July 20, 1969 - Today Raulito is 2 1/2 years old and Neil Armstrong and Col. Ed Aldrin landed on the moon. Raulito fell asleep while Daddy, Mommy, and Titita all watched on color TV. We woke Raulito up to see the live transmission but he wanted to look at the moon outside so we walked into the lawn in our bedclothes. The street was silent save for the crickets. Everyone was inside and all the TVs were on in the windows. Raulito looked at the moon and asked 'I go up there?' and stared for a long time while I held him. He was fast asleep in no time.
My main impression of looking through the book was adolescence. These are young photographers indeed, and the photos contain a heavy mix of the sort of self-obsessed, crude, and banal that you might expect from a similar collection anywhere in the rich world. That is, these young photographers are being normal. This bodes well for the future of China even if it does not suggest much for the future of photography.
I would agree with the first conclusion that it bodes well for the future of China, but would disagree with the second that it "does not suggest much for the future of [Chinese] photography." Even 15 years ago this kind of book would have been impossible. This is the first generation of kids allowed to be self indulgent, allowed to pick up cameras and call themselves artists. And is not self indulgence a necessary step towards maturity? And the reviewer doesn't seem to pick up on the humor and sense of freedom the book showcases. Also, of course, this is just one survey even from the opposite site of the world it would not be difficult to put together another set of 30 young photographers with a somewhat different editorial outlook so let's not condemn the future of Chinese photography just yet.
A blog reader from Vancouver named Jarret asks if any of the places I've traveled haunt me.
I am not so much haunted by the places I've stopped along the way, but rather the ones passed by, the places seen through dirty bus windows for only a few moments before turning the bend: the mountain village not found on maps, the lone figure in the empty landscape, the destroyed house reeking of death. Part of it is knowing the stories are unknowable. Part of it is knowing you will never return. Part of it is the regret for not stopping to find out more. Those are the places that come to me at odd hours of the night.
I've written little snippets here and there about my high school in East Texas... it's hard for my friends here in New York to wrap their minds around East Texas so I thought I'd provide a bit of illustration. The myspace profile photos above are all of guys who attended my high school while I was there. Can you match their photos to their profile blurbs?
"I am a 41 yr. old man that likes to hunt and fish. I am married to a beautiful wife for nine years. I have always wanted to be with two women....and I guess that it help to have a wife that is bi." also "I would love to be able to meet Linda Carter..."
"................... I like boating , fishing , the beach, camping , i am a member of the Moose and the Moose Legion , i like bikes and to ride , i like loseing money in the slots. I have two chihuhuas (akc) Bandit & Gidget... I am a painter (sucks) I live with the love of my life going on 10 years now, Vickie... I have two kids that i dont get to see, there mother is hideing them from me, but they dont the truth, leslie 16 and greg 15 , i really miss them and love them more than they will ever know..."
"Enjoy hunting,fishing,bowfishing,riding my waverunner,and pretty much all outdoors type activities. I am 39, single for several years and enjoying the simple life for a while. I also like watching nascar, hanging out with friends, and going to church as much as possible."
"Who I'd like to meet:
Jesus,Robert Plant, Ozzy, George W Bush, Some gal that'll be good to me, and I guess, sadly, I'm still looking."
"ll .. i'm mostly a hermit .. sorta anti social .. has alot to do with my youth.. long story .. ask if you really want to. most of the contact i have with people are on line from games ..i'm a home body .. don't go out much. I stay home .. watch tv , a movie , or play a game on the come, or mess with my wife . I'm not a drinker .. but once in a great while will drink one beer or a glass of boones farms wine .. snow berry creek, fuzzy navel, or the melon one. never smoked... fairly easy going .. even though I sometimes have problems with males .. funny i know, knowing i'm a male .. I just hate some of the things they do, or ways they act. i'll normally talk to anyone on line .. exspecially about games or computers or pets. i'm an irish desent born under aries. I like the colors black , red , green. anything else .. ask ..."
This image is from Jean-Christian Bourcart's Stardust project which he describes this way, "In my neighborhood, just behind the void of the World Trade Center, there is a multiplex theater where I go early in the morning. There, in the empty screening rooms, I photograph the little window that separates the projection cabin from the public space; or more precisely, I photograph the image that appears when the film passes through the window."
Bourcart's website showcases a wide range of projects in a variety of styles, but all have a trademark detached voyeuristic/cinematic quality about them. The artist comes off as having loads of confidence (maybe even arrogance), but not in a way that is off-putting..it just feels.. very... um... very French.
Note the text area of the site includes some interesting reads including an essay on Bourcart by Nan Goldin.
Peter Henry Emerson was one of the first vocal proponents of "naturalistic" art photography (photography done out in the field) at a time when most art photographers worked exclusively in the studio.
