Saturday, May 31, 2008

full text of jessie mann's interview

someone sent me a reminder that i had promised to upload a full text version of the Jessie Mann interview that ran here last week. (you people are freaks. freaks! i love it.)

seriously, for the unexpurgated interview (all 8,192 words, including an additional bonus question), you can now view and download it as a Google Document here.

and here are the individual blog posts that make up the interview, with photographs:

Thursday, May 29, 2008

let us now praise famous ptaks

i've been a fan of Ms. Laurel Ptak (and her singular eye for photograph) for some time, but i just wanted to say that iheartphotograph has featured some really cool portraiture lately. i've discovered all sorts of work by new folks.

here are a few of my recent faves from the site:

photos above by (top to bottom): Magdalena Fischer, Patrick Madigan, Sarah McEmie, Melissa Kaseman, Kanako Sasaki, Chris Fortescue, Charles Benton, Stuart Hawkins, and Lisa Byrne.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

jessie mann interview, final part

today's post wraps up Subjectify's seven-part interview with subject extraordinaire, Jessie Mann. at the end of today's question, Jessie talks a bit about her own work as a painter—to see more of her paintings, please check out her website here.

(for those psychology fans out there, there is a bonus question below about Jungian personality types. to find out your own type, take a Myers-Briggs typology test here.)

thanks again to everyone for reading seven days of the interview (and to Jessie for bearing with me!), and for your great emails and comments. it's been fun.

Subjectify: Is Frida Kahlo an influence? I feel that her self-portraits are unmatched, in a way, for the powerful sense the viewer gets that she was reaching out again and again for something... Do you think that you are reaching out for something as you approach the kind of work you do as a photographic subject? Is it different than what you are reaching for in your own work as a painter?

Jessie Mann: Frida Kahlo has been an influence for me since childhood. Her books were on the lowest shelf of my mom’s art library, so they were some of the first I engaged with. It is interesting to have had a relationship with an artist’s work for as long as I have, so much of the way in which one understands an image remains untouched despite all the information one may gain over time about the work, or the artist, or even about life. One of those untouched understandings is that sense of reaching, which you mention. I felt that immediately in her work and I do think it is something that I connected with even as a preliterate child. That is one of the great things about her work—you can read it right away, its truth is on the surface. That feeling of reaching is one of the strongest sensations I associate with portrayal. It doesn’t feel like tugging at something, or like pulling, but more like jumping, like the long jump, like you could throw yourself across some line. I imagine for her a lot of that reach was a desire to exist more fully outside of her body. To make more real her abstract self in order to in-substantiate her pain ridden existence. My motivation is different though my desired end result is the same. I think I simply want to assert the mythological self because it has been shortchanged, not me.

As to how this relates to my experience painting—that is tricky. I think the photos are where I play with the literal and the mythic. They are where I engage myself in the art—and tackle specifics. The paintings are selfless and abstract. They are more about the nature of reality—organic patterns and light, than about any specific aspect of life or culture. I don’t feel that I am trying to go anywhere when I paint, or that I am trying to bring myself to anything, but rather that I am trying to expose something about where I already am. The photographs feel to me, like Frida’s work, as if they are moving through time, the paintings are stillness. There is a necessary ‘autobiography’ in that effort to capture a moment of experience, which the photographs also play with. The paintings speak of surroundings more than the interiors and reflections in the photos, but they both become a template for the spirit behind identity.

Subjectify: Bonus question—I’ll throw this one in because you’re a Jungian—what’s your Myers-Briggs personality type?

Jessie Mann: INFP.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

jessie mann interview, part 6

part six of Seven Questions for Jessie Mann...

Subjectify: What’s going on in Untitled Plate 29? Are you looking in a mirror?

