Wednesday, August 31, 2016

William Eggleston - the essays


Much has been written about William Eggleston, his art, his practice and his life. For example there is John Szarkowski's 1976 introduction to William Eggleston's Guide, Eudora Welty's 1989 introduction to The Democratic Forest. Mark Holborn's 1992 introduction to Ancient and Modern. Thomas Weski's 1998 essay The Tender-Cruel Camera  from The Hasselblad Award.

Many of these writings, along with a host of other material can be found on the Eggleston Artistic Trust website. Below is part of a conversation Mark Holborn had with William Eggleston which appeared as an afterward in The Democratic Forest.

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.'

You can go to the  Eggleston Artistic Trust website HERE. There is a lot to see and to read.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Henri Cartier-Bresson - poetry is the essence of everything


In a film made in 1972 by ICP NYC Henri Cartier-Bresson talks about the pleasures of photography. It's a warm kiss, a psychoanalyst's couch, a machine gun. Poetry is the essence... like a Chekhov story, there is a whole world in it.

For me the camera is a sketch book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity, the master of the instant which, in visual terms, questions and decides simultaneously. In order to give a “meaning” to the world, one has to feel involved in what one frames through the viewfinder. This attitude requires concentration, discipline of mind, sensitivity, and a sense of geometry. It is by economy of means that one arrives at simplicity of expression.
To take a photograph is to hold one’s breath when all faculties converge in a face of fleeing reality. It is at that moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy. To take a photograph means to recognize, simultaneously and within a fraction of a second‚ both the fact itself and the rigorous organization of visually perceived forms that give it meaning. It is putting one‚ head, one‚ eye, and one‚ heart on the same axis. 

Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Decisive Moment. you can see the film HERE. It's well worth the 18 minutes and 29 seconds. A reminder of what great image making is all about.  

Saturday, August 20, 2016

How Not to Design a Photobook - a workshop with designer Stuart Smith

Harvey Benge - Paris work-prints

Aperture will host a two-day workshop with Stuart Smith on September 17 and 18, 2016. Intended for photographers who are prepared to transition their images into book form, the workshop will focus on editing, sequencing, and pairing photographs, as well as how to design a successful and thoroughly considered photobook.

Designer Stuart Smith has worked on over forty books with Aperture’s Executive Director, Chris Boot, at Phaidon, Chris Boot Ltd., and, now, at Aperture. In advance of Smith’s first workshop for Aperture, September 17–18, Boot talked with the designer about “how not to design a photobook.”

Smith: Because photographers are visual, they usually assume two things: that they can design and that they can edit. But they benefit by letting someone else in. It doesn’t matter how well-known a photographer is, the fact is all photographers need a good editor, someone who they can trust checking or proposing picture and sequence decisions. It’s probably the most important part of putting a book together. Often the photographer is too close to the work, or to certain images, and they have a tendency to want to use more images, when they should let some of them go. The reverse can also be true. A photographer can become fixed on particular pictures. I usually want to see a wider edit than the photographer initially has in mind, and quite often between ten and twenty percent of the final picture selection will come in from this broader selection. This doesn’t seem like much, but it can make the difference between the mediocre and the sublime. 

You can read the complete Chris Boot, Stuart Smith interview HERE

Back in March 2012 I made a blog post - The Photobook, some thoughts on editing and sequencing. The piece makes 17 points about the process, talking about the importance of having a compelling idea through to the notion of throwing away the rule book. Must have said something right because to date the post has had 14,760 reads. You can go to that post HERE.

Harvey Benge - an edit continues...

Friday, August 19, 2016

Andrey Tarkovsky - polaroids at Bonhams London on 6 October 2016

The definitive collection of Polaroids taken by the legendary filmmaker Andrey Tarkovsky (1932-1986) will come to auction for the first time in a stand-alone sale, Nostalgia: Before and After – Important Polaroids by Andrey Tarkovsky, at Bonhams London on 6 October 2016.

The photographs – 257 Polaroids in total, are divided into 29 lots containing nine or ten pictures each, with estimates ranging from £20,000-37,000 per lot. They date from Tarkovsky's time in Italy and Russia and come directly from his family. The collection will be previewed at Bonhams 580 Madison Avenue New York, 8-22 August and at Bonhams 101 New Bond Street, 2-6 October. Many of the photographs were taken while Tarkovsky was making Nostalgia, and the photos feature the familiar atmospheric landscapes and settings of that legendary 1983 film. From intimate snapshots of Tarkovsky's circle of friends and dog, to evocative pictures of the Russian and Italian countryside, the works give a glimpse of late 70s and early 80s life, frozen in time.

