2017 Contest Photos: Pinhole/Plastic Cameras
Black & White FOR COLLECTORS OF FINE PHOTOGRAPHY
Pierre Jamet: Ode to Joy
Steve Schapiro: The Power in Truth Rodney Smith: Elegance and Humor
Issue 124 December 2017 US $7.95 Can $9.95
“There’s really no difference in terms of doing a documentary situation or a film situation. You’re looking either for the spirit of the person you’re photographing or the spirit of the event.” – Steve Schapiro
2017 Contest: Looking Back– Looking Forward: PIERRE JAMET: ODE TO JOY — 38 Pierre Jamet’s photographs of prewar France—from rural life to the burgeoning youth hostels movement to political demonstrations during the Popular Front period—comprise an important historical record as well as a lyrical celebration of the human spirit. RODNEY SMITH: ELEGANCE AND HUMOR — 48 Only a few photographers have successfully managed to instill humor in their imagery. Lartigue, Doisneau, Erwitt are the best known. But Rodney Smith, who passed away last year at 68, deserves inclusion on that short list. His 40-year legacy in photography delights our eyes, brings smiles to our lips and a sense of wonder at his singular achievement.
STEVE SCHAPIRO: THE POWER IN TRUTH — 58 Steve Schapiro embarked on career as a freelance photographer at a time when social issues and politics were front and center in American culture. His photographs of the Civil Rights Movement are some of the most iconic of the era—as are the gritty publicity stills he made for such films as Midnight Cowboy and Taxi Driver. MARCIA RESNICK: REVISITING RE-VISIONS — 70 Marcia Resnick’s 1970s books—which were among the first to show that a photobook could deliver a single, complex, conceptual conceit— resound with sly wit as she disassembles the documentary nature of photography and infuses a gentle and humane sense of humor into her observations of the human condition.
“I consider myself much closer to the role of an observer who simply tells what he saw and what impressed him: a kind of visual diary of a time and place in my life.” – Alexander Petrosyan
Pinhole/Plastic Cameras — 18 ALEXANDER PETROSYAN: BEYOND STEREOTYPE — 82 As cities become more congested and cacophonous, Alexander Petrosyan has built a career capturing the multifarious intersections of their inhabitants. His wry photographs of daily life in St. Petersburg explore the junction between pathos and irony, aspiration and apathy. MARK EDWARD HARRIS: THE WAY OF THE JAPANESE BATH — 92 An estimated 100 million people visit Japan’s onsen (hot springs) each year to meditatively bathe body and soul, reduce stress and improve health. Mark Edward Harris has been documenting these meccas of serenity since the early 1990s in stunning images that evoke their physical, aesthetic and spiritual appeal.
SPOTLIGHTS AMY KANKA — 102 ANDRE PAXIUTA — 106 PETER WILLEMSE — 110 MICHAEL BERRY — 114 CANDY DELANEY — 118 ANNE DE GEER — 122 SINGLE IMAGE SPOTLIGHTS ROBERT HEWGLEY — 34 BEN BARNES — 35 BEATA PODWYSOCKA — 36 SWEE HOE LIM — 37 BOOK REVIEWS — 6 NEWS — 10 WHAT’S IT WORTH — 12 COPYRIGHT — 14 EXPOSURE SECTION — 126
Cover image: Steve Schapiro, Midnight Cowboy, New York, 1968
Pursuing Elusive Truths
MUSEUMS Museum of Contemporary Photography (Chicago) Traversing the Past: Adam Golfer, Diana Matar, Hrvoje Slovenic (Through Apr 1, 2018) This unique exhibition focuses on three of the medium’s most adventurous and thought-provoking artists—Adam Golfer, Diana Matar, Hrvoje Slovenic—as they use photography, as well as their family histories, to explore issues of violence, political conflict and physical and psychic displacement. Each applies multiple perspectives to a broad scope of thematic terrain, including World War II, Croatia’s War of Independence and the turmoil of the Qaddafi regime in Libya. (mocp.org)
The exhibition looks at the ways in which constructed photographic images were used to represent, and sometimes distort, Argentina’s complex national identity.
