Archives

November 2009

SELECT A MONTH:

Nov 30

W. Eugene Smith was one of the greatest photojournalists of the 20th Century, but I think he would probably have a hard time if he was still alive and decided to enter World Press Photo, which just decreed that only “retouching which conforms to currently accepted standards in the industry is allowed.”
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Nov 30

Here’s part two of my personal selection of Ostkreuz work (find part one here).
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Nov 30

This just in via PDN’s blog: “Amsterdam-based World Press Photo has announced the call for entries for its 2010 contest, adding an interesting new rule: ‘The content of an image must not be altered. Only retouching which conforms to currently accepted standards in the industry is allowed. The jury is the ultimate arbiter of these standards and may at its discretion request the original, unretouched file as recorded by the camera or an untoned scan of the negative or slide.’ […] Now, the hard part: What does ‘Currently accepted standards’ mean?” Just like Daryl, I’d like to know, too!
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Nov 30

It’s tempting to take the use of colour in Trine Søndergaard’s Monochrome Portraits (via) as what makes these images, but I actually don’t think that’s the case - that would reduce everything to visual gimmickry. Instead, the work lives from the photographs themselves and how they work. I am curious how this all will look in the context of the book that is due out - with things being conceptual, there is always the danger of the conceptual bits overwhelming the photography (so that once you “get” the concept there is nothing left to be seen).
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Nov 27

If something unites jazz and photography it is not just their fans’ and practitioners’ devotion to their respective art forms, but often the level of obsessiveness with which they are pursued. Long before I got interested in photography I noticed that about jazz: One of my best friends in high school used to frequently recite the names of the musicians on Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue with a devotion that I had thought to be reserved for church services. And this was not because he was a weird kid (which he wasn’t) - switch on any radio station playing jazz, and you will inevitably hear the DJs give the full list of each and every musician for each and every song just played. As much as I enjoy listening to jazz, I’ve always found this somewhat perplexing - just as I’ve always found discussions about whether there really is a difference between Rolleiflex Zeiss and Schneider-Kreuznach lenses, for example. Sam Stephenson’s The Jazz Loft Project: Photographs and Tapes of W. Eugene Smith from 821 Sixth Avenue, 1957-1965 sits right where jazz, photography, and this kind of obsessiveness intersect. The book is devoted to the photography and tapes taken over the course of eight years by W. Eugene Smith, while he was living in a run-down building (821 Sixth Avenue) in New York City.
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Nov 26

“Thames town is an English style new satellite town built close to Shanghai as part of the local governments ‘One City -Nine Towns’ plan.” - Dave Wyatt
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Nov 25

It’s the day before Thanksgiving, which is a good opportunity to reflect a bit on American and how (and as what) its people see it. Enters Bryan Schutmaat’s Western Frieze: “these photos are not meant to be pure documentation of America and its identity, but rather a portrait of what American identity means to me, and by photographing the West - where enigma, nostalgia, and history can be found in everyday scenes - I hope to help viewers find out what it means to them, whether or not they ever visit these sleepy towns and loneliest of landscapes for themselves.” (found here)
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Nov 24

Today, I took the time to look at German photo agency Ostkreuz’s re-designed page, and I noticed that it is very easy to look through the different stories, on a photographer by photographer basis. So I thought I’d go through the lists and select my person favourites, stories with great images or stories that, well, tell an interesting story. Here’s the first part (the second part will follow probably early next week).
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Nov 24

I’m very impressed by Zed Nelson’s Love Me, a body of work centered on our idea of beauty and the various consequences, in particular since the work was done not just in one country, but across the world.
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Nov 24

There is a ton of very good photography on Laura Swanson’s site. About Anti-Self-Portraits, she writes “Part biography, these images represent my discomfort with being looked at and wishing I could hide. […] By removing identity and having the shape of my body stand in for the idea of difference, there is more room for thoughts about how one looks at another. The exchange is not just about me and the viewer anymore - it has the opportunity to open up into a broader conversation about how difference is looked at.” (thanks, Jonathan!)
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Nov 24

The boys in Flemming Ove Bech’s series of the same time don’t all look as if “Life is a pop of the cherry” (David Bowie), which makes me think there is some humour hidden in here, somewhere.
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Nov 24

