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.
It was in 2010 that Robert Rutöd first contacted me and made me smile with his photographs. Since then he has stayed right in the zone, consistently entertaining. So I'm happy to report the news that he has collected 50+ into a new book.
"Being at the right place at the right time is usually associated with happiness and success. But what happens when we are at the right place at the wrong time? Do we even know that this is the right place? And what if it turns out that it is the wrong place after all? But the right time!"
'Right Time Right Place' received several awards including the New York Photo Award, the Special Prize of the Czech Center of Photography, and most recently Artist of the Year at Dong Gang International Photo Festival 2015 in South Korea.
Don Whitebread is a self-taught photographer whose photographs have been widely exhibited and well published. He fell for the night skies when camping as a kid, are he makes these mainly in the sweeping American West. Don also now teaches others the art of night photography. Visit his website for magnificent flora and fauna and more.
Some of Don's gorgeous photographs made in Yemen, in 2010, were published here in the blog in 2011. Don was able to visit as Yemen was "on the cusp of political and environmental disasters that may soon put an end to the Yemeni's proud, traditional and ancient lifestyle."
You've got to love a public installation! Emma Blau's Face Forward exhibition, on now in London, England, is an installation of supersize prints of locals with whom Emma collaborated to make these fabulous portraits.
"Face Forward is a public art exhibition created by award-winning photographic artist Emma Blau that utilises building site hoardings in the Church Street area of Westminster, which is currently undergoing regeneration. A resident herself, Blau's large-scale photographic portraits feature local people who will be affected by the huge transformations taking place in their neighbourhood. Face Forward is on display throughout 2016."
The issue of gentrification is being addressed in photography quite extensively at the moment but Emma's project elevates the issue with its impressive installation. Not an easy challenge to host an exhibition in the streets - imagine the logistics!! Check out the installation photos.
Emma will lead a tour of all three streets on April 27th, 2016. Head over to the official Facebook page for details.
Romke Hoogwaerts is a guy you may not know. I get the impression I may embarrass him if I say he's quiet and may prefer to go a little under the radar. I don't mean to embarrass him, but he is quiet. He's also friendly, and an insanely driven and talented editor, curator, and advocate of photography. An all around good dude. His ideas and vision for photography and design are nothing short of totally new, and unlike most interpretations and concepts I see in the community currently. True there's really a lot of great stuff out there and hard working folks who are killing it. But Romke is so sincere and totally dedicated to imagery that he stands out. So does his magazine, MOSSLESS. He's a big photo nerd and I am crazy about him for it. Everyone should be.
I sat down with Hoogwaerts to talk about him. It quickly became clear that the conversation would be more about mission and less about individual personality. Mossless magazine, which really isn't a magazine, is a chameleon; it's meant to be something that excites. It's currently in its third issue, with more on the way if all goes well. (Spoiler alert, work on issue four, MOSSLESS; Embargoed, with Charlotte Cotton is already underway.) No issue is the same and the publication explores the voice and breadth of all different kinds of photography and the state of sharing imagery and looking and seeing images.Hoogwaerts stresses to me the impossibility of Mossless were it not for the involvement of Grace Leigh, his partner at the time. Mossless is a huge labor of love and each page reads clearly in that mission and dedication to the images and the photographers.
I'll let Hoogwaerts set the stage for issue three of Mossless. "Who is tasked with bringing the true nature of American culture to recognition in its own home? Some photographers can frame reality in one poetic snap, so long as they know the context truthfully and can find visual references for their experiences spontaneously." There is a whole big kind of American identity between our shores. Sometimes it can seem unclear yet defiantly defined. Mossless issue three is tasked to capture a nation through its possibility and cull through its image-makers to find it. This issue collects the photos of 118 photographers from all walks of life. The layout breaks rules. Spreads vary from single photographer profiles and featured images in certain places, to spreads that are an accumulation of different photographers images. This flexing of space and names creates an engaging hodgepodge sense of photo album. What could be more American?
Mossless is a beautiful publication put together by two young talents who love and care about photography. The publication creates an inclusive community. It's visually fun and knowing that there is more in the world leaves a sense of exciting insecurity. The mission of Mossless stretches outside of itself, and helps viewers realize that each of us has an influence. Something bizarre happens with this publication - it's worth trying new ideas. They will work.
Get your hands on a copy of this beautiful publication by clicking here.