Thursday, 11 December 2008

A road trip

© Caroline de Vries

Following from the previous post we are looking at the human public space with the work of Caroline de Vries . I recently came across some of her new projects "Street remnants"and "Urban Trees" both from the series "Small Archives". About her work in general Caroline de Vries says:
My practice has evolved and is now principally focused on questioning the nature of the photograph, especially the photographic portrait, its physicality and its power of representation in the public as in the private sphere. I wish to explore the complexity and ability of the medium to deliver narratives and new meanings, depending on context and presentation, through strategies of seriality, comparisons or decontextualisations. When a photograph is disengaged from time, space or identity, the viewer feels compelled to reconstruct the broken links between subject and context.
© Caroline de Vries

Friday, 5 December 2008

A human vision

© Timotheus Tomicek

I recently met with Timotheus Tomicek from Vienna at a Festival in eastern Europe and i was impressed with his project Something Human You can see an online book version of the project on his website. Timotheus says about this work:

"is solely about pointing to the traces and effects of human behavior.
I steer clear both of exceptions and the exceptional. Instead, I search out
the opposite of so-called attractions. The ingredients are of a rather simple
kind. Any truth contained in these images is based on correspondences and
analogies. If the represented alone came to the fore I would have missed my
mark. I am not aiming at the visible but at the invisible that it points us to.
The idea is to hit the nail on the head. Without hammer or nail"

© Timotheus Tomicek

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

A double Danish Identity

© Trine Søndergaard & Nicolai Howalt

Following the previous post on Nicolai Howalt work just a quick note to clarify a duoble identity, infact i have only just discovered that Trine Søndergaard a photobased artist living in Danimark, she is working in partership with Nicolai Howalt at least in the following projects "How to hunt" , "Dying Birds" and "Treezone".More of her work here
© Trine Søndergaard & Nicolai Howalt

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Danish identity

Nicolai Howalt ©

Nicolai Howalt works was recently shown to me and fascinates for his ability to document with different work some of the social aspects of danish society, tackling with different projects the concept of identity.
In his work Boxer Nicolai Howalt followed young Danish boys boxing in Denmark and abroad. The project portrays a series of young boxers before and after the match. Another interesting body of work is 3x1 a series of images about the evolution of a relationship between a young danish couple living in a surburban council flat. More recently he focused on the series How to Hunt

Nicolai Howalt ©

Nicolai Howalt ©

Monday, 24 November 2008

A trip with Simon Hoegsberg

Simon Hoegsberg ©

Sometime ago I saw Simon Hoegsberg work and i was very interested in particular in his project " The Thought Project " about the thoughts we have when we walk alone in the street.
In most of Simon Hoegsberg work there seems to be an element of research to support and sometime combined the visual project A statement of the artist about The Thought Project:

Simon Hoegsberg ©

"Over a period of 3 months I stopped 150 strangers on the street and asked them what they where thinking about the second before I stoppedthem. Using a mic and a dictaphone I recorded what they told me, then took a picture of them. 55 of the 150 thoughts are presented on this website as quotes. All quotes state exactly what I was told during the interviews. The interviews took place in Copenhagen, Denmark and New York City."
Simon Hoegsberg projects are a real snapshot of ordinary life, making stories about who we are and what we think. Other projects includes Copenhagen Istanbul, Private and Public, Faces of New York .

Monday, 17 November 2008

A child view

Marina Ballo Charmet ©

A few days ago I was at a conference that presented the work of Marina Ballo Charmet, a photographer, an artist and a children’s psychotherapist by training.
The artist was there and she presented her works which include photograph and video installation. In most of her projects MBC observes things from below, taking her eye view to a child level. With her project Con la coda dell`occhio (in Eng. With the Corner of the Eye) the artist looks at pheriferal situation within the everydaylife, photographs are about our perceptive experience.

