Monday, April 12, 2010

Give A Hand Grenade To A Baby

This weekend I was reminded by my friend and photographer Josh Yospyn of Worn Magazine about what Norman Mailer had to say about Diane Arbus. Mailer said that "Giving a camera to Diane Arbus is like giving a hand grenade to a baby." Arthur Lubow, in an article for the NYT writes that Mailer said that "after seeing how she had captured him, leaning back in a velvet armchair with his legs splayed cockily." I think Mailer was having a laugh. The most famous Arbus photo, "Child With Toy Hand Grenade, 1962", was shot the year before the Mailer portrait.

Norman Mailer at home, 1963. © Diane Arbus

Child with Toy Hand Grenade, 1962 © Diane Arbus

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Vivian Maier

Thanks to my friend Chris Chen of My Life As A Contact Sheet for sending out this link to the work of Vivian Maier, a street photographer, who worked in 1950's - 1970's. An auction in Chicago recently discovered 40,000 mostly medium format (6x6) negatives. Read all about it here.

© Vivian Maier

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Irving Penn

Irving Penn, one of the most influential photographers of the century, died today. He was 92 years old. Read the NYT obit by photo critic and Corcoran College of Art and Design Photography Chair, Andy Grundberg.

Kate Moss 2008 © Irving Penn

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Edward Burtynsky - Oil at the Corcoran

Don't miss the Edward Burtynsky exhibit at Corcoran, opening Oct. 3rd to Dec 13. The accompanying book, Edward Burtynsky: Oil will be published by Steidl on Oct. 31, 2009. Also see the NYT blog In Focus slide show. Lens Culture has an interview with Burtynsky from 2006.

The image below is from Burtynsky's Shipbreaking series.

© Edward Burtynsky - Shipbreaking #39, 2001

Manufacturing #17,
Deda Chicken Processing Plant, Dehui City, Jilin Province, 2005
© Edward Burtynsky

Friday, August 14, 2009

New York Photographs

NYT story here:
Glitz and Grime: Photographs of Times Square

New York Photographs 42nd Street in 1997, by Philip-Lorca diCorcia, from “Glitz & Grime” at Yancey Richardson.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Lillian Bassman

Lillian Bassman is a fashion photographer from NYC whose work from the 40s to the early ’60s was published in Harper’s Bazaar. From the NYT article called Femininity, Salvaged:

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.”

NYT slideshow

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

Kodachrome Retired

Kodak announced on June 22, 2009 that Kodachrome film will be retired after 74 years.
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 at the Corcoran

The William Eggleston exhibit at the Corcoran Museum opened on June 20th and is exceptional.

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

The Perfect Moment

Twenty years ago, in the summer of 1989, the Corcoran cancelled its scheduled retrospective exhibition of photographer Robert Mapplethorpe called "Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Moment". The Institute of Contemporary Art hosted a two-day symposium Imperfect Moments: Mapplethorpe and Censorship Twenty Years Later. The original exhibit was organized by Janet Kardon from the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia. A must read is the Janet Kardon article from 1988. The show was partially financed by the National Endowment for the Arts. One of the reasons for the cancellation was the uproar over the Andres Serrano photograph "Piss Christ" which was also funded by the NEA and exhibited in North Carolina. See the link above for the advert for Andres Serrano's SHIT show last fall.

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

Smile and Say No Photoshop

I hope this is a trend.  Photographer Peter Linbergh's non photoshopped covers for French Elle.
Read the NYT article, Smile and Say No Photoshop.

Also, in the excellent LENS blog, the Three Faces of Reese.  Can you see the changes in Reese Witherspoon's chin, dimples and eye color?

More from the Elle news blog.

Monica Belluci Photo by Peter Lindbergh

Monica Belluci Photo by Peter Lindbergh