June 2007 Archives
June 30, 2007
In our current online survey, a significant percentage of Lens Culture readers are describing themselves as "Artist using photography" rather than "Photojournalist" or "Commercial Photographer" or other description. This bit of knowledge is quite interesting to me, especially since from the start, Lens Culture has intended to explore "photography and shared territories".
In that "shared territories" light, I was recently introduced to the work of a young artist who uses photography to document her wonderful and quirky ideas, installations and "uninvited collaborations with nature". Her name is Nina Katchadourian, and her elegant website is filled with intellectual whimsy and serious explorations of charts and systems, maps, language, translation, and confusing animals.
As a poetry lover and book collector, I was particularly attracted to an ongoing project that she started in 1993, called "Sorted Books". Like many of us, she likes to study what's on the bookshelves of her friends (and in the collections of specialty libraries). After perusing the offerings, she then selects and sorts a grouping of books whose titles on their spines spell out a poem or philosophical query. The results are funny. They provide insight into the mind of the artist, and they also provide a very filtered view of the person who owns the books.
Akron Stacks from the Sorted Books project, C-prints, each 12.5 x 19 inches, 2001
Copyright Nina Katchadourian
So, looking up at my own bookcase, this musing came along, thanks to inspiration from Katchadourian:
What remains, sleeping by the Mississippi?, 2007, Jim Casper
What's waiting to be decoded on your bookshelf?
June 26, 2007
"Madness strips things down to their core. It takes everything, and in exchange offers more madness, and the occasional ability to see things that are not there."
Here, thanks to the artistic vision of lauren e. simonutti, we have a visual narrative from the point of view of a person struggling to maintain sanity while hearing voices and seeing things that are not there. Lens Culture is honored to present 38 new photographs for your review.
June 25, 2007
David Sanders for The New York Times. Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company.
"The New York Times" features an interesting article today about a 28-mile "virtual fence" along the border between Mexico and Arizona. Instead of concrete, steel and razorwire, it is a multimillion dollar series of high-tech outposts cobbled together by Boeing out of high-resolution cameras, radar, motion sensors, and wireless transmitters.
According to the article, "The cameras, set off by radar, are to beam high-quality images of targets miles away to field commanders and agents, making it possible to determine almost instantly whether they are watching a family outing or a group of illegal immigrants."
Somehow this national pride of the dark-side of society's lens culture is not very comforting.
June 20, 2007
"In the flood lands of the Pripyat River there is radioactive contamination up to 15,000 times the approved security level. The Pripyat is a tributary of the Dnepr. This river supplies water to 30 million people." — from an extended caption in the book.
I met this young photographer-reporter, Pierpaolo Mittica, in London earlier this month. His remarkable and sobering book has just been published by Trolley Books. Through the book's compelling combination of powerful images and well-written text, it drives home the continuing, ongoing horror in the aftermath of a nuclear accident that happened 21 years ago. Its well-documented research and personal reporting present a convincing and unforgettable argument against nuclear energy.
It brings to mind the work of Lewis Hine, Dorothea Lange, and Sebastio Salgado.
You can see 20 photographs and a book review in Lens Culture.
June 14, 2007
Finally, the world-famous photography festival at Arles seems to be near the leading edge (again) of what is, and can be, happening in the world of photography. Lens Culture is pleased to present 64 preview "picks" of photographs to be highlighted this year. Enjoy!
June 13, 2007
poetry in photographs
this heady rumble
makes me swoon in its embrace
June 11, 2007
For 12 continuous months, geographer/photographer Simon Roberts and his wife traveled throughout the hinterlands of modern-day Russia to create a photographic map of what the people and places look like today. The year-long journey resulted in a remarkably rich and widespread account of places that have probably never been visited by 99 percent of Russians, and by even fewer outsiders.
We're thrilled to be able to show 30 images from the book (which includes more than 150 color photographs, with detailed captions). In a really great 24 minute audio interview for Lens Culture, Simon Roberts speaks eloquently about their adventures, and also about the philosophical challenges of "representation of the other", and trying to see and experience everything directly without the filters of preconceptions.
June 7, 2007
Magnum has a tradition of putting out a very thick, glossy "fashion" magazine once a year — each complete issue (including the overall concept, plus every fashion shot, every product shot, and every advertisement) — is created by just one photographer. In previous years, Martin Parr and Bruce Gilden each tackled these mega-projects very successfully. This year, Alec Soth took the honors, and knocked us out with his unique take on how fashion and beauty — and advertising — can be seen with fresh eyes.
The concept, (to put it as simply as possible), compares and contrasts the high-couture world of Paris fashion, with the real-world fashion of Soth's home state of Minnesota. In an interview with Marta Gili, Soth expressed his early doubts and confusion about how to approach the project: "As someone utterly removed from the world of Paris couture, how was I supposed to find my own voice? The more I thought about it, this sense of removal, this contrast between my world and Paris — this became the scaffolding to build the magazine."
He continued,"My favorite example of this involved Chanel. In Paris, I photographed Karl Lagerfeld at the Grand Palais. In Minnesota, I photographed a girl with a Chanel shopping bag in front of Sally's Beauty Shop. With this magazine, I'm trying to explore the distance between those two places."
The 188-page magazine was unveiled on June 5 at a spectacular soirée at the Jeu de Paume photography museum in Paris. Many of the photographs from the magazine were printed large, sumptuously, framed, hung and lit — just for this one night. The place was packed with lots of the fashion set, and the champagne flowed freely all night long.
In addition to the discovery that "Soth does fashion pretty darn well", what took most people by surprise — and delighted them — was Alec's take on the advertising. The "ads" were also presented as beautiful large prints — of luscious landscapes. The game of the evening became "finding" the luxury product that was practically hidden in each of these highly detailed natural expanses. This approach was brilliant, and it is hard to imagine how Ralph Lauren responded to seeing his ad: one solitary bright green man's necktie hung from a bright green mossy branch in the shadows of a wildly overgrown tree in a swamp. The tie takes up less than one percent of the incredibly beautiful image. Soth did similar treatments with watches, jewelry, perfumes, shoes, handbags, etc., at stunning locations around the world.
It was a trip to watch the Parisian socialites, dressed up, drinking champagne, (many with a scooter helmet hooked on one arm), searching diligently to find the hidden treasures. And that exercise suddenly caused many to notice the exquisite tiny details in every photo on display. What a smart and sly guy that Alec Soth is. Hats off.
I'm sure the Fashion Magazine will be available at your favorite photo book store. It's worth a look.
P.S. When W magazine commissioned Alec to do a 26-page fashion spread in their April issue, one reader responded with a venemous attack letter to the editors. You can follow this funny drama on Alec Soth's personal blog. And here's another blog discussion about the photo-shoot for W.
June 6, 2007
The Holga Queen, Michelle Bates, has just published a new book featuring the photographic work of 33 diverse artists who all use inexpensive plastic Holga cameras to make their art. The book, Plastic Cameras, Toying with Creativity, is a treasure trove of inspiration, with a healthy dose of how-to advice and encouragement. (How to tape up light leaks in the plastic cases, etc.).
For Lens Culture, she talks about her passion for Holgas in a lively audio interview, and shares 24 of her own images that work wonderfully well in the quirky signature style of these cult-inducing plastic cameras.
June 1, 2007
Forty years ago today
Sgt. Pepper, wow —
playing songs in full color!
The cover of Sgt. Pepper's was designed by Peter Blake, and the photos were taken by Michael Cooper at Chelsea Manor Photographic Studios on March 30, 1967.