Archives for the month of: January, 2008

I came across this post from Christian Patterson on Speak See Remember, and felt kind of turned off. While I understand it must be strange for those select few who started the whole fine-art blogging community to see it grow to such size (see the Jackanory’s blogroll) But both his sign off from blogging and Alec Soth’s to me seemed very much about something the art world is very good at, creating elite and exclusionary institutions. Gallery’s, Museum’s, and publications are difficult if not impossible to penetrate. Of course once you are there, I hear the MOMA dinner’s are like the middle school lunch room, in terms of who sits where, and who is the popular kid. But there is definitely an “inside” and “outside” in the art world. Once you have made it, you are invited in, whether you can stay is another matter. What bothered me about Patterson’s blog, was that it seems to miss the whole point of the internet and blogging. It is by its nature the most open and democratic of forums. It allows people who would otherwise probably never be in contact, because of geography or where they in the pursuit to trade information and ideas. I think it is great to read what art students think, commercial photographers and fine-artists who are both established and on their way. So can there ever be too many blogs? If you answer that question, I feel that you create a hierarchy of information. That is to say, you imply that one person’s thoughts or opinions are more valuable than another’s. But this is incorrect, because the expression of them is equally valuable, whether you find them valuable is up to you. The internet is a free forum, we can choose to read or not read any blog or site we chose. I personally like getting inside the heads of others and feeling like I am part of a community. There are enough curators in the world, I think this is one place that anyone and everyone should have a voice. We can decide to listen or not.

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Thanks to Mr. Colberg for alerting me to a new blog, Pause to Begin, started by a group of creative’s who are also hosting a photo contest of sorts. They have a really interesting post on color photography. I think that fine art photography is ripe for some sort of revolution. But perhaps we are not quite sure yet what it is. It makes sense that so many artists are abandoning subject matter altogether and working with form when there are so many images competing for the our attention.

Well I am now shooting every weekend on my next project, so my time is a little more limited for blogging. I spent all day Sunday doing this really detailed post, only to have the entire thing evaporate. A good lesson on backing up your work.

If you have a chance there is new blog which features the work of photographers, all of whom were new discoveries for me. The blog so far seems to be showing more conceptual work, but I was very impressed with a lot of it. Take a peek for yourself at: http://www.onebyfourbynine.net/

Jorg Colberg aka Conscientious is now offering his photo services for portfolio reviews. Now matter how long you have been shooting it is always good to get editing help. I find that the more I look at my own work the more complicated it feels to me. For details click on the above link.

And a very fun new challenge from I Heart Photograph.

i heart photograph is excited to announce its latest exhibition…and you are all invited to participate in this open call for work. february 22, 2008 is the deadline for submissions. get all the details and submit your work at: aphotographofnewjersey.com to get you thinking: “are ideas about place dramatically different since the internet has allowed us to participate in culture on such a global scale? despite the endless stream of information and images available through mass media, are there limits to how we perceive, imagine, and understand the world? exactly how do you picture new jersey? what would you say about it in a photograph?” responses will be included in the exhibition “is it possible to make a photograph of new jersey regardless of where you are in the world?” curated by i heart photograph for the municipally supported non-profit pierro gallery and made possible by funds from new jersey state council of the arts, a partner agency of the national endowment of the arts.

full details here.

For me when I think Jersey, I think Frank Sinatra, Ikea, fast food, and suburbs. But Jersey has quite a diversity of landscapes, so I imagine there are a lot of possibilites.

And last but not least, I am very excited to have “The Cosmetic Project” shown in my hometown of Detroit this week as part of the Slideluck Potshow. If you are in that part of the world, it should be a great event. I just discovered the Potshow, it provides an opportunity for people to get together and show work. Check out their website for more upcoming shows and cities.

Slideluck Potshow Detroit

Thursday January 30th 7pm

The CAID Ladybug Gallery & Studios

1250 Hubbard

http://www.thecaid.org

And I promise I will try to put my lost post back together and get it up soon.

