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January 16th, 2014

Sundance Film Festival New Frontier Program Highlights Photography

Film still from Michel Comte's "The Girl From Nagasaki."

Film still from Michel Comte’s “The Girl From Nagasaki.”

Photography’s influence on contemporary art and society, and its use in multimedia storytelling, are on display this year at the Sundance Film Festival in the New Frontier program, which emphasizes “transmedia” storytelling.

The film festival founded by Robert Redford, which opens today in Park City, Utah, and runs through January 26, is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2014.

“New Frontier champions films that expand, experiment with, and explode traditional storytelling,” said a statement from the organizers. Participating filmmakers have created interactive photography installations that accompany their films, and have produced documentaries on photographic history and the significance of the medium. One photographer, Michel Comte, is making his directorial debut with a 3-D feature film adaptation of the Puccini opera “Madame Butterfly.”

In his film “Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People,” director Thomas Allen Harris considers the history of African-American photography and its role in African American life and identity.

In addition to the film, Allen Harris is presenting a companion installation, “Digital Diaspora Family Reunion,” “a traveling roadshow that engages local communities to bring forth their family photographs and share them with others, and upload them into a database that re-imagines the social network through family photography and family heirloom photographs,” says Shari Frilot, Sundance Film Festival Senior Programmer and curator of the New Frontier exhibition. Images from the project are showing in a New Frontier exhibition.

Another photo-based art installation, “My 52 Tuesdays,” by Artists Sophie Hyde, Sam Haren and Dan Koerner, is a companion piece to the film “52 Tuesdays,” which is in the World Dramatic program at the festival, follows a year in the life of teenage girl and her mother as the latter goes through a gender transition to become a man. The installation is a photo booth, where participants can go in and sign up to create their own yearlong personal documentary through photography. “Every Tuesday you will be sent a question that creates space to reflect on how you make choices, how you’re living your life, and you take a photograph of yourself,” Frilot explains. At the end of the year, participants will have an album of their year.

Photographer Michel Comte’s directorial debut, “The Girl from Nagasaki,” is a feature film adaptation of “Madame Butterfly” set in Nagasaki, Japan. during World War II and its aftermath. The 3-D film follows its main character as she emerges from the ashes of the atomic bomb dropped on the city. “He definitely brings a photographic sensibility [to the film],” Frilot says. “It’s a visually stunning work.”

Another artwork, Doug Aitken’s video installation, The Source, an evolving series of conversations about artmaking in the 21st century, includes photographers Stephen Shore and William Eggleston.

Finally, photographers are likely to be fascinated by artist James Nares’ work “Street.” Using a Phantom Flex HD camera, Nares slows down the frantic pace of a New York City streets to create a video installation that is “very simple and elegant and absolutely mesmerizing,” Frilot says. “You feel like you are watching a photograph of the streets in motion.”

January 13th, 2014

Danny Lyon Criticizes Media; Says How He Would Edit National Geographic Magazine

Photojournalist Danny Lyon delivered a sharp critique of the media, explained the main goal of his career, and reminisced about his work on the civil rights movement, motorcycle gangs and Texas prisoners at a rare public appearance last week.

Lyon was the headliner at the 2014 National Geographic Photography Seminar, a day-long event held January 9 before a standing-room-only crowd at the National Geographic offices in Washington, DC.

“I took it for granted that all the magazines lied, and since I chose the media as my field I was determined to create an American media that was truthful,” Lyon said during his talk.

He also imagined himself as editor of National Geographic, and suggested story ideas that would probably rile the magazine’s audience (read on for details).

In addition to Lyon, photographers Tyler Hicks, Wayne Lawrence, David Maisel, Newsha Tavakolian, and Vince Musi lectured about their careers and past projects. Media artist Hasan Elahi also gave a talk about his surveillance project.

Following is an edited transcript of Lyon’s talk.

