Archives

May 2004

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May 31

Isabelle Lousberg’s b/w pinhole photography is quite marvelous (this page has an introduction to the work).
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May 29

Erick Derac deserves a lot of credit for the immensely creative setup of his photos. There’s an alternative page with a few samples here. I could only find French pages - if you don’t speak French just let the photos speak for themselves.
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May 29

Expose is a new weblog about photography. It’s good to see that photo addicts can now shop around. And, hey!, Expose starts with an “e”!
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May 28

Pan Sonic’s new work “Kesto” - a 4CD set - might be some of the most ambitious and impressive electronic music made so far. I’m not very good at reviewing music so let me just link to two reviews: 1, 2.
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May 28

Stefanie Schneider works with what looks like expired Polaroid film. The results are very interesting, yet not necessarily much more than decorative.
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May 28

Silmonia Paris’s photography is quite refreshing. After a while you realize you can’t really expect what the next photo will be.
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May 27

Claudio Hils’ portfolio contains some very interesting projects.
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May 27

Check out Danielle Thompson’s photography!
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May 27

If you want to get the latest glimpse at how absurd the entertainment industry has become have a look at this article in the New York Times. It’s all about the “problem” “serious” musicians have when they are “attractive”. Note how you’re only a “serious” musicians when you’re playing Bach on a violin!
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May 26

“Photographers working for the Farm Security Administration Historical Section […] were encouraged to document continuity and change in many aspects of life in America during the years the unit was in operation. They were particularly encouraged to photograph billboards and signs as one indicator of such developments. Although no documentation has been found to indicate that photographers were explicitly encouraged to photograph racial discrimination signs, the collection includes a significant number of this type of image.”
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May 26

Dorothea Lange is one of the iconic US photographers of the past century and, if I may add this personal comment, one whose work I actually enjoy and admire (unlike, for example, Ansel Adams’s work that I find so utterly boring and vastly overrated). There is a fairly large selection of her work online: this page has lots of variations of the famous “migrant mother” photo shown above. I bet you never noticed Dorothea Lange retouched it (oh, the horror for all those photo “purists”!). And this page has lots and lots of photos. PS: I find the subtitle of the official site - “Photographer of the People” - quite odd. Sounds like late 19th century labour movement to me. (all links from wood’s lot)
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May 25

“To live is to be photographed, to have a record of one’s life, and therefore to go on with one’s life oblivious, or claiming to be oblivious, to the camera’s nonstop attentions. But to live is also to pose. […] The expression of satisfaction at the acts of torture being inflicted on helpless, trussed, naked victims is only part of the story. There is the deep satisfaction of being photographed, to which one is now more inclined to respond not with a stiff, direct gaze (as in former times) but with glee. The events are in part designed to be photographed. The grin is a grin for the camera. There would be something missing if, after stacking the naked men, you couldn’t take a picture of them. “Looking at these photographs, you ask yourself, How can someone grin at the sufferings and humiliation of another human being? […] And you feel naive for asking, since the answer is, self-evidently, People do these things to other people. Rape and pain inflicted on the genitals are among the most common forms of torture. Not just in Nazi concentration camps and in Abu Ghraib when it was run by Saddam Hussein. Americans, too, have done and do them when they are told, or made to feel, that those over whom they have absolute power deserve to be humiliated, tormented. They do them when they are led to believe that the people they are torturing belong to an inferior race or religion. For the meaning of these pictures is not just that these acts were performed, but that their perpetrators apparently had no sense that there was anything wrong in what the pictures show. […] “Shock and awe were what our military promised the Iraqis. And shock and the awful are what these photographs announce to the world that the Americans have delivered: a pattern of criminal behavior in open contempt of international humanitarian conventions. Soldiers now pose, thumbs up, before the atrocities they commit, and send off the pictures to their buddies. Secrets of private life that, formerly, you would have given nearly anything to conceal, you now clamor to be invited on a television show to reveal. What is illustrated by these photographs is as much the culture of shamelessness as the reigning admiration for unapologetic brutality. “The notion that apologies or professions of ‘disgust’ by the president and the secretary of defense are a sufficient response is an insult to one’s historical and moral sense. The torture of prisoners is not an aberration. It is a direct consequence of the with-us-or-against-us doctrines of world struggle with which the Bush administration has sought to change, change radically, the international stance of the United States and to recast many domestic institutions and prerogatives. The Bush administration has committed the country to a pseudo-religious doctrine of war, endless war - for ‘the war on terror’ is nothing less than that. Endless war is taken to justify endless incarcerations. Those held in the extralegal American penal empire are ‘detainees’; ‘prisoners,’ a newly obsolete word, might suggest that they have the rights accorded by international law and the laws of all civilized countries. This endless ‘global war on terrorism’ […] inevitably leads to the demonizing and dehumanizing of anyone declared by the Bush administration to be a possible terrorist: a definition that is not up for debate and is, in fact, usually made in secret.” whole article by Susan Sontag
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May 25

