Kris Graves portrays color; color of light and color of flesh. The boundaries of his contemporaries expand a conversation of self, race and culture. Graves' men are of their parts; their eyes, their noses, their mouths. They are the hair on their heads, their clothes and jewelry, and the glasses resting on their ears. They are not idealized. They are documented. It is this blatant presentation that allows them to be human. It's not a photographic truth as much as it is honesty. Down to the the bone beyond the flesh Graves' photographs are deeper than stigmas or preconceived ideas. They tell a story that regardless of where you come from, each individual's part is universal. As is light. There is an interconnectivity that creates a sense of equality in the work and in its realization.
You can catch a solo exhibition of Graves' work in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn, opening on June 4th, 2016 at NorteMaar.
Documentary photographer Adam Reynolds has focused his attention on the Middle East and here brings us a glimpse at the ubiquitous Israeli safety shelter.
"Since its creation in 1948, the State of Israel has felt itself isolated and beset by enemies seeking its destruction. This collective siege mentality is best expressed in the ubiquity of the thousands of bomb shelters found throughout the country. By law all Israelis are required to have access to a bomb shelter and rooms that can be sealed off in case of an unconventional weapons attack. There are over 10,000 public and private bomb shelters found throughout Israel and the Occupied Territories."
I was reminded of stories about London in the Blitz - the London Underground was my parents' bomb shelter. No beauty treatments or couches down there.
Besides his photojournalist qualifications, Adam holds a Masters degree in Islamic and Middle East Studies. Smart!
Wonderful work from a young woman I met at University of Wales Trinity Saint David in Swansea in the UK last year. Generally, the students were working on fairly mature, worldly projects. Rayhannah Ali says of her imagery "My work is about family and using collage to express different feelings of situations and meanings reflecting back to a South Asian culture." Unable to choose, I went with two projects. UNUNDERSTOOD is an embrace of and homage to the graphic imagery of Shirin Neshat while The Disturbance uses mixed media and family photos for a provocative experience.
On a cool Friday night in April, in Brooklyn, myself and a bunch of my photo cohorts gave up another evening for the greater photo cause - this time for ASMP's student reviews. There was a variety of photography to look at, and only 10 minutes to talk about it with each person so I was concerned when two youngsters sat down to be reviewed together. But Jess and Sam, aka the founders of the SAD GURLZ project, lit me up with their refreshing attitude, their confidence, their looks, and their collection of SAD GURLZ who have been invited to submit a statement about a particular reason they haz sad, and have some of their bits and pieces photographed.
"I'm a SAD GURL because my cognitive psych professor said that if aliens do come to visit, they'll kill us." - Haley
It can be tough reviewing students, especially when they are from all different schools and at different levels, with some not seeming to have been given any guidance. I was convinced during my first review that Taylor Swift must have been standing behind me as the young man's eyes wandered incessantly.
"I'm a SAD GURL because I'm such a fangirl at heart but The Beatles and the Beach Boys broke up so I have nothing to take my top off for." - Paulina
"I'm a SAD GURL because I want to go to Med School but I spend all of my time drinking Budweiser and sleeping with NYU frat boys." - Carlie
Jess and Sam seemed far from sad as they showed their book and beamed about their project. They are infectious and besides which, the series is an insight into the minds of today's young women. I have spent much time thinking what I would have said to them.
"I'm a SAD GURL because love doesn't exist. It's not just sunshines and rainbows. It's all fucking heartbreak." Original SAD GURL Jess
"I'm a SAD GURL because at this point, it's easier to be single than deal with fuckboys." Original SAD GURL Sam.
After making two trips to the West Bank twenty years apart, Belgian photographer Frédéric Moreau de Bellaing has collected his photographs into a book, titled "Lueurs d'espoirs / Glimmers of Hope." The book shows de Bellaing's travels through everyday life in both 1995 and 2015.
The book includes an essay by Leila Shahid, Palestine ambassador in France and then Belgium for the last 20 years.
Here is Frédéric's own statement:
"When I present this project, the same question comes back again and again: "Why Palestine?" Of course there is my indignation against oppression but, rightly, some respond to me that the Palestinians are not the only ones suffering. As often in this case, it is the personal journey that makes the difference.
The first intifada broke out in 1987. I was 16 years old. TV screens fed me up me with pictures of teenagers fighting with stones against heavily armed soldiers. I was shocked but the media release their floods of dramatic images all day long drowning indignations in an ocean of bad news.
Two years later when I began high school, I met Mina Shamieh. He was Palestinian and student like me. He was a warm person and his smile was disarming. We quickly became good friends. Until then, the Palestinian issue was but a media abstraction. Through my friendship with Mina, it took human shape.
