicting landscapes in various states of human interaction. Ranging from the oppressively overdeveloped to the predominately unscathed, Roberts' photographs present a more balanced view of the landscape than many contemporary portrayals.

I would also recommend checking out his projects [ ] & 48 Hours.

All photographs from the series Landscapes About Us

All Images © Ward Roberts

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Martin Cregg's Process

Martin Cregg's series Process explores the shift from analog to digital technology in photographic practice. As he declares in his statement:

"I began collecting these 'end of the role' objects – abstract artefacts, twin-checks, unused and discarded remains of the analogue process itself – but nevertheless a integral part of it. They are abstract, yet familiar. Sometimes, by accident, they will appear amongst 'customers' everyday photos and index prints, which are inadvertently handed back from a photo-lab to the public – numbered 00, 00A, 37A, etc, etc. I began to scan these from the discarded film negative clippings at a high resolution, inflating these objects to print size. I have collected over 100 - each unique, diverse and intrinsic to the nature of a disappearing analogue photographic landscape. Even the photographic term of reference – 'process' itself, something which is invariably linked with analogue methods, will also disappear."

All photographs from the series Process

All Images © Martin Cregg

Eva Leitolf's German Images - Looking for Evidence 1992-1994/2006-2008

I received an e-mail from German photographer Eva Leitolf yesterday with a link to her series German Images - Looking for Evidence 1992-1994/2006-2008. As her statement succinctly expresses:

"In 'German Images - Looking for Evidence' photographer Eva Leitolf turns her attention to racist crimes in Germany and the ways they are discussed in society. In the early 1990s she photographed crime scenes, victims and perpetrators, and uninvolved bystanders. Returning to the theme in 2006, she reduced the visual content to nothing more than the places where the crimes had been committed, combined her images with meticulously researched texts about the events themselves and the way they were dealt with afterwards politically, by the courts, and in the media. Conceived as a long-term study, this work challenges the way society deals with racist violence and in the process tests the bounds and possibilities of what can be said visually."

From Top To Bottom:

State road, Weihenlinden, 2007
On 16 May 1999 there was a serious road accident on state road 2078, where all five Turkish occupants of the car were killed. Two days later a driver discovered a poster at the scene of the accident bearing a swastika and the words 'the moral of the story - dead Turks don't bother us'. The poster was secured by the police and examined forensically, but the investigation remained inconclusive.

River Spree, Berlin Friedrichshain, 2007
During the night of 25-26 July 1994 a Polish building worker drowned in the River Spree in Berlin. After an argument with a group of young Germans, the forty-five-year-old man and his thirty-six-year-old countryman had been pushed into the water and prevented from swimming to the bank. It was claimed that the events had been triggered by the two Poles pestering two young women. Apoliceman reported having heard shouts of 'Poles piss off' and 'Don't let the Pole out [of the water]'. The court found no xenophobic motive, saying that the shouts may merely have referred factually to the nationality of the victims. In May 1995 four men aged between nineteen and twenty-five, and two girls aged sixteen and seventeen were found guilty of bodily harm followed by death and given custodial sentences (in some cases suspended) of up to four years.

Schöna, Sächsische Schweiz, 2006
In the Saxony state elections in 2004 the fascist National Democratic Party gained 23.1 percent of the vote in Reinhardtsdorf- Schöna. According to press reports it maintains close contact with the banned SSS group (Sächsische Schweiz Skinheads), which has set itself the goal of ridding the area of foreigners.

