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Black &White FOR COLLECTORS OF FINE PHOTOGRAPHY

Tommy Ingberg: Reality Rearranged

Ludmila Ketslakh: Chernobyl Revisited Michiko Kon: Strange Fruit

Issue 112 December 2015 US $7.95 Can $9.95


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Contents

“I have never seen photography as a way of objectively recording reality, but rather as a way of telling stories and sharing my views.” — Tommy Ingberg

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TOMMY INGBERG: REARRANGING REALITY — 24 Although Tommy Ingberg’s startling photocollages evoke some of the motifs of famous Surrealists (like a certain Belgian painter of anonymous bowler-hatter men), the Swedish photographer makes them his own through a distinctly modernist blend of visual wit, bizarre juxtapositions and provocative non-sequiturs. LUDMILA KETSLAKH: CHERNOBYL REVISITED — 36 Twenty three years after the worst nuclear disaster in history, Ludmila Ketslakh, born just 200 miles from Chernobyl, ventured to its radioactive Forbidden Zone to photograph the people who live on in the shadow of the doomed reactor and the ghosts of a past Soviet era.

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JENNIFER THORESON: THE BETTER ANGELS OF OUR NATURE? — 46 The typical trope of man vs. machine popularized in films like The Terminator undergoes a radical reversal in the imagery of Jennifer Thoreson, who imagines a future in which our relationship to the machines we create is nurturing rather than antagonistic. SERGIO PURTELL: EXPLORING THE REAL WORLD — 56 The photographs of Sergio Purtell are linked by something other than spectacle. His densely layered images of the urban landscape—best appreciated in grid form—quietly resonate with “implications” (his word) about how we relate to the spaces we live in, what they say about us and how they affect the way we interact with the world at large and each other.


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46 “Although I didn’t think about it at the time, Chernobyl was like being in Tarkovsky’s Stalker, mysterious and completely unreal.” —Ludmila Ketslakh

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MICHIKO KON: STRANGE FRUIT — 66 Michko Kon’s disturbing and seductive still lifes are like nothing you’ve ever seen. The Japanese photographer strives to impart a “decadent fragrance” to her eerily anthropomorphic tableaux of fish, cabbages and other organic materials in ways that challenge our notions of sexuality, consumption and mortality. JOEL OROZCO: AMONG THE TARAHUMARA — 76 The budding young (23) photographer, born in the United States but raised in the Chihuahuan countryside, has for five years documented descendants of an ancient tribal culture in the remote mountain villages of northern Mexico. His sensitive images explore the traditions of a people with one foot in this world and one in another.

SPOTLIGHTS FELIX TIAN — 86 LIZA HENNESSEY BOTKIN — 90 DON WHITEBREAD — 94 SUNGSOO LEE — 98 GORDON MIDDLETON — 102 STEVE MORETTI — 106 SINGLE IMAGE SPOTLIGHTS

DAVID LYKES KEENAN — 21 ANGELA CAMERON — 22 DAVID KING — 23

NEWS — 8 BOOK REVIEWS — 10 COPYRIGHT PROTECTION — 12 ROAD TRIP — 16 WHAT’S IT WORTH — 18 EXPOSURE SECTION — 111

Puppet by Tommy Ingberg

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Contest entries accepted thru December 31, 2015

BLACK & WHITE PORTFOLIO CONTEST 2016 MORE WINNERS! 28 Spotlight winners will be featured photographers in issues of Black & White in 2015 and 2016

20 Excellence winners will have their work featured in four-page spreads in the August 2015 Portfolio Contest Special Issue.

80 Merit winners will have their work featured in two-page spreads in the August 2015 Portfolio Contest Special Issue

NEW JUDGING: We have expanded our panel of judges. Each judge will act independently and winners will be chosen from merged lists of all judges. ENTRY BONUS: All portfolios entered will be included in the galleries on our redesigned web site. Each of your photos will have a direct link to your web site. Currently we have more than 30,000 photos from past contests in our searchable galleries with increasing traffic counts. This extra exposure makes the entry fees a good investment for your future. A portfolio unit consists of no less than 8 and no more than 12 images. The images may represent the high point of a long career, a specific subject, or a special thematic treatment. More than one portfolio unit may be entered (additional fee required). Many of the 700 photographers spotlighted in Black & White so far have experienced welcome jolts to their sales as a result of the exposure. So take the chance of having your work seen by more than 40,000 viewers worldwide (Black & White is sold in 60 countries)!

The cover of the 2016 issue will feature a new winner’s image.