Tarkovsky started experimenting with the Polaroid camera in the late seventies, and was delighted with the results, although he immediately burned the Polaroids he was not happy with. In the autumn issue of Bonhams Magazine, film historian Mark Le Fanu looks at Tarkovsky's "passion for Polaroids" and explores its significance. "The addiction (I think we can call it that) began in 1979," said Le Fanu. "There was something about the way that the camera gave an instant image of the view being photographed that he found propitious, and useful, for his task of location-hunting. That, and the fact that he liked their saturated but at the same time diffused (and ever so slightly 'retro') color reproduction, which gave each of the stills an air of mystery." In the introductory essay to an album of the photographs, published in 2006, Tonino Guerra, Tarkovsky's scriptwriter, recalls the filmmaker's discovery of the camera's magical effects: "At my wedding in Moscow in 1977, Tarkovsky had a Polaroid camera in his hand and he moved about happily with this instrument which he discovered only recently. 

Tarkovsky often reflected on the way that time flies and this is precisely what he wanted: to stop it, even with these quick Polaroid shots." Andrey Tarkovsky, one of the greatest Russian directors of all time, pioneered a new era of filmmaking with his celebrated films such as Nostalgia, Stalker, Solaris and Ivan's Childhood. He continues to be renowned for his slow-paced, lingering style and his unconventional dramatic structure. Daria Chernenko, Head of Bonhams' Russian Art department, said, 'These pictures are a surprising glimpse of Tarkovsky, who throughout his life was obsessed with the passing of time. The dream-like compositions are reflective of his filmmaking. They've never been on the market before and now his family are selling the collection in its entirety. There has already been a significant amount of interest in these one-off works, both from museums and film institutes.'

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The loneliness of the long distance photographer...

Robert Adams, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 1968

In a recent The New Yorker piece curator and novelist Hanya Yanagihara dwells on the subject of loneliness, a condition that seems inevitably to go with the territory of pointing a camera. Yanagihara references The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone, by Olivia Laing - where implicit in Laing's book - loneliness, a realm most deeply inhabited, and fluently expressed, by visual artists... 
Yanagihara opines - loneliness belongs to the photographer. To be a photographer is to willingly enter the world of the lonely, because it is an artistic exercise in invisibility... the photographer moves through the world, our world, hoping for anonymity, hoping she (he) is able to humble herself (himself) enough to see and record what the rest of us - in our noisy perambulations, in our requests to be heard - are too present to our own selves to ever see. To practice this art requires first a commitment to self-erasure.

It is also why so many great photographs concern loneliness. The lens may distance the photographer from the rest of humanity, but with that distance comes an enhanced ability to see what is overlooked and under-loved.
These sentiments inform the show How I Learned to See, recently curated by Hanya Yanagihara at Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco.
The exhibition is organized into six sections on the subjects of loneliness, love, aging, solitude, beauty, and discovery. There is an idiosyncratic mix, with iconic and less familiar works by 12 artists: Robert Adams, Diane Arbus, Elisheva Biernoff, Harry Callahan, Lee Friedlander, Nan Goldin, Katy Grannan, Peter Hujar, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Richard Misrach, Nicholas Nixon, Alec Soth, and Hiroshi Sugimoto.

You can read the full New Yorker piece HERE and go to Fraenkel Gallery HERE.
How I Learned to See finishes 20th August.

Hanya Yanagihara is an American novelist whose most recent book, A Little Life, was a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award and shortlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize and the 2016 Baileys Prize for Fiction.

Nan Goldin, Clemens and Jens embracing in my hall, Paris, 2001

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Ana Paula Estrada - Memorandum, a new bookwork

Mexican born photographer Ana Paula Estrada, now living in Brisbane, Australia has recently completed her bookwork Memorandum. Rather like a time capsule the book employs photography, oral history and personal found photographs to record fragments of the lives of seven individuals who are all on the other side of their allotted three score and ten. Estrada sums up the work like this: It is a project about things that were remembered, photographs that were carefully stored and conversations that must never be forgotten. Doug Spowart in his essay accompanying the book quotes John Berger who says, all photographs are there to remind us of what we forget.

What immediately struck me about this book was its quiet authenticity. Estrada has not set out to be clever, super cool or to shock. The work clearly comes from her heart and head and therefore movingly resonates with the reader. Memorandum made me think of my own family and our stories. It reminded me of aging and impermanence and how nothing in the end is solid. It reinforced in me the importance of the now and why I make photographs.
If the purpose of an artwork is to get the viewer or reader to reconsider their place in the world Ana Paula Estrada's Memorandum accomplishes that task admirably.

