Black &White FOR COLLECTORS OF FINE PHOTOGRAPHY
John G. Morris: Normandy, 1944
Jennifer Greenburg: Revising History Jean-Pierre Laffont: Turbulent America
Issue 106 December 2014 US $7.95 Can $9.95
“I never called myself a photographer. But during those four weeks I turned out to be a pretty good one, which came from wroking with great photographers.” — John G. Morris
JENNIFER GREENBURG: REVISING HISTORY — 24 Manufactured imagery reaches sublime heights in Greenburg’s conceptually bold and technically brilliant series. Seamlessly inserting herself into found images, she appropriates moments conceived by and for others, creating counterfeit memories that question the veracity of the family snapshot.
JOHN G. MORRIS: PICTURING NORMANDY, 1944 — 36 Life picture editor John Morris not only coordinated that magazine’s photo coverage of the Normandy landings, he also ventured out with the photographers he assigned to make his own memorable images—unseen for decades—while the fighting was still going on. Now 97, he shares his experiences in this exclusive interview.
JAIME PERMUTH: YONKEROS — 48 A Guatemalan photographer living in New York City, Permuth is a master of the idiosyncratic photo essay. His Yonkeros series unveils the hardscrabble environment of Willets Point in Queens, where dealers in scrap metal eke out a precarious existence under threat from impending urban development.
JEAN-PIERRE LAFFONT: TURBULENT AMERICA — 58 Laffont might just be the greatest photojournalist you’ve never heard of. The Algerian-born Frenchman covered nearly every story of importance in America during the transformative decades of the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s with provocative clarity, intellectual honesty and emotional resonance.
58 “If you have an assignment, you are like a horse with blinders; you don’t see on the right or left...The assignment disturbs completely the mind of the photographer.”
— Jean-Pierre Laffont
GREGORY CONNIFF: CONSTANT GARDENER — 68 Many photographers try to evoke a sense of place in their work. Few succeed like Gregory Conniff, who has an unnerring instinct for revealing order from chaos in our natural and man-made landscapes. His images possess an organic quality that speaks to both physical and spiritual renewal.
O. WINSTON LINK MUSEUM — 78 Link was the consummate train photographer, a master craftsman who captured the fading years of steam railroading with unparalleled lyricism. We revisit his legacy on the 100th anniversary of his birth and the 10th anniversary of the museum that bears his name.
PEDRO DIAZ MOLINS — 88 DUNCAN OJA — 92 MICHAEL ERNEST SWEET — 96 ANNE TAPLER WHITE — 100 MARNA BELL — 104 LAURENT BAHEUX — 108
SINGLE IMAGE SPOTLIGHTS
MARCELO BUAINAIN — 20 JUNG-CHAN LIAO — 21 BILL WOODS — 22 ROBERTO SOARES-GOMES — 23
Cover image: Former U.S. military analyst Daniel Ellsberg surrenders at the U.S. Attorney's office in downtown Boston. Boston, MA, 1971 by Jean-Pierre Laffont
NEWS — 8 BOOK REVIEWS — 12 WHERE PHOTOS LIVE — 14 WHAT’S IT WORTH — 16 IMAGE PROTECTION — 18 EXPOSURE SECTION — 112
“I think the criticism that too many people are taking too many photographs is neither fair nor necessary.”
Are We Taking Too Many Photographs? A Reader Rebuttal
I received quite a bit of feedback to my October letter, but this response from Nathan Caplan, an Emiritus Professor of Psychology at the University of Michigan, was the most thoughtful and to the point. In the interest of encouraging further response from readers, we present an edited-for-space version of Nathan’s remarks: “The essence of photography is captured broadly and skillfully in the October issue, better than I have seen on substantive matters in any other magazine or book, including Susan Sontag’s wordy On Photography. Your remarks on past versus present-day fine art photography also resonated. The breakneck speed of digital advancements in cameras and post-processing programs notwithstanding, the quality of fine art photographs today is certainly no better than in the days of film. In many respects, digital falls short. Sebastião Salgado, for example, used both digital and film cameras during his eight-year Genesis project. Yet, I feel that it’s possible in most cases to distinguish digital from film images in the subsequent book—the depth of blacks and levels of gray in the latter attest to film’s advantages. “I, too, am no Luddite, but post-processing a digital image lacks the joy of seeing a film print come to life in the darkroom. Initially, I thought digital was antithetical to fine photography and held out with film until it was no longer practical. I find it very difficult to produce a digital image that looks like it was taken by a human rather than by a machine. But digital has attributes that one cannot deny. And those who explore photography with Lensbaby, spend 90 percent of their PP time in layers and use Puppet Warp and other such adjustments will in the long run uncover pathways leading to credible changes in the very character of photography. “I am in less agreement, however, regarding your comments about snapshot photographers. I think the criticism that too many people are taking too many photographs is neither fair nor necessary. If photography has become grossly colloquial, so be it. It cannot be undone, and certainly has not led to a “chronic voyeuristic relation” between photographers and society at large. In fact, it carries with it a number of important compensations. Most notably, the obligation of being family photographer is lifted from those of us with more serious photographic concerns. And it’s off the mark to imply that snapshot shooters shouldn’t embrace their pictures with great satisfaction. After all, they view them over and over and hasten to share cell phone images with others. “You don’t have to be a psychologist to know that there is something endemically satisfying when an image is ‘captured.’ This is the ‘magic’ of photography, in the fullest meaning of that word. I still remember as a young child snapping the shutter at all manner of subject matter and feeling that I had magically ‘captured’ an image inside the black Kodak box—without even knowing if film was in it. Digital snapshooters can also share this magic and find great pleasure in instantly creating and treasuring their ipictures. To those who think that a bit of a stretch, look at the faces of children, teenagers and adults as they huddle around images in a cell phone.”
Many thanks, Nathan, for your spirited and insightful comments. Till next time. — Dean Brierly, Editor Mea Culpa In the last-minute rush to get the October issue to press, we inadvertently printed an image twice in the Ludmila Ketslakh Spotlight. Our sincere apologies to Ludmila. Please visit her website (ludaketslakh.com) to see more work by this talented documentary photographer.
American Grotesque: The Life and Art of William Mortensen Feral House 300 pages | HC | $45
“Taken together, the images show the chaotic, often painful birth of the country we live in today.”
William Mortensen was one of the most reviled and celebrated photographers in the history of the medium. Ansel Adams, Group f/64 advocate and staunch defender of the “purist” approach to photography, manifested his disdain for everything Mortensen stood for by famously branding him “the anti-Christ.” Yet the very things Adams detested made Mortensen arguably the most influential and imitated photographer in the world, at least during his heyday of the 1930s and ’40s. Consider Mortensen’s penchant for outré visual narratives—laced with generous amounts of sex and sadism—manifest in such notorious images as “L’Amour,” which depicts a partially clothed maiden lying helpless before a hulking, slavering ape—a vision simultaneously disturbing, surreal and humorous in a pitch-black
vein. No other photographer of the era was so enthusiastic and adept at pushing the bounds of good taste and acceptable subject matter. Perhaps even more damning to the guardians of photographic sanctity was Mortensen’s direct manipulation of the photographic print, which challenged notions of what a photograph could or should look like. Shifting trends and tastes eventually relegated Mortensen to the margins of history; this handsome monograph from Feral House aims to bring his unique accomplishments before a wider and hopefully more enlightened and appreciative audience. Replete with well known and seldom-seen images and featuring incisive essays from Larry Lytle and Michael Moynihan, American Grotesque deserves pride of place on any self-respecting collector’s bookshelf. Photographer’s Paradise: Turbulent America 1960-1990 Glitterati Incorporated 392 pages | HC | $95
It’s tempting to think of Jean-Pierre Laffont as the Zelig of photojournalism in America during the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. The Algerianborn French photographer who came to the United States in 1964 to “visually capture the spirit of the times” was at the center of virtually every major story during those decades. Urban decay and unrest. The cultural revolution wrought by sex, drugs and rock and roll. The antiwar movement. Women’s liberation. Black power. The Ku Klux Klan. Political assassinations. The oil embargo. Watergate and impeachment. The decline of the auto industry and the crisis of the American farmer. It hardly seems possible that one individual could have photographed all these and so many other stories—much less captured them with such conviction, insight and empathy. Moreover, the issues and the implications in Laffont’s photographs retain their relevance, as he notes in the book’s introduction. “When I look back at the individual photographs I took during this quarter-century period, the images at first seem to depict a ball of confusion: riots, demonstrations, disintegration, collapse and conflict. Taken together, the images show the chaotic, often painful birth of the country we live in today...a place where a black president, married gay couples, and women executives are part of our everyday lives.”
