Friday, July 31, 2009

Auckland... join the dots

When Alec Soth was here in January he opened up the idea of connecting pictures through some literal or even abstract idea.
Making loose narratives with strange connections. For example Alec shot (ok photographed) my cat, Back Door Fluffy and then later a cross in my garden because it marked Fluffy's spot, then lost cat posters and gaps under fences where cats could escape and feline looking women..... Here are four pictures I made today, edited a with a loose connection in mind.... it's that business of "fragmentation" again.... join the dots...

to notice....

... to notice, wanting nothing. Watching, seeing the hidden and revealing it to others. Perhaps there is no greater service?

The un-wanting soul
sees what's hidden,
and the ever-wanting soul
sees only what it wants.

Lao Tzu
(c 6th C. BC)

My picture made on July 26th.

Bruce Connew and Haruhiko Sameshima - 2 new photo books

The eagerly awaited launch of Bruce and Haru's new photo-books happens next week, Tuesday August 4, from 5 - 7pm at Studio La Gonda, Room 103, 1st Floor, 203 Karangahape Road. I have had the pleasure and privilege of a sneak look at the work in both these books. The result, two great books and two important New Zealand photographers at the top of their form. Connew's book, I Must Behave is a work, which examines control, from simple self-restraint to government manipulation, and how it modifies behaviour. Sameshima's Bold Centuries is a broad overview of his practise and his attempt at placing photographs in an open narrative, collected as a photographer and as a consumer of this image culture.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Auckland, some pictures I made on my birth day(s)

What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are to be happy in:
Where can we live but days?

Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor
In their long coats
Running over the fields.

Philip Larkin

Monday, July 27, 2009

Auckland, in between the pictures

I made these pictures yesterday. Although there is no obvious common denominator, if nothing else, there seems to me to be a feeling that the images all struggle against the natural order.
It was not my intention to make pictures like this when I set out nor did I edit with this in mind. Call it post rationalization but that's the way the way it is.
On another tack I read a quote from Isaac Stern on a Yo-Yo Ma CD, Stern is quoted, "in music it's not about the notes, it's what happens in between the notes." Perhaps this also applies to photographs?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Auckland - walking my camera again

Have just read an interview, James Miller talking to Alec Soth about his "Last Days of W" series. Alec talks about the notion of fragmentation in picture making, where images break the established sequential narrative. Where there is a "fragmentary surprise... and more freedom to be less literal". He comments "there is this real trend that's happening right now, it’s coming out of Yale, this super-fragmentary, Roe Etheridge kind of, every image is hip and cool and distinct."

Of course I warm to this idea. I'm all for opening up gaps in the narrative. To me the gaps underline the fundamental state of ISness in the individual images and opens up a line of thinking about how things and ideas coexist. And the gaps make room for the viewer to interpose and bring their own ideas and narrative possibilities to the reading of the work.
Having said this here are four pictures I made yesterday. Each a fragment.... disconnected and connected as well.... as for the narrative, you work it out.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Auckland - a walk from my house

Withdrawal symptoms kicking in today, not having picked up a camera for a week or more . A compelling need to walk and shoot. Looking for something and nothing as well. Hard edged winter light tonight, no wind, no rain. Made these pictures in Ponsonby Road.... each with a life of it's own and a strange sense of connection.....

Friday, July 10, 2009

Be BOLD With Bananas....

When Gerry Badger and Martin Parr produced their amazing two volume edition, THE PHOTO BOOK, I firmly believe that they overlooked an important genre. That of the cook book. One of my favorite photo books is a little hard-back recipe book called BE BOLD WITH BANANAS produced in Wellington sometime in the sixties and printed not surprisingly by the Gothic Printing Company. Whoever made the pictures in the book, preempted Parr for seriously strange and for color saturation. And if Freud had been able to get his hands on a copy he would have had a field day.... here are four pictures.... eat your heart out....

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Ruins of a Golden Age - the truth behind the pictures

or... how the New York Times pulled the plug on altered photos....

