Make sure to check out my new blog (One Elephant) which will run along side this one (in theory) and will commence in January. It's sure to be full of fun, angst, and may be the odd fight with a student or an unsuspecting tutor as I study for a Masters in photography.
So Stay Hungry, Get Fat, and remember the boy who got everything he ever wanted.
He lived happily ever after...
Shoe. Salton Sea 2006
Shoes. Auschwitz Memorial. Anon
Chris Jorden. Katrina's Wake.
Seeing David Zimmerman's excellent series 'Last Refuge' (see below and here) reminds me of just how moving, and at the same time disturbing, images of discarded clothing can be. My first guess is that we always think the worst if we stumble upon something not easily discarded, like a pair of pants, or an undergarment, or heaven forbid, a small single shoe (gloves, hats and scarf's don't count). But why wouldn't we think automatically of a disastrous scenario when often the pictures we are presented with are just that (see above).
As so much photography is about story telling, it comes as no surprise that so many photographers make projects on such strange and mysterious subject matter as that of a rotting pair of pumps or an old string vest.
Clothing as Artifact: David Zimmerman’s ‘Last Refuge’
Though he’s spent over a decade photographing at-risk landscapes, some of the most unique topography photographer David Zimmerman has seen is found in the folds of fabric.
Zimmerman, a landscape photographer based in New Mexico and New York, began his project Last Refuge, in which he photographed piles of clothing and remains from an off-the-grid community, almost by chance. As the economy took its toll on broad swaths of American life, Zimmerman increasingly saw groups of people who had either lost their jobs or houses, and were, as the photographer describes, “increasingly desperate to survive.” These aren’t drifters who might be expected to live a transient lifestyle, he says, but teachers, firefighters, musicians and other blue and white-collar professionals.
Though sleeping on out-of-the-way dirt roads and parking lots is nothing new for Zimmerman—he’s lived and worked out of his camper truck while on the road, throughout 15 years of making images—the increasing number of people doing the same thing caught his attention. ”It really startled me, to be honest with you,” Zimmerman says, despite having read countless stories of similar communities who were often functioning without electricity or running water. “It didn’t sink in entirely what [was] going on out there, until I saw it for myself.”
As Zimmerman spent time talking to and even photographing members of these marginalized communities throughout the American southwest, it wasn’t their portraits or their poverty that resonated with him in a visual sense. Rather, it was their clothing. ”Whether it’s [being] homeless, or lacking a car,” Zimmerman says, “the clothes end up being the very last thing that you and I and they will own. When it absolutely becomes desperate, that’s the final thing that we will own.”
And so the piles of leather jackets, sweaters and coats—found at a 20-person community in northwestern New Mexico—form a descriptive landscape of their own. The entire series is actually shot on the roof of one man’s house, a retired firefighter in his seventies that came to live out in the desert about 25 years ago. He built his shelter underground, and used abandoned clothing to insulate the “roof” of the structure which now litters the desert floor.
Isolated from their surroundings as well as their former owners, the images of clothing are stark reminders of life on a subsistence level, and seem to encapsulate the difficult trajectory of the lives of their owners in their tattered seams and frayed edges. So what began during trips to photograph the natural landscape morphed into a project spent documenting its human counterpart—“the human aspect of the landscape is just as important for me as the physical landscape itself,” Zimmerman says. Last Refuge becomes a sort of typology of different textiles representing a human “dilemma,” as the photographer calls it, as well as a visually isolated reminder of what’s left to lose. ”That’s how it spoke to me, as opposed to just being about one person,” Zimmerman adds. “It was a very big problem, a nationwide problem.”
Last Refuge is on display at Sous Les Etoiles Gallery in New York from Dec. 8-Jan. 28.
So I have once again been nominated for the Prix Picket award this year (more info here). It really is the biggest deal for a photographer like myself even to get nominated. The competition is fierce and it may be easier for me to Wrestle a Rino than win the prize. The good news is that this years theme is Power, and that's something I have been looking into for the past several years. You can see a little of the project here.
His Tuscany's B Side is quite excellent and its about time someone stepped away from the misty vineyards and pointy trees..
As the weather grows colder and everyone gets sick, its so very easy to cuddle up and hibernate. But the air is crisp and clear making it excellent for night work. The simple process of night photography can bring with it some problems. After chatting with a student the other day hungry for the night all the little tricks I have picked up over the years started to pour out and I thought I would list three of my top tips here for you all to enjoy over your crumpets.
1. Don't take a camera out of a warm place and into the cold ie, a house, or a car. Always have the camera the same temperature as the outside (along with film if you are shooting it). This way you wont be wiping condensation from your lens which may also leave smears and give you flare on the lens. You may also get condensation on the rear element and may not see it. Of course this also works the other way around (hot to cold). That lens has to be spotless..
2. Despite night photography being quite popular since its creation (think Aget, Steiglitz) no camera is designed to work at night. An open shutter facility is often an afterthought for most cameras and never intended for ultra long exposures. A mechanical film camera will always be the best choice for long exposures, period.
3. There is no magic formula for night photography and a lot of it can be trial and error. But with a little practice you can develop a technique of sorts. But that my friends is up to you..
A bit of a random mix I know. But I haven't got all day, just the night..
A simple image which reminds me of the time I drove 1600 miles from Los Angeles to Memphis
in two days having only eaten power bars and Almonds. This was the only image I made at the time and was taken shortly after my arrival. After that I spent most of the night in a Waffle House drinking coffee and eating pie.
