Tuesday, October 13, 2009
© Vivian Maier
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Thursday, October 1, 2009
The image below is from Burtynsky's Shipbreaking series.
Deda Chicken Processing Plant, Dehui City, Jilin Province, 2005
© Edward Burtynsky
Friday, August 14, 2009
Friday, July 17, 2009
Five years ago, at 87, Ms. Bassman discovered the glories of Photoshop and so began a new chapter in digital photography. She works every day in her studio, toying and reconfiguring from about 11 in the morning until dinnertime, and claims a proud proficiency with her computer. It is a skill however that does not extend to the use of e-mail or Google. “I’m not interested,” she said, “in any of that.”
Lillian Bassman, Then and Now exhibition at Staley Wise in NYC.
The book, Lillian Bassman, from 1997 is out of print but a new book will be published in the fall.
© Lillian Bassman
© Lillian Bassman, 1951
Thursday, July 2, 2009
Read A Tribute to KODACHROME: A Photography Icon in Kodak's Blog A Thousand Words. Don't miss the Kodachrome slideshow.
Elsewhere, Forture magazine editors pick their favorite Kodachrome picks in the Kodachrome Gallery. Three of these photos by W.Eugene Smith, Robert Doisneau, and Jeff Jacobson are exceptional. For me, these all have what critic Roland Barthes in Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography called punctum. The punctum is subjective. A photo has that detail, that special quality, that something that grabs you by the throat or it does not.
From Fortune magazine.
W. Eugene Smith, renowned for his photo essays for Life magazine, notably "The Country Doctor," typically chronicled working-class American life. He also typically never worked in color, but Fortune persuaded him to do so. This private moment in the headquarters of Connecticut General Life Insurance in Hartford, Conn., did not make it into the September 1957 issue of the magazine, for which Smith shot photographs to accompany an article on the company's "dramatic new office building."
© W. Eugene Smith
Robert Doisneau, the celebrated French photographer and creator of the iconic 1950 photograph, "The Kiss by the Hôtel de Ville," was another photographer who rarely experimented with color.
Here Doisneau pictures a man reading in a lounge chair in Palm Springs, Calif., a photo that appeared in the magazine's February 1961 issue.
© Robert Doisneau
Fortune's editors chose this Jeff Jacobson photograph of a Shanghai billboard for their "2002: The Year in Pictures" photo gallery to symbolize the need to keep an "eye on China.""For centuries, China was Asia's sleeping dragon. Now fully awake, it is the region's most vibrant economy -- and most feared competitor," the photo's caption explained.
© Jeff Jacobson
Friday, June 26, 2009
William Eggleston is from Memphis, TN. Many people have wondered if Eggleston's work is "Southern" or have asked him directly about the "meaning of the South". In an interview printed in Aperture by John Howell in 1999, in response to the "meaning of the South" query, Eggleston said "I don't know what they're looking for. I don't have any idea".
Howell continues to say that "Southern" always strikes Southerners as a condescending tag.
It's taken to mean "regional," as in local, anecdotal, folkloric and outrageously melodramatic - in other words, like those novels, films and plays full of enervated aristocrats, trampy women, and idiot men-children acting out in bizarre ways. It's as if solemn phrases about the drama of the decaying South soothe those puzzled by Eggleston's pictures ("What are they about?"), and those-mostly now in the past - outraged by the "banal" subject matter.
Eggleston gives his consistent philosophic answer: "You can take a good picture of anything. A bad one too," he adds, with a chuckle. He has said many times that the subjects of his pictures were simply an excuse to make photographs. "I want to make a picture that could stand on its own, regardless of what it was a picture of.
John Szarkowski isn't quite buying this. In the Introduction to the monograph William Eggleston's Guide, Szarkowski writes that the photos are about Eggleston's home, about his place.
...the pictures reproduced here are about the photographer's home, about his place, in both important meanings of that word. One might say about his identity.
If this is true, it does not mean that the pictures are not also simultaneously about photography, for the two issues are not supplementary but coextensive. Whatever else a photograph may be about, it is inevitably about photography, the container and the vehicle of all its meanings. Whatever a photographer's intuitions or intentions, they must be cut and shaped to fit the possibilities of his art. Thus if we see the pictures clearly as photographs, we will perhaps also see, or sense, something of their other, more private, willful, and anarchic meanings.
Photography is a system of visual editing. At bottom, it is a matter of surrounding with a frame a portion of one's cone of vision, while standing in the right place at the right time. Like chess, or writing, it is a matter of choosing from among given possibilities, but in the case of photography the number of possibilities is not finite but infinite. The world now contains more photographs than bricks, and they are, astonishingly, all different. Even the most servile of photographers has not yet managed to duplicate exactly an earlier work by a great and revered master.
