Archives

June 2011

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Jun 30

Jessica Hilltout divides her projects into different components - here: amen - which I’m a bit torn about.
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Jun 29

Adam Thorman’s What Light Remains In The Absence contains a whole bunch of deceptively simple images. I don’t necessarily like each and every one of them, but the good ones are really good. (via)
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Jun 28

I don’t remember where or how I came across Alia Malley’s 2009/10 Southland, but I do remember the photography stayed with me for a while. There was something about those landscapes that struck me. Recently, someone pointed me to Alia’s new series A Cavalier in Sight of a Village, for which she was (in fact at the time of this writing is) raising money on Kickstarter. So I got in touch with Alia and asked her whether she’d answer my questions about her work. Find our conversation here.
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Jun 27

Beyond by Loredana Nemes portrays the world inside Turkish and Arab men-only cafes in Berlin - from the outside. The photographer is barred from entering.
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Jun 27

The extent of information in Taryn Simon’s new solo show at Tate Modern is nothing less than staggering. As soon as you step into the gallery you are confronted by portrait after portrait, devoid of context and photographed in a manner so monotonous that each image begins to mold into the next leaving only a distant idea of what each person may look like. Typically in an exhibition of photography this is the opposite effect one would want to give, however in this show it seems to add to Simon’s overall ambition. (more)
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Jun 27

I’m happy to introduce an addition to Conscientious, a new column called A Letter from London, written by Christopher Thomas. A photographer himself, Christopher studied for three years at the Documentary Photography BA course at University of Wales, Newport (UK). During that time he became very involved in photographic theory and history, in particular photography’s place within art history and contemporary society. In September this year, he will begin his studies for a Masters in Contemporary Art Theory at Goldsmiths University of London. For A Letter from London, Christopher will contribute reviews of photography exhibitions in (and around) London (and possibly more).
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Jun 24

I’m sometimes glad that I don’t have to make certain decisions. Jörn Vanhöfen’s Aftermath is a good example: Which image to put on the cover? Deciding about the cover image is always tricky, but I think it’s especially tricky in this case. The title is Aftermath, there are piles of old tires and a broken down truck on the cover - it’s gotta be, well, “ruin porn,” right? Wrong. (more)
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Jun 23

A little while ago, while checking whether a local second-hand book shop had got any new photobooks in (it hadn’t) I noticed there was a largeish pile of German language book, somewhat shoddily stacked on the floor. It’s hard to get German language books in the US, so I had a peek at what they had. Most of it had been published in the 1970s, with a few dating back way earlier. There wasn’t much that interested me, with the exception of some old books by Lafcadio Hearn. I usually don’t buy books in translation if I can read the original language, but a quick glance into these had me get these. Printed in 1921, they all are rather lavish productions. (more)
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Jun 23

Now that the internet offers you “social” interactions with other people without you having to leave your own house (or get dressed), photographers might simply do the same - join people in forums online and take their photographs. That’s what John Ryan Brubaker did for his Random Strangers.
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Jun 22

“As a member of a society that views ideas of place as a central defining characteristic, second only to name and followed closely by profession, I have embarked on an exploration aimed at understanding the mythologies of place and subjective place-making.” - Jennifer Garza-Cuen, writing about Reno, Nevada
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Jun 21

What do David Burnett, Alan Chin, Debbie Fleming Caffery, Danny Wilcox Frazier, Stanley Greene, Brenda Ann Kenneally, Andrew Lichtenstein, Carlos Javier Ortiz, Lucian Perkins, and Anthony Suau have in common? They’re not afraid of home. Along with writers Dan Baum, Katherine Boo, Alan Burdick, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Eliza Griswold, Margaret Knox, Alex Kotlowitz, Andrew Meier, David Samuels, they are members of Facing Change - Documenting America: “At a time when America faces enormous challenges, FCDA will embed photographer/writer teams in communities across America to vividly illustrate the nation’s most pressing concerns-from health care to immigration to the cost of the war on terror. The result will be an unparalleled collection of visual and textual narratives accessible through an innovative online platform […] enabling a direct dialogue with America on the stories and issues. As media outlets yield to corporate considerations, narrowing their coverage of vital issues FCDA is acting to fill that gap by humanize a wide spectrum of neglected and misunderstood issues.” Check it out!
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Jun 21

This is an image from Alexi Hobbs’ multi-faceted instincts & convictions.
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Jun 20

Image permanence is a more important topic than many people might realize. Over at The Online Photographer, Ctein wrote a column about the topic, and there’s a follow-up column by Mike Johnston.
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Jun 20

