Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Tough trees


From the series, "Trees grow in Brooklyn" by Tim Connor, All rights reserved

Saturday, November 17, 2012


"Split head #4," Julian Wolkenstein, All rights reserved

"Split-head #6," Julian Wolkenstein, All rights reserved

To make each of these pictures  Julian Wolkenstein first makes a straight-on head shot . Then he splits the face in half in photoshop and makes two copies of each side. He takes the two copies, flops one, then rejoins it to its twin. Now both sides of the face are in fact the same side. He repeats the procedure with the two files that show the other side of the face.

He has created two imaginary people.

Apparently, all of us, to some degree, are two-faced.

Read the article here.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Fighter takes a hit

"Fighter, 09/11/12," Tim Connor, All rights reserved

 "Fighter, 11/16/12," Tim Connor, All rights reserved

Beaten up but not decked by Hurricane Sandy.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Post-Sandy (firewood)

"Fallen tree, Prospect Park," Tim Connor, All rights reserved

PPkSandy2Blog "Fallen tree 2, Prospect Park," Tim Connor, All rights reserved

Hurricane Sandy blew down thousands of trees in the new York City area. In this case the old die and the young are largely untouched.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Sunday, August 5, 2012


"Lush #1," Tim Connor, All rights reserved

"Lush #3, Tim Connor, All rights reserved


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The town

"A nice view of town," Tim Connor, All rights reserved

"Vantage point," Tim Connor, All rights reserved

"Watcher woman," Tim Connor, All rights reserved

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Madonna to appear in TinHouse

"Madonna with lions and bicycle," Tim Connor, All rights reserved

No, not that Madonna. I mean the one in my picture (above) from Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. It sold to TinHouse, a very cool literary magazine published in Portland, OR. It will illustrate a personal essay set in Brooklyn, called "True Believer," by writer Charles D'Ambrosio. I can't wait to see it (September issue)

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Catholicist Realism

"Hologram -- Madonna(s), child(s), angels," Tim Connor, All rights reserved

"Religious prints. Flatbush Ave," Tim Connor, All rights reserved 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Roger Mayne: You say you want a revolution...

"Man and  boy," Roger Mayne, All rights reserved

Now 83, Roger Mayne is a Brit who made his name photographing in working class slums in London and other British cities in the 1950s and 60s. Shooting in black-and-white with a small camera, he worked exclusively in a few chosen streets, which he visited over and over, becoming well-known enough to be ignored. Mayne describes his approach as “…visual rather than storytelling” and himself as “… a documentary rather than a journalistic photographer.” This seems right. His best pictures, though deeply grounded in a specific time and place, are Cartier-Bresson-like “decisive moments,” presented in universal human terms.
In his pictures Mayne’s sympathies are clear, but , ironically, his elegant high-contrast shots often take their power from the very scarcity that makes poor people poor.  For instance, Mayne frequently makes use of the clean converging lines of an empty street and identical flats to give depth to foreground figures.  With no cars or buses, no fruit stands, not even trash bins to clutter the view, these stripped-down black-and-white vistas have an undeniable graphic appeal (Bill Brandt used the same trick).  But, in fact , no stuff means no money -- poverty.  These neighborhoods are economically depressed.  Should they be aesthetically pleasing?
In this show Mayne’s  principal subjects are children and adolescents . American viewers will think immediately of Helen Levitt, who, during the same period, similarly turned her lens toward children at play in the poor sections of New York City. At that time, before TV had conquered everything, neighborhood streets in both British and U.S. cities functioned as public living rooms and playgrounds.  Both Mayne and Levitt saw the visual opportunities and treated the communal street as a stage on which anything could happen. Yet, looking at the two bodies of work, the British and American streets come across very differently. Was it that the two cultures were that different? Or did the two photographers see the street life of their subjects in fundamentally different ways?

