Archives for the month of: May, 2008

I came across this exhibit online, Street & Studio: An Urban History of Photography, which opened last week at the Tate Modern in London. I have high hopes for it considering Cruel & Tender is still the best photography exhibit I have ever seen. That show is really what made me decide to be a photographer, I bought my Rolliflex shortly after seeing it. So I am now trying to figure out how to get myself to London over the summer to see the Street & Studio. I may have to have a fundraising drive, or start one of those websites, like the buy me tits, where people ask for donations for totally insane things. Even before seeing it, I highly recommend you all find a way to make it. My guess is that it will be worth it.

Street & Studio is a magnificent exhibition of international photography. It presents a fascinating history of photographic portraiture taken on the street or in the photographer’s studio, looking at the differences between these two key locations in which photographers work. Street & Studio brings out the contrast between the photos taken in the carefully orchestrated studio, and images captured in the changing and uncontrollable street, whilst highlighting the crossovers between the genres and their influence on each other.

Over 350 striking works are gathered in this stylish exhibition, by some of the world’s most famous and important photographers including Francis Alÿs, Diane Arbus, Cecil Beaton, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Rineke Dijkstra, Jacques Henri Lartigue, Robert Mapplethorpe, Irving Penn, Norman Parkinson, August Sander, Cindy Sherman, Malick Sidibé, Paul Strand, James Van der Zee, Juergen Teller and Wolfgang Tillmans. Focusing on photos taken in buzzing cities, with their cosmopolitan cast of hipsters, businessmen, beauties and criminals, Street & Studio builds an engrossing urban history of photography, ranging from early black-and-white pictures from the late 1800s, to elegant fashion photography from the mid twentieth century, to cutting-edge portraiture by contemporary artists.

Tate Modern

Bankside
London SE1 9TG
020 7887 8888

visiting.modern@tate.org.uk

Sunil Gupta

Lee to Sang

Roger Ballen, one of my favorite images from the NYPF

I know I have been MIA since the last week’s NYPF, but it took me a little while to recover from photo-overload. There are a lot of great posts about the event, Shane, Andrew, Joerg, Robert, and others all have their take on the events. For me it really was a whirlwind of meeting people, and observing how the NY photo world operates. Relationships are the secret to the art world. For instance, Kathy Ryan was accessible for the whole event. I saw her giving numerous tours of her exhibit and talking to everyone. I never quite got up the nerve to introduce myself, even though I have emailed with her before. It just seemed too desperate, like throwing yourself at the hottest guy at bar at 3:45 am. But it was super interesting to watch everyone and listen to the conversations. There is definitely an inside world that once you are in, gives you a lot more opportunities. But while I may not be in that circle, I saw a lot of friends and made some new ones. I am still blown away that people know my work & blog. It is nice to know people get something out of GG.

That is why I am excited about WIP. At this moment, everything in the world is in flux. The internet is absolutely changing how we relate to each other. There is something great about people reaching out and forming communities. It empowers them to express themselves and to connect. Amy Elkins has been an incredible partner on this project. Not only do we feel like we are doing something that could really be positive, we are having a lot of fun. My hope is that WIP can help create more community among women artists. We are already scheduled through March of next year and still have a bunch of great artists to put on the calendar. Amy and I are really committed to showing quality work and to giving people a place to further their art career. So when we launch, I hope people spread the word about the site to friends and photo/art contacts. There will be a launch party in mid-June, more to come soon…

This project has me thinking a lot about intentions lately and what I want to get out of this experience. I think having a solo show online, can be a way to reach people who for various reasons don’t go to galleries. And perhaps help someone get noticed in the very crowded field of fine-art photographers. But the web is a funny thing, every good intention can come with a price.

Last night Nightline had a story about a stay a home Mom that has created an online blog for women to post their pictures and ask strangers to tell them what to do with their hair. She has a 2 year line up of people waiting to get help to ‘look better.’ While researching the hair site, I came across this blog, which illustrates the type of thinking that leads women to the Plastic Surgeons consult chair. I am sure Hair Thursday is only trying to help, but as soon as you use the internet community for this kind of thing, I think you are on dangerous ground.

Hi. How are ya? Please ignore my rosacea, beady eyes, crooked nose, and double chin. This is about the HAIR, people!

Hair Thursday features images of everyday women, who are given advice on their hair. Each person has a celebrity or two selected as their “model” of what they should aim for.