Jerry Saltz about what he saw in Venice: “many times over—too many times for comfort—I saw the same thing, a highly recognizable generic ­institutional style whose manifestations are by now extremely familiar. […] It’s work stuck in a cul-de-sac of aesthetic regress, where everyone is deconstructing the same elements. There’s always conformity in art […] but such obsessive devotion to a previous generation’s ideals and ideas is very wrong. It suggests these artists are too much in thrall to their elders, excessively satisfied with an insider’s game of art, not really making their own work. That they are becoming a Lost Generation.”
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Jun 20

Missing by Pauline Magnenat “focuses on places where people who disappeared without ever found dead or alive were seen for the last time.”
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Jun 17

When I was seventeen years old, during my penultimate year of high school, I had to decide about which of the two trips organized by the school I wanted to pick. The tradition had been to offer either London or Paris. Much to my chagrin, when it was my turn - finally a chance to go abroad! - that tradition had been discontinued. Instead, I had the option to either go to Nuremberg or to Potsdam/Dresden. Nuremberg, I reckoned, would basically amount to a week of heavy drinking (the teacher in charge had a certain reputation). It’s not that I minded having a good time. But Potsdam/Dresden - that was basically abroad. Really abroad. OK, people there spoke the same language (give or take a few incredibly weird dialects), but it was beyond what people called the Iron Curtain. As a child, I had seen it with my own eyes: It didn’t look much like a curtain, but there certainly was a lot of iron - and explosives - involved. Potsdam/Dresden it was. (more)
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Jun 17

There is the official story of German photography, which comprises the usual suspects (Sander, the Bechers, Gursky, …). No need to repeat it here. There are a few things that are very interesting about that story. First of all, it’s woefully incomplete. But that’s not so interesting (it’s actually more propaganda than anything). But second, there is the fact that most of those usual suspects might be German photographers, but their work is not necessarily quintessentially German. Maybe their approach to work is (here we are again in the not-so-interesting territory), but the work itself isn’t. Andreas Gursky basically has become the inofficial photographer of globalization (sans its ugly underbelly). The Bechers documented industrial structures in many different countries. August Sander aimed at producing a truthful portraits of the Germans. But I’m happy to argue that the reason why so many people love that work is because it actually is more about the human condition than anything. And as I’ve argued before, most German photographers after the war (excluding the younger generation which has not yet been canonized) have been extremely careful to avoid dealing with German history. Which brings me to Michael Schmidt (also see this page). (more)
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Jun 16

You know you’re in trouble when you have to deal with levels of transformativeness. Levels of what? But - and this is a huge but - that’s a must-read article for anyone interested in photography, copyright, and fair use: “There’s lots of interesting issues there, but one that caught my eye is one that has been bugging me more and more […]: the seemingly infinite manipulability of the transformativeness inquiry of the first fair use factor. Much seems to depend on how broadly or narrowly the purpose is defined, but that categorization is almost never accompanied by any discussion of the proper level of generality.” (my emphases) I’d like to point one more thing out here, namely the fact that in all the recent cases I can remember the courts have decided in favour of the photographers. That’s great news for photographers (maybe all the complaining about how copyright supposedly still is not severe enough can stop now?), but not necessarily good news for art making in general. I wrote about this before, I’m not going to repeat my arguments here.
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Jun 16

Strictly speaking, Sabrina Jung’s images are collages. But I feel that her work is in that gray area where some people might see collages, others might just see images. Whatever you want to call these images, there is a lot of great work on the site.
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Jun 15

A little while ago, Markus Schaden showed me a book dummy for Ricardo Cases’ Paloma Al Aire. The (real) story is about a group of men who mark pigeons with colour and then place bets on them. I hope there’ll be a publisher for the book somewhere… Update (16 June 2011): The book has been published. Buy it here. (thanks, David!)
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Jun 15

A couple of recent posts, both addressing very similar issues: Noting that the economy, jobs, healthcare and education are key issues for most people (especially in the US, with elections coming up), David Campbell writes: “what does photojournalism contribute to these debates? Beyond the daily campaign picture and stock political portrait, what stories are we seeing from photojournalists and documentary photographers that engage these issues? My sense is not much, and certainly not enough.” Over at No Caption Needed, Rachel Rigdon addresses a very similar issue: “Despite the Great Recession and the escalating rates of both poverty and economic inequality within the United States, finding images of poor Americans within the news often feels like a process of excavation. There is a curious deficit of photographs of the 44 million Americans living in poverty, and in lieu of using photographs, many articles on welfare or economic inequality feature graphs and charts.”
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Jun 15

