Friday, February 29, 2008


i was looking through Humble Arts curator Jon Feinstein's portrait portfolio, and of the images in his Friends & Family series, this photo of "Rebecca" really grabbed me.

isn't it beautiful? i asked Jon about the photo and the subject, and he told me that he often finds it challenging when a subject is feeling uncomfortable or awkward in front of the lens. "This was one of the first portraits," he says, "where I was able to use that to my advantage to make a captivating picture that dove a bit deeper into the subject."

i think that really comes across here. it's a great shot.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

bloggity blogging about blogs

for those of you who read the blogs Conscientious, A Photo Editor, What's the Jackanory?, or Dear Leader, this blog post is a conversation between all of them...about Conscientious and fine art photobloggery itself.

these folks have been real nice to me. but it did strike me as a bit exhausting meta. a few of the questions are funny & interesting though, including: are artist statements a bunch of hooey? and can a single blog post propel an emerging artist into Art Stardom? (find out in part 1 and part 2.)

national parks (and other topics)

Manya Fox is another photographer that i checked out through Humble Arts' competition 31 under 31.

an aside: honestly, i'm a bit torn about 31 under 31 because...well, what are women? and what does it mean to be under 31? what's so great about privileging categorization based on gender and youth?

should i support it as a form of affirmative action? let's see: it's an online competition (with a corresponding exhibition at an independent Brooklyn gallery ). have young women been otherwise shut out of the online discourse in fine art photography? i'm going to go out on a limb and say no. (not to say that women are not disadvantaged in commercial photography or in the art/gallery world in other ways.)

on the flipside, i am learning about exciting new work by emerging photographers i might not have checked out otherwise. and so are you. i think this is really great! but i've still got to say that i'd like to see more creative competition criteria. (for those tracking the identity politics: i'm a photo-taking female under 31.)

but i digress. Manya Fox! her photos glow right off my screen! her series "National Parks" is an effective mix of landscapes and environmental portraiture. they have a particular quality and palette that i can't quite put my descriptive finger on (southwesternness?), but it is distinctive nonetheless.

i liked these two photos, so i picked them (not sure why i went for the two with children). here's more. i wish the jpegs were higher resolution though; something about the resolution looks a little off/fuzzy to me.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

lady into fox update

i wanted to report back on my earlier post about Katy Grannan's gallery shows. i went to see Lady into Fox at Salon 94 Freemans a few saturdays ago (after a delicious brunch at the otherwise intimidating Freemans restaurant). i loved the gallery, which was small but empty and nestled into the Lower East Side's little Freeman Alley—it felt a little bit like another world. and the show was really cool.

the big prints looked beautiful, the color palette was creamy and cool, and the series really fit together.

the photo above stole the show.

(have you been to any awesome NYC gallery shows lately? let me know!)

Monday, February 25, 2008


i love that people are starting to send me great tips of artists to feature! my friend hugh emailed me this morning about Desiree Palmen, saying "do you know her stuff? talk about anti-portraiture..." i'd never seen her work before, but i love it.

and i agree that this Dutch artist's "Camouflage" work (see top image) is a form anti-portraiture, purely questioning the subject and its relationship to the environment—while making cool trompe l'oeil scenarios.

her more recent work, while exploring the same themes, adds something even more complex. her project "Old City Suit / surveillance camera project" is shot in Jerusalem, and uses the camouflage of her main subject to critique the emergence of a global surveillance state. she's also interested in the effect of surveillance on the average citizen, and the desire to disappear.

i don't know much about the project yet, but the images seem to be shot from the location of different surveillance cameras around Jerusalem. they are interesting and smart—and i definitely want to learn more. thanks hugh!

Thursday, February 21, 2008


i'm looking forward to exploring the work of the 31 women who have been chosen for Humble Arts Foundation's "31 under 31: young women in art photography." several of the names are new to me.

one is Ahndraya Parlato. i think her pictures are very appealing. the top image is especially sweet. and the anti-portrait below it is witty and makes me miss late summer... they are both from the series "Inscape." as a whole, her portfolios don't quite come together for me yet. but i love the large format look of them and the color.

in her project statement, she writes: "By highlighting the uncanny in our world, I show traditional conceptions of comfort, wholeness and perfection to be constructed and impossible ideals."