"Boys playing, NYC," Helen Levitt, All rights reserved

Many of Levitt’s New York pictures, for instance, have a wild, anarchic edge never glimpsed in Mayne’s work.  Her children at play in Hell’s Kitchen or Harlem are making up the rules as they go along, broadcasting chaos and sometimes violence (along with joy) into cityscapes boiling with conflict. It’s possible that Levitt was only able to capture these moments because she was willing to shoot like a stranger – sometimes more like a spy – gladly tolerating suspicion and ostracism for a chance at life in the raw. In any case, her children are often fierce. They seem intent on testing limits. They give the razzmatazz to all comers. By contrast, Maynes seems to have gone after– or at least documented – something much more conservative.  His West London or Battersea kids are tough all right. They have dirty faces and wear old shabby clothes; they smoke cigarettes almost out of the cradle. Yet their clothes are a kind of sober poor child’s uniform – the boys in stained suit coats, pants and caps, the girls in frayed but respectable dresses and sensible coats.  Both sexes ride bikes for transportation, not pleasure. And their games, though boisterous, are deeply traditional – from medieval battles fought with construction-scrap swords and shields to cricket, soccer and marbles to mother-may-I? and  hide-and-seek.  If there is anger in these children, Mayne’s photographs don’t show it.

"Girl, Southam Street," Roger Mayne, All rights reserved 

I wonder why.  Anger isn’t visible in the children’s parents either, although a certain stoic wariness is detectable. It’s possible Mayne concentrated on photographing the young people because their parents discouraged his attentions (one marvelous exception shows a man in the street conducting an imaginary symphony for the camera; I’m guessing he’s gloriously drunk). Found almost always in the background or on the margins, the grown-ups are properly deferential (Mayne was an Oxford man) but not warm. They have been through a terrible war after all – and now they face unemployment and poverty.  When most of these pictures were made, the horrors of the Blitz were more than 10 years in the past, yet little or no change had been delivered to the poor.  Mayne’s middle-aged subjects may have wanted to believe in the sturdy, traditional England of “Keep calm and carry on.”  But – from the discreet evidence of these pictures -- the old slogans were wearing thin.
Mayne continued to work in the British streets through the early 60s, capably depicting the teddy boy subculture that rebelled against the austerity of working class life. But his documentation of British life seems to have stopped there.   By the mid 60s, Mayne had begun to travel and concentrate on nature photography and portraits of his growing children.

Petticoat Lane 1956:Teddy boy and girl
"Teddy boy and girl, Petticoat Lane, 1956," Roger Mayne, All rights reserved
I wish he had continued. As an American boy, I was fascinated in the early 60s by the Mods and the Rockers,  “swinging London”and the mysterious Flower Children.  I remember exactly where I was when I first heard the Beatle’s “I Want to Hold Your Hand” on the radio. The British Invasion of rock n’ roll and blues and all that went with it ignited this country and eventually the world. Yet no great photographer recorded these changes in a way that matters.
Conclusion: we ought to appreciate pictures for what they are, not criticize them for what they’re not. Roger Mayne made genial, accurate – sometimes inspired -- pictures of a place which arguably spawned a global culture. Good enough.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Eye eye, sir!

"Eye, eye, sir," Tim Connor, All rights reserved
"Disdainful lady," Tim Connor, All rights reserved

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Memoir becomes fiction

"Flyer for 'Stranded in Canton,' " All rights reserved

In 2006 I attended the premier screening of legendary photographer William Eggleston’s only film, a documentary titled “Stranded in Canton,” at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater. Shot from 1973-75, the film had been recently edited by Eggleston and co-director Robert Gordon, who were at the screening in person. This is the review I wrote for the Society’s magazine, which has since gone offline.
Tim Connor, 2012

William Eggleston’s documentary, “Stranded in Canton,” breaks through boundaries as disdainfully as Eggleston’s then-shocking color pictures blurred art and documentary and led the way for photography to appear on museum walls in the 1980s.  From 1973 to 1975 Eggleston videotaped more than 30 hours of footage with an early Sony Porta Pack, fitted with a  “prime” Zeiss lens and, occasionally, with an infrared tube that allowed shooting in near darkness.  Thirty-three years later the film made out of that footage carries a gut-punching intensity.

