Archives

April 2010

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Apr 30

In the early 1980s, German photographer Joachim Brohm managed to receive a Fulbright scholarship. He went to live in Ohio for a year, and he took photographs. This sounds like an interesting combination, doesn’t it? A German photographer, in the US, at about the time when colour photography was coming of age in the art world…
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Apr 29

Liz Kuball’s California Vernacular shows the state seen with eyes of someone who didn’t grow up there (“real in its absurdity”).
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Apr 29

Those who love interviews with photographers can find a lot of them (with new ones being added on a regular basis) at Mull It Over. Check it out!
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Apr 29

Tim Hölscher’s Tankstellen are 1950s gas stations, digitally re-set to their original states. Equally noteworthy: Peisazhet e Shqiperise, photographs taken with some of the ubiquitous Albanian bunkers the earlier Communist regimes littered the landscape with - the artist converted them into pin-hole cameras.
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Apr 28

You might have heard of the ongoing legal battle between photographer Daniel Morel and Agence France Presse. There are a lot of details, and the best way to read up on everything is this post, which, as far as I can tell, contains all the relevant information.
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Apr 28

In a new guest article, Seba Kurtis talks about the history behind Shoe Box. Find the whole piece here.
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Apr 28

Freya Najade’s If you are lucky, you get old comes in two parts, the second part containing photography and narration - don’t miss it.
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Apr 27

My friend Mark sent me the link to Francesco Giusti’s work, and I ended up spending most time looking through Djenne’.
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Apr 27

For me, Daniele Mattioli’s portfolio gets interesting where it moves away from what we have seen so many times already. What is still left to be said about Shanghai or “Cosplayers”? So instead, check out Chongqing, the biggest city in the world for example.
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Apr 26

Sebastian Keitel’s home is a typology of very improvised living quarters of Vietnamese migrant workers.
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Apr 26

Delia Keller’s work has a very cinematic feel to it, even when showing places as unglamourous as a class room.
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Apr 26

In a new installment of the ongoing series of “ping-pong chats” with Michael Itkoff, we’re talking about whether or how photography can initiate change and the role multimedia might play. Read the piece here.
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Apr 25

If you’ve followed the discussion of photographer Marco Vernashi’s story about child sacrifices in Uganda, funded and promoted by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting (see my earlier posts here and here), there is a new response by the photographer, published on the Pulitzer Center’s website (via). As I noted earlier, what truly matters here is the issue Vernashi was trying to cover - child sacrifices in Uganda - and hopefully, the way some of the photographs were obtained is not getting in the way of that story. For that to happen, the facts have to be made available (there are various videotaped interviews now available), as seems to be happening now. Update (28 April 2010): Anne Holmes responds
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Apr 25

Those interested in street photography might want to head over to Nick Turpin’s site and read his What was the Subject?
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Apr 23

Photojournalism is in crisis. Or maybe not. Who knows? But photojournalism is part of our modern media, and those media love nothing more than a crisis, so, almost by definition photojournalism is in crisis (as is photography, which, however, is not talked about as “in crisis”, instead it’s supposedly “over” or “dead”). It’s the end of the world as we know it. You gotta adapt to new realities. Embrace the new media and what they have to offer. Don’t embrace the new media and stick to what you can do best. Well, you’ve heard it all before, ad nauseam. But let’s assume for a minute that we’re all very tired of the way those debates are currently playing out. (more)
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Apr 22

Seems like sometimes you can’t get past topics by calling them “side discussions on blogs.” You’ll remember my earlier post about Benjamin Chesterton raising a couple of important issues about a Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting (PCoCR) project. The PCoCR did react, after all: “Vernaschi’s photographs are gut-wrenching, black-and-white portraits of pain and abuse. We share his belief that photography can play a powerful role in mobilizing public opinion, in Uganda and beyond, to stop this abuse. But we now believe — and Vernaschi agrees — that we were wrong in the way we handled the cases of Mukisa and Babirye.” (more; updated)
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Apr 22

Jonathan Smith’s The Bridge Project shows the various bridges connecting Manhattan with the rest of the world.
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Apr 21

My collection of (vintage) tintypes contains a steadily growing number of smiling people. I pulled one out for Colin, who has been writing about how portraits are always so serious. He does have a point, though, doesn’t he? Colin just posted a new article entitled Death, Disease and Misery, asking “Do we like all those obscure photographers with their off-kilter shots and joyless examinations/explorations and investigations because we have something of the snob about us”? (more, updated below)
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Apr 21

Lorena Endara’s A man a plan a canal panama portrays the artist’s native country. (via)
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Apr 21

