Sunday, August 30, 2009

Auckland.... and now the asphalt

.... in fact more asphalt. Downtown Auckland today, Sunday.... empty. A sky threatening rain and no people to take the eye away from the dreary architecture.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Thinking of Eggleston, thinking democratically

I made these two pictures on Friday and they made me think of Eggleston and what he had to say in his introduction to his book The Democratic Forest. It was this:

"I was in Oxford, Mississippi for a few days and I was driving out to Holly Springs on a back road, stopping here and there. It was the time of year when the landscape wasn't yet green. I left the car and walked into the dead leaves off the road. It was one of those occasions when there was no picture there. It seemed like nothing, but of course there was something for someone out there. I started forcing myself to take pictures of the earth, where it had been eroded thirty or forty feet from the road. There were a few weeds. I began to realize that soon I was taking some pretty good pictures, so I went further into the woods and up a little hill, and got well into an entire roll of film."

"Later, when I was having dinner with some friends, writers from around Oxford, or maybe at the bar of the Holiday Inn, someone said, 'What have you been photographing here today, Eggleston?'"

'Well, I've been photographing democratically,' I replied.

'But what have you been taking pictures of?'

'I've been outdoors, nowhere, in nothing.'

'What do you mean?'

'Well, just woods and dirt, a little asphalt here and there.'

Talking to Alec Soth about the state of the art, he resignedly says that these days it's more like the democratic jungle.
Such is life...

Auckand - some topographics

Topography: the recording of relief or terrain, the three-dimensional quality of the surface, and the identification of specific landforms.

"New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape" is the title of an exhibition that epitomized a key moment in American landscape photography. The show was curated by William Jenkins at the International Museum of Photography at the George Eastman House (Rochester, NY) in January 1975.
The exhibition had a ripple effect on the whole medium and genre, not only in the USA, but in Europe too where generations of landscape photographers emulated and are still in 2009 emulating the spirit and aesthetics of the exhibition. Since 1975 "New Topographics" photographers such as Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Frank Gohlke, and Stephen Shore have influenced photographic practices regarding landscape around the world. For “New Topographics” William Jenkins selected eight then-young American photographers: Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz, Joe Deal, Frank Gohlke, Nicholas Nixon, John Schott, Stephen Shore, and Henry Wessel, Jr. He also invited the German couple, Bernd and Hilla Becher, then teaching at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf (Germany).
Each photographer in the New Topographics exhibition was represented by 10 prints. All but Stephen Shore worked in black and white.

Here are three topographic photographs I made yesterday.....

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Beach - three pictures

Photographs I made in Camogli on the Italian Riviera in 2000 and 2005

Friday, August 21, 2009

New Work - my 7 book, 192 page mini-series

My new artist book (or books) work will be printed next week. Consisting of seven small books varying in pages from 20 to 36, they will be published under my imprint FAQEDITIONS in an edition of only 50 copies.
The subject matter casts far and wide and brings together photographs I have made as far afield as Slovakia, Camogli on the Italian Riviera, China, Motuoroi Island off the East Coast of New Zealand and in my studio in Auckland. With utilitarian covers consisting of black type (my trade mark Univers) on a grey background they are simply titled as follows: OBJECTS, CARS, CLOTHES, PEOPLE, ISLAND, BEACH AND SHOES.
Collectively the books deal with ideas of diversity, coexistence, and extremes, and are anthropological catalogues of human taste, desires and foibles. These book works, brought together under the title UNCONCERNED BUT NOT INDIFFERENT will launch at Paris Photo in November. Here are three pictures from the CLOTHES edition.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Marks of Honour - the catalogue

My today's mailbox contained the small but perfectly formed catalogue for the Marks of Honour exhibition, curated by Nina Poppe and Verena Loewenhaupt and recently shown at Foam Museum Amsterdam and Kaune, Sudendorf Gallery, Cologne.
The curators used William Eggleston's comment to me on the cover, "Don't talk bullshit, what are you doing." How funny!

They go on to say:
"There are statements that can cause considerable embarrassment. Harvey Benge experienced this when, on a November evening in 2001, he was invited to a party in Paris. The photographer from New Zealand suddenly found himself sitting next to William Eggleston, the old master of New Color. "Bill remembered me... and asked me what I was doing. I told him photographing the urban social landscape." He retorted, "Don't talk bullshit what are you doing." "Making strange pictures in cities", I gulped, trying to recover the situation. I hope he understood..."

