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Articles on this Page
- 01/25/11--02:56: _PHOTOTALKS: MARTIN ...
- 01/26/11--01:50: _ «These friendly bl...
- 01/26/11--06:09: _UNDERCOVER #1: JOSE...
- 01/28/11--07:27: _PHOTOTALK WITH GIUS...
- 01/31/11--07:00: _SHORTCUT OF THE DAY...
- 01/31/11--08:00: _SUPPORT THE WORK OF...
- 02/01/11--04:56: _FABRIZIO BELLOMO
- 02/02/11--00:06: _ Kurniadi Widodo te...
- 02/03/11--00:51: _MORE WITH LESS: GRE...
- 02/04/11--00:26: _SHORTCUT OF THE DAY...
- 02/04/11--01:00: _MORE WITH LESS: WIL...
- 02/04/11--01:15: _ Katie Shapiro is a...
- 02/05/11--01:00: _ Jonathan Schimpf s...
- 02/07/11--02:45: _MORE WITH LESS: SHU...
- 02/07/11--16:00: _ Fulvio Bortolozzo ...
- 02/08/11--01:04: _SHANE LAVALETTE
- 02/08/11--01:48: _"People are always ...
- 02/09/11--01:00: _PHOTOTALK WITH LAUR...
- 02/10/11--07:12: _MORE WITH LESS: AXE...
- 02/10/11--07:17: _Random pictures «My...
- 01/25/11--02:56: PHOTOTALKS: MARTIN BUDAY
- 01/26/11--01:50: «These friendly blow-up dolls installations from the PMS...
- 01/26/11--06:09: UNDERCOVER #1: JOSEPH SZABO
- 01/28/11--07:27: PHOTOTALK WITH GIUSEPPE FANIZZA
- 01/31/11--07:00: SHORTCUT OF THE DAY: MARI KOJIMA
- 01/31/11--08:00: SUPPORT THE WORK OF URBANAUTICA!
- 02/01/11--04:56: FABRIZIO BELLOMO
- 02/02/11--00:06: Kurniadi Widodo tell us about Indonesian photographers. «This...
- 02/03/11--00:51: MORE WITH LESS: GREGORY JONES
- 02/04/11--00:26: SHORTCUT OF THE DAY: GRAHAM HAMBY
- 02/04/11--01:00: MORE WITH LESS: WILLSON CUMMER
- 02/04/11--01:15: Katie Shapiro is a photographer currently living and working in...
- 02/05/11--01:00: Jonathan Schimpf submitt us recently his work. We enjoyed this...
- 02/07/11--02:45: MORE WITH LESS: SHUTTER BLUES
- 02/07/11--16:00: Fulvio Bortolozzo (aka borful) was born in 1957 in Turin, where...
- 02/08/11--01:04: SHANE LAVALETTE
- 02/09/11--01:00: PHOTOTALK WITH LAUREN HENKIN
- 02/10/11--07:12: MORE WITH LESS: AXEL STEVENS
- 02/10/11--07:17: Random pictures «My work explores the notions of artifice, image...
1) Your photos could be described essentially as “human”, so as the landscapes and places it portrays, and this is all the more surprising when one realize, only later, that man is almost never represented. An awkward presence that of man which is evidenced by his own absence, as if the traces left behind were strong enough to live longer. Is there some critical intent, in this sense, in your photographs?
Blandscape is an on-going photographic survey of everyday Americana and they are absolutely human: over-looked places, objects, buildings, vehicles, and signage. They are mostly vacant, emptied spaces, void of people but reeking of human presence. I like to think of the Rolling Stones’ album, Aftermath. On a rare occasion, these spaces will include people or animals (typically dogs). I am fascinated by the decisions people make and why they make them. Choices have been made and here they are for us to look at. I am not trying to make any sort of statement regarding clues for change or praise for cultural artifacts. I obviously make nods to the past, not to be overtly nostalgic, but to study human experience through the observance of things soon to be forgotten, replaced or glossed over. I enjoy the layering effect of these decisions over time and how a photograph can transform our perception of common things. I love dry humour, playful relationships and quirky coincidences. If you can’t find magic nearby you will not find it anywhere. It’s hard to top what Eggleston said about being at war with the obvious.
