Sunday, June 28, 2009

Marks of Honor

Here are some images of my Marks of Honor photo-book homage to William Eggleston. First shown in May at FOAM in Amsterdam, the exhibition opens July 17 at Kaune Sudendorf Gallery in Cologne.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Kodak to Kill Kodachrome

The Eastman Kodak Company announced Monday it would retire Kodachrome, its oldest film stock, because of declining customer demand in a digital age.

It was the world’s first commercially successful color film, immortalized in Mr. Simon’s song in 1973: “They give us those nice bright colors. They give us the greens of summers. Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day. ... So, Mama, don’t take my Kodachrome away.”

It enjoyed its heyday in the 1950s and ’60s, but in recent years sales have dropped to just a fraction of 1 percent of the company’s total sales of still-picture films.

“It really has become kind of an icon,” said Mary Jane Hellyar, the departing president of Kodak’s Film, Photofinishing and Entertainment Group.

The company, which is based in Rochester, now gets about 70 percent of its revenue from its digital business, but plans to stay in the film business “as far into the future as possible,” Ms. Hellyar said.

Kodak has seven new professional still films and several new motion picture films introduced in the last few years.

Kodachrome was favored by still and movie photographers for its rich but realistic tones, vibrant colors and durability.

It was the basis not only for countless family slide shows but also for world-renowned images, including Abraham Zapruder’s 8-millimeter reel of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination on Nov. 22, 1963.

The widely recognized portrait of an Afghan refugee girl that appeared on the cover of National Geographic in 1985, taken by Steve McCurry, was shot on Kodachrome. At Kodak’s request, Mr. McCurry will shoot one of the last rolls of Kodachrome film and donate the images to the George Eastman House museum in Rochester, which honors the company’s founder.

Unlike any other color film, Kodachrome, introduced 74 years ago, is purely black and white when exposed. The three primary colors that mix to form the spectrum are added in three development steps rather than built into its layers. Because of the complexity, only Dwayne’s Photo, in Parsons, Kan., still processes Kodachrome film. The lab has agreed to continue through 2010, Kodak said.

Monday, June 15, 2009

On Beattie's book blog....

A new photo-book from Harvey Benge

Working between Auckland and Paris, photographer Harvey Benge’s photographic practice investigates the idea of parallel lives, when one thing is happening here, something else is happening over there. Laced with humour and irony Benge’s pictures remind us of just how strange the world is.
Benge’s German publisher Markus Schaden comments, "One of the few photographers today who does as much for the poetics as for the philosophy of photography."

With a passion for the photo-book Benge is firmly of the opinion that photography works best in book form where narratives and visual associations can be explored. Not surprisingly then, since the early 1990’s, with publishers in France, Britain and Germany, Benge has produced over fifteen photo-books.

His latest book YOU WON’T BE WITH ME TOMORROW is a self-published artist’s book under his own imprint FAQEDITIONS. The 64 page book has been published in a limited edition of only 100 copies, each numbered and signed. It has just been launched in conjunction with Benge’s current exhibition at Auckland’s Bath Street Gallery.

YOU WON’T BE WITH ME TOMORROW is an intensely personal book and a meditation on loss and the inevitability of change. Benge’s friend “S” a central figure in the book writes, “the whole book feels like solitude… like the peace you feel when you walk alone… beautiful peace but also lonely…mournful.”
And Michael Gifkins comments, “this book starts its life simply as a book of photos. It becomes much more than this, chiefly because of the author’s careful attention to the meaning of his own work. But then it becomes much more again than even he intends, and even as we read it, which is always the measure of art.”

PO Box 47 373 Ponsonby, Auckland 1144, New Zealand.
ISBN 978-0-473-15146-1
Edition limited to 100 signed and numbered copies
(RRP NZ$80 incl.gst)

Available at Parsons Bookshop, Auckland, selected other bookshops
or enquire from the publisher:

Bath Street show, TJ McNamara writes

New Zealand Herald, June 13

Harvey Benge, whose work is at the Bath Street Gallery, is a photographer who goes about the world recording what his alert and trained eye sees. Usually his work is published in books but for the festival the gallery is showing a large frieze originally commissioned by Dunedin Art Gallery.