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Contest entries accepted thru December 31, 2015

BLACK & WHITE PORTFOLIO CONTEST 2016 CONTEST GUIDELINES: ELIGIBILITY: All photographers are eligible except employees and contract workers of Ross Periodicals. IMAGE CAPTURE: Images may be captured using film or digital. Only CD/DVDs will be accepted for entry. No prints or slides! PORTFOLIOS: A portfolio unit consists of no fewer than 8 images and no more than 12 images. There is no limitation on the number of portfolio units that may be entered. Make separate folders for each portfolio, but please use as few CD/DVDs as possible for your entry. PREPARING YOUR CD/DVD: •Write your complete name, phone number and email address on the CD/DVD itself. •Save images at 300 ppi (lower resolution files cannot be used), 8 bits, in grayscale, as jpeg files only. •WIDTH must be 7 inches – Width is measured from left to right and will total 2100 pixels. Enter 7” in WIDTH option when resizing and allow LENGTH to proportion itself naturally (pixel count will adjust accordingly) Use MEDIUM for Quality option. If prepared correctly the image file size will be approximately 1MB. •Please name each digital image file on your CD/DVD exactly as shown below: Title of image, Location, Year of capture. Example: The Rose, New York City, NY, 2005 or International: Eiffel Tower, Paris, France, 2008 •Do not use: all capitals, all lower case, underscores, or personal reference numbers in your titles. •Avoid using the following characters in an image file name or CD/DVD name: \ | / ? : “ * < > •If more than one image is Untitled, name them Untitled 1, Untitled 2, and so on. •Do not use Picasa, iPhoto or similar file-sharing programs to burn your CD/DVDs. •Before sending CD/DVDs, using another computer, please double-check that the disks and your image files open properly. ENTRY FEES: Fee for the first portfolio unit is US$45. Each additional portfolio unit is US$30. Payment may be made by check (payable to Black & White), money order, PayPal (payable to bnwmagpicks@aol.com) or credit card (MasterCard, Visa and American Express). Include number, expiration date, 3-digit security code on back of card, name exactly as embossed on card, cardholder’s signature and amount to be charged. For international entries we accept ONLY Mastercard, VISA, American Express, PayPal, or international US dollar money orders. We do not accept bank or money transfers. Entry fees are non-refundable. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Prints and slides WILL NOT be accepted. CD/DVDs will not be returned (they will be destroyed after review or eventual use). PHOTO RELEASES must be available and furnished upon request for all individuals prominently featured in an entered image. This rule is not generally applicable to street photography. Do not include any releases with your entry. Please forward questions to bnwmagpicks@aol.com or call us at 805.270.3312. COPYRIGHTS AND THE WEBSITE GALLERY: By entering this contest you give your permission for Black & White to print your images in our magazine and on our website for one-time use. Images entered in this contest will be posted on our website gallery with a link to your website unless you NOTIFY US IN WRITING that you do not want your images placed in the gallery. Please refer to our website to see the formatting and copyright protection currently being used. DEADLINE: Entries must be postmarked no later than December 31, 2015. NOTIFICATION: The selection process will take several months to complete. All entrants will be notified by email. If you wish to have a confirmation of receipt of entry, please include a stamped, self-addressed postcard. WHERE TO SEND: Mail: Black & White, PO Box 700, Arroyo Grande, CA 93421. Other carriers: 1789 Lyn Road, Arroyo Grande, CA 93420. WHAT TO SEND 1. On a sheet of paper, TYPE your name, mailing address, phone number, email address, and website address (this will be published if your images are selected and also on the web gallery). DO NOT include an artist statement or curriculum vitae—entries are judged solely on the merits of the images. DO NOT include an image list separate from what is on the CD/DVD. 2. Your CD/DVD—see above. 3. Payment—see above.


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News

Truth and Humanity

Dean Brierly

IN THE MUSEUMS The Getty, Los Angeles The Younger Generation: Contemporary Japanese Photography (Oct. 6, 2015-Feb. 21, 2016) For decades, Japanese photography has been defined largely in terms of its male practitioners. Eikoh Hosoe. Hiroshi Sugimoto. Daido Moriyama. And, of course, the ubiquitous Nobuyoshi Araki. The country’s women photographers have been often overlooked or ignored, symptomatic, perhaps, of the patriarchal nature of Japanese society. Things began to change in the 1990s, when innovative young female photographers began drawing attention with provocative, often selfreferential imagery. The Getty is celebrating the work of five of these photographic artists with two prominent exhibitions, held concurrently, that together shine a well-deserved spotlight on the distaff side of Japanese photography. The collective show, titled The Younger Generation, presents the work of Yuki Onodera (born 1962), whose surreal, playful images raise intriguing issues about identity; Rinko Kawauchi (born 1972), who seeks transcendant moments in seemingly prosaic settings; Chino Otsuka (born 1972), who uses the medium to explore and question her past; Tomoko Sawada (born 1977), a feminist photographer who, in similar fashion to Cindy

“I had always felt that somewhere in the depths of my photography there had to be a connection with life and death.”

