Amongst the many emails that drop in on any given day I was stopped dead in my morning tracks by the announcement of this year's Hasselblad Masters
. Natalia Evelyn Bencicova
is in her early twenties and already making superb photographs, deservedly winning the 2016 award in the Portrait category. Happily, she agreed to be featured in the magazine so I chose images from two series on her website, 'Body' and 'Close' but I frankly would have been happy to publish any of her photographs.
Here's to a bright future for Natalia and a feast of portrait delights for us. Do take the time to visit her website
for more glories.
It's difficult to pick a starting point to talk about Jimmy DeSana
's book Suburban, out now from Aperture
and co-published by Salon 94
. Suspicious and sexual, unusual, surreal, and yet somehow surprisingly domestic. Well, not so typically domestic. There's a good amount of exciting and unexpected debunking happening in DeSana's images. The photos aren't against suburban spaces, they alert a different sense of possibility in them. White walls and power cords, high heels and purses worn on feet and hands or placed over heads and genitals. Chairs, beds, and cabinets used like a circus, an array of different everyday objects scattered and used in tandem with the naked body, achieving a much different sense of the everyday. But it's not really erotic, all the parts are kind of true to themselves.
Storage Boxes, 1980 © the Jimmy DeSana Estate/Salon 94
Gelled tungstens, in an array of colors, confuse the space and stage where these bodies perform. These photos are a performance. Captured motion and a slower shutter speed (sometimes) is hugely essential to DeSana's characters. Whether there is a single figure in the frame, or two, there isn't so much a feeling of sexuality between them as much as there is a sense of exploration. A sense of touch is second-most important. The debauched quality of everyday objects as they find new place on the body accentuates that touch. There's also touch between the two figures interactive with the space around them. All the parts become inescapably intimate.
Instant Camera, 1980 © the Jimmy DeSana Estate/Salon 94
The work has an interesting dialogue; it's easy to think of Philippe Halsman. DeSana's work courts a kind of contemporary surrealism. His photos are nearly abstract in moments where they almost completely lose gravity but stay rooted in a semblance of reality, because at the end of the day his props are very commonplace. It's interesting to see the ability of these mundane objects and how they can become more. The photos are not of the mundane, and yet they're straight out of the tedious everyday. There's an argument - a disbelief - you can't take your eyes off these obfuscated photos because they're so seemingly recognizable. They are meant to be read into, and from one suburban-raised kid to another, clearly DeSana had some - as Laurie Simmons puts it - "emotionally lethal stories" behind his relationship to suburbia.
Four Legs with Shoes, ca.1980 © the Jimmy DeSana Estate/Salon 94
Suburban is a delightfully bizarre book and body of work. Period. And the book is a celebration of DeSana's forwardness. It doesn't waste time and it doesn't feel sentimental. The book reflects the feeling of the work. It's interesting to see what a whacky guy and a few friends are capable of with the most basic tools to make photographs. That's not passé, in-fact it was Minor White who said, "It's not about the tools but how you use them." Jimmy DeSana embodies that sentiment in this surrealism.
Cardboard, 1985 © the Jimmy DeSana Estate/Salon 94
Untitled (Plywood Interior), 1979 © the Jimmy DeSana Estate/Salon 94
"It takes a lifetime to be a new discovery, I guess." So said Ms Arlene Gottfried
this week (speaking to David Schonauer over at AI-AP
) in the run-up to her second solo show, 'Bacalaitos & Fireworks', at Daniel Cooney Fine Art
, in Chelsea, New York, which opened March 3, 2016 and runs till April 16th.
The show at Cooney features images originally collected in Arlene's 2011 book Bacalaitos & Fireworks, printed from her rich, orangey Cibachromes.
From the press release "Growing up, Gottfried was fascinated with the culture around her, learning to Salsa dance and to love the music, food and language. As an adult living in Manhattan she embraced the Puerto Rican community and they embraced her, sharing their lives with her and her camera. Gottfried says, "From my window on the Lower East Side I could look out and see the Puerto Rican culture I encountered over 30 years earlier. "One night I heard a street vendor on the corner of Avenue C and East 3rd Street calling, "bacalaitos and fireworks", bacalaitos, a fried cod fish indigenous to Puerto Rico and fireworks, for the Fourth of July weekend. This juxtaposition became etched in my mind - representative of an immigrant population on the streets of America."
These are but a small sample of the colour prints on show. Run don't walk!
All images © Arlene Gottfried courtesy Daniel Cooney Fine Art
Grace © Toto Cullen
"'Beauty Undefined" explores the concept of womanhood and societal ideologies regarding beauty. This exhibition curated by Monica Watkins and Magda Love, of Beauty for Freedom
, features the works of 20 international artists. Images of female beauty vary greatly across cultures and time as does what qualifies as "beautiful" among everyday women. Beauty Undefined develops a stronger definition of beauty of the female form by introducing issues of culture and identity through the mediums of photography, illustrations, video installations, graffiti art, fine art and sculpture.
