August 2008 Archives
August 31, 2008
Geoffrey Hiller edits and publishes Verve, a concise, informative blog all about contemporary documentary photography around the world. When you're ready to explore some serious issues that rarely make it to mainstream media, hunker down and check out Verve.
Here's what Hiller had to say about this photo by Adam Huggins, in Verve's posting on June 30, 2008:
Adam Huggins (b. 1981, Canada) became interested in photography in 2000. Since then he has been traveling and taking pictures that document society and the world we live in. His photography has been exhibited at : Centre Pompidou, Paris, La Triennale di Milano, The Shanghai Art Museum, and Shiodomeitalia Creative Center in Tokyo. He has worked with numerous publications including: The New York Times, ELLE, Der Spiegel, COLORS, and the International Herald Tribune. In late 2004 he witnessed the devastation caused by the South Asian Tsunami to numerous fishing communities along the southern coast of India. The theme of fishing developed in his latest exhibited work.
About the Photograph:
In late 2007 The New York Times published Adams story and excellent multimedia piece about how New York City’s ubiquitous manhole covers are made at a foundry in India and soon after, it became a widely debated topic of conversation in numerous newspapers’ commentary and opinion pages around the world. The photo-essay drew attention to the alarming lack of safety protections in place for the Indian workers that endure extremely hazardous working conditions in order to produce manhole covers for New York and other municipalities throughout the United States, calling for State legislatures and prompting Con Edison, one of the private utilities companies that purchases these items, to rewrite their future international contracts to include safety requirements. He was subsequently awarded a Certificate of Special Merit at the 2007 Human Rights Press Awards in Hong Kong for this body of work.
Be sure to look at Hiller's "personal" blog, too, which has a lighter conversational tone, and is loaded with great photos, excellent writing and insight. He's teaching visual communications and interactive media at the Independent University of Bangladesh, while doing research funded by his Fulbright award. He updates that blog regularly, too.
August 30, 2008
An article published in today's New York Times (New York Edition) reports on some last-minute censorship of anti-war billboards scheduled to be displayed in St. Paul during the GOP convention next week.
On August 8, CBS Outdoor signed a contract to post five billboards showing portraits of volunteer US soldiers taken by New York photographer Suzanne Opton. In the portraits, the soldiers, men and women, look dazed, confused and even traumatized — they had just returned from war in Afghanistan or Iraq, and were scheduled to go back to war in a few days.
Just days before the billboards were supposed to go up, however, the contract got cancelled — with little chance that Opton can find alternative public space to display her simple and poignant message.
“It’s about engaging the public,” Opton said. “We just felt that people don’t know the sacrifices made by the military and a small handful of families.”
“Can we see it on a person’s face when they’ve seen something unforgettable?” she asks. “What I wanted to do was take an intimate and vulnerable picture of a soldier. They may look troubled, but it’s not easy to be a soldier. Why should that be hidden from us?”
Did the GOP media manipulation machine squash the deal? CBS Outdoor spokesperson Jodi Senese didn't answer that question directly. “We don’t object to the program or the art,” she said. “Our only concern is that people driving on highways at 55 or 60 miles an hour, seeing an image like this popping out of nowhere, it could be disturbing.”
Yes. Precisely. That is the intent. As John Lennon said, "Give me some truth."
An identical billboard was displayed in Denver during the Democratic National Convention without controversy.
Opton's series of Soldier photographs appeared here in Lens Culture earlier, along with a great audio interview with the photographer. The New York Times links to the Lens Culture interview with Opton in their online edition. If you haven't listened to her, you should check it out.
Context, framing, style, materials, and historical and cinematic reference all contribute to the success of this click-clack series of black-and-white photos taken through passenger windows in railroad trains rolling through all 48 states of the continental USA.
The lulling, mesmerizing rhythm you feel inside a moving train is coupled with strobe-like flashing of blurring scenery passing by outside. Seems like if you blink the whole scene changes every few seconds (unless you're traveling through some place like Kansas).
Photographer Candace Plummer Gaudiani plants us comfortably in the dark next to a window seat and steadies our gaze out through the oval-edged window of an American train. And the worlds that pass before our eyes (in nostalgic black-and-white) could be right out of a Jack Kerouac novel.
For the best effect, try the high-resolution slide show. It'll take you on a brief armchair holiday across the states.
August 29, 2008
London-based Korean artist-photographer Mimi Youn was one of the winners of a Lens Culture/Rhubarb Photobook Award this year. Her work is fresh, naive (perhaps), and exploits the quirky characteristics of the (soon-to-be-extinct?) Polaroid materials.