You can buy a copy of Memorandum HERE.
The book is soft cover / section sewn with exposed spine / stock:120gsm and 300gsm ecostar uncoated / 170 pages, 86 photographs / printing: 4 colour digital / contains separate 8pp booklet, fold out pages and a tipped in 112gsm translucent page / edition: 200 / numbered and signed / self-published 2016.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Philip Jones Griffiths Award - Applications now open

Trolley Books are delighted to announce that applications are now open for the inaugural Philip Jones Griffiths Award from The Philip Jones Griffiths Foundation. The award is for documentary photography and must be used to complete a body of work, regardless of what stage the project is in, from a proposal to nearing completion. The subject matter must be related to issues of social and political importance. The photographer will receive £10,000.

The Philip Jones Griffiths Foundation was set up by Philip shortly after he found out he had cancer in 2000, with the aim of preserving his work to inspire future generations and as a way to actively help photojournalists cover the stories that needed to be told. Since his death in 2008 the foundation has been run by his two daughters Katherine Holden and Fanny Ferrato.
The Philip Jones Griffiths Award will be annual and judged by a mixture of highly respected professionals and renowned photographers.

For more information and how to apply please visit HERE.

Philip published three books with Trolley. Agent Orange - Collateral Damage in Viet Nam (2003), Viet Nam at Peace (2005) and Recollections (2008), and was close to Trolley’s late publisher Gigi Giannuzzi. Hannah Watson from Trolley will be one of the judges of the inaugural award. The deadline for the applications is October 10th 2016, with the winner announced on November 15th 2016.

An after-thought: In 1998 Philip Jones Griffiths Award came to Auckland on a Magnum assignment to shoot pictures for a Heinz Corporation annual report. Philip contacted me and asked if I would assist him, hire lighting and so on. Which I did. The shoot involved making a picture of a high-profile NZ food writer in her kitchen. I helped Philip set up and in doing so was stand-in for the writer. Below is one of the polaroid test shots Philip made. It seemed totally bizarre that this amazing photographer was here in New Zealand, well, having to shoot crap. His next stop was Melbourne where he was to shoot cat food!
After the shoot was wrapped Philip came home to my place, sitting in my kitchen we chewed-the-fact errrr fat. Over a couple of hours he systematically (and amusingly) demolished more than a handful of Magnum photographers. Philip Jones Griffiths struck me as a highly principled, larger-than-life individual with a huge intellect. And a great photographer. Sorely missed.

Philip Jones Griffiths - Harvey Benge as stand-in, 1998

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Photo London - watch the 2016 panel discussions on line

The quality of Photo London's Talks Programme sets the fair apart from all other art fairs. In May this year over 50 speakers participated in the sell-out Photo London Talks, the talks are available for viewing on line now.
There was an impressive line up of artists and critics including Alec Soth speaking with Kate Bush, Nick Knight with Hans Ulrich Obrist, Mary McCartney, Don McCullin, Nadav Kander, Richard Misrach, Graham Nash and Katy Grannan, Howard Greenberg, Quentin Bajac, Michael Wilson and Anthony D’Offay. And more...

You can check out the range of videos HERE and simply click on the particular session you'd like to watch.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

William Eggleston - What You Need to Know

William Eggleston - Greenwood. Mississippi, 1973

Recently posted on ARTSY my favorite go to art site was a piece by Abigail Cain, A Road Less Traveled: How William Eggleston Transformed Photography in America. Cain writes:

Over the past five decades, Eggleston’s work—filled with fast-food wrappers, fading billboards, anonymous storefronts, and cracked highways—has documented a rapidly developing suburban landscape while encapsulating its alluring mundanity. His images also offered a powerful argument for the use of color photography in art, paving the way for the generations of color photographers that followed.
Although critics initially derided his work for looking cheap, Eggleston actually invested in the most expensive photographic process available to achieve his signature bright hues. Dye-transfer printing, then used solely for commercial work, cost around $1,000 for the first print. In exchange, Eggleston could define each color and its saturation individually. The Red Ceiling (1973) (also known as Greenwood, Mississippi), one of the photographer’s most iconic images, typifies his intense focus on color. “I knew that red was the most difficult color to work with,” he said. “A little red is usually enough, but to work with an entire red surface was a challenge.” Noting the ties between his work and that of non-fine-art photographers, Eggleston went on: “I don’t know of any totally red pictures, except in advertising. The photograph is still powerful. It shocks you every time.”