2) The temporal dimension seems to be central in your work. The depicted scenes appear to be waiting, crystallized in the precise moment that precedes some unexpected event. This gives rise to some tension in the viewer. Is it something that you deliberately seek or does it arises spontaneously out of the way you see and return the reality?
Photography is the best medium to record information, describing more than can be explained. It forces attention, the need to look and look again. I want to be rewarded with surprise and a re-charged awareness of my surroundings, enjoying the subtle mysteries and metaphors found in the commonplace. If there is tension in certain photographs, that is a good thing; it can be a catalyst in creating this heightened awareness. I like anticipation. I believe this tension to be more spontaneous rather than deliberate. I try to create loose and open-ended narratives for the viewer to complete. I want them to be engaged, but at a more gradual, subtle pace. I want the photographs to slowly reveal themselves. They require patience. When I look at others’ work, my favourites are the ones I return to time and time again, discovering something new with each visit. Formally, I strive for precision with a simple but vital design. I learned this from studying Japanese woodblock prints, but more essentially from my grandfather, G.W. Martin, an avid painter and former painting professor at the University of Hartford, CT.
3) Despite the messy richness of everyday objects, road signs, billboard and vague traces of humanity that fill your photographs, one gets the impression that what is represented is nothing but situations, or at least its most immediate surroundings. Then, when you read the captions we find that both series Stay Golden and Blandscape were carried out in several cities as in different States. Are we facing the representation of an idea of America rather than a real place?
They certainly represent more of an idea rather than that of a real place. I am merely investigating what this idea might be. It doesn’t particularly matter where the photographs are taken. As I stated earlier, these are photographs of the everyday landscape. These places exist everywhere, not only in America, but throughout the entire world. These are certainly “real” places and they are taken in America, but I enjoy the transformative process that photography entails. As photographs I want them to be more generic than site-specific despite having the actual locations in the titles. This also ties back to the viewer’s subjectivity and how he/she will view them, ultimately making them their own. If they are successful, they should be universal, neither here nor there.
4) Many of your shots are united by the presence of recurrent elements, so it is difficult to believe that it is just random. If we take subjects such as dogs and cars, it is natural to assume their role as a symbolic or metaphorical, as if for you it comes to new archetypes. Can we talk about a personal imagery as precise as, at times, obsessive?
It certainly isn’t random. Dogs are one of the most domesticated animals and look basically the same anywhere one goes in America, if not the world. Are they products of their environments? Maybe. Can they be symbols or metaphors? Absolutely. The bottom line is that I just like them. I find humour in them and they are more accessible than, let’s say, a giraffe or a kangaroo. To me they are just as exotic and they are everywhere, as well as cars. There can’t be a better symbol or representation of “America” than a car, even if it’s not from America. I will admit I am rather obsessed with both of them. Photographers in general tend to be a bit obsessive. I like to have certain reoccurring subjects, objects, colours and patterns within a single photograph as well as in the series. Again, it engages the viewer and makes the whole greater than a sum of its parts. I want a dialogue within an image and between the photographs to occur, speaking to and rifting off one another. It’s all just a little bit more interesting that way.
© All copyright remains with photographer Martin Buday
«These friendly blow-up dolls installations from the PMS Collective bring up all sort of aesthetic and philosophical queries, all floating around the concepts of “ready-made art,” “linguistic dominance” and “genital frostbite.” Unlike their Poland Is Far From Heaven snow poke “graffiti,” it’s simply heartwarming.»
Photo: Priscilla, Jones Beach, 1969
DINOSAUR JR “Green Mind”, 1991, Blanco y Negro.
This is UNDERCOVER, our new special issue dedicated to photographers and musical covers. Another way to investigate, through photography, cultural landscapes. Enjoy it!
