٠ The repetition & banality of the snapshot vs the originality & singularity of the fine print ٠

This post is made of excerpts from Lynn Berger‘s article “SNAPSHOTS, or: Visual Culture’s Cliché,” published in Photographies Vol. 4, No. 2, September 2011, pp.175–190. Images from unknown authors, from the MOMA online archive

CRI_196551© Unknown photographer, c.1930

“We use the word “cliché” advisedly. As it happens, the genealogies of the cliché — an “expression or idea that has lost its originality or force through overuse” (American Heritage Dictionary)—and the snapshot go back to the same point of origin: the printing workshops of nineteenth century France. There, cliché was the name of the metal plate or mould on the printing press “from which reproductions of print or design could be made in unending quantity” (Sabin 10). Under this mechanical definition the cliché moved into the English language, where it first appeared—or so the Oxford English Dictionary informs us — in Charles Babbage’s 1832 Economy of Machinery and Manufactures. Thus intimately tied to the printed word, its use was later expanded to denote the negative in photography.6 From the start, then, the cliché was an emblem of the “age of mechanical reproduction” (Benjamin).
The cliché is a cultural product of a technological change, with middle-class connotations. The amateur snapshot is the exact same thing. Both are associated with the common man, indeed, both are commonplace. Clichés may vary slightly from one to the next (and to be sure “some variability in the standardization does not disqualify the expression as formulary so long as the expression retains its effective identity”, as Walter Ong has written: Rhetoric, Romance 288), and the same is true of snapshot photographs: “each [snapshot] captures a unique pose, even if that pose obediently repeats million other, very similar poses. They are all the same, but they are all also just slightly different from each other”, Geoffrey Batchen has observed (“Snapshots” 125).

CRI_196637© Unknown photographer, c.1930

Indeed, with historians like Langford and Batchen asking how to account for the repetitive form and subject of snapshot photographs, oral culture — basically, the way of the world before script — is the place of choice to look for answers.12 By linking the snapshot to the cliché, it becomes clear that repetition serves a mnemonic function with roots in a pre-modern, oral tradition, in which knowledge is transmitted from generation to generation.
As it happens, the re-evaluation of amateur snapshots that started in the 1940s and really took off in the 1960s and 1970s, relied on a similar Romantic notion of the “common man” as an “unconscious artist”.13 William Morgan of the Museum of Modern Art, defending his decision to host an exhibition of amateur photographs in 1944, wrote: “I feel that the dead walls of judgment . . . should be changed when it comes to evaluating the spontaneous free spirit which is so often expressed in the personal snapshot.” Similarly, when Aperture magazine devoted an entire issue to the snapshot in 1974, the editorial announced that the issue would examine “the vitality and ambiguity of the naïve home snapshot” (Green). In that same issue, photographer Lisette Model described herself as “a passionate lover of the snapshot, because of all photographic images it comes closest to the truth”. It appears that Nancy MarthaWest, writing, in Kodak and the Lens of Nostalgia, summed it up quite well: “Of all photographic genres, snapshot photography has stubbornly maintained the illusion of naiveté” (7).
The cliché is a political phenomenon. Terms like “containers for memory” and “mnemonic devices” may suggest a mere instrumentality and passivity, but clichés and snapshots in turn influence consciousness and perception as well.
For Jean Paul Sartre, clichés (or commonplaces, the term he used for “our most hackneyed thoughts, inasmuch as these thoughts have become the meeting place of the community”) were “Hell”: The commonplace belongs to everybody and it belongs to me; it is the presence of everybody in me. In its very essence it is generality: in order to appreciate it, an act is necessary, an act through which I shed my particularity in order to adhere to the general. (p. 137)
The tension between individuality and generality, between originality and conformity, is also a feature of snapshots: “most snapshots are . . . about conformity, not innovation or subversion”, Geoffrey Batchen writes, adding: As a collective activity, snapshots show the struggles of particular individuals to conform to the social expectation, and visual tropes, of their sex and class … everyone simultaneously wants to look like themselves and like everyone else — to be the same but (ever so slightly) different. (“Snapshots” 133)

CRI_196522© Unknown photographer, c.1930

٠ The political function of landscape-family photographs in the context of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict ٠

The Brownies in Palestina© Gil Pasternak, Esther Pasternak, 1970s. Esther Pasternak collection of family photographs, 1946–99. Description: The defiant lion is a tombstone monument erected in 1932 to commemorate a group of eight Jewish pioneer settlers who, as the Israeli version of the story goes, fell to Arab village militias in the settlement of Tel Hai in 1920 while defending their homes and community. The lower part of the monument lists their names. Immediately above them, another engraved Hebrew inscription reads “tov lamut be’ad artzenu” (It is good to die for our country).