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

ME#3 and ME#11

i checked out the Dutch magazine Foam at Conscientious's recommendation. they have a lot of great stuff; i was surprised that i hadn't seen it before.

this diptych by Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin totally grabbed me. i love how stark the image is, and how timeless it feels. it's at once completely contemporary while at the same time evoking a Victorian death portrait type of feeling (juxtaposed with a clean empty bed). it's at once both color and black and white. very striking.

there's more on the ME project here. they're fashion and art photographers; but this project falls on the art side of the equation. the theme of this issue of Foam is "Searching."

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

princess on the tongue: vesper and ruth

i got a kick out of these lenticular photographs by Portland artist MK Guth, from her series "Princess on the Tongue." the subjects are "Vesper" and "Ruth." Guth is the director of the MFA program at the Pacific Northwest College of Art, and will be one of the artists in the 2008 Whitney Biennial, going up in a few weeks.

you can see Guth's website here and more of her multimedia projects at Elizabeth Leach Gallery.

Monday, February 18, 2008

the first new last sitting

i saw Bert Stern's new photographs of Lindsay Lohan, "recreating" the "Last Sitting" shoots he did with Marilyn Monroe in 1962. i think if anything, they offer an interesting commentary on how our relationship to celebrity and celebritic age, tragedy & drama have evolved in the past 46 years. our appetite for intimacy in photography has increased as well. but nudity is a poor substitute for intimacy here. and while mimetic nostalgia can be fun to play with (and seems appropriately postmodern), it's nothing without that spark.

perhaps this behind-the-scenes description from New York Magazine, where the photos are published, offers some insight: "The original photos, however, were distinguished by an almost claustrophobic intimacy between photographer and muse. In the first session, Stern persuaded the entourage of stylists to leave him alone with Monroe. The shoot thus took on the symbolic (if not the actual) contours of a liaison. The rise of the celebrity industrial complex has rendered this sort of tense pas de deux all but impossible. At the Lohan shoot, the crowd included Lohan’s manager, her security guard, and her younger sister, Ali; a makeup artist and assistant, a hairstylist and assistant, a stylist, a manicurist, a sentry to watch the borrowed diamonds; Stern, his manager, and two photo assistants. Lohan and Stern worked in an adjoining room, while the rest of us hovered outside like groupies at a backstage entrance."

this makes me think again of how successful Ryan McGinley's breakthrough performances images were. i think, as A Photo Editor pointed out, that some of the shock and beauty of the McGinley photographs is how un-handled the shoots seemed.

Friday, February 15, 2008


i have to admit that i haven't always been a huge fan of Ryan McGinley.

but i was really impressed by his collection of portraits for the "Breakthrough Performances" issue of the New York Times Magazine. i loved the look of the photographs, and the consistency of the aesthetic as a project, even through he was shooting diverse personalities in locations all over the country (plus the white cliffs of Dover). i like the way the light is sometimes hazy, or the way that blurry objects or bright lights obscure the subjects' faces.

i think the Jennifer Jason Leigh images (one is above) and the Paul Dano images are my favorites.

as a bonus: they're also posted up on Tiny Vices.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

new american occasions

i'm a big fan of Santiago Mostyn's portraits.

these images are from "New American Occasions," a series of photographs he took during the Miss Rockaway Armada's trip down the Mississippi River on a raft built out of reclaimed junk.

to me his photos have a dash of Hanna Liden and Justine Kurland's tribalness, with a pinch of Alec Soth. comparisons aside, i really appreciate the adventurous spirit in the work. i think he is really poised to take off.

(please) check out more from "New American Occasions" here and at Tiny Vices.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

the death of polaroid

i thought it was funny that People magazine did this "Fashion Week Snapshots!" (polaroid snapshots, that is) feature the same week as Polaroid announced that it was, well, no longer going to make polaroids. (but, hey, your name is polaroid! what if Kleenex stopped making kleenexes? it's just not right.)

do you think the timing was just a coincidence?

anyway, it struck me that paparazzi photographs look terrific in Polaroid. i wish they were all shot that way. oh well.

