Posts Tagged ‘photography’
May 29, 2013 | by Albert Mobilio
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 »
May 13, 2013 | by Richard Woodward
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 »
May 1, 2013 | by Adam Sobsey
I am at war with the obvious. —William Eggleston
Not long ago, I wrote about the formal and spiritual affinities between baseball and the genre of music called power pop. Both observe an “unwavering, repetitive adherence to form” while pushing hard against strict, self-imposed formal limits, thus “mak[ing] music out of a very precise, narrow, angular geometry.”
Then, on April 8, the day before the Durham Bulls’ inaugural home game of the season, Bull City Summer’s first guest photographer, Alec Soth, gave a talk at the North Carolina Museum of Art, where his show “Wanderlust” is currently on view. He began by showing a slide, not of his own work, but of Flowers for Lucia by the photographer William Eggleston. Eggleston “hangs over me,” Soth confessed, before showing a picture he made of Eggleston himself.
These disparate elements—power pop and Eggleston—came together for me just a few hours after Soth’s talk, when the documentary film, Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me, about the seminal power-pop band, closed Durham’s annual Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. (Eggleston appears in the documentary, so ravaged and slurred by years of hard living that the filmmakers resort to subtitling their interview with him in order to make him intelligible.) To make a nakedly baseball-centric comparison, you could say that Big Star was a can’t-miss major-league prospect that somehow missed: led by the late Alex Chilton, the band should have found international fame but barely got out of Memphis, the Triple-A city it called home. Read More »
April 10, 2013 | by Evan James
“I forgot my camera,” I said to Wayan, the tour guide on our bicycle trip. He had, moments earlier, announced “Kodak moment!” as we slowed for our first stop—a lookout point over a mist-filled valley of tiered rice terraces. Two Swedish girls, two Dutch girls, and an English girl posed at the precipice, photographing themselves with evidence of having been to a beautiful vista in northeastern Bali.
“Oh no,” said Wayan. “Well, you will keep it in your head.”
My head already resembled a home interior from the TV show Hoarders, more so now that the compulsive caretakers within had made it their mission to collect as many Indonesian words as possible. I knew the word for “beautiful,” but lacked the impulse to document beauty. If I had to build a new mental wing to house the active volcano Mount Batur, so be it.
Still, imagined disappointment from intimates ate at me. It seemed I could not cement a solid habit of picture-taking, and in this way I felt I failed the demands of our time at every picturesque turn, successful only in my failure to do the thing I should have, in retrospect, done—done for friends, for family, for Facebook.
The feeling left me as the day progressed. The Swedish girls took cheeky snapshots of themselves knee-deep in the mud of a rice paddy outside a small village. “Dirty feet!” they cried, flashing smiles.
“It’s like a spa treatment,” one joked, stepping out with wet muck on her calves.
“I used to help my father do this when I was a boy,” said Wayan. He crouched down to plant a few sprouted seedlings.
“It must be kind of fun for little kids to be in the mud and the water,” said one of the Swedes. “Like playing.”
When we stopped at a coffee plantation, the Dutch girls took pictures of a caged civet, whose digestion and excretion of raw beans is essential to the production of expensive, earthy kopi luwak. Pictures of old Balinese women in their family compounds chopping and peeling bamboo into usable strips. Pictures of a five-hundred-year-old banyan tree. I would later persuade my fellow tourists to e-mail me these pictures, so that I could pass them off as my own when I returned.
At a particularly stunning view of the volcano, the English girl said to me, “Bet you wish you’d brought your camera now.”
“There’s a lot of things I wish,” I said in my head, keeping that there as well.
“What do you do all day? Just sit around?” Read More »
March 29, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
This gallery of images of Paris, then and now, is completely mesmerizing. As they say, it is indeed a time machine.
January 30, 2013 | by Sam Stephenson
On Tuesday morning, December 11, I drove a rented 2013 Chevrolet Impala out of Chapel Hill on I-40 East, the first miles of a twenty-two-day road trip around the South, with points as far west as New Orleans and Shreveport. These were the first Christmas plans I’d made on my own in forty-six years.
Without children, my holidays since 1995 have alternated between my parents’ house in eastern North Carolina and my in-laws’ in Pittsburgh. Over a nearly identical duration, I’ve been researching the life and work of photographer W. Eugene Smith. Now I’m working to finish my last book on him. The first stop on this Southern holiday journey is Berkeley County, South Carolina, a former slave-plantation region near the coast where Smith photographed his 1951 Life essay, “Nurse Midwife.”
The truth is that I’m tired of Gene Smith. Read More »