Monday 28 May 2012

Ori Gersht: Artist Book

Photoworks have commissioned these videos as part of their collaboration with Israeli-born artist, Ori Gersht. Here we are given an intimate behind-the-scenes look at Artist Book and his recent exhibition, This Storm is What We Call Progress, held at the Imperial War MuseumArtist Book was reviewed, somewhat disparagingly, in the latest issue of 1000 Words. The main crux of the writers argument pointed towards how the images perform (or fail to) in book format compared to experiencing the work as an exhibition. Not a new bone of contention by any means but obviously a noteworthy one since Ori Gerhst is both a highly accomplished and mindful artist, somebody from whom you would expect a more discerning approach to such an adaptation. As a piece of visual communication Artist Book is sloppy and ill-considered. Certain design decisions in relation to the book’s scale and size undersell his photography regardless of any "intimate/fetishistic object" PR spin that is put on it. Yes the production is impeccable, yes it offers a glimpse into Gerhst’s well of inspiration and yes the stories he narrates are undeniably emotive and beautifully shot but the simple fact remains; the project doesn’t translate well across mediums. It is therefore useful to remember that while the photobook market is booming the printed page is not always the best outlet for a photographer’s ideas. Artist Book is a case in point.

Monday 14 May 2012

W.M. Hunt

Watch the indefatigable W.M. Hunt, a renown collector and dealer, in action. The first video is a montage of clips from a public lecture about The Unseen Eye: Photographs from the Unconscious, the first major US exhibition of his collection that ran from 1 October 2011 to 19 February 2012 at George Eastman House, from which Aperture and Thames & Hudson simultaneously published a book. The video posted below the fold is from Artlog, wherein he talks about his visceral approach to collecting, acquiring an eye for good work, and his advice for aspiring collectors.

Featured in the current issue of 1000 Words, the photographs of The Unseen Eye have a common theme - the gaze of the subject is averted, the face obscured, or the eyes firmly closed. The images evoke a wide range of emotions and are characterised, by what, at first glance, the subject conceals rather than what the camera reveals. 

W.M. Hunt was a founding partner of the prominent photography gallery HASTED HUNT in Chelsea, Manhatten and served as director of photography at Ricco/Maresca Gallery. He and his collecting have been featured in The New York Times and The Art Newspaper as well as on PBS. He is a professor at the School of Visual Arts and on the Board of Directors of the W.Eugene Smith Memorial Fund and The Center for Photography at Woodstock, N.Y., where he was the recipient of their Vision Award in 2009. He also served on the Board of Directors of AIPAD (Association of International Photography Art Dealers) and as chairman of Photographers + Friends United Against AIDS.

There are many words one can use to describe W.M. Hunt; funny, captivating, even legendary but his eloquence is his own and his book is my personal favourite so I cannot.

"Insist on engagement. Wrestle with what is difficult. Pretty is boring. Seek intensity." W.M. Hunt

Friday 4 May 2012

A slideshow and talk by Diane Arbus @MoMA, New York

“About this time everyone suddenly decided I was meant to be an artist and I was given art lessons and a big box of oils and encouragement and everything. I painted and drew every once in a while for about four years with a teacher without admitting to anyone that I didn't like to paint or draw at all and i didn't know what I was doing. I used to pray and wish often to be a “great artist and all the while I hated it and I didn't realise that I didn't want to be an artist at all. The horrible thing was that all the encouragement I got made me think that really I wanted to be an artist and made me keep pretending that I liked it and made me like it less and less until I hated it because it wasn't me that was being an artist; everybody was lifting me high up and crowning me and congratulating me and I was smiling -- and really I hated it and I hadn't done one single good piece of work. It was the craziest pretense in the world but even though i was pretending i believed in it, for about four years I had visions of being a great sad artist and I turned all my energies toward it when I wasn't an artist at all.

Diane Arbus
1940 autobiography, senior class assignment, Fieldston School

It was a good thing she gave painting and drawing!

For those in New York this weekend, MoMA is screening A Slide Show and Talk By Diane ArbusThe 40-minute film was compiled by Neil Selkirk, Doon Arbus, and Adam Shott from an original 1970 recording of a slide presentation given one year before the photographer’s death. It has been shown less than a dozen times publicly and offers us the rare opportunity to hear the photographer lecture on her images. Nearly 40 years after publication, Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph which features 80 of those images, remains one of our most popular photobooks.