Such a sharp remark is an excellent reason to take a look in the mirror and think honestly and in concrete terms about the criteria one should actually use to assess one's own photographic work. All quasi-intellectual attempts to justify it cease to be valid. Instead, two unpleasant questions force themselves upon us: what is the benchmark for our work? And who is actually the "Guide"? In the case of William Eggleston it did not take Harvey Benge long to find the answers. For him, this "remarkable man and remarkable photographer" has remained a shining example of and, today, is still the anchor in the various phases of his career. It is not only the personal meetings, but above all the photobooks on the bookshelves at home that are within such easy reach and, at the same time, are a source, inspiration and gauge. For the project Marks of Honour, Benge therefore chose William Eggleston's Guide from 1976 as a point of reference, citing tongue-in-cheek the tricycle on the cover that shook the photo world to its foundations for so long in the 1970's. Benge's small book, a 16 page record of a visit to Eggleston's home town of Memphis, Tennessee, is a perfect example of what the Marks of Honour project is all about. He has affectionately borrowed not only the dictum of the democratic viewpoint, but also the size and appearance of the book that is his example. This is a master honouring his master."

Sunday, August 16, 2009

UNITEC School of Photography and Media Arts end of year publication "Forget Me"

I was asked by UNITEC photography students who are preparing their end of year publication "Forget Me" to write a short introductory essay, this is what I wrote.

"An American photographer friend with an impressive track record of major museum shows and great photo books said to me the other day that he’d just seen the billionth (I’m sure he said billionth) photograph on Flickr. And he said it was good, really interesting. He asked me, “What are we going to do? The world doesn’t need any more interesting pictures!” He added that photography had to be reinvented. I told him that if he didn’t know what to do how the hell should I know. And this is the dilemma all photographers face. As John Baldessari says, “why make a picture If somebody has already made one just like it.”

But there is a way out. It’s the way the photographers whose work you see in this book have taken. Simply, to interrogate their own practice, to study, to investigate the medium, to come to a place like UNITEC and learn from people who know. Not everything but something. Something worth knowing. To discover the process and the strength of a good idea and how to make it work. To realise and embrace the fact that photography is one of the most difficult of all art forms, simply because anybody can do it. To learn how to make it different and tougher and to accept that the best work comes out of uncertainty. And that there is never any arrival, only the journey, wherever that is leading. To learn the value of substance and integrity and authenticity. To focus on the work, the vast possibilities, and come up with ways of doing it better, doing it differently, doing something with it. More than just another picture on Flickr.

Even if all the photographers who made the work in this book never made another picture you can’t take from them the real reason we make pictures. The passion and perseverance to look, to question, to challenge, to invent and reinvent and to try and understand. Which after all happens in the mind long before you even pick up a camera."

Harvey Benge

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Chronicle of New York’s Darks and Lights, Captured by Savvy Street Photographers

oh to be in New York.....

Last winter, when the art economy was looking especially dark, a group of Manhattan photography dealers got together and decided to put on a spirit-lifting show: “New York Photographs,” a summertime tribute to the greatest city on earth. Thirteen galleries agreed to mount exhibitions — some dedicated to individual artists, some to subjects like sex or music — of which six are currently up. Together they offer a tantalizing series of glimpses, a dreamy tour of the town from the Statue of Liberty to the streets of Spanish Harlem and from the hurly-burly of Times Square to the furtive sexual encounters of the old West Side piers. They are a reminder, for anyone who needs it, of the endless churn of dark and light, innocence and experience that surrounds all of us in the city at every moment.

A good place to start is with “Glitz & Grime: Photographs of Times Square” at Yancey Richardson. Twenty-four pictures, dating from 1945 to 2009, chronicle the highs and lows of a place that embodies the spirit of American commercial culture at its most seamy and manically exuberant.

In black-and-white pictures from the 1940s and ’50s by Louis Stettner and Rudy Burckhardt shadowy, walking men in hats and overcoats seem like lost souls in a crepuscular purgatory. That mood is revived in a photograph from as recently as 1997 — well into Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani’s campaign to clean up the Times Square area — by Philip-Lorca diCorcia in which pedestrians seem like extras in a neo-noir or zombie movie.

A big color picture by Andrew Moore registers the nearly psychedelic impact of the signage that’s there now, and Lynn Saville’s partly blurred image of automobile traffic has a lush, cinematic beauty. But if there is joy to be found in Times Square, you wouldn’t know it from this show.

Considering the once tawdry reputation of this crossroads of the world, and the aggressive eroticism of its contemporary advertising, it is odd that there is hardly any sex in the Richardson show. For that you have to go to “Sexy and the City” at Yossi Milo, in which the main attraction is a single-wall, salon-style hanging of 29 mostly black-and-white pictures.

As at Richardson the feeling here is more noirish than celebratory, and there is little romance in this sex. The show is leavened by Charles H. Traub’s funny picture of an elderly woman at the Metropolitan Museum of Art reading a label at the feet of a giant, marmoreal nude man. But Merry Alpern’s grainy, voyeuristic view of a woman in her underwear from a series called “Dirty Windows” and Alvin Baltrop’s distant shots of anonymous men having sex on the West Side piers in the late ’70s and early ’80s are more typical.