Jessie Mann: Yes, I am. A lot of the pictures were taken through a mirror, in fact. The use of mirrors in different ways is part of Len’s photographic practice. Furthermore, I found it helpful for technical and experiential reasons—I could check my placement and the scene—I could see what he was seeing. After we had taken a few through mirrors for technical reasons, Len and I began to see the poignancy of the act. The mirror functioned as a stand in, or metaphor for, the mirror world of our creation—my reflection: the mirror self which I assert. During the process of shooting the photos, by looking first at a reflection of what we were making I was reminded immediately of the other side of perception—both in the individual viewers mind and in the noosphere at large. The mirror image also references the reversed and upside down image Len is working with, and the flipped again final image we strive for. The above-mentioned plate was made very early on in our collaboration, and is one of the first of a trend that would develop wherein the mirror itself—or the studio behind the backdrop—would show in the picture. This coincided also with Len’s ideas of showing the wig line or my dirty feet marks on the background paper. To let the literal slip in to the image.

The mirror and the slipping backdrop help to remind the viewer of the self-conscious creation of it all. It is to assert, always, that it is the make believe that matters not the extent to which it is believable. It is our way of engaging the viewer in the putting together of it, it is a wink—that we know we’re acting but that you should just play along—or in the words of Erving Goffman—we tacitly agree to help each other preserve the performances through which we present ourselves to the world—but in our case and with the mirrors and slipping wigs it is not all that tacit, after all.

One of my favorite ‘mirror pictures’ is the Madonna one—which is a good example here, because not only is it one of images in which the mirror plays a significant role but also it is a good example of a woman—to hark back to the last question—who entirely crafted her own character and was able to create a fully realized woman (strong, creative, productive, and feminine) in the process and, she, as well, explicitly referenced the queer-queen love.

The entire plane of the photograph is the surface of a mirror, except for the stage and the actress. Furthermore, I am looking into the camera which is reflected back at the viewer, so that they too are engaging the lens. I am holding the shutter release in this one (not in this case to go back and give agency to the character as we discussed above, Madonna certainly doesn’t need any but) as a means to reference the ‘pose’ or the self-conscious vogueing which Madonna perfected. Also as a means to reference the extent to which Madonna created herself—something not seen often in today’s stars.

Len sits in the back of the room watching—also in costume—and seen as a reflection. This reminds the viewer that they are implicitly in the room, a reflection of themselves. That they are playing a part—I can see them, and they can see themselves. This is an awareness that Madonna certainly possessed—that she was a voyeur as much as an exhibitionist, she wanted to watch us looking. But also of importance here, and again I think the mirror plays a part in this, she realized that she too was exposing, not just herself, nor just ourselves, but the freestanding myth as well—she seemed always to know that she was playing the part of the anima—to which she and the public, were servants. Again, this is the reason for the slipping wig, and the double version of the figure in the image, to reference the costume used and the spector self created therein. Madonna knows it is all about the show, the reflection is the truth, that fundamental and superior to the self, is the character—the archetype—the myth.

Friday, May 23, 2008

jessie mann interview, part 5

part five of Seven Questions for Jessie Mann. the gay part.

Subjectify: Self Possessed definitely tackles ideas of gender and performance, and the subject or muse as a feminine archetype. Do you subvert that dynamic in your role as the conscious subject? The characters you portray in Self Possessed include Mapplethorpe and Warhol. I imagine that their queerness helped them disrupt the traditional barrier between subject and artist in their work. How does that function in your project ? Does Len Prince’s sexuality, or yours, have an impact on your work together to question the role of the subject?

Jessie Mann: This one is my favorite question! I like your use of the word queer—it is my favorite for such discussions, and so I will stick with it. For ease, I will once again break this question down into two broad topics: the first, being the idea of gender and its relationship to the subject in art and culture. The second being the role of sexuality in this collaborative project and others. To start, I do try to subvert a few ideas. One of them being that women in art are silent objects. Another, that women in collaborations were inevitably exploited or in someway manipulated into acts of self exposure. And still another, the idea that it is women who have exclusively populated the role of muse and/or artistic object. By speaking about my role, from my position, I am able to at least assert that one woman was not silent—is not silent, was not exploited, will not be exploited. That it is possible for the muse or the subject to bring artistic action to a collaboration. I try to get people to question the assumptions we make about women in art, and the subject in general. I am often asked why I didn’t “just take self portraits?” But a very important part of this project is to assert that the act of collaborating with the artist is artistic, that what women have been doing for so long, is “enough”—I don’t have to take the pictures myself; I can even pose nude for a man (gasp) and it can still be me making art. Additionally, by portraying Warhol, Dali, Mapplethorpe, and Beuys I am reminding people that the use of the self, the body, and one’s character in art is not something reserved for women, while at the same time giving a nod to the fellows that gave me the precedence to take on this theme.

