Archives

February 2013

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Feb 28

One of the defining features of the North Caucasus is the bewildering number of ethnic groups living and often fighting there (see this map of ethnolinguistic groups). Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the pressure cooker’s lid has finally completely come off, with new nations and/or territories emerging, some of them internationally recognized, many others not. As a matter of fact, the sheer number of wars and mini-wars that have engulfed parts of the North Caucasus over the past twenty years make the Balkan look tame in comparison. Imagine something like the Kosovo conflict in more than one place, with new mini-states immediately fracturing up into multiple parts, and you get an idea of the problem.
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Feb 27

This portrait is part of Helen Luo’s project Rochester, an inquiry into a city as afflicted by economic changes as many others in the US.
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Feb 26

In Falling into the Day Christopher Nunn portrays David Blackburn, an artist who is living with Alzheimer’s Disease.
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Feb 25

Not long ago, two writers on photography found themselves in broad agreement when each approached some pretty fundamental questions at the core of photography in curiously similar terms. One wrote (and posted a short video) on how it was worth trying to bear in mind that some things patently ‘matter’ in photography and others equally do not. The other wrote that identifying what was ‘at stake’ in a photographic project was a useful way of ascribing value to some things and withholding it from others. At that stage they acted separately. But since writing on subjects like these is all about engaging others in conversation, one invited the other to get in touch, and they have exchanged a number of e-mails batting ideas around. Find the full piece here.
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Feb 22

“Holding on so tightly to what I believed was sanity while consumed by fear of depression and schizophrenia prevented me from being fully present to her reality.” writes Joshua Lutz in the introduction of Hesitating Beauty, a book in which the artist comes to terms with his mother’s mental illness. Mental illness is the final frontier that cannot be crossed willingly. Comprehension is not to be had, as hard as one might try. There literally is nothing there to understand. The rules that govern our lives cease to exist, or at least are bent so much out of shape that they don’t make sense any longer, at least in our world.
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Feb 21

Painting and photography have been having a complicated relationship for as long as… well, as long as photography has been around. As much as it is simplistic, it might not be completely unfair to say that most painters don’t understand how photography operates, just as photographers don’t understand what painters do. And this extends to the art world as a whole, the world that contains both, a world that is much more comfortable with the obvious artifice of painting than the equally obvious - but inconveniently so different - artifice of photography (with art historians in charge of museums, the cards are stacked against photography - witness the flurry of mostly underwhelming photography shows at many major museums).
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Feb 20

“The Armory documents the ever-changing sets of the BDSM pornography company Kink.com. These custom-built backdrops, from suburban homes to meat lockers, appear both familiar and strangely foreign. Private spaces constructed daily for the public gaze indicate the demand, consumption, and manufacture of sexual fantasy.” - Elizabeth Moran
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Feb 19

Tom Griggs is the mastermind behind Fototazo, and he’s also a photographer. The image above is from his body of work Wound and Fountain, exploring, in Griggs’ words, “the evolution of my relationship with my wife, Ana.”
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Feb 18

Photography has finally come full circle so that it can investigate itself and its uses, the latter of course being the aspect where things get interesting. Lisa Fairstein’s Ultra-Static throws the viewer right into a seemingly absurd world, which, however, feels oddly familiar (because it is). Pulling together references from different areas of photography the resulting images offer no relief in the form of advertizing or magazine copy, which would allow us to filter the imagery. Instead, we are left with photography’s artifice, with all that photography is so good at, and bad at. Find a conversation with the photographer here.
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Feb 15

“The notions of body, space and landscape have had a large influence on Brazilian popular culture and artistic production since the last century.” writes Benoit Sindt, a French architect, in the short essay in the back of Luís Díaz Díaz’s A casa do Oscar. Oscar as in Oscar Niemeyer, the famed Brazilian architect who died a short while ago. The book connects these aspects using two sets of photographs, black-and-white images taken on a beach and color photographs of one of Niemeyer’s buildings. The architectural images can be found inside gatefolds. In that way, the pictures are being kept apart - look casually, and the book appears only to contain the beach photographs; yet they are clearly part of the same book, different angles of looking at the idea of “body, space and landscape” in Brazil. With the beach imagery being the stereotypical idea of Brazil, “hiding away” the architectural photographs mimics how the country’s cultural treasures are equally hidden away underneath the surface of bikini bodies on the beaches. (more)
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Feb 14

