contemporary art photography
For Richard Thwaites of England
Times Feature on 15 Women Who Received No Obituary Includes One That is Inexcusable
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.
And as usual, someone watching me… repost!
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.
Gestalt Moment (Detail)
Crop from the image that launched my own moment of recognition here in California by the Los Angeles Center of Photography. The uncropped version of this shot was selected to appear at the LACP’s first juried Member’s Exhibition.
This is almost an example of photography that you can barely take credit for. lol. Who can claim to have created something that depends so much on the fact that this woman bought this jacket at some moment in her life probably years before I even bought the camera that took the picture.
How much does the image depend on the fact that this lady decided to wear this jacket on this day and be just at that very moment stepping from the sun into the dark shadow of a doorway? So the shot is almost a miraculous piece of luck.
That said, I think this crop captures the gestalt effect more perfectly than any photograph I’ve ever seen. I can’t take any responsibility for that because I’m sure it wasn’t my intention to make an image of that sort. I saw colors and contrast and a good subject and that was it until I looked at the image later.
Anyway. Hope you enjoy this! Thank you all for visiting!
Minimalist Mondays : Voyeurism
“The basic condition of the voyeuristic scenario is distance, an essential separation between seer and seen. Despite this distance, which is by definition unbridgeable, despite the unrequitable nature of the desire that drives it, the voyeur’s gaze is a privileged one.”
Great book I highly recommend called Train Your Gaze: A Practical and Theoretical Introduction to Portrait Photography by Roswell Angier. The quote above is from TYG. Almost by anyone’s definition it is not a book on portrait photography. It is really an analysis of contemporary art photography as well as some of the classic but nevertheless quite daring, in their time, 20th century photographers.
The chapter on voyeurism begins with a quote by Walker Evans, certainly an idol of mine and countless other photographers.
“Stare. It is the way to educate your eye, and more. Stare, pry, listen, eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You are not here long.”
Tire Shop, Pico Blvd. Los Angeles
Untitled, West Hollywood, CA – 01/25/15
THE EVENT: LACP’S First Annual Street Shooting Exhibition
Prints for Sale Here!
This page is just a teaser! Please check back here in the very near future to go to the actual Purchase Prints page where images I have selected will be available to be purchased as prints. I will be adding many more images to these in time and if there are any that you have seen that you would like to purchase a print of please feel free to contact me regarding those.
Thank you so much for your interest and support if you have any questions at all contact me here.
Red Dot Photography
405 Freeway and Santa Monica Boulevard, 12/13/14
Untitled, Santa Monica, December 2014
Garry Winogrand’s Lonely America: The New York Review of Books
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.
via Garry Winogrand’s Lonely America | The Gallery | The New York Review of Books.
From the Getty
NYTimes: Where Texas Is a Dream State
Nancy Newberry wanted to make pictures of Texas that went past the facile folklore of the homestead, past the stereotypes of tumbleweeds and ten-gallon hats. Put in decidedly nonfolksy terms, she was fascinated by disjunctive cognition, that phenomenon in a dream where you simultaneously recognize something is and isn’t. In other words, something familiar — but just shy of normal.“It’s about a psychological space that connects you to a place,” said Ms. Newberry, who was born in San Antonio and now splits her time between Dallas and Marfa. “And in my case, this is where I come from, from Texas.”
LACP Juried Member’s Exhibition Opens Tonight!
No, this untitled shot from 2008 isn’t what I’m showing. But I’m extremely proud to have an image selected for this landmark event in Southern California photography taking place at the Los Angeles Center of Photography’s Hollywood gallery location. The exhibition will run through August 12 and features 49 works by what is I’m sure a wide range of local photographic talent.
Details are as follows:
LACP Grand Opening & First Annual Members’ Show!
1515 Wilcox Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90028
My Image Entitled “Gestalt Moment”…
Very excited to learn that the above image, Gestalt Moment, won a spot in the Los Angeles Center for Photography’s first Juried Member’s Exhibition that will run from July 11 – August 12. Over 800 images were submitted and 50 were selected.
I set out to do a number of things in terms of street photography when I embark into the city to make my images. I don’t go out with a single project in mind but after so many years of shooting in Los Angeles I know there are a number of things on the spectrum of possibilities that I can hope to find and document.