The photographers at Yossi Milo are more like underground journalists or sociologists than interested parties. Ryan Weideman’s erotically costumed people in the back of his taxi cab, Diane Arbus’s awkward young couple on a park bench, Nan Goldin’s drag queen out on the street in a huge, rococo wig with nipples exposed: all these images seem possessed of a world-weary remoteness. Hanging on a wall opposite the 29-picture display, Mitch Epstein’s big color picture of a pretty young woman in a taxi with her head back in an apparent state of exhausted ennui seems to sum it up.

If the jadedness of the Richardson and Milo shows brings you down, there’s a good antidote in a selection of photographs, many never seen in public before, by the great Helen Levitt at Laurence Miller. “First Proofs” presents almost 30 trial prints, ranging from matchbook to playing-card size, that Levitt made between 1939 and 1942. It is a fascinating, heartening exhibition.

In Levitt’s images of children at play in Spanish Harlem and the Lower East Side there is not a trace of cynicism. Nor is there anything mean-spirited in her pictures of comically rotund ladies talking on a doorstep or a group of four men who seem clownish archetypes of masculinity, watched over from an apartment window by a little girl with a thoughtful expression. Levitt, who died this year at 95, had a Whitmanesque generosity. Her pictures are loaded with unqualified love, which is something you don’t see a lot of in modern photography.

Thanks to artists like Cindy Sherman and Richard Prince, a more prevalent attitude these days is wised-up skepticism: doubt about the truth-telling capabilities of photography itself and suspicion of its engagement with the machinery of mass culture. Three large-scale pictures by Bill Jacobson at Julie Saul Gallery participate in that postmodern trend with depictions of crowded New York streets that are so out of focus it’s almost impossible to make out their scenes. They could be viewed as works of Neo-Pictorialist poetry, but mainly they call attention to the technology and conventions of photography.

Most people still want to see through photographs to the people, place and things they represent, and that is the appeal at the Bonni Benrubi Gallery of “Live From New York ...,” which rounds up pictures of famous musicians performing or hanging out in the city. Here it’s all about the subject: Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, Sonny and Cher in hippie-cowboy outfits, Marilyn Monroe singing “Happy Birthday” to President John F. Kennedy, Bob Dylan and George Harrison in a duet onstage, the Ramones outside CBGB. Except for Arnold Newman’s starkly formal portrait of Igor Stravinsky, in which the black, uplifted piano top occupies most of the picture, few of the photographs are interesting for formal or stylistic reasons.

One has achieved iconic status: Bob Gruen’s 1974 portrait of John Lennon in a sleeveless New York T-shirt, against a backdrop of New York buildings. Lennon once caused a stir by declaring that the Beatles had become more popular than Jesus; for people of a certain age, anyway, Mr. Gruen’s image, resonating with Lennon’s fate on an Upper West Side street six years later, has an uncanny, Christlike mien.

But no photographic subject symbolizes New York like the Statue of Liberty, which is viewed from near, far, above and below in a small exhibition at Hasted Hunt. In one picture by Lou Stoumen from 1939, a man and a woman gaze worshipfully up at the towering torch bearer. In another, made in 1940 by the same photographer, we look down from above her crown and notice someone sticking an arm out the window, the little human hand comically rhyming with the giantess’s fingers curled around her tablet.

Bruce Davidson’s 1959 photograph of the faraway lady of the harbor, just visible through a forest of rooftop television aerials, is a rueful meditation on humanist values that modernity makes more and more difficult to sustain. Some may view the statue as a colossal piece of kitsch, but who wants to imagine New York without it?

Photograph: New York Photographs 42nd Street in 1997, by Philip-Lorca diCorcia, from “Glitz & Grime” at Yancey Richardson.

Ken Johnson, The New York Times, August 13th

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Paris Photo 2009

In mid-November 2009, Paris Photo, the world's leading photography fair, will bring together 101 exhibitors from 23 countries.

The 2009 selection was conducted according to a number of criteria which included the quality and originality of the projects submitted as well as achieving a balance between the various periods of photographic expression, ranging from 19th Century to present day work. Another consideration was content renewal and the overall freshness of the fair with 30 newcomers this year.

The 2009 edition of Paris Photo proposes to undertake an unprecedented exploration of the Arab and Iranian photography scene. Guest curator Catherine David had been charged with this project which is composed of three distinct elements: the Central Exhibition showcasing photographs from the Arab Image Foundation and the Statement section which offers an overview of the scene currently emerging from the region – from Tehran to Beirut, Gaza to Cairo and Tangiers to Dubai. Finally, the third element is the Project Room screening a selection of video work by artists from the region.