You want to take a little time and read this article by Benjamin Chesterton (of duckrabbit fame). In a nutshell, Benjamin looked into a story done in Uganda by photographer Marco Vernashi, to come across a couple of very worrying, if not outright disturbing findings: Some of the photographs probably violate the UK’s Protection of Children Act 1978. What is more, the photographer persuaded the mother of a dead child to have her daughter’s body dug up so he could take pictures. He then interviewed the woman and afterwards gave her money. Yes, you read that right. Benjamin contacted both the photographer and Jon Sawyer, Executive Director of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, which funded and promoted the project. (more)
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Apr 20

In a new guest article, Phil Toledano talks about his project about plastic surgery, A New Kind of Beauty. Read the full piece here.
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Apr 20

I don’t link to photography like Thomas Rousset’s as often as I should. This image is from Behind The Smiles, which the photographer describes as “A frozen era where only mountain dwellers and itinerants have survived, where children’s tales and rural fantasies can meet and become real” and “where tribalism and autarky have taken over, where theatricality and the burlesque define situations.” It’s a bit like Tom Waits producing a version of Mad Max. (via)
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Apr 19

When I first saw Sean Stewart’s Rivertown (see the series with an added intro here), I was transported back in time to when I lived in Pittsburgh, PA, a few years ago. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve been to the very place in this photo - if I’m not mistaken you drive this road down, take a left, and there’s a thrift shop right there. Or maybe that’s a different road, but the area around Pittsburgh looks just like this, so it could be easily that road.
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Apr 19

I was going to link to one of the images of Caleb Charland’s odd contraptions, which in reality usually are elaborately produced multiple exposures, when I came across this image. Bam! As much as I like the b/w photos, I really want to see more from this series. Michael Mazzeo writes about Caleb here.
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Apr 18

Remember this? What fun we had! But all joking aside, there is are a couple of important lessons to be learned here: First, people will occasionally manipulate images. And second, if you look carefully (or use computer software that looks for repeated - aka cloned - image patterns) you can spot these manipulations. But these obvious cases aside, there have been a lot of discussions - and various scandals - about image manipulation in the context of what we call the news lately, and it just occurred to me that instead of telling people what not to do I better come up with a suggestion what to do. (more; updated)
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Apr 16

I’ve lived in the US for about ten years now, so I’m now very familiar with many things that, when I first came here, surprised me or that I found unusual. But ten years are still a short period of time, compared with the thirty years I had lived in Germany before. What is more, those thirty years included the most formative periods of my life, which, I suppose, will mean that I will always see things if not exclusive from a German perspective, then at least with a German component. It’s not a bad position to be in actually, amazement (along with the occasional exasperation) is still a big part of my American life. Some things are just very familiar, yet still a bit alien to me. I should add that I have developed the same approach (if that’s the word) towards Germany now, which certainly makes for “interesting” visits back “home.”
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Apr 16

I’m sure by now most people will be familiar with the Independent Photo Book blog. There are new publications being added to it regularly, so make sure to check it out if you’re interested in artist books, zines, … Also, if you have a book or zine that fits the criteria make sure to send in the information so it can be added to the site.
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Apr 15

You usually don’t get to see fine-art photography on billboards. Here’s an image by Mitch Epstein, from his American Power project (reviewed here), used to advertize the What Is American Power? website. Excellent.
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Apr 15

Richard Davies’ photographic survey of Russian wooden churches is a follow-up of the work of Ivan Yakovlevich Bilibin, who had done a survey about one hundred years earlier: “Many churches have been saved by dedicated specialists and enthusiasts, whose untiring work goes on. We hope that the photographs in this exhibition will help raise public awareness of the plight of these wonderful buildings and that more restoration projects will attract the funding they deserve.”
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Apr 15

Ancient Egyptians used embalming techniques, with elaborate grave sites and pyramids being optional for the rich and powerful. Today, there is cryogenic freezing, steel tanks and wooden boxes so people can deposit flowers. We’re more advanced than ancient Egypt (or so we like to think), yet the underlying beliefs are the same. Murray Ballard’s The Project of Immortality portrays this modern industry.
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Apr 14

David Campbell has an excellent post about what he calls ‘famine photography’: “The photographic reporting of famine, especially in ‘Africa’, continues to replicate stereotypes. Malnourished children, either pictured alone in passive poses or with their mothers at hand, continue to be the obvious subjects of our gaze. What should drive our concern about this persistent portrayal?” You want to read the whole piece; but I can’t refrain from posting the following quote: “One of my refrains for how we should understand photographs in these situations is that the problem lies with the absence of alternatives as much as it does with the presence of the stereotypes.”
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Apr 14

Peter Brown’s West of Last Chance shows the landscape and small towns of the Great Plains.
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Apr 13

Part of the reason why I created Conscientious Extended is to invite photographers to talk about their work. I am thrilled to be able to announce the first contribution, by Greg Girard, who talks about In the Near Distance 1973-86. Find the whole piece here.
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Apr 13