This image actually represents a number of those things. First and foremost I think what my photography is about is that it’s psychological. That’s certainly a matter of perception and right or wrong, true or false, I attempt to make images of that which I perceive to be happening in the lives or minds of my subjects. There are certain psychological states which I look for that would be reflected in things like facial expressions or body language and gestures.
This is, of course, extremely subjective. Can I tell what people are thinking by the look on their face? No? Maybe? Sometimes? Does a photograph lie? Of course photographs can be misleading and can seem to show something entirely different from the reality of any situation.
Personally, I’ve never cared too much about the answers to those kinds of questions in relation to my street photography. It is not reportage or photojournalism. I think some of the images selected by Robert Frank for The Americans are possibly very misleading moments. But they advance his narrative and that’s what matters more than the notion that he took a specific image when the moment and time and place were all so oppressively pregnant with the exact point he was attempting to make with his book about America.
Detachment is a theme and a human condition I attempt to capture when I’m shooting street photography. Social detachment. Emotional detachment. Temporary detachment. Literal, metaphorical. I’m open to whatever I can find. Detachment was the unifying theme of the six images I sent in to be considered for the exhibition at the LACP.
Alone, elderly, downward aspect to her gaze, body language that’s slouching away from the world, literally disappearing into a darkened doorway, there’s enough evidence of social and emotional detachment here that I would hope I don’t have to discuss that element in this post or it would end up being 10k words.
Another thing I hope to do, and rarely accomplish, is to tell my little real or imagined social and psychological stories without actually showing someone’s face or revealing their identity. Two of the images I sent in accomplished that and this was one of those.
That’s for both artistic and just very practical reasons but to some extent there are ethical considerations as well. It’s not an easy thing to do by any means. But I can almost feel the exhibition juror looking over street photographs by me or any number of other photographers and (with a sigh of relief) being inclined to choose images that don’t reveal the identity of any human beings. It’s like an ‘ah’ moment. Yes! Thank you! These aren’t legal concerns, maybe, but any number of lesser worries are avoided. So there’s that.
Then there are, it is hoped, things that you cannot plan for or take any credit for whatsoever. The gestalt aspects of this photograph represent nothing less than a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence.
To be the photographer who goes into the world seeking out something like this, spending his or her hours searching for opportunities that would, when photographed, represent examples of gestalt? God, I think I’d rather sell my cameras and start a disco band. That’s just not who I am as a photographer.
To those who might not know of gestalt theory or perception. As simply as I can state it, it is a combination of elements, dots, shadows, lines, that taken by the MIND in total, form or represent something other than those elements, dots, shadows, lines, etc.
In this image, you only see this woman’s hat and hair really. A purse strap. It is really the red, yellow, and blue polka-dots on her jacket, and the blocking of light by her legs which tells you her shape, her posture, etc. Those elements allow your mind to ‘see’ the human form of the woman.
That those elements, captured at this moment, reveal her body language, a gestalt perception that to me forms in the mind an expression of her detachment, one of the many things I seek to photograph with my cameras and lenses, is simply off the charts good fortune.
As part of the process of participating in this exhibition and having an image featured I’ve been asked to set a price for this photograph. I think it’s worth $1M. But I don’t want to sell myself short so I’m thinking of asking five. 😉
Thanks for looking!
Vivian Maier exhibition reveals magic of a photographic master unknown in her lifetime
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.
via Vivian Maier exhibition at the Cleveland Print Room reveals the magic of a photographic master unknown in her lifetime | cleveland.com.
Friends Don’t Let Friends Vote Republican
One from the very old pre-Leica days.
End School Zone
Santa Monica Bay on a Thursday Afternoon
Exit the Light
Rocco’s Pizza, Wilshire Blvd
Right Lane Must Turn Right
NY Times Article on Garry Winogrand
“Mr. Winogrand had no patience for the phony sympathies he thought connected too many photographers to their subjects. In the exhibition catalog, Mr. Rubinfien writes that the most successful pictures, in Mr. Winogrand’s mind, were the ones “that told you that the world was a jumble of fragments, that the truth was more complex than any account could be.”