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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.

(more…)

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…)

June 5th, 2013

MoMA’s Photography Curator on Underappreciated Photographers

Quentin Bajac, who was appointed chief curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art, gave an interview to critic and author Richard B. Woodward, published last week in the Wall Street Journal. Bajac talked about his ideas for future acquisitions for the permanent collection.

“Artists that he thinks the museum has wrongly ignored or undercollected include Luigi Ghirri,” Woodward writes.  “Among Americans, he cites James Welling as an ‘important’ figure underappreciated in the past by MoMA; and Mr. Bajac was ‘shocked’ it [MoMA] had not a single print by the photojournalist Susan Meiselas.” Bajac also tells Woodward he’d like the permanent collection to represent more Japanese, African and Latin America photographers. (Yes, MoMA’s holdings seem pretty provincial, especially compared to those of other institutions.)

During the interview with Woodward, Bajac also touched on ideas for new shows (note how Martin Parr’s name is mentioned), his thoughts on displaying moving images and media installations, and what role he believes museums and curators should play in a society that experiences “a surfeit of images” every day. One of Bajac’s comments will ring true to anyone who follows photography today: “Photography is no longer about the wall. The book form is basic to photography. Young photographers are self-publishing. We must be aware of that and work closely with the museum library.”

The full article, “Snapshot of a Curator,” can be found on online.wsj.com.

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…)

May 8th, 2013

Upcoming Photo Events, and Current Competition and Award Deadlines

Awards and Competitions:

2013 Pierre and Alexandra Boulat Award
The Pierre and Alexandra Boulat Award for journalism was created in honor of the late VII Photo founder Alexandra Boulat and her father, Pierre. Sponsored by Canon, the award carries an 8,000 Euro prize, and is given to “a professional photographer of any age, sex or nationality who wishes to cover a social, economic, political or cultural issue in a journalistic manner.” Entries for the award are due by June 7, 2013, and the winner will be announced at Visa Pour l’Image in Perpignan in September. Entry is free.

18th Annual Photo Competition Exhibition
Seattle’s Photo Center Northwest is accepting entries for their annual juried exhibition. Entries selected by this year’s juror, collector and curator John Bennette, will be exhibited at Photo Center Northwest in August and September of this year. The deadline for entries is May 18, 2012. (more…)

April 30th, 2013

A Tribute to David Goldblatt, ICP’s 2013 Lifetime Achievement Honoree

David Goldblatt, The Transported of the KwaNdebele: Travellers from KwaNdebele buying weekly season tickets at the PUTCO bus depot in Marabastad, Pretoria, 1983. © David Goldbatt/The Goodman Gallery

The Transported of the KwaNdebele: Travellers from KwaNdebele buying weekly season tickets at the PUTCO bus depot in Marabastad, Pretoria, 1983. © David Goldbatt/The Goodman Gallery

Imagine photographs by Robert Frank and Henri Cartier-Bresson.  Wait a moment, then imagine some more by Diane Arbus and others by Sebastian Salgado.  Good.  Being the sort of person who reads this blog, you probably just conjured a dozen or more vividly remembered images in your mind’s eye.

Now imagine a photograph by David Goldblatt.  Thought so.  Unless you’re a fellow South African or one of his fans, you probably drew a blank.  He’s one of the world’s most honored living photographers, a man who is greatly respected and, yet, is little known.  It’s a paradox.

On Wednesday evening, when the International Center of Photography [ICP] confers on him its Cornell Capa Lifetime Achievement Award, Goldblatt will collect yet another prestigious award.  He’ll add this to his resume, right above the 2006 Hasselblad Award, 2009 Henri Cartier-Bresson Award, and the 2010 Lucie Award for Lifetime Achievement.

As prestigious as those honors surely are, they’re little more than the icing on a magnificent cake.  Over a 50-year career, Goldblatt has been the subject of exhibitions at major museums in Europe, Africa, and North America, including solo shows at the Museum of Modern Art, in 1998, and the Jewish Museum, in 2010.  In addition, leading publishers of photography have produced a dozen books devoted to his work.

It’s an impressive list of accomplishments by any measure.  So, why isn’t Goldblatt’s photography as well known as his name?  And what’s his photography all about anyway?  (more…)

April 26th, 2013

Alec Soth on Wandering, Storytelling and Robert Adams vs. Weegee

Last week at the Portland Art Museum as part of the 2013 Photolucida festivities, Alec Soth gave a lecture titled “From Here to There: Searching for Narrative in Photography.” The talk could have been titled “Searching for Narrative in Photography Lectures,” because Soth mostly allowed the audience to lead the way with questions, which he responded to with the aid of a number of prepared slideshows. The evening was free-form, entertaining and a bit wandering, which made sense given that Soth emphasized that wandering and taking pictures without a set goal in mind has produced some of his most important bodies of work. But more on that later.

Soth started on a down note, sharing a quote from Robert Frank—“There are too many images, too many cameras now. We’re all being watched. It gets sillier and sillier. As if all action is meaningful. Nothing is really all that special. It’s just life. If all moments are recorded, then nothing is beautiful and maybe photography isn’t an art any more. Maybe it never was.” He also showed a photograph of an installation by Erik Kessels: a pile of prints made from all of the images uploaded to Flickr in a 24-hour period.

Soth described the perspectives offered by the Frank quote and Kessels’ installation as “bleak.” But, he said, the “way out of this [bleak situation for photographers] is storytelling.” (more…)