July 16, 2012

I recently had the good fortune of attending a course in narrative portraiture with Greg Miller (http://www.gregmiller.com/).  I’ll write more about Greg in coming months — in particular, his approach to portraiture, to a life lived in photography, and to places of community in America — but for now let me just say that he opened my eyes to the storytelling potential of single images.  I couldn’t help but think of Greg when I saw the Gordon Parks images.  

These segregation images are worthy of sustained attention, both for their formal qualities and for their historical/present-day resonance.

womanhouse:

New York Times: A Radically Prosaic Approach to Civil Rights Images

“Not all of the ‘Segregation’ photographs are as prosaic as the Thornton portrait. Some are ominous and intense, providing stark evidence of the unjustness of segregation and the ways it endangered democracy: the ‘colored only’ signs that marginalized one community as assuredly as they enriched another; the backbreaking labor; the squalor and overcrowding; and the unequal, ramshackle accommodations.

But most of the images are optimistic and affirmative, like the portrait of Mr. and Mrs. Thornton. They focus on the family’s everyday activities, and their resolve to get on with their lives as normally as possible, in spite of an environment that restricts and intimidates…”

….

“It is the very fullness, even ordinariness, of the lives of the Thornton family that most effectively contests these notions of difference, which had flourished in a popular culture that offered no more than an incomplete or distorted view of African-American life.”

July 10, 2012
Little Brown Miscellanea: How far can you distort without destroying?

littlebrownmushroom:

“The direction of many of us will be more toward poetry than toward the traditional novel. The problem for such a novelist will be to know how far he can distort without destroying, and in order not to destroy, he will have to descend far enough into himself to reach those underground springs that…

July 4, 2012
One more thought!

"It is a happy thing to remember that one never works alone."  - Paul Strand, Photographer’s Forward, Time in New England

—-

Robert Adams, writing in Why People Photograph, described this photo, the last in Strand’s book, as among the best architectural photos ever made. Adams was astounded by the risks Strand took in the book.

Strand, Church

July 4, 2012
Paul Strand, July 4, beginnings

Photo books - again, how to begin?  Following, Paul Strand, Time in New England. 
The juxtaposition here in 2012 of Winthrop’s aspiration with Strand’s photo of arrival strains against the arc of history.
(I searched online without success for the second photo, “Rock, 1927”, of the three that comprise the first section of Strand’s book. Below, two inadequate pics.)
"I. NEW WORLD

ABOARD THE ARBELLA, 

approaching New England, 1630

FOR THIS END we must be knit together as 
one man. We must entertain each other in 
brotherly affection. We must be willing to 
abridge ourselves of our superfluities for the 
supply of others’ necessities. We must delight 
in each other; make others’ conditions our own; 
rejoice together, mourn together, labor and 
suffer together, as members of the same body. 
So shall we keep the unity of the spirit in the 
bond of peace.

The Lord will be our God, and delight to 
dwell among us as His own people; when He 
shall make us a praise and glory, that men shall 
say of succeeding plantations, ‘The Lord make 
it likely that of New England.’

For we must consider that we shall be as a city 
upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us.

JOHN WINTHROP

A Model of Christian Charity, 1630.”

<em>Forest, Maine,<em/>1945<br/>Vintage gelatin silver print<br/>Image/Mount: 9 1/2 x 7 1/2":

July 4, 2012
In recent days, long with work and absent time for being with photos, I enjoy every evening Carrie Elizabeth Thompson&#8217;s ten photos.  As Alec Soth describes: &#8220;Carrie has taken on the ambitious task of posting 10 pictures a day of her life as an artist/mother. For those of us who struggle to be alert to the beauty, mystery and complexity of everyday life, Carrie’s blog is an eye opener. Go here: http://carrielizabethompson.tumblr.com/
For me, Ms. Thompson&#8217;s daily practice accomplishes two vital things:
i. Her daily intent provides context for the act of viewing.  I encounter hundreds - thousands - of beautiful, formally astute, complex or ecstatic photos online, but struggle to engage them.  In this image saturated environment, I find I need a scaffolding &#8212; a project, a narrative, an emotive journey &#8212; to find my way amid the image clutter.  In Ms. Thompson&#8217;s work, we have the beautiful quotidian struggle for beauty and vision.
ii. Ms. Thompson&#8217;s daily practice inspires me to remain present and sensate to the world. Curiously, my camera is a crutch against solipsism, narcissism, and rank instrumentalism.
In the photo above, we find Ms. Thompson acutely aware of photo history. Below, Walker Evans.

Penny Picture Display, Savannah, Georgia.. 1936.  By Walker Evans.

