January 2008 Archives
January 31, 2008
Armed with only a hand-held 35mm film camera, and using available artificial light, Russian photographer Alexei Vassiliev has created a series of stunning portraits of anonymous 21st century urban dwellers. A very slow shutter speed allows him to capture rich colors and blurred human gestures to create iconic images that evoke the essence of modern humanity without much of the detail.
Each image seems to speak of a different near-archetypal story to everyone who experiences them. Some see angels or auras or mythic mother-goddess figures. Others see souls trapped in a man-made cage and fluttering to escape. Others talk of Francis Bacon and the plight of 21st century life, or about the elusive similarities between these images and many 19th century painted portraits.
Without exception, every person at the December opening of Vassiliev's solo show in Paris wanted to talk about what they were seeing in his blurred, vibrant images.
Installation view of a solo show of Alexei Vassiliev's work, Paris, December 2007
Lens Culture is pleased to present a portfolio of 24 images by Vassiliev, made over the course of 5 years. Please do yourself a favor and spend some time with these uncommonly powerful photographic portraits. There is no digital trickery or manipulation here, just light, film, color, and the convergence of anonymous encounters in an anonymous man-made urban environment.
Photographer Alexei Vassiliev, with one of his anonymous portraits, Paris 2007
January 20, 2008
What should a powerful leader look like — when the leader is a woman? This question has bubbled up to popular consciousness in recent times especially with the presidential political campaigns of Segolene Royale in France, and Hillary Clinton in America.
In a cleverly titled exhibition, artist Deborah Oropallo, plays with the gender/image issue by interweaving images of 17th and 18th century male-based power portraiture with internet images of sexy women in seductive costumes. The series, called GUISE, is on display now at Gallery 16 in San Francisco.
In the accompanying essay, Anna Lucas writes:
In all the prints, the vast symbolism of classic portraiture is employed, raising issues about gender, costume, fantasy, potency, power, and hierarchy. The artist asks, "Does the popularity of fetish fashion stem from the fact that it makes women appear strong and very powerful?"
Lens Culture is pleased to present several images from Oropallo's GUISE, accompanied by the essay by Anna Lucas, who helped curate a similar show of Oropallo's work for San Francisco's DeYoung Museum in 2007.
Oropallo has been one of the San Francisco Bay Area's most influential artists for the past two decades. She has been included in the Whitney Biennial, Corcoran Biennial, and many museum collections including Whitney Museum, SFMOMA, San Jose Museum.
January 18, 2008
Norwegian photographer Oyvind Hjelmen has been making quiet, moody, emotionally-loaded photographs for more than a decade now. However, 2007 was a year when recognition finally started to come from many corners of the globe:
He had a one-man show in his native Norway. He was awarded a Portfolio Prize at the Rencontres d'Arles in France. His very recent work from China was chosen as a highlight in the upcoming photography festival in Lodz Poland. His friends Anders Petersen and Michael Ackerman have both made treks to conduct week-long (sold-out) workshops with Hjelmen and his wife, photographer Catherine Cameron, on the uncrowded island where they live in Norway. His work was published in books and catalogs this past year, as well.
We are very pleased to present 12 photos from his recent series, House that was Home, now at Lens Culture.
Hjelmen says, “These images are about what happens when a house that was home to a family for several generations, one day is being cleared out to be sold. What is left when all the little objects, once so precious, and all the pictures that were on the walls are gone? What stories do the empty – or near empty – walls tell? What is left in an empty room?”
Beyond that, he lets the photographs speak for themselves, which they do, quite eloquently.
We are also very pleased to announce that you can purchase a very affordable limited edition of the silver-gelatin print shown above through our new Lens Culture Editions online sales gallery. Each is hand-printed, numbered, and signed by the artist.
January 10, 2008
A completely different series on the same topic will be shown concurrently at the Goethe-Gallery of the Goethe-Institut Hongkong, opening at 7:00 pm on February 1, 2008. Michael Wolf, a relentlessly inquisitive photographer with an engaging personality, will be present at the opening.
Be sure to look at some of Wolf's earlier work, and listen to an audio interview with Michael Wolf recorded for Lens Culture a couple years ago.
January 9, 2008
The New York Times Polling Place Photo Project
2006 Midterm Elections: "Valley Vista School" Petaluma, California. Photographer: Suzuki Cady
The New York Times Polling Place Photo Project "is a nationwide experiment in citizen journalism that encourages voters to capture, post and share photographs of this year’s primaries, caucuses and general election. By documenting local voting experiences, participants can contribute to an archive of photographs that captures the richness and complexity of voting in America.
"Photographs of polling places, and the information that accompanies them, is a visual record of how voting happens in America: where it occurs, what the process looks like, how people act, and, ultimately, how the voting experience can be designed to be easier, less confusing and more rewarding. The Project hopes to collect photographs of every polling place in America.
"In the spirit of public access and broad dissemination, this is an open-source project: all photographs are contributed under a Creative Commons license.The Polling Place Photo Project is a program of The New York Times and AIGA, the professional association for design. William Drenttel of Design Observer initiated the project in 2006."
This ought to be interesting. There will be way too many photos to sift through to make total sense of it, but I like the idea of building the photo database (complete with lots of textual information about each photo, too). This "no photo will be excluded" idea could become an important way to monitor the fairness of US elections. Pictures of partially-punched chads, anyone?
January 8, 2008
Marcus Erixson is a young Swedish photographer who crafts his visions of life's rough poetry through remarkable sequences of unblinking yet sometimes sentimental black-and-white imagery. Lens Culture is very pleased to present more than 40 of Erixson's photographs that capture moments of tenderness, delusion, suffering, birth, sex, seduction, loneliness, longing, death, beauty and ugliness.