The media feed us with pictures which are sometimes sensational but generally disconnected from human touch and identification to the Palestinian people has, for too long, take shape through empathy for their suffering.
To overcome this cathodic anesthesia, we must awaken the sympathy and empathy, in other words, we must become human.
With "Glimmers of Hope", I hope to convey the warmth and the desire to live which inhabit the Palestinian people.
To you, Mina, my old friend, with whom I have enjoyed sharing the small pleasures of everyday life."
The last visit I made to AIPAD - in 2008 - was the first and last time I attended. I left that first time and didn't make a photograph for four years.
Upon hitting the Armory floor that year I quickly took note of the many Minor Whites, Aaron Siskinds, and Harry Callahans there were on the floors leaning up against the walls of booths. I risked picking up a framed Minor White in a booth in which I felt particularly invisible. No one seemed to notice the 20-year-old cretin picking up and waving around the framed image. "That's how it's gonna be huh?" I thought to myself.
I came around a corner to a well-established contemporary photography booth; a gallery, which will remain nameless, with a featured image of an artist, who will also remain nameless. The print was bigger than me; I'm six foot four. Shot, framed, and lit with the utmost perfection. The subject of this photo is something one would find at a local zoo. What you can't find at your local zoo is the best photography equipment and the most expensive flashes money can buy, which the photographer clearly used to achieve the photograph. Needless to say the creature's photographic impression was something to behold, every inch an idealized image of absolute perfection. "How could anyone, who doesn't want to make images like this but does want to work in this field, compete with something like this object?" was my bone-crushing thought.
And that's how I left my feelings for photography. For four years.
I didn't know then what I realize now. The Armory's AIPAD is as much an antiques road show as it is the Fine Art Photography world's Comic Con. It's a chance for photo galleries and institutions, and people, from all over the world to gather in New York City. There's some good quick sales to be made and, if you take the time, a few new friends to make as well. With the right intentions and a good pair of eyes, it's not totally impossible to yield some meaningful experiences with the people and large display of very concisely and purposefully curated photos. After all there are some exquisite images.
So this time I decided I wanted to turn the experience around on itself. I spent over seven hours every day this year at AIPAD. I'd like to point out that doing this doesn't make me special - just stupid, crazy, and driven enough. The heroes of AIPAD are the gallerists, assistants, and Armory staff who dedicate their time, energy, and maybe even souls to this convention. I tip my hat to them.
Their passion inspired me to play some part, so I kept a stream of conscious diary during and after everyday.
Opening night is like chasing around after some semblance of cordiality and imagery. It's more social than photographic but the evening is hugely photogenic. Name tags and introductions, stumbling over hors d'oeuvres. It's great to sift through the confusion and endless stream of booze.
"Where on earth do they put all those empty glasses?" I wondered on my way out.
Standardized words flush the halls of the Armory - words like fresh and contemporary. There are things in those silly haphazard bins with far too many zeros. Like the Robert Frank I found for $80,000 with only a simple matting and plastic sleeve for protection.
"You're not going to forget me," someone brightly beams at a gallery owner, "my last name's Art." There are joyous little words of amusement muttered by many different patrons. When you catch one it's like finding a diamond. "You're a craftsman! And I mean that in the best way I can mean that!" Such passion. It's hard not to laugh out loud.
Rest becomes a commodity on the well-placed benches. The tax is worth the spectacle of the company of strangers and friends alike.
By now things seem much more solid. You're even starting to memorize where things are. Close your eyes and you can remember exact locations of your favorite images even though your head does nothing but spin from the sheer volume. There's no more casual strolling and looking; you can actually see the photos on the walls. This is no longer a convention, it's an endurance trial.
[I've written one word here. It's the same word I've written for day four.]
The whole thing becomes too much and I certainly have to admit it may be because of the degree of my visits, but not totally the fault of my obsession. AIPAD is a lot of work! As a casual goer it's great to stroll through and give the time it deserves. Talk to people - there's no reason not to - they're surprisingly friendly, intelligent, and engaging. (Many attendees are actual working professionals; make friends, but don't ask for favors!) Maybe all that is actually not so surprising. After all, we're all at AIPAD for the same reason; we really feel passionately towards photography. Given my first interaction with AIPAD and this recent experience, I've come to realize in many ways that this crazy experience is what you make of it. If you let it put you on your ass it will. It's much more rewarding to make it yours. For me, I gave myself over to it. I'm eager to get back behind my camera.
New Yorker Erica Price gives us a last glimpse at the Streit matzo factory, which recently left Manhattan's Lower East Side for a new home in New Jersey. Streit's kosher food was established in 1916 by Aron Streit, a Jewish immigrant from Austria, and the factory was making matzos at their Rivington Street location since 1925, operating two 75-foot ovens, producing 900 pounds of matzo per hour.
