Tuesday, November 29, 2011

John Gossage and Alec Soth - The Auckland Project (at last)

John Gossage at Paris Photo, John's book on the left and Alec's on the right.
In January 2009 at my invitation, John Gossage and Alec Soth came to Auckland to present at the annual AUT St Paul Street Gallery photography workshop.
John had previously worked with Martin Parr where together they photographed in Memphis and from that joint venture produced the small but perfectly formed bookwork Obvious and Ordinary. I suggested to John and Alec that they might like to undertake a similar collaboration here in Auckland. Pleasingly they agreed. My worst nightmare was that Alec would bring his laborious 10x8 camera and John shooting with his Canon 5D, heading out to "make a book in a block." Fortunately Alec arrived with a brand new digital back Hasselblad. This was not without its problems however as Alec's first pictures turned out to be just jpegs, while John announced on the first day of shooting that already he'd made five good pictures. Could I detect  a feeling of competition in the air?

I drove John and Alec all over Auckland, from harbour to volcanic cones. Fortunately they seemed to discover more than enough inspiration within a mile or so of my house, steadfastly disappearing separately after breakfast into the streets of Ponsonby and Grey Lynn, returning hours later. In the end John did make a book in a block and Alec went on record to say he only made one good picture in Auckland. Modest as ever.

Production and design of the book was left in John's hands and both Alec and I thought the book would turn out to be something similar to Obvious and Ordinary. Simple and to the point. Not so. At Paris Photo John had a few advance copies,  I brought a copy back. All I can say is that the edition is superb, wonderful photographs, stunning design, and incredible production. John's work is in a case bound book of around 80 photographs and Alec's photographs are on a fold out poster tipped into a hard backed folder. Both held in a plastic slip case. In Alec's words a sort of Oblique and Ornate. Whatever you call it The Auckland Project is something very special.

John's book

Alec's front of poster photograph
You can order a copy of The Auckland Project directly from the publisher Radius Books HERE or from Amazon HERE. There are some special editions available too.

Auckland - AUT St Paul Street Gallery, End of Year Fair

Auckland's St Paul St Gallery plans to alleviate the Christmas burden by hosting an End of Year Fair, mixing art, craft, design and performance. A fair where some things are for sale and some things aren’t.
Books and works on paper, contemporary art, object design and craft, artist projects and conversation opportunities. In addition to the stalls St Paul St Gallery has invited D.A.N.C.E. Art Club, Amber Pearson and Melissa Durbin to create interventions in the fair. On Friday night D.A.N.C.E. Art Club will create an atmosphere of a country or school fair, offering candy floss, experimental face painting, and music. Saturday will see Melissa Durbin work with visitors to the fair to create fortune cookies, and Amber Pearson perform in her Extension Suits carrying out itinerant and comical acts of futile labour. Atomic Coffee will be available throughout the Fair.

The stall holders at the End of Year Fair include: A Brief Engagement, Artspace, Artist Alliance, Atomic Coffee, Audio Foundation, Black Winter, Harvey Benge, Paul Chapman, D.A.N.C.E. Art Club, Melissa Durbin, Joe Jowitt, Melissa Laing & Sarah Laing, Little Art Things, Andrew McLeod, MSVA Jewellery, Lucy Meyle, Neil Satori/Photographer, Object Space, Paperette, Parlour, Pear Tree Press, Amber Pearson, Personal Best, Photo Forum, Rim Books, Second Storey, Snake Pit, St Paul St Gallery, David Straight, Tautai Trust, We Can Create.

Friday at 5:00pm until Saturday, December 3, 2011 at 4:00pm

Check it out on fb HERE

Paul Graham - Europe / America, at the Botín Foundation in Santander, Spain

Two key periods of Paul Graham's art career are contrasted in the exhibition Europe : America curated by Vicente Todolí and organized by the Botín Foundation for its venue in Santander where it will be showing until January 8th 2012.
The show, which complements the British photographer's contribution as director of the Villa Iris workshop in Santander last July, juxtaposes two of his series: New Europe (1986-1992) and A Shimmer of Possibility (2004-2006).

