Friday, December 19, 2008

Paris mysteries

Who is the woman in the red coat? What's in the bundle? Where is she taking it? Does the woman in red know the man in the brown coat? What has he got in his pocket? Why is the man in the distance looking back and what has he seen? Who is the man in the red jacket? Did he read the notice on the post? Who put that there? Why does the street sign have a cross? Who is the woman at the window? Questions with no answers.....

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Victory of the Trivial edition

My Victory of the Trivial series consists of twenty photographs of unremarkable $2 shop objects. The work was first produced as a gallery show and installation and now this edition of ten, published by FAQEDITIONS. Pigment printed on archival matt paper, the images are each initialed, numbered and assembled in a translucent plastic box. The edition is available in Paris from SPREE galerie and librarie Florence Loewy, and in Cologne from There will be a gallery showing of the series at SPREE, Paris, in 2009.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Paris - Librarie Florence Loewy

Along with Printed Matter in New York the Librarie Florence Loewy in Paris has no equal when it comes to artists' books. In business since February 1989 and from October 2001 located in the heart of the Marais at 9 rue de Thorigny almost next to the Picasso Museum. The shop with its amazing bookshelves (alone worth a visit to see) was designed by the architects Dominique Jakob and New Zealander Brendan McFarlane. The bookstore offers a wide choice of artists' books, multiples, records and other editioned works ranging from the 60's until now. Florence has always (rather haphazadly) had a vase of flowers or something growing in the window. I made this image of her anenomes in 2002 and then this last November her cactus. Florence writes that I got the last shot of the cactus before it ended in the dustbin....

Paris - signs

From Wikipedia- In semiotics, a sign is "something that stands for something else, to someone in some capacity". It may be understood as a discrete unit of meaning, and includes words, images, gestures, scents, tastes, textures, sounds – essentially all of the ways in which information can be communicated as a message by any sentient, reasoning mind to another.
The nature of signs has long been discussed in philosophy. Initially, within linguistics and later semiotics, there were two general schools of thought: those who proposed that signs are ‘dyadic’ (i.e. having two parts), and those who proposed that signs are interpreted in a recursive pattern of triadic (i.e. three-part) relationships.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Paris bicycle - coincidence or conspiracy

I've just had this amazing email from a photographer in Seattle Washington which reads:

Dear Mr. Benge,
Reference this picture that you recently posted on your blog. Looked eerily familiar. I rummaged through my digital archives and, lo and behold, I photographed the self-same bicycle on 25 October 2007. It appears to be parked at the same location (in the fifth; Rue Monge, perhaps). Hard to tell precisely by the scratches whether your picture predates mine, but it certainly is the same lovely chain-guard (and the same Metro entrance)!
Despite my best efforts, I never could pull all the elements of this image together, so it was relegated to the virtual dustbin. The ones that did survive are on my Paris blog (
Someday I may get around to gathering together all the images from my times in Paris; I do love that city!
Tyler M
Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.

My reply:

Hi Tyler
have just opened your email....well the world certainly is a small and getting smaller place... I've just returned from Paris where I went for Paris Photo in November and it was then that I photographed the wonderful bicycle with the beautiful flowers on the chain guard. And yes it is the same bike in both pictures... how extraordinary. I'm wondering if it's been sitting there since you made your picture....I can't remember tho the exact location for my picture....

if the world in general is small the photo world even strange that one lonely bicycle in Paris could be the catalyst for you in Seattle and me in Auckland talking to each other....I wonder what the world might be like if we all talked about bicycles and coincidences, rather than guns, wars and confrontation.. I'm sure a much better place...

and yes, Paris is a wonderful city....

I've yet to look at your blog and will do so now... I just wanted to get this off to you straight away.... while I'm still stunned and smiling in amazement...

very best from me


Marks of Honour at FOAM Amsterdam - May 2009

MoH/08, a homage to the photo-book will be shown at FOAM photography museum Amsterdam in May 2009. The show consists of the library itself, multimedia-reproductions of the work and large format “inspiration-sketches”. Visitors will see the original works, a multimedia presentation, photographs, drawings and reproductions. Text will be a linking element between the different artworks and will carry the visitor through the exhibition-room.
A documentation of the inspiration source of every invited artist and a complete reproduction of the original photobook with it’s complementary homage will be accessible on computer screens. A catalogue will be published by

The photographers:

Harvey Benge honours William Eggleston
Artist book of 16 pages, hand written text and four tipped in photographs, one inserted loose. Both books contained in a slipcase.