Alex Fradkin’s Bunkers (under Projects) in the San Francisco Bay area. As Fradkin notes “in most cases the bunkers were obsolete before they were finished being constructed.”
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Nov 23

Wonderful set of posts by Tyler Green about Edward Burtynsky’s ‘Oil’ at the Corcoran; here’s part 2.
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Nov 23

“Every year, Black Friday rings in the yearly holiday shopping season, with hundreds of thousands of people getting up before sunrise to queue for bargains and deals, and stores being besieged by their own customers. […] With Picture Black Friday, we’re hoping to get a wide array of images that tell the full story of this ‘Only in America’ event and not the image that is cultivated and packaged by the media to perpetuate the frenzy and sell more advertising. We will be accepting submissions for one week, beginning on Sunday November 29th through December 6th. We ask that photographers submit up to 5 of their best images of and about Black Friday. […] Our jurors will then choose from that selection the best image(s) and the chosen photographer(s) will be featured on the Conscientious photoblog as well as toomuchchocolate.org.”
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Nov 23

It’s a gray, rainy November day here in Western Mass, and (as corny as that might sound) immediately after receiving a bit of pretty bad news, I came across Ed’s new post, which made things look a little bit better. While I disagree with him about the New Museum conclusions, it’s a very inspirational post. And it’s important to remember that “what among the work being made today is valuable to society must be measured by up-to-date standards… standards that truly reflect their time.” I’ll copy that on a piece of paper, to hang over my desk, so I can use it when people complain about how, for example, photography was supposedly so much more lively fifty years ago. And I hope that Ed’s next book - should he decide to write one - will be about art itself.
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Nov 23

(© Ute Mahler/Ostkreuz) Twenty years ago, the Berlin Wall fell - an event for which there has been no shortage of coverage. The fall of the Wall also effectively meant an end for the GDR (East Germany), which soon would re-unite with West Germany to form today’s Germany. Berlin’s city magazine Zitty used the occasion to speak with Ute and Werner Mahler, two photographers who had lived and worked in East Germany, and who co-founded the photography agency Ostkreuz in the early 1990s. Photography from four East German Ostkreuz members has recently been published in Ostzeit. When I read the interview I thought it would be of interest for more people than just the Germans. In the interview, Ute and Werner talk about life as photographers in East Germany, and what photography meant for them - and their audience. However, there was no English version of the interview, so I approached Ostkreuz and Zitty and asked whether I could translate the interview and re-publish it here. My thanks to everybody who made this possible, in particular to Ute and Werner, but also to Ostkreuz’s Jörg Brüggemann, Andrea Schewe, Christoph Wilde, and Zitty’s Daniel Boese and Claudia Wahjudi. The original piece, an interview by Daniel Boese and Claudia Wahjudi with Ute and Werner Mahler, was published in Berlin’s city magazine Zitty, 23/2009.
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Nov 23

Patrick Madigan’s The Monumental doesn’t need much of an explanation. Those who don’t like this kind of photography should check out the other projects, as they’re very different.
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Nov 20

Boy, those Germans sure are ahead of their time - it’s not even 2010, yet. Anyway, amongst the winners of the German Photo Book Prizes 2010: American Power by Mitch Epstein (gold) and No Direction Home by Andrej Krementschouk (silver). Congratulations to the photographers and publishers!
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Nov 20

We might be experiencing a bit of a renaissance of Japanese photography books in the West, or rather a naissance - since outside of a small circle of dedicated collectors Japanese photo books are not widely known. Eikoh Hosoe’s Kamaitachi was originally published in 1969, and it is here re-released, in a slightly extended form, by Aperture.
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Nov 20

Michael Wolf’s Architecture of Density was published a few years ago as part of Hong Kong: Front Door/Back Door, a book whose rather bad production quality did not do the work any justice. Fortunately, there now is Hong Kong Inside Outside, consisting of two-volumes in a slip case, with one book dedicated to the Hong Kong architecture1.
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Nov 19

