Monday, April 20, 2009

Pulitzer for Damon Winter NYT

Congrats to NYT photographer Damon Winter, who won the Pulitzer Prize today for feature photography, for his images of Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign.

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

Pictures Generation

The Pictures Generation, 1974-1984, exhibit opens at the Met on Tuesday. The Pictures Generation was a group show at Aritsts Space in NYC in 1977 that exhibited work from Robert Longo, Jack Goldstein, Sherrie Levine and Troy Brauntuch. Other artists that were associated with the "Pictures Generation" school or movement were Barbara Kruger, Richard Prince and Cindy Sherman.

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...

Untitled Film Still #14, 1978 © Cindy Sherman

from Men In The Cities series, © Robert Longo

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tough and Beautiful

Joel Meyerowitz and Garry Winogrand met in the early 1960's in New York City. Meyerowitz would go out and photograph with Winogrand, just about everyday, from 1962 to 1965 according to the book, Bystander: A History Of Street Photography. Meyerowitz talks about what makes an image "Tough".

"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

Two Problems

"Every photographer has two problems: To find what to photograph, and to find how to photograph it. The way I see it, you find the what, nail it to the cross, and the how will take care of itself." ~ Garry Winogrand

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

So you wanna be a photo editor...

The Magnum Photo blog has a photo editing competition called Your Magnum Edit. You browse through the Magnum archive and select 10-14 images that illustrate the following Oscar Wilde quote.

"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.

Subway, 1980
Copyright Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

Monday, April 6, 2009

Shoot Your Idols

On Saturday I met with a few photographer friends (Paul, Josh, Graeme, Praveen, Steve, Chris) to shoot the Cherry Blossom Parade (DCist Weekend Gallery) and see the Character Project Exhibit. After the exhibit, we had lunch and discussed a wide range of topics ranging from the influence of the French New Wave in film, to Ryan McGinley’s obsession with Moz, to what work we loved and loathed in the Character Project, to bad photo editing and visual literacy.

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