“In his introduction to Robert Frank’s seminal photo book, “The Americans,” Jack Kerouac claimed the photographer had captured “scenes that have never been seen before on film.” He was referring not to particular people, places or objects but to “the humor, the sadness, the EVERYTHING-ness and American-ness” Mr. Frank documented as he traveled the country on a Guggenheim Fellowship beginning in 1955. At a time when mainstream publications tended to favor a rosy view of American life, Mr. Frank presented a comparatively stark vision that also challenged the aesthetics of popular photography.”
The NY Times’ James Estrin has gone and done it now. He has made up for his (in my mind) less than kind assessment of Diane Arbus’s work with a piece today that gives the proper perspective on this truly amazing 20th century photographer.
But some of the thoughts expressed in this article really hit home for me. In many ways I have felt locked up in a world of photography as it is viewed and presented today, by voices that frown upon unflinching images of America and the conditions of life here. Images that are taken, and not made, (more on that in a second) and clearly without permission. So I’m going to be presenting some of that on this photoblog in the very near future.
More often than not, Arbus had permission from her subjects. But, as Joan Didion once alluded to about herself and the subjects of her writing as she encountered them, we can be pretty sure the subjects of both of these unflinching documentarians had no idea how graphic the end result would turn out to be. In the case of Arbus, it has been the source of great criticism of her work. For me, however, I believe you can’t argue with what we are left with in terms of the impact and resonance of great photography or great writing. Anyway.
So, this paragraph that I quote below. Wow. I wrote a brief thought here about four years ago on the whole ‘make-or-take’ question in photography. I have SO wanted to expound on that theme in greater detail and with a little more of a critical voice. So to be clear, I don’t ‘make’ images, in the Ansel Adams or National Geographic way of thinking. I don’t plan and calculate or place myself in carefully chosen positions waiting for all the perfect elements to fall into place.
So I find now that, at least in the words of Neil Selkirk, the only photographer to have printed her work since her death, Arbus and I have this one thing in common. I am trying to show the world what I see and where I’ve been, and I don’t give a damn and never have about ‘making’ images.
“The whole thing was about her wanting you to see, to share her experience of the moment and the significance of what she had witnessed, and that was a just completely different approach from any other photographer I’d ever been aware of,” Mr. Selkirk said. “They’re trying to make a picture. She couldn’t give a damn about that as the motivating idea. It was to present a document of something she had experienced.”
Profoundly saddened to learn today of the passing of a huge influence and inspiration. Abbas.
Photography has done many great things for me. One thing, however, sort of stands above the others. It has let me know that I’m not alone in what I thought were my own peculiarities. In Return to Mexico, Abbas writes extensively of his experience and relates how much his time in Mexico, and his creative mood, is infected with the spirit of the great early photographer and Mexican Revolution era dissident Tina Modotti. He writes of her as if she is alive and one gets the feeling that she is all around him.
I’m not a believer, I don’t believe in the metaphysical world at all. But I believe in the creative imagination being taken over by muses and whims and things that move in the soft breezes that drag a dry leaf across the gravestone of a long dead creative fixation. Oh I believe in those things. But without encountering artists like Abbas who were generous enough to open up their thinking and show that being given to allowing oneself to entertain these zephyr-like inspirations was a normal aspect of the creative process, I might have thought I was just a little more nuts than I really am.
But then there’s the images. I don’t want to infringe on Magnum’s property but please, seek out the work of Abbas. He is a one of my favorites. I had already started making a series of my favorite photographers. The first that I’ve already finished that I’ll post here is on Ben Shahn. But Abbas was going to be the second. And now he’s passed. This is very sad news to me. And he died far too young.
Abbas was a compositional genius. His photos were modern, somewhat surreal, but he was an antidote to the overcooked surrealism that is so common today. Take away surrealist elements and National Geographic photography is very often something that looks like it was influenced by Abbas. But it is so derivative as to be banal in comparison. And National Geographic photography is great photography. That is where Abbas was as a photographer. Of his generation, Josef Koudelka was probably the last true ‘peer’ Abbas had and Koudelka died a number of years ago.
“He was a pillar of Magnum, a godfather for a generation of younger photojournalists. An Iranian transplanted to Paris, he was a citizen of the world he relentlessly documented; its wars, its disasters, its revolutions and upheavals, and its beliefs – all his life. It is with immense sadness that we lose him. May the gods and angels of all the world’s major religions he photographed so passionately be there for him.”
