Saturday, May 30, 2009

Anja Schaffner's Susurrus

I discovered Anja Schaffner's haunting series Susurrus via The Sonic Blog today. I have to admit that I was previously unfamiliar with the word susurrus. After looking it up, however, I discovered it is: a whispering or rustling sound; a murmur. Schaffner's statement poetically asserts:

"There are moments when I want to slow things down. I stare and imagine those moments on hold. It is like when someone says 'pssst' and you stop and listen for a short while. Afterwards, things continue in their usual way... some images continue to hum though.

Taking photographs is one way of creating a sense of continuity in life. Photographs never end, but perhaps new images can stop the old ones from haunting us."

From Top To Bottom:

Under Cover. Portohelli, 2008

Iro II. London, 2008

Johnny. London, 2008

Eisfeld. Horn-Bad Meinberg, 2007

Auf der Moorlage. Horn-Bad Meinberg, 2008

All Images © Anja Schaffner

Friday, May 29, 2009

mus-mus @ Paris Call For Entries

mus-mus' most recently call for entries, @ Paris, is "a return to an early and sustaining subject of photography -- Paris. If anyone out there needs some incentive, Stephen Shore and Gil Blank have kindly offered their jurying services for the competition.

As with @600 Mus-Mus will strive to use the ease and power of the web combined with the talents and camaraderie of the global photography community to develop a striking online archive of images. This time the focus is around this singular place, Paris, as seen through the vision of photographers from all parts of the world.

It is fitting that Paris, lovingly called "The City of Light" should have been one of the first and most thoroughly photographic and photographed places on earth. The list of Paris' photographers runs from Daguerre and Nadar to Brassai, Doisneau, Cartier-Bresson and from Atget to Man Ray, Kertez and Klein and many more, a remarkable number of photography's greatest artists made their mark 'a travers' Paris. Their photographs and publications have fixed in our mind's eye a vision of Paris that is beautiful, often as edgy as elegant, and always complex.

The rules are simple:

1. submit one photograph taken by you in Paris before July 14th, 2009 (JPEG format, 72dpi, 1000 pixels larger side, Srgb Please name your file this way: SurnameName.jpg). Photo can be taken for the project or chosen from your archives.

2. include information about the date, the place and some brief statement about the photograph and its relationship to your sense of Paris.

3. certify that the submission information is correct and that the photograph is previously unpublished and that the copyright is yours.

4. Curriculum Vitae together with your website and email

5. be older than 18 year old.

Please check the complete submission guidelines, technical details and
conditions here.

We look forward to seeing what you see. And thanks in advance for sharing
your wonderful work and participation.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Grant Ernhart's Gustine

Grant Ernhart recently updated his website with a selection of images from his new series Gustine. Have a look.

All photographs from the series Gustine

All Images © Grant Ernhart

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Grace Kim's Love Hotel

The images in Grace Kim's series Love Hotel depict unmade beds in various Seoul hotels known to house secret affairs and love trysts. As her statement explains:

"I have been creating portraits of unmade beds at love hotels in Seoul. Lovers often use the hotels to carry on secret affairs, I visit the rooms just after they have departed. The photographs are personal reflections on the passage of time and the ephemeral nature of love. Absence inspires imagination and nostalgia, and what is secret or forbidden seems authentic in a way, because it actively questions and resists the status quo, rather than remaining complacent."

All photographs from the series Love Hotel

All Images © Grace Kim

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Matthieu Lavanchy

I discovered Matthieu Lavanchy's images today. Like many other contemporary photographers, Lavanchy's work oscillates back and forth between the sculptural and the photographic. In his best images, where the two seamlessly meet, the images take on an extremely performative quality that brings to life a world of surreal, often absurdist constructions.

All Images © Matthieu Lavanchy

Thomas Ruff Interview

Over at American History X, I discovered one of the best interviews I've read in quite a while - an exchange between Thomas Ruff and Gil Blank that originally appeared in a 2004 issue of Influence Magazine. Below you can find a few excerpts from the interview, however, I would highly recommend reading it in its entirety. It's well worth it.

Gil Blank: Many of the portraits you’ve made are of people whom you know personally, but whom most viewers would not. You have a relationship to the subjects, but it would seem those relationships are totally neutralized in the photographs, by their uniform structure and plain, premeditated approach. Was the relative anonymity of the subjects a central part of the process? Did the individual relationships, as manifestations of your own individual knowledge of each person, ever enter into the process? Were the relationships totally incidental, or was the fact that you knew each person a specifically complicating fact that you wanted to see if you could address, avoid, or get around in the series?