Beach, Heringsdorf, 2007
In the night of 29-30 July 2004 a group of local men and women assaulted a group of teenagers from Berlin who were listening to music on the beach. One of the victims had to spend five days in a Berlin hospital being treated for bruising to the ribs and back, concussion and craniocerebral trauma. According to a report in the local newspaper, the victim's lawyer criticised that it had taken more than a year for the results of the investigation to be passed to the state prosecutor, and that charges had not been brought until 4 April 2006. This case, he said, gave 'encouragement to Nazi thugs' because it gave them the impression that they 'could get away with it'. At the trial witnesses reported that a darkskinned girl belonging to the group from Berlin had been called a 'negro slut' during the attack, and victim support groups said it was a racist attack. The court found no evidence that the perpetrators had a right-wing political background and decided that the loud music the victims had been listening to had been the motive for the crime. On 30 November 2006 a juvenile court found two of the perpetrators guilty of grievous bodily harm. One was sentenced to one hundred hours of community service, the other ordered to pay compensation of 1,700 Euro to the main victim.

Car park, Helmstedt, 2007
On 22 August 2007 a German man of Turkish extraction was pressed against the fence of a shopping centre car park by another man, who racially insulted him and threatened him with death. The attacker also said that the victim's flat would be stormed and mentioned the number '88', which is used by right-wing extremists as a code for 'Heil Hitler' ('H' being the eighth letter of the alphabet). Acourt order imposing punishment was issued, against which the accused appealed. Acourt case is pending in Helmstedt.

All Images © Eva Leitolf

Mass Art's 3rd Annual Photography Book & Print Auction

The photography department at Mass Art will host their 3rd Annual Book and Print Auction Wednesday, December 10th from 7 - 9 pm. All of the proceeds will benefit the printing of the 2009 senior photography thesis catalogue. So anyone in the Boston area who wants to support our class, enjoy some refreshments and peruse all of the photography monographs we'll be selling should come on by. The list of photographers that have donated books so far includes:

Bobby Abrahamson, Peter Beard, Julie Blackmon, Phil Borges, Barbara Bosworth, Suzette Bross, Elinor Carucci, Michal Chelbin, William Christenberry, Vincent Cianni, Gregory Crewdson, Paul D'Amato, Sante de'Orazio, Philip-Lorca DiCorcia, Elsa Dorfman, Brian Finke, Jason Fulford, David Goldes, Elijah Gowin, Michael Grecco, Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, Henry Horenstein, Eirik Johnson, Stella Johnson, Lisa Kareszi, Robb Kendrick, Robert Glenn Ketchum, Mark Klett, Rachel Rosenfield Lafo, Gillian Laub, Saul Leiter, David Maisel, Laura McPhee, Joel Meyerowitz, Abelardo Morell, Nicholas Nixon, Matthew Pillsbury, Richard Prince, Thomas Roma, Karen Rosenthal, Vaughn Sills, Snorri Bros., Alec Soth, Mike and Doug Starn, Jerry Uelsmann, Brian Ulrich, Jo Whaley, Alex Webb, Rebecca Norris Webb, Eric Weeks, and Jeongmee Yoon

The 3rd Annual Book and Print Auction
Mass Art's Godine Family Gallery
621 Huntington Avenue, North Hall
Boston, MA
Wednesday, December 10th from 7-9 pm

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Fine Line of Sensitivity in Photographic Portraiture

I happened upon a post on the Hey, Hot Shot! Blog today discussing the work of contender Melissa Kaseman. The image posted shows the bandaged hand of a women hanging benignly from a yellow sweater, presumably after some sort of treatment. Sara Distin, Hey, Hot Shot! blogger of the day, states:

It's hard to make compassionate photographs about illness, especially the illness of others. Remember Nicholas Nixon's show Patients at Yossi Milo earlier this year? What was he thinking?

I found this comment/question really interesting. It continues to fortify that we all interpret the meaning of photographs very differently. I happen to think that Nick Nixon's Patients images possess both uncompromising honesty and tremendous beauty. There is something unyielding about his portrayal of mortality, which often finds a balance between acceptance and apprehension. I have never considered them insensitive, exploitative or cruel, nor are they necessarily benign. They are honest; they reflect a state in physical and cognitive development that may be unpleasant to look at, but which is an absolute inevitability.