Now in its sixth edition, the BMW – Paris Photo Prize, worth 12 000 euro, will offer a glimpse of current trends in international photography while rewarding the work of a promising artist.

Presided by Philippe Dehennin - CEO of BMW France, the members of the 2009 jury are:
Robert Delpire, photographer and publisher, TJ Demos, art critic and writer, Matthias Harder, director of the Helmut Newton Foundation, Manfred Heiting, collector, Sandra S. Phillips, Curator of photography for SFMOMA. The theme is "When was the last time you experienced something for the first time?"

A number of outstanding photographic exhibitions will coincide with the fair, including "Michael Kenna rétrospective » at the Bibliothèque Nationale, « La subversion des images, Surréalisme, photographie, film » at the Centre Pompidou, « August Sander » at the Fondation Henri Cartier Bresson, "Delpire & Cie" at the Maison Européenne de la photographie, "Federico Fellini" at the Jeu de Paume, "100 ans de photographie iranienne" at the Musée du Quai Branly and "Palestine, la création dans tous ses états" at the Institut du monde arabe.

Dates: Thursday, 19 November - Sunday, 22 November, 2009
Opening by invitation only: Wednesday, 18 November, 7:00 pm -10:00 pm
Venue: Carrousel du Louvre, 99 rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris, France
Opening hours: 19 Nov. from 11:30 am to 8:00 pm, 20 Nov. from 11:30 am to 10:00 pm, 21 Nov. from 11:30 am to 8:00 pm, 16 Nov. from 11:30 am to 7:00 pm

List of exhibitors 2009:

GALLERIES: 798 Photo Gallery (Beijing), Juana de Aizpuru (Madrid), Agathe Gaillard (Paris), Art Agents (Hamburg), Anhava* (Helsinki), Martin Asbaek Gallery (Copenhagen), Base Gallery (Tokyo), baudoin lebon (Paris), Bernard Quaritch (London), Bernheimer Fine Art Photography* (Munich), Daniel Blau (Munich), Galleri Bo Bjerggaard* (Copenhagen), Bonni Benrubi Gallery (New York), Brancolini Grimaldi (Rome/Florence), Camera Obscura (Paris), Caprice Horn* (Berlin), Michèle Chomette (Paris), Cokkie Snoei (Rotterdam), DNA* (Berlin), Patricia Dorfmann* (Paris), Johannes Faber (Vienna), Dominique Fiat* (Paris), Fifty One Fine Art Photography (Antwerpen), Les Filles du Calvaire (Paris), Flatland (Utrecht), FOIL GALLERY (Tokyo), Forma Galleria (Milan), Eric Franck Fine Art (London), Françoise Paviot* (Paris), Fucares (Madrid), G/P (Tokyo), Goodman Gallery* (Johannesburg), Howard Greenberg (New York), Guido Costa Projects (Turin), Hamiltons (London), Robert Hershkowitz (Sussex, UK), Michael Hoppen (London), Edwynn Houk (New York), galerie du jour agnès b. (Paris), Keumsan (Seoul), Robert Klein (Boston), Hans P. Kraus Jr. (New York), Kudlek van der Grinten Galerie (Cologne), Kuckei + Kuckei *(Berlin), La B.A.N.K. *(Paris), La Fabrica Galeria (Madrid), Lumière des Roses (Montreuil), Magnum Gallery (Paris), Robert Mann (New York), Max Estrella (Madrid), m Bochum (Bochum), MEM (Osaka), Michael Stevenson (Cape Town), Laurence Miller (New York), Robert Morat* (Hamburg), Motive* (Amsterdam),Taro Nasu (Tokyo), Nusser & Baumgart *(Munich), Obsis* (Paris), Priska Pasquer (Cologne), Pente 10* (Lisbon), The Photographers Gallery* (London), Serge Plantureux (Paris), Pobeda Gallery* (Moscow), Polaris (Paris), Purdy Hicks* (London) Le Réverbère (Lyon), Yancey Richardson (New York), Rose Gallery (Santa Monica), Galerie RX* (Paris), Bruce Silverstein Photography (New York), TaiK (Helsinki), Tanit* (Munich), Toluca (Paris), Galeria Toni Tapies* (Barcelona), Torch Gallery* (Amsterdam), Vintage (Budapest), Vu' la Galerie (Paris), Esther Woerdehoff (Paris), Xippas (Paris/Athens), Van Zoetendaal (Amsterdam).

Assar Art Gallery* (Tehran), B21* (Dubaï, E.A.U.), El Marsa* (Tunis), Galerie 127* (Marrakech), Selma Feriani* (London/Tunis), Sfeir-Semler* (Beirut/Hamburg), Silk Road* (Tehran), The Empty Quarter* (Dubaï, E.A.U.)

