Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Henri Cartier-Bresson - poetry is the essence of everything


In a film made in 1972 by ICP NYC Henri Cartier-Bresson talks about the pleasures of photography. It's a warm kiss, a psychoanalyst's couch, a machine gun. Poetry is the essence... like a Chekhov story, there is a whole world in it.

For me the camera is a sketch book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity, the master of the instant which, in visual terms, questions and decides simultaneously. In order to give a “meaning” to the world, one has to feel involved in what one frames through the viewfinder. This attitude requires concentration, discipline of mind, sensitivity, and a sense of geometry. It is by economy of means that one arrives at simplicity of expression.
To take a photograph is to hold one’s breath when all faculties converge in a face of fleeing reality. It is at that moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy. To take a photograph means to recognize, simultaneously and within a fraction of a second‚ both the fact itself and the rigorous organization of visually perceived forms that give it meaning. It is putting one‚ head, one‚ eye, and one‚ heart on the same axis. 

Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Decisive Moment. you can see the film HERE. It's well worth the 18 minutes and 29 seconds. A reminder of what great image making is all about.  

Saturday, August 20, 2016

How Not to Design a Photobook - a workshop with designer Stuart Smith

Harvey Benge - Paris work-prints

Aperture will host a two-day workshop with Stuart Smith on September 17 and 18, 2016. Intended for photographers who are prepared to transition their images into book form, the workshop will focus on editing, sequencing, and pairing photographs, as well as how to design a successful and thoroughly considered photobook.

Designer Stuart Smith has worked on over forty books with Aperture’s Executive Director, Chris Boot, at Phaidon, Chris Boot Ltd., and, now, at Aperture. In advance of Smith’s first workshop for Aperture, September 17–18, Boot talked with the designer about “how not to design a photobook.”

Smith: Because photographers are visual, they usually assume two things: that they can design and that they can edit. But they benefit by letting someone else in. It doesn’t matter how well-known a photographer is, the fact is all photographers need a good editor, someone who they can trust checking or proposing picture and sequence decisions. It’s probably the most important part of putting a book together. Often the photographer is too close to the work, or to certain images, and they have a tendency to want to use more images, when they should let some of them go. The reverse can also be true. A photographer can become fixed on particular pictures. I usually want to see a wider edit than the photographer initially has in mind, and quite often between ten and twenty percent of the final picture selection will come in from this broader selection. This doesn’t seem like much, but it can make the difference between the mediocre and the sublime. 

You can read the complete Chris Boot, Stuart Smith interview HERE

Back in March 2012 I made a blog post - The Photobook, some thoughts on editing and sequencing. The piece makes 17 points about the process, talking about the importance of having a compelling idea through to the notion of throwing away the rule book. Must have said something right because to date the post has had 14,760 reads. You can go to that post HERE.

Harvey Benge - an edit continues...

Friday, August 19, 2016

Andrey Tarkovsky - polaroids at Bonhams London on 6 October 2016

The definitive collection of Polaroids taken by the legendary filmmaker Andrey Tarkovsky (1932-1986) will come to auction for the first time in a stand-alone sale, Nostalgia: Before and After – Important Polaroids by Andrey Tarkovsky, at Bonhams London on 6 October 2016.

The photographs – 257 Polaroids in total, are divided into 29 lots containing nine or ten pictures each, with estimates ranging from £20,000-37,000 per lot. They date from Tarkovsky's time in Italy and Russia and come directly from his family. The collection will be previewed at Bonhams 580 Madison Avenue New York, 8-22 August and at Bonhams 101 New Bond Street, 2-6 October. Many of the photographs were taken while Tarkovsky was making Nostalgia, and the photos feature the familiar atmospheric landscapes and settings of that legendary 1983 film. From intimate snapshots of Tarkovsky's circle of friends and dog, to evocative pictures of the Russian and Italian countryside, the works give a glimpse of late 70s and early 80s life, frozen in time.

