Thursday, January 25, 2018

Simon Baker to head the MEP, Paris

British curator Simon Baker, former director of photography at Tate Modern London, has been appointed director of the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris. Baker succeeds Jean-Luc Monterosso, director and founder of the institution, whose mandate finishes on March 31, 2018. Monterosso has run the Maison Européenne de la Photographie since it opened in 1996 and was also the founder in 1978, with Henry Chapier, Francis Balagna and Marcel Landowski, from the Paris Audiovisual Association that foreshadowed the creation of the MEP.
Simon Baker has a Ph.D. in art history, and is a graduate of the University College of London (UCL). In 2009 Baker joined the Tate London Photography and Art Department as a curator. In 2015, he was appointed chief photography curator with the primary mission of developing a strategy of acquisition, conservation and exposure.
Baker has curated numerous Tate exhibitions, with photographers including Boris Mikhailov, Sirkka-Liisa Kontinen, Guy Bourdin, Yutaka Takanashi, Bernd and Hilla Becher, and recently exhibitions such as Salt and Silver (2015), Nick Waplington / Alexander McQueen: Working Progress (2015) or Performing for the camera and The radical Eye: Modernist Photography from the Sir Elton John Collection (2016). Simon Baker has also been Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Nottingham (2004-2009). He is the author of numerous publications on the history of art and photography.
You can read the complete story by Jonas Cuenin on The Eye of Photography HERE

The MEP Paris

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Nan Goldin - artist and activist

Nan Goldin - Self-Portrait 1st Time on Oxy, Berlin 2014

Nan Goldin takes a stand on the scourge of opioid addiction. 
The Guardian reports: Her most recent drug experience was very different to the old days, when she became one of the world’s most famous art photographers, capturing herself and those around her getting high, having sex and hanging out in downtrodden homes in the 70s and 80s.
This second experience began with a doctor in Berlin, where she has a second home. In 2014, Goldin was prescribed the potent narcotic OxyContin for painful tendonitis in her left wrist. She promptly became addicted, despite taking the pills exactly as prescribed.
“The first time I got a ‘scrip it was 40 milligrams and it was too strong for me; they made me nauseated and dulled. By the end, I was on 450mg a day,” she says. Eventually she was crushing and snorting them. When, back in New York, doctors refused to supply her any more, she turned to the black market, and to cheaper hard street drugs whenever she ran out of money.
Emerging from a rehab facility in Massachusetts last March, she began reading about OxyContin and realised the branded medicine was prime suspect in the opioid crisis that has ripped through the US over the past 20 years. The epidemic has killed more than 200,000 people so far. Now she is declaring war against members of the secretive US family behind the invention of OxyContin, and behind the ingenious marketing strategy that was used to convince doctors it was harmless and patients that they needed it.
With charitable foundations on both sides of the Atlantic, the Sacklers, who are based in New York, have donated millions to the arts and sponsored faculties at Yale and many other universities. In each case, the family’s name is displayed prominently as the benefactor. Forbes listed the collective estimated worth of the 20 core family members at $14bn (£10bn) in 2015, partly derived from $35bn in sales revenue from OxyContin between 1995 and 2015. 

But few know their wealth comes from Purdue Pharma, a private Connecticut company the family developed and wholly owns. In 1995, the company revolutionised the prescription painkiller market with the invention of OxyContin, a drug that is a legal, concentrated, chemical version of morphine or heroin. It was designed to be safe; when it first came to market, its slow-release formula was unique. After winning government approval it was hailed as a medical breakthrough, which Goldin now refers to as “magical thinking”.
Goldin is now hurrying through a modern activist learning curve. “First I wanted to go out with signs and picket a Sackler wing of something, because that’s what we did in the Vietnam war and that’s what we did with Act Up in the Aids crisis,” she says. But she recently discovered social media – “I went on Instagram for the first time three weeks ago,” she says – and realised that petitions are online these days, so has set about organising one, which will be presented in due course to those Sackler family members on Purdue Pharma’s board of directors. She is also now on Twitter, so there is a hashtag campaign, #ShameOnSackler, while her campaign overall is called Prescription Addiction Intervention Now (Pain).
You can read the full story in The Guardian HERE and the New York Times HERE.
Nan Goldin - Dope on my rug, New York, 2016. 