“I’ve noticed an interesting pattern. Visual artists are conflicted as to where they stand in relation to copyright laws. To be more precise, there seems to be two camps: those that favor strong copyright protection for artists and their copyrights, and those that favor either a relaxed form of fair use or worse yet, a ‘right’ to appropriate and lift from copyright owners without any legal repercussions. As a friend of mine noticed […] this makes complete sense. Those artists who favor stronger copyright laws are making money from their work, many times substantially. Those favoring ‘free culture’ or, ‘let information flow,’ are usually those artists making little to no money from their artwork. […] Hidden underneath this dilemma is a reality that many artists […] are reluctant to accept: that a viable artistic practice (at least in the so-called ‘art world’) is in fact no different than operating a for-profit business. One can veil or name this what one wants, but the reality is that successful artists […] face legal and business issues similar to those of a bar owner, an employer, a publisher, an Internet company, a shipping company, etc.” - Sergio Muñoz Sarmiento
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Nov 19

Fred Ritchin: “Unfortunately in the last twenty-five years we have done very little to establish and publicize guidelines, and now photojournalism is devolving into yet another medium perceived as intending to shock, titillate, sell, distort. My sense is that if we are truly serious about preserving at least some of its credibility […] we need to take strong steps. I am still of the opinion, as I expressed in the After Photography book last year, that a special frame placed around the photograph (perhaps a thicker one) indicating that a photograph is “non-fiction” - meaning that it is subjective, interpretive, but the image itself has NOT been manipulated beyond accepted darkroom techniques such as modest burning and dodging - would be helpful.”
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Nov 19

Alexander Gronsky’s Pastoral (via) is the Russian equivalent of Eirik Johnson’s Borderlands. Beautiful work.
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Nov 18

“Two eighteen-wheel trucks delivered 44,000 pounds of his [W. Eugene Smith] things there when he died in 1978, at fifty-nine, according to his doctors of ‘everything’ (cirrhosis, diabetes, high blood pressure, an enlarged heart). There are hundreds of 10,000 word letters to friends as well as people he barely knew, 25,000 vinyl records, as many as a million negatives and contact sheets, thousands of 3x5 cards filled with chicken-scratch notes to himself, along with brilliant fragments from the unfinished Pittsburgh project and 1,600 reels of tape from his Manhattan loft” - excerpt from Gene Smith’s Sink
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Nov 18

“The subjects of these photographs are wives, mothers, siblings, cousins and friends of soldiers. They stand in as witnesses for the traces, the dust, the ash, the scent of what’s been lost and what’s been endured and what is still happening. Making images of the family members of soldiers that have served in Iraq or Afghanistan is a way to have a dialogue with a surreal experience. Ideally, the photograph can serve as a vehicle to illuminate the myriad and shared stories of loss, separation and hope.” - Teri Fullerton (statement found here)
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Nov 18

There’s a lot of good work in Matt Eich’s portfolio. Highlights: “Carry Me Ohio” and “Love In The First Person”.
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Nov 18

I always go to Sonnabend Gallery, because regardless of what is on view, there is great photography casually leaning against the walls in the back room, including some of Clifford Ross’ photographs of waves taken during hurricanes. This time, that work was actually the focus of most of the gallery (I still went to the office room to find some Elger Essers), new images (called “Hurricanes XLIX-LXXII), using what the artist, in the statement, calls a “new approach” that enabled him “to capture more dramatic moments, and sweeping views, while revealing more intimate details.” I never thought the older images needed such a new approach, and I failed to detect one anyway. Not that that is a problem - just like their older counterparts (and in a marked contrast to Ross’ submediocre Mount Sopris work), these new photographs of waves crashing on the shore are remarkable and wonderfully beautiful.
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Nov 17

Andrew Moore’s “Detroit” (on view at Yancey Richardson until 9 January 2010) is a body of work that invites knee-jerk interpretations, especially since the image of Detroit as a symbol of American decline has lately been used so widely as a simple and obvious cliché in magazines and newspapers. There even is a name for such imagery now: “Ruin Porn” (see this post) - that’s when a photographer travels to Detroit to take photographs of ruins, for the sake of a simple visual titillation.
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Nov 17

The German word “Becher” stands for a mug or a container of smallish size - such in, for example, “Joghurtbecher” - a yogurt container. Enter Hester Keijser and Norman Beierle, the art duo and creative force behind Mrs Deane (full disclosure: Hester, Norman and I are friends), who turned yogurt bechers into their own typology. You can now order a Becher Box, “an acid-free, archival box con­tain­ing a first selec­tion of twenty 13x17 cm (approx. 5x7 inch) dig­i­tal C-prints on Fuji DP II Glossy Pearl Paper from our Joghurt­becher series. All this for the fes­tive price of 60 euros, exclud­ing ship­ping & han­dling costs.” A real Becher print will set you back way more (and seriously, who wants to look at a grain elevator or a gas container?), and you will be supporting a great blog. More details in their post.
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Nov 17