License Photo Studio, New York, 1934Walker Evans (American, 1903–1975)Gelatin silver print

In recent days, long with work and absent time for being with photos, I enjoy every evening Carrie Elizabeth Thompson’s ten photos.  As Alec Soth describes: “Carrie has taken on the ambitious task of posting 10 pictures a day of her life as an artist/mother. For those of us who struggle to be alert to the beauty, mystery and complexity of everyday life, Carrie’s blog is an eye opener. Go here: http://carrielizabethompson.tumblr.com/

For me, Ms. Thompson’s daily practice accomplishes two vital things:

i. Her daily intent provides context for the act of viewing.  I encounter hundreds - thousands - of beautiful, formally astute, complex or ecstatic photos online, but struggle to engage them.  In this image saturated environment, I find I need a scaffolding — a project, a narrative, an emotive journey — to find my way amid the image clutter.  In Ms. Thompson’s work, we have the beautiful quotidian struggle for beauty and vision.

ii. Ms. Thompson’s daily practice inspires me to remain present and sensate to the world. Curiously, my camera is a crutch against solipsism, narcissism, and rank instrumentalism.

In the photo above, we find Ms. Thompson acutely aware of photo history. Below, Walker Evans.

Penny Picture Display, Savannah, Georgia.. 1936.  By Walker Evans.

License Photo Studio, New York, 1934
Walker Evans (American, 1903–1975)
Gelatin silver print

June 28, 2012

systermans:

Wim has some serious arguments about film vs digital.

Wim Wenders - on the photographer’s relation to things, time

June 19, 2012
why we photograph (or, a joyful pic after a sad day)

"Your own photography is never enough. Every photographer who has lasted has depended on other people’s pictures too — photographs that may be public or private, serious or funny, but that carry with them a reminder of community.

"Nicholas Nixon made one that I especially treasure of our Airedale. It is a perfect record of her intense gaze, and was included in a show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, although I prize it as much for the recollection it affords of first meeting the photographer. The dog head barged ahead at our front door, and when Nick saw her through the screen his delight was so undisguised that Kerstin and I and then he started laughing; in the confusion he gave up on words, but managed to find in his billfold a snapshot of himself as a child with an Airedale. All of which — the dog, Nick’s enjoyment of the moment, his sense of humor, his gift as a photographer — returns to me now as I look at the picture that eventually made that day."

— Robert Adams

Click screen to close

Nicholas Nixon, Fred, 1975

June 19, 2012
two photos and a poem

Merlin

by Geoffrey Hill

I will consider the outnumbering dead: 
For they are the husks of what was rich seed. 
Now, should they come together to be fed, 
They would outstrip the locusts’ covering tide.

Arthur, Elaine, Mordred; they are all gone 
Among the raftered galleries of bone. 
By the long barrows of Logres they are made one, 
And over their city stands the pinnacled corn. 
2000-2003
xisland:

Alfred Stieglitz Georgia OKeeffe 1932
1. Sally Mann, from the series Last Measure, 2000-2003. Mann visited the battle sites of the Civil War — Antietam, Manassas, Wilderness, Fredericksburg — and used the collodion process of Brady, Gardner, O’Sullivan, etc.
2. Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O’Keeffe, 1932.

June 18, 2012
How to begin a photo book?
Robert Frank, Plate 1 from The Americans, Parade, Hoboken, New Jersey.
Here, two people, one face obscured by shadow, unsmiling, perhaps anxious, one lost entirely, decapitated, by a billowing American flag, itself cropped and partial. The subjects look out; the photographer looks in.
The brick is grimy. We understand from Frank&#8217;s caption that there is parade. Jingoism occludes what seems a grim reality.
From this beginning, it&#8217;s easy to understand how Frank&#8217;s work was viewed as subversive and cynical or, more generously, a critical reflection.
What at first seems a lousy photo is, as beginning, a rich salvo.

How to begin a photo book?

Robert Frank, Plate 1 from The Americans, Parade, Hoboken, New Jersey.

Here, two people, one face obscured by shadow, unsmiling, perhaps anxious, one lost entirely, decapitated, by a billowing American flag, itself cropped and partial. The subjects look out; the photographer looks in.

The brick is grimy. We understand from Frank’s caption that there is parade. Jingoism occludes what seems a grim reality.

From this beginning, it’s easy to understand how Frank’s work was viewed as subversive and cynical or, more generously, a critical reflection.

What at first seems a lousy photo is, as beginning, a rich salvo.

June 14, 2012
O’Sullivan, Battle of Bull Run, Slaves Fleeing

Timothy O’Sullivan, Fugitive African Americans Fording the Rappahannock River, Rappahannock, Virginia, August 1862.

(Copyprint, Prints and Photographs Division, Reproduction Number: LC-B8171-518 4-4)

This image was taken prior to Emancipation during the second battle of Bull Run (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Battle_of_Bull_Run). The subjects seek freedom behind Union lines.

I don’t know how to view this picture. The composition looks rushed.  I can’t see the faces of the people.  The people in the background and the individual foreground left look away from the cart, back, at what?  And the cart seems about to collapse under its load.

O’Sullivan was a braggart and apparently spoke with an Irish brogue. One of his cameras was blown up by Confederate shells during the battle. What kind of emotion did the lens mediate? How did the observer and observed exchange regards?

How to view this photo, except very painfully, in light of the great tragedy, Reconstruction, that awaits the hopeful?

More American themes.

(Source: memory.loc.gov)

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