It seems to me that both queers and women are particularly appreciative of the distinction between self and character. Here I would reference Wilde as a prime example of this self aware posing that is widely practiced by queers and perfected by the all-too-rare brave woman. Why this talent is most frequently, or even exclusively, developed by queers and women, is perhaps another chicken or egg question. Do women and queers feel the social need to separate identity from character, is the external flamboyance assigned to women and adopted by queers a result of social roles/pressures or is a certain amount of flair and show simply a part of the wonderful nature of said human beings? This is maybe another question I don’t really have the answer for, but I do love the discussion.

And though the overlap between queer culture and the cultural identities of women is infinitely interesting to me, I would like to take this opportunity to turn the question around. Why don’t straight men make characters of themselves? Why is it that queers and women share this trait but straight men don’t? Is it that they think of themselves or are seen as the fallback position—no need to define yourself when you are vanilla—everyone else has to add flavor, or is the straight male identity lacking in character? A notable exception to the rule that ‘the straight man’ doesn’t make a character of himself are writers. Hemmingway, Hunter S. Thompson, and Phillip Roth with his alter ego Zimmerman, all made characters of themselves as much as they wrote new ones into existence. Perhaps, something of it has to do with the position of the observer. From that stance, the outside, the viewer develops a sense of the play of it all. Or, maybe, the artistic spirit can, in fact, be channeled into ‘character making’ as a medium, and ‘outsiders’ simply tend to make good artists.

Finally, on the point of sexuality—I think it is relevant to this project that Len and Jason Paulson, who did a majority of the make up and styling on these photographs, are partners. I think that is a cog in the dynamics of this project that people are not generally aware of when they are introduced to this work. One blogger, reviewing the work, wrote that it was just another example of the dirty old man looking at the young girl posing. Just more of the male gaze. I found this hilarious. Definitely not for the first time, but maybe for the first time since people have been allowed to be open about their sexuality, we have been openly documenting an archetypal love—the queen for the queer and vice versa. I wonder how many collaborations of this kind have gone down to history in silence. The sexual dynamics of our team also allows the character I make of myself freedom from just that male gaze. In might be that the absence of a sexualized air, a familial environment (if you will) allows me to fully integrate my character as a woman—self possessed—sexual yet not objectified—a character—yet one who writes her own dialog. When I asked Len about this question, he said that gay men get this work better; they are looking for the nuances of meaning in a dialog that uses their language, in short, they are not distracted by the tits. I don’t know if that is really true, but there is so much of this work that speaks to queer identity and the many suits (of armor perhaps) that women wear. Someone once said that Monroe flirted with the camera, Len and I might just be pulling a ‘deadpan camp’ right back at the camera— itself known for its pregnant silences and contrived blankness.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

jessie mann interview, part 4

part four of Seven Questions for Jessie Mann...

Subjectify: In "Self Possessed," I get the feeling that some of the roles you take on are role-models for you in the type of self conscious subject you want to be, but some of the characters are ones that you want to liberate or give some agency to. . .i.e. reach back and hand them the cable release for once… Are there other muses out there that you feel are kin to what you are doing with subjectivity? Who inspires you?

Jessie Mann: You are right that nearly all of the subjects (who were once or are actually real people) are people that I admire in some way—a few of the characters I ‘do’ made work themselves that I depend on theoretically with this work, the giants on whose shoulders I stand, such as Kahlo, Warhol, Beuys, and Sherman. And again, you are correct in that I very often want to go back and bring some information or awareness to the scene; to augment the collective understanding of a character—fictional or real. Often it’s too late to give it to the character themselves—but I can honor them and in a way, as you say, liberate them. I can use the freedom of speech, which I am granted as a postmodern character, to give their freestanding abstract a new agency.

