A forest is many parts - the landscape, the creatures, the trees, all the wonderful dirty little pieces. There are ways of learning in this atmosphere; the lessons to take away are exciting and unusual. This education is something that can't be found in a book, it lays behind bark and experience. To watch a child grow in this wilderness is uncertain, touching, exhilarating. Jesse Burke's Wild & Precious is a collection of photographs he took of his daughter, Clover, over the course of five years and many trips out into wilderness. Through these trips, we watch Clover grow.
Burke's work upholds the sentiment of something Anaïs Nin once wrote: "We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations." These lessons are the hope Burke has for Clover by taking her out into nature. It is also this hope that reads in his images of her. She sleeps, she searches, she collects and studies, she is hurt, she is strong, she is inquisitive, and in all the images she reads as totally respectful to the earth around her. Clover hungers for a kind of learning: she wants more.
The book is curated in a peculiar way. The photographs read more as a community than they do as a single sentence. They are lyrical and they penetrate. Black and white and color images coagulate - some big, others small. A narrative emerges and details entice, there's something tactile present in the surfaces of all the photos. It's hard to ignore this touch -maybe that's how Clover learns; maybe that's how anyone learns out in the wild. Feeling her way through she seems careful to leave only footprints.
"Oh, sweet child, I beg you to be wild, but stay precious," - caring words from a father to his daughter. The sentiment is beyond the bonds of blood. Burke has respect for his daughter; she is to come into her own. Clover will be a child, she will be a woman, and she will know how to be a person.
Playground: Growing Up in the New York Underground, is a collection of never-before-published photos of the New York punk scene in the 1970s. We got this book in some time ago but never found the time to review it. But Efrem and I both love it so we figured better late than never.
Nestled in the pages of Playground: Growing Up in the New York Underground are intoxicating snapshots of an oddball beginning. Photographer/musician Paul Zone, with the help of Jake Austen, has documented the birth of an influential era; names and faces that have become the building blocks of glam-punk and a whole new wave of rock. Eager and excited in their awkward uncertainty, the photos feel a bit like the bottom of a cab floor--boozed and chalky. But how else would you want to see the birth of punk and glam rock? Coupled with, well - for lack of a better term, a kick-ass design, publisher Glitterati Incorporated has cultivated a perfect platform for Zone's images and the story of these iconic rockers' starts.
"The club was packed with a dream team of incredible human beings . . ."
Enter the pages of the flawlessly printed and curated Playground.
Johnny Ramone and Miki Zone, The Fast. CBGB 1976
Alas, if you Google "The Fast," to find what you're looking for, "band" is needed. It's significant to acknowledge The Fast, as this is who Zone was. He and his mates were there, with the likes of Blondie, The New York Dolls, The Ramones, Iggy Pop, Kiss, Elton John, and other rock gods. We are talking royalty here, people! Zone was never without his camera! This is the stage, and the access he had, but in the pages of Playground, it's just another quiet night out with friends.
Beyond queer--here in ways beyond fabulous--in the pages of Playground we find fright and newness, something photographic, with a sense of family and kickass music. It's not pretty. But it's so damn good! Reading into Playground, it's easy to see an admission from Zone. The late 60's through the 70's weren't about just one thing--the influence of disco, dance, and glitter were present and meaningfully alive in rock. Rules had been made by the likes of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. It was time for those rules and expectations to be broken.
Beyond the music, history, friends, sex, confusion, drugs, alcohol, death, and rock 'n' roll, Zone shares an intimate moment after a flight--he happened to share with the Dalai Lama--to LAX. It encapsulates the spirit of Playground: Growing Up in the New York Underground. Life is full of happiness and so many bad things. But those bad things have nothing to do with one's own happiness. "The sadness is outside of you. I can see in your eyes that you are a happy person." These are the words of the Dalai Lama to Zone - this is the spirit and memory of these great photos.
Thomas Roma's portraits and landscapes were made across four years in the gay cruising ground of Brooklyn's Prospect Park. These intimate photographs of men and the woods in which they cruise are surprisingly frank, given the fact that most of us (straight) people have no idea what goes on in certain areas of our local parks, and would imagine more furtive behaviour than posing.
Roma's new book, "In the Vale of Cashmere" is out now from powerHouse Books. In the foreword, speaking in regard to the need during much of our history for gay men to meet in secret, G. Winston James ponders "...the question of whether it is necessary, possible, and valuable to have privacy in public."
"This book is not a review of architectural history and park design, but rather a photographic examination of this particular urban landscape and its function vis-à-vis gay (sub)culture and social and sexual desire. That is to say, this is not so much a book about a place in Brooklyn's Prospect Park, as it is about the Black, Latino, and other gay and bisexual men who frequent it at odd hours as a place."
An exhibition is showing now at Steven Kasher in New York, through December 19th, 2015.
Bruce Morton and I met two years ago, at the PhotoNOLA portfolio reviews, and we really connected on a personal level, mainly because he is a really smashing person, with a solid love of and interesting eye for his artistry. Bruce has been keeping me posted, as well he ought. His book Forgottonia showed the marvelous folk living in an isolated community in Illinois, and at last count was in its third printing.
Bruce recently sent me a copy of his newest book venture, a rather gorgeous, scrap-bookish, but delightfully made limited edition piece that intersperses images that feature material, with material! I absolutely love my copy.
