December 14, 2008
Virtually every traveling photographer I know takes pictures of the roads on which they journey, but some do it better than others. Bert Teunissen has a great little show right now titled The Road, that is simply that, pictures of roads he followed while shooting Domestic Landscapes... The show can be seen here in New York at the Wizenhausen Gallery or online at Bert's website.
I've met Bert a few times via 20x200 and he seems to have fashioned a rich life for himself. As I say around the house about people I admire and respect, "He's my kind of human being."
A little inside baseball here. On 20x200 today we released a super new set of five prints by one of my favorite local artists, Jason Polan. The set includes drawings of dinosaurs, birds, rocks, sea creatures, and bugs from the American Museum of Natural History. I think they're awesome and if my kids are any measure, they are perfect gifts for children. I got involved in creating 20x200 because this is the kind of thing I believe in getting out there in the world. With 20x200 it's sort of a hair club for men thing — "I'm also a client".
Also if you have kids in the under 8 set on your Christmas list, my wife's new little T-shirt shop has some really fun offerings based on our son's obsessions (think diggers, robots, garbage trucks, etc) and a few based on my obsessions (polaroid cameras, record players, foosball tables). The designs are from old technical and, instruction manuals, and so on and were essentially dictated by our kids. They didn't want "cute trucks" or "colorful trucks", they wanted their shirts to look "like a real thing".
The name by the way came from our son's first obsession: blue cars. After "momma","dadda", and "dog the first modified noun out of his mouth was "blue car". For months he would point out blue cars in the street. Eventually he began looking for "two blue cars" which gave him particular pleasure... hence the name. The kid above is not my son btw, it's a kid named Max.
Mu Ge is a photographer from Chongqing living in Chengdu. I think his work is super. (via erebung)
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On another China related note, I was pleasantly surprised to see one of my favorite photostudios (the one in the sidebar) photographed by Le Monde's China blog. Looks like the studio has had an upgrade! (my version, my picture taken in the studio, and more pictures taken in this studio and similar studios by local Chinese photographers...)
Lot's of interesting imagery on this blog. I love this picture of a restaurant in Yarkland... in fact I'm pretty sure I've eaten there.
I like Joel Barhamand's series Stuck in a Strange Loop, because who among us has not at some point been stuck in a strange loop.
I have great respect for artists who successfully produce minimalist abstract photography, because this kind of work is so darned hard to do well (Ever try to take a decent picture of snow?). But with the right person behind the camera, the results can be spectacular. Nicholas Hughes, is a mid-career English photographer whose work is rigorous but never feels forced. He titles his many of his portfolios as 'verses' and indeed they seem to be verses of some epic poem. I'm a fan.
Today's kimchi making by my wife's mom and recent New Yorker article about a Hangzhow restauranteur who serves local/organic dishes (a minor miracle in modern China), spurred a long conversation tonight between my wife and myself about the practical difficulty of eating locally grown organic food, the lost culinary worlds of our childhoods, and the messiness of milking cows. (In her ideal future world for us, Jenn would own a cow and make butter by hand. She would also keep chickens for eggs — she almost convinced me to buy chickens when we were in LA, but I owned a chicken as a child as wasn't convinced.)
Anyway, the conversation led me to search for a photographer who's name has escaped me and whose site I ultimately did not find who has super portfolio of photos of the English and their kitchen gardens. Instead, I discovered Lucas Foglia, a Yale MFA student, who has a nice portfolio of images taken in and around the Somerset Community Garden in Rhode Island. What is extraordinary to me about these pictures is that taken individually you might have guessed they had been taken in Cambodia, Africa, Eastern Europe, The American South etcetera, almost anywhere but Rhode Island.
Also be sure to check out Foglia's series Re-Wilding covering families who have rejected modern society and have decided to live off the grid.
I've just spent the better part of 2 hours listening to dialects spoken in the International Dialects for English Archive. Funny how various accents instantly conjure people and places. Texas One for example, recalls my 4th grade teacher, whereas England 62 recalls a long forgotten friend I made many summers ago in England. Anyway it's an interesting archive, if an incomplete one. The Louisiana page houses only 4 samples whereas it should rightfully hold scores.
More dialect links.