New work by Andreas Gursky is currently being shown at Matthew Marks Gallery in New York City.
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May 25

Mona Breede’s work divides into portraits and what she calls Choreographien (choreographies). Both are really very nice.
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May 23

A variation on a theme, another German taking photos of the new China: Martin Zeller.
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May 22

“With a camera in hand I at last had license to explore the many wonderful, forgotten corners of people’s lives and the landscape that surrounds us.” - Dave Anderson
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May 20

Bruce MacNeil’s work resembles Richard Avedon’s quite a bit.
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May 19

After Germany was “re-united” the German government spent a lot of money on bringing East German infrastructure up-to-date and, not surprisingly, that meant updating and enhancing the decrepit autobahn and train system. Hans-Christian Schink, born in East Germany, documents this process in a series that very powerfully unmasks the empty promises behind the whole idea.
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May 19

Elias Hassos’ work is a nice, yet somewhat unorganized, mix of portraits, landscapes and still lifes.
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May 19

There really is only so much you can do photographically. Or maybe not. Just look at Edgar Lissel’s work. He uses a truck as a gigantic pinhole camera and has the image projected on colour negative paper (see above). And as if that wasn’t unusual enough he also produces photos using bacteria. Whenever I see work like this I am very happy that people are willing to experiment and to break the rules - how else do you get interesting photos that don’t look like what everybody else’s?
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May 18

Kyoko Hamada was born in Japan, and she has been living in the US since she was 15. Being one of PDF’s 30 emerging photographers to watch you can be sure to see more of her work all over the place.
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May 17

David Hlynky sent me email and told me about his work. Apart from Wilderness Camp there are the Communist Store Windows that I liked immediately. I remember when I visited East Germany - before the Wall came down - shops and their windows looked vastly different from what I was used to see. Even though most other things were more or less the same the world of shopping was so different that it felt like being on another planet.
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May 15

“The roots of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal lie not in the criminal inclinations of a few Army reservists but in a decision, approved last year by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to expand a highly secret operation, which had been focussed on the hunt for Al Qaeda, to the interrogation of prisoners in Iraq. Rumsfeld’s decision embittered the American intelligence community, damaged the effectiveness of elite combat units, and hurt America’s prospects in the war on terror.” (story) The article end with a quote by Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch: “We’re giving the world a ready-made excuse to ignore the Geneva Conventions. Rumsfeld has lowered the bar.”
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May 13

On the BBC’s website British photographer and documentary filmmaker David Modell discusses the torture photos from US prisons in Iraq. His conclusion is quite upsetting and provocative but well worth to be quoted in full length: “The pictures from Abu Ghraib are […] not snatched, clandestine images, taken to uncover the truth and disseminate it. In the almost perfect compositions it is obvious that they were taken in a perversely relaxed atmosphere - emphasised by the demeanour of the troops. And this reveals an appalling reality - that photographs are a deliberate part of the torture. The taking of the pictures was supposed to compound the humiliation and sense of powerlessness of the victims. The photographer was the abuser. When we view the pictures, we are forced to play our part in this triangle of communication. […] By looking at the images we become complicit in the abuse itself. It is this that makes them intolerable for the viewer and why they are so destructive to a war effort built on the spin of ‘liberation’.” (thanks, Philip!) Update (13 May): A couple of days ago, Luc Sante in the New York Times discussed the images and compared them to photographs of lynch mobs: “Like the lynching crowds, the Americans at Abu Ghraib felt free to parade their triumph and glee not because they were psychopaths but because the thought of censure probably never crossed their minds. In both cases a contagious collective frenzy perhaps overruled the scruples of some people otherwise known for their gentleness and sympathy - but isn’t the abandonment of such scruples possible only if the victims are considered less than human?” (story - thanks, Todd!)
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May 13

