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June 9th, 2012

Look 3 Report: Donna Ferrato on Philip Jones Griffiths, Don McCullin, and Complicated Relationships

Donna Ferrato brought a quick wit and joie de vivre to an onstage interview with NPR personality Alex Chadwick at the LOOK3 photo festival in Charlottesville on Friday afternoon. A unifying theme of their wide-ranging discussion was Ferrato’s belief in the life-affirming power of emotional intimacy and mutual respect that has informed her work and career.

Ferrato paid homage to two men in particular, whom she credited with shaping her career: her father, an accomplished amateur photographer Ferrato praised for living life with such passion, and the late Magnum photographer Philip Jones Griffiths, with whom Ferrato had a daughter–and a rather complicated personal relationship.

Her father, she said, “was the greatest teacher for me in all aspects of life.” Ferrato said he filled the house with his photographs, and she showed a number of examples that demonstrated his talent as a photographer, as well as an outrageous sense of fun. One image, for instance, was a portrait of an attractive flight attendant he had talked into posing with a bag of bloody fish that Ferrato’s father was carrying home from a fishing trip.

“My father and I are the same–both soft and hard, whereas my mother is all hard,” Ferrato said. “My mother wore the pants in the house. She wanted me to be a lady.” (In a heartbreaking story at the end of the talk, Ferrato told how her mother threw away a lifetime’s worth of her father’s photographic work over the betrayal of his infidelity. “All the family history that this man had done with so much love,” Ferrato said. “Gone.”)

Ferrato wanted to be an actress, she said. “But I watched [my father,] and how much passion he had taking pictures. He was irrepressible, my old man.”

When Ferrato picked up photography, she “just wanted to be a newspaper photographer. Mostly I just wanted to hang out with people because I really like people,” she said. “They would take me to their homes and tell me their stories.”

Ferrato said she was able to work that way “to her heart’s content” during the 70s, 80s, and 90s, before post 9/11 wariness made street photography so much more difficult. She is known for her impossibly intimate work, most notably her images of domestic violence, but also images of friends, neighbors, and strangers in completely unguarded, everyday moments.

In the images she projected during the talk, most subjects seemed oblivious to Ferrato’s camera, a Leica, which completely changed her photography when she got it, she said. “It was so unobtrusive,” she said. “It’s essential, and sensual.”

Her domestic violence work shows confrontation and abuse unfolding at a close, visceral range that would have amazed Robert Capa (who is famously credited for having said, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.”)

Ferrato said that without the support of Philip Jones Griffiths for her domestic violence work, she never would have had the confidence in herself to pursue it, or get so deeply embedded with her subjects.

At the time she was working on the project, editors wouldn’t touch it, Ferrato explained. That fed her doubts about it, and discouraged her. Ferrato recounted, “Philip said, ‘I’m the president of Magnum. I’ve never seen anything like this so fuck all those editors who keep saying no.” He insisted she continue working on the project, telling her, “I believe in you.”

Griffiths ended up designing her seminal book about domestic violence, called Living With the Enemy (1994). “Nobody is more passionate than Philip,” she said. “[Producing that book] was very emotional. It was like building a house. By the end of it, we were broken up, because Philip didn’t like my text.”

Ferrato explained how she managed to get images of one of her subjects, Garth, in flagrant acts of abusing his wife, Lisa (the couple was central to the project.) Ferrato was spending the night at their house with her three-month old daughter, after Lisa expressed fear that Garth might harm her, and invited Ferrato to come over. In the middle of the night, Ferrato heard Garth and Lisa fighting down the hall in the bathroom. She grabbed her camera, ran toward the commotion, and started taking pictures. “He doesn’t give a fuck” that he’s being photographed, Ferrato told the Look3 audience, with one of the images projected on the screen behind her. “He’s a man in his master bathroom.” Ferrato says she tried to stop him, and his reaction was, “She’s my wife. I have to teach her not to lie to me.”

Asked later how she got men like Garth to sign photo releases for such incriminating pictures, Ferrato explained that they are blinded by their egos, and see nothing wrong with their behavior. In fact, Garth saw himself as the victim, Ferrato said.