Thirty-four years after his death, Garry Winogrand’s photographs continue to charm, befuddle and amaze viewers. A new book, “The Street Philosophy of Garry Winogrand,” takes 100 photos and pairs each with an essay by Geoff Dyer. The experience was daunting, especially sifting through the stream of images shot in his prolific final years. But it was also quite the revelation. Jordan Teicher spoke with Mr. Dyer about the book, which was published by the University of Texas Press.
Someone posted this to a message board I frequent yesterday morning. I clicked on the thread and saw the names and thought, Bronte, etc, whatever. Ancient history. Sylvia Plath surprised me. But then I forgot about it all and went about doing other things. Later I opened the NYTimes app on my iPhone and the first thing I saw, because the Times is pushing this feature out there, was the image above of a woman with a camera. The face was instantly familiar but I literally could not believe my eyes.
Why is Diane Arbus’s picture attached to this feature?
So instantly, far from being appreciative of the long overdue recognition of this amazing iconic photographer, just seeing her there included and knowing per passing wasn’t noted at the time in the newspaper of record set off a rush of anger in me. Arbus is like a pillar of my photographic world.
The emotion I felt and still feel at seeing that Diane Arbus didn’t warrant an obituary in the New York Times comes from a place of meaning because I understand who she was during her life. I don’t think the reason she didn’t get an obit was about her being a woman. I think it was about her work. And also about her personal affect. And I think the writer they chose for this overdue obituary and the piece he produced says everything about why she didn’t receive an obituary decades ago.
Arbus had been championed by John Szarkowski and had already had an exhibition at MOMA. She was famous. But she was difficult and she’d pissed off a lot of people with both her work and her temperament. Many people poisoned her reputation and I think all of that impacted whether or not she would have warranted, in the eyes of the people who make these decisions, an obituary in her own city’s newspaper of record.
It’s one thing to pull up people from the ancient past. It’s a whole different animal when you admit to something from the modern era that is as glaring as this. And then blame it all on a bias against women. I’m just not having it. Read the piece. At this point, is it really necessary to include all of the scathing criticisms of her work and her life? You can literally see why the Times chose not to give Diane Arbus an obituary when she died. I’m not going to say that isn’t great writing. It’s great writing. But everything you need to know is inherent in this piece published today.
“After decades of intense examination of her work and life, perhaps there is room to understand Arbus as a woman driven by artistic vision as well as personal compulsion, and her photographs as documents of empathy as well as exploitation.”
Perhaps. As well as exploitation. Do you see what I’m saying? Agendas are everything in our world.
Just to be clear, Diane Arbus does not deserve this paragraph above in 2018. She is a giant of 20th century photography.
I think I’m taking this personally for a couple of reasons. One I won’t get into. But the other is that I’m a photographer who fully expects to be ignored until long after I’m gone if not forever. Because I’m producing a controversial and unconventional (in the art world) form of photography that many would see as exploitative. Nothing on the level of an Arbus in any respect I will be the first to tell you. But to see this type of snobbery still shaping the perspective and assessment of the work of Diane Arbus? It’s soul crushing.
Someone tweeted this series of long overdue obituaries and added the following:
Read these beautiful tributes to extraordinary women who were overlooked by the New York Times.
I would ask anyone to read James Estrin’s piece on Diane Arbus and ask yourself if it is a beautiful tribute to an extraordinary woman. In the case of Diane Arbus, a better and more honest approach the Times could have taken was just to admit the underlying yet obvious hostility that existed towards her work back in the years of her life. Admit it all now.
In the early 1070s, clearly in the modern era, when we should have known better, and because we were listening to voices who had nothing but contempt for someone who would go on to be regarded as a giant of 20th century photography, we decided not to provide an obituary to our readers to note the passing of Diane Arbus.
But if you read this correction of the record, you’ll find that you’re still hearing from one of those scornful voices. Very disappointing but not unexpected. Snobbery and probably no small measure of jealousy are still shaping our world. Shame on the New York Times.
“It’s hard for me to describe the fascination that William Eggleston’s photographs exert on me. More than twenty years ago, I bought William Eggleston’s Guide, the catalogue of his solo show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 1976.”
“Eggleston was in New York during the last week in October for the opening of a new exhibition of his work at the Zwirner gallery that runs through December 17. All of the nearly 50 images in the show were taken in the ’80s as part of a mammoth series called The Democratic Forest, which in its entirety includes some 12,000 images. But in the Zwirner show, for the first time, many of the images have been reproduced on a giant scale, some of them five feet across. Staring at them on opening night (and it is a measure of how Eggleston is idolized, particularly by the young, that hundreds of people braved a truly filthy rain to attend the opening), I thought, when you make a picture that big, there is no room for error, no place for a photographer to hide. And in this case, no need. You could put these pictures on a billboard, and they would lose none of their integrity.”
