"'Art' is a form of communication that embodies form and content, and the melding of both produces effective works," declares Magnum photographer Philip Jones Griffiths in his interview with William Messer in these pages. Griffiths, author of the seminal and harrowing volume Vietnam Inc., among many other books, is a man of trenchant documentary sensibilities and strong opinions about what constitutes "content" in a work of art.
VINCE ALETTI is preparing a book called Male, of photographs and art from his own collection, to coincide with an exhibition at White Columns in New York City this spring. He recently contributed texts to Jackie Nickerson's Faith (steidlMACK, 2007) and Kohei Yoshiyuki's The Park (Hatje Cantz/Yossi Milo, 2007).
At first glance, there's not much spirit in sight in Spiritual America, Richard Prince's thirty-year retrospective at New York's Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Looking around Frank Lloyd Wright's vertiginous space at the mélange of paintings, sculpture, drawings, and photographs, you see a collection of monochrome canvases covered with stenciled writing, life-size replicas of car hoods, handwritten lists, enlarged cartoons, and groups of rephotographed photographs.
An enigma with many aliases, the consummate witness never seen, Chris Marker remains one of the strongest voices of postwar cinematic image-making. Although even his most ardent fans will never have a clue as to who he really is, he has helped us as a culture to understand a little better what we may be.
When photography was new, some people thought it could see very far—in fact, into the next life, including emanations and "mediumnic attractions." Dark Matters: Artists See the Impossible, at San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, tests our faith and calls forth similar feelings of wonder by ringing changes on the kinds of infinities the global and fragmented can generate.
A green oasis on the outskirts of perpetually dusty Beijing, the new Three Shadows Photography Art Centre opened its gates for the first time on a steamy evening last summer. Hundreds of photographers, artists, and curiosity-seekers spilled across the center's freshly trimmed lawn and gathered under the plum and persimmon trees dotting its interior courtyard.
The British are famously keen on self-deprecation, and How We Are, at Tate Britain, was an impressive exercise in that cunning balance between confidence and humility. The show, curated by Val Williams and Susan Bright, was not a predictable survey of British photography; instead, it infused the traditional canon with pictures drawn from postcards, family albums, advertisements, instructional manuals, medical archives, criminal records, tourist publications, and more.
In 1976, when Pierre and Gilles met at a party in Paris and fell in love, American art photography was dominated by the Museum of Modern Art's John Szarkowski. During his curatorial regime, the dogma of straight photography was strictly enforced, making renegades of image makers (such as Andy Warhol and Duane Michals) who dared to challenge the orthodoxy, or who continued the unfashionable tradition of directorial and/or painterly photographers of earlier generations, like Henry Peach Robinson and William Mortensen.
In the rather dysfunctional history of photography, the 1976 exhibition William Eggleston's Guide at New York's Museum of Modern Art is often cited as The Start of Serious Color Photography. This idea riles and confuses many people, as color photography had been around for more than a century before that (James Clerk Maxwell is credited with producing the first color photograph back in 1861).
THE SHADOW OF THE WORLD JAMES WELLING'S CAMERALESS AND ABSTRACT PHOTOGRAPHY
The Shadow Puppeteer
(Cameraless) Photography and Abstraction
Nature Prints and Spectrographs
"Between abstract geometrical tracery and the echo of objects"
NOAM M. ELCOTT
Before his aluminum-foil landscapes and the wreckage of drapes and phyllo dough, before his Polaroids and eerie Los Angeles architectures, before James Welling even acquired his first view camera, he staged a series of cameraless photographs, or photograms, of hands.
FROM ECSTASY TO AGONY: THE FASHION SHOOT IN CINEMA
Photographers have always made compelling subjects for cinema. As early as 1895, the year the cinématographe was patented, its inventors, the Lumière brothers, featured photographers in their short films (including Arrivée des congressistes à Neuvillesur-Saône).
A profound sense of displacement and uncertainty pervades JH Engström's work. On the back cover of his 2004 book Trying to Dance he states, almost programmatically: "I am always looking for presence. Whenever I try, my doubts get unmasked....”
PRESENCE OF MIND: THE PHOTOGRAPHS OF PHILIP JONES GRIFFITHS
<p>Philip Jones Griffiths was born in Rhuddlan, Wales, in 1936. You can read this simple expository sentence as though a Griffiths photograph. Jones and Griffiths are the most Welsh of family names, Jones indicating which of so many Griffiths Philip's might be.</p>
An image that is projected with light holds a place between the evolving narrative of film and the photograph's fixed moment in isolation. Photographers intent on breaking away from the limitations of the static image have been drawn to the projected slide or the light box.
Photography has always been a medium that records the visible, preserving the present to be viewed again as the past. While frequently extolled as an explorer of the real, in recent years photography has been increasingly used to displace reality, substituting a cascade of repetitive imagery that conceals rather than reveals.
The following are subjective responses to works by certain artists who have, in one way or another, shaped my aesthetic awareness. All of them deal with ideas of beauty, sadness, alienation, and desire. Furthermore, they share a fundamental interest in the intersection between theatricality and everyday life.
The legend of Bob Richardson, largely perpetuated by the man himself, eclipsed his work long before it eclipsed him. Richardson died in 2005 after seventy-seven rollercoaster years, leaving behind untold emotional wreckage and a remarkable trove of photographs that until now was preserved primarily in the pages of vintage fashion magazines.
John Menapace WITH HIDDEN NOISE selected by Huston Paschal
With proof provided by the prints, Menapace concedes he gravitates toward "elements of irregularity, wear, adaptation." These words summarize an Everyman's biography, the human experience. Photography, with its ability to both freeze and prolong the life of a moment, is a language that can relay—particularly when voiced in the dialect of the silver print with its myriad shades of gray—this convoluted story with all its nuances intact.
Mark Reinhardt, Holly Edwards, Erina Duganne BEAUTIFUL SUFFERING: PHOTOGRAPHY AND THE TRAFFIC IN PAIN
Photographers who take pictures of people in pain or in situations of danger or degradation sometimes aim to arouse concern, to provoke indignation, perhaps even to move viewers to action. In such cases, the image is an indictment; the outrage is directed at the scene depicted.
Mapplethorpe said in 1988 that photography "was the perfect medium, or so it seemed, for the '70s and '80s, when everything was fast. If I were to make something that took two weeks to do, I'd lose my enthusiasm. It would become an act of labor and the love would be gone."
For his series Case History (1997-98), Boris Mikhailov chronicled the lives of the bomzhes, or the homeless, a new class of people to emerge in the artist's hometown of Kharkov, Ukraine, in the wake of the Soviet Union's breakup. With these loosely composed images, Mikhailov depicted anything but the idealized and heroic Homo Sovietus of decades past; instead, viewers were presented with a discomforting rawness— broken men and women, their bodies marked with open sores, distended bellies, and bloodied faces.
One of my teachers in photography school used to say: "My dear boys and girls, you cannot know everything in life. What is important is to learn where things are, so that as they move faster you'll know where to look for them." It was when I visited the Church of San Luigi dei Francesi in the center of Rome that I made a discovery that changed my whole way of life and my approach to images.