Tuesday, June 29, 2010

galerie Spree, Paris

Bruno Hadjadj who looks after my work in Paris has just opened his new galerie space, galerie Spree in the rue de la Vieuville in Montmartre. The galerie was once a paint and wallpaper shop and is distinguished by the fact that the facade was designed by Le Corbusier. Of course the graphics, PAPIERS PEINTS, painted in typical Le Corb colours are perfect for an art gallery.

I will launch my new Kehrer Verlag book, ALL THE PLACES I'VE EVER KNOWN with a November show at the gallery at the same time as Paris Photo.

Bruno is also the director and driving force behind Paris's new contemporary art fair, CUTLOG. The second edition of the fair will be presented in the Bourse du commerce de Paris, over the 21 -24 October. At the fair I will show work from my series AGAINST FORGETTING. More about CUTLOG later.....

Monday, June 28, 2010

Masahisa Fukase's Ravens: the best photobook of the past 25 years?

Brooding and shatteringly lonely, the Japanese photographer's series on ravens has been hailed as masterpiece of mourning.

The British Journal of Photography recently asked a panel of experts, including photographer Chis Killip and the writer Gerry Badger, to select their best photobook of the past 25 years. Surpisingly, perhaps, Nan Goldin's Ballad of Sexual Dependency, from 1986, came a close second to a much less well-known book, Masahisa Fukase's Karasu (Ravens), which was published the same year.

While Goldin's book is now widely regarded as a pioneering classic of the raw, confessional style of photographic memoir, Fukase's work is described by the BJP as "an obscure masterpiece". A Japanese first edition, originally published by Sokyu-sha, currently fetches around £2,000 on the collectors' market, up to twice that if signed by the author.

My copy is, as far as I can ascertain, a third edition, which was issued in a print run of 1,000 copies by the charmingly titled Rathole Gallery in 2008. Here, the English title is The Solitude of Ravens. In her afterword, Akira Hasegawa writes: "The depth of solitude in Masahisa Fukase's photographs makes me shudder". One can see what she means. It is a darkly fascinating and obsessive work that lodges in the mind.

Fukase's images are grainy, dark and impressionistic. Often, he magnifies his negatives or overexposes them, aiming all the time for mood over technical refinement. He photographs flocks from a distance, and single birds that appear like black silhouettes against grey, wintry skies. They are captured in flight, blurred and ominous, and at rest, perching on telegraph wires, trees, fences and chimneys. Fusake photographs them alive and dead, and maps their shadows in harsh sunlight and their tracks in the snow.

Although the visual narrative is punctuated by other mysterious images – a nude, fleshy masseuse, a malevolent-looking cat, windswept girls peering over a boat rail, a homeless man drinking in what looks like a municipal rubbish tip – it is the ravens that obsess Fukase. His vision is so stark, so relentlessly monochrome, that you cannot help but wonder what kind of hold they had on his imagination. In The Photobook: A History, Martin Parr and Gerry Badger suggest one possible reading: "One climatic image of silhouetted birds in formation, wings outstretched against a grainy sky, metamorphoses into a wire news service image of overheard warplanes – a significant and traumatic image for postwar Japan."

Ultimately, though, it seems that Fukase's 10-year pursuit of the ravens was a way of trying to make sense of an altogether more personal emotional trauma. One of the most illuminating reflections on the book I have come across is by the photographer Stacy Oborn, on her always-stimulating website, the Space In Between. In an essay entitled The Art of Losing Love, Oborn notes: "Fukase's best-known work was made while reeling from loss of love." She points out that Fukase began his pursuit of the ravens just after Yoko, his wife of 13 years, left him. "While on a train returning to his hometown of Hokkaido, perhaps feeling unlucky and ominous," she writes, "Fukase got off at stops and began to photograph something which in his culture and in others represents inauspicious feeling: ravens. He became obsessed with them, with their darkness and loneliness." The Solitude of Ravens, then, is a book of mourning. (Yoko, tellingly, was Fukase's main subject before he turned his camera on the ravens.)

Fukase was born in 1934 and belonged to a generation of Japanese photographers who came to prominence in the long psychological shadow cast by their country's defeat in the war. In the late 1950s, he worked in advertising to fund his artistic projects, which included two celebrated series of darkly graphic pictures, Oil Refinery Skies (1960) and Kill the Pigs (1961), the latter a brutal depiction of a slaughterhouse. In the mid-70s, he set up a photography school called the Workshop alongside Shomei Tomatsu and Daido Moriyama, both of whom have since become internationally celebrated.