Photos below are from the monograph William Eggleston's Guide
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1976, 2003
© William Eggleston
© William Eggleston
© William Eggleston
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Sister Wendy, nun and art critic, in an 1998 article in Art in America, doesn't seem at all bothered by Serrano's Piss Christ. (sorry, someone broke my link to the article). The New York Times reviewed a 10-year Serrano retrospective at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in a 1995 article by Holland Cotter.
The Guardian.UK's Jonathan Jones, in an article from Sept. 2000, writes about the Mapplethorpe polaroid portrait of Patti Smith from 1974 shown below. He nails this one calling Patti Smith "black anger in the white light".
Patti Smith, 1974, Polaroid -©Robert Mapplethorpe
Patti Smith, 1979 - ©Robert Mapplethorpe
Piss Christ - ©Andres Serrano
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Monday, May 18, 2009
Clay Marzo Aqua Man
While the rest of us surf the Web, Clay Marzo hangs ten off some of the most spectacular beaches in the world. Tahiti, El Salvador, Micronesia, Spain, Bali — the world is Marzo’s tidal wave. ‘‘My favorite place to surf is Fiji,’’ he says. ‘‘There is a surfing island called Tavarua that is like paradise.’’ In search of the perfect break, he always comes prepared, typically taking four or five boards with him; he’d like to visit the coast of Western Australia next. Although Marzo has the developmental disorder known as Asperger’s syndrome, it’s never slowed him down: he got his start riding on the front of his father’s long board at the age of 1; now 19, he is one of the most lauded beach bums in the world. ‘‘I get most inspired by seeing photos of faraway breaks and sick, slablike waves.’’
Clay Marzo by Robert Maxwell
New York Times Style Magazine, May 17, 2009
More from Robert Maxwell's Originals Series
Wes Anderson - by Robert Maxwell
Gordon Parks - by Robert Maxwell
Michele Oka Doner, Artist by Robert Maxwell
The lone hunter in the Akira Kurosawa film ''Dersu Uzala'' inspired Michele Oka Doner to rethink her own clutter. ''That's when I began to want things to be more elemental,'' she says. Doner tossed the extraneous but kept a firm grip on all things functional -- and beautiful -- even in her well-known public art projects. The tiled floors she designed for Miami International Airport include celestial depictions of saltwater plants and invertebrate creatures; for the Herald Square subway stop in New York, she gold-tiled the walls to add ''radiance and reflectivity'' to a tedious commute. She's also conscious of beauty in the little things, from her sculptural jewelry (including a collection for Christofle) to her line of crystal objects for Steuben Glass.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Monday, April 20, 2009
Check out the winning photos in the NYT slideshow A Vision of History.
Also, in the NYT multimedia presentation, Damon Winter recounts documenting the crowds, security and Senator Barack Obama on the campaign trail in 2008.
3-3-2008, San Antonio, TX, Damon Winter, NYT.
11-07-2008, Cinncinati, OH, Damon Winter, NYT
Douglas Eklund in his essay from the Pictures Generation exhibit at the Met quotes semiotician Ronald Barthes and opines about why it's important for photographers to know their history.
Barthes infamously extended this concept to question the very possibility of originality and authenticity in his 1967 manifesto "The Death of the Author," in which he stated that any text (or image), rather than emitting a fixed meaning from a singular voice, was but a tissue of quotations that were themselves references to yet other texts, and so on.
The famous last line of Barthes' essay, that "the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the author," was a call to arms for the loosely knit group of artists working in photography, film, video, and performance that would become known as the "Pictures" generation...
Thursday, April 16, 2009
"Tough" was a term we used to use a lot. Stark, spare, hard, demanding, tough: these were the values that we applied to the act of making photographs.
Tough meant the image was uncompromising. It was something made out of your guts, out of your instinct, and it was unwieldy in some way, not capable of being categorized by ordinary standards. So it was tough. It was tough to like, tough to see, tough to make, tough to draw meaning from. It wasn't what most photographs looked like. ... It was a type of picture that made you uncomfortable sometimes. You didn't quite understand it. It made you grind your teeth.
At the same time, though you knew it was beautiful, because tough also meant that - it meant beautiful too. ... The two words - "tough" and "beautiful" --became synonyms somehow. They were what street photography was all about.
Fifth Avenue and Fifty-second Street, NY, 1974 ⓒ Joel Meyerowitz
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
It's difficult to talk about Street Photography without talking about Garry Winogrand. Winogrand would typically carry two Leica M4's with 28mm lens attached, loaded with Tri-X film and shoot copiously. He died in 1984 at age 56, leaving behind 2500 rolls of unprocessed film. Read the excellent essay by Frank Van Riper and another by Mason Resnick called Coffee and Workprints: A Workshop with Garry Winogrand.