In the film Eggleston’s dry voiceover explains that he “…shot everything, wherever I happened to be…” but his subjects -- mostly friends at bars and private parties in Memphis, New Orleans and Mississippi—are no ordinary bunch. 

It was the early 70s (popularly known as the 60s) and excess was in fashion.  Drugs still had a prophetic sheen and people wanted to believe, with Jim Morrison, they could  “break on through to the other side.” Loaded on booze and pharmaceuticals, Eggleston’s friends in the movie vie with each other – to roar and chant tall tales, songs and tirades into the Southern night.  Often they succeed in invoking a truly extreme quaalude voodoo delta strangeness.

Their filmic intensity owes a lot to Eggleston’s unblinking no-judgment choices. His unfussy way of moving the camera in exact sync with his curiosity, and of holding his subject in long, still super- tight close-ups seems to have spurred his characters on to performance extremes.  The  uninterrupted close-ups and winding tracking shots sometimes even make the viewer uncomfortable.  There’s more than technique at play here.

No matter how woozy the action gets – and it includes biting the heads off live chickens and a casual game of Russian roulette – Eggleston’s camera stays cool, despite the intensity of the performances and the intimacy created by all those super tight close-ups.

At the time the Sony only shot in black and white. It’s interesting that with his trademark color gone Eggleston’s film relies heavily on sound. And, true to the period, the music – glorious, soulful blues, mostly by renowned Memphis bluesman, Furry Lewis– is the best thing in a very good film.

But the post-screening question-and-answer session was disappointing. Dressed in a light-colored suit, bow tie and skin-tight black leather gloves, Eggleston, along with his co- director Gordon, fielded queries that were almost uniformly technical.  One cinephile called the film a “gorgeous object” and then asked: “how was the sound quality achieved?” Audience members wanted to know how using the Porta Pack compared to Eggleston’s still camera, how the tape was transferred to digital, what was the editing procedure?  There was nothing wrong with these questions, but I was absorbed in contemplating the end credits, which detailed what had happened to Eggleston’s friends, in the three decades since they appeared in the film.

Two had been murdered, one shot to death by a pharmacist the victim had tried to hold up for barbiturates. A couple seen bickering in the film had both committed suicide. One of the musicians had disappeared. Another, like Eggleston an apparent survivor, was “a recording artist in Mississippi.”  Two other characters had died young, causes unstated  - perhaps a reasonable guess would be booze and/or AIDS. And the beautiful woman who had been Eggleston’s girlfriend, she of melting close-ups in the film, was summed up this way: “owns rental properties.”

I was too shy too ask Eggleston my question: “Do you believe in ghosts?”

By Tim Connor, 2006

Watch "Stranded in Canton"

Friday, June 1, 2012

"Heinrich Kuehn and his American circle:" A review

"Woman in riding costume," Heinrich Kuehn, All rights reserved

Austrian photographer Heidrich Kuehn was a friend of well-known American shooters Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen around the turn of the last century. The three men visited each other and took pictures together in both the U.S. and Europe; Stieglitz and Kuehns also corresponded vociferously for over 30 years.
This trans-Atlantic artistic friendship is the basis of a new show, “Heidrich Kuehn and His American Circle: Stieglitz and Steichen,” at the Neue Galerie.  No doubt the concept serves as an excuse to pull in American audiences who know Stieglitz and Steichen, but it’s also a fascinating exercise in curatorial sleuthing.  As the show makes clear, ideas did flow freely among the men. We can literally see Kuehn’s bold romantic use of natural symbols like trees and clouds turn up in prints by Stieglitz and Steichen. At the same time the Modernist tendencies of the two New Yorkers start to appear in Kuehn’s painterly landscapes.
But what impresses most about this show is the sheer impact of its century-old prints. 
"Die Kunst," Heinrich Kuench, All rights reserved

