Synergy seems to be an operative word for this issue. One day in May 2002, Lee Friedlander and Richard Avedon spent an afternoon making portraits of each other. That unprecedented occasion, discussed here by Jeffrey Fraenkel, reveals the fascinating rapport not only between the two artists, but between portraiture and self-portraiture, how a subject sees (or chooses to present) himor herself, and how another sensibility may render that subject so differently.
ARAKI NOBUYOSHI'S photography has been featured in more than two hundred books and many exhibitions. A major show of his work opened at London’s Barbican Art Gallery in 2005. It will be presented at the Kulturhuset, Stockholm, September 13-December 15, 2007.
Louise Lawler: Twice Untitled and Other Pictures (Looking Back)
Louise Lawler has made a career of representing or at least noticing the arrangements of artworks by others. In some cases she photographs the self-conscious installations of wealthy collectors; in others she reveals the offhanded placements of paintings by professional art handlers.
Tom Sandberg is an old punk rocker living and working in Oslo, on the former estate of his nation’s beloved son Edvard Munch—as such, it has taken some time for his photographs to make it to the United States. And he still doesn’t seem to be in any big hurry.
Twenty years ago, when he was in his forties, Henry Wessel was asked in an interview about the phenomenal luminosity of his pictures. He responded that, for him, the photographer’s task “is to describe the existing light. . . . Chances are, if you believe the light, you’re going to believe that the things photographed existed in the world.”
The Mississippi Delta has been called “the most Southern place on earth.” A swampy, heavily forested wilderness with a history of extreme wealth and equally extreme poverty, of bountiful hospitality and racial oppression, of palatial plantations and sharecropper shacks, the Delta offers a concentrated collection of most of the basic tropes of Southern culture.
For many in today’s global marketplace, it seems too essentialist—and downright politically incorrect—to identify the unique characteristics of American art. Artists from everywhere now supposedly can make work about anywhere. Yet, although it is difficult to typify art by its place of facture, certain features of a place—particularly its geography and history—inevitably make their mark.
Few photographers have been as so identified with a single country as David Goldblatt is with South Africa. For more than five decades he has faithfully documented his country’s development, from the days of apartheid through the years of struggle against white rule to the dawning of the “New South Africa.”
Nikolaus Geyrhalter’s 2005 film Our Daily Bread has no plot, no characters, and no talking heads. Every scene has been shot with a fixed camera, focused to an unchanging depth of field. And it is one of the greatest movies I have ever seen. Who would have suspected that a documentary about food production could evoke eternal themes?
Richard Avedon and Lee Friedlander: One Day in May
In the early months of 2002, Richard Avedon was preparing for a retrospective of his photographs scheduled to open at the Metropolitan Museum of Art later that year. Organized by the curator Maria Morris Hambourg, the exhibition was to survey the scope of Avedon’s portraiture through the course of five decades, including work as wide-ranging as editorial assignments, portraits of politicians, portraits of his dying father, an extended series on workers in the American West, and a thirty-one-foot-wide panorama of Andy Warhol and members of the Factory.
South African documentary photographers today can be considered heirs to the legacy of “struggle photography.” They have grown up aware of the political commitment photographers made in documenting the struggle against apartheid.
The relationship between photography and cinema is as complex at it is long. The two have had a mutual attraction and repulsion for over a century, held together and held apart by similarities and differences. As many of the boundaries between the two media begin to disappear in the electronic ether, it is becoming possible to look back and consider what the two have been for each other.
The Hawara checkpoint is situated a short distance south of Nablus, the largest city on the West Bank. On busy days, as many as five thousand Palestinians pass through Hawara, or at least try to. The Israeli army, which runs the checkpoint, has as its mission the interdiction of suicide bombers—“martyr bombers,” in the nomenclature of Palestinian terrorism—and so, on days of high tension, many of the Palestinians who assemble at the checkpoint are not allowed passage.
Some subjects for contemporary photography seem distinctly unpromising. Consider Paul Shambroom's series on town meetings, or the Typologies of Bernd and Hilla Becher. But, as such photographers show, one of the medium’s most endearing characteristics is that the simplest and most mundane idea can become engaging, given the correct attention and treatment.
By now, to point out that car manufacturers use sex, or the promise of sex, to sell automobiles seems as self-evident—as banal—as saying that the purpose of advertising is to create desire. Who has not seen a TV commercial in which a hot, beautiful woman slides into the passenger seat of an equally hot, beautiful sports car, her short skirt rucking up as her dashing male companion reaches for the gearshift?
Three facts about Englewood, New Jersey: 1) it was so named because it had been the first primarily English-speaking settlement on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River (in the seventeenth century, when the Tri-State area was still New Netherland); 2) the city was the location of the house that Gordon Matta-Clark famously cleaved in two and photographed for his 1974 work Splitting; 3) photographer Shannon Ebner was born there in 1971.
Michelangelo Antonioni’s film Blow-Up (1966) places the photograph at the center of a gripping drama and in the process offers compelling commentary on the ambiguity of photographic veracity, the photographer as voyeur, and the fact that you never know what kind of scene you might capture in a public park with a camera.
I had the pleasure of having lunch with Arnold Odermatt when he came to town for the opening of his 2002 exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago. That show, housed in a small project space at the museum, included a selection of black-and-white photographs of car accidents taken in the Swiss Alps, and color photographs of policemen on duty.
You might say that the Russians like to make things difficult for themselves. Or perhaps it is just that they are exacting when it comes to concepts that are particularly important to them. After all, they distinguish between two types of truth (everyday pravda and immortal istina, as defined by Vladimir Nabokov in a 1940 essay on Russian literature), and they have as many as three words denoting “native land.”
One of [Woodman's] most original contributions to the history of art lies in a challenge to the traditions of the self-portrait. She was, perhaps, more aware of the possibilities and problems of photography as a medium than many of her fellow artists, and certainly than is appreciated by most critics.
I was interested in the way cinema affected the criteria for judging photography. Cinematography permits, and validates, the collaboration between photographer and subject that was largely excluded in classic documen tary terms. That exclusion limits photography, and so my first moves were against it—working in a studio with all the technical questions that implies.
Slowly but surely the seas part, and the lost continents give up their treasures. Not that Heinz Hajek-Halke (1898-1983) was as invisible as Atlantis—far from it. During the 1920s and into the 1930s, Hajek-Halke was as busy as any German photographer, and unlike so many artists of Jewish extraction, he neither emigrated nor was sent to a camp.