In a photography world obsessed with age I have been trying to avoid looking at age. That said, when I first saw Kyle Ferino’s I was very impressed: He is 23 years old, something you would never guess from the depth and quality of his work. As is often - but not always - the case, my choice of image is not necessarily representative of all of his work - make sure to look through all the various projects (oh, and this is how a website can be done in a functional and elegant way, with elegant statements that avoid all pretension and art speak).
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Nov 16

If Bill Hunt had not told me about Bill Viola’s show at James Cohan Gallery I would have missed it. The show consists of video pieces, for the most part displayed on large panels in darkened rooms. It’s hard to describe the effect of those video pieces. I felt as if I was watching photography unfold in a very unexpected way, with image after image after image appearing - but not in the trivial sense of video being just a set of images. If you’re curious, check out this video (made for a different occasion), in which the artist explains what you see. Mind-blowing!
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Nov 16

After the addition of new partner Joseph Kraeutler, gallery Hasted Hunt went through instant reincarnation as Hasted Hunt Kraeutler (H2K), it relocated to a new space on 24th Street (an obvious improvement over the previous one) and added Edward Burtynsky to its roster of artists. Recession? What recession?
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Nov 16

Eric Lusito’s After the Wall is not the first body of work to chronicle abandoned Soviet bases, but with its mix of photography and found photographs and propaganda material it might be the best I’ve seen so far.
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Nov 13

Having just finished reading Colin Thubron’s In Siberia I’m wondering whether there is an equivalent of travel writing in photography. A travel writer will usually not be willing (or able) to spend the time it might take to become familiar with a place. Instead, s/he will create the essence of the writing out of fleeting, chance moments and encounters - this is what makes travel writing such a hard thing to do, because even though we all can (and probably) will experience any number of special moments when we travel, it takes a master writer to distill more out of them than just a collection of such moments.
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Nov 13

It might come as no surprise to see that a Finnish photographer would produce a portrait of arctic landscapes that involves ice. More specifically: a portrait of the arctic landscape using ice itself to create images. Even more specifically - and actually accurately: a portrait of the arctic landscape that looks as if everything was frozen in ice. In reality, the images in Jorma Puranen’s Icy Prospects were produced by painting wooden boards with high-gloss acrylic paint and by then photographing the light reflected from their surfaces.
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Nov 12

The two most exciting things about New York’s New Museum are a) the building and b) the semi-hip abbreviation used when people talk about it: NuMu. Of course, that’s just me, and all I’ve seen at the NuMu was its very first show. Anyway, you have probably heard about the current kerfuffle about the museum, now elevated from Tyler’s blog to all over the web and media world via an article in the New York Times. (slightly updated below)
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Nov 12

Michael Fuchs’ project about Lake Ontario would be a wonderful book - I hope there’ll be a publisher willing to make it.
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Nov 12

I have the feeling photo editors will like this one: Chris Valites’ Water is one of those simple ideas that work very well.
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Nov 11

Yesterday, I found a quote over on Ed Winkleman’s blog and . Today, Ed has an update, pulling things apart a bit.
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Nov 11

About his project Pre-Marital Bliss, Tim Veling writes that it is “a series documenting my relationship with my partner, our domestic surroundings and family, as well as the wider social and cultural environment in which we live.”
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Nov 10

“Evelyn Hofer, a photographer whose searching, exactingly composed portraits imparted a grave serenity to her human and architectural subjects and who collaborated on a renowned series of travel books with eminent writers in the 1950s and 1960s, died on Nov. 2 in Mexico City.” - obit
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Nov 10