Photography with a Conscience
IN THE MUSEUMS Philadelphia Museum of Art Paul Strand: Photography and Film for the Twentieth Century (10/21/2014 through 1/4/2015) This major retrospective on Paul Strand (1890–1976) showcases a comprehensive selection of work by one of American photography’s earliest modernist masters. Drawing upon the museum’s rich holdings of nearly 4,000 prints, the exhibition surveys Strand’s entire life’s work, including his breakthrough experiments in abstraction and candid street portraits, close-ups of natural and machine forms, and the artist’s extended explorations of the American Southwest, Mexico, New England, France, Italy, Scotland, Egypt, Morocco, Ghana and Romania. The wide range of imagery in the exhibition includes important projects from the 1910s through the 1960s and highlights how Strand altered his work at several key moments in an effort to identify photography’s pivotal role as a means of understanding and describing the modern world. Included in the approximately 250 prints on display (which are drawn primarily from the Museum’s holdings) are important early prints from public and private collections. Accompanying the exhibition are featured works by Strand’s fellow artists from the Alfred Stieglitz circle
The exhibition surveys Strand’s entire life’s work, including his breakthrough experiments in abstraction.
(Georgia O’Keeffe, John Marin, and Arthur Dove) and screenings of Strand’s films, along with a selection of archival materials. International Center of Photography, NYC Sebastiao Salgado: Genesis (Through 1/11/2015)
Sebastião Salgado, Marine Iguana, Galapagos, Ecuador, 2004. © Sebastião Salgado/Amazonas ImagesContact Press Images A vision of the world as perceived at the dawn of creation is the effect achieved by Sebastião Salgado in his magnificent project, Genesis, first published by Taschen in 2013 in a monumental twovolume set, and now on display at the ICP, the first American venue of this momentous exhibition. The result of an eight-year worldwide survey, the exhibition draws together more than 200 black-and-white photographs of wildlife, landscapes, seascapes and indigenous peoples that cele-
brate the elemental beauty of man and nature while also raising public awareness about the pressing issues of environment and climate change. Genesis is the third long-term series on global issues by the Brazilian-born Salgado following Workers (1993) and Migrations (2000). MUSEUM ACQUISITIONS An extremely rare, neverbefore-seen collection of photographs by Tina Modotti (1896-1942) has been donated to the National Photographic Library of Mexico. The images were part of a file folder of materials donated to the Library relating to the Free Schools of Agriculture in Mexico that were set up during the 1920s and ’30s in the states of Mexico and Veracruz to provide educational resources to peasant and rural communities in the aftermath of the Mexican Revolution. A Communist and longtime supporter of Mexico’s Indian and peasant communities, the politically active Modotti made the photos to document the efforts of the school programs. Approximately 30 photographs were contained in the folder, and adds to Library’s existing collection of Modotti prints first acquired in 1979. According to Mayra Mendoza, an assistant director of the National Photographic Library of Mexico, many of the photographs document the
Hicks has been on the front lines of many of the Middle East’s most violent conflicts, providing important and indelible images for the Times.
classes and meetings in which the peasants learned new agricultural techniques. Some of the images include portraits of children and peasant families standing in front of their corn harvest, as well as portraits of wellknown Mexican artists and personalities, such as Diego Rivera, who visited and supported the schools. AWARDS Robert Capa Gold Medal Award New York Times photographer Tyler Hicks has been named the 2013 recipient of the Robert Capa Gold Medal Award for his photographic
Tyler Hicks/The New York Times, Westgate Shopping Mall, Nairobi, Kenya, 2013 series on the terrorist attack on the upscale Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya last year. Hicks was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography this year for the same photo story. Based in Nairobi, Kenya, Hicks has been on the front lines of many of the Middle East’s most violent conflicts, providing important and indelible images for the Times. When news of the mall attack first broke, he ran to the scene and entered the building where police were searching for the four gunmen as the attack and
shooting continued. “My choice to go into the mall wasn't immediate,” Hicks told News Photographer Magazine, in recalling the events of that day. ”There was so much going on outside the mall when I arrived. People were taking cover in a parking garage, other people who had been shot and injured were being pushed out in shopping carts and on makeshift stretchers. It wasn't until later when I noticed a number of bodies outside that it occurred to me what was really happening and that it was still happening inside the mall. It was one of those moments when I felt like this story needed to be told and it needed to be seen, and to my knowledge there were very few if any photographers inside.” Awarded annually by the Overseas Press Club of America (OPC), the Capa Gold Medal honors the “best published photographic reporting from abroad requiring exceptional courage and enterprise.” The award was created in 1955 in honor of legendary war photographer Robert Capa, a co-founder of Magnum, who died in 1954, in Thái Bình, Vietnam, when he stepped on a landmine while covering American soldiers on patrol in the war. Hicks, 44, first became a contract photographer for The New York Times in 1999 and was later hired as a staff photographer in 2002. In 2011 while covering the uprising in Libya, Hicks was taken hostage and detained for several days along with
fellow journalists Anthony Shadid, Stephen Farrell and Lynsey Addario. Along with the Capa award, the OPC also presented two other major photographic awards. Robert Nickelsberg was named recipient of The Olivier Rebbot Award for the best photographic reporting from abroad in magazines and books for his coverage of the war in Afghanistan, and Jerome Delay of the Associated Press was awarded the best photographic reporting from abroad in newspapers and wire services for his coverage of the ongoing civil unrest in the Central African Republic.
Alexia Foundation Award The Alexia Foundation, a non-profit organization that was established to promote photojournalism as an agent of social justice, has awarded $20,000 as part of its 2014 professional grant to Spanish photographer Sebastián Liste for his ongoing project, “The New Culture of Violence in Latin America.” Liste has documented crime and security issues in Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala over the past five years. “Despite the fall of military rule [in Latin America] and the restoration of democracy, statistics show that in the last two decades crime rates have soared considerably, making Latin America the world’s most violent region,” Liste said in his grant proposal.
Where Photos Live
Griffin Museum of Photography
Maybe you have an eccentric character in your town, someone who is just a tad outlandish or unconventional or larger than life, wearing bright-colored clothing and marching to the beat of a different drummer. Maybe you feel like you slightly know this person because they are a fixture in town—out and about, a quick wave to a stranger and seemingly friendly with everyone. If you lived in Winchester, Massachusetts in the 1940s and ’50s, and even up to the turn of the century, that person would have been Arthur Griffin (1903-2001). He was a madcap eccentric who loved to party, would walk about town in loud shirts and purple pants, and who spoke with a stutter that didn’t slow him down socially. What most people didn’t know about this energetic man was that he was a photographer, and a damn fine one at that. His pictures appeared in Life, Yankee, Time, Collier’s and a host of other magazines during the golden age of photojournalism. His beat was all of his beloved New England. Towards the end of his life Griffin determined that what Winchester needed most was a photographic center. A place where he could hang out with his pals, where they could show photographs to one another, and where his archive of 72,000 images could live after he died. To this end, through force of character and hard work, he founded
“Although part of our mission is to archive the life work of Arthur Griffin...we are also committed to showing photographs of established and emerging artists.”