“Street photography was the advanced mode of the day, and practitioners like Lee Friedlander, William Klein, Helen Levitt and Garry Winogrand all claimed New York City as their turf. So did Lisette Model, a Viennese émigré with whom Arbus studied briefly. Ms. Model didn’t give her student much formal advice. Instead, she urged her to ease away from the stance of objectivity then considered requisite for serious photography and instead establish emotional relationships with her subjects, and see where that would take her. For Arbus, the advice was heaven-sent. It gave her permission to be the artist she was ready to be.”
“Diane Arbus: In the Beginning” runs through Nov. 27 at the Met Breuer, 945 Madison Avenue, at 75th Street; 212-731-1675; metmuseum.org.
No, not the splendid cold war thriller on FX that began its second season last night. I want to talk a bit about the iconic book portraying 1950s America by Robert Frank that changed photography forever.
This will also give me a chance to introduce, to anyone who doesn’t know about it, what has been an incredible resource and source of inspiration over the years as I’ve grown more serious about my own photography. That would be the website known as AMERICAN SUBURB X.
ASX focuses on, I guess it’s safe to say, contemporary art photography and the work of the great 20th century icons of photojournalism and documentary photography as well. I can’t really even begin to relate the meaning that has been imparted to my mind, the holes that have been filled in my education, the understanding that has slowly and painfully made its way into my heart, digging through ASX.
Okay, let’s do this. I’d known about Frank’s seminal work for years and mostly through ASX had read here and there a number of essays and analysis pieces on The Americans. I thought I understood the book. Thinking about it from a post-1960s (when I grew up) perspective it didn’t really appear to me to be a work that offered the sort of photographic worldview changing experience the book’s peerless reputation clearly suggested it should.
Probably suggested is a bad word choice there as the book’s reputation comes down, through the decades of photographic history, just a little bit like a sledgehammer.
But I loved the collection of images (as stupid as that might sound) and I did understand it all to be an intentionally unflattering look at American culture. Well, big deal. I do understand the primacy of anything that manages to be the first major effort that opens the world’s eyes to a new way of looking at itself. But I grew up in the counter culture of 1960s and 70s America. This book was published in the US when I was 2 years old. America and its culture had and has been taking its well earned and justified knocks before I was even out of diapers.
To say I’m used to it is an understatement. All I’ve ever known is a world in which the the United States has had its scathing critics, always there nipping on the heels of things like national pride and patriotism and capitalism and militarism etc.
And, as an ex-hippy, I’m down with all of it. Man.
So I respected The Americans for being a pioneer work and, also, simply because I liked the images.
Then one day, browsing ASX, I happened upon yet another essay on Robert Frank and his book that was itself already a couple of decades old.
I remember reading it in the middle of the night. The spooky wee smallest of the wee small hours. But I knew that what I was reading was outrageous to my mind and changing me forever as I read it.
Cleverly, ASX’s website seems to prevent copying (and that problematic subsequent pasting) of text from their site. That’s okay. You can all read the essay here.
But then again, I do have skills. Here are some selected quotes… certainly NOT the most impactful paragraphs… but just something to whet your appetites, maybe.
“Robert Frank’s The Americans, which I think is the most important single effort in photography in this century, is also the most enigmatic. For 24 years the book has remained nearly impenetrable. There has seldom been any question of its intensity, its cohesiveness, or its uniqueness. The question has been what it is about.
“To realize the extent to which the content of the 83 photographs in The Americans has been glossed over one can look at what has been said about it over the years. For the most part, criticism as well as enthusiasm has centered on Frank’s style of photography and on its formal aspects. Until recently, no one delved into the content of his pictures.
“And in 1978 Szarkowski noted the difficulty younger photographers would have in understanding “how radical Frank’s book was when it first appeared.”
“But these accolades do little to explain how the book was important — except in terms of its revolutionary style — and they say nothing about what the images in it mean.
“Today the pictures no longer shock us. Today only one quality stands out — their muteness. Twenty-four years later, those images still never describe fully, never seem to make a clear point.
“When I first saw work from the The Americans I could make no sense of it. It wasn’t political. It wasn’t an exposé. It seemed only to deal in street photography enlightened by some perverse sense of humor, at times pervaded with an undirected melancholy.
“Only when I was told that this was the work of a Swiss national did it make sense — and then instantly.”
Well. As cliche as it might sound I never looked at photography the same way again after reading this essay. Not my own, not anyone else’s. It did the most amazing job of, finally, sorting things out for me. I didn’t care about the same things that MOST other photographers care about, anymore.