[…] The role landscape and family photographs play in occidental societies, and the meanings one might associate with the information they mediate, has been greatly informed by state politics and capitalist ideologies. Preserving (and imagining) cultural, historical, and human landscape was a role officially assigned to the medium of photography when its invention was reported to the people of France by François Arago, in the Chamber of Deputies in 1839 (Sekula 1981). This resulted in photography’s widespread participation in European colonialism; in representing and shaping Otherness in compliance with European imagination, fantasy, and desire. At the turn of the twentieth century, the Kodak company further cemented this role, enticing individuals to travel with cameras and participate in the depiction of landscapes. Kodak thus invoked the nuclear family to partake in the production of geographical knowledge within the domestic sphere (Olivier 2007).
To fully grasp the operation of the photographic apparatus in family life, its involvement in politics, in landscaping, and in negotiations of power relations, one has to remember that historically, it was the invention of the one-dollar Brownie camera that enabled the practice of family photography and the production of family photographs in the way that one is familiar with today. First manufactured and sold in 1900, the Brownie, one of the first easy-to-operate cameras for amateurs, brought about the notion of the democratization of photography, and of snapshot photography in particular. It allowed virtually anyone to take photographs regardless of whether or not they possessed any photographic expertise. As Marc Olivier notes, “Beforet the snapshot, photography was largely a gentlemen’s hobby, a pastime that required technical skill and costly equipment” (2007: 1).

The Brownies in Palestina2 © Gil Pasternak, Dorit Pasternak, 1971. Dorit and Ephraim Pasternak’s collection of honeymoon photographs. Description: memorial for Moshe Levinger and Arye Steinlauff, […] two Israeli road workers who were shot dead by a group of Palestinian militants while paving the road to the Dead Sea in 1951. The memorial indicates the Hebrew date of the workers’ death alongside their names. Above these, a short inscription reads: “galed chalutzim mefalsei ha’derech le’yam ha’melach she’lo zachu le’siyum” (A monument for the pioneers who had started paving the way to the Dead Sea but were not fortunate to complete it).

[…] The experience of the physical environment and that of psychic life may be perceived as interlinked, as well as being two reciprocal conditions of the family photograph. However, I would like to suggest one encounters the family photograph as a post-memory; not purely as something of the past, but also as an informative image and object existing in, and constantly reshaping the present understanding of, the physical conditions it both portrays and materializes, whether these are credible or fabricated.

The Brownies in Palestina3The Brownies in Palestina4© Gil Pasternak, Seffi and Gil Pasternak, 1980s. The Pasternaks’ family album, 1971–89 (above and below).

[…] From the late 1980s, a new understanding of landscape emerged in the field of cultural geography, treating and discussing landscape as text. The collaborative work of Denis Cosgrove and Stephen Daniels (1988) is an exemplar of this approach. According to their research, landscape must be understood as a system of authored signs working to narrate the terrain in which they are found. The narratives that landscapes present are predetermined by their principal makers or authors, whether these are individuals or groups. Prior to the late 1980s, the predominant approach toward landscape had been derived by the theories of Carl Sauer and the Berkeley school of geographers. Landscape was thought of as a blank sheet to be overprinted with traces of human activity, a by-product of cultural practices where culture was thought to have agency. The new understanding of the term, however, suggests landscape is a product of intentional activities carried out to determine geographical features and meaning (Cosgrove and Jackson 1987; Kong 1997). Accordingly, landscape needs to be considered as a linguistic experience, writing and communicating meanings in a particular language. A capacity to engage with and read the signs used along the geographical terrain renders landscapes legible, allowing the equipped viewer to absorb the information imparted by the landscape’s designer while depriving the less privileged viewer access to its intended meaning. Those who cannot read the signs used are bound to bestow different meanings upon the very same landscape, to read it in a way that may compete with, or even override its projected significance (Jackson 1989).

The Brownies in Palestina5© Gil Pasternak, Seffi and Gil Pasternak, 1980s. The Pasternaks’ family album, 1971–89.