Arthur Griffin, Quincy Quarry, 1938 (Life Magazine cover). © Arthur Griffin Estate. Courtesy Griffin Museum of Photography. the Arthur Griffin Center for Photography in 1992. “His vision for starting a center for photography was more about the man and his work,” says Paula Tognarelli, Executive Director and Curator of the Museum. “It was a place where people could gather and talk about the medium, show their work and share experiences. At his death the board turned it into a nonprofit organization, and it became less about the man and more about the medium. Although part of our mission is to archive the life work of Arthur Griffin—which we have on site—we are also committed to showing photographs of established and emerging artists, both internationally and those living in this area.” Primarily known for his lyrical views of the New England landscape, there was a time when Griffin’s work was widely published. He shot several covers for Life, as
well as numerous photo essays and picture books with New England themes. His most popular work was seen by millions of people who never knew who he was—for several decades his pictures were on the covers of nearly every telephone directory in the region. In 1936 he became the exclusive photographer for the Boston Globe Rotogravure Magazine, which eventually printed more than 2,000 of his pictures. Soon after he was the New England photo stringer for both Life and Time. The August 8, 1938 issue of Life featured his photograph of a group of boys diving into a granite quarry pond in Quincy, Massachusetts. “Arthur Griffin was largely pigeonholed as a New England landscape photographer,” says Tognarelli. “But as I began looking through his vast archives I’ve come to find some true gems in other genres. There are photographs of early 20th century Boston, photographs of subway stations, Tremont Street and lots of images of daily life we would otherwise have no record of. He was truly a great black-and-white photojournalist.” Griffin also played an important role in pioneering the use of color film in magazines and newspapers. He worked closely with Kodak testing their newly invented process. In 1939 he photographed a 19-year-old
Where Photos Live Continued...
Tognarelli recognized early on in her tenure as director that there was a great need for spaces for area photographers to show their work.
unknown Red Sox rookie named Ted Williams using color film. The Boston Globe was still a year away from being able to reproduce color, so those images were never published and languished in a sealed trunk for several decades. Griffin rediscovered his historic negatives in the 1980s. “Griffin and Williams made a deal to produce a number of prints,” says Tognarelli, “which they each signed and sold to the public. I think it became a cash cow for both of them.” Over the past two years the Boston Public Library has started to archive and digitalize the Griffin collection, at a rate of 5,000 images a year. Some of this work is now available as part of a nationwide project to make this work, and countless other photographic collections, accessible to the public. Their approach is to preserve everything, without the intervention of a curatorial bias, which could occur if someone were editing the images to be preserved. “I’ve been amazed at what the public has responded to,” says Tognarelli. “There are images that I would never have thought they would like, and that I probably would not have chosen to preserve. So I’m glad we went about it the way we did. It’s opened up pockets of information that I didn’t even know existed, because the archive is so vast. I’m still finding wonderful photographs I didn’t know existed. “I’m of an age where my friends who are photographers are thinking about their legacies. What happens to the work when they are gone? Does it get bestowed
to a family member who might be crippled by estate taxes? What happens to the family album? Should it be digitalized? Most photographs are not even printed anymore. Does the family hard drive get passed down to future generations?” The Griffin Museum is a non-collecting museum; its other objective is to showcase the talent of local photographers. Tognarelli recognized early on in her tenure as director that there was a great need for spaces for area photographers to show their work. To that end the museum holds more than 60 exhibitions a year in its three galleries in Winchester, as well in a number of satellite exhibition spaces. “Sixty exhibitions a year is even more remarkable if you know that it is just me and my associate director Frances Jakubek running this place, along with a number of great volunteers,” says Tognarelli. Asked to name a favorite photograph from the Griffin archives, Tognarelli takes a moment before replying. “We did an exhibition of Arthur’s work which we called ‘Swimming and Diving.’ He did a series that sprang from the Quincy Quarry shot he did for the cover of Life magazine. There are people—men and women—jumping into water from cliffs and from riverbanks. I really love the spirit of this work, which is almost an homage to the Aaron Siskind photos of people seemingly in flight. There is something childlike and spontaneous in them. “We also collect the work of artists who show in our galleries—often they will donate
an image or series to us. One person we showed recently was a photographer from the UK named Paul Mellor. He had traveled to Armenia and gave a talk at our museum at his opening. I didn’t really understand much about the Armenian people until his talk, and I was really struck by the depth of emotion his work evoked in the people who came to see his work. They were weeping in the aisles. “He showed us the aftermath of a people who had suffered annihilation, and decades and generations later it is still visible. One image, showing a young Armenian child dressed in traditional garb, was particularly evocative. The message I got was that life goes on. There’s a certain resilience in the child which I think speaks to endurance.” John Updike played golf (poorly, he claimed) with Arthur Griffin during the last years of Griffin’s life. The elderly photographer, then in his 90s, was working on one last book of his New England images. Updike wrote the introduction for this book, and concluded with a fitting tribute to his friend: “…God is in the details, they say; certainly photographic excellence stems from attention to details. That, and a willingness to seize the moment. In seizing moments Arthur Griffin is a veteran expert, and here are some of those he has seized. He has caught on film the New England we all would like to think we live in; but perhaps only he really has lived in it, with a friendly fury that has rendered him ageless.” (To learn more, visit griffinmuseum.org.)
What’s It Worth?
The Measure of Marville: A Marvel of Early French Photography
Lorraine Anne Davis
The world of Paris in the late 19th century is known to us mostly through the photographs of the French photographer Eugene Atget (1857-1927). His legacy was preserved by Berenice Abbott when she rescued his archive and brought it to the United States in 1929. Charles Marville, however, who documented Paris before Atget and was in great demand at the height of his career, has remained largely neglected in the canon of early French photography. Before the invention of photography, books and newspapers were most often illustrated with engravings made from hand-drawn sketches. The sketches were executed as quickly as possible to meet deadlines. Artists were required to execute their drawings backwards, as they were reversed in the printing process. Marville was a prolific illustrator whose engravings were produced in hundreds of publications, the most famous of which was l’Illustration: Journal Universal, which used his engraving of Paris along the Seine as its masthead for more than 30 years. Marville was born in 1813 with the name CharlesFrancois Bossu to a successful working-class family in the leather and textile trades. “Bossu” means hunchback in French, and as Marville was only 5’2”, this may have subjected him to a certain amount of ridicule,
Marville became the unofficial “official” photographer of the destruction and resurrection of Paris.
Charles Marville, Urinoir, Square des Batignolles (17th Arrondissement), Paris, ca. 1875 especially as Victor Hugo’s Le Bossu de Notre-Dame was popular at the time. To escape the association, and to create a “brand,” he unofficially changed his name to Marville, perhaps with the double entendre combining the French “my city” with “marvelous.” With the proliferation of photography and the invention of the negative in the 1840s, photos quickly supplanted the need for hand-drawn illustrations. With a lifetime spent creating eye-catching compositions in
reverse, Marville quickly adapted to the new medium and was able to compose striking scenes in the reverse view on the ground glass of the camera. With his wellestablished professional connections in the illustrated publishing industry and his “well-developed visual lexicon” he was in great demand, despite his somewhat difficult personality. The Paris we know today was the brainchild of Napoleon the III, and was realized by his prefect,
What’s It Worth? Continued...
The highest price at auction to date for a Marville has been for an 11 x 14 inch albumen print... that sold at Sotheby’s for $103,000 against a $30,000$50,000 estimate.
