Archives

August 2005

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Aug 31

“Image appropriation is a genre of art that is often questioned for its originality and ethics. […] Image appropriators like Sherrie Levine, , who credits the original photographer of her reproductions with titles like ‘After Walker Evans,’ etc., breathe new life into artworks that many might not otherwise see. Levine has appropriated photographs by Walker Evans and Edward Weston, sculptures by Constantin Brancusi and Marcel Duchamp, and paintings by Vincent van Gogh, among others.” I’m not that sure I would agree with the “new life” bit there. However, here’s a little stinger: “Duchamp, along with Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, and Cindy Sherman, has also appropriated work from various media.” So what are we to make out of this? This page looks like it was set up for law students, but it contains lots and lots of links, some to legal pages, some to actual art work. So what about Duchamp’s “Mona Lisa” or Warhol’s Micky Mouse? Or Thomas Ruff’s manipulations? And is the law really the appropriate means to deal with this kind of stuff? (thanks, Harlan!)
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Aug 31

Even though I know that the internet makes people voice their opinion quite strongly I am quite surprised about the negative (and - occasionally - outright dogmatic) responses to Thomas Ruff’s new work. We are to accept digital photography, but when somebody applies all those obvious digital tools, mirroring - as I noted - remixing of sound, then that’s suddenly so terrible?
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Aug 31

The entry page of Nathalie Daoust’s Hotel Story tells us that “None of the images were created or enhanced digitally.” We can speculate why this is deemed to be important - would the images be less interesting or good if they were the result of snazzy Photoshop work? In any case, the imagery is quite interesting, albeit at times a tad kitschy. Also see this page for “Tokyo Girls” and this page for a summary of the Hotel series with thumbnails. (thanks, Ron!)
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Aug 30

Jacqueline Devreux’ paintings (see more here) evoke photographic imagery. Isn’t it interesting how many people accept this kind of work, but if somebody did this kind of stuff with a camera and Photoshop people would react quite differently? What does that teach us about “art”? (seen at gmtPlus9)
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Aug 29

I have the feeling that many readers will like Roger Minick’s work more than I do. I personally think his work from the 1980’s is quite excellent, but I fail to get as excited about the older and newer stuff.
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Aug 28

Frank Rich is spot on again: “It isn’t just Mr. Bush who is in a tight corner now. Ms. Sheehan’s protest was the catalyst for a new national argument about the war that managed to expose both the intellectual bankruptcy of its remaining supporters on the right and the utter bankruptcy of the Democrats who had rubber-stamped this misadventure in the first place.” - story
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Aug 26

Watch a multimedia presentation of photos and a narration by Paul Fusco about funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq. (found at Martin Fuchs’ weblog)
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Aug 26

Koji Sekimoto’s photography (review 1, review 2) shows the almost stereotypical cuteness that appears to be so common in contemporary Japan. I read somewhere that supposedly that cuteness has some very deep meaning - but then everything has a very deep meaning in Japan.
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Aug 26

“It’s a common misconception among the left in the United States that Europeans are much more serious, better educated and more intellectual than their American counterparts.” - full story
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Aug 25

The American public appears to be becoming increasingly aware of the fact that those splendid little wars in Afghanistan and especially Iraq aren’t going that well - forcing the president to find his last sympathetic audiences in places like Idaho, where he just gave another one of his speeches that show the mix of delusion, callousness and sheer incompetence by which his presidency will be judged in the future. Photographers like Nina Berman have been co-responsible for the war binge to come to and end and reality to set in; and reality in this case (as in all wars) means the costs, especially in terms of human life. Nina Berman took portraits of soldiers wounded in Iraq and compiled it in a book called Purple Hearts. See many more samples - plus text - here, here, and here.
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Aug 24

From the how-not-to-win-the-hearts-and-minds department: “Afghan human rights officials Wednesday described as ‘unbelievably lenient’ the sentences U.S. military courts have handed down to American soldiers convicted of abusing two Afghan detainees who later died.” - story
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Aug 24