Tarkovsky started experimenting with the Polaroid camera in the late seventies, and was delighted with the results, although he immediately burned the Polaroids he was not happy with. In the autumn issue of Bonhams Magazine, film historian Mark Le Fanu looks at Tarkovsky's "passion for Polaroids" and explores its significance. "The addiction (I think we can call it that) began in 1979," said Le Fanu. "There was something about the way that the camera gave an instant image of the view being photographed that he found propitious, and useful, for his task of location-hunting. That, and the fact that he liked their saturated but at the same time diffused (and ever so slightly 'retro') color reproduction, which gave each of the stills an air of mystery." In the introductory essay to an album of the photographs, published in 2006, Tonino Guerra, Tarkovsky's scriptwriter, recalls the filmmaker's discovery of the camera's magical effects: "At my wedding in Moscow in 1977, Tarkovsky had a Polaroid camera in his hand and he moved about happily with this instrument which he discovered only recently. 

Tarkovsky often reflected on the way that time flies and this is precisely what he wanted: to stop it, even with these quick Polaroid shots." Andrey Tarkovsky, one of the greatest Russian directors of all time, pioneered a new era of filmmaking with his celebrated films such as Nostalgia, Stalker, Solaris and Ivan's Childhood. He continues to be renowned for his slow-paced, lingering style and his unconventional dramatic structure. Daria Chernenko, Head of Bonhams' Russian Art department, said, 'These pictures are a surprising glimpse of Tarkovsky, who throughout his life was obsessed with the passing of time. The dream-like compositions are reflective of his filmmaking. They've never been on the market before and now his family are selling the collection in its entirety. There has already been a significant amount of interest in these one-off works, both from museums and film institutes.'

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The loneliness of the long distance photographer...

Robert Adams, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 1968

In a recent The New Yorker piece curator and novelist Hanya Yanagihara dwells on the subject of loneliness, a condition that seems inevitably to go with the territory of pointing a camera. Yanagihara references The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone, by Olivia Laing - where implicit in Laing's book - loneliness, a realm most deeply inhabited, and fluently expressed, by visual artists... 
Yanagihara opines - loneliness belongs to the photographer. To be a photographer is to willingly enter the world of the lonely, because it is an artistic exercise in invisibility... the photographer moves through the world, our world, hoping for anonymity, hoping she (he) is able to humble herself (himself) enough to see and record what the rest of us - in our noisy perambulations, in our requests to be heard - are too present to our own selves to ever see. To practice this art requires first a commitment to self-erasure.

It is also why so many great photographs concern loneliness. The lens may distance the photographer from the rest of humanity, but with that distance comes an enhanced ability to see what is overlooked and under-loved.
These sentiments inform the show How I Learned to See, recently curated by Hanya Yanagihara at Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco.
The exhibition is organized into six sections on the subjects of loneliness, love, aging, solitude, beauty, and discovery. There is an idiosyncratic mix, with iconic and less familiar works by 12 artists: Robert Adams, Diane Arbus, Elisheva Biernoff, Harry Callahan, Lee Friedlander, Nan Goldin, Katy Grannan, Peter Hujar, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Richard Misrach, Nicholas Nixon, Alec Soth, and Hiroshi Sugimoto.

You can read the full New Yorker piece HERE and go to Fraenkel Gallery HERE.
How I Learned to See finishes 20th August.

Hanya Yanagihara is an American novelist whose most recent book, A Little Life, was a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award and shortlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize and the 2016 Baileys Prize for Fiction.

Nan Goldin, Clemens and Jens embracing in my hall, Paris, 2001

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Ana Paula Estrada - Memorandum, a new bookwork

Mexican born photographer Ana Paula Estrada, now living in Brisbane, Australia has recently completed her bookwork Memorandum. Rather like a time capsule the book employs photography, oral history and personal found photographs to record fragments of the lives of seven individuals who are all on the other side of their allotted three score and ten. Estrada sums up the work like this: It is a project about things that were remembered, photographs that were carefully stored and conversations that must never be forgotten. Doug Spowart in his essay accompanying the book quotes John Berger who says, all photographs are there to remind us of what we forget.

What immediately struck me about this book was its quiet authenticity. Estrada has not set out to be clever, super cool or to shock. The work clearly comes from her heart and head and therefore movingly resonates with the reader. Memorandum made me think of my own family and our stories. It reminded me of aging and impermanence and how nothing in the end is solid. It reinforced in me the importance of the now and why I make photographs.
If the purpose of an artwork is to get the viewer or reader to reconsider their place in the world Ana Paula Estrada's Memorandum accomplishes that task admirably.

You can buy a copy of Memorandum HERE.
The book is soft cover / section sewn with exposed spine / stock:120gsm and 300gsm ecostar uncoated / 170 pages, 86 photographs / printing: 4 colour digital / contains separate 8pp booklet, fold out pages and a tipped in 112gsm translucent page / edition: 200 / numbered and signed / self-published 2016.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Philip Jones Griffiths Award - Applications now open

Trolley Books are delighted to announce that applications are now open for the inaugural Philip Jones Griffiths Award from The Philip Jones Griffiths Foundation. The award is for documentary photography and must be used to complete a body of work, regardless of what stage the project is in, from a proposal to nearing completion. The subject matter must be related to issues of social and political importance. The photographer will receive £10,000.

The Philip Jones Griffiths Foundation was set up by Philip shortly after he found out he had cancer in 2000, with the aim of preserving his work to inspire future generations and as a way to actively help photojournalists cover the stories that needed to be told. Since his death in 2008 the foundation has been run by his two daughters Katherine Holden and Fanny Ferrato.
The Philip Jones Griffiths Award will be annual and judged by a mixture of highly respected professionals and renowned photographers.

For more information and how to apply please visit HERE.

Philip published three books with Trolley. Agent Orange - Collateral Damage in Viet Nam (2003), Viet Nam at Peace (2005) and Recollections (2008), and was close to Trolley’s late publisher Gigi Giannuzzi. Hannah Watson from Trolley will be one of the judges of the inaugural award. The deadline for the applications is October 10th 2016, with the winner announced on November 15th 2016.

An after-thought: In 1998 Philip Jones Griffiths Award came to Auckland on a Magnum assignment to shoot pictures for a Heinz Corporation annual report. Philip contacted me and asked if I would assist him, hire lighting and so on. Which I did. The shoot involved making a picture of a high-profile NZ food writer in her kitchen. I helped Philip set up and in doing so was stand-in for the writer. Below is one of the polaroid test shots Philip made. It seemed totally bizarre that this amazing photographer was here in New Zealand, well, having to shoot crap. His next stop was Melbourne where he was to shoot cat food!
After the shoot was wrapped Philip came home to my place, sitting in my kitchen we chewed-the-fact errrr fat. Over a couple of hours he systematically (and amusingly) demolished more than a handful of Magnum photographers. Philip Jones Griffiths struck me as a highly principled, larger-than-life individual with a huge intellect. And a great photographer. Sorely missed.

Philip Jones Griffiths - Harvey Benge as stand-in, 1998

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Photo London - watch the 2016 panel discussions on line

The quality of Photo London's Talks Programme sets the fair apart from all other art fairs. In May this year over 50 speakers participated in the sell-out Photo London Talks, the talks are available for viewing on line now.
There was an impressive line up of artists and critics including Alec Soth speaking with Kate Bush, Nick Knight with Hans Ulrich Obrist, Mary McCartney, Don McCullin, Nadav Kander, Richard Misrach, Graham Nash and Katy Grannan, Howard Greenberg, Quentin Bajac, Michael Wilson and Anthony D’Offay. And more...

You can check out the range of videos HERE and simply click on the particular session you'd like to watch.