In a back room the show’s curator Monika Faber has reconstructed an installation of Kuehn’s large-sized Pictorialist land- and seascapes that appeared in 1906 in Stieglitz’s Gallery 291. The approach is as insistent as any contemporary artist aiming to grab eyeballs. Strongly tinted in cyans, greens, brick reds and carroty oranges, the pictures seem to leap out of their frames. Hardly the faded stuff of ancient photo history, they are  brassy and bright as a new penny.
Later, Kuehn’s Stieglitz-inspired turn toward Modernist clarity also exhibits a freshness one rarely sees in large-format pictures before 1920. Abandoning the large prints, universal themes and impressionist effects of Pictorialism, Kuehn launched into Modernism by making intimate, psychologically–telling portraits of his family.
"Lotte and her nurse (Mary Warner)," Heinrich Kuehns, All rights reserved

A recent piece by Karen Rosenberg in the New York Times calls Kuehn “one of the medium’s great control freaks” and describes how, in making the family portraits, “…he selected a site and sketched it in pencil, had his children and their nanny assume specific poses in clothing he had preselected for its photogenic qualities, and waited until every shadow was right where he wanted it to be.”
"Autochrome," Heinrich Kuehn, All rights reserved

Yet Kuehn’s portraits in this show – even those in color, using the then-new Autochrome process -- seem remarkably unposed, warm and natural.  How could such a punctilious taskmaster produce such relaxed work?  The answer probably lies with the family’s young English nanny, Mary Warner, who had taken charge of Kuehn’s four children after his wife died. Photographed by Kuehn with his children, Warner seems a tender presence. When she reveals her face to the lens she is nothing short of radiant. 
It comes as no surprise that, during this period, master and nanny were lovers. Later, as Kuehn’s companion, Warner posed for an erotically charged series of nudes, some of which are included in the show.
"Nude (Mary Warner)," Heinrich Kuehn, All rights reserved

After that, Kuehn’s story goes swiftly down hill. The First World War devastated his traditional world.  He lost his money and stopped reaching out to the great world beyond his Tyrolean hills. In the end – so the story goes – Kuehn became a crank and finally a recluse.
I wonder what happened to Mary Warner?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Alex Webb -- photos of a toxic town

AlexWebb -- Treece, Kansas
"Room in abandoned house," Alex Webb, All rights reserved

I happened on a horrifying but rather sweet article about a lead-and-zinc-mining town called Treece in the flatlands of Kansas. Everybody (except one stubborn couple) has left Treece to avoid the rampant toxicity of its dirt, plants, animals, water and air.

There are wonderful photos by Alex Webb accompanying the piece. Maybe his photos are why I chose the word 'sweet' above. Or maybe it's just me. When it's safely in the past, human folly and its consequences can seem merely melancholy. Easy to forgive, especially in the springtime.

Yeah, even at our most greedy, it's hard to wipe out everything! But we do keep trying.

Read my review of Alex Webb's recent NY show, 'The Suffering of Light'

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Photos for sale -- New York AIPAD 2012

"Infidel," Tim Hetherington, All rights reserved

Directly across from the entrance to AIPAD 2012, a wall of large color prints by photojournalist Tim Hetherington shows young American soldiers in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley in 2011. Pictured sleeping in their bunks or trying to relax between battles, the (all-male) soldiers are young, fit & invariably shirtless. They wear camouflage pants and boots and sport lurid tattoos – one, in purple, says “Infidel.” The soldiers radiate a slightly dinged-up, bad-boy quality that reminded me, in spite of myself, of meticulously rough-looking ad shoots for jeans by Levi or Diesel.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Hetherington (who, soon after leaving Afghanistan, was killed covering the overthrow of Quadaffi) made these pictures as part of a very different story. Even a cursory glance at his Afghan pictures from Korengal reveals a full awareness of how murderous and confusing the conflict was for these young Americans. In their frontier outpost, always under attack, the men responded by closing ranks and projecting attitude and fierceness outward. As presented by Yossi Milo, who reportedly took over Hetherington’s estate after his death, this context is absent. The men here are warrior beefcake. Their war has become a brand.

