Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Sunday, March 23, 2008
"L'Origine du Monde," 1866, Gustave Courbet
It still shocks. Even in this porned-out generation, our eyes dilate a little. Banned in Paris in 1866, "L"Origine du Monde" was the work of Gustave Courbet, the French painter who supposedly coined the word "realism." Courbet was taking aim at the sly decadence of the French Romantics of his time, who disguised the eroticism of their paintings by placing them in the classical past & coyly hiding the crucial parts of their smooth-limbed maidens. Not Courbet. This is what you're truly interested in, he says. Direct from life, right here, right now. This is what it looks like.
"Self-portrait with pipe," 1848-49, Gustave Courbet
But Courbet was more than firebrand & provocateur. He could really paint. In addition to nudes, he painted portraits, landscapes & seascapes, as well as lower-class scenes that expressed his socialist ideas & infuriated the elite. So it's something of an occasion when the Met mounts a retrospective of 130 of Courbet's paintings Here's what Peter Schjeldahl (a critic who can really write) says about the show:
"Courbet's drenching seascapes should come with towels and his steaming nudes with towelettes... Nothing could be better therapy for a bodiless society of cybernetic narcissisms than the mad wallow of this show."
Friday, March 21, 2008
"Call of the wild," Tim Connor, All rights reserved
Warmest thanks to all who came to Brooklyn last night for my show & party. I really loved seeing you! Who knew Pacific Standard had so many kinds of beer?
Since it was so (happily) crowded & hectic last night & for those who couldn't make it to the party, here's a link to the mix of slides that I ran.
And here's what I wrote about them:
How I see these photographs
These are my home-ground pictures. If you had a giant compass, planted the point on the roof of my apartment building, set the radius at 3 miles & drew a circle, all these pictures would fall inside it. Historically, they’re the direct descendants of street shooting by Eugene Atget, Andre Kertecz, Walker Evans & Robert Frank, maybe leavened a bit by color & irony in the more recent tradition of William Eggleston.
My method is to move around waiting for pictures to embed themselves in the world for a single instant -- before they morph into something else. This is even true of supposedly stationary objects, like statues, which are also changing every second. At the moment I claim them, my best pictures are already complete in the world. Drawn directly from what is there, like haiku, they are recognized, not created. They are both descriptively precise & philosophically unreliable. As the great street portraitist Diane Arbus put it, “The more specific you are the more general it will be.”
Prints are available: For a price list or to talk about a project, contact:
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Come to a celebration of my photographs on Thursday, March 20th, 6-8 pm at the Pacific Standard Bar in Brooklyn. It's the Spring Equinox & light & color are happening again! Here's the info:
The show is currently on display 24/7 in colorful 4 ft. by 6 ft. lightboxes at the Atlantic Ave/Pacific St.subway station. The station is located at the intersection of Flatbush & Atlantic Ave (see map). It is served by the 2, 3, 4, 5, B, D, M, N, Q & R subway lines & by the LIRR.
If you're coming by train, see the show on your way to schmooze at the party. It's convenient! To find my lightboxes go to the lower level at Atlantic Ave. and follow signs to the B, Q & LIRR
The schmooze: is at Pacific Standard Bar, 82 Fourth Ave. (2 blocks from station -- see map) . Starts at 6.
See the pictures as a slideshow
See the lightboxes on site
See you in Brooklyn.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Friday, March 14, 2008
"Lighting the tree, Auschwitz, 1944," photographer unknown
The man shown above lighting the Christmas tree was called "a specialist in annihilation" by a German prosecutor who later tried him for war crimes. Named Karl Hoecker, the man had spent World War II directing the murder of European Jews at Nazi concentration camps. This picture was taken at Auschwitz, where as 2nd in command, Hoecker did his part in killing & disposing of the approximately 1.1 million people who died there.
The picture is taken from a recently discovered album of snapshots Hoecker made in 1944 of Nazi SS officers enjoying themselves at a resort called Solahutte, just outside the death camp. I wrote about it here when the NY Times covered it in September. In its March 17th issue The New Yorker revisits the story & includes a slide show (unfortunately, the text is not posted).
