Todd: October 2005 Archives
As a member of The Contemporaries, I had this article forwarded to me a couple of weeks ago as it appeared in Forbes Collector. Forbes.com has posted an excerpt. The article covers organizations focused on getting young (affluent) potential collectors involved in the art world in Boston, San Fran and NYC. Leave suggestions for other cities in the comments.
One could make a case for splitting the history of photography into two broad swaths divided by the early 20th century work of the French photographer Atget. This past summer I read through "Classic Essays on Photography" and from the writings of early and mid- 20th C. photographers like Abbott (who was Atget's biggest promoter) it's clear that the impact of Atget's eye on all that followed was tremendous. Before Atget, photography was imitative of Art - its stylings and subjects. Following Atget, photography's artistic values and sensibilities came from the mechanics of medium itself - as is the case with painting, sculpture, etc.
I say "Atget's eye" because it wasn't necessarily his thinking that made the difference, aside from what thinking was expressed on his glass plate negatives. Though he did have relationships with art-oriented photographers like Abbott, he considered himself a commercial photographer, constantly rearranging his work into new portfolios depending on the whims and interests of previous or prospective clients. There was no grandiose artistic philosophy to hang his work upon, though his spiritual progeny developed many of his themes and working styles into their own explicit working philosophies.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art current show of Atget's work is a comprehensive catalog and displays some outstanding individual images. What it fails to do is drive home why Atget matters, suffering from a lack of visual comparison to what came before and what came after. Looking at much of Atget's work hanging on a museum wall today leaves many scratching their heads. The inclusion of some framing pictures from the ers preseding and succeeding Atget's work would have drawn a starker view of his visual innovation. Yes, there is a single Abbott photo shown for comparison, as well as an interesting comparison of Atget and Abbot prints from Atget's negatives, but these are there mostly to highlight the show's view that Atget's use of obsolete processes and tools (he used an old-fashioned box camera and made albumin contact positives) resulted in superior prints to what Abbott was able to achieve - a subjective position that I disagree with.
Through Nov. 27 at Philadelphia Museum of Art
(As well as Mavericks of Color, noted previously.)
For those of you who are slow on the uptake, large scale color prints are all the rage. And some people are none too pleased about it:
"You want to know how hot photography is? Photography's so hot that people who call themselves photographers, who have minimum skills and crappy equipment and nothing in common [with real photographers], can get shows in Chelsea in one gallery after another."
Despite that grumpy quote, the article is actually a good overview of current trends, even if it does have a forced sense of amazement at all these new fangled changes like digital prints and the obligatory disparagement of New York.
UPDATE: More detailed thoughts on this article can be read over atPanchromatica
Reader Thomas Moore has put together a group to collectively roam the streets of Chelsea and see great photography with their own eyes. There's a Yahoo! group set up to discuss an itinerary, timing, etc. Sorry for not posting this sooner, but I'm in Helsinki and the jet lag is killing me.
The Affordable Art Fair hits NYC this weekend, starting on the 27th - uh, today. By "affordable" they mean under $10,000, I think - which is not affordable in my book. For photography, that's pretty steep.
Thursday, October 27 – Sunday, October 30
Pier 92 (52nd St. & 12th Ave.)
$12 (Seniors/Students $9; Children under 12 FREE)
I've been meaning to post this for a while, but it's work, work, work. And in this case, it's still work. The agency I work for has been involved in developing the "See New" mobile photogrpahy competition promoting the Nokia Nseries line of mobile phones. Some master photographers are involved in making cameraphone photos, including:Philip-Lorca DiCorca, Juergen Teller, Raghu Rai, Nick Waplington, and Jiancheng Dong. Prizes are the opportunity to work with one of the photogs on a shoot next year. Check out the site to see what these guys have come up with using the Nokia N90 and submit some shaky, blurry cameraphone pics of your own.