Thomas Ruff: When I started with the portraits, it was with an awareness that we were living at the end of the twentieth century, in an industrialized Western country. We weren’t living by candlelight in caves anymore. We were in surroundings where everything was brightly illuminated—even our parking garages. Surveillance cameras were everywhere, and you were being watched all the time. When I started making the portraits in 1981, my friends and I were very curious about what might happen in 1984, Orwell’s year. Would his ideas come to fruition?

They already partly had, because in Germany there were the events surrounding the Red Army Faction, a terrorist group founded by Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin, and others. They plotted—and in some cases carried out—the assassinations of politicians and industry leaders, were captured, and then died under suspicious circumstances while in government custody. So the police were very nervous; there were a lot of controls placed on daily life, and we were often required to produce our passports for inspection.

My idea for the portraits was to use a very even light in combination with a large-format camera, so that you could see everything about the sitter’s face. I didn’t want to hide anything. Yet I also didn’t want the people I portrayed to show any emotion. I told them to look into the camera with self-confidence, but likewise, that they should be conscious of the fact that they were being photographed, that they were looking into a camera.

I wanted to do a kind of official portrait of my generation. I wanted the photographs to look like those in passports, but without any other information, such as the subject’s address, religion, profession, or prior convictions. I didn’t want the police/viewer to get any information about us. They shouldn’t be able to know what we felt at that moment, whether we were happy or sad.

TR: I’m a human being with an everyday life, so sometimes I’m happy, and sometimes things upset me. During the everyday, things happen and I react. If it’s a personal matter I respond directly, while other things force me to react with an artistic work. But I don’t stay personal. I’m trying to find a form that’s also interesting for other people to deal with.

GB: Which is perhaps why many of your series deal with archetypes. I've never known you to pursue the exquisite single image so valued in traditional photography, but rather you question the accepted iconic form of what we expect an image to be. That frustration of originality is, I think, most poignant and painful in the portraits.

TR: Everybody has his own history of treating images and their iconic forms, but I think a lot of people just aren’t aware of how they can be manipulated by either the government or the advertising industries if they aren’t being attentive. Family photographs are probably inoffensive, but as soon as photographs are made by a professional, you need to be careful, because there is then a vendor/client relationship, and that begins to involve personal/political/commercial interests.

From Top To Bottom:

Portrait (C. Pilar), 1988

Portrait (Stoya), 1986

Images © Thomas Ruff

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Daniel & Geo Fuchs' STASI - Secret Rooms

The new issue of Aperture features some images from Daniel & Geo Fuchs' series STASI - Secret Rooms, an exploration of the now outmoded interrogation rooms and detention centers of the East German secret police. Matthias Harder writes:

"With STASI - Secret Rooms, the Fuchses portray one of hte final stations of a surveillance society: the imprisonment of political opponents of the Socialist system. But the rooms are empty; the victims and the perpetrators can only be imagined. The pictures spare us the steps leading up to the dissidents' arrests; the focus here is solely on the unspectacular aesthetic of functionary architecture. Some of the rooms in the series can be identified as interrogation chambers - one can only imagine how many confessions were extorted here, how many spirits broken."

Harder goes on to say:

"The rehabilitation of the East German justice (or injustice) system and its surveillance apparatus continues; the remaining Stasi files and methodically recorded wire-tapping logs are now available to the public. Even today, decades after Germany's unification, official and unofficial Stasi informers are still being exposed - though former East German spies are seldom legally prosecuted. With this series Daniel and Geo Fuchs have rubbed salt onto an open sore of recent German history while simultaneously contributing to its articulation and healing."

All photographs from the series STASI - Secret Rooms

All Images © Daniel & Geo Fuchs

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Ann Woo

Although probably familiar to many of you, I thought I would share some of Ann Woo's work. She possesses the unique ability to draw associations between seemingly dissimilar subject matter. This largely because there is a consistency in Woo's photographic vision that never subjects any one person, object or landscape to more scrutiny than another.

I would definitely recommend spending a few moments going through the rest of the images on Woo's website, you won't regret it.

