Archives

December 2011

SELECT A MONTH:

Dec 30

The pleasure of a truly great photobook is not limited to seeing a set of photographs put together in a way that make the medium shine, that show how so many of the usual debates about photography and its supposed shortcomings are flawed. You also get a perceptive essay or two, to go along the photography. Christian Patterson’s Redheaded Peckerwood comes with writing by Karen Irvine and Luc Sante. Sante’s essay had me dread writing a review of the book, given it so wonderfully talks about the book. What is there left to say? (more)
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Dec 30

Concluding my photobook presentations this year: Stone By Stone by Taj Forer, Dies Lunae XI Julius MMXI by Jonathan Saunders, Redheaded Peckerwood by Christian Patterson, A Hunter by Daido Moriyama (2011 re-release), and C.E.N.S.U.R.A. by Julian Baron.
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Dec 30

If you really want to see more “best of 2011 photobooks,” have a look at Photo-Eye’s selection and Time Magazine’s The Photobooks We Loved. Marc Feustel updated his tallying of the lists (he went through 50+ lists!). Seeing, yet again, that there appears to be very little consensus on the books seems to point to a simple fact: The photobook market is heavily fragmented, and for many people, a lot of books are literally out of reach. It’s an interesting exercise to speculate what the “best of” lists would look like if each of the people producing one had had access to each of the books included in any list (not to mention all the books that didn’t even make it on any list).
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Dec 29

Outback, by Andrew Babington, “is a series of eight large-scale constructed photographs, depicting fictional narratives based in the Australian rural landscape and the fears of the outback that have been represented and exploited in film, literature, art and journalism since colonial times.”
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Dec 28

You’re probably all familiar with The Great Leap Sideways, which has a lot of great content. If not, head right over and check it out!
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Dec 27

Colin Gray’s Nina Goes Shopping shows the photographer’s daughter shopping for stuff - a great take on consumerism.
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Dec 26

“In patriarchal Indian society, being a kothi (an Indian term for effeminate and transsexual man) is still a matter of shame. The social stigma is a serious barrier to joining mainstream occupations. To earn a living, some kothis become launda (drag) dancers. For poor families from the interiors of UP and Bihar looking for a grand wedding, boys in drag become a cheap substitute for dancing girls.” - Chhandak Pradhan about Lipstick Men
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Dec 23

Marc Feustel has sifted through 17 “best of” lists to compile a unified list of the best photobooks this year. Two books were on seven of these 17 lists: Redheaded Peckerwood by Christian Patterson and A Criminal Investigation by Yukichi Watabe. So there you have them. Unless you look at sales, in which case the “best” photobook this year is Simply Beautiful Photographs National Geographic. Kudos to Marc for producing the list!
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Dec 23

What is there still left to say about consumerism? We all seem to agree that it is bad, that reckless consumption is the direct cause of many of our current problems, but we’re still very much engaged in it. Consumerism is what drives large parts of our economy: We don’t make things any longer, we buy them, ideally for very cheap. As such, consumerism is very abstract, though. We know what it feels like to consume, but we don’t really know what it looks like. And the images of some of the consequences of our consumerism - toxic wastelands here, or vast landfills there - are hard to connect with the shiny big-box stores where we buy our stuff. Brian Ulrich’s photographs, now published in Is This Place Great Or What, avoid tackling this gap. Instead, for the most part they focus on us, on people caught up in the act of consumption. (more)
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Dec 22

Yero Adugna Eticha was born in Ethiopia and now resides in Berlin. Tulu Gedo portrays the little Ethiopian village where the photographer’s grandmother lives.
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Dec 21

“It was only recently that I decided on a name for this series: Off Route 80. Before that the work done in Grapevine Hollow, West Virginia, since 2006 was provisionally called New Landscapes. My reticence in giving the series a title stemmed from a desire to resist naming a specific place or region, in this case Appalachia with its negative connotations dating back from before the Civil War. To do so would be declaring the work a documentary record -which of course it is, albeit a highly subjective one, belonging to a tradition where the artist admits to being part of the situation portrayed.” - Susan Lipper. Make sure to look at the images individually, and don’t miss the videos!
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Dec 20

There’s a very good article over at The British Journal of Photography’s website: Post-processing in the digital age: Photojournalists and 10b Photography. Go and read it!
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Dec 20

Unreal City by Hannah Darabi uses construction sites in different countries to approach new environments, focusing on what you could think of as the setting of the stage.
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Dec 19