Adam Gurno does not have any particular expertise in photography or digitally altering photos, other than the fact that he has several kids and occasionally uploads their pictures onto his computer. But when the Minnesota computer programmer was perusing through a photo slideshow at the New York Times’ website, one of the images caught his eye. Gurno has been a member of the Metafilter community since 2005, and yesterday during his lunch break he followed a link from there to the slideshow shot by Portuguese photographer Edgar Martins. The photographer had taken photographs around the United States of abandoned construction projects left unfinished because of the housing and securities market collapse.

“I was on a lunch break and I was paging through it, and I really liked it,” Gurno told me in a phone interview. “And then I was looking at the shot with just the framing, the half done house, a shot from the inside. And right at the top there was this tiny bit of wood, and it sort of set off a little internal alarm. We built our house a few years ago and I’ve seen houses being built, and I have a good idea of what a frame looks like … The angle on it seemed a bit unreal and it kind of made me say, ‘I don’t know, I think these are kind of fake.’ I kind of got the feeling it was. So I posted about it on Metafilter.”

Specifically, he wrote, “I call bullshit on this not being photoshopped,” a phrase he said he later regretted because it was so widely quoted. Gurno then went back to his day job work, but the entire episode continued to bother him, and he felt that he needed to provide more evidence. So he took the photo, split it right down the middle, and used Adobe to overlay the two halves together. Just as he suspected, the two shots were identical.

Essentially, the photographer had taken half a shot of the house and then mirrored it to make it look as if he had taken a shot of the entire frame. To try to cover up his work, he added in some features to try to mask the fact that both sides were basically the same.

“Then someone [on Metafilter] said, ‘hey, someone should send this to the New York Times,’ and I actually had that idea so I went to the New York Times and went to the contact page and emailed the public editor and I think the web editor,” he said. “I wrote something like, ‘I found this photo essay, and I looked at this picture and I think it’s been manipulated,’ and I think that’s all I said. I got the standard form response, saying, ‘thanks for contacting us, yada, yada, yada, we always read the stuff submitted.’ And then I went back to work, and in the evening I took care of my kids, had dinner with my wife, and went to bed. When I woke up I found that the New York Times had pulled it down, and a bunch of other sites started linking to it, and it sort of really blew up when I was gone.”

So what does this say about the web community’s ability to essentially act as a fact checker for mainstream media stories?

“When you do computer programing there’s an old maxim that to 10,000 eyes all bugs are shallow,” he replied. “It’s an open source thing. What it means is that if you have a lot of people looking at it they’ll find all the bugs in your program, and I think the same goes for this. If I wouldn’t have found it then someone else would have found it … and I think in this case I was the lucky one.”

Simon Owens at put me onto this story.... thanks Simon

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Small Anarchies From Home

Here are four spreads from my new book work SMALL ANARCHIES FROM HOME. In a series of double-page spreads the 82 page book assembles images from the two places I call home. Strange details and things that often are not quite right. Those of you who know me will be able to identify the two cities where I made the pictures, those who don't will have to work it out. Anybody who can correctly name the two cities and emails me the names at I will send a copy of the book as soon as it's available.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Ruins of a Golden Age

The photographer Edgar Martins captured the physical evidence of the real estate bust in the United States. This is one picture from the series.

This project in downtown Phoenix was supposed to include nearly two dozen luxury homes, priced from $2.8 million to $4.5 million. But by early 2007, the city's high-end condominium market — which was among the country’s hottest — had become oversaturated. Prices started to fall, and Chateaux on Central’s developer, Central PHX Partners, declared bankruptcy.
A local commercial lender, Mortgages Ltd., stepped in that year with an offer to provide nearly $50 million in loans to help Central PHX complete construction. But the deal turned sour, and in March 2008, the developer sued Mortgages Ltd., claiming the lender had not made promised payments. On June 2, 2008, the C.E.O. of Mortgages Ltd., Scott Coles, committed suicide. At the time, one-third of his company’s loans were in default. More than a year later, Chateaux on Central remains unoccupied and unfinished.
Photo: Edgar Martins for The New York Times

Friday, July 3, 2009

Parrworld: The Collection of Martin Parr

Parrworld: The Collection of Martin Parr
Jeu de Paume, Paris, 30 June - 27 September 2009
Curated by Thomas Weski.