PUBLISHERS: Antiquariaat L. van Paddenburgh (Leiden), The Aperture Foundation (New York), Book Shop m (Tokyo) Filigranes Editions (Paris/Trézélan), Simon Finch Rare Books (London), Harper's Books (East Hampton), Hatje Cantz (Stuttgart), Librairie 213 (Paris), Tissato Nakahara (Paris), Denis Ozanne (Paris), Phaidon (Paris/London), (Cologne), Steidl (Gottingen/London).

Image: Image of Imagination 2, 2003
© Bahman Jalali

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Bruce Gilden street shooter - an interview

I talked to Bruce Gilden at Paris Photo last year, he is really keen to come to Auckland and teach a workshop..... maybe 2011. Here is what he has to say about his practice.... from an interview at the PBS Arts Show, found on the Magnum archive.

How do you describe yourself as a photographer?

Bruce Gilden: I guess I'd be classified as a street photographer because I work in the street. In fact, if you saw me on the street, you would see a very active, energetic person who probably, while taking a picture, would be jumping at somebody in a certain athletic mode, in a certain dance. All photographers do this, I guess. There could be a film made on the dance of photography, and I think I, in my special way, made a contribution to that.

Do people know you are taking their picture?

BG: Some are taken unawares, some are surprised. Some didn't know what hit them. And I think most people like to be photographed. But since I work in a spontaneous way, I have to be a little bit sneaky because I don't want them to know that I'm going to take a picture of them. When I use an electronic flash, some people do realize the action of me jumping at them like this with the flash and they might be taken aback, but most don't [react]. Sometimes I work so close with a 28mm lens that they don't realize that I'm taking their picture. Sometimes they think that I'm taking something behind them. And I think I have a very good bedside manner, so to speak, because I've been doing it doing it many years. I'm very comfortable, and that minimizes the possibility of having problems. I'm very intuitive and I'm able to select the people that I think wouldn't mind or at least not show that they're minding. I don't presume that everything I do is fine. But, I am showing a slice of life in New York City that in several years won't be there any longer. Many of the people that I photograph are people who have a certain individuality in the way they walk, the way they dress, the way they look. But the world is getting smaller and smaller, so people are tending to look more alike, dress more alike. All of these differences are disappearing, and it's making it tougher to find people to photograph. I believe I'm preserving that so maybe one day my pictures would be considered documentary photographs.

How important is craft in your work?

BG: Well, I guess it gives it a strength. The good photographs that I've taken through the years work within the frame. The composition is very good. I've had people say to me they're so surprised that I can get that composition full framed, uncropped, and yet they have a very strong emotional content. That's the combination that I'm striving for -- a strong emotional punch in the gut, yet the picture is beautifully composed. So, actually, I think a saving grace of my photography is that my pictures are elegant. I don't consider myself a journalist. My pictures are made to be seen in exhibits on walls. They look beautiful on the wall, and yet you have this subject that can be tough to certain people. It's this perverse thing because lots of times people don't want to see what's going on in the world. But if someone doesn't make a record of what is going on in the world, then they could just turn their backs. Those who are interested in photography or walk into an exhibit or open one of my books -- hopefully something seeps into their consciousness about these things that are going on in the world. Because the world is all we have, but it isn't the most wonderful place; it could a [much] better place.

Do you consider these photographs to be portraits or do they serve some other function?

BG: I love the people I photograph. I mean, they're my friends. I've never met most of them or I don't know them at all, yet through my images I live with them. At the same time, they are symbols. The people in my pictures aren't Mr. Jones or Mr. Smith or whatever; they're someone that crossed my path or I've crossed their path, and through the medium of photography I've been able to make a good picture of that encounter. They have a life of their own, but they are also are symbols. I would say that I respect the viewer, but I don't want to tell him everything. Hopefully, there's an element of mystery involved. I like him to look at a picture and say "Well, that that reminds me of someone," and make up a little story in his head, make him smile, brighten up his day. I think this is what I'm trying to achieve with my photographs.

Bottom line -- why do you take photographs?

BG: I do photographs because that's what I do. I could tell you some fancy answer that would sound pretty good, but it's in my guts. If I was forced to do something else, I guess I could do it. But I am passionate about photography and I feel I have no choice. You have a choice whether you want to look at them or not. I mean, my upbringing was middle-class and it was okay, but it was tough emotionally for me. Most things I learned, I found out about in a secretive fashion -- from overhearing conversations between my mother and father or whatever. So I guess I've always been in tuned to watching. Photography is a voyeuristic medium, like looking into other people's windows at night. I'm not a peeping Tom, but if I'm walking down the street -- you see the lights on and those beautiful bookshelves and the people drinking martinis -- I like to look. So I translate that into taking pictures. It gives me something to do. No matter where I go in the world, I go specifically to take photographs. I don't take vacations.

