EFREM ZELONY-MINDELL: Excited to be talking to you about your work from Reykjavík. Why don't we start by telling a bit about the why and what of the work we are looking at here.
PATRICE HELMAR: I first went to Reykjavík in 2012 to attend a workshop with Mary Ellen Mark. At the time I was a public school teacher, and bartender living in Alaska. I'd never had the luxury of devoting all of my time to making photographs. I fell in love with Iceland, or more accurately Icelanders. Being there was familiar and foreign at the same time. Iceland has so much culturally and politically going for it that I wish for as an Alaskan - as an American. Northerners share certain traits: strong mythologies, love of drink, resilience, an understanding of darkness and light - both in our physical world, and within.
EZM: Your practice of people is personally fascinating to me. You make first interactions personal; it reads in the work. Is there a most important part for you in gaining peoples' intrigue?
PH: No matter what we do as people, or photographers, our intentions in regard to others are clear. Very few people are able to hide how they feel. If I can avoid inserting myself, I do. It's not that I'm invisible, as some photographers describe themselves. I'm there. I show myself. I'm like a bull in a China Shop, hard to miss. A better door, than a window. I generally just smile, or nod - in New York, most people are so busy it's a non issue. If someone asks why I'm photographing them, I'm honest about it. Thomas Roma taught me that - if you think someone's beautiful, it's okay to say that. It works if you mean it.
EZM: Do you find lasting relationships with these people? Maybe lasting isn't even important, passionate may be more significant?
PH: The photographs I made in Iceland, I spent days and nights with people. I'd follow folks home from the bar, and we'd spend evenings walking around the city together - or I'd find myself at an after hours party. I returned in 2014, two years later and met back up with people I'd photographed, and met new characters. My friend Dyrfínna is someone I met in my favorite bar in downtown Reykjavík. We're still in contact. I photographed her on both trips. We say, "I love you" to each other.
Passion is possible, but it isn't always relevant. It's about making the work. The anecdotes don't matter - the photographs do. I'm not always going to be around to talk about them, and that's something I keep in mind.
EZM: If the photograph is most important then why the people? Is that just happenstance?
PH: What I meant was my personal anecdotes don't matter. Recounting my experiences or feelings, and doing a song and dance to try to make someone care more about my work is cheap. It's in the photograph. Happenstance is important. Being ready to meet chance, yes that's part of it. I prefer the word luck, and that doesn't come often without a good amount of work.
EZM: Are you excited about anything right now? Where's your luck looking these days?
PH: I wouldn't say I'm excited, but I'm hopeful. I keep making photographs, and that's life affirming. Luck is like the weather. I'm superstitious, and try not to talk about it. I grew up fishing in Alaska - if someone commented on it being nice out on the water, it was tempting fate. I'm always afraid of the other shoe falling.
EZM: I'm of the opinion that music and literature is pretty important to you. I also think it's pretty important to photography in general. I'd love to close by sharing a favorite ending that makes me think of your Reykavik work. I'll share mine, if you'll share me yours. Mine comes from John Logan's play RED.
Rothko: "You need to get out there now, into the thick of it, shake your fist at them, talk their ear off...
Make them look. When I was your age, art was a lonely thing: no galleries, no collecting, no critics, no money. We didn't have mentors. We didn't have parents. We were alone. But it was a great time, because we had nothing to lose and a vision to gain. Okay?"
PH: "It is a curious emotion, this certain homesickness I have in mind. With Americans, it is a national trait, as native to us as the roller-coaster or the jukebox. It is no simple longing for the home town or country of our birth. The emotion is Janus-faced: we are torn between a nostalgia for the familiar and an urge for the foreign and strange. As often as not, we are homesick most for the places we have never known." - Carson McCullers
Patrice Helmar is a graduate from Columbia University's MFA program. She lives and works in New York City where she teaches and lectures. Helmar has shown her work domestically and internationally at various institutions and galleries including the Jewish Museum, National Museum of Iceland, Houston Center for Photography, Fisher Landau Center, and the Anchorage Museum.
A newly curated series of David Bailey's quiet photos of the NW1 area of London taken in the early 80s is available in a gorgeously printed, small but perfectly formed, limited edition book from HENI Publishing in London. Cop a load of the blacks in these images and then, if you can, go see the prints which are on show through the end of January at HENI's gallery space, 6 - 10 Lexington Street, in the heart of London's Soho.
"Pushing back against the voices of intolerance by celebrating the beauty and strength of New York's diversity."
"This project aims to publish a hardcover book of social documentary photographs taken on Broadway, not the theater district but the 13 mile long street that runs through the entirety of Manhattan. The collection is a meditation on the city's diversity and the tolerance that holds it together.
"I'm launching this in this moment because I want to be proactive and push back against the intolerant voices that are overpowering the conversation and sowing the seeds of division by presenting a celebration of the great strength that comes from embracing diversity. New York's success over the years, it's growth into one of the worlds capital cities is proof of this.
"In a desire to spread the word beyond the 'bubble' of Manhattan and other urban centers I'll going to match every backer by donating a copy to free to a school or college."
A fabulous new project from Evelina Reinhart, a photographer whose work with food brought us The Joy of Eating, a photo series-turned-book about food for acid reflux sufferers that she made as her thesis project at SVA. Next up is 'Our Appetite for Trends.'
