June 2009 Archives
June 29, 2009
In 1989, when the Royal Academy in London celebrated the 150th anniversary of the invention of photography with an exhibition entitled “The Art of Photography 1839–1989”, out of a total of 97 photographers just four were women. And when the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., launched an even bigger show in the same year, "On The Art of Fixing a Shadow", women made up only ten per cent of the photographers featured.
Yet women have always been pioneers and pivotal figures in the field of photography. The botanist Anna Atkins (1799–1871) self-published her scientific study of algæ illustrated with photographs, British Algae, Cyanotype Impressions, in 1843, a year before William Fox Talbot’s The Pencil of Nature appeared. Julia Margaret Cameron (1815–1879) took up photography at the age of 47, and more or less single-handedly invented the photographic portrait.
It would be hard to discuss pictoralism without mentioning Gertrude Käsebier (1852–1934), or photographic modernism without thinking of Imogen Cunningham (1883–1976). And women were also highly influential in the development of documentary photography — think of Dorothea Lange (1895–1965)’s images of the Great Depression — and in the advancement of photographic technology: it was Lee Miller (1907–1977) who discovered solarization by accident, although the technique was more famously utilised by her lover, Man Ray.
And could we talk about modern photography, or indeed, modern art, without mentioning Diane Arbus (1923–1971) and Cindy Sherman (b.1954)? Despite all of this, the imagery of male photographers continues to dominate our idea of what photography was, is, and should be.
The current show at the Centre Culturel Calouste Gulbenkian in Paris, Au Féminin, is “a contribution towards redressing the balance … entirely devoted to femininity, in both object and subject.” These are pictures of women, by women, and this is the first major exhibition to explore the subject in exactly this way. The show brings together the work of more than 100 women photographers from five continents (including Dora Maar, Leni Riefenstahl, Sarah Moon, Anne Brigman and Tina Modotti, along with those mentioned above) and embraces the history of photography in all its genres, from 1850 to the present day. The exhibition explores themes such as portraiture, maternity, work, city life, free time, fashion, the nude, constructions and metaphors.
Au Féminin is intended as an exhibition of wonderful photography, and not as political essay. Nevertheless, it cannot help but contribute to our understanding and appreciation of these extraordinary women, and their vision. All this – and curated by a Portugese man, Jorge Calado. Recommended.
Au Féminin: Women Photographing Women is at the Centre Culturel Calouste Gulbenkian, 51 Avenue d'Iéna, 75116 Paris from June 24 to September 29
June 19, 2009
We've just launched Issue #21 of Lens Culture, which features our personal selection of great contemporary photography from all over the world.
This edition is packed with wonderful new discoveries including a rare, intimate look inside the working studio of Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein from American photographer Laurie Lambrecht; extraordinary glass negative portraits from 30s Poland by Stefania Gurdowa (which have provided the material for our favorite photobook of the year so far: Negatives are to be Stored); and Andrzej Kramarz’s innovative images of the eclectic collections and bizarre jumbles of objects he discovered over two-and-a-half years photographing flea markets in Krakow.
We’re also featuring some recent work from Roger Ballen, who has published a beautiful and disturbing new photobook, Boarding House (click here for an exclusive audio interview with the artist), and artful documentation of decades of car crashes by former Swiss police photographer Arnold Odermatt. There’s coverage of Czech artist Vladimir Zidlicky’s 30-year retrospective — an important survey of the artist’s surreal, experimental and abstract nude photography. And Laura Domela’s fun, personal portraits of real-life characters (misfits, pioneers, entrepreneurs, artists, troublemakers) from a small gold mining town in Alaska.
• Work in progress by a young Finnish photographer, Joel Gräfnings, who makes before- and after-work portraits of women who work in traditionally male-dominated jobs.
• A satirical yet compassionate exploration of the oddly entwined relationships of servants and masters in wealthy middle-class Brazil by Slovakian documentary photographer Andrej Balco.
• Adam Panczuk’s magical pictures of the disappearing art of folk theater from Lubenka, a small village in Poland.
• Portraits of wealthy Roma families at home in their new opulent interiors, a project which won Carlo Gianferro a first prize at the World Press Photo Awards.
And if that’s not enough, you can search our archives of international contemporary photography portfolios, essays, interviews, audio recordings and photobook reviews; enjoy a moment of Zen with your coffee while browsing Lens Culture’s growing Buddha Project (now more than 600 images!); or invest in one (or several!) of our signed limited edition photographs. And via our Twitter updates (twitter.com/lensculture), you can stay informed of all the latest developments in the world of international contemporary photography.
So, check out the new issue, tell your friends, and let us know what you think!
June 17, 2009
Roger Ballen's beautiful and disturbing new photobook, Boarding House, has just been published by Phaidon. Ballen spoke with me about the new work while he was in Paris last month. You can listen to a 6-minute excerpt of our recorded conversation, and see 9 new images from the book, here in Lens Culture.
Ballen is also giving a week-long intensive workshop in Norway later this summer, limited to 10-13 serious photographers. Complete details here. I wonder how that mysterious northern light might affect his creative energies so far from his home in South Africa...
June 3, 2009
Photomonth in Krakow is one of the leading European photography festivals and one of the largest ongoing cultural events in Poland. In May 2009 the 7th edition presented over 30 individual and collective exhibitions throughout the charming city, in galleries, museums, cafes and post-industrial spaces. I got there late this year, and decided to stay three extra days, and I still didn't get to see everything I wanted to see.
This year featured an especially ambitious and successful set of programs, including an in-depth look at photography from the Czech Republic, and a broad inquisitive look at the nature of photographic archives, public and private. These exhibitions were excellent, and we plan to share some of the best work here in Lens Culture, thanks to the generosity of the curators and the festival directors.
In addition to the formal programs, there were many other photography exhibits and events — altogether, nearly 70 events taking place in 30 locations all across Krakow.
To capture an up-to-the-minute snapshot of the global contemporary photography scene, an international jury (Inga Schneider, Roman Babjak, and Mikolaj Dlugosz) chose 15 winners from over 700 projects submitted to the festival’s MySpace website. Those winners were exhibited as part of the Off Program.
Other programs included workshops, meetings and lectures, documentary film screenings on famous photographers, a multimedia presentation showing transformations in Poland through the eyes of News Agency photographers, and a program with projections from Mediastorm and Magnum Photos, questioning the future of reportage.
So, Krakow was a photographic delight during the lovely month of May. Everything was super-organized with catalogs, maps, and exhibition notes in Polish and English. It was possible to walk everywhere, and the enthusiasm for photography was evident by the wide range of people who attended the exhibitions and events.
I heartily recommend that you plan a trip to Krakow next year for the festival. Give yourself at least several days to see everything and to enjoy the city itself. In the meantime, you can get more information, and buy a festival catalog, at the festival website: www.photomonth.com.
Here are just a few vintage images from the programs, plus some photos of the exhibition spaces (exhibition photos © by Bogdan Krężęl). Check back here for some more in-depth features from the festival soon.
Courtesy of Artist and Dominik Art Projects.
Courtesy: Springer & Winckler Galerie, Berlin (D)
Archive of Contemporary Conflicts in London.