This is from a review: “Thomas Ruff [student of Bernd Becher], known for his deadpan portraits and gorgeous views of the night sky and architecture, is one of Germany’s leading contemporary artist/photographers. Among his recent work is an exploration of the internet, that parallel visual universe teeming with sexuality of every flavor and variety. He gathers from that virtual playground erotic and often pornographic photographs that he subsequently manipulates in his computer, making beautiful — and disturbing — artwork from visual material that, for better or worse, is probably more abundant than any other type of image in our world today.” Vulgo: For his “Nudes” project Thomas Ruff downloaded pornography (thumbnails) from the internet and then Photoshop’ed it (them). Samples here. Here is a snippet from another review: “Significantly, Ruff uses no camera or traditional photographic device in the production of these images, a process in which every step, from sourcing through manipulation to printing, is purely digital. Both literally and figuratively blurring the distinctions between pornography and formalist nude photography, Ruff also enhances the artificial atmosphere of the tiny ‘originals’ by boosting their image size exponentially. In the process, each image becomes disengaged from its source, forcing the subject into the background, and prioritizing its formal and aesthetic value. By altering these publicly accessible and starkly aggressive images as he does, Ruff simultaneously returns to them a sense of dignity and beauty, while heightening an awareness of representation’s own manipulative promises and illusions.” Lately, Thomas Ruff has been expanding this ansatz by re-working (or should we call it re-mixing?) other images pulled from the web. Check out this page (and subsequent pages) for some samples. Note that you have to click on the thumbnails to see what he has done, as the thumbnails do not reflect the work at all. I find these works very interesting, and I’m curious to see where this will lead us. How many other people will pick this up? I’m also sure there will be many “Oh, I could do that” comments. I personally find this whole process quite promising. (Updated post)
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Aug 23

Maury Gortemiller’s portfolio contains some interesting projects - I am not sure what any of them means, but…
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Aug 23

“It was a spooky moment when BerlinÂ’s hardest rappers were allowed onto public service television. A spectre flitting across the screen at a late hour when the little ones were already in bed, between the latest unemployment figures and the devastation caused by Hurricane Dennis. A subject to be treated with an editorial barge-pole. The producers spent a long time discussing whether they wanted run the story at all, but you can’t simply draw a veil of silence over something so loud. What followed was a ninety-second clip showing a man covered in tattoos cruising Berlin in a luxury limousine, or on stage yelling obscenities to screams of delight from his teenage audience. Once the fuss was over, the stony expression of ‘heute-journal’ presenter Claus Kleber relaxed a little and he broke into a little rap of his own telling the moral of the story. ‘Bushido finds it all quite funny’ – pause – ‘heÂ’s so busy counting up his money.’” - story
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Aug 22

“Ten thousand years ago, the foundations of human civilization were laid in the fertile floodplain between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in what was Mesopotamia and is now the modern nation of Iraq. […] Decades of political isolation, a protracted war with Iran, and, more recently, the invasion and continuing conflict, which began in 2003, have put this extraordinary heritage at risk. Today, such famous sites as the Assyrian capital of Nineveh, the ziggurat at Ur, the temple precinct at Babylon, and a ninth-century spiral minaret at Samarra have been scarred by violence, while equally important ancient sites […] are being ravaged by looters who work day and night to fuel an international art market hungry for antiquities. […] In response to such widespread damage and continuing threats to our collective cultural heritage and the significance of the sites at risk, WMF [World Monuments Watch] has taken the unprecedented step of including the entire country of Iraq on its 2006 list of 100 Most Endangered Sites.” (my emphasis) - story Yes, we can really be proud of ourselves and of our follies.
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Aug 22

“Synthesiser pioneer Dr Robert Moog has died at his North Carolina home aged 71, four months after being diagnosed with brain cancer.” - story
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Aug 22

I have been asked lots of times, why I am not using images any longer. As visitors familiar with what this weblog looked like 2 years ago will remember there were sample images for most photographers. The way I did this was to what they call “hot-link” images, namely to use images on the photographers’ websites as the source. As a direct consequence, I didn’t have to host them. The problem with that is that this uses the photographers’ bandwidth. Did I have a problem with that? Yes and no. Yes, because it’s kind of unfair; no, because they get free advertizing with hundreds of people looking at their stuff. But I eventually figured that the hassle created by the occasional complaint about it wasn’t worth the trouble. On top of that, very often links disappear and don’t work any longer. While that’s just annoying for actual links, when you use photos you suddenly get little red crosses or whatever else your browser shows you. So there is a lot of extra maintenance work involved. Of course, I could host the images on my own server, but then I’d have to ask the photographers for permission first (I don’t think other weblogs do that but I don’t think that’s fair), and I don’t have the time for that. Plus, I don’t have the bandwidth myself, and upgrading to new hosting would cost money, which I also don’t have. Thus, as much as I enjoyed the original photo look, this issue still needs to be sorted out. On the plus side, as it is now the weblog loads very quickly. Always look at the bright side…
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Aug 21

“There must be good reasons when gallerists start talking about miracles and proclaiming Leipzig as the world’s art capital. There must be more to it that the hustle and bustle of the art market when American collectors learjet over to Leipzig to plough through studios and galleries. Something major must have happened if suddenly thousands of dollars changing hands for the offerings of third year students. What’s going on in Leipzig at the moment is prosaic, gobsmacking, and obvious at the same time.” - story
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Aug 19

Have a look at the impressive minimalist photography of Mark King.
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Aug 18