Following the screening, novelist and president of PEN American Center, Francine Prose along with Pulitzer prize-winning author of The Hours, Michael Cunningham, and Doon Arbus discuss how the photographer’s “precise use of language” illuminates her pictures. They will also read from the recently released book, Diane Arbus: A Chronology, which was primarily composed of exerpts from her letters, notebooks, writings, and journals. Through her own words, they explore the nature of her observation. 1000 Words recently acquired a copy, and have been drunk on it ever since.

Wednesday 2 May 2012

Robin Maddock @ TJ Boulting, London

“Maddock’s views and snatches of life are both surreal and individual. He has the enviable ability to turn nothing much into something quite profound.” - Martin Parr

Opening tonight at TJ Boulting, is Robin Maddock's God Forgotten Face, an exhibition in conjunction with the book of the same name, published by Trolley, which examines aspects of the everyday life in Plymouth, a port town still bearing the scars of the Blitz.

The exhibition showcases both key images from the book as well as new additions, taken more recently. In the words of gallery director, Hannah Watson, these have the effect of “introducing a slight shift to a lighter and more lyrical interpretation of the city.”

In her press release for the show she goes on to say: “After two years spent living in the town, where he has had family all his life, Maddock achieves a familiar interaction with his subjects, visible through his portraits in night clubs and pubs, and in the witnessing of the various goings on down at the sea front or in the local rec. In the misty early morning a nun stops to call her dog, whilst later a police forecourt is bathed in light and transported to a sunny LA; Maddock’s insight into the city is at once affectionate and optimistic in outlook, but stamped with his own aesthetic and curiosity.

In the book Owen Hatherley writes with a similar affection In Praise of Blitzed Cities, citing that the negative and concrete environs that come into most people’s minds when they think of Plymouth are in fact overlooking its “shabby, ad hoc vitality that most heritage cities would die for.” As a town, Plymouth’s past has been one of ongoing economic and cultural isolation since the shrinking of the Navy. Now it reflects more a broader England in decline, whilst all the post-modern ironic contradictions of the evolving new economies are present; ‘Francis Drake’ is a shopping mall, and what was the ‘Royal Sovereign’ pub is now a ‘Firkin Doghouse’. 

His childhood memories of the place are also challenged by more adult quotidian realities of Maddock’s time there, and his own preconceptions; the journey’s question shifting from, ‘What am I doing here?’ to the more telling, ‘What am I, here?’ The ‘God Forgotten Face’ of the title, originally derived from the 1945 Philip Larkin poem Plymouth, and the words “Last kingdom of a gold forgotten face...”, perhaps coming to represent his own personal account as a photographer finding himself changed in the face of the subject he had returned to find.” 

The exhibition runs until 2 June 2012.

Is Photography Over?

Here's a blast from the not-too-distant past. Back in 2010 SFMOMA organised a fantastic two-day symposium, Is Photography Over? which has since prompted much debate on the current state of the medium.

Photography has almost always been in crisis. In the beginning, the terms of this crisis were cast as dichotomies: is photography science or art? Nature or technology? Representation or truth? This questioning has intensified and become more complicated over the intervening years. At times, the issues have required a profound rethinking of what photography is, does, and means. This is one of those times. Given the nature of contemporary art practice, the condition of visual culture, the advent of new technologies, and many other factors, what is at stake today in seeing something as a photograph? What is the value of continuing to speak of photography as a specific practice or discipline? Is photography over?

SFMOMA invited a range of major thinkers and practitioners to write brief responses to this question and then to convene for a two-day summit on where photography is at. Participants include Vince Aletti, George Baker, Walead Beshty, Jennifer Blessing, Charlotte Cotton, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Geoff Dyer, Peter Galassi, Corey Keller, Douglas Nickel, Trevor Paglen, Blake Stimson, and Joel Snyder.

Additional responses to the question and reports on the research project can be found on their blog, Open Space.

Below is the entire video recordings from the event, split up according to the various sessions held across the two days:

Day One, Part One

Topics broached - Anxiety about the future of photography. Do we need to talk about photography? Why do pictures mean something to us?

Day One, Part Two

Topics broached - Aspects of photography to be removed. Can we agree on what photography means? What has changed?

Day Two, Part One

Topics broached - History of image manipulation. Photographer or artist who uses photography? What if analogue photography becomes nothing more than a hobby?

Day Two, Part Two

Topics broached - What is contemporary? Issues of authorship. Responses of the gallery/museum to the changes in photography.

Day Two, Part Three

Topics broached - Overlapping use of still and moving image. Age of uncertainty? Size of prints and the art market. 

These videos were originally posted on SFMOMA's YouTube channel.