Jordan Gale: ‘I was lucky’

I came across Jordan Gale‘s project It is what it is @ Lenscratch. At first, it was a darkness that grabbed my attention, but then something else triggered a different engagement with his work. In what seems like a statement about It is was it is, Gale mentions that the project “acts as a form of therapy” and then that “[he] was lucky”. Because I immediately empathize with this sort of processes, some personal memories came to mind. But, first, let us glimpse at Gale’s project:

© Jordan Gale, ‘Lynne’, from the series ‘It is what it is’.
© Jordan Gale, ‘Joe’, from the series ‘It is what it is’.
© Jordan Gale, ‘Chuck’, from the series ‘It is what it is’.
© Jordan Gale, ‘Tyler’, from the series ‘It is what it is’.
© Jordan Gale, ‘Anna’, from the series ‘It is what it is’.
© Jordan Gale, ‘Ben’, from the series ‘It is what it is’.
© Jordan Gale, ‘Homecoming’, from the series ‘It is what it is’.

First and foremost, I think it’s fair to say it’s an unpretentious work: in its effort to become a series (or project) Gale seemed to have resisted the beginners’s temptation to give in to a too linear construction, overly subdued to the narrative premises. On the other hand, some images lack autonomy and dynamics, as if they don’t know where they belong; sometimes because he’s too close to his subject, sometimes because the composition just fails to appear as ‘natural’ (meaning not staged) as it wants to be.

When one mentions the idea of photo-therapy, it’s difficult not to consider sincerity as the higher quality, aesthetic and ethical (if there is even a difference). Because in the aforementioned statement, found @ Lenscratch, Gale addresses the issues that drove him to do this series, I can only assume that maybe it’s the honesty of that drive that translates into the true darkness that I recognize in some photographs. Having said that, the series seems incomplete, as if the healing is yet to occur. 

When Gale mentions that [he] was lucky, I’m reminded of my own circumstances, although mine are fundamentally different from his. Last week, while visiting my mother, she ventured into memory lane and said something like “I always knew you’d be OK; the moral principles were all there”, to which I answered: “I was lucky”. What I meant was that I was lucky to have survived, which is precisely the same Gale implied with the same expression. Apparently, we both recognize chance played a major part in the path we took, at a given moment.

‘The dark hole’ was a recurrent ‘theme’ during my therapy sessions. I’m sure although it has a particular meaning, it’s also universally understood, so no need for further explanations. Anyway, what I want to emphasize here is that when in ‘a dark hole’, one looses sight and that void poses a very surreal set of challenges that go beyond moral values or principles (or whatever you want to call them). In my opinion, how one crawls out of ‘a dark hole’ is highly dependent on chance and sometimes a constellation of random events

But what part does photography in this plot?

Does anyone still doubt photography can be a potentially liberating therapeutic tool?  

Soham Gupta’s pictures haunt us

Soham Gupta‘s statement:

Angst is my reaction to the trials through which some people must pass in our society.
This work has its roots in my childhood riddled with severe asthma attacks and in my troubled growing-up years spent trying to come to terms with the world’s expectations. Deep within Angst runs my anger, my frustrations, my hatred for a world in which there is no place for the weak, where weaklings are left to rot.
Nourished by this anger, this hatred, this cynicism, this body of work has grown into a hopeless tale of a fictive nighttime hellhole, whose nooks and crannies are inhabited by decaying souls.
Ultimately, I want Angst to stand as testimony to the requiem of countless dreams, even as it is a record of my angst-ridden youth.

© Soham Gupta, ‘Untitled’, from the project ‘Angst’ (2013-2016).
© Soham Gupta, ‘Untitled’, from the project ‘Angst’ (2013-2016).
© Soham Gupta, ‘Untitled’, from the project ‘Angst’ (2013-2016).
© Soham Gupta, ‘Untitled’, from the project ‘Angst’ (2013-2016).
© Soham Gupta, ‘Untitled’, from the project ‘Angst’ (2013-2016).
© Soham Gupta, ‘Untitled’, from the project ‘Angst’ (2013-2016).
© Soham Gupta, ‘Untitled’, from the project ‘Angst’ (2013-2016).

Maybe there’s not much one should say about Gupta’s project Angst, but I can’t help but comment that Gupta seems to venture into a weirdly original place: as he approaches the most “exhausted” genre in photography – the portrait – he also seems to touch a dimension of the unseen. As he mastered angst? Is that what lingers in our minds? Which images are we really seeing? Are thee portraits about the human condition?

Isn’t she lovely? Isn’t she wonderfull? Isn’t she precious?

passport photograph, private collection, UK.
passport photograph, private collection, UK.
© Claude Cahun
© Claude Cahun, Self-portrait.
© Claude Cahun, Self-portrait, 1920.
© Claude Cahun, Self-portrait, 1920.
© Claude Cahun, Self-portrait.
© Claude Cahun, Self-portrait.
© Claude Cahun, Self-portrait, 1919.
© Claude Cahun, Self-portrait, 1919.
© Claude Cahun, Untitled, 1938.
© Claude Cahun, Untitled, 1938.
© Claude Cahun
© Claude Cahun
© Claude Cahun
© Claude Cahun, Self-portrait with Masks on Cloak, 1928.
© Claude Cahun, Self-portrait in flowers, 1939.
© Claude Cahun, Self-portrait in flowers, 1939.
© Claude Cahun, Que me veux-te?, 1928.
© Claude Cahun, Que me veux-te?, 1928.
© Claude Cahun, Self-portrait, 1914.
© Claude Cahun, Self-portrait, 1914.

excerpt from CLAUDE CAHUN: The Extreme Point of the Needle in: Michael Löwy’s MORNING STAR: surrealism, marxism, anarchism, situationism, utopia

During 1936, Claude Cahun took an active part in Surrealist activities: she was present at the Surrealist exhibitions in Paris and London and signed the collective appeal “No Freedom for the Enemies of Freedom” (written by Henri Pastoureau and Leo Malet), which denounced the Fascist coup in Spain and the passive atti-tude of the French Popular Front government. However, in July 1937 she and her companion, Suzanne Malherbe, decided to leave Paris and live on the Channel Island of Jersey. She did not sever her connections with the Surrealist group, and in 1938 she joined the International Federation for an Independent Revolutionary Art (FIARI). In June 1939 she signed the last declaration of the
FIARI, “A bas les lettres de cachet! A bas la terreur grise!,” which was also the last collective manifestation of the Surrealists before the war and the dispersal of the group. In 1940, with the beginning of World War II and the occupation of the Channel Islands by the Th ird Reich, a new chapter in Claude Cahun’s political and intellectual life began, perhaps the most astonishing and impressive of all: anti-Fascist Resistance.

When the German troops arrived, Cahun’s first impulse was to shoot the Kommandant; she took a small revolver and went to the woods to do target practice. However, she was too inexperienced, and Suzanne convinced her that she would miss her target. They decided to start a subversive activity addressed to German soldiers to incite them to insubordination.

From 1941 to 1944, for four years, they issued, mainly in German (Suzanne translated), thousands of anti-Fascist leaflets, posters, and fliers aimed at sowing trouble and demoralization among the occupiers. Claude Cahun also produced photomontages using images cut from the Nazi magazine Signal and sometimes took her inspiration from John Hartzfeld’s well-known anti-Fascist works, which had been exhibited in Paris in 1935. Humor, play, allegory, nostalgia, absurdity, the marvelous, and irony were their main weapons in this unequal struggle against the most powerful war machine of Europe.