“When the earthquake hit on 11 March, a young photographer, Aichi Hirano, was showing his work in an exhibition entitled Rolls of One Week. Hirano explains, ‘At that time, I felt so powerless, being in the same country yet unable to do anything to reach out and help directly.’ To combat his sense of helplessness, he decided to distribute fifty disposable cameras to survivors displaced by the tsunami who had been evacuated to shelters in Ishinomaki, Miyagi prefecture. Hirano provided some loose directions on sheets of paper: ‘Please take photos of things you see with your eyes, things you want to record, remember, people near you, your loved ones, things you want to convey… please do so freely. And please enjoy the process if you can, even if it’s just a little bit.’ Of the 50 cameras he distributed, Hirano was able to retrieve 27, which he uploaded in their entirety to the website www.rolls7.com” - Marc Feustel, writing about rolls7.com
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Jun 14

Is there anything that has not been said about the analog-vs.-digital debate? With every passing day, the debate looks slightly sillier, as digital photography is firmly replacing analog photography. Just the other day there was another report about plummeting film sales. Those numbers are dominated by “amateurs” - people who take their snapshots now with their cell phones or digital point-and-shoot cameras. But of course, there are many who still shoot film (incl. me) and will continue to do so (at least as long as it’s possible). Analog photography is here to stay in the realm of fine-art photography. So what’s left to talk about?
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Jun 14

“More than 7000 in the Congolese capital, the evangelical churches play an essential role in the process that lead to numerous Kinshasa families abandoning their children. By giving a spiritual guarantee to the worried families, these communities of diverse and combined faiths, often stigmatized under the name of ‘awakening churches’ (or evangelical churches), have transformed a limited phenomenon into an ordinary and acceptable social reality within a period of 20 years.” - Caroline Six writing about Gwenn Dobourthoumieu’s Child-Witches of Kinshasa
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Jun 13

This is an image from Yaakov Israel’s The Quest For The Man On The White Donkey.
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Jun 13

“More details are emerging about what is thought to be Germany’s biggest postwar art forgery scandal. The affair casts an unflattering light on a leading German art historian who authenticated a fake artwork supposedly painted by German surrealist Max Ernst.” - story
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Jun 12

There other day, there was an article over at La Pura Vida about All the Photobooks I’ll Never See. Writes Bryan: “It’s really amazing that so many people can produce them these days, but who the hell is actually looking at all of them? And is it possible to create a distribution system that enables more people to see more photobooks?” This had me thinking. What if the distribution wasn’t really a problem if you wanted to see photobooks? (more)
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Jun 10

How many collaborations between a photography and a painter do you know? These days, it’s much easier to think of a painter and a photographer meeting in court, over some copyright infringement. But a photographer taking a painter’s work as inspiration, and the same painter taking the photographer’s work as inspiration - there’s not so much of that, sadly. But there is at least one such collaboration, between Joachim Brohm and Heribert Ottersbach. (more)
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Jun 10

How does one go about photographing, portraying a city? How does one go about photographing, portraying the city one was born in? How does one go about photographing, portraying the city one was born in but hasn’t lived in recently? With each new layer, things get more complex - as if photography wasn’t difficult enough! In the case of Dana Lixenberg, that city is Amsterdam, and we certainly know a thing or two about that place, don’t we? The canals, the red-light district, the relatively relaxed attitude about recreational drugs… In a nutshell, our view of Amsterdam is the postcard view. But what is the non-postcard view? (more)
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Jun 9

Morgante by Nicola Lo Calzo is just one of the various very interesting projects in the photographer’s portfolio. Also don’t miss Modafrique: “Starting from early 2000s, Africa has been in the center of a new revolution involving fashion and luxury industries. Major African capitals such as Dakar, Niamey, Abidjan and Cape Town are becoming attractive laboratories to new designers from the black continent and from Europe claiming the label of ‘Made in Africa’.”
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Jun 9

OK, I’ll admit it: That’s not the actual question from What’s Next? The actual question is “Why do my students think that working with analogue techniques is more ‘real’ than with digital ones?” I took the liberty to re-phrase the question because I think there is an underlying, more general issue here. If I’m correct, dealing with the (slightly) larger issue will also answer the original question. Read the rest of the piece here.
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Jun 8

Over the past four years, Zhe Chen “has been documenting self-inflicted activities […] while creating a series of projects focusing on body modification, human hair, identity confusion, post-traumatic stress disorder and memory.”
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Jun 8