I've heard rumors that a museum in England is going to publish a catalog of Emerson's works for an upcoming show, but I'm not seeing anything on google. Do any readers out there know anything about this?
By the end of his life, Emerson completely reversed himself and published a pamphlet titled 'The Death of Naturalistic Photography'. A quote: "I have...I regret it deeply, compared photographs to great works of art, and photographers to great artists. It was rash and thoughtless, and my punishment is having to acknowledge it now... In short, I throw my lot in with those who say that Photography is a very limited art. I deeply regret that I have come to this conclusion..."
I generally refuse to browse photography sites with hover based navigation because I find that convention so darned annoying, but I really like Katie Murray's photography so I suffered through her site... I especially like her series on Queens which I've always found to be New York's most impenetrable borough... A few more images can be found on Jen Bekman's site.
Once, a long time ago, I walked out of the city and over the hills until I reached a cliff overlooking a rocky shore. Peering over the edge I saw you standing there alone looking out to the sea. So I went down to you.
"Hey", I said, but you didn’t answer so I too looked out at the sea until the light began to fade and the tide began rising around my feet.
"Can you build me an island," you asked.
"Sure," I said and I began to throw stones. All through the night and day after day, I threw rocks until they were no longer splashing in water beyond but falling onto one another. Tides came and went. Seasons passed. Birds began landing on the pile to rest bringing with them seeds and bits grass, and before too long a tree began to grow. Then, another.
"I built you an island," I said.
"But where will I live?" you replied.
"I’ll build you a house," I said. And once again I began throwing rocks through the days and nights, until I had built a castle. When the last stone fell, I looked over to you, but you had already left leaving only a trail of footprints towards the sea.
We are lying on a bed in a field. I turn and say, "Well, what do you want to do now?"
You say, "Lets throw rocks." I laugh and say ok.
We climb down a tall white cliff to the ocean, but I don't see any rocks. Sensing my confusion you motion for me to wait. A few moments later a wave pulls back to reveal a ribbon of smooth stones and pebbles that stretches to the horizon. We both begin picking up pebbles and throwing them as far as possible into the sea. We do this for a long time.
Eventually I hear something and look over and see that you are crying. "What's wrong?" I ask.
"My heart," you say placing my hand on it. "You're breaking it." And indeed I can feel it breaking in half. Frightened, I ask what I can do--something, anything--but you say, "I’m sorry. There isn’t anything to be done. Nothing." You continue throwing stones and out of desperation I do too. We do this for a long time.
I don’t look over now because I can't endure your tears. The rocks we throw begin to form an island and then a tall castle. I feel myself age and grow small and weak. We continue across the months and years until the beach is sandy and white. As I struggle pick up the last pebble I am impossibly ancient and tired--my hands are shriveled beyond recognition. But I can’t bear not to look any more and I turn to you. So many years have passed… I am scared that I have forgotten your face, but you are still as beautiful as the moment we first met. My wrinkled flesh embarrasses me.
"What now?" I ask.
You says nothing, but reach into your chest and remove a broken stone where your heart once was. You drop it on the sand, slip into the waves, and swim away.
The waves break around my feet and I stand there full of longing, but to old to swim, looking at the castle. I do this for a long time.
I walk through a dark night until I feel stones beneath my feet and hear the sea. I hear someone following me.
The moon rises and in the moonlight I see a girl beside me. She is sitting on a rock and I can’t see her face but I know we’ve met before.
"Hey," I say but the girl turns away. "Is anything wrong?" I ask.
The girl throws rocks into the water and having nothing better to do, I do too.
Eventually, an island forms, so I throw more rocks as fast as I can.
"You don’t have to do this," the girl says.
"Just let me finish," I say. So I keep throwing. Hills form and then a mountain.
"Let’s swim now." I say, but the girl is gone and I’m left alone in the moonlight.
Virtually all the photography blogs I read, have paused to note the passing of legendary curator John Szarkowski who played a major role in establishing a place for photography in the art world. I reread The Photographer's Eye last night (you can find the opening essay on the web as both pdf and html...) and was struck by this paragraph...
But it was not only the way that photography described things that was new; it was also the things it chose to describe. Photographers shot "…objects of all sorts, sizes and shapes… without ever pausing to ask themselves, is this or that artistic?" Painting was difficult, expensive, and precious, and it recorded what was known to be important. Photography was easy, cheap and ubiquitous, and it recorded anything: shop windows and sod houses and family pets and steam engines and unimportant people. And once made objective and permanent, immortalized in a picture, these trivial things took on importance.
By the end of the century, for the first time in history, even the poor man knew what his ancestors had looked like.
This same paragraph could be applied today to digital image making versus film photography as film becomes increasingly "difficult, expensive, and precious" when compared to "easy, cheap, and ubiquitous" digital images...
