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Tooele Army Depot Superfund Site, Tooele, Utah 1986 © David T. Hanson


The obsession with landscapes will undoubtedly be around as long as there are people to view them and capture them. The question is, why do we need any more of these wonderful, beautiful, idealized images? Landscapes change, the planet changes, people change, views and ideals affect how we see things philosophically, physically, and literally. The planet is in direct conversation with the land we see every day; it's around us and beneath us, the landscape. It's all consuming and reveals misdeeds; David T. Hanson's images expose this topographical understanding. Wilderness to Wasteland (Taverner Press) is a collection of images from across the country that raise a flag; they shout into the distance, "Look at what you're doing!"

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East edge of Atomic CIty, Idaho 1986 © David T. Hanson

Something very normal and recognizable begins Hanson's work - deserts, fields, tattered homes and boxy ranches in the central west of the United States. As the book progresses, something aggressive shifts in the imagery, as do the settings of the photographs. The landscapes become unspeakably altered, almost totally foreign. How can this be terra? Wilderness to Wasteland is a collection of images Hanson has pulled from his archive. It's interesting to note that the images, even with hints of 70's and 80's automobiles, somehow feel totally now, today. It's in the interruption of humans interacting with these environments. Those actions are unalterably timeless.

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Mt. Con Mine and Centerville, Butte, Montana 1985 © David T. Hanson

The book takes us through chapters, ebbing and flowing from ground views to aerials, from west to east  all over the United States. Progressively one becomes more and more aware of the reality and the ways in which sites used for testing, mining, and waste could be affecting everything outside the frame of the photographs. The social and ecological implications complicate the language of the photographs. The images are just as much about what's not in them as what is. There's a psychology of landscape that blends with technology becoming inseparable from nature. Nothing will ever be the same, always evolving with many signs signifying progress. With enough distance and with the right kind of eyes these places and photos read like "open wounds," as poet Wendell Berry puts it in discussing Hanson's work.

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New housing development, Rancho Cucamonga, California 1985 © David T. Hanson

Hanson's book doesn't feel like a period at the end of a sentence. In his own words, "These sites may be seen as monuments to the dominant myths and obsessions of our culture. Indeed, it seems likely that the most enduring monuments that Western civilization will leave for future generations will be . . . the hazardous remains of our industry and technology. Landscapes of failed desire, these sites become both arena and metaphor for the most constructive and destructive aspects of the American spirit." Hanson's photographs are a reflection of this apropos closing statement. It is this highly loaded atmosphere and unusualness that breathes an air of cautious beauty into the images. In Wilderness to Wasteland, Hanson has found a way to combine disbelief with the sublime.

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Waste slag and Irrigated Cropland along the Jordan River, Sharon Steel Corp. Superfund Site, Midvale, Utah, 1986 © David T. Hanson

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Yankee Doodle tailings pond, Butte Area Superfund site, Butte, Montana, 1986 © David T. Hanson

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Sunset on the California Coast [Union Oil Company of California, Richmond California], 1983 © David T. Hanson

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From Wilderness to Wasteland, By David T. Hanson © 2016 Taverner Press

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Betty Low, 1936 by Yousuf Karsh

Sad news from my Karsh colleagues is that dancer, actress, early Karsh subject and friend Betty Low has died. Betty performed with the Colonel de Basil's Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo as Ludmila Lvova, before appearing in several films, including "84 Charing Cross Road." This portrait was made in 1936 when Karsh, ever the improviser, took down the nets from the window and used them to make this beautiful photograph. I was fortunate to meet Ms. Low many years later in Washington, DC, as the National Portrait Gallery celebrated Mrs Karsh's donation of 100 original Karsh fine art photographs. She was as poised and beautiful as ever. 

Here is Ms. Low in "The Lesson" with Solange Gauthier Karsh, Mr. Karsh's first wife.  You can read more about Ms. Low's life over at the Ballets-Russes.

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The Lesson, 1940, Betty Low and Solange Gauthier, by Yousuf Karsh

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Robert Mapplethorpe, American, 1946-1989
Identical self-portraits of Robert Mapplethorpe with trip cable in hand, 1974
Gelatin silver print. Sheet (each): 9.3 x 11.6 cm (3 11/16 x 4 9/16 in.)
Gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Held at the Getty Research Institute, 2011.M.20.24
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

The first photography exhibition I ever saw was Robert Mapplethorpe, in London, and I have always said it ruined me for life. In my memory the exhibition was at the Festival Hall, but the web won't support this and insists it was the National Portrait Gallery, 'The Perfect Moment' retrospective, 1988/89. Regardless, I remember staring endlessly at one of his highly sexual portraits and listening to the outrage of the person viewing next to me. I felt happy. 