Marina Ballo Charmet ©

Her work also includes a series of project on video, one in particular was displayed on the night that was made in collaboration with Walter Niedermayr at Milan main prison. Agente apri (in Eng. Open up officer) is the title of this project, is about a children daily journey from the prison nursery to the outside world with volunteers all shots at child height.
Parco is the artist latest project and research is focused on a phenomenon taking place in green area of the city, the parks.
Marina Ballo Charmet ©

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Photography from the Italian Riviera

Andrea Dapueto ©
Andrea Botto is the Artistic Director of "On the road, again" title of the current Rapallo Fotografia Contemporanea on the italian riviera. For the third year running this small festival will be hosting the young talents of contemporary photography and the theme of this festival is "street photography".
For this year event RFC also invited Mark Cohen as guest artist with the exhibition "Italian Riviera" curated by Francesco Zanot with the intent " to bring to the public’s attention the work of a photographer who can convey all the emotions generated by that strip of land trapped between sky and sea, which is known on the other side of the ocean as the Italian Riviera”.
The author who stayed few weeks on the Riviera in 2008, has moved freely and with curiosity between Genoa and the Cinque Terre producing a contemporary photographic series of real and emotional impact.
Mark Cohen ©

In the young talents section you can see work by Martina Bacigalupo, which exposes the story a refugee burandese who returns to his country after more than forty years of exile, Andrea Dapueto with "Camere con vista" a work around Italian roads in places for low cost sex, Alessandro Cirillo with his reportage in black and white on the north-east of Brazil, Camilla Micheli with a series of portrait on the road around Japan and Nanda Gonzague with her work in Armenia. Francesca Cirilli presents an amusing video installation about social behavior of tourists in Piazza dei Miracoli in Pisa. Open until December 2, more here

Monday, 10 November 2008

Bratislava, Photography from the East

Symon Kliman ©

A few days ago Bratislava Month of Photography was taking place with a number of exhibition around town. Here is some of the interesting work that we found during during the Sittcomm Award and the Portfolio Review Slideshow.
Grzegorz Klatka with his car project, Symon Kliman with his Gypsies Made Nice, Maros Krivy with Green Dessert project and Mikolaj Dlugosz with the Real Foto series.
Filip Berendt was the winner of the Sittcomm Award.
Grzegorz Klatka ©

Filip Berendt ©

Mikolaj Dlugosz ©

Oliviero Toscani was also showing an installtion of 50 life size pictures of donkeys in the main square. Apparently Toscani did not show up for the presentation conference and later when we walked by the square a loud sound of donkey braying was organized in the square by the people waiting.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

New Photojournalism?

Martin Parr © Dreamscapes Ocean Dome [bath center] 1996

Following a recent post on Jörg Colberg "Some thoughts on the visual language of photojournalism" a debate has started with lots of posts on the Magnum Blog over this argument. It all started with a comment about creating awareness of drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) a project that photojournalist James Nachtwey had been working on. I personally see this debate as very interesting one, having had long discussions in the past with colleagues on this very subject.
For myself it all started when I attended a lecture in a theater college in Rochester England in 1996 and the topic of "new photojournalism" was behind the debate which saw a confrontation between the photographer Martin Parr, the then Photoeditor of the Guardian and a classic BW photojournalist which name unfortunately can`t remember. At that time many exhibition in London were petrol for this argument, infact may exhibition of people like Richard Billingham (previous post in Ph39) Nick Waplington Paul Graham were taking place. We could not call the photographers above photojournalism but certainly moved the border with the way photographer interpret society at least in the UK and Europe.

Alex Soth ©

At the time of the lecture Parr just joined Magnum and I remember asking him about what Magnum members thought of his his way of photographing and how the old school saw his way to photograph sometimes far from subjects traditionally associated with photojournalism.
To which he replyed along the line of that it was called hopefully because Magnum member appreciate his work and that we would wish to see in the future other photographers in Magnum with interst different from the traditional topic of photojournalism. Over ten years have passed and I think that great strides have been made in Magnum and in similar agencies around the world, although sometime it certainly remains an interest in preserving the fiction of emotions related to traditional subject.