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Mitch Epstein - Rocks and Clouds

Mitch Epstein's wonderful new bookwork Rocks and Clouds has arrived from Steidl. Following his impressive photobook, New York Arbor published in 2013, Rocks and Clouds further heightens the rewarding experience of close observation. The book celebrates the mystery and wonder that surrounds us all, that is if we can be bothered to look. Potentially this is cliche territory however these quietly intelligent pictures turn the ordinary everyday (rocks, clouds) into the extraordinary and make for a sublime meditative experience.

The viewer is left wondering at our place in the scheme of things. Mankind's insignificance. Notions of impermanence come to mind where the city slips into nothingness against the limitless sky. We are reminded that all of mans feeble constructs will eventually fall to dust and that in our world it's the simple profundities of nature that endure. This work shatters ones sense of certainty. What we take to be familiar becomes the unfamiliar and we are asked to re-evaluate what we take for granted and where is truth.

Rocks and Clouds is published by Steidl and as usual it's a stunning production, an object in it's own right. 160 pages, 70 images,  four colour process,  clothbound in slipcase 29.5 x 36 cm.

Steidl writes: In his new series, Mitch Epstein investigates the meaning of time by photographing rocks that last millions of years and clouds that evaporate before our eyes. These large-format black-and-white pictures examine society’s complex relationship to nature, a theme Epstein has explored in previous work, including his acclaimed tree pictures (New York Arbor, 2013). The way the sky and ground can mirror one another intrigued ancient Chinese painters, as well as modern earthwork artists and the Surrealists, all of whom inspired this project. Epstein draws attention to the sculptural quality of New York City’s clouds, bedrock, and architecture—which, at its most elemental, is made from rock. Cloud wedges engulf a cargo ship, buildings recall constructivist paintings, and erratics are imposing elders in the middle of a park or sidewalk. Rocks and Clouds suggests society’s inability to control time and tame nature. While it seems impossible to make a fresh picture of New York, Epstein gives us a surprising portrait of it.

You can go to Mitch Epstein's website HERE and Steidl HERE.

Pelham Bay Park, Bronx 2014

Clouds #89, New York City 2015

Clouds #94, New York City 2015

Clouds #18, New York City 2014

Clouds #33, New York City 2014

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Brian Griffin - adventurous then, adventurous now

Brian Griffin

When in Paris last November for Paris Photo I had the pleasure on a couple of occasions to meet and talk with photographer Brian Griffin. Brian was in town to present his new bookwork POP, an amazing 392 page overview of his years photographing the music industry,

British publisher GOST say this: ‘POP’ is a comprehensive exploration of the music photography of Brian Griffin shot for album covers, single sleeves, posters and press. The 350 pages of this new book are illustrated over 160 record covers from more than 100 bands and musicians including many which are previously unpublished – including Ian Dury, The Clash, Depeche Mode, Echo And The Bunnymen, Iggy Pop, Kate Bush, The Specials, Elvis Costello and many more. 

Brian Griffin first began photographing the music world for STIFF records in the late 1970s and soon became the predominant visual chronicler of New Wave, Post-Punk and the New Romantics. Working from his studio in Rotherhithe, often on low budgets and before the age of photo-shop, Griffin’s technical naivety resulted in major visual invention. How these photographs were executed and the techniques which were employed or invented, is explained in a Q&A between Griffin and the author Terry Rawlings. Punctuating the photographs and album artwork, this conversation provides illuminating and highly-personal behind-the-scenes insights to this distinct creative period in music and visual history. 

Another section of the book contains portraits of important figures in the music industry such as the Beatles producer George Martin, Brian Eno, John Peel and Daniel Miller and portraits of the people that worked alongside Brian including stylists and builders of his light machines. Paul Gorman, author of Reasons To Be Cheerful: The Life and Work of Barney Bubbles, has written an additional essay on the close working and personal relationship between graphic artist Barney Bubbles and Griffin. There is also a description of what the area of Rotherhithe in South East London, where Brian had his studio, was like in the 1980s. 

Brian Griffin was born in Birmingham in 1948 and grew up in the Black Country. From the age of 16 he worked in a factory making conveyers, then as a nuclear pipework engineering estimator until the age of 21, when he went to study photography at Manchester Polytechnic. After graduation, Griffin moved to London with the intent of becoming a fashion photographer. It was here that he met Roland Schenk, the charismatic art director on Management Today, with whom Griffin continued working until the mid 1980s. 