Today’s New York Times has a really interesting article on the emergence of self-love blogs for people who do not fit the current cultural body definitions. As a blogger it is really nice to see people using this forum to be positive and supportive. I have spent quite a bit of time investigating pro-ana, plastic surgery and beauty sites, and they usually leave me depressed about the state of the world. These sites, at least are making an attempt to force people to confront self-hatred. It is easy to argue that, FAT is a health issue, but if you have ever struggled with your weight, you will understand that emotions are so much more powerful than our thinking minds. The true road to weight loss, is to confront why we use food to fill in the empty spaces. The worst thing that can happen to someone struggling with their weight is criticism. So I am happy to see these sites. They are worth a look.

Shapeley Prose

Big Fat Deal

The Rotund If only for the wonderful tagline, Thin People Die Too.

What becomes more complex is portraying the naked large female body. I have to say, that the only images I have ever seen that made me think that the photographer really found a ‘fat body’ beautiful are Irving Penn’s. But part of me still feels like they are fetishistic. I am not sure naked pictures are empowering, for any sized woman. Not because there is anything wrong with nudity, but because of how woman’s bodies are used and portrayed in our cultural visual language. One of my original goals, was to find a way to photograph women, subverting the male gaze and allowing them bypass the legacy of Western Art. I have not solved it yet. But I do think it is a very important endeavour. When we feel that it is acceptable to question why a celebrity would stay with his wife after she has gained weight, how does that affect the thought process of all women. How visual culture ‘position’s’ the female body has enormous impact on the daily lives of women.

A recent post on TMZ.com

Pierce Brosnan and his wife, Keely Shaye Smith, had a whale of a time on the island of Kauai on Wednesday.

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It is now commonplace for the on-line and paper rags to ‘out’ celebrity fat, just think of the Tyra, Love-Hewitt, Cindy Crawford bathing scandals of late. Now a lot of women live in terror and shame over wearing a bathing suit on the beach, I doubt these types of posts help them to overcome their fears. But I also don’t think this type of art helps either.

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I have not seen the the who body of work (by Laurie Toby Edison,) but I am not sure how this empower women to accept their bodies. Or make other people question how they judge FAT.

Again, I thought Penn’s show at the Met was really amazing. He photographed them as sexual objects, the same way thin women are captured, but he cut off their heads. I could not help thinking that there was still some sort of shame attached to them, or that all they were giant sex vessels. Or that there bodies had been reduced to sculptural forms. All of which is all troubling.

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I do quite like Jen Davis’s self-portraiture. Her images are very quiet, but they capture her as a human being that happens to be bigger than average. But she presents the reality, which is that she is like everyone else, and I think it makes her work operate on multiple levels. Yes she is exploring her feelings about her weight, but there is something empowering in her willingness to share that struggle. She is one of the young photographer’s out there doing really good work.

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I get many art related email’s, announcing shows and art world events, etc. Sometimes there is a wonderful nugget to discover, or in the case of Humble Arts Group shows, usually just nice to see your peers work. But sometimes I actually read the gallery write-ups for shows and just wonder, huh? I often think if I were better at writing art-speak, I would be able to package my project as a super-conceptual take on painting, which seems to be the most popular thing right now. But I am just not that kind of person or artist. My photogrpahy is actually very much influenced by other artist’s and has great deal of conceptual thinking, but frankly I don’t think it is necessary to include all of that in my artist’s statement. I could be wrong, but I don’t think your work becomes complicated if you try to make it complicated with fancy words. If it’s in the images, its there, you should not have to add it after the fact. But of course the art world is very much about this sometimes. But for me, I want to go into a gallery and experience the art by LOOKING at it, not reading the little piece of paper at the door. If I like work, of course I am always interested to read the artist’s statement, but if I need to read it in order to understand what’s I am seeing, than it is a problem. There are shows, where after reading the statement, your experience or understanding is taken to a new level, but the best work often gets it’s conceptual punch from things that happen after it’s made. Every time I see August Sander’s portraits, I am taken in. On their own, you are drawn in to the way he captures the personality of each person, and they are so simple and beautiful. Then I start to think that these are the people, who some 30 years later, either stood by and did nothing, were killed, or participated in the Holocaust. How could any group of portraits ever say as much.