«The echo of the wall of sound, full of crashing distortions and feedbacks from the earlier beautiful You are Living All Over Me (SST 1987) and Bug (SST 1988), still vibrates in the ears when Dinosaur Jr, together with Hüsker Dü, Pixies, Sonic Youth and Pavement, approach a different songwriting, intimate and slightly commercial. The combination of noise and melody will mark the American indie rock of the ’90s and beyond. The egocentric personality of J. Mascis, the coarse and unkempt style, the sad, visceral and cathartic songs are in perfect synchrony with the spirit of their generation. Green Mind was released in 1991 for Blanco y Negro with an emblematic and beautiful cover. The photograph is of Joseph Szabo: Priscilla. The portrait of a little girl grown quickly, cigarette in her mouth and eyes out staring at the empty; a lost innocence and telltale signs of a fragility never condescending. Szabo through his photographic imagery describes, without judging but with the intent to understand and comprehend, the ambivalence of the life of a teenager who tries to become an adult. His images reflect the rituals of the generational transition, the blossoming of sexuality, mild euphoria, disorientation, being part of a parallel universe, fluid and evolving: from a status sexually indeterminate to the progressive awareness of one’s body and emotions. From 1972 to 1999 Joseph Szabo teaches photography at Malverne High School in Long Island, NY and since 1978 at the International Center of Photography in New York where he has the chance to portray his students and other members of an epochal teenage riot sliding on the fine edge between intimacy and epiphanic events, endless and timeless confusion, time spent in doing stunts, leisure, boring stuff or nothing at all. His first book, Almost Grown published in 1978 by Harmony Books and acclaimed “Best Books of the Year” in the list of the American Library Association and the next Teenage in 2003 now reached several hundred dollars on Ebay. The sour adolescence described by Szabo will soon change over time, deepening its vices, obsessions and fears, as told by diary and hedonistic evidences on the youth deviance. Albeit with different accents, Tulsa (1971) by Larry Clark - that lately with Harmony Korine will take this world to the cinema (Kids, 1995 and Ken Park, 2002) - or Nan Goldin’s The Ballad of Sexual Dependency (1986), will pave the way then followed by various Tillmans, Teller, Templeton, McGinley… The sleazy generation, to which the ambiguous innocence of Priscilla belongs, was devoted to self-destruction with little desire for redemption.»
Text by Gianpaolo Arena, Steve Bisson
© All copyright remains with the photographer and property.
1) Tell us first about your approach to photography?
How do I define my approach? Is that of a reporter? Or is it “conceptual”? The obvious answer is that the problem should not arise. These classic dilemmas of reporting, to whom I owe my short education, are not current anymore. But this is not the fault of the photo journalists. Many artists shudder at the word report forgetting that – regardless of photo contest classifications and festival posters – report also means return, refer in fact, all of which are in the nature of photography. Because photography remains a medium of compromise with reality of which it bears the burden. Insist on these categories leads to the dangerous conclusion that we should describe reality only with constructed images, and that artists can not be documentary otherwise they do photo journalism. Or, worse, that the distinction is of an aesthetic nature, and that, for example, the report is identified by the framing “a bit twist” and by the coolest post-production of the moment. These themes are present in my works.
2) In Waiting Room it seems you are looking more “slowly” than in other series?
Waiting Room is a work carried out in Ceuta, a Spanish enclave in the Moroccan territory, a border place. I was actually there with a colleague to do a diametrically opposite job called Mare Nostrum, a sociological research that sought a maximum objectivity without interfering with our views. Our documentary approach, almost cataloging, lead us to create portrait sets. The thing that made me think was that in order to get an objective result we used a medium which involved a massive intervention upon the subject in this situation, and we were certainly not the first to do it so (there are so many photographers after August Sander or E. J. Bellocq). So I decided to work on Waiting Room in a different way. I wanted to tell Ceuta’s condition of suspension or duality, and of borders in general, with a narration totally subjective, a bit fictionalized, yet without intervention on the scene. So I wanted to represent a personal concept about places, using only “stolen” pictures. To be clear, Ceuta is not really like Waiting Room and people of Ceuta do not wander as a ghosts all day long on lonely moors. The images themselves present a mendacious version but not “constructed”. The condition of suspension of border places is real, but basically this is my opinion.