Thorsten Schimmel’s architectural photography, especially Silentium, is quite exquisit.
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Aug 18

Martin Schoeller is one of the most popular commercial portrait photographers.
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Aug 18

Lisa M Robinson’s portfolio contains a very nice set of projects each of which contains some true treasures. Unfortunately, the samples are all a bit small, and they don’t appear to be reproduced too well digitally. For larger samples of her Snowbound series click here. (thanks, Andy!)
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Aug 17

“How can the new generation of art photographers make their mark when almost anyone with the latest equipment can take excellent pictures?” - story The basic assumption of the article is wrong, though. Just because you can buy the latest equipment doesn’t mean that you can take excellent pictures. It still takes a good photographer to take a good photo.
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Aug 17

If there ever was an American activity it’s consumption, and this goes beyond stereotyping. So it’s almost only logical that in his first major speech after 9/11 the American president told people to go on with their lives by doing some shopping (that’s what you get when you have a[n at best] mediocre president in difficult times). Kate Bingaman’s Obsessive Consumption deals with aspects of consumption. There is some photography, some of which is interesting, some of which is not. Check it out. Oh, and it’s not like the ultra-angry righteous fundamentalism shown in Adbusters. As much as I think they have lots of good points there, I just refuse to be that angry all the time; it’s just not healthy.
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Aug 17

Tanya Zani takes photos of the utterly mundane.
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Aug 15

As much as I appreciate the Lomo LC-A, the camera that got me interested in photography, the way it is being marketed and sold is quite unappealing. And now, as - apparently - production of the camera has ended, they are selling the camera for $260 (also 260 Euros). You really have to be out of your mind to pay that much money for the camera. If you want one of those, get one on Ebay, and pay not more than $80-90 (tops).
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Aug 15

Using limited depth-of-field and slightly surreal colours, Marc Räder’s photography investigates the environments we choose to live in and vacation in.
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Aug 12

Julie Blackmon has been following Sally Mann’s foot steps - opting for a more commercial look. You probably might also want to compare her photos with Todd Deutsch’s.
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Aug 11

“President Bush used to be content to revel in his own ignorance. Now he wants to share it with America’s schoolchildren. I refer to his recent comments in favor of teaching ‘intelligent design’ alongside evolution. […] The president seems to view the conflict between evolutionary theory and intelligent design as something like the debate over Social Security reform. But this is not a disagreement with two reasonable points of view, let alone two equally valid ones. […] intelligent design is a faith-based theory with no scientific validity or credibility.” - story
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Aug 11

David Balhuizen’s photos from the aftermath of a storm in Florida are very cool.
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Aug 11

For some reason, the teenage years are being idolized to an extent almost inverse to their actual attractiveness. “Joseph Szabo has been photographing his teen-age students for the past twenty-five years, and has perfectly captured the ambivalence of that time of life. As a high school teacher of photography, he takes seriously their pretentions, passions, and confusions, and he knows intimately how students put on, act up, behave, and misbehave.” Well, hmm, OK; the photos are very nice, though. Also see this page.
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Aug 10

Martin Amis has a good eye for great photos, with a nice sense of humour lurking right underneath the surface. I especially like the Racing Seen series.
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Aug 10

A small deviation from photography today and a look at the country that I grew up in and that has started to transform itself in quite a rapid fashion lately - or maybe it’s just me, watching it from the outside, now for over five years: “Investigators found the bodies of nine babies buried in flower pots in an east German town. […] A crime like the one discovered in Frankfurt an der Oder has never happened here before, although the nation has already lived through the horrifying story of the German cannibal — a man who chopped up and ate his lover for dinner. But, nine dead babies, their bodies found in flower baskets and a sand-filled aquarium, is even more grisly. All the infants died, at least according to [the woman], in her four-room apartment on Democracy Square in Frankfurt an der Oder. When she was evicted from the apartment, she carefully transported the flower pots and aquarium to her parents’ house.” (story). What really bothers me about this is what they say right at the beginning: “Nine pregnancies, nine babies born and no one noticed a thing” even though “at the time of the killings, the brown concrete block was packed with professional spies. All 44 people who leased apartments at the time receieved checks from the Stasi, the East German state secret police.” Maybe some things will never change in Germany.
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Aug 9

More commercial photography: Dean Kaufman.
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Aug 9

Nick Meek is a commercial photographer with a very interesting personal portfolio (also see this, somewhat messier, overview).
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Aug 8

Dash Snow apparently took his Polaroids to capture his life by night (and day). Whether that’s really true is not quite that relevant - even though you might wonder what makes these photos special. Don’t ask me.
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Aug 5

Check out Nathan Perkel’s photography. My favourite is the “Cement Factory” gallery.
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Aug 5