“Off the Grid is a study of thirty families living in Maine without electricity, plumbing or phones. Scattered throughout the Maine woods, these homes are disconnected from the grid of wires and media that bind distant Americans together. Although they have all rejected aspects of the modern world, their beliefs and commitments vary widely—ranging from environmentalism to evangelism to anarchism. Yet the families living in these homes—and on the occasional commune—form a sort of makeshift community.” - Keliy Anderson-Staley
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Apr 12

Many of Jason Koxvold’s photographs offer glimpses of a pretty bleak world - our modern world.
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Apr 12

“At the moment, the terms of trade favour publishers too much. A return to the 28-year copyrights of the Statute of [queen] Anne would be in many ways arbitrary, but not unreasonable. If there is a case for longer terms, they should be on a renewal basis, so that content is not locked up automatically. The value society places on creativity means that fair use needs to be expanded and inadvertent infringement should be minimally penalised. None of this should get in the way of the enforcement of copyright, which remains a vital tool in the encouragement of learning. But tools are not ends in themselves.” (full text)
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Apr 12

Actually, it isn’t. But when you read articles like this one by Stella Kramer it really sounds as if it was. Where to begin? (more)
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Apr 12

John Clendenen’s Science Fiction is in dire need of a bit of editing and sequencing (you’ll have to keep clicking through the images since they’re sorted by “style”), but I really like where it’s going; and it almost has a bit of a Japanese photography feel to it (think Kikuji Kawada’s Chizu).
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Apr 9

Most photographers have a well-developed signature style, inside the boundaries of which they produce their work. But there are also photographers who experiment a lot and whose bodies of work look very different. Thomas Ruff is maybe the most obvious example I can think of. Ralf Peters is another one (his website is not being updated, to see his newer work go here). Of course, Peters isn’t nearly as well-known as Ruff, but for those curious about the photographer’s work, there now is Until Today, a compilation covering photography from 1995 until today. (more)
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Apr 9

Let me guess: You saw the title “Grain Elevators,” and you got your eyes lubricated for the rolling (“Give me a break, I can’t take any more typologies!”), only to be confused to see the name Lisa Mahar-Keplinger instead of Bernd and Hilla Becher. Another book about grain elevators? When I found Grain Elevators in a stack of books at Strand Books, I couldn’t believe it, either. But out of sheer curiosity I had a quick peek at the book, and I decided I had to get it - for a variety of reasons. (more)
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Apr 8

I had “known” Michael Itkoff, one of the editors of Daylight Magazine, for a while, having exchanged a few emails. We met in person and got to know each other at this year’s Fotofest in Houston, and we decided to collaborate to produce contents together. After a bit of brain-storming, we came up with “ping-pong chatting” - an online conversation. We decided to talk about the Fotofest portfolio reviews, and things took off from there. It’s a bit of an experiment, and we’re both very happy with it. Check it out here.
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Apr 8

Christopher Rauschenberg sent in his thoughts about the Paul Graham article that has been discussed in the photo blogosphere recently: “The way that I see it, the actual problem is that the art world, as a whole, only understands half of photography’s dual nature.” (more)
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Apr 8

I received a bunch of emails after writing about my experience with the Houston Fotofest portfolio reviews, and I thought I’d share some of that feedback. (more)
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Apr 8

Mark Lyon’s Landscapes For The People shows landscape photographs being used as, say, backdrops for dentist offices. Great work.
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Apr 7

When seeing the Paul Graham article that caused such a stir in the photo community recently (see my reactions here and here), I thought that having the debate only amongst photographers would be less than ideal. So I emailed a couple of art bloggers, and today, Ed Winkleman published his response. (more)
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Apr 7

“While Israel is defined as the Jewish state, over a fifth of its population is Arab […] Wishing to examine forward-looking aspects of this Arab-Jewish coexistence, I decided to focus on Arab men and women at a crucial point in their lives - turning eighteen years old. […] I aim to confront, and dispute widespread misconceptions of the ‘other,’ those people within my own country whom I was brought up to consider more as foes than as allies.” - Natan Dvir (via, where more text and large images can be found)
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Apr 7

There’s a lot of very beautiful landscape photography on Dalton Rooney’s website, in particular Outer Lands and Fire Island.
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Apr 6

“Charlotte Rampling gave an interview in which she talks about how she has no idea what’s she’s doing with her face or her body when she’s acting. There’s that sense that she’s completely outside herself. I often feel that way when I make a photograph. I prefer photographing emotional things. Maybe they don’t appear emotional at first glance…” - James Welling
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Apr 6

What I like about Michael Corridore’s Angry Black Snake is that from most photographs you can’t really tell what’s going on (where does all that smoke come from?), so you’re simply looking at those few people you can make out against the smoke (or embedded in it).
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Apr 6