Chris Coekin honours Hendrick Duncker & Yrjo Tuunanen
Book in hay and eco/farmer bag, four pictures of me hitchhiking plus one of the original signs "Hay on the Highway".

Peter Granser honours Robert Frank
Box from linnen with book and a map with four pigment prints on Fine Art Pearl Paper.

Pieter Hugo honours Roland Barthes

Tiina Itkonen honours Pentti Sammallahti
Box with five pictures.

Onaka Koji honours Daido Moriyama
Book, contactsheet and five pictures in handmade wooden box.

Jens Liebchen honours Anthony Hernandez
A sequence of 3 images presented as a Leporello, with text and separate book, in a cardboard box.

Michael Light honours Ansel Adams
Box, Adams book jigsawed along landscape lines; M. Light pigment prints atached to certain Adams images.

Mark Power honours Stephen Shore
Custom made box with book and four large format c-prints.

Matthew Sleeth honours Lars Tunbjörk
A fold out book with „Office“ bound to the middle and then two selfmade inkjet books („Fire extinguishers“ and „Houseplants“) each side folding over the top.

Alec Soth honours Andrea Modica
The edition includes a box with two photographs in a small portfolio responding to Andrea Modica’s Treadwell.

Jules Spinatsch honours Block 2008
8 booklets made out of the calender Block 2008; one for each artist in a box with the title: Deblocked.

Raimond Wouda honours Paul Shambroom
3 pictures as inkjets in the book; they continue the book as leporello.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Auckland - pictures from home?

Here are three pictures I made last night in a therapeutic one hour walk from home. They could be anywhere, then so could I.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Paris - more November images

Three more pictures worth a second look....

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Paris - November clichés?

Paris, les flâneur, roaming with friend and fellow photographer Bruce Connew. First on the Metro south to porte de vanves heading for the sunday morning flee market and a walk back to montparnasse and down rue de rennes, st germain des pres across the river towards home. Later, another day, east from place de la bastille along the viaduct des arts to bois de vincennes and the walk back. Shooting as we go, each observing the other, calling cliché, boring or been done at every other shot. Hopefully are three of mine....all good fun.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Paris - random images

In between hanging out in cafes, looking at art, catching up with friends and giving Paris Photo a thorough going over, Paris is as photogenic as ever. Here are three random images that seem to have survived my first edit. The strange wedge shaped building is in the rue de seine in the 6th and is noted for the fact that it was photographed by Atget. As for the others they could be anywhere. The image of the child in the red raincoat brings to mind the 1973 Nicolas Roeg movie, Don't Look Now with Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie.

Paris - rendezvous at le fumoir

Le fumoir, my Paris office, located at the eastern end of the Louvre is not only a pleasant and perfect Parisian cafe but superbly located. It's a short 20 minute walk from where I stay in the 11th and on the way to the left bank across the pont des arts. So it was at 11am on Wednesday November 13th I was due to meet Hungarian friend, curator, artist, Gergely Lazlo. Me seated on the comfortable leather sofa where 2 years ago Jim Casper had interviewed me for Lens Culture. As I waited who should arrive but Jim and the remarkable South African photographer Guy Tillim. Jim set to interview Guy. Small world we said as Jim and Guy retreated to the back room library for some peace and quiet. As it happened Gergely never arrived, sick in Budapest. After my coffee I invaded the back room and made this picture of the two (well three) deep in interview mode.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Paris, colette and four new books

To Paris this week to launch my new series of four artist books at colette (if you're around the address is at: 213 rue Saint-Honoré, 75001 Paris) with a book signing on November 14th.
These new editions (published under my own imprint FAQEDITIONS) continues the main thrust of my practice which has been through published work. Each full colour, hard-back book, produced as a limited edition of 300, is conceptually based. China Story investigates the contemporary anthropology of China, I Look At You, You Look At Me is a series of portraits where the subject was also asked to photograph the photographer, Sometimes a Cigar is Just a Cigar looks at how images are read and what the reader brings to them and Text Book is a series of photographs each with text in the frame and sequenced alphabetically to give random connections and narratives. Shown here are the book covers and the first image from I Look, no doubt I will be hearing from Martin's lawyer, again!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Paris Photo 2008, 13 -16 Nov, Carrousel du Louvre

I'll be at Paris Photo again this year... among other things I'll be meeting with John Gossage and Alec Soth to talk about our January 2009 AUT St Paul Street gallery workshop.