Georges Haussmann, who oversaw the complete reconstruction of the city. Between 1854 and 1870, most of Paris was an enormous construction site. The Paris sewers were completely rebuilt, while gas lines and streetlights were installed along the widened boulevards that served to open Paris to the light and replaced the mazes of narrow alleys made famous during the barricades. Marville became the unofficial “official” photographer of the destruction and resurrection of Paris. He made hundreds of before-and-after pictures, made years apart, on the construction and restoration of such famous landmarks as the Paris Opera, the Bois de Boulogne, the Hotel de Ville, Notre Dame; and hundreds of images of facades, streets, modern street lamps, pubic “urinoirs” and “poster columns.” He also experimented with the medium, producing unprecedented cloud studies as well as a number of important portraits in subdued natural light, such as Ingres on his deathbed. Marville himself died in 1879. Sadly, “The photographer who had produced one of the most compelling bodies of urban imagery in the 19th century did not even warrant an obituary.”1 His work remained in relative obscurity until the 1980s, when several exhibitions celebrating Paris featured his work which was housed in the Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris. A recent exhibition of Marville’s imagery—Charles
Charles Marville, Impasse de la Bouteille from the rue Montorgeuil (Second Arrondissement), Paris, 1865-1868 Marville: Photographer of Paris—curated by Sarah Kennel at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, was the first serious study of this prolific and successful Paris photographer whose work had faded into obscurity. The exhibition featured the best of his images in large-format salt-paper prints from salt-paper negatives, and albumen prints from collodion negatives. According to artnet.com, the highest price at auction to date for a Marville has been for an 11 x 14 inch albumen print from the Quinlan collection that sold in 2008 at Sotheby’s for $103,000 against a $30,000-50,000 estimate. From there, the prices drop dramatically. In June 2014, just north of Paris, the auction house Goxe-Belaïsch had a stunning two-day sale of French photography offering 600 lots, with a number of Marville photographs. The highest price achieved at that sale was US $22,000. Only 10 lots
have sold at auction for above US $10,000 and about 30 sold for US $5,000-$8,000. At the AIPAD fair in 2014, a small number of large Marvilles was offered for between $20,000 and $80,000, with smaller sizes in the $8,000-$12,000 range depending on the image. As Ms. Kennel mentioned to me in conversation, “There aren’t that many out there,” so it’s surprising that the prices are “relatively” low, considering the rarity and importance of the images. Atget, on the other hand, has a record at auction of $686,500 in 2010 from the Baio Collection that sold at Christie’s in 2010. His other records are: $663,000 in 2009, $242,500 in 2011, $230,300 in 2010, $198,000 in 2007 and $156,500 in 1999. Despite these high prices, at the same 2014 sale at the Goxe-Belaïsch auction house mentioned above, dozens of what appeared to be quite nice examples of Atgets failed to sell or sold in the $300-$500 range. It will be interesting to follow collecting trends in 19th century French photography for the next few years. Will rarity increase value, or will familiar favorites continue to achieve the highest prices? Even more telling is the question of why the American market seems so much more appreciative of French masters than the French market. Perhaps they are not as gauche as we Americans. Lucky for us. (1 From the exhibition catalog, Charles Marville: Photographer of Paris, Metropolitan Museum, New York.)
Marcelo Buainain Single Image Winner METAPHOR/ABSTRACT
Marcelo Buainain Natal, Brazil buainain.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Mi Amas Vin 1, Brazil, 2000
The human being in his spiritual essence. Duality between life and death. Vision encompassing beauty and simplicity. Technical precision. The rigor found in the composition of elements. Contrast between light and dark. The decisive moment. These are the main factors that orientate my artistic production,
which is motivated by the freedom of expression to expose humanitarian and ideological issues. I prefer viewfinder cameras, as they are small, discreet and silent. The narrative always unfolds in black-and-white, as through this medium I can explore the human themes which hold my interest.
Jung-Chan Liao Single Image Winner PATTERN/TEXTURE
Jung-Chan Liao Ji’an Township, Hualien, Taiwan jungchanliao@yahoo. com.tw
Sear, Taipei, Taiwan, 2012 The most difficult things to express through photography are one’s internal feelings, thoughts and beliefs. I therefore infuse aesthetics and philosophy into my photos, rather than record only what I see in the outside world. That is to say: “I feel, I think, so I shoot.” My work reflects a mixture of West-
ern and Eastern elements. I try to bridge the boundaries of form and structure by making the invisible visible. I like to be concise and pithy, using visual vocabulary like poetry and leaving unspoken notes for viewers to fill in. I try to catch contingent moments and extract elements of eternity from impermanence.
Bill Woods Single Image Winner CITYSCAPE/STREET
Bill Woods Bainbridge Island, WA billwoodsphoto.com billwoodsphoto @comcast.net
SF Icons, San Francisco, 2006
Street photography is a particular and difficult art, one I do not practice often. But this image appeared in front of me as I walked to dinner one evening. Some of the essential elements of San Francisco appeared in an interesting combination, much like a jigsaw puzzle. San Francisco is a romantic place for me, and I
was glad to find this image. I visited that location much later, but without an iconic image on the billboard, the picture was never there again for me. The image is also a bit of a different puzzle in that the shot is into a window reflection, with the horizontal blinds adding a layer of texture, or mystery, perhaps.
Roberto Soares-Gomes Single Image Winner TRAVEL/PEOPLE/PLACES
Roberto Soares-Gomes Rio de Janeiro, Brazil robertogomes.com roberto @robertogomes. com
Raio de Sol, Rio de Janeiro, 2010
Since the 1960s, when it was prohibitive for a student to acquire color slide film, blackand-white photography has been present in my life. I fell in love with photography at an early age, and it helped me accomplish great personal transformations: minimizing the shyness of adolescence and providing that first, almost unthinkable public recognition. I love
the drama embedded in a black-and-white photograph of a landscape, the mystery of a portrait that captures the subject’s soul. It’s extremely gratifying when people are touched by seeing one of my images on a wall, in a magazine or on a screen. To me, a person devoid of a good memory, photography is a keepsake’s portal. A trail to deep feelings.
Jennifer Greenburg and the Revision of History Larry Lytle
Taking a picture at a family event or a party with friends has been an American addiction since the beginning of the 20th century. But with the Depression over and a newfound affluence—post WW II—a subtle change occurred in the 1950s. We became obsessed with photographing anything that seemed at the time to have some particular importance. It’s difficult to know why we decided to record these mundane depictions of our lives. Was it a need to prove to ourselves that we had been there, or were we reaching out to our yet unborn progeny, saying that, at least in pictures, we still lived?
If we’re frank, we know that our children’s children, when they sit down to rummage through our treasured boxes of photographic memories, will quizzically look at photos that have no name, date or place. They will ask each other if anyone knows who this person in the picture is, and if no identification comes forth, the photos will be unceremoniously dumped in the trash bin, or given over to an estate sale. It is a difficult thing to come to terms
with—the probability that a cherished moment of our life will end up occupying a landfill or be sold to a stranger. This is the natural end for things that have lost a connection to their owners. However, there is another possibility. If we are lucky and the images have some universal appeal or portray an archetypal event, they might fall into the hands of an artist who will give them new meaning and a second life. Such is the case with the photographs used by Jennifer Greenburg in her body of work Revising History. Looking at these images, you might think that Greenburg has appropriated photographs from the past—a vernacular version of Richard Prince or Sherrie Levine’s work. You might also think it odd that she has chosen photos that center on the life of a young woman whose look seems to emulate the platinum-haired movie stars of the 1950s, a pre-feminist era when gentlemen preferred blondes. In all this you would be partially correct. The photographs are to a degree appropriated, and the young woman is definitely the subject of the narrative. What is not readily apparent, though, is that Greenburg is now the subject, that the images are only partial appropriations. What she is doing is cleverly and clandestinely subverting everyday events in which we have all taken part.
When I posed for a camera club, 2012
My coworker was always jealous of my blonde hair, 2013
“Sometimes I am able to buy a person’s entire life in photographs. When that happens, I spend hours looking through images trying to understand the person through their images.”