Ferrato doesn’t stand for the abuse of women and children, and her deep offense over that drove her domestic violence work. It has also led to more recent stories about abuse and injustice, notably a story about the rape of children in South Africa. She has also taken up her camera in a campaign against the objectification of women in advertising. (She also told a story of how she tried to warn some under-age Guns’ n Roses fans to keep their clothes on when they appeared to Ferrato like sitting ducks back stage at a concert. Later that night, she said, she forced band leader Axl Rose to destroy naked pictures that he ended up taking of those same girls, in order to protect them–and him.)

Ferrato is no prude, however. Her interview with Chadwick was preceded by a warning that the presentation included explicit content that might not be appropriate for children. And it wasn’t just a warning about her domestic violence work. The talk was laced with Feratto’s joyful, uproarious bawdiness.

When an image of two women eating ice cream cones appeared on screen, Chadwick obsrve that one of the women “is not happy you’re taking her picture.”

“Ah, screw her,” Ferrato shot back, more for effect than with actual malice. She added, “Everything is phallic to me. Baguettes, ice cream cones. We’re surrounded by balls and cocks.”

“I always photographed sex even before domestic violence,” she told Chadwick. She didn’t have a problem with sex, she explained. “I think it’s a problem that females have to wait around for men to tell them what pleases [the men]” instead of asserting their own sexuality.

At one point, a picture of Ferrato photographing herself in a mirror with an orgy under way in the background appeared on the screen. Ferrato was naked. It helped explain how she manages to make people comfortable in front of her camera. But Chadwick questioned whether Ferrato’s nudity in that situation crossed a line.

With no apologies, Ferrato said, “I’m naked. I’m not going to be a freak” by being the only one wearing clothes at an orgy, she said. Pointing to the clothes she was wearing, Ferrato rounded on Chadwick, albeit in a good-natured way: “Do you think I’m going to be in there dressed like this? What would you do?”

Quoting from an interview Ferrato gave more than a decade ago, Chadwick reminded Ferrato that she had pointed out that her pictures of sex aren’t erotic, unlike the images of Helmut Newton

“They’re not airbrushed, they’re not stylized,” Ferrato said of her images of sex. “Nobody is living out my masturbatory fantasies. They’re not being coerced into this.” Ferrato said, in effect, that her sex images celebrate the passionate give-and-take of consenting adults. “This was a great time in the liberation of our sexuality. The seventies were a great time.”

More generally, what Ferrato has celebrated through her work is the sanctity and joy of trusting relationships in all forms. And she brought that sensibility to photographs of her own family photographs of Griffiths and their daughter. Just because it’s family, she explained to the Look3 audience, doesn’t mean you shoot head-on portraits that show you and your loved ones “just looking at each other.”

Ferrato projected an image Griffiths shot of her lying naked on their bed, right after she delivered their daughter. And she showed some of her images of Griffiths over the years, including recent images of him as he was dying of cancer. Don McCullin, who was one of Griffiths’ closest friends, came to see him every day toward the end, Ferrato said. She noticed during those visits that McCullin would often go alone to the back yard, but she wasn’t sure why. Finally, she asked him.

“He said, ‘I get very emotional when I see Philip like this, and I have to cry.” He also expressed fear of intimacy with men, even an old friend as close as Griffiths (they met as Fleet Street photographers more than 40 years ago). Ferrato said she asked McCullin, “What are you afraid of?” and then ordered him to  stand behind Philip so she could photograph them. “And I said, ‘Go ahead, hold him in your arms.’ ” McCullin complied.

“How many of you would tell Don McCullin to go do something?” Ferrato asked the audience, as she projected the picture. She continued, “This is what we have to do more. So many people need permission to be human.”

Related articles

Look3 Report: Stanley Greene on Luck, Film and Supporting Young Photographers

 

June 8th, 2012

Photoville Brooklyn Announces Artist Talks, Workshops, Events

When the inaugural Photoville event kicks off on June 22 in Brooklyn, New York’s Brooklyn Bridge Park, not only will it boast a village of exhibitions housed in 30 freight containers, it will also include plenty of educational programming and events for visitors.

The slate of artist talks, lectures, workshops and other events run June 23-24. On the 23rd, BagNewsNotes editor Michael Shaw will speak about the state of news photography, and a panel discussion moderated by Pete Brook of Prison Photography blog fame will discuss “documentary, institutional, vernacular and legal photography and the political uses of images by media.”