There is a wonderful piece over at FOAM’s What’s Next?, Charlotte Cotton in conversation with Aaron Schuman (now re-published on Aaron’s Seesaw Magazine). (more)
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Jun 8

Here is a very smart and perceptive article about Google Street View photography that you definitely want to read.
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Jun 7

Julia Peirone’s Latest Works are the kinds of photos that most people would probably delete, because it’s just not what we want to see. Works beautifully, though.
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Jun 7

“From architects to museums, curators to collectors, art fairs to galleries, art advisers to auction houses, everyone has been feeding at the trough of surplus capital emanating from regions where consumption of art is tolerated so long as artists steer clear of political and ideological pronouncements and keep their swords of critical relevance safely in their sheaths. The question was always how long the romance between illiberalism and hypocrisy would last.” - Okwui Enwezor (via)
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Jun 6

What do 500 Photographers, A Photo Editor, aCurator, American Suburb X, The Atlantic’s In Focus, Bagnews Notes, Burn, Feature Shoot, Joe McNally’s Blog, La Lettre de la Photographie, the New York Times’ Lens blog, NPR’s The Picture Show, PDN, Photojojo’s Tumblr, Pictory, Prison Photography, The Sartortialist, TIME.com’s Lightbox, What’s the Jackanory?, and this website have in common? They all have been selected as winners of LIFE.com’s 2011 Photo Blog Awards : “the Web’s 20 most compelling, most consistently insightful and surprising photography blogs.” Exciting company to be in!
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Jun 6

A few weeks ago, I had a bunch of discussions with various people - including a group of students at MassArt - about photojournalism. Inevitably, the various problems (or “problems”) were brought up, and at some stage someone asked why any of that mattered. It’s a good question. But I think there is a good answer. Unlike pure art photography (whatever that might be), photojournalism is more than “just” photography. We use it to get informed. At the time of the discussions, unrest in Libya had erupted into what started to look like a civil war, and several NATO countries were urging the rest to get involved. Were we going to be in favour of that or not? At the time, news from Libya filled the news, and a large fraction of the news consisted of photographs taken by photojournalists. There now is a new pitch up on emphas.is by Michael Christopher Brown, entitled The Libyan Republic - if you want to support a photojournalist specifically working in the country, which still torn by war, check it out.
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Jun 6

Kim Høltermand’s website is filled with work, and you’ll probably spend quite a bit of time looking through the different projects. The work occasionally is a bit on the decorative side, but it’s time well spent.
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Jun 3

Twenty-five years ago, in what was then the Soviet Union (now: Ukraine) the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded, releasing massive amounts of radiation into the environment and leaving large areas contaminated. At first, the news leaked rather slowly to the West where the nuclear industry, along with politicians, were quick to point out that an accident like that could not happen with their reactors. Earlier this year, as a consequence of a massive earthquake and the resulting tsunami, four Japanese power plants suffered from a catastrophic core meltdown. The full extent of the damage at the Japanese plants is still unknown. But the daily news updates indicate rather serious problems at at least one of the reactors whose containment vessel (which is intended to keep the highly radioactive material away from the environment) seems have ruptured. There are three chilling similarities between Chernobyl and Fukushima: First, the operators of the plants have been very unwilling to inform the public about the extent of the damage. Second, in both cases a large area of land now seems heavily contaminated with radioactivity. Third, the nuclear industry’s mantra is “It can’t happen here.” I’m writing this review less than forty miles (downstream) from the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant, a reactor whose design matches the Fukushima ones. (more)
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Jun 2

“Something tells us that these beings are not fully human. There is a disenganged, robotic quality to them. Yet Eva Lauterlein’s subjects [in chimères] are real, and human - to a degree. Or rather to several degrees. Their faces and bodies are computer-aided reconstructions from photographs of real men and woman she knows, with as many as forty different photographs employed.” (quoted from From Face: The New Photographic Portrait by William A.Ewing with Nathalie Herschodorfer; via)
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Jun 1

“Upon arriving from Germany to live and work in the United States almost two years ago, I was shocked at how the America of my imagination—a place where everyone is well-educated and privileged— proved instead a place with a great deal of poverty, and despair. My experiences here fueled my desire to sharpen public awareness of the need to further understand social inequity.” - Louisa Marie Summer about Jennifer
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Jun 1

Brian Dupont just published the final post of a three-part series on copyright and fair use (part 1, part 2, part 3), which is well worth the read.
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