To achieve this sleight of hand, Greenburg uses a complex conceptual and technical approach to become a dramatist who uses often-repeated archetypal scenarios—domestic and social scenes that we can’t seem to stop reenacting. Once the selection of the image has been made she undertakes an exacting process in her research of the time period of the 1950s. With an eye to detail, Greenburg tracks down suitable clothes, painstakingly reconstructs the hair and makeup of the time, and photographs herself with the appropriate lighting and pose. Through digital technology she seamlessly inserts herself, Zelig-like, into the picture, replacing the principal subject who was there at the time of its taking. Apart from her self-insertion, everything and everyone else in the photograph was taken at the time by some anonymous shutterbug. What Greenburg does is what any good performer would do in the reenactment of another person’s life. “I buy the photographs in lots from people who are cleaning out estates after someone has died or has been moved into a nursing home. Sometimes I am able to buy a person’s entire life in photographs. When that happens,
I spend hours looking through the images trying to understand the person through their images. I imagine what their life was like, what they liked to do, and what they wanted from life. “I then try to figure out what to do with the photographs. I try to become that person when I place myself in the image. It is a type of acting. The images depict ‘me,’ because that is how I can tell this story and that is how you will believe this story. But I am really someone else in the moment; I try to figure out how they would laugh, because that is not how I laugh. How did this person feel the moment the picture was taken? I am dreaming and fantasizing about being in someone else’s life.” With the research, posing and final insertion of herself into the picture, the image transmogrifies into what Greenburg calls a “counterfeit.” The use of that word may make one think of photographs by other artists who construct scenarios using themselves as the subject; Sophie Calle and Cindy Sherman come to mind. If this was all that was taking place one could overlook Revising History as a hybrid of photography and performance art. But Green-
His first haircut, 2011
When he was a baby, 2011
John G. Morris: Normandy, 1944 Mark Edward Harris
Picture editor John Godfrey Morris has done far more than rub elbows with the who’s who of photojournalists. He’s assigned them, edited them and, on occasion, spent the night with them. Not in a prurient way, of course. The news knows no clock other than that of a deadline. And Morris, now 97 (born December 7, 1916), has been on more of them than perhaps any other person on the planet.
A stint in Life magazine’s London bureau as Picture Editor during World War II was Morris’ boot camp. After the war he served as Picture Editor of Ladies’ Home Journal, Executive Editor of Magnum Photos, Assistant Managing Editor for Graphics at The Washington Post and Picture Editor of The New York Times. In 1983 he moved to Paris as National Geographic’s European Correspondent. Since 1990 Morris has been a sought-after independent picture editor in addition to focusing on his own book projects. Get the Picture gave readers the backstory to many of the monumental moments in photojournalism,
John G. Morris, Bayeux, Normandy, July 23, 1944 (photo by Ned Buddy)
from Robert Capa’s D-Day series to the ethical issue that arose for photographers and editors on the night Princess Diana died trying to avoid paparazzi. In his new book, Quelque part en France (Somewhere in France, Marabout, Paris), Morris shares with readers his own photographic vision of war-torn Normandy in the wake of the D-Day invasion seven decades ago. Morris’ goal was not to compete with his own photographers but to spend time walking in their boots. His brief time in the line of fire gave the young editor a better idea of what it was like to put oneself in harm’s way to record history. This early camera-in-hand experience played a role in the development of one of the greatest photo editors in the history of the medium. What was the impetus for heading across the English Channel for France after D-Day? I wanted to have a look for myself. I was the Picture Editor for Life magazine in London. I made up a job as the pool editor for press photographers on the Western Front and stayed in Normandy for four weeks. Life was a member of the four-way pool with the three wire services—Associated Press, UPI and International. On July 18, 1944 I crossed the Channel with Ned Buddy, who made up a similar position for the newsreels. We landed at Utah Beach. No more fighting was going on there, of course, but there was still
Refugees, Montebourg, Manche, Normandy, circa July 24, 1944
new book. What’s the story behind the cover photo? It’s a shot of three self-appointed orderlies. The boys volunteered. I did a number of images of locals, including portraits of refugees in an old chateau. I usually took only two frames in situations like this. That’s the old school approach. Willy Ronis said he detested the photographic “mitrailleur”—machine gunner. He felt that you had to earn the photo. As Marc Riboud said in the documentary about me called Get the Picture—the same title as my first book—“You shoot much better when you think. Bap, bap, bap, bap, bap…no good.”
Refugees whose homes were destroyed by Allied bombing, Normandy, circa July 23, 1944
“I got myself shot at in SaintMalo where a German garrison was holding out. I had been with Robert Capa that day.”
plenty of fighting in the vicinity. I got myself shot at in Saint-Malo where a German garrison was holding out. I had been with Robert Capa that day. This was before the big breakthrough to Paris. I had a Rollei with me, and come to think of it, it might have been Capa’s. I didn’t own a Rollei. One thing you don’t want to do if you’re a picture editor is compete with your own photographers. I never called myself a photographer. But during those four weeks I turned out to be a pretty good one, which came from working with great photographers. I knew what made a great picture. What are the elements that make a great photo? The easiest word to use is “impact.” A picture has to say something, has to have an idea. From my standpoint, it has to have passion, it has to have human feeling. It also should be well composed, because that’s how the idea comes through. A photographer has to have a head, a heart and an eye. And you used all these elements very successfully to create the images in your
What was D-Day like for you and your staff in the London bureau of Life? Since I was the Life Picture Editor in London my biggest job for the magazine was to get pictures of the invasion of Europe. The text in my book consists of letters I wrote to my wife, including a letter I posted from London on D-Day, June 6, 1944. We had Bob Landry, Robert Capa and George Rodger landing on DDay on three different beaches. The fiercest fighting was on the beach with the code name Omaha. That’s where Capa landed. And then the tragic loss of many of the images he took that day in a darkroom accident back in London. It looks now that the other images were never lost, they just never even happened. When Capa’s film came in, there was a note from him saying, “The action is in the 35mm.” There were four rolls of 35mm. It was Wednesday night. D-Day had happened Tuesday morning, so we were really under the gun. They had to be wired to New York for the Thursday deadline. I told the darkroom to rush development and give me contacts as soon as possible for editing. A few minutes later, a young darkroom assistant named Dennis Banks came rushing into my office, which was a floor above the lab, and said, “John, the films are ruined! You were in such a rush for contacts I hung the film in the drying cabinet”—which was like a locker—“and closed the doors.” Which was not normal. He said there was too much heat and the emulsion ran. So I rushed back to the darkroom with him and held up the rolls one at a time. Sure enough, on the first three
Refugees, Montebourg, Manche, Normandy, circa July 24, 1944
Refugees, Montebourg, Manche, Normandy, circa July 24, 1944
Jaime Permuth: The Yonkeros George Slade
First off, a clarification. “Yonkeros” is a term that is unrelated to the New York City borough called Yonkers. This drama unfolds in a different borough, one with historic ties to the working life of the same city. The setting for this collection of photographs by Jaime Permuth—Willets Point—is, as New York Times writer Sarah Maslin Nir wrote (November 22, 2013), a “62-acre tangle of auto shops, car parts and grease-covered mechanics tinkering with automobiles, that sits hard by the Unisphere of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park”—in Queens, that is, bordered by Citi Field (home of the New York Mets), Flushing Bay, the Van Wyck Expressway and the Long Island Railroad.