Nan Goldin’s Ballad of Sexual Dependency is another example of work which operates like this . Those images are one of the most searing portraits of the dark side of human impulse and emotion ever made. They reflect her courage to reveal what was ugly inside of her and her friends. But the frailty and emotion in the images, which exists in all of us, even if our lives are very different, means that even if we know nothing about those images, we react. Of course most people, myself included, hate them on their first viewing, and gradually grow to see their beauty. And one only needs to turn on VH-1 to see the legacy of her work. Most young people probably have no idea, that exposing your body, sex life, drug, mommy/daddy problems or self hatred used to be a big no-no in American society. I am too young to know, but I imagine Nan’s pictures were incredibly shocking to mainstream America of her time. Now they are more tame than American Apparel ads.

Then there is Sally Mann. Her work is deeply process driven, and has been for a long time. But it’s the personal subject matter that people react to and that has made her famous.

But when I read stuff like this and then look at the images I am left feeling slightly sad about art photography.

Manuela-Marques, Untitled, 2007

Caroline Pagès Gallery
Lisbon
Manuela Marques :
Still Nox
17 Jan – 1 Mar 2008
Still Nox is the first gallery exhibition in Portugal for Paris-based Portuguese artist Manuela Marques. The large-scale photographs on show are part of a study process on contemporary reality and the clear proliferation of states of fragmentation. The captured images are ones of expectation and encourage a questioning from the viewer, an active and reflexive posture, because there is no clear revelation of objectives, but rather the apprehension of yet-to-be disclosed moments, of intervals. These are images that are based on their own ambiguity that suspend them in less perceptible time and space, where the difficulty in finding affinities and relationships beyond that moment in focus becomes evident. At the same time, these photographs possess the recognition of images and the interaction between them within a field of imagination common to the observer, which leaves the discursive possibilities about these images wide open. These are not photographs within the ambit of the instant, although they may reveal, by chance, certain casual condiments; they are, however, something that springs from a pretension and foresight that the artist defines for her work and that the considered overall static nature of the movements consolidates.
There is a distinct perceptive individuality in relation to what is photographed in the works of Manuela Marques. There is a sensation of a voluntary isolation in the choice of images that distinguishes the work and gives it a specific approach, extracting the maximum expression from a simple gesture. As such, the intimate nature of the images enters in full consonance, from capture to reception, while not avoiding the intrinsic tensions demonstrated to be an object of encouragement. What is more important than the material itself is examining how things and bodies of energy thrive on emotions and feelings and how they are dependent on them. The continuous exploitation of conciliatory elements as the permanence of a surrounding silence and the question of the light almost always applied in one register, one moment shadow the next naked brilliance, have also been an important mark that has distinguished her work.

Maybe it’s me, but when I looked at the images, I saw nothing from this statement. I do not mean to diminish her work, she has some very good images, but as a body of work about the above, huh?

I went to a show last night at Roebling Hall, which features a group of photographs by Rebecca Horne, which is a nice meditation on still-life painting but using items associated with the feminine. The show also included some amazing painting by Ray Smith. I can’t remember that last time I went into a gallery and thought wow, if I had some money I would buy one of these. Smith’s large scale painting’s on old door’s and plywood, mix drawing, stains, and house paint to fantastic results. The work had a really smart combination of art history, pop culture and exploration of materials, but all of that was secondary to how really appealing the paintings were. I find that a lot more exciting than looking at something that is trying too hard.