"SS officers singing, Auschwitz, 1944," photographer unknown
From the text by Alec Wilkinson:
"Over the Auschwitz album, like a gloss, clings a sense of prideful observance of manners and customs, a tranquil and purified world, a shared purpose, a satisfaction in uniforms, boots and accordions. Lives so exalted required trips to the hills, shotguns and game hunting, companionsable dogs, wine, and the presence of young women. "That SS officers went on vacation didn't take us by surprise," Judith Cohen says. "What surprised us was that Auschwitz wasn't only a place to imprison men and women and kill European Jews; it was also a place to have fun."
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
"Untitled" (from Frauen), Michael Schmidt, All rights reserved
I took the afternoon off yesterday & went to Chelsea with a handwritten list of possibilities. But it was the show I just happened to stumble on -- Michael Schmidt at Mitchell-Innes & Nash -- that made my day. Hardly known in this country, Schmidt is, in his sixties, highly respected in his native Germany. But even in the land of Gursky & Struth, he's apparently no star.
Maybe he's not famous because he hasn't declared one style & stuck with it. The lovely gaminesque portrait above, for example, is from a series on young German women he made in the late 90s. But other work in this all B & W show -- dark sentiment-free landscapes, deadpan views of city scapes & nooks, architectural oddities, diptychs & other work clustered for meaning, distinctly unbeautiful portraits -- seem as though they could have been made by someone else entirely. For me this is no criticism. I'm as thrilled by Schmidt's restlessness as I am by his mastery. I like it that he seems to be making it up as he goes along. Whatever he does, his subject matter is consistently serious, even austere. But his pictures are sensual & anything but doctrinaire.
Instead of trying to tell you, I wanted to just show you. But I couldn't google up the JPGs I needed (go to the show if you're in NY.) The pictures that really impressed me feature almost unbelievably dense compositions. Peopleless city views, for example, brimming with textures, shapes, lines, tonalities -- so much disparate architecture & human creation crammed into the frame you can't imagine how it could all go together. But Schmidt has somehow made it work, without fuss, found the balance point. These pictures are a little bit like Lee Friedlander's work but less ragged. Even facing the most savage disorder in nature, Schmidt seems able to find unforced harmonies without sacrificing the real.
I remember, while I was looking, having a strange thought: "He's photographing human intelligence."
Monday, March 10, 2008
"Lindelem 1," Katie Kingma, All rights reserved
The tireless Jorg Colberg's blog Conscientious led me to the work of Katie Kingma. Recently included in PDN's top 30 emerging photographers of 2008, Kingma says her pictures are "...tableaus which depict my subjects in moments of casual interaction with their environment, suggesting a place just beyond the back yard, far from danger, and close to home." I'm struck by the specificity of her phrase -- "just beyond the backyard." It evokes my own childhood roaming through suburban-frontier Connecticut woods with a gang of boys & dogs. Except for the occasional copperhead snake, those woods were safe, but our adventures seemed wild; our imaginations never ran hotter.
Kingma's most successful photos are utterly specific and undeniably strange . She suggests that "...perhaps [the pictures] reflect a world found in dreams or in the mind of a child." Like dreams they suggest complicated narratives, but the dreamer isn't allowed to know them. The dreamer suddenly finds herself in a place -- just there! A girl looks out the window & notices that the glass is teeming with ladybugs. A boy looks into a cave entrance & sees mysterious men in feathered headresses
"Indian Council caves," Katie Kingma, All rights reserved
Freud wrote that "the uncanny" draws its power from its similarity to the familiar. Thus, a doll can be uncanny because it looks so much like a real child -- we dread it in some sense because we fear it could "come alive." All statues have a whiff of the uncanny. So too, to a lesser degree, do all photos. Kingma seems to understand this. In the best of these pictures she delivers a shock in the dappled sunlight "just beyond the backyard." I look forward to seeing what she does next.