Perhaps there’s no point of complaining about sales people trying to sell. But what exactly are they trying to sell here?

In 2012 the AIPAD galleries in general offered a great number of unstaged pictures. For instance, I saw work everywhere by the great photojournalist Henri Cartier-Bresson, who died in 2004. His work was crisply printed, matted, mounted and priced at about $15,000. But I noticed something I hadn’t seen before. Every Cartier-Bresson picture featured an authoritative signature in black ink on the margin of the print. Many of the mattes even had neat windows x-actoed out to exhibit the master’s name. They were standardized.

Henri Cartier-Bresson, All rights reserved

It’s true that Cartier-Bresson himself wasn’t very interested in the printing and presentation of his pictures. His famous quote,“Hunters, after all, are not cooks,” expressed his point of view. But there’s something sad about the way his brave, humane work seems to be aging. As witnesses die and passions fade, the events he photographed become, more and more, the pictures he made of them. Increasingly aestheticized and commodified, these moments become the elegance and style of Cartier-Bresson’s rendering. The jolting heartbeats that inspired the pictures are going.

This AIPAD, in fact, convinced me that the black-and-white photographs of the Leica generation that included Cartier-Bresson – roughly from Andre Kertescz to Garry Winnogrand –are the new American canon. Included in this increasingly collectible category I saw prints by Bruce Davidson, Lee Friedlander, Helen Levitt, William Klein, Eliot Erwitt , Mary Ellen Mark and others.

Perhaps it’s time for this to happen. Though some photographers will always choose to shoot in black and white for its matchless abstract and metaphorical power, it has now become, after all, a historical process. Yet something is indeed lost as black and white images move slowly away from the mainstream into the realms of art and scholarship.

The most expensive black and white pictures from this group were shot by the unsentimental outsider Robert Frank, whose star continues to rise with current street photographers. Perhaps today’s shooters, with their ubiquitous digital SLRs, sense in Frank a combination of determination and despair they also feel. “We are driven to do this work, yes, but, really, what’s the point?” they ask. Does the seemingly timeless success of Frank’s images give them any answer?

Most of Frank’s work at this AIPAD was beautiful, but the prices were high even for less-than-stellar work. I saw an uninteresting 8 x 10 shot of two couples on a bench in a Reno marriage mill (from the same take as the more famous shot of one couple on the bench) selling for $125,000. A dark print from 1951 titled “London Bankers” went for a princely $250,000. Even more surprisingly, a truly bad print -- a 1955 image titled “Coney Island,” was so muddy and flat any good printer would have thrown it out (and Frank had a good one, Sid Kaplan). The print was priced at $50,000. Rock bottom for the new Frank.

"Cab Culture," Ryan Weideman, All rights reserved

Here’s a quick list of goodies you could have brought home from AIPAD 2012:

Portraits of Frida Kahlo by Nicholas Murray in black and white and carbon print color from her 1939 trip to New York City. Winter Works on Paper: $1,500 for the black and whites; $6,000 for the color.

From four different galleries, virtually identical Ansel Adam’s “Monolith, the Face of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, 1927.” Approximately $20,000.

Taxi driver/photographer Ryan Weideman’s in-cab portraits of the famous or merely weird. My favorite, “Salsa Ride With Salsa Betty,” from 2002. Bruce Silverstein.

Wonderful 1950 nude from Weegee the Famous, who apparently cut up the negative to insert a tilted third eye into the middle of the model’s forehead. Henry Fieldstein, $6,500.

A miserably anxious Janis Joplin sitting backstage clutching her pint of Southern Comfort. By Jim Marshall, $9,000.