Griffin is recognised as one of the most eminent British photographers of the seventies and eighties and as part of the “British Photographers of the Thatcher Years” with Martin Parr, Paul Graham, Graham Smith, Jo Spence and Victor Burgin, with whom he has exhibited in many exhibitions. In 1991, Griffin walked away from photography and began a career as a film-maker in advertising and the music industry. Throughout his career, over 20 monographs of Griffin’s work have been published, his work has been the subject of over 50 international solo exhibitions and is held in collections institutions including the Victoria & Albert Museum, London; the Arts Council of Great Britain, London; the British Council, London; the National Portrait Gallery, London; the Museum Folkwang, Essen; the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery; the Art Museum Reykjavik, Iceland; the Mast Foundation, Bologna; and the Museu da Imagem, Braga, Portugal. 

If you are still not convinced check our this 16 minute video, HERE. Produced by Portugesse art channel Canal 180. Brian tells it like is is.

You can go to the GOST books website HERE, where you can buy a copy of POP. And go to Brian Griffin's website HERE. Well worth checking out!

Iggy Pop - soldier 08

Brian May

Siouxsie and the Banshees - Dazzle

Han Solo  02

POP - the book

The Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation moves to the Marais

Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1972 © Martine Franck/Magnum Photos

In the autumn of 2018, the Foundation created by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Martine Franck and their daughter Mélanie Cartier-Bresson will be opening a new space at 79 rue des Archives in the Marais district in Paris. The new premises, a former converted garage, will offer better options for exhibitions and conservation. At street level there will be more than double the floor space and more flexible layout, at street level. This together with improved archive storage and conservation conditions, and better facilities for researchers.
The space designed by architects from the Novo agency will make the Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation part of the cultural densification of the Marais, Beaubourg and Les Halles areas, undoubtedly unparalleled in Europe.
The primary mission of the Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation is preserving the heritage of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Martine Franck, and hosting and programming exhibitions of other photographers or artists using photography. The Prix Henri Cartier-Bresson, backed by the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès, is designed to support the creativity so precious to its founders.
With the expanded floor area, it will now be possible to offer a more active insight into contemporary experimentation, while pursuing the exploration of the history of the medium. The values of rigour, curiosity and creative freedom that characterised Henri Cartier-Bresson from his youth will continue to be the driving force behind exhibition choices.
An educational programme and international initiatives to promote the wider distribution of the two Henri Cartier-Bresson and Martine Franck funds and quality photography will be developed in the coming years.
To develop this project, François Hébel, former director of Magnum Photos and Les Rencontres d’Arles, founder of Foto/Industria Bologne and Le Mois de la photo du Grand Paris in particular, will be joining the Foundation’s team as managing director from 2 November 2017.
Agnès Sire, who has been responsible for the Foundation’s impressive development since it began, wanted to be released from its daily operation to devote herself to its artistic direction and curating exhibitions.
This duo has already had many opportunities to work together on cultural projects produced at Magnum in the 90s, for the group as well as for photographers individually.
You can go to The Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation website HERE.

Monday, January 15, 2018

John Baldessari - making art look like it's not about skill

John Baldessari

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s The Artist Project is a 2015 online series, supported by a Phaidon book, in which the museum gave artists an opportunity to respond to their encyclopedic collection.

I was drawn to John Baldessari's comments on Philip Guston’s 1973 painting, Stationary Figure.

It's macabre humour. It's a laugh that's also overshadowed by the thought of the brevity of life. A poetic mind would think that death is absurd and funny. There are elements of time: the light and the clock and the short duration of the cigarette. There's more light inside the room where he is than there is outside. It's like a prison cell.  He's almost in bondage with the bedclothes. - you might even call it a straightjacket. It's nightmarish, in some ways - being constrained and trapped in time. 

The painting is tough to like. I think that the average viewer is going to say. "Yeh my kid can do that." And that would be dismissive. I think it's brilliant: making art look like it's not about skill. He knew he was going to ruffle feathers and irritate people. I absolutely identify with his courage in doing that. It's one of the things I've always emphasised: don't be a virtuoso, and don't be a show-off.

I'll add to that - get up in the morning, go to your studio, make the work, chop the wood. 

You can see a video of Baldessari's comments HERE and go to The Mets The Artist Project HERE.