Their fliers contained anti-Nazi and antimilitarist slogans, such as “Liebknecht-Frieden-Freiheit,” uncensored information, songs, manifestoes, theatrical dialogues, images, and wordplay and were usually signed the “Nameless Soldier.” One of their fliers, which enraged the occupying authorities, directly called on the soldiers to rebel and to desert and advised them that if their officers at-tempted to stop them, to shoot their officers. Some of the material was handwritten on cardboard cigarette paper wrappers. They also wrote “Down with War” on French money. Usually, however, Cahun made twelve carbon copies of each fl ier with her Underwood typewriter and illustrated them with images made of typewriter letters and graphic signs. Th en they attached the fliers to walls, doors, barbed wire, and parked cars or hid them inside newspapers and magazines on the newsstands or left them in mailboxes, churches, and houses used by the Nazis.

Their daring behavior, right under the noses of the Gestapo and the occupying forces, can best be described by the Yiddish word chutzpa, insolence. Summarizing the spirit of her struggle, she wrote after the war, “I committed myself to revolutionary defeatism, trying to convince the German soldiers to turn against their officers. We fought for a rainbow of values stretching from the ultraromantic black to the flaming red. We fought for the Germans against Nazi Germany. We fought as Surrealist writers with weapons of chance.”

And in a letter from 1950 she explains that what stimulated her to resist was her leftist, pacifist, Surrealist, and even “Communist (historical materialism)” ideas as well as the need to defend particular values, “such as freedom of expression and sexual freedom [liberté des moeurs] that were of personal concern to me.” During those four years the angry, frustrated Gestapo agents searched in vain for the dangerous “Nameless Soldier,” who sabotaged the morale of the troops and preached rebellion in every corner of the small island.

Finally, someone, probably the shopkeeper who sold them the cigarette papers, denounced the two women, and on July 25, 1944, they were arrested. Trying to save her friend, Claude Cahun told the Gestapo officers, “I’m the only one responsible. I did the photomontages and wrote the fliers. Moreover, I’m Jewish on my father’s side.” As soon as they were jailed, both women tried to commit suicide by swallowing Gardenal pills they kept with them for just such an eventuality. Th e attempt failed, but they were seriously ill for some time, and this probably saved them from being deported to Germany.

At fi rst, the Nazi secret police could not believe these two kind, middle-aged ladies were the fi rebrands responsible for all the subversive agitation and thought they were agents of some “foreign” power. When they at last became convinced, after searching their house and finding all the materials, they convened a military court. The German prosecutor, Major Sarmser, argued that they were illegal partisan fighters, using spiritual weapons that were more dangerous than guns. He also insisted that their flier calling on the German soldiers to rid themselves of their officers was “incitement to murder.”

The military court predictably sentenced them both to death. The two women were to be sent to Germany to be beheaded with an axe, the Third Reich’s treatment for dangerous anti-Fascist enemies whose death they intended to serve as an example. However, due to the liberation of France in the summer of 1944 the Channel Islands were cut off from Germany, and the deportation could not take place.

Seeing that the war was lost, the local commanders were afraid of reprisals and did not want to take the responsibility for an odious execution on the island itself. They told the two women that if they wrote to the German authorities asking to be pardoned, they could save their heads, thanks to the merciful policy of the Third Reich. To their dismay and surprise, Claude Cahun and Suzanne Malherbe obstinately refused to sign an appeal for pardon: they considered it dishonorable to ask favors of the Third Reich! The embarrassed local commanders were then forced to sign the appeal themselves, and the two proud anti-Fascist resisters were “pardoned” and sentenced to life imprisonment. During their time in the military prison they discovered that many German soldiers were jailed for trying to desert or for insubordination, a situation they attributed, at least in part, to their antiwar propaganda. Finally, on the last day of the war, May 8, 1945, they were liberated, in poor health but alive.

⁞ The complex task of seeing through Photography: a conversation with Isaac Pereira ⁞

1012600_643410882417254_4043574406647253164_nall images © Isaac Pereira. Courtesy of the artist.

This conversation took place in July 2014, over the virtual space that unites Macau and Lisboa. The original, portuguese version, of this conversation, can be seen HERE.

Sofia: We’re having this conversation mainly because of your exhibition, Tree, now held in Macau. Although I couldn’t be there, I find the way you are imposing installation and performance on the photographic matter very interesting. In an article about the exhibition, published in South China Morning Post, you named what seems to be the keyword for this project: contamination. Tell me about that contamination.

Isaac: The idea of “contamination” in this work, comes due to a problem that has been on my mind about Photography and my own work: Is it still possible today, given the level of profusion of visual information and the speed at which such information circulates, to “retain the look” of the other, and your own look, on the images we create? Let us assume, driven by a mere hypothesis, that is the result of a direct observation, the “act of retention” is close to a breaking point. I call this “the crisis of the look”. So what remains? Or, in other words, in what manner can images, or certain images, survive this crisis? A simple argument, frequently used in this debate, is the argument on the idea of the “strong image”. But, in this context, what is now a “strong image”? My quest is only to ask if, from the point of view of my own practice of photography, and the practice of photography in general, and given the classical definition of Photography as “the act of killing time”, would it be plausible to pass this idea to an installation, in the sense of “an action”. This “act” presupposes the existence of an effective relation between an image and its site specific reading – the space of the installation – a “combat mode” relationship, of a fair challenge between the one lending his eyes to the possibility of another look. Or, alternately, to a look as a vehicle of reflection and thought. For me, this “combat-challenge” is an attempt to, by means of such relation, overcome the “crisis of the look” or, at least, it matches my desire to leave it outside this crisis. Even if it is a paradox, I call “contamination” to the appeal to a mode of survival that is motivated by the experience of thought as a look “over a time that has already lived through its end.”

Sofia: Where you speak of “an action”, I speak of “a doing”, let me explain: in Kant’s Critique of Judgement, he distinguishes between agree and facere, explaining that “to do” is related to the artistic practice – it entails intention and finality; while “to act” relates to nature – a natural effect, with no intention. It seems to me that what you purpose is based on your intentions and ability to act, the spectator is able to do more than contemplate. But in such a context, where through installation you are setting an atmosphere that guides the experience of the spectator, what relevance do the images presented really have?

Isaac: I understand and respect the kantian stand, but here I do not make any distinction between the resolute nature of the categories. Nowadays, the concepts are expanding and acquiring different meanings and in the rhetoric of the aesthetic discourse, “to do-to act” is not that opposed to “to act-to do”.
Let me just add a final consideration about the idea of “contamination” because it pertains to your question. During the creative process, I wanted to embrace that idea in the editing process. I don’t know the exact number, but I must have gone through over 10 thousand negatives, some long forgotten. During that revisitation some images grabbed my thoughts but some failed to have that energy. So I started to separate them. It was like I was looking at something for the first time, something that had already lost the seal of ownership and was free from me. I then decided that in some way this idea should come through in the installation and that the images, though from different times and spaces, should “look at each other”. I thought that contamination, exposed through the installation, should give the spectator the opportunity “to act”. At the same time, I showed the final edition to a couple of creators – a music composer and a filmmaker – and asked them to create their own works parting from that body of images. This idea then culminates with a request to the visitor: that he/she chooses three of his/her photographs – which he/she thinks dialogue with what he/she saw – and “lend” them to this project in order for them to be edited and placed in the installation space where there’s a wall with 25 empty wooden boxes, the end place for the images that will be “lend” and chosen by those visitors wanting to associate with the exhibition.
Now in terms of your question. The relevance of the images chosen for the exhibition is that of having been chosen with the limits I set for myself. During the creative process, I decided these were more connected with the nature of this exhibition and with whom I am as a photographer, but what interests me is that these images are not definitive, they can disappear and be replaced by others. In fact, in a way this can be noticed in the installation. I was interested in some images that had to be left out precisely because they dialogue with each other and with the overall idea of the work. The idea of a work enclosed on itself is frightening. Between a void and an aura, there is a never ending field of action. More than the possibility to look at each of the images in this installation, the spectator has the choice not to see all of them and to interact with them.