Jeu de Paume is currently showing an exhibition dedicated to British photographer Martin Parr. "Parrworld" presents the both funny and satiric universe of this constant observer of the contemporary society. It gathers his latest photographs, as well as those from his own collection, but also many objects and curiosities he has been collecting throughout the world.

The objects
Among the themes evoked by these diverse objects, we find the age of the Soviet Sputniks, the reign of Maggie Thatcher, the pop group The Spice Girls and 9/11 – all events or phenomena that have entered the collective memory, largely because of their prominence in the media and association with strong visual imagery. Parr always chooses his everyday objects and curiosities for their ability to symbolise and crystallise the Zeitgeist. Their thematic organisation affords a new perspective on these items of very diverse origin. "I am also very attracted to objects which are ephemeral. Their significance and cultural context changes as the world moves on. Many of these objects are associated with people or events that are bound up with the glories of a certain time and place. When these glories fade, the object takes on a certain resonance, and that is the driving force behind the collections represented here."

Photography collections
Parr's favourite social themes are also reflected in the collection of photographs, presented here in British and international sections (approximately 80 and 25 photographs, respectively). The first part comes from what is the biggest private collection in England. Here, social documentary photography is found alongside works from the 1970s and 80s by Tony Ray-Jones, Chris Killip and Graham Smith. Artists such as Keith Arnatt, Mark Neville, Jem Southam and Tom Wood represent contemporary British photography. The international section features images that have influenced Parr or with which he feels a strong personal connection, ranging from photographs by masters such as Robert Frank, Garry Winogrand and William Eggleston, to pictures by friends like John Gossage and Gilles Peress, as well as work by Japanese photographers, including Osamu Kanemura, Kohei Yoshiyuki and Rinko Kawauchi.

2004 - 2008
"We are much too rich for our own good." In "Luxury," Martin Parr examines the phenomenon of wealth around the world, which he considers just as problematic as poverty.To make this new series, he travelled around the globe photographing fashion shows, art fairs, luxury markets and horse races in cities like Dubai, Durban and Moscow, but also took in event like the Oktoberfest in Munich. Modesty not being the most obvious quality of the jet set, who on the contrary love to flaunt their new and superficial wealth, Parr highlights the grotesque in order to produce an uncompromising study of this new international plutocracy, following on from the spirit of his earlier projects on the middle and working classes.

"The Guardian Cities Project"
The daily newspaper The Guardian commissioned Martin Parr to do a report on ten UK towns: Belfast, Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle. Each town was featured in a supplement distributed free with the newspaper, comprising a text by Parr evoking his memories and personal impressions, and colour photographs of the cities and their inhabitants. Jeu de Paume will present these double pages as well as prints of the photographs featured in the supplements.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Kodachrome - why it mattered