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Ray Smith

Well, thanks to another talented person who obviously hates their job or has nothing better to do, but I am always amazed at the stuff that finds it way onto the internet. Really, where do people find the time. I saw a conceptual art video that attempted to say the same thing using models and lots of bells and whistles at a show on beauty a couple years ago, and I actually think this you tube video does a better job of capturing the pervasiveness of the western beauty ideal. Yes a bit cheesy, but good heavens!

I have been a bit busy at my $$ job this week, so tonight was the first night I had to catch up on the Blogoshpere, only to discover I missed some good openings this week. To be honest, I rarely go, I am not an art world luminary and I can never actually see the pictures. The last opening I went to at Yossi Milo, someone dropped their red wine on one of the pics. But sometimes it is fun to go and run into people you want to catch up with. Also I wanted to put a link to a great New Years post by the Jackanory. Mr. Hetherington seems to have parlayed his blog into to an offer for a ‘real job,’ which has sparked his commitment to his photo career. I am a regular reader of his blog, and enjoy the little tidbits and thoughts he offers, and it is very polished, I am not surprised someone offered him a desk job doing it. The funny thing is, photography is supposed to be a purely visual form. But I find writing to be a big part of my process. Perhaps not art criticism, but writing here on Ground Glass pushes me to think about the medium of photography and art in general in a different way. For me, blogging is really more about community. I loved crit classes, being in a room full of people who were all working on projects. It was great to have people to discuss my work and photography with and it spurred me to work harder. One of the nice things about my day job, is that I spend time all day with really smart people who love (and know) about photography. And reading blogs and see what other photographers are thinking, reading, looking at, or showing is very helpful. So I am glad to here Andrew is not going away, but I totally understand how he feels the pressures of time wearing him down. Someone told me to have a successful blog you had to write every day or other day to boost your readership. I prefer to write when I feel that I have something I want or need to say. I hope those of you who read find that to be enough. Thanks for reading!

Also, those of you in NY, Peer Gallery is now featuring the work of Christopher Rauschenberg, Rephotographing Atget. I am intrested to see it, my first thought is that it is not such a good idea, but I am willing to go for a look. So many people already copy him, or copy those who copied him.

I passed another weekend in front of my computer obsessing over my work while trying to update my website. I sometimes find it kind of disturbing that while I engaged with photography I can go without food, water, the bathroom, sitting down, standing up, sleep, conversation, money and just about anything else. It is as if nothing else exists and I get so involved that the world seems to fall away. I worry that I should be better at time management. But once I start I become so obsessed with getting it right that I just keep going. I literally had to force myself yesterday to get up from my computer at 4:30 pm to address the sink full of dishes and an apartment that needed cleaning. Of course, I was right back to photoshop as soon as the rubber gloves came off.

I have noticed that in the documentaries I have ever seen about photographers, most of them seem way more hardcore than I am. And I been lucky enough to be witness to some of the greatest photographers re-print a mural over and over again for their show adding one point of magenta or subtracting one point of yellow. Or send a print back to Laumont or elsewhere for multiple rounds until is is right. The first b&W darkroom class I took was at SVA. The teacher was a National Enquirer photographer who was obsessed with Gary Winogrand. As a young man, he had taught himself photography by shooting all weekend and staying up all night during the week developing and printing because he had a day job. At the time I thought he was a crusty maniac, but now I understand. I am not sure if the nature of the photographic process pushes you to be like this, or if photography attracts OCD types. But I don’t think you can truly become the artist you want without this level of sacrifice.

Diane Arbus was a single Mom and at some points was completely broke during her later career. At least then the Westbeth artist residences in NY, were still a viable living option. In the Met Revelations exhibit book, there are several letters in which she appeals for help to her various supporters and friends. And yet she made some incredible work despite this struggle. There are always outside pressures and the reality of real life needs at the edges of any artistic endeavour. Finding a balance is always difficult. But in order to make art that seems a part of the world or relevant you must be of it. So, bring on the cable bill and pile of dirty dishes. Maybe there is a photo project in them some where. And so what if I lose 7 or 10 hours on a weekend day, I just have to make sure I make it to swim a couple times a week so my legs don’t atrophy.