From Top To Bottom:

Lisa, 2008

A Corner, 2008

A Rainbow, 2008

Orange Lillies, 2008

Carl's Back, 2008

All Images © Ann Woo

NYPH '09 In Review

This past Friday, I spent the better part of the day at the second annual New York Photo Festival viewing the exhibitions and hearing a few panel discussions. Despite not being terrible interested in the exhibitions before visiting (based solely on what I read about them on the festival website) I held out some hope that when viewed in person with greater specificity and context the exhibitions might come to life. This, however, with a few notable exceptions, was not the case. I understand that new festivals face many obstacles and road blocks along the way that make it challenging to create the perfect festival experience. The New York Photo Festival certainly has its heart in the right place. Photography-dedicated festivals are invaluable to the photo community, however, NYPH could stand to make improvements in a few different areas - particularly in the organization, programming and admission price departments.

Ultimately, the $20 day pass struck me as slightly exorbitant. I fully understand that art festivals, like any other endeavor, operate around a need to generate profit. There are undoubtedly an immense number of expenses that require the proper capital backing, but the burden (in my opinion) should not be put on the festival goer. If it has to, then I guess I would expect more for my money. The $20 admission price simply gave you access to the 4 main exhibitions, lectures and panel discussions. The satellite shows, which largely proved to be more engaging, were free and open to the public. This price would have felt more appropriate if there was twice as many exhibitions on view.

The exhibition that I found the most thought-provoking, contemporary and succinctly curated was (super)natural, a Satellite Show organized by the curatorial collective LUCI. As LUCI explains:

"The work on view gives visible form to the trace of something just beyond - pointing to an excess of visual language and yet an ultimate failure to convey a precise meaning. The awesome and terrifying aspect of the sublime explains the darkness that pervades the show, evident in the depths of Victoria Sambunaris’ cave; the threat of storm beneath Christopher Lamarca's rainbow; Theresa Ganz’s delicately encroaching vines suddenly strangling. Chasing after the elusive spirit of the landscape, these images explore the expanse of history and possibility beneath a deceptively mundane surface."

Jon Levy's curatorial offering Home For Good was by far my favorite of the main exhibitions. Bringing together the work of Lorraine Grupe, Tim Hetherington, Simon Roberts, Chris Killip, Venetia Dearden, Seba Kurtis, Louie Palu, Bruno Stevens, Adam Nadel, and David Gray, Levy's exhibition aimed to explore the intersection of personal experience and international conflict. The title somewhat ironically suggests a domestic experience inundated by a more global reality. Ultimately, Home For Good was successful because it accurately highlighted how complex and multifaceted the state of the world is; how truly global and interconnected these conflicts are. Of the artists exhibited in this show, I particularly enjoyed the work of Venetia Dearden, Seba Kurtis and Tim Hetherington.

Jody Quon's exhibition I don't really know what kind of girl I am, which takes its name from the film Juno, set out to "expose, depict, and assemble the essence, features and virtues of women as subjects." This statement struck me as rather broad and avoided addressing feminine identity in any kind of a social, cultural or personal context. Instead of breaking down any of the culturally stereotypical notions of femininity, many of the artists in this show seemed to reinforce it. Rene & Radka's commercially-tinged images of young girls, for example, are seeped in aesthetic polish and superficiality. On the other hand, however, Hank Willis Thomas' installation wonderfully addressed both feminine and African American identity with cultural and historic relevance.

Chris Boot's offering Gay Men Play explored "the contemporary photographic representation of gay sex and gay recreational sexual identities." This exhibition consisted Stefan Ruiz's traditional studio portraits of gay men dressed up for play during party weekends in San Francisco and Berlin and a number of projects shown on digital screens in a back room. Ruiz's avedonian portraits, albeit beautifully printed, transformed his subjects into an almost indistinguishable mass of bodies, a taxonomy of gay culture if you will. This rather traditional approach to portraiture certainly has its place in the photo world. However, in the case of Ruiz's portraits, this stylistic device worked to dehumanize his subjects rather than celebrate their individuality. On the other hand, perhaps his intention was to show gay men dressed up for play as a larger social construct, as a vibrant culture rather than as characteristic people.