When asked about her work, Mimi Youn explained things this way:
"I felt there were limitations to expressing my thoughts, emotions and ideas as typical “photographs". In my recent work, I use a Polaroid camera. After I take a picture, I cut text into the surface of the Polaroid. Most of the pictures I take look ambiguous and vague because of intentional overexposure; however, marks cut from the photographs look paradoxically strong and painful."
As an award winner, Mimi Youn will design and publish a new photobook. In the meantime, Lens Culture has a handful of hand-worked images that the jurors at Rhubarb-Rhubarb liked so much. You will also discover some more philosophical statements by the artist in the text that accompanies the photos.
Dazzling 1 © Mimi Youn
German photographer Martin Klimas is taking the technique of high-speed photography in new artful directions. Remember the bullet-through-the-apple photo? Or the drop of milk suspended in mid-air? Well now we have graceful exploding ceramic dancers and shattered flower vases (with flowers not yet up-ended).
See more at his website. Thanks to lauralsweet on Twitter.
August 28, 2008
The 15th Noorderlicht Photofestival in the Netherlands is presenting many never-seen-before photographs from Eastern Europe. Two major exhibitions, Behind Walls (37 photographers from 13 countries), and Beyond Walls (35 photographers from 20 countries), provide a tremendous overview of the diverse approaches of photography before and after Communist rule.
Lens Culture is featuring an extensive preview of photos from the exhibitions.
August 26, 2008
Kids and parents often resort to playing the Alphabet Game to avoid complete boredom during long automobile trips. Photographer Eric Tabuchi has taken the idea a couple steps further in his cool, limited edition artist's book, Alphabet Truck.
Tabuchi has photographed trailer trucks on empty highways, each bearing one letter of the alphabet. His set of 26 trucks is perfectly uniform in scale and composition and lighting. Uncanny. The project also serves as a sort of visual typology of truck typography.
The blurb from the book's publisher is full-on philosophical artspeak, with a healthy dose of humor:
With this edition of Alphabet Truck, Eric Tabuchi completes a work representing several thousand kilometers traversed over these past four years. The missing link between The back of trucks passed while driving from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara by John Baldessari, and Auchan, the letters of Claude Closky, Eric Tabuchi pushes the burlesque or compulsive logic of his piece in an almost derisory search for what could constitute its Danish and Japanese origins. Through language (Alphabet) and displacement (Trucks), Alphabet Truck therefore questions, beyond its formal aspects and references, the notions of membership, identity and coeducation.
Tabuchi seems to be a king of this kind of serial photography; he's also done a series of 26 gasoline stations à la Ed Ruscha.
You can find more information about this project and the book at his MySpace page.
Update: Eric Tabuchi also has a cool personal website at www.erictabuchi.fr.
August 25, 2008
The cult of Lomo plastic cameras extends from stoner amateurs to hyper-serious art photographers. Here's a short video for and about these crazy enthusiasts.
August 22, 2008
Year in and year out an unimaginable number of photographs are produced worldwide. Virtually every day each of us enlarges this gigantic mountain of photographs, without giving the consequences a second thought. But while photography seems a harmless leisure pursuit, the chemicals contained in all photographs pose enormous dangers to our health. What‘s more, photographs in such quantities increase visual pollution and undermine our thinking power—to say nothing of the moral dangers they pose for our children.
In these conditions it would be best if we stopped making photographs altogether—but in many cases this is hardly possible. Therefore, it is essential to professionally dispose of all photographs once they are no longer needed. Experts from East and West have warned us for decades about the impending, catastrophic consequences of the photo boom, but their pleas have fallen on deaf ears among those responsible in industry and politics. Today billions of used photographs are stored improperly in homes and businesses, waiting for desparately needed recycling facilities.
The Institute for the Reprocessing of Used Photographs, privately founded in 1990, offers a clear path out of this seemingly inescapable situation. The Institute maintains all facilities necessary to professionally reprocess photos of all kinds—or, in hopeless cases, dispose of them ecologically. We collect used, abandoned and unfashionable photographs in black and white or color, including instant photographs, photobooth strips, entire photo albums, contact sheets, test strips, negatives and slides, as well as damaged and shredded items, in both small and large quantities.
Remember, used photographs do not belong in the household garbage—they need special disposal. Many photographs can serve a new and useful purpose after reprocessing. For the sake of our environment, send your used photographs to the Institute for the Reprocessing of Used Photographs.
Participation in this recycling program is guaranteed free of charge!
--Translated text of an official notice published in Germany in 1990 by conceptual artist, visual sociologist, and prankster Joachim Schmid. Listen to a great exclusive audio interview with Schmid recorded this year for Lens Culture.
We're very happy to announce that an all-new issue of Lens Culture is now online! This issue features wonderful and diverse photography and photo-based art from all over the world.