3) Some of your projects are working in opposition to the stereotypical views of places. An attempt to raise awareness in the reading of the landscape…
Interno Giorno (“L’affaire Matterhorn” on my blog) is a work that took place in a workshop related to the Mountain Photo Festival. The photographs were made at Cervinia, another city that, like Ceuta, is interesting for its bipolarity. Among the largest ski area in the Alps, it heavily suffers from alternating seasons. It is bleak for most of the year but reaches very high density during the holidays and the various winter holidays. The title, borrowed from the film argon, betrays the intent to express this duality in terms of the relationship between reality and fiction. The places depicted are almost exclusively related to tourism: the interior of the ski slopes, hotel lobbies or entrances of restaurants and, again, waiting rooms. All places specially designed to operate a few days a year. It’s my intentinon to use this pretext to argue whether it is economically possible, in the name of economic exploitation of the landscape, to conceive an entire urban stratification disconnected from the real needs of the community. That a whole town will rest on the gains of a few weeks a year. Or the disproportion between the power of money and of the community that masochistically suffers and takes advantage of it. Here the reality is empty and the fiction of a few days maintains the emptiness of the rest of the year. I hope that these emptied places will make people think about their real usefulness.
4) The project Masserie concerned again with tourism, this time in your land. How did you address the changes that are affecting your land?
The images from Masserie are also related to tourism. It’s a series still in progress on traditional manor farms in the region of Apulia (Puglia), in Italy. The work was published as Cartoline dalle Puglie, which used the postcard to represent an investigation carried out by a collective of local young authors on their native land. Here again the intention is to stimulate in the observer a critical view through the fiction, in this case strongly forced. The farms usually have nothing to do with the minimalist Scandinavian furniture, nor with plasma displays. And people neither are nor act like the inhabitants of these places. The social problem that interests me here is the process of transformation that the farms are suffering – from the centers of agricultural production system to five-star hotels or luxury resorts –, and their adaptation to certain high standards for the global tourism. I am not criticizing this, or hoping for some return to a rural dimension. However, neither do I want this change to go unnoticed, or rather, not documented. I think it is marginally less than might appear at first sight. A similar transformation is recorded in many Italian cities, where local governments are converting residual peripheral areas into urban gardens, another theme that interests me very much. There, the transformation is the concept of agriculture, from a system to produce food, to hobbies, leisure activities and perhaps even a therapeutic activity for the families living in the suburbs.
© All copyright remains with photographer Giuseppe Fanizza
SHORTCUT OF THE DAY: MARI KOJIMA
The book NATURAE 2010 collects the results of two years of research and work by the team Urbanautica. The catalog contains all the 40 images brought together in the photography exhibition but also some in-depth essays and conversations on the needs of nature in living spaces.
Price is 20,00 euro. The first 100 requests will go for 15 euro (25% discount).
Limited edition of 400.
Watch video here
Read article here
© Courtesy of Steve Bisson
We met recently artist Fabrizio Bellomo who told us about his project Ksamil in Albania. A project – that compared to his other art works that span across various modes of photographic representation with a common evocative power – is closer to a landscape documentary.
«Arriving in Ksamil, an albanian spot with resort ambitions, located on the southern coast about twenty miles from the greek border, it’s easy to figure out that something went wrong. In June 2010 many buildings (about 260) were partially destroyed. Local authorities responded to the massive dose of illegal housing, with police, bulldozers and the order to destroy the pillars of illegal constructions. The same bulldozers did not care about the dismantle of the debris. Despite the insult suffered, families (often “architects” of their own buildings) did not surrendered to distruction and carved out safe spaces inside the damaged buildings. The same happened for the local nightclub Europa. My research ranges between various and possible modes of photographic representation. After a period in which the paradox itself has been the inspiration for many ideas, in recent times (and it still continues) my interest has unconsciously started to relate to the photographic image itself (the paradox has become oxymoron). Precisely for this reason in many of my works I confronted billboards, newspapers and magazines images, or screen images captured while browsing the Web.»
«I try to see my photography as a series of actions to watch more than once, again and again, before coming to a shoot. To take or to look at someone taking a picture, then review it to see what I would do or think if I had been a spectator of others or myself during this shooting. This attitude motivates me and pushes me to the comparison with very different photographic medium. Often the question is: why do something using this / that container or this / that half (billboard, puzzle, my website)? Through the frequent questions that I ask myself, I think I moved away, enlarged and limited my plane of perception. For example, this led me to feel that on a web screen may appear and be photographed, layers that are very similar in appearance to those conceptual layers that I can find in an urban landscape. I think that the work on Ksamil has little to do with everything said so far, but I also think that all the research done in recent years has given a strong imprint on this more documentary series.
The work Italia, forza consists of two photographs. The first shot is a photograph of a poster, the second step is the photograph of the first shot set up as a poster. There is an allusive game, as a ping-pong game with and through the medium and the advertisement received.»