(the polaroid of Ashley Olsen above is by Jeremy Kost.

update: the New York Times' Consumed column gives its take here on polaroid as one of the rare media that went from mainstream to fringe instead of fringe to mainstream.)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

mediating the pornography of the photograph

last night i was reading "Lifting the Veil," the John Currin profile from a few weeks ago in the New Yorker (slideshow here). in discussing his recent paintings of images from internet porn, Currin says: "Pornography is so associated with photography, and so dependent on the idea that the camera doesn't intercede between you and the subject. One motive of mine is to see if I could make this clearly debased and unbeautiful thing become beautiful in painting."

questions of 'beauty' aside, i think Currin has hit the problem of photography on the head pretty well here. the idea that photography captures the real, without art or artifice, is deeply ingrained—as is the illusion that nothing stands between the viewer and the subject. i'm sure this is why artists who work outside of photography often play with ideas like this.

but of course i didn't just want to put actual paintings on Subjectify... so, above are two photographs of artists wrestling with the problem of pornography and photography... the first is Elinor Carucci's portrait of John Currin in front of his new painting "The Women of Franklin Street." the second is a photograph of Whitney Lee vacuuming one of the latch-hook rugs she makes from Playboy and cyber porn images.

but my real question here is: do you need to use another representational art form in order to trouble the relationship between the viewer and the subject of commercial pornography? or can photography mediate itself? in a way i think the crux of fine art photography is precisely this act of trying to make photography mediate or problematize itself.

then is 'art' photography any better suited to critiquing this aspect of photography than those other art forms? Larry Sultan's series "The Valley" comes to mind as one such critique. (a lot of other folks, like Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, have photographed porn stars, but The Valley seems the most on point to me in exploring the difference between pornography and representations of pornography.)

have more examples? any opinions on which projects are most effective and why?

(bonus question: can the commercial pornography industry problematize itself? or are any attempts it may make at irony really just camp?)

Monday, February 11, 2008

all my life i have had the same dream

i'd seen Will Steacy's post-Katrina photographs before, but i only just saw his portraits for the first time. they're really good.

Steacy says his series "All My Life I Have Had the Same Dream" is about people's life dreams and their failed dreams, and the intimate moments in which those old dreams come up to the surface. in his project statement he writes that "the subjects and spaces in each image reveal their souls to the camera as a visual narrative unfolds that can only be felt and understood by looking."

this sort of language rubs me the wrong way. i guess i'm not one for revealing your soul to the camera...for me, it sounds a bit reminiscent of clich├ęs like 'photographs steal your soul' or 'eyes are the windows to the soul,' or reminds me again of literal attempts to poke at the metaphor of the photograph—like spirit photography.

but yet, there's definitely something here that we're all grasping at: what are we capturing when we capture the subject? how do we express it?

maybe in this case the images are enough. they are beautiful.

check them out here. Steacy also has an eclectic blog.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

photographing the invisible, 1911

i think that wayback weekends might become a mini theme here on Subjectify, just because Google book search is so much fun.

anyway, i love the idea of "Photographing the Invisible." it sounds so postmodern to my ears, but in 1911, published by the Freemasons, it had a more literal meaning — spirit photography! talk about believing in photography's scientific ability to capture its subjects. (even the dead ones.) fun!

Friday, February 8, 2008

the in-between

i appreciate Angie Buckley's pinhole series "the in-between" because it's a fairly simple idea that seems fresh and unique in execution.

in this series the photographic process and the meaning are closely intertwined: "The dreamy quality of the pinhole camera distorts the sense of scale of the landscape and the dioramas....Cutting out various shapes of figures or objects and placing them in front of the photograph from which they came makes it seem as if they have stepped out of time to confront the viewer. The duplication of characters is similar to the retelling of the stories and the open silhouette holes are analogous to the vacant cultural histories of the displaced."

i like the added bit of knowing that the shapes being cut out are placed in front of a scene they previously inhabited, or in which they were photographed. in that sense they become even stronger as portraits, to me.

the images above are titled "dedicated" and "will." (for more on what she means about cultural history and displacement, check out the rest of her statement.)

Thursday, February 7, 2008

to enter a world of ‘copying’ is an extremely fragile environment

i saw the above image on i heart photograph and it stopped me in my virtual tracks. it's by artist Veronika Spierenburg, from her series "fake DVD."

it took me a minute to figure out what it reminded me of — subjectify's logo! (but way cooler.) however, "fake DVD" is more than just a picture of a pixelated black and white guy with his eyes obscured... i appreciate the brevity of her project statement enormously and so will share it in its entirety:

"To enter a world of ‘copying’ is an extremely fragile environment. Being in China and seeing a whole entire mass of reproduction of existing western products, is for poor people a paradise, for rich people a shock. I refreshed my knowledge of films with buying the cheap illegal copies. Through the errors on the DVD, ‘the persistence of vision’ is interrupted and reveals a visual puzzle of stacked frames. Soon I realized this fast consumption of low quality open up a new direction of seeing the aesthetic in art."