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Ajitto, 1981
Gelatin silver print. Image: 45.4 x 35.5 cm (17 7/8 x 14 in.)
Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, with funds provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation, 2011.7.13
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

That Mapplethorpe-related happiness has carried me through my journey in the world of photography so I was beyond thrilled when a review copy of Robert Mapplethorpe: The Photographs (J. Paul Getty Museum, March 2016) arrived. What a book! 

Mapplethorpe's most recognizable and less-known images, both the graphic and the gorgeous, are drawn from the J. Paul Getty Museum's own collection, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art from The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, and Mapplethorpe Archive housed at the Getty Research Institute. 

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Grapes, 1985
Gelatin silver print. Image: 38.5 x 38 cm (15 3/16 x 14 15/16 in.)
Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, with funds provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation, 2011.7.20
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Thomas, 1987
Gelatin silver print. Image: 48.8 x 48.8 cm (19 3/16 x 19 3/16 in.)
Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, with funds provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation, 2011.7.31
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

"This publication is issued on the occasion of the exhibition Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium on view at both the  J. Paul Getty Museum and at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art from March 15 and March 20, respectively, through July 31, 2016; at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montreal from September 10, 2016, through January 15, 2017; and at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, from October 28, 2017, through February 4, 2018."

Let it be known that the young me spent not inconsiderable time wondering if she could scrape together the £1,500 that a print was going for back then. They say one only regrets the things one did not do... But then, how would I have chosen?

Get your copy of Robert Mapplethorpe: The Photographs for under $60. Money well spent for a lifetime of Mapplethorpe mastery.

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Calla Lily, 1988
Gelatin silver print. Image: 49 x 49 cm (19 5/16 x 19 5/16 in.)
Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; partial gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation; partial purchase with funds provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation, 2011.9.26
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Derrick Cross, 1983
Gelatin silver print. Image: 48.5 x 38.2 cm (19 1/8 x 15 1/16 in.)
Promised Gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, L.2012.88.910
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Flower Arrangement, 1986 
Gelatin silver print. Image: 49 x 49 cm (19 5/16 x 19 5/16 in.)
Promised Gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, L.2012.89.566
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Self-Portrait, 1980
Gelatin silver print. Image: 35.6 x 35.6 cm (14 x 14 in.)
Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; partial gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation; partial purchase with funds provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation, 2011.9.21
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

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Robert Mapplethorpe
Self-Portrait, 1985
Gelatin silver print. Image: 38.7 x 38.6 cm (15 1/4 x 15 3/16 in.)
Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, with funds provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation, 2011.7.21
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

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Warmth © Meggan Joy

We might all be taking photos of just about bloody everything, all the time, but not everyone then laboriously makes one story out of literally thousands of them. Meggan Joy embarked on a marathon digitization of her daily shots.

"A couple years ago I started to slowly collect individual pieces of the world around me. The orange placed before me for breakfast, I took a photograph before I ate it. The leftover flowers from a friend's wedding were quickly shot the day after. The empty nut found while walking my dog, captured and left in its place... I started pulling these images together into one single form. And after working on the project irregularly, in the early winter of 2016, I finished; almost 2 years after starting." Phew!

Please also check out Meggan's more serious project "She."

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Yul Brynner, 1956 by Yousuf Karsh

There are several frames of Yul Brynner in the Karsh digital archives but this is my favourite! 

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Chris Killip
From the series In Flagrante Two
Two girls, Grangetown, Middlesbrough, Teeside, 1975
Gelatin Silver Print
© Chris Killip, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

Last month, I was talking to a photographer I admire enormously and he told me had just seen one the best photographs of his life, at Yossi Milo here in NYC. It turned out to be the above 'Two Girls' by Chris Killip, whose photos I have much admired after embarrassingly only discovering him rather late in life. The exhibition was ending the following day so I bunked off work for the afternoon and headed to Chelsea.

