Archives

January 2009

SELECT A MONTH:

Jan 31

I’ll have to admit that I’m disappointed with most of the photography that has emerged from these past weeks that have dealt with the inauguration of the Obama administration. I think this is in part because I - like pretty much most other people - have such high hopes that we’ll see something better now, after these past eight, unbelievably ugly years. Maybe I wanted to see that idea of “better” reflected in the photographs, and inevitably things would then end up being disappointing.
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Jan 30

I remember a time - not so long ago - when a lot of people used to make fun of Japanese tourists, who’d get out of their tour buses and spend just enough time at any given place to take a photo. After all, what kind of experience was that if all you did was to take a photo? Fast forward to today, and there we are, with our digital cameras and/or cell phone cameras. I found the above photo at Tomorrow Museum.
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Jan 30

“The Queen, a digitally modified photographic portrait of a women, taken in the style of classic renaissance paintings, is shown in a fine art environment, in a fine art manner. The aura of art is catalysed by special lighting, pictograms, state of the art presentation, security guards, and a red velvet rope to prevent physical contact.” - Frederik Busch
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Jan 29

 

Wordle

I was a bit bored, so I figured I’d waste a bit of time with Wordle. I fed it one of my conversations, and after fiddling with it, I kind of liked the result: It’s quite descriptive, isn’t it? Can you guess who I had the conversation with?
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Jan 29

“When you add it up it’s clear that the board of trustees at Brandeis University equate the highly esteemed collection of art at the Rose Art Museum with cash and nothing more. […] if you’re that ambivalent about displaying any of the work you own and your stated goal is to have the freedom to sell whatever piece you like whenever you feel like it, what message is that sending to your students and community about the importance of art in our culture?” - Ed Winkleman
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Jan 29

Moira Lovell’s After School Club isn’t quite what it looks like (check out the statement to find out more).
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Jan 29

“In the Place du Tertre, the cobbled square at the top of the hill of the Paris quarter of Montmartre, more than a dozen artists are selling their work to tourists. […] This is a bigger business than it looks. More than 10 million tourists visit this area each year. Many buy paintings of Parisian landmarks, like the nearby Sacre-Coeur basilica, to take home as souvenirs. […] Today, some 300 officially licensed artists work here. […] They may not produce great art but they are skilled painters. And now they say their livelihoods are at risk because many of the souvenir shops in the area are selling cheap, mass-produced paintings from China and Eastern Europe.” - story
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Jan 28

“How can you have, as the authors [of a study published in Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication] write, ‘too much of a good thing?’ They hypothesize that ‘Individuals with too many friends may appear to be focusing too much on Facebook, friending out of desperation rather than popularity, spending a great deal of time on their computers ostensibly trying to make connections in a computer-mediated environment where they feel more comfortable than in face-to-face social interaction.’” - story
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Jan 28

“In the absence of support organizations in Mexico created by and for little people, the Enanitos Toreros shows have, as an accidental side-effect, served as an itinerant meeting ground for individuals and families of children with dwarfism. Many people told me that these shows were their first-ever opportunity to engage with others who share their physical characteristics.” - Livia Corona
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Jan 27

A recent post about “scams” in photography by Rob Haggart resulted in a lot of discussion. While most of it concerned competitions, I also came across some comments about portfolio reviews that I thought needed to get addressed. (Updated - twice - below; further updates will be in separate post)
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Jan 27

“John Updike, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, prolific man of letters and erudite chronicler of sex, divorce and other adventures in the postwar prime of the American empire, died [today] at age 76.” - story
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Jan 27

“Rocked by a budget crisis, Brandeis University will close its Rose Art Museum and sell off a 6,000-object collection that includes work by such contemporary masters as Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, and Nam June Paik.” (story)
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Jan 27

I like Ilse Frech’s work, and I’m curious what it’s all about (“info” only comes up blank on my computer). “I AM” contains beautiful portraiture (if you look around long enough you can find this piece of information - thanks, Jane!)
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Jan 26

“Time has stood still in an eastern German apartment which has only just been opened after evidently being abandoned in a hurry in early 1989.” (story) Some photos here.
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Jan 26

“Because it’s the product of three independent parties - photographer, camera, subject - the photograph cannot be owned. Indeed, it can affect us in ways the photographer might never have foreseen or desired.” - William T. Vollmann
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Jan 26

Gianmaria Gava’s Little Austria investigates the balance between individuality and conformity.
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Jan 25

