Everything she touches turns to…

Annie Leibovitz is responsible for creating such an iconography, that her authority (meaning legitimacy as an author) is unquestionable. Having said that, and although her work is always in trend (or so my students’ tell me), for the past decade or so I’ve been failing to find any originality in her photographic work. Seeing her recent portraits of Michelle Obama is what brought me to this post. My first reaction was, literally, that she turns everything and everyone into the same: an object, with no soul. We’ve seen the compositions, the poses, the air, the latent content, the only thing that keeps being new is the people who enter her shot. I guess, this could be another example of how style can be interpreted as the exact opposite of a high level of originality and, instead, describe a bundle of strategies that serve to legitimate repetition.

But let’s look at the images (or maybe leave now, this might be a waste of your time): Haven’t we seen this from her before? Why is Leivobitz suggesting that Michelle Obama is about to be abducted by some higher power? And, just as we’re at it, why is she cutting this woman’s foot? If the point was to make Michelle look sexy (maybe suggesting something about the woman who’s about to take her place at the White House?), I think we can all agree this is a failure.

Annie Leibovits, Michelle Obama© Annie Leibovitz, Michelle Obama, 2016.

15078872_1361345967232327_5540863511965742689_n© Annie Leibovitz, Michelle Obama, 2016.

There’s a story about Sontag and Leibovitz that I’m reminded here. Their close friendship is well know, as is the fact that Sontag pushed her to go out of her comfort zone. I can’t exactly point out where I read or heard this, but it was Sontag who, in the 90’s, convinced Leibovitz to go out to the Balkans and see the war through her lens. As expected, that changed her approach to life and art and for some time her photographs reflected that change, that density and maturity. But, as years went on and she kept on photographing big fashion productions, she sort of started to disappear, her voice getting ever more conventional and unoriginal. Sometimes a friend is what it takes to open our mind and I keep thinking that this wouldn’t happen if Sontag was alive (but, I know, this is extremely naif on my part).

It wasn’t my initial intention to be too harsh, but what her photographs now lack in originality they seam to make up in absurdity and eccentricity. In fact, I find them undignified, both of her and some of the individuals she photographs. The play, which, one can say, plays a very important role in the dynamics of an artwork, doesn’t mean that the work lacks gravity; instead, it should mean that the work is experimenting within its boundaries, playing with its internal and external dynamics.

I’m not even going to bring the subject of the Disney-themed photos of celebrities, for it is just too bad, but what happened to the subtlety of her earlier portraits? Did someone whispered to her that she had to keep up with LaChapelle?

≡ Refugee chic? Oh, my! Here we go again… ≡

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Inspired by the echos of the migrant crisis in his home country, hungarian photographer Norbert Baska has made a fashion shoot called “Der Migrant” with models in luxurious clothes posing as refugees in fake camp set-ups with barbed wire. ‘Lovely‘, some say. ‘What’s the problem‘, others ask. But the majority of us will immediately recognize it as being essentially wrong. So why?

NYT: As Nathalie Hof observed in the online journal OAI13, the images that attracted the most attention showed the model, Monika Jablonczky, pausing to “take a selfie, leaning against the border fence, in her designer clothes, with a phone which bears the distinct logo of Chanel.” That the model’s shirt is half open drew particular ire, given the cultural and faith backgrounds of many of those fleeing wars in the Middle East.

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Baska’s response to the (apparently surprising) critic reaction of his colleagues:

I hoped people would realize that the situation is very complex and see that they are taking stands based on partial or biased information. I do not understand how people can take a clear stand (pro or con) while we are flooded with contradictory information through the media, so no one has extensive knowledge of the situation as a whole. This is exactly what we wanted to picture: you see a suffering woman, who is also beautiful and despite her situation, has some high quality pieces of outfit and a smartphone.

The shooting is not intended to glamourize this clearly bad situation, but rather… to draw the attention to the problem and make people think about it…

Why shouldn’t Baska glamourize such reality? If for some the answer is very clear, as a photography teacher I frequently testify to its complexity. For very different reasons, this generation has a very particular sense of ethics and not much respect for human values; they struggle to identify what’s wrong with “the Baska approach”. I’d rather not go back to Sontag’s idea of ‘inauthentic beauty’, which she used to describe Salgado’s work, but the truth is that the concept immediately came to my mind.

Baska’s statement that he didn’t want to glamourize, rather wanted to dignify, has no truth to it. Either he was aware that he was taking advantage of a harsh reality to move the spotlight on him, or he has just ignorant. Either way, it was a bad call. In general, there’s nothing wrong with choosing current events as themes for commercial work, but if you want to create fictions that are so closely related to reality, you’ll have to play by social reality rules and so, if you want to talk about a situation that involves the death of people fleeing the war, it’s not a good idea to make a composition that puts together in the same image this sort of symbols: Chanel, barbed wire, eastern looking model, luxurious clothes and cellphones.

It’s disrespectful in so many ways. 1) the migrant crisis has created several situations that deal with our collective unconscious, and the barbed wire being used in Hungary plays a big part on it. Women, men and children concentrated in one place, asking for help with barbed wire on the horizon will always arise the memory of World War II;

2) Chanel cellphones are products of a society that is ruled by capitalism, precisely the same society that is more concerned with the markets than with building a more just and equal way of living for us all. When you put a girl leaning on barbed wire taking a selfie with a Chanel cellphone, what it the subtitle? Syrian girl takes selfie à la mode des westerners to see if she can fit in their society???;

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3) And what about the joke with the sandwich? How can one understand such nonsense? Is it: Look at me, I’m hungry but still I’m not really going to eat it all because I want to keep my figure so that you can all love my body? Or: Look at me, I’m a refugee and I’m hungry but still I’m a sex bomb and I’ll let you take a peek under my skirt?

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After a lot of controversy, here’s Baska’s team official notice: We have experienced a lot of negative feedback since the publication of our photo series Der Migrant, although more and more people recognize the true message behind the pictures and agree with it […] Considering the heated emotions and because, despite our intentions, many unfortunately consider the pictures offending, we have decided to remove the series from our website.

≡ ‘Normcore’: it’s all about adaptability ≡

YOUTH_Page_08page from the K-Hole report.

The end of authenticity is near. Apparently, the post-authenticity movement is coming and it seems to have found its motto: embrace the fake. To quit the rhetoric of authenticity, a discourse that argues for the importance of being different and unique, and to embrace this new attitude would presuppose the understanding of the following rules: 1) all reality is constructed by the individual understanding of cultural signs; 2) copies are what values originals, i.e., the bigger the number of multiples the higher the value of the #1; 3) the promotion of a given tendency is what kills it, though it also triggers the birth of a new one

In an article about Hipsters, fashion editor Morwenna Ferrier mentions a new term, Normcore, created by K-Hole, a trend forecasting group based in New York. Released in their 2013 report called Youth Mode: A Report on Freedom, normcore would then stand for the sort of youngster who is no longer motivated by the idea that being cool is about being different, and being different is being authentic, and now is motivated by an idea of sameness. But the idea of coolness is a fragile one and as often happens “the more commonplace a trend – in one instance, beards – the less attractive they are perceived to be.” (Ferrier, 2014)

YOUTH_Page_17page from the K-Hole report.

In the aforementioned report, other trends are identified, as “The Death of Age” and “The Youth Mode”, but is the Normcore definition that grabs my attention. Normcore is defined as situational, adaptable, non-deterministic, unconcerned with authenticity, and post-aspirational:

“Once upon a time people were born into communities and had to find their individuality. Today people are born individuals and have to find their communities. (…) It’s about adaptability, not exclusivity. (…) Normcore doesn’t want the freedom to become someone. Normcore wants the freedom to be with anyone. (…) Normcore moves away from a coolness that relies on difference to a post-authenticity coolness that opts in to sameness.” (pp. 27-8)

YOUTH_Page_30 copypages from the K-Hole report.

Although normcore is promoting itself as an innovative trend, and the report in itself creatively addresses questions related to identity in adolescence, this so-called trend for adaptability is passé. It reveals both a tendency for revitalization and a tendency to conform to things, both being a retraction from the “empire of authenticity”. The normcore discourse exposes the wear of the search for an identity, a wear that associated that effort with loneliness. It is a disclaimer on the values of youth: individuality and coolness. Given the tragidy, K-Hole suggests we look for “the freedom that comes with non-exclusivity” and the feeling of liberation, understood as relief, that comes from “being nothing special”, one amongst the crowd. By the end they claim: “Normcore is a path to a more peaceful life.” (p. 36)

The rhetoric of authenticity in the context of media culture tends to be reduced to the exploitation of the hazards of public figures who struggle to keep “faithful to themselves” when faced with the violence of the industry that forces dreams and promises of happiness upon them. On the other hand, the rhetoric of post-authenticity exploits precisely the artificiality and the relevance of aesthetic choices, taking advantage of the youngsters’ sense of urgency.

YOUTH_Page_37page from the K-Hole report.

Alison Hillhouse, vice-president of the MTV trends research team that helps shape MTV programming, has been interested in the phenomenon of authenticity amidst young people. Hillhouse suggests that we think of post-authenticity in the context of a generation that, faced with the huge impact of an out-of-control circulation of imagery, and faced with the impossible task to chose an identity for her/himself, quits the idea of being original and sincere, and opts for the fake, the staged and the artificial, as part of the search for difference. She concludes:

“Some of the most heated conversations we see around social media involve teens complaining about who is “trying too hard” to seem like they are not trying. For example, the “no-makeup selfie” phenomenon was once respected, now teens question whether there is something inauthentic about trying too hard to be authentic.” (2014, s.p.)

≡ The authentic artificiality of cultural appropriation: it’s no nonsense ≡

native-american-headdress-model-gisele-bunchen

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Author Busisiwe Deyi writes about Cultural Appropriation in Africa is a Country, in the context of the SPUR restaurant chain. Although the text is about this specific brand, the arguments go for other situations.

What the fuck is happening in the fashion world these days that everyone wants to be Native American?

Or do they?

Of course they don’t.

Whenever a brand is promoting something what they’re selling is a promise of authenticity and that promise is usually associated with experiences and emotions.

So the question is: what ideas are associated with the notion of a Native American individual?

I’ll suggest a few for starters: genuineness, uniqueness, purity, integrity, simplicity, honour and so on.

Rolling-Stone-Johnny-Depp_edited-1

Before properly addressing Deyi’s artcile, I’d like to quote from the master. In Rhetoric of the Image, from 1964, Barthes wrote:

“Linguistics is not alone in doubting the linguistic nature of the image; public opinion as well vaguely regards the image as a site of resistance to meaning, in the name of a certain mythical notion of Life: the image is re-presentation, i.e, ultimately resurrection and we know that the intelligible is reputed antipathetic to the experiential.”

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Back to Deyi’s artcile, she writes:

“The idea being to give you an authentic Native American experience through its menu that consists of spicy beef strips, calamari, nachos Mexicana, cheesy chicken quesadillas. (…) nothing about SPUR is Native North American except for its use of a Native American chief-like figure on its logo and Native American-esque names and themes. In truth, rather than Native American experience or culture, the imagery used by SPUR is that of the frontier US West and Southwest. Spurs are what cowboys wore and it was the conquest of Native American land, the making them subaltern, which is subsumed in the image of the Native American warrior image in the brand (a brand also largely of Hollywood’s making).

(…)

The erasure of black and other minorities through the removal of cultural meaning and rendering of cultural symbols into one dimensional products or dumbification through commercialization is a staple of the corporate world. However, this racist cultural appropriation by corporations in their advertising is something we rarely explore in South Africa. By erasure I don’t mean absence, I mean symbolic annihilation. Symbolic annihilation is the process of erasure under or misrepresentation of some group of people in the media, this is usually based on race, socio-economic status or religion. A particularly egregious form is erasure through the portrayal of harmful stereotypes and/or invisibilisation through the reduction of history and culture into products or commodities that are then used for profit. This form of erasure is astoundingly offensive as it minimises entire histories and cultures rich with meaning and legacy, rendering them one-dimensional caricatures. This is by no means incidental but part of a system which is inherently racist and which maintains inequality through locating and concentrating privilege in whiteness. Wealth enables those at the top of the hierarchy to continue this system of racial inequality by recreating and perpetuating images of minorities that confirm ideas justifying oppression.

This makes sense of course, if an oppressor can maintain the idea that those they oppress are deserving of their oppression then it becomes difficult for the oppressed to mobilise against them. It reallocates the blame onto the oppressed and allows the oppressor to take comfort in the idea that their privilege is deserved. A collorary is that it allows the oppressor to engender a seraphic image of themselves in the imagination of the oppressed. Centring only them as capable of expressing complexity – a central aspect of being human. The act of dehumanization needs a parallel act of humanization in order to root its legitimacy.

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(…)

Racism is disconnected from the body. Complicity then is about the pleasures of consumption, some purported equality in the marketplace. Previously racist-capitalism was focused directly on the black body and mind as the primary sites of violence and/or exploited labour now that that avenue is unavailable it has morphed.  Racist cultural appropriation has slipped into the daily routines of normalcy and sediment into our cultural psych. The normalcy of racist mis/appropriation has made us complicit in our continued oppression. It is important we are constantly critical of the things we consume and patronise in South Africa.

Of course SPUR is not the only one to do this, OUTsurance did it with Ashley Taylor, who can forget “All Zee flavours Mochachos” offers and retailer Woolworths has a TV advert, a tribute to Nelson Mandela, with blacks singing ‘Asimbonanga.’ BTW, I love when black people sing; I have enjoyed church songs even though I am a reluctant atheist but the imagery of black workers singing whilst an appreciative white audience enjoys specticalized blackness makes me very uncomfortable. Within the capitalist-racist context of South Africa these images continue to reinforce the ideas which sustain systematic racial inequality. When you do not reflect alternative narratives of a people you often justify their continued oppression. Anyone who buys from Spur is – even if unwittingly – complicit in this.”

Complete article here

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≡ No room à l’hasard ≡

Excerpts of Brendan Cormiers’s essay No Interest in Reality, written for The New Institute’s exhibition, 1:1 Sets for Erwin Olaf and Bekleidung, Nov 11th 2013 – March 30th 2014. Full text here.

In the documentary, On Beauty and Fall, celebrated Dutch photographer Erwin Olaf states that he has no interest in reality. He laments the art world’s exaltation of the documentary photographer, who moves the viewer with earnest depictions of the ‘real world’, which in the end are often conceits of their own. Instead Olaf’s real world is his interior world, the world of his own fantasies. Loaded with ambiguous meaning, it’s a world where wallpaper drips with pathos, and curtains veil an exterior we’ll never encounter. Models reveal ambivalent expressions and all objects sit complicit in the montage: a carefully positioned phone is charged with anticipation of a call that never takes place.

Embedded in these images is a story about design, a story of theatricality and the idea of a constructed interior, for in these interiors representation blurs with reality. Perhaps unwittingly, Olaf resurrects the nineteenth century notion that architectural space should display and amplify the drama of life. In so doing his photographs suggest tools for design – the careful montage of stylistic references, expressive skins, and selective framing – that have been used in the past, and might be resurrected once again.

In Which Style Should We Photograph?

Style is a word inseparable from Olaf’s images. His work is characterized by the variety of historic styles that comprise his sets ¬– from the Norman Rockwell optimism of 1950s America [Rain], to a somber post-JFK 1960s [Grief], to the interbellum years of Germany [Berlin], to the ravages of war in sixteenth century Holland [The Siege and Relief of Leiden]. The ease with which Olaf moves through these styles recalls the practice of the nineteenth century architect, who, driven by the historicism and eclecticism of the time, was expected to recreate any number of styles – from Greek, to Roman, to Gothic, and so on – at the whim of his patron. This seemingly rudderless approach to aesthetics prompted Heinrich Hübsch in 1828 to ask the question: ‘In which style should we build? – a debate that would endure the century, with various architects advocating for one style over another. Gradually architecture would resolve this tension by muting and abstracting historic elements altogether, paving the way for the unadorned facades of twentieth century modernism.

(…)

Similarly, Olaf’s interiors aren’t employed as historical reenactments as such, but employ historic styles to evoke an idea or a feeling. Style is an expression, a mood-setter, and a signifier. For example, in Grief, each element in the set, and each color, acts as a reference that contributes to the melancholy of the title: The vertical lines made by the shadows of the drapes mimic the bars of a jail; juxtaposed with the optimism of the sleek modernist furnishing, referring to the resurgent postwar middle class. Meanwhile the Jackie Onassis haircuts and outfits recall the tragedy of the JFK assassination and the collective feeling of loss that the nation experienced. The montage of contradicting moods triggered by these signifiers creates a tension that forms the drama of each piece.

(…)

Life On Display

To view an Olaf photograph is also to enter into a world of multiple frames that guide our gaze and that of the actors. It is a reminder of how our interior spaces are constructed as such, full of gaze-directing cues. Your gaze falls upon a framed space often so intimate you feel as a voyeur. The actors in the scenario are also aware of the frames – the window looking out on the yard, the spotlighted furniture arrangement, the perfect table setting, or the camera lens staring right back at you. Works like Keyhole, are explicit in this voyeurism; with the actor’s back turned, you are free to stare without shame, but the framing is tight (as if through a keyhole) and the gaze is limited. In wider shots, such as in Hope, you are confronted with the model’s gaze, and made uncomfortable by the muted anticipation in their eyes.

Such notions of framing can also be drawn back to the nineteenth century in the works of Semper and Schinkel. They shared a common view that architecture is a frame that should accommodate human experience. Drawing from Schinkel’s experience with stage design, the frame was intended to catch the eye of the viewer and direct their attention to the drama of life. This was used to great effect in Schinkel’s paintings, especially to highlight the transition between the interior world and the outdoors. In these paintings the colonnade often serves as a frame through which the viewer’s gaze must pass to reach the landscape, moving from a closed space bounded by opaque materiality, into a space of daylight and distance. Unsurprisingly, the colonnade would later be used to great effect in his architecture. For instance in the Altes Museum, he covers the façade with a wide colonnade framing views out to the Lustgarten and the monumental buildings beyond. In the museum’s rotunda multiple frames are at play vying for your attention: the columns frame each statue, while an oculus plays a double role, framing a circular image of the sky, and directing your attention to the center with a casted beam of light.

(…)”

ArtPulse 1-4167© Erwin Olaf, press clip, Art Pulse, 2009.

The Gaurdian312© Erwin Olaf, press clip, The Gaurdian.

British Journal of Photography, March 2010 1-417© Erwin Olaf, press clip, British Journal of Photography, 2012.

Liberation Next 02, May 2010200© Erwin Olaf, press clip, Liberation Next, 2010.

Los Angeles Times154© Erwin Olaf, press clip, Los Angeles Times, 2007.

The Wall Street Journal. 6 January 2015177© Erwin Olaf, press clip, The Wall Street Journal, 2015.

≡ Woman as Object = Fashism (fashion + sexism) ≡

Broomsticks 1960Broomsticks, circa 1960.

tipalet_1970Tipalet, circa 1970.

badedas_circa 1970Badeda, circa 1970.

«The demands of fashion for women reveal sexism, for men experience much less pressure to conform to clothing trends. While they are not totally immune, the basics do not change for them – suit and tie, pants and a shirt. Casual clothes can be very simple as well, with little attention to fashion “shoulds.” Women’s fashions, on the other hand, change constantly, and many risk being judged and in some arenas ostracized for not staying current. For women, casual clothes are rarely casual. To feel socially acceptable and succeed at being a “real woman,” keeping up with fashion trends is a requirement at all times.

«Fashion exerts control over women by defining the current standard of femininity and each era has had its own method for keeping women anxious, uncertain and dependent. But today, sexism in fashion is dictatorial, unforgiving, and oblivious to individual variations in body type, weight, or preferences. Although the buying and selling of status and self-worth reflect the basic American values of democracy, materialism, and opportunity, taken to the extreme as it has in the fashion industry, it can destroy a woman’s freedom, creativity, self-esteem, and health, no apologies offered. Let’s call it “fashism.» source: BODY WARS: Making Peace with Women’s Bodies, by Margo Maine.

Warner's 1967Warner, 1967.

advert-immoral.1976Love’s Baby Soft, 1976.

«The two most blatant cultural myths that are invoked in the advertisement are the standards of what beauty and femininity are in Western Culture. “Roland Barthes used the term myth to refer to the cultural values and beliefs that are expressed at this level of connotation. For Barthes, myth is the hidden set of rules and conventions through which meanings, which are in reality specific to certain groups, are made to seem universal and given for a whole society… These norms constitute a myth in Bathes’s terms, because they are historically and culturally specific, not ‘natural’ (Sturken & Cartwright, Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture).
[…]

In understanding what representations and myths plague the world of images and especially advertisements, we can better understand the relationship between culture and their target demographic. The relationship is somewhat one of reciprocity and exchange in that culture grooms society while simultaneously being created by it.» source: What Do Images Really Say? A Semiotic Analysis

ODF 2008Organ Donor Foundation, 2008.

Relish_2009Relish, 2009.

TFforMENTom Ford.

mjacobsMarc Jacobs, Daisy, 2014 + Lola, 2011.

DuncanQuinnDuncan Quinn.

am apAmerican Apparel.

CK 2010Calvin Klein, 2010.

Dolce-Gabbana-Fashion-Wallpapers-3-WallpaperDolce & Gabbana

a5_suitsupply1Suit Supply, 2010.

⁞ How Kalen Hollomon’s collages reflect the general confusion about the core of a subversive attitude ⁞

Trying to make a point with digital cut and paste, here are excerpts of reviews and interviews with collage artist Kalen Hollomon, accompanied by images of his playful work.

kh3© Kalen Hollomon

kh1© Kalen Hollomon

NYMAG: […] Hollomon claims it’s been “embarrassing” to take the iPhone photos that garner him thousands of likes each day and says he’s not interested in deconstructing materialism — “I love the price of things!” Instead, he seeks to create “sexy, but unsettling” combinations of men and women. […]


Alex Ronan: What is it about high fashion interests you?


Kalen Hollomon: I get to force the collaboration that happens between the designer and the person wearing the clothes. I used a photograph of a homeless man, gave him a pair of heels, and added the world Chanel. Suddenly, the guy looked fabulous. That’s what fashion does.

kh2© Kalen Hollomon

DAZED: The unorthodox and taboo are thoroughly explored through New York-based artist Kalen Hollomon’s tongue-in-cheek collages, which seek to blur the boundaries of prefixed homogenisation permeating our society. Hollomon’s subjects range from subway riders juxtaposed with clippings of cut out nudes and unassuming street-goers superimposed onto Celine, Prada and Chanel advertising, which sell for $300 a piece. “I am always concerned with what lies beneath the surface – with relativity, perception, sexuality and pop culture,” says Hollomon. “My images are reality manipulation, manipulating other people’s identities. The idea of and ability to alter the value or meaning of an image or object by adding or subtracting elements is really exciting to me – adding or taking away elements from something until it becomes the sexiest it can be at that moment.” […]

Kalen-Hollomon-Collage-16© Kalen Hollomon

THE EDITORIAL MAGAZINE: Kalen Hollomon (@kalen_hollomon) is taking collage to New York City’s streets and its underground, superimposing clippings from fashion and vintage porno magazines onto unsuspecting subway riders and mundane city scenes. […] It’s clear that many of the people don’t even notice they are getting their picture taken – who can really tell the difference between someone snapping a pic or playing candy crush during their commute? It’s that candidness that lends these images their power, and by mixing in collage, Hollomon adds a surreal wit to this new genre of social-documentary photography. His photos are really funny, especially the ones where he superimposes naked butts onto unassuming pedestrians, creating the same simple absurdity as that Kids in The Hall “Headcrusher” skit where Mark McKinney squints his eye and squishes people’s heads between his thumb and forefinger. […]


Whitney Mallett: But you’re both remixing fashion imagery in a way [reference to Joel Kyack]. Do you see collage as having a radical or disruptive potential?


Kalen Hollomon: I try to create something that looks beautiful. You can create a powerful image that at first looks nice and maybe is a bit funny but if you look a bit deeper, it also might have something more to say than that. And to make someone question like, why they find it attractive, for them to say, “this looks great but wait it’s weird, I shouldn’t think this looks attractive, but I do.”

kalen6© Kalen Hollomon

kalen-holloman-051© Kalen Hollomon

COMPLEX: […] Collage artist Kalen Hollomon is not only able to sell his work on Instagram, he’s used the platform to build a community of engaged fans and get covetable commissions. This year, he’s Capsule New York’s Spring/Summer 2015 featured artist, where he gets to employ his signature style of uniting vintage fashion advertisements, porn from the ’80s and ’90s, and found photography. […]


Cedar Pasori: What intrigues you about combining the past and the present with your art?


Kalen Hollomon: It’s the potential to alter perspective or perception of both the past and the present. If it was sexy then, it’s sexy now. There’s maybe a different presentation, but there’s still that feeling, and it’s exciting to see past and present interact with each other.
[…]


Cedar Pasori: In drawing out “what’s beneath the surface” with your work, how do you aim to do this with men’s style and masculinity, specifically?


Kalen Hollomon: I try to celebrate masculinity and at the same time make it sexy in a feminine way — a type of non-aggressive masculine sexuality. I’m attracted to achieving this with minimal changes, something as simple as putting a pair of heels on a gentlemen; that can really change the vibe of an image.

10607968_298795413633933_547278544_n© Kalen Hollomon

THE STANDARD: […] Hollomon’s is a brilliant and timely innovation, one that seamlessly merges high and low to maximum WTF effect, and subversively undermines our ordered sense of reality. Seemingly effortless, a closer look reveals a methodical, canny eye for composition, a surrealist bent, and a cutting wit. The result has been a steady buzz in both the Art and Fashion worlds, and 70,000+ followers who get a kick out of his trickery. […]

⁞ ‘No photoshop, no easy tricks’ ⁞

phoca_thumb_l_aisha_zeijpveld_thomas_rosenboom_web_01© Aisha Zeijpveld, Thomas Rosenboom. Portraits of writer Thomas Rosenboom for Volkskrant Magazine.

I find Aisha Zeijpveld’s work undeniably captivating but what first caught my attention was the particular way I found it being promoted at Ignant. Here’s an excerpt: Aisha does all her editing by hand. No photoshop, no easy tricks, just scissors and whatever material she needs to create the surreal effect she wants. She sketches onto the photographs, outlining the figure in an unusual way, whilst modifying shapes into something slightly different.

It’s curious that we now find ourselves promoting manual work as it, for itself, was a sign of quality. It shows just how mush humanity is trapped in a nostalgic mode and is unable to evolve beyond traditional methods and behaviours. Every now and then, after a few decades of fervours developments, we begin to look back and resuscitate the ‘way we were’.

Don’t get me wrong, I am very fond of manual processes and have always enjoyed and prefer its results, but my point is that the process does not define the work, it only defines the author. And of course, if you believe one thing and the other are inseparable, then choosing manual or technological processes, direct or abstract work, become decisive questions when thinking about the quality of a work of art, but are they?

phoca_thumb_l_aisha_zeijpveld_tokyo_ohayo© Aisha Zeijpveld, Tokyo Ohayo, 2012.

phoca_thumb_l_aisha_zeijpveld_web_013© Aisha Zeijpveld, Valerio Zeno. Portraits of Valerio Zeno for Volkskrant Magazine.

phoca_thumb_l_aisha_zeijpveld_what_remains_03© Aisha Zeijpveld, Untitled, from the fashion series What remains, 2012.

phoca_thumb_l_myrthevandemeer_2_web© Aisha Zeijpveld, Myrthe van de Meer. Portraits of writer Myrthe van de Meer for Volkskrant Magazin.

phoca_thumb_l_tessa_rose_jackson_aisha_zeijpveld_03© Aisha Zeijpveld, Tessa Rose Jackson. Portrait series of singer-songwriter Tessa Rose Jackson.

phoca_thumb_l_suzy_glam_rgb_web_03_1000pixels© Aisha Zeijpveld, Suzy Glam eyewear, 2014.

phoca_thumb_l_saint_laideur_02_web© Aisha Zeijpveld, Saint Laideur, 2014. Lookbook dutch fashion designer Shanita de Vries.

٠ Embroidering photographs is more than a trend ٠

charlotte© Stacey Page, Charlotte.

paula© Stacey Page, Paula, 2011.

todd© Stacey Page, Todd, 2011.

Embroidered photographs have been a trend for some time now and Nihilsentimentalgia has featured examples of such work, like Maurizio Anzeri, Melissa Zexter, Julie Cockburn or David Catá. It so happens that the technique keeps coming up and their makers are enjoying a good deal of promotion and success, which doesn’t say much, since the art market is extremely easy to seduce and exploit, but it’s worth taking a second look.

02Meyer_New_JErseyII_Meyer© Diane Meyer, New Jersey II, from the series Time spent that might otherwise be forgotten.

12Meyer_TheWest© Diane Meyer, The West I, from the series Time spent that might otherwise be forgotten.

There is no denying that on aesthetic, formal and material levels, the result is grand and appealing: the combination of the flat old surface with the new textural one, the combination of the industrial and the handmade, the combination of desaturated images with vibrant thread colours, it all amounts to what seems to be a complex creation with different surfaces and different readings. But is that the case?

I recently cross paths with four more examples of authors working in the field that joins photography and embroidery, namely: Stacey Page, Diane Meyer, Laura McKellar and Hinke Schreuders. They share more than the technical approach to their work: they are all women, they intervene mainly in portraits (Diane Meyer being the exception, for she looks at architecture with a new look), they use striking colour and they mix the old with the new. The trend here is not so much the crossing between the mediums but the revivalist and nostalgic feeling which seems to be taking over all the cultural dimensions, from the visual arts to music and emphasis on fashion.

embroidery© Laura McKellar, Untitled, embroidery.

tumblr_ll2o3ftbQ01qk3loio1_1280 copy© Laura McKellar, Untitled, embroidery.

The fact that they share the same gender has a particular important dimension, for the work with thread is a form of affective labour, which productive value is hard to figure out. The relation between the worker and the work produced is literally bounded by a thread, so it confronts the prevailing idea of the alienated worker that is more of a manager than a producer of things (or ideas for that matter). Although most of these works have little else than their aesthetic surface, their biggest achievement is the evoking of the nostalgic feeling. The hyper-aestheticized surface of the digital photographs and the absurd use of photoshop tools have given a second life to alternative processes, for people lack a sense of materiality and the handprint of the author.

In one interview, author Melissa Zexter says: The photographs were also of anonymous figures and the sewing acted as a map or grid over the figures. For me, sewing was another way to build up a surface and to build upon the content of my photographs. I loved the meditative process of sewing – it was in such contrast to the technologically more immediate art of photography. I was also interested in how thread blended in and reacted to the photographs. The combination of sewing and photography brought together two very different processes that I love. The use of embroidery is a reaction to the photographs and is a process that aids in the transformation of identity of the person or place being photographed.

[to be continued]

worksonpaper7© Hinke Schreuders, works on paper #7.

worksonpaper36 © Hinke Schreuders, works on paper #36.

worksonpaper37© Hinke Schreuders, works on paper #37.

٠ Balaclavas hit the beach ٠

51_4d022f9fecf00af1ffeb62af90344dda© Peng & Chen , from the series Face-kini

51_a4870e632ab6d052f18260c5d9cefd8e© Peng & Chen , from the series Face-kini

In China, it’s the height of the tourist season for Qingdao’s famed beaches. But while many of the town’s visitors want to enjoy the sand and water, they’re not so wild about sunbathing. So they often resort to a local tradition: the face-kini, a sort of light cloth version of a ski mask.

[…]

The beachgoers aren’t showing their support for the balaclava-wearing Russian band Pussy Riot. And , they’re not fans of the film Kick-Ass. Instead, the newspaper says, the head-cover reflects “an ancient sentiment in China, like numerous other countries: a terror of tanning.”

In many cultures, a tan doesn’t imply health and leisure, as it often does in Western advertising. Instead, it’s seen as a connection to outdoor work, and the peasantry. Preserving one’s pale skin, the thinking goes, implies that you lead a pampered, successful life.

51_aadccf86b6167e8ce5c09d5f2946a8b0© Peng & Chen , from the series Face-kini

51_b6815ab3cb124a8b380a5a97c8fa8e44© Peng & Chen , from the series Face-kini

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 Israel, the first fur free nation? Yes, you’re allowed to laugh about the irony ٠

20110124 FurFreeFashion 0016webHester Vlamings, in Amsterdam’s Fur Free Exhibition, 2011

Fur free events took place this past Friday worldwide. The video below is from a “performance” (aka bleeding fashion event) that took place in Tel-Aviv. During the rally, people used slogans such as “Fur is a dead fashion,” “we don’ t want furs in Israel!” and “Unethical, Unaesthetic – Wear Synthetics!“. Apparently, Israel might become the first fur free nation in the world. If you think this is ironic, listen to the lyrics on the soundtrack (by Goldfinger) which in this context serve the animal rights purpose, but could easily be used to support human rights. Is this irony intentional? Are they aware of any symbolic meaning of this act?

“Open Your Eyes”
Open your eyes / To the millions of lies / That they tell you everyday
Open your mind / To the clever disguise / That the advertisements say
How do they know / What’s good for you?
Wake up, wake up, whoa  / Wake up, wake up, whoa
A shot to the head  / They’re better off dead  / Will you wake up, wake up, whoa
Destroy all the land  / And kill what you can  / Just to make the profits rise
Sell you from birth  / For all that you’re worth  / The money spreads like lies
[…] Don’t wanna hate you / Don’t wanna blame it all on you / I’m out of options
If you don’t look I’ll force you to  / If you don’t look I’ll force you to  / If you don’t look.. I’ll force you to
Wake up, wake up, whoa / Wake up, wake up, whoa
A shot to the head  / Just so you can be fed  / Will you wake up, wake up, whoa
Open your eyes…
Open your eye

┐ Beatriz Preciado, high on transformation └

tilda-swinton-w-magazine-august-2011-13tilda-swinton-w-magazine-august-2011-12© Tim Walker, Tilda Swinton, Alien Lands Photoshoot based on David Bowie’s The Man Who Fell to Earth (W Magazine), 2011

“The day of your death I put a 50-mg dose of Testogel on my skin, so that I can begin to write this book. The carbon chains, O-H3, C-H3, C-OH, gradually penetrate my epidermis and travel through the deep layers of my skin until they reach the blood vessels, nerve endings, glands. I’m not taking testosterone to change myself into a man, nor as a physical strategy of transsexualism; I take it to foil what society wanted to make of me, so that I can write, fuck, feel a form of pleasure that is post-pornographic, add a molecular prostheses to my low-tech transgendered identity composed of dildos, texts, and moving images; I do it to avenge your death.

I spread the gel over my shoulders. First instant: the feeling of a light slap on the skin. The feeling changes into one of coldness before it disappears. Then nothing for a day or two. Nothing. Waiting. Then an extraordinary lucidity settles in gradually, accompanied by an explosion of the desire to fuck, walk, go out everywhere in the city. This is the climax in which the spiritual force of the testosterone mixing with my blood takes the fore. Absolutely all the unpleasant sensations disappear. Unlike speed, the movement going on inside has nothing to do with agitation, noise. It’s simply the feeling of being in perfect harmony with the rhythm of the city. Unlike coke, there is no distortion in the perception of self, no logorrhea nor any feeling of superiority. Nothing but the feeling of strength reflecting the increased capacity of my muscles, my brain. My body is present to itself. Unlike speed and coke, there is no immediate come down. A few days go by, and the movement inside calms, but the feeling of strength, like a pyramid revealed by a sandstorm, remains.

How can I explain what is happening to me? What can I do about my desire for transformation? What can I do about all the years I defined myself as a feminist? What kind of feminist am I today? A feminist hooked on testosterone, or a transgendered body hooked on feminism? I have no other alternative but to revise my classics, to subject those theories to the shock that was provoked in me by the practice of taking testosterone. To accept the fact that the change happening in me is the metamorphosis of an era.

The changes within neoliberalism that we are witnessing are characterized not only by the transformation of “gender,” “sex,” “sexuality,” “sexual identity,” and “pleasure” into objects of the political management of living, but also by the fact that this management itself is carried out through the new dynamics of advanced techno-capitalism, global media, and biotechnologies. We are being confronted with a new type of hot, psychotropic punk capitalism. These recent transformations are imposing an ensemble of new micro-prosthetic mechanisms of control of subjectivity by means of biomolecular and multimedia technical protocols. Our world economy is dependent upon the production and circulation of hundreds of tons of synthetic steroids, on the global diffusion of a flood of pornographic images, on the elaboration and distribution of new varieties of synthetic legal and illegal psychotropic drugs (e.g., enaltestovis, Special K., Viagra, speed, crystal, Prozac, ecstasy, poppers, heroin, Prilosec), on the flood of signs and circuits of the digital transmission of information, on the extension of a form of diffuse urban architecture to the entire planet in which megacities of misery are knotted into high concentrations of sex-capital.”

excerpt of the article Testo Junkie: Sex, Drugs, and Biopolitics in the Pharmacopornographic Era, by Beatriz Preciado, via e-flux

┐ one little, two little, three little fingers, how many do we need to pull? └

You people who read this blog know that it is unusual for me to make a post about something that I don’t like or to make a negative and/or non constructive criticism (even if by sublimation) about something that I first choose to display. I will, for once (?), use this author’s images in order to make a point: that hyper-formal-aesthetic-overlyexplicit-inyourface-photography is not the way to go, unless you’re in a reality show. This really is what I find pornographic in a lot of phtography-based works today – there is no punctum!

icone_mustafa_sabbagh_005icone_mustafa_sabbagh_010icone_mustafa_sabbagh_088Schermata_2

icone_mustafa_sabbagh_002

all photographs © Mustafa Sabbagh

Mustafa’s site is here

┐ Yayoi Kusama └

200© Yayoi Kusama, Silver Squid Dress, 1968-9

kusama053© Yayoi Kusama, Self-Portrait, 1962

Kusamas-Self-Obliteration-Horse-Play1© Yayoi Kusama, Horse Play

Self-ObliterationByDots© Yayoi Kusama, Self-Obliteration By Dots, 1968. Photo © Hal Reiff

nytriangle© Yayoi Kusama, photography copyright © Harrie Verstappen

“Rather than confirming the ontological coherence of the body-as-presence, body art depends on documentation, confirming-even exacerbating-the supplementarity of the body itself. Predictably, although many have relied on the photograph, in particular, as “proof’ of the fact that a specific action took place or as a marketable object to be raised to the formalist height of an “art” photograph, in fact such a dependence is founded on belief systems similar to those underlying the belief in the “presence” of the bodyin- performance. Kristine Stiles has brilliantly exposed the dangers of using the photograph of a performative event as “proof’ in her critique of Henry Sayre’s book The Object of Performance. Sayre opens his first chapter with the nowmythical tale of Rudolf Schwarzkogler’ss uicidal self-mutilation of his penis in 1966, a story founded on the circulation of a number of “documents” showing a male torso with bandaged penis (a razor blade lying nearby). Stiles, who has done primary research on the artist, points out that the photograph, in fact, is not even of Schwarzkogler but, rather, of another artist (Heinz Cibulka) who posed for Schwarzkogler’se ntirely fabricated ritual castratio.

Sayre’s desire for this photograph to entail some previous “real” event (in Barthesian terms, the having been there of a particular subject and a particular action)leads him to ignore what Stiles describes as “the contingency of the document not only to a former action but also to the construction of a wholly fictive space.”23 It is this very contingency that Sayre’s book attempts to address through his argument that the shift marked by performance and body art is that of the “site of presence” from “art’s object to art’s audience, from the textual or plastic to the experiential.”24 Sayre’s fixation on “presence,” even while he acknowledges its new destabilized siting in reception, informs his unquestioning belief in the photograph of performance as “truth.”

Rosalind Krauss has recognized the philosophical reciprocity of photography and performance, situating the 16 two as different kinds of indexicality. As indexes, both labor to “substitute the registration of sheer physical presence for the more highly articulated language of aesthetic conventions.”25A nd yet, I would stress, in their failure to “go beyond” the contingency of aesthetic codes, both performance and photography announce the supplementarity of the index itself. The presentation of the self-in performance, in the photograph, film, or video-calls out the mutual supplementarity of the body and the subject (the body, as material “object” in the world, seems to confirm the “presence” of the subject; the subject gives the body its significance as “human”), as well as of performance or body art and the photographic document. (The body art event needs the photograph to confirm its having happened; the photograph needs the body art event as an ontological “anchor” of its indexicality.)”

in “Presence” in Absentia: Experiencing Performance as Documentation by Amelia Jones
Source: Art Journal, Vol. 56, No. 4, Performance Art: (Some) Theory and (Selected) Practice at the End of This Century (Winter, 1997), pp. 11-18

Yayoi’s website here

┐ Tranimal – Hybrids before Photoshop └

Young_IMG_7333machine-20project-berkely-20art-20museum15_tranimalhammermuseumaustinyoung15_tranimalhammermuseumfadedraall images © Austin Young, from Machine Project, Hammer Museum.

“Tranimal…Young’s new endeavor – a collaboration with Squeaky Blonde and Fade-Dra, is infused with the artist’s high voltage underground creative energy. Tranimal is a big and bold project. It incorporates video, photography, and interactive sound design. And its taking performance art to an operatic level. (…) Participants are put through an assembly line where Squeaky Blonde, Fade-Dra , Young costume them, make-them up and turn them into a cast of glamorous, genderless creatures. Mark Allen, director of Machine Project, makes light sensitive circuitry boards that are sewn into theor costumes. The boards have knobs that the performers use to change the sound frequencies, creating musical score with light and movement. Juliana Snapper, an opera singer and performance artist, guides the players to find the vocal expression of their new identities. The particpant-performers become collaborators in a musical performance. Then Young shoots formal portraits and video of the end result.” source: Phil Tarley, Fabrik LA

More of Austin’s work here

┐ when a cause turns into thoughtless hypocrisy* └

© Tinkebell, Brutus with Idiot, photo printed as a poster, made in collaboration with Mirjam Muller, with special thanks to the idiots

© Tinkebell, Her name is Sarah, performance

(the animal is used as a commodity article: as part of an individuals carefully build image and ego, rather then being acknowledged as a being with own needs and characteristics.)

© Tinkebell, Saving a Broiler, installation

(Saving the broiler was part of an installation in which the animal of just a few weeks old got the most perfect habitat the artist could think of.)

© The Idiots, DON’T WORRY WE’LL STRAIGHTEN HIM OUT!,2009 – taxidermy skunk, ironing board, textile, wood, felt. An interview about their work here

© William Hundley, Chihuahua on Cheeseburgers

© Jouko Lehtola, from the series Dogs (left) + © design by The Just Us Collective (right)

*may it be clear that the title of this post refers not to these artists’ provocative work but to their haters. it’s very easy to stay with what’s in front of you, much more difficult to actually stop bitching, stop being an hypocrite and actually think about what you do, what you eat, what you wear. If I were to be wrong about this judgement, all their haters would be morally irreproachable, which would mean our world should be a better place, – with all these animal lovers and environmental activists – when in fact most of them just sit and send hate mail, they wouldn’t get up and go save a pet about to die. Tinkebell already did the test.

┐ Ugo Rondinone – I don’t live here anymore └

© Ugo Rondinone, all Untitled, from the series I don’t live here anymore, 1996

“My discovery of Rondinone dates back to a sexy picture I noticed in Flash Art in the mid-1990s, of what I took to be a seductive model revealing a glimpse of appealing cleavage. I hadn’t actually meant to stop at the image, but biology had taken over, as it does. But wait a second. There was something weird about this girl. Why was she so swarthy? And wasn’t that a moustache on her upper lip? Someone had digitally transferred his head onto a photograph of an alluring model and seamlessly confused the two to create an unsettling self-portrait that wobbled between masculinity and femininity as frantically as a woofer.

So that was Ugo Rondinone. Except it wasn’t. A few months later, in Flash Art, he had another show. This time, what stopped me was a gorgeous set of abstract paintings, circles of coloured fog of such exciting brightness that the page seemed to throb. They reminded me of Kenneth Noland’s work: Rothko in the round. Who did these, I wondered? They’re fabulous. It was Rondinone.

Except, of course, it wasn’t. A few Flash Art issues later, I noticed some mad-looking drawings, skilfully achieved with Indian ink, of knotted trees, tossing and turning in the landscape as if they couldn’t get to sleep; and forest clearings writhing with unease, like an angler’s worms. An installation shot showed them to be wall-sized. Weird, I thought. Who did them? Oh, no. It was Rondinone.

As the years wore on, and the 20th century seeped into the 21st, it kept happening. Something in Flash Art would catch my eye, and it would turn out to be by Ugo Rondinone. It was never the same thing twice. Video, photography, painting, sculpture, sound pieces, projections, performance, comic stuff, serious stuff, things with him in them, things with nobody in them — you just couldn’t tell.

So the news that this one-man studio of artists was finally getting a British showing at the Whitechapel came as a blessed relief. I had expected to be put out of my confusion, and finally to be able to grasp who and what Rondinone was. But I was being optimistic.

The Whitechapel show is called Zero Built a Nest in My Navel, which is not a title that gives much away. The line is taken from one of the haikus that Rondinone apparently writes every day, and which take the place of a diary for him.

A few examples are scattered about the walls of his Whitechapel installation, written in white on old bits of wood, of the sort you find washed up on beaches. Here’s an example: Fold back/my love/as you did/my sheets.

Here’s another: Air gets/into everything/even nothing.

While you’re solving these etymological sudokus (clue: there is no solution), I will run a few pertinent biographical facts past you. Rondinone was born in Switzerland in 1964, of Italian parents, so flexibility was his birthright. He studied in Vienna and spent his early career collaborating with the notorious Austrian performance artist Hermann Nitsch, who is probably the most gory artist there has ever been. Nitsch showered himself in blood as if it were bath water. From him, Rondinone would have learnt that life is messy, red, angry, scary, wet and violent. We can safely assume that everything he has done since should be viewed as an attempt to get over the trauma of Nitsch.” excerpt of the article Painter? Poet? Photographer?, by Waldemar Januszczak. continue reading here

┐ Erik Madigan Heck └

© Erik Madigan Heck, from Undercover Jun Takahashi

© Erik Madigan Heck, from Undercover Jun Takahashi

(…)

Heck’s working methods also demonstrate his independent streak. He eschews strobes and rarely shoots digitally. He even pooh-poohs test Polaroids, which would help ensure the usability of images captured with his 15-year-old, all-manual, 35mm Canon EOS 630. “I show up for a job with just a little bag,” he says with a smile. “Some people get nervous, and some people think it’s funny. I tell people that they’re hiring me because they know my work and they shouldn’t mess with my shtick. I also remind them they’re saving money because I don’t roll up with 1,000 lights and four assistants.”


Still, shooting without a digital safety net has its dodgy moments. He recalls one from an assignment for designer Haider Ackermann in Florence, Italy, inside the 17th-century Palazzo Corsini. During the shoot, clouds rolled across the Tuscan sky, changing the lighting conditions every 10 minutes. “I was a little scared,” Heck admits, “because they had flown me halfway around the world. But I like that suspense.” He feels the lag required for developing and printing film is also a positive. “I think it’s good for the client to wait two days before seeing images,” he says. “By then they have disassociated themselves from the day of shooting and look at the photos more clearly.”


Despite his penchant for low-tech detailing, Heck works hard to keep darkroom razzle-dazzle from defining him. Instead, he tries to be a chameleon, crafting each shot to the client’s needs. This approach has led him to solarize a portrait of artist Gerhard Richter, to flip and manually rebuild a still from La Traviata for the Metropolitan Opera and, for Japanese designer Jun Takahashi, to create an updated take on Weegee’s famous crime-scene photos—complete with smears of fake blood and real bullets narrowly missing pricey sneakers and pants.


Pressed for more details about how he juices his shots, Heck politely demurs in the interest of maintaining the mystery. “But I will say this,” he allows: “It is not as hard as it looks. And it’s more fun than Photoshop. It’s more of a science experiment.
(…)

source: american mag

More of Erik’s work here