You might know Justine Reyes’ Vanitas series. When she showed me her work, I was struck by the immense power of some of her portraits, though (from Home, Away From Home).
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Apr 5

Following up on my summary of my Fotofest portfolio review experience, Jeremy Moore sent me a post he wrote about it. His summary contains some aspects that I had omitted from my summary, but that I experienced in just the same way. Update (9 April 2010): There’s a follow-up.
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Apr 5

If you haven’t seen the video described in this post you probably only want to look if you have a strong stomach. And I mean a very strong stomach. I think we’re all (sadly) familiar with the kinds of videos where you see people get blown up, witnessing their last moments via some camera in a jet plane; but to actually hear helicopter pilots boast about their deeds… I literally had get up from my desk and go for a walk, because I had all faith in humanity sucked out of me - and I didn’t even make it up to the moment where they tried to evacuate the victims. (more, updated)
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Apr 5

Blake Andrews comments on my two cents about the Paul Graham article. What I find interesting is that fundamentally, Blake and I aren’t even that far apart, even though we disagree about quite a few things. (more)
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Apr 5

About her work, Tanya Habjouqa says “I want to provoke the audience to reflect on regional social issues, stereotypes, and realities. The perpetual images of blood, suffering, and conflict are not the only defining characteristics of the Middle East. I aim to find the balance between jarring a misrepresentation of Arabs through a perpetual lens of violence while simultaneously tell stories that prompt Middle Easterners to nod in recognition, yet still challenge all audiences with the contradictions of a region in flux balancing its traditions.” (source/via) Her series Women of Gaza is remarkable in many different ways.
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Apr 5

Here is a great interview with artist Jennifer Dalton about the various problems haunting the art world. (more)
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Apr 5

It is hard to sum up an event like the Houston Fotofest portfolio reviews, but I will try nevertheless. I had never been to these reviews before, but of course I was aware of their significance. When I got invited I was excited about the idea of seeing things with my own eyes, and I thought it would be a good opportunity to talk to photographers there and find out what people (photographers and reviewers alike) got out of it. (more)
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Apr 5

No Caption Needed look at some recent images coming out of Afghanistan, pointing out their sheer kitsch value. Glenn Ruga’s comments on Miroslav Tichý’s work might be the most perceptive about the artist I’ve seen in a long time. Sergio Muñoz Sarmiento continues his debate about whether “fair use” really stands in the way of creativity, looking at communication scholars think and commenting on an op-ed written by Marc Aronson. Mrs. Deane has some choice words about an artist who Photoshopped celebrity portraits into Auschwitz photos: “I feel there is some­thing very wrong about mutat­ing the actual Auschwitz mate­r­ial to a prod­uct of the enter­tain­ment industry.”
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Apr 5

Peter Ainsworth’s Concrete Island is a project I would have never imagined I’d like (that the web doesn’t do the image quality much, if any, justice). The photos all show the walls of some concrete overpass, partially covered with graffiti, rendered beautifully with a large-format camera. Those less interested in semi-abstract photography might prefer Covered, which looks like conceptual art, a set of photographs showing plants made ready for the Winter.
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Apr 5

Richard Renaldi’s Touching Strangers is one of the most extraordinary portraiture projects I’ve seen in recent years, and if you’re wondering why you can see it on view in New York, at Hermès gallery, from April 9 through May 28, 2010. A little while ago, I did an interview with Richard about the series, which you can find here.
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Apr 2

East Germany’s national anthem started out stating that “From the ruins risen newly, to the future turned, we stand.” For those visiting from West Germany (or any other Western country), this seemed like a bold claim, a very odd description of a place that looked, well, ruined. Mind you, some of the World War II ruins had indeed been replaced, but many had been left standing. When I visited Dresden in 1987, one of the main palaces in the city center was still a burned-out shell. It’s true, many of the ruins had been removed, and new buildings had been erected - just like in the West, early 1950s East German architecture was mostly an insulting, almost inhumane mess - but it was obvious that not much - if any - money was being spent on keeping things up. And you’d walk into some back alley by mistake maybe and see bullet marks on the walls. (more)
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Apr 1

I’m still busy in Houston, but this is too interesting not to post it: Researchers at Germany’s Fraunhofer Institut (that’s the same people who invented the mp3 algorithm) finally managed to visualize the web, that is create a visual representation of the data moving on the web at some point in time (the scientists used 4 November 2008). Unfortunately, I haven’t found an English language version of the article, yet, but here is the image they produced. Prof. Dr. Furzelbaum, the leader of the team that published the work in Germany’s computer science technology quarterly Der Computer und Du, is quoted as saying that he is “disappointed, yet not surprised” that the image looks just like a white noise spectrum. Well, I suppose all the naysayers were correct after all. If you want to look at the original article, here it is.
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