Wednesday, August 27, 2008

here & there

i saw Katie Shapiro's work for the first time and thought it was well worth checking out.

the photos above are "jamie and david on a blanket," "on the floor," and "sisters." (i'd love to see a general artist's statement for her thoughts on her portrait work and how it all fits together.)

Katie Shapiro is also a part of From Here to There, an LA-based collective of photo/art folks. (their website says that they meet biweekly to discuss art. in real life — like a book club! ok, maybe this isn't a crazy idea, but perhaps a refreshing alternative to internet connections.)

(thanks Carmen for the link.)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

photos of photographers taking photos

yesterday, 'Young Curators, New Ideas' organizer Amani Olu forwarded me ArtCal's new review of the show. i thought it was interesting and that others might want to check it out too.

but i thought one of the reviewer's points was a bit strange:
"Charles Benton's Opposing Photographers presents a more conceptual bend... With two back-to-back slide projectors cued to trade slides of photographers, the work catches the viewer in a crossfire of sorts — an interactive, if less inspired, update on Janice Guy's seedier works."
in the 70s, Janice Guy took mirror self-portraits (see below), featuring reflections of the camera and her nude, reclining body. (i don't find them seedy.) it's an interesting link to make, because at first it seems purely visual: both works happen to have a camera in them. but it's true that both projects explore and poke at the dichotomy between subject and photographer.

i perceive Janice Guy as exploring the agency of the subject and the role of the feminine in art. her photos are purposefully sensualized, and also contain the mediation of the mirror as a reminder of the question of vanity (and gaze).

Benton's work (above) is also concerned with the line between photographer and subject, but is even more interested in the troubling third: the viewer, placed in the middle of the volley between the two. the curator's statement says the piece aims "to experience not just the gaze of the photographer towards his or her subject, but also to reflect that gaze back and enable the viewer to experience both subject and object simultaneously." a bit grandly stated, perhaps, but cool to think about. my take on the slide presentation was that it was cute and fun, and did something interesting with the snapshot cliché of folks with cameras taking photos of each other.

what do you folks think? are there links to Janice Guy that i'm not thinking of?
(also, are there actual seedy photos of hers that i haven't seen? — oh, do send them on.)

otherwise, one of Guy's photos was in the New York Times yesterday too...but wait, haven't i seen that in the Times before? oh yes, last year. gee, they sure love sticking that photo at the top of their arts reviews... see below. i thought it was interesting to see the different tones/contrast in the Met-supplied image vs. the White Columns-supplied (2007) image.



Monday, August 25, 2008

photos: where are they at?

so, before i went to check out 'Young Curators, New Ideas' at Bond Street Gallery, i promised to come back with my take on the exhibition's offer of "where art photography is today." i did come up with an answer for your consideration, and it's posted below some thoughts on the show itself.

the show: the exhibition offers the viewpoints of six curators. though they obviously aren't all attempting to conclusively tackle the question of where art photography is in grand terms (especially given how quickly the show was put together), all six curators present themes that point toward possible answers to our question.

i'd group the exhibitions into three loose categories: 1) the first and most straightforward for me was Amy Stein's exhibition, which presents a new crop of photographers working in the directorial tradition of Sherman and Crewdson. these folks, like Alix Smith and Ofer Wolberger, are interested in identity and storytelling and photographic authority.

2) the second group i would describe as pretty pictures with themes of magic, light, and new mysticism (Grant Willing & Alana Celii and Jon Feinstein's exhibitions both explored these). i have to admit that i find a lot of these beautiful, which makes me question them a bit. there's a lot to plumb here (perhaps a few more posts worth), but for discussion-starters i liked Jon Feinstein's interview with Shoot! about the turn toward 'photographic mysticism.'

3) my final grouping was of three curators who seemed primarily interested in questioning photographic forms, and the deconstruction of the meaning of the photograph (Michael Buhler-Rose, Laurel Ptak, and Lumi Tan). obviously this topic is dear to my heart. i enjoyed Buhler-Rose's presentation of Charles Benton's "Opposing Photographers": a timed slide presentation of two guys taking pictures of each other taking pictures of each other. incredibly simple, yes, but how fun to see a thoughtful and playful meditation on one of the most common snapshot clichés. and of course, Laurel Ptak's commissioned animated GIFs stood out (not the least because so many people at the opening reception were crowded around the flatpanel screen watching them animate). of the 26 photographers who contributed GIFs, Noel Rodo-Vankuelen stole the show. (his GIFs are GIFtastic. check out his "Father" above and "Black Monolith," below.) Karly Wildenhaus's are amazing too.