Here are a few words I've learned recently. I love them already. What do you love?
barlafumble - a call for a truce by one who has fallen in fighting or play; a request for a time out.
ephemerist - one who studies the daily motions and positions of the planets.
zenzizenzizzenzic - the eighth power of a number.
xenodochium - A house for the reception of strangers. In the Middle Ages, a room in a monastery for the reception and entertainment of strangers and pilgrims, and for the relief of paupers.
A reader named Molly asked for "non-obvious" picture book buying suggestions for her nephew who will be turning 3 soon. I posted a list of great children's books about a year ago. Non obvious? Dunno. All are still in heavy rotation here. Here are a few more:
The Charles Addams Mother Goose - The classic Mother Goose rhymes told Addams style. My son loves this book and is terrified by it (in the best way possible).
Wonder Bear- Tao Nyeu - This book is a wordless visual delight.
Life Story - Virginia Lee Burton - Teach your 3 year olds about deep time, evolution, and the history of the world. You'll be amazed at how much they pick up from this one.
The Rooster Crows -Petersham - This is a book of classic American rhymes and songs. The rhymes seem archaic, but kids respond as if they've heard them forever.
The Whispering Rabbit - Margaret Wise Brown (Weekly Reader editions) - The editions of this book illustrated by Garth Williams are particularly super, beware of later editions which have been both edited and illustrated by some less talented artist.
When You Were Small - Sara O'Leary - You know you've stumbled on a good new book, when after the first read, your kid goes silent for a second and then shouts, "Again!"
Tim All Alone - Edward Ardizzone (series) - This series along with Tin Tin made me want to be an explorer.
Into the Forest - Anthony Browne - Kind of creepy/great. Not for everyone but my kids love it.
D'aulaires Book of Trolls - Ingri & Edgar Parin d'Aulaire - Do you love trolls? We love trolls.
The Two Cars - Ingri & Edgar Parin d'Aulaire - I could link to all the d'Aulaire books, but I hilight this one because it's often overlooked. It's a tortoise and hare story told with cars.
The Three Robbers - Tomi Ungerer - Maybe my son's favorite book right now. It was a favorite of mine too.
Sylvester and The Magic Pebble - William Steig - Another favorite. We heart Steig.
Go Away Big Green Monster -Ed Emberly - This is a book Raul Andres reads at school. It's cleverly put together and you'll have fun shouting back at the book.
The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge - Swift and Ward - This is one of those classic Mike Mulligan/Little Toot type books from the 40's with knockout illustrations.
Katy and the Big Snow - Virginia Lee Burton - Having grown up in a place where snow was rare, this book always seemed exotic to me. As an adult I appreciate it as a tour deforce in the use of negative space for illustration.
I'll add these to my advice list from the previous post:
6. Don't buy junk books - novelizations of children's films, books about Disney or Pixar characters ect...
7. Don't underestimate your kid. If you read books to them regularly, even books that might seem a little advanced for them, they will absorb them like little sponges. In a few months you'll be shocked when they start reading the books back to you from memory.
It will not be news to the photo minded readers of this blog that William Eggleston has finally been officially been canonized with a full blown retrospective (William Eggleston: Democratic Camera, Photographs and Video, 1961-2008).
The reviews of the show are mainly fairly dull lionizations (Reviews: New York Times, The New York Observer, New York Magazine, The New Yorker, Time Magazine, W, and The Herald Tribune). Most of the reviewers seem to struggle to find something interesting to say about the man. The subtext for me is that the work is so obviously sublime that there's not much to say...
To get an idea of how far our collective taste has come, it's instructive (and fun) to read a NYTimes review of Eggleston's first show at the MOMA. Hilton Kramer writing in 1976 seemed positively offended. And of course in retrospect the article is not only a reminder of how shocking Eggleston's work was in historical context but of the courageousness curatorial brilliance of John Szarkowski.
The entire review can be downloaded here (Times id required).
A few choice excerpts:
'Historic breakthroughs are not, alas what they used to be — at least in the world of art.'
'Mr Szarkowski throws all caution to the winds and speaks of Mr. Eggleston's pictures as "perfect".
Perfect? Perfectly banal, perhaps. Perfectly boring, certainly. A perfect example of what, for Mr. Szarkowski and many like-mined connoisseurs of contemporary photography, is now à la mode, But this is not, of course, what Mr. Szarkowski means by "perfect." He means that Mr. Eggleston's pictures achieve a rare degree of excellence and originality, and that—to put the matter mildly—is something about which opinions will differ.'
'That bathroom shower is an index to the kind of subject Mr. Eggleston favors. He likes trucks, cars, tricycles unremarkable suburban houses and dreary landscapes too, and he especially likes his family and friends, who may, for all I know be wonderful people, who who appear in these pictures as dismal figures inhabiting a commonplace world of little visual interest.'
'To this snapshot style, Mr. Eggleston has added some effects borrowed from recent developments in, of all things, photorealist painting—a case, if not of the blind leading the blind, at least of the banal leading the banal...'
update: Youngna shares an amusing (if creepy) anecdote about meeting Eggleston last year.
Istanbul based Mexican photographer Andres Gonzalez recently sent me a short preview of his new project Tarlabashi, photographed in the Kurdish neighborhood he calls home. It's a promising start. Gonzalez' website contains several more projects taken along roads that inspire deep wanderlust, a reminder that the world is too vast and beautiful to be left unexplored.
The guys behind Square America, a site that collects and curates vernacular photography, have put together a super book called Who We Were: A Snapshot History of America. The book displays the humble photographs with great respect (generally one per page), at close to actual size. Snapshots are often accompanied by bits of text written on their backs. The combinations are sometimes mysterious, often poetic, occasionally tragic—tiny puzzle stories.
While the photographers in Who We Were are mainly anonymous, photographs sometimes appear to be naive echos of well known images by Man Ray, Dorothea Lang, Frielander, Eggleston, etcetera... Books like this can feel scattershot, but the sharp curatorial team behind this collection have culled through countless images to create a thought provoking volume I'll definitely be returning to again and again.
I am not particularly a fan of the genre of photography that covers abandoned buildings or of the subgenre that covers abandoned amusement parks. Photographers are drawn to these places (myself included) because of the easy analogy to death and the perverse beauty of decay. Like many subjects imbued with easy emotional shorthand (unmade beds, grandparent's houses, strangers staring into the middle distance, gas stations at night, etc) the very attraction of hordes of photographers to abandoned theme parks turn most images of these things into tired clichés. But of course the thing about clichés is that they are also challenges. A good artists will take a cliché and turn it on it's head, or they will take an image so iconic that it becomes the defining image of the genre, or they will find subject matter so extreme in it's beauty that it forces us to consider it outside the context of the banal stream of other similar less beautiful images.
Argentinean photographer Pablo Cabado's 37*57'35"S 57*34'47"W is one of those projects that breaks from the pack. It's not just a bunch of pictures of a beautiful old abandoned amusement park, it's a self contained world gone topsy turvy. Large pigs roam the amusement park grounds only to be butchered by a band of rough looking men one would never like to encounter after dark. It's dark and heady stuff.
Also check out Cabado's much praised book, Cuba the 90s (Coleccion La Vista Gorda).
As a side note Cabado's bio notes he drives a 1971 Ford Falcon and anyone who drives a 71 Falcon is cool with me.
At about 2am last night I took a cab from Manhattan to Brooklyn. It was my fifth cab of the day and this driver and like all the other drivers today wanted to talk about the election. The drivers were a diverse lot ranging from a Bangladeshi immigrant to a man who moved to New York from New Orleans after the flood, but all the conversations had a common theme. They men started by asking me who I was voting for and when I said Barack Obama, they would say they were so glad and that they hoped he would win too. Then they enumerated their reasons for supporting him but all ended with a variation of "They won't let him win."
The election stealing conspiracies varied from computer fraud, to hidden racism, to vote fraud, but despite my protestations none would allow themselves to believe that Obama could actually win, almost as if the disappointment of losing would be to great. I'll spare you a long oratory (I suspect blog audiences are largely self selecting and the vast majority of you are already in the Obama column). But I wanted to say, let's prove the fears of these men unfounded. Get out there and do this thing right.
One of the special thrills in photography is coming across a photographer who has travelled some of the same roads you have travelled, looking at their images, and saying 'I have stood right there, I have seen those things.'