You can find indirect commentary on my post about photographers doing the same or very similar work (link) over at View from the Edge of the Universe. In my original post, I tried to avoid giving my personal opinion - to avoid getting in the way of the reader’s own thinking. I have since received some very interesting email, and pretty much everybody who sent me email wrote something along the lines that different photographers working on the same (or very similar) idea is a good thing because that way, you get to see different takes of that same idea and, thus, you experience each photographer’s personal influence (note how we’re here in “remix” culture territory!). To get back to Erik’s post, it seems like he wouldn’t agree with this. How else would you understand his statement that “there is something disappointing about the similarities in the work”? I personally think that if you approach photography that way, you will always be disappointed. And what would one say about a similar entry where, instead of showing photos that use that limited depth-of-field, one would show, for example, stark b/w portraits? Would we find it disappointing to see how similar (on the surface) photos by Richard Avedon, Steve Pyke, and Martin Schoeller (to name just three famous masters of portraiture) are?
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Aug 4

Jaroslav Rössler was a Czech master of abstract photography. Very impressive work! (seen at gmtPlus9)
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Aug 4

Check out Theo Barth’s Impressionen aus Shanghai. It’s interesting to see how his photos show very clearly our Western cultural bias: Modernity is seen as something awe inspiring, and all the problems that we’re increasingly struggling with don’t appear to be relevant.
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Aug 3

Imagine you have what you think is a brilliant idea for a new photography project. Let’s assume your brilliant idea revolves around taking photos of little dolls or miniature people. Now imagine that even before you start taking your photos - or shortly after (it doesn’t really matter) - somebody (who pays attention to what’s going on on this weblog) tells you that David Levinthal has built his entire career around doing exactly that. What do you do? Do you still proceed with your idea? Or, if you have already done the work, do you throw the following things: 1. a tantrum and 2. the photos (the latter into the trash bin)? And if you decide to simply keep your work and if then somebody tells you that you’re merely copying David Levinthal or that you’re a David Levinthal pupil (or whatever else intellectual laziness makes people say) how do you react to that? I think it’s a pretty obvious statement that it is very hard to do any photographic work that is 100 percent original. How do you deal with that as a photographer? Even if you wanted to pitch your photos for a gallery show do you really have to care? Note, I am assuming that you’re not blatantly ripping of somebody else’s work - taking photos of your little kids growing up and maturing is one thing, but taking hundreds and hundreds of photos of water towers would be a bit too close to what other artists have based their career on. But even if you shamelessly copy somebody else’s work you might actually get away with it. In any case, with the internet showing us so much of what other people have been doing, do you proceed with what you want to do - even if you know somebody else has done it already? (I am indebted to Mark for making me think about this)
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Aug 3

Alexandra Hedison’s Rebuilding is currently on view at White Room Gallery.
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Aug 3

Cuny Janssen’s has evolved from her earlier focus on portraiture to other areas.
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Aug 2

If I was to invent a product “Instant Art Scene” it would contain a bag with some powder in it, and after you pour hot water over it, it would result in a smallish group of people who only talk to each other or to people wealthy enough to buy art, using mostly code - a language that makes only limited sense in the real world. Of course, I’m just kidding. Anyway, there are some interesting art blogs out there, written by professional art critics (as far as I can tell), and it’s always worth checking those out. I just discovered Edward Winkleman’s blog, check it out! The term “photo blog” is often used for blogs where people post their own photos. As is obvious, this - and many other - blogs does not fit into that category. You could probably start a discussion about whether blogs like this one are meta-photo blogs but I don’t want to be mistaken for belonging to an art scene (kidding again). Somewhere in between are blogs like Martin Fuchs’ who is “currently doing a 6-months internship at the renowned photo agency Magnum Photos in their New York City office” (sponsored by Canon - now there’s an idea for me! however: why would anyone want to sponsor this blog?). If you’re interested in what’s going on at Magnum and what it’s like to be part of that crowd, have a look at Martin’s experiences.
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Aug 1

Stephen Shore’s Uncommon Places is one of my favourite photo books. Check out lots of samples from that work here. Find an interesting interview with Stephen Shore here. (updated post)
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Aug 1

Chan Chao, who first became know for his series “Burma: Something Went Wrong”, more recently finished a series of nudes, actually portraits of naked women. The nude is probably even harder to do than the portrait, and I think Chan Chao has done an outstanding job, avoiding all the cliches that are so common in the world of nude photography.
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Aug 1

Signs of the times: Christopher Stewart’s Insecurity, discussed here in more detail.
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Aug 1

As stories about harrassment of photographers for “security” reasons are becoming ever more common - the latest one creating quite the hype - it is good to see that there is a blog dealing exclusively with legal issues etc. Especially check out their links. (thanks, Toby!)
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