Fukase, according to Yoko, was an intense and obsessive character despite the joyousness of the images he made of her. She described their life together as moments of "suffocating dullness interspersed by violent and near suicidal flashes of excitement." After they split up, he suffered from bouts of depression and heavy drinking. "I work and photograph while hoping to stop everything," he once said. "In that sense, my work may be some kind of revenge drama about living now."

In Japanese mythology, ravens are disruptive presences and harbingers of dark and dangerous times – another reason, perhaps, why the photographer was drawn to them during his darkest hour. In 1992, five years after the book was published, Fukase fell down a flight of stairs in a bar. He has been in a coma ever since. His former wife, now remarried, visits him in hospital twice a month. "With a camera in front of his eye, he could see; not without," she told an interviewer. "He remains part of my identity; that's why I still visit him."

None of this should impinge on a critical reading of Fukase's work, which is powerful and affecting even if you come upon it, as I did, without knowing anything of the biographical background that underpins it. Nevertheless, it is now hard for me to separate his life and his photographs. "In Ravens, Fukase's work can be deemed to have reached its utmost height and to have fallen to its greatest depth," writes Hasegawa in her poetic, unflinching afterword.

For all that, there is a dark, brooding beauty in these images that is singular and affecting. In The Solitude of Ravens, Fukase found a subject that reflected his darkening vision, and he pursued it with obsessive relentlessness. It remains his most powerful work, and a kind of epitaph for a life that has been even sadder and darker than the photographs suggest.

Re-posted from Sean O'Hagan's Guardian column, On Photography, May 24th 2010

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Martin Parr - ONE DAY, at home

Martin Parr reports that he spent last Monday, June 21st, the day of our collective ONE DAY shoot at home, "doing nothing very much at all." Here are some are advance pictures.....

Thursday, June 24, 2010

John Gossage - ONE DAY and more....

John Gossage reports from Monday's ONE DAY front line in Washington, telling me that he started the day in Baltimore where temperatures simmered at 35 deg and later he went home to Washington to shoot some more. Here is one picture he sent me, can't wait to see the rest.

For fans of his books it's great to see that John's first long awaited Steidl book has now been published. The Thirty-Two Inch Ruler/Map of Babylon are really two books in one. The Thirty-Two Inch Ruler, the narrative, while not autobiographical, is about a neighborhood in which he lives; one that is singular in the United States. At the same time provincial and international, it is a neighborhood populated by ambassadorial residences, embassies and the lavish private homes of those who are in positions of power and influence in Washington, D.C. Gossage began this project with the arrival of a new neighbor, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and made more than a year's cycle of seasons. The streets, cars, homes and yards of this neighborhood are photographed on perfect spring or autumn days, with sparklingly clear blue skies and flowers or foliage accenting the order. During that same year, Gossage made The Map of Babylon, photographing digitally from Washington, D.C. to Germany, China and places in-between. This look away, to places beyond the immediate and local, is a classic exploration of the particulars of the outside world.

And due for release in September, Aperture will republish John's classic book The Pond.
Considered a groundbreaking book when first published in 1985, John Gossage's The Pond remains one of the most important photobooks of the medium. As Gerry Badger, co-author of The Photobook: A History, Volumes I and II, asserts, "Adams, Shore, Baltz--all the New Topographics photographers made great books, but none are better than The Pond." Consisting of photographs taken around and away from a pond situated in an unkempt wooded area at the edge of a city, the volume presents a considered foil to Henry Thoreau's stay at Walden. The photographs in The Pond do not aspire to the "beauty" of classical landscapes in the tradition of Ansel Adams. Instead, they reveal a subtle vision of reality on the border between man and nature. Gossage depicts nature in full splendor, yet at odds with both itself and man, but his tone is ambiguous and evocative rather than didactic. Robert Adams described the work as "believable because it includes evidence of man's darkness of spirit, memorable because of the intense fondness [Gossage] shows for the remains of the natural world."

Then of course there is the Gossage / Soth collaboration, The Auckland Project, which I mentioned in a previous post.