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It comes to my mind that you cannot pick up a magazine, newspaper or listen to the news lately without hearing about China. It is either our greatest enemy or our partner in the fight against various countries we don’t like. It is source of exploited cheap labor, or they are stealing American jobs. It is in danger of polluting the earth to epic portions and about to gobble up all of the remaining resources or an untapped source of intelligent workers. The rising middle class of China’s new market economy has been the ‘it’ story this year. So I guess it is no surprise that many artists have flocked there to record the transition. I wrote a previous post about how it feels when you see another photographer do something you are working on, that generated quite a few comments and posts by my fellow bloggers. I have been thinking about it quite a bit lately. I guess there are certain subjects that are so large and hard to pin down, that it really does not matter how many people work on them. Dorthea Lange and Walker Evans WPA Farm Project work is very different but certainly equally valuable, even though it tackles the same subject.

Perhaps what is more interesting is that the China work is so similar. The massive and rapid cultural and economic shifts in China are extraordinary. And what is being created is not developing over time in a natural way, but seems more like development on steroids. Which does not leave much time for these new cities to develop personal characters. One thing that makes America unique is that are cities tend to have very different personalities. While Chicago and Boston have certain things in common, their souls are quite different. Suburbs on the other hand often seem indistinguishable, but that is another post. What I find interesting in Sze Tsung’s work for instance, is his consistency. His color palette and light never alter, in a way that is almost oppressive. It makes me wonder why he shoots that way. When I look at the images, I start to think that the individual character of old China is being wiped away for a ubiquitous pre-fab future.

Daniel Traub also is looking at the collision of the old & the new China, his images capture more of the emotional loss to me. They have a critical sentiment. But that I mean, we tend to feel sentimental about change, sometimes even over things we did not much care about to begin with, I think his photos make us question nostalgia? While the landscape is changing, are the people better off? Are we romanticizing the past, incorrectly?

And Zhou Hai’s B&W images are reminiscent of Charles Sheeler’s classic images on American industrialism. Borrowing that language and applying it to China to me is probably the most accurate statement. China is going through the same rapid growth we experienced as America transformed from an agrarian rural based society to an industrial urban powerhouse. No wonder we are so nervous.

I have selected a few examples, but I am sure there many other people doing good work on the subject, I know there are quite a few Chinese photographers recording the changes of their country, who for some reason I can’t seem to find now that I look. Art Forum has an article every month about rise of Chinese art. So in the end, I guess it is better to shoot what to matters to you even if the subject is been explored by others, as long as you have something else to to say about it. But it is an interesting issue in photography and one each photographer must confront. No one ever seems to give painters a hard time for doing another a piece of fruit with a skull… well they didn’t for a long time.

Sze Tsung Leong

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Edward Burtynsky

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Daniel Traub

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Zhou Hai

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Charles Sheeler

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I found this tidbit, and it really made me think. Do we turn to our computers because they won’t judge us, or have we just shifted to a society of instant information. Something to consider for the new year. I would say, many of the photographers I know have their most successful relationships with their cameras.

You people trust Google more than your own family

As you gather with those you love to celebrate the New Year this evening and a cloying nostalgia grips you in the gut, consider this: You don’t really give a shit what any of these people think about anything anyway. At least not according to the latest findings from Pew Internet researchers. 58 percent of you, they say, go to the Internet for answers on your toughest questions. Only 45 percent seek out friends and family members. So tonight, as the clock strikes midnight and you suddenly see that all those around you shall pass and fade with time, just remember: You weren’t really that close anyway.

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I would say we have lost our fear of the “machine.”

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