Where art, science, and philosophy converge, remarkable things can happen. In this issue of Aperture, we bring you Lynn Davis’s extraordinary images of international space programs. Like the programs themselves, her study is largely propelled by a fundamental query: is existence there different from existence here?
YOUNG AMERICA: THE DAGUERREOTYPES OF SOUTHWORTH & HAWES
Nearly a century before Alfred Stieglitz grasped the link between the poor respect given to photography and the low prices asked for it, the Boston daguerreotypists Albert Sands Southworth and Josiah Johnson Hawes entered the new field of daguerreotypy in 1843 with a mission: to make daguerreotypes worthy of the term "art," and to charge prices accordingly.
Let’s start with the numbers: the current retrospective of Lee Friedlander’s photographic work, which opened last summer at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, contains 6 color photographs, 477 black-and-white gelatin silver prints, and 25 examples of books, special editions, and portfolios; the accompanying catalog includes no fewer than 764 plates, and is almost too heavy to lift.
Cross-pollination between photography and painting has been a persistent, if sometimes unacknowledged, thread throughout much of the history of Western art. Many artists have used devices with lenses to help them sketch and remember details: when an Italian mathematician invented a lens for the camera obscura, European painters eagerly took up the device to organize and clarify their images on canvas in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
“Martin Parr, Works 1971-2001” is the name of the show hosted by the Maison Européenne de la Photographie (MEP) in Paris, but the plainspoken title is no statement of modesty. Curated by Val Williams, originally produced by the Barbican Art Centre (London) and the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television (Bradford), and scheduled to travel to other European venues, this large exhibition attempts nothing less than to establish the author of Boring Postcards among the pantheon of contemporary photographers.
There’s a temptation to view this somewhat sprawling exhibition at the Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin, as one more homage to the icons of twentieth-century Hungarian photography. Resist that. There are images included here like Robert Capa’s Falling Soldier (1936) and Martin Munkacsi’s heart-stoppingly revolutionary fashion shot of Lucile Brokaw running along the beach in a caped bathing suit.
The Jeff Wall "package" presented by Tate Modern was impressive, comprising not only an exhibition of his greatest hits, but also a master class with the artist himself; public programs with philosophers, critics, and historians; gallery talks; film screenings; conferences; workshops; two Tate-published books (a catalog and a monograph); and a vast catalogue raisonné published by Steidl.
On February 2, 2000, my telephone rang at 3:25 A.M. I was in a deep sleep, exhausted from a long day at work, but I immediately grabbed the phone. It was my youngest sister, crying into the phone, informing me that my only nephew, Songha Thomas Willis, had been robbed and shot in the head, and he was in the E.R. in a Philadelphia hospital.
There are two different kinds of courage at work in Jen Davis’s photographs. First, there is the brave decision to expose so completely her physical appearance and her personal anxiety related to that appearance. Aside from any theorizing about stereotypes and judgment of the whole by means of parts, this is a thing that is tough to do.
The story of Wilson A. "Snowflake" Bentley has echoes of "Jack and the Beanstalk": to the mystification of his dairy-farming parents in northern Vermont, the teenage Bentley, in effect, traded in the cow for a view camera—and found his happy ending in the form of a lifetime of photography and discovery.
When Lynn Davis was asked for her thoughts regarding the photographs she took of sites for various space programs, she responded with a quotation from Kant's Prolegomena: "How is it that in this space, here, we can make judgments that we know with apodictic certainty will be valid in that space, there?"
The last editorial page of the October 1945 issue of Harper's Bazaar was devoted to this announcement: "Beginning November first Junior Bazaar will appear as a separate new monthly magazine covering the world of fashion, people, events, ideas for girls of thirteen to twenty-one."
The family, your own family, is a lot to take on as an artistic subject. If the project is an open one, collusions must be established; privacies must be held up to the light of inspection; some poses must be dropped and others adopted. It’s a job that can never be anything close to finished.
The young girl lay on the concrete floor of a destroyed elementary school classroom in Kass, partially covered with an old jute sack. She appeared to be about ten and near death, trembling and vacant-eyed, so weak she could barely raise her head.
As the rise of the modern city paralleled the rise of photography in the nineteenth century, it is not surprising that photographers were drawn to plumb their modern environs with their modern instruments. Eugène Atget pictured Parisian streets as melancholic and absent of people; Jacob Riis and Thomas Annan employed the camera to reveal the squalor of New York’s and Glasgow’s slums (respectively).
Alzheimer's was a subject to which the photographer did not come wholly unprepared. Before turning his attention to the illness, he had completed work on his Sun City project, a series about a retirement colony in the American southwest. In this strange city of spunky senior citizens, he encountered innumerable whimsical details.
One of the most lasting lessons about photography left us by the French critic Roland Barthes is that while all photographs are "contingent," none are, by themselves, "coded." For any clarity of interpretation or reading, a gloss or caption is required, some sort of text that explains what is going on in the image.
Wolfgang Tillmans creates his photographs by carefully selecting, arranging, and manipulating the motif in order to express a consistent concept. This concept is the violation and transformation of the border between public and private.
René Magritte didn't take photography seriously; it was, for him, chiefly a pastime, an excuse for staging absurd scenes with friends. But Patrick Roegiers, in his book Magritte and Photography (D.A.P., 2005), proposes that photography also had a "hidden, internal link" to Magritte's paintings.
Here is a true story that characterizes the perfectionism of Irving Penn: after being presented with five hundred lemons from which to select the singular best of the bunch, he had to take five hundred photographs of that one lemon to arrive at l'image juste.