The web is full of places where you are welcome to be rated, the web boards of Teen Vogue include page after page of these rate me posts. As an artist I am fascinated about the human need to feel special. A large part of the Cosmetic Surgery experience is about this drive to be ‘seen’ even it is means being judged.

I had the very lovely experience of being interviewed by Bloomberg television’s MUSE, at Slideluck Potshow NYC. Of course once I watched it air, like most people would, I crawled under my pillow while my boyfriend laughed at me. There is something so strange about watching yourself & listening to your own voice. It really does seem like “my god who is THAT person!” And much to my dismay, apparently I got the name wrong of SLPS. Let’s be honest, I had already downed 2 vodka and cranberries by the time I was interviewed and I was a little nervous. Thank heavens the production team from Bloomberg were the nicest people on earth. So, when I happened upon my face frozen in mid-sentence on Heather Morton’s Blog, I figured, go with it. At least you can all laugh along at me. But you can also see what Slideluck is all about. They have one next week in Toronto, if you have not submitted, I say go for it. And, like me bake some brownies, buy a six pack and settle in for a night of fun. I find as soon as I start to take myself too seriously, it’s all downhill. It makes much more sense to try and laugh at your own insanity.

With the start of New York’s first photo festival, I got to thinking about the evolution of the ‘photo blog.’ Last night’s Tim Barber Tiny Vices show, featured several of the blog world’s mainstay’s and during the evening’s events for the first time I met people who knew me because they read Ground Glass. It was a pretty amazing experience. Afterward, a bunch of us went out to eat. Looking around the table, I thought what a diverse and talented group of people. But more interesting is how we had come together. Amy Elkins, Ofer Wolberger, Amy Stein, Amani Olu, Jon Feinstein, Will Steacy, and Corey Arnold are all bloggers, or are involved in the internet photo community. While some of us know each other from other places, many people met last night for the first time, but knew each other from online.

Then there is Andrew Hetherington, I have been telling him for months he is the Walter Winchell (inventor of gossip column and most important man in radio part) of the photo world. Now he is working for Foto 8 magazine covering the festival. Andrew is a great writer and his sarcastic Irish wit makes his blog one of my daily reads. He really has carved out a unique place for himself in the blogoshpere. The festival itself, includes a presentation by i heart photograph’s Laurel Ptak tomorrow at 5pm with Tim Barber. The fact that both Magnum & Aperture have blogs goes to show how important the form has become. Several blogging artist’s have already proven that they can blog and have successful art careers, Alec Soth, Christen Patterson, Brian Ulrich, Shen Wei, Amy Stein and others. Not to mention, blogging gallery star Jen Bekman, also in the curating 2.0 event. Joshua Lutz has work at the Tierney Foundation show, and has his first solo show at Clampart Gallery in September.

What does all of this mean? I have no idea, but I have met some great people and I am enjoying the ride. Perhaps the next great “photo movement” is not about a particular style or conceptual agenda, but about how artists communicate and share their work. All of the big movements in the past happened when loose groups of photographers formed and shared ideas and work. The WPA project, the Dusseldorf School, Szarkowski’s heyday at the Modern, 291, Yale’s MFA program in the 90’s. It is only a thought, but there is an awful lot going on these days online. Blogs are in a way replacing the underground art scene that made New York so vibrant in the past. NYC rents have made that world a memory, but you can take a chance on an emerging artist online. You can also build an audience. Without a support system, you cannot sustain an art career.

Speaking of which, we now have our site up for Women in Photography. The correct submission info is there and the first show goes up June 2nd – so stay tuned!

And if you are in the mood for something that reminds you of how the world functioned before computers, when we actually had to think and take time to do things in a very different way, there is a great show that opened last night at Cohen Amador Gallery. Japanese photographer, Masao Mochizuki’s strange, otherworldly images of television from the 1970’s look both modern and from a time that never existed. What took him hours of precise and methodical shooting, could now be done in ten minutes with photoshop, but I imagine would have none of the charm. If you are looking for a respite from the chaos of NYPF, it is just the spot.