[…] According to Benvenisti (2002), at the end of the nineteenth century Zionist pioneers brought with them from the diaspora the desire to reclaim the landscape of their longed-for, lost homeland. Upon their arrival in the region, they faced a different reality. Although popular Zionist historiography often presented the Promised Land as a deserted, unoccupied territory, the land was occupied by non-Jewish people; its landscapes did not live up to the biblical primordial images that appeared in the pioneers’ dreams. Having searched the visible landscape for residues that might echo their collective imagination, they worked to alter its physical features and conceal threatening scenes. The second generation of these immigrants, Benvenisti explains (2002), turned to archaeological excavations that gradually exposed the past sites of the ancient homeland, creating the country’s landscape anew. By the time a third generation was born, they could not possibly experience the landscape intimately. Its alteration had rendered it a collective landscape of a nation, and the location of this nation’s identity. Yet, as Ghazi Falah (1996) reveals in an article on the cultural landscape of Palestine, some sites of past villages still contain rubble, abandoned olive groves, cactus bushes, and other indications of their previous inhabitants. Some of these stand untouched, others are hidden among thick plantations of forests “planted apparently after the houses were leveled in the early years of the Israeli state” (Falah 1996: 271). Such locations turn this landscape into a site for Israeli amnesia, where some aspects of a non-heroic Jewish-Israeli history are hidden or camouflaged.

The Brownies in Palestina6© Gil Pasternak, Untitled, 1980s. The Pasternaks’ family album, 1971–89. Description: This expansive view is captured from a tourist observation point located at the top of the Mount of Olives. The sitters appear comfortable, at ease within the environment and with the photographic gaze pointed at them. The background, however, is loaded with political meanings, as dominion over the Old City of Jerusalem and its sacred places has been a matter of public, regional, and
international dispute since the state of Israel captured the city from Jordan in the war of 1967.

[…] I would like to suggest an understanding of the photographic relationship between sitters and landscapes in comparison with sitters against artificial backgrounds in studio photography. […] If subjects against painted landscapes had to imagine their relationship to the background, when positioned against actual landscapes, family photographs narrate the group as directly involved in, and related to, the landscape surrounding them. This further complicates the reality of the photographic, for if both the subject and the background appear authentic, they are capable of shaping each other’s identity not only historically but also ontologically. Yet, while it could be argued that the two-dimensional painted background draws much of the viewer’s attention precisely due to its visible fabricated qualities, it also serves as an indication of intentionality. It is those already theatrical properties of the background that trigger the spectator’s interest in its symbolic value, and thereby in the possible affinity of the painted background with the sitter. Following the logic of Walter Benjamin’s historicization of photography (Benjamin 1985), it could be suggested that whereas the painted background gains prominence by alienating the sitter from a nonrepresentational space, in family photographs actual landscapes become casual through their photographic replication, allowing the sitter—a person familiar to the viewer—to stand out as the ephemeral element within the photographic image, thus imbuing the background with other significance. This recorded ephemeral encounter of the familiar figure with the inanimate surrounding has the capacity to concurrently familiarize and de-familiarize the viewer with the depicted environment, instilling in the viewer altering visions of conflicting political and social realities.

excerpts from ““The Brownies in Palestina”: Politicizing Geographies in Family Photographs” by Gil Pasternak, published in Photography & Culture Volume 6—Issue 1 March 2013, pp.41–64

٠ The photo-finders as the inauthentic photographers ٠

tumblr_mk83ksZRat1riatdoo1_500Le Fabuleux album d’Amélie Poulain

[…] The photo-finders will refer to themselves as artists or curators, editors or collectors—often, as an unclassifiable mixture. Depending on their self-described status, the archives of found, anonymous photographs they produce will be labeled works of art, exhibitions, projects, or studies—or something in between.
Departing from an understanding of the amateur photographer as an “innocent naïf,” and of his snapshot as “authentic,” the brothers and sisters of Amélie’s mysterious collector “revise the distinction between author and audience,” as the cultural critic Walter Benjamin wrote, in a different context, seventy-five years ago. Turning “consumers … into producers—that is, readers or spectators into collaborators,” their archives become political statements that embody the workings of democratic societies, and that downplay the professional in favor of the supposedly “disinterested” amateur. The twentieth century has greeted photojournalism and art photography with postcolonial critique and a postmodern “crisis of representation”; digitization and the camera-equipped cell phone define the beginning of the twenty-first. The stage is thus set for a new kind of witness to enter the scene: the amateur photographer. Closer inspection reveals, however, that he is not really all that new—nor, for that matter, all that “authentic.”

