Thursday, January 31, 2008

inward bound

i wanted to follow up on Esther Teichmann's series Viscosity with some new work of hers. i saw the project Inward Bound posted up on her page at the University of Brighton, where she lectures.

i suppose it's no surprise that these caught my eye, because i've been noticing that images of the human form confronting representations of the natural environment pop up again and again in the projects that i post here on Subjectify.

in these photographs, that confrontation is pretty direct. the title "Inward Bound" lends the project an air of introspection or philosophical nature-loving — it comes off as a bit New Agey to me, but in absense of an artist's statement i'm not sure how she is envisioning the project. i wonder if the photos would be perceived differently with a different title (the thorny Question of project titles raises its head again...).

i wouldn't be surprised if some of the subjects above are the same ones featured in Viscosity and her more recent project Silently Mirrored. from what i've seen of Teichmann's work, she is keen on revisiting themes of memory, family and loss—and she believes in getting deep under her subjects' skin.


when i posted about Ethan Aaro Jones' series In Water, i hadn't yet seen Esther Teichmann's 2003-2004 series Viscosity. the two projects have similar composition, but the photos in Viscosity are blacker and seem more menacing. the idea for the project came out of Teichmann's childhood memories of night swims in a German lake surrounded by forest.

of her attraction to photography, Teichmann says "it fascinates me that a medium can simultaneously seem to be so close to reality yet be so unrelated to the real."

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

dead photographers with websites

i'm back from a business trip to L.A., hence the spotty blog posts, but i wanted to wrap up last week's theme week on 'photographers without websites' with one final post: dead photographers who have not just a web presence, but official websites.

the portraits below are from some of those official sites... (click on the pictures for the links...)

Sunday, January 27, 2008

famous photographers without websites: goldin, dijkstra, and mann

continuing the theme of photographers without websites, i thought i would point out just a few of the famous portrait photographers without official sites.

Nan Goldin is the mother to an entire generation of photographers inspired by her confessional, frank, self-chronicling approach to color photography. i'm not surprised that she doesn't have a website, but it's a shame that there isn't an amazing archive of her work available online. though maybe her work is best viewed in her great books, like the Ballad of Sexual Dependency... the photo on the left, of her ex-girlfriend Siobhan, is one of my favorites of hers. there's an interesting article about her here, in which she says of her subjects: "People feel that I'm narcissistic, voyeuristic or vicarious. Or they say I make the viewer vicarious. But I don't think so. I show my people in their full strength, staring back at you. They're not victimised by you. They're not objectified by you."

Rineke Dijkstra is another major fine art portraitist without a website, as Colin Pantall pointed out in the comments. as Colin said, and as is true for the other photographers in this category, she just doesn't need a website.

Image Makers, Image Takers has a cool interview with Dijkstra, available online where she talks about really concrete and practical stuff, from how she chooses subjects to whether she thinks photographers have to be technologically proficient...

Sally Mann is another one. i don't think a website is quite her style. luckily there are already some great resources about her work online, including videos from her episode of the show Art 21 and a small collection of YouTube videos... at left is one of Subjectify's all-time favorite subjects, Miss Jessie Mann.

Friday, January 25, 2008

photographers without websites: shawn gust

Ben Huff tipped me off to Shawn Gust, another photographer without a portfolio website yet...but with a blog.

i not only like Shawn's photos, but i really appreciate his perspective. i asked him about the difference between a website and a blog. he said: "I think the blog is good way to keep up in the photography world in a kind of real time way. My blog is quite personal and I understand that this is a fine line to walk if I were using it to get work. At the same time, I think the personal approach creates an relationship/connection that a website cannot fully convey. I will be putting my work up in a simple form of a website in the months to come. This will be a sort of final edit of my work. A process that I need to do for myself."

i think its true that these types of sites function differently. the blog is more diaristic and more interactive. but at the end of the day, i think the final edit is important too.

the photos above would make my final edit -- they are titled "Jacob . Lacrosse Ave . CdA, ID . 2008" and "Bernadette, bartender . Coeur d'Alene, ID . 2007." of his portraits, he writes: "How do my subjects feel when I make their photograph? Why would this guy want me in a picture?...The subjects that I work with are mostly strangers. Their environment, or mine, or the way I see and use the surroundings, is very much a part of what I find interesting at first sight..."