Yossi Milo Gallery's presentation of fifty gelatin silver prints from the photographs that constituted his book 'In Flagrante' (Secker & Warburg, 1988) hand-printed by Killip, is the first time since 1988 that the series has been exhibited in its entirety and the first time ever in the United States. The images are culturally familiar and endearing to me and it was interesting to talk to some of the American viewers about the miners' strike and the Queen's silver jubilee street parties I remember so well. 

The unassuming photographer has been working at Harvard as professor of visual and environmental studies for many years and apparently will soon retire and cease printing his negatives. So if you're thinking about purchasing a print, now is the time to do it. 

Yossi Milo is pleased to announce that the J. Paul Getty Museum now owns a set of all 50 of Killip's prints and will mount an exhibition in the coming months. The book, In Flagrante Two, is out now from Steidl.


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This is a sweet and gentle observation by Nicholas Pollack, a recent MFA grad whose project featured here, 'Nothing Gold Can Stay' was nominated for the 2016 ICP Infinity Award. He is also a contender for the upcoming Featureshoot Emerging Photographer Award.

"Nothing Gold Can Stay is a body of work about the fleetingness of youth. My photographs of the boys of Branch Brook Park in Newark, New Jersey describe this ephemerality, and through these photographs I intends to access a sense of memory and vulnerability to create an experience of love amid life's chaos and uncertainty."

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All images © Nicholas Pollack

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Images play different roles in and of themselves as windows and even - dare I say - as individuals. If a photo can be individual - I think it can. The awareness of that window is important to each person who's looking. Caroline Tompkins and I chat at length about the hope that people might take that time with photography. "Here's a thing you need to see," she tells me, explaining the how of her photographs. Her images and language are interesting to interpret, as is she. The word demure may seem accurate at first but the truth is Tompkins has, well - balls. There's nerve in her, and within her reserve is an inquisitive and engaged fight. Not a fight of fists or words but one of reflective intellect and tenderness.

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© Caroline Tompkins

Tompkins has a different sensibility; it's probably something about Ohio where she's from, and a certain sort of projected quietness in her tone and her hands. Her photographs are beautiful in a noncritical way; they are absurd and situational. It would be easy for viewers to find themselves laughing with a Tompkins image. There is something intrinsically photographic happening in Tompkins imagery. It rouses a charming engagement of reflective and coy peculiarity. It's all very quaint at the surface; it's after those first few moments when you realize something deeper is engaging the imagery and the photos are not just pretty things, idealized places, and pretty people. 

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© Caroline Tompkins

There's time to reveal secrets and invent a good amount of trickery when traveling around with a camera. Tompkins' imagery has a lot to unmask and explore; her photographs are of getting away or moving on, from one place to another. They are wide and precious in scope but pressed with observation and hugely aesthetic. It isn't outwardly obvious, it is wonderfully seductive in its matter of factness. It's like breathing - she tells me she's always had a camera in her hands. Eight years old and taking pictures, she didn't so much have a lighting bolt moment that drew her to photography as much as she just always had this extra appendage. Tompkins knows the camera the way she knows herself.     

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© Caroline Tompkins

She, Tompkins, is a hard working lady. She is hugely respectful and strikes me as the type to go into the wilderness and leave only footprints. I don't mean to romanticize her; I mean to point out something hugely loving and human about the person who presses the eye to her camera. She reflects in her images as they speak back about her. The work doesn't get lost on Tompkins; the world she interacts with is important but there isn't a sense that she is her own subject. Caroline is far more interested in the everything and all around. Pieces and parts she photographs like a collector of unexpected bric-a-brac's of all kinds of wonderful odds and ends. There's a rhythm that reads like a hymn in her warm compositions. Elusive beyond what they literally are, the only thing they ask is a few more moments for your viewing pleasure.

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© Caroline Tompkins

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© Caroline Tompkins

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© Caroline Tompkins

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© Caroline Tompkins

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© Caroline Tompkins

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Betty Ford, 1977 © Yousuf Karsh

Just because... here's Betty! Karsh photographed her and Gerald Ford, one of 12 US Presidents immortalized by Karsh, in 1977.

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President Gerald Ford, 1977 © Yousuf Karsh

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Ray Tomlinson, 1998 © Henry Horenstein

What a gorgeous portrait of Ray Tomlinson by the lovely Henry Horenstein. Ray Tomlinson died last week. He created the first email system and has us all using the @ sign. Big up, Mr. Tomlinson! 

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