“Jewelry Store Window,” Andy Warhol, black and white. Looks exactly like the proud submission of someone taking their first photo class. Erick Franck, $9,000.

Notable omissions: The Chinese, the French and the Japanese were there. Where were the Germans? There was no August Sander but also no Loretta Lux. Perhaps Andreas Gursky wasn’t there because the Park Avenue Armory was too small. Oh well, maybe next year.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Monday, March 26, 2012

Dystopia now

"Car bomb," Scott Dalton, All rights reserved

Are you obsessed with dystopia? (definition: "An imagined universe --usually the future of our own world -- in which a worst-case scenario is explored; the opposite of utopia") Or is it just me?

No, it's not just me. I started thinking about this when I realized how many of the books and movies I've read & seen recently are dystopian. Here's a rough list.

Super Sad True Love Story, Gary Shteyngart, 2010 -- World is taken over by 3 mega corporate states. Everyone is the sum of his data. Everyone knows your score for Credit & Fuckability. Talking face to face is so unusual it's called "verbaling."
Sleepless, Charlie Huston, 2010 -- Created from experimenting on genetically modified corn, a mutant virus becomes a plague. The billions of victims will be sleepless till they die.
The Road, Cormac McCarthy, 2009 -- A nuclear holocaust wipes out most of the life on earth. Survivors wander in search of canned food or other humans they can kill & eat.
Never Let Me Go," Kazuo Ishiguro, 2005 -- A first-person story of children raised in a special school. They learn they are clones being raised to supply humans with organs. Eventually they will die on an operating table.
Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell, 2004 -- A book of six inter-related stories. To summarize the last two 1) Sonmi~451, a genetically-engineered fabricant server at Papa Song's diner is interviewed before her execution after she rebels against the capitalist totalitarian society that created and exploited her kind. 2) In a post-apocalyptic distant future. Zachry, a tribesman living a primitive life after most of humanity dies during "the Fall," is visited by Meronym, a member of the last remnants of technologically-advanced civilization.

Wall-E, 2008 -- A sweet & funny animated film. Also bitingly satirical. Humankind has buried the Earth under poisonous garbage. Everyone has gotten morbidly fat in the spaceships that escaped. They ride around in machines, listening to jingles & shopping. No one remembers Earth.
Children of Men -- At the time of the film, the last child born to humans has just died at the age of 38. A woman with a young child appears & becomes the target of both the totalitarian state in power & the brutal rebels they are trying to crush.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes -- A drug to cure Alzheimer's is mistakenly given to a chimpanzee, who shares it with other chimps being used in lab-experiments. Now they are all as intelligent as humans. As it becomes clear that the released final version of the drug is fatal to human beings, The chimps escape.
28 Days Later -- A mysterious, incurable virus has turned everyone in Great Britain into murderous, human-flesh-eating zombies. A band of uninfected try to get out of London & find refuge in the countryside. (watched a few years ago)

TV series
Battlestar Galactica, 2003-2009 -- In this series ( watched a few years ago)humans have created humanoid machines called cylons. When the cylons become conscious they attack the humans. A series of intergalactic wars ensue.
Jericho -- Only saw one episode. Someone has set off nuclear bombs in the U.S. In Kansas, where the series is set, it's town vs town . Men ride horses & shoot each other as the larger political forces are revealed .

Would love it if you'd add to this list. Comments welcome.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Greenwood graves: more statues

"Guardian of souls," Tim Connor, All rights reserved

"Hands clasped," Tim Connor, All rights reserved

More images from cemeteries worldwide

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Lady of stone

"Lady of Stone, Greenwood Cemetery," Tim Connor, All rights reserved

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Greenwood graves

"Beloved mother," Tim Connor, All rights reserved

"Two girl grave," Tim Connor, All rights reserved

"Ruslana with beads & flowers," Tim Connor, All rights reserved

More cemetery pix by Tim Connor