Edward Dimsdale’s b/w photos exude a feeling of calmness, beauty, and a little melancholy.
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May 13

Usually, I find it fairly easy to find a representative sample of a photographer’s work. In Adri Berger’s case, it was quite different. His portfolio consists of many different projects, most of them done in different ways. In fact all of his projects are very nice - I even liked the fashion shots!
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May 13

While looking through the list of referrers I stumbled across Photorant which is part of Kevin A. Bjorke’s Botzilla. Photorant is being updated regularly, albeit with longer intervals between individual posts, and there is a lot of interesting information to be found there.
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May 11

It is quite amazing to see how when you look at each of Charles Fréger’s portraits more closely you can see how you are looking at individuals - uniforms notwithstanding. And there are lots of portraits to look at.
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May 10

It is just a coincidence that I am reading the book Gulag by Anne Applebaum while we are learning all the gruesome details of what happened in that prison in Baghdad. As I am very interested in photography I went online to look for photographic records of the Gulag. There’s a fairly large collection of images at the The Andrei Sakharov Archives and Human Rights Center. I also found a photo story about the Solovetski Islands - one of the first Gulag camps. Looks all very nice and scenic. What they don’t tell you on that website is that most of those buildings were prisons/camps of the worst sort - incl. the monastery. You can find lots of details about that in Anne Applebaum’s book. If you’re interested in more information this page has tons of good links to all kinds of materials.
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May 8

You can’t be picky if you live in Pittsburgh and are interested in photographic art. If there’s a show in town you’ll have to go and see it. So I went to see “Terrain Vague” at the Carnegie Museum of Art’s Heinz Architectural Center. I should have saved the $10 admission. It must have been one of the worst photography shows I’ve ever seen. If you ignore the fact that the word “vague” in the title quite accurately describes the concept behind the whole exhibition itself the setting was an absolute disgrace for the photography. Cramming the photos - some of them quite large prints by Edward Burtynsky - into pretty small, badly lit spaces is just grotesque. And badly lit there are: Todd Hido’s photos all had pretty large shadows from their frame on them. Somebody else’s prints were quite heavily warped in their frames. But if you really want to go and see the show make sure you’ll also get to see the dinosaurs to get your money’s worth. Too bad I had seen them already. And don’t get annoyed by the grumpy staff of the museum.
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May 8

“Last year’s US-led war in Iraq presented a showcase for the Pentagon’s superior military technology - but as the occupation drags on, gadgetry is increasingly showing another side of the American armed forces.” - reports the BBC, ending with a very powerful and obvious statement to keep in mind: “Technology may change, but the morality of war will always pose the same dilemmas.”
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May 8

The internet is a bad place for the panoramic photos of Nicholas Miles Kahn and Richard Selesnick. Those fortunate enough to live close to Boston will be able to go and see their upcoming exhibition at Pepper Gallery (20 May - 19 June 2004; “This installation features a continuous ten inch by thirty-six foot long black and white panoramic photograph depicting astronauts from the 1960Â’s traveling to the moon and back.”). All the others - and, quite unfortunately, that includes yours truly - will have to use the internet. More samples here. (thanks, John!)
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May 7

phototalk is a photography weblog that I came across the other day. A lot of stuff to read, a lot of information about all kinds of professional photography. Check it out!
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May 6

I’m sorry if you came here to look for photography and now you find something else. Yes, the world is a bad place. Yes, we do need to find distractions to allow us to keep our sanity. But sometimes, things get so bad that we can’t allow ourselves to look the other way. This is a weblog about photography and these times are providing us with an example what power photography can have. We wouldn’t have known about what happened in that prison in Iraq if the people who tortured, humiliated, and, in some cases, killed their prisoners hadn’t taken photos of themselves and their actions. If we put all ideological altercation aside what makes this case so painful is the fact that we are not looking at thugs from some dictatorial regime who went berserk. We are looking at soldiers who went to Iraq for lots of reasons - one of which was to get rid of a regime that massively violated human rights and that let thousands of people perish under the most gruesome circumstances. Don’t misunderstand me, I did not and do not support the invasion of Iraq and I think that many, but not all, of the reasons given to support the war were phony and/or simply shameless lies. But I do believe that there are valid reasons; reasons that, for me, were not outweighed by the reasons against the invasion. And one of those reasons are the human rights violations under Saddam Hussein. And this is why seeing those images and learning about the horrendeous abuses in that prison (and elseplace) is so painful. “At least people there, especially in prisons, are better off”, I used to tell myself. No, they’re not! In fact, that kind of sexual humiliation is the absolute worst you can do to a Muslim. There’s no excuse for any of this. No excuse. I’ve heard about a “lack of training” and whatever else. What nonsense! Do you need extra training to know that you must not treat other people like animals? Does that require extra training? I don’t think it does. But what can we do? How can we deal with our anger and our frustration and whatever else we feel? Frankly, I don’t know. I think if you want to do at least something, consider giving money to Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch. They can use it.
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May 5