Sofia: Meaning, it isn’t the photographs, those photographs, that make the exhibition, but the autonomy you are choosing to give to the work exhibited, in order for it to remain open, in an internal and external dialogue. You call for a very strong image, that of seeing the work being set free from the father, which makes me think of two, somehow conflicting, ideas: firstly, the “death of the author”, given you are suggesting to erase intentions of property and authority and hand in the autonomy to the artwork; on the other side, there is a kind of obsessive control over the format and the selective power, even if the interaction between the spectator and the work can be dynamic. Do you really think that opening the range of possibilities to the spectator will allow him/her an experience that is more suitable for the subject?

Isaac: I wouldn’t go that far. The photographs make the exhibition, but not only them. I would say what makes the exhibition is the relation, full of possibilities, people establish with the images that are integrated in the physiognomy of the space. What I suggest is not really an “effacement” of the author – because the trace is there – but an extension of the way I experienced the installation in the autonomy of the other, given his/her choice not to look at some of the images and appropriate them as a selective, exercise of memory. The possibility to overlook some images and through a range of options establishes new relations. The spectator’s reactions tend to highlight that aspect, meaning: although I’m aware that I am the one who created the images, that is as an original selection and pre-set format. In the end it is very interesting to see the experience of the spectator being able to explore other meanings in his/her relation to the work. My proposal is to further investigate otherness. The door is slightly opened to an interactive proposal that goes beyond a deferred act of looking that is imposed by the totality of the visible.




Sofia: I was trying to avoid making this reference and evoke other names in this conversation, but the way you describe this extension of the space of the author to the space of the spectator and your reflection on otherness make me think of Marina Abramovic’s latest performance in London, at the Serpentine Gallery, where I find that by insisting on the opening of the field of possibilities she is actually imposing control over such field of experiences. I’m not saying your example is the same, what I question is if, instead of offering the world to the spectator, the interactive nature of a work is not a practice that ends up constraining the freedom of the spectator’s aesthetic experience. How are people reacting to your exhibition?

Isaac: My main concern is not to obtain a certain reaction, in that sense I can agree there would be some kind of control force involved. My quest is for the opening of the spectator’s field of action, presenting him/her with a proposition that stands between “yes”, or “no” or a “maybe”. I’m more interested in that “maybe” because, as I’ve said before, it gives the spectator “time and space” to act. This “maybe” or, if you will, I insist, the possibility to find different paths parting from mine, is the way I try to “offer the world” to the spectator (to quote your phrasing) liberating from the more conventional ways to look at an exhibition. In this sense, I confess, the reactions have been surprising. People ask questions such as: How does one see this exhibition? Which section do I start from? My response is that the order is arbitrary. I think this installation – that is accompanied by a “map” – urges, because of something I call “positive provocation”, to repeat the entering process, more than once and in a different way. Because this work has a different psychological time, people are free to start from different “endings” and stop at different “beginnings”. People say they need to come again one more time, preferably on their own, which I think is symptomatic and at the same time gratifying.

Sofia: Some time ago, we exchanged some words about our frustration with the way people are creating and showing art. I was pleasantly surprised by this exhibition, precisely because it proposes something new and you didn’t confine yourself to installing a bunch of photographs on the wall hoping someone can make a more or less linear understanding of them. What was the moment that triggered this exhibition?

Isaac: I’ve been thinking about what Photography means today and what is its role in our contemporary society, a reflection I hope to further develop. I’ve been thinking seriously on my work, or about what it could be. You and me, every one of us, we see lots of things. In museums, galleries, virtual sites. I feel that, in some way, our eyes are tired. Tired of looking, tired of the “photographable”. I only think everything is photographable from the moment the “photographable” wins over the weariness of looking, from the moment there is “a way of looking”. I counteracted the way of looking with “a way to make visible”, because although I’m sure about what this set of images “say”, the look of the other does not necessarily imply the same “references” and the same care, particularly because the images exhibited allude to other significances beyond their apparent meaning. But, today, as a creator, this is not satisfying enough. The excess of the visible has in itself an excess of light that obscures. Maybe, this is what you were previously referring to as “the obsessive control of the format”. I wanted to protect this body of images from that linear reading, from that excess of the visible. I thought, I assume that “yes, I want, wish for people to see this work”; but in order to achieve this, I had to assume a personal rupture with the way I’ve been choosing to make things visible. I think this is the role of the form in Tree. From the conception of the space to the organization and presentation of the images, going through the boxes where people leave their feedback in the form of a word, to the lightning design itself. I wanted that, in the end, people could retain a memory of the way they experienced the exhibition. Altogether, these aspects culminated in a call for intimacy in the experience of the exhibition, and that is the moment you call “the trigger”.



Sofia: That idea of an “intimacy in the experience of the exhibition” is, by itself, an impossible premise when we’re dealing with photography. It seems to me that you are going through a process of reflection that is common to those who mature with photography, for it becomes inevitable to think about the medium, even if the value of auto-referential art is tendentiously instrumental.
With this exhibition you called for the participation of the public, for them to send photographs with which you would then make a new Tree with universal associations. Is that it? I couldn’t help but notice that you mention notions usually assigned to authorship, using words such as “property”, “signature” and “author”. Where does the need for that rhetoric come from?

Isaac: I don’t agree that the fruition of an intimate time with an object such as this exhibition is an impossibility. I’d never thought about what maturing with photography could be. In any case, yes, there will always be a place for a reflection upon the medium that I find important and necessary.
Yes, I’m inviting people to send me photographs that are their property, to work upon them. It’s not a call for photographers, but a shout out for everyone who owns photographs. My proposal is to challenge the readers of these images to locate in them traces of their subjectivity. And after finding those traces, they go to search in their own archive – it looks to me as if today, everyone owns a photographic archive, even if unconsciously – an image that appeals to that relation.
The images within this exhibition don’t demand an enclosed and objective reading. The premise for the invitation is that people authorize me to work on those images, in case I feel the need. The end result will be an open session for the installation of the images received – at least 25 –, in the physical space of the exhibition. I’m asking people to think about the images in terms of memory and their biography. Once again, I associate this idea with the notion of “contamination” we were talking about earlier. On the other hand, when I speak of propriety, authorship, signature, that is not fundamental. I don’t hold that question in terms of a rhetoric on photography. It’s solely a way to say that even the vagrant is left about in the desert for a reason. Someone left it there. And that has a story that I’m interested in. Suddenly, I thought it could be interesting to unite the brunches, those personal stories, to the same trunk, to this tree of Photography, infinite and immense, and see how a dialogue between things coming from such different places and experiences, could work in itself and with me. I’ve already received some images and the results are surprising.

Sofia: I see the idea of this tree as a kind of otherness within you, I mean, the part of the “collective identity” that participates in your “individual identity”. When I speak of the impossibility of an intimate experience in a photography exhibition is not in relation to your show but in general, because it’s my opinion that photography more rapidly deviates than brings closer: it is part of the universe of representation, it is plain and rarely does it survive by appealing to any other sense than the visual one, even if it has a very unique potential to evoke memories. After this collective experience of reuniting stories and the exhibition is over, is there any project in mind?