Sunday, March 9, 2008
"Big chocolate," Tim Connor, All rights reserved
I've been blogging less & less & it's time to fess up why. I got a new MacBook Pro, a beautiful sleek thing, & something to celebrate after years of hauling my company-issued PC laptop home from work every night to work on my own stuff. Now I'm dithering about it. My embarrassing little secret -- & it's the emperor of all ironies for a serious photographer -- I'm a technophobe.
There, I've said it! I'll get through this PC-Mac transition in my slow mumbly-bumbly way -- hopefully without exposing myself to the ridicule of 16-year-olds -- but I won't pretend I like it.
OK, I admit I'm a growly old grump who would love nothing better than to cut loose & rant. But it's a waste of time. Now it's OSX Leopard, which succeeded OSX Tiger. I guess Leopard might last a few years. And then what? Sabre Tooth?
Well, got to go. Time to blunder in the techno darkness. Yes, I'll stop whining soon, but 1st, you know that cellphone my family forced me to buy? ... What is all that tiny, tinny shit you're supposed to need actually FOR? I just want to make a phone call.
Thursday, March 6, 2008
Tim Connor, All rights reserved
I remember a group of friends gathered in a room after midnight, everybody bundled up on chairs & couches, staring into a dying fire. The talk was slow, desultory. No one wanted to go to bed yet.
“Where --what place -- makes you feel the safest?” someone asked.
Tim Connor, All right reserved
The answers ranged from meticulously recalled childhood bedrooms in the suburbs to fantasy high-tech castles surrounded by moats teeming with piranhas. To my surprise, every speaker imagined him or herself inside…guarded by walls, people, animals & electronics.
“I would feel safest outside in darkness in a hidden place from which I could watch my surroundings,” I said. “No one would know I was there.”
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
"Edward Limonov," Donald Weber, All rights reserved
Every once in a while in a book or magazine I come across a portrait that stops me. I look at it a long time, take in the details, read the caption, the text. I can't tell exactly why I'm so fascinated. Finally, I start turning pages again, but then I turn back. I look at the portrait some more.
This happened with the portrait of Edward Liminov (above) which ran Sunday as "Putin's Pariah" in The New York Times Magazine. The photographer is Donald Weber (I wrote earlier about Weber here). He has used light as in a Rembrandt painting, picking out Liminov's face & hands in a triangular composition backed by a muted, unfocused clutter of books & pictures. He has also captured Liminov's remarkable expression as he looks away, blue eyes at once fierce & afraid, intent & distracted.
The article by Andrew Meier is also fascinating. Liminov is a Russian novelist who lived in New York when the punks were in flower but is now back in Moscow leading a cadre of radical young people protesting the tightening grip of Putin's state power. He's not really political. He named his group the National Bolshevik Party though he has no serious ideology (I'm guessing it was because he looks so much like Lenin). And his protests are more theatrical provocation than anything remotely approaching revolution. Still,according to the piece, though he may be self-indulgent, vainglorious, narcisistic, even crazy, Liminov & his "boys" are just about the only ones willing to stand up to Putin in today's Russia.
Putin, for his part, has no humor or sense of the absurd (you can see that) & he's determined to destroy this poet/fool. It's getting ugly.
I think the portrait captures this.
Sunday, March 2, 2008
"Palestinian-American girl, Bay Ridge, Brooklyn," Mel Rosenthal, All rights reserved
New York documentary photographer and teacher Mel Rosenthal has been going against the tide a long time. His latest show, The Arab Americans: American by Choice, opening Friday, March 7th at Webster University in St. Louis, is, as usual, timely & courageous.
Started before the attacks of September 11th, the show's straightforward but sensitive portrayal of New Yorkers who trace their roots to North Africa and the Middle East stands against crude stereotypes that have gained ground since the attacks. It's also a stunning collection of pictures.
If you're in the St. Louis area between March 7 & March 28, don't miss this one.