""Mommie: Three Generations of Women" is a remarkable photographic portrait of three generations of women in the family of photographer Arlene Gottfried and an intimate story of aging and the inevitable passage of time. Pictured within, we are introduced to Gottfried's 100-year-old immigrant grandmother, fragile mother, and reluctant sister over the breathtaking course of 35 years."
I am thrilled to see another book from the archives of the one-and-only Arlene Gottfried. Arlene is one of my all-time favourite people, and well deserves the recognition her fabulous historic records of New York are receiving. Off the streets and into her own home, Arlene's "Mommie" shows what it was like "living as many mid-century Jewish New York families did, the Gottfrieds were not wealthy and lacked any trappings of luxury. Close examination of their world on Avenue A in Manhattan's Lower East Side reveals a dimly lit small apartment, cartons of budget saltines and groceries, chipped paint, damaged floor tiles, guarded loose change, and well worn clothes - details natural to the lives of many families of immigrants in New York."
"Detroit: Unbroken Down is not a document solely about what's been destroyed, but even more critically, about all that has been left behind and those who remain to cope with it."
Dave Jordano was born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1948. He made a series of photographs around Detroit in the 70s as a burgeoning documentary photographer. He says on his website, "...eager to join the ranks of such notable heroes as Walker Evans, Eugene Atget and Robert Frank, while all the while sitting in my ivory tower, oblivious to the responsibilities of my post-graduate responsibilities and entering the work force. Reality ensued and I became a commercial photographer, leaving behind my documentary aspirations." Jordano's bio lists him as leaving the commercial world for fine art in 2003.
Now forty years later, Jordano returned to Detroit and for the last few years has been producing a more positive representation of his childhood city than the media has since the recession. There are many wonderful, warm images over on Jordano's site, replete with informative captions. It promises to be a great book.
In 'Face,' the latest book from Bruce Gilden, the extreme-close-ups are cited as "collaborative," with the subjects giving permission to have their picture taken in a departure from his usual street habits.
From the publisher: "A defining characteristic of Bruce Gilden's photography is his creative attraction to what he calls 'characters', and he has been tracking them down all through his career."
"Every photographer has their own artistic vision, especially portrait photographers; I am one of those and my vision is to collaborate with the subject, documentary-style, to portray them as they are at that moment.
In March I photographed Bruce Gilden, the author of 'Face,' for a British magazine. We met on a street corner in NYC. He pointed out he was dressed like a "bum" and mentioned that no one messes with him as he is "kinda aggressive." He told me a story about throwing a famous photographer up against a wall because he didn't like some comment he made.
"I idolized my father. He screwed me around," said Gilden in a 2010 interview with The Guardian. "The reason I stick a flash in people's faces is to get back at him in some way."
All of this may contribute to his current oeuvre: extreme close-up flash-lit images of faces ravaged by life - the intro talks about the "babies and sorority sisters" on social networks and states in contrast "here are Bruce Gilden's family." Yes they are extreme portraits, not easy on the eye.
Avedon in his 'Out West' series showed a similar sort of folk but with a certain beauty - Gilden's portraits have none of that and anyone stepping in front of his flash lit camera should be aware that he is not out to capture beauty, but the harsh side of life. In some ways these days with the cult of the selfie, retouched images and social media I can understand where he is coming from but it ain't pretty." Janette Beckman, August, 2015
From Primordial Landscapes, images by Feodor Pitcairn, published by powerHouse Books
"Primordial Landscapes: Iceland Revealed elegantly explores the diverse and raw beauty of Iceland's extraordinary landscapes through striking images by photographer and naturalist Feodor Pitcairn and the inspired words of geophysicist, author, and poet Ari Trausti Guðmundsson."
We don't need the official press release to help us fall in love with these spectacular images and this cracking-looking book. Otherwise, Feodor Pitcairn's production company specializes in underwater work, and indeed "Mr. Pitcairn took delivery of the first Sony hi-def handy camera delivered to the U.S. in March of 1988, and has been shooting in HD ever since."
These were shot on a Hasselblad. Jolly fabulous they are too. The book is out July 7, 2015, from powerHouse Books.
From Primordial Landscapes, all images by Feodor Pitcairn, published by powerHouse Books
Watching New Yorker Susan A. Barnett build her series "Not In Your Face" into a fantastic collection over the last couple years has been a pleasure, and now her dedication to capturing T shirt messages has resulted in a really great book, from Dewi Lewis.
"With over 200 images of t-shirt 'messages', "T: A Typology of T-shirts" looks at those individuals who stand out in a crowd through their choice of the message on their back." Here are but a handful, from a request I made to Susan for more "sassy, edgy" messages. Susan's off to continue shooting abroad so stand by for some messages from other cultures.
The photographs making up the new powerHouse bookProject Lives were created by residents of New York's housing projects. They learned about photography in an intensive 12 week course, and set out to document their lives. "This is photography from the inside out." The new photographers featured include Marcy Morales, 72, living in public housing for 30+ years who says "It's not where you are being raised, it's how you raise your kids, right?"; and Jared Wellington, 12, who says "I try to find myself in the photos... My mom used to live here when she was younger, and played on the same basketball courts I play on now." The newly discovered artists were given single-use film cameras and set free to record their own experiences of living in the city's seemingly never-improving housing.
The program was instigated by photographers and educators George Carrano, Chelsea Davis, and Jonathan Fisher. The book includes some wonderful full page photos, commentary, and a ton of NYCHA facts (like the 422,639 backlogged repair requests.) Read more and buy a copy over at powerHouse.