There is no shortage of books about photobooks, with new new additions appearing regularly. In a sense, these books have become real-world versions of Tumblr pages, where you can find collections of things under some a sometimes broad, sometimes specific headline. The collector side of me enjoys seeing all these books (I own a fair number of them), but in reality I don’t really look at most of those books all that much. I might pull one out to look something up for teaching. Just to make this clear, I don’t mean to make it sound as if I minded having those books. Quite on the contrary.
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Feb 13

Gail Pine & Jacqueline Woods are collecting vernacular photographs, to create what they call American Typologies out of them: Bernd and Hilla Becher meet Erik Kessels. Make sure to spend some time on the site, there are quite a few discoveries to be made.
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Feb 12

“Through small deliberate interventions, I altered these vintage images, allowing light to pass through them. (After all, photographs are made possible with light.)” - Amy Friend about Dare alla Luce
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Feb 11

Let’s face it, the tedium of seeing the sheer endless stream of photographs on Tumblr, images that might or might not be properly attributed, is just depressing. We might be all photographers now, but does that mean that we all have to be mindless consumers as well? Of course, our late-capitalist culture is based on just that, on people turning into consumers without questioning what is going on. But what do we actually gain from applying that model to photography? Find the full piece here.
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Feb 11

This is an image from Zhan Kechun’s The Yellow River, a photographic journey along that long river in China.
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Feb 8

In 2008, photographer Walter Niedermayr was invited by two wealthy art patrons to Aspen, a commission to produce work for the Little Nell Hotel. In an obvious way the ski resort in Colorado and the artist seemed like the perfect match, and they were. Niedermayr had previously photographed mountains and snow, with skiers added. The commission expanded into a series, and it has now become available as a photobook, The Aspen Series.
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Feb 7

When I heard about Geoff Dyer’s Zona: A Book About a Film About a Journey to a Room I had high(ish) hopes. The idea that a writer like Dyer would explore the zone, the idea of the zone, appealed to me. It was not to be had, though, at least not in the form I had hoped for. To paraphrase Wittgenstein, the lives of books (meaning: of writers) are independent of our will. As is the zone itself, which, by the way, we must not think of as the zone you can be in (as in the expression “to be in the zone”).
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Feb 6

The other day, I came across Tatiana Gulenkina’s Things Merging and Falling Apart, “unique type C contact prints created in a color darkroom using long exposures.” I’ve never spent much time with abstract photography, so I really can’t say much about it. Maybe my problem usually is that for me, process needs to be married to something else beyond that process (whatever that might be) - which, somewhat ironically, is why I’ll take this work over most Photoshop trickery any day. That all said, I quite like most of these images - they have an organic-looking beauty to them (sorely missing in most of Academic Photography, which is so popular these days).
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Feb 5

“There are currently 200,000 migrant domestic workers in Lebanon todayin a country of 4 million. Due to the sponsorhsip system, maids are required to live with their employers, and are instantly ‘illegal’ when they run away from the home. Maids save on rent, bills, and food costs living with their employers. These women often hold households together, they are the mothers, the cooks, the doctors, and the cleaners. According to Human Rights Watch report in 2008, one maid is dying every week as a result of abuse or suicide.” - Natalie Naccache in the introduction to No, Madam
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Feb 4

I am not going to actually show the photograph I am going to write about. I realize this is most unusual. But I hope that my reasons will become obvious in the following. The photograph I am going to talk about shows a young woman in the center of the frame who is surrounded by six male figures (there is a seventh in the background who does not appear to be part of what is going on). Of these six males, five are photographers. They’re photographers we call paparazzi. The young woman - actress Sienna Miller - is caught “mid-action”: Her posture looks defensive, her arms are raised, in particular her right one, as if to defend herself from the paparazzo at the left edge of the frame whose gaze is centered on her. The man at the right edge of the frame does not appear to be a photographer, he is looking at the paparazzo at the left edge. We might add that there must have been at least one other photographer present, the one who took the photograph in question. Find the full piece here.
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Feb 1

There is a TV show called America’s Test Kitchen, which I like to think of as a cooking show done by minor bureaucrats. Cooking, the preparation of dishes, usually involves an element of chance, a “splash of salt,” possibly, and something cooking for, let’s say, ten to fifteen minutes. America’s Test Kitchen are having none of that. Everything is supposed to be the absolute best (even in the face of shortcuts that would leave many other serious chefs aghast), with rules being followed extremely strictly and equally joylessly. Cooking a meal is treated like the equivalent of filing a convoluted tax return. I can’t pretend to be a food connoisseur, but I’m fairly confident I’d turn down the chance to sample any of the stuff prepared on that show: Food, after all, is not just a collection of calories that goes into my body. It is much more. If the preparation of food is so joyless, how can the resulting food be any good?
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