About Paris Photo from their web site:

Since it first began more than a decade ago, Paris Photo has won recognition as the world's premier fair for still photography. This unique event offers a panorama of fine art photography from its early days to the present day, and presents a forward-looking overview of global trends and expressions available in this medium.

The 2008 edition, which brings together some one hundred galleries and publishers from around the world, will coincide with Paris Photography Month, making the City of Lights the international epicentre of art photography.

* 40,000 visitors (40 % from abroad).
* 120 exhibitors - galleries, publishers and magazines - from some 20 countries.
* Work by more than 500 international photographers.

I'd add the book signings.. always interesting always good to see new books.....

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Andre Kertesz on the block at Phillips de Pury NYC

Phillips de Pury auction house New York are having a photography sale tonight and amongst the various lots are several of my all time favourite Andre Kertesz photographs. The works are all signed and are open editions, but none-the-less the estimates, (between US$6,000-8,000) seem quite low to me. Also in the sale are several Eggleston dye transfer prints and another image that always knocks me out, O Winston Link's Hot Shot Eastbound.

Here are the three Kertesz images that caught my eye.
Meudon, 1928; Satiric Dancer, 1926 and Chez Mondrian 1926

John Gossage talks about books on photo-eye

I came across this conversation between John Gossage and Jeffrey Ladd in the magazine section of photo-eye's site...

What I read reinforced my view about how much I like John's thinking, not to mention his work. And of course how special it is that he and Alec Soth are coming here in January for the AUT St PAUL Street gallery workshop.
Clearly I'm not the only one who has this view as the workshop was fully subscribed with 48 hours of it being made public.

Here is the start of John and Jeffrey's conversation.

Jeffrey Ladd: I'll ask the silliest question first. With all the books that you are surrounded by, if you had to pick one — if you had to pick just one of your favorite children which would it be?

John Gossage: A funny way to answer that is that the most classic ones — ones that have meant the most to me — are pretty much ingrained into my brain now. So I really don't need to carry Robert Frank's The Americans with me to our desert island because I can pretty much go through it page by page in my head. But the ones that are most special are all of the classics.

Jeff: The usual suspects.

John: Exactly. I would probably pick something I felt I hadn't grasped yet. Again it's one of those hard to answer questions except in a glib way — I take one of my own books of course. (laughter) Probably at this moment, I would take Shimmer of Possibility because I own it and I've looked at it some, but I think it has more to offer. Especially in how Paul is dealing with the pictures and everything and I don't have it addressed to memory. I think it's a serious work and I would like to understand it more.

Jeff: That gets into my next question of what are the contemporary book works that you consider to be important in the past few years.

John: I'll turn the question a little - one of the things that Martin Parr and Gerry Badger and I would talk about during their extended process of editing the Photobook History was about doing a section based on the major bookmakers like Ed Ruscha and these people who pull off things that engage me. Where the next book always adds something to change the rules of the game. I am always interested in seeing what Christian Boltanski does, he's one of the major book artists - not a photographer per se - but who would ever thought of doing the Scratch book that he did where you have to scratch everything off like a lottery ticket? He's continually thinking out of the box and that always educates me.

Image: Behind the Japanese embassy, Kobisstre 1989 from Berlin in the time of the wall.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

John Gossage and Alec Soth for AUT workshop

A unique opportunity to spend 3 up-close days with John Gossage and Alec Soth two of the most influential American photographers working today.

Friday January 16th - Sunday January 18th 2009 AUT School of Art and Design, ST PAUL ST Gallery, Auckland City

Facilitated over three days by Harvey Benge, John and Alex will talk about their working methods and outline the strategies they have developed to shape their own unique photographic styles and approaches. From a position that "anything is possible" the workshop will look at photo based art practise in a post-modern digital cyber world where the possibilities for making and showing work are endless. Participants will also have the opportunity to have their work constructively reviewed by John and Alec who will offer feedback and suggest ways forward.