Isaac: A cultural sociologist, whom I’m very fond of, McLuhan, talks about Photography as being a hot medium. To my knowledge, some contemporary art critique that is less prone to reflect on contemporary Culture, tend to overlook, as I see it unfairly, his thoughts about the media, although McLuhan has only dedicated a small part of his reflection to Photography as a medium. In any way, I still find it his thoughts on the media as an extension of the body relevant, although he only focuses on his “socially structuring” character. I mention this because you referred to as characteristic of Photography. In his book “Understanding Media”, McLuhan defends that Photography is a “hot medium” because it “extends a singular sense and in high definition”, understanding “high definition” as a “state of high saturation of data”. This author says that “visually, a photography is distinguished by its high definition”. I am particularly interested in this issue. It’s worth to notice that the “state of the medium” is not definitive and can be “overheated” or “cooled down”, depending if we’re facing a “hot culture” or a “cold” one. It’s a discussion worth developing.
Some days ago, while visiting the space of the installation, someone was telling me that this exhibition is “a provocation”. I responded that I agreed. In my opinion, what is happening in the Photography domain is an overheating that is maybe tending to a cold cycle. It’s an open question. But here I find a connection with our conversation at the beginning about the need to “retain the look”, very much because of that “data saturation”. I wanted a composer to work on a music score based on the images – music may be a cold medium – in order to make way for that synesthetic experience. We can argue about all of this and that is why I find a need for a necessary discussion. But, of course, further ahead when he refers to Photography as a “Brothel with no Walls”, McLuhan says that “no one can enjoy a photograph on its one” and that the work “The Balcony” by Jean Genet was inspired by Photography. For all we’ve talked about, this is where my provocation, a positive provocation, comes in, because there is a space and time, or it could be, for in a first encounter to enjoy a photograph in solitude, with all that it implies.
I would like to take this work to Portugal and to other places in Asia. To be able to work on this idea and develop it. I don’t think the process is over. I will read and reflect upon the words left behind and the images that were given to me and work on that material, on their stories. Maybe the result will be a “Ode-Manifest-to-Photography”. Perhaps, it will be possible to develop this work in the form of a book. For now, no new exhibitions. Probably in two or three years. I feel the need to look at it again, after some months of absence.

Sofia: I agree this work is provocative, but fortunately that’s not the reason it was born, lives or breaths. And even if some of my questions may reveal my pessimism towards the process of interaction in art, I feel that your questioning can only potentiate change.
Thank you very much for being so prompt and for your patience in accounting for your creative process.
All the best to you Isaac.




٠ Ordinary pictures for a non-ordinary story ٠

HR_65421-293-8_RT© Bruce Weber, Trevon & Maxie, from the commissioned project Brothers, Sisters, Sons & Daughters, for Barneys (Spring 2014).

HR_65421-163-7_RT© Bruce Weber, Edie Charles, from the commissioned project Brothers, Sisters, Sons & Daughters, for Barneys (Spring 2014).

I was always at odds with my gender. When I was very young, my preference for typically feminine things was obvious and I would always pretend to be a girl when I played with friends or met new people. As I got older, I became increasingly aware that my gender expression was perceived to be atypical. So I tried to align myself with a gender that was socially expected. I attempted to present myself as male. And yet, my whole life I was mistaken for female which made this difficult. Towards the end of high school I had a girlfriend for a while, and then I decided to experiment with dating men. I wanted to explore that part of myself.

HR_65421-2245-7_RT© Bruce Weber, Niki & Sawyer, from the commissioned project Brothers, Sisters, Sons & Daughters, for Barneys (Spring 2014).

Sawyer Devuyst: I still have a very hard time with most of my family. They don’t respect me as a male. I tried having a long conversation with my mom before I had top surgery—tried to explain that there was nothing they’d done to make me into what I was—but that they couldn’t change me either. It’s extremely upsetting. I do so want validation from them. It’s very hard to go home because every time I see my parents, no matter what successes I’ve had in my life, they make me feel terrible about myself. My aunts and my brothers are the only members of my family who support me emotionally. My aunt says, “If this makes you happy.” Thank God for her.

Niki M’nray: The most important part of this campaign is the awareness it brings towards trans issues. I’m happy to lend a voice to it and educate folks who are in the dark with regards to this subject.

HR_65421-181-2_RT© Bruce Weber, Gisele Xtravaganza, from the commissioned project Brothers, Sisters, Sons & Daughters, for Barneys (Spring 2014).

I think part of discovering my real self was done when I was performing at the House of Xtravaganza and other balls over a period of ten years. I started dressing as a girl when I was 15. I won a lot of trophies for Runway and for Face and for Models.
I started transitioning at seventeen. I started taking hormones then, too. It was difficult at first. I was the only boy in my family (I have six sisters). It was difficult. But my mother accepted me right away—she never judged me or threw me out on the streets. That kind of thing happens. And I wanted to be a trans person, not gay. You can’t do this without really wanting to, because it’s a very difficult life.

٠ IT sounds like western music, therefore… ٠

M0013743 Hearing aid for constant use© Wellcome Library, Hearing aid for constant use. Two light cornets of imitation tortoiseshell joined by metal spring forming a head-band. Introduction of this form of instrument attributed to Napoleon’s surgeon D. J. Larrey (1776-1842).19th Century.

‘Authenticity’ is a matter of interpretation which is made and fought for from within a cultural and, thus, historicised position. It is ascribed, not inscribed. […] Thus, rather than ask what (piece of music, or activity) is being authenticated, in this article I ask who.

[…] In rock discourse, the term [‘authenticity’] has frequently been used to define a style of writing or performing, particularly anything associated with the practices of the singer/songwriter, where attributes of intimacy (just Joni Mitchell and her zither) and immediacy (in the sense of unmediated forms of sound production) tend to connote authenticity. It is used in a socio-economic sense, to refer to the social standing of the musician. It is used to determine the supposed reasons she has for working, whether her primary felt responsibility is to herself, her art, her public, or her bank balance. It is used to bestow integrity, or its lack, on a performer, such that an ‘authentic’ performer exhibits realism, lack of pretence, or the like. Note that these usages do not mutually exclude one another, nor do they necessarily coincide, and that all are applied from the outside.

[…] For Richard Middleton, any approach to music which aims to contextualise it as cultural expression must foreground discussion of ‘authenticity’, since ‘honesty (truth to cultural experience) becomes the validating criterion of musical value’ (Middleton 1990, p. 127). In rock discourse, this validating criterion is reinterpreted as ‘unmediated expression’, by which is assumed the possibility of the communication of emotional content (inherent possibly in the music itself, but certainly at least in the performance) untrammelled by the difficulties attendant on the encoding of meaning in verbal discourse (Moore 2001a, pp. 73-5; 1814).

M0013744 Speaking or conversation tube© Wellcome Library, Used by the very deaf to obviate the need for the close approach of the speaker if the trumpet type of hearing aid is used.19th Century.

[…] The expression I am discussing here is perceived to be authentic because it is unmediated – because the distance between its (mental) origin and its (physical) manifestation is wilfully compressed to nil by those with a motive for so perceiving it. This is thus one basic form of the authenticity primality argument put forward by Taylor (1997, pp. 26-8), wherein an expression is perceived to be authentic if it can be traced to an initiatory instance. This argument surfaces most clearly in academic folk discourse. For Philip Bohlman, identification of the ‘authentic’ requires ‘[the] consistent representation of the origins of a… style’ (Bohlman 1988, p. 10), such that ‘When the presence of the unauthentic [sic] exhibits imbalance with the authentic, pieces cease to be folk music, crossing the border into popular music instead’ (Bohlman 1988, p. 11). Thus, for Bohlman, authenticity is identified by a purity of practice, whereas for Grossberg, it is more clearly identified by an honesty to experience – a subtle distinction perhaps, but one which remains potent. Starting from a very different point, Steven Feld develops a similar line, arguing that ‘authenticity only emerges when it is counter to forces that are trying to screw it up, transform it, dominate it, mess with it . . .’ (Keil and Feld 1994, p. 296), equating authenticity to a concept of genuine culture dependent on the anthropology of Edward Sapir. Bohlman’s identification has found its way into rock discourse, in that proximity to origins entails unmediated contact with those origins: ‘Real instruments were seen to go along with real feelings in Springsteen’s rise: a certain sort of musical and artistic purity going hand in hand with a sincere message’ (Redhead 1990, p. 52). The constructed nature of this interpretation is clarified by comparison with Bob Dylan – in order to achieve the same result in his early work, the ‘real instruments’ he had to employ had not to be amplified, contra Springsteen.