I'm between books. One of the perks of living in NYC is my 45 min of uninterrupted reading time on the subway each morning and evening. About 50% of what I read is photo history and theory, but I'm at an impasse on what to pick up next. (Mean ing I'm too lazy to go beyond my Amazon recommendations.) So I throw it out to you guys - what should I pick up next? Leave your suggestions in the comments and I'll post the best of the lot next week. Here's a partial list of what I've already got under my belt:
Classic Essays on Photography - Trachtenberg
Photography: A Critical Introduction - Wells
Regarding the Pain of Others - Sontag
Overexposed - Squires
Crisis of the Real - Grundberg
Looking at Photographs - Baldwin
Criticizing Photographs- Barrett
Camera Lucida - Barthes
On Photography - Sontag
Seizing the Light - Hirsch
Beauty in Photography - Adams
Why People Photograph - Adams
When reviewing the lots in last week's auctions, I must admit there was little that really jumped out at me. Overall, I think that reaction was right, but in several specific instances it was dead wrong. ArtNet has a wrap-up of the auction results and there were some unbelievable prices set out there for early 20th century work. An Edward Weston photo, The Breast, set the 20th C. record and came about two hundred grand shy of the all time record at $722k.
There's no way I'm going to have time to see this, but the "Monsters of Color Photography" tour arrives in town this weekend at the Cooper Union. Tokion magazine is sponsoring "Creativity Now" and William Eggleston and Steven Shore will be giving a talk on Sunday afternoon. Hopefully the audience will be more thoughtful in its questions than at Eggleston's appearance at Film Forum. "What do you think of New York?" is a wasted question and a wasted opportunity. If you can't think of a good question then keep your mouth shut. Remember this advice if you are the person who used up the final question at Burtynsky's Brooklyn Museum gallery talk last weekend with "Where do you get your funding?" Argh, whatta jackass!
Sunday, Oct 16th at the Cooper Union Great Hall
$45.00 for the day, $75 for the weekend
Students get five bucks off
ArtNet has published a wrap-up of the 2005 Photo NY show that happened ovewr the weekend. It looks like the focus was on non-superstar contemporary photographers, which raises the likelihood of seeing something new. Sorry I didn't have time to attend.
Back in March, I mentioned a show by Eliot Shepard at jen bekman. I'd meant to do a short interview at the time, but various factors prevented that from happening and we were only just recently able to exchange a few questions and answers.
1) How much thought did you put into titling your photos for the bekman show. How did you decide to use the Nikon file names rather than a more traditional "Untitled" or descriptive titles?
On the question of why not descriptive titles: Generally, I'm not interested in giving more information than is in the photo, with the possible exception of location and date, which are fun in that they're factual. Anything is better than artistic titles. They annihilate mystery.
On the question of why filenames rather than "Untitled": I'm a digital photographer, and on some level, I want to assert that. Plus, the title "Untitled" is kind of a drag.
2) How would you compare the process of making selections for a show with physical prints and selecting what photos you blog? Did visitor feedback on slower.net influence your selections at all?
Editing, in all forms, is unpleasant because it forces you to separate what you wish was good from what is objectively good, or at least what you and someone else can agree is good enough. Coming up with some sort of conceptual scaffolding for the set as a whole was also irritating - basically my only concept is that these are photos taken by me. (I solved this problem by never writing an artist's statement. Jen didn't notice until two weeks in.)
Editing for a show was in my case additionally painful because there's this commercial reality - people just aren't hanging photos of strangers in their homes (when they're taken by a nobody). That's sort of nullifying, because I like the pictures of people.
Specifically relative to photoblogging, yeah, it's hard to focus and say "this photo is good enough to live on its own", because the nature of that medium is "on to the next". Seeing a photo on the gallery wall I had a vague desire to click on it and go on to something else.
Visitor feedback was a factor in selection, but heavily weighted toward the input of a few respected people than general chatter.
3) Many of the great photographers' best work is portraits of people close to them. How do you feel about including the infamous "Coke girl" photo of your fiancé [wife] in the show? What do you think of the fact someone (or someones) may buy that photo and hang it on their livingroom wall?
Other than the fact that I'm a little ambivalent about the quality of that photo, I have no problem with it. That photo is a good example of a selection made partially on the responses of others.
4) Many photobloggers started doing it to give them a reason to take photos everyday and improve their craft. Do you think you have progressed to a point where the photoblog format/activity is holding you back in some ways? That you're moving beyond the your original intent by using the blog format and you might be better served disengaging from the blog world of photography. Is there any tension around this issue now that you have had a proper gallery show?
The photoblog is still a great tool for motivation, and if you remember look hard at what you're doing (which is abetted by the blog archive), improvement. The act of publishing is a great way of staking a claim to something you like and tying it to a point in time.
