MoMa | Myths of the West: Photographers, Filmmakers, and Writers

March 31, 2009 6:30 PM.
In conjunction with Into the Sunset, which examines how photography has pictured the idea of the American West from 1850 to the present, this panel features photographers, a filmmaker, and a writer in a discussion of how their work elicits and contributes to our collective imagination and narratives of the West. Participants include photographer Katy Grannan, writer Annie Proulx, and photographer, filmmaker, and actor Dennis Hopper. Eva Respini, Assistant Curator, Department of Photography, and organizer of the exhibition moderates a discussion.

mmhh, as I can’t embed the video, click :

Photo museum visit

Published 6 February, revised 7 February

This weekend, Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 February 2010, Nederlands Fotomuseum in Rotterdam (NL) holds its second photo book weekend; with seminars, presentations, pitches, interviews, demos and a photo book market.

Last year I missed the first event, but this year I marked the weekend and timely bought a ticket for the Saturday. I had an early train to Rotterdam, as I also wanted to see, prior to all the photo book activities, these exhibitions :

–  Nicholas Nixon: The Brown Sisters 1975-2009 | View the photo serie 1975-1995Lees het artikel in de Volkskrant “Altijd samen” van Merel Bem

Kingsley’s Crossing | See the documented passage here :  Permalink Mediastorm

The portraits of the sisters (fascinating and confronting!) had a strong impact on me, as had the story of Kingsley (among many other things, no family photo moments for him anymore…).
Yes, how about equal opportunities…  and comfortable aging…

The talk of young graduate photography Willem Popelier about this soon to be published photo book raised some emotions too. He explained his confusion, struggle and search for fact finding and his need to document, to visualise the abstractness of identity. He showed and told us how his notebooks turned from a photo book dummy into “X and Willem, documented record of a youth“. Also why he chose for a publisher versus being his own publisher. (I think I understand why he wants to share his (twin) identity search and youth story…).

Using an extensive family tree and photography, the narrative is systematically charted and developed. Portraits of individuals are created in the same detached manner as objects from the past, such as train tickets and the many keys to the twins’ various family homes.

A presentation of Hans Schoots was about the biography. I heard about the choice of telling a story with images only or with narratives/explanations, the (strong) relationship of text and visuals and the successful combination of written content and aesthetic photo essay.

The 2,5 book pitches that I joined were equally interesting and informative. Photographers talked about their project and book pursuit (from “Knoet”, “Sint Annawijk Tilburg” to “warm-cold roots & contrasts”). Questions raised by the experts (publishers) were about the why, what, how and the added value of the book as a means. Advice was given about strong editing, design, adding of own “signature” and the need for a matching publisher.

Julian Germain talked how three of his books (Steel, In soccer wonderland, For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness) came about.  The length of the Steel project, his choices and the opportunity to combine his own work with the vernacular photographs that he collects. Also about the collaboration with the designer, the strong needed editing in one book and the joy and freedom of doing scrapbook format in his soccer book, his difficulty with text writing, i.e. to convert Charlie’s answers to his questions into the ‘Charlie story’. Furthermore we heard and saw a bit about his photo presentations (framing) at exhibitions.

The last  =very uplifting= 10 minutes of the day were about the wonderful “Red Balloon / Le Ballon rouge” book. Frido Troost called upon photo book lovers to look beyond expensive, “must-seek-after Parr-Badger books” and upon photographers to do more linear photo book (comics) stories and less conceptual art books ;+)

A photo book as a contemporary business card for photographers. Indeed photo books have become more mainstream and digital printing (on demand) offers additional opportunities. Yet what makes a (good) photo book?  (E-book and e-reader??)

There were also moments for photographers to meet and to talk about photo book projects and photography. Exchanges are useful. We, I, need more of such uplifting, informative and inspiring events. Bring them on!

(I’m reading Wikipedia | publishing)

p.s. Don’t hesitate to share your favorite photo book title (and url).

Off The Record

Visit to Art Amsterdam and a Stedelijk-in-de-Stad exhibition.