"They come and go as quickly as the next runway show. Technically, perhaps, they're comestibles, but what we're devouring are trends. If it's not in Vogue it's not going into our mouths."
Read all the color stories over at Evy's website, and see prints this week at Gallery 128, as part of The Fun Food Show, opening December 1st, 2016. Private reception, December 9th, 2016, 6-9pm. 128 Rivington Street, NYC.
Evy tells me it took about 30 hours to create one image. She's a fantastic food stylist. "The canvas was large, 30 x 35 inches, and it was filled with real food and then photographed."
Oh yeah - Reel Art Press does it again! The Estate of Jim Marshall is pleased to announce the launch of "Jim Marshall: Jazz Festival" (Reel Art Press, September, 2016). We lost a true hard-working character when Jim died, and we thank Amelia Davis for her dedication to keeping his work out there, and editing such a rich and fabulous book (and for letting me make an edit for this story! Thank you!) The book covers six years of Monterey and Newport Jazz Festivals, on stage and behind the scenes, and is chock-a-block with pics.
In time for the holidays this is a good bet for music lovers and those interested in jazz and its history.
Sonny Rollins, Newport Jazz Festival, 1963
Johnny Hodges, Monterey Jazz Festival, 1961
Nina Simone, Newport Jazz Festival, 1963
Cannonball Adderley Sextet, Newport Jazz Festival, 1963
Duke Ellington Orchestra, Monterey Jazz Festival, 1960
When I first met Arthur Drooker, at PhotoLucida portfolio reviews in 2015, his book on conventions was still a twinkle in his hungry eye. Arthur had hit upon the idea of covering a variety of the countrywide events held for certain, specific interests.
"In 2013, while researching a potential photo series about historical reenactors, I came across the Association of Lincoln Presenters website. They were promoting their upcoming convention. When I saw that, a bell went off in my head. That's it! Conventions."
Hail to the Chiefs, Association of Lincoln Presenters convention
'The Association of Lincoln Presenters welcomed me to their convention and it was a great experience. From there I began researching other conventions, specifically quirky and photogenic gatherings that really show like-minded people sharing their passion whether it be taxidermy, clowning, or fetishes."
Her knight to remember, Military History Fest
"Each year, according to a Convention Industry Council study, there are 1.8 million conventions, conferences, and trade shows in the United States. These gatherings directly support 1.7 million jobs, $263 billion in spending, and $14.3 billion in federal tax revenue. As impressive as these figures are, they don't interest me as a photographer. I see conventions not as revenue sources but as visual treasures. To me, they're unique expressions of community, culture and connection."
"The remote New Mexico community of Pie Town is famous for the photographs that Farm Security Administration photographer Russell Lee made there during the Great Depression. In this book author-photographer Arthur Drooker documents his own travels to Pie Town to find out what became of it seventy years after Lee visited."
"Vera & John" is a collection of photographs that Jason Wilde made from notes that his mum, Vera, left for his Dad, John. Without Vera's knowledge, John and Jason saved more than 90 notes between 2005 and 2014. Jason then set about making more than 4000 photos of paving stones on specific streets in Camden, north London, where they and five generations of Jason's family have lived, using those images as the background for his photographs of the notes. Simply brilliant, fascinating, and fun.
View the full screen magazine photo feature - These are but a few of the insights into the life of Vera & John. See more: Jason has launched a Kickstarter campaign to turn this into a book. Enjoy the video promo, and drop a bit of cash - the pound is so weak you can get a book for $26! Contribute here.
"The idea of making a project about my mum and dad came to me while visiting their home in 2005. With no one home I had a rummage through the fridge and food cupboards before making a nice cup of tea. Leaning against the wall next to the kettle was a note. I had been collecting notes since 2003 for a different project (called 'Silly Arse Broke It') and realised that this single note outlining that evenings dinner arrangements was a potential project."
"Change" is a series of photographs of American quarter-dollars that Ralf Graebner found on the streets of New York City, intrigued by "the metamorphosis of these quarters from looking identical when they were minted to looking distinctly unique after they had been exposed to various harsh environments over time."
He creates these graphic depictions by combining thousands of thin image slices made with a macro lens to produce a "three-dimensionally stitched image." Hard to reckon so here's the full monty on his method:
"I am using a technique called "focus stacking" to overcome two limitations of conventional photography, namely, extremely limited depth of field in macro photography at open aperture, and loss of detail through diffraction when the aperture is stopped down.
In other words, in conventional single-shot macro photography you either have to accept shallow depth of field but good detail where in focus, or more depth of field but overall soft images due to the detail-robbing effects of diffraction when you close the aperture.
What I do instead is take pictures with extreme shallow depth of field (around 1/100 of a millimeter!) but with the highest image quality where the image is in focus, and between each exposure I move the camera in increments of 1/100mm towards the subject. In order to capture a subject that requires 1 millimeter of depth of field with this technique I need to make 100 exposures. These 100 shots are then analyzed by a software that determines what's in focus and what's not, and merges everything into one image with complete depth of field, discarding what's out of focus."
Phew! Not enough for you?
"I repeat this process 30-40 times, photographing small sections of the coin, until all of the subject is captured. These 30-40 focus-stacked images are then stitched together to become the final image. With this technique I capture so much detail that I could create 10' x 10' prints that are tack-sharp. The limitations are merely the maximum width of chromogenic paper available, as well as portability of the prints: more than 7 feet, and I would run into problems getting the prints through regular-sized door frames."