I already mentioned in the list of my favourite photobooks this year that I found several over the past few weeks. But for the first time I received books in the mail that I feel need to be included after the list was published. I suppose next year, I’ll wait until the end of December with my list. To fix things this year, I updated the list and added four books (adding three books I just received and one I had actually forgotten).
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Dec 19

“The story of Grozny, the city, which was the most destroyed on Earth in 2003 and has been rebuilt in pursuit to hide the war atrocities and political games, must not remain untold.” writes Oksana Yushko (one of the winners of the 2010 Conscientious Portfolio Competition - find my interview with her here). “The headlines had long ago moved on, but we stay dedicated to this place.” “We” here means Oksana along with her colleagues Olga Kravets and Maria Morina. Their project is called Grozny - Nine Cities, and you can now support the photographers via their emphas.is project page.
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Dec 19

This is an image from Erin Hernsberger’s Suture - a somewhat unusual series of still lives.
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Dec 18

Here are some other “best photobooks of 2011” lists: Claxton Projects, Sean O’Hagan (The Guardian), Alec Soth, and Marc Feustel (which has the best categories).
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Dec 16

We live in what feels like the golden age of the photobook. There currently is enormous interest in the medium, and one can hope there will be for a long time. At the same time, the photobook has produced another industry: Books about photobooks. Things started off slowly, with The Photobook: A History, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 deservedly becoming seminal books. Much could be said about these books - the writing is superb, while one wishes there were better spreads of the books, say. There simply is no way anyone interested in photobooks can be without owning a copy each. A few years after their publication, many other such books have now been published, typically with a geographical focus. Swiss Photobooks from 1927 to the Present is, as far as I can tell, the latest addition to the growing canon. (more)
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Dec 16

Recent photobook presentations: Let’s Sit Down Before We Go by Bertien van Manen, Södrakull Frösakull by Mikael Olsson, and Dirk Braeckman (one of my favourite photobooks this year).
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Dec 16

Back in July I spent a brief moment thinking about the photobooks the year had produced up until that moment. I remember I was dreading the prospect of putting together a “best of” list. Somehow, it seemed the year had been off to a rather sluggish start. Regardless, the year has eleven months, with December being the “best of” month. I’m glad that I usually wait until at least the middle of December to compile my list: Many of my favourite books this year I found/discovered/bought/got over the course of the past three weeks. (more)
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Dec 15

Last week, I went for a brief gallery tour in Chelsea, to see some shows I had been looking forward to a lot. Neo Rauch’s was brilliant. Andreas Gursky’s, at Gagosian, was a disaster (I have nothing to add to DLK’s review). And then there was Nan Goldin’s Scopophilia at Matthew Marks. Goldin is one of the 20th Century’s most important photographic practitioners. Her Ballad of Sexual Dependency will forever stand as one of the shining moments of American photography. Scopophilia “pairs her own autobiographical images with new photographs of paintings and sculpture from the Louvre’s collection” (to quote from the press release). (more)
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Dec 15

This is an image from Salvi Danés’ impressive and haunting Dark Isolation Tokyo.
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Dec 14

“I maintain that photographs are ultimately unreadable. The seeming representational nature of the medium is misleading because we will not find any real truth. As viewers, we should recognize how much subjectivity we bring to understanding images. We act like prisms. So I have to remind myself that my reaction to or reading of a photograph is mine alone. It is only my truth.” - W.M. Hunt (in: The Unseen Eye, Thames&Hudson/Aperture, 2011, p. 60)
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Dec 14

I was out of town for a bit over a week, so I only noticed Charles Saatchi dissing the art world in passing, and I missed the art world’s reaction entirely. I’m assuming it was something between a shrug and a yawn. As amusing as Saatchi’s rant might be, it’s about as credible as a Donald Trump rant about the real-estate business.
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Dec 14

Fil­ippo Bran­coli Pan­tera’s Tuscany’s B side shows scenes from the region that are very different from the ones known from tourist brochures. (via)
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Dec 14

Between two arid Sicilian hillsides -one black and white, the other in colour- we are encouraged down a photographic valley to a crumbling headstone. Jeff Wall’s new exhibition at the White Cube Gallery begins with a room of only three images all made in Sicily in 2007. This is as close as you will ever come to a series of pictures made by Jeff Wall. The photographer who famously excels in singular tableaux narrative images, now brings three pictures together to work in an almost installation like manner. And it works convincingly. One has the feeling that the abrupt earth of the hillsides is too barren and unforgiving to breach, and so you must flow down this vale to the inevitability of death. And in this case a forgotten death; a single headstone sits on an unkempt rust coloured floor, a row of tiles appear uprooted by indiscriminate weeds that gradually make their way towards a concrete slab that marks the resting place of an unidentified person. Wall’s voyage into ‘series’ leaves the viewer with an irrational, but entirely human melancholic feeling deep in their conscience. (more)
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Dec 13