Photographers and artists featured:
Hanne van der Woude
Ebbe Stub Wittrup
Carine and Elisabeth Krecke
Candace Plummer Gaudiani
And special thanks to these guest curators and contributing authors:
Paul di Felice
Wim van Sinderen
Cheers to all, and happy reading!
August 19, 2008
French photographer JR is traveling the globe as part of his ongoing photo-mural series of site-specific installations about women. The project is aptly titled Women are Heroes.
Right now JR is in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil where the context of favelas has encouraged him to meet women for whom crime, violent loss of loved ones and arbitrary repression are part of everyday life.
Favela da Providencia was chosen to host the project for its strong historical relevance – it was the first favela of Rio de Janeiro and carries the title of the most dangerous one of all. It also has a recent history of murders of innocent people in the war between a local corrupted army and drug dealers.
This art project is completely independent and not sponsored by any institution or brand.
The technique used is simple – the portraits become oversized prints which are pasted on the architecture with the help of the community. The photographer Mauricio Hora, born and raised in Providencia, has been responsible for the realization of the project locally together with Rosiete Marinho, another local leader.
Portraits of the women, coming from different origins and generations, unite hill and asphalt to give a face to the favela. More photos appear nearly every day on JR's website.
You can see earlier work by JR, and hear him speak in an interview with Jim Casper, at Lens Culture.
August 18, 2008
Competition was tough for our first Lens Culture - Rhubarb Photo Book Awards. More than 40 finalists were proposed by the reviewers over the course of the 3 day portfolio review sessions. (There was a lot of good work being shown at Rhubarb-Rhubarb this year!) Ultimately three photographers rose to the top with lots of kudos from lots of reviewers.
This year's winners are:
Kurt Tong, China/UK
Mimi Youn, Korea/UK
Nigel Dickenson, France
Lens Culture will present a portfolio from each photographer very soon, and then when they have designed and published their new photo books at Blurb.com, we will have reviews of those, here, as well.
Congratulations to the winners, and thanks to everyone who participated this year — photographers, reviewers, and the helpful staff at Rhubarb-Rhubarb!
August 15, 2008
There's a heady discussion about photography going on over at wordswithoutpictures.org. If you need something serious to read on your summer vacation, this could be the place to go.
From the intro to the project website:
WORDS WITHOUT PICTURES is purposefully multi-voiced and multi-layered. It includes essays, discussion forums, debates, one-to-one conversations, and questionnaires. Words Without Pictures is using this range of formats to gauge a broad range of opinions about photography before they become received wisdom.
The current essay under discussion is titled: "A Picture You Already Know" by Sze Tsung Leong. It explores (among other things) the idea of repetition in photography.
A companion site pictureswithoutwords.org attempts (with varying success) to riff on the same essay ideas without using any text at all.
Thanks to Tim Lewis for the link.
August 12, 2008
There's a great article by Errol Morris in the New York Times about the power of photography to deceive even the mainstream media. It includes lots of examples from recent times, and interviews with a couple experts in visual propaganda.
One quote that I like a lot is this, by the author:
"If you want to trick someone with a photograph, there are lots of easy ways to do it. You don’t need Photoshop. You don’t need sophisticated digital photo-manipulation. You don’t need a computer. All you need to do is change the caption."
August 11, 2008
Public figures are always being photographed. Here is a clever compilation of photos taken of Barack Obama so far during his campaign for president. Similar treatments of Bush and McCain are here, too, for comparison. The consistency of how each of these guys looks day after day for months (or in the case of Bush, for years) is somehow ... disquieting, no?
August 7, 2008
Anonymous, universal and alone in modern-day Asia — these deliberately blurry photo portraits capture the pensive, furtive, phantom-like emotions of urban alienation. Portuguese photographer Virgilio Ferreira presents nine images from his new self-published book, Daily Pilgrims.
August 6, 2008
There are over 3,000 brands of bottled water worldwide, 180 in the United States. In 2006, the global bottled water industry reached $50 billion.
In a thought-provoking photo-essay in Lens Culture, Frank Yamrus shows us 25 "luxury" plastic bottle designs, and provides an amazing compilation of facts about our modern-day obsession with these cool, convenient, sexy status symbols.
Stripped of their brand labels, these plastic bottles look like crystal sculptures, show-off trophies, or expensive gems in a jewel case. Their designs mimic the sleek contours of luxury cars, elegant flower vases, lava lamps, and Oscar awards. Several of the bottles evoke the semiotic power of a phallic symbol or a streamlined missile. The way Yamrus photographs each bottle under studio lights on a velvety black background makes them look like fetish objects manufactured as bling by engineers of desire. Taken out of their typical contexts of convenience store shelves or restaurant table tops, the intention of consumer design shines through with glittering clarity.