There are so many inspiring characters out there which we have yet to do—and I am very excited about what’s on the list. Len and I have taken about 9 months off, so the list is overflowing right now, though on the bright side I have been able to grow my hair out. Recently, I have been interested in Jonathan Meese as a contemporary artist who is making part of his artistic practice the act of turning himself into a character. Also Francesca Woodman, whom I have shied away from, because of the tragedy in it—for a long time I only wanted to do characters that seemed self possessed as opposed to tragic—but I am coming to reconsider her work and whether or not it—the work itself, is tragic, or if it wasn’t more of a repository for her faith and hope in the power of the image and the life of the mirror self. We last did Dali and I got a real kick out of it, I have been wanting to do him for such a long time—he made such a fabulous character of himself—he was so outlandish—I really wanted to try that suit on, and there were so many fun gender issues to address.

Are there muses out there that I think took to their role as subject self-consciously?—tons. Are there muses out there that have examined the subjectivity unique to the perspective of their abstracted character and the ways in which that subjectivity challenges the normal understanding of self? Not that many. I think, to pick up the Woodman point, had she lived, she might have gotten to a point wherein she expressly autonomized the mirror self she was creating (Perhaps that was what she was attempting with the suicide?). Also, Sherman’s clown pictures I think very much reference the specific experience of mask wearing—there is a tragedy to them or at least something unsettling—as if she is pointing out there is something behind it all which we are still not seeing—the sadness under the painted smile. Though, to contrast, the mask is not speaking for itself of itself, just as her abstracted girls did not address the camera, but were captured in action. So, perhaps the prostheses works are the most in sync with this discussion, as they addressed directly the creation of a near separate self which the viewer then imbued with character and a certain autonomy.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

jessie mann interview, part 3

part three of Seven Questions for Jessie Mann. photos above: The Damaged Child (1984) by Sally Mann and Untitled Plate 88 (2005) by Len Prince.

Subjectify: Many people have been famous for being subjects or muses. Some have brought vulnerability, allure, oddity, tragedy, etc. to the role. But you are one of relatively few people who have taken the reins of your subjecthood, and really approached it critically and consciously, again and again. Why do you think that is? (Even in pictures of you as a very small child, you project a very feisty sense of autonomy. Are those qualities part of what makes you poke at the classic role of the subject?)

Jessie Mann: I would like to break this question down into two parts—why I have approached my subjecthood critically and self consciously and why said self consciousness and autonomy has been a consistent part of my projected self even since childhood. I think the answers to these questions lie in my intellectual passion for the position I have found myself in and in my intrinsic character, which does seem to have a ‘feisty autonomy’; in short it breaks down into nurture and nature. Once I started working with Len and embraced this action as art, I began to think more deeply about the role of the subject in art and the nature of the self created therein. I began to think about my subjecthood, not just in terms of the issues of exploitation and the other facets of the social response to the subject—which had gotten me to the subject matter in the first place, but also in terms of the ontological nature of the abstracted character or subject. I began to research these ideas and as I honed in on writings about the anima in modern art I found myself returning to Jung. In his writings on the anima and the collective unconscious I found a scientific(!) inquiry into the spirit which moves through art—a discussion of the ways in which the unconscious informs us of our true nature through abstraction and creation. In my studies I went from Jung to Beuys, to Heidegger’s metaphysics, to Steiner, and Kandinsky. From there to Ken Wilber, Tarkovsky and quantum theory and back to Jung again— I was looking for some proof, I guess, that there was more to this action of giving to the camera than just the theoretical rebuke I was trying to make, or even the pleasure I derived from the action. I wanted to isolate that moment of spiritual exposure in art, and dissect it. It was this intellectual fascination with the quasi scientific function of the photograph on consciousness, self and identity which brought me to look so closely at the nature of the abstracted character. As such what I want the viewer to see in my expression is not someone looking into a lens but someone looking deeply past themselves.