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Sherman, photographs herself in the guise of varied self-created characters as a means of personal exploration and discovery; and Lieko Shiga (born 1980), who said of her series Canary, “I had always felt that somewhere in the depths of my photography there had to be a connection with life and death….And yet, unconsciously, I had decided never to touch it directly.”

Yokosuka Story No. 5, 1977 © Ishiuchi Miyako Ishiuchi Miyako: Postwar Shadows (Oct. 6, 2015-Feb. 21, 2016) This companion exhibition at the Getty focuses exclusively on the work of Ishiuchi Miyako, born in 1947 in Nitta District, Gunma and raised in the city of Yokosuka. Through her strength of character and powerful creative vision, she pioneered a path for younger women seeking to make their presence felt in the formerly male-dominated field of photography. Self-taught, Ishiuchi was mentored by Daido Moriyama and Shomei Tomatsu, whose influence can be discerned in her first series, Yokosuka Story,

which explores in stark, grainy monochrome Japan’s postwar culture and the impact of the U.S. occupation. As in all of her subsequent work, Ishiuchi interacts with her subject matter through personal and political perspectives. Also included is her most recent series on the city of Hiroshima seven decades after the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. (www.getty.edu) The Harn Museum of Art Nexus: Experimental Photography in Florida (Through Nov. 29, 2015) As part of its 25th anniversary celebration, the Harn presents this unique and comprehensive look back at photographic innovation in the Sunshine State. NEXUS walks viewers through the career-length work of five seminal faculty members of the University of Florida’s Photography Department during the 1960s and 1970s: Jerry Uelsmann, Robert W. Fichter, Douglas D. Prince, Evon Streetman and Todd Walker. Committed to exploring experimental avenues in the medium, their collective example inspired a generation of like-minded alternative photographers to attend UF. This exhibition represents a rare opportunity to study the works of these masters of innovation and provocation, whose current work is also on view. (www.harl.ufl.edu)


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News

Continued...

“If you can’t feel what you’re looking at, then you’re never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures.”

McCULLIN HONORED British photojournalist Don McCullin, acclaimed for his searing images of war and conflict in Biafra, Northern Ireland, the Belgian Congo, Vietnam and other hot spots around the world, was awarded an honorary doctorate by Bath Spa University in July, 2015 for his outstanding contributions to journalism. Professor Christina Slade said honorary doctorates are awarded to people “whose achievements are an inspiration to our graduating students.” McCullin’s work has inspired photojournalists since his first photographs appeared in The Observer newspaper in 1959. His career took off with his coverage of the Cyprus War in 1964, and from 1966 to 1984 he gained international renown working for The Sunday Times Magazine. McCullin pushed himself and his photography to extremes, capturing uncomfortably close images of suffering and inhumanity. His photographs were edgy and compassionate to all those caught up in the circumstances of war, but especially to the victims. “Photography for me is not looking, it’s feeling,” he once stated. “If you can’t feel what you’re looking at, then you’re never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures.” McCullin, who was born in London in 1935 and grew up in a rough district in the northern part of the city, left school at 14 and always regretted his lack of formal education. When presented with the award by Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor

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Neil Sammells, McCullin said: “I am thrilled to be given this honor, as being associated with the City of Bath is particularly moving since the time of my evacuation as a child near here and spending over 30 years living close by.” He added: “It is a privilege to be associated with this institution, a center of learning and artistic inspiration which I appreciate all the more having left school in my early teens.” IN MEMORIAM Mary Ellen Mark (1940-2015) Mark Ellen Mark, one of the most influential and widely respected documentary photographers in the medium’s history, died in Manhattan on May 25, 2015 from a lingering blood illness caused by bone marrow failure. She was 75. Mark, who was born in a suburb of Philadelphia, took up photography at nine and eventually obtained a Master’s Degree in photojournalism. A 1965 Fulbright Scholarship enabled her to photograph in Turkey for one year, which resulted

Mary Ellen Mark (photo by Mark Edward Harris) in Passport (1974), the first of her many books. After moving to New York City in the late 1960s Mark

went from strength to strength, producing a great number of visually lyrical and thematically challenging photo essays, including ones on prostitutes in Bombay, the mentally ill at Oregon State Hospital and runaway children on the streets of Seattle. The latter inspired the Academy Award-nominated documentary Streetwise, directed by her husband, Martin Bell. She worked for numerous magazines, including Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair, and also shot stills for more than 100 films, including Satyricon (1969) and Apocalypse Now (1979). Her 18 books include Passport (1974), Ward 81 (1979), Falkland Road: Prostitutes of Bombay (1981), Streetwise (1988), Indian Circus (1993), Twins (2003) and Prom (2012). Each was different, and each revealed new emotional and spiritual truths about the human condition. Mark’s most deeply felt work centered on people living on society’s margins. Her unflinching yet empathetic photographs acknowledged their existence—in itself a remarkable statement—as well as their humanity and individuality. Photographer Mark Edward Harris, who knew Mark and photographed her for his book Faces of the Twentieth Century: Master Photographers and Their Work (1998), said, “Mary Ellen Mark was one of the most dedicated and passionate photographers I have ever had the pleasure to know. Her incredible empathy and commitment to her subjects came through every time she pressed the shutter.”