The question posed above seems to imply that the divulging of a truthful, albeit intense portrayal of death crosses the line of artistic decency into the realm of pictorial insensitivity. Often times the photographs that show us precisely what we do not want to see are the ones that have the greatest impact on our psyches.

I want to know what you think. Where does the tenuous line between compassion and indifference in photographic portraiture meet? What makes one artist's portrayal necessarily more sensitive than another's? And ultimately, do you respond more to a candid, unflinching portrayal of a person, or conversely, to a more allegorical image which insinuates rather than shows?

I think this is an interesting conversation, so comments and discussion are welcomed and encouraged.

From Top To Bottom:

Melissa R. Kaseman, Bandage, June, 2008

Nicholas Nixon, Ruth Burnett, Dorchester, 2005

All Images © The Artists

Monday, November 24, 2008

Penelope Umbrico's Office / Still Lives (as Photocopies)

Appropriation artist Penelope Umbrico's series Office/Still Lives (as Photocopies) consists of :

"a suite of 16, 8” x 10” images taken from an office supply catalog advertising office cubicles. I scanned the catalog images with special attention to the arrangement of objects and photographs on the desks in the cubicles. I then applied the “photocopy” filter in Photoshop to create a fake photocopy document of the fake office environment. The effort to humanize the otherwise dry, cold, emptiness of the represented workspace is played out in the fictional family photographs and plastic plants. The mute computer props punctuate my gridded arrangement, ominously refusing to communicate anything."

Umbrico has a number of interesting projects on her website which are well worth exploring, particularly Broken Sets (eBay), For Sale/TVs From Craigslist, Suns From Flickr and Embarrassing Books. Unfortunately, some of her pieces lose their presence online. I got a chance to see TVs and Suns From Flickr installed at the New York Photo Festival earlier this year and the scale and method of installation is an incredibly important aspect of the work.

All photographs from the series Office / Still Lives (as Photocopies)

All Images © Penelope Umbrico

Eyal Pinkas' The Landing

Israeli born, Amsterdam based photographer Eyal Pinkas' domestic constructions strike a similar conceptual chord as the photographs of Alejandra Laviada do. In his statement, Pinkas notes:

"My work is constructed of momentary interferences in the appearance of places and things that are parts of my personal surrounding. I stage common objects and casual interiors, to suggest an autonomous behavior enacted by these components.

The adaptations I am making can be best described as studies on the question of how something would appear if it were able to assume the identity it secretly desires. As a guiding line for my work, I try to imagine what the fantasies of the objects are and infuse them with a Don Quixotic flare. They become fully inspired by their imagination and determine their appearance by it."

You can also read a wonderful and insightful interview with Pinkas over at This Is That.

All photographs from the series The Landing

All Images © Eyal Pinkas

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Marina Gadonneix's Removed Landscapes

I recently found the work of Marina Gadonneix, whose series Removed Landscapes explores the green and blue sets of, what appear to be, film and television studios. As Jean-Pierre Rehm states in his essay "Fake For Real":

"It does not seem very daring to describe Marina Gadonneix’s pictures as being depopulated. The emptiness of the places she presents, one after another, demonstrates – if not a preliminary rule characterizing the whole series, a constant which is merely foiled by rare, always ethereal apparitions."

Rehm goes on to say:

"What is the hypothesis behind these “commissioned landscapes” ? No longer a call for the insurrection of analysis affirmed by Benjamin, nor the sad denunciation of a daily life alienated and prisoner of its own recurrent funerals. Neither the cynicism of an image played in a loop, having become the only horizon of the image itself. On the contrary, what is celebrated here is the decomposition of the image itself, its disintegration into simple elements : the explosion of colorful sparks. There is definitely no melancholy here, or else like a mask for a profane joy : there is no more landscape, no more paradise – space is left free, like above bunk beds with no bedding, for light, for it to diffuse and diffract. For an instant, the fake is colored in real, and the real becomes an image that offers it to us like a chance, its « entry point »."

