Archives

August 2012

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Aug 30

Hans van der Meer is the kind of person who will look at things - and photograph them - so that you don’t have to. I’m tempted to think that the artist thus performs a public service. But there is more. Van der Meer also not only shows us what he sees and finds, often scenes or things that are so incredibly mundane that most people wouldn’t look twice (assuming they’d even look once), he also talks about them, revealing relevance where we usually don’t expect to find any. Who would look at two women having a chat in one of those nondescript city centers that are common in so many small European cities? And who would then study their particular environment, taking in each and every detail, however mundane it might be? Well, Hans van der Meer did just that, with The Netherlands - Off the Shelf.
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Aug 29

Margaret Durow’s Weightless is aptly named: The often surprising images showcase the idea of youth, without catering to the usual cliches. This work feels young and fresh, but not calculated.
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Aug 28

This is not a good time for writing, since it’s such a bad time for reading, especially on the web. I’ve been castigating photography for its increasing reliance on what I call one liners - quick photo projects that require at most five minutes of your time and that, of course, are ideal fodder for online consumption. But photography really is just part of a larger culture that does not value thoughts any longer that can’t be summed up in a single sentence or, god forbid, thoughts that can’t even be summed up at all. The horror, the horror! We want certainty, and we want it quickly and easily. So why then even spend more time thinking about photography and writing, when I’m already sounding old or old-fashioned or both? Find the full piece here.
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Aug 28

“Secretary of State promises subsidy […] we can now dare to be cautiously optimistic about the future of Noorderlicht.” - Noorderlicht
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Aug 28

Simple and brilliant: Jens Ullrich’s collage work.
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Aug 27

North of the Map by Anna Filipova portrays the arctic in black and white, producing an occasionally surprisingly abstract imagery.
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Aug 24

Berlin is a real place, but we might as well admit that it doesn’t exist. Or rather there is Berlin, the spot on the map, and there is Berlin, the place in our consciousness - two entirely different entities. You will move through the former, yet see the latter. Berlin - that would be the sticks and stones that make up the city. But the real Berlin - that would be whatever images, thoughts, and feelings we have in our heads, this odd mishmash of what we feel and see as individuals and what we feel and see as a group. Good artists are not interested in the sticks and stones. They might take photographs of the sticks and stones, but they point their cameras guided by their intuition. This is what makes discussions about what the “real XYZ” (Berlin, American South, whatever else) looks like so tedious: Who cares? There is no such thing as the “real” Berlin or American South. Why not admit that in almost all cases the “real” XYZ stands for the XYZ as you see it? And even if there were a “real” XYZ - why would we look at that when we can instead look at what artists have made of it?
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Aug 23

I noticed how the popularity of my photobook reviews roughly scales with the popularity of the photographers. That’s bad news, of course, for a lot of photographers, whether they are up-and-coming talent, simply not very well known for whatever other reason or, and this is another factor, well-known somewhere other than the internet. There are two filter bubbles, the one where we seek out that which we already know (which then confirms our beliefs and thus makes us feel good about ourselves), and the one where a lot of stuff simply is not available online. Mark Markov-Grinberg might provide a good example - try to find information online, and you come back with not much - other than, maybe, the occasional image on The Retronaut (where photography is mostly used as some sort of nostalgic novelty item, so that we might be amused by the fact that we’re ignorant of the past). Luckily, Soviet Era now offers a chance to discover the photographer’s work. (more)
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Aug 22

Thorsten Brinkmann produces his photographs using trash collected in the street. I especially enjoy the sense of humour that runs as a thread throughout this work.
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Aug 21

I’ve written about the social-media arms race before, and I am under no illusion that producing another article will make much of a difference. But still… Part of me thinks that at some stage, more and more photographers will realize that spending all that time on/with social media to try to get some piece of the cake might not be the best thing to do. Here is another reason why the obsession with self-promotion that has large parts of photoland in its clutches eventually only leads into a dead end. (more)
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Aug 21

Samuel Finlak is a portrait photographer from Cameroon. It seems the only place where you can see his photographs online is this Flickr page.
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Aug 20

“I am an African-European, born in Switzerland and my project was accomplished on a trip to Guinea Conakry. In this work, I was interested in the construction and deconstruction of the body as well as the depiction of the invisible. I have studied ritual artifacts common to the cosmology of Guineans; statuettes that are part of a ceremonial structure. They are from another world, they are the roots of the living. Thereby, I sought to touch the untouchable. […] In recontextualizing these sacred objects through the lens, I brought them in a framework meant for Western aesthetic choices and taste.” - Namsa Leuba in the introduction of Ya Kala Ben
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Aug 17

There’s something unrelenting in Michael Ackerman’s photographic world - something that the artist himself has been coyly denying in the few interviews I’ve read. That’s fine. It’s usually a mistake to listen too carefully to what artists have to say - the public persona is as much part of what they do as their images1. So let’s stick with the photographs, in particular with Half Life.
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Aug 16

I have been thinking about Found Photos in Detroit for a long time now, wondering whether or not to write a review. The book combines two tropes that have been very popular over the past few years, photography in Detroit and found/discarded photographs. Photography in Detroit, which for the most part has centered on photographs of abandoned buildings (“ruin porn”), usually does not show people. In contrast, projects around found photographs typically focus on people. And we’ve seen attempts like this one before, for example when found photographs from New Orleans or the areas hit by last year’s earthquake/tsunami in Japan were displayed. But still… I suppose my hesitation really comes down to the fact that I have no idea what Found Photos in Detroit is actually trying to tell me. (more)
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Aug 15