Permuth’s photographs decisively confirm Nir’s comments. Looking through these images, alternately claustrophobic and mazelike, vertiginous and impenetrable, the tangle is quite evident. Likewise, “sitting hard,” though perhaps not as Nir meant it. This is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a soft environment. In his eloquent afterword to the book of this work (Yonkeros, La Fabrica), the photographer points out that this intensely urbanized, autocentric neighborhood is familiarly known as “the Iron Triangle”—hardness to the extreme. The people Permuth encountered and por-
Jaime Permuth (photo by Hye-Ryoung Min)
trayed in these photographs, however, are vulnerable, fleshy and real, subject to the same passions experienced anywhere. “Yonkeros,” to complete the clarification, is the label these workers have given themselves. The word reflects a long and honorable human tradition of holding on to stuff that might have some future use—and thus, value. The word evolved from the Spanish that most of Willets Point’s laborers speak; it embodies a derivation of the English word “junk.” Yonkeros, then, are the junkmen, and this parcel of reclaimed swampland is their world. Or was. More on that later. Assessing the etymology of these lives is what the faces in these photographs push upon us: do not stereotype, work toward understanding. Francisco Goldman, essayist for Permuth’s book, analogizes Willets Point to an underwater world, not unlike Atlantis, the abandoned wrecks serving as the framework for new growth as “junkyard reefs.” Several of Permuth’s photographs suggest views through a submerged vehicle’s porthole, offering protected glimpses into another, possibly less-inhabitable world. (As Permuth put it, some of the businesses “didn’t welcome attention.”)
"Untitled" from the series Yonkeros, 2010
"Untitled" from the series Yonkeros, 2010
“Yonkeros” is the label these workers have given themselves. The word reflects a long and honorable human tradition of holding on to stuff that might have some future use.
Extending the aquatic metaphor, Goldman describes the junkmen as mariners, drawn out of the imagination of a Melville. Permuth’s photographs tangibly render the character of these men; they are accustomed to hard manual labor in an inhospitable environment. And yet, their eyes signal that they are optimists at heart. One must be optimistic to collect so much junk in the belief that it will, over time and with remarkable mental inventories, yield treasures and accrue value. All this junk, in other words, truly constitutes life, the making of life from the accumulation of parts. Permuth’s photographs, made over the course of a year that began in spring 2009, offer eloquent testimony about the lives that filled these spaces. These are black-and-white photographs (and, in the book, some remarkable color images from winter in Willets Point) that nearly enter other sensory realms; one can practically smell, hear and feel these spaces. Many people would consider Willets Point the end of the road. For the cars that ended their lives here, nearly all traces of humanity had been removed, although the occasional appearance of a still-spongy car
seat can evoke the past use of these machines. For the yonkeros, the lives they forged here are often the end products of hard choices and consequences. Poverty and crime have marked many of them. There is, consequently, a lot of darkness in Willets Point, and a proportionate amount in Permuth’s images. Bright shafts and pools of natural light offset deep shadows, and shaded interior areas warm with the grays of greasy skin and oil-stained clothes. Mechanics’ spaces exist on a continuum between black and white—a bell curve, in truth, as there are few pure instances of either end of the spectrum, and a swelling in the middle. Those many grays—zones 1 through 9 on Ansel Adams’ 0–10 systematic scale of light divisions—perfectly suit our previsualized junkyard. When he left graduate school, Permuth printed for the esteemed Magnum photographer Gilles Peress. Some of the elder artist’s gritty visual vocabulary made its way into Permuth’s work. Peress also stressed to his Guatemalan-born colleague that “every project has a shape of its own. Identifying this core
"Untitled" from the series Yonkeros, 2010
"Untitled" from the series Yonkeros, 2010
Jean-Pierre Laffont: Turbulent America Shawn O’Sullivan
“There is one thing the photograph must contain, the humanity of the moment. This kind of photography is realism. But realism is not enough—there has to be vision, and the two together can make a good photograph.”—Robert Frank
The visual history of the world is continuously being rewritten as photographers mine their archives, bringing to light images unpublished or unseen, often for decades. Viewed through the prism of history, these rediscovered gems offer new perspectives on the visual narrative. One such remix is Jean Pierre Laffont’s vision of three game-changing decades in the history of the United States— Photographer’s Paradise/Turbulent America 1960-1990 (Glitterati, 2014). Born in Algeria in 1935, Laffont’s entry into photography was serendipitous. An avid diver and spear-hunter, he attended the 1952 world championships for scuba diving in Tangiers, Morocco, purchasing a Leica to try his hand at underwater photography. “I never put the Leica underwater,” he says laughing. “I started to take pictures of things happening around me. I was much more interested in grabbing those moments that I could see—and keeping
Jean-Pierre Laffont, Washington, DC, 1970
them for myself.” Photography had wholly captured Laffont’s imagination. Coming from a family of doctors, it was assumed he would follow suit, but when he was accepted into the prestigious Vevey Photo School in Switzerland he knew that was where he wanted to be. He spent three years in formal study garnering a Masters in Photography. “It was all about the composition,” he says of the school’s aesthetic. He lived for a time in the studio of Ernst Haas. “The rigor and composition and layout I learned from Ernst were extremely important to my development as a photographer.” The young photographer quickly realized his passion was reportage. “I wanted to photograph what was happening around me— funny, sad, daily life, little moments of nothing.” He took for his inspiration the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Marc Riboud. “They go into a country for a while. They step off their plane, out of their train, out of their hotel and they begin to shoot. Their vision of the country started on the curb, just walking, and the story developed in front of them.” This letting the story unfold became Laffont’s M.O. Starting as a photographer’s assistant in Paris, in 1960-62 he was called for military service in Algeria. Returning to Paris, he resumed photography, shooting fashion and portraits. One rainy night, Laffont hit someone crossing in front of his car. Rushing out to see if the person was all right, he discovered it was Eliane Lucotte, whom he had met a year before in Casablanca. They began dating. Restless, Laffont moved to New York and soon began shooting for Status Magazine,
During an anti-communist demonstration in favor of the Vietnam War, a protestor burns a Vietnamese flag. Times Square, Manhattan, 1966
Kids running alongside the Harlem Jazz Mobile. Manhattan, NYC, 1966
“I wanted to photograph what was happening around me—funny, sad, daily life, little moments of nothing.”
