Category Archives: Photography

New Worlds

Syndney-Spring-Catherine-Nelson

Although I hung up my professional photographer credentials a while ago I continue my quest for great imagery — whether mine or belonging to others. It’s increasingly difficult nowadays to separate the wheat from the chaff with so many images from so many aspiring photographers armed with their ubiquitous smartphones. Yet, some image-makers continue to rise to the top, their special and unique views separating them from the armies of millions (now probably billions) of regular snapshot-takers.

Catherine Nelson is one such visual artist. Some of her recent work is on display at New York’s Saul gallery. But I urge you to visit her work here. Her series are rich, eerie and (appropriately) other worldly — my favorites: Other Worlds, Submerged and Origins.

Image: Sydney Spring. Courtesy: Catherine Nelson.

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Photography At Its Best

Wasteland with elephant - Nick Brandt

Ecological destruction, urbanization, species extinction, wildlife displacement and human poverty — a compelling and disturbing story told through a collection of eerily beautiful images. I have nothing more to say about Nick Brandt‘s latest collection of gorgeous photographs. Please take 15 minutes to visit his online exhibit titled Inherit the Dust or order the book — you’ll be moved and captivated.

Image: Wasteland with Elephant, 2015. Nick Brandt.

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MondayMap: The Grocery Store Project

grocery-store-project-screenshot

Danish photographer Simon Høgsberg spent 21 months shooting 97,000 images of people outside one Copenhagen supermarket. Høgsberg began taking pictures in April 2010 outside a supermarket called Føtex — fascinated by the varied sea of humanity that passed him by each day.

Then he cataloged the images and plotted the intersections of people who featured in multiple photographs on different days. The result is a visual map of the lives of around 450 people who randomly cropped up multiple times during his obsessive photo-shoot. Høgsberg titled his work The Grocery Store Project. I’m still grappling with the value of this huge undertaking, but it is wholly fascinating nonetheless.

Image: Screenshot of The Grocery Store Project. Courtesy of Simon Høgsberg.

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Keep Those Old Photos

google-search-photos

Chances are that when you are feeling sentimental or nostalgic you’ll head straight for the old photographs. If you’ve had the misfortune of being swept up in a natural or accidental disaster — fire, flood, hurricane — it’s likely that  the objects you seek out first  or miss the most while be your photographs. Those of us over the age of 35 may still have physical albums or piles of ancient images stored in shoeboxes or biscuit tins. And, like younger generations, we’ll also have countless pictures stored on our smartphones or computers or a third party internet service like Instagram or Pinterest — organized or not. We hold on to our physical and digital images because they carry meaning and store our connections. A timely article from Wired’s editor reminds us to keep even the bad ones.

From Wired:

The past 12 months sucked. Over that span I lost my grandmother, a childhood friend, and a colleague. Grief is a weak spring; if there’s not enough time between blows, you don’t bounce back. You just keep getting pushed down. Soon even a minor bummer could conjure deep sadness. I took comfort in photos: some dug out of boxes but most unearthed online.

One particularly low evening, I sat on the couch reading my departed friend’s blog. I’d read it before—beginning to end, a river that spanned years and documented her battle with illness. This time I just scanned for images. I sat there frozen. My wet face locked into the glow-cone of my laptop, captivated by an unexpected solace: candid photos.

The posed pictures didn’t do it for me; they felt like someone else, effigies at best. But in the side shots and reflections, the thumbnail in a screencapped FaceTime chat, I felt like I was really seeing her. It was as if those frames contained a forever-spark of her life.

“A posed image can never be the same as when someone’s guard is down.” So said Costa Sakellariou, a photography professor at Binghamton University whose course I took the summer of my second junior year. I enrolled in it to make up credits that I was too busy getting wasted to accrue during the regular academic year (helluva student, this guy), but the experience ended up being really important to me.

Costa would have us use manual film cameras for street photography. We’d set our aperture to a daylight-friendly f/16, prefocus at 3 feet, then go downtown to ambush pedestrians. “A candid photograph captures the intersections of life,” he’d say. Well, he said something like that back then, but he said exactly that when I called him to talk for the first time in 15 years.

He’s still at Binghamton, his students still shoot film (mostly), and he’s not super-sanguine about the direction photography is taking. It’s too controlled, too curated, too conceptual. “People have chosen to abandon the random elements,” he says. If you look at your Instagram feed, you’ll see he’s right. Though photos on ephemeral platforms like Snapchat are less carefully constructed, the Internet’s permanent record is full of poses and setups.