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Book Reviews

High and Low

Dean Brierly, Michael DiGregorio

Soviet Ghosts: The Soviet Union Abandoned: A Communist Empire in Decay Photographs by Rebecca Litchfield Carpet Bombing Culture 192 pp / HC / $32.60

Frozen in postcollapse time, Litchfield’s images dwell in “the strange interval caught between modernity and antiquity.”

From the emergent urbex—or urban exploration— genre comes Soviet Ghosts, a nearly 200-page smart bomb that quietly explodes the bygone USSR’s heroic ephemera. Framed as an “adventure,” artist Rebecca Litchfield certainly went big. Crossing the 13 countries that once comprised the Soviet Union, the English photographer paid attention to the odd and the arresting, if not the frightening. Litchfield, a 20-something Twitterati type who recently renamed herself Bathory, adroitly captures the “haunting allure of these ruins” in her visual big dig: equally rich and raw glimpses of forgotten hospitals, theatres, asylums, amusement parks and military sites. Frozen in post-collapse time, Litchfield’s images dwell in “the strange interval caught between modernity and antiquity.” Or the “presence of absence.”

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But with that pretty vacant turf came major risk: radiation exposure, arrest, interrogation, even accusations of spying. There was also the theoretical or philosophical threat, a perceived veer into ruin, or disaster porn. Yet Litchfield carefully toed that line, interpreting the ultimate red shift with layered nuance, if not fresh eyes. Her treatments of icon and edifice alike—the detail attached to an East German mural, the sharp lines joined to a fresh framing of a warplane graveyard in Latvia, or the pullback panorama afforded a Ukrainian cultural center— breathe a quiet awe, a perceptible respect. Clearly, Ms. Litchfield, or Bathory, is bombing. But hers is an artful insurgency, a meditative style that seemingly takes a cue from Richard Misrach’s big format/slow burn treatment of traumatized American deserts. Though these Russian and one-time East Bloc locales have gone to never-never land, Litchfield’s viewfinder nonetheless brings to life great subtleties amidst the suffocating vacuum; the vestigial color amidst the cold, indifferent collapse. —Michael DiGregorio Matterhorn: Portrait of a Mountain Photographs by Nenad Saljic Orada & Galerie Rigassi 120 pp / HC / $102 Don’t be misled by the prosaic title of this book. The Matterhorn is hardly “just a

mountain.” Straddling the border between Switzerland and Italy, the Matterhorn may not be the world’s tallest pinnacle, but it’s arguably the most dramatic, its almost perfect pyramidal shape offering four distinct faces to the world. The British art critic John Ruskin called it “the most noble cliff in Europe.”

Nearly as awe-inspiring are the images that Croatian photographer Nenad Saljic has made of the Hornli Ridge, which connects the East and North faces of this fabled peak. A mountaineer in his youth, Saljic utilized time exposures to capture the sweeping movement of clouds and the streaking paths of stars in images of infinite variety and fascination. His photographs graphically invoke the Matterhorn’s mystique and majesty, as well as its menace—some 500 climbers have died trying to summit it—while seemingly evoking its past, present and future. (Matterhorn is available at www.nenadsaljic.com/books) —Dean Brierly


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Road Trip

“The Lost Pinhole,” featuring Steven (likes to eat film) and Marvin (likes to eat cheeseburgers)

Steven A. Heller

The California sun was already heating up the Mojave Desert. The itinerary strangely turned out to be a duplication of comedian Sam Kinison’s last road trip: Los Angeles to Laughlin via Palm Springs. This had not been intended, but only realized once my buddy Marvin and I reached Highway 95 outside Needles, the location of Kinison’s fatal car crash two weeks earlier during that April of 1992. Appeasing Marvin’s addiction to the luxury zones of life, we spent the night in Desert Hot Springs, at that time a second-rate destination for those unable to afford Palm Springs attractions. Our hotel had nine natural hot pools and a coffee shop— perfect distractions for Marvin—while I roamed the small, hot town in search of photo ops for my cardboard 4x5 pinhole camera. I couldn’t wait to hit the road; Marvin couldn’t wait for the next chapter of our trip: hitting the gaming tables in Laughlin. That was his payoff for putting up with my frequent time-consuming stops along the way to mount the pinhole on a tripod, take a couple of exposures using Polaroid Type 55, process the negative in the back of the Suburban, swipe the print with the stick and place the negative in a drying rack. All the while struggling to keep the ubiquitous desert dust from intruding on the photographic process. I repeated this routine at each visually

Back at the Suburban I processed the negs quickly, got them in the rack and turned the key in the ignition. We were on our way to Laughlin and it was about 8 pm. Marvin was definitely pissed.