“I made Wedding Portraits (1997) when I got married, Divorce Portrait (1998) when I got divorced, and I hate sex (1998) when I felt that way. So I wasn’t showing various women’s roles, but living my life and trying to capture something genuine and real about it in the pictures.” - Elina Brotherus
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May 4

Heavily rotating (digitally): this live set by electronic music genius Squarepusher. Might not be everybody’s cup of tea, though. (found on swen’s weblog)
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May 4

Even though I pulled a few links from it already I never talked about one of the finest art-related weblogs around, gmtPlus9. If you’ve never gone to look at it do it now! I don’t know how whoever is behind the weblog manages to find all that stuff - it’s truly impressive!
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May 4

Ukrainian photographer Juri Nesterov has a very nice exhibiton on ZoneZero, portraying war veterans.
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May 3

“We’re not the good guys any more.”
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May 3

When I saw the menu of David Hiepler and Fritz Brunier’s website I thought it was just the usual commercial photography. I was then very pleasantly surprised to find some ultra-cool photography behind some of the subjects, such as photos of Germany’s new federal ministries in Berlin. Very cool, very “sachlich”.
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May 3

“We went to Iraq to stop things like this from happening, and indeed, here they are happening under our tutelageÂ… If we don’t tell this story, these kind of things will continue, and weÂ’ll end up getting paid back 100 or 1000 times over.” - ex-US Marine Lieutenant Colonel Bill Cowan Also see “Torture commonplace, say inmates’ families” Update (this is incredible): “As the US military continued to reel from photographs of troops abusing Iraqi prisoners, President Bush volunteered yesterday that Iraq is better off now that Saddam Hussein is gone and his ‘torture cells are closed,’ summoning an image that has haunted troops in recent days. ‘Because we acted, torture rooms are closed, rape rooms no longer exist,’ Bush said at a rally in Niles, Mich., just north of the Indiana border. The remarks have long been part of his stump speech, but were made just hours after he had discussed investigations into the alleged torture of Iraqis by US troops with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. Later, at a stop in Kalamazoo, he again said that ‘the torture chambers in Iraq are closed.’” - story Note how they still call this “alleged torture”!
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May 2

The official Milton H Greene website features tons of photos - for all subjects I looked at you basically get a digital contact sheet of the photo session - incl. failed exposures. Even though the samples are all fairly small it’s quite amazing to be able to see all that.
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May 2

Yevonde Cumbers aka Madame Yevonde was a pioneer of colour photography. When looking at her work one finds it almost hard to believe how old it is (more samples).
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May 2

Some people claim that digital sucks but those people haven’t seen or used the fabulous Argus DC1512, yet. This camera definitely is the digital equivalent of those plastic (film) cameras that have such a ardent (and oftentimes fundamentalist) fan base: It’s cheap and flimsy, being all plastic, and the lens is a joke. Only thing is the photos (whose maximum size is 352*288 pixels) are digital. So this is almost like having one of those cellphone cameras except that you can’t annoy other people by yelling into it (well, technically, you could but that would be *very* odd). PS: It’s still a tremendous mystery to me why people always yell when they’re ona cell phone. First, the sound is actually being transported electronically so yelling is not necessary. And second, no, I don’t want to listen to whatever they have to say, thankyouverymuch.
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May 1

With people now being obsessed about huge photographic prints Jeff Wall’s work inevitably comes to mind: He has been exhibiting his photos as large illuminated Cibachrome slides. Find an interview here.
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