But beyond photography, because I’m an incredibly political person (for a person who doesn’t involve himself in politics in any way) this essay on ASX explained something of the dynamic that exists between Europeans and their culture, Americans and the culture we do have as well as our many voids, and more than any of that, the dynamic that exists between Europeans and Americans themselves.
Okay. Honestly, the rest here is largely up to you the inquisitive (I hope) visitors to my site. The link is there. The piece is long. It is sumptuous and contemptuous. I think it is painfully honest. When I first read it I guarantee you my blood pressure and respiration changed. I changed.
Okay. The image at the top. This picture was taken a week (or two) after I first bought my Leica M9. Anyone familiar with The Americans will recognize it as a reference to one of the most controversial (photographically) images in that book. That of the starlet at the premier on Hollywood Blvd. Enough on that. It’s pathetic in comparison to Robert Frank’s photography but… it’s still a pretty good shot… so whatever.
In the far left hand top corner of the image is a European who became an American. He’s since passed away. He was, by all accounts, a great doctor and the COO of one of the largest hospital systems in the US. The night before this image was taken we all shared a much more intimate dinner setting and he was admiring my new Leica M9 as only a European might.
We got to talking about things and the differences between the United States and Europe. I was at that time fresh off having my world view of Americans versus Europeans changed forever by the aforementioned ASX article and I was thrilled to be explaining it all to an actual cultured European.
Achilles was so kind as he smiled and deflated my hostility towards my own country. He praised America and explained that, while it is true, Europeans have many cultural advantages, they also suffer greatly from many entrenched and intransigent realities that we Americans are not saddled with. He said that most people around the world admire and are inspired by and aspire to much of what America has to offer.
Okay. That helped, actually. Because before that… I was pissed. 😉
But my perspective on photography and what it could be used for and had been used for was changed forever by what I can only describe as a more complete understanding of Robert Frank’s The Americans that I came to have after reading this essay.
Please enjoy and please visit American Suburb X frequently. I’m sure it will benefit your photography and your perspective as it has mine.
The image above is mine. The words are William Klein’s but I can certainly identify with them . He says this in an amazing contact sheet analysis film I’ve included below.
Everyone with an interest in photography should watch it and should look on YouTube for other contact sheet discussions by photographers like Sebastião Salgado and Josef Koudelka.
As always, thank you for looking.
I’m linking today to an essay on William Eggelston called The Tender-Cruel Camera written by Thomas Weski. Here’s an excerpt.
The choice of subject matter seemed to some critics to be totally indiscriminate, as though William Eggleston has applied no criteria at all. ‘Eggleston’s photographs often seem to have been taken not by a photographer but by a motorized camera swinging around the photographer’s head on a string. Whatever happens to be in front of the lens when the shutter was tripped got photographed. Whatever was not, did not.’ But even this negatively meant criticism reveals a further important aspect of Eggleston’s work, namely his democratic approach to the subject matter. Eggleston speaks again and again of the ‘democratic camera’ which considers every object worthy of depiction. Naturally, this seemingly impersonal way of seeing things makes no distinction between ‘beautiful’ and ‘ugly’. In other words, William Eggleston does not operate with the usual visual hierarchies, but rather accepts those motifs which illustrate his concept correctly.
note: americansuburbx.com is really IMO the greatest photography website on the planet. can’t even describe what it has meant to me over the years. fascinated by the ideas presented by in this article and thought i would share them here.
ATEM is something of a cold tome where the images are used as a fleeting embrace or collation of imagery that flickers in and out of the creator’s intent in so much as he does not seem to have one cohesive interest in their distribution. This is very much why the book is a success. It is to use photographs for what they really are, non-representational epitaphs of moments rendered in silver with little meaning when consumed in great amounts by second or third parties. The book is filled with images. It has a DIY aesthetic by design and covertly bargains with the viewer to NOT make a narrative from their collective assembly. This speaks more truth within photography than do a large number of other books currently being published under that age-old headache of “series”.
More on the passing of Mary Ellen Mark from the New York Times LENS:
Mary Ellen Mark, one of the leading documentary photographers of the last 50 years, died on Monday from myelodysplastic syndrome, a blood disorder, according to her studio librarian, Meredith Lue. She was 75.
Melissa Harris, the editor in chief at Aperture, who edited two books with Ms. Mark and was a close friend, described her as “a force of nature” who pushed herself despite her illness. She described Ms. Mark as someone who cared deeply about people and calling attention to injustice. That meant going back often to her subjects, in order to delve deeply into their lives, relying on that connection to give her work a humane touch.