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October 10th, 2013

Part Art and Book Fair, Part Photo Fest, Unseen Delivers Energy, Mixed Reviews From Sellers in Second Year

© Amber Terranova

© Thijs Boontjes

In its second year, Unseen Art Fair drew an international audience to Amsterdam to view previously un-exhibited work from established artists and emerging talents. Set against the industrial backdrop of a repurposed nineteenth century coal gas power plant, the “art fair with a festival flair,” as organizers dubbed it, featured plenty of energy and excitement, but drew mixed reactions from gallerists, with some noting that combining an art fair, book fair and photo festival, with artist talks and other programming, distracted from the business of print sales. (more…)

June 17th, 2013

Look3: Josef Koudelka on the Measure of a Photographer, Courage, and Controlling Your Own Destiny

©Tristan Wheelock

©Tristan Wheelock

Legendary photographer Josef Koudelka packed the house at the Paramount Theater in downtown Charlottesville during the Look3 Festival of the Photograph over the weekend, and the audience greeted him with a standing ovation after master of ceremonies, photographer Vince Musi, announced that Koudelka had been reluctant to participate. Koudelka, who has a reputation as a lone wolf among a group of peers known for their independence, has rarely granted interviews during a career that spans more than 40 years.

“Of course I don’t feel very comfortable to be here. I am not a good speaker,” said Koudelka, who was nevertheless gracious to Anne Wilkes Tucker, curator at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, who was also on stage to interview him. “I don’t know what she’s going to ask me, [but] I gave her assurance I would answer everything…I will try to be as honest as possible.”

Koudelka also told the audience at the outset that he “never listened much to what [other] photographers say,” and recounted how Henri Cartier-Bresson had asked him to read and comment on the text of The Decisive Moment before that book was published. “I said to Bresson I’m really not interested and I’m not going to read it.” Koudelka added, “I think the best portrait of a photographer are his photographs, so please judge me on my photographs.” (more…)

June 14th, 2013

Look3: Richard Misrach on Documentary vs. Art, the Complications of Portraiture, and Digital Photography

© Tristan Wheelock

© Tristan Wheelock

Forty years after making his mark in photography with a self-published book of social documentary portraits of homeless people called “Telegraph 3 a.m.,” photographer Richard Misrach is working his way back to portraits–ever so tentatively–as part of his exploration of the passage of time, and the metaphysical questions of aging.

Misrach’s described his circuitous (and adventurous) journey during an on-stage interview with NPR host Alex Chadwick at the Look3 Festival of the Photograph in Charlottesville, Virginia on Friday morning. People have rarely appeared in his images, but Misrach explained that he is sneaking up on portraiture again with a follow-up to his “On the Beach” project, a collection of scenes from a Hawaiian beach photographed from the confines of a small 7th floor hotel balcony. The figures on the beach are small, but the ever-improving digital sensors of his cameras have enabled him to enlarge the details, and see faces.

Still, Misrach is showing only people with their faces obscured–by limbs, objects, or their positions–in his tightly cropped enlargements.

“Portraiture is just not ethically clean. It’s complicated,” Misrach explained.

He abruptly abandoned portraiture after “Telegraph 3 a.m.,” which he published in 1972, didn’t have the impact he had hoped.

“I had the best intentions of changing the world by showing these pictures of people living on streets [of Berkeley, California]. I thought this would really have huge impact on the world. Of course it didn’t. It fell flat, rather than change anything on the street, it became a coffee table book,” Misrach said.

(more…)

June 14th, 2013

Look3: Carrie Mae Weems on Race, Sexuality, History and Finding Meaningful Work

Carrie Mae Weems, Deborah Willis

© Tristan Wheelock

Visual artist Carrie Mae Weems, who appeared on the main stage of the Look3 Festival of the Photograph last night for a conversation about her work with photo historian and curator Deborah Willis, is finally getting the recognition that she deserves. Weems recently received the Gordon Parks Foundation Award, and her rich, wide-ranging oeuvre from the past three decades is the subject of a touring retrospective exhibition.

As an artist, Weems is not easy to pin down. She uses primarily photography, but also written text, audio recording, video and fabric banners to explore a wide range of topics, including race, gender, sexuality, and power. A common thread to it all, she says, is “an overarching commitment to understanding the present by closely examining history and identity.”

But the work is far more playful and accessible than all of that makes it sound. Her work is grounded solidly in reality. (Take a quick tour here: http://carriemaeweems.net/work.html.) And like so many other photographers, she goes to work every morning, follows her interests, and figures things out as she goes along.

“I’m interested in photography and I’m interested in literature and I’m interested in film,” she explained near the beginning of her wide-ranging conversation with Willis. “I’m trying to figure out how to use those modes as a vehicle for expressing certain kinds of ideas…I’m just interested in whatever works.”