Cohen Amador

41 E 57th St 6th Fl

If I had to pick the two most dominant influences in fine-art photography for the last 20 years, I would have to go with Stephen Shore & The Bechers. The legacy of Uncommon Places continues to have a dominant effect on how photographers view the world. Shore’s images abandoned the traditional understanding of a photograph’s subject matter, instead he focused on the psychological reasons, HE, the photographer selected it. Shore’s work to me has always been associated with the late 70’s early 80’s societal shift to a more the personal, individual centric view of human experience. His eye became the means to reflect the cultural landscape. Uncommon Places is very much of his time, but it continues to be a model of how to make pictures. His visual language, is easy to spot in a huge portion of modern photography,

Stephen Shore

The Becher’s typology is arguably one of the most important developments in the history of photography. The photograph was and is so often used to classify and record information. In medicine, criminology and astronomy, the photographic image is proof that something happened or it is used as a means of comparison. Their grain silos and exploration of the post-industrial revolution world created an entirely new conceptual framework for the fine-art photograph. No longer was is it about recording a moment of beauty, or a emotional human experience, but to document a world, where the cold, ugly and mammoth blight of human technology had taken over the landscape. The typology form became an almost ubiquitous conceptual tool. Certainly the artists of Dusseldorf school have led the way in co-opting, transforming and re-imagining the typology. But if you head to a gallery in Chelsea right now, you will be hard pressed to find a body of work that does not have some sort of typological reference.

Becher Grain Silo\'s

Thomas Ruff

Candida Hofer

Candida Hofer

Candida Hofer

I love the way Nicholas Nixon uses typology in his sisters project. We are all accustomed to seeing images of children as they grow up. There is usually a record of our parent’s love, starting with our baby book and on to our college graduation photos. But it is rare to see that method used to record the love a husband has for his wife, which includes her family. I imagine being married to a women who has three sisters can be perilous, female politics are complicated. But what I love about those images, is the closeness visible in the sisters relationships – they have such a strong presence. Nixon’s photographs seem almost jealous. One of the expectations of a marriage is that husband & wife become closer to each other than anyone else. The ‘us versus them’ phenomenon, but Nixon has to compete with his wife’s three sisters. The yearly photograph becomes a testament not only to Nixon’s love for his wife, but also of the many ways in which families form and interact with each other.

Nicholas Nixon

Nicholas Nixon

Martina Mullaney

Martina Mullaney

While there are many great bodies of work employing this method, there is also a lot of crap. Let’s be honest, for people who have no real conceptual thinking in their work, the typology can become an easy trick. It gives work the illusion of cohesion and intellectual rigor. When I began my Cosmetic Surgery project, I did not set out to make a typology. For a long time my images were much more documentary in style. I was more interested in reacting to each situation and object as I found it. But as I delved deeper into the work, I started to see that there was a frightening similarity in the tone and the nature of these offices. It was as if you go to an office as an individual and come out as an archetype. Or as the specific doctor’s archetype. We as a culture are choosing to use technology to improve our bodies. And at the same time moving toward a rigid standard of beauty. One of our societies primary life goals is to achieve supremacy over our bodies. Whether using exercise, diet, surgery, make-up, clothes or pharmacology, or even full body tattoo’s and body mortification, we want to control our exteriors. Eventually I stated to borrow the Becher’s visual language. Although I do not consider my work a ‘typology’ project, but rather that I am using an existing framework, and building something new on top of it. As a side note, there is a very interesting article in this week’s New Yorker on the man often credited for creating this standard, retoucher Pascal Dangin from Box Studios. The fact that the New Yorker did such a long feature on him which included quotes, by Charlotte Cotton & Philip Lorca di Corcia is testament to his influence in the current visual lexicon.

Cara Phillips

Cara Philips

Cara Phillips

Cara Phillips

Recently, I came across a book at a bookstore in Brooklyn, which is a collaboration between a Rotterdam-based photographer Ari Versluis and stylist Ellie Uyttenbroek, that is one of the best straight typology projects I have seen in a long time. When it is used correctly it can be a very effective tool for an artist. There is always the danger in using it for portraits, it can be very reductive and dehumanizing. But if your work is about these topics, it works very effectively.

I love the titles of some of these groupings: Grannies, Leathermen, Yupster Boys Preppies, Fans etc. There is something very commercial about these images, which for me only adds to their effectiveness. The ways in which modern commerce shapes our notions of human identity is profound. Somewhere along the way, Madison Ave figured out people like to feel a sense of belonging. Ultimately we are pack animals. The modern world is made up of new forms of communities (facebook, myspace, blogging, online dating, city dwelling…) that have changed the nature of human interaction. But we can affiliate ourselves with brand identities. We are Mac people, or Converse, or Addias, or Ralph Lauren, or LL Bean and on and on. Also, when I look at these groups I find myself automatically assigning lifestyle and personality traits to them. The raincoats of the Grannies, bring to mind an entire set of ideas about elderly ladies, I can almost smell the powdery scent I associate with that world. We obviously make assumptions about people and often make decisions about them based on these cultural cues. It certainly makes you want to reconsider some of your own wardrobe choices. The typology is definitely over-used in fine-art photography, but more importantly it is too pervasive in our culture.