5069be36d9127e30f0000519._w.400_h.489_s.fit_from Found Photos, by Dick Jewell, 1977.

1334_dick-jewell-found-photos-c-courtesy-rachmaninoffsfrom Photobooth, by Babette Hines, 2002.

[…] Let’s call Amelie’s collector of orphaned passport pictures an artist, and his artistic method the finding, and recycling, of images that already exist. Then his is a method that says something about the artist’s (in)ability to produce original images—and in fact, his method isn’t all that original either. For the trick has been done before: Marcel Duchamp’s readymade sculptures, or Andy Warhol’s Brillo boxes spring to mind. And while it is true that the practice of working with found photography as found photography did not really come into its own until four decades ago, and did not go viral until the 1990s,12 amateur photographs have featured in artistic practice pretty much since the 1878 invention of dry gelatin plates, and the 1888 introduction of the user-friendly and relatively cheap “You Press the Button, We Do the Rest” Kodak cameras that propelled the growth of amateur photography.

is25mccpat12from Album, by Patrick McCoy, 1996.

spreadinalmosteverypicture11_2from In Almost Every Picture, by Erik Kessels, since 2001.

[…] So, the stage was set, and subsequent artists working with found photography would strip the amateur snapshot ever more, laying it ever more bare. Surrealism lifted the snapshot out of the photomontage, but still presented it in a theory-heavy, artistic context. By contrast, the found photography archives that emerged in the second half of the twentieth century focused more and more on the amateur photograph as such, celebrating precisely its nonartistry and its banality.

snapshots_01from Snapshots—The Eye of the Century, by Christian Skrein, 2004.

053-photo-trouveefrom Anonymous: Enigmatic
Images from Unknown Photographers
, by R. F. Johnson, 2004.

PetArtsCntr-Girl@xylophoneAug5-Sept182011c.1920from Photo Trouvée, by Michel Frizot, 2006.

[…] The radical questioning of photography’s agenda, authenticity, and veracity remained, for many years, confined to the academic circles of cultural and literary criticism. But the arrival on the scene of digital photography and, on its heels, of Photoshop, which—theoretically at least—put an end to the indexical quality that film-based photography still enjoyed, appears to have made the issue real for the public at large, as well.
Representation, in short, was still in crisis: and artists and journalists alike continued to seek for ways to respond.
“Authenticity” is not a feature of the material itself, not something inherent in the photograph, whether it is an amateur snapshot or a skillfully composed documentary shot. Everyone, amateur and professional alike, comes to the taking and making of pictures informed by social or political intentions, cultural norms and values, and visual examples. They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder; authenticity resides in the exact same place.

excerpts from “The Authentic Amateur and the Democracy of Collecting Photographs” by Lynn Berger, published in Photography & Culture Volume 2—Issue 1 March 2009, pp.31–50

٠ Traci Matlock: the photo-blogger as a postmodern celebrity ٠

Photo-blogger9all images © Tracy Matlock

“[…] there are a few bloggers whom I know only from their blogs. These are blogs I follow because I stumbled onto them, usually by clicking on a link in someone else’s blog. What keeps me coming back is the sheer quality of their online work, and whatever feeling I begin to develop for the personality behind the work. Like a teenage girl following the latest antics of Justin Bieber or Lindsay Lohan, I have devoted a small but significant amount of brain space to these strangers, on a daily or at least weekly basis. And just as that teenage girl thinks of Justin Bieber or Lindsay Lohan as someone she knows on some strange level, these bloggers don’t feel like strangers to me either. Actually, they feel like celebrities—because, as with performers and politicians and athletes, all I know about them are their public faces, the faces they present through their blogs.
So meet my personal Internet celebrity.[Traci Matlock]”

R1-03426-0004all images © Tracy Matlock

JL: Something that fascinates me is the difference between a photo-blog, or at least a good photo-blog, and a photo album on Facebook.
Tracy Matlock: Right. [Laughs]
JL: That you’re constructing, and you’re curating, and what you don’t show is as important as what you do show.
TM: Oh, yes, I definitely agree with that. Not just for me, but I feel that all the time when I look at other people’s work online—especially with photographs, because we see them so often. Now with social networking, we’re inundated by photographs people think are good photographs or attractive photographs or interesting photographs in subject matter. However …
JL: Do you get judgmental about other people’s photos?
TM: Oh, yeah, probably, but in the opposite way that you perhaps are asking. I love other people’s photographs. I’m a sucker. I could stare at other people’s snapshots, and just Facebook photos, for hours. I think that they’re—they’re magic. I mean, I wish that I could make just half of what these random people online accidentally make.