The series titled New Europe , in allusion to the European dream, includes pictures the photographer took during his journeys in 1988, 1989 and 1990 across nine Western European countries: Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, France, Belgium, The Netherlands, England and Northern Ireland.
The photographs contain underlying historical references, such as an image in which the figure of Hitler has been scratched away, or another in which the Star of David has been successively drawn and crossed out on the orange paint of a steel beam. The images produced during his travels in Spain include one of Franco's sculpted tomb and another of some coins stamped with the dictator's effigy, which are no longer in circulation.

In the second series, A Shimmer of Possibility, focusing on isolated figures inserted in urban spaces and presented in film-like sequences, Graham depicts the division of classes in American society. This concern, that of making the underprivileged classes visible, is one that the photographer also explored in his previous series American Night (2003). A video on the Foundation's channel features testimonies of the artist and the curator, in addition to a tour of the exhibition space.

The show is accompanied by a catalogue with texts in Spanish and English written by the director of the Whitechapel Gallery of London, Iwona Blazwich; the photography curator of the Metropolitan Museum of New York, Jeff Rosenheim; and the New York-based investigator and freelance curator, Kevin Moore. It also includes reproductions of all the works in the exhibition. It is co-produced by the Botín Foundation and La Fábrica publishing house.

Furthermore, three artist photographers will view the works in this exhibition with visitors in order to comment on them during tours starting at eight in the evening. In October Ali Hanoon participated in the Villa Iris workshop, which will be conducted by Raúl Hevia on Wednesday, November 30th, and by the former winner of the Botín Foundation grant, José Ramón Ais, on December 21st.

Fundación Botín, Pedrueca, 1. 39003. Santander. Spain

Monday, November 28, 2011

London - 4 degrees of separation and some new photographs

A theory stemming from an experiment by social psychologist Stanley Milgram in the 1960s claimed every living person is connected to any other through only six friends. According to a recent study, Facebook reduces the six degrees of separation to only four. And it's true. Just before leaving for London I posted my travel itinerary on this blog. Soon after I was contacted by a London based photographer Thomas Rice-Smyth who reads my blog, but we had never met. Tom suggested we meet in London for a drink. And we did. Another fellow photographer Eric Perlberg came along too. And more than a drink we went out together and shot some photographs. Tom and Eric took me to parts of London I would never have found on my own. And that was very much appreciated. Here are some of my new London photographs.

You can look at Thomas Rice-Smyth's work HERE and Eric Perlberg's work HERE

and here we are at work........

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Kassel Photobook Festival moves to Paris in 2012

As 2012 is Documenta year in Kassel, next year the 5th International Photobook Festival will be held in Paris at the influential Le Bal photospace. During April 20 to 22 the photobook will be the focus with a program of lectures and a curated market place. The festival will also present the 2012 Dummy and Photobook Awards selected in Paris by a jury of experts. The awards presentation will take place on Saturday, 21 April. 

International Photobook Dummy Award 2012
Photographers are invited to present their completed dummy of unpublished photobook works to an international jury. The best 50 books will be exhibited at Le Bal as an important part of the festival. From these 50 chosen titles a first prize will be selected which is a complete book production by publishers Seltmann+Soehne.
Entries close on 31 March 2012 and there is a registrations fee of 32 Euros.

Le Bal has fast become a shaker and mover in the already dynamic Paris photo scene. At the heart of Le Bal are the 300 square metres of exhibition space on two levels. The rectangular space (100 sq m) on the ground floor is covered by an Art Deco glass canopy. The split-level rectangular space in the basement (200 sq m) will accommodate multiple formats, installations and screenings. Le Bal Café and Le Bal Books open onto the alley, a community garden and the neighbourhood as a whole. A glass-walled terrace provides a view of the garden and a moment of calm, just a hundred metres from the hustle and bustle of Avenue de Clichy. Le Bal in Paris.