When I read in Jung “there are present in every psyche forms which are unconscious but nonetheless active—living dispositions, ideas in the Platonic sense, that perform and continually influence our thoughts and feelings and actions” I understood it as the definition of that spirit which I knew could be exposed when I let myself function as a symbol itself. This is what is behind that anima, so often referenced, but so rarely explicated or specifically considered, in modern art. Rather than a negation of the self in art, or the assertion of self, I attempt to make the self, through abstraction, ubiquitous, in order to expose that selfless current which flows behind all artistic expression. As my research continued I studied the artists who also used themselves as a medium to create this effect, I studied those artists who, to again quote Barthes, used art and the abstract character to dissociate consciousness from identity. I would bring these folders of notes to shoots with Len, I was seriously like a Jehovah’s witness during this period. He would just roll his eyes at my youthful artistic zealotry and he would put aside the folder, and insist that we just make art for a little while (Being older and wiser he knew that being an artist is making art, not just understanding it). You know how college kids are. Nevertheless, this intellectual examination of subjecthood was played out in the photographs as my relationship with the camera deepened and my connection with the part I was playing became more informed. I think my quest to understand what it is I did and who I was, in its many stages and varying levels of abstraction, allowed me to bring self awareness and thereby self possession to the characters I manifested, not to mention passion.

But onto the second part of the question—even before I had heard the word postmodern I interacted with the camera self-awarely. When I began to examine who I am and what I do—personally in addition to theoretically, as we all must, I had to consider this strange feeling of connection which I have with the camera, which I have felt for as long as I can remember. I think it is this deep connection, built from years and years of consideration and practice, which has led me on such an intense pursuit of knowledge regarding the process of being in art and engaging the mythic. This connection itself is not intellectual—it seems to be rooted in some child like belief in the magic of make believe which makes this work and my discussions of it anything but dispassionately ironic. In the end I don’t know (I am not in a position to determine it) whether I developed an intense relationship with art and the camera because of my exposure to them. For the sake of total honesty I should admit that I did graduate preschool with an honorary degree in dress up. Whatever it is, all I know is that when I am working in front of the camera I feel like I am closest to truth; like I am looking past myself to the abstract (and potentially creatively generative) idea that I will become. As a child I think I knew, what I briefly forgot during my rebellion, that to spark the imagination is to make the world more rich with possibility.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

jessie mann interview: part 2

here's part two of Seven Questions for Jessie Mann. the photo above is of Jessie at 18, by Katy Grannan, scanned from the February 2000 issue of Harper's Bazaar.

I was so interested to find out that in addition to posing for your mother (and before the work you’re now doing with Len Prince in “Self Possessed”), you also modeled for photographers Justine Kurland and Katy Grannan. Did you always know that you would continue modeling and musehood? Did you ever rebel against it?

Jessie Mann: Even while I was working with Justine, and after I had posed for Katy—I still didn’t recognize that what I was doing was an artistic or creative action. It was just something I did, like breathing. I had no real sense of starting it, neither did I think of it as something I could stop. When Katy came to my boarding school for shoots, or when Justine and I would drive around the Virginia countryside talking about images and scouting locations, I did not think of myself as a creating agent. Ironically, it was through regarding the public response to mom’s photographs that I began to consider the role of the muse, not through the action of “musing.” As I digested the manner in which the public automatically dismissed our [my siblings and my] possible collaboration and enjoyment in the creative process which culminated in the Immediate Family series, I started to focus on the sad fact that this is a pervasive response in regard to the subject of art, specifically when that subject matter is a woman. It wasn’t until late in my conversations with Justine about the role of the subject and my frustration with the assumption of exploitation (while working in front of the camera) that it dawned on me that what I doing, was related. Honestly, it came to me very slowly that I could use this thing, this love I had for a connection with the camera, to tell the story about the very position, of being in front of the lens. A story often distorted or overlooked entirely. It is embarrassing how slow it all was when I think about it now. I think I came to understand the importance of the position of the subject while I worked with Katy and Justine but it wasn’t until I was already started on "Self Possessed" that I realized the full artistic agency of the muse. This delayed response was, you are correct in your question, because I did rebel.

Never did I rebel against the act of being a muse or subject. But I did rebel against the idea of ‘the muse’ as it is currently established and I also rebelled against being an artist in general. Of course it is a challenge to be the artist child of a famous artist, but what really put me off admitting to being an artist was that I had this sense that I had to do something concretely good in the world, and I couldn’t see that the only true way to do that, was to do something you love. I thought I had to do something serious and hard.