This spectacular work, which occupies one long wall, is made of 240 A3-sized digital prints with few repetitions. In his travels the artist has spotted many things often paradoxically juxtaposed. Bikes and rubbish, a luxurious swimming pool and mountains beyond, a single cloud in a blue sky, airports, an advertisement for a porn theatre, crowds at the Louvre, sex shops and soap. It shows the variety of the world from sleaze to domesticity and it is held together by bright tones of red as accents. One of the most attractive photographs is simply colourful plastic pegs on a lawn strewn with autumn leaves. Certainly the effect of this huge endeavour is greater than the sum of its parts. The show is accompanied by bigger photographs which seem much more conventional by comparison although each has a small, disturbing quirk. Sculptural plaster of Paris hands are rendered strange by the layer of dust on them and a tidy image of a blond woman viewed from behind is given a little spin in the oblique glimpse of a piercing through her lower lip.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Venice - The 53rd Biennale

Michael Kimmelman writes in last Wednesday’s New York Times.

“Organized by Daniel Birnbaum, this 53rd version of the venerable Biennale is tidy, disciplined, cautious and unremarkable. If any show can be said to reflect a larger state of affairs in art now, this one suggests a somewhat dull, deflated contemporary art world, professionalized to a fault, in search of a fresh consensus. It has prompted the predictable cooing from wishful insiders, burbling vaguely about newfound introspection and gravity.

The Biennale’s ostensible theme is “making worlds.” Mr. Birnbaum has explained in a news release that this means “an exhibition driven by the aspiration to explore worlds around us as well as worlds ahead,” which hardly explains anything at all, of course.... Mr. Birnbaum has also said his show is “about possible new beginnings,” to which end he has included works by the Gutai group, Japanese avant-gardists from the 1950s and ’60s; Lygia Pape, the Brazilian artist who came to prominence around the same time; and Gordon Matta-Clark, the short-lived American iconoclast of the 1970s. The art crowd gladly talked them all up, as if they were news.

But the Biennale is meant to be a survey of new art, and while conscientious young artists now dutifully seem to raise all the right questions about urbanism, polyglot society and political activism, their answers look domesticated and already familiar. They look like other art-school-trained art, you might say, which is exactly what Pape and Matta-Clark and the Gutai group didn’t want their work to look like, never mind that the art market ultimately found a way to make a buck off what they did, as it does nearly everything, eventually."

Makes me feel just a little better about being stuck in Auckland in winter.....

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Photography Sell-Out, Gus Fisher Gallery

This is a reposting from photoforum's blog site, with text and pictures by John B Turner.... thanks John.

Photographs from last night’s ‘Photography Sell-Out’ at the Gus Fisher Gallery, Shortland Street, Auckland, at which an estimated crowd of around 400 lined up to purchase photographs by notable practitioners for $15 a print. The idea for this event, organised by Craig Hilton, was for 15 photographers each to provide a 15 prints for sale at bargain basement prices. In the end 17 invited photographers participated: Mark Adams, Edith Amituanai, Fiona Amundsen, Harvey Benge, Conor Clarke, John Collie, Jennifer French, Darren Glass, Sam Hartnett, Rebecca Hobbs, Jae Hoon Lee, Ian Macdonald, Fiona Pardington, Haruhiko Sameshima, Ann Shelton, Shigeru Takato, and Ans Westra. Some provided sets of the same image, while others, like Ans Westra, proffered 15 different images (proof sheets in her case). Harnett provided both a print and CD of work, while Shelton provided a dyptych (for $30).

A long queue formed down Shortland Street from the entrance to the gallery which opened at 6pm sharp to let in the expectant but patient crowd. The work was fully sold out in just over an hour, grossing just over $4,500, at what must be one of the most unusual events at this year’s Auckland Festival of Photography.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Bath Street Gallery BIG WORK

Here is an installation picture of my BIG WORK at Bath Street Gallery, Auckland.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Still on the subject of sex.... it seems it still sells!

Paris tonight! Pumpin' House Style and Topless! Ok?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

What Michael said...

Here is the transcript of what Michael Gifkins had to say at my exhibition opening and the launch of my new book YOU WON'T BE WITH ME TOMORROW at Bath Street Gallery last Tuesday night.

"The reason Harvey asked me to launch his new book tonight is not because I know anything about photography. What I know is what Harvey has told me so on that basis it would be like reading out Harvey’s own PR release.

There is a truism though, which says a picture is worth a thousand words. On that basis I estimate that all over Auckland tonight the equivalent of perhaps five new novels are being launched and as a literary agent I do know a small amount about books.

