Efrem Zelony-Mindell


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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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From Jimmy DeSana: Suburban, Aperture/Salon 94, 2015


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.

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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.

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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. 

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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. 

Get your hands on a copy by clicking here.

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Cardboard, 1985 © the Jimmy DeSana Estate/Salon 94

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Untitled (Plywood Interior), 1979 © the Jimmy DeSana Estate/Salon 94

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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.

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© 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.

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© 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.

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©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.

Get your hands on this beautiful book by clicking here.

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© Thomas Roma

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© Thomas and Giancarlo Roma

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© Thomas Roma

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© Thomas Roma

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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. 

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cfaal 340 © Jessica Eaton

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. 

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Untitled, from the series Flatness, Light, Black & White © Annie MacDonell

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.

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Composition 008 © Kate Steciw

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. 

Find out how to get your hands on a copy of Charlotte Cotton's beautiful book here.

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Picture 049 (Cardboard Box, Autumn Leaf Red, Funky Monkeys) © Asha Schechter

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Untitled (Seventh Depth 013) © Taisuke Koyama

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A Dozen Roses (for Tony) © Matthew Leifheit


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 love.

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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.

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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. 

"The 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.

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You and Me Final © Kent Rogowski

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(Left) Men,Mango Leaves & Dates (Right) Woman & Lychees © Micahel Bühler Rose

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Suits © Martin Gutierrez

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American Reflexxx (Still from video) © Signe Pierce & Alli Coates

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Family Portrait © T.M. Davy

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Untitled (Brooklyn) © Bryson Rand


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Axe Diptych © Zeke Berman

Some people are calculated thinkers, understanding every move long before they ever make or think or speak. Others are much more intuitive and unconscious, they are about the moment and evolving from each one to the next. It should be said that regardless of the challenge of understanding no one way is more right than the other - just different - and the opportunity to compare is exciting. Julie Saul deserves a huge amount of praise for this reason; she has brought to her gallery two photographers that make photographs in these very opposite ways. However, they meet in such an interesting place. What Corey Olsen has in youth, curiosity, and novelty Zeke Berman has in wisdom, craft, and contemporaneous composition. Both are craftsmen of still life photography, painterly and heteroclite.

Personally my favorite thing about Berman and Olsen and their images is the first thing they bring to mind, unequivocally that thing is their history. William M. Harnett leads to Kurt Schwitters leads to Jasper Johns leads to these two contemporaries, Berman and Olsen. They are sculptors, collagists, and photographers. Aficionados of light, color, asymmetry, staged theatrics, surface, and the ordinary taken way out of context. It's a really great show! The works are solid at times and then open-ended at others. There is space to be filled beyond the elucidation and perplexity in the predicament of the photos juxtapositions. Admittedly they take a lot of time, the reward is so huge it seems insurmountable. 

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Garage Still Life © Corey Olsen

Corey Olsen will take you back to a familiar time in your life - long before complication - when imagination was so important. Back when you'd aimlessly shift through relics and the family tool chest or garage. Who wasn't doing that as a kid? You'd find all those strange odds and ends, tools not quite toys that blasted creativity off into endlessly unknown possibilities. Some of the colors were bright, others faded, smells of rust and dirt, a forgotten bicycle helmet, and all those cans of chemicals that served a purpose that one time. Olsen assembles his birc-a-brac almost too precisely; his lighting and perspective is nothing short of nouveau. Behind the immediacy, carefully controlled intent, and playfulness of the work Olsen expels a certain sense of quiet isolation. Being a kid in the stillness of Maine has clearly built a huge sense of explorative expectation in the young photographer. Olsen shares, "Maybe all the pieces make no sense. But my biggest hope is that people will discover things about their expectations of everyday artifacts." 

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Drawing Board Diptych © Zeke Berman

Zeke Berman is an illusionist. His photos are those of universally conveyed thoughts dealing with perception and questioning the very core of optics. Where does something end and beginning? Is there a front, what happens on the back? These are all challenging questions for a photographer - who deals in a two-dimensional finished product - to take on. "I'm trying things out and want to understand in the moment." Berman says. The verbal understanding that he has of his photos is not to be believed. The compositions are ambiguous, beguiling, surreal, and articulated. His still lives are accurately laid out forms, technical and exquisite in their quality of collage and sculpture. These photographs are seductive! Viewing them at first glance there seems to be something mirrored or symmetrical in their structure. Upon closer inspection the mystery of their seduction is revealed. There's nothing mirrored about them, just when parts seem to be perfect reflections something goes wrong, there's a shift, a change. The images have been designed only half symmetrical. In so many ways Berman's images become Joseph Jastrow's iconic duck rabbit. 

Berman and Olsen are students of epistemology. Their photography allows for new study, understanding, and knowledge. These photographers are distant in years but a kin in spirit. Their aesthetics sing to one another, they are totally without time, and demanding of comprehension. The success of the work is reliant on the time viewers take.


Be sure to catch these two great shows at Julie Saul Gallery Through February 20th.

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Garage Still Life © Corey Olsen

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Letter Rack © Zeke Berman

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Garage Still Life #4 © Corey Olsen

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Web #2 © Corey Olsen

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Garage Still Life #21 © Corey Olsen

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Cubes © Zeke Berman


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Alex, 2012 © Jess T. Dugan  


Think of a man - I mean a real dude kind of guy. Masculinity drums up a certain image, specific ideas and blunt mannerisms. A portrait of that man can strip away assumptions and allow for a much more fleshed out identity. Most of gender is read through parts of a person's body. That body becomes fleshy and naked in its insecurity, or maybe not, it can be in a persons mind and the pieces arbitrary. Jess T. Dugan's project and new book Every Breath We Drew deals with these issues. What is gender? How is masculinity defined? Through Dugan's subjects she is able to establish intimate relationships; each individual bares their experience, there's a huge sense of comfort. Dugan's portraits build; some of the subjects have been totally marginalized by society, many of the people in the photos are given new voice, they are dynamic.

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Bucky, 2013

Every Breath We Drew is a collection of people of all different sizes, shapes, backgrounds, orientations and identifications. Dugan is fascinated by masculinity and capturing what she refers to as "vulnerable masculinity." "I find all of my subjects myself. It's hard to say exactly what it is that qualifies them. Something about my initial reaction to them." The process every step of the way is about this kind of personal intimacy. Dugan is very involved and an integral part of the photographic narrative. She uses self-portraits throughout the body of work; they become a constant. With Dugan as the familiar face throughout the photos she turns into a representation of the identifiable self. Dugan becomes anyone, in this way the viewer is interjected into the narrative through her. Suddenly her subjects are more noticeably looking at you. The conversation evolves, as the viewer is able to take control of the portraits.

There is a huge sense of community given the nature of the images. How does a person come into their body while also connecting with others? The source of this inquiry can be open ended; after all, it's highly individualized and deals in the self. The images keep pushing on a desire to seek a genteel masculinity. Dugan stresses that there is a need to redefine; masculinity is more expansive than commonly understood. The self is a starting point, as the subjects allow their comfort to creep in, more information is revealed. Light and pose play into these peoples places. All of Dugan's images are crafted in the subject's home where they could be most susceptible to allowing an authentic moment to play out. Dugan's frames are slow, the thinking and consideration to the environment is evident, and each moment retains a charged emotion.    

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Colby, 2012

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Ryan and Josh, 2013

Every Breath We Drew has a very concise interest, however it's crafted by a broad pressing of intent. The portraits are full of unexpected juxtapositions. People are somber, they are gay, they are with child, and without specificity. A person is a glorious hairy mess. And even though the work is very interconnected to the LGBT community the feeling of the work goes deeper than assumptions, conditions, or titles. It should be said that it doesn't matter who these people love or how they love, it's how they pose themselves that allows them to be themselves.

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Herb, 2013

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Taan, 2012 

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Kim, 2014

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Tim, 2014

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Self-Portrait, 2012

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Elle, 2012
all images © Jess T. Dugan
 

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© John Arsenault, "Silhouette of a Leatherman," 2012, Archival pigment print, Courtesy of ClampArt, New York City

Images by John Arsenault courtesy of ClampArt gallery. Words by Efrem Zelony-Mindell.

If you've ever taken a trip through New England, Cape Cod or Provincetown, it goes with out saying you know something about the quality of light out there. Those tender revealing hues of light, and the color blue like nothing else you've ever seen; everything's rich. That light and those blues, touch every inch of you - every inch of everything. You can't be out there and not think about Edward Hopper's paintings. John Arsenault's work is a lot like them, if Edward Hopper had a hidden closest full of good shoes, leather, and a cache of kinky friends. Similarly to Hopper, Arsenault has that sense of light and surrealism. His subjects don't simply pose, they penetrate their frames. What on earth could they possibly be thinking about?

What's on anyone's mind at the Eagle in LA?

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© John Arsenault, "Exit (Self Portrait)," 2012

Arsenault spent the better part of two years as "barmaid," as he lovingly refers to it, at the Eagle in LA. "A very unexpected chance." He tells me. Lucky for us he had his smartphone camera during his time there from 2012 to 2013. The man has made smartphone cameras an art. On a personal note, I couldn't thank him enough for that. It's hard to believe, but no denying, the man can take the piss out of a photograph. Touching light bleeds in the darkness of the bar. Casting hues and dimension over bodies and surfaces. Piercing the point of vision. These photographs are as rich as they are intimate. The bar is transformed, more Matisse in color and treatment than one would expect for a watering-hole suck-shack like the Eagle. For anyone who is familiar with the Eagle, LA's or otherwise, they may find the beginning of that metaphor an alarmingly unlikely possibility. It comes highly suggested that the photos be seen - by way of Arsenault's show Barmaid at ClampArt gallery, in New York - or by grabbing a copy of his new monograph, of the same title, published by Daylight. The proof's in the seeing of Arsenault's work.

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© John Arsenault, "Parachutes (Self Portrait)," 2012    

"It's so important to me to be open to the gray areas of my life. At first I didn't see photographing the Eagle as a project unto itself. I fell into bar backing totally by chance. As I got to know the people there I felt a commitment to them, myself, and this story." Arsenault's work has always been very rooted in the self and the work is diaristic. It's interesting to note both the love and care in the photo's, and the way Arsenault talks about them, and his experience. He's always sought out this intimacy, with people, with place, with light. Oh, that light. You don't need him to tell you his influence, the painterliness, and gesture are clear. He has taken an otherwise cacophonous escapade and quieted it down. Arsenault is a keeper of moments and tensions before, or maybe just after something wonderful, something sexual, something depraved or totally unforgettable. The environment becomes isolated and calmness sets in. But in the dark of the bar there is never a complete assurance of that controlled moment. 

LA's Eagle provided Arsenault with an opportunity to be a little out of place, maybe very out of place. "At first I would come to work with this ideal of what I should be or look like. And I realized I didn't need to pretend, it's more important to hold onto myself." It's pretty easy to get sucked into the atmosphere of a place, you walk different, you move different, and sometimes you are able to forget everything just to fit in. People showing up and being who they are and not some list of ideals is Arsenault's strongest message. It's good to keep that in mind. The Eagle is full of vice, and it's the individual people, the dark corners, and intimate moments that make it what it is.

John Arsenault's show in on view at ClampArt Gallery till February 13th. His new book Barmaids is available now 

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© John Arsenault, "Sister Candy Cide," 2013

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© John Arsenault, "Turned Off," 2012

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© John Arsenault, "Exterior Landscape Number Two," 2012

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© John Arsenault, "Exterior Landscape Number One," 2013

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© John Arsenault, "Praying for Tomorrow," 2012

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© John Arsenault, "Rose in a Bottle," 2013, 
All images Archival pigment prints, Courtesy of ClampArt, New York City

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Images by Pacifico Silano. Article by Efrem Zelony-Mindell.

Pacifico Silano is a BAXTER ST 2015 Workspace Resident. His new body of work, Tear Sheets - currently on view at BAXTER ST Camera Club of New York - pushes conversations that, as he puts it, "are my history." The images in his new body of work deal with issues of gender, identity, HIV/AIDS awareness, abstraction and photography. Silano is a photographer of photographs; a historian in many senses, and his work challenges the stigma of both the camera and HIV/AIDS. The images in the show are cultivated appropriations of historic queer ephemera, psychiatric literature like Martin S. Weinberg's 'The Male Homosexuals: Their Problems and Adaptations,' as well as various porno mags from the 70's - 80's. Magazines are favorites of Silano: Blueboy, Torso and Honcho These weren't just the cum rag, boy blasted, flip throughs of their day, they were also a platform of activism, nightlife, awareness, and gay rights. Historically these things were used as a way of illuminating secrets. The images in Tear Sheets add to a new context of queered identity - what it is and what it is capable of becoming.

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The world has changed for gays since the AIDS crisis - the death of many. Today, there are new developments in medicine, technologies, and there are new rights - HOORAH. Never before has this powerful interconnectedness been so accessible and so present; so able to bring together as well as divide. The advances of our times are exciting and contradictory. Silano's work is a reflection of these juxtapositions. The world spins forward, and we look back in commemoration - to learn and reflect, to see new. From this inquest of space and history there is discovery and invention. Here the parts come together - for Silano. The images he makes are inescapably contemporary for all their awareness and sensibility. 

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The wrecked savagery of sex and print are salvaged by the treatment of Silano's compositions. "The work comes from boxes of scraps that for a while I couldn't think of what to do with," he shares. The removal in the work happens as an affect of his excavating his archive. The work plays out before us. His appropriations become void and lucid, highly suggestive and pensive. 

At their most basic, the photos are abstract. They posses a quality of recognition and a hunger to delve deeper - to learn more. His images are at times figurative, always sculptural - becoming almost architectural. Depth and space are a tricky deception in a photograph. Silano plays off these sensibilities and discomforts. His iconography is one of a picture's generation - an aesthetic of elimination, down to a single idea. This suggests a sense of the sublime in nature.

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Silano is as much a historian as he is an archivist. When I offered him a friend's VHS porn collection a few years back, he jumped at the offer. He's a collector of things, moving, still, tactile and articulated. These parts fuse in his practice - and the images are just as much photographs as they are collage. Cutting and tearing appropriated images - placed precisely - there is gesture, and the hand is always present in front of his camera. It's interesting however to note the use of negative space, huge fields of white, sometimes black. The edges of the appropriated image, or object, casts a shadow on the voided space. Suddenly, the photos teeter in a questioning way. Depth and object are brought into the flat surface of the photo. There is a sense of forgetting, of something lost. But then, he builds on top, next to, tucked behind - overlapping so as to become something new, or at least, changing the meaning of where it began. Reinterpretation blossoms from Silano's metamorphoses. 

All these pretty words for such pretty things - the facts are the facts - the work is engaging for a multitude of reasons.

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Douglas Eklund, Exhibition Curator of the Department of Photographs at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, has put it best in regard to The Pictures Generation and how they, "worked at the intersection of personal and collective memory, rummaging through the throwaway products of their youth... in search of moments that both never existed yet were indelibly stamped in the mind." The scavenging of Silano's photography is addressing this history of indelible making. Some of these are before his time, but there's always a yearning to know what happened just before you got here. The work in Tear Sheets is a way of capturing and reanimating something that's been lost. 

I'll give you an example: Six of the seven original members of The Village People are still around. It's a desire like that, to find out, to know that something isn't gone, and now is full of potential in its anonymity. Anyone can search for a sense of culture that seemed important at a certain time, but now is so vague, it's almost antique. Capturing that hazy memory - remembering it - and allowing it to become what it wasn't before, is Pacifico Silano's most powerful asset as an artist.

