Archives

July 2011

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Jul 31

At the time of this writing, Congress is still debating whether or not to ruin the economy by defaulting. A short while ago, Will Steacy went out to take photographs of dollar bills removed from circulation, before they were destroyed. Writes Michael Mazzeo: “The faces which once exuded confidence, security, and self-reliance, now, upon close inspection, appear distressed, disturbed, and disfigured, not much unlike our economy.”
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Jul 29

There is an amusement park in Iraq called Dream City. There also is one in Rwanda, Bambino Super City. Turkmenistan has one, too: Turkmenbashi’s World of Fairy Tales. This is where being a photographer is considerably simpler than being a writer, because how do you, can you possibly react to all that in a world that loves nothing more than an unbiased view that, ideally, allows all possible readings? Well, good writers (not that I’m one) know what to do: They just ignore what people want and give their view no matter what. That is, after all, good writing. Bad writing, however, is starting a review of a book featuring amusement/theme parks all over the world by talking about good writing. So let’s talk about good photography instead, which, as it turns out, is easy since there’s quite a bit in Dream City by Anoek Steketee and Eefje Blankevoort (text). (more)
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Jul 29

Just like last week, I added photobook presentations to my Google+ account (as part of my ongoing experiment whether actual contents and social networking can be made to work together well or not - the jury is still out). They are: Another Africa by Robert Lyons, Wolfram Hahn - C/O Talents series, Philosophers (the 1995 book) by Steve Pyke, Beyond the Forest by Clare Richardson, The Last Days of Shishmaref by Dana Lixenberg, and The Map by Kikuji Kawada. If you don’t want to deal with Google+ you can watch all of these also on my YouTube channel. Enjoy!
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Jul 28

I couldn’t make up my mind which image to pick for Fabrice Monteiro. In the end, I went with one from his series Into the Arena.
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Jul 27

“The Hampshire College community mourns the loss of Professor Emeritus Jerome Liebling, who died Wednesday at Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, Massachusetts.” - obituary
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Jul 26

I found a very interesting thought about photojournalism in a short essay written by Daido Moriyama, which can be found in Setting Sun - Writings by Japanese Photographers. Thinking about why Horst Faas and Michel Laurent’s photographs from Bangladesh don’t take him “anywhere beyond the scenes they depict,” Moriyama writes “Perhaps it’s this: Perhaps the cameramen lost themselves in the Bangladesh photographs and became an intrinsic part of the recording device, so that the only effect that the photographs could have was illustrations of the misery of war. Photographs such as those by [Robert] Capa and [William] Klein, on the other hand, contain the living pulse of the human being behind the camera. The former is nothing more than a journalistic photograph of an atrocity, while the latter is a framed portion of the world that bears a poignant relationship to the world as a whole.” (p. 36, emphases in the original) I can’t help but think that in this short passage Moriyama captured the essence of the problem.
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Jul 26

In the retrospective of Thomas Struth currently on at the Whitechapel Gallery, his first solo show in Britain for almost 20 years, the viewer is repeatedly plunged into a state of hypnotic fixation whilst attempting to absorb his relentlessly detailed images. A common theme prevails throughout Struth’s career and this exhibition: human achievement and human endeavour provide a loose parameter for his eclectic mix of subject matter. From works of art, space shuttles and progressive technologies to the simplicity of a family portrait, Struth’s pictures examine what is possible within the confines of humanity. (more)
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Jul 25

This is an image from Stefano Giogli’s The Only Thing That Would be Different Would Be You, probably best viewed via this Zone Zero page.
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Jul 22

Maybe I haven’t looked at enough of them, but photobooks that present a collection often are tedious (and, let’s face it, gratuitous) affairs. Someone or some group owns all these photographs, and that might or might not tell us something about the world of photography or about the ideas behind the collection. Much to my surprise - and delight - Street Life and Home Stories: Photographs from the Goetz Collection clearly sets itself apart from those kinds of books. (more)
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Jul 22

This week, I produced more photobook presentations and added them to my Google+ account. They are: Please Buy My New Song by Jindrich Marco, Jugend by Albrecht Tübke, I Protest! by David Douglas Duncan, and Man and Woman by Eikoh Hosoe. You do not need a Google+ account to be able to watch them, to contribute to the discussion, however, you’d need one. Update: Just added Moll 31 by Wiebke Loeper
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Jul 21

“Lucian Freud, whose stark and revealing paintings of friends and intimates, splayed nude in his studio, recast the art of portraiture and offered a new approach to figurative art, died on Wednesday night at his home in London. He was 88.” - obituary
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Jul 21

This is an image from Naoki Ishikawa’s The Void, a series of intriguing landscapes.
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Jul 20