Above all, Ms. Harris cherished Ms. Mark as a “fiercely loyal” friend.
“She was sort of chivalrous in a way, a remarkable woman and a remarkable friend,” Ms. Harris said. “As a photographer, she was an exceedingly sensitive storyteller who related very intimately to her subjects, and was able to convey something about them that got right to someone’s heart.”
Sad news VIA Philly.com –
Mary Ellen Mark, a photographer known for her incredible humanist photography, passed away Monday in New York City. A rep confirmed the news Tuesday morning. She was 75.
Mark was born (March 20, 1940) and raised in Elkins Park. She graduated from Cheltenham High School (“I was head cheerleader,” she told the Inquirer’s Stephen Rea in 2008). In 1962, she received a bachelor of fine arts in art history and painting from the University of Pennsylvania, and a master’s in photojournalism in 1964 from Penn’s Annenberg School of Communication. She would return to the local institution to receive honorary doctorates in fine arts in 1992 and 1994.
Mark said she got her big break while working for a Penn alumni magazine. On assignment at Rosemont College, she met Pat Carbine, then managing editor of Look, who later took her pitch to photograph London drug clinics.
“From the very first moment I took pictures [on the streets of Philadelphia], I loved it,” Mark told the Inquirer’s Michael Matza in 1988. “The thrill was the idea of just being on a street, turning a corner and looking for something to see. It was just an amazing feeling. … Photography became my obsession. … In a way it’s not so different when I go out to work now. It’s just that now I have years of experience in knowing how to use that little machine in front of me – at least better than I used it then. When it’s good and interesting it’s still that feeling of being on the street and wondering – God, I love this! – what’s going to happen next?”
VIA LENS at the NYTimes:
Among the denizens of the pre-Disney Times Square was a casually dressed man with unruly white hair sitting in a beat-up Dodge Valiant outside a Howard Johnson’s restaurant. He spent his time listening to a police scanner, which emitted a steady, scratchy stream of reports of gang shootings, car accidents or suicide jumpers.
Ah, Fun City, 1980s edition.
There was so much crime in New York back then that the white-haired man, Andrew Savulich, had his pick of numerous scenes of mayhem he could photograph. It was a more dangerous time to be a New Yorker, but a good time to be a spot news photographer. He often got to crime scenes ahead of the pack, although his photos were a little too strange and quirky for the tabloids. On the rare occasion he sold crime scene photos for $50 or $75 each to newspapers and wire services, editors usually cropped them into more conventional images.
So, on slow evenings Mr. Savulich would leave his car and prowl through Times Square and photograph strange moments that unfolded right in front of him.
“In the ’80s it was still lusciously seedy and wild,” he said. “It was a great place for street photography.”
The quiet stillness of Eliot Elisofon’s pictures of New York can be deceiving. Mr. Elisofon, who died in 1973 at age 61, was neither quiet nor still. An early member of the Photo League and a staff photographer for Life magazine from 1940 to 1964, he called himself the “world’s greatest photographer” and hired a publicist to spread the word.
Via AMERICAN SUBURB X:
“Her most memorable work documents the lives of the dispossessed; those deprived by birth of the rights and amenities most of us take for granted, touch her. When that happens she virtually moves in with her subject. She spend 36 days in a maximum security section of the Oregon State Hospital, living with the mentally ill, for her 1979 book, Ward 81. And she spent three months with prostitutes in Bombay for her 1981 book, Falkland Road.”
From LENS at The New York Times:
“One of the most consequential images in Robert Frank’s “The Americans” is a raw, cinematic photograph of a black couple in San Francisco in 1956. Approaching them from behind as the pair relaxed on a grassy hill overlooking the city, Mr. Frank disrupted their solitude. Startled, they turned to acknowledge him. The woman was annoyed. The man crouched protectively. As his eyes locked on the photographer, his expression hardened into a scowl. The couple seemed determined to protect themselves and their dignity.
On one level, as Mr. Frank himself has said, the photo demonstrates the ease with which the camera can invade the privacy of others, portraying “how it feels to be a photographer and suddenly be confronted with that look of, ‘You bastard, what are you doing!’ ” But the photograph is also racially fraught. Rather than a neutral observer, Mr. Frank looms over them, an active, unseen participant — a surrogate for the intimidating whiteness that shadowed the lives of black Americans, no matter how liberal their environment.”