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

photographers without websites: dash snow

another photographer who came to mind for this theme week is Dash Snow (he's also a graffiti, collage & installation artist, and a muse to Ryan McGinley—who does have a website).

as New York Magazine put it in the opening of their much-discussed profile of Snow: "The artist Dash Snow rammed a screwdriver into his buzzer the other day. He has no phone. He doesn’t use e-mail. So now, if you want to speak to him, you have to go by his apartment on Bowery and yell up."

there you have it. i don't think he'll be commissioning a personal website anytime soon. but luckily, his gallery, his friends, and Gawker have got him covered. and he seems to have no shortage of interesting subjects in his life doing crazy things.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

photographers without websites: mikaylah bowman

i might have forgotten one reason why some photographers today might not have personal websites: because websites are totally over.

as the Slate article "The Death of Email" reminds us, things like email and informational web 1.0 sites are quickly becoming the sole territory of the 30+ set. (why sit down and compose an email to someone when you could be IMing, texting, blogging, updating your Myspace, or writing on a wall in Facebook, all at the same time?)

case in point, the work of 18 year-old Mikaylah Bowman. i really love what i've seen of her photos. i posted some of my favorites above, but there were several more that i wanted to include. her take on portraiture seems to naturally run to the cutting off of heads and feet, photographing people from behind, isolating their shoes, accessorizing them with slabs of meat, and dressing them up into other personae... in short, turning classic portraiture on its head is definitely second nature to her.

now, i don't mean to hold Bowman up as a symbol of what i suppose her generation to be, but you've got to admit that she might not have a personal website (with boring static things like a portfolio and contact information)—but she has got a lot of links.

and here they are. and you should check them out:

Monday, January 21, 2008

theme week: photographers without websites

this week on subjectify: our first ever theme week! in which we'll be exploring (portrait) photographers who don't have personal websites.

this theme came out of several thoughts i've been having... first of all, folks who read various photography blogs undoubtedly notice that sometimes it seems like everyone is posting about the same projects at the same time. i've been thinking about this and how there are a lot of folks who have become especially internet-famous, and the ways in which an influential photography blog or a photographer's awesome website or blog can influence this. i also wonder: who's out there that i'm missing, now that i get the majority of my news & info from the web? there's been lots of noodling on some aspects of this already, especially photographers' personal websites and why they "need" them. and of course, a lot of photographers are torn about putting all their work online vs. holding off until a project is finished or has found representation/publication...

on the flip side, there are a lot of photographers who don't have personal websites at all.
in today's information age, who are these crazy people?

of course, there are a lot of reasons why you might not have a website:

from the everyday:
  • you're just starting out
  • you just haven't gotten around to it
  • you're uncomfortable with things that feel like 'self-promotion'
  • you don't have they money/time for a nice site, and don't want to put up a crappy one
  • your gallery already has a page for you, and that seems like enough
  • you're just not that into it
  • you are a luddite

to the sublime:
  • you are so famous that it would be beneath you to have a personal website
  • you think you are so famous that it would be beneath you to have a personal website
  • you are foreign
  • you are dead
  • you are too fucking punk for that shit
    • (see also, but not exclusively: you are a drug addict)

in the next week, we will explore photographers who may or may not fit into any of the above categories.

if you have any recommendations of photographers without websites, please email them to me!


p.s. if you want to nominate examples of people for the any of the cheeky categories above, please put your comments below.

Friday, January 18, 2008

living with a portrait

i really like this photograph from Jason Lazarus' series Living with a Portrait. most of the photos in the series show the way people include portraiture in their living spaces; in that context, this one—"Mike's Mother"—jumped out at me.

apparently we share some interests: in his statement, Lazarus says "I am interested in the function of portraits...Few subjects can fend for themselves on a wall with an increased cynicism toward herodom....The ritual of living with a portrait reflects our ambiguous and often decorative relationship with icons, the exceptions to this almost self-illuminating in their sincerity."

he also has a cool blog, and a photo he took of one of the most iconic subjects of the grunge era was recently featured on iheartphotograph.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


i like the style of Nicholas Haggard's portraits, and his use of natural light. of the dozens of photographs in his portfolio, i noticed two or three where shadows & backlighting were featured aspects of the portrait. these caught my eye because subjects backlit in front of windows (etc.) are always such a "Don't" in Portraits 101. just one more rule that can be turned on its ear so effectively...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

who is joseph addison?

who is joseph addison? i don't know, but i like this quirky photo by him. i saw it on TinyVices.

in water

i just saw Ethan Aaro Jones' work for the first time in Group Show, and i like his series In Water. the images are so simple, yet they seem fresh. (and they're pretty.)

man, Lake Ontario looks cold though.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

lady into fox and another woman who died in her sleep. together they are: the westerns

Katy Grannan has two projects showing in New York galleries right now: Lady Into Fox (above top is "Dale, Pacifica (I)") and Another Woman Who Died in Her Sleep (above, "Nicole, Sunnydale Ave. (II)"). you know i love long, difficult, or thought-provoking titles, and i love these titles (and the projects themselves). even more interesting, the two projects have now been combined as The Westerns.