Yet again, the Conscientious Portfolio Competition features an expanded jury. Joining me to find the winner(s) are Caroline von Courten (Foam Magazine) and Michael Mazzeo (Michael Mazzeo Gallery). I’m very grateful that both Caroline and Michael agreed to do “jury duty” this year, and I would like to use the opportunity to introduce them in more detail below. (more)
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Jul 20

Meet Las Luchadoras by Nick Ballon - Bolivian wrestling.
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Jul 20

There’s a great interview with Raimond Wouda here.
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Jul 19

I’m excited to announce the Conscientious Portfolio Competition 2011, the third of its kind. As before, the winner(s) will have their work featured here on this website, in the form of an extended conversation/interview. Two guest judges, Caroline von Courten (Foam Magazine) and Michael Mazzeo (Michael Mazzeo Gallery), are joining me to pick the winner(s) - and there’s a twist. Find all the details below. I will introduce Caroline and Michael in more detail in a separate post. (more)
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Jul 19

As an update to this: Team Gallery owner José Freire’s personal statement (via).
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Jul 18

Ever since writing about at what stage some photograph might be too similar to some other photograph (also see this follow-up), I have been thinking about how to approach the topic in a more productive manner. In part, this is for slightly selfish reasons: I’m a bit tired of these kinds of debates (“Did photographer X rip off photographer Y?”), and I’d love to have a better answer when asked. So I thought a good approach might be to start from the idea and not from the images. Find the whole piece here.
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Jul 15

How do you portray places that you have no access to because they will not allow you in? When thinking about such places, most people would probably think of, let’s say, power plants or military installations. But there are other such places. I’m thinking of cafes or clubs for men only. I once came across one in Italy. I had heard of such cafes before, but I had never seen them in Germany. Actually, I thought they didn’t exist in Germany, but they do, in areas with, for example, a large Turkish population. Berlin features a lot of them, right in the neighbourhood Loredana Nemes lives in. Asks Nemes “Why did the men hide behind opaque glass or curtains, and who are they hiding from? And where were their wives?” Her solution to find out was simple: Get a large-format camera out and set it up right outside. Then see what happens. (more)
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Jul 15

You’ve probably heard, now there’s Google+ (G+), yet another addition to the growing number of social-networking sites. I am under the impression that a lot of people like G+ because they dislike Facebook so much. That aside, for me as the person behind Conscientious those sites are only interesting if there is a good way to integrate the social-networking bits with providing actual contents. So I just started a little experiment over at G+, which you can access here (watch it in HD). I’ve done videos like this one before, and I’ll probably continue doing them.
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Jul 14

“Concerned about security problems, the East German communist regime ordered border guards to snap photos of the Berlin Wall in the 1960s. The images, which were top secret, were lost in an archive for decades. Now a new exhibition will reveal hundreds of the photographs, digitally spliced to create remarkable panoramic views of the infamous landmark.” - story (with lots of pictures)
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Jul 14

Hardly a day goes by now without yet another lawsuit about some copyright violation. Under US Copyright law, the crux always is “fair use”: Do we have a case of fair use or not? Given the way the law is phrased, this is not a trivial question. It gets particularly iffy once the aspect of “transformation” is brought up. How does that work? What does and what does not constitute a valid transformation as far as the law is concerned? This recent post over at Copyhype has an extended section about just that, using a recent case as an example. It also provides a link to a paper entitled Making Sense of Fair Use by UCLA law professor Neil W. Netanel. Netanel’s paper is long and very detailed, and anyone interested in fair use and in how fair use has been treated in the courts so far might want to take a look at it. It’s an incredible resource, yet a tough read.
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Jul 14

My commute to work is a six-mile cycle from southeast London to the centre of the city. Typically everything stays the same with only the weather seeming to alter. On my trip I may pass 15 or even 20 billboards, each trying to sell something, each littering the air with their contrived glossy advertising imagery. I’m so accustomed to ignoring this type of photography that a couple of days ago I nearly missed the vast, fresh looking triptych that appeared overnight on one of the billboards directly beneath London Bridge. (more)
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Jul 13

“Gorelovka is small village in the middle of taiga in 800 km from Novosibirsk. This place is hard to find even in the Google Map. That’s why it is the best place to escape and hide. Many years ago Christian Old Believers came here to avoid church reform. Then ‘kulaks’ (wealthy peasant) chose this place to escape from Soviet rule. Now many ‘new world antagonists’ came here to live without passports, internet, personal numbers and government.” - Olya Ivanova
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Jul 13

There’s an interesting article about the recent photography festival in Arles over at Photoworks’ blog. One passage caught my eye. (more)
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Jul 12

“In all of my prints, I collect things that I’ve cut out from Google Satellite View— parking lots, silos, landflls, waste ponds.” - Jenny Odell about Satellite Collections (image: Every Basketball Court in Manhattan) It’s weird how fake these objects look even though they’re very real!
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Jul 12