Amon Carter Museum of Art (Fort Worth, TX) Dornith Doherty: Archiving Eden (Through Jan 14, 2018) Since 2008 Dornith Doherty has worked collaboratively with biologists around the world in the creation of a visual meditation on Earth’s botanical diversity. Using X-ray equipment, she makes images of the seeds and tissues samples stored at such seed banks as the U.S. Department of Agriculture; the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, England; the Millennium Seed Bank; Threatened Flora Centre, Australia; and others. Her work celebrates the wonderful aesthetic qualities
of seeds and their transformations into plants, while also raising awareness of the critical need to preserve genetic diversity in wild and agricultural species. (cartermuseum.org) Getty Center (Los Angeles) Photography in Argentina, 1850-2010: Contradiction and Continuity (Through Jan 28, 2018) The history of Argentina has been perceived, both within and outside its borders, as unfolding in a culturally homogenous and economically progressive fashion. “Contradiction and Continuity” examines this narrative through a critical perspective on its national symbols, its immigrant and indigenous population and the philosophy and politics of its founders. The exhibition looks at the ways in which constructed photographic images were used to represent, and sometimes distort, Argentina’s complex national identity. The project draws on some 300 works by 60 artists to chart Argentina’s story from its independence in 1810 to its economic crisis of 2001 and beyond. The exhibition is part of “Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA,” a comprehensive exploration of Latin American and Latino art in dialogue with Los Angeles, taking place through January 2018 at more than 70 cultural institutions across Southern California. (getty.edu)
Natalia Ariñez, 23 Years Old, Architecture Student (detail), 1999, from the series “The Sons and Daughters, Tucumán, Twenty Years Later.” © Julio Pantoja. The J. Paul Getty Museum Annenberg Space for Photography (Los Angeles) Cuba Is (Through Mar 4, 2018) The multimedia exhibition “Cuba Is” offers an immersive look at the complex social and political currents in Cuba through the photographs of Elliott Erwitt, Leysis Quesada, Raúl Cañibano, Tria Giovan and others. Their imagery opens a window onto areas of Cuban life not easily accessible to foreigners, from the spoiled offspring of the country’s 1% to “Los Frikis,” who expressed their rejection of Castro’s regime by infecting themselves with the HIV virus. A documentary film follows the featured photographers in their pursuit of the unseen in Havana and beyond. (annenbergphotospace.org)
“One of the goals...is to push back against the predominance of material on AfricanAmericans as enslaved people or working in menial jobs or other stereotypical situtations.”
ONLINE Cornell University Loewentheil Collection of African-American Photographs Cornell University Library has made its Loewentheil Collection of AfricanAmerican Photographs publicly available on its website. The collection, donated to Cornell in 2012 by Stephan and Beth Loewentheil, is comprised of 645 rarely seen photographs of AfricanAmerican life dating from the 1860s to the 1960s. Said Katherine Reagan, curator of rare books and manuscripts at Cornell, “One of the goals—both the Loewentheils in putting the collection together and ours in putting the digital collection online—is to push back against the predominance of material on AfricanAmericans as enslaved people or working in menial jobs or other stereotypical situations. We wanted to show a broader swath of people in everyday settings.” That curatorial approach results in relatively few images depicting the harsher realities of African-American history. While the collection includes familiar faces like Angela Davis, Muhammad Ali and Martin Luther King Jr., the vast majority are of unknown African-Americans simply going about their lives—men and women who lived and worked and suffered and triumphed and contributed to the growth of this country during a momentous and tumultuous era. The many portraits, formal and otherwise, are perhaps most revealing. How people dress, how they carry them-
selves, how they relate to the camera and to each other, speaks volumes about their individuality, character and dignity. The photograph reproduced here, a late-19th century portrait of a man seated next to a tree, impeccably attired and projecting pride and a firm sense of self-worth, is but one of many revelatory images in this visual treasure trove. (View the collection at digital.library.cornell.edu.)
Man seated next to tree, late 19th century. Loewentheil Collection of African-American Photographs. Cornell University Library.
IN MEMORIAM Bill Rauhauser (1918-2017) Bill Rauhauser, acclaimed as “the dean of Detroit photography,” passed away July 29 at the age of 98 in the city where he was born and which he photographed with a perceptive, empathetic eye for seven decades. As testament to his longevity, he was shooting on Belle Isle the day before his death. Rauhauser didn’t set out to become a photographer.
Beginning in 1943, he spent 18 years as an architectural engineer while taking photographs during his free time. His eyes were opened to the expressive potential of the medium after seeing a Cartier-Bresson exhibition at MoMA in 1947. From that moment, he dedicated himself to the pursuit of decisive moments on the streets of Detroit. His 1952 photograph of two girls and a soldier romantically sharing a bench by the Detroit River caught the eye of Edward Steichen, who included it in his “Family of Man” show in 1955. Rauhauser’s body of work is unique in that it encompasses Detroit