At Art Amsterdam, formally KunstRai, photography was well represented. One presentation was a must see for me : | Stedelijk Museum‘s “Off the Record – Municipal Art Acquisitions 2009”. Few months ago I read with great interest the call from guest curator Hans Aarsman to ALL phtotographers to submit work (this year the theme was photography/video)  that came about without an artistic focus but by chance, coincidence or for the sake of documenting. (Hans Aarsman was inspired by coincidental discoveries in science and art…) Thus we had a typical Aarsman statement : defining ‘vernacular photography’ as art too. Indeed the Stedelijk Museum bought works from professionals as well as from amateurs. And yes, I can agree -partially- with this.

Read more about “Off the record” in Dutch / view photos on bint photobooks blog

Of course that started quite a debate. The discussion is again about art and photography. What is it about? More in Dutch on photoq.

Een meer serieus gevoerde gedachtewisseling

De grenzen van het medium worden opgezocht

Open brief Hans Aarsman aan de open-briefschrijvers

In Parool’s special art edition paper I read the Aarsman quote “Vijf beelden maken, dat is schilderij spelen”. In English something like : “To limit photography (a medium to reproduce) to five prints, is playing painting/painter”.

06.06.09  I just read the lastest reactions on Photoq and the art-discussion and had to think of “Tussen Kunst en Kitsch” / “Between art and ‘kitsch'” and it’s definition. I heard it explained recently as follows :  “Kunst prikkelt de geest en Kitsch prikkelt het oog” / (something like) : art effects/stimulates the brain and ‘kitsch’ effects the eye.  Also I had to think of something I read in an interview with Martin Parr : “photography is low and high culture all in one and all photography is interconnected”. And then I got back to the definition of art by Any Warhol. The only definition for me that comprises all : “ART IS WHAT YOU CAN GET AWAY WITH”.

=>The diversity and growth of photography vs the not recording of it’s evolution and not formed new theories<=

Off the record, I’m thinking that photography is getting too diffused and sometimes pretty FUCKED UP.

Polemic when it comes to profs vs micro stock photographer vs citizens photojournalists, digital “retouch” and manipulation,  art and cheap art, copyright issues, portrait right (privacy vs street) issues, artist rights, creative commons, photography vs imaging,  photographers vs artists, photographers vs actors and stakeholders, all the photographic experts, collectioneurs and investors, and the supply business / tech industry, legal business, marketing, stock photos business and art business…  Yes, what is photography about?  WHAT THEY CAN GET AWAY IT?

Dress codes

Your attention for an interesting photo project :

Inspired by a shared interest in the striking dress codes of various social groups, they have systematically documented numerous identities over the last 13 years.

They call their series Exactitudes: a contraction of exact and attitude. By registering their subjects in an identical framework, with similar poses and a strictly observed dress code, Versluis and Uyttenbroek provide an almost scientific, anthropological record of people’s attempts to distinguish themselves from others by assuming a group identity.

By dragging the repertory of the street kicking and screaming to the studio backdrop, the series offers a purposely absurd response to the sentimentality of Jamal Shabazz (“Back in the days”) and the beloved and utterly bogus spontaneity of the photo booth. It’s a perfect fit for an age that’s made the “cool hunt” a corporate pursuit.

Have a look (good opening page) :

Following the series and the European Cultural Season, a derived serie was made : ‘United in diversity – European Attitudes‘.  Some of these photos travel currently back and forth in the Paris-Rotterdam train.

Teylers museum | travel photography 19th century

Now this is interesting. In my home town, Haarlem, an exhibition with nineteenth century travel photographs : “Wereldreis met fotopioniers” (World journey with photo pioneers).

Teylers museum, the oldest museum in the Netherlands, organised with the Rijksmuseum a unique exhibition about a time when traveling and photography were adventurous, elaborate undertakings and only affordable/ doable for few people.

A far travel in the 19th century and the production of a photo in those days was not a simple and easy task. It was costly and loads of material had to be carried along. The photographic processes in those days usually : the Albumen process and the Collodion process*.

Teylers Museum owns and shows the album Voyage au Sudan, with early photographs of women from Dafur, dating 1854. The Rijksmuseum displays photographs of master photographer Gustave Le Gray.

