Archives

February 2008

SELECT A MONTH:

Feb 29

There’s a wonderful Gregory Crewdson feature over at Aperture’s website -incl. interviews, production stills etc. Not to be missed!
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Feb 29

Andreas Gursky is one of the most important living photographers, despite the fact that his work is often being judged on nothing but else but its size or its price. While his photos are indeed monumental, size is merely a means to an end - as is obvious to a viewer who is confronted by one of Gursky’s photographs. The prints are not big simply because he can print them big, but because they have to be big, because of what they show and how they show it.
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Feb 29

David Prifti’s “wet plate collodion” portraits are very nice - not because of the process, but because of what he was able to produce (I consider the process to produce a photograph as the means and the photograph as the end).
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Feb 28

“Photoshop,” was my immediate response, followed by “I wonder what crap Hollywood movie this is from”, when I saw this photo (note this is quite a disturbing photograph!). And then I read the caption, and it turns out it’s a real photo, it’s a real person: “A French woman badly disfigured by facial tumours caused by a rare and incurable disease has appealed to President Nicolas Sarkozy to allow her to die by euthanasia. In an interview with the Agence France-Presse news agency, former school teacher Chantal Sebire, 52, begged for the right to end the ‘atrocious’ suffering inflicted on her by the disease which has rendered her face unrecognisable because of growing tumours.” (story)
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Feb 28

I’m a bit torn about Santiago Mostyn’s work, but there is enough interesting photography on his website to make it well worth the visit.
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Feb 27

I typically don’t embed Youtube clips, but for this one, I’ll make an exception. This is by far the best interpretation of the second movement of Shostakovich’s 10th symphony I have ever heard (I have about seven or eight on CD). I’m almost surprised at the end, the roof didn’t come off. I had read about the Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela before, but I had no idea they were this excellent. It’s almost a bit unfair to do this, but simply compare it with this other interpretation, which pales in comparison. Needless to say, one could argue about interpretation here, but given that Shostakovich used to play his own compositions at break-neck speed, and given that the movement is intended to be a portrait of Stalin (who had just died when the symphony was premiered), Dudamel’s interpretation appears to be what the composer might have wished to hear. Unbelievable.
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Feb 27

I used to read quite a bit of philosophy when I was younger. The one thing that I noted about philosophy is that regardless of who you read, at some stage you’re bound to stumble upon the philosopher’s definition of what good philosophy really is and/or which human activity is most preferable, and quite inevitably, you’ll “discover” (assuming that even running into this repeatedly does not turn you into a cynic, who’ll actually expect something like this) that of course each philosopher thought that his (needless to say, the canon is all male) philosophy is by far the best and only valid one, and the crown of all human activity is… wanna guess?
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Feb 27

François Coquerel’s website contains quite a bit of very nice portraiture.
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Feb 26

Laura Letinsky’s photos look as if they were taken right in the middle of something: People are caught in some unknown (but hinted at) act, and food in still-life settings has been eaten but not cleaned up afterwards. Find a good interview with the artist here. (updated entry)
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Feb 26

“The Guido Mocafico: Nature Morte exhibition […] focuses on photographs inspired by the aesthetics of Old Masters. […] the photographer concentrates in this exhibition primarily on three genres of still life: banquet, floral and vanitas still lifes, or as Mocafico calls his groups of works, natures mortes de table, bouquets and vanités.” (source)
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Feb 25

“Mr. Marshall does not shy away from the notion of blogging. ‘I think of us as journalists; the medium we work in is blogging,’ he said, something that can involve matters as varied as the tone of the writing or the display of articles in reverse chronological order. ‘We have kind of broken free of the model of discrete articles that have a beginning and end. Instead, there are an ongoing series of dispatches.’” - story
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Feb 25

“Truthdig Editor Robert Scheer interviews documentarian Alex Gibney about his 2008 Academy Award winning documentary Taxi to the Dark Side, a compelling examination of the circumstances that led Americans to commit torture.”
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Feb 25

I didn’t manage to track down more images or any information (in a language that I can at least read) about Steinar Christensen than what is given on this one site here.
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Feb 22

Architecture is a form of art, just like photography or painting, and as such it says something about its time and about us. We, as spectators, often don’t see it as art - and how could we, if we are surrounded by, say, MacMansions? But who thinks of art in a Thomas Kinkade or Anne Geddes store? But then once we are exposed to what rises above the forgettable we just know that we are looking at a work of art, and not just that, we can usually even walk inside. Almost by construction (pun unintentional, but not unwelcome), contemporary architecture also contains an element of transition, an idea of showing us the world of tomorrow, or maybe more precisely what we hope the world of tomorrow might look like. Using architecture, we express our desire for a better future - and maybe that’s the reason why in the US - unlike in Europe - older architecture is often simply neglected and left to decay: Who wants to maintain the old, when they can get something new?
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Feb 21