January 7, 2008
Photographer Lori Grinker has been documenting the personal impacts of wars for more that 15 years. In 2007, Lens Culture featured work from her award-winning book, Afterwar: Veterans from a World in Conflict. From January 9-February 16, 2008, Nailya Alexander Gallery in NYC is presenting “Iraq: Scars and Exile,” Grinkers most recent series that captures the physical and emotional wounds inflicted upon a cross section of individual Iraqis and families by the ongoing war in Iraq.
"Mike" translator for the US in his military uniform. Iraqi Refugees. Amman, Jordan. April 2007. Photo © 2007 Lori Grinker
"Mike" translator for the US in traditional Turkmen dress. Iraqi Refugees. Amman, Jordan. April 2007. Photo © 2007 Lori Grinker
Living-Sleeping room. Iraqi Refugees. Amman, Jordan. April 2007. Photo © 2007 Lori Grinker
Q & A with Lori Grinker about Iraq: Scars and Exile
Of all the Iraqi refugees you’ve met and images you’ve taken, which ones have impacted you the most?
There are so many... A 7-year-old in Amman brushes his hair in the mirror and sees only half a face reflected back. An Iraqi father of two, wounded while working as a translator for the Americans now in New York City struggles to start life anew. A large, extended family lives illegally in Amman, running out of time and money. A teenager arrives in Amman, a smile on his face, a baseball cap hide the fact that he has no ears, with a video camera on his shoulder he looks like a tourist, only he is here to endure several surgeries to fix his burned hands. They have equal impact in the long run but the first few days after meeting the 7-year-old, it was his face that stayed with me when I closed my eyes to sleep at night.
After photographing veterans of war for years, what drove you to begin yet another personal fight against war?
It's the scale...and the impact. According to UN statistics, over 4 million Iraqis have fled their homes. 500,000-750,000 are in Jordan, an estimated 1.4 million are in Syria, 70,000 are in Egypt, and 200,000 are in the Gulf Region. These are some of the people the U.S. government went in to free from the rule of Saddam Hussein. Among them are people who helped the U.S. with their mission, and many were happy to receive the U.S. forces in 2003. I want the world, especially Americans, to know that we’ve abandoned them. By sharing their post-war experiences as they become residents of other countries, struggle to make ends meet as refugees, or find new ways to live with the wounds of war, viewers can learn about the true cost of war, its effects on a population, and come to understand more about their own relationship to conflict. Most Americans are unaware of what life has become for so many Iraqis. We see stories about US soldiers. We get daily reports about suicide bombs. We read accounts of civilian casualties. But we don’t see Iraqi survivors, the hard working, family-oriented people — doctors, carpenters, engineers, teachers, homemakers, students — that the American government invaded Iraq to set free and have broken our promise to protect.
If there is a message you wish to relay in this exhibition, in addition to the folly of war, what would that be?
This has become one of the largest refugee crises in Middle East history but it’s difficult to fathom since these people are not refugees in tented camps, waiting in line to get aid from the UN organizations. In fiscal year 2007, only 1,608 of a promised 7,000 refugees were admitted into the U.S. The U. S. Government has now set a goal of bringing in 12,000 Iraqi refugees in fiscal year 2008, with an additional 5,000 visas to be granted among the more than 100,000 Iraqis employed by the U.S. or U.S. Government contractors. This plan passed Congress, but as of this writing (12/20/07), has not yet been signed into law. The relocation of 12,000 Iraqis by the end of September 2008 is a start, but certainly not a solution. Millions of lives are at risk, and I would like to tell the stories of just a few...
You can find more info at the gallery web site: Nailya Alexander Gallery
January 6, 2008
William Wegman has his Weimaraners, and Jo Longhurst can't get enough of Whippets. And while Longhurst is trying to capture the "human" inteliigence and curiosity of these creatures, she has not resorted to dressing them up in human clothes (thankfully). A wonderful and rich show of her varied approach to portraiture — including stereoscopes — will be on exhibition at the Royal Academy of Art in London, 10 January to 17 January 2008. There is also a catalog of the work published by Phaidon.
From I know what you're thinking, © Jo Longhurst
Longhurst has this to say about her project:
"My work with the British show Whippet — a dog bred to an ideal standard — focuses particularly on the evolution of the visual image of the Whippet, and the construction of human identity through the shaping of the figure of the dog.
"For several years I’ve been working with top breeders, photographing their dogs by bloodline, exploring their obsessive quest for the ‘perfect dog’. As part of my working process I use a variety of photographic technologies that have been used to record and control human portraits, including state-of-the-art technologies and those already considered obsolete such as stereoscopic cameras. Underpinning the work is an exploration of the effect of looking and being seen. My study of the Whippet foregrounds the intimate relationship between human and animal, and the increasing significance of photographic technologies in the development of human identity. Although I photograph dogs, the questions I ask are always specific to the question of what it is to be human."
You can find more info at her web site.
January 5, 2008
Photographer Jessica Hines has been trying to gain a better personal understanding about what happened to her brother during his days of fighting the US war in Vietnam. He had been drafted against his will in 1967, as many others were, and returned two years later as a damaged man to a splintered family, a victim of "service connected nervous disorder". Ten years after that, he took his own life.
Hines has collected and photographed the letters that he wrote, and more recently, she travelled to Vietnam to retrace his steps, using the letters and photos that he sent home as her guide. She also writes quite eloquently about her brother, and her subsequent search to uncover some sort of truthful understanding. You can see and read more at her web site.