There is a lot of talk about digital photography making photography more democratic. However, if you’re really interested in a moment when photography became more democratic (and not just more convenient) you have to go back to just after the middle of the 19th Century, when the tintype process was invented. A cheap alternative to the daguerreotype and the albumen print, tintypes made photography very affordable and accessible, as a consequence of which especially in the United States photography literally entered the homes of huge numbers of people. As Steven Kasher writes in America and the Tintype, getting your own photograph taken cost you no more than what we pay today for a movie ticket (plus a small popcorn). And not only that - tintypes were/are images on a thin sheet of metal (not tin actually) and as such they were/are very durable.
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Jan 25

“Photographs capture a moment in time,” writes Jessica Backhaus in the afterword of her book What Still Remains. If anything, this sentence contains the essence of its photography: Moment in time. Or at least half of it, since the other, unspoken, half is occupied by a photographer who notices something about a moment and takes a photograph.
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Jan 23

Rob isn’t afraid to handle a very hot potato: “What’s the biggest scam in photography? Judging purely on angry comments I get and see […] when the topic is raised, it’s photo contests with portfolio reviews running a close second.” (Updated below)
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Jan 23

I came across this combination of a music and video mixing session by chance - unless you’re interested in electronic music and/or in video art, you probably want to skip the rest of this post.
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Jan 23

Aleix Plademunt’s portfolio contains quite a few interesting projects, some of which having the artist interact with or manipulate particular scenes.
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Jan 22

“Confidence levels in the contemporary-art market have fallen 81 percent since May 2008 and may take between three and five years to recover” - story and: “If you want to buy, buy for love” - story (thanks, Michael!)
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Jan 22

Hospitals and computer centers are places of unashamed technology, by which I mean that the kind of technology used there can be (and typically is) designed way over the top, because, after all, who’s going to tell a hospital it looks ridiculous? For that reason I’ve always been fascinated by those places, and until I get to taking my own photos in those places there’ll be Neil Pardington’s The Clinic to look at (this found via Mrs. Deane).
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Jan 22

I caught a Fresh Air interview with Shepard Fairey the other day. Fairey is the guy who created both the Obey and the Obama campaign posters (which nobody - incl. the artist - seems to find even remotely ironic). What I remember most vividly from the interview was Fairey talking about getting arrested during the Democrat’s national convention, while he was trying hang his own poster somewhere in Denver.
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Jan 22

A recent New Yorker review (13 and a half lines - a snippet, isn’t it?) of Josef Schulz’ show at Yossi Milo gallery concludes that his “pictures of sites reduced to abstractions […] might suggest an ominously faceless future if they didn’t look so much like relics of the digital-photography boom of the nineties.” That did strike me as an oddly superficial reading of those images - not that I want to pretend that my initial reaction to seeing the prints (I was quite familiar with the images from the web) was any less superficial: It almost seemed to me that what Schulz had achieved was to take almost all of the ingredients often associated with the “Düsseldorf School” - the sterility, the human detachment, the willingness to digitally manipulate, even down to the diasec and the large prints - and had them distilled into a single body of work: And it doesn’t work. The images are nicely decorative (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but for me they don’t seem to offer anything else. Which means that all those Düsseldorf ingredients really are (actually: should be) only means to an end, and what truly matters is not what the photography looks like, but what it says.
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Jan 21

Monika Merva’s City of Children stands out amongst her projects.
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Jan 20

I’m sure by now you’ve probably already seen possibly the world’s longest photograph by Simon Høgsberg.
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Jan 20

I went out this morning to watch the inauguration at a cafe, with dozens of other people from my fiercely and proudly liberal hometown, but I suppose as someone who is spending so much time using the web it’s almost a must to show what the front page of the White House’s website looks like right now.
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Jan 20

We have become used to the thinking that if there’s a flood, for example, then it’s Nature intruding on our living spaces, whereas in fact, it’s actually the other way around: By building on and changing what we see as Nature, we are intruding. Tim Hyde’s Repossession is an investigation of this idea (found via lenscratch)
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Jan 19

From film to digital to film?
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Jan 19

Via The Exposure Project I found the photography of Bryan Graf.
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Jan 19

Today is the final day of the presidency of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. I spent quite a bit of time thinking about which image would summarize - also in a symbolic way - these past eight years, this pair and what they have achieved, and I think it’s this image.
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Jan 18

There are many different way to approach the question what relevance photography has in the world of art. Of course, you could simply deny that photography is art. However, I yet have to hear a single argument advancing the idea that photography is not art that makes any kind of sense; and usually arguing with someone who denies that photography is art is a bit like arguing with someone who claims that Earth is constantly being visited by UFOs or that angels are real. However, talking about why photography is art, what photography does (or at least can do), and how it does it is actually very interesting.
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Jan 16

I could be entirely wrong, but I think that as the photography book market has expanded, so have photography books themselves. This, in part, reflects the fact that the photographs in those books typically tend to come in very large sizes.
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Jan 16