The piece is an informative read, for the complete article you can go to ARTSY - HERE. And while you are there you could sign up for the ARTSY newsletters.

William Eggleston - Untitled, 1981

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

William Kentridge - How We Make Sense of the World


William Kentridge is a South African artist best known for his prints, drawings, and animated films. Kentridge's YouTube video How We Make Sense of the World spells out the artist's underpinning philosophy and approach to his work. Kentridge states that... there is a desperation in all certainty. The category of political uncertainty, philosophical uncertainty, uncertainty of images is much closer to how the world is.
Talking with candor and modesty Kentridge speaks of the self-aggrandisement of certainty. How work may be beautiful to you the maker but fails to resonate with anybody else. A failure to realize that the work doesn't work because too much credence is give to the voices coming in. Kentridge also talks of how the world is erroneously presented in an objective fashion and how so much depends on what comes to the reading of a work from ones history, memory and prejudices. He also suggests that autobiographical elements are essential in the making of profound work.

All this may well be common accepted knowledge and yet I frequently see mediocre work that is overblown and hyped by the artist way beyond its worth.

William Kentridge's video is well worth a look, you can go to it HERE.

Monday, August 8, 2016

AMERICAN COWBOY - A book from Karoliina Paatos

Karoliina Paatos is a Finish photographer who over the last six years has been making pictures in Nevada, Oregon and Idaho. The work has just been published in a beautifully produced volume by Ljubljana based publisher and blogger the angry bat. The book is 120 pages, on a superb ivory stock, it's a sewn hardback with an open spine.
As for the work, the best pictures are the portraits and the landscapes. The portraits are intimate and revealing made in the manner of Alec Soth. The landscapes are big, powerful and brooding. Overall the images look like they have been made by somebody from a different culture and that's no bad thing. The land seems remote and alien, weathered and worn like many of the inhabitants. We are left wondering what stories these people could tell, what their lives are like. Are they Donald Trump supporters?

You can go to Karoliina Paatos web site HERE and the angry bat HERE.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

UNSEEN - Talent Award nominees announced

The ING Unseen Talent Award is an initiative by ING and Unseen that gives new photography talent a platform to present their work on a global scale. What began as a Dutch initiative in 2013 has turned into a European award focused on scouting talent from across the whole of Europe. The aim of the award is to give young artists what they really need: a platform, a network and expertise.
This year's five finalists for the ING Unseen Talent Award have been selected and rewarded with an extensive empowerment programme, coached by internationally established American artist, Todd Hido. During this programme, the talents are requested to produce a work under the theme Fool for Love, all of which will be on display during Unseen Photo Fair this September.
The nominees for the ING Unseen Talent Award 2016 are: Felicity Hammond (1988, UK), Tereza Zelenkova (1985, CZ), Thomas Albdorf (1982, AU), Laurianne Bixhain (1987, LU) and Miren Pastor (1985, SP).

Unseen  is an annual international photography fair and festival based in Amsterdam. Welcoming 54 galleries from across the globe, Unseen focuses on new photography, highlighting the most recent developments by presenting emerging talent and new work by established artists.
As a fair, Unseen brings together leading figures in the industry with artists, curators, collectors and photography enthusiasts, creating an exchange of dialogue, artistic expression and ideas. Complementing the fair, on-site at the historic Westergasfabriek in Amsterdam, is a three-day speakers programme jam-packed with lectures and debates at the Unseen Living Room, as well as a celebration of the printed world of photobooks at the Unseen Book Market.
As a festival, Unseen invites visitors to be challenged, inspired and excited by a programme bringing together many of the city’s leading institutions, galleries, artists and initiatives using photography in unexpected and provocative ways. Every year Unseen Photo Festival takes place in a newly chosen neighbourhood of Amsterdam, in an effort to not only get visitors acquainted with the various areas of the city, but also to get locals – both individuals and businesses – acquainted with the world of contemporary photography.

What struck me in particular is the work of Austrian artist Thomas Albdorf.  This artist is interested in the intersection of photography and sculpture. His practice subverts what defines photography as a medium and in doing so opens up unconventional and challenging possibilities. In this digital age the work has a fresh currency about it.
Although I'm of the view that there are more than enough images to be found in the real world, images that equally challenge, question and sometimes amaze, images that stand on their own without post production layers, after looking at Albdorf's work I'm left with the question, what if? I'm left with the thought that there is a tendency not to push boundaries and not to take risks. Albdorf has taken the creative and conceptual blinkers off. Something we should all try.

Below are images from Thomas Albdorf's ongoing series General View. You can go to his website HERE.