Both projects follow people Grannan has met since her move to San Francisco. Lady Into Fox (which shares a name with the 1922 novel, and furthermore reminds me of the terrific album Fox Confessor Brings the Flood by Neko Case...) explores the lives of best friends Dale and Gail, middle-aged transsexuals whose "experience in the world is mediated by romantic escapism and willful delusion" per Salon 94 Freeman's exhibition statement. the images themselves are pure Katy Grannan to me -- no one can put a person on the ground like this woman.

Another Woman Who Died in her sleep follows the separate story of a "elusive and complicated" woman named Nicole. the image above of Nicole is absolutely haunting. it's at Greenberg van Doren.

together, the two projects have been re-envisioned as The Westerns: an exploration of the mythology of the sunshiney West and the personal reinvention that it offers, in which Grannan's subjects are "new pioneers" struggling to define themselves. more on that here. it works, i think.

there's an interview with Grannan on here and another slightly older interview on Artkrush.

Monday, January 14, 2008

double life and the space between

i'm sure it comes as no surprise that i love love love the work of Kelli Connell. Connell scans and combines multiple (medium format) images of the same model in Photoshop to show moments in the relationship between two people. to me, the resulting images feel like short stories. the fact that both characters are played by the same model make them instantly recognizable as fiction (a fiction that feels very true to life), and makes reading the interactions between the characters that much more interesting. the constructed realities they present offer the viewer many questions...

Connell describes her ongoing project as "an autobiographical questioning of sexuality and gender roles that shape the identity of the self in intimate relationships. Polarities such as the masculine and feminine psyche, the irrational and rational self, the exterior and interior self, and the motivated and resigned self are portrayed." all this talk of polarities and the self makes me think of the Jungian archetype of The Syzygy: two entities, masculine and feminine, combined to form an archetypal whole without losing their own identities. Connell's couples portray the paradox of this idea of subjecitivity so vividly.

one thing i find fascinating about her work is how frequently people assume that the model is Connell herself (she isn't--i'm not sure who the model is, but she's pretty amazing). i made the same mistake when i first saw them. i wonder, would that assumption happen to any photographer who exclusively photographed one person...or is it something particular to the intimacy or the visible queerness of the project ? (or something else?) obviously her work raises a lot of questions and challenges assumptions. as she says, "I am interested in not only what the subject matter says about myself, but also what the viewers response to these images says about their own identities and social constructs."

Kelli Connell's monograph is called Double Life. the images above are "The Space Between," "Pregnancy Test," and "Reverie."

Friday, January 11, 2008

shipwreck and potato

i like these photos by Aubrey Hays, who i first saw on the Hey, Hot Shot blog. she's another Pacific Northwest portrait photographer, with Alaskan roots—i seem to be drawn to the Northwesterners these days. her statements say that her work is about people being surrounded or engulfed by the environment.

i think she has a pretty good eye for thinking about portraits within the square, her format of choice. i read that she's starting an MFA program, so i'm sure we'll be seeing more from her.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

8 x 10

i'm interested in both the aesthetics of 8 x 10 view cameras and the dynamics of shooting portraits with them... after all, large format cameras still seem to be regarded by many as the ultimate tools for fine art photography.

since photographer Alec Soth is the guy both most likely to be described by the sentence "the photographer who takes color portraits with an 8 x 10 camera" and also the guy most likely to not want to be described that way (see his blog post on "the sentence")... i can't help but single him out. (the photo above is "Florence" from his latest project, Magnum's 2007 "Fashion Magazine").

in this video on the YouTube, Soth says of the dynamics of confronting people from beneath the cloth of the view camera: "they're portraits, but there is a distance there. to me it's often a picture of the space between us, in a way"

Soth also posits that the 8 x 10's ground glass itself creates a beautiful, jewel-like image so powerful to the photographer that actually taking the picture is secondary. the resulting photo is just a document of a larger event that takes place, "which really the viewer doesn't experience...they experience the idea of that." i really like the idea that the viewer only experiences the idea of the photograph. i wish Roland Barthes were still around to noodle on the topic.

to sum up the experience, he says "It's not this 'decisive moment''s a slowed-down, very purposeful encounter."

i've never used a view camera. but he just makes it sound so a tool of seduction.

or, as the fine art world's Nerve profile would remind us: "large prints are sexy... large negatives are sexier."