Photographer Bruce Connew comments on a previous workshop.."I must congratulate the AUT School of Art and Design for hosting an extraordinary workshop with Harvey Benge, Peter Biolabrezski and the incomparable Antoine D'Agata. All are world class, at the top of their respective games, while one in particular is on his way to greatness - should he survive the journey. These workshops offer a rare and honest insight into world class photographers practices and the varied and complex world of photo art. They give each participating photographer a way forward, no matter the stage of career. That AUT should be involved in assisting Harvey Benge to bring such an intellectual and accomplished level of photographer to New Zealand is an absolute credit to the School's commitment to photography. Very, very well done....these workshops are career-defining days for any photographer."

John Gossage born in Staten Island New York in 1946 is noted for his artist's books and other publications using his photographs to explore under-recognised elements of the urban environment and themes of surveillance, memory and the relationship between architecture and power. He has shown his photographs in solo and group exhibitions since 1963 and his work is held in numerous private and public collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C His publications include Berlin in the Time of the Wall (2004), The Romance Industry (2002), Empire (2000), There and Gone (1997), The Things That Animals Care About (1988), Three Days in Berlin 1987 (1987), and Hey Fuckface! (1984). After a number of years with Nazraeli Press his usual publisher is now Loosestrife Editions and Steidl Verlag. He has taught at the University of Maryland, College Park, and curated several photographic exhibitions. He lives and works in Washington, D.C.

Alec Soth born in 1969 and based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is the recipient of several major fellowships from the McKnight and Jerome Foundations and was awarded the 2003 Santa Fe Prize for Photography. His work is represented in major public and private collections, including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Soth's photographs have been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions, including the 2004 Whitney and São Paulo Biennials, Jeu de Paume (Paris, France) 2008 and Fotomuseum Winterthur (Winterthur, Switzerland) 2008. His first monograph Sleeping by the Mississippi, was published by Steidl in 2004 to critical acclaim. Since then Soth has published Niagara (2006), Fashion Magazine (2007), and Dog Days, Bogota (2007). Soth is represented by Gagosian Gallery in New York, Weinstein Gallery in Minneapolis, and is a member of Magnum Photos.

This is the fourth in AUT's series of photographic "master-classes" and promises to be as rewarding and exciting as the previous.

As interest is high and places limited to secure a place please contact Neil Cameron Registrar AUT School of Art and Design on email:

Fee for the Gossage / Soth workshop is $600 payable by November 7th. Payment can be made direct to Gossage/Soth Workshop ASB Bank Ponsonby, Auckland, New Zealand, Account No 12-3019-0770674, cheques to Gossage/Soth Workshop PO Box 47373 Ponsonby, Auckland.

Charles, Vasa, Minnesota, 2002. From Sleeping by the Mississippi series.
Copyright Alec Soth

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Shanghai Zoe

One of my projects in Shanghai this last week was to make a series of portraits with locals and my daughter Zoe. This was all about chance encounters, really just waiting to see who might come along, who might like to be photographed. The idea fits with my on-going investigation into "parallel lives" culture here another one are four pictures.

Shanghai People

It's the people that makes China so special. Always a smile. Always welcoming. Always curious. As China becomes more westernized hope that these values never change.

Shanghai Daze

Just back from a week in amazing Shanghai. The city busier and faster than ever. Setting out everyday from the central and solid 1930's Metropol Hotel, always something new around every corner. This my third visit and I'm sure not are three images.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Auckland - sunny spring Sunday morning

Early morning walk in the quiet sunshine of Ponsonby Road. Sun not high in the sky yet and few people in the street. Here are two pictures to remember the moment....

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Amsterdam, Tulips with Watermelon

Strange connections. Here is picture of the tulips my daughters gave me for Fathers Day, together with a postcard that arrived this morning from Amsterdam. The card was sent by my friend Mirium and is an invitation to the opening of a show at Amsterdam's Foam Fotografiemuseum. The photograph, Melon 1997, is by Marnix Goosens. Behind the tulips you can just see an image of Woody Allen. Strange connections that mirror life.....

Sunday, September 7, 2008

China Stories - Galerie Lichtblick Cologne

China Stories opened at galerie Lichtblick in Cologne on Saturday night.... pictures from me (as a projection) and Oyvind Hjelmen, Norway; Ferit Kuyas, Switzerland and Pok Chi Lau, USA.

Auckland walk - Saturday September 6th

At last time to walk and look and photograph. Walking in Saturday's late afternoon Spring light. The same path I often take....
from my house down Ponsonby Road, K Road and back. An hour is all I need to get my studio and computer out of my system. Here are three pictures.