"'Beauty for Freedom' is an innovative, sustainable platform providing the industries of beauty and fashion with a means to raise awareness, accountability, and financial contributions for charitable foundations and non-profits who fight human trafficking globally. Spring 2016, Beauty for Freedom will be producing a series of art, music, photography and writing workshops in SE Asia (Project India) meant to promote self-esteem and self-expression for survivors of sex-trafficking.
The exhibition is on view March 2nd & 3rd, 2016, at 51 Orchard Street NY, NY with an opening reception March 2nd, 7-11pm.
Confection © Alison Brady
The White Dress © Tim Okamura
Collaboration between two people can be challenging. Mixing, matching, trying to push a medium - it's difficult. Coming to a deeper understanding through interactions of people has its rewards. Two plus two isn't always simply just a four. Such is the case with Thomas Roma
and Giancarlo Roma
's book The Waters of Our Time
. The book, out for the first time in hardcover, is irrefutably one of the most rewarding reads I've ever had in one sitting. It sucked me in - I couldn't stop myself. It tugs at you; it's intimate and intrinsic like looking through the family album, listening to your favorite song, and reading that poem you love over and over again because you just can't help yourself. These wonderful men have built a personal backyard for themselves and their readers. The book couples together Thomas' photos - images taken over the course of his entire career - and the words of his mindful son Giancarlo, who was always absorbing and watching. It's inspired by, and an ode to, Roy DeCarava and Langston Hughes' book The Sweet Flypaper of Life
. Thomas and Giancarlo stress to me how important it is to enter into a conversation with history.
© Thomas and Giancarlo Roma
Both men are inside each other. Chatting with them it became obvious that it's always been that way. They're more than just father and son, and what reads so clearly in their book is that their words and images are meant for everyone. The Waters of Our Time holds a universal truth; it's a reflection on finding identity and finding one's own flesh. "It's hard to love someone sometimes. Being a part of each other's successes and failures." It's interesting to watch how Thomas talks to me, and looks over at his son. Thomas didn't originally intend for the words of the book to be written by his son, in fact he'd planned on someone else filling that role. "Giancarlo went to my wife and asked for the layouts. I had no idea." We chuckle over the notion of son asking mother (Anna) for his father's goods. Thomas has an incredible sense of design in his books; he knows as much about shaping the landscape of a layout as he knows about taking a really great photo. Giancarlo's words flow through the space between the photographs. There is a kind of reverberation in that space and throughout the spreads. Something almost extra sensory is happening and it isn't out of bounds to think of it as a kind of synesthesia.
© Thomas Roma
Reading through The Waters of Our Time, suddenly the reader may realize this isn't purely a visual book, nor is it just words on a page. It's thrilling, and hearing the sounds of this book is inescapable! Giancarlo tells me, "It happened on its own. I locked myself in my room and was totally consumed by writing these words." During our interview I keep taking note of these two hugely talented men's expressions and how they look at each another. It's so important to note that they both seem welled up with huge emotion and love. At some points they're almost crying; it is definitely from joy. The book is a conversation between two people who love and respect each other very deeply, it's more than just the blood they share. Without needing to hear them say it this book reads as one of the most important things either one has done in his life. All the while the words are very aware of the images and the photos support the structure of the story. And then Thomas comes in demonstrably, "I hate all this tribalism in the world today! I want to see people excel without separation! These photos - this book - is for everyone!" Thank you Tom! I don't think there's any better way to put it.
©Thomas and Giancarlo Roma
The Waters of Our Time becomes personal, both in message and in size. It always was about being close to the heart, being pocket sized. It is approachable and almost jaunty in its synergy. There's a somberness to it of course, but it's regenerative in its mission and achievement. The book does something hugely well: it raises consciousness and reminds us that we are all special. Maybe sometimes special just because. It is able to be as complex or as simple as the reader wants it to be. The Waters of Our Time is about everyone and that sense of togetherness.
© Thomas Roma
© Thomas and Giancarlo Roma
© Thomas Roma
© Thomas Roma
In this latest portfolio, Michael progresses from the melting ice creams of the first 'Transmogrify
' series to play around with bubblegum, creating a similar look and evoking more memories of childhood.*
More hands-, or rather teeth-on, he chewed his way into visions of apparitions and organs, dusty curtains and sea creatures, using single pieces of gum after noticing how organic it looked when stretched and lit.