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Steven A. Heller, Telephone Poles, 1992 interesting spot, while Marvin amused himself with a BB rifle and revolver aimed at roadside rubbish. I could hear the pings and whistles of punctured cans and Marvin’s triumphant howls at his terrific shooting skills. We were the odd couple of the desert, supremely content in our chosen heavens. We’d traveled only a few hundred miles when the sun began to set, yet we were still hours from Laughlin. Marvin blamed our slow progress entirely on my pinhole work. By that time the prints that I would throw onto the dashboard to dry no longer interested him. He was focused on cheeseburgers and blackjack. “C’mon! No more goddamn pictures! Let’s get going!” There wasn’t much I could do to keep him amused, so I resorted to shoving a heaping pile of guilt on him. “This shot could be worth lots of money, and you’re gonna deny me! Real considerate.

When I’m on your turf I go along on your business calls with no protests. C’mon, one last shot!” I knew that overused photographer’s phrase would get him. In front of us was a long, straight stretch of asphalt—a familiar view to anyone driving through the Mojave. The telephone poles that provided comfort each and every mile along the asphalt road seemed shorter than most. There was the darkening sky, which I urged even darker with a deep-red filter hastily taped to the pinhole. I brought the Suburban to a fast halt, not even waiting to hear Marvin’s curses ring across the flat expanse. Now everything moved real fast. No tripod and just a couple of sheets of Polaroid. I placed the camera as level as possible on a pebbly small berm beside the road, put it on the vertical with the help of some larger rocks for stability and knocked out two sheets with bracketed exposure times—10 minutes and longer. Back at the Suburban I processed the negs quickly, got them in the rack and turned the key in the ignition. We were on our way to Laughlin and it was about 8 pm. Marvin was definitely pissed. There was no conversation, just his monologue about how selfish I was, how I didn’t take him into consideration, how this was the last time we were going to stop for the entire trip, how from now on things were going to


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Road Trip Continued...

Frantically I searched the room and the Suburban for the camera. It was nowhere to be found. AWOL. Gone.

be different. I let him rant and then threw back an equal rant. I told him he had no interest in the arts, couldn’t name a single artist except Picasso, never wanted to exert himself, and always filled his mouth with bad food groups. We were real good at this exercise. We’d been doing it for 40 years. It was the tie that bound us together, and we were proud of this aspect of our relationship. Our dysfunctional patter began when we were much younger and used to fight about whose firecracker fuse was the slowest, thereby allowing us to cancel the explosion. I bet mine was the slowest. He challenged me in no uncertain terms, so I went ahead and lit the fuse. Mine was not the slower fuse and it blew up on my bed, producing a crater in the bedspread. I never heard the end of that from my mother or Marvin. Finally, the Suburban rolled into Laughlin and we checked into a hotel. Marvin was soon in his comfort zone. While he was showering prior to heading down to the blackjack tables, I was busy with my equipment: rinsing out the containers holding sodium sulfate, removing all manner of grit from my camera bag and sorting through the 4x5 prints. I evaluated the success percentage for the day’s shooting. There were a few I really liked, especially the last one of the day. Then it suddenly hit me. Frantically I searched the room and the Suburban for the camera. It was nowhere to be found. AWOL. Gone.

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My favorite pinhole camera that I’d been using for almost 10 years. The camera I had finally gotten to know. I had learned how this hole preferred to see for me. I knew how it related to light levels and I knew what perspectives it was seeing. “Where do you think you lost it?” Marvin yelled from the steaming shower. I looked to the Polaroid prints on the floor, and there was the last shot of the day: telephone poles against a dark sky. Which meant my camera was still on the berm alongside the road. In my haste, I had processed the film and then sped away, forgetting to retrieve the camera. I could tell that things were going to really heat up as Marvin emerged from the bathroom. “I gotta go get that camera. I’m gonna take the car and go back. You can gamble. I’ll see you later.” “And where do you think you’re gonna find it in the middle of the night?” It was already past midnight and Marvin had dollar signs flashing in his eye sockets. “I know where it is.” I shoved the glossy 4x5 print in front of him. “That’s where I took the last shot. It’s on the side of the road.” “And you’re gonna find it in total darkness?” I could tell this was going to be a repetition of our childhood experiment with the firecrackers. And I’d probably lose. Now the reason that Marvin and I had such a tremendous friendship revealed itself. “I’ll go with you if you let me have a few hours at the tables.” I couldn’t ask for more. It