John has had a busy year!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Lodz - All My Lovin

Back in May I made my third visit to the surprising Polish city of Lodz to visit the 2010 edition of the city's photography festival. Under the banner of All My Lovin, the festival dealt broadly with the issue of relationships. Directed by astute, young and enthusiastic Krzysztof Candrowicz, every year this festival gets better and better!

The festival is centered on the Lodz Art Centre with shows in other venues around the city. The substantial, well designed catalogue detailed the many exhibitions. Divided into main programme and grand prix here there were around 30 exhibitons all of substance. These supported by a photo schools review.

Almost without exception the shows that I saw were single minded and well executed. I guess for me looking at work dealing with matters of the heart I gravitated to the work that came from the heart and had an obvious depth of authenticity. Inevitably though two or three shows appeared contrived and in my opinion effect replaced substance. A slippery slope we all must avoid.

The stand out shows:

Phillip Toledano - Days with my father (2006-2009)
A simple heart felt record of the photographers last days with his dying father

Carolle Benitah - Just the two of us (1994 - ongoing)
A portrait series documenting the evolving relationship between the photographer and her son

Katrin Trautner - Morning Love (2008)
A series celebrating aging, countering societies obsession with youth

The photographs above are spreads from the All My Lovin catalogue of the three shows mentioned here.

If you ever get the chance to visit Lodz for this festival do so. Not only is it a great festival but the city is strange, enigmatic and quite wonderful. Overlay that with the warm, welcoming and friendly Poles and you have a winning combination.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Sotheby's Polaroid sale - highlights

The sale of the Polaroid collection held at Sotheby's New York on Monday and Tuesday of this week realized USD 7,197.439.
Here are some highlights:

Estimate: 50,000—70,000 USD
Lot Sold. Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium: 290,500 USD
a composition of 9 unique large-format Polaroid Polapan flush-mounted prints, signed, titled, and dated in ink in the lower margins, affixed to a mount, framed, 1987

Estimate: 40,000—60,000 USD
Lot Sold. Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium: 242,500 USD
a composition of 4 unique bleached Polaroid Polapan prints, mounted to aluminum, signed and dated in silver ink on the mount, in a frame designed to the artist's specifications, an Innovation/Imagination exhibition label on the reverse, 1988

Estimate: 10,000—15,000 USD
Lot Sold. Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium: 254,500 USD
unique large-format Polaroid Polacolor print, 1979

Estimate: 300,000—500,000 USD
Lot Sold. Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium: 722,500 USD
mural-sized, flush-mounted, framed, 1938, probably printed in the 1950s or 1960s

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Polaroid collection sale - Sotheby's Manhattan, this week

NEW YORK (AFP) - More than 1,000 photographs from the historic Polaroid collection, including works by Andy Warhol, Ansel Adams and Chuck Close's gigantic "9-Part Self Portrait," go under the hammer in the coming week at Sotheby's.
The auction was ordered by a bankruptcy court in northern Minnesota and proceeds from the sale will go to creditors of the failed company. Polaroid has filed for bankruptcy twice, in 2002 and 2009.
The auction will be held Monday and Tuesday, following a weeklong exhibition of what are considered the best photographs in the collection -- the complete collection numbers about 16,000 pictures -- at Sotheby's Manhattan offices.

Ranging from classic Polaroid snapshots to rare gelatin silver prints, the collection was amassed over the years by Polaroid company founder and inventor (1948) Edwin Land and his technical director and photographer Ansel Adams, 400 of whose snapshots are included. Land sought to build his collection and allowed Adams to buy at the company's expense classic examples of photo greats like Harry Callahan and Dorothea Lange, whose famous "Migrant Mother" (California, 1936) is estimated at 60,000 to 80,000 dollars. "Ansel wanted a larger collection to show creativity in photographs," said Sotheby's photography department director Denise Bethel. Some of Adam's mural-size photographs are among the collection up for auction, including "Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico," which is estimated at between 300,000 and 500,000 dollars.

The auction is estimated by Sotheby's to bring in 7.2 million to 11.1 million dollars.

Included in the collection is a huge, one-of-a-kind, one-by-two-meter (40x80-inch) Polaroid camera used by Chuck Close for his immense portrait composed of nine, 50 centimeter-by-60 centimeter (20x24-inch) snapshots. It is expected to fetch 40,000-60,000 dollars.