But New York City seems to be your favorite subject matter.

BG: I've been taking pictures on the streets of New York for over twenty years. It's tough to keep going over the same streets and keep breaking new ground. I find that when I don't have a camera, I look up a lot in Manhattan, because we have some very nice architecture. But when I'm on ground level, generally, I don't look up because I'm busy looking for people to photograph. So I bend down and I hand hold the flash in my left hand and when I see something, I take it. Generally, I notice things in my pictures that I didn't notice when I was taking [them]. I describe those things as lucky accidents that make a picture into a good photograph. Other times, you snap the shutter without realizing there's something in the frame that crossed your path that makes the picture not work.

How has your work evolved?

BG: The older I get, the closer I get -- I mean, in proximity to my subject. I'm showing more while using a smaller palette because I'm just taking someone's face, yet I'm saying more. Because in that face is a whole life. When people walk around the city, they daydream or they're thinking -- so I try to catch them unawares. When I succeed in the composition and in the emotional content, I get a strong photograph. Instead of switching to larger cameras or some other technical change, I go in deeper in the direction of the close-up. There are very little variations in the twenty years I've been photographing in Manhattan, and those variations come only after I take breaks -- not a vacation, but a cold, or working on something else. I don't like taking the breaks, but there's always a different angle that comes up. So what's happened over the years is I've gotten closer to people. Like I said, my pictures are not only about the form, but they're about the emotion. And the closer you get, the easier it is to get a strong emotion and relay that emotion to the viewer. And all of these things were in my subconscious, I'm sure. But when I look at the pictures, these things come up and reveal what is probably going on. The thing was done, and then the thought, because it just happens intuitively. I think if you think too much about something, especially on the street, it's gone. So it has to come from within, a natural outgrowth, and you have to let it flow. If I was busy thinking, Well, what am I going to do? Am I going to do this? Am I going to do that? -- if I'm uncomfortable, I can't photograph.

What advice can you offer other photographers?

BG: A lot of people who come to photography come to it with baggage, and they can't get beyond their own baggage that they bring with them. For example, when I was in Haiti in 1984, I passed these funeral processions. I got out and I started to take pictures, but I was very cautious because I didn't know how the people would respond. Then, after going to the cemetery over several weeks, I was able to even try my flash because I found that most people didn't mind. And I think that's a very good lesson. In your culture it may not be done. In another culture they may love it. The people in Haiti, they don't get dress up all the time and they couldn't afford to have a camera, so many of them asked me to photograph them at the cemetery or the burial. "We'd be more than honored," they'd say. So that's a very important lesson. You know, the world doesn't just revolve around that one person. And it doesn't revolve around me either. I've traveled the world. And that's one thing I've realized. When I've spoken about photography, I always tell the people that the best advice I can give you is to be yourself and to photograph what you're comfortable in doing. And I think that's the best answer.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Auckland - Friday's photographs

Here are three pictures from last week, made on one of my walks where I get to hold a camera and get away from the computer.
I've often passed the ancient tree at the Tongan Church in Grey Lynn and noticed how it's vying for space and place with the white pointed brick wall. No contest really. The other pictures seem also about permanence and the value we place on our possessions and how we want things to remain..... but inevitably everything changes....

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Rineke Dijkstra joins Paul Graham for AUT St Paul Street Gallery workshop

Rineke Dijkstra will be joining Paul Graham for AUT's School of Art and Design, Summer Photography Workshop at AUT's St Paul Street Gallery. Following last years workshop with John Gossage and Alec Soth, Rineke and Paul will be as good as you can get. Demand will be high for the workshop so if you're interested you can contact Neil Cameron, Registrar School of Art and Design AUT University, Auckland. The workshop runs over January 15, 16 and 17.

(b. 1959, Sittard, the Netherlands. Lives and works in Amsterdam.)

Rineke Dijkstra was trained at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy, Amsterdam. Her first solo exhibition took place in 1984 at de Moor in Amsterdam. Dijsktra's photographs have appeared in numerous international exhibitions, including the 1997 and 2001 Venice Biennale, the 1998 Bienal de Sao Paulo, Turin's Biennale Internationale di Fotografia in 1999, and the 2003 International Center for Photography's Triennial of Photography and Video in New York. She is the recipient of a number of awards, including the Kodak Award Nederland (1987), the Art Encouragement Award Amstelveen (1993), the Werner Mantz Award (1994), and the Citibank Private Bank Photography Prize (1998).