People sometimes ask me why I’m a vegetarian, and even though there is a wide variety of reason, my main reason is simple ethics, followed by health reasons, which, as it turns out, are actually connected with each other (and they both tie in with an environmental dimension, too). You might have heard of The Biggest Beef Recall Ever (if you live in the US and eat meat, it’s quite likely you have actually eaten this meat), triggered by this video, taken by the Humane Society of the United States, which had picked a meat processing plant (a sickening word in itself, given what this actually means) at random. If you haven’t seen the video, note that it is extremely graphic and disturbing. Update: A long and good article about this on Salon.com
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Feb 21

This via The Frontal Cortex (the blog, not mine): “My friend “Jason” (not his real name) is one of thousands of amputees living with a huge secret. Years ago, after a lifetime of anguish due to having an extra hand - essentially a birth defect in his opinion - he took the radical step of amputating this hand just above the wrist.” (story)
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Feb 21

Commercial photographer Thomas Broening has recently set up a website of his personal work, Closer to where we want to be.
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Feb 20

People often tell me that Thomas Ruff’s portraits are boring. What does that mean: “boring”? How can a portrait be boring?
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Feb 20

… two very noteworthy posts. First, via Colin Pantall comes The Greatest Art Photograph Ever, with a list of photography clichés. And photographylot posts Tips on entering a call for entry/contest.
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Feb 20

I usually don’t link to somebody’s work on Flickr, simply because I find the comments left by the ubiquitous sycophants too hard to take (“you did it!!!”, “amazing and beautfiul” [sic!], “you are in my dream”, etc. etc., almost ad infinitum), but with Jon Edwards, I don’t have much of a choice. Not everything is good - Flickr and editing usually don’t go together, but the good stuff really is very good.
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Feb 19

“Staff at the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office discovered arrest logs and photographs from the time of the Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955-56) and the Freedom Rides (1961). Selected pages from those volumes have been scanned by ADAH [Alabama Department of Archives & History] staff and are available at the links below.” (source)
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Feb 18

I almost saw my breakfast again this morning when I came across this article, so I was glad to have Colin Pantall point out this antidote, which rightly talks about the “soft, luxurious, creamy air of contented image-pampering Vanity Fair ladles out so generously” and, in passing, trashes the latest Annie Leibovitz “documentary”, calling it “embarrassingly emollient hagiography”.
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Feb 18

“Called Honey Space by its creator, the gallery has sprung up in one of the last unused (and as yet undeveloped or demolished) old warehouses in the booming, polished Chelsea art district. No rent is paid by the gallery. There is no sign. The door on 11th Avenue between 21st and 22nd Streets looks a little like a breach in the wall. The gallery will generally keep Chelsea hours, open Tuesdays through Saturdays. But most of the time there will be no one attending it.” (story)
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Feb 18

And while you’re looking at Przemysław Pokrycki’s work, compare with Douglas Adesko’s “Family Meal”.
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Feb 18

Przemysław Pokrycki’s “Rites of Passage” is a wonderful series showing family gatherings for baptisms, first communions, weddings, and funerals - kind of like a social typology.
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Feb 17

Just back from NYC where I went for the constituting meeting of the Photo Blog Mutual Admiration Society (pictured above the first board of directors; from left to right: myself, Andrew Hetherington - who also took the notes - and Robert Wright).
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Feb 14

Digitally layering photos of the same subject has been explored by Idris Khan or Jason Salavon, but when looking at those images - as cool as they might look at first glance - I often ask myself: And now? Having seen all the Becher water towers or Playboy centerfolds in one image, what am I to take away from it? Pep Ventosa’s The Collective Snapshot is another such set of montages, which, in the end, for might prove most lasting. Combining snapshots of famous buildings or sights, taken by different people, is a bit akin to creating some sort of collective memory. Pep Ventosa’s other work is digital, too, but mostly decorative.
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Feb 13

There is no shortage of books about Havana and its decaying infrastructure, or about Paris and its architectural treasures; and there are many other such places which to some extent have been transformed into photographic clichés. “If Calcutta had the appeal of Havana,” Süddeutsche Zeitung, one of Germany’s leading newspapers, wrote, “its palaces would long ago have become the subject of various coffee-table books.” And who says they don’t have that appeal? Thanks to Calcutta (Chitpur Road Neighborhoods), we now have the opportunity to see for ourselves.
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Feb 13