Walser (1993) insists that this is one of two clear types of ‘authenticity’ that can be observed in rock in general, wherein technological mediation (whether a reliance on signal modifiers, ever more powerful means of amplification, and even technical mastery in many spheres) is equated with artifice, reinstating as authentic/inauthentic the distinction between ‘vernacular’ and ‘trained’ or ‘professional’. There is thus a relationship here with an alternative category developed by Taylor, which he terms authenticity of positionality (Taylor 1997, pp. 22-3). Through this, he identifies the authenticity acquired by performers who refuse to ‘sell out’ to commercial interests. Weller exemplifies this again, as do Taylor’s examples of non-Western musicians involved in ‘world music’ – for such musicians, ‘selling out’ appears to equate to ‘sounding like Western musicians’, i.e. by adopting the style codes of pop/rock (which codes, in such an analysis, would be seen as inherent within the individual rather than open to appropriation. (see Moore 2001b)

[…] What unites all these understandings of authenticity is their vector, the physical direction in which they lead. They all relate to an interpretation of the perceived expression of an individual on the part of an audience. Particular acts and sonic gestures (of various kinds) made by particular artists are interpreted by an engaged audience as investing authenticity in those acts and gestures – the audience becomes engaged not with the acts and gestures themselves, but directly with the originator of those acts and gestures. This results in the first pole of my perspective: authenticity of expression, or what I also term ‘first person authenticity’, arises when an originator (composer, performer) succeeds in conveying the impression that his/her utterance is one of integrity, that it represents an attempt to communicate in an unmediated form with an audience.

excerpt from MOORE, A. (2002) Authenticity as Authentication. Popular Music, Vol.21, No.2, pp.209-223.

٠ Locating the (in)authenticities in country music ٠

37574-303r_288_Dolly_Parton© Henry Horenstein, Dolly Parton, Symphony Hall, Boston, MA, 1972, from Honky Tonk: Portraits of Country Music 1972-1981.

37574-513rBWneg_11© Henry Horenstein, Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper, Nashville, TN, 1974. Honky Tonk: Portraits of Country Music 1972-1981.

37574-519rBWneg_Conway_6_adj© Henry Horenstein, Conway Twitty, Annapolis, MD, 1975S, from Honky Tonk: Portraits of Country Music 1972-1981.

Describing country music as a storyteller’s art is no mere attempt to give it an intellectual Benjaminian chic. Its self-conception as “a storyteller’s medium,” widely recognized by scholars, is even clear from the way that “other song elements are generally kept simple to highlight the story. The chord structure is simple and predictable, the melodic range is slight, the rhythm is regular, and the orchestration is sparse or at least clearly in the background so that the words can be understood.” In the words of one country singer-songwriter, “If you can’t hear each word, it ain’t country, son.” Country’s words get their importance not from their specific poetry but from the stories they embody, stories that can capture an audience far beyond those who prefer country’s simple melodies and rhythms. Challenged about his taste for country music, jazz great Charlie Parker replied that he simply loved the stories.

Country’s narratives succeed not only through the elements of tradition, orality, and life-experience that Benjamin notes. Narrative form itself intensifies the pathos and comparative authenticity that country deploys. The progression, development, and anticipation that constitute all narratives contribute to the build-up of emotions. The archetypal commonality of country’s stories (with their focus on fundamental feelings of love, failure, and mourning) serve to trigger emotional memories that reach both deep and wide. And this same archetypal, formulaic simplicity of story-line permits extreme plot condensation, thus promoting emotional intensity by forestalling fatigue of attention.

Condensation and credibility are further enabled by the fact that country’s sung stories are often recognized by listeners as biographically linked to the singer, allowing them to imaginatively enrich the tales through details they know (e.g., George Jones’s bouts of drinking and Garth Brooks’s marital infidelity and reconciliation). To heighten its power of pathos, country thus productively blurs the presumed division between art and life, artistic persona and real individual. Finally, the narrative frame that country deploys is most useful for making contrasts of comparative authenticity that are emotionally charged and hence more convincing. Narrative temporality provides not only the retrospective memory of country’s older days of purer authenticity, but suggests the ongoing struggle to develop or recover greater authenticity in the face of present corruptive pressures.

excerpt from: Shusterman, R. (1999) Moving Truth: Affect and Authenticity in Country Musicals. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol.57, No.2, pp.221-233

37574-597rBWneg_9© Henry Horenstein, Patron, Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, Nashville, TN, 1972, from Honky Tonk: Portraits of Country Music 1972-1981.

37574-500rBWneg_6_Adj© Henry Horenstein, The Willis Brothers, Grand Ole Opry, Nashville, TN, 1972, from Honky Tonk: Portraits of Country Music 1972-1981.

37574-320r_416(2)_RalphStanley_lesscontrast© Henry Horenstein, Ralph Stanley, Coeburn, VA, 1974, from Honky Tonk: Portraits of Country Music 1972-1981.

٠ Isaac Pereira & the monstrosity of the shadows ٠

door poster3

When I first met Isaac’s work, one of my immediate deductions was regarding his very deep use of blacks and whites. After some years, I now know that his work is not defined by the use of black & white, but rather by the absence of colour, which in turn leads to very defined areas/lines/figures within his photographs.

Isaac’s work is very much about what I would characterize as a way of being in time that is quite paradoxical: it leaves traces of a poetic voice, in the most romantic/existentialist sense; but it also shines a light to a place of anger. A paradox, in this context as well as in others, is not a negative qualification of a choice, an act or a discourse. If we, human, are to move forward, we will always be incoherent and often not sincere; for being is a dynamic thing and if we rule by the voice of consciousness we need to be able to go with the flow.

So there’s a lot of rawness in Isaac’s work. His photographs are a genuine trace of his photographic act, since I, as the spectator, am given the space necessary to travel to his reality and imagine my own emotional being in such situations – the smell, the temperature, the smoke… I wouldn’t go as far as to say that we are all allowed to see the same punctum in his images but, because of is simplicity and formal references, we are allowed to acknowledge it as an act of communication, even if in the poetic form.

akr_01© Isaac Pereira, from Akhromatopia (#1 Displaced)

akr_02© Isaac Pereira, from Akhromatopia (#1 Displaced)

The work here showed is part of an exhibition that Isaac held in Macau last December. Isaac called it Akhromatopia, referring to the places without colour, being that those places can be subjective or objective, internal or external, real or imaginary. In a short story Isaac wrote about this work, one paragraph goes like this:

Slowly, in whatever way, a kind of discoloration was occurring. It was as if everything became pale. The lost pigment colors, saturation, became indecipherable. He had to stop, dazed. What he saw then, was completely white, pure white, the total absence of shapes, contours, as if everything had been invisible and transparent. He rubbed his eyes with the indicators. It was all white; light only. For several minutes, he sat on a huge rock, listening, smelling everything around. Then, fell asleep.

akr_05© Isaac Pereira, from Akhromatopia (#2 Discarded)

Isaac’s work denotes strong literary influences and even if the medium of photography has always been very akin to storytelling, to narratives and allegories, Isaac’s point of view is more that of a nihilist and a wanderer, rather than a dreamer, though this doesn’t mean that he is not aware of the world of possibilities in front of him. In an interview given to João Henriques some years ago, Isaac spoke of his feelings about the media:

The media are machines. We live in the middle of automated ‘mediums’. Means for construction? Yes. But of what sort of construction? Endless constructions. But not all the same. No. Fortunately. That is the fear: that everything has the same repeated construction. How does one avoid that? Making sure your feelings and your thoughts go between the camera and its construction, automatically. Making sure that the image is an image ‘of you’ and not an image ‘from the camera’. It’s the same old question. (my translation)

akr_09© Isaac Pereira, from Akhromatopia (#3 Dislocated)

akr_010© Isaac Pereira, from Akhromatopia (#3 Dislocated)

As much as there are parallel and juxtaposed worlds in his photographs – for Isaac has an unusual capacity to work with the monstrosity of the shadows -, denoting his affinity with surrealism and non-linearity, Isaac is also a traditionalist in the way he deals with the medium. Although his photographs manifest his beliefs in immediacy and automatism, they also denote some sort of commitment with concepts such as “truth” and “time”, which remind me of classic street photography. There is no problem with the classic, but there is surely one with tradition, for it prevents us for looking out for our own singular point of view.