That night MediaStorm will give a presentation on “digital storytelling and the cinematic narrative.”

Workshops that run on both days will cover topics like analogue photography, printing, light painting and zine making.

Programming on the June 24th will include a talk about contemporary documentary photography by Ed Kashi, Lori Grinker and Benjamin Lowy, moderated by Glenn Ruga, and a talk about how photography is being used to promote human rights.

That night there is a “show and tell” opportunity for anyone who wants to bring work and talk about it for three minutes, and throughout the day the Center for Alternative Photography will run a “Tintype Photo Booth” where visitors can have their portrait made and learn about this alternative photo process.

There is a slate of exhibitions by photographers from all over the world. For example, Open Society Institute will show Wyatt Gallery’s work from Haiti; Nooderlicht in the Netherlands will present 11 photographers documenting life in prison; The Magnum Foundation will exhibit recent work by Bruce Gilden and Sim Chi Yin. Feature Shoot is showing work by young photographers, and PDN is showing the winners of The Curator contest.

Add to all this the beer garden and food, and the dog run where you can get photos taken of your pooch at play.

For more on the Photoville schedule visit their Web site: http://photovillenyc.org/about.html

June 8th, 2012

Paris Photo Comes to Los Angeles April 2013

photo courtesy Paris Photo

Californians: Have you ever wanted to attend Paris Photo, but couldn’t face the airfare, jet lag, or chance of a general strike?  Paris Photo, the international art fair, will launch its first event in the US next year. The organizers of Paris Photo, which is managed by Reed Expositions France, yesterday announced the creation of Paris Photo L.A., featuring roughly 80 French and international galleries exhibiting inside the 100-year-old Studios at Paramount in Los Angeles from April 24 to 28, 2013.

Paris Photo, which takes place each November in Paris, includes an art fair that last year lured 140 galleries to exhibit at the Grand Palais, plus portfolio reviews, the Aperture Photobook Awards, and a lot of networking opportunities in venues around the city. In the car-dependant city of Los Angeles, the fair will be centered on a single, sprawling location. A full schedule of events and a list of exhibitors will be announced this fall.

The timing of the fair looks likely to overlap with the Month of Photography Los Angeles (MOPLA), which was launched in 2009 to showcase the Los Angeles photo community through interconnected exhibitions, seminars and a portfolio review.

The full announcement of Paris Photo Los Angeles is available here as a PDF.

June 8th, 2012

Look3 Report: Stanley Greene on Luck, Film and Supporting Young Photographers

With equal measures of grace, humor, wisdom, and humility, photojournalist Stanley Greene regaled a packed house with tales from his storied career at the LOOK3 festival in Charlottesville last night.

Greene sat on stage at Charlottesville’s Paramount theater for a one-on-one interview with Jean-François Leroy, founder of the Visa pour L’Image photo festival in Perpignan, France. During the discussion, he talked about the trajectory of his career, his most recent project on the global impact of electronic waste, the moral imperative of supporting younger photographers, his objections to digital photography, and his new-found appreciation for the challenges of picture agencies, now that he’s the co-owner of one.

A central theme of many of Greene’s stories was the recurring role that chance has played throughout his career, in large and small ways.

“I honestly believe photography is 75 percent chance, and 25 percent skill,” he said in response to a question from an audience member toward the end of the talk. “In accidents, we really discover the magic of photography.” (He had been asked how he manages not to rewind exposed film rolls completely, which resulted in some serendipitous images on a roll he accidentally exposed three times.)

As Greene described it, much of his career has been a string of dumb luck stories from the start, when he became an assistant to the late, great W. Eugene Smith. Greene met Smith through his girlfriend, who happened to be one of Smith’s asistants. Greene recounted how he was sitting around with his friends one day, smoking cigarettes soaked in a hallucinogen. “We were out of it. He [Eugene Smith] came through the door dressed in black, and we thought he was God,” Greene said, eliciting a laugh from the audience.

One day Smith happened to develop a roll of film from his assistant’s camera. It was a roll that Greene had shot. Smith noticed it, and told his assistant, “That guy you introduced me to–I think he could take pictures.”