James Nachtwey © Rwanda, 1994 - Survivor of Hutu death camp
Memorable photojournalist images are still linked to historical, emotional or dramatic event, but I personally hope to see more photographers who try with a different approach to defuse the situation even in front of less happy situation without necessarily emphasize the drama.
In a recent interview on PDN this summer "Why Photojournalism Must Get Modern" Martin Parr says: "I don’t regard myself particularly as a photojournalist. I’m a documentary photographer. The idea of my work is to try put my finger on the zeitgeist of what’s happening. That’s constantly changing and shifting. I’m not interested in photographing things that are disappearing, although I’ve engaged in a slight bit of nostalgia. I’m interested in things as they are now." and "in the end, it comes down to the personality and individuality of the photographer to express that."

Monday, 27 October 2008

Childhood memory at Paris Photo

Billingham ©

As i was looking at the preview of the next Paris Photo on Lens Culture I saw the work of Richard Billingham, a Turner Prize nominee in 2001 and winner of Citibank Photography Prize in 1997. I rembember seeing his works around 1994 during a group show "Who's Looking at the Family " held at Barbican art centre in London. A couple of years later Ray's a Laugh was his first book and an immediate success who started off a series of social, political and artistic debates in England.

Billingham ©

With the publication of Ray's a Laugh, Billingham ended a six years research, that he began to source material for his paintings, looking at his mum and dad, Liz and Ray living in a council estate in west Midland. Ravaged by alcoholism and poverty, the project was about his family every day life with some brutally frank images of an alternative family album.
Billingham says about this project "In all these photographs I never bothered with things like the negatives. Some of them got marked and scratched. I just used the cheapest film and took them to be processed at the cheapest place. I was just trying to make order out of chaos." I still remember when seeing this photographs asking myself how can he ever produce a projects in the future capable of matching Ray`s laugh.

Billingham ©

So few years later Zoo is Billingham’s compelling series of photography and video installations, inspired by his childhood visits to the Zoo. Billingham with this project is questioning the relationships between the public audience and captive animals and their unnatural environment.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Question Time with Giorgio Barrera

Giorgio Barrera ©

Few months ago I asked Giorgio Barrera , who has an interesting mix of projects, to take part in our question time. I was delighted when he agreed and after a period conflicting commitments we arrange to talk about his work.

Ph39 - In the project "Through the Window " do people in the images lives in those houses or are they actors?

GB - Both things are happening and that the two things coexist in some cases.

Ph39 - What kind of involvement do they have during the seen? What kind of feedback, if any, do you get when they see the final image?

GB - It does not happen often that I have a feedback from people. The people who participate in the photographs they do enjoy it, because of curious situations that occur during the shooting and sometime they like the act of being themselves. Once I asked a girl to foot the person in front of her and she told me that this was something she had never done and that would have liked to do.

Ph39 -In this series you seems to have an inner and an outer frame. In the inner frame we are seeing private life moment, while on the outer frame you define the context. How do you build your own own idea and the narrative to combine the two frames?

GB - It depends, however in general I would say that the shape of the windows, the architecture of the place and the location of the house suggest to me what will happen. In some occasion I want to represent a circumstance and therefore I have sought a place for this imaginary situation.

Giorgio Barrera ©

Ph39 -In the outer frame we often see neighboring buildings, gardens, bricks detail of houses and to me they all seem to define a social pattern and a way we live in today society. How important is the context of the outer frame in your images?

GB - Earlier research would be especially anthropological, sociological. The places belong to a platform, which accepted a certain social class that I had identified as the middle class that was also the object/subject of my previous work. Later my research has moved on to languages and therefore homes had to be closer to the idea of a scenic container.

Ph39 - I some way by just looking at the final image, this project could be seen as a theatrical practices of representation with carefully staged seen but also as a mere representation of reality. Was this the intent and could you tell us more about it?