That said, without additional processes, I think photoblogging can be a trap. It doesn't apparently reward focus or editing. It can promote pandering, because at the baseline level of engagement ("nice shot"), people will "respond" to stuff that is dramatic, minimal, sexy, or of cats. And if you participate in the whole commons of image sharers, it's easy to see too much. Fundamentally: It doesn't promote figuring out what photographer you want to be.
My plan is to remain engaged in the photoblog world, but not to rely on it to help me improve like I once did. I'll be talking with other photographers whose work I like, looking at good photos, writing things down, and thinking.
5) Photobloggers seem to be overwhelmingly oriented towards street photography. Why do you think that is?
Because that's one place where the life is. And as I think is evidenced by attendances at major shows of realist photography (Arbus and Friedlander being two recent examples), a lot of people are interested in photography from life. A lot of people who aren't photography dealers.
Back on the first weekend of the new gallery season, I stopped in the Andrea Mesilin Gallery to see Israeli photographer Tal Shochat's show "Awakening". The photographs are strikingly different from the typical show that catches my eye in that they are varied in the size, format, subject, etc. to make a larger whole. The art is created by collecting the prints together to make up a larger concept. Many contemporary photography shows are instead made of a series of similar prints, similar in subject, style or theme. This fact was unknown to me when I added her to my visit list and I had become interested based on two small Web site thumbnails of other-worldly set-piece trees. Along side those, the other images are hard to describe. Some are highly polished brick walls of various colors and indeterminable size. Others are weathered branches set in geometrical patterns. And still others contained images of women lying on their sides, back to the viewer and meshed in someways with the backgrounds. What all this was saying, well, read the press release. What struck me most was that the message, the art, was bound up win the collection of images as a whole, but was being sold piece by piece - as market realities dictate.
The gallery owner, Andrea Meislin, was there during my visit and was great about leaping in to answer questions. This was probably the first time I've had a person attached to a gallery stop to answer questions that weren't addressed directly to them. My wife had asked me about the presentation of the photos - mounted under plexiglass. I shrugged. Meiselin spoke right up to give a short explanation of the process.
Through Oct. 22nd at Andrea Meislin Gallery
526 W 26th St, Suite 214
The big fall photography auctions are being held next week. There are five individual auctions spread across the three main auction houses. If there is one unifying theme it looks like the Helmut Newton collectors are flooding the market to take advantage of assumed post-humous price increases. Artnet has a preview.
Annoyingly, Sotheby's now requires registration to review their auction catalogs.
From the JOSEPH AND LAVERNE SCHIESZLER Collection
Monday, 10 Oct 05, 7:00 PM
Small collection of mainly early and mid-20th C. black and white prints
Photographs General Auction
Session 1: Tuesday, 11 Oct 05, 10:15 AM
Session 2: Tuesday, 11 Oct 05, 2:00 PM
Sotheby's New York
1334 York Avenue at 72nd St
Twentieth century works from the Elfing Collection
10 October 2005, 2:00 pm
Lots of nudes, many from Avendon, Ritts, Newton. See if you can find the nude Yul Brenner - with hair.
General photography ranging from turn of the century to contemporary works.
12 October 2005, 10:00 am
Neither auction has anything estimated to go for under $2000.
Christie's New York
20 Rockefeller Plaza, New York
Old Factories #8 by Edward Burtynsky
This week marks the start of Edward Burtynsky's mid-career retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum. My wife took me to Ottawa in 2003 to see the opening at Canada's National Gallery for my birthday, but I understand the show has been expanded to include more recent work as well, so I'm sure I'll take a second gander. Burtynsky will be giving a lecture on Saturday, as well, to inaugurate the show. The talk starts at 3pm and is sure to be completely crowded as over the last few years he's really come into his own as one of the world's preeminent phtographers.
Also opening this week, to coincide with the retrospective, is a show of new work from China at Charles Cowles Gallery. The show looks to be quite extensive, building on Burtynsky's last show in New York focusing on the Three Gorges Dam project in China. This time, the work has a wider scope, capturing the explosive growth China has experienced over the last few years.
Through Jan. 15th at the Brooklyn Museum
Lecture Oct. 8th at 3pm
Through Nov. 15th at Charles Cowles Gallery
537 W 24th St