Alejandra Laviada’s work sits at the intersection of photography and sculpture. I’m usually not too fond of images taken in abandoned buildings, but hers are very interesting (because they go beyond the mere depiction of the emptied space).
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Feb 12

Should photographers tell you what to make of what you see or not? It’s an old discussion (see just one of the many examples here), and Adrian Searle adds his voice here, discussing this year’s Deutsche Börse prize nominees.
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Feb 12

I’m sure by now you have seen Richard Mosse’s Air Disaster Simulations over at bldgblog.
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Feb 12

Pulsating stars (so-called cepheids) have long been used as one of the best means to determine distances in astronomy. Needless to say, the devil is in the details. A team of astronomers has now studied the star “RS Pup” to measure its distance using light echoes - light from the star bouncing off surrounding material. If you’re interested in this, have a look at the press release or even the actual publication. But regardless of how interested you are in this, you will definitely want to watch the movie the researchers made, with time compressed into seconds, the star pulsating visibly, and material ejected from the outer layers of the star streaming into space (the black line masks the star so its brightness won’t overpower the camera).
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Feb 12

Regardless of what you may think about the recent NY Times Magazine spread shot by Ryan McGinley, Rob’s comment is spot on: “I think their attempt to wrestle the Hollywood photoshoot beast away from it’s [sic!] recent hyper-produced overwrought incarnation is a welcome relief.” (full post)
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Feb 12

At first, I only looked at Francesca Romeo’s portraiture (especially “Series 1”), but her work from a cemetary (“Series 3”) has grown quite a bit on me now.
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Feb 11

One day, a few months ago when I still lived in Pittsburgh, I looked out of the window and I saw smoke from what appeared to be a big fire in a building somewhere in the distance, with fire engines rushing down the streets towards the scene. I probably won’t forget this since at that very moment when I discovered the fire, I was listening to the song Open Fire by Einstürzende Neubauten (whose name translates “Collapsing New Buildings”).
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Feb 11

Robert Wright wrote a two-part piece on The Sartorialist and his current show (part 1, part 2). I haven’t seen the show, yet (so I obviously can’t say anything about it), and I haven’t been following his blog, either (it looks like a street version of Go Fug Yourself, with models and commentary provided by the general public). But it seems to me that maybe a good way to exhibit his work would be to show the photos along with some of the comments. It almost appears as if the photos are somewhat incomplete without the comments - and then the whole package somehow says something about our current times. Or maybe not. Probably best to leave it up to the theorists to decide and elaborate on that.
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Feb 11

I remember a while ago, I was writing a post about my favourite classic portraits, and I wanted to include Richard Avedon’s portraiture of his father - which I couldn’t find online. I suppose the obvious did not occur to me, namely to look on the Richard Avedon website (in my defense, it appears as if the website has been expanded quite a bit since my prior visits). So it took Miguel’s post to remind me of that work, and to tell me where to look.
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Feb 10

“My first day on the ground in Kenya, I went into Mathare with a group of photographers after hearing that there had been some problems. Two mobs were facing off on the main street leading into the Nairobi slum. Once the dust had settled, I met an Italian photographer by the name of Enrico Dangnino. He was pretty shaken up. He had blood stains on his clothes and told me that earlier in the day they had witnessed a near lynching but were able to save the man’s life. […] a Luo mob got hold of a man from the Kamba tribe whom they now consider to be an enemy. He was simply trying to cross through the neighborhood to get to his home. The mob attacked him with weapons, kicked him and began dousing him with gasoline, presumably to set him on fire. Enrico, and his colleague, Luc Delahaye, decided to intervene and managed to spare his life.” (story, with a slide show here)
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Feb 8

Via Chase Jarvis’ blog I found this audio interview with Lawrence Lessig - if you want to learn about “Creative Commons” check it out!
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Feb 8

Here’s a little BBC programme called “The Man Who Eats Badgers” (and whose wife is a vegetarian). What fascinates me about this is how in that man’s personal Universe, things just make perfect sense. I think it’s those extreme cases when we can learn something about ourselves.
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Feb 8

Olaf Otto Becker sent me the link to Michael Roulier’s website whose work, he wrote, looked like a mix of Todd Hido and Gregory Crewdson.
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Feb 8