«Instax 200 is a series of snapshots taken with a Fujifilm Instax 200 camera. The series is composed by portraits of Bengali people living in Milan that use the Fujifilm Instax 200 camera as a work tool, looking for buyers of snapshots, roses, hats or lighters. Bengali people pose for the photos: this is the sign that the artist has let them buy their own idea. The work is archived on the web in a Google map (available here) that shows the images in the shooting locations.»
© All copyright remains with photographer Fabrizio Bellomo
Kurniadi Widodo tell us about Indonesian photographers.
«This photo is very nice on so many different levels that I can look at it over and over again… There seems to be something ominous brewing below the disguise of this seemingly beautiful day under the canopy of the cherry blossoms. The way all the crows stare at the mysterious (albeit looking totally normal) man makes me feel uneasy. Like he’s instructing his winged minions to wreak some havoc somewhere. Perfectly composed too, I wish I was the one taking this photo.»©Heni Octoriyani Wijaya
Here we go with the new format of More With Less Issue. Each time 3 images commented by the photographer. Thank you all. (Steve)
«A big influence on me is pre-modern European landscape painting ,a genre that focused specifically on human interaction within an environment. Many of those artists, Claude Lorrain and Giuseppe Zais to name a couple, made pictures that carry with them a degree of romanticism and sublimity. I was thinking of those kinds of pictures when I approached this scene. The man on the bridge represents a Christ-like figure, and in this spectacle a mass of people stand on the bridge watch and take pictures of him. The child at the bottom of the frame looks up in wonder, and the lovers sit on the rock, unaware of everything but themselves. In a lot of my work I try to ascertain a type of myth of the everyday. Of all my photos to this point, this narrative expresses that the best.»
«During my time in Europe my goal was to experiment a great deal with the way I approached subjects and the way that looked at the world in general. In this photo the human elements are regarded as an after-thought, and the main focus falls on the banal greenery that overlooks the shoreline. When I look at it, and it may sound strange, I see it as something that’s almost empowering. If I wanted to personify the tree I would say that I gave it a voice, or rather heard its voice. At the risk of seeming overly romantic, I would say this is among my more poetic pieces.»
«What drew me to this scene was the quality of light, the softness and warmth of it. I think its among my most structurally sound pieces, in regards to the composition. There’s a sense of isolation that I saw in that woman, but not in a sad sense. It seems to me that there’s a rapport between her and this place that she occupies, like a communion that you just feel sometimes when you are in a place where time seems irrelevant.»
© All copyright remains with photographer Gregory Jones
SHORTCUT OF THE DAY: GRAHAM HAMBY
Here we go with the new format of More With Less Issue. Each time 3 images commented by the photographer. Willson Cummer is a fine-art photographer and teacher who lives near Syracuse, NY, USA. He is also the curator of New Landscape Photography, a blog that features international projects.
«In my parking garages project I explored the rooftops of these unusual urban spaces. Some city planners have argued that parking garages destroy the architectural assets of urban cores. Parking lots and garages displace street-level shops, office space and cultural centers. Those complaints may be true, but I have found unexpected visual joy in parking garages. They offer an urban version of the hikes and sublime views that lead me to the Adirondack mountains. I climb the stairwells to the top decks, often photographing multiple garages in one outing. The roofs offer unusual views of nearby buildings and far-off valleys and hills. The tops of garages are places of surprising beauty and calm.»
«My work explores the interaction between the natural world and the built environment. In my Onondaga Lake project I used a canoe to explore a Superfund cleanup site that is also a holy lake for the Onondaga Indian Nation. The lake borders Syracuse, New York. I found the lake gorgeous at times and repulsive at others. Raw sewage flows into the lake during heavy rains, as the municipal wastewater treatment plant is overwhelmed. Algae grows in the phosphorus-rich waters, giving off a stink in the summer. Mercury and other heavy metals lie on the bottom of the lake — remnants of chemical industry in years past. Swimming has been banned since 1940. Still, bald eagles have taken up residence on the lake, and great blue herons are numerous. The lake is an extreme example of much of our natural world: polluted yet still achingly beautiful.»
«In my Green Lakes project I investigated, during the off-season, areas of a state park that are normally crowded. The photographs examine the intersection of man-made elements with natural areas. The images consider the boundaries of the natural world and explore solitude and loneliness.»
© All copyright remains with photographer Willson Cummer
Katie Shapiro is a photographer currently living and working in Los Angeles. She graduated from the California Institute of the Arts in 2007 with a BFA in Photography and Media.
Jonathan Schimpf submitt us recently his work. We enjoyed this image a lot. «The series of images that I am submitting is from a road trip across the United States this summer (July-August 2010). I made these photographs to remind myself that our country has a wealth of simplicity & odd beauty. That serenity can be found in all places, even when you least expect it. Being in an urban location (Philadelphia), one sometimes can’t help but think of America as a busy place, pre-occupied with working, saturated with advertisement, fast meals, and consumerism. Most family vacation destinations revolve around resorts, amusement parks, cities, etc. Myself and three allies found that what we enjoyed the most was here before us. I found it most interesting to examine the differences between what humans have inserted into the landscape, and the installations that nature has created on it’s own. The intersection of these ideas would best describe this group of photographs.»
Here we go with the new format of More With Less Issue. Each time 3 images commented by the photographer. Shutter Blues is an amateur landscape photographer based in France. He studied analog photography in the nineties, developing and printing in a collective lab, before switching to digital. Proud of his past experience, useful as it’s learning to draw for a painter. Now he is running a blog «because sharing is going to make me/us improve. It’s the new collective lab.»
«The Pond is an extraordinarily trivial place: the polluted magical wild next door. In this picture, the position and the state of the abandonned back seat invite us to contemplate the landscape as well as it disturbs it. A frustrating guilty beauty.»
«In The Velvet Undergrowth series, plants are characters: the photographs are more portraits than landscapes. In this picture, pale yellow leaves got dragged out of their field towards the road, but couldn’t reach it. Half successful escape: we go from yellow to grey, from the origins to the unknwon, and get stuck in the middle, the green diagonal.»
«This fish is the only living thing in the Very Sleepy Rivers series. It is the Hero. I found him wounded by a bird, bleeding, unable to swim back to deeper waters. I took his picture. Thanks to him, my landscape series became a tragedy: the story of the dying fish. He decided for me.»
© All copyright remains with photographer Shutter Blues
Fulvio Bortolozzo (aka borful) was born in 1957 in Turin, where he lives and works. His photographic work focuses on the observation of contemporary life, with particular attention to the urban landscape. The image Bloody Lips is taken from the ongoing work Notes for the eyes: «The renowned, the familiar, continuously discovered and enriched, are the premise for the meeting and the adventure.»
Telling a place and its complexity, through the representation of a landscape with unique characteristics but also by playing with bounces, as if the portraits of the people who inhabit this place could give further and more comprehensive readings. Shane Lavalette can do this with extreme elegance. The American photographer’s shots feed on a richness of texture that is slowly revealed, bringing the gaze to linger on the single image and to find pregnant details yet far from mere aesthetic demands. It so happens that distant silhouettes of small wild animals and inadvertent geometric shapes adopted by a rough and powerful nature, tell this landscape made of stone and wind as well as a common object held tight in a hand or a deep furrow on the face of an old man, as strokes of a unique larger fresco, still to be completed because in constant mutation.
«These photographs come from a larger body of work that I began during a residency on western cost of Ireland in the small town of Ballyvaughan, County Clare. The photographs were made along a walking trail called Slí na Boirne [The Burren Way], which stretches 27 miles through the heart of the Burren, one of the country’s most beautiful and unique landscapes. Its limestone escarpment, made by way of erosion and the scouring of successive glaciation periods, extends north from Corofin to Bell Harbour, west to Black Head and down to Doolin, where it dies away.»
«In recent years the area has been a topic of debate as the land faces the threat of being overgrown by plant life, in particular by hazel and blackthorn scrub. It has been reported that the growth of these two plants alone is increasing by almost 5% per year, which in time could turn the Burren into a forest-like landscape if action is not taken. For those who live there, the change in the landscape would represent something more: a loss of culture. With my photographs I hope ultimately to expose the meaning in the landscape of the Burren as well as the way in which the poetry of its people are reflected in it.»
© All copyright remains with photographer Shane Lavalette
“People are always shouting they want to create a better future. It’s not true. The future is an apathetic void of no interest to anyone. The past is full of life, eager to irritate us, provoke and insult us, tempt us to destroy or repaint it. The only reason people want to be masters of the future is to change the past. They are fighting for access to the laboratories where photographs are retouched and biographies and histories rewritten.” MILAN KUNDERA: The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (1979)
The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (1979)
1) First off, could you tell us a bit about the origins of Silence is an Orchard? How did it come to be? What are a few things you were thinking about while you were making the photographs?
«This series was born in 2008. I was visiting Acadia National Park in Maine and while walking on one of the carriage roads, I found an unusually beautiful and sculptural tree (Silence 14), now the last image in the series. The one image of that tree stuck with me, and I knew that I wanted to return and photograph the field around it. I went back in the summer of 2009 and did just that. I’ve spent a significant amount of time in Maine during the summer, it is the place I imagine first, when I think of “home”, it is where I learned to see, it is where I want to spend the second half of my life. It felt very natural to go back to there and photograph. It was extremely quiet, like a burial ground but also full of life. When I returned to the spot I found in 2008, I wasn’t sure that it would work for a small portfolio of images. The light convinced me though, and I started to document the perimeter of this single field. In and out of the light and grasses, it was meditative, and I knew that it would end up being my second handmade book — I wanted to take others on the path that I had. As the project evolved, I became more and more interested in the details of the book. I printed on Japanese kozo paper and worked with printmaker Sarah Horowitz to use an original etching as the cover, all in an effort to replicate the feeling of peace and solitude that I experienced.»
2) What made you decide on the title of the book?
«I had the most trouble titling this series over any other. Middle Ground was a working title for a bit, but eventually, I scraped it because it seemed more appropriate for a future project I was conceptualizing. The place was filled with silence and I wanted to incorporate that word if possible. It also, for the first time in a long time, felt like a happy series to me, like I had let go of much of the darkness I had been mired in and was seeing life and growth. It was the first time in years that I was photographing in the sun. I asked writer Kirsten Rian to provide a poem for the book. What she offered was Fieldnotes, and it is the only text offered, the only hint of an explanation. I wanted to keep any writing in the project vague, in contrast to the very literal statements I wrote for Displaced. I didn’t feel that it required more than the one poem. After some editing and tweaking, Kirsten finalized the poem which uses the phrase Silence is an Orchard. It was perfect for the title.»
3) In this project, as well as in Displaced and Still Standing, Standing Still, I read your photographs as acts of introspection, and it often seems that the images reflect more internal, rather than external landscapes. Is this a fair conclusion to reach? Could you talk to us a bit on the nature of your work and how you think it relates to your own nature?
«I think that is correct. What is difficult about the path I have taken in photography is that when people glance quickly at my images, they usually classify me as a “landscape” photographer. It is true, that my eyes are focused primarily on environmental subjects, but I am using those external landscapes as a way of expressing my internal landscape. I see myself as a conceptual artist, conceiving of projects before they are begun, working from the inside out to communicate what I hope are shared experiences — feeling lost, being afraid, or fearing abandonment. I think in many cases, this is in contrast to traditional landscape photographers, who I feel tend to work from the outside in, responding first to what they see or experience externally. I am trying to tell stories that are built slowly, with each image providing another clue to the general understanding of the project. While I strive to take individual photographs that stand on their own, more and more I shy away from singular images that hit you over the head and stand so far apart from the others that the rhythm of viewing is broken. I much prefer to have each relate to each other in some way, so there is some context as you progress through the portfolio. It is something I struggle with, trying to convince a viewer that there is benefit in taking the time to really look at a complete portfolio of work. As our culture moves faster and faster, that burden for me becomes heavier and heavier. Simultaneously, I am trying to entice, and challenge, to ask viewers to look closer, to try to understand and hopefully appreciate the puzzle I’m creating for them. For example, in Still Standing, Standing Still, a study of a lone, damaged tree in Oregon, the photographs are sequenced so you move from one to the next with a reference to the previous image. I am moving around the tree, trying to tell individual stories that build into an entire novel. I am vague about the fact that it is one tree, only leaving small hints. In order to make that a gratifying experience, there have to be markers, so that the viewer is given the opportunity to figure out on their own what the sequencing is trying to communicate.»