Stefan Abrams’ portfolio contains some very interesting series (this image is from “In Site”). Don’t miss “It’s a Wonderful Life”!
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Jan 15

I don’t remember where I read the other day that someone noted how at Photo LA there was a large number of works on display, which seemed very influenced (I think “derived” might have been the word used) by Gregory Crewdson’s aesthetic/style (actually, someone just sent me the link, it was here). I’m not necessarily the biggest fan of debating photography in such ways, even though I can see where people are coming from. In any case, JeanYves Lemoigne (found via tomorrow museum) might invite such comparisons (P.L. diCorcia anyone?). I’m torn about the work, though, because it just looks a tad too digital for me.
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Jan 15

Alessandra Sanguinetti started a discussion about the New York Times’ choice of imagery for their Gaza war coverage and got some responses from colleagues Christopher Anderson and Alex Majoli.
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Jan 14

“Sad days have marked this transition from one year to the next. This sadness emanates from the events in Gaza, which illustrate the least glorious aspect of humanity. Here the horror of the human race appears in all its nudity. […] This display of horror is pornographic, […] privileging the principle of death over the love of life, suspending the renunciation and the reserve which make civilisation what it is and hastening the advent of destructive, instinctive barbarity which, in according primacy to violence, spreads death and transforms populated areas into ruins and graveyards.” - Abdelwahab Meddeb
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Jan 13

Some ideas are so simple, yet so good: Photoshop Adbusting in Berlin. (via Art Threat)
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Jan 13

“A new artwork, commissioned by the Czech government for its six-month presidency of the EU, was this morning installed in the headquarters of the Council of Ministers in Brussels. […] the highlights are: […] Bulgaria with a Turkish toilet, Estonia with a hammer and sickle, France with a big banner saying ‘on strike’, […], Lithuania with five men in army uniforms pissing outwards (onto Russia), […], Poland with a group of monks raising a gay pride flag, Iwo Jima-style, Slovenia hailing ‘the delight of masturbation’.” (story) I was going to comment on this, but then I read the comment of Alexandr Vondra, the deputy Czech prime minister, who said “Sculpture, and art more generally, can speak where words fail.” Words do indeed fail me, but I’m working on some sculpture to comment on this piece of art.
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Jan 13

At the beginning of his career, Laurenz Berges took photographs of abandoned Soviet barracks in Eastern Germany. He still is looking for traces of people that have left a place.
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Jan 11

There is a remarkable quote in Albrecht Tübke’s Portraits: “I want to show people from a variety of different backgrounds, as I am interested in the range of ways in which people present their public face. Though constant exposure to the multitude of public personae with which we are presented, we have become anaesthetised to the range of individuals that surround us. In this project, I am attempting to distil out something of the essence of that individual.” If we needed a key to how to read his images, here it would be, in “the range of ways in which people present their public face”. Given how similar Tübke’s photographs are to those of The Sartorialist and Rineke Dijkstra, we are given a clue what to look for: It’s not what the people portrayed by Tübke are wearing (even though that is part of it), it goes way beyond that.
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Jan 11

Check out Martin Schoeller and Steve Pyke talking about some of their portraits.
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Jan 9

“Paris photographer Patrick Cariou has filed suit against Richard Prince, Gagosian [the man and the gallery], and Rizzoli for copyright infringement. Prince used photos from Cariou’s 2000 book Yes Rasta in the Canal Zone paintings he just showed at Gagosian NY last month” - story
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Jan 9

Sandra Kühnapfel’s “Plattenbau” (the first of the projects on her site) portrays the environments and inhabitants of the apartment complexes, known in Germany as Plattenbauten.
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Jan 8

Photo-Eye Magazine just published the 2008 picks by the Photo-Eye staff and by John Gossage, Alec Soth, Andrew Phelps, Lesley A. Martin, Todd Hido, Richard Gordon, Markus Schaden, Michelle Dunn Marsh, Dewi Lewis, Martin Parr, Gerry Badger, Jeffery Ladd, Chris Pichler, Darius Himes, and Mark Klett. Check it out!
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Jan 8

The Monks live on German TV, back in 1965. One more:
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Jan 8

Todd Hido pointed me to this article (thank you!), which contains quite a few very interesting observations. I’m not sure I agree with all of it, but it’s a very worthwhile read.
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Jan 8

The day after my Elger Esser post Christianne Dearborn from Lapis Press emailed me and told me that the image that I had used (top image, which I had found online) did not have the correct colours (thank you!). A much closer representation of what the photo looked like was given by the bottom image.
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Jan 7