Amidst the underground nature of Isaac’s photographs and within the deepness of his blacks I see thoughts about ‘authenticity’ and ‘aura’. Even if concepts sometimes are reduced to their status as a word (as his the case both with ‘aura’ and ‘authenticity’), I find it possible to say that Akhromatopia works as a genuine plastic expression of Isaac’s intimate journey to ‘be what he is’ and ‘see what he sees’.

akr_013© Isaac Pereira, from Akhromatopia (#4 Disturbed)


٠ Rodrigo H. and the case of curiosity’s drift ٠

This post introduces another invited scribe for this blog: Rodrigo H.. Though it’s not his first post as a newcomer, he has made a singular contribution to accompany his visual work, which is entitled to its own post. From here on Rodrigo will wonder adrift amidst his affair with curiosity and the places it leads him to. From now on, we will be fortunate enough to share.


20110728-_MG_8789© Rodrigo H., Principe Real, Lisboa, July 2011

MG_5784© Rodrigo H., la naturaleza de la representación II, 2012

Why do I photograph?

I photograph out of plain “simple” curiosity or, perhaps, nosiness. I am an observer. I ask questions, lots of them, everyday and about everything; although most of them are not —cannot be— verbalized. I have always been what some would define as shy but I’d rather refer to as “quiet”.

I don’t see the world as a spectacle —this word makes me uncomfortable, it is too patronizing, too cocky (too French) and too simplistic for the complexities that surround us— and neither as a stage. There is something overtly teleological about this other word, as if there were always a final purpose, a closure dictated by a script.

However, it is true that our lives are filled with dramas, stories and epic struggles; after all, we are —that is, our minds are— hard-wired to spot patterns and causalities in each and every one of our activities, thus it could be said that we evolved to create narratives.

But I prefer to think of the world not just as stories, but also as problems to be pondered upon, as explanations to be sought. I long to understand the things, the objects that surround me. I want to find the order of causalities, to grasp their consequences. I want to find relations. I want to be able to understand; to know. Not to find a purpose, or a motive or even a structure, just phenomena, things that happen not for a specific reason but for a series of circumstances so complex we have not yet learned how to imagine them.

And that is, perhaps, my only true ambition.

28000.story_x_large28003.story_x_large© Rodrigo H., from the series Fixed, Carcavelos

The problem, as Craigie Horsfield[1] often has said it, is the difficulty we all face when we try to “say” the world. It lies in the incompleteness of our language, in us being unable to fully communicate our experiences, to —objectively— share the minute details and subtleties of our daily existence in all their uniqueness. A sort of “phenomenological handicap” that is. A paradox which, simultaneously, makes us feel frustrated and forces us to keep trying. It makes us look for common grounds, for metaphors, analogies, formulas to identify with others and with the world. Ways in which we could be able to “say” how we really apprehend beauty, pain, concern or any other feeling or experience which moves us.

I chose photography not so much as a way to do this —to tell the world— but as a way to ask, to wonder if I can actually do it. Rarely I have been able to “tell” something visually, to formulate a message, to articulate a discourse. In part because I always feel obligated to assume a certain responsibility not to leave “open” my telling or, at least, not to leave it all in the vicinity of ambiguity, as it often seems to be the mainstream formula nowadays.

I also chose —mainly— chemical photography as a method of slowness, of pause.

50871.story_x_large© Rodrigo H., Algarve Agreste27871.story_x_large© Rodrigo H., from the series Residues, University, Lisbon

Photography, as everyone who takes it seriously knows, has to do a lot with chance, more than we usually care to admit. But it also has to do with readiness, with the ability to extract something out of that chance, it means to be able to “jump” —Vilem Flusser[2] has an excellent reflection on the etymological meaning of the word apparatus and its relationship with photography— and preserve whatever we saw or felt and that might be worth communicating.

Of course, this doesn’t always comes as we initially thought. Something goes wrong. The end result is innocuous, wordless and bland; redundant. And that is when we try to revive it, to fiddle with whatever scraps of visual meaning we can extract out of it and try to turn it into a valid formula that someone else —anyone else— might also find interesting. Digital workflows make this process so much easier and fast.

And I have nothing against them, except, that they no longer “works” for me. They make me anxious.

Good formulas are hard to derive, they are built on general principles, valid principles —some might say “universal,” but I feel that this is too big of a word. These formulas are able to function not only as good descriptions but also as tools, as starting points, as referents. We always come back to them, we tear them apart, we try to understand them, to read them. But they always seem to have more meaning, more narrative, more memory underneath.

Good formulas take time and a lot of trial and error to be built, and, of course, a lot of luck too.

I assumed chemical photography because it is —more— vulnerable to human mistake, it functions at a slower pace, it makes me wait. It allows me to think if my questions are well articulated, if I am actually making any questions or just collecting random visual data out of a mere temporary “interest”. It gives me time to build a purpose for my initial curiosity. It allows me to learn —as Horsfield would say it— this «method of a vulnerable time»[3] that, I’ve come to believe, is photography.

Rodrigo H, Lisboa 2013

post_tren-950x460© Rodrigo H., tram portrait

1. Horsfield, C. (2006). “World and Word.” In: Craigie Horsfield. Relation, edited by Catherine De Zegher, 43 – 68. Lisboa: Jeu de Paume [Paris] / Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian [Lisboa] / Museum of Contemporary Art [Sidney].

2. Flusser, V. (2006). Towards a Philosophy of Photography. Translated by Anthony Mathews. London: Reaktion Books. Original edition, 1983. Reprint, 3d.

3. Horsfield, C. (1999). Im Gespräch / Conversation [Exhibition Catalogue]. Edited by Uta Nusser. Stuttgart: Dumont / Württembergischer Kunstverein.

┐ Kirsten Hoving └

© Kirsten Hoving, Birth of the star system, from the series Night Wanderers, 2010

© Kirsten Hoving, Music of the Spheres, from the series Night Wanderers, 2010

© Kirsten Hoving, Orion, the Hunter, from the series Night Wanderers, 2010

© Kirsten Hoving, Cassiopeia, from the series Night Wanderers, 2010

“Night Wanderers is a series of photographs envisioning the cosmos. I photograph objects and nineteenth-century photographs frozen in or placed under disks of ice to create the feeling of galactic swirls of stars, galaxies and spiral nebulae.

For this series, I have been influenced not by the work of other photographers, but by the collage and assemblage art of the American artist Joseph Cornell. In the course of writing an art historical book on the artist, Joseph Cornell and Astronomy: A Case for the Stars (Princeton University Press, 2009), I became aware of the artist’s deep and abiding interest in astronomy. I also came to understand his creative process, which involved juxtaposing objects in often unexpected ways. His working method encouraged me to take risks, to experiment, and to be willing to destroy one object to create another. He also taught me to appreciate the stars.