And more here: www.fotobookfestival.org

Friday, November 25, 2011

José Pedro Cortes - Things Here and Things Still to Come

One of my discoveries at OffPrint during Paris Photo was a new book from Portuguese photographer José Pedro Cortes, Things Here and Things Still to Come published by his own imprint Pierre von Kleist Editions.
Cortes photographs in cities and the images in this handsome book  weave a strange, compelling narrative that connects the city of Tel Aviv and the lives of four young Jewish women.

Cortes says this about the book. "For nine months I lived in Tel Aviv. During this period I met four young Jewish women who were born in the USA. They had all decided, at the age of 18, to go to Israel to do the military service. After completing the required two years of service, they decided to stay and live in this idyllic Middle Eastern city."

"Things Here and Things Still to Come" 

published November 2011 by Pierre von Kleist editions, 120 pages, 31x24.5 cm, with 65 photographs, You can order the book here. And a see a video here 

José Pedro Cortes website 
Pierre von Kleist Editions website

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Photobook, narrative = story = entertainment?

Alec Soth shoots John Gossage shooting. Grey Lynn, Auckland, January 2009

In a recent post on his blog,  LITTLE BROWN MUSHROOM, Alec Soth talked about a lecture he gave where he outlined his desire to consider his audience and to make photobooks with narrative on the basis that by presenting a story the reader will be pulled in and "entertained".  Alec said that the day after his lecture he went to hear John Gossage speak and was a taken aback when John made this statement, “Entertainers try to please their audience – artists do what they do and the audience comes to them. I don’t think about my audience whatsoever.”

Potentially here are two quite different and opposing yet also apposite approaches.

I have seen both Alec and John work. Alec's approach is analytical, he makes lists, he knows exactly what he's looking for. He is a connect-the-dots photographer where one image links with the next on a fundamental conceptual level. I like this, it's intelligent and the pleasure for the reader comes from trying to work out Alec's connections. This makes Alec a slower paced photographer as much of the hard work happens before the lens cap comes off.
John on the other hand is more of a stream-of-consciousness shooter, working intuitively knowing deep down just what he's looking for. Martin Parr told me that John can make a book-in-a-block, and it's true.

Whatever the approach the role of the reader cannot be ignored. Roland Barthes in his 1967 essay The Death of the Author states that the essential meaning of a work depends on the impressions of the reader, rather than the "passions" or "tastes" of the author. Accepting this, surely then it's a question of presenting images that will allow the reader to construct their own story which may in effect have no relationship whatsoever with the authors original intention. And I see no problem in this.

The best work in my view comes from image making that is spare and not overloaded.
Images that remind us of what we know already rather than try and convince us of new truths. Think of Paul Graham's man mowing the lawn from his Shimmer series.  We can all connect with this from our own experience. And from John Gossage's work in The Auckland Project, the image of a bent over nail or a paint splash on a wall. We are all familiar with these small overlooked signifiers. Our own stories flow from these images with ease.

I think there is a danger in trying too hard to make photographs that are significant, impactful and important. To try and educate and effect change. This can lead to work that is contrived, overloaded and just doesn't work.

The last word here is from John Gossage, "what I said is what I believe about intention and the practice of trying to make things real and honest. The results may very well be entertaining, and I often hope it is. But if I try for it I always get confused on who is speaking."
Here is Alec's original post.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Pieter Hugo and the legacy of the Rwanda genocide

Sean O'Hagan writes perceptively about photography for both the Guardian and the Observer. In his Guardian story of last week - Pieter Hugo photographs the lingering legacy of the Rwanda genocide - O'Hagan writes that Hugo's 2008 book The Hyena and Other Men would be a hard act to follow. Now with the series Nollywood (2009) and Permanent Error (2011) plus this year Oodee: Rwanda 2004 Vestiges of a Genocide it is clear that Hugo's relentless questioning continues.

