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Posts Tagged ‘photography’

It Was Too Strong: An Interview with Todd Hido

November 19, 2013 | by

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She had a black mohawk, edged in green. Sometimes red. I believe there was a brief blue phase. She wore Doc Martens long before they were cool, and she only ever wore baggy, black clothing. I never once saw her smile. When she hung out with the other punks in the unofficial outdoor smoking section of our neighborhood, she inhaled her cigarettes slowly, gently. She wasn’t pretty or even conventionally attractive, but boys always surrounded her. Perhaps it was the heavy eyeliner, speaking of a life populated with interesting and equally enigmatic people and filled with rarefied events that neither I nor her admirers would ever experience, couldn’t even fathom. Part of her mystique, of course, was that she didn’t seem to engage with her entourage, but, eyes down, quietly murmur something once in a while that would galvanize everyone.

She lived just ten houses down from me, but in an older, separate subdivision. On my nightly walks with Maggie, our Rastafarian family dog, I’d hope for a glimpse inside her rundown house. Though lights often flickered through the drawn curtains, that entire winter I never saw a thing. Her home was as inscrutable as was she. Invariably Maggie would pull at the leash to go back home where it was warm and she could go to sleep and where my life, boring and uneventful, waited.

Many years later, I came across this photograph on Todd Hido’s Web site.

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For a brief moment, I thought it was her house. Then I saw the dissimilarities; it wasn’t. But the effect on me was profound: my emotional response to the photo, the swoosh of nostalgia, became a portal. Suddenly I was once again in the midst of painful adolescence, projecting a narrative onto a girl I had never met. Read More »

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Eudora Welty, Photographer

September 27, 2013 | by

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The Wiljax Gallery of Cleveland, Mississippi, is featuring a selection of Eudora Welty’s Depression-era photographic portraits, which the young writer developed and printed herself in her Jackson kitchen. It was the first time many of her subjects had been photographed; Welty reportedly tried to give copies to almost all of them. She would pursue photography through the 1950s; pictures she took were inspiration for several of her short stories.

 

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The Beauty of the Heroine: Julia Margaret Cameron and the Poetic Portrait

August 27, 2013 | by

The Parting of Lancelot and Guinevere 1874 Albumen silver print from glass negative David Hunter McAlpin Fund, 1952, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Parting of Lancelot and Guinevere, 1874, albumen silver print from glass negative, David Hunter McAlpin Fund, 1952, the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

“The beauty of the heroine is evident to every one,” Julia Margaret Cameron wrote as the postscript of a letter accompanying the first copy of Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s Idylls of the King, which she illustrated with photographs. She was speaking specifically of her image Vivien and Merlin, but, as evidenced in a show of her photographs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of Cameron’s greatest talents lay in animating many heroines of poetry through her unconventionally dreamy photographs. Read More »

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The Liminal Space

August 7, 2013 | by

Hiroshi Watanabe. Photo: Ivan Weiss

Hiroshi Watanabe. Photo: Ivan Weiss

For the past thirty years, the photographer Hiroshi Watanabe has split his time between Tokyo and Los Angeles. I met him at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park when he reported for his first day of work on the Bull City Summer project. He’s a compact man who moves carefully but fluidly; at age sixty-two, he resembles a boxing trainer or a retired gymnast. On meeting, he said to me, “I have a question—why did you invite me? I don’t follow baseball and I’ve never photographed it.” He already knew the answer—I think he wanted to find out if I did.