Using ice as a still life object is always a challenging process. I partially thaw the ice to create transparent and translucent areas, then work quickly to photograph it. While I choose objects and photographs that recall earlier times (an outdated globe, old cartes-de-visite) to help remind us that star light is old light, the ice that encases them underscores the elegance and fragility of our place in the universe.” Kirsten’s statement

More of Kirsten’s work here

This work made me think of Laura Marling‘s Night Terror, so here it is:

┐ roots & fruits #10 – Cláudio Ferreira └

© Cláudio Ferreira, all Untitled, from the series Space Project nº 1 – Galaxies, 2012

“And yet, the absence of the subject does not have to be interpreted as a deficiency. Quite the opposite, it could indicate a new quality in the revolution, in a henceforth molecular revolution, and the primacy of multiplicity within it. When the subject is missing, it has not just gone amiss, as a gap (still) gaping and begging to get closed. In view of the composition of the molecular revolution there is no need for unification, or for the representation of a unified (class) subject by leaders, party and vanguard. The rejection of the primacy of the class, or of a specific class (be it the proletariat, or a middle-class threatened by decline) does not in any way imply tuning out the hierarchizing differentiation that takes place more radically than ever in current capitalist production. Differential capitalism striates the differences, hierarchizes and valorizes them. And yet molecular multiplicity raises no hopes in any of the imaginings of resistance against this machinic-differentiating capitalism that undertake to homogenize and totalize differences. Even in their negative manifestation there is no way back ahead of multiplicity, but only its dis/continuous unfolding.

But even the subject, the one, the whole, where it is no longer absent, is not the consequence of a process of collecting, forming, unifying the many, the singular, the dispersed, to be composed into a molar block. It does not follow a logic of addition, but one of subtraction. It must first be extracted from the uncountable multiplicity, detached, dis-counted in order to be one. The one emerges only when the logic of counting, classifying and identifying lays its grids on the multiplicity; when the uncountable is domesticated in the process of counting.

The subject can appear only through subtraction from the multiple.”

excerpt from Making Multiplicity: A Philosophical Manifesto, by Gerald Raunig. continue reading here

More of Cláudio‘s work here

┐ Scott Alario └

© Scott Alario, all Untitled, from the project Our Fable

“I’m in the process of building a folk tale for my daughter. It is a paternal inevitability to make up stories for one’s children, and for me, doing so has recently become the passion in my creative practice.

There are two photographs I remember from my childhood that play directly into this work. The first is a studio portrait of my father’s mother, made immediately before leaving Italy to immigrate to the United States. We would call the photograph the “gypsy picture” while I was growing up, and in doing so the image has taken on a magic, epic role. In the picture, my grandmother stands stoic as an eight year old. Her timeless eyes represent so much to me. In her face is the face of the 100-year-old woman I know now and it’s the face of my daughter. It is one of wisdom and will, and it fills me with awe.

The second picture that I carry in my mind is a portrait of a Sami family, reindeer herders of northern Scandinavia. Magic fl ows out of this image, too. It comes from my mother’s mom, whose Norwegian bloodline is only fi ctitiously connected to the Sami. Although I imagine being related to these people, the image hangs in the house like an offering to our ancestry. I see the face of my late uncle in the proud, piped and weathered hero of the portrait. Having a child has got me thinking about the importance of cultural myth and ideas of ancestral wisdom. In my baby I can see our connection to the past, as well as the potential to leave bits of ourselves to posterity.

My recent work deals with my fear of failing as a father, and attempts to make something of the successful moments. I use photography to engage my daughter. Together we construct images, she leads at times, and at others I beg her to stay still. She has become, simultaneously, the impetus, a participant, and the audience. Ideas for pictures come through play; dressing in costumes we make, becoming characters, going back into nature, erecting forts, and telling stories. Inspired by those two relic-like portraits, and driven by a deep love, these images are a collaboration with my whole family through time.”

Scott’s statement. More of his great work here

┐ roots & fruits #7 – Inês Beja └

© Inês Beja, The Roaring

© Inês Beja, Untitled #3, from the series Jumping at Shadows

Inês is a chameleon or, as she puts it, a shape-shifter. From my point of view what she is now is a creative force: obsessive, eager to learn, aiming for the perfect tool, the perfect dress, the perfect light, the perfect shot. I believe these are arguments enough to keep an eye on her and see where all this passion (borderline destructive force?) can take her.

Her work made me think of a written piece of work, so instead of dragging on parallels between her work and that of self-portrayed women in the history of photography, here it is:

“(…)The initial idea that images contributed to women’s alienation from their bodies and from their sexuality, with an attendant hope of liberation and recuperation, gave way to theories of representation as symptom and signifier of the way problems posed by sexual difference under patriarchy could be displaced onto the feminine.(…)and while feminist critics turned to popular culture to analyse these meanings, artists turned to theory, juxtaposing images and ideas, to negate dominant meanings and,slowly and polemically, to invent different ones.

(…)The juxtaposition begins to refer to a ‘surface-ness’, so that nostalgia begins to dissolve into unease.An overinsistence on surface starts to suggest that it might be masking something or other that should be hidden from sight, and a hint of another space starts to lurk inside a too plausible facade.(…)The sense of surface now resides, not in the female figure’s attempt to save her face in a masquerade of femininity, but in the model’s subordination to, and imbrication with, the texture of the photographic medium itself.

(…)For Freud, fetishism is particularly significant (apart, that is, from his view that it ‘confirmed the castration complex’) as a demonstration that the psyche can sustain incompatible ideas, at one and the same time,through a process of disavowal. Fetishistic disavowal acknowledges the possibility of castration (represented by the female, penis-less, genital)and simultaneously denies it. Freud saw the coexistence of these two contradictory ideas, maintained in a single psyche, as a model for the ego’s relation to reality: the ‘splitting of the ego’, which allowed two parallel, but opposed, attitudes to be maintained in uneasy balance.(…) This ‘oscillation effect’ is important to postmodernism. The viewer looks, recognizes a style, doubts, does a double take, then recognizes that the style is a citation, and meanings shift and change their reference like shifting perceptions of perspective from an optical illusion.

excerpt from Laura Mulvey’s article A Phantasmagoria of the Female Body: The Work of Cindy Sherman

Inês’s portraits can be seen here

┐ roots & fruits #3 – João Henriques └

© João Henriques, Untitled, from the series ID, 2010

© João Henriques, Untitled, from the series ID, 2010

© João Henriques, Untitled, from the series ID, 2010

“Id is a photographic series about place and identity, whose images where done in my home town, Tomar, Portugal.

The term Id, besides pointing to the notion of identity also refers to a Freudian term that designates the unconscious place where images are formed, one that might contain the information not only about the past but also the future, a place where the notions of time are weaved into a multidimensional net.

Questions about the origins, what might be beside them and the way in which self- identity connects with the place where you are born are raised through this images.”

João’s statement

more of João’s work here

┐ Martin Seeds └

© Martin Seeds, from the project I have troubles[…]

© Martin Seeds, from the project I have troubles[…]

© Martin Seeds, from the project I have troubles[…]

“I never set out to document anything. It was more of a search, an investigation. I wanted to understand more of myself. To find others like me. I needed to be sure that I wasn’t the only one.

In 1986 I left Northern Ireland for London and for work. I brought me a diploma in computer studies, a strong accent and £50 that I think my father gave me at the ferry terminal. When questioned about my origins in London I rarely had much more than a terse answer. I didn’t have a strong sense of what culturally defined me as being from the North of Ireland. If I did venture into that definition a violent history emerged. And it was difficult to reject that violent element of my heritage without rejecting much of the culture and history. Over the years I returned ‘home’ to Northern Ireland many times and felt with each return increasingly alienated, to the point where I now view my home country as a detached outsider.