Her conversation with Willis, accompanied by a projection of her images, shed light on her artistic process with a grand tour of her various projects over the years . One of the best known is her “Kitchen Table” series, for which Weems used a kitchen table–that iconic object of American domesticity–to explore the experience of women in their role as mothers, wives, friends, and objects of sexual desire.

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June 5th, 2013

Events, Awards and Other Photo Happenings

Events

Tonight at the New York Public Library, photography educator and historian Deborah Willis will discuss Leonard Freed‘s photographs of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Joining Willis on the panel will be photographers Eli Reed and Jamel Shabazz, scholar Paul M. Farber, writer Michael Eric Dyson, and Freed’s widow, Brigitte Freed. The event begins at 6pm.

The Chris Hondros Fund, which supports photojournalism with fellowships and other programs, is holding a benefit online print auction through June 7. Work by Slim Aarons, James Balog, Al Bello, Andrea Bruce, Robert Capa, Ernst Haas, Michael Kamber, Ed Ou, Joao Silva and many other photographers is for sale.

Free seminars at Review Santa Fe start this Friday with “The Business of Photography.” On Saturday a panel of photographers will discuss “New Methods For Engaging Audiences,” and on Sunday Guggenheim Fellow John Gossage will lecture on “Contemporary Photographic Practice.” For more public events check out the Review Santa Fe event schedule.

Italian photographic education organization Cesura is running a travel workshop in Cairo in November. Led by Gabriele Micalizzi, who covered the Egyptian revolution, workshop participants will also have the option of a two-day supplemental workshop with photographer Moises Saman.

Awards

Kevin Miller received The New Orleans Photo Alliance‘s 2013 Michael P. Smith Fund for Documentary Photography Grant for his project on the Panama Canal expansion. (more…)

May 16th, 2013

Photolucida: Portfolio Reviews From the Photographer’s Side of the Table

Lamb-HopewellFurn

© Eliza Lamb, from her series “Hopewell.”

By Eliza Lamb

As a photographer I find that portfolio reviews are the perfect combination of exhaustion and exhilaration, community and competition, motivation and humility. After I returned from a whirlwind four days in Portland, Oregon at Photolucida I was still coming off the high of it all. I found myself trying to integrate the connections I’d made and the feedback I’d gotten with the life I knew and the assumptions I held before I left. Sorting through piles of leave behinds, business cards, signed books and pages full of notes, I was struck by feelings of accomplishment and uneasiness, and by my downright good fortune for being able to be a part of such an amazing community.

The process of creating visual art can be very isolating and often involves years of self-reflection, pondering and personal expense, punctuated by both excitement and doubt. It can feel antisocial as we create our images and crawl back into our studios or sit in front of our computer screens for hours upon hours of editing, processing and contemplating. Having trained for years as an actress and receiving instant gratification, I find it can be near maddening putting your work out there to radio silence. But portfolio reviews are a way for photographers to join together to gain feedback, camaraderie and opportunities, to gather despite their home locations or educational training and present their work to the community as equals with common passions, goals and frustrations. (more…)

May 15th, 2013

Awards, Book Fairs, Exhibitions and Other Photo Happenings

Exhibitions and Other Happenings:

TOMORROW! Columbia College Chicago is hosting an informal portfolio review for their graduating photography students from 5-8pm tomorrow, May 16. Creative professionals are invited to go check out the work of this group of young photographers. There will be food and drink and conversations about photography. http://www.colum.edu/industryevents/events/photography-review.php

The Philadelphia Photo Arts Center is holding their fourth annual Book Fair. Participants include MACK Books, Printed Matter, Vox Populi, Light Work and Houseboat Press, among many others. It’s a fair of photo books. Nuff said.
http://www.philaphotoarts.org/events/annual-book-fair/

An exhibition of the work of 50 photographers selected as finalists in the 2013 Critical Mass competition opens this Friday at Jennifer Schwartz Gallery in Atlanta. The exhibition is curated by W.M. Hunt. http://www.jenniferschwartzgallery.com/critical-mass-top-50-exhibition/

This is very cool: United Photo Industries and New York Waterway’s East River Ferry people are partnering to exhibit photographs on weekday ferries throughout the summer. The project kicked off this week, and it will include water-related photography by Joni Sternbach, Stephen Mallon, David Doubilet, Andreas Franke, Corey Arnold and Eric Prinvault. http://unitedphotoindustries.com/special-projects/drawn-to-water/ (more…)