Photo-bloggerPhoto-blogger2all images © Tracy Matlock

JL: There are a couple of themes that you return to again and again. Can I tick them off, and you can tell me what draws you to them? I notice you’ve been taking more photos, or publishing more photos, of strangers, especially from the back.
TM: Yeah, I’m fascinated by it. I absolutely believe it stems from asking people to show themselves to me from the front—that now, I’m really curious as to how they show themselves to me from the back, whether they know it or not.
JL: [How about] shots from the front seat of a car? Is that just because you live in Houston?
TM: I’m utter freedom in a car. It’s so chaotic. I just feel like I exist in a higher plane when I’m in a car, whether I’m driving or not. It’s so fast, and you have absolutely no idea when someone is going to change lanes, or step on the brakes, or … I think it’s extremely beautiful. And I live in a city that allows you to have your windows rolled down all the time. It’s all of that combined. And it’s window light. You’re in this space that is literally surrounded by window light, which is the most beautiful light in existence.
JL: And frames.
TM: Yes! All the time! Your back window, your windshield, your mirror—you have three mirrors in a car; it’s the
very least that you can see at all times.
JL: And, of course, mirrors are also something that come up again and again in your work. Especially yourself in the mirror—but not always yourself.
TM: That’s true, and I think mostly that’s because I really do miss photographing other people. [Laughs] … It’s not the only reason, obviously, but it is something I think about almost every time.

Photo-blogger7Photo-blogger6all images © Tracy Matlock

JL: Another one that’s come up again and again is people viewed through water, people in water. What does water mean to you? That’s like the stupidest question in the world, but it clearly does mean something.
TM: Oh, no, no! I mean, I do think about symbolically what it means, in a lot of ways, but mostly I love the refractions of it. I just love the distortion of the body in any way … I think it’s exquisite. I mean, their figure changes, and morphs into this totally unrecognizable part of themselves, which is more themselves. The refractions of water are tantalizing.
JL: When you say the distortion of the body, that’s something else that comes up. Scars, bruises, striations, often on your own extremities… I feel I owe you a debt of thanks, because you’ve helped me to see as beautiful something that I did not always see as beautiful.

wyDVo1l5L5TLgW9aall images © Tracy Matlock

JL: Do you ever look at a photo, even a self-portrait, and think of yourself as an object?
TM: I try to! I think that’s a really interesting way to think about it, and I try to think about the photos from both angles. I mean, on the same note, I also try to think of photos of other people as the subject, and me as the object, but as the creator, the purveyor of sorts. I do see sometimes the photos that I share of me, and I do see me in them sometimes as the object. I mean, I think it’s necessary sometimes to share work in that way. And it’s fun! I don’t think there’s absolutely anything that I shouldn’t be able to do.
JL: You don’t seem to have a lot of vanity in the way you portray yourself. You’ll show yourself looking puffy, which even famous photographers who are famous for their self-portraits don’t often do.
TM: The photos of me that I share where I’m not … the typical idea of attractive, or held together, or showing myself in a good light—those to me are the most beautiful. The photos of me crying, when my face is swollen, are the photos of me that look the most like me, to me. And I glorify those, not just to glorify my appreciation of those mental states, but also because I think that in those times in which we are kind of ugly, quote-unquote physically ugly, those are the times in which our faces take on this really extraordinary and new dimension. We see ourselves in this way that we don’t get to see people all the time. It’s so intimate, and vulgar-seeming, that it’s really beautiful. My favorite time to see my face is right when I get up in the morning, when my eyes are almost swollen shut, and my nose is all swollen, and my skin color is kind of off … I mean, I swear, when I get up in the morning, and I see my face all swollen, I wish that I could see myself like that for the rest of the day. And I know that it’s because I don’t get to see myself like that very often that that’s my favorite. I’m not used to that gaze, and therefore it’s constantly surprising me, and constantly awakening new senses, and firing new neurons in my head.

excerpts from “Big Giant Red Beating Heart For Chaos: Photo-blogger Traci Matlock” an interview between Jack Lechner and Traci Malock, published in Photography & Culture Volume 4—Issue 3 November 2011 pp. 335–354

┐ roots & fruits #15 – Nuno Venâncio └

141_1it reads: We are looking for the sky in between the leafs. Text by Boris.