"In the 50-60s, Ansel Adams started sending out cameras to artists for feedback. The artists would exchange their prints for the use of Polaroid cameras. In the late 60s, this unique situation was called 'the Artist support program,'" said Bethel.
A favorite of families and tourists, the Polaroid camera also had a following among legendary photographers and painters like Robert Mapplethorpe, Robert Frank, Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg, some of whose snapshots will go under the hammer. Other, lesser known artists such as David Levinthal are also included and Sotheby's hopes interest in the Polaroid collection will boost their worth.

Polaroid was bought up in 2009 by The Impossible Project group, which is trying to revive the market for the fabled instant camera and has named eccentric pop-singer Lady Gaga as its artistic director.

Photograph: Edwin H. Land demonstrating instant camera, 1947.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

ONE DAY - TEN photographers

At Paris Photo in November last year I talked to Gerry Badger about "print on demand" publishing and how it was possible to make a book in a day. From that conversation came the idea of getting a group of photographers together to all shoot a book in a day.
John Gossage came on board, so did Martin Parr, Jessica Backhaus, Eva Maria Ocherbauer and Rob Hornstra who were all at Paris Photo. Publisher Klaus Kehrer of Kehrer Verlag in Heidelberg liked the idea and agreed to publish a set of individual photobooks.
The idea gestated into 2010 and was again talked about in May at the Kassel Photobook Festival. Alec Soth joined the group and so did Rinko Kawauchi who were both at Kassel. A last and final participant was Todd Hido.

The ten photographers and where they are shooting, Monday June 21st.

Jessica Backhaus - Berlin
Gerry Badger - London
Harvey Benge - Auckland
John Gossage - Baltimore MD
Todd Hido - Oakland CA
Rob Hornstra - Utrecht
Rinko Kawauchi - Tokyo
Eva Maria Ocherbauer - Berlin
Martin Parr - Bristol
Alec Soth - Saint Paul MN

The individual hardcover books, contained in a slip-case will be launched at Paris Photo, 18 -21 November.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Schaden.com - possibly the World's best photobook store

If you were ever wanted a reason, other than to see the Cologne Cathedral, to visit that pleasant riverside city, it would be to immerse yourself in photobooks at the store-front location of Schaden.com. Established by Markus Schaden and brother Christoph, and now located at 4 Albertustrabe, the shop probably has the best selection of photobooks you will find anywhere. But there is more. You will probably find Markus sitting at his desk at the back and here is a man that knows more about photobooks than just about anybody else I can think of of. Well at least as much as Martin Parr. And that's quite a lot!
And at Schaden.com it's not just your run-of-the-mill Amazon titles, you will also find special editions, signed copies, hybrid books, and titles published by Schaden themselves. Plus innovative projects like The La Brea Matrix.
And if you follow the photofestival circuit you will often find Markus and his team at the best photofestivals; Paris Photo, New York, Los Angeles and the Kassel Photobook Festival.
If you aren't planning a visit to Cologne in the near future you can visit Schaden.com on-line. If you haven't been there already a treat is instore..... enjoy.

Here are some pictures I made at Schaden.com when I was there in May.

John Gossage and Alec Soth - The Auckland Project

When John and Alec were in Auckland in January last year for the annual AUT St Paul St workshop they worked on a book project which originated broadly from the book Obvious and Ordinary that Martin Parr and John had made in Memphis in 2006. John tells me that Darius Himes at Radius books has picked up the project and the book should be available at Paris Photo in November. Already, John tells me, the book is Number One on Photo-Eye's current best selling list.

Photo-Eye has this to say about the book.

The Auckland Project.
Photographs by John Gossage and Alec Soth.
Radius Books, 2010. 160 pp., Two volumes, 80 color illustrations, 9x11½".

In the Spring of 2009, John Gossage and Alec Soth traveled together to New Zealand to work on a joint photography project. For both, it was a trip of departures. Gossage has been creating photographic literature in black-and-white for over 40 years, and this trip yielded one of the first bodies of work he had ever produced in color. Soth’s work with the 8×10 view camera has inspired an entire generation of his contemporaries, and leaving it behind was key to approaching the world from a fresh visual perspective. The results represent a major shift of vision for these two vastly important American photographers.