I attended my first portfolio review at Powerhouse Books in Dumbo this past Sunday, and overall I have to say it was a very positive experience. I almost missed the the event altogether, because despite my dedication and days of preparation, I somehow missed the news about the 5 borough bike race that went right through Dumbo. Needless to say my 12 minute car service ride, became an hour and 10 minute ride. But I made it and I am glad I did. I have Amy Stein to thank, she encouraged me to go at the Humble Arts panel.

Portfolio Reviews are funny things, especially un-curated ones, like Fotofest and the Powerhouse Review. There is such a large mix of work, I imagine the reviewers are at a loss sometimes as to what to say to people. But for me, it was just what I needed. To be 100% honest I think I have been avoiding showing my work to people after my very first experience 2 & 1/2 years ago at a gallery. But the assignment method at the powerhouse review was sort of like a blind date. So the stakes were not as high, it was more likely you were not going to be right for each other than to fall in love under those circumstances. So when I got criticism from one reviewer, I took what was useful from it and let the rest slide off my back. A very new experience for me. The rest of my encounters were very positive and I got some really concrete and useful feedback. The reviewers were all very generous with their insight and very engaged in the process. I left feeling really great about my work. Now, this is not to say I left with a scheduled show and a signed book deal, I think that is an unrealistic expectation for a review. I am starting to see that there is no overnight success in this, but rather a culmination of lots of little steps some in the right direction and some not. But getting the confirmation I needed on the quality and message of my project is an incredible gift. I am well aware that my imagery is a challenging sell for a gallery. But so is a lot of other great art. There is a lot of not too interesting fluff on the walls of galleries because they have New York rents too. If they do not show work that sells, they can never take a chance on anyone.

The bottom line is that most fine-art photography gets made for other photographers, museums curators and a select group of collectors. The average person, and I mean smart media savvy New Yorker, does not like most of what is lauded in the art world. I recently had this experience after inviting some friends to come to an opening. They are very intelligent people, but they were totally left cold by the photos. The imagery just did not translate. As a photo person, I loved them. It is not Robert Frank, Walker Evans or Diane Arbus that people buy posters and reprints of, but Weston nudes & flowers or Ansel Adams. The bottom line is that shows that make money are Sante D’Orazio’s Pamela Anderson nudes and Martin Scholler’s George Clooney Head portraits. But if buying those images makes people happy or allows the gallery to show other artists, so what? There reality of life is that a gallery is not a museum, it is a business. And artists will always have to balance their visions with that reality. The best piece of advice I got at the review, was to just keep doing what I am doing, and be patient. And that it is better to have the galleries come to you when all the pieces fall into place.

I know I have chattered on before about contests and have suggested that it is kind of gross for photography organizations to support themselves off the desperation of those struggling to get somewhere. But then there are those people who are the exact opposite. Case in point, The Humble Arts Foundation. They have an open submission policy for their group show, there is no cost to submit or to be in the show. When they had their recent 31 under 31 Women Photographers show, they found sponsors, so the artists only needed to provide prints. Which were for sale and they shared the profits. When Amy Elkins asked them for a list of women to contact for WIP, instead they came back with an offer to sponsor our project. HA also gives several $1000 grants a year. Now they do not have some big endowment or multi-millionaire parents, just a commitment to support emerging fine-art photography. One of the ways they pay for the grant program is through the sale of limited editions. They asked me a while back and I am now very excited to have one of my prints available.

So I know we as photographers tend to have NO disposable income, but this is a great way to give back to each other. And there are some amazing artists still available: William Lambson, Dina Kantor, Hannah Whitaker, Corey Arnold, Rachel Dunville, Ofer Wolberger, and many others! So call your Grandma, or your x-boss, or your cousin who works in finance, these prints are a great way to get started collecting photography. The prices are very reasonable, the editions are limited to 10, and you are helping a great cause. And let’s be honest, I need cash for my 4×5 film!!! If you need further proof, rising art star Amy Stein’s prints now sell for like 10 times the prince of her Humble edition.

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