Brilliant: A study of art speak (“International Art English” - IAE): “How did we end up writing in a way that sounds like inexpertly translated French?” (via the inimitable Carolina Miranda)
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Aug 15

This is a photograph from Andrew Fillmore’s Politics, looking behind the scenes of that business.
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Aug 14

Ask any photographer what they’re working on, and they’re sure to tell you about their project. It’s almost as if these days photographers don’t take pictures any longer, they take projects. This being the internet, it would be tempting to simply find someone to blame. Pretend you’re raising a question, and you’d be ready to go: “Have art schools (alternatively: galleries, bloggers, photographers, photobooks, everybody’s grandmothers, whoever else you can think of) killed photography by insisting on projects?” But it’s easy to see how little would be gained from that approach. Instead, it might be worthwhile to try to probe a little deeper. Find the rest of the piece here (Photograph kindly provided by Lisa Gidley - thank you!).
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Aug 14

A must read for any photographer living in the US: Criminalizing Photography. Mickey Osterreicher: “If you’re out in public, you can take pictures. And you can report to your heart’s content. The problem is whether they know their rights or don’t know their rights and are willing to assert their rights. […] But even in certain cases when photographers have carried around the law and shown it to police officers and law enforcement, it hasn’t mattered. Unfortunately, a lot of officers will say ‘because I said so.’ It works for your mother, but it doesn’t really work for police. They have to be enforcing a certain law, and they can’t just make it up. If you’re stopped on the street, stay calm. Be reasonable, be cooperative — as cooperative as you can. By cooperative, I don’t mean you have to show them your pictures when they ask.”
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Aug 13

Since its inception in the summer of 2010, I have been very actively involved in the Hartford Art School International Limited-Residency Photography MFA Program (previously an adjunct, I’ve just become a full-time faculty member). The program is centered on the idea of having short and extremely intense sessions at various places (Hartford, New York City, San Francisco, Berlin - in spring, summer, and fall), during which students and faculty (plus additional guests) meet up in person for classes and critiques. When not in session, students live and work at home (wherever that might be), interacting with their advisors and peers over the web. (more)
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Aug 9

Photography ultimately is about time, to be precise about time stopped, time brought to a standstill. Mathematically thinking, this time is an accumulation, though: You expose your piece of film (or your digital chip) for a fraction of a second, which means that whatever happens in that short moment impresses itself onto the image. We tend not to think of it that way, because our own consciousness cannot comprehend very short moments in time, and our eyes can’t see them. We see 24 distinct images in a second, and we think something is moving. The only chance we have to see that photography captures periods in time is when the time gets so long that we can start to see the accumulation. Funky as it is, photography, however, doesn’t work that simply either, because if you require too long an exposure, photography will simply refuse to register the short moments (phrasing it this way makes it more interesting than saying “will be unable”). In one of Louis Daguerre’s earliest photographs, what would or rather should have been a busy street scene is transformed into an almost empty space, with only two humans visible (have a look).
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Aug 8

Most people are probably familiar with Gregory Crewdson’s recent photographs of the Cinecittà backlots. Here is Gianluca Gamberini’s version - shot in colour, across the seasons, matter-of-factly.
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Aug 7

“Influential Australian art critic and writer Robert Hughes has died in New York after a long illness.” - BBC. In a world where the vapidness of the art world is being increasingly mirrored in the writing about it, Hughes will be missed. Watch this clip to get an idea of his fearlessness to call out what he thought needed to be called out: “Isn’t it a miracle what so much money and so little ability can produce?”
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Aug 7

Blake Andrews just published an interesting interview with Mark Steinmetz, which is well worth the read.
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Aug 7

Since it’s that time of the political season in the US again: Here is Philippe Brault’s view of a week in Pennsylvania during the 2008 presidential election.
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Aug 6

Olivia Locher is a young and extremely prolific photographers, whose work defies simple categories. There’s a lot of work on her site, start by clicking on “archives” (at the top) and then work your way through (using the links at the bottom of the page).
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Aug 3

The title of the book Planet Lovigin is apt: Look through the artist’s blog, and it’s likely your head will be spinning. I don’t speak Russian (at least not yet), so I have no idea what that all means. But it’s fairly obvious that Lovigin is happy to create his own little photographic world, combining all kinds of photographic sensibilities that I’m usually used to seeing in different, separate contexts. (more)
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Aug 2

Before the fall of communism, In more ways than one Albania was the Switzerland of the communist bloc, a country separate from the rest, clinging to the ideology in even weirder ways than the rest, while wasting a lot of the already sparse resources on fortifying a place that nobody would possibly want to invade. Dictator Enver Hoxha had over 700,000 bunkers/pillboxes built, which, of course, still (literally) litter Albania. There is no limit to human folly, it seems, and if folly meets power the strangest, saddest, worst things can happen.
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Aug 1

“Contours is a study of the landscape that can be found in the suburbs of Paris; it looks at how it is used by its citizens and managed by its state. It tries to get past the stereotypes that have come to be associated with the territory and document it as a region in its own right, not only as a periphery. The work focuses on a selection of natural areas, which illustrate the relationship between the landscape and those that form it.” - Shane Lynam
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