(more…)

May 17th, 2012

New York Photo Festival Opens in Compacted Format

© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

The New York Photo Festival 2012 opened on May 16 with shows assembled by four guest curators, and some nearby satellite shows. After three years in which shows took over multiple spaces in the Dumbo neighborhood in Brooklyn, this year the four-day festival has located most of the shows by its four guest curators in the Powerhouse Arena and bookstore at 37 Main Street. Powerhouse Arena is also the site of panel discussions with artists and presentations by ImageBrief, the sponsor of this year’s festival.

Amy Smith-Stewart’s “What Do You Believe?” packs loads of images into displays at 56 Water Street and 37 Main Street. Artists show include Jen DeNike, Hank Willis Thomas, Fay Ray, Anissa Mack, Matthew Spiegelman. A discussion with Smith-Stewart and some of the exhibiting artists takes place Thursday May 17 from 3 to 5 pm.

Glenn Ruga, founder of socialdocumentary.net presents several editorial and documentary photographers, including Bruce Davidson, Lori Grinker, Platon, Eugene Richards, and Rina Castelnuovo in “The Razor’s Edge: Between Documentary and Fine Art Photography” at 37 Main Street. A discussion with Ruga and some of the artists will take place at 7 pm Thursday,  May 17. Ruga also curated a show on the mezzanine of 37 Main Street, made up of images presented by socialdocumentary.net.
“The Curse and the Gift,” curated by Claude Grunitzky, is exhibited on the messanine of 37 Main Street. Artists in the show include Christian Witkin, and Evangelia Kranioti and Irmelie Krekin. Friday May 18 from 3 to 5 pm there will be a discussion with Grunitzky and the artists.

http://nyph.at/grunitzky/statement.html

DJ Spooky (aka Paul Miller) has curated a show titled “Sinfonia Antarctica (The Book of Ice)” that looks at archival images from the Antarctic and how the work “has shaped some of the ways we think about contemporary digital media esthetics.” According to press information for the festival, the show will be presented on ice floes on the East River, depending on prevailing currents. There will also be a presentation Friday May 18 from 8 to 9:30 pm at 37 Main Street.

Tickets are still available for $20 at the door in the Powerhouse Arena.

May 9th, 2012

Jeff Wall Photograph Fetches Artist Record $3.6 Million at Auction

"Dead Troops Talk (A vision after an ambush of a Red Army patrol, near Moqor, Afghanistan, winter 1986," © Jeff Wall.

A 1992 photograph by Jeff Wall sold for $3,666,500 yesterday evening during a Post-War and Contemporary art auction at Christie’s in New York City. The previous record sale for a work by Jeff Wall was $1.1 million.

The work “Dead Troops Talk (A vision after an ambush of a Red Army patrol, near Moqor, Afghanistan, winter 1986″ depicts a grisly scene in which Soviet Red Army soldiers killed by the Afghan mujahideen have come back to life and are conversing with one another.

The photograph, framed in a light box, was the first in an edition of two, with one artist’s print. The photograph has been in the collection of David and Geraldine Pincus, who acquired it from Marian Goodman Gallery in New York. The Pincus’s substantial collection formed a major part of the sale, which set a record for a Post-War and Contemporary art sale at $388.5 million, according to Christie’s.

The high lot in the sale was Mark Rothko’s “Orange, Red, Yellow,” which sold for $86.9 million, another record for a work from the Post-War period.

Three other photographs were included in the sale. A Richard Prince work that appropriated a Marlboro advertisement, “Untitled (Cowboys),” sold for $602,500. Cindy Sherman’s “Untitled #122″ sold for $206,500. And Nan Goldin’s “Ballad Triptych” sold for $218,500.

Related: Eggleston’s First-Ever Large Pigment Prints Earn 5.9 Million at Auction

April 4th, 2012

PDN Video Pick: LaToya Ruby Frazier at The Whitney Biennial

In this short program for State of the Arts, a New Jersey public television series produced by PCK Media, LaToya Ruby Frazier talks about her introduction to photography and about the work she is showing in the 2012 Whitney Biennial, including a performance piece that will debut on Friday, May 11.