From LENS on The New York Times:
“The cover image for the U.S. edition of “The Americans,” Robert Frank’s epochal book, spoke volumes about the state of the nation in the mid-1950s. The tightly-cropped photo shows passengers in the widows of a New Orleans trolley assuming their place in the social order of the Jim Crow South — progressing from a black woman in the rear to white children and adults up front.
The contact sheet that contained the image showed that Mr. Frank had photographed the city from multiple perspectives, but he ultimately selected the frame that most dramatically and symbolically captured New Orleans’ racial hierarchy. Learning this photo’s backstory would be impossible without the ability to view Mr. Frank’s contact sheet.
Now, such important archival material, typically reserved for scholars and curators, is just a click away. Launched by the National Gallery of Art in time for photographer’s 90th birthday in November, the Robert Frank Collection Guide is an extraordinary resource for the general public and researchers alike.”
The picture above was not taken by Josef Koudelka, of course. It’s just one of mine. Sorry. But it reminds me of something like what I feel when I look at the amazing work of this possibly greatest living 20th century icon of photography. So I thought it appropriate to use it here to note the exhibition at the Getty in Los Angeles of Koudelka’s work that runs till mid-March of next year. I will be there staring with my mouth open I’m sure.
Josef Koudelka: Nationality Doubtful
November 11, 2014–March 22, 2015, GETTY CENTER — An aeronautical engineer by training, Josef Koudelka (Czech, naturalized French, born 1938) became intensely committed to photography by the mid-1960s and quickly emerged as one of the most influential, iconoclastic photographers of his generation. This exhibition—the first U.S. retrospective devoted to Koudelka since 1988—traces his legendary career with more than 140 works produced over five decades. It marks the first time that the work of one contemporary photographer will fill the Center for Photographs at the Getty.
The New York Review of Books –
Garry Winogrand was one of the last great street photojournalists. He was like a walking camera: by the time he died he had taken nearly a million photographs. In the sheer volume of pictures he took, he really pushed photography to the limit. Videos and movies have taken over today, and he’s very close to that world where you shoot nonstop—he used his camera like a Kalashnikov.
From LightBox –
For new generations of photographers and artists who have missed out on experiencing many of the world’s important books first hand, it cannot be stressed enough how important this new edition of The Decisive Moment is for a contemporary audience.
“Robert Frank’s The Americans and Cartier-Bresson’s The Decisive Moment were published within a few years of each other in the 1950s and both books have since become the blueprint for the modern photography book,” Steidl says.
Its value as an out-of-print collectable has risen over the past few decades resulting in keeping this masterpiece out of the hands of many younger photographers. Finally, after 62 years, it is again seeing the light of day this December with a gorgeous facsimile from the German publishing house Steidl.
As befits someone who’d photographed everyone from Churchill to Che Guevara, René Burri had a weapons grade arsenal pf wonderful stories and anecdotes, and he told them extremely well. One of our favourites was one he revealed in the garden of his Paris apartment a couple of years ago when we were interviewing him for his memories around the book Impossible Reminiscences. It concerned his mentor, Henri-Cartier Bresson and his habit of looking at negatives upside down. It infuriated all the Magnum photographers but particularly irked the Swiss-born Burri who revealed how, with one of his most famous photographs he managed pulled the wool over the Magnum founder’s expert eye and, as he put it that afternoon, “killed my mentor!”
Her photograph Migrant Mother is one of the most recognized and arresting images in the world, a portrait that came to represent America’s Great Depression. Yet few know the story, struggles and profound body of work of the woman who created the portrait: Dorothea Lange.
Minor White: Manifestations of the Spirit
Date: Daily through October 19, 2014,
Location: West Pavilion, Lower Level, Getty Center
“By the end of his career — he died at 68 in 1976 — Whites pictures were abstract, black-and-white closeups of rocks, wood and water. The gleaming images were spiritual and intense. He arranged them in sequences, leading viewers from one picture to another, slowing us down and forcing us to see connections and relationships between the shapes.In a 1957 photograph, a discarded water tank, weathered by the elements, looks like an encrusted snail shell. “Look at how the light is caressing the rim at the top of this circular object. Its just gorgeous,” Martineau says.These days, everyone is a photographer …” … but is everyone a good photographer?” Opie asks with a laugh. “Does everyone spend their life thinking about it? … Every bit of their love and energy and relationship to the medium? Thats the question.”Thats what Minor White did, Martineau says.”He worked very hard his entire life,” he says. “He was practically living at poverty levels until the very end of his life. He was completely committed in mind, body and soul to living a life in photography.”