I know nothing about Chinese photographer Eris Yo's life, but I know we've walked some of the same paths, and I love the way she's seen things along the way.
'Emergency Mind' as in "We are all so worried about her, we all have emergency mind."
-From my Korean mother in law (apparently a literal translation of a Korean phrase).
I was thumbing through a months old copy of the NY Times Magazine in a doctor's office this morning and happened upon Sara Stolfa's project titled The Regulars which documents the patrons of McGlinchey's tavern in Philadelphia (where she worked as a bartender). It's a fascinating study in loneliness.
Stolfa was also in the band The Delta 72 (now defunct). She played organ. How cool is that?
Related: NY Times Article
Overheard at Gray's Papaya yesterday afternoon and transcribed practically verbatim:
"I keep having these dreams about Abraham Lincoln. He's sitting on the couch in his top hat and everything and we are talking about my problems with Susan. He keeps telling me not to worry, "Mary was worse, you know." And then after he gives me some real wisdom on the female mind, I start thinking about everything going on in the world, and I think, 'Holy shit why don't I ask Abe what to do'. And it's like he's reading my mind... he turns to me and says, "Don't worry we've been through worse." And then he hugs me and I think, 'Abe Lincoln hugged me. He smells like Old Spice.' I ask him who he supports in the election, and he smiles and says, "Believe it or not you're the first person who's asked me that this year; of course I support Barack. These so called Republicans remind me of Copperheads." And then he laughed sort of sad a deep ha ha ha laugh and I woke up. This dream had me so jacked up I couldn't sleep. I just kept beta-ing it over and over. I literally couldn't sleep. I saw him. I smelled him, he felt real. His jacket was scratchy. His hat had a worn rim. It was the middle of the night and I was pumped up and freaking out so I Wikipediaed the Gettysburg Address and recorded a version of it to a beat and then, get this, I REMIXED IT. I remixed the freakin' Gettysburg Address. This is either the greatest thing I've ever done or a total fucking disaster. I can't tell yet."
Dave Jordano's project documenting storefront African American churches titled Articles of Faith, just made made my otherwise blah Friday. Storefront churches have long been a source of fascination for me. (found via Andrew Sullivan who also links to this super interview)
The scene from My Dinner With André below is one of my favorites:
"I mean, André, let's say—I mean, if I get a fortune cooke in a Chinese restaurant, I mean, of course even I have a tendency—I mean, you know, I would hardly throw it out—I mean, I read it, I read it, and I—I just instinctively sort of—if it says something like-uh-a conversation with a dark-hared man will be very important for you, I mean, I just instinctively think, Well, who do I know who has dark hair, and did we have a conversation, and what did we talk about? In other words, I mean, I do tend to read it— but it's a joke, in my mind. I mean, in other words there's something in me that makes me read it, and I instinctively interpret it as if it really were an omen of the future. But in my conscious opinion, which is so fundamental to my whole view of life—I mean, I would have to change totally, I think, to not have this opinion—in my conscious opinion, this is simply something that was written in the cookie factory several years ago and in no way refers tome. I mean, the fact that I got it—the man who wrote it did not know anything about me, couldn't have known anything about me There's no way that this cookie could actually have anything to do with me. The fact that I've gotten it is basically a joke. And I mean, if I were planning to go on a trip on an airplane, and I got a fortune cookie that said, "Don't go," I mean I admit I might feel a bit nervous for about one second, but in fact I would go, because I mean, that trip is going to be successful or unsuccessful based on the state of the airplane and the state of the pilot. And the cookie is in no position to know..."
I mention it because I just stumbled across this little New Yorker piece on the actual man in the cookie factory.
An hour or two ago my 3 year old and I were walking down a dark and narrow road in Yosemite National Park at night under an almost full moon.
him: Is this a garden or a park or a forest?
me: It's a forest, but it's also a National Park.
him: It took a very very long time to plant all these trees. The trees are big and old.
him: When we sleep in the forest will bears come and try to eat us?
him: If we see a bear will you hold me very very tight.
him: This is a very very big park. In Brooklyn the parks are very small.
me: Yes indeed.
him: And there are no bears in Brooklyn.
me: No. Not any more.
him: That's sad.
him: Can I plant a tree when we go home? Maybe a lot of them?
me: Let's plant lots of them