When you go on a trip, photography's bound to get involved. Simple enough right? Actually, maybe it's not so simple, and often it's totally foolish. The snap shot is an international treasure, it's made from horsing around and taking the time to notice something you never did before.
That's what getting away is all about. You go somewhere to be out of your element, to interact with others and bring home something to share and remember. Sometimes the mundanity of those stories and shots are the most joyous and absurd thing in the whole wide world. Martin Parr's revised edition of Autoportrait and David Brandon Geeting's newly published South Korean Nature Photography are all about this sentiment. These gentlemen have kicked it up a notch. Putting them together is a trip all on its own.
If you spend too much time Googling the name "Martin Parr" you read the same thing over and over again: Martin Parr is Britain's best known contemporary photographer. A satirist and quirky down to earth guy, Parr's photography is dumb. He's so dumb it's good - dumb in all the best ways one can be. Not bad, not in the slightest. The images in Parr's Autoportrait are his way of laughing at you, thinking you're laughing at him. Autoportrait is a collection of images Parr has compiled over the years from numerous business trips. The images aren't photos he has taken; he's the subject of images taken in studios, at tourist attractions, in photo booths, in any and all ways that reminiscence is created by the camera these days. On a cruise ship, in the mouth of a shark, on a flume ride, his head superimposed over the beefy flesh of a Mr. Universe contestant. The man has made himself an exquisite circus of blundered imagery and familiarity. To reference John Waters "A tasteful book about bad taste" - so too is Parr's Autoportrait, out now by Dewi Lewis Publishing.
"No one would ever take a photo of that." That's as good a place as any to start with David Brandon Geeting. The guy's too good to be true. He doesn't need to try to be anything. Geeting's sincerity is only matched by his authenticity and all around playfulness. The work he produces is not a joke. His new book South Korean Nature Photography, like Parr's book, is a collection of snap shots he took on a recent trip to South Korea. The images evoke elation, even laughter, but they walk a line that holds a deeper sense that lays behind their amusement. Geeting is a master of composing composition inside the camera with everyday stuff that you just would never think to put together. Mystery's important and it's fun to cross boundaries. Getting away is all about being lost in many ways - not bad lost - good lost. Geeting puts it best in regard to the work, "What the fuck's going on here?" Often the images in South Korean Nature Photography are so stupid they're brilliant. Geeting chuckles his big smile hearing that come out of my mouth. We're in agreement. So too are his images of the somewhat everyday reimagined in photographic execution. The images are as much about what's in the frame as they are about what's been left out of the frame.
There's an intrigue in the guise of fear that one feels when out on an adventure. The trauma that occurs when overcoming fear leads an exploration to rebirth. It's often boneheaded and confusing, but its so god damned rewardingly wonderful in it's contradictions.
Betty Davis, 'They Say I'm Different' photo shoot, Just Sunshine Records, 1974. Photo by Mel Dixon. Courtesy of Light in the Attic Records and powerHouse Books
Lost Rockers: Broken Dreams and Crashed Careers (powerHouse Books) is a fascinating collection of tales about musicians who almost made it, back in a time when really making it through hard work and dedication, without entering a TV talent contest, was an option. "Some were ahead of their time, some were ill-equipped to deal with success, some simply fucked up."
Gloria Jones, Los Angeles, 1973. Photo by Jim Britt
'Lost Rockers' digs deeply into each of the 20 or so musicians in the book, with several pages about their histories, success and failures, and even lyrics, accompanied by lots of great photos and ephemera. I was interested to see Betty Davis on this list, but the book suggests her "cuckolded" ex-husband, Miles, played a role in her early retirement from the industry. It is hard to summarize what went awry for each here in the blog, so go ahead and pick up a copy of the book for under $30.
Rik Fox, hair metal hero, Surgical Steel, 1986. Photo by Michael Richard Sneeburger. Courtesy of the Rik Fox Archives
Kenny Young, "Bow Wow, Kenny with his Pomeranian," New York, 2003. Polaroid Color 668 by Gail Thacker. Courtesy of Gail Thacker
Chris Robison and David Johansen with Andy Warhol, Max's Kansas City, 1975. Photo by Bob Gruen
Cherry Vanilla, New York, 1978. Photo by Leee Black Childers. Courtesy of Leee Black Childers
Gonchigsuren has launched a fundraiser not just to have his worthy book published AND have an exhibition, but ALSO included is a competition for young photographers - he is a noble man with a fantastic archive who deserves your backing. This is the first campaign I have seen in a while where the book is under $50 - it's $39 and will be well worth it (+ shipping!)
Please spread the word and help show the world this little-seen history "One feature of this book is showing the difference between daily lives in socialism and democracy." I challenge you to watch the video and not fall in love.