There’s an anecdote buried deep inside the footnotes of the catalog for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Garry Winogrand survey that speaks volumes about the present exhibition. In it, his better known contemporary, Lee Friedlander, watches Winogrand release the shutter of his camera with nearly every passerby encountered on a New York street. Thirty years after Winogrand’s quick dispatch from cancer in 1984, Friedlander’s shocked response to his friend’s incontinence appears more informative than lapidary: “Garry, you’re not photographing, you’re taking the census.”
Vanessa Winship had gotten very good at getting the picture without getting noticed. But unlike street and documentary photographers who strive to be invisible, Ms. Winship was not happy.
“One of the problems with this is that it allows a certain kind of passivity from the position of the viewer, and of course the viewer includes me,” Ms. Winship said. “In this context it functions in a way that allows us not to take responsibility.”
So, during a project in Turkey, she gave up the easy invisibility granted by using a 35-millimeter camera to take up a view camera, slowing down her process as she engaged in a dialogue with her subjects.
“Another Look at Detroit: Parts 1 and 2,” which opens Thursday and runs through Aug. 8 at the Marianne Boesky and Marlborough galleries, takes place at a crucial turning point for a city that has had so many illusory turning points over the years. The city’s federal bankruptcy case heads to trial in mid-August, a reckoning that will give Detroit a fresh start but will also determine the fate of the Detroit Institute of Arts, whose collection, under siege by the city’s creditors, has become the symbolic heart of the battle between Detroit’s financial future and its cultural past.
Incredible! Mary Ellen Mark did not just show up at the Leica Gallery in LA lovely but apparently was a lovely person prior to last summer. Who knew? And she actually DID shoot Leica cameras. What a shocker that is. (kidding. well… )
Absolutely one of my favorite places online, American Suburb X. Please click on the link to a great bit of writing from all the way back in 1947 that accompanied an exhibition of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s work at the Whitney.
Excerpt from Review of the Whitney Annual and Exhibitions of Picasso and Henri Cartier-Bresson, The Nation, 5 April 1947
The unusual photographs of the French artist, Henri Cartier-Bresson, also at the Museum of Modern Art, provide an object lesson too – in how photography can assimilate the discoveries of modern painting to itself without sacrificing its own essential virtures. One thing that painting since Manet has emphasized is that a picture has to have a “back”. It cannot simply fade off in depth into nothingness; every square millimeter of picture space, even empty sky, must play a positive role. This, Cartier-Bresson, like his fellow-photographer Walker Evans, has learned preeminently.
Reposting this from last summer when Mary Ellen Mark, icon of 20th century documentary photography, presented and discussed images from her incredible career upstairs at the gallery atop the (then) new Leica store in Los Angeles.
The store was and is beautiful. The event was flawlessly executed. Mary Ellen Mark running a slide show (not really, it was a Mac-powered presentation) of her work and talking about it was a moving and humbling experience.
But nothing, of course, matched the thrill of photographing her. During her talk she mentioned that the biggest mistake photographers make is, after they’ve taken a few dozen shots of a subject or situation, thinking they have the shot. She said she works a photographic opportunity to death and that was probably the best advice she could give to photographers.
This is not advice I have ever needed to hear.
After the presentation the great Mary Ellen Mark hung around to meet and chat with members of the audience and sign a few of her books. There were, of course, a number of people snapping pictures of her. I know these kinds of events, the light, the many challenges, etc. It’s why I’ve chosen the Leica M gear that I use with incredibly capable and expensive lenses like the 50mm Summilux 1.4.
I was surprised to see that no other photographer at the Leica gallery was shooting an M – anything. Very surprised. There were X2 and X Varios but not an M that I could see. And consequently, no M glass. Well, at that point a light bulb went off in my head. A talking light bulb. It said, you’re the only photographer here with a camera and lens capable of pulling this off. It’s Mary Ellen Mark. Get to it!
So I started moving around the room, moving in close and low when I could, struggling to hold the camera still on my end and hoping Mary Ellen et. al. didn’t move too much themselves so that I could come away with some sharp images. At first, Mary Ellen paid me no mind. Most everyone there wanted to meet her and set about doing just that. She was very busy and very gracious.
I didn’t really want to meet her in a situation such as this. I don’t really count that as actually meeting someone. What would I say beyond expressing my respect and admiration which does very little but force her, in this context, to respond for the fiftieth time in ten minutes. But as I continued to move around stalking my shots I couldn’t help but notice that, after more than one quick glance my way, she actually became a more animated subject.
You sometimes sense that people don’t want their picture taken. But Mary Ellen Mark, as a photographer who has inserted herself into so many desperate and even dangerous situations, shot so many difficult and dramatic human subjects, was familiar with and navigating that tension and resistance and the people projecting it to her long before I ever even picked up a camera with any serious intent.