Charles Saatchi: the hideousness of the art world
Even a show-off like me finds this new, super-rich art-buying crowd vulgar and depressingly shallow
Being an art buyer these days is comprehensively and indisputably vulgar. It is the sport of the Eurotrashy, Hedge-fundy, Hamptonites; of trendy oligarchs and oiligarchs; and of art dealers with masturbatory levels of self-regard. They were found nestling together in their super yachts in Venice for this year's spectacular art biennale. Venice is now firmly on the calendar of this new art world, alongside St Barts at Christmas and St Tropez in August, in a giddy round of glamour-filled socialising, from one swanky party to another.
Artistic credentials are au courant in the important business of being seen as cultured, elegant and, of course, stupendously rich.
Do any of these people actually enjoy looking at art? Or do they simply enjoy having easily recognised, big-brand name pictures, bought ostentatiously in auction rooms at eye-catching prices, to decorate their several homes, floating and otherwise, in an instant demonstration of drop-dead coolth and wealth. Their pleasure is to be found in having their lovely friends measuring the weight of their baubles, and being awestruck.
It is no surprise, then, that the success of the uber art dealers is based upon the mystical power that art now holds over the super-rich. The new collectors, some of whom have become billionaires many times over through their business nous, are reduced to jibbering gratitude by their art dealer or art adviser, who can help them appear refined, tasteful and hip, surrounded by their achingly cool masterpieces.
Not so long ago, I believed that anything that helped broaden interest in current art was to be welcomed; that only an elitist snob would want art to be confined to a worthy group of aficionados. But even a self-serving narcissistic showoff like me finds this new art world too toe-curling for comfort. In the fervour of peacock excess, it's not even considered necessary to waste one's time looking at the works on display. At the world's mega-art blowouts, it's only the pictures that end up as wallflowers.
I don't know very many people in the art world, only socialise with the few I like, and have little time to gnaw my nails with anxiety about any criticism I hear about.
If I stop being on good behaviour for a moment, my dark little secret is that I don't actually believe many people in the art world have much feeling for art and simply cannot tell a good artist from a weak one, until the artist has enjoyed the validation of others – a received pronunciation. For professional curators, selecting specific paintings for an exhibition is a daunting prospect, far too revealing a demonstration of their lack of what we in the trade call "an eye". They prefer to exhibit videos, and those incomprehensible post-conceptual installations and photo-text panels, for the approval of their equally insecure and myopic peers. This "conceptualised" work has been regurgitated remorselessly since the 1960s, over and over and over again.
Few people in contemporary art demonstrate much curiosity. The majority spend their days blathering on, rather than trying to work out why one artist is more interesting than another, or why one picture works and another doesn't.
Art critics mainly see the shows they are assigned to cover by their editors, and have limited interest in looking at much else. Art dealers very rarely see the exhibitions at other dealers' galleries. I've heard that almost all the people crowding around the big art openings barely look at the work on display and are just there to hobnob. Nothing wrong with that, except that none of them ever come back to look at the art – but they will tell everyone, and actually believe, that they have seen the exhibition.
Please don't read my pompous views above as referring to the great majority of gallery shows, where dealers display art they hope someone will want to buy for their home, and new collectors are born every week. This aspect of the art world fills me with pleasure, whether I love all the art or not.
I am regularly asked if I would buy art if there was no money in it for me. There is no money in it for me. Any profit I make selling art goes back into buying more art. Nice for me, because I can go on finding lots of new work to show off. Nice for those in the art world who view this approach as testimony to my venality, shallowness, malevolence.
And it's understandable that every time you make an artist happy by selecting their work, you create 100 people that you've offended – the artists you didn't select.
I take comfort that our shows have received disobliging reviews since our opening exhibition of Warhol, Judd, Twombly and Marden in 1985. I still hold that it would be a black day when everybody likes a show we produce. It would be a pedestrian affair, art establishment compliant, and I would finally know the game was up.
The four artists shortlisted for the Photography Prize 2012 are Pieter Hugo, Rinko Kawauchi, John Stezaker and Christopher Williams.
This selection showcases diverse approaches to photography, from portraits taken in the toxic waste dumps of Ghana, to exquisite images of everyday moments and the conceptual use of found imagery.
The artists have been nominated for the following projects:
Pieter Hugo (b.1976, South-Africa) is nominated for his publication Permanent Error, published by Prestel (Germany, 2011).
Rinko Kawauchi (b.1972, Japan) is nominated for her publication Illuminance, published by Kehrer (Germany, 2011).
John Stezaker (b.1949, UK) is nominated for his exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery, London, UK (29 January – 18 March 2011).
Christopher Williams (b. 1956, USA) is nominated for his exhibition Kapitalistischer Realismus at Dům umění České Budějovice, Budweis, Czech Republic (5 May - 12 June 2011).
The annual award of £30,000 rewards a living photographer, of any nationality, for a specific body of work in an exhibition or publication format, which has significantly contributed to the medium of photography in Europe between 1 October 2010 and 30 September 2011. Find out more about the history of the Prize here.
The members of this year's Jury are: François Hébel, Director, Les Rencontres d'Arles; Martin Parr, artist; Beatrix Ruf, Director/Curator, Kunsthalle Zürich and Anne-Marie Beckmann, Curator, Art Collection Deutsche Börse, Germany. Brett Rogers, Director of The Photographers’ Gallery, is the non-voting Chair.