If you’ve been following this website, you’re probably aware of the announcement of the first Photobook Meetup New York, an event organized by Bryan Formhals, Noah Kalina, and myself. Last Friday, the event took place. It really doesn’t take more than some enthusiasts, each bringing a book, plus some beer to have a few hours of discussions about photobooks. Given the success of the meetup, it’s certainly not going to be the last of its kind in New York.
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Dec 13

Peter Hebeisen’s Metamorphosis and Myth shows the locations of major battles in Europe during the 20th Century (Verdun, Stalingrad, Sarajevo, etc.). The photographer writes that “the haunting landscapes reveal how healing is linked is linked with forgetting and ignorance.”
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Dec 9

Much could be said about contemporary nude photography, provided we properly defined it first. The contemporary nude seems to be that sliver of work between soft- (or hard-) core pornography and whatever the kind of photography is called where a photographer (often, but not always a male) takes photographs of a naked person (a young woman) to explore the usual cliches of the nude. This is probably the lousiest definition of “contemporary nude photography” you might have come by in quite some time, but let it be good enough. Instead of worrying about definitions, it might simply be much more productive to talk about a specific artist. Let’s take Malerie Marder. (more)
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Dec 8

Lisa Adamucci’s Eat A Peach portrays life on a peach farm.
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Dec 7

Good Night London by Jesús Madriñán contains some great portraiture.
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Dec 7

I’m out of town, away from my computer (and, as it turned out so far, away from functioning simple internet access). But I wanted to point out a couple of things. Bryan Formhals included this site in his list of Top Photography Websites of 2011, for which I’m incredibly grateful. Thank you so much, Bryan! Also, Jonathan Blaustein and I are talking about why art isn’t used to change the world over at A Photo Editor or maybe more accurately what we could do to make a change. It’s an old debate, and we don’t have all the answers, but we both believe it’s a question that needs to be addressed.
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Dec 6

About As You Were Ryan Handt writes: “In this work, I study the relationship between the people in my history who have dealt with hardship and myself.”
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Dec 5

Simone Donati’s Valley of Angels portrays a family living off the grid in South Eastern Sicily.
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Dec 2

The latest photobook presentations: The Lost Album by Basil Hyman, Conductors of the Moving World by Brad Zellar, “Na, was glaubst du denn, wohin wir marschieren?” by Jakob Gleisberg, and Watch the Weather Change by Marco van Duyvendijk.
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Dec 2

Sometimes, it’s good to go back to the classics to get reminded of how things can be done differently, and well. There is no shortage of contemporary photography of what we do with the land, to the land, much of it done pleasantly and occasionally decoratively. There’s nothing wrong with decorative (it helps selling prints). But of course there is the debate about whether or not we want to see ravaged landscapes photographed beautifully. We don’t (since it feels wrong, and we want the photographs to illustrate our opinions), and we do (since we love looking at beautiful landscapes). I’m tired of that debate, since however you look at it, it’s never about photography, but instead about what we expect to see: as I said, an illustration of our opinions. So it’s good to go back to the classics, and here I mean the more recent classics. (more)
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Dec 1

Behind the smokescreen by Rocco Rorandelli deals with the global reach of tobacco corporations. For his emphas.is project, the photographer writes: “I want to visit the US next year because 2012 marks the 400th anniversary of the first successful tobacco plantations on American soil. […] I plan to document various aspects of the industry: from farming issues including child labor and immigration, to the facilities of the tobacco giants like Philip Morris, to the cultural links that persist in American society between people and the tobacco industry.” Given the media industry’s continued cuts to quality journalism - CNN just laid off 50 editors and photojournalists (don’t miss Stephen Colbert’s take on this!) - supporting quality journalism is becoming more and more important every day.
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Dec 1

There is a lot to be said for photography online, but there is even more to be said for photography on the printed page. Here are two new(ish) magazines you might want to treat yourself to: Foam Magazine’s special issue What’s Next? is the culmination of the museum and magazine working for a year on trying to find out what might be next for photography (full disclosure: I’m a contributor to the magazine). Plus, there is Daylight Magazine’s Issue 9: Cosmos. What with the “holidays” coming up, these magazine also make for great gifts!
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