*(I personally no longer blow bubbles)
918 by Santolo Felaco
Do something funky with your photos! This cheered me up on a dull day. Thanks to Italian artist Santolo Felaco for making me happy. (You might want to turn the volume down a smidgen.)
"The office is the place where many people spend at least a third of their day; where human relationships are established, anxiety developed, and the need to escape created. This photographic project took place in an office and in outdoor spaces adjacent to it. What results is an apparent altered representation of reality because the images do not directly describe the environment but they use a metaphorical language to tell what else lurks in regard to this microworld.
Each quadtych is made up of a combination of minimal pictures that are almost like words, they are linked to each other to compose a message. One of the objectives was to leave the viewer a lot of freedom of interpretation. Many quadtychs are designed and combined to communicate something specific, maintaining a polysemantic feature. I often played on the indoor and outdoor relationship, of what I call "the escape instinct": often you want to escape as soon as possible from the workplace, sometimes even just for a break. The office and the outside world that immediately surrounds it bind almost to form a continuous space.
These and others are the issues dealt with, but I think I've already said too much, if I preferred words to pictures, I would have become a writer rather than a photographer."
From Photography Is Magic, By Charlotte Cotton © 2015 published by Aperture
The world of
photography is changing and evolving, fast, right now. It is seemingly
unstoppable, verging on out of control. That's not a bad thing necessarily, just
an observation. It's an exciting time, mixed in with a whole lot of confusion
and potential. In many ways so many people are paying attention to photography,
however in other ways because there are so many photos being taken the craft is
somehow being seen as diluted. I was in an audience when curator and writer
David Campany suggested: "But isn't there a huge amount of potential in the
fact that now because so many people think they're photographers that
photography can really start to break the rules and become its own?" I'd take a
guess and say that in many regards Charlotte Cotton, author of Photography Is Magic, might agree with
Campany. Now that photography is in the hands of so many, becoming a language
that so many people speak, the lens can now be used as more of a jumping off
point. Photography is no longer just a two dimensional copy of what is
presented in front of a camera.
Cotton has a long
relationship with the arts and with photography; she is intelligent and
eloquent. This isn't flattery; there's just no avoiding the fact! She is an
unstoppable force of looking, seeing, curating, thinking, and interpreting. She
is very present in the time we live and her book, Photography Is Magic, is a collection of photographers whose images
deal with the present state and future of photography. Cotton is, simply put,
taking the temperature of the present so as to try to grasp at the state of
what's to come. One day people will pick up Photography
Is Magic and be able to realize its contribution; it will act as a map of the time. The book is a collective aim at what people can achieve
together, and the artists in the book epitomize that notion with the images they
make. Change doesn't have a solid structure, it's not a list of rules to be
set. Newness is completely genuine, and real change is accepting that it
constantly needs to change. As confusing as that may be it may sum up many
notions of contemporary photography in general. There's always the next, the
newest, and a huge need to stay ahead. Holding tight to photography's innate
sense of community and contemporary fortitude will allow it to keep from
becoming pure drivel.
What is magic? It has the ability to make something seem removed
from everyday life. It is remarkably wicked and delightful in its confusing and
titillating obscurity. Some people walk on fire, others pull rabbits from hats,
and further some people have the power to move beyond a mere experience. After
the restraint of reality there is a powerful place for play. Magic happens inside your head -
ideas, images, and concepts of external objects not present to your senses are
made there. This is the stuff that imagination and imagery are made of. Our
imaginary life becomes very real. The confusion and surrender of this
relationship is an important part of magic.
What of the photographs in between the covers of Photography Is Magic? In Cotton's own words from the book: "Collectively they provide a timely narrative of art
photography's relationship with the technologies of contemporary image culture." The camera is a
starting point; it is the adaptation of technology that intermingles and
coerces a new imagery. She continues: "They also implicitly show us the
critical positions that artists are adopting within media systems." There are
many applications after the shutter. In so many ways the initial image is like
a freshly stretched canvas, bare and plausible. The next step is to reimagine,
add, subtract, restructure, and transform the photograph. This process may
allow the image to become less precise but more specific. It can be executed
this way, and why shouldn't it be? Photoshop isn't a
photography tool as much as it is a painting tool; it provides that potential. It's
up to the person in the drivers seat to decide what needs saying, or needs making.
Maybe the last important
thing to realize is beyond technology the new addition to photography (the "newest
technology") is the body. Not a literal photographed body but the addition of
the hand and gesture to photographic images. Photos are being allowed distinct parts and
joints that interact with real space the way a sculpture would. It has more surface and qualities of being an object now than it ever has. A photo isn't just a window anymore: it has
touch, it can be tampered with, and it can establish an elaborate system of
vision while also upholding a constructed narrative. It gives back to its viewers because
it allows them to think: "What the hell is it I'm looking at?" The
exciting part is making a connection and finding that magic.