Mary Ellen did not, thank you very much, project anything like that resistance or tension to me.
So I kept shooting. Adjusting my settings. Trying to think of everything. People were, of course, moving, jostling for position. It’s a crap shoot but you just keep going and going knowing that most of the shots you’re getting are throw aways. In retrospect, I wish I had done a lot of things different. I think I’d had too much caffeine.
This goes on, well, sort of off and on, for about 20 minutes. I’m really the only person there behaving like a photographer, diligently snapping away at this scene. I don’t know how or why that was the case, but it was. Lucky me.
At one point not long before I bailed, the fact that I wasn’t going to approach and meet her no doubt became apparent to her, as was it clearly mutually understood that I was photographing her and she was allowing me to photographer her. Either I had taken her advice to heart or came to the event already in possession of it. And it was at that point that Mary Ellen Mark gave me a look, a very sly smile, with squinted twinkling eyes.
I have that picture but it’s not the most flattering shot. So these will have to do.
We were scheduled to fly to Chicago this past weekend.
My plan, in tribute to the newly discovered street photography icon Vivian Maier, was to shoot in black and white and to post only images here cropped to a perfect square, the format produced by the reclusive nanny’s apparently very trusty Rolleiflex. (Although the above image shows Maier taking a self portrait with a Leica M.)
Unfortunately, we all caught a cold here in the big house and were forced to avoid a long flight and the shock of actually being in the Windy City at a time when temperatures there would be in the 20s. We stayed, as the song says, safe and warm in LA and shot the images you have seen (one of) and will see on 50lux in the coming days.
Little did I know, because nobody tells me anything, (wink here) but this was to be a big weekend anyway in the posthumous yet ever burgeoning career and legacy of this now very important photographer and practitioner of a type of photography that I feel so connected to.
The biggest news is that there is a film that premiered last fall but is just now being released and in theaters entitled “Finding Vivian Maier,” … due in some cities last Friday actually. Certainly it won’t be at the nearest mall’s cineplex outside Dayton or Altoona and I’m doing my best to find it here in Los Angeles and will go before it’s quickly yanked.
Here is the trailer.
Enjoy, street photographers. It’s a rare moment that none of us will ever likely experience in our lifetimes. Although in Vivian Maier’s case that appears to be, in great part, by the artist’s own design.
“I’m not interested in knowing how the picture will look like either. I trust the machine and my own acquired abilities to do that. I’m much more interested in discovering things around me and noticing what is slightly off-reality or disconnected.” – Nuno Moreira State of Mind
Nuno Moreira (born 1982 in Lisbon) is a Portuguese art director and photographer presently living in Tokyo, Japan. He has a degree in cinema. In this interview he talks about his recently published photography book “State of Mind”.
Read a complete and pretty fantastic interview with Nuno Moreira here…
Vivian Dorothea Maier was an American street photographer, who was born in New York City and spent much of her childhood in France. After returning to the United States, she worked for approximately forty years as a nanny in Chicago, Illinois.
During those years, she took more than 100,000 photographs, primarily of people and cityscapes in Chicago, although she traveled and photographed worldwide.
Two years before she died in 2009 at age 83, the eccentric and brilliant amateur photographer forfeited ownership of the contents of the storage lockers in which she had kept truckloads of negatives, prints and other materials.
The contents were quickly auctioned for a pittance to several collectors and “resellers” who found they had made the discovery of a lifetime.
The contents of Maier’s collection included more than 100,000 negatives that charted her hitherto-private career as a superb street photographer who focused mainly on vignettes of New York and Chicago.
Perhaps the greatest revelation provided by “Capa in Color” is not that Robert Capa, best known as a war photographer, shot in color film. It is that he shot in color frequently, honing his technical facility and trying to get the work published in magazines that began printing color photographs in the late 1930s.
Great New York Times feature on HCB. With audio.
In 1971, Sheila Turner-Seed interviewed Henri Cartier-Bresson in his Paris studio for a film-strip series on photographers that she produced, with Cornell Capa, for Scholastic. After her death in 1979 at the age of 42, that interview, along with others she had conducted, sat like a time capsule in the archives of the International Center of Photography in New York.
Why the 50-millimeter lens?A.
It corresponds to a certain vision and at the same time has enough depth of focus, a thing you don’t have in longer lenses. I worked with a 90. It cuts much of the foreground if you take a landscape, but if people are running at you, there is no depth of focus. The 35 is splendid when needed, but…
Read the rest HERE.