owned by Igor Cassini, brother of Oleg. In lieu of payment, the brothers sponsored his green card. “I am still thanking them for that,” Laffont says, smiling. Eliane soon arrived in the U.S., and they were married at City Hall in 1966. Laffont’s adopted city became the cornerstone on which he honed his vision. He was drawn to the humanity he found on the street—prostitutes, gangs, homeless. He would spend nights on the streets of midtown Manhattan with the NYPD, photographing the daily dose of crime. He walked the poor neighborhoods of Harlem and the Bronx, shooting children in garbage-strewn streets. “They played with nothing,” he recalls. “They played with a fire hydrant; with an abandoned car.” In 1969 Laffont was named foreign correspondent for the French photo agency Gamma. Eliane began representing them in New York. Together in 1973 they founded Sygma Photo News, which they would grow into the largest photo agency in the world. “I learned everything about photography from Jean Pierre really," says Eliane. “Our life
together made me really appreciate photography.” Photographer Douglas Kirkland, who has been a close friend since the late sixties, feels it is Laffont’s European perspective that gives his work resonance. “I refer to it as another Robert Frank stepping forward,” says Kirkland. “It’s the European eyes on America, going back to the ’60s and ’70s, a rediscovery of what we were like and how we evolved.” Arnold Drapkin, former Picture Editor at Time, who worked closely with Laffont throughout those seminal years, concurs. “I don’t ever recall giving him an assignment. He came with these wonderful ideas. One of the great things about JP is that he came to America and he looked at our country with quite a different eye.” That eye captured the pulse of the country through the Civil Rights Movement, Gay and Women’s Liberation, anti-war demonstrations, the economy and race relations. “He is socially so concerned a photographer,” says the New York Times’ Michele McNally, who worked at Sygma in the late ’70s. “He was always deeply committed. He had the pre-
During a funeral procession, a woman raises a Black Panther salute to six black prisoners found dead at Attica Prison. Brooklyn, NYC, 1971
A prostitute leans playfully on a police car on 42nd Street in Times Square. Manhattan, NYC, 1980
Order from Chaos: Gregory Conniff, the Constant Gardener Lorraine Anne Davis
An orbit always has an attractor, about which it circles like a moth around a flame. A “dense periodic orbit” is one that randomly repeats itself, within or around a space or a shape, into infinity, and subsequently, becomes dense. “But even the tiniest change can push you into an entirely different orbit, because the orbits are densely tangled up around the attractor.”1
Shapes and spaces are never fixed, but continually stretch and bend, even minutely. The spaces that contain (or are contained by) shapes always have connectedness, continuity and boundary. The synergetic relationship between “dense periodic orbits” and the shapes and spaces they circuit forms the basis for Chaos theory, which presumes that all things are interrelated. The earth moves around the sun, and at the same time it wobbles on its axis. Its path forms a dense periodic orbit, and although it appears to be orderly, its orbit constantly varies. Each spring, a plant pushes itself up from the earth. Its cells seek the sun. Its path is random…chaotic…but it always grows
Gregory Conniff (photo by Sally Behr)
towards the light, from the same root, tuber or self-sown seed. In the fall, as the earth revolves into the autumnal equinox, the light withdraws, the plants stop photosynthesizing, wither, and return to the earth to decay into basic elements from which the next season’s plants take nourishment. Order, the opposite of chaos, “is a state in which all components or elements are arranged logically, comprehensibly, or naturally.”2 Buildings are constructed methodically: foundation, frame, infrastructure, roof, cladding, windows, doors. Plumb lines guarantee that the buildings are square and accurate measurements assure that the corners meet. From the chaos of nature, we try to make order. But the heart of nature envelops buildings, and our man-made structures have their seasons too. They shift in the movement of the soil, take on water in the rain, twist and moan in the wind, dry and snap in the heat of the sun, lose their plumb lines, settle and breathe and take the patina of time. Every shape and space we make from nature, nature re-shapes and takes back…again and again, in the dense periodic orbit of life. From chaos we create order. The moment our order is complete, it is reclaimed by chaos. “Most of my pictures contain the passage of time or other connections to the fact of mortality,” Conniff says. These are all things to consider when looking at Gregory Conniff’s work. Order from
Mantoloking, NJ, 1978
“Most of my pictures contain the passage of time or other connections to the fact of mortality.”
chaos—connectedness, continuity and boundary—infinite, random, periodic orbits; these are the impressions that lay entangled in the curved vines and straight lines that fall across the ground glass of his camera. We don’t consciously ponder these, but like the cosmic hiss, they run in the background—behind the sound of falling leaves, the nighttime chorus of spring peepers, the stardust that runs in our veins. Conniff’s photographs are dense, clear, humid, dry, chaotic, orderly, silent and strident. Vines twist, crawl and spiral their way upwards, year after decade, after century. The concentration is not quiet. It is filled with echoes of seething cellular energy. The fences, poles and buildings act as anchors of order in the chaos of life: death supporting life, the inanimate holding up the animate, the structure of man supporting the structure of nature. It is not a symbiotic relationship, because we can never give back to nature what it gives to us, but given time, nature will take all from us. The mold will rot the eaves, the oxygen will rust the struts, the rain will erode the foundation, until reclaimed by the earth, like the dinosaurs before us. Add to this, the memories of generations past that have walked by, leaned against,
painted the fences in defiance or with pleasure; the diggers that erected the pole that carry the wires that supply energy to the homes where the people—millions of them— laugh, love, cry and die. Every layer, every brick, every sidewalk, every trellis, every trace of garden is a remembrance of what had once been our future, our home: appearing and disappearing at the same time. “What attracted me at first, I think, was the crazed, layered, saturating physical energy of life feeding accidents of beauty on all fronts,” says Conniff. It is man’s nature to tame and control. It is nature’s nature to absorb and recycle. It is the poignancy and the irony that makes the photographs so interesting, and the rhythms of the shapes that make them so mesmeric; a pattern-less pattern forming chaos from order, order from chaos. What Conniff recognizes is the universal sense of place, an evocation of home—not only of where we are from, but where we are now, and the line that connects the dots of our existence. Where we spent our childhood gives us a sense of physical identity; each time we return, we recognize ourselves and the longing to return, we long for our original
Brier Hill Mill, Youngston, OH, 1979-1989
Bay Head, NJ, 1978
Molins’ work is guided by his emotions; photographs, he says, go right to the viewer’s heart.
Fact File Pedro Diaz Molins Alicante, Spain
pedrodiazmolins.com pdiazmolins@ yahoo.es 24 x 24 prints are available for EUR 250.
Pedro Diaz Molins Portfolio Contest Winner
The first image in Spanish photographer Pedro Diaz Molins’ portfolio records a moment of inversion and transition. A dark human form is poised at the end of a checkered pier, legs over the edge, head just below the line of sky and horizon. Both arms extend down, ready to push the body up and back onto the grid, or out and down into a looming gray mass we might assume to be a large body of water. These are not the crisp, bright waves caught in surfing photography; it is the look of water at night, caught in an exposure long enough to turn moonlit, swelling waters into a reservoir of glowing midtones. This photograph symbolizes transition from a realm of strictly ordered blacks and whites into a hazy but luminous future. One can easily transpose the photographer, or anyone embarking on a journey into unknown waters, upon the silhouette. Molins, to be specific, presents the black-and-white zone as a space of games. The squares also follow some predictable rules of optics; notice how perspective causes the lines to converge along both latitudinal and longitudinal lines, shrinking as they approach the distant figure, almost pushing the form off the structure. One might correlate this compression to Molins’ career. His earliest photographic affinities were for street photography, an arena in which lack of control becomes a kind of game, and the “luck” of a great composition comes easier the more one plays. As a youth and a teenager he was fascinated by skateboarders and the busy city environment supporting and surrounding them. He photographed graffiti and urban decay, gaining perspective on the expressive, explosive will of individuals confronting the pressures of conformity. Molins is also fascinated by certain modernist architecture, but that fascination did not surface at first in his work. The images presented here echo the import of those minimalist buildings. They are calm and introspective, building outward from long exposures, in contrast to the carnival craziness of the street photographer’s city, quick clicks that cram activity into one summary image. Instead of keeping many balls in the air, as one does in street photography, Molins builds
these pictures with expanses of indistinctness. Made in the last few years, images like these tend to eschew luck. Molins draws upon wells of intention that reflect a deep, slow, lyrical commitment to realizing an image. Molins makes explicit use of water as a stage, though by no means a neutral stage. Water is animate, an active player in these tableaux. Water not only supports these objects, it flows into them. In several, the horizon line is scarcely visible; these become visual oceans, stretched from edge to edge of the square frame. An umbrella and a broken-down trawler rest in the gray like flotsam and jetsam, cultural artifacts set adrift. A sunken boat in San Javier, a Mediterranean city not far from Molins’ home in Orihuela, Spain, transforms into a peaked church window, full of light; because the contained liquid was still during exposure, the window glimmers, brimful of reflected clouds. El Saler, just south of Valencia, is the location of a “ghost” vessel, rendered so by the disappearing water and the reflection of the vessel on the wet sand. Given Molins’ Spanish birthright, shared with provocateur/painter Salvador Dalí, film director Luis Buñuel and poet/dramatist Federico García Lorca, it should be no surprise to sense Surrealist touches in this work. On a contemporary level, his use of time exposures at night owes something to Michael Kenna. Molins’ work is guided by his emotions; photographs, he says, go right to the viewer’s heart. His most successful work, he feels, is that in which he recognizes the capture not only of the visible but also of some quality of feeling. Molins has clearly made a productive leap here, from capturing and collapsing moments in flux to building them into expansive, metaphoric image-narratives. The centripetal efforts of a street photographer are, in Molins’ evolving photography, turning inside out, like a centrifuge, swirling meaning and symbols outward into the viewer’s imagination. — George Slade
Game Over, Santiago de la Ribera, Spain, 2013
The Ghost Ship, El Saler, Spain, 2012
Overflowing Rain, Torrevieja, Spain, 2012
Titan, San Javier, Spain, 2013
Sunken, San Javier, Spain, 2013
“It was really the camera itself that captured my imagination, that seduced me into this relationship I have with photography.”