From Top To Bottom:

Tribune On An Icefield

The Black Forest

The Niagara Falls

Battle Field

Seaside Seats

All Images © Marina Gadonneix

Cine Stills: Let The Right One In

I saw Tomas Alfredson's Swedish vampire masterpiece Let The Right One In last night. I can safely say it was one of the best films I've seen all year, easily rivaling Man On Wire, Tell No One and Mister Lonely in overall brilliance. Alfredson has created a unique film of incredible stylistic breadth and emotion. Amalgamating genres as diverse as horror, thriller, romance, coming of age tale and, at times, comedy, Let The Right One In is a complex film that subverts the stereotypes typically associated with the genre. The film's beautifully wistful and haunting cinematography by Hoyte Van Hoytema greatly enhances Alfredson's vision and establishes him as an important voice in contemporary cinema.

Do yourself a favor and go see this film. If you are an American viewer, however, Let The Right One In will reinforce that the vast majority of innovative film is being produced outside the United States.

Still from Let The Right One In, 2008. (dir. Tomas Alfredson, cine. Hoyte Van Hoytema)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Karly Wildenhaus' Interference

Karly Wildenhaus' project Interference is comprised of images that capture the degradation and imperfections of digital information. Appropriated from what appear to be digital television or online sources, the exaggerated pixelation becomes a distinct and important part of the vocabulary of these images. Many of these photographs resemble Impressionist or Pointilist paintings. This similarity, at least in a contemporary context, is simultaneous historically consistent yet paradoxical. The relationship between Painting and Photography has largely been one reciprocation. Each medium has inspired, as well as tried to emulate the other at varying times throughout history. Many of the Postmodern photographers of the late 70's and 80's, including Jeff Wall, Andreas Gursky and Vik Muniz, embraced the scale, aesthetic Formalism and sublimity of historical painting.

One would assume that the ties between Painting and Photography would dissipate with the sophistication of digital technology, however, Wildenhaus' Interference images prove that this is not so. Each distorted pixel begins to take on the quality of an individual brushstroke. The corrupted digital files highlight the inherent imperfections of technological development, often exposing the transience of the information we receive. Despite the sophistication of this technology, images still degrade. They revert back to a more primal, painterly state. Ultimately, Wildenhaus' pixel paintings look both to the future and the past, creating a tension that is often unsettling.

All photographs from the series Interference

All Images © Karly Wildenhaus

Ville Lenkkeri's Reality In The Making

Swedish photographer Ville Lenkkeri's project Reality In The Making deals largely with the artifice and replication that permeates social consciousness. Many of the images from this series depict constructed environments in museums, which, much like Richard Barnes' series Animal Logic, undermine the authority of space. In his statement, Lenkkeri declares:

"Sometimes it is as if we were living a life less unique. As if experinece had largely been replaced by simulations and models and books and recordings, and as if life were known to us by its fragments. Also it is as if our lives were gradually becoming a compliance with preset standards, since all the possible shapes a life can take are already known and learned. That would turn us into mere spectators of our own lives, since life would escape our will and only be shown to us like a movie on TV.

But then again, if it were like that - or when it gets to be like that - we would turn our backs in frustration on this evolution of control and return our gaze from the preserved and the exhibited to life itself. A sample can present the whole only when the whole is a known entity. Fragments of life always fail to reveal the whole of it."

From Top To Bottom:


Arctic Fauna

Looking Out Of A Museum Window



All Images © Ville Lenkkeri

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Peter Otto's Tourist Places

I found the work of London based photographer Peter Otto today. His series Tourist Places depicts sightseers in the act of photographing monuments in the landscape. Cleverly, however, Otto consciously omits any specific reference to the attractions being photographed by his subjects. There is a something wonderfully self-referential about this series. Seeing a photograph of someone photographing something that we are not permitted to see creates an odd tension in images.

While you're visiting his website, I would recommend checking out Otto's series' Spaces 1 and Spaces 2.

All photographs from the series Tourist Places

All Images © Peter Otto