The news last week that Eastman Kodak will no longer manufacture Kodachrome film should have surprised no one. The history of photography is in no small part the history of its technology. Equipment is constantly updated and thus constantly becoming obsolete. But while the discontinuance of Kodachrome may not be felt as keenly as that of other recently defunct items -- notably Polaroid's SX-70 film or Kodak's black-and-white printing papers -- the Kodak film has given honorable service for so long (since 1935 in movie cameras, since 1936 in 35mm still cameras) that its demise calls for a send-off more ceremonial than just a quote from the Paul Simon lyric.
All kinds of photographers at one time depended on color slides. During the second half of the 20th century, Kodachrome recorded countless American vacations, memories that in many households have slept undisturbed for years in their 2-by-2-inch cardboard sleeves. The film was also called upon for art-history lectures and elaborate advertisements, by travel and shelter magazines and, beginning in the early 1960s, by news weeklies.
Photo-realist painters and installation artists employed it as a humble tool. The shrewd exhibition "Slide Show," which premiered at the Baltimore Museum of Art in 2005 -- six months after Kodak stopped making projectors -- brought together 19 works (and more than 2,500 slides) by artists as different as Nan Goldin, Dan Graham and Louise Lawler.
Even Ansel Adams, who distrusted color because in his day its reproduction on the page was so iffy, made hundreds of Kodachromes in various formats for commercial jobs during the '40s and '50s. A sample of this unrecognized work will soon appear in the volume "Ansel Adams in Color," to be published this fall by Little Brown.
Sports Illustrated was launched in 1954 as a weekly designed to exploit the emerging potential of color photography. A new celebratory volume published by the magazine, also named "Slide Show," is inadvertently a farewell valentine to Kodachrome. The picture book reproduces slides of famous moments, such as Lynn Swann's diving 1976 Super Bowl catch, caught by Heinz Kluetmeier's lens, complete with the notations added over the years by editors along the white border of the picture after they peered at it through similarly outmoded tools, the loupe and the light box.
Walter Iooss Jr., who began to work at the magazine in 1961, has mixed feelings about the end of the Kodachrome era. "It wasn't like you had a lot of options if you wanted to shoot in color," he recalls by phone from his house in Montauk, N.Y. For portraits and brightly lighted outdoor scenes, it was the go-to film, even though early versions were so slow (rated at ASA 10) that "if you got any frozen action, it was a miracle."
The saturation of hues was the selling point and "the grain was sensational. Hands down it was the best color film of the period, until the '80s when Fuji caught up."
Kodachrome was so complicated to develop that amateurs and professionals were on an equal footing in relying on labs to handle the film. No basement darkroom was up to the task. Kodak had the exclusive processing rights until 1954, when the Supreme Court ruled this monopolistic practice unlawful. Among some photographers, says Mr. Iooss, the expensive regimen involved gave the film a "near mystical" status. "There was only a few labs that processed it," he says. In recent years, that number had shrunk to only one.
Mr. Iooss is even willing to muster regret for a less-heralded aspect of Kodachrome -- its trim little canisters. With their tight rubber caps, he swears they were "the greatest devices for smuggling contraband of all time."
What he won't lament is "carrying film through airports" where fogging by X-ray machines had been known to ruin a week's work. Or "waiting three or four days for the film to come back." Or "guessing when it was expired." Once you took Kodachrome out of the box -- and photographers at Sports Illustrated would grab "bricks" of unexposed rolls before heading out on assignment -- you never knew when your unused film was out-of-date.
Art photography, too, is now largely digital. But the American street and landscape photographers, who in the '60s and '70s made color as respectable as black-and-white, often preferred color transparencies over color negative film. William Eggleston urged his friend William Christenberry to try Kodachrome in the early '70s.
"I liked the density of the color," says Mr. Christenberry from his home in Washington, D.C. "I like things to be real. Some people think Kodachrome color is surreal, but I never felt that way." A book of this body of work is scheduled to be published next year by Aperture.
Joel Meyerowitz, another leading member of that generation, began shooting with Kodachrome in 1962 and carried it in his bag until a few years ago. Over the phone from Cape Cod, he recalls walking around New York during his youth with the British photographer Tony Ray-Jones: "He and I would shoot with Kodachrome, almost every day, and get expedited service, overnight. Then we would project the pictures on the wall, two or three feet across, and analyze what we had done and what the film would do in certain kinds of light."
He and other Kodachrome die-hards rhapsodize about "the luminous skin tones" it could elicit. "If you got the exposure right, you got the most exquisite curve. It held the information in the shadows and the highlights."
Dye-transfer printing -- still the most vivid and long-lasting, not to mention costly, way to reproduce color on paper -- was easier with Kodachrome than with other films, in Mr. Meyerowitz's opinion. Its three color emulsion layers (with filter layers built in) and the complex "subtractive" process required to produce the image was ideal for dye-transfers. "It's as if the film gave back to the dye-transfer lab what was already embedded there," he says. He credits Kodachrome with "instructing me in what the medium was capable of."
Digital technology has transformed picture-making and much else about contemporary life. The pace of change shows no signs of slowing down. But photography, by preserving figments of the present for the future, is innately elegiac.
It shouldn't be too long before songs are written by young men and women concerned that another innovation is taking their JPEGs, TIFFs, GIFs and PNGs away, if they haven't already accidentally erased the files themselves.

By Richard Woodward, an arts writer living in New York.