6913_13it reads: Here, the sun gives us no light, only new shadows. Different ways to face the darkness. Text by Boris.

19217_7it reads: People insist on coming to meet our gaze, invading it. Text by Boris.

2329© Nuno Venâncio, from the series 10 Metros de Cabo/10 Meters of Cable.

Here, easy beauty is eliminated, fulminated, by force, through chock and discontinuity.
Here, there’s no attempt to make sense. We try for symmetry not in the form but in the content – there are casual symmetries in the photographic objects, particularly in those where there is no such deliberation – the irony of everyday events (the symmetry with people is something no one looks out for in the everydayness, except in a staging situation or with some pervert god).
Photographs per se are not symmetrical, there’s no effort to achieve such a valance. In fact, they are askew. The relations between the objects. Everything with its notorious everydayness: each image the start of a journey, coming from a primary need to find out what is around us, in front of us, and grasp it, so that it helps with location, knowing where to go and understanding other places.
There is a constant demand, a quest for something to call our own or something we miss; there is also a searching for a moment, that special visual glimpse, that we can keep before it turns into something else. As if hastily looking for a piece of paper where to hastily scribble in order not to lose a single detail.

Text by Boris, 2013; translation by Sofia Silva.

┐ roots & fruits #13 – Ricardo Baltazar └

essen 048essen 049Untitled (4)_1essen 027essen 030© Ricardo Baltazer, all Untitled, from the series Touching from a Distance, 2012

Ricardo’s project Touching from a Distance was shot in Essen, Germany, in 2012. All images are blow-ups of snapshots he took while paving the streets. Inevitably, they refer to the distance between the author and the subject portrayed, as they speak about the desire to get closer. These blow-ups are attempted gazes, attempts at assuring the account of oneself while trying to look at his surroundings. They are as much voyeuristic as they are introspective, in the sense that what one does while looking desperately out, is trying for a way in.

The camera, as an automaton one can trigger to mediate the space between the self and the other, is always a transparent and potentially authentic way of speaking about the way the author is trying to connect. To view the world through a camera is not to connect with it. Either you are in an impulsive rational process of trying to see beyond reality or you choose to try to be in the present. So this is about the process less than it is about the result. The framing, the composition, the colors, are singular points amidst an abstract composition where the lines are created between people’s gazes.

We know what blow-ups looks like, how they all resemble surveillance stills and evoke the invasion of privacy. I’d like to reference Michael Haneke’s Caché about the contemporary obsession with security which comes to be a way of spreading the false notion of power and control over one’s life. What Ricardo exposes here is the opposite, the notion of fragility, as he lets us know of his state of exception, as a foreigner, behaving as an alien who is forced to document his life through the looks of others, in order to prove his existence.

┐ Mark Peckmezian’s youth on “youth” └

stream6_07© Mark Peckmezian, Untitled,

Mark Peckmezian Two Day 46© Mark Peckmezian, Untitled, chromogenic print

Mark Peckmezian Two Day 18>© Mark Peckmezian, Untitled, fiber gelatin silver print

4776579979_b60b1cc73d_b>© Mark Peckmezian, Untitled, @ G20, fiber gelatin silver print

5210098664_1c789b9e41_z© Mark Peckmezian, Untitled, fiber gelatin silver print

“I was thinking that the “straight” or naive approach to the theme would be to just play to popular conceptions or idealizations of youth — and I certainly have photos that do that. I used to make a lot of work like this. But in the past few years, I don’t know….I don’t really buy it anymore, I guess. I think a lot of what we see in such photos, by myself or others, is to some degree performance: all these kids, my peers, are hyper self-conscious and incredibly media-savvy. All too often I’ll be out shooting snapshots and hear someone whisper that the photo just taken of them would make a good Facebook profile pic, or some such comment. Once I heard someone, who was running around with some friends on an golf course at night, shout out “why isn’t this being photographed?!”