was at least a two-hour drive back to the spot where I had left the camera and two hours return to Laughlin. I could see that there’d be no sleep tonight. Again we were on the dark road. I started at the wheel but as I began nodding off Marvin took over. Then it was my turn again. Marvin had now fallen asleep in the passenger seat. Everything was okay, I thought. Soon I’d be reunited with my mechanical friend in the cool dark desert night. Each time I thought that maybe someone would have found it and taken it I quickly moved my thoughts elsewhere. Suddenly, Marvin awoke. “Slow down!” “How come?” “It’s right around here. Just slow down.” He grabbed a flashlight and aimed it towards the side of the road. I let the Suburban slowly drift over the solid yellow line on the dark two-lane road. “Stop! Right there!” Marvin had again won the bet. It wasn’t a short fuse I had made. There, barely lit by the flashlight, was my cardboard pal resting vertically just where and how I had left it. This metaphysical reunion left a feeling inside me that lasted the entire return trip to Laughlin. The light was looking real pretty as we neared Laughlin. “Marv, think we can…?” He didn’t let me finish. It was a short fuse and the Suburban was real quiet.


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Currents

Tommy Ingberg: Rearranging Reality Dean Brierly

Despite his work’s obvious indebtedness to Surrealism, Swedish photographer Tommy Ingberg doesn’t identify with all aspects of the artistic/political/philosophic movement begun in the early 1920s. If people want to categorize him as a Surrealist, fine, but he hopes they can look beyond that label and see the work on its own terms. For if Ingberg does channel some of the tropes of artists like René Magritte (particularly the Belgian painter’s anonymous bowler-hatted men), he puts a new twist on them via a modernist humor and sensibility, and relies on a seemingly inexhaustible imagination to invent bizarre new visual motifs and confounding juxtapositions.

Born in Sweden in 1980, Ingberg is a computer engineer and a self-taught photographer who uses the medium in a highly personal and self-referential fashion. Although he started out making single images, he eventually transitioned into expressive photo montages distinguished by enigmatic yet relatable tableaux, a sharp sense of drama and a sly sense of humor. Despite his influences, his is a distinctly original vision, one that is elegant and allusive and which faithfully evokes the Surrealist objective to “resolve the previously contradictory conditions of dream and reality.”

Tommy Ingberg

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Can you describe the kind of photography you did prior to the montages? I started doing photography somewhat seriously when was about 15. Since then I have tried portraits, concert photography, street photography, nature photography and everything in between. Despite being all over the place in terms of genres I have always gravitated more towards art photography than documentary photography. I have never seen photography as a way of objectively describing reality, but rather as a way of telling stories and sharing my views. Looking back at my old pictures I can see that my current visual language has always been there, and in many ways the pure photography I did before resembles my photo montages in terms of motifs, composition and “feel.” They were often simple, minimalistic compositions with a single subject and lots of space. But since I had to rely on the scene in front of the camera I could not really tell the stories I wanted; I always felt something was missing. It was when I first started doing photo montages, creating my own scenes and reality, that I could further refine my work. Your website references the “personal abyss” you underwent in your late twenties. Was that in a creative sense?


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Puppet

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Demons

“Out of need, as a sort of therapy to vent my feelings, I started creating these photo montages dealing with my inner life.”

No. I was struggling emotionally and in all parts of life, and had been for a long while without acknowledging it until I was in really bad shape. My creativity, however, was a crucial part of getting back on track. Like everything else in my life, I had not been in control of my creative work. I didn’t have the confidence to find my own path, and mainly tried to do what I felt others would appreciate. Out of need, as a sort of therapy to vent my feelings, I started creating these photo montages dealing with my inner life. I did these only for me without caring what others would think of them, and in that process found my own artistic expression. You didn’t consciously choose Surrealism as a vehicle of personal expression, it just evolved organically for you. What does that say about the way you approach things? I’m very good at making plans and working purposefully and disciplined, but many things in life are impossible or at least very hard to plan long-term, and you have to just follow your intuition. I had a strong sense that it was photography I wanted to do, but never really planned in what direction I was heading with it. That search was very much driven by intuition and feelings rather than rational decisions and planning. I still feel that I have just begun my journey as an artist and right now this is

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where I am, doing this kind of work. What the next destination on the journey is I have no idea, but I trust that I’ll know when I get there. Jerry Uelsmann is probably the most famous exemplar of constructed, surreal imagery. I’m wondering what you think of his work and if it speaks to you on any level—aesthetic, technical, thematic? I am a big fan of Jerry Uelsmann’s work, even though I have not studied it in great detail. I love every aspect of it, from the aesthetic to the fantastic craftsmanship. It’s interesting that Uelsmann is now doing the same kind of imagery digitally instead of through analog means. Turning that around, could you conceive of making your images in the darkroom? I started out with analog photography and have done a bit of darkroom work, although at the time I did not have the patience for it and it often turned out a bit sloppy. I absolutely entertain the idea of doing analog montage work, and have analog equipment I plan on using, but haven’t got around to yet. In many ways I think my workflow would translate well to an analog process. I try to do as much work as I can in camera. Well-planned and photographed source pictures are a much better option than doing excessive work in Photo-


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Juncture

Crow

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“I try to do as much work as I can in camera. Well-planned and photographed source pictures are a much better option than doing excessive work in Photoshop.”