Fact File Michael Ernest Sweet Montreal, Quebec
michaelsweetphotography.com michaelernestsweet@ gmail.com Michael Sweet’s work is available in book format only. The Human Fragment is available from amazon.com. (Portrait of Michael Ernest Sweet by Maeghan Donohue)
Michael Ernest Sweet Portfolio Contest Winner
Photo editor Richard Conway poses a powerful question in the online edition of Time Lightbox: “Why is it that some photographers take to the studio, while others take to the street? Is street photography photojournalism, art—or both?” The question serves as the introduction for a review of Everybody Street, a documentary film chronicling the life and work of 13 of New York’s most renowned street photographers. Michael Ernest Sweet, a Montreal resident and frequent shooter on the streets of New York, is a multi-talented creative personality: photojournalist, educator, writer and fine artist. “I am not a portrait photographer and have no desire to be.” Although he was not profiled in the film, Sweet’s work serves as a case study in any attempt to answer Conway’s query. Sweet is a provocateur who works primarily with a wide-angle lens, point-and-shoot digital camera and an extremely short distance from his subjects. His photographs are primal examples of visual assaults on strangers and passersby. Content to eliminate conversation and any semblance of familiarity with his subjects, these images present “fragments” of larger narratives that Sweet leaves to the viewer to complete. Viewing Sweet’s photographs, one can appreciate that these splinters of life reveal a greater narrative; each scenario with its own and different conclusion for the individual viewer. Staking out the fertile Coney Island scene, Sweet finds “Knife Wound.” Heroic in stance against billowing white clouds, his subject strides by without hesitation. The viewer notices the scar—perhaps a knife wound, perhaps a surgical incision—but in either case, the narrative continues as distant figures bend and twist between the dark arms and striped pants. It’s an interesting play of near and far where an infinite focus invites us to consider everything all at the same instant. Essentially a self-taught photographer, Sweet was initially mentored by an aunt. “I was intrigued by the machinery of it all. I liked the idea that we can make these machines produce for us, that we can take a thing and
create with it.” He and his aunt never really talked about photographs or the aesthetics of photography; it was much more a mechanical connection he experienced. “It was really the camera itself that captured my imagination, that seduced me into this relationship I have with photography.” Armed with a sensitivity to that elusive “decisive moment” that defines life on the street, Sweet’s visual instincts are acute. There is no forethought or planning; it’s all about reaction time and responsiveness to a scene. These images are a reminder that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. “Fur” is an explosion of texture that fills the majority of the frame but for a lone, hooded silhouette that serves to balance the composition and provide an ironic shape to the textured fur. “Hanky Panky” and “The Love Machine,” extraordinary in their similarity of composition, describe the street frozen with inference and innuendo. The bare, bulging skin of the woman and the almost psychedelic pattern of the man’s suit jacket are punctuated by background figures reacting to a completely different set of circumstances. Somehow it seems easier to define a photographic image by assigning a category subset to the work, which brings us back to our original question. But Sweet’s work is exclusively available in book form (The Human Fragment, Brooklyn Arts Press), so does that eliminate it from being understood as fine art? Unlike most photographers who hold precious each frame that has been shot, Sweet is unafraid to delete work. “I don’t like okay images. I don’t keep ‘kinda good’ photographs. I am a delete junky. My photographic archive contains about 1,000 images, and even this I consider too many. No one makes 1,000 great photographs in their careers; no one. Why keep anything less than great?” Thelonious Monk once said, “The piano ain’t got no wrong notes.” Michael Ernest Sweet’s photographs confirm that Monk got it right. — Steven A. Heller
Vitamin D Therapy, New York, NY, 2013
Nice Blanket No.2, New York, NY, 2013
Hanky Panky, New York, NY, 2012
The Love Machine, New York, NY, 2013
Fur, New York, NY, 2013
Knife Wound, New York, NY, 2013
Marna Bell Portfolio Contest Winner
“There seems something more speakingly incomprehensible in the powers, the failures, the inequalities of memory, than in any other of our intelligences…. We are, to be sure, a miracle every way; but our powers of recollecting and forgetting do seem peculiarly past finding out.”—Jane Austen
“My images come from reclaimed visions of submerged past experiences.”
Fact File Marna Bell Syracuse, NY
marnabell.com marnabell@earthlink. net Print size and price information available upon request.
We are an amalgam of our memories, even though they may feel fragile. If we’re completely robbed of them, we cease to be the person we are. But what if we had only sections of our memories removed, particularly those long-distant and sometimes elusive ones from our early years? Those that are made hazy by time, except for the few that we hold in sharp relief? What would we do to fill in the blanks? How would we replace that which has forever gone away? These are the questions at the root of Marna Bell’s body of work entitled Imperfect Memories. “Childhood amnesia left me with vague, disjointed memories of my youth,” Bell explains. “My images come from reclaimed visions of submerged past experiences. Like dormant memories, these photographs present feelings more than actual events.” Bell’s photographs are reclamations of those lingering feelings elicited by some occurrence long past, but whose? They conjure poignant emotions and point to waning memories just beyond her grasp and, by implication, our grasp as well. That may be the reason that Bell has tapped into the world of cinema, as movies do present us with a shared cultural experience. “When I discovered film noir, with its psychological and nightmarish disturbing effects, it stirred up memories of my past. I fell in love with the beautifully filmed mysterious dark images and dramatic lighting. It was both hauntingly familiar and foreboding to me. The fleeting, surreal figures that I saw on the screen seemed to blur the line between reality and fantasy.” Images from movies can become incorporated into our shared cultural memories. Bell’s photography brings up the possibility that those incidents we think we recall may actual-
ly be from a film seen long ago, a cinematic recollection. Her time-delayed shots become a blurred remnant that could only arise from celluloid-implanted dreams of the past, or from our own scripted, self-directed and edited phantasmagoria of bygone times. Bell’s approach to capturing these illusory memories is reinforced by her intellectual and aesthetic choices. “Chance and randomness characterize my shooting style, capturing fleeting moments sometimes unseen by the eye. I have shot hundreds of frames during one sitting, selecting the ones that are visually appealing to me and that are psychologically intriguing. Many of the figures in my photographs are in profile, [in] darkness, back view or faceless, alluding to the feeling of solitude and isolation from others.” Besides incorporating feelings of loneliness, the indistinct faces allows us to put ourselves in the place of those shadowy and ephemeral figures. What we see on the screen, acted out by others, becomes a reverberation of our experiences, our own reaction to what is going on just outside the frame of memory. The scenarios that Bell selects waver between the sometimes tangible but mostly impalpable emotions we repeat every day: drowsily wrapped in our own thoughts, as in “Imperfect Memories #11.” Reacting to some unsettling event just out of view, like in “Imperfect Memories # 2.” The ruffled reaction to catching our own shadow out of the corner of our eye, as suggested in “Imperfect Memories #9.” The simple numeric titles lend force to the indiscernible nature of these emotionally stretched and smudged memories. Are we to view them in a sequence, forming a narrative of our daily routines? Are they a countdown to some epiphany that, when finished, will form, jigsaw puzzle-like, a completed memory? Bell leaves these questions unanswered, allowing us to ponder the miraculous yet tenuous nature of imperfect memories. —Larry Lytle
Imperfect Memories #11
Imperfect Memories #2
Imperfect Memories #8
Imperfect Memories #12
Imperfect Memories #9