Wednesday, January 28, 2009


French photographer Catherine Larré recently sent over her website. some of her work is a bit more gothic and romantic than my usual taste, but i enjoyed the above photographs of bodies and skin from an untitled project.

interestingly enough, she has several statements about her work on her site, all written by other people, in French, and available in translation. here's a quote from one that i enjoyed for being both random and ambiguous enough to offer a lens for thinking about any of her images. (and to think of folds of skin as drapery--fantastic.)
"Drapery," Roger de Piles wrote in 1699, “should not be arranged like dress as used in society; let pleats find their own place around limbs by chance, making them appear as they are and yet stand out through the diligent device of stroking, somehow emphasizing them, with softness and tender winding." --José Puig

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


on sunday, i went to the International Center of Photography to see Weird Beauty: Fashion Photography Now. i am not an adept viewer of fashion photography, but i was drawn to an editorial menswear feature called Princeton--that turned out to be photographed by artist Collier Schorr. i really enjoy Schorr's work and was interested to see that that spark translated to fashion layouts as well. just like in her fine art endeavors, she is great at drawing something special out of the idea of men-as-subjects (and as objects of desire).

downstairs at ICP, there was a small exhibit on Hungarian photographer Martin Munkacsi, which included this image (installation view from my phone):

which in turn reminded me of Schorr's project The Wrestlers:

here's what she has to say about it:
"There never seems to be a wide range of emotional definitions of men. And I think in wrestling you really see so many different emotions, so many different reactions and interactions... A theme of twinship has always run through my work, of people that look alike. And that was another reason I was drawn to wrestling because I feel like wrestlers look a certain way... I can just tell a wrestler. And I’ve grown to love that face. And so I’m looking for guys that fit that pattern. I’m looking for this tribe of people."

p.s. in a stroke of kismet, Molly Landreth just blogged about "the lines of tribe" and relating it to Collier Schorr's take on capturing tribes, from Schorr's interview with the great PBS series Art21. view the synchronicity here.

Friday, January 23, 2009

that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve?

"that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself"

President Obama's inaugural speech had a small, jangly note for me: his invocation for the lines of tribe to dissolve. in context, he is calling for an end to violence that uses tribal loyalty as an excuse for discord and exclusion.  to see the common humanity that transcends tribal allegiance is an ideal and surely a necessary one. but taken in a much broader context, his statement also makes me consider when the melting pot is not enuf.

could the concept of unity exist without tribes?  (and would we want it to?) tribes are enormously important to us and i think there is no chance of that importance lessening--if anything, new media's power to connect disparate people with similar interests will continue to propagate an increase in new tribes. and today's contemporary tribes, many affinity-based in nature, have shifted the traditional boundaries of our identity politics.

in photography, it is by now a time-honored (or time-worn) tradition to visually document a "tribe." many readers will recognize that this is not my favorite kind of project; especially one that chases at strangeness and specificity with a sort of butterfly-catcher's net.  often these projects, from the POV of the photographer as sociologist, point toward a common humanity as well. (in that way some are universalizing in their otherwise minoritizing lens.)

but although i usually shy away from projects that earnestly attempt to capture and document an actual community, there are many instances where i really enjoy the photographer's particular take on how to group people together into a tribe and how to present them visually.

today, i would like to honor tribes in photography. below are some of the "tribal" projects that i've noticed or been thinking about lately. some i respond to more strongly than others. but all of them, as a category of photographic production, both trouble and delight me.

("this is the price, and the promise, of citizenship.")

Rewilding, Lucas Foglia
(Off-the-grid homesteaders)

Nollywood, Pieter Hugo
(Actors in the Nigerian film industry)

Still Lovers, Elena Dorfman
(Men and their real dolls)

Parameters, Corinne May Botz
(Agoraphobics and their environments)

Aicuna, Paola de Grenet
("The mysterious village of the albinos")

Perfectible Worlds, Sage Sohier
(Obsessive collectors and hobbyists)

Embodiment, Molly Landreth
("A portrait of queer life in America")

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

squirrel portraits

what better way to dip one's toes back into the frothy waters of the blogosphere than with pictures of cute, fuzzy squirrels?

i've been pondering the tropes of editorial portraiture a bit lately, and i have to say, my hat was off to the photo editors at the New York Times when i read the recent article about serving squirrel meat at trendy restaurants in England ("Saving a Squirrel by Eating One").

there is no way to argue with the brilliant sequencing of the three photos in this article. the article moves through commercial photo clichés even as it moves through the animal's lifecycle: from cute overload-style stock photography (happy red squirrels vs. grumpy invading grey squirrels), to commissioned classic editorial portraiture (in this case, stuffy British gamekeeper complete with three-piece tweed suit, Wellies, hounds, and...dead squirrels), to minimalist food portraiture (portrait of the squirrel as...lunch). amazing.