Mark Tucker sent me the link to The Ones We Love, “a project highlighting young and talented photographers from around the world. Each artist contributed six photographs of the person(s) who is most important to them, taken outdoors in a natural setting. The goal of the website is to portray the people who are loved, cherished, and inspirational to these artists, and also showcase the differences and similarities in the photographs each of them took within the same guidelines.” The individual contributions are well worth the time it takes to look through all of them.
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Feb 8

Shame - there’s something about a Polaroid photo that no other film (and obviously not digital) can match. Probably someone else will license the technology, but I’m sure it’ll be the end of buying a case of 10 Polaroid photos on a whim, somewhere in a grocery store or so, and shooting to see what happens.
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Feb 7

If you live in China, check out the February 2008 edition of Chinese Photography Magazine, which features a very nice spread of Shen Wei’s photography (incl. an introduction written by yours truly, plus an interview with Shen). Also, their website now has Chinese language versions of my conversations with Robert Lyons and Simon Roberts, with more to come soon.
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Feb 7

It is so thoughtful that someone bought me a Francis Bacon triptych for my upcoming big birthday, even though the price tag (51.68 million dollars) might strike some as a bit excessive.
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Feb 7

About the What makes a great portrait? post, I found this following comment (can you guess what very popular photo site this is from?): “Some good observations, but the sheer length of the post and diversity of the responses seems to argue that there can be no consensus on this question.” Anyway, here is something about “what’s it like to photograph somebody famous”, with three one great portraits and both sides of the story.
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Feb 7

How does one go about portraying one’s family? Caitlin Arnold’s project There’s something about my family is one such attempt.
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Feb 6

“The White House on Wednesday defended the use of the interrogation technique known as waterboarding, saying it is legal - not torture as critics argue - and has saved American lives. President Bush could authorize waterboarding for future terrorism suspects if certain criteria are met, a spokesman said.” (story) And more: “Bush personally authorized Hayden’s testimony, White House deputy spokesman Tony Fratto said. […] Fratto said waterboarding’s use in the past was also approved by the attorney general, meaning it was legal and not torture.” I’m no lawyer, but as far as I know what is legal is not determined by the attorney general (or the President for that matter), but by the laws of the country; and, in a similar fashion, whether waterboarding is torture or not is also not determined by the attorney general or the President.
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Feb 6

When discussing what “makes” a great portrait with Exposure Compensation’s Miguel Garcia-Guzman, we quickly realized that we couldn’t really agree on much. So we figured we might as well ask some other people, and we sent out an email to a large number of photographers, fine art and commercial, bloggers, curators, editors, and gallerists: “What makes a good portrait? Could you provide us an example of a portrait that you really like - either from your or someone else’s work - and say why the portrait works so well for you?” to publish what we would get back on our blogs, as a collaborative effort to get a little bit closer to understanding the topic. Below is what we got back from those who managed to find the time to write something. Our thanks to everybody who contributed!
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Feb 5

Have a look at Dru Donovan’s environmental portraiture.
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Feb 4

“Born in Normal, Illinois, in 1925, […] Meatyard attended Williams College as part of the Navy’s V12 program in World War II. Following the war, he married, became a licensed optician, and moved to Lexington, Kentucky [..] When the first of his three children was born, Meatyard bought a camera to make pictures of the baby. Quickly, photography became a consuming interest. He joined the Lexington Camera Club, where he met Van Deren Coke, under whose encouragement he soon developed into a powerfully original photographer. […] An eclectic and voracious reader, Meatyard became close friends with poets and writers, including Guy Davenport, Wendell Berry, Jonathan Williams, and the Trappist monk Thomas Merton. Meatyard’s work became well known and was exhibited widely within the United States and abroad. In 1972, he died of cancer, a week before his forty seventh birthday.” (source; sample images here)
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Feb 4

Recently, two books appeared that portray American teenagers (an age group that - to use the well tested jargon of US journalism - “some say” might not necessarily be in dire need of even more attention). The first is Dawoud Bey’s Class Pictures, the second Robin Bowman’s It’s Complicated: The American Teenager. In both cases, the photographers spent a lot of time traveling and assembling the work, photographing their subjects and collecting their voices - both books contain how the teenagers describe their lives. Dawoud Bey’s website contains samples from the book, Robin Bowman’s unfortunately only appears to offer a tear sheet.
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Feb 4

Peter Snyder’s portraiture of people who are typically unaware that their photo is being taken follows well-known precedents and is, I think, quite successful (the above from Idling).
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Feb 1

At Lens Culture, I found the portraiture of Alexei Vassiliev. I’m torn about the photos - while some of them work very well and do indeed look like paintings by Francis Bacon, for me most of the others don’t work well at all.
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