Park Portraits, La Fabrica, Madrid, Spain
Rineke Dijkstra, Portraits, Rudolfinum, Prague, Czech Republic
Rineke Dijkstra – Portraits, Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume, Paris, France; Fotomuseum Winterthur, Switzerland; Fundació la Caixa d'Estalvis Pensions, Barcelona, Spain; Stedelijk Museum CS, Amsterdam, The Netherlands


Listen Darling… The World is Yours, Ellipse Foundation, Cascais, Portugal
Video Portraits, Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, Massachusetts
Baby, de ideale mens verbeeld 1840-heden, Nederlands Fotomuseum, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Street & Studio: An Urban History of Photography, Tate Modern, London, United Kingdom; Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany
Family Pictures, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, New York
Dateline Israel, New Photography and Video Art, The Jewish Museum, New York, New York

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Paul Graham confirmed for AUT Summer Workshop at AUT's St Paul Street Gallery

Following workshops with Peter Bialobrzeski, Antoine d'Agata, Andre Lutzen, Lewis Baltz, Slavica Perkovic, John Gossage and Alec Soth; the tradition of AUT University's Summer Photography Workshop programme continues. Paul Graham (and a yet to be decided second international photographer) will teach a workshop at AUT's St Paul Street Gallery over January 15, 16, and 17, 2010. As in the past places are limited. If you're interested contact Neil Cameron, Registrar AUT School of Art and Design.

Paul Graham (UK, 1956) is part of that generation of photographers born in the 1950’s that have come to prominence in art photography today, whose creatively formative years coincided with the rich flowering of postwar American photography. Whilst later image makers would approach the medium as ‘artists using photography’, this generation, which includes such notables as Nan Goldin, Andreas Gursky, Rineke Djikstra, Thomas Struth and Philip-Lorca DiCorcia, committed themselves to photography at a time when it was not part of the art world. The images of photographers like Robert Adams, William Eggleston, Stephen Shore, or Diane Arbus were important influences, most of whose work came from a tumultuous period in the late 1960-70's, a time of questioning the world and our place within it, creating work that was firmly rooted in finding itself through what could be observed, with trusting what you could see with your own eyes.

Paul Graham was among the first photographers to unite contemporary colour photography with the classic genre of social documentary. In 1981/2 he completed 'A1 - The Great North Road', a series of colour photographs from along the length of the British A1 road, which had a transformative effect on the black and white tradition that had dominated British art photography to that point. This work, along with his other photographs of the 1980's - the colour images of unemployment offices in 'Beyond Caring' (1984-85), and the sectarian marked landscape of Northern Ireland in 'Troubled Land' (1984-86) - were pivotal in reinvigorating and expanding this area of photographic practice, by both broadening it's visual language, and questioning how such photography might operate. Photographers such as Martin Parr made the switch to colour soon after, and a new school of British Photography evolved with the subsequent colour work of Richard Billingham, Tom Wood, Paul Seawright, Anna Fox, Simon Norfolk, Nick Waplington, etc.

Since then Graham has continued to explore the fertile territory where the documentary and artistic aspects of photography coalesce, often tackling difficult subject matter for a medium that is firmly based in the observable world. 'New Europe' (1988-1993) used a poetic flow of images to look at the tension between the shadow of history and the rush to an economic superstate in Western Europe. 'Empty Heaven' (1989-1995), considers the relationship between historical trauma and the childish fantasy world in Japan - themes that would later become central to the "Superflat" movement of contemporary Japanese art. More recently his work has reflected an examination of what we expect from a photographic image, be it a portrait - as in the hard:soft images of young people in 'End of an Age' (1996-98); or questioning what actually registers in our vision, with 'American Night' (1998-2003), which mirrored the social fracture of American society through deliberately overexposed, near invisible white images. Most recently Graham completed 'a shimmer of possibility' (2004-2006) that reflects everyday moments of American lives, whilst also examining photography's ability to compress or expand time, utilising flowing sequences of images.

At a time when art photography is increasingly staged, (Jeff Wall, Gregory Crewdson, Thomas Demand) or holds the world at a conceptualized distant view (Andreas Gursky, Berndt and Hilla Becher, Thomas Struth), Paul Graham's work distinguishes itself by retaining a firm and full commitment to life as it unfolds; to an understanding that at its core photography begins with an unblinking engagement with the world. Embracing this crucial axiom of photography Graham has been vital in reinvigorating this central area of practice, both by broadening photography's visual language, and, essentially, by questioning our notions of what such photography could say, be, or look like.

Monday, August 3, 2009

At Louvre, many stop to snap, few stay to focus

PARIS — Spending an idle morning watching people look at art is hardly a scientific experiment, but it rekindles a perennial question: What exactly are we looking for when we roam as tourists around museums? As with so many things right in front of us, the answer may be no less useful for being familiar.

At the Louvre the other day, in the Pavillon des Sessions, two young women in flowered dresses meandered through the gallery. They paused and circled around a few sculptures. They took their time. They looked slowly.