Philip Guston - Stationary Figure 1973

Friday, January 12, 2018

the-traveller - Taking the Long View

Löwenburger Hof - posted 31 October 2017

 In my last post I talked about the need for those of us working in art to take the long view, maintaining a practice which like wine in the cellar matures and should get better and build over time. 

Jens Sundheim and Bernhard Reuss are the-traveller and their collaborative practice is now in its 17 year. In every sense this is an art practise that takes the long view. Below is what they say about themselves...

Jens speaks: You can watch me.

For 16 years now I have been following the traces of public webcams: cameras installed in public or private spheres that automatically record images and spread them via internet.

I research where they are located, travel there, and get myself photographed. I was in New York and Moscow, London, Las Vegas and Singapore. I went to more than 700 webcams in 20 countries – so far.
In New York, I was taken in police custody after standing around in front of a traffic webcam, and was later interrogated by the FBI.

Once I arrive at a webcam location, I place myself in front of the camera. As »The Traveller«, I stare back into the cam. Same clothes, same pose, every time. Dark jacket and trousers, bright shirt and a shoulder bag. You can recognize me in every image. You can watch me.

Caught by the camera, I start a second, virtual journey. I travel to every web-connected device around the globe, visible to everyone who browses the corresponding website. I contact a photographer to save the transmitted image, before it is replaced by a newer one, and vanishes.

People notice. Sometimes, at least. They wonder what I am doing. Stare in the same direction as I do, trying to see what I see. Sometimes they ask me about it. Some got angry. But mostly they just seem puzzled for an instant, and carry on.

A lot of questions may arise. Who sets up these automated cameras, and why? What do they show? Are people aware of them? Who looks at their images? Does someone need these images? Does the presence of a camera alters a site? What constitutes a photographic image in terms of authorship or quality?

»The Traveller« project examines borders of private and public grounds, global spread of imagery between irrelevance, information and surveillance, and the aesthetics involved.

Among many other places, The Traveller encountered the legendary coffee machine world's first webcam was pointed at, the ESA European Space Agency main control room, a huge cactus observed by four cameras, numerous front gardens and backyards, and the inside of a New York police station cell - arrested for strange behaviour. 

Jens Sundheim
Born 1970 in Dortmund, Germany. Studied information science, then photography at University of Applied Sciences and Arts Dortmund, University of Plymouth in Exeter, England and HAW Hamburg. Based in Dortmund. 

Bernhard Reuss
Born 1966 in Wiesbaden, Germany. Studied photography at University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Dortmund. Numerous works with the camera obscura. Since 2006 engaged in a photography art space. Lives and works in Wiesbaden, Germany. 

You can go to the-traveller website HERE.

Bauakademie Oberösterreich - posted 29 September 2017

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Making photographs - why and what for?

Harvey Benge - Auckland, January 2018

Influential writer, critic, photography professor Jörg Colberg in a recent post on his interesting, always provocative Conscientious Photo Magazine website discusses the danger of following trends in the photo world. Jörg talks about the current obsession with social media - facebook, twitter and Instagram with photographers hanging out for likes and forever keeping an eye on whose following who. And trolling the digital world to hook into what's hot and what's not. 

I liked Jörg's parting paragraph: With social media amplifying hot trends and quick, short-term success, it has become a lot harder to play the long game that artists really need to play. Even if you stay off social media, chances are your friends and colleagues will be on them... I don’t think such an approach works in your favour if you want to be an artist. After all, the one trend you really want to follow with as much dedication as possible is this one: what drives you, what provides your mental energy to pursue whatever it is you feel strongly you need to go after? Everything else is just a pointless diversion.

Jörg's piece made me think about why I make photographs. I do it because I love it, and because it's the most difficult thing I have ever done. I do it because I've met some amazing people in the photo-world, people whom I like immensely and who inspire me. 
I do it because it's my way of examining the world, asking questions and looking at my place in the scheme of things. I do it because I recognise the wisdom in Socrates statement - the unexamined life is not worth living. I do it for myself, for my own inner satisfaction. I do it because as Jörg identifies it's about the long game, a game that never ends because each image opens up the possibility of the next one. And occasionally I make a picture that's worth a second look.