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shop. In my opinion camera work will always have better quality and look better than something “fixed” in post-processing. I use only simple techniques in Photoshop to put together the final picture, and most of them have a physical equivalent in the darkroom. A completely analog work process would be very interesting and challenging, and I hope I can do that somewhere along the road. Even though you’re working digitally, there’s an organic look to your images. How do you create analog-like visual textures? Working with light and textures is an important part of the look and feel I’m trying to achieve, as this complements my minimalistic compositions. A lot of it is due to the motifs I choose, but I also strive for a soft light that lets me capture a wide dynamic range, and in post-processing I work a lot with dodging and burning and other techniques to create added depth and further enhance light and texture. Your imagery is notable for its relative

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simplicity, with uncluttered yet striking compositions. Have you always had this minimalist vision? I’ve always been drawn to simplicity, or minimalism, even in the single-imagery work I did before (and still do). It’s an aesthetic that speaks to me and suits my way of working with images and ideas. I have been, and am still doing, denser, more complex work, but mostly as a creative exercise for fun. It’s a very different way of working and takes a different approach—it’s great practice and I learn a lot from it. Do you believe less is always more? I don’t think that less is always more generally, but trying to find a simple yet ambiguous visual representation of something often very complex is a key concept. It’s one of the most interesting and fun challenges in creating this kind of work. I see a lot of visual homages to other artists in your work: Magritte, Uelsmann,


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Bubble

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Passage

“Good storytellling, visual, written or otherwise, should hold a level of ambiguity; it should let you draw your own conclusions from your own perspective.”

Melvin Sokolsky. It’s similar to how the French New Wave directors of the 1960s packed their films with references to various artists. Is it fair to say this is a kind of game you’re playing with the viewer? Sometimes it is a little game, sometimes it’s an homage, sometimes it’s me borrowing and testing techniques and visual aspects to learn and develop and sometimes it is, to be honest, completely unintentional. Talk a little about your new series, Solitaire, how it differs from and how it relates to Reality Rearranged. Reality Rearranged was the first series I did using my own inner life as seeds to my work and trying to explain something abstract like a feeling or a thought through a picture. After three years of working on the series I felt that I was far away from where I started technically, conceptually and stylistically. It was time to finish the series, but I was not quite ready to move on to something completely different. In that sense Solitaire is a continuation of Reality Rearranged. The main theme is still the same and I’m trying to explore the same concepts. With Solitaire I’m building on what I’ve learned from Reality Rearranged, developing and refining it further in smaller increments. I don’t know if Solitaire will be the last series of this

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particular kind of work and if I’ll move on to something completely different, but I’m in no rush and feel that I have a lot more to explore with these pictures. There is definitely a playful feeling to these images; they invite the viewer to explore multiple thematic and/or emotional directions of their own—and to have fun while doing so. Do you see your work in this light? Good storytelling, visual, written or otherwise, should hold a level of ambiguity; it should let you draw your own conclusions from your own perspective. I try to be playful and make my stories ambiguous. Although I always have a concrete idea behind my pictures, with time my perspectives change and my original stories fade away and become replaced with new interpretations. I avoid sharing my own intentions and interpretations since I think that art should be about what the viewer sees in a picture in this moment and mindset, and I don’t want to spoil that. I always love hearing different interpretations of my pictures. It’s interesting how we all think differently, but still in some way alike. A lot of thought obviously goes into the work, but there’s always a strong emotion-


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Lies

Autumn

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“I need to have a strong visual idea acting as a framework to be able to communicate the emotional part clearly and with some distance and humor.”

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al undercurrent as well. What’s more important to you—the idea or the emotion? For me creating pictures has always been something emotional, a kind of outlet, and I have never really been drawn to purely intellectual work. This is how I feel about art in general as well. I am most drawn to work that makes me feel something, be it music, movies, photography or anything else. Even though the emotion is always in the core of my pictures the idea, or intellectual part of my work is also very important. I need to have a strong visual idea acting as a framework to be able to communicate the emotional part clearly and with some distance and humor. If I had to describe your work in a single phrase, I might refer to it as The Unbearable Lightness of Being, after the Milan Kundera novel. Does that seem apropos? I think the concepts and thoughts born in self-reflection are universal for all of us—we all carry the same set of feelings inside us and we all in our own way search for answers, trying to make sense of life, the world and being. In the same way all work exploring this will cover the