Incidentally, you may have noticed that Harvey has just written War and Peace on the gallery’s southern wall.

You might ask yourself, why does a photographer choose primarily to make books of his photos rather than simply place them on gallery walls?

This is not the same thing as a curatorial retrospective accompanied by a book. The kind of book that Harvey invites us to enjoy is an all-new, artist-made thing, which is to be read according to quite specific rules.

First, it has a title – this book is called You Won’t Be With Me Tomorrow. As with a novel, the title is not merely descriptive of content – it resonates with that content, tells us how to read it. Harvey told me at dinner on Sunday that the average man thinks of sex once every seven seconds. It may have been seven minutes, but I immediately thought, thank God that the corollary isn’t true – that a woman thinks of sex every seven seconds.

Then I thought that perhaps Harvey should get out more.

But he went on to say – about this book – that it deals with the next stage within relationships after that seven-second urgency has been lost. In other words, if this is not a sad book, then it is certainly a poignant one.

Books also impose a mode of reading. As an English speaker, the impulse is to “read” a book from start to finish – in other words, to discover the narrative that the images cumulatively suggest. In photographic terms, each double page spread plays one picture of against another. So the editing of the book becomes hugely important – especially when the photographer himself is the editor. Why this order, and not another? Why this juxtaposition of one photo with the one on the page opposite? A lot can be explained in the relatively simplistic terms of a photographic critique – resonances of colour/form/line. But then too there are resonances of ideas, and as the book progresses we cannot help but feel that the author – the photographer – has something to tell us.


We notice the recurrence of pictures of three women whom a police investigation would establish as “persons of interest”. We might choose to call them beautiful. We might want to label them as “the woman in the photographer’s life” and I’m sure Harvey would confess to this. But why the sadness/the longing/the poignancy of these and other images? Why the sense of spiritual desolation? What is all this white noise from colour’s existential vacuum? Harvey the photographer has taken the photos and then Harvey the editor has arranged them to tell us something.

If this was all there was to it, it would not be quite enough. But I suggest it goes beyond Harvey’s own intention for his images – or at least beyond his conscious intention. Who is the man with the bandaged leg? It’s Harvey, of course. But Harvey doesn’t know about Philoctetes, who 2500 years ago was one of the many suitors of Helen of Troy, the most beautiful woman in the world. Philoctetes achieved an injury exactly the same as this and it smelled terribly when the bandages came off. And how does this photo relate to my favourite in the book – and on the wall – of the bandaged woman whose arm twists up her own back to show us her tattoo of an anchor? Who has injured whom? Does love have to be like nuclear war, always resulting in mutually assured destruction?

This book starts its life simply as a book of photos. It becomes much more than this, chiefly because of the author’s careful attention to the meaning of his own work. But then it also becomes much more again than even he intends, and even as we read it, which is always the measure of art."

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Philoctetes and me

In the absence of a publisher, literary agent and friend Michael Gifkins spoke with eloquence at Bath Street Gallery last night to launch my new photo-book YOU WON'T BE WITH ME TOMORROW.
Michael, as ever acutely observant, spoke of the similarity between the books photograph of my bandaged leg and this image of Greek hero Philoctetes, who in Greek mythology was bitten by a snake. I think Michael was trying to say that perhaps it wasn't an anchor chain I'd tripped over but was a snake. He might be right.

Michael's post-script comment to this post is not postable or printable!

Auckland - Photography Sell-Out

Next Tuesday night June 9, it's photography sell-out time at the Gus Fisher gallery. A lot of photography for not much!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Editing - some thoughts

I watched David Mamet's film Red Belt (2008) last night. Mamet is both a film writer and director whose work I like a lot. Remembering that I have a little book of his, On Directing Film, written in 1991, I re-read Mamet's thoughts about the folly of rushing into visual / pictorial solutions. His advice, before rushing into anything is to understand what the scene means (read picture in photo terms) and to understand the progression of the work. He quotes Hemmingway who said, "write the story, take out all the good lines, and see if it still works". Mamet goes on to say that a work only gets better by learning to cut the ornamental, the narrative, and especially the deeply felt and meaningful. What remains? The story remains. Photo-book editors could think about this, I include myself here. Shoot the pictures, edit, make a sequence, take out all the good images and see if what remains works.