GB - There is a sentence of Gilles Deleuze that I am found of "you are in the world in a sound mind and pure." My Pictures want to remain on a threshold where it intends to represent the reality, the everyday in an objective and truthful way. On the same threshold, however, want to deny to the image the opportunity to represent and then tell in a comprehensive way a certain event. I believe to be a representation everything that exists outside of a direct experience of real.

Ph39 - Would you consider your project "Through the Window " as documentary photography and how do you perceive the decisive moment in this work?

GB - In this work for me there is not a decisive moment. The image is not the interpretation of a random moment. I would say that "Through the Window “ is a documentary work and to some extend is looking at the cinematographic photography of Jeff Wall that invites the viewer to ask questions about what we can see and experience.

Ph39 - In your project "Battlefields", you are dealing with historic sight, what inspired you to do this work and can you tell us more about the motivation behind it?

GB - I started this project somewhat randomly and gradually (it took me three years to finish it) I have enriched it with conceptual reasoning. With this series I visit the sites of Battle of the Risorgimento. It is a photographic work that looks at historic landscapes and investigates those sites avoiding the commemorative, epic or didactic. It was mapping a visions of the Italian landscape.

Ph39 - I saw on you website some new interesting narrative work on video. How did you find the transition and is there more to come?

GB – Yes, I hope so. I do not think there has been a shift from photography to video. Sometimes I find myself more comfortable when I prepare and execute a video that a photograph or a series of photographs. If you refer to window # 1333 °, a work made for Jarach Gallery in Venice, almost the opposite of what happens in the series Through the Window took place. The setting is in a foundations in Venice and except for the three actors who play the part no one is allowed to know what is really happening, when the story began, when and how it ends or why. This is another way to emphasize that with images you can say and not say, and above all you can conceal a truth assuming a different one.

Ph39 - I understand over the summer you have spent sometime traveling around northern Europe and working on your projects, any anticipation?

GB - I worked on a project presented for the prize Baume & Mercier. The project aims to collect a series of works showing places within Europe that for geographical, political or cultural reason they are defined as on the borders. In most cases I tell the story by watching what happens in the home through that inner frame that is the window.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Naked Suit

Pablo Chiereghin ©

A couple of nights ago I went to the opening of Pablo Chiereghin exhibition at Micamera Bookshop in Milan. A very good show with a number of conceptual projects on display, more of his work on the website . The main project on show was Birthday Suit ( nakedness, being nude ) a series of street portraits made by the photographer while he was naked inside a window of a busy London street. While i was watching the backstage video a very interested Gianni Berengo Gardin was also there next to me, I did not dare to ask his comment on a work so far from traditional photography but he seem certainly amused.

Pablo Chiereghin about Birthday Suit says: " People had been paid £1.13 (average UK daily income multiply by the time wasted and by the poverty coefficient of the artist) to be portrayed by the nude photographer that stood inside the shop window. The situational agreement is a dualism of power: the artist seduces the model engaging him in a voyeuristic situation where the spectator has a strong advantage: being dressed. On the other hand, the photographer has the power to determine the situation through the photographs. When the spectator is photographed, he is suddenly naked". Two catalogues were on sale on the night, both limited edition.

Here is a backstage video of Birthaday Suit here

Thursday, 9 October 2008

An ordinary landscape

Bert Danckaert ©

Bert Danckaert work is mainly looking at places that defines our lives in the everyday life often by isolating spaces from their surroundings. The photographer introduce his project Simple Present with this sentence “Any idiot can face a crisis; it is this day-to-day living that wears you out"Anton Chekhov (1860-1904)

Bert Danckaert ©

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

End of Festival FotoGrafia in Rome?