Hugo photographed remnants of the Rwandan genocide which seemed to have seeped into the landscape for his book Rwanda: Vestiges of Genocide. Photograph: Pieter Hugo/Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town/Johannesburg and Yossi Milo, New York

It was a pleasure to catch-up with Pieter at Paris Photo and introduce him to Quentin Bajac,  Chief Curator Photography at the Centre Pompidou, Paris. Both had never met before and will be in Auckland together in January for the AUT St Paul Street summer photography workshop.

You can read Sean O'Hagan's full Guardian story here.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Paris Photo 2011

Back and a chance to reflect on 7 weeks of travel, looking, shooting.

Paris Photo was my main destination and this year, its 15th, had moved to the splendid glass and iron domed Grand Palais where 135 exhibitors from 23 different countries gathered to show their collections of heavy hitters and hot new stars. This giant photo market place was overwhelming and an immense success. The overall quality seemed to have moved up several notches and this year influential galleries such as Marion Goodman and Gagosian had joined the throng.
The photo-book too at last getting fair share of the action with both publishers and booksellers having space to show their wares. Highlights here was the appearance of William Eggleston for a book-signing where the entire first print run of Chromes, his three-book boxed retrospective, sold out despite its expensive price tag of £220. And great to see Harper's Books innovative offering of unique-copy books from Richard Prince, Alec Soth, John Gossage and others. Despite hefty prices Harper told me the Richard Prince editions had all sold.

For the first time this year a photobook prize was offered. Here four photobook experts, Markus Schaden among them, had each selected 15 books from the past 15 years. Pleasingly the prize was won by Paul Graham's 12 volume, A Shimmer of Possibility published by Steidl.
Markus Schaden had also created a wall installation with images and text devoted to Ed Van der Elsken's story of bohemian life, Love On the Left Bank, first published in 1954.

Not surprisingly I headed to the galleries I knew or where I knew the photographers they represented. Here are a few of my picks.

Galerie Priska Pasquer puts an emphasis on introducing the major positions of Japanese photography from the 1930s until today. Japanese artists represented are for example Shomei Tomatsu, Daido Moriyama, Yutaka Takanashi, Asako Narahashi and Rinko Kawauchi.

Nobuyoshi Araki,  Shiki-in (Color Eros), 2005. Gelatin silver print, paint - 34 x 41 cm © Nobuyoshi Araki

Yossi Milo Gallery is dedicated to exhibiting the work of international contemporary artists specializing in photography, video and works on paper. Established in 2000, the gallery is known for presenting premiere U.S. exhibitions by emerging and established artists.

Michael Stevenson is a contemporary art gallery with premises in Cape Town and Johannesburg. The gallery has hosted a series of solo and group exhibitions that engage with contemporary art practice in South Africa as well as Africa and its diaspora. In addition to giving (South) African artists access to the rest of the world.

Pieter Hugo - Yakubu Al Hasan, Agbogbloshie Market, Accra, Ghana, 2009 From the series Permanent Error,  Digital C-Print © Pieter Hugo, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York and Michael Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town

Pace/MacGill Gallery, established in 1983,  presents itself as one of the premier places for the representation of modern and contemporary photography, placing the work of its artists in important museum and private collections around the world. Artists exposed: Chuck Close, Paul Graham, Irving Penn, Paolo Roversi, Lucas Samaras.

Paul Graham, End of an Age #30, 1997 pigment print image, 60 x 45 inches frame, 72 1/2 x 56 1/4 x 2 inches from an edition of 3, PG.058 © Paul Graham

André Magnin, is well known for his role in curating the milestone Beaubourg exhibition Magicians of the Earth and establishing the important Pigozzi Collection of contemporary African art. In 2009, he founded MAGNIN-A and today represents among others Seydou Keïta, Okhai Ojeikere, Malick Sidibé.

Ojeikere Modern Suku, 1974 21 x 28 cm Tirage argentique unique d’époque Courtesy Magnin-A © J. D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere