How those who love us photograph us

retrato_maria

A portrait of me taken by my 5 years old niece forced me into this theme. As I stared into the photograph I wondered “do I really look like that”? The question is as simple as it is complex. I’m aware that the word “really” in this sentence is just a figure of speech, so to deconstruct the question means to think about the significance of the “look” and the “that”.

  1. Regarding the “look”: when one uses the word “look”, usually a comparison is implied. One usually means that something looks like something else. But what astonishes me here? For once the fact that I look older than I think I do; but most importantly the fact that the shape of my face reminds me of a specific head sculpture, one by Messerschmidt*, which just goes to show… well… nothing but that our imagination plays a key role in the way we go thru life.
  2. Regarding the “that”: I struggle to conclude whether there are universal properties in the “that” or whether I’m unable to interpret the photographic me without letting all my subjectivity take over. What I can say, with a certain degree of objectivity, is that this photograph depicts someone who seems to be experiencing a special moment; her eyes are joyful and tender and she looks extremely wrinkly, maybe tired. Apart from that, the “air” that feels this photograph is a mixture of two things (pretty much straightforward): how the photographer (my niece) sees the portrayed (me) and how the object wants and lets the subject see it/her/me

*Taking a short detour through Messerschmidt’s sculptures: the particular one I have in mind came to be known as “A Strong Man” and, as with many of his other sculptures, its traces and expressiveness mimic those of a clown, and a la folie moment, I must add.

kuspit10-7-10-14
© Franz Xaver Messerschmidt, A Strong Man, 1771-83, tin-lead cast.

Both my niece and I love clowns. I love dressing like a clown and have a darkish-looking clown tattooed, which my niece also photographed the same day. Is this proof of the power of perception? Is the “aura” of the clown-like tender happiness what establishes the intentionality of this portray, i.e., the relation between the subject and the object? It is possible that the reason I first fell in love with Messerschmidt’s heads was because they resembled the sort of expressions I thought characterized me?

*

Back to the issue at hand – How those who love us photograph us – I went back to my archive and searched for portraits taken by friends and family and came to the conclusion, now apparently easy to attain, that when comparing those portraits with my self-portraits (which I used to do quite a lot), they are the ones that seem to be more authentic, meaning that their ethos, their way of being and becoming is more truthful.

In a recent post, I shared a portrait taken by my boyfriend which surprised me for very similar reasons: for being able to capture a sort of expressiveness of my body and face that I was always unable to shoot. Looking at some of the portraits he has done of me (and I usually turn my back on the lens) again I recognized a high level of authenticity, meaning a truthful intention and an honest relation between the subject and the object: no purpose at all besides the playfulness and proximity of that relation.

In the process of looking at the portraits others had taken of me, I went back to my comfort zone: phototherapy. I realized that, by comparison, those portraits allowed me to think about my relationships with those who stood behind the lens. Won’t go into detail here, but it is clear that my persona has a sort of different photosensitive form depending on who’s looking at me. With some people I’m more present and open and with others I’m almost not there. Is it possible that by letting our loved ones photograph us we could get a clearer perspective on the sort of relations we get ourselves into?

retratos

≡ Brendan Ko: I must really love this ≡

nine-eleven-final© Brendan George Ko, Nine eleven (Detection), from the series We Soon Be Night, 2011-13.

hoodlumz© Brendan George Ko, Hoodlumz (New Tribe), from the series We Soon Be Night, 2011-13.

intervention© Brendan George Ko, United, from the series We Soon Be Night, 2011-13.

product_placement© Brendan George Ko, Product Placement (Malthusian Catastrophe), from the series We Soon Be Night, 2011-13.

o.b.e© Brendan George KoOuter Body Experience (Shaman), from the series We Soon Be Night, 2011-13.

allseeing© Brendan George Ko, Allseeing (Eye of Providence), from the series We Soon Be Night, 2011-13.

vampiric_empire© Brendan George Ko, Vampiric Empire (Preachers of Death), from the series We Soon Be Night, 2011-13.

shadowfigure© Brendan George Ko, Shadow Figure, from the series We Soon Be Night, 2011-13.

Wanting to showcase Brendan George Ko‘s work We Soon Be Night! I realized it would be the third post about him. A first in this site (if I’m not mistaken). Doing it anyway and recommending (at least) a visit to his website.

Brendan’s statement about this project:

“The phantom continues…

The walls of time and space collapse and take on a formless entity that is able to drift through our sense of memory. In a landscape that holds a specific memory —often intense moments of hard-boiled emotion and grand tragedy, the human psyche is turned and provoked. There is an index that exists between the planes of reality in which we can see and feel.

In a time of cinematic Armageddon, endless documents of natural disaster and environmental shifts, and ancient wisdom foretelling of the Apocalypse, belief is not a necessary vehicle into a dry sense of doom. The future has always been uncertain but certain events have shifted the priority of this feeling into the foreground —it is all around us now. It has escaped its prison of our memory and has manifested itself into the medium.

Tracing my memory I look back to find the origin of this sense of uncertainty towards the future, this sense of, what’s going to happen next? and holding a pejorative view towards the future. We Soon Be Nigh! starts off at the birthplace of this phantom of doom and continues to reference both the past and the future, in visual storytelling that is both documentation and construction.”

And a text from his blog published on October 3rd, 2012:

“Contemplating the photograph, one which is based out of a constructed practice of image-making and another based out of an obsession to document experience traveling through the world and the everyday. How they relate to each other besides from being born out of the same author is that they are both seen as documents to me. The snapshot comes out of an obsession to document my everyday in order to expand but also complete my memory (which in turn can never be complete since the camera is flawed in perspective, the decision to photograph, and that the still frame is always, inherently out of context (without a beginning or an ending and within a frame)). The constructed image which is staged is an afterthought of a moment, or a collection of moments and is a contemplation of the significance of a particular memory, a feeling, and an idea. Where the snapshot is flawed in its aesthetics of being rough, out-of-focus, motion blur, mixed light sources, on-camera flash, and perhaps not the right focal length, the constructed image which comes from after the moment has passed is perfected in how the moment appears as a memory. The flaw of the constructed image is that it isn’t the moment that it is referencing and therefore is not real. The argument I propose here is that what is real? Reality is subjective, especially in a world that is divided by a social construction of reality which is in conflict with personal reality, one which is born from biographical experience.

I start my collection of images with a morning scene in a living room and in the center of the frame is a television set. It is large unlike the television sets of today and is more furniture than an illuminated wall-mounted painting, and has become a piece of the domestic landscape, having photos, VHS tapes, and ornaments on top of it. The television has the image of a CNN broadcast of two planes crashing into the World Trade Center buildings. The room itself has a smoky atmosphere, dim with a bright world outside. And though the photograph is completely staged it is as real as my memory of that moment is. And since the moment has passed I cannot return to that morning of September 11, 2001, where I woke up for school, and my parents readily themselves for their day jobs as they watched the television. Having just woke up there was a disorientating feeling when my parents tried to update me on what they had known from what they were given by the fanatic behavior of the broadcaster not knowing himself what had exactly happened other than the fact that one commercial airliner had crashed into the financial epicenter of the nation.

The photograph of the staged living room with a television playing a pre-recorded image strikes the viewer with not a question of is this image real but recalls their own memory of that moment. Even though it had been made ten years after reference point that image is still clear in the viewers mind, and what I claim to be as the clearest collective experience and image in recent memory. And this is evident in the effect of the viewer when they see this image they are able to place themselves within the context of the image, recalling what they were doing that day and even how they felt. This scene is not real, it is not the living room I had while I lived in Houston during the 9/11 attacks nor is it the viewers. It is a generic representation of a collective experience.

An event seen through the camera’s lens, then broadcast, and then seen through the television set we are perceiving an image out of context, through the frames of the camera, but ultimately through the ideology behind that broadcasting network. Just as reality television differs from network to network, with TLC’s obsession with abnormalities in our culture (ranging from conjoined twins, hoarding, large volume immediate families, and gypsies) to MTV’s youth in conflict with reinforcement of stereotypes of college kids, Italian-American middle class youth, washed-out celebrities struggling with drug addiction and the public eye, these ideologies differ but are all part of multi-faceted ideology of a culture at whole. Even though we are given the choice of view, from CNN’s more liberal approach to Fox News’ conservative view, both operate under the same system. They are all representing reality within a specific cultural and regional ideology. And this broadcast reality is not providing the lived experience but the simulation of it. Through studying history we experience the Vietnam War as much as we experience youth drinking in a hot tub by the Jersey Shore or what it is to live in a house full of boxes and too many cats (some being lost or dead hidden away in some dark corner). There is this remoteness that separates us from the moment’s true experience to a controlled and simulated experience. Cinema isn’t far from this simulated experience of the real as it often depicts real events through a singular perspective. Its heightening of the event is theatrical and relies on aesthetics, staging, and performance to create believability. It places the viewer in a controlled environment of the cinema, a temple or cave-like setting that instructs the viewer to sit and to pay attention to the center piece, the silver screen in this case, and slowly dissolves the reality outside of the room for one which possess a flicker of motion and the omnipresence soundtrack. And for two hours what is presented in front of our eyes is believed as a temporal reality, we start to interpellate ourselves into the characters and develop emotional connections as we start to “know” the characters, their scenarios, and the environments that surround them.

Rather than focusing on what is in focus, I would like to contemplate not the characters of the narrative but what is in the background. The background actor’s role is to be there, to camouflage itself to the background and to be commonly found object in the environment, such as trees in the forest. In a sense they are a kinetic background like graffiti jumping from the walls and possessing life. What they are meant to not possess is individuality, they are a mass of many, and are more caricature than character. In the contemplation of the background actor being a walking, breathing, and living background is to observed and brought into the foreground, –they now hold our conscious attention. Through observation they often create error to the simulated reality of cinema, as they are not necessarily trained professionals such as the main characters, but they are often real people there for volume and aesthetics. Occasionally a background actor can be seen doing a cycling movement that repeats in a shot, or they accidental or purposely look into the lens which gives way to the existence of a camera as our viewing point. And in some cases the background actors are real people that are untrained and are not volunteering to be background actors but are simply there in a real environment that is being used to represent one that is constructed. It is in these cases that the control of the filmmaker is removed and there are elements of the real the conflict with the simulation through comparison. The so-called, Fourth Wall, is breached and in these minor and often hidden nuances bring into question where the audience is. It is a lucid experience but rather gaining control one realizes the lack of control over the narrative.

In further contemplation of the background actor is questioning what they represent. If they are appointed to be a mass of many and are not to have individuality such as the characters of the narrative then they are representations. It is in their attention or rather their lack of attention that they fall back to a role, and this role being that of “type”. They are performing in the subconscious space of the film and are playing out roles based off of their appearance. There isn’t any introduction to the background actor and their character, they simply appear there in front of us on the screen, –the word, “front”, does not define their position within the planes of existence in the film. They are neither background as they are not affixed such as a wall of a building or a tree in a forest nor are they in same the plane as the characters of the narrative. If they are neither back nor fore then where are they?

They exist in the simulacrum removed from reality and exist as a sort of transparent being in the cinematic reality. Art directors in their pursuit to maintain the background actor in the background make them as real as possible, –the realer the less the contradiction is apparent to the viewer. The word seamless is an ideal description of their aesthetics but being as this is film their actions also must be as real to the viewer and as convenient to the filmmaker as their aesthetics. One could not imagine having to train individually each background actor to perform a specific role but rather an instruction via a megaphone addressing a mass or a second or third A.D. directing singular groups of background actors to perform a specific task. These task ranging anywhere from walking across the scene, to appearing to be reading, or talking amongst themselves set in a cycle. For example a background actor instructed to walk across the scene will perform this task identically for each take. Or a group of background actors dancing in a circle and to no rhythm in particular. The more real their everyday actions are the less apparent they become. They existence on an invisible plane which is right before us but we dismiss them from our attention as the individual is lost to volume and the volume is lost to representation of a representation. For what the background actor represents is a stereotype, a generality of a specific group of people”

≡ the DOG call ≡

Dogs have had a constant presence in my life. Their relevance in one’s life can have huge proportions as does their presence in art. They’re not only present in portraits, partnering their fellow humans, but also often portrayed by themselves. Sometimes they turn into brands, sometimes they turn into pop objects, often they serve decorative purposes. Their presence in artistic circles is significant. Understandably. Artists tend to live out-of-the-ordinary lives, sometimes working alone for several hours that turn into days and weeks, sometimes having too much time on their hands, a confluence of circumstances that seems perfect to choose dogs as everyday partners. I’m immediately reminded of several (terrible) works depicting dogs, not even worth mentioning and what I chose to present here is a very short selection of visual works addressing dogs and their nature.

I – Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook

SC_Pub_Araya_Rasdjarmrearnsook_issuu© Araya RasdjarmrearnsookPray, bless us with rice and curry our great moon, 2012. Video still.

«Dogs appear regularly in Rasdjarmrearnsook’s more recent works, embodying vitality for her. In her daily life, the artist cares for strays, feeding them at her workplace, Chiang Mai University, and keeping several in her home. Like Davis, Rasdjarmrearnsook flirts at times with anthropomorphization, using poetics to open a window into the lives of her “companion species.”13 As in her work with corpses, she sides with her subjects, forging subjective alliances in shared isolation. The intimacy she keeps with the dogs––in The Treachery of the Moon (2012), they sit with her watching Thai soap operas interspersed with violent news footage, and in Pray, bless us with rice and curry (2012), they eat with her––ventures into Donna Haraway’s notion of “becoming worldly,” a revision of the entanglement of “being with” animals that Jacques Derrida explores in The Animal That Therefore I Am (More to Follow). The dog has particular connotations in Thailand. Stray dogs are ubiquitous in urban centers and villages, and in the Theravada Buddhist tradition, monks must share food with them. Although dogs have this unique status through religious tradition, they are still considered inferior beings: the word for animal, sat, is used as an insult, and the word for dog, maa, is also used to denigrate people of various races and classes.16 What does it mean for Rasdjarmrearnsook to join the dogs? And what does it mean for her to invite them to watch TV, visit the beach, or attend a dinner party with her?» excerpt from a text by by Ruba Katrib present in an exhibition catalog.

II – Francis Alÿs

c-magazine-107© Francis Alÿs (in collaboration with Rafael Ortega), Gringo, 2003, Mexico, video documentation of an action.

III – Sohrab Hura

«It was in the summer of 1999 when my mother was diagnosed with an acute case of Paranoid Schizophrenia. I was 17 then. The doctors, in retrospect, had said that she had already started developing the symptoms many years prior to that. Symptoms that nobody had noticed. But it was the break up with my father that caused her condition to suddenly come alive and then deteriorate. Over the years, the walls of our home started to peel off, people had stopped coming to our home because my mother was too scared to let anybody in and all that remained were the traces of a life that no longer existed. Our initial years were spent hiding from the world. Hers out of paranoia and mine out of embarrassment and anger at who she had become. But after all these years I’ve realized that my mother had never stopped loving me. (…)

Over the years when my mother’s condition started to improve I started to photograph at home more. Apart from my mother the focus of the photographs also included her dog Elsa who had been her sole companion at home for many years and also the house itself whose condition deteriorated or improved as my mother’s illness regressed or progressed. Her relationship with Elsa which had substituted intimate human contact as simple as touch or conversation all these years, had played a big part in my mother’s improvement. In the late winter of 2014 Elsa died having grown old in her 13th year. That winter was a strange one because for the first time it had rained everyday and the sun wasn’t seen on most days. Towards the end my mother had even opened up to my father with whom she had separated almost 15 years ago. It was her separation with him that had triggered her illness in the first place.» excerpt from Sohrab’s statement.

India. 2009. Ma and Elsa sleeping© Sohrab Hura, India. 2009, Ma and Elsa sleeping, from the series Sweet Life

INDIA. 2009. Ma and Elsa fighting over something© Sohrab Hura, INDIA. 2009, Ma and Elsa fighting over something, from the series Sweet Life

INDIA. 2011. Elsa waiting to play with someone© Sohrab HuraINDIA. 2010/11. Elsa waiting to play with someone, from the series Sweet Life

NDIA. 2014. Elsa not able to move.© Sohrab Hura, Elsa Not Able to Move, from the series Sweet Life

INDIA. 2014© Sohrab Hura, India, 2014, from the series Sweet Life

IV – Mark Peckmezian

dog_04© Mark PeckmezianUntitled.

dog_03© Mark Peckmezian, Untitled.

Mark_Peckmezian_020© Mark Peckmezian, Untitled.

V – António Júlio Duarte

ajd_021© António Júlio Duarte, from the series East West, 1990 – 1994.

Lotus_006© António Júlio Duarte, from the series Lotus, 1999.

023© António Júlio Duarte, from the series Jesus Never Fails, 2004.

VI – Scott Alario

1600x120067© Scott Alario, from the series Our Fable.

1600x120090© Scott Alario, from the series Our Fable.

1600x1200© Scott Alario, from the series What we Conjure.

VII – Andrew Fladeboe

«My Fulbright experience began in Cromwell, the furthest point from the sea in New Zealand. I spent 10 days working on a merino sheep station familiarizing myself with their practices and how they use their dogs to guide the sheep. They really put me to work, and while I was still getting over jet lag I was already pulling out Scottish thistle and learning just how long a day is for the average Kiwi farmer. Despite the hard work, I learned to love the long days in the fresh air and see just how instrumental a team of dogs is to practically any sheep farm.

After this “farm boot camp”, I bought a car and have been moving along to different locations trying to do as much photographing as I can before winter. My first stops were a few stations in the Hanmer Springs area. I took part in a muster that moved 3,000 ewes over a mountain and down a valley through a dense fog. Using whistled commands, the shepherd was able to situate the dogs to gather the sheep from over 100 yards away and move them along over the rough terrain. It was incredible seeing these dogs work tirelessly for their masters with an intelligence that shows the ability to think ahead and solve problems.

I often get asked why I would travel to the other side of the world to photograph dogs working on farms. I think the answer lies in the fact that working dogs serve a distinctive and crucial role economically, historically, and culturally in New Zealand. The working dogs in New Zealand were vital to the development of the country. New Zealand achieved its early wealth through the sheep industry which dominated the economy from 1856 to the 1980s. With the landscape of New Zealand offering vast expanses of territory and steep terrain, it would be impossible to farm sheep without the help of dogs.» excerpt from Grantee Voice: Andrew Fladeboe – Photographing in the shepherd’s realm | Fulbright New Zealand.

SheepDogs© Andrew FladeboeSheepdogs, 2011, from The Shepherd’s Realm.

Scooter© Andrew Fladeboe, Scooter Backing Sheep, 2014, from The Shepherd’s Realm (Volume III: New Zealand).

thePack© Andrew Fladeboe, Leader of the Pack, 2014, from The Shepherd’s Realm (Volume III: New Zealand).

Gåte© Andrew Fladeboe, Gâte and the Troll Boulders, Lundehund, 2013, from The Shepherd’s Realm (Volume II: Norway).

Dilko of Stokke© Andrew Fladeboe, Dilko of Stokke, Buhund, 2013, from The Shepherd’s Realm (Volume II: Norway).

Senja_of_Jonsvatnet_1024© Andrew Fladeboe, Senja of Jonsvatnet, Lundehund, 2013, from The Shepherd’s Realm (Volume II: Norway).

VIII – Mathias de Lattre

«Looking Back through history, many kings have favored Galgos ands Podencos; and they are also finely represented in numerous paintings. And yet, some of these dogs that we consider »born into nobility » could have been better off not being born at all – often, they are mistreated by their masters for underperforming during hunts. Beaten, abandoned or actually tortured to death, these Iberian greyhounds have been taken in by families, non-profit groups or breeders. Mathias de Lattre started taking photos of these unfortunate animals from Spain and Portugal in 2012. the sad look in their eyes, seemingly a remnant of their past suffering, very quickly made the young photographer think he should take their picture in the environment that destiny had found for them. Found through friends of friends or during walks, it was as if these dogs had become gifted with what we narcissistically call « humanity ». That is what Mathias de Lattre wanted to show in his photos while remaining in the style of portraiture that h prefers. In their new homes, the Galgos ans Podencos become the photographer’s models, ans their story disappears behind their appearance – Doug relaxes in a patterned chair, Lola glows in black and white and Gazhal sits in a winter garden setting. Eschewing the anthropomorphism of fables, circumventing the profusion of the bestiary, these greyhounds from southern Europe show themselves in especial st of portraits, fragile and magnificent.» text by Hervé Le Goff.

Aitch© Mathias de Lattre, Aitch, from the series Salvados.

Aitch© Mathias de Lattre, Lili, from the series Salvados.

Aitch© Mathias de Lattre, Kyra, from the series Salvados.

Aitch© Mathias de Lattre, Reina, from the series Salvados.

≡ The Hyères School of Photography ≡

My love for the Hyères Festival is known. I’ve written about it and have featured a great deal of the authors shortlisted each year. The judging panel has been responsible for issuing a statement about what they want to see in contemporary photography and it has been bold and exciting, for Hyères always awards an experimental attitude towards the medium itself, as well as valuing innovation and creativity. Amidst the past festival judges “we can randomly mention Urs Stahel (Fotomuseum Winterthur), Marloes Krijnen (FOAM, Amsterdam), Dennis Freedman (W, New York), Charlotte Cotton, Glenn O’Brien, Marta Gili (Jeu de Paume, Paris), Jörg Koch (032C, Berlin), James Reid (Wallpaper*, London), Frits Gierstberg (Nederlands Fotomuseum, Rotterdam), Kathy Ryan (New York Times, New York), David Campany (London), Joerg Colberg (Conscientious), Charles Fréger (photographer, France), Erik Kessels (KesselsKramer, Amsterdam), Brett Rogers (The Photographer’s Gallery, London), Karen Langley (Dazed, London), Winfried Heininger (Kodoji Press, Switzerland), Damien Poulain (Oodee, London), Jason Evans (photographer, United Kingdom), Mutsuko Ota (IMA, Tokyo), etc.

What follows is my selection of work from the 10 authors shortlisted for Hyères 2015.

I – Oezden Yorulmaz

5© Oezden Yorulmaz, Untitled, from the series Ed Meets Jack, 2013.

6© Oezden Yorulmaz, Untitled, from the series Ed Meets Jack, 2013.

excerpt from Hyères’ press release:

Oezden Yorulmaz is interested in how photographical images play an important aspect of self-definition within the western society he cohabits. He plays in his work with the borders and the limitations of photography’s try to represent reality. He often uses himself as the main protagonist and creates male performs that is acting a narrative or mental state within the space of images or locations.
In Ed Meets Jack he created a fictional story, told through a series of photographs, which resemble a sequence of film stills. By using props or costumes he is trying to create a persona or situation that is aiming to reproduce an authentic atmosphere that only exists within in the space of the image. The photograph acts as a springboard between his performance and the observer and is limited to each one own presumption and experience.

II – Filippo Patrese

patrese_filippo-3© Filippo Patrese, Settembre 1977, from the series Corrections, 2014.

patrese_filippo-1© Filippo Patrese, Febbraio 1983, from the series Corrections, 2014.

III – Thomas Rousset

hyeres_01_news© Thomas Rousset, Untitled.

1074720© Thomas Rousset, Untitled.

1074713© Thomas Rousset, Untitled.

IV – Jeannie Abert

1jeannieabert-champ-de-bataille© Jeannie Abert, RÉVOLUTIONS, 2011. Collages sur papier.

c2_624© Jeannie Abert, COVER. Collages sur papier, incrustations diverses et brou de noix.

4-x_800© Jeannie Abert, COMPILE POUR UN AMNESIQUE, 2015 (en cours).

Jeannie’s statement:

I take photography as my starting point as a database of experimental research which I see as a raw material that I then manipulate. I search in pre-existing iconographic banks and appropriate the images. Thumbing my nose at the screen, a paradigm of the contemporary view, I question the images by bringing them back to a materialstate. There are so many axes and interpenetrations which define a genetically hybrid operation – contact photography, scanned, printed, photocopied images, reproduced so much so as to lose their definition – material – grain – frame photography which can meet up with drawing – painting – textiles. My intention is to stimulate the regard by changing the points of view. I play with the production and diffusion processes of the image. I question the medium of photography by trying to build a “play area” which could open new visual preoccupations.

V – Sjoerd Knibbeler

sjoerd-knibbeler-003© Sjoerd Knibbeler, Current Study # 3, 2013.

sjoerd-knibbeler-018© Sjoerd Knibbeler, Skyline, videostill, 2013.

sjoerd-knibbeler-010© Sjoerd Knibbeler, FW-42, from the series The Paper Planes, 2014.

excerpt from press release @ Unseen Photo Fair Amsterdam:

Knibbeler is working independently again, on a quest to capture wind. He tries to make the impossible possible by simulating tornados, folding model airplanes and trying – literally – to capture air. The model airplanes, all of which are based on designs that were never airborne, provide a context insinuating the impossibility of his quest. But parallel to these experiments he created video work showing an aerobatics pilot practicing his flight patterns on ground. In this work the complexity of the matter becomes tangible and the research of the contemporary experience of nature suddenly reappears. In November, LhGWR will present Knibbeler’s first solo show.

VI – Sushant Chhabria

ILMtext-637x800© Sushant Chhabria.

ilm_exhbit-1000x730© Sushant Chhabria, installation view, 2015.

chhabria_sushant-1© Sushant Chhabria, Untitled, 2015.

ilm_13-584x800© Sushant Chhabria, Untitled, 2015.

VII – Wawrzyniec Kolbusz

12-833x1024© Wawrzyniec Kolbusz, Untitled, from the series Sacred Defense.
wawrzyniec_kolbusz_sacred-defense_14-834x1024© Wawrzyniec Kolbusz, Untitled, from the series Sacred Defense.

wawrzyniec_kolbusz_sacred-defense_07-1024x834© Wawrzyniec Kolbusz, Untitled, from the series Sacred Defense.

Installation-View-of-Sacred-Defense-by-Wawrzyniec-Kolbusz-Wroclaw-SEP-2014-f1-1024x683© Wawrzyniec Kolbusz, installation view from the series Sacred Defense.

excerpt from Kolbusz’s statement @ Format Festival:

Sacred Defence, embedded in the Iranian post-war reality of the Iraq-Iran war (1980– 1988), is a story of producing artificial war images and reconstructing historical events to create a group memory. It is questioning whether reconstructed evidence is still evidence. It not only traces the existing modes of construction of fake war narrations. It also creates new war-related simulacra in digitally amended satellite images of nuclear installations. Hence, testing further the notion and limits of artificial evidence.

Sacred Defence is a game, in which images make us believe we see the war. We are looking at illusions, however. We follow how the war simulacra of social and political importance are being created within different spaces. A cinema city, constructed only for the purpose of shooting war movies, is a self-referencing space, created not to be experienced itself, but to become an image of war. Museums mimic the wartime reality in the smallest detail; wax figures of particular martyrs allow a meeting with fallen heroes again; and plastic replicas of antipersonnel mines sold as souvenirs.

From a play between the evident and the non-evident, author leads us to the point where he creates new simulation. He amends satellite images of Iranian nuclear installations with mutually exclusive versions of air strike destruction. Buildings destroyed in some images stand intact in others – parallel versions of the same event are presented on a single satellite map. Author is producing a ‘proof’ of an event that never happened despite being discussed in media.

VIII – Polly Tootal

picture_054print30x24c© Polly Tootal, #20406, 2014.

cf013534r44x59insq© Polly Tootal, #43534, 2014.

bcf013839_1r© Polly Tootal, #43839, 2014.

excerpt from an essay by Matthew Parker about Tootal’s work:

Polly Tootal is a photographer of British landscapes, yet the landscapes she registers are not likely to be found in any popular chronicle of the land, rejecting as they do the obvious beauty or grandeur of things and instead existing in the spaces in-between, the ones that are passed through every day, so nameless as to be embedded deeply into our consciousness and then forgotten. Perhaps this is why then, despite their surface anonymity, they all seem so uncannily familiar to me.

(…)

It’s no surprise to discover the Bechers are an influence, but compared to their typological surveys, her project is loose, deceptively objective, varying from image to image. Not concerned with the repetition of specific elements. Not so narrow in its vision. Instead, with each unique image, there’s a subtle vein of drama, an eye open to the strange and the exotic, the mundane and the obscure. Not limiting herself to specialised projects or adhering to restrictive formal rules, she instead takes an interest in atmosphere, humour, light and tone, looking to craft a delicate mood or declare a truth about a place. The ultimate goal is of a complex story, a vast and wide-ranging index of the British landscape and a store of unrelated yet connected images.

Common elements hold the project together. The images often lie upon thresholds and boundaries, liminal zones, between urban and rural, leisure and industry, lived in and discarded. Polly is interested in “places where abandoned industry mixes with functioning architecture and development, spaces left awaiting completion or areas of recent renewal.” Whether suburban, urban or rural, the subjects have, for the most part, been seen from the road; discovered and observed from the inside of a car. This might be another reason for the strange familiarity the images possess, their sometimes-disturbing déjà vu. I think to myself, how many times have I passed this place? Unknowingly drinking it in and storing it inside. Warehouses, business parks, shopping centers, waste-ground, motor- ways, car parks: the non-places that quietly fill up our lives, the sites of transience. Maybe I’ve seen none of them, but I am certain that I know the Little Chef, this stretch of motorway, that patch of industry, this housing estate.

(…)

And what has been left outside? Well, people, of course. There are no people in these landscapes. There are no moving objects either. There are no bustling, vibrant markets. And there are no stunning vistas that haven’t been touched by the modern world. If there is woodland there is a motorway bridge towering behind it in monumental silence, if there is a valley there happens to be a cement factory, if there is a quarry there is a housing estate it seems to be at war with. But for all these things it’s the absence of people that I find most interesting. Despite these being landscapes I feel as if they should be there. I find myself yearning for them. But I admire the fact that they will not come. Human portraits are not needed. If you know how to look, these rigorously poetic landscapes tell a story enough.

IX – Evangelia Kranioti

695ff4d5c22e8242ba64d8ee85bfd28b© Evangelia KraniotiFrom Lagos to Rio – end of sea passage, 2010, from the series Exotica, Erotica, etc.

502d1520ef9b8689e48a48d7deb1f9ff© Evangelia Kranioti, Buddha of the main engine, 2012, from the series Exotica, Erotica, etc.

7e2f10d380416ee7b341cec930747b2b© Evangelia Kranioti, Desert on board, 2011, from the series Exotica, Erotica, etc.

excerpt from press release @ Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève:

At the heart of Evangelia Kranioti’s research are the notions of desire, wandering, and return to one’s origins. Inspired by the work of the Greek writer Nikos Kavvadias, Kranioti questions the male-female relationship through the fleeting loves of sailors in ports, terrae incognitae where the magic of wandering still operates.
The documentary essay Exotica, Erotica, etc. is the culmination of a long-term project undertaken over four years, during which she followed the crews of the Greek navy worldwide and spent months in the company of the women they frequent.
Through the stories of Sandy, former Chilean prostitute and those of these souls in perpetual homelessness, Kranioti poetically depicts the romantic imaginary of the sea, its tragic heroes and its forgotten loves.

X – David Magnusson

Purity-DM-028-560x700© David MagnussonJamie & David Clampitt, Shreveport, Louisiana, from the series Purita.

Purity-DM-005-560x700© David Magnusson, Will & Nicole Roosma, Tucson, Arizona, from the series Purita.

Purity-DM-027-560x700© David MagnussonJenna & Jeff Clark, Chandler, Arizona, from the series Purita.

excerpt from Jessica Valenti’s article Purity balls, Plan B and bad sex policy: inside America’s virginity obsession:

«The men and girls in the photos hold hands and embrace – the young women are in long white dresses, the men in suits or military regalia. If some of the girls in the pictures weren’t so young – Laila and Maya Sa up there are seven and five years old, respectively – the portraits could be mistaken for wedding or prom pictures. What they actually capture, though, are images of those who participate in purity balls – father-daughter dances featuring girls who pledge to remain virgins until marriage and fathers who promise to protect their daughters’ chastity.

The images from Swedish photographer David Magnusson’s new book, Purity, are beautiful, disturbing and tell a distinctly American story – a story wherein a girl’s virginity is held up as a moral ideal above all else, a story in which the most important characteristic of a young woman is whether or not she is sexually active. This narrative of good girls and bad girls, pure girls and dirty girls, is one that follows young women throughout their lives. Purity balls simply lay that dichotomy bare.

(…)

Magnusson says he hopes his pictures elicit empathy,not judgment: “As I learnt more, I understood that the fathers, like all parents, simply wanted to protect the ones that they love – in the best way they know how.”

I have no doubt that families who participate in purity balls are doing what they think is best for their children – but that doesn’t make them any less wrong. When we teach girls that their virginity makes them special and valuable, we’re sending the simultaneous message that without their virginity they are tainted and damaged.»

≡ Hunting the Cliché ≡

iraquianos-08,xlarge.1425917256© António Pedrosa, Untitled, from the series Iraq Slum.

Antonio Pedrosa is a portuguese photographer whose work has been highly recognized, both by his national peers as well as by international entities, such as Hasselblad. In my opinion, prizes do draw attention to the award-winning authors’ work, and they do guarantee quality, but everything else is extremely subjective. Pedrosa won the prize ESTAÇÃO IMAGEM MORA for a project he called Iraq Slum. His statement:

“Bairro do Iraque, Iraq slum, is located in the north of Portugal. Until the late 90’ this 100 persons community of gypsies lived moving from village to village working in basketry, utensils for horses and other small jobs. With the end of traditional agriculture also their traditional way of life finished. When the TV news were full of images from the second invasion of Irak, this community was expelled from the center of town moved to an old German mine of tungsten transformed in construction materials dump, abandoned in the Second World War- know now as Iraq slum. The old structures are occupied and fixed with the recycled materials from the dump. Electricity is stolen from public electric poles; light just appearing after the sun goes down in the horizon. The members of the community live from social metal scavenging, farm work, raising animals for selling and the social security check. The walls of the shelters are not enough for protecting these families from the cold and wind.”

It’s a project I empathize with. The dark mood, the rich and profound shadows, the melancholic looks, the play, the fact that I am reminded of Roger Ballen’s work… it all seems to confirm the honesty of the work. But although Pedrosa says this work is never finished, that every time he goes to Carrazeda de Ansiães he visits the “slum”, the work dates back to 2011/2012 and is inherently different from the body of work that brought me to this post: The Pose and the Prey.

CacaGrossa-02,xlarge.1426003716© António Pedrosa, In the early morning Carlos Ferreira waits, from the series The Pose and the Prey.

CacaGrossa-07,xlarge.1426003853© António Pedrosa, A running herd of deer, February 2014, from the series The Pose and the Prey.

CacaGrossa-08,large.1426003949© António Pedrosa, Ana Parreira, tracking dog handler, from the series The Pose and the Prey.

I stumbled upon this work with a different title, namely Beauty amid the beasts. It had been recently featured in Captured, The Week photo blog. It’s a work about hunting and hunters in Portugal, a tribe Pedrosa describes as “a threatened species by aging and loss of economic power caused by the crisis in the South of Europe.” Of course, this is highly debatable, there is a dramatic change in our behaviors and mentality regarding animals and nature that is at the core of what is described as a “disappearing tradition” by editor Sarah Eberspacher, from The Week. Pedrosa’s statement about the series goes as follows (with links provided by the editor aforementioned):

“Hunting in my imagination was always more taxidermy photograph as if the prey was just a mere accessory of the hunter’s pose – the real trophy.
When I decided to document the daily lives of Portuguese hunters came instantly to the memory the “cliché” from the photographer JA da Cunha Moraes, captured during a hippopotamus hunt in the River Zaire, Angola, and published in 1882 in the album Africa Occidental . The white hunter posed at the center of the photograph, with his rifle, surrounded by the local tribe.
It was with this cliché I got to Alentejo, south of Portugal, in search of the contemporary hunters. For several months I saw deer, wild boar, foxes. I photographed popular hunting and private hunting estates, wealthy and middle class hunters, meat hunters and trophy hunters. I photographed those who live from hunting and those who see it as a hobby for a few weekends during the year. I followed the different times and moments of a hunt, in between the prey and the pose , wine and blood, the crack of gunfire and the murmur of the fields.
I was lucky, I heard lots of hunting stories. I found an essentially old male population, where young people are a minority. Hunters, a threatened species by aging and loss of economic power caused by the crisis in the South of Europe.
The result of this time is this series of images, distant from the “cliche”, from 1882.”

CacaGrossa-11,xlarge.1426003707© António Pedrosa, “Berras” pulling the slaughtered boar for a visible area for better picking, from the series The Pose and the Prey.

CacaGrossa-17,xlarge.1426003860© António Pedrosa, Dogs in pursuit of a deer, from the series The Pose and the Prey.

CacaGrossa-19,xlarge.1426003800© António Pedrosa, José Pinguelo climbing the escarpment with the head of a deer, from the series The Pose and the Prey.

It’s clear to me that Pedrosa went for the hunt with a cliché in mind, but it wasn’t Moraes trophy photography, instead an idea about what the pictures would look like. Sarah quotes him saying “It was that medieval view, that I’ve experienced in hunting paintings, that I wanted.” By that medieval view he seems to be referring to, and here quoting the same source, “Men with huge knifes in the belt, and the hunting dogs running toward the rifle hunters”. The article also emphasizes the economic crisis behind the changing tradition, alluding to the “money to maintain a gun license, secure a place in the hunting grounds, and even drive out into the tangled, unsettled areas where the deer and boars roam.”

I’ve grown up watching this tradition unfold. My father is a hunter and while growing up we got used to him waking up at three or four in the morning to meet his accomplices and drive to Alentejo. Their hunting grounds changed over the years for several reasons but the journey was never short. We got used to see the trophies around the house but never really got used to the obvious connection between the way hunters deal with their preys and the animals in their domestic environment. Hunting, as a hobby (not a surviving skill), is an attitude that goes beyond the hunting grounds.

But back to what brought me here: Pedrosa’s photographs. At first I was amazed by how different his work is in color. There’s an elegance, a subtle dramatic approach that is lost, even if there’s a stylistic approach that favors low saturation and contrast, the use of wide angle lens, the impressionistic skies and the romantic approach to portraits seem to accentuate the view of the photographer as an outsider without a point of view. Maybe I’m being too harsh, it wouldn’t be a surprise, and I find it difficult to pint point what I dislike about this work, but there’s something about the stylistic approach that tends to overpower the photographer’s point of view.

CacaGrossa-23,xlarge.1426003873© António PedrosaAt the end of day collecting hunted deers and fawns in a private estate, from the series The Pose and the Prey.

CacaGrossa-27,xlarge.1426003815© António Pedrosa, Hunted deer on hold for review by the veterinary team, from the series The Pose and the Prey.

CacaGrossa-31,xlarge.1426003791© António Pedrosa, Hunting landscape, from the series The Pose and the Prey.

≡ Multilayered timeframes in Binh Dahn’s work ≡

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA© Binh Danh, Iridescence of Life No. 22. Chlorophyll print on nasturtium leaf, butterfly specimen, & resin, 2008

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA© Binh Danh, Iridescence of Life No. 5. Chlorophyll print on nasturtium leaf, butterfly specimen, & resin, 2008

In Michigan Quarterly Review (Volume XLIII, Issue 4, 2004), John Schafer writes about Binh Danh’s intertexual images before going on to recount how he experiences Vietname (Danh’s birthplace, 1977) through iconic war photographs, despite having lived there 4 years during the war:

«Literary critics emphasize that stories and poems are intertextual. When one reads, one hears what Roland Barthes called “off-stage voices,” references to prior texts. Visual “texts” are also intertextual, of course. Binh Danh’s images are striking in part because they are so vividly and concretely intertextual. Within each leafy image is a photo that we have seen already — maybe not the exact photo we know but one like it. How we react to his images depends on our experience with the earlier photos and on how we see the text of the photo interacting with the text of the leaf.»

Schafer sees Danh’s leaves as a place where history is given a chance for truce, in which pictures of suffering, violence, and death are enshrouded by the greenness of life and hope, but he also recognizes in them the power to convey a special message about the way civilization deals with nature, and I would add the way history affects memory and vice-versa:

«Binh Danh’s works, like the plants they are printed on, are produced by photosynthesis, the same process that the U.S.’s defoliation program was designed to inhibit. Evidence suggests that Agent Orange, one of the agents used to defoliate, has caused illness, birth defects, and chromosome alterations. In peacetime too, humans out of greed or ignorance often destroy nature and render it unable to hold us in its protective grasp. In Binh Danh’s works, however, images of human suffering are cradled in the hand of nature

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA© Binh Danh, Shock & Awe, 2008. Chlorophyll print and resin, from the project Immortality, The Remnants of the Vietnam and American War.

1082077212© Binh Danh, Mother and Child, 2005. Chlorophyll print and resin, from the project Immortality, The Remnants of the Vietnam and American War.

binh-danh-vietnam-war-1© Binh Danh, Ambush in the Leaf #4, 2007, from the project Immortality, The Remnants of the Vietnam and American War.

In the context of an exhibition held at SOMArts in 2012 entitled The Future Is NOW: Asian America on, Its Own Terms, Danh told interviewer Corinna Karg how photography is always dealing with death, resurrection, memory, nature and rebirth:

«When I was looking at pictures of the war, photos of civilians being wounded or killed saddened me. I imagined as they are bleeding and possibly dying, their essences sank into the ground and the memories of the event join with the landscape. For me, a photograph is always a picture of the past, but that past lives in the present moment when the image is resurrected in ourselves by the pure act of us looking at the artwork.

We could use photography to meditate on themes of death, resurrection, history, landscape, time, and our collective memories. For me looking at the pictures of war and especially those on leaves, I understand that death is within reach and life is fragile. It is acknowledging that we will die at any moment makes our lives more meaningful. And when it does happen, we know that we ultimately become part of nature. I hope the viewers are able to form narratives about the Vietnam War. Why people were leaving the country during and after the war? And as a result, Vietnamese communities formed through out the world.»

and the conversation goes on…

«How did you arrive at the technique of printing on leaves trough photosynthesis, and what made you later transition to daguerreotype?

One summer, I was motivated to experiment with photosynthesis and its pigments after watching the lawn change color due to a water hose that was placed on it. Soon after that observation, I was making chlorophyll prints. For the past 5 years, I have been making daguerreotype, a 19-century photographic process. I have taken a historical process and applying it to a contemporary theme. A study of photo-history is a study of humanity. Time and space are recorded for future evaluation and studies. Photography became a process that changes the way we record history, no longer just use words but images too. I love the quality of the daguerreotype, the reflective surfaces. The viewer becomes part of the artwork as the view the photograph.

Are the tropical plants you use in your chlorophyll prints Vietnamese or American plants?

They are plants grown in my garden.

Why did you choose something organic, like the leaves, as a canvas for images of something man-made, like war?

This process deals with the idea of elemental transmigration: the decomposition and composition of matter into other forms. The images of war are part of the leaves, and live inside and outside of them. The leaves express the continuum of war. They contain the residue of the Vietnam War: bombs, blood, sweat, tears, and metals. The dead have been incorporated into the landscape of Vietnam during the cycles of birth, life, and death; through the recycling and transformation of materials, and the creation of new materials. Since matter is neither created nor destroyed, but only transformed, the remnants of the Vietnam and American War live on forever in the Vietnamese landscape. This body of work addresses this continuum.»

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA© Binh Danh, Memory of Tuol Sleng, child 3, 2008. Chlorophyll print & resin, from the project In the Eclipse of Angkor.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA© Binh Danh, Ghost of Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum # 2, 2008. Daguerreotype, from the project In the Eclipse of Angkor.

binh© Binh Danh, Angkor Wat, 2008. Daguerreotype, from the project In the Eclipse of Angkor.

The Eclipse of Angkor is Danh’s work that shines a light to the victims of the Khmer Rouge, who were executed in Cambodia’s Tuol Sleng prison. Writing about this project, Max Weintraub (art21 Magazine, 2010) reflects on the artist’s relation to events he remembers only through photographs, such as the Vietnam War or the Cambodian genocide. For this project, Danh rephotographed archival imagery which was then reprinted as chlorophyll prints and daguerreotypes. Weintraub writes how the body of work constitutes more then a haunting index of systematic genocide:

«But Danh’s distinctive photographic processes and prints also transform the images into something more. Incised on a shimmering plate of metal or into a delicate leaf, each portrait becomes part relic and part photograph, and is invested with a powerful presence. It is no coincidence that both of the photographic processes Danh employs are time-consuming, complex methods that generate unique prints. By re-photographing images of anonymous victims of mass genocide using photographic processes that generate unreproducible images of extraordinary detail, Danh’s chlorophyll prints and daguerreotype plates restore a sense of individuality and intimacy to the victims depicted in the Khmer Rouge portraits. In addition, the extraordinary surfaces of Danh’s prints, as indexes of the time and great care required to produce them, invest the portraits with a significance and uniqueness that offsets the detached, bureaucratic objectivity of the original photographs.»

bd-thetransamericapyramid-copy© Binh Danh, The Transamerica Pyramid, 2014.  Daguerreotype, Unique (in camera exposure), from the project This, Then, Is San Francisco.

bd-thewomen_sbuilding18th© Binh Danh, The Women’s Building, 18th Street, 2014. Daguerreotype, Unique (in camera exposure), from the project This, Then, Is San Francisco.

bd-sanfranciscocityhall-copy© Binh Danh, San Francisco City Hall, 2014. Daguerreotype, Unique (in camera exposure), from the project This, Then, Is San Francisco.

Pete Brook, from Prison Photography, talks with Danh on account of yet another one of his impactful works, namely This, Then, Is San Francisco. They speak about the political nature of the work and how form and content are always conceived as a unified element is his work. Danh explains that “[t]he daguerreotype results in a reverse image. So, the cityscape is familiar but it’s odd. I like the uncanny.

≡ It’s never too late to see the world through Antoine’s eyes ≡

MEXICO. Nuevo Laredo. 2000.© Antoine D’Agata, Mexico, Nuevo Laredo, 2000.

For different reasons, I see quite a lot of photographs and bodies of work on a daily basis. What rarely happens, is being surprised by the work of an established photographer, whom I didn’t know. Today was one of those days. While reading about the voyeur and in between several works by emerging photographers, I came across the visual world of Antoine D’Agata. And what a surprise! All I can do now is share, both at home as well as at work.

As far as I can tell, Antoine is sort of a nomadic photographer. Born in Marseille, France, in 1961, he has lived in New York and travelled everywhere and in 2004 became a Magnum member. What follows are excerpts of an interview conducted by Manik Katyal, in 2012. Full interview here. More of Antoine’s work here.

USA, NEW YORK city.© Antoine D’Agata, USA, New York City.

Untitled, 2007© Antoine D’Agata, 2007.

TURKEY. Istanbul. 1999.© Antoine D’Agata, Turkey, Istanbul, 1999.

Manik: So there is no specific thing you have in mind when you’re documenting but basically your personal experiences?

Antoine: Yes because I think photography is being misused for the last century. It is being used mostly as a documenting way which of course is a wonderful, very specific way of technique to document reality. But unlike the other art forms, to be a photographer you have to get out of your studio and get to go to experiment the world. And this is what most people forget to do. You know they use photography as illustration of some social sociological ideal in a beautiful way. But they forget that to use photography to its most powerful level you have to use it in the position inside the world not outside.

Manik: Be part of it..?

Antoine: Firstly, I don’t care. I mean I can discuss it, but I don’t care. It doesn’t touch me, I mean I read sometimes something or hear something but it doesn’t affect me. I’m putting enough energy in the work that I’m doing and I don’t need people’s approval. Second, I always like to see how much people critique my work for moral reasons while on the other side they make so many moral compromises in real life even with their fears, even in a passive way we all become part of some exploitative system. It makes me smile to see people who live so well in comfort and forgetness and ridicule someone who is…

Mortality, France, 2011© Antoine D’Agata, France, 2011.

FRANCE. Paris. 2009.© Antoine D’Agata, Paris, 2009.

CANARIES. Playa del Ingles_2© Antoine D’Agata, Canaries, Playa del Ingles.

Manik: … working hard?

Antoine: Yes. My life is what it is and of course I’ve been different in my choices but I don’t do it out of pleasure or pathology, I do it because I think it’s my duty as a human being. I live in this world, I want to know what’s going on, I want to be with the people I think I’m like. In meaningful and painful situations, I want to be where I think it’s important to be; where things are at stake. If others are experimenting with the economic balance, I want to be there. So this is my way. I’m not photographing pleasure but my relationship with these girls who are prostitutes or drug addicts or delinquents is a very conscious choice. My relationship with them is based on the knowledge of the conditions we live in and ambiguities and difficulties about how to establish a relationship in this scenario. And we deal with this. Of course violence can be part of it. Some good violence, some bad violence but it is the way. I always question the way I photograph it. Brutality of course, a large part of the picture but I think violence is part of life. It’s part of the beauty of life and part of the ugliness of life. And this violence I don’t show it very distinctly. At times I try to provoke it but it’s never aimed at people I’m photographing and the violence you see in most pictures is not violence against people it is violence which comes out of a situation, usually very physical situations leading to drugs or sex or narcotic sex and so it is a good violence.

[…]

Manik: What have the effects of your lifestyle been on your body?

Antoine: I don’t have an exotic lifestyle. I go deep down in my own life and that of my subjects. I see most of the photographic practice in the world as exoticism, with people going to exciting places, exciting ideas. For many years I’ve had a strong constitution, like a physical way and for many years was able to avoid physical effects of abuse and to my brain. And I think with age, at 50 now, I’m reaching a point where I have to deal with it. I hate the idea but this for me is one of the reasons why physically and mentally, the drug abuse made it hard for me to function over the past few years as a human being and even less as a photographer. So I’m at a stage where I have to find new ways to survive mentally, physically and I’ve to find new ways to look at the world.

Cambodja, Dernier Voyage, 2008© Antoine D’Agata, Cambodja, Dernier Voyage, 2008.

Cambodja, 2011© Antoine D’Agata, Cambodja, 2011.

BRESIL, 2006© Antoine D’Agata, Bresil, 2006.

≡ There is no such thing as ‘ugly’ in photography ≡

15.jpg.CROP.original-original© Christian Berthelot, Leanne, born April 8, 2014 at 8:31 a.m. 1.745 kg. 13 seconds of life. From the Cesar series.

2.jpg.CROP.original-original© Christian Berthelot, Liza, born Feb. 26, 2013 at 8:45 a.m. 3.2 kg. 3 seconds of life. From the Cesar series.

CAESAR #9 Mael, born December 13, 2013 at 4:52 p.m. 2kg 800. 18© Christian Berthelot, Mael, born Dec. 13, 2013 at 4:52 p.m. 2.8 kg. 18 seconds of life. From the Cesar series.

13.jpg.CROP.original-original© Christian Berthelot, Kevin, born Dec. 27, 2013 at 10:36 a.m. 4.366 kg. 13 seconds of life. From the Cesar series.

11.jpg.CROP.original-original© Christian Berthelot, Lize, born Dec. 24, 2013 at 8:49 a.m. 3.574 kg. 9 seconds of life. From the Cesar series.

Berthelot and Morievnal offered any new mothers who participated in the series a copy of a photograph of their baby — so far they have photographed 40 caesarean births. Berthelot said witnessing so many births has changed his perspective about the process and has decided to focus solely on the first few moments of life, though he knows viewers may find the images a bit raw and tough to look at.

“I know there are people who react very badly, who find it disgusting, they tell me that I do not have the right to show the children in the bloodstream,” he said.” Some even told me that it is not real, it is not true. This is absurd. Children are not born in cabbages or roses. And there are those who are fascinated, I give them the opportunity to observe in detail the violence of birth, but there are also people like my wife, who encouraged me to do this work, because caesarean is beautiful birth.”

More of Christian’s work here. Excerpt and text via Slate, by David Rosenberg.

≡ ‘Has the Düsseldorf School killed photography?’, he asks ≡

I

83d91fab-d6f2-4e10-adf3-0761bc9ea80c

Professional Photographer editor Grant Scott popped the question and it stayed with me, not only because it is a very catchy headline for an article, as the author notes, but because his reflection resonated with me.

As I understand it, Scott’s main issue with the Düsseldorf School relates to its heritage not its conquests. The Bechers’ pupils, namely Thomas Stuth, Thomas Ruff, Candida Höfer, Axel Hütte, Laurenz Berges and Andreas Gursky (to name only a few) all gave (and still give!) original and groundbreaking contributions to expand the range of languages one could apply to photography. Struth’s family portraits were innovative in the way he managed to portrait, with a non-theatrical approach, the dynamics between the group, while having them stare at the camera; Ruff’s portraits set the tone for contemporary portraiture and highlighted how the surface of things and the particularities of a person’s face, can grab one’s attention and “hurt” us in many ways; Höfer’s majestic interiors changed the field of architectural photography and highlight her singular approach to natural light as a way to comment on the atmosphere and emotional landscape of each location; Gursky’s large scale depictions of human consumerism and megalomaniac mentality are impressive not only for their appearance but also because of the process and commitment they entail; Sasse’s relationship to color is one-of-a-kind and his photographs of public and private spaces should be taught in every photography classroom.

It’s true that while some of them kept their original perspective and reflection upon the medium, some just kept applying the formula, but what Scott means by the alleged murder is that they “offered” an easy way out to any photography-student-wannabe-conceptual-artist who chooses to lean on the formula of the ‘project-as-serial-work’. This way the task gets simplified: one chooses the subject and the location and then repeats the framing with a distant and seemingly objective eye.

Although I agree with this immediate analysis, for I recognize that this is a problem both in the amateur as in the professional milieu, with major influence on the way photography students approach their subjects, what resonates less with me is Scott’s cynical tone:

I wander off and create an image that I shall call Shopping trolley in supermarket car park on a grey day, or Einkaufswagen im Supermarkt Parkplatz an einem Grauen Tag. It’s not quite as snappy as New Objectivity but it is observationally descriptive and has the all-important element of transformation to verify it. It may just be the Asda car park, but when translated into German it becomes one of a series of images which combine to become a personal exploration of environmental documentation. There we have it: a picture easy and cheap to take, some words to support why I took it and a German title. I am now a disciple of Becher and if my work is criticised I will quote the Bechers’ teaching and their followers’ success.I am now a New Objectivity photographer. I am in a comfort zone.

Scott says he’s fed up with all the supposed neutrality and emotionless conceptual approach, from portraits to deserted landscapes, as I am too, but overall what one misses is originality, and that has always been a problem in every art discipline. So the issue might be that the stage for the so-called ‘artistic photography’ these days is huge, and it’s expected that we have to go through a pile of unoriginal and uncreative work before we find something worth looking at.

Full article HERE.

II

portraits_88_22portraits_88_15portraits_88_16all images © Thomas Ruff, from the series Portraits, circa 1988.

III

The Lingwood & Hamlyn family, London, UK, 2001© Thomas Struth, The Lingwood & Hamlyn family, London, UK, from the series Family Portraits, 2001.

TS-3© Thomas Struth, The Falletti Family, Florence, from the series Family Portraits, 2005.

The Felsenfeld, Gold Families, Philadelphia, 2007© Thomas Struth, The Felsenfeld, Gold Families, Philadelphia, from the series Family Portraits, 2007.

IV

Wiblingen-Abbey, Germany© Candida Höfer, Wiblingen-Abbey, Germany.

Casa Musica Porto V, 2006© Candida Höfer, Casa da Música, Porto, 2006.

IB_S_BASIC_COPYRIGHT =© Candida Höfer, Cuvillés Theater, München, 2009.

V

Paris, Montparnasse 1993© Andreas Gursky, Paris, Montparnasse, 1993.

Chicago, Board of Trade II 1999 by Andreas Gursky born 1955© Andreas Gursky, Chicago, Board of Trade II, 1999.

Kamiokande, 2007© Andreas Gursky, Kamiokande, 2007.

VI

P-91-02-02, Düsseldorf 1991© Jörg Sasse, P-91-02-02, Düsseldorf, from the series Public Spaces, 1991.

W-93-07-01, Marburg 1993© Jörg Sasse, W-93-07-01, Marburg, from the series Private Spaces, 1993.

W-92-06-01, Pelm 1992© Jörg Sasse, W-92-06-01, Pelm, from the series Private Spaces, 1992.

VII

HUETTE 033-A© Axel Hütte, Mandalay 1, Las Vegas, USA, 2003.

Portrait #26, Germany from the series Water Reflections, 2007© Axel Hütte, Portrait #26, Germany from the series Water Reflections, 2007.

Passo Sella, Italy from the series New Mountains, 2012© Axel Hütte, Passo Sella, Italy from the series New Mountains, 2012.

VIII

Erevan - Artashat© Ursula Schulz-Dornburg, Erevan – Artashat, from the series Bus Stops, Armenia., 1997-2011.

Erevan, Yegnward© Ursula Schulz-Dornburg, Erevan, Yegnward, from the series Bus Stops, Armenia., 1997-2011.

Gymri, Spitak, 2002© Ursula Schulz-Dornburg, Gymri, Spitak, from the series Bus Stops, Armenia., 1997-2011.

IX

Altenburg, 1992© Laurenz Berges, Altenburg, 1992.

Wünsdorf II, 1994© Laurenz Berges, Wünsdorf II, 1994.

Hannover, 2005 (# 2282)© Laurenz Berges, Hannover, 2005.

٠ ornament ‘AS’ crime ٠

png_portrait_07© Stephen Dupont, from Papua New Guinea Portraits and Diaries

png_portrait_06© Stephen Dupont, from Papua New Guinea Portraits and Diaries

png_portrait_20© Stephen Dupont, from Papua New Guinea Portraits and Diaries

excerpts from Adolf Loos‘ manifesto Ornament and Crime (1908).

In the womb the human embryo passes through all the development stages of the animal kingdom. At the moment of birth, human sensations are equal to those of a newborn dog. His childhood passes through all the transformations which correspond to the history of mankind. At the age of two, he sees like a Papuan, at four, like a Teuton, at six like Socrates, at eight like Voltaire.
[…]

The child is amoral. To us the Papuan is also amoral. The Papuan slaughters his enemies and devours them. He is no criminal. If, however, the modern man slaughters and devours somebody, he is a criminal or a degenerate. The Papuan tattoos his skin, his boat, his oar, in short, everything that is within his reach. He is no criminal. The modern man who tattoos himself is a criminal or a degenerate. There are prisons where eighty percent of the inmates bear tattoos. Those who are tattooed but arc not imprisoned are latent criminals or degenerate aristocrats. If a tattooed person dies at liberty, it is only that he died a few years before he committed a murder.

The urge to ornament one’s face, and everything in one’s reach, is the origin of fine art. It is the babble of painting. All art is erotic.
[…]

I have made the following observation and have announced it to the world: The evolution of culture is synonymous with the removal of ornament from objects of daily use. I had thought to introduce a new joy into the world: but it has not thanked me for it. Instead the idea was greeted with sadness and despondency. What cast the gloom was the thought that ornament could no longer be produced. What! Are we alone, the people of the nineteenth century, are we no longer capable of  doing what any Negro can do, or what people have been able to do before us?
[…]

The rate of cultural development is held back by those that cannot cope with the present. I live in the year 1908, but my neighbour lives approximately in the year 1900, and one over there lives in the year 188o. It is a misfortune for any government, if the culture of its people is dominated by the past.
[…]

The change in ornament implies a premature devaluation of labour. The worker’s time, the utilised material is capital that has been wasted. I have made the statement: The form of the object should be bearable for as long as the object lasts physically. T would like to try to explain this: A suit will be changed more frequently than a valuable fur coat. A lady’s evening dress, intended for one night only, will be changed more rapidly than a writing desk. Woe betide the writing desk that has to be changed as frequently as an evening dress, just because the style has become unbearable. Then the money that was spent on the writing desk will have been wasted.
[…]

Ornamented objects appear truly unaesthetic if they have been executed in the best material, with the highest degree of meticulous detail, and if they have required a long production time. I cannot plead innocence for having been the first to call for quality labour, but not this kind of work.

The modern man who holds ornament sacred as the sign of artistic achievement of past epochs will immediately recognize the tortured, laboriously extracted and pathological nature of modern ornament. Ornament can no longer be borne by someone who exists at our level of culture.

It is different for people and nations who have not reached this level.

I preach to the aristocrats, I mean the individuals who stand at the pinnacle of humanity and nevertheless have the deepest understanding for the motivations and privations of those who stand further below. The Kafir who weaves fabric according to a specific order which only appears when one unravels it, the Persian who tics his carpers, the Slovak farmer’s wife who embroiders her lace, the old lady who makes beautiful things with glass, beads and silk; all these he understands very well. The aristocrat lets them have their own way; he knows that they are sacred hours in which they work. The revolutionary would come and say: “it is all nonsense.” As he would pull the old lady away from the roadside shrine and say to her: “There is no God.” But the atheist amongst the aristocrats lifts his hat as he walks past a church.

[…]

raskol_series_07© Stephen Dupont, from Raskols, PNG

raskol_series_22© Stephen Dupont, from Raskols, PNG

raskol_series_23© Stephen Dupont, from Raskols, PNG

٠ Old fashioned = inauthentic for the present time ٠

esq-11-exclusive-sundance-portraits-jesse-eisenbergesq-13-exclusive-sundance-portraits-maggie-gyllenhaalesq-exclusive-sundance-portraits-jason-schwartzmann-22© Victoria Will, tintype portraits at Sundance film festival.

There is no denying that alternative photographic processes are fashionable these days. I’m sure there are people reflecting upon this at the very moment, writing articles and giving conferences on the very same issue. As for me, due to an investigation regarding ‘authenticity’, I got to think how this hype with ancient techniques may relate to the ‘quest for authenticity’.

In a short comment about the portraits seen above, the author said: “I am fascinated by the slow process, the finicky nature of the chemistry, and the beauty in each unpredictable result. There is something really special in each wet plate being one of a kind. It’s incredibly honest.” The discourse is undoubtedly romantic, as if the ‘nature’ of the chemistry could attest for the ‘nature’ of the subject depicted. As for the word ‘honest’ it is just plain wrong, for honesty is a moral quest. I suppose she means they are ‘sincere‘ for the origin of the word ‘sincere’ (sine + cera) does in fact mean something clean and pure, but that was long ago. The word ‘sincere’ now also applies to moral qualities…

This turn in the photographic medium is clearly related to the digital take-over and the excessive cleanliness and hyper-stylized images that now dominate the media – from publicity to photojournalism. There’s a lot of talk about photographs having lost their ‘authenticity’, but what people mean when they use this word in such a context is that they have lost their uniqueness. They may be beautiful but they are not sublime.

Alternative processed photographs – like tintypes – have the particularity of being manufactured and singular. Even if you can multiply them, each image will have its own print. But what does it say about the images themselves?

I’m not questioning the beauty of the objects. They definitely have more dimensions than digital images, not only because they have texture and they smell but mainly because they evoke the sentiment of being, both of the photographer and of the subject photographed. Tracing the hand of the author makes it easy to find empathy with his choices.

Anyway, this sudden fascination with the ‘old-fashioned’ is not exclusive of the photographic medium. It is  also very present in the music scene and in fashion. It’s the ‘mod’, the ‘rockabilly’, the ‘vintage looks’, the ‘retro shops’. It’s people going on protests singing protest songs from half a decade ago, it’s all this and much more.

So the question is: what is happening in society that makes people look back and feel nostalgic, instead of ‘being’ here and now?

One thing about ‘authenticity’ that many authors agree with is that the ‘rhetoric of authenticity’ derives from an anxiety with loss. The heideggerian take is that the anxiety of the everydayness is precisely what prevents us from ‘being authentic’. Though I now discard any proper definition of ‘authenticity,’ I can agree that without the chance to exist in the present, in no way can you feel or act in truth to yourself.

In “Sincerity and Authenticity”, Lionel Trilling writes: “Here and now may be unpleasant, but at least they are authentic in being really here and now, and not susceptible to explanation by some shadowy there and then.”

٠ Oh, no!!! Here comes the western man again ٠

nelson

When the New York Times reviewed Jimmy Nelson’s work “Before they pass away” the writer Andrew Katz called his body of work “Portraits of the Authentics“. The concept of authenticity, in the art world, is nothing but a word. It serves the rhetoric of what’s original, genuine, singular, unique, and so on. We got used to hearing things being qualified as authentic not only in relation to the specificities of the work in question (whether it is an original or a copy; a singular work or a multiple; a genuine or a fake), but also in relation to the content of the work itself. The “things” depicted, presented, represented or evoked in the works became also the measure by which we talk about authenticity. But when we use the term in this context we are not so much referring to the rhetoric of authenticity within the artworld, but mainly to the philosophical roots of the word, even if we are not aware of it.

Jimmy Nelson’s work in question is the result of three-and-a-half years spent documenting vanishing cultures. […] Spending up to two weeks with each culture, Nelson would locate, meet, connect with and photograph these “last of the untouched.” After a guide or translator made an initial introduction, Nelson would step in to begin forming a bond and eventually get people to pose—in the jungle, on a mountaintop, in a river. Using the 4×5 plate camera, always in soft light, didn’t just slow him down and focus his concentration; it enabled him to directly confront his subjects. He would always be positioned lower than they were, and they would be seated or standing higher, above him, like icons. Getting them to remain still for a four-to-five-second shutter was a feat in itself. And stripping himself of his own modern-day arrogance and colonialist nature came with time.m

Katz also states that Each location was picked for its geographic remoteness and each tribe selected for its authenticity, rather than its anthropologic vulnerability, but what in the hell is the purpose of this redundancy?

The concept of Authenticity is an existential one. From Kierkegaard to Camus, several philosophers have tried to answer these questions: What does it mean to live an authentic life?; How can one live authentically? Although there are still no answers to this day, as we can see in this NYT piece, it doesn’t stop people from describing something as “authentic”, as though it meant something. It doesn’t. A close reading of the article allows me to pin down a couple of synonyms to Katz’s understanding of “authentic”, namely “untouched” and “pure”. But is there such a thing as an essence or a human nature? Aren’t we over the romantic ideal of the noble savage?

In an article about Nelson’s work for “Africa is a Country”, Zachary Rosen calls his portraits ‘ethnographic’, rather then authentic. He states that in the images, members of various ethnic groups from around the world are depicted to convey the idyllic aesthetic of the lives they supposedly lead in their rustic and isolated environments.

Contrary to what was said in the NYT, here the strength of the portraits allude to another set of adjectives, such as ‘sincerity’ or ‘honesty’, with which we can qualify characters, identities, but not consciousnesses. Also, ‘sincerity’ implies a social contract and social expectations to which the “sincere person” then complies to. Rosen goes on to say that the scenes have been deliberately constructed to capitalize on the photographer’s own vision of these groups. While such images certainly elicit awe and amazement, they can distract us from asking questions about their creation and the nature of their representation.  […]

By looking beyond the photographic frame and taking the social context of this body of work into account, a few observations come to light. The rhetoric Nelson uses to describe his images strongly characterizes the Western fantasy of the noble savage, whose ancient culture, unchanged for thousands of years, has been passed over by evolution. This is achieved by linking the romantic traditional aesthetic captured in the images with repetition, in his interviews and promo materials, of phrases designed to emphasize supposed authenticity such as “flawless human beauty”, “original human art” and “purity of Mankind”. Indeed the morose name of the project, Before They Pass Away, laments the loss of these supposedly untouched cultures.

Rosen also says that Nelson produces artificial images, dressing subjects in traditional attire, stripping them and their environments of objects deemed to be foreign and posing them to his liking. He is in effect, attempting to determine what is authentic as an outsider, denying the dynamic histories of the people he stalks. In fact, if the philosophers of authenticity, namely Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre and Camus, agreed on something it was on authenticity being something dynamic that no one could ever possess. Authenticity is a verb: to be authentic, to act authentically; no inanimate object, such as a photograph can be or became authentic, nor can it depict authenticity. In respect to its medium, it can be an original or a copy, but never it can never be authentic for such a quality implies that there is consciousness.

Rosen suggests that the most troubling aspect of Nelson’s work is what it says about ourselves and I must agree. His work has been celebrated, and he has been praised as though he was a modern discoverer, bringing back from his expeditions the sort of objects supposed to capture the spirit of the colonized people. When Nelson stripped these people of their context he takes away their humanity, for he turns them into objects, all looking alike – different from us. Don’t be fooled, this is not naif, but rather a work rooted in bad faith.

The article in “Africa is a Country” leaves the reader with these questions and I shall do that too: What is this strange admiration of authenticity that romantic “tribal” images readily tap into? Do they make us feel more advanced? Do we need to counter the perceived boredom of our “modern” lives with something exotic and different?

٠ Andrei Liankevich ٠

1234© Andrei Liankevich, all photographs from the series Goodbye, Motherland, 2011

The “Goodbye, Motherland” project explores the attitude to WWII in Belarus. Belarus has only one ideology – war ideology. Belarus Independence Day is the day when the capital was freed from the Nazi occupation. The main streets in the capital are named after war heroes, which is around 30% of all streets names. The latest research shows that people can hardly remember who the person the street is named after was. Everything in Belarus starts from and ends in: “We won the war. We are heroes”.

7658© Andrei Liankevich, all photographs from the series Goodbye, Motherland, 2011

Liankevich describes his inspiration in his own words: “War has never been anything close to me in [an] emotional sense. It was the story about ‘every fourth man who died in Belarus.’ But I have never sensed it personally. There was no sorrow, no pain.” From this standpoint the collection unfolds in faded faces, sleeping soldiers and strange personal paramilitary objects (busts of generals, canteens, manikins in uniform). Liankevich’s photos are eerie and haunting, they seem to look into the past as if one were looking through a swimming pool at people and places. This coupling of theme and material is an ideal marriage of medium with idea.

٠ Mark (he is) King (maybe) ٠

5666374964_b8eba650f8_b© Mark King, from the series Plastic, 2011-12

mark_king_plastic5© Mark King, from the series Plastic, 2011-12

mark_king_plastic4© Mark King, from the series Plastic, 2011-12

“Back in January I was preparing for a screen printing artist in residency at the Frans Masereel Centre in Kasterlee, Belgium and wanted to go there with a new portrait project already started. One night I ended up shooting a few packs of medium format polaroids and really liked what I got. I later scanned the selects and added color to them in photoshop. The color palette and stoic characters created a new version of the Barbados I was familiar with. Shooting at night under streetlights made for an eerie scene.

Once at the residency, I produced a range of artist’s proofs, adding color to each print piece by piece. The color I add is representative of the local plastic shopping bags. I even traveled to the residency with plastic bags and used them to match with the inks I was laying down. I experimented with and collected many shopping bags for over a year before the residency. They stood out for me as soon as I returned to Barbados. You see them everywhere. Their vibrant colors dominate any environment.”

excerpt from an interview made by Abby Wilcox, from Live Fast Mag

maryam1© Mark King, from the series Plastic, 2011-12

mk_adriana© Mark King, Adriana, from the series Plastic, 2011-12

mk_elena© Mark King, Elena, from the series Plastic, 2011-12

More of Mark’s work here

٠ Kevin Barton and the ‘arbusian’ tale of the ‘unheimlich’ ٠

family1family3© Kevin Barton, Untitled (above and below), from the series Family

mission11mission16© Kevin Barton, Untitled (above and below), from the series Mormon Missionaries

camp03camp05© Kevin Barton, Untitled (above and below), from the series Summer Camp

More of Kevin’s work here

٠ Crash: from fiction to real life ٠

CRASH2© Sofia Silva, Driving into a car crash, 2013

“What then of Ballard the author – is he drawn into Vaughan’s project in a way that makes him a literary and ethical reactionary? To say so would ignore how Vaughan’s idea and its totalizing impulse seems to be offered us, as much as not, as a parody of Beyond the Pleasure Principle. Ballard has said that he devoured Freud in his adolescent years, and that consequently he set out on a medical career to become a psychoanalyst. But, after giving up medicine and psychiatry for science fiction, Ballard seems to have turned against his inspiration. At least, in Crash – which is thoroughly typical of Ballard’s work before Empire of the Sun (1984) – we find a totally ambiguous text, because the novel projects mutually exclusive clues to its author’s attitude about his subject and his Freudian sources. The novel about Vaughan hovers among three stances toward the story and its presentation: earnest application of Freud to plausibly concrete experiences; parody of Freud; and “pop” stylization of Freud (something between endorsement and subversion). The deadpan earnestness with which Ballard and “Ballard” present Crash makes it impossible for the reader to determine if the novel is, after all, a joke. But as we watch Vaughan enact Freud’s hope to see Eros free itself from fusion with death, the hope looks like the symptom of an absurd speculation. And, at the same time, Crash’s literalization of the idea that Eros and death are fused makes the idea of fusion look no less preposterous than the enactment of defusion. Freud’s presence in the novel is displaced by parody, which is displaced in turn by earnest Freudianism, which is displaced once more by parody. The wavering between seriousness and play cannot be resolved, and so the case for the total ambiguity – and for the postmodernism – of Ballard’s text is a strong one. […]

Image58Bill Lowenburg© Bill Lowenburg, from Crash Burn Love

The postnuclear primal scene Ballard describes in his novel’s scene between Jim [from Empire of the Sun] and the dead airman might well be a secondary derivative, via sadism, of masochism; or an Oedipal tangle expressing a derivative collective desire for punishment. But the origin is not the disease, which is the long distance between the mobilized derivative and the origin. The reader who submits to Ballard’s version of RF’s [realistic fiction] painful binding of his and his world’s restlessness might recover the long distance by returning to the libidinal passivity of the anaclitic crossroads. This submission would be therapeutic, I think, since it gives the reader a state of detached fixity in which to feel the pressure of the vital order and to contemplate ideas of life in the painfully exciting way that keeps Jim alive in the camp. Even if in this state one envisions the historical present as moribund, the energizing pain of the vision can incite one to act in future against the present determination of history. It has always surprised me that readers of SF should devote themselves to the passive contemplation of the developments and disasters of a future in which they could play no part. By provoking this attitude to spectacle, I have thought SF [science fiction] could only flatter the worst form of supine passivity to the world. But in Ballard’s light I now see this as the use of a literary form to recover a psychic state which is, after all, a restorative primary masochism. To be fixed by an intrusive spectacle even of global horror and death is to be shocked back to where one began, at the verge of the vital order, remembering unambiguous vital function. And no matter what one sees there, whether ambiguities or determinations, perhaps this memory is in itself the best fight for life. Interestingly, in experiencing a form of regression to the crossroads of the vital order and its substitutes, SF readers and RF readers find themselves on the same ground.

excerpts from Mobility and Masochism: Christine Brooke-Rose and J. G. Ballard
by Robert L. in NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction, Vol. 21, No. 2/3, Why the Novel Matters: A Postmodern Perplex Conference Issue (Winter – Spring, 1988), pp. 292-310

Bill LowenburgBill Lowenburg© Bill Lowenburg, from Crash Burn Love

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.

┐ Alma Haser’s Cosmic Surgery └

Alma_Haser9Alma_Haser7AlmaHaser_LillyandAnastasiaAlmaHaser_TillyandJohnny© Alma Haser, all from the series Cosmic Surgery

“Alma has always made things with her hands and now tries to find ways to combine her fine art background with photography. She has used origami in the past as props in her photographs, but in this series ‘Cosmic Surgery’ the origami has become an integral part of the final image.

The series has three distinct stages. Firstly Alma photographs her sitter, then prints multiple images of the subjects face and folds them into a complicated origami modular construction, which then gets placed back onto the original face of the portrait. Finally the whole thing is re-photographed.

Origami is very meditative, you can get lost in the world of folding for hours. It is also extremely delicate and fragile, so by giving each geometric paper shape somewhere to sit within the final image, the origami has been given a backbone.

There is something quite alien about the manipulated faces, as if they belong to some futuristic next generation. In these portraits the children become uncanny, while their parents are seen in a more familiar moment.

With the simple act of folding an image Alma can transform each face and make a sort of flattened sculpture. By de-facing her models she has made their portraits into her own creations.”

Alma’s website here

┐ Matthew Niederhauser’s “I can” portraits └

20090410_color_full058_newpantssing20071124_color_full010_guantou20090308_color_full047_shrguitarsound_kapital_1a© Matthew Niederhauser, all photographs from the series Sound Kapital

“The project first began when I got back into Beijing in October 2007. I was moving back from New York, and I had a friend from college who was out here unexpectedly, working on the soundboard at this music club, D-22.

I made a point of going to the club as soon as I got in. I went up there one night with my camera and I was completely blown away by the music. I saw this band called Joyside, and another band called The Subs. I went up there for 2-3 nights straight, and I was just so impressed. Lots of times when I had seen live music in China, in 2004 and 2005, it was certainly nothing to write home about. But everything had really stepped up.


I approached the club and said I wanted to hang out and take photos. They had this office on the second floor and I decided I was going to go in there and shoot some portraits of this band that needed images for their MySpace page. And that’s when I first took one of the ‘red wall portraits’. That was with a band called Hedgehog. It’s one of the most well known of those pictures now – the girl with the boxing gloves.


It was such a great photo and I imagined at that point that I would start shooting everyone who came through D-22. I’d create this consistent look with the photographs, while also showing that so many different music scenes were moving through this one club, whether it’s rock, or electronic, or punk, or folk, or experimental.


I did that for about two and half years – I still do it now. Shooting hundreds of performers from all over China. The club basically paid for my taxis and gave me free alcohol – and that was it.
(…)


What’s occurring here is a very international collaboration or community of people who are interested in that, and whether it’s artists, curators, or gallery directors – it’s a very eclectic mix to say the least. I feel that the contemporary art scene is much more Chinese, but people are thinking on a global scale now and trying to interact with international artistic communities. And in that sense there’s definitely a bi-lingual nature to it.


The music and the arts scene are what have kept me here. I moved back here in 2007 thinking I might stay a year but there’s been such a creative explosion I can’t leave. You also see a lot of the more experimental musicians, like Yan Jun, run in a lot of the same circles as the contemporary Chinese artists. A lot of their theoretical positions on creativity are very close.”

excerpt of an interview Christen Cornell. continue reading here

More of Matthew’s work here