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same concepts, and I think that the philosophical underpinnings of The Unbearable Lightness of Being are at the core of these concepts. Can you see yourself doing singleimagery work at some point? Or do you think you will always stick with constructed images? For me photography is almost magical and I still get that childish excitement from it that I did when first starting out. It’s so simple; just press the button, and yet so very complex; the camera enables unlimited ways of creative expression and photography is such a vast and diversified form of art. Right now I’m doing single-imagery work purely as a hobby because I love doing it, but I can definitely see myself doing it more seriously at some point if that’s where my creative development takes me. I can’t see that I’ll ever stop photographing and I think the camera will somehow always be at the center of my creative work. Fact File Visit Ingberg’s website at www.ingberg.com.


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Dive

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Hollow

Careful

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Hive

Stone, Part One

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Spotlight

“I grew up with a certain sense of humor, and I kind of lay it on New York, where I was born and raised.”

Fact File Liza Hennessey Botkin Studio City, CA

lizabotkin.com lhbotkin@gmail.com Prints are available at 20 x 24 inches framed for $750.

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Liza Hennessey Botkin Portfolio Contest Winner

The photographs of Liza Hennessey Botkin are uniquely identifiable by their deadpan humor and visual non sequiturs. One might say that her images are akin to the stand-up comedy of Steven Wright, whose jokes often depend for their effect upon the mental agility of the audience—“The ice cream truck in my neighborhood plays ‘Helter Skelter.’” Those who view Botkin’s pictures must also work to complete their “punchlines.” Botkin’s photograph of King Kong, taken at Universal CityWalk, demonstrates her knack for introducing left-field humor to a familiar scene. By shooting the eye-catching landmark at night, all that registers visually are its glowing eyes, glowering mouth and neon outline, making it seem as if it might really be alive and ready to rampage. And what to make of the image “After Midnight,” which depicts what appears to be a giant leopard cooling its heels atop a glassdomed building? Hint: There’s no Photoshopping involved; the image is captured as it appeared before Botkin’s camera. Once again, it’s up to the viewer to conjecture what’s going on, and to decide if the photographer’s tongue might be planted discreetly in cheek. “I like things that strike me as humorous,” Botkin says, “and I love it when someone sees one of my pictures and gets a kick out of it. I grew up with a certain sense of humor, and I kind of lay it on New York, where I was born and raised.” Following stints working at 20th Century Fox and The Tonight Show, Botkin moved to California in the 1970s and became photographer Michael Childers’ studio manager. After buying a Leica from him for 80 bucks, she took a photography class at Fairfax High and began venturing onto the city’s streets in search of images. She later worked for another notable photographer, Lou Stoumen, from whom she learned a lot about printing. Botkin’s photographic stomping grounds haven’t changed much since the late ’70s. She’s still drawn to wherever large groups of people congregate—malls, markets, entertainment districts. Another thing that hasn’t changed is her disinclination to engage in the-

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matic introspection. She’s old school all the way. Just hit the streets, take the pictures, make the prints. Then put them on a wall for people to view and, hopefully, appreciate. There are multiple bodies of work on Botkin’s website—Shoes, Moments, Gams, Mannequins—but she doesn’t set out to create discrete series. “I just started shooting and eventually realized that I had so many of this or that type of image,” she explains. “So that’s a shoe image, and that’s a mannequin image. But when you’ve identified a series, then you do start looking for more in that vein. I’m really upset about mannequins, because they used to have heads. They were so much more interesting in the 1970s and ’80s. They don’t look like people anymore.” While Botkin is very much a lone wolf when she goes out to photograph, the Studio City, California resident does enjoy her membership in 4260, a local guild of like-minded photographers dedicated to the art and craft of film- and darkroom-based black-and-white images. (www.4260photo.com) “I like the community of being in a group. We do constructive critiques of each other’s work, help our members get exhibitions and generally provide each other with emotional support,” she says. Digital photography holds little appeal for Botkin, but she has noticed that since everyone and their grandmother now take photographs on their phones, people seem more used to having their pictures taken. Botkin has used that to her advantage, basing an entire series on people with their smartphones. But for this street photographer, nothing can replace her Contax T3 and her shoot-fromthe-hip aesthetic. The group 4260 statement of purpose aptly sums up her philosophy: “We are lovers of the handmade, the instinctive element of guesswork, the alchemical process, the mysteries of the darkroom and the magical qualities inherent in a piece of film.” — Dean Brierly


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After Midnight, Los Angeles, CA, 2013

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Kong, Universal City, CA, 2012

Diva, Los Angeles, CA, 2012

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Photo Booth, Los Angeles, CA, 1979

Shall We Dance, Los Angeles, CA, 1979

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Black & White December 2015