But there must be others. I’m sure we, the ones from over there, all get asked the same questions; of origin and of history. And therefore some of those others, like me, must also doubt their answers. Of belonging? There are those, the numbers of whom are unknown to me, although I suspect there are many, that do not answer or give a faux “…it doesn’t matter…”. So much is buried in such a dismiss. For many don’t want to embark down the tiresome road of “…going into that nonsense…”.

I reached the seminal point of detachment in 2010, when I returned to Belfast for a family Christmas. Arriving in the morning and tired from my journey, I slept until mid afternoon. During my sleep there was a heavy snowfall and on waking I stared at this new white landscape from the bedroom window. It felt, for a moment, that a troubled history had been wiped clean but I realised that the snow, although deep and heavy, lay lightly on the surface and was like myself without roots. At that point I knew I did not belong here and because I didn’t feel I belonged elsewhere I needed to understand my sense of displacement.

I am convinced however that there exists within us all a deep sense of origin. It is stronger in some cultures, less deeply buried perhaps. To be clear I’m not talking about nationalism, no, that is something else. That’s wrapped up in political ideals and tied to legal boundary posts. What I’m referring to is more a primeval notion of origin. An unconscious apolitical reference point, which influences much of our choices.

On my recent trips to Northern Ireland I visited familiar places. I was trying to find some resonance of myself engrained in the substance of these known locales. I looked in museums, the repositories of local history and culture, hoping to find some clarity as to my origins. I visited the border country between the north and south of Ireland. Thinking that by looking across that troublesome boundary line to another supposedly different place it might jolt a notion of longing through knowing I didn’t belong there; but in fact it was hard to see where one country ended and the other began. I journeyed to Stormont the seat of political power and once there, I walked the peaceful woods surrounding that contested white building. Throughout all of this, I explored the faces of my fellow countrymen. These faces would surely harbour some common trait, characteristic or expression that I could recognise as my own.

For we as humans have need of a reference point – a beginning? We require that ‘A’ to start from and ‘B’ to arrive at. You see I think we like straight lines, they are easy to negotiate and are convincing in their simplicity. History has, for example, a habit of being drawn as a straight line for that very reason. Well, I read the history; several versions of it. And yes, each drew its own straight line. And I got sick of the sight of it to be honest. It wasn’t telling me anything I wanted to know. It told me someone else’s story. So I went back there. I went back to find my own ‘A’.”

Martin’s statement

More of his work can be seen here

┐ Lauren E. Simonutti └

© Lauren E. Simonutti, Manny and Josephine, 1999

Lauren passed away this April. An homage would be irrelevant compared to what she set off to uncover and offers us. Thank you for the enlightenment! A must see, hear and feel that reminds me of David Nebreda’s work, more than anything else due to the relation the author establishes with the work.

Madness strips things down to their core. It takes everything and in exchange offers only more madness, and the occasional ability to see things that are not there….The problem with madness is that you can feel it coming but when you tell people you think you are going crazy they do not believe you. It is too distant a concept. Too melodramatic. You don’t believe it yourself until you have fallen so quickly and so far that your fingernails are the only thing holding you up, balanced with your feet dangling on either side of a narrow fence with your heart and mind directly over center, so that when you do fall it will split you in two. And split equally. So there’s not even a stronger side left to win…..Over three and one half years I have spent alone amidst these 8 rooms, 7 mirrors, 6 clocks, 2 minds and 199 panes of glass. And this is what I saw here. This is what I learned.

Lauren’s statement

More of Lauren’s work at Catherine Edelman Gallery

┐ Pierre Dalpé └

© Pierre Dalpé, Manny and Josephine, 1999

© Pierre Dalpé, Saul, Sarah and Johanne, 1998

“Capitalizing on the multiplicity of an individual’s personality and the many selves housed within all of us, Pierre Dalpé approaches each of his subjects with a duplicitous heart: he twins his subjects within the frame to expose the construction of identity while questioning the authenticity of the photographic image. Interested in the process of transformation, Dalpé collaborates with his subjects to express different facets of their personalities. Through this partnership, he is able to coax out identities that lay just below the surface, blurring the boundaries of who is real and who is not, producing family portraits derived from a single subject. Capturing two and sometimes three personas, Dalpé manipulates these portraits in a digital environment, placing them side-by-side within his frame to expose the construct of “truth” in documentary photography. By playing with era, gender, costuming, setting, subtle theatrics, poses, and appearance, Dalpé constructs images that both take advantage of these superficial elements for their formal qualities, and question their authenticity for the viewer, ultimately challenging his audience with the very elements that make up his photographs. The simultaneously historic and timeless quality of his images further adds an aura of nostalgia to the viewer’s experience, authenticating the image through its masquerading historical context.”

introduction to “Pierre Dalpé’s Duplicitous Heart”, by Dayna McLeod

Pierre’s web home here

┐ Noel Rodo-Vankeulen └

@ Noel Rodo-Vankeulen, hood, from the series Flower City (work in progress)

@ Noel Rodo-Vankeulen, gray, from the series Flower City (work in progress)

@ Noel Rodo-Vankeulen, twin, from the series Flower City (work in progress)

In Flower City I’m focusing on the area where I live (Brampton, Ontario), a relative nowhere city transformed by a failed greenhouse industry, as a stand in for photographic experience. I’m really interested in how the medium functions as both art and photography, specifically how these two distinct aspects of a greater whole can alter and mediate what we see.
For the whole series I’ve worked with a large format camera and shot everything on black and white film, making the body of work a cryptic play not only on the ambiguous nature of photography itself, but showing the medium’s specific nature of looking. There is something archaic in using a 4×5 camera and how it can render basic and minimal compositions of people, places and objects as almost alien or distanced. In this respect I’ve specifically chosen to photograph subjects that range the gamut from quasi-exotic to the completely mundane. I’m interested in how these two extremes can have the same presence and become almost mythologized or iconic.

excerpt from Mossless magazine

More of Noel’s work here

┐ Deborah Luster └

© Deborah Luster, Untitled, from the series Tooth for an Eye, 2004

© Deborah Luster, Untitled, from the series Tooth for an Eye, 2004

“The city of New Orleans is a topographical/ architectural/material/cultural phenomenon with a diverse population participating in raucously colorful and fascinating pursuits and rituals. Homicide is a cultural fact of the life in the city as well. In her second book, Tooth for an Eye: A Chorography of Violence in Orleans Parish, Deborah Luster explores the city in a new way, creating a compelling portrait in the form of a photographic archive of contemporary and historic homicide sites. Following on from her first book, Prisoners of Louisiana, Tooth for an Eye explores the themes of loss and remembrance in a series of tondo photographs that offer an opportunity for the viewer to enter deeper into the idea of the city, a place where life and death coexist, neither free of the other’s infuence.”

More of Deborah’s work here

┐ Lesley Dill └

© Lesley Dill, Face Pull, 2000

© Lesley Dill, Tongues on Fire, 2001

As a young teen, Dill had a vision, one that she had kept hid den until this project, “I grew up in Maine and had a bedroom window that looked out onto some woods. One morning when I was fourteen and was getting dressed for school, I sat on the bed and looked out the window at the dark leaves against the sky. Somehow, my whole visual screen was suddenly filled with a sort of weblike spiral of images that appeared black on white or white on black. At that moment, I was given to understand the world. I understood pestilence, sorrow, and the hugeness of everything. I understood that there was a pattern threaded through all things – and that it was all right. This was accompanied by a feeling of bliss, which I had never experienced before.”

Excerpt from text by curator David J. Brown. Continue reading the essay here

Lesley’s work can be seen here