Earlier on in the essay Szarkowski noted
The invention of photography provided a radically new picture-making process—a process based not on synthesis but on selection. The difference was a basic one. Paintings were made—constructed from a storehouse of traditional schemes and skills and attitudes—but photographs, as the man on the street put it, were taken.
This also made me think of digital imagery and the ease in which is manipulated of synthesized... I wonder what Szarkowski would have made of today's digital image making that is rapidly turning film photographers into curious and arty anachronisms. Would it matter to him or would he dismiss the entire digital vs film debate that rages so fervently amongst photographers today as irrelevant? He seemed to value image itself as opposed to the mechanics of making it so my guess is he wouldn't have paid the debate much heed. His view was always expansive:
The history of photography has been less a journey than a growth. Its movement has not been linear and consecutive but centrifugal. Photography, and our understanding of it, has spread from a center; it has, by infusion, penetrated our consciousness. Like an organism, photography was born whole. It is in our progressive discovery of it that its history lies.
In response to my previous post a friend sent along a link for Rachel Hope Feierman's site with the promising beginnings of a project on kids hanging out in parking lots. As someone who grew up in a small town where this was the only form of entertainment on a Friday night, I instantly connected with these images. I also like the way the photographs have been laid out on the page. The juxtapositions lend a cinematic quality the images might not have had on there own. Somehow though the project as presented feels incomplete to me, I hope there is more to come.
I remember a 4th of July somewhere in the middle of Texas out near the hills of Burnet. Bug trucks were running slowly up the lake spraying a fine chemical mist into the air. Sixteen and without wheels my friend Jack, his girlfriend Helen, and I ran alongside the truck jumping up behind the tanks covering our faces for the 10 minute ride up the hill to the dam. Helen kept pointing up at the petroleum rainbow created by the spray and laughing. She was already a little tipsy having had two peach wine coolers down at the lake.
At the top of the hill we hopped off and followed a dirt road up to where all the pickups were parked. Jack and Helen didn't waste any time and told me to go ahead as they climbed into the back of a random pickup truck and started laying out blankets from their backpacks. I headed over the fence and up the path to the clearing where the other kids were hanging out on the rocks overlooking the dam and the two lakes below. Someone put a beer in my hand, but not having much experience with beer I mainly held it, fiddling with the label and trying to look like I belonged.
I didn't know anyone so I sat on some rocks off to the side and watched the sky turn dark and the lightning come up in the clouds and all the kids shooting off bottle rockets and running around with sparklers. I sat there for a very long time thinking about the shape of things until I noticed Helen standing with her arms crossed nearby. "Hey," I said.
"Hey" she said.
"Where's Jack?" I asked.
"I hate Jack," she mumbled.
Then she came over and sat down right up next to me and I held her hand and listened to her cry. "I smell like gasoline," she told me.
I received an email the other day about a new exhibition from South African photographer Pieter Hugo and, as usual, it's provocative and inspiring work. Pieter is on my very short list of contemporary photographers whose work brings me back over and over again for repeated viewings. The new project is called Messina/Musina and was taken in an around a colonial town on the northern border of South Africa. The gallery site also points to an interview with Hugo about the project that will be included in a forthcoming book.
Update: Someone just emailed that Amy Stein wrote an almost identical entry to this one complete with the same title yesterday. Except that she one ups this post by noting she has one of Pieter's prints hanging in her house. So don't listen to me, listen to Amy who is doing great work of her own and delve into Pieter's portfolios!
There are some photographers whose work doesn't translate well to the web. Robbert Flick is one of them. His photographic murals are often 7 or 8 feet long and consist of hundreds of stills taken in sequence along specific roads. He's been making these kinds of images for a long time and moreso than many artists who work with a single idea his collages become more interesting over time because of the changes inherent in the landscapes he is traversing.
Along Central, 2005
Flick presents several sections of his Along Central mural on his website. The photographs are in a format called MrSid which is optimized for very large images full of detail (MrSid often used with maps. Get the MrSid viewer here). After downloading the software and option clicking to save the various files to your hard drive you can zoom in and out of the murals down to the level of single frames... It's worth the effort if you're into this sort of thing.
Ghost Trajectories is a website going into more technical detail on Flick's murals. The information as it's presented reminds me of 19 century landscape surveys which often included maps with their photographs...
Flick is sometimes accused of ripping off Ruscha's Every Building on the Sunset Strip but that's unfair. Both sequential image making and mapping have a long traditions going back to the dawn of photography and Flick in returning over and over again to familiar terrain has built a body of work that has his unique signature..
I lived I don't know how many years alone but loneliness never touched me. I was happy eating at restaurants with my book, traveling far and wide on my single ticket, comfortable in silence.