4) What do you have in store for 2011, photographically or otherwise?
«As I push to gain more exposure, I find it harder and harder to carve out time for actual creation. I will spend a good deal of time promoting Silence is an Orchard, but I plan to cut back on marketing and focus on two new series, one titled Urban Growth, showing unexpected, but harmonious intersections of natural elements within the urban fabric, and Present Tense, Past Lives, about putting to rest the first half of my life. I also see Silence is an Orchard becoming the first chapter in a series of individual fields across the United States. In 2010, I photographed a field in Oregon that I believe would be a wonderful companion to Silence. A series of three would be the goal with a separate, small limited edition incorporating all of the journals. This would be completed in the next couple of years. I will be expanding my new blog, Photo Radio. In September, I recorded an interview with Quinton Gordon, the Co-Director of the Lúz Gallery in Victoria, British Columbia. Because I enjoyed the conversation so much, and felt there was a need for this kind of dialog, I started Photo Radio, a blog where I am broadcasting interviews with various professionals in the visual arts ranging from curators to artists to gallerists to marketing professionals. I would like to start ‘covering’ photographic events. The first will be for the upcoming Photolucida conference in Portland, Oregon. I have scheduled 6 interviews with reviewers and 6 with reviewees. I know, having gone through the portfolio review process, that having the opportunity to hear what other photographer’s experiences were in preparing as well as what they got out of it, is invaluable. Equally so, is what reviewers expect to see from the growing number of portfolio reviews happening around the world. Finally, I’m also doing more writing. I have an article coming out in April in Diffusion Magazine about my experiences in publishing and I hope to have more opportunities to share what I have learned. I am very much looking forward to the surprises that pop up as well!»
5) Last but not least, what’s your favorite color?
© All copyright remains with photographer Lauren Henkin
Here we go with the new format of More With Less Issue. Each time 3 images commented by the photographer. Axel Stevens is a artphotography student at the SASK Art Academy (Stedelijke Academie voor Schone Kunsten) of Sint-Niklaas, Belgium. «I use mostly second-hand bought cameras or thriftstore cameras like: Pentax espio 140, Pentax zoom 70-X, praktica MTL3, Pentax spotmatic SP II, agfa Isola, Rolleiflex, disposables, Polaroid 635 supercolor, Polaroid closeup, Polaroid Impulse AF and all that I can get my hands on.»
Ladder at construction site
«Some of my earlier work in black and white, shot with a digital camera. This particular photo was shot some time ago, January 2009 I believe, when I was in my first year at the art academy where I follow a six year artphotography education. We went on a trip with our photography teacher, a belgian art photographer called Lieven Nollet, to a social housing estate to ask people living in the tower flats if we could take photos of them. This construction site was outside one of the tower flats. Making photos for me is always a response to an emotion, something I feel at the time when seeing the image or something resonating within me; a memory, a sound, an image, a frame out of some movie I saw, a sound. My photography strongly reflects the way I feel.»
Old woman with envelope on the street
«This photo was made in march 2008 with my first ever “serious” camera. A camera my brother gave to me as a gift.The village this picture was made in is not that far from where I live. I remember I was on my bike, camera strapped ‘round my neck and I see this old, petite woman standing at this street corner waiting for the mailman to come by. At first I hesitated but I approached her and began talking to her and the more we talked the more she relaxed.I asked her if I could take her portrait and she said yes. You can see that she remains a little bit apprehensive. On later occasions I took several more pictures of her.»
Children in and around spiders web
«Another photo from 2008; spring had arrived and I felt like going out enjoying the sun, the hustle and bustle of the city… Life, you know. I took the train to the city of Ghent, belgium, with its historic centre… It’s a bit like Bruges but only better and started walking around. Everything I do, I do on foot. Sometimes I walk for miles and miles. I had been walking a great distance and around midday I approached the city centre. At one of the cities main attractions, an old 13th century castle, a group of children where playing by this large metal spiders web. I instinctively took a photograph; one photograph.»
© All copyright remains with photographer Axel Stevens
«My work explores the notions of artifice, image and kitsch. I am interested by the question of conscience, by the ways Man deals with his existence and fools himself in those systems to avoid his own anguish and conscience.»
© All copyright remains with photographer Clara Prioux