Says Whitney Biennial co-curator Jay Sanders, “Her work embodies the history of documentary photography, photography that articulates social conditions, that articulates the reality of working people, but at the same time she’s very well read and embedded in a dialogue coming out of conceptual art.”

LaToya Ruby Frazier at the Whitney from PCK Media on Vimeo.

Related: PDN’s 30 2012: LaToya Ruby Frazier

April 3rd, 2012

Inaugural Photoville Event in Brooklyn to Feature 35 Exhibitions, Unique Photo Installation

United Photo Industries, a Brooklyn-based collective dedicated to exhibiting and promoting photography, has announced their first major event, which will take place at a river-front park in Brooklyn, New York, this summer from June 22-July 1.

Dubbed “Photoville,” the event at Brooklyn Bridge Park, will feature 35 concurrent exhibitions of photography from all over the world. Each exhibition will be housed in shipping containers, forming a “village” of photography exhibitions, which will be free and open to the public.

As part of the Photoville programming, PDN has joined with United Photo Industries and Brooklyn Bridge Park to produce an outdoor photo exhibition called “The Fence,” which will adorn Brooklyn Bridge Park for two months this summer.

To create the installation, more than 300 images will be printed on photographic mesh, forming a 1,000-foot fence. The images exhibited on “The Fence” will be selected from contest entries by a jury of photography curators and editors. For more information on how to enter, visit The Fence contest site here.

In addition to the exhibitions, Photoville will also feature outdoor projections, panel discussions and lectures, workshops, a food and beer garden, tents with photo gear vendors, and even a dog run.

For more information about the inaugural Photoville event visit photovillenyc.org.

March 28th, 2012

PDN Video Pick: Gregory Heisler, David Hobby and Martin Prihoda in a Self-Portrait Shoot-Out

Shoot-Out, GPP 2012

Three photographers walk into a hotel in Dubai. A guy proposes a self portrait shoot-out, and they agree to take up the challenge in front of an audience of photographers in town to attend the Gulf Photo Plus 2012 show. The first photographer, David Hobby, says, “My goal tonight is not to fatally embarrass myself in front of my long-time idols.” The second photographer, Martin Prihoda, tells the MC that still life makes him uncomfortable. (Fortunately for him, still life wasn’t the challenge.) The third photographer, Gregory Heisler, says, “I really have to pee.” Then the shoot-out begins, with an intrepid video crew on hand to capture the drama, reality-TV style. Cameo appearances by David Burnett, Zack Arias, and Joe McNally. We’ll resist the urge to spoil the surprise by revealing the winner.

March 19th, 2012

John Midgley’s Altered Image: Reasonable Caution, or Outrageous Censorship?

©John Midgley

Have the morality police chilled artistic expression, or does this image by John Midgley–which appears on an APA promo for a talk by the fashion and celebrity photographer–violate the standards of public decency without the alteration?

Midgley is scheduled to give a talk called “Memory: Journey’s of Fiction and Fantasy” at the Apple Store at 7 p.m. today. The talk is part of the Image Maker Lecture Series sponsored by APA New York, and Midgley provided the image, undoctored, so APA could promote his talk via e-mail blasts.

According to Midgley, APA New York regional director Jocelyn Zucker told him the image wasn’t acceptable because of the boy’s nudity. “We might shock someone with a naked little boy’s penis, or do some other greater damage,” says Midgley, apologizing for his cynicism. He adds, “The puritanism drives me a little crazy sometimes.”

Zucker says, “As per our agreement with Apple, all lectures and the images presented must be ‘family friendly’ – no nudity or swearing, etc. This is not a concern on APA’s behalf; we would enjoy being able to present more controversial content, however, the Apple lectures are not the proper venue. John made the decision to use that image and censor it, rather than select a different image for the promo.”

Midgley ended up not only covering the boy’s penis, but defacing his own image.

“It wasn’t really meant to be a form of protest, it was ‘Well, if I censor the offending bits could that work?’” he explains. “So I did it quickly and in hindsight, badly. Next thing I know it’s up there [in an APA promotion.] And in a way I think subconsciously I was so pissed that it is a form of protest. It [the objection to nudity] is ridiculous and so is the censorship I imposed.”

Information about Midgley’s talk this evening is posted here (without the image) on APA’s web site.