I don't do it for fame or fortune. A like here or there. I don't do it to hang out with photographers with massive egos who can only talk about themselves. I don't do it to consort with shooters that mistake decoration for substance or worse still confuse clever with intelligent. I don't do it to learn from photographers who think that success is all about external gratification when it fact it's all internal - my head, my heart.

I like the Zen analogy of chopping wood, just get up in morning, metaphorically chop wood and make pictures. Finally I think we photographers should never forget how privileged we are to be doing what we are doing, particularly considering the dismal state of the world in so many areas.

You can read Jörg Colberg's full piece The Danger of Trends on the Conscientious website HERE. 

Harvey Benge - Auckland, January 2018

Sunday, January 7, 2018

London: Best photography shows for 2018

Pieter Hugo: from the series Hyena and Other Men

Sean O'Hagan reports in the guardian on London's unmissable photography shows opening this year. Below are just a few of O'Hagan's recommendations, you can read the full piece HERE.

The Hayward reopens after a two-year refurbishment with the first British retrospective devoted German photographer Andreas Gursky whose large-scale, minutely detailed images of workplaces, nightclubs and natural landscapes are made with computer-enabled post-production techniques. His digitally altered landscape, Rhein II, sold for £2.7m in 2011, the most expensive photograph ever. Love him or hate him, his image-making has attained a new resonance in our post-truth world.  25 January-22 April, Hayward Gallery.

At The Barbican, Another Kind of Life: Photography on the Margins - In this group show tracing aberrant and outsider youth cultures since the 1950s, the themes are gender, sexuality, drug-taking, gangs and rebellion. A chance to see Bruce Davidson’s seminal series Brooklyn Gang, alongside Jim Goldberg’s Raised by Wolves, a visceral chronicle of homeless teenagers on the streets of Los Angeles and San Francisco. Pieter Hugo, Dayanita Singh and Mary Ellen Mark also appear.  28 February-27 May, Barbican, London.

Magnum Print Room, a solo show for the maverick French photographer who specialises in performative photography, often of a transgressive nature. Here, a selection of self-portraits spanning the last 30 years is exhibited alongside more recent work made in Mexico that traces his sexual and narcotic encounters with those living on the margins. Visceral, disturbing and, for some, ethically questionable, D’Agata’s work is wilfully confrontational. 22 March-30 April, Magnum Print Room, London.
 Antoine d' Agata: Marseille, 1997

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Michael Dalton - THE GREAT FALLS

THE GREAT FALLS is photographer Michael Dalton's first photobook. Dalton has produced a significant series of quietly heartfelt pictures that speak of human frailty, loss and the truth of impermanence. In this photographic requiem Dalton has found poetry in the abandoned and beauty in the overlooked. Throughout the book the Passaic River and its Great Falls provides a counter balance to man's fallibility and is a metaphor suggesting hope. There is a chance that things will work out in the end. Life continues. 

Michael Dalton grew up in New Jersey and in The Great Falls, he depicts a city – a park, a waterfall, a derelict stadium, a model home, and the people that remain after the industry leaves – with a sense of familiarity and reverence. Dalton’s images include landscapes, cityscapes, and portraits of couples that represent a pride and resilience found in communities that are forced to adapt. The solemn grandeur of the waterfall ennobles Dalton’s work, which explores common American themes of perseverance, reclamation, and escape. 

With his particular use of imagery and sequence, Dalton creates a stage in which he deploys common archetypes found within cities of the Northeastern United States. While the specificity of place is not important to the central themes of the book, the indelible waterfall of Paterson, the constant guardian of the park, remains a reminder of what William Carlos Williams saw as the “catastrophe” in ones life (Book Four, Paterson). The waterfall and the river, in their course to the sea, mash together, become something new, and add to the larger sphere of existence. This is perhaps a reflection on the evolving function of faded industrial cities like Patterson in the modern world. Navigating these themes, The Great Falls is at once a personal record and a social document: an artist’s view of a place that has a fascinating history and social complexity.

Susan Lipper introduced me to Michael Dalton at Paris Photo back in November. Michael showed me THE GREAT FALLS - the book, the work impressed me. Was delighted when a copy showed up in my mail box a day or two ago. Thank you Michael. 

THE GREAT FALLS is a hardcover book, 23.5 x 28.5 cm, 120 pages with 54 photographs.

You can get yourself a copy of THE GREAT FALLS by going HERE. And you can go to Michael Dalton's website HERE