A few days later, during one of that week’s many rain delays, Hiroshi wandered into the dark, narrow room inside the left-field wall, behind the manually operated scoreboard on the thirty-foot Blue Monster. In this barnlike storage space, placard numerals are lifted and installed in the appropriate slots, facing outward into the stadium, to indicate runs, hits, and errors during games. Here’s how Hiroshi described what he found there:

I saw all these panels with numbers on them. I realized that the number zero had a certain translucent quality the other numbers didn’t have. The paint on the zero has been faded by more exposure to sunlight. This fading has made beautiful patterns—maplike, veinlike cracks. The passage of time offers different textures on different materials. In the scoreboard numbers, it’s just faded paint. Only zero shows the passing of time I’m looking for. Read More »

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Some Sort of Alchemy

May 29, 2013 | by

Sun Ra

His names were many: christened Herman Blount, he reinvented himself as Sonny Blount, H. Sonne Blount, Le Sony’r Ra, and, finally, what he called his “vibrational name,” Sun Ra. Ra’s band, too, was rich in appellation—one could compile a dizzyingly poetic list of its nearly fifty names, including the Myth Science Arkestra, the Intergalactic Research Arkestra, the Cosmo Drama Arkestra, the Transmolecular Arkestra, and the Love Adventure Arkestra. As many names, Ra might have said, as there are stars in the sky. This jazz visionary was born in Birmingham, Alabama, and not on Saturn, as he often claimed; in Chicago, in the late forties, a young Sonny Blount played piano with Fletcher Henderson, sharpening his formidable skills as a composer and arranger with the big-band legend. The combo Ra formed soon after was part cult, part family. He called his musicians “tone scientists”; they humbly described themselves as “nobodies with the master.” He taught them to play a kinetic, improvisational swing (bachelor-pad wailing for the pharaohs) that drew on his own spiritual bouillabaisse of Egyptology, Kabbalah, numerology, the Nation of Islam, Neoplatonism, Swedenborg, and Edgar Allan Poe. During performances, Ra wore a metallic cape and crown, while his band and dancers, in similar Afro-Space garb, threaded through the audience conjuring tribal magic and orbital ecstasy.

In 1972, Ra signed a multi-album deal with ABC/Impulse! Records and recorded what would become his most popular disc, Space Is the Place. The new, sleek volume Sun Ra + Ayé Aton: Space, Interiors and Exteriors, 1972 offers a trove of photographs once thought to be lost that show the musician in full regalia on location in Oakland, California, for the production of a film that was to accompany the album. Also included are photos of murals done by Ayé Aton, a Chicago artist who shared Ra’s cosmological inclinations. Read More »

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Garry Winogrand and the Art of the Opening

May 13, 2013 | by

Garry Winogrand, El Morocco, New York, 1955, black-and-white photograph. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, purchase, the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel; © The Estate of Garry Winogrand, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

Garry Winogrand, El Morocco, New York, 1955, black-and-white photograph. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, purchase, the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel; © The Estate of Garry Winogrand, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco.

Scroll down for a slide show of photographs by Winogrand, with audio interviews conducted during the March 6 opening of his posthumous retrospective at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Garry Winogrand (1928–84) was the first photographer to realize how much juicy comedy could be squeezed out of New York’s art and literary scenes. During the late sixties, early seventies, when he would arrive with his Leica at a Museum of Modern Art opening or a costume ball at the Metropolitan Museum of Art or at Norman Mailer’s fiftieth birthday party, he would sometimes announce to the crowd, “I’m here,” as if an event did not officially begin until he was there to record it. 

He was more right than even he might have guessed. Were it not for his mordant photos of those ragged, sybaritic evenings, best represented in the 1977 book Public Relations, it would be hard to imagine them. Mad Men and other dramatic re-creations tidy up the social anarchy of those years; Winogrand’s camera didn’t. From the haphazard lines of men and women awkwardly at ease, uniformed in black tie or a too-tight harem top, heads wreathed with cigarette smoke and piles of teased hair, ghostly moues cut with rictus smiles and rows of perfect teeth, he fashioned dark instants of sublime lunacy. Everyone and everything seems false or imbecilic in his party pictures, his eye exposing secret acts of disintegration within rituals of supposed public glee.

Behind his mockery of the self-satisfied and the strivers, though, is a winking acknowledgement that anyone can appear stricken when blasted by a flash at 1/125 of a second. Photography turns one and all into fools, including—especially—artists like himself, eager to hunt life and trap as many of its fleeting variables as possible inside a 35 mm frame but doomed to return empty-handed far more often than not. Read More »

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