Picture 049 (Cardboard Box, Autumn Leaf Red, Funky Monkeys) © Asha Schechter
In all forms, languages, cultures and
creeds love is expansive and transformative. It can be a beginning as easily as
it can be an end. Love signifies all sorts. Sometimes it is intimate, literal,
and exacting, at other times vague, eclipsing, and abstracted. Talking with
Rachel Stern, curator of LOVE 2016,
she never wanted love to be a definitive thing, she always wanted this group
show to be a way to reign in the new year. And why not? After all love is not
limited, it is a vast wonder place for imagery and imagination. The show, LOVE 2016 - currently on display at
Columbia University's LeRoy Neiman Gallery - brings together a vast group of image-makers
from all over. These makers were asked by Stern to either show old work, new
work, or respond to the shows concept in a way to look towards the future.
"This is a show I wanted to see." Stern tells me with an excited smile. She is
as lovely and accommodating, as one would expect form a curator of a show about
Self-Portrait, Los Angeles June 2014 © Hobbes Ginsberg
"Responding to love is like
responding to air." Stern is like talking to an intelligently insightful
romance poem, she is full of these wonderful isms. The passion is apparent. The
show at first glance can almost seem flippant; it is not. The
gallery space is instantly atmospheric. The walls - adorned in a not so
symmetrical system of lush roses - hit you and suddenly you're in the center of
a bull-fighting ring. These icons of exaltation envelope the shows desire,
driving its diversity, while also holding its thread. Looking through the show
and its images, beyond love, what speaks so clearly is the sense of community. "I'm
always constantly wanting to make the most for my community with my community."
It is this visual camaraderie Stern shares that engages and binds these works
that could easily fall prey to distance from each other. There is an elusive
tether; something about them together is almost supernatural.
Untitled (Danny-and-Lawrence) © Marc Swanson
The works themselves run a gamut
from portraiture to conceptual - darkroom prints to sculptural and physical
objects. They're plural and unexpected; they come from artists of all ages and
walks of life. The show is inclusive and there is a sense of equality and
identity that speaks to a larger envelope that is not hung up in specifics and
titles. These people are the dreamers of dreams, the magic makers and the
paupers of a new generation. They are not as bohemian as much as they are
willing to experiment with visual language. Pushing at the possibilities and
boundaries of photography and its preconceptions. There is as much recollection
of history as there is spontaneous contemporaneity. The show is a striking
success of awkward unusual bits, always poetic, coy at times, and highly
definitive at others. It's clear, LOVE
2016 is what love looked like, looks like, and sets a temperature for the
future of its interpretation.
show isn't done." Stern tells me with a good amount of restrained excitement.
Her eagerness reads in her face, behind those comforting eyes. It reads in the
effort and love that's been put into the curation and presentation of the show
as well. What's the future? LOVE 2017
hopefully! For now this show will stand. It is an epically created environment,
it banishes the notion and expectation of white walls and stuffy spaces. It's
reinterpreting history, bouncing off its echo and allowing viewers to be filled
with love or sadness, or whatever they want. It has many feels, and maybe the
best part is the open-ended ability for individualized interpretation. These
ideas stretch - vast not weighted down - and go beyond statements or judgments.
There is a brilliantly subtle revolution brewing in the range of this broad show.
LOVE 2016 is on display at Columbia University's LeRoy Neiman Gallery through February 17th.
Checkout LOVE 2016's publication here.
You and Me Final © Kent Rogowski
(Left) Men,Mango Leaves & Dates (Right) Woman & Lychees © Micahel Bühler Rose
Suits © Martin Gutierrez
American Reflexxx (Still from video) © Signe Pierce & Alli Coates
Family Portrait © T.M. Davy
Untitled (Brooklyn) © Bryson Rand
"I was drawn to Red Hook with its edgy, worn landscapes, its ubiquitous rust, and the extraordinary quality of its light. Some years ago, while taking pictures there, I came upon an old barge moored in a small inlet in the harbor." And so begins William King
's story of a Brooklyn man and his barge.
"This photographic portfolio focuses on the maritime activities and maintenance performed by Captain David Sharps with the aid of friends and volunteers aboard the Lehigh Valley barge
. The story highlights float repair, spinning the barge, and barge assessment regarding dry-dock mandated by the US Coast Guard."
"The 101 year old Lehigh Valley barge is a historic landmark and working museum
. Due to the efforts and dedication of Captain David Sharps, with his many friends and volunteers, the Lehigh Valley is the last remaining example of the Hudson River Railroad barges."
This barge museum also holds music and other events. Check out their schedule