This publication represents the culmination of that trip. Both the concept and the content of the book have been driven by the uniqueness of the collaboration and the primacy of the photobook to the artistic practice of both Soth and Gossage. Essentially two books in one, The Auckland Project showcases a playful attention to materials and presentation that marks all Radius Books projects. Unlike 2007’s Obvious & Ordinary in which Martin Parr (in his signature color) and John Gossage (using black-and-white) published the results of a road-trip across the American South, this volume presents the two photographers’ work separately, creatively combined through the device of the book and its housing.

The photograph is by Alec Soth made in downtown Auckland minutes before heading to the airport to fly home.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Photographers whose work I like - No 5 / Onaka Koji

It was a pleasure to meet Onaka Koji at the Photobook Festival in Kassel. We swapped books, my Tokyo book YOU ARE HERE for his book The Dog in France, this for him an escape from Tokyo with no particular motive or design. Known for both his color and black and white work Koji's photographs are quietly understated. The black and white photographs in The Dog in France are rich and dense with mysteries lurking in the heavy shadows. Photographs about not much and everything at the same time.

He says of his work: "They are not astonishing scenes, nor are they taken with superb timing. They do not convey mystifying sensations or intense impressions. They do not have healing effects, but neither do they push away viewers. They are not difficult to understand, but they do not provide any definite answers. Much less are they stories or documentaries.”

If you're in Paris The Onaka Koji show is still running at Plac'Art gallery 5 rue de l'ancienne comédi, up until June the 15th.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Marks of Honour at Photographers Gallery

13 contemporary photographers create a striking library. MoH/08 was curated and organized by Nina Poppe and Verena Loewenhaupt. Exhibited at FOAM Amsterdam and Kaune, Sudendorf Gallery Cologne the exhibition opens Wednesday June 16 at Photographers Gallery, London.

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

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

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

Pieter Hugo honours Roland Barthes

Tiina Itkonen honours Pentti Sammallahti
Box with five pictures.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jochen Lempert at Museum Ludwig Cologne

Back in May I had saw the show of Jochen Lempert's work at Museum Ludwig. I'd never seen or heard of this artist and the quiet subtleness of his photographs were a surprising revelation and a reminder that something quite profound can be made from almost nothing. Made from the heart with no try-hard artifice, the photographs had a simple beauty both in execution and presentation. The shows closes June 13.

Here is an extract from a review of Lempert's show at Culturgest, Lisbon published in Aperture, Winter 2009

Seen one at a time, Jochen Lempert’s black-and-white photographs of the natural world and its inhabitants do not make great claims upon a viewer. Some have artless compositions; others seem out of focus or to have no subject at all. Encountered in aggregate, however, as in Field Work, the first major survey of Lempert’s photographs presented outside his native Germany, they possess a quietly mesmeric force. This exhibition, organized by Miguel Wandschneider, was an unforeseen revelation. Its scores of images, printed at modest scale on thick paper that the artist allows to warp slightly as it dries, were presented unframed, either singly or in rows and grids according to subject. These arrangements collapsed the distinctions between documentary naturalism and lyrical Conceptualism, the two contemporary photographic genres into which one is tempted to slot Lempert’s work. That Lempert’s silver-gelatin prints look more like charcoal drawings than they do conventional photographs further accentuates the artist’s singular achievement.

Lempert trained as a biologist before embarking upon his work as a photographer in the early 1990s, and the scientist’s rigorous avidity was one of this exhibition’s leitmotifs. He pursues his (mostly avian) subjects intently, finding them both in the field—whether urban or rural—and in the natural history museum. One series of images, each printed smaller than a sheet of letter-size paper, depicts lone cormorants moving gracefully through various urban environments: one is silhouetted against the sky between an imposing skyscraper façade and the delicate filigree of tree branches; another hovers just above a river’s surface at the bottom of a picture dominated by an apartment tower and a bridge. Still others register the concentric ripples set off by the birds’ feet as they flap across unknown waterways, evoking Adam Fuss’s tranquil studies of splashes. Several other series, arrayed in grids, depict the heads and beaks of various taxidermy specimens in a uniform style, calling to mind not only the presentations in natural-history museums but also Richard Prince’s collections of women extracted from advertisements and Bernd and Hilla Becher’s industrial censuses.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Auckland - back!

Arrived in Auckland yesterday, Saturday morning after leaving Heidelberg Thursday afternoon. When I've recovered from jetlag and the sudden shift from summer to winter I'll post some thoughts, observations and pictures looking at what I've seen and done over the last 6 weeks in Europe. Watch this space.....