I found an interesting quote on Ed Winkleman’s blog. What struck me about it was that while Ed emphasized the first sentence in a paragraph of a review by Roberta Smith (this, of course, because of his subject matter), I thought the last sentence needs to be looked at, too (independent of subject matter): “Ms. Horn’s work has both benefited and suffered from being what might be called “curators’ art.” Curators’ art is indisputably, even innocuously, elegant — with clear roots in Minimal and Conceptual Art and not much else. It tends to be profusely appreciated by a hermetic few, curators, artists and theorists, who fetishize its refinements and often take its creators pretty much at their word. Ms. Horn has always had a lot to say about what her work means and how it is to be viewed, and some of it is quite interesting, but artists don’t own the meaning of their artworks.”
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Nov 10

(Something season appropriate - for those for whom November weather means gray, rainy, chilly days): Don Denton’s Salt Water & Rain.
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Nov 9

Recently, German magazine Photography Now approached me for an interview. To give me an idea of such interviews, they sent me an older issue, which featured a long and very interesting interview with Gerhard Steidl. Unfortunately, the interview was in German and not available online - so I asked the makers of Photography Now whether I could translate the interview and re-publish it here. With Photography Now having a whole cache of such interviews, we agreed on a series of translations - which are due to appear here, every two weeks or so (depending on, for example, how long it takes me to translate them), provided the interviewees agree to it. The following is the first such interview, published in Photography Now 1.2009. My thanks to Marte Kraeher, Claudia Stein, and the staff at Photography Now, and, of course, to a Gerhard Steidl. - JMC
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Nov 9

It’s obvious what Heinrich Holtgreve’s Backstage is all about, and it’s not a pretty sight (the places, not the photos).
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Nov 6

Described as “one of the most significant movements in post-World War II architecture” (source), the Case Study House Program “included the building and design of 36 experimental modern prototypes single-family homes in Southern California.” The Program’s announcement stated that it was “important that the best material available be used in the best possible way in order to arrive at a ‘good’ solution of each problem, which in the over-all program will be general enough to be of practical assistance to the average American in search of a home in which he can afford to live.” (source) Case Study House No. 22, “L.A.’s original dream home”, was made famous by photographer Julius Shulman. The houses in Peter Bialobrzeski’s Case Study Homes are also “good solutions”, affordable to live in, but they lack the cool and glamour of Case Study House No. 22. They are ramshackle contraptions, erected in a place called Baseco, a squatter camp near Manila, home to maybe 70,000 people. Nobody knows, there is nobody to count them. It is hard to say whether these houses are dream homes for their occupants - I’m tempted to think they are not.
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Nov 6

Sally Mann’s Immediate Family is probably the most important portrait of a photographer’s children produced so far. It contains unbelievably strong and powerful images, and - crucially - it portrays the children in a way that goes way beyond the usual sentimentality that, unfortunately, is so common in this type of work. I have always been under the impression that because of its success (and despite the various utterly silly scandals around the nudity) Immediate Family must have been an immense burden for the photographer - maybe just a subconscious one: Where to go from there?
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Nov 5

“Germany’s most popular women’s magazine is banning professional models from its pages and replacing them with images of “real life” women instead.” (story, via).
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Nov 5

I have no idea what Frank Höhle’s portraits mean, but they’re very well done - one of those cases where you wish you’d get a bit of background on the website. (via)
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Nov 4

Marten Elder’s Delmarva Beaches contains some beautiful imagery.
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Nov 3

“Vladivostok amateur photographers often go to the countryside for photo sessions. Anyone can be a model but in general they are young girls and photographers are men of different ages. […] I was photographing what they have created. Postures, looks, everything was as it would be on amateur photographs […] And photographers are eager to touch young girls with their hands […] There is even a certain competition between the photographers - who managed to take pictures of more beautiful girls, and whose pictures are sexier.” - Igor Starkov explaining his series Girls at the Park (via)
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Nov 2

I have a weakness for photorealistic sculpture, and Sam Jinks’ work is right up my alley. Here is an interview with the artist.
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Nov 2

Western photographers have flocked to China to take photographs of either the boom towns or their accompanying ecological disasters (or both), but, it seems, little else. Stephen JB Kelly’s “Qi Lihe” presents a completely different topic.
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Nov 2

Elizabeth Heppenstall’s Boys made me laugh - to find out why click on the image above to see the actual version (the above image is just a snapshot, and yes it does get even better than that). As Ian Aleksander Adams noted “taking the things that upset you about the world and turning them into lowbrow kitsch” often helps you keep “sane in a way.” Excellent!
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