many of the themes presented do overlap and coalesce toward a certain kind of vision of art photography today. but overall -- where is it at? -- i have to say there was one obvious but largely unspoken elephant in the room: the internet. not only had i seen most of the photographs in the show online before, but the show itself definitely had a vibe of people who know each other from the internet posting up paper pictures of some of their favorite photos that they saw on different websites. i don't think this is a negative thing, but it does warrant some thought. and it is definitely something i will be pondering as i, too, contribute more posts and links about various photographs that i primarily, if not exclusively, encounter online. (of course, these questions have been tackled before, here's one interesting and topical starting point.)

the most self-conscious exploration of internet-as-co-curator is also the reason that the animated GIFs were so interesting: because they are a low-brow computer/online digital form being presented on an expensive television screen on a gallery wall -- not to mention being "sold" for $20 each. clever stuff. i think the only thing that could have been better than this, in terms of questioning photography and poking at its online migrations, would be to print each frame of the GIF out individually on paper and turn them into flipbooks.

for those folks who have also checked out the gallery show on Bond St. in lovely Gowanus, Brooklyn (and i do recommend that you check it out), i would love to hear your thoughts as well. Google is returning 3,700 hits for "Young Curators, New Ideas," and frankly the thought of reading them all is freaking exhausting. so i turn to you, dear readers.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

young curators? new ideas? okay!

tonight i'll be checking out the 'Young Curators, New Ideas' show at the Bond Street Gallery. each young curator "aims to engage viewers in a discussion on where he or she believes art photography is today."

i will report back on where art photography is at today. (apparently, it's in Gowanus. yay.)

the photo above is by Gerald Edwards, and it's called "Meditation on the Fall of Single Family Dwellings," which is obviously an awesome title.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

james cooper's underwater images

i happened across James Cooper's work on Tiny Vices and got a kick out of it. he seems to have a very specific world that he is documenting, and i enjoy the persistence of his vision.

Cooper lives in the Bahamas and mainly shoots digital underwater photographs.

He says of his work: "I have a hard time putting words to my pictures, they are on one level very personal in that they are reflections of my own experiences, and yet once they become 'public' I want for them to be very open ended and universal. I actually try super hard not to over analyze my work, which helps me to just be responsive to my own ideas."

there's even a mini subject echo for me here (with Maura Biava):

Monday, August 4, 2008

notes on soth

1) just feel it! this is my favorite image so far from Alec Soth's exploration of China in "The Eagle and the Dragon." the project contrasts the rise of China (including a feature on the Olympics) with the decline of middle America.

for more, check out the Telegraph's series of articles. (however, i have to say, the scan that appears on is a bit of a mess. [click the image to see larger.] dust spots, hair, scratches?)

2) how did i miss A Photo Editor's interview with Alec Soth about his erstwhile blog? (gee, it's only the 4th Google hit for Alec Soth's name right now.)
APE: Your blog is still cited as one of the best on photography and you’ve not made a post in almost a year. Do you think any photographers will come around and usurp your title?
Soth: Of course. I’m sure it has already happened.
sigh. well, no, it hasn't, really. (has it?) this is sort of an insincere exchange, but also makes you ponder.

3) not sure if y'all caught this special profile on Alec Soth's former cover subject, Charles Erie, in the Twin Cities Daily Planet, but it's a doozy. i'll sum up:
"While Erie has had some fun with his famous picture, he feels queasy about his image circulating the globe and strangers making assumptions about him.... Like Native Americans and the Amish, he’ll be very suspicious the next time a photographer drives up to the house. Crazy Horse, who allegedly never allowed his picture to be taken, once explained this mistrust by saying, “My friend, why should you wish me to shorten my life by taking from me my shadow?”"

Friday, August 1, 2008

the confrontational american landscape

speaking of terror-ists, i recently saw Christopher LaMarca's book Forest Defenders: The Confrontational American Landscape featured on Flak Photo.

his project follows the conflicts between activist "forest defenders" and the government and timber industry. this topic grabs me because i am always fascinated to see the Bush Administration's creation of new language to use as little missiles in the war for cultural viewpoint dominance... and i love to check and see which media outlets are using neologisms like "eco-terrorists" with and without scare quotes and/or editorial buy-in. (you can survey Google news for this. also, looks like the word "eco-terrorism" has its own Wikipedia page now.)

LaMarca and his publisher instead, in their blurb for the book, describe the forest defenders (rather sentimentally) as "much-maligned advocates who are willing to sacrifice their comforts and freedoms to stand up for wildlands."

i like the book's cover image (top) a lot—it gets its point of view across very boldly and immediately. i wonder if that is LaMarca's editorial and commercial photography background showing through, too.

point of view aside (can you ever put point of view aside?), i am compelled by the idea of a "confrontational American landscape," and LaMarca's photographic attempts to visualize that confrontation, through both portraiture and landscape work.