Last week my family decamped for a couple of nights and the days since have been endless. The house is too still. I can hear myself think. I can't even sleep at a time in my life when sleep is the ultimate luxury. This is the state of things.
...a torn page from J.D. Salinger's Nine Stories with these lines circled:
This is the squalid, or moving part of the story, and the scene changes. The people change, too. I'm still around, but from here on in, for reasons I'm not at liberty to disclose, I've disguised myself so cunningly that even the cleverest reader will fail to recongize me.
Every blog that has anything to do with photography has mentioned the exhibition A New American Portrait opening today at the Jen Bekman Gallery. The opening will be packed so if you want to actually see the photographs, plan on arriving early or returning later in the week. This promises to be a killer show and perhaps one that surfs zeitgeist smartly enough to be an deemed an important one. Jen has mentioned she titled the show 'A New American Portrait' as opposed to 'The New America Portrait' because the natural limitations of her small gallery space placed certain constraints on the scope of the selection of images. My suggested remedy: expand the show into a book not bound by lack of wall space...
Full disclosure, I'm partnering with Jen on a new venture called 20x200. If you're curious, you can read more about it here and here. Much more on 20x200 soon.
Much to my dismay we've decided to sell our Mini Copper. It's been a super car, but with 2 car seats installed, it's crowded. I put an ad on craigslist. Nothing. I put another one on autotrader (spending $40! for the privilege). Nothing. The price was fair, the car is spotless with low mileage... hmm. Today I put a sign in the window of the car and before I arrived back to the house, I had 3 people ding me. All want test drives. Lesson learned.
A film following photographer Edward Burtynsky through the making of his recent project Manufactured Landscapes opens today in New York. This is director Jennifer Baichwal's second documentary covering a photographer. She also directed The True Meaning of Pictures on Shelby Lee Adams' Appalachia. The word invariably used to describe this film is haunting... and indeed it is. I look forward to seeing how she has covered Burtynsky.
Perhaps because I haven't had a good travel fix for my wanderlust lately I've been seeking out portfolios from photojournalists covering places I want to visit. Here are two that scratched my yen for a walkabout:
I don't know the exact circumstances of the telegram, but it's arrival was, in a way, the beginning of my story. It arrived near the end November. I picture it being delivered by hand because that's how telegrams are delivered in the movies. I picture it arriving on a cold and blustery day. Grey. But I don't know any of those facts. I do know the message was a short, just a few sentences informing my dad he had been drafted and was expected to report for a physical within the week. The war in Vietnam was ramping up and the government was drafting foreign doctors in huge numbers. The choice for those doctors was simple: serve in Vietnam or have your green card revoked. My dad had been in New York for 3 years, his residency was almost over and he could have gone home, but he was committed to living in the US and he was dating a local girl from Queens, a nurse. He was 25, she was 20.
Within days of the telegram my parents-to-be made a series of decisions. They would get married right away. He would go to Vietnam, but they would try get pregnant before he left in case he didn't make it home. It was the logic of love. By March they were married and by April they were living in Fort Benning Georgia where my dad underwent basic training. Doctors were admitted as captains, and married captains were given small bungalow apartments. The doctors were housed together and as so many were foreign green card holders they were nicknamed by their country of origin, so there was the Jamaican, the Greek, the Russian, the Italian and so on. My parents neighbors were the Italians. The Italians already had one year old child and the wife was certain the men wouldn't return. "Don't get pregnant," she told my mother, "it's bad enough we're both going to be 20 year old widows."
The 8 weeks of basic training passed quickly. In the final week before the men were scheduled to fly to San Francisco for the ocean passage to Danang, the army scheduled a dance. My mom went out and bought a polka dot dress just for that night. Arriving at the dance she discovered her Italian neighbor was wearing the same dress. They were both horrified and amused. Although they wouldn't know until later, both women got pregnant that night.
A week later the men were boarding one of those big miltary prop planes and the women having said their goodbyes were standing on the wet tarmac watching propellers cut the rain. It was dark and gloomy despite the military band and the peppy voices on the loudspeakers and my mom, feeling desperate, wrote a quick note. After much pleading she managed to get one of the crewmen to carry it onboard. My mom loved telling the story of how a stonefaced airman finally broke formation to take her quickly take envelope...
A few days later my mom was on a plane to Mexico where she waited out my father's tour of duty and gave birth to me. When he arrived back from the war I was 4 months old. Today with my own four month old, and many years older than my dad was then, the moment I always wonder about was the one where the plane broke through the clouds and cleared the rain. It was then that he opened that envelope my mom had sent him. The paper inside read simply, "Te amo."
Check out Michael Wolf's super fun Copy Artist series.
Date: Thu, 14 Jun 2007 09:04:52 +0800
Subject: From the oil painting studio
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