The pavilion puts some 100 immaculate objects from outside Europe on permanent view in a ground floor suite of cool, silent galleries at one end of the museum. Feathered masks from Alaska, ancient bowls from the Philippines, Mayan stone portraits and the most amazing Zulu spoon carved from wood in the abstracted S-shape of a slender young woman take no back seat, aesthetically speaking, to the great Titians and Chardins upstairs.

The young women were unusual for stopping. Most of the museum’s visitors passed through the gallery oblivious.

A few game tourists glanced vainly in guidebooks or hopefully at wall labels, as if learning that one or another of these sculptures came from Papua New Guinea or Hawaii or the Archipelago of Santa Cruz, or that a work was three centuries old or maybe four might help them see what was, plain as day, just before them.

Almost nobody, over the course of that hour or two, paused before any object for as long as a full minute. Only a 17th-century wood sculpture of a copulating couple, from San Cristobal in the Solomon Islands, placed near an exit, caused several tourists to point, smile and snap a photo, but without really breaking stride.

Visiting museums has always been about self-improvement. Partly we seem to go to them to find something we already recognize, something that gives us our bearings: think of the scrum of tourists invariably gathered around the Mona Lisa. At one time a highly educated Westerner read perhaps 100 books, all of them closely. Today we read hundreds of books, or maybe none, but rarely any with the same intensity. Travelers who took the Grand Tour across Europe during the 18th century spent months and years learning languages, meeting politicians, philosophers and artists and bore sketchbooks in which to draw and paint — to record their memories and help them see better.

Cameras replaced sketching by the last century; convenience trumped engagement, the viewfinder afforded emotional distance and many people no longer felt the same urgency to look. It became possible to imagine that because a reproduction of an image was safely squirreled away in a camera or cell phone, or because it was eternally available on the Web, dawdling before an original was a waste of time, especially with so much ground to cover.

We could dream about covering lots of ground thanks to expanding collections and faster means of transportation. At the same time, the canon of art that provided guideposts to tell people where to go and what to look at was gradually dismantled. A core of shared values yielded to an equality among visual materials. This was good and necessary, up to a point. Millions of images came to compete for our attention. Liberated by a proliferation, Western culture was also set adrift in an ocean of passing stimulation, with no anchors to secure it.

So tourists now wander through museums, seeking to fulfill their lifetime’s art history requirement in a day, wondering whether it may now be the quantity of material they pass by rather than the quality of concentration they bring to what few things they choose to focus upon that determines whether they have “done” the Louvre. It’s self-improvement on the fly.

The art historian T. J. Clark, who during the 1970s and ’80s pioneered a kind of analysis that rejected old-school connoisseurship in favor of art in the context of social and political affairs, has lately written a book about devoting several months of his time to looking intently at two paintings by Poussin. Slow looking, like slow cooking, may yet become the new radical chic.

Until then we grapple with our impatience and cultural cornucopia. Recently, I bought a couple of sketchbooks to draw with my 10-year-old in St. Peter’s and elsewhere around Rome, just for the fun of it, not because we’re any good, but to help us look more slowly and carefully at what we found. Crowds occasionally gathered around us as if we were doing something totally strange and novel, as opposed to something normal, which sketching used to be. I almost hesitate to mention our sketching. It seems pretentious and old-fogeyish in a cultural moment when we can too easily feel uncomfortable and almost ashamed just to look hard.

Artists fortunately remind us that there’s in fact no single, correct way to look at any work of art, save for with an open mind and patience. If you have ever gone to a museum with a good artist you probably discovered that they don’t worry so much about what art history books or wall labels tell them is right or wrong, because they’re selfish consumers, freed to look by their own interests.

Back to those two young women at the Louvre: aspiring artists or merely curious, they didn’t plant themselves forever in front of the sculptures but they stopped just long enough to laugh and cluck and stare, and they skipped the wall labels until afterward.

They looked, in other words. And they seemed to have a very good time.

Leaving, they caught sight of a sculptured effigy from Papua New Guinea with a feathered nose, which appeared, by virtue of its wide eyes and open hands positioned on either side of its head, as if it were taunting them.

They thought for a moment. “Nyah-nyah,” they said in unison. Then blew him a raspberry.

Michael Kimmelman
The New York Times
in print on August 3, 2009, on page A1 of the New York edition.

Auckland - Sunday, now it feels like Spring!

Ferry to Devonport and a walk to top of Mt Victoria. Here are some pictures I made.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Auckland - Saturday morning, the illusion of Spring

Winter seemed to be loosing it's grip this morning.... warmer, brighter, birds singing. Until the pelting rain that hit us on our morning walk for fresh air and coffee. Here are some pictures....