I saw a new body of work by some photographer today (no, I’m not going to say who it is), and I thought “Wait a minute, this looks exactly like the older work.” By “looks exactly like the older work” I don’t mean the photographer’s style, but the general subject matter (imagine someone shot water towers, and then the “new” series is water towers). I immediately felt guilty about the thought, because I try not to treat art like a commodity - where the “new” always has to be different from what is “old” (“This brand-new camera now has 14 Megapixels instead of 13”).
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Jan 7

More landscapes: Henrik Øvad’s work
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Jan 6

Roger Ballen at Lens Culture, Lydia Panas at The Girl Project, and Richard Renaldi at Too Much Chocolate.
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Jan 6

“A series of majestic emerald arcs light up one of Britain’s most iconic landmarks in this stunning photograph taken with one of the longest-ever exposures.” (story) Those interested in this kind of work might want to check out Michael Wesely’s work, for example, his two-year exposures of Berlin’s Potzdamer Platz.
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Jan 6

Just like any other aspect of our modern Western lives, health care has been turned into an industrialized business, with all its advantages and disadvantages (for a particularly noxious example, read this article). Their associations with illness and death aside, there is a reason why most people are very hesitant to go to a hospital (unless they have to): Hospitals are extremely unpleasant places. Thus most people probably prefer not to look too closely at the actual environment inside a hospital while being there. Enters Clinic. Clinic “explores the aesthetic of the medical world through contemporary photography” through the eyes of eleven photographers (Olivier Amsellem, Constant Anée, Eric Baudelaire, Geoffroy de Boismenu [who shot this reviewer’s favourite section of the book], Christophe Bourguedieu, Jacqueline Hassink, Albrecht Kunkel, Ville Lenkkeri, Matthew Monteith, Mario Palmieri, and Stefan Ruiz), with artistic director Rémi Faucheux.
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Jan 6

Elger Esser is one of my favourite German photographers, in large part because of his large-scale (colour) landscapes. These photographs invite the usual complaints about German photography, but I could not imagine seeing Esser’s landscapes any other way. Needless to say, the image samples on the web do the prints absolutely no justice. Here’s a page with more information (and samples), and hopefully this one is not going to disappear as rapidly as all my earlier links. (updated entry)
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Jan 5

If you want reviews of photography shows you typically have to look into your print media. I suppose the absence of such reviews in the world of blogs is based on the same reasons as the paucity of critical discussions of photography. A noteworthy exception is the blog dlk collection, which, however, seems to focus mostly on larger shows. Another very noteworthy exception is this review on the German blog Fotofeinkost. Unfortunately - you probably already guessed it! - it’s only in German. Shame, it would (and should) serve as a fine example of a really good review of a photography show.
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Jan 5

I have been thinking about landscape photography a lot lately. The problem with that type of photography is that there appears to be a sweet spot that is sandwiched between extremely decorative - some would probably prefer the word “kitschy” - work (everything you see in “National Geographic”) and extremely boring work (think Ansel Adams). Both extremes typically spend too much time on technical details since they both resulted from a history in which the “combination of sharp focus, tonal richness, and clarity of detail […] came more and more to be the subject of the photograph […] rather than a tool for artistic expression.” (Janet Malcolm, from “East and West”, an article I found in her 1980 collection of articles “Diane & Nikon”, emphasis in the original) Finding that spot in between - where things are neither plainly decorative or boring (or, yikes!, both) - seems to be quite hard. Justin Guilbert’s (Some Nudity) points in that direction.
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Jan 2

Via David Bram’s blog comes the news that JPG Magazine is closing shop. When I first saw the magazine I wondered how a magazine that basically was Flickr in magazine form could survive - and we now know it can’t. Of course, you could argue that photography in print always looks much better than online, so then doesn’t this all say/mean something? A tempting question, but I think on needs to be careful with what conclusions to draw. I think what this all means is that for JPG Magazine’s target audience the added value of seeing photos printed on paper that they can easily see online does did not translate into sustainability of the magazine. This conclusion cannot necessarily be applied as a whole to other photography magazines, though - Rob might disagree (he does know these things better than I do after all), but I think the demise of JPG Magazine clearly shows that for a photography magazine to be able to survive it needs to offer something that you can’t easily find online.
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Jan 2

Found via The Sonic Blog: The photography of Nicolas Savary.
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Jan 1

Nothing says “Happy New Year” as much as the 2009 calendar images of a German portable-toilet company. No, I’m not making this up. Not safe for work, but you really shouldn’t be working today anyway. Here in Western Massachusetts, it’s only thirteen and a half hours into 2009, and there already is a strong contender for the most revolting photograph to come out of this year. Btw, if you can’t understand German, don’t worry, the captions (explanations! of some of the bits in the photographs) make things only even more tasteless than they already are.
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