It was the back room of Gay Men Play, however, that I had larger issues with. Small digital screens ran through slideshows of images depicting exploitation, violence and even certain behaviors that seemed to border on torture. This segment of the exhibition left me feeling like I'd seen something I wasn't supposed to see and, once again, this very well may have been the point. I'm looking forward to reading Boot's essay (of the same name) in the new Aperture for a more detailed reading of the photographic representation of gay culture in galleries and on the internet.

Much like its title suggested, William Ewing's exhibtion All Over The Place! was almost entirely lacking in any curatorial cohesion. According to Ewing, his intention was to "celebrate photography’s unruly nature, its rich diversity, and its refusal to fit into neat categories." I suppose, to some extent, he succeeded in doing this. However, I can't help but feel like Ewing found a curatorial loop-hole in which is was able to skirt the responsibility of imposing a structure on his exhibition.

I would love to hear your impressions of the festival if you attended!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Michel Mazzoni's Zones & Fragment Theories

Michel Mazzoni e-mailed me today with a selection of images from his series' Zones & Fragments Theories. In both these projects, Mazzoni explores the landscape as a place wrought with social alienation. Figures are situated in the landscape as sculptures, often dwarfed by vast and anonymous spaces.

I would also recommend looking through his series Interstices, which has a number of nice images.

All photographs from the series' Zones & Fragment Theories

All Images © Michel Mazzoni

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Mårten Lange's Anomalies

Mårten Lange is yet another cryptic and intriguing photographer whose work possesses all the attributes of the new, specifically Swedish aesthetic in photography. Along with people like Thobias Fäldt and Klara Källström, Lange and his Swedish contemporaries have forged what might be the most exciting, and perhaps recognizable, photographic movement in recent years. As Gordon MacDonald, editor of Photoworks Magazine, thoughtfully asserts:

"Lange's photographs also seem to reference photographic modes from the document and the archival oddity. They are reminiscent of the book, Evidence, by Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel, where the dislocation and seeming randomness of the objects and scenes photographed imbue the work with an atmosphere of intrigue. The harsh flash and ultra-high contrast also lend Lange's images a forensic feel, as if they had been made to prove or disprove some criminal allegation. They are, I am sure, made for no such reasons, but it is hard to disengage yourself from the history of practical uses of photography when faced by such enigmatic work. It would also be easy to view Lange's images conversely, as sitting outside reality because of the technique that he employs, as untrue representations of the 'real' object or as caricatures..."

The monograph of Anomalies is available for purchase here.

All photographs from the series Anomalies

All Images © Mårten Lange

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Off To NYPH '09...

I'm heading down to New York tomorrow for the NYPH '09 festivities. In light of this, blogging will be put on hold for a couple of days. I will resume early next week.

For anyone still on the fence about whether to go, here is a quick rundown of some exhibitions and panel discussions.

All Over The Place!
Curated by William A. Ewing

Features the work of historical figures Ernst Haas, Jacob Holdt, Edward Steichen, and contemporary photographers Manolis Baboussis, Matthieu Gafsou, Oliver Godow, Tiina Itkonen, Anna Lehmann-Brauns, Juraj Lipscher, Virginie Otth, Philipp Schaerer, Joni Sternbach, Robert Walker, and Patrick Weidmann. What could possibly unite Edward Steichen’s seminal, if controversial exhibition, The Family of Man, with Jacob Holdt’s unblinking, unsparing view of American life a decade or two later? What are the lessons to be learned from unearthing early Ernst Haas color imagery? What do Haas, Holdt, and Steichen have to do with younger talents on our roster?

The more experience William A. Ewing accumulates as a curator, the more he is astonished to see the narrowness of our shared focus. So much fine work slips through our fingers; so much of the past remains unexplored; so much of what is banal today absorbs our attention. Yet here and there discoveries are made, surprising work from the past is uncovered, new visions emerge, simplistic ideas overturned. All over the place! has, therefore, two meanings: it aims to celebrate photography’s unruly nature, its rich diversity, and its refusal to fit into neat categories; it is also intended to remind people of the fact that fabulous work can come out of the Arctic as easily as it can come out of metropolitan chaos. Furthermore, the title applies to the dimension of time; “new discoveries” aren’t always of contemporary work.