When I met Len Prince, I blurted out this bundle of ideas about the subject as an active agent in art, about how the story, from Alice’s perspective, has yet to be written, about how it had to be done through the looking glass, how I thought I might have an abstract character capable of symbolic action… and Len said “I need a muse”. Of course, given that I was a self hating muse at this time, I was a little insulted that he thought that was all I had in mind. It was only once we worked together, once we built our first set together, and gathered props like giddy playmates, only once we had made our first image together as collaborators, that I realized what a powerful thing it was—to muse. What a gift it was to have found a partner who defined muse in a way that made me love the word. I realized that I had been practicing an artistic craft all these years. When it finally dawned on me that art could make arguments better than words, when I realized that art could transmit knowledge and awareness, as much as any science—when I saw how elegantly art could code for both subjectivity and consciousness—I was like a convert. At that point, there I was, with my medium right under my nose, and a story to tell, and I reconciled with it all. With my rebellion over and already preliminarily engaged with Len on the zygote of Self Possessed, I found myself a zealot. I began to bring a new determination and purpose with me to the shoot, because I knew then that there was a way to express the ideas about self and subjectivity that I had so long considered, and I was lucky enough to have been granted the experience necessary to know how to do it. And then, there I was with yet another wonderful artist to explore ideas with. It was at that moment, knee deep in doing it, that I knew that this is what I would do forever and it was what I was meant to do.

I console myself that I am not the only one who was a little slow to realize the Aristotelian phrase “You are what you do everyday.”

Monday, May 19, 2008

subjectify interview: seven questions for jessie mann, part 1

this week on Subjectify, a special and long-awaited theme: Jessie Mann week!

most photo fans know Jessie as one of the subjects of her mother Sally Mann's photographs, including the controversial and beautiful 1993 project Immediate Family (above). in them, Jessie shines out at the viewer as a singular character: feisty, naked, direct, stubborn, and free. this is how i thought of Jessie, and when i researched her a bit more, i got more and more interested in her path and her take on her experiences in front of the lens. i found out that Jessie, now 25, is a painter, has posed for numerous other well-known fine art photographers and artists, and has given considerable and sustained thought to her role as a subject and "muse." this work includes an ongoing project conceived with New York photographer Len Prince, Self Possessed, which tackles the role of the subject in art history and photography head-on. after reading Jessie write about Self Possessed in Aperture, and then reading this extensive interview with her on Wayne Yang's blog, i knew i wanted to talk to her.

over the past few months, i've corresponded with Jessie about questions at the heart of our shared interest in the function, meaning, and pleasure of portraiture and specifically subjectivity in photography. needless to say, she's put a lot of thought into the subject. over the next few days, i'll post highlights of our interview. (the full unedited discussion, for those who can't get enough, will be posted up at the end.)

enjoy—and/or argue, send comments, follow up questions, etc.

Subjectify: You wrote in Aperture that people often come up to you and say “You don’t know me, but I know you” and that you take their words as true—they do know you. What do they know?

Jessie Mann: I think the conceptual issue exemplified by this anecdote might just be the most difficult of the questions raised by my life experience, and by extension, Self Possessed (my collaborative photography project with Len Prince—which examines the role of the subject in art). The ways in which perception and documentation alter the self, as well as consideration for the nature and seat of that self, are concepts which are examined through our collaboration and implicated in this statement I hear so often. By exploring what of my ‘self’ is contained in my abstract, or symbolic form, I am challenging where the “I” traditionally exists. When strangers claim to know me—I have to ponder what they know and who I am. Do I exist in my inner monologue alone?

Where do we most fully exist? Which self—external or internal—is more valid? Are we living in our heads—our own thought is all we have to be certain of? Or is reality, the rocks we stub our toes on, as opposed to the pain we feel, where our self is of greatest substance and meaning? Does the external world of other’s thoughts (collective thought, thought as an abstract) ground us in a subjective nature? When I say it is true they know me, I mean it, I have come to grant that abstract self possession of an “I”ness.

Having run up against the external self others have created for me, I have spent a lot of time considering the nature of the self—internal, social/biological, and symbolic. Yet, as I have said, this is something everyone has to deal with. We are all, and have always been, addressing the nature of ourselves.

When people approach me with that statement they are simply telling me their truth—they know a Jessie Mann, who corresponds in some way to my physical presence, and I know of no version of them. Now, one could say (and I did at one time say myself) they don’t really know ME, though. But how can I so confidently say that, maybe the abstract version of myself is the more real me; the self more imbued with life than the self resting in my deep inner dialog. How do I determine where “I” really am?

Possibly because I had to confront it so much, I began to let go of [my] automatic response, wherein I protect an entirely personal, primary and self contained self. I began to consider what exactly it was these strangers were telling me. I mean, they seemed sincere, they were telling me a truth from their perspective. Could what they say to me be more true than my instinctual mental negation—‘they don’t really know me’?

They do know me. They know a me I might not even know, but it may in fact be the me which stores my ‘self’ most certainly. My private self is fleeting but deep, my social self has a longer duration and is more interactive, so to speak, but my symbolic self gains the attributes of the symbol—its is translatable, it is multifunctional—as it is abstract and can thus be applied to a variety of specific concepts, and it is autopoetic.

When people believe that they know me, when people do, in fact, engage in knowing me through their mental experience of a photograph—some part of my nature (maybe not that part which is most deep in me, but a part which is active, nonetheless) was transmitted to them through a work of art, and one must, to be fair, at least consider that art, therefore, works. Yay.


coming up:

Thursday, May 15, 2008

remaining in light

seeing the announcement for the Remain in Light photo project reminded me how much i enjoyed former PDN 30 photographer Debora Mittelstaedt's work. she's from Germany, but now lives and works in Brooklyn.

i love the nostalgic vibe, the color saturation...
the top image also has this Pre-Raphaelite quality both in the appearance of the female subject and in how deeply the characters are interacting with each other in their scene.

i also like the dreamlike ambiguity of her approach to image making. she says "I have a certain vision of that place -- the place becomes magic for me and is emotionally charged and so are the people who live there. I follow a story, which I make up, and search for things to fit into it."

her website is here.

there's still an exciting (to me!) theme still coming up soon on Subjectify... in the meantime, please keep sending me great stuff to look at. i've been enjoying all the submissions, and plan to post up some reader work soon as well.

Friday, May 9, 2008

flower portraits and photographs of childhood

dear subjects,

apologies for the lack of postage this week, but i will say that there is an exciting theme week in the works... more on that next week. until then, a few thoughts:

a while back, everyone was posting about Colin Pantall's Sofa Portraits of his daughter (which turned out to be--oddly, to me--controversial). i just saw on Colin's blog that he's working on a new series of his daughter interacting with flowers. the image below is lovely. the photographs i have seen so far are much much more sentimental than the Sofa Portraits. but i really do think that they are hitting on the same themes at heart about interior life, and observing children while they are turned inward. a few more are here.

he also posted a discussion about children as subjects of controversy (and more) between Sally Mann and filmaker Steven Cantor, who made the documentary "What Remains" about Mann. you can check it out over here.

p.s. wow. Alec Soth's blog archives are really gone.

Monday, May 5, 2008

skin / wallpaper

i was browsing a news site last week when i came across an article about Ariana Page Russell's projects Skin and Wallpaper.

i love the idea for the project. it turns out that Russell has dermatographia, which makes her skin have an extreme reaction to pinching, scratching, scraping, etc... so she can trace symbols on her skin and the marks will stay for 30 minutes at a time.

i think she's made pretty cool use of this, turning it into an exploration of skin as a decorative wallpaper covering for the body... she says "I am investigating where one surface ends and another begins, the bloom of adornment, and how shifting exteriors reveal as they conceal."

Thursday, May 1, 2008

on the sixth day: one more rainbow

last week, i did a "subject echo" post on rainbows and prisms in contemporary photography. so i was pleased when Slate offered me up an additional example via its "Today's Pictures" feature, where they highlight the work of Magnum photographers.

as some of you nice reader folks know, Alessandra Sanguinetti is one of my top fave Magnum photogs. while my favorite series by her is the portrait series "The Adventures of Guille and Belinda and the Enigmatic Meaning of Their Dreams," her series "On the Sixth Day" is like a portrait project to me too--only of animals. for instance, i especially like the image called "Still Life," which is filled with dead, still animals laid out on a table, and one moving white blur which turns out to be a living cat coming to inspect the scene. it is subtle and vivid.

so with that, i give you one last rainbow: "A rainbow and a duck, 2001."