p.s. in another interview, Soth says that he doesn't collect photography, but he has bought one print, by E.J. Bellocq. (early 20th century photographer who left behind a hidden cache of sexy and awesome portraits of prostitutes from Storyville, New Orleans...taken with an 8 x 10 camera.) i rest my case.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

constructed identities

when i first saw the photos in Alix Smith's series Constructed Identities, the images felt very familiar to me. then i realized that they reminded me of the photos i see every week in the New York Times real estate section (which i of course read religiously on sundays as part of my conflicted worship in the church of NYC capitalism). okay, okay, Smith's photographs are much more formal, less digital, less journalistic, and less gay than the Times'. but actually, the project helped me see those sunday real estate portraits for what they are: documents of class, visual convention, privilege and striving.

and that, in a way, is the point. Smith's project is about the visual portrayal of identity, social roles, and environment. with the subjects' hands together, ankles crossed, and backs straight, she uses the visual cues of formal portraiture to poke at social conformity. in her interesting project statement, she points out that "Historically, traditional portraiture’s function was to illustrate the subject’s wealth, class, status, and profession." as the similar images accumulate, the viewer stops seeing each one as an individual example of singular importance and status, but begins to question the genre. or at least, that's the idea, and i think it works.

she says: "Through repetition I am taking the aura away from the portrait as a precious object, as well as dismantling the uniqueness of the individual, and controlling the reception of their legacy. One image can be interchanged with the next, and the individual becomes one of many. The subjects function like objects in a still life, in a beautifully designed interior, in order to represent the idea of social conformity."

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

sofa portraits

i feel like Colin Pantall's sofa portraits have popped up on almost every photo blog i read. that in itself is really interesting. i like the series, of Pantall's daughter watching television, a lot. i like the juxtaposition of her zonked-out look and some of the classical poses he finds her in... i like the fact that you can never see the television but its presence is so powerful in the shot. in a way, her gaze is so fixed that it troubles the artist-subject-viewer triangle and brings the TV into the picture as another player in the dynamic.

Colin Pantall has a blog himself, and has tracked other blog readers' responses to his work. it's so funny to see how differently people react to his work based on context and the comments of their peers: A Photo Editor's readers think the portraits are gorgeous and honest, but these folks think they are disturbing images of child molestation and abuse.

there is something a bit disturbing, in a way, about these photos, but it's interesting to see how uncomfortable some folks are with feeling disturbed...and quick to point fingers of blame for how they feel.

(Pantall is represented by Witzenhausen Gallery. I've seen the sofa portraits featured on Conscientious (the trend-setter here i think), A Photo Editor, J-Walk, Metafilter, etc.. etc...)

Monday, January 7, 2008

i am a nest / 5 days haven't seen daylight

jon edwards' photographs have an incredibly consistent vision. they play with light, exposure and projection to make dreamlike self-portraits and mixtures of layered portraiture and landscape. i like the resulting palette and the ideas—there's a bit of madness to them. they also have a film-y, analog quality that is appealing (though i'm not actually sure how most of the images are created).

he's 17.

(the titles come from various phrases on his flickr photos and his blog. i first saw his work via Fjord.)

Friday, January 4, 2008


Jenny Riffle's portfolio is full of colorful environmental portraits that seem to capture a Northwest spirit. looking at them kind of makes me want to go to Seattle, wear plaid, and listen to queer punk bands. i first heard of her because she also works commercially with previously-subjectified photographer Molly Landreth as Landreth & Riffle.

the three images above especially caught my eye: "Riley in his Car," "Red Scarf," and "Riley in Mist." sometimes in portrait series it seems frowned upon to include multiple images of the same subject, unless the aim of the series is to document a person or community over time. but i really enjoyed thumb(nail)ing through her personal portfolio and noticing the recurrences. riley is a pretty great subject.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

the absence of all colors (a ausĂȘncia de todas as cores)

in Brazilian artist Ludmila Steckelberg's project "The Absence of All Colors," she has removed the dead from her family albums, leaving silhouettes behind. the resulting photomontages explore ideas of memory and loss.

i saw these featured in Lensculture, where Jim Casper writes: "The violence done to these photographs forces the question: Do we ever expect loss, or does it surprise us with its suddenness and thoroughness? Perhaps we do always anticipate it consciously or not, and perhaps that is why we make photographs."

i've often thought about how an almost physical sense of memory can be stored in a photograph, or at least triggered by one. as outsiders, we can't picture the faces, expressions or quirks of the missing Steckelbergs; the missing people function more like a graphic design element. but to the artist, i wonder how the experience of looking through the old albums is remember not just the people, but how the people looked in those exact photographs, and then to see the familiar scenes with them removed...are the photos sadder? or are they easier to look at now? is the memory of their loss triggered more or less by the silhouettes?

the images also remind me a bit of Kara Walker's silhouettes, in reverse (and in a miniature of personal scale). the missing pieces tell the artist's stories through their absence.