The work is great and it's on view at BAXTER ST CCNY till January 16th. - Efrem Zelony-Mindell

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All images: Pacifico Silano

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Sugar Rush © Frances F. Denny


Photographer Frances F. Denny wants you to know you can be an imperfect feminist. That's an OK thing to be. Ideals of 1920's feminism and femininity have changed. Denny's first solo show, currently at ClampArt in New York City, contemplates and questions ideals of being a woman. As one who grew up in the nineties, she may be the first to admit it was a rather glorious age of shiny stickers, glittery goo, pearly nail polish, balloons, and bright colors. Clouds, stars, ponies and the like! These things became cornerstone caricatures of girlhood. To a large extent, they still are. It seems poignant to point out that as a kid growing up in the nineties, identity seemed pretty amorphous for a good while there. There were odd edges around what cool was and I'm not sure we wanted it to be a specific thing. We grew up on a much different Nickelodeon, with an almost unrecognizable Britney Spears. We were cool with being totally quirky, maybe even okay with being completely poor. We weren't perfect, but we loved our bright colors and tons of sugar! And let's be honest, nineties kids were a little twisted. There was something in the air back then. Denny has put a good amount of this nurture into her photographs and exhibition, Pink Crush.

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Wicked Game

"How are we taught to be women? How are we taught to be feminine?" Denny is committed to a deep exploration of development; she's insightfully curious about experimenting. The work in Pink Crush explores the aesthetics of a woman who grows through a filter of pop culture and commercialism. Pinky and shimmery objects always seem to be the safe default to celebrate a woman's anything. Her works aren't a rebellion against this, but there is a desire to study and survey. The shape of the contemporary woman has become a strangely commodified landscape. 

"The work burst from my head, like the birth of Athena." She is matter-of-fact. "Books and stories are far more generative to me and the work I make." Denny has not trapped herself in a rebellion of gender or a crisis of identity. She is practically a scientist; she studies so as to further the language and form of what it means to be woman. Her results are the wonderfully cultivated photographs of Pink Crush.

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Butterfly Dream

Denny's work has sympathy with the intimate, ornate and inescapably recognizable. There is a deeply personal quality in the photographs; her subjects and objects become more figurative and less specific in identity. The ambiguity cultivates a universal sense of anyone and everyone. The photographs may make you feel uncomfortable at times in their obscurity, but it's that uncertainty that makes them so wonderful. The pictures are a way to grasp a sense of woman through iconography, but they nurture a virtue to which anyone can relate. The images are highly saturated appearing unnatural - even plastic - yet they have a familiarity and a common motif of mending. The compositions, in their duality, stimulate a wonderfully confusing sense of engagement, a desire. You can almost taste the photos - some are sweet, others are explosive and sour.

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Pink Lemonade

Beyond the work, "which at times I wanted to feel a bit like a regurgitation of the girly aisle in a party store," Pink Crush is being displayed in tandem with a show of work that is from her first printed book published by Radius Books, "Let Virtue Be Your Guide." Denny shares how lucky she feels to have a role in photography. "I am so grateful to Brian [Clamp of ClampArt] and David [Chickey, of Radius Books] for letting me have the chance to make and show work that is about women being women." Denny and her work never for a moment lose sight of the gratitude it takes to achieve equality. Equality is nothing if we aren't people first. The parts that make us who we are help us become more whole. Pink Crush does that. It embraces the stuffness of being woman. The photos make it possible to understand the self. They aren't for a moment ashamed of their identity. The colors, the kooky shapes, the dirty leftovers, the uneven edges and all that stuff in-between, make a woman. She is a whole person.  

Frances Denny's exhibitions have been extended - go see Pink Crush plus Let Virtue be Your Guide at ClampArt, Chelsea, NYC, through December 30th.

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Sheer Romance

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Birthday Bash

All images © Frances F. Denny

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