One of my favorite images from Winogrand is below, from the book, Garry Winogrand: The Animals. The Getty museum has this to say about this photo.
Garry Winogrand confronted tough issues like racism with a sense of humor, as he did here by photographing this black man and white woman holding apes. The chimpanzees are dressed like children and resemble the human child standing behind the couple. The photographer's close vantage point, the crowd, the dramatic winter light-all add a sense of spectacle. Winogrand was not simply reacting to a strange moment, but probably also to racial tensions sweeping the country at the height of the Civil Rights movement. The year this picture was made, black actors won Academy Awards, and the U.S. Supreme Court overturned state laws banning interracial marriage. It is not clear whether this man and woman were actually a couple, but Winogrand must have known that their togetherness was as unsettling to some people as their circumstances were comical.
Garry Winogrand, 1967. Central Park Zoo
Garry Winogrand, 1952. Coney Island, NY
YouTube Video of Winogrand:
Interview Part 1
Interview Part 2
Out of Print Winogrand book, Winogrand 1964
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
"A man's face is his autobiography. A woman's face is her work of fiction." - Oscar Wilde
Sign up on the Magnum site to use the lightbox and submit image numbers to the contest form. Submit your images by Friday, April 10th, 2009 at 12pm. I am curious to see what other people choose for their edit.
Below is an image from my edit from Bruce Davidson.
Copyright Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos
Monday, April 6, 2009
I was trying to remember this quote about music criticism that was attributed to Elvis Costello.
"Writing about music is like dancing about architecture - it's a really stupid thing to want to do."
- Elvis Costello, in an interview by Timothy White entitled "A Man out of Time Beats the Clock." Musician magazine No. 60 (October 1983), p. 52.
Is it the same for photography? Is writing about photography a really stupid thing to want to do? I don’t think so, hence this blog. Visual Literacy is the ability to understand and better appreciate visual images and being able to use visual imagery to communicate to others. Photographs need to be decoded and interpreted in order to be fully understood and appreciated. A good starting point for interpreting a photograph is by asking the following questions:
What is this photograph about? (what is obvious and what is implied)
Does the photograph work and why?
A photograph can communicate complex messages. They are not objective but reflect the photographer’s aesthetic.
The first photo is Iggy Pop, photographed by Eric Ogden for his series on Detroit musicians in the USA network's Character Project. The second portrait of Iggy is by Danny Clinch for a John Varvatos advert. Danny Clinch's portrait is sublime. It goes beyond the scores of cliched images of Iggy with his shirt off, to reveal a true rock and roll icon.
Eric Ogden, 2008 (As seen in the Character Project exhibit)
Danny Clinch, 2006, Iggy Pop, Central Park, NYC
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
“At least a dozen of Helen Levitt’s photographs seem to me as beautiful, perceptive, satisfying, and enduring as any lyrical work that I know. In their general quality and coherence, moreover, the photographs as a whole body, as a book, seem to me to combine into a unified view of the world, an uninsistent but irrefutable manifesto of a way of seeing, and in a gently and wholly unpretentious way, a major poetic work.”
NYT article from March 30, 2009, Art and Design.
NPR's All Things Considered story from 2002.
Monday, March 30, 2009
..all we can say is that the object [the photograph] speaks, it induces us, vaguely, to think. And further: even this risks being perceived as dangerous. At the limit, no meaning at all is safer: the editors of Life rejected Kertesz’s photographs when he arrived in the United States in 1937 because, they said, his images “spoke too much”; they made us reflect, suggested a meaning – a different meaning from the literal one. Ultimately, Photography is subversive not when it frightens, repels or stigmatizes, but when it is pensive, when it thinks.
Photographs have both a denotation and a connotation. The denotation is the obvious, literal meaning. The connotation is the symbolic or metaphoric meaning. Below are images from
Andre Kertesz. Do these images "speak too much"?
Andre Kertesz, Martinique
Thursday, March 26, 2009
In an interview with Art in America in 1996, Robert Frank talked about the photo below from The Americans.
I am still affected by that one photograph of the man on the hill in San Francisco, the way he looked back at me. I think that's why that's my favorite picture in the book. But it was, you know, forty years ago, a long time ago, a different time.
Robert Frank - from The Americans, San Francisco, 1956
The Americans first published in 1958 and 1959, changed the course of 20th-century photography. John Szarkowski, critic, author and curator at MOMA said that Robert Frank established a new iconography for contemporary America. Other books by Robert Frank include, Peru: Photographs and Paris.
The photograph below was one of the last still photographs Frank made before he devoted his creative energy to filmmaking in the early 1960s.
Fourth of July, Coney Island, 1958
Robert Frank (American, born Switzerland, 1924)