Gay Men Play
Curated by Chris Boot

In his exhibition and a series of related panel discussions, Boot explores the theme Gay Men Play — the contemporary photographic representation of gay sex and gay recreational sexual identities. In an article to be published in the forthcoming summer 2009 issue of Aperture magazine, Boot argues, “The use of photography by gay men early in the 20th century is among the most interesting aspects of the phenomenon of photography now,” and his exhibition mixes the work of established photographers and artists with that of non-professional photographers. The main exhibition feature is a series of portraits by Stefan Ruiz of gay men geared up for play, shot during gay party weekends, in a mobile studio on the streets of San Francisco and Berlin. The exhibition also features an installation of photographs collected from gay networking websites by Christopher Clary, with projects by another 10 photographers shown on digital screens.

I Don’t Really Know What Kind Of Girl I Am
Curated by Judy Quon

In her exhibition I don’t really know what kind of girl I am, Jody Quon has assembled a gallery of portraits that expose, depict, and assemble the essence, features, and virtues of women as subjects. The show will feature the work of Edith Maybin, Valérie Belin, Rene & Radka, Grant Worth, Mondongo, Hank Willis Thomas, Katy Grannan, Sam Samore, Carlos Ranc, and David Sherry.

Home For Good
Curated by Jon Levy

Home For Good, the exhibition curated by Jon Levy and Foto8, celebrates photography’s ability to communicate, describe, and explain, while also remaining open to interpretation. The show features the work of Lorraine Grupe, Tim Hetherington, Simon Roberts, Chris Killip, Venetia Dearden, Seba Kurtis, Louie Palu, Bruno Stevens, Adam Nadel, and David Gray. The basic premise for Home For Good is, as the title suggests, home, the place we receive and experience much of our everyday photography. Newspapers, magazines, slideshows, and scrapbooks; these are the points of reference for the works we have chosen to exhibit. The title Home For Good also suggests its inverse, the world outside—presented here as work concerning international conflict. The exhibition explores the ways that photographs have been, and continue to be, used to connect people with issues, emotions, and events. The photographers chosen to represent this theme and the formats they have employed—from keepsakes in a family photo album to a modern, multimedia short film—embody the wide range of tools and ideas photography uses in its dual purpose of communicating public fact and personal feeling.

“Blogging and The Photography Community” - May 15th, 2009 at 11am

Joined by Jorg Colberg, this panel will include Cara Philips, Laurel Ptak, Andrew Hetherington and Brian Ulrich.

Note from Frank Evers - This panel promises an open-ended discussion on the current state of the blogging and the photography community, or what I lamely call the “photosphere”. If you think that you have any clue as to what is actually going on in photography today, then you will be hogging a seat from the early morn.
Audience participation is expected, so bring your brain.

Aperture Presents “Artist-Publisher: Mass Produced for Mass Dissemination” - Thursday, May 14, 2009 @ 5:00 pm

The panel discussion series, Aperture Presents, premiers with acclaimed NYPH08 curator and Aperture publisher, Lesley A. Martin, moderating the discussion ”Artist-Publisher: Mass Produced for Mass Dissemination”. Participants will include Jason Fulford and Leanne Shapton (J&L Books); Richard Renaldi (Charles Lane Press); and others to be announced.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Kevin Newark's Protoplasm

I discovered Kevin Newark's wonderfully sculptural series Protoplasm today. As he explains:

"My practice resonates around the themes of space, time, anxiety and displacement. In photographing discarded plastic carrier bags found in the canals of East London, I looked to find some solace for the exiled soul of the plastic bag. After short, useful lives, discarded plastic bags enter into a perpetual state of retirement, their spent utility a metaphor for our own mortal anxiety, whereas the demise of plastic is a distant, uncertain prospect. The moment of disclosure (cognition) is delayed to induce a sense of disorientation allowing the viewer to disassociate themselves from the dogma of optical faith."

All photographs from the series Protoplasm

All Images © Kevin Newark

Website Update

I just wanted to let everyone know that I recently updated my website with some new images from my series The Family Dig. You can view them here. Comments and feedback are appreciated!

Basement, 2009

Image © Ben Alper

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Photographic Typologies: Caitlin Price

Soon-to-be Yale graduate Caitlin Price's images of sunbathers exist in a long line of tradition pioneered by people such as Joel Meyerowitz, Stephen Shore and Joel Sternfeld. Unlike her street photography, which positions itself more closely to diCorcia's emotionally ambiguous "indecisive moments," Price's mini-typology of sun tanners explore people as cultural symbols or totems that transmit more about a societal identity than a personal one.

All Images © Caitlin Price