Autoportrait, Gustave Le Gray, vers 1856-1859 (What a life he had and what a tragedy for his family when he fled!).

Also showing are photos of Alexandrine Tinne, the first Dutch female explorer in North Africa, and her travel companions. (Another intriguing and tragic bio).

In the story of the search for the sources of the Nile, one explorer—rarely mentioned—was Dutch and female. Alexine Tinne, who would have been one of the richest heiresses in The Netherlands, squeezed into her short life enough adventure to satisfy a dozen ordinary mortals, and then died tragically and dramatically in the Sahara. Read more.

De voortgang van de expeditie, die uit tweehonderd personen bestond, was langzaam. De dames Tinne namen veel spullen mee, waaronder een porseleinen servies en zilveren bestek. Ook het loodzware ijzeren ledikant van Alexine Tinne werd overal mee naartoe gesleept…. Tot ver in de twintigste eeuw lag de nadruk vooral op de reizen van Alexine Tinne, en is er weinig geschreven over het feit dat zij een van de eerste fotografen van niveau in Nederland was. In het gemeentearchief te Den Haag bevinden zich haar Haagse foto’s. Ook tijdens haar reizen fotografeerde zij. Lees de gehele geschiedenis.

Most travels in those days were archaeological expeditions and the photos made were often illustrations for academic articles. Or they were journeys made by rich people who wanted to venture into the old world (via Italy, Greece to Egypt) and when the Suez Canal opened even into India and Indochina and beyond.

Meanwhile photography developed, it became less cumbersome. When stereo photography, invented by Charles Wheatstone, became popular : the world in 3D, photography had turned commercial. In the exposition we can see the works of dedicated photographers like Francis Frith and the photo equipment they worked with.

When around 1900 a simple and cheap box camera with film became available, all travelers were able to make photographs. The exhibition in Haarlem shows also the work of amateur photographers.

I must see this exhibition. I plan Sunday next week.

Another online exhibition : “Global Views 19th Century Travel Photographs”

In the second half of the nineteenth century, the rapid development and increasing recognition of the art of photography, along with a growing fascination with other countries and cultures, marked the beginning of the formation of a “global visual culture.” In the decades following the invention of photography in 1839, professional photographic firms appeared in the major cities of Western Europe, as well as in more remote travel destinations such as Greece, Egypt, India, Asia, and the Middle East. The earliest travel photographers produced images primarily for publications which functioned as surrogates for travel, spurring curiosity and inspiring Grand Tour travelers who, by the 1870s and ’80s, were flocking to exotic sites to visit the monuments of the ancient and medieval past.

Catering to this influx of European and American tourists, a growing number of travel photographers documented historical monuments and archeological sites, as well as scenes of daily life. Technological developments enabled these photographers to produce relatively large numbers of images that were chiefly intended to satisfy the burgeoning tourism trade and the thirst for images of the Orient, the term traditionally used in the nineteenth century to refer to the Middle East, South Asia, and East Asia. As the techniques of photography became less cumbersome, transporting equipment became more practical. Photographers began to sell their pictures on-site to tourists who collected them as souvenirs during their travels.

These unique photographs have artifactual value for the history of photography, as well as documentary value for the study of the architectural and social history of the regions in which they were produced…

Read more and see the slideshow : “Global Views: 19th-Century Travel Photographs” | Princeton | National Maritime Museum | Freeze frame.

Freeze Frame is a selection of photographs from two expeditions to the Arctic: Captain Edward Inglefield in 1854, and Captain George Nares in 1875-76. Both expeditions used photographic processes that were in their infancy, having been announced to the public only a few years before.

Photo pioneers in California : Dialogue among Giants: Carleton Watkins and the Rise of Photography in California | The Getty exhibition

He photographed the expansive western landscape with its miles of coastline, vast natural resources, colossal trees, and the monoliths of the Yosemite Valley using an oversize mammoth-plate camera.

In the 1860s Watkins’s Yosemite photographs brought him fame from as far away as Paris, but a decade later he experienced a painful financial reversal. In the end, he died a pauper in 1916 after a life that brought him into dialogue with the many “giants” of his era. The photographs he left behind provide a unique personal vision of the birth and growth of California. – Female explorers