Janine Gordon has filed a lawsuit against Ryan McGinley for copyright infringement, “arguing that 150 of McGinley’s photographs, including several used in an ad campaign for Levi’s, a co-defendant in the suit, are ‘substantially based’ on Gordon’s original work.” That’s one of Gordon’s pieces on the left (Plant Your Feet on the Ground, 2000), one of McGinley’s on the right (Levi’s advertisement, 2010). When I saw this my first thought was “Jesus!” - mind you, not as a somewhat mild way of uttering my exasperation at yet another one of these lawsuits (that came right after). Even if you’re not a particularly religious person (like me), with just a little bit of knowledge of art history you’re very familiar with exactly that pose, right? I will admit I was too lazy to look for an even closer match to the photographs from the lawsuit, but I’m very certain you can find one easily (if you know one, email me). So I can’t help but think that Gordon’s image might in fact be “substantially based” on a large number of religious paintings depicting Jesus. And one could probably play the same game with many other photographs involving humans (just remember how much some photojournalists love pieta-style images). That said, Sergio Muñoz Sarmiento can cover the legal side way better than I can: “most likely be — in my educated fair-use opinion — a win for McGinley. ‘Derive’ here is being used not in the fair use sense of ‘derivative’ work, but rather it is being used in the inspirational sense. Based on the images available for comparison online, McGinley is clearly inspired and influenced by Gordon’s ideas, but as both Gordon’s and McGinley’s lawyers agree, ideas are not protected under US copyright law.” Update (13 July 2011): Here are more images - see for yourself.
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Jul 11

In an article called Capitalist Realism or Poverty Porn?, Jason Huettner discusses the work of Shelby Lee Adams. The body of work in question has been debated many times, and as far as I know no consensus been reached, yet. I thought I’d throw a curve ball into the debate: That whole hand-wringing about “mythologizing,” the (supposed) “branding effect that exploits the poverty of others for profit” - do we see these kinds of commentary about similar photo projects about rich people? After all, anyone can be exploited, right? And if you look at, for example, Martin Parr’s photographs of rich Russian - isn’t that also “mythologizing”? (more)
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Jul 11

Expect to spend hours exploring Adam Ryder’s Areth - an architectural exploration of a made up lost civilization.
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Jul 7

Loch Ness by Jamie Stoker beautifully captures the atmosphere around the Loch (I remember a couple of visits to Scotland, ages ago).
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Jul 6

Phaedra Call’s portrait of an elderly lady, I was Emily Dickinson, is one of the most memorable photography projects I’ve seen in a while, shot and presented beautifully.
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Jul 6

Gravity in art is a theme frequently employed but seldom acknowledged; it is often overlooked because even though we are consistently benefited by its presence, it tends not to intrude on our day-to-day life. Unlike some of the principal issues tackled in art gravity simply goes about its duty and rarely if ever digresses from its purpose. However despite its apparent ‘background’ nature, gravity has played a significant role throughout the history of art and can still be seen in works of contemporary art today. (more)
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Jul 5

This is an image from Paul Osman’s Confessionals.
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Jul 4

Here’s a simple idea: Have a photographer suggest a title, theme or topic for a photograph, and then have her or him work on someone else’s. Lined up properly, you get The Chain.
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Jul 4

The number of photographers is steadily increasing, as is the number of competitions, portfolio reviews, workshops, etc. Typically, a photographer has to pay to enter one of those events, often a rather significant amount. But where does all the money go? What is the money being used for? Much to their credit, the people running Photolucida (a 501c3 non-profit) have now addressed this issue in a blog post, concluding that ultimately “each photographer has to assess whether Critical Mass makes sense for them.” Perfect! With this example set, will Photolucida’s post be the beginning of a new trend towards more transparency in the world of competitions and portfolio reviews?
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Jul 4

Reading a book about T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, I found the following, written by the poet about tradition. I couldn’t help but think that it applied equally well to photography. (more)
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Jul 1

It is no secret that I am very interested in artists who expand the medium “the photobook.” There is a lot of talk about “ebooks” now, but it seems way too early to tell where this is going. We’ve just made it past the wave of the first ephotobooks, and I’m not sure whether what we’re offered right now is what the ephotobook will eventually gel into. In retrospect, the video-game “Pong” offered a lot of promise, but I think we can all agree that while it’s still very cool to see, it doesn’t really tell us all that much where the genre “video game” went (it’s a curious - and sad - path from the geeky primitive paddle game to today’s ultra-violent “ego shooter” games). What is more, while I do appreciate the push towards the “e,” I do think that the photobook itself still can be developed further in all kinds of interesting ways. We’ve witnessed a lot of those over the past few years, as, to give just one obvious example, designers in the Netherlands have shown the world that a photobook can be quite a bit more than just a bunch of photos on paper. (more)
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