hm. cool. and i think the "fast consumption of low quality" can apply to a lot of things these days. (including our daily bandying about of lowish-res images on these here photography blogs.)

but even in this fragile environment, we shall take these pleasures for what they are — and hopefully appreciate the way they broaden our vision.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

i'll be your mirror

Elizabeth White's I'll Be Your Mirror is a perfect project for contemplating the ability of photography to capture the subject. in I'll Be Your Mirror, one person's face is turned into a reflected diptych. i'm not sure if these are made with a mirror, digitally or both (though i suspect both).

these "portraits" really do make you marvel at the malleability mercureality awesomeness of the human face. in the image above, titled "Chiara," the two versions of the subject look like different people to me, about whom i would ascribe different characteristics and different personalities. and i can only imagine that the "real," unmanipulated Chiara looks completely different again from either of these two people.

here's an excerpt from the project statement from the exhibition at Gallery Lifebomb in Germany:

"We can only view our full appearance by way of external tools- namely mirrors and photographs. This fracture between lived experience and concept of self is the split psychologist Jacques Lacan referred to as "I and the Ideal I", an inherent rupture in the idea of a single essential self... "I'll Be Your Mirror" plays with the history of portraiture and points to the shift occurring in the relationship between photographic image and the referent. The exhibition questions the significance of these trends for the construction of identity by offering split portraits that are neither entirely true nor false. "

well...okay. yes. i'll go there. awesome.

(of course, this I'll Be Your Mirror is not to be confused with the Nan Goldin book/exhibition/film of the same name...or the Velvet Underground song.)

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

the hug and the brad

a couple of weeks ago i polled my friends. "what would you say is Nan Goldin's most iconic photograph?" ("...okay, okay, not counting the cover of Ballad," i would inevitably add.)

well, none of them said "The Hug," but for me it is so definitely "The Hug," and so, like, if they all refuse to parrot the right answer for the sake of a blogecdote, there's nothing i can do about that.

seriously, The Hug has all the essence of Nan Goldin wrapped up in one seeming snapshot: crazy love, sex, brutality, candor, tenderness, masculinity and femininity and an ambiguous merger of the two, those Kodrachromey colors... you get the drift. is there even more to say about The Hug? yes—Darsie Alexander apparently wrote a whole essay about the photo for the book Singular Images (which i sadly don't have, but clearly need). there isn't a whole book written about it yet, but perhaps in a way there is, since as Alec Soth pointed out, "The Hug" has been selected several times over as the cover image for novels (about love, loss and drama, i am sure).

i thought a fun photo project would be to attempt to reshoot The Hug over and over again. a whole series of attempted Hugs. well, i haven't gotten around to it.

but i keep seeing Rachael Dunville's photograph "The Brad" everywhere. it's the title image from her series Springville about her community in the Ozarks. i finally realized that it reminds me of "The Hug." not only the actual hug, but the intensity of the gaze, the reveal of skin, the gender play, the stiff ambiguity in the posture of the girl being hugged... (and one more thing... the mysterious white thing on the man's wrist in the hug is echoed—humorously, for me—in the yellow Lance Armstrong bracelet on the Brad.) overall, the image seems to tap into something kindred, though in a very different mode and format.

what do you think? any other Hug contenders out there?

(Joerg Colberg of Conscientious interviewed Dunville last month: check it out.)

Monday, February 4, 2008


i was looking at Aline Smithson's website and these two photos caught my eye. they're of her daughter Charlotte. it's handy when your muse lives with you.

Saturday, February 2, 2008


i saw this photo by Wang Yi Fei on Flakphoto and thought it was compelling. there's something a bit retro about the color saturation, the background, and the model's slicked-down hair. it could almost be a passport photo or a commercial/editorial assignment, but then the black eye troubles the scene. (there's also something a bit cinematic about it, which makes sense because it looks like Wang Yi Fei has won an award for film Art Direction?)

the photo is featured in the book 3030: New Photography in China. i'd like to know more about Wang Yi Fei, but Google in Chinese is beyond my ken.

Friday, February 1, 2008

is it possible to make a photograph of new jersey regardless of where you are in the world?

it possible to make a photograph of new jersey regardless of where you are in the world?

i know that's a question we've all been asking ourselves for quite some time. luckily a new show at Pierro Gallery, curated by i heart photograph, will take a stab at answering it on April 6th, 2008.

submissions are due february 22.

(above: collage of nighttime New Jersey webcam images taken between 11:42 and 11:47 pm on 1/31/08)