I think that I now try to approach this subject in a more clear-eyed and honest way — showing the good and bad, wonderful and absurd. I have started an informal project to document this culture more critically (I think there is so much vanity and superficiality among this generation) but also, if I am to actually transcend that at all, with more empathy as well (not pretending that the vanity undermines all the good that also exists, and also understanding that vanity as something woefully, and sort of beautifully, human). The photo of the “kids in the grass” plays to this (Heather says: come to the show to see what image he’s referring to…) – I love that you said “kids,” that’s exactly what I was going for, I wanted to render them (these over-the-top hipster friends of mine, these peacocks, so highly decorated) as children playing in grass, stripped of their affect, innocent.

Finding a good balance is hard though, because I still want to document it relatively straight. I think I’m still working out the kinks, refining my understanding and expression. It’s been a big undercurrent in my work these past few years, I’m sort of on a mission to do this right.” via HMAb

More of Mark’s work here

┐ Five Year Photo Project └




Long before digital cameras and posing memes like planking existed, they were just five guys on a lake with their entire lives stretched out before them.

A photo capturing these five friends — John Wardlaw, Mark Rumer, Dallas Burney, John Molony and John Dickson — went on to spawn a 30-year-long photo tradition the friends plan to continue doing until they die.

Every five years since the original photo was taken in July 1982, the men gather at Copco Lake (near the California and Oregon border) to recreate the odd photo. Each man as a stern expression; Rumer has a hat on his right knee; and Molony holds out a jar with a pet cockroach, kept company by a picture of actor Robert Young and a butterscotch candy to snack on. While the props may change every five years, the five men remain.

The friends have a website to share the photos taken over the years. “Watch us lose hair and gain forehead, gain and lose and gain and lose weight,” a note on the site says. “There are reasons we all decided it was better to take the photo with our shirts on.”

their site here

┐ Julie Hascoët └

@ Julie Hascoët, Untitled, from the project Tenir/Rester

@ Julie Hascoët, Untitled, from the project Tenir/Rester

@ Julie Hascoët, Hug, from the series 4 Months

@ Julie Hascoët, Emilie, from the series 4 Months

More of her work here

┐ Leigh Ledare └

© Leigh Ledare, Me and mom in photobooth, 2008

© Leigh Ledare, Mom and me in mirror, 2002

“Indeed, Ledare’s work reveals signs that the relationship between mother and son is also one of professional complicity. In an interview printed on the book’s cover, Peterson defines herself as the ‘model’ who is ‘working her butt off’. At the same time, photo-booth strips of Ledare and his mother mugging for the camera and making out like teenagers provide glimpses of the pair as willing co-conspirators. Such insertions create a layer of artifice that unsettles the raw, confessional mode that Ledare seems to be emulating. His predecessors in the field, like Larry Clark and Nan Goldin, have also confronted sexual taboos and flirted with pornography, or, as with Richard Billingham’s documentary images of his family, raised the stakes of familial intimacy and revelation. Despite their explicitness, Ledare’s photographs are neither bluntly documentary nor achingly sincere, but are knowingly mediated through the languages and tropes of contemporary art. His idiom is that of an artist who has already absorbed the romanticization of these previous projects and is looking for way to further complicate the relationship of artist and muse.

In this way, Ledare’s work might signal a shift in this kind of expressionist, confessional tradition of photography. In a culture where candid personal photographs litter the Internet and people willingly use reality TV shows to expose their personal baggage, Ledare is aware that any attempt at authenticity will already be polluted. Maybe the confessional can no longer be confronted head-on, but rather with a sidelong glance, or with a knowing look out the corner of one’s eye. But Ledare’s gazes are no less poignant or penetrating because of it.”

excerpt from Christy Lange’s article

More of Leigh’s work here , here and here

┐ Nigel Grimmer └

© Nigel Grimmer, Julie, Golders Green,, from the series Roadkill Family Album, 2001

© Nigel Grimmer, Eric, Big Bend, from the series Roadkill Family Album, 2010

“Nigel Grimmer takes the conventions of family album snap photography and gives them a weird twist that is at times amusing and at others faintly unnerving. Here the self-conscious poses, the banal compositions, the suburban settings are infiltrated with the kinds of surrealistic incongruities that one might experience in particularly bizarre or embarrassing dreams. His Roadkill Family Album is a collection of prone portraits of family members dolled up in joke shop animal masks and seemingly abandoned as roadside victims. Grimmer’s mother is an owl, his father a frog. His use of plastic masks and dolls imbues the images with a particularly kitsch and almost perverse form of nostalgia. It’s as if childhood memories have been inextricably confused with some kind of metamorphic and macabre fairytale.”

quote from Harley Gallery

Nigel’s home here