After months of speculation now It`s ufficial , The International Festival of FotoGrafia in Rome is not longer in calendar for 2009 due to financial difficulties. Marco Delogu, creator and director of the Festival was surprised by the decision, and confirmed to the press here that all the sponsor are in place for next year and the Festival team has been working as normal to organize the event. On the FotoGrafia Roma website you could see the previous seven edition of this vibrant event for a city mostly known for its past. Meanwhile there are rumors about Milan preparing a Biennale Internazionale di Fotografia with the Fondazione Triennale di Milano and other institution to welcome the Expo 2015, more detail to come.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Twelve Dogs

Jo Longhurst © Twelve Dogs Twelve Bitches

For several years Jo Longhurst worked with dog breeders, exploring the obsessive quest for the perfect dog. The artist with his work is exploring the history and practice of photographic portraiture and the concept of visual perfection showing the "evolution of the visual image of the Whippet, and the construction of human identity through the shaping of the figure of the dog".

Jo Longhurst © The Refusal

Jo Longhurst says in a statement that his "study of the Whippet foregrounds the intimate relationship between human and animal, and the increasing significance of photographic technologies in the development of human identity. Twelve dogs, twelve bitches is the establishing piece of an extensive body of work, The Refusal, which foregrounds the intimate relationship between human and animal, and the increasing significance of photographic technologies in the development of human identity.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

FFF Award to Leonie Purchas

Leonie Purchas © from the series The Ward family, London

Leonie Purchas with the project "In the shadow of things" she is the winner of the 2008 F AWARDS FOR CONCERNED PHOTOGRAPHY organized by Fabrica and Forma.
Her project "In the shadow of things"is a photographic documentary about her mother struggling with an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder illness. The photographer looks for several months at her mother complication with the every day life and through photography she says "I am trying to capture and express the feeling of being confronted by the mirror of myself, an experience both troubling and rewarding at the same time."

Leonie Purchas © from the series The Ward family, London

F25 AWARD went to Abdul Munem Wasif from Bangladesh, represented by VU' Agency with the project "Old Dhaka". Abdul Munem Wasif is also the winner of the Young Photographer at the Perpignat Festival this year. A video interview of the photographer here

Abdul Munem Wasif ©

Jonas Bendiksen a Magnum photographer from Norway received a special mention for the essay "The places we live", an exceptional project shot in 4 megalopolis of the eastern and southern world. A special mention to Norma Rossetti, Italy, for the essay Scampia...periferia nord di Napoli (Scampia. Naple's north outskirts).
The F Award, an international award for concerned photography, is sponsored by two Italian photography organizations: Fabrica, the Benetton Research Centre on Communication, and Forma, International Center of Photography, a joint initiative of Fondazione Corriere della Sera and Contrasto.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Milan, two French photographer at Fashion week

Bettina Rheims © Breakfast with Monica Bellucci, November 1995, Paris

Bettina Rheims, Can You Find Happiness?
The exhibition opened at Spazio Forma Milan and was curated by Philippe Dagen. Around a hundred works are on display, from nine different photographic series among them “Chambre Close” and “Shanghai”. Actress, models, singers, and more or less well known women are the protagonist of her work. Meticulously staged in a day-to-day scenes or in close up shots these photographs are displayed in large and imposing, color-saturated prints. "Olga" a new project, with a series of nine large format photographs is on show for the first time.

Lise Sarfati ©

A day earlier accross town we went to the opening of Lise Sarfati at Galleria Carla Sozzani This was the first solo exhibition of the French photographer in Italy with a special selection from The New Life serie (2003) and two most recent series, never shown before: Immaculate and Mother & Daughter (2005-2007).
The small colour prints series are mainly close up portraits of teenage often with minimal choregraphy, subjects in their everyday life. In most of her work the artist explores "the dividing lines between good and bad, happiness and sadness, innocence and perversity, reality and fantasy". In the series Mother & Daughter the central subject comes accross in a more direct way. The photographer is playing with the role of parents and children using wig, mask and make up. With this work "the characters become interchangeable and their relation reinforce the mirror effect. The imaginative realm of the mother is embodied in the daughter and the girl's ideal is played out by her mother." A catalogue, sponsored by Dior, with a retrospective of the artist accompanied the exhibition.
1Quotes from catalogue and press release.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Ojo de Pez 2008 Award

Olivia Arthur ©

Olivia Arthur she is the winner of Ojo de Pez Award 2008 with her project "Behind The Veil". In her statement she says "Beyond The Veil is about the lives of ordinary young women living in the Islamic Republic of Iran. In an attempt to show something different from the dramatic headlines we see so often about this country, I have tried to give a personality to the people inside the country, living their lives far away from the fanaticism of the clerics. I hope that young people in the West will be able to find something familiar in these scenes, and realise that there is a lot more to the lives of these women than the fact that they are obliged to wear the hijab. "
Olivia Arthur ©

Her work about women and the east-west cultural divide have been the focus of her project in the past two years. In July 2008 during the 61st Annual General Meeting of Magnum, she was also selected as one of two new nominees for this year at Magnum.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Robert Frank "Paris" at MFC Milan

Robert Frank ©

Over the weekend we went to Robert Frank exhibition "Paris" curated by Ute Eskildsen at the MFC in Cinisello Balsamo, Milan. Photographer and filmmaker Robert Frank selected the 80 photographs with the curator Ute Eskildsen. Is the first time that a significant body of photographs from Robert Frank period in Paris have been brought together. Some of the work was printed in the sixties by the artist and the rest was made on purpose for this exhibition. The photographs were taken in 1951 during the artist second return to Europe after he had settled in New York City in 1947 . His work clearly focuses on human activity using city’s streets as his stage, a post-war Paris seen by an experienced Robert Frank from the "new world" with a nostalgic almost sentimental view of European city. A book catalogue published by Steidl is also available.

Robert Frank ©

Robert Frank has always been avoiding the public and interview of him are very rare. Ute Eskildsen, the curator interviewed him on January 30, 2008 in New York and this is the conversation:

Ute Eskildsen: Robert, we’re sitting here overlooking the “New World” and looking a photos from the “Old World”. I’d like to know how you put together your image of America as a young man. Did you read books and watch films?

Robert Frank: I can remember it quite clearly. I was out for a walk with my father when I saw some stills in a shop window. They were of a strong-looking hobo. I’ve never forgotten that picture of him.

Was it a film poster?

Yes, and I can remember that it was a window of a shop for special effects. You never forget that sort of thing. At the time Munchhausen was playing in the cinema, that was around 1945. I thought that it must be a fantastic country, and then you heard the music…

Did you meet anybody who had been to America?

Only once, a businessman, Mr. Callaher from Chicago. He came over during the war to talk about a radio that he had bought in America. He really impressed me because he was a big man and he spoke English with my father. And he had dinner with us and that was really special because we never had guests. After dinner he lay down and went to sleep immediately. And I thought that only my father did that sort of thing. That was the businessman Mr. Callaher from Chicago. That was my first link with America, apart from films.

Did you read books on America?

No, but I read some English detective stories, but translated into German. I can remember them quite well.

You then emigrated in 1947, with all the paperwork. Or was it at first just a change of scenery?

No, no. it was one or the other. You had to register, there was a waiting period, but you knew that you could come back. All of them, my cousins or other relatives, always came back, none of them stayed. At the time, emigration meant that you could work here.

Unlike today, right?

There was a waiting period, then you got your papers and could begin to work immediately. You had a successful start.

You got a job right away and found people to help you. How did that happen?

It was luck, finding the right people. I looked at some magazines and under the credit line was the name Paul Himmels and I thought Himmel, that’s a good word. He helped me a lot. He was a German who had already made it here. He didn’t have a job for me, but he gave me some addresses and so on. The Swiss graphic artist Herbert Matter was also here already. Yes, but I only met him later. At the end of 1948 you took a trip to South America.

Did that have anything to do with the fact that “Harper’s Bazaar”, who you were photographing for, closed its studio?

When I left the studio was still open and when I came back it was closed. But we could have continued to work. It’s just that it wasn’t as easy.

That means that your decision to go to Peru was a decision to follow up your own ideas?


After you came back, from 1949 to 1952 – that is for four years – you commuted between America and Europe?

I often went back, to Paris. I had memories of Europe and knew that there was a life there that was more pleasant.

Does that mean that you were constantly wanting to make sure? Yesterday evening I reread a letter that you wrote to your parents in which you wrote, for instance “It’s not that, money is so important here.” And in 1953 you wrote “This is the last time I’ll come back to New York and try to get to the top with my own work.” I was very aware that things don’t last if you’re not at the top. That was very clear. But I also knew that here you had the possibility of doing your own work.

Did your first months in the USA show you that there were greater opportunities for a photographer there than in Europe?

Yes, absolutely, clearly.

And why was it so clear?

In Paris I tried to get newspapers or illustrated magazines interested in my own work, but there was nothing doing. It was the same in England. In the end, the “Observer” bought one or two photos, but I knew that the chances of working as an independent photographer in Europe were really limited. But you didn’t find any magazines here either that bought your work as an independent photographer. “Harper’s Bazaar”. But that was contract work. In the end it’s all the same. It was easier to earn money in American than in Europe. In Paris it was hopeless.

My question is about your free-lance, independent work as a photographer.

I think I had the feeling that here people weren’t afraid to try something out. In Europe I had seen that it didn’t work that way: “We’ll see”. There they want to see diplomas and that sort of thing. In America there was another way of thinking: “We’ll give it a try”. Like when I got that job at “Harper’s Bazaar”. The Art Director gave me a shoe and said; “Photograph this green shoe and then we’ll see how it goes;” And that was a job. It was a big moment, when you think about it. And things didn’t happen so quickly in Europe. On top of that, there wasn’t anything like a Guggenheim grant that allowed you to work on your own ideas for a year or more.

When I look at your photos of Paris, I have the feeling that you found a special view of the “Old World” with the experience of this “New World” – this modern New York – so that you feel the atmosphere in this romantic old town especially clearly when you came back.

Yes, I think you’ve read that in the photos correctly. But I did it intuitively. I didn’t know that it would be the last time and that it would all go by.

Had you become particularly sensitive to the things you had left behind.

Maybe. Yes. I had already been in New York for two years. And in two years you become harder and you know that the beautiful and old and romantic, you don’t find it here, it doesn’t exist here. And then there’s the ambition to overcome everything and get rid of the old. That’s the voyage through America.

When you were planning to leave Switzerland, did you think about London or Paris? Or was America always your goal?

No, first it was Paris. I had a cousin there, I had connections, and I spoke French. Going to London would have meant learning English. In Paris I worked for myself. Good, I tried to get a job, but I didn’t work. At the same time you were in Paris, a lot of artists were living there – writers, painters and photographers. Christer Strömholm and Ed van der Elsken worked in Paris and found their themes there. That was the idea of Paris. To work in Paris. And I tried it twice. A first time and then a second time when I had the idea of swapping studios with a Chinese friend: I took his studio in Paris and worked there. But it was difficult to earn money in Paris.

Does that mean that Paris was more of a closed society?

Yes, quite the opposite of America. An irony of history: You tried to establish yourself in Paris, then went to America and there received a grant for a major project.

And then, it was a French publisher which first brought out “The Americans”.

Yes, there’s no logic to it. You have to profit from the situation. I was very happy… You have to be lucky, to make the connection at the right time and then use it.

When you came back to New York, after having photographed in Paris for weeks, did New York seem to you to be the city of the future, of progress?

Yes, but not inside. The people here are always in movement, they move to Los Angeles, walk across the river to New Jersey, there’s always movement. In Paris, the people live in their apartments and die there too. The people I met here had left the army and didn’t know what they were going to do.

You arrived here at a time when many emigrants were moving here, having had to leave Europe.

Yes, and you had to have somebody who could pick you up from the boat. The authorities required that you had somebody you could live with so that you didn’t need any government assistance. And these agents, they were Germans who had emigrated here and lived in Queens. And an agent immediately took me to one side and said he would help me. We went to a café and sat down at a table. No tablecloth, a black table. The waiter came and put the cutlery down on it. That really impressed me, this very different mentality.

You mean, this dispensing with conventions?

And the speed – not taking a long time to choose, but ordering immediately. I learned that right away.

Did that still impress you later? Or did you, at some point, find something missing in this culture of efficiency?

It was an adventure. I was young. I didn’t think that I would suffer when they took something away from me. The idea was only freedom. You didn’t have to worry about who was sitting next to you or whether you were wearing a tie or not. That was freedom, something I noticed immediately. In Switzerland, you never saw a black or people who looked different. In Paris things were different, but here in New York they were radically so. You could see that the blacks were treated differently from the whites; it was immediately noticeable and tangible, but everybody was in the same subway. And everybody spoke the same language. And even if you only spoke English badly, it didn’t matter.

When I look at your New York photos from the end of the 60s, I get a feeling similar to that when I look at your Paris photos.

But New York can’t be old, in the USA rejuvenation takes place ceaselessly. In Europe they save everything, everything is protected and preserved. That’s why people stay in their apartments and die there too. Here people aren’t sentimental about an old house. Although you just said that Bleecker Street has been given landmark status. Its developing slowly. It’s because of tourism. They want to see something old and there’s not a lot of that left.

You said that for you the photos of Paris have a certain sentimental quality. Is that only now, looking back, that they seem sentimental today?

Could well be.

The conversation took place on 30 January, 2008 in New York and was sent to us by MFC

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Gregory Crewdson at Photology Milan

Gregory Crewdson ©

I went to the opening of "Dream House" by Gregory Crewson an exhibition at Photology Gallery in Milan. At first look his photographs seems to be taken off set during a cinematic US production, but to the contrary they are constructed by the artist in a small scale cinematic production for his projects with real actors like Philip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy, Julianne Moore, Gwyneth Paltrow and Tilda Swinton.

Gregory Crewdson ©

This work was carefully planned and produced in 2002 in Rutland, Vermont, a home where a woman had died four years earlier but in which all of the family’s possessions remained intact and placed with meticulous attention to detail. In the twelve images on show you can perceive the perfection for order combined with a surreal narratives and and mystery for the unknown whitin a suburbian stage. To me using recognizable hollywood actor star does not add to the conceptual structure of this project and somehow is taking away some of it`s narrative.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

A New Photography space in LA

© Catherine Opie
The Annenberg Foundation, a philanthropic trust that supports nonprofit institutions, is planning to launch a new exhibition space for photography in Los Angeles. The new space for Photography will open next spring near the former site of fthe Shubert Theater. Wallis Annenberg, a trustee of Annenberg Foundation said “This will elevate photography to a new level ". The project is designed to have a digital projection Gallery along with an exhibition space. The foundation has no plan to collect photographs, they will show works lent by artists, as well as from collections. A number of exhibitions will be organized by guest curators, the first opening will include works by Catherine Opie.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Third Brighton Photo Biennale

Valley, © Paul Seawright


"Memory of Fire: the War of Images and Images of War" is the title of the third Biennale of Photography in Brighton. The exhibition curated by Julian Stallabrass explores photographic images of war in contemporary society. The Biennale also includes six weeeks from
Friday 3 October to Sunday 16 November of talks, portfolio review and critical debate on photography in all its forms, more here on the BPB website.
For Portfolio Review submission deadline Monday 6th October. Date of Portfolio Reviews:

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Contemporary Photography from China

Staged and conceptual contemporary Chinese photography on display at the Fotofest 2008 Houston, Texas. The exhibition is part of a retrospective " A Special History" which includes works from pre-Communist times through the periods of Communist propaganda and into the late twentieth-century.

Here are some of the contemporary " Staged and Conceptual " works included in the exhibition.

BAI Yiluo CANG Xin WU Gaozhong XING Danwen WANG Chuan YAO Lu
ZENG Han LIU Lijie SUN Guojuan CHEN Lingyang LIU Ren

Photograph © by Yao Lu

Photograph © by Zeng Han
Photograph © by Liu Lijie