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

Monday, 1 September 2008

Turin and Photography

Lucerna 1971, Luigi Ghirri ©

In Turin photography has always been a focus of interest and research. The Biennale and the Fondazione Italiana di Fotografia, both of which are no longer active have spend many years promoting photography. Now Gam ( Galleria d`arte Moderna) e Castello di Rivoli are working together to restore Turin again as a focus point for italian photography and together with CRT Foundation they have been collecting works of italian photographer.

An interview in italian with Pier Giovanni Castagnoli, director of GAM.