This got me thinking about my photographic legacy. I post about a half-dozen pics a week—mostly on Instagram, mostly staged. When I’m gone, my survivors will only know the artful shots of motorcycles, fourth-take selfies with my wife, scenic vistas, and the #dogsofwired.

Read the entire story here.

Image courtesy of Google Search.

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Soviet Optics

Krakow-poland-1988

The heavy hand of the Soviet Union left untold scars on the populations of many Eastern European nations. Millions of citizens were repressed, harmed, spied-upon and countless disappeared. The Soviets and their socialist puppet governments also fostered many decades of centrally-planed austerity that created generations of impoverished — though not the ruling elites, of course. Nonetheless independent shopkeepers would try to put a brave face on their lack of a market for most goods and services — little supply and limited demand.

Photographer David Hlynsky spend several years in Eastern Europe, following the fall of the Berlin Wall, documenting the waning of the Soviet era. His book, Window-Shopping Through the Iron Curtainfeaturing many absurdly bleak views of consumer-minimalism [not necessarily a bad thing], was published in February 2015.

Read more from The Guardian’s article here.

Image: Three Loaves of Bread, Krakow, Poland, 1988. Courtesy of David Hlynsky.

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Kissing for the Sake of Art

The Makeout ProjectThe process for many artists in often long and arduous. Despite the creative and, usually, fulfilling end result the path is frequently punctuated with disrespect, self-deprivation, suffering and pain. Indeed, many artists have paid a heavier price for their expression: censorship, imprisonment, torture, death.

So, it’s refreshing to see an artist taking a more pleasure-filled route. Kissing. Someone has to do it!

From the Guardian:

From the naked women that Yves Klein covered in blue paint to Terry Richardson’s bevy of porny subjects, the art world is full of work that for one person seems liberated and for another exploitative. Continuing to skirt that line is Jedediah Johnson, an American photographer whose ongoing series the Makeout Project involves him putting on lipstick then kissing people, before documenting the resulting smears in portraits.

Johnson’s shots are really striking, with his LaChapellian palette of bright colours making the lipstick jump out from its surprisingly circuitous path across each person’s face. The subjects look variously flirtatious, amused and ashamed; some have strange narratives, like the woman who is holding a baby just out of shot, her partner hovering off to one side.

It’s sensational enough to have been covered in the Daily Mail with their characteristically BIZARRE use of capitalisation, perhaps chiefly because it seems cheeky – or indeed sleazy. “People say ‘oh, it’s disgusting and he’s just doing it to get cheap thrills’, and I guess that is kind of not totally untrue,” Johnson tells me, explaining the germ of his project. “I just got this thought of this lipstick mark on your face when someone kisses you as being a powerful, loaded gesture that could communicate a lot. And also, y’know, there were a lot of people I knew who I wanted to kiss.” It was a way of addressing his “romantic anxiety”, which was holding him back from kissing those he desired.

So he started asking to kiss people at parties, generally picking someone he knew first of all, so the other partygoers could see it was an art project rather than a novel way of getting his end away. After a while, he graduated to studio portraits, and not just of attractive young women. He says he didn’t want to be “the guy using art as an excuse to kiss people he wants to – and I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong with that, but that’s just not who I wanted to be. So I’m going to have to kiss some people I don’t want to.” This includes a series of (still pretty attractive) men, who ended up teaching Jedediah a lot. “I didn’t realise people lead a kiss – I would always just kiss people, and I was leading, and I had no idea. There have been a couple of times when I kissed guys and they led; I tried to move into different real estate on their face, and they wouldn’t let me.”

His work is understandably misinterpreted though, with some people seeing the hand that cradles the face in each shot as a controlling, violent image. “I understand that when you are just pointing the viewer in a direction, they come up with stuff you’re not into.” But the only thing that really grates him is when people accuse him of not making art. “I have two degrees in art, and I don’t feel I have the ability to declare whether something is art or not. It’s an awful thing to say.”

The intrigue of his images comes from trying to assess the dynamic between the pair, from the woman biting her lip faux-seductively to those trying to hide their feelings about what’s just happened. Is there ever an erotic charge? “A few times it’s got really real for me; there’s some where I was probably like oh that was nice, and they’re thinking oh that was incredible, I don’t know what to do now. The different levels are very interesting.” He has had one unfortunate bad breath incident, though: “I was like hey, let’s make out, and she was like, great, just let me finish my garlic string beans. She still had garlic in her mouth.”

Read the entire story and see more images here.

Visit Jedediah Johnson’s website to see the entire Makeout Project here.

Image: The Makeout Project by Jedediah Johnson. Courtesy of Jedediah Johnson / Guardian.

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