Archives

November 2012

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Nov 30

It is no secret that vernacular photography has moved center stage. To a large extent, this is probably due to simple nostalgia, the longing for the better times in the past that, in reality, never existed that way (a similar argument can be made to in part account for the popularity of Instagram filters, which now have even crept into photojournalism). But beyond that, there is the fact that vernacular photography shows you a world you did not have access to: The private lives of ordinary people (if I ran for office in the US I’d use “regular folks”). This is most interesting. While vernacular snapshots are becoming ever more popular, on Facebook people are now willingly sharing their formerly private photographs. To be more precise: A usually sometimes more, sometimes less carefully edited selection of those photographs. The age of narcissism has spawned the parallel age of voyeurism.
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Nov 28

“The endless variety of choices that we have to make doesn’t let us decide on anything. Instead of taking up new challenges, we stay at home in our cosy and safe little world which is ready to keep us away from the stream of this impetuous life beyond it.” - Anastasia Tailakova in the introduction to In Vain
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Nov 27

In Take Me, Dana Stölzgen combines single photographs with diptychs and, occasionally, text.
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Nov 26

Nancy Newberry’s Mums focuses on homecoming mums, apparently a Texas tradition.
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Nov 23

One of my favourite Neil Young albums is the 1975 Zuma, which features, amongst other gems, a song entitled Lookin’ For A Love. It’s a quintessential Neil Young song if there ever was one: Who else could possibly get away with writing something that’s so far north of being sappy, without being offensive to one’s sensibilities? This might be a hard concept to grasp for today’s younger generation, who are so used to everything being ironic (or fake ironic) that the idea of something being sappy without the escape mechanism added must seem… I don’t know. How do you react to the world if all you know (and cling to) is irony?
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Nov 22

AM Projects is a fairly new multi-national group of photographers, comprising members Aaron McElroy, Daisuke Yokota, Ester Vonplon, Gert Jochems, Olivier Pin-Fat and Tiane Doan Na Champassak. Set up as a “likeminded group,” one of the goals is to produce jointly curated publication. When I first heard about this I was intrigued and, I admit, somewhat skeptical. How do you go about producing a group publication that not is just that, a mishmash of stuff, but instead something that holds together as a whole? The (first) answer was just provided in the form of Nocturnes.
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Nov 21

Paddy Kelly’s Bogland was photographed at “locations that were used as IRA training camps during the 1970’s in Northern Ireland.”
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Nov 20

Studio photography from Burkina Faso: Ibrahim Sanlé Sory (scroll down to see the images; the ones on the top - which aren’t any worse - are by Norom Japhet)
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Nov 19

I’m tired of talking about Instagram, but it seems these days you can’t get away from it. John Edwin Mason just published a very good piece about the use of Instagram in the war between Israel and Hamas. With the US news media’s unquestioning embrace of Instagram, the photo app was bound to pop up as a tool for unmediated propaganda. What’s interesting here is that in the art world more and more people are now talking about how the flood of images requires smart curation or editing for things to make sense. In the world of the news, the current development points in the very opposite direction: Let the people see all that stuff and try to make sense of it themselves! (this is usually phrased as either “Give the people what the people want” or as “Democratize photography”) On his Tumblr, Darren Campion explains why this poses a huge problem: “we often find ourselves without the means to determine a (non-photographic) context in which to ‘anchor’ a given image.” Which allows us, to take this a bit further, to anchor an image any which way we want - you basically see what you want to believe. And with social media, you can make sure you really only see what you want to see: you follow the people who post the pictures that confirm your view and let all the other ones fall by the wayside.
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Nov 19

In Despite Or Because Of by Charlie Simokaitis we are thrown into an unsettling world of mostly darkness where even seemingly brighter spots appear to carry tremendous weight.
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Nov 15

Paul Bogaers’ Upset Down might well be one of the most unusual photobooks I own. The book doesn’t really have a front and back. Or rather you can look at it from whatever you take as your front to the back, and then you can turn it over and look at it, again, from the new front to the back. The way this works, as you can imagine, is simple: Each spread shows two images. The one on the right-hand side has the ‘correct’ orientation, the one on the other side is upside down. Needless to say, constructing a photobook that way would be an entirely pointless exercise if one were required to only look at the right-hand side. One isn’t. Instead, each spread (the vast majority of them anyway) works on its own, regardless whether you look at it… well, what is the correct up and down here?
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Nov 14

With Remember Me When I Am Gone Away Sarah Mitrani visually processes the death of her younger sister Julie.
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Nov 13

This is an image from Anthony Smith’s In Dog Years (Gaskill St).
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Nov 12

“For two years I have been following the southern border of the European Union, to conduct a documentary project about the immigration crisis that strikes the area.” - Malika Gaudin Delrieu, introducing The Waiting Rooms of Europe
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Nov 9

In 1975, Rag Theater (The 2400 block of Telegraph Avenue) by Nacio Jan Brown was published. On the website, people who were present on the scene forty years ago are invited to post their recollection. In a letter accompanying the book the photographer wrote “The scene reminds me of the first lines of Dickens’ ‘Tales of Two Cities’: ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…’. The posts reflect this.” For those interested in the book, copies are newly available (contact the photographer) - it’s not a reprint, it’s the original edition (many copies of the books have been safely stored for decades). (more)
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Nov 8

At some stage over the past two years or so, something happened to photobook making. Things seem to have become considerably more complex, resulting in a flurry of books that have moved way beyond the simple gallery-show-on-paper format. Photographers started to mix colour with black and white, say, or combined seemingly different types of images; images started to move across the spreads - and nobody felt compelled to talk about it. Instead, the medium itself (meaning its makers and viewers) seems to have just leapt to a more complex level, with seemingly endless possibilities opening up. Another case in point is provided by Patrick Hogan’s (self-published) Still (which you can order directly from the artist).
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Nov 7

“There are reports of violent clashes and untimely deaths pouring in from all over Syria. These are getting mixed up with whispered rumours and half-truths that are all being fed into a virtual world build of binary ones and zeroes. In this second reality all information is chopped up, mixed together and handed back to the people in bite sized, 140 character packages easy to consume but hard to digest. The people of Damascus live in a world shaped by another world that in reality doesn’t really exist. The only thing real is the fear. The fear of what will come. This project is an exploration of the modern theater of war.” - Anders Birger about his This Damn Weather
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Nov 6

Zachary S. Allen’s In the Field explicitly includes taking photographs as part of the experience of landscape. We might as well ask: In today’s world, if something isn’t photographed does it exist?
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Nov 5

In Background Noise Ben Alper introduces digital distortions in the world of analog photographs.
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Nov 1

Vernacular photography has firmly established itself as a part of our photographic world. Artists, collectors, and curators (myself included) have been combing flea markets or Ebay for such photographs. Vernacular photographs are everywhere, albeit for the most part in a completely unorganized state, an album here, a stack of photographs there - unless they have become part of a collection. Melissa Catanese was given access to such a collection, thousands of photographs amassed by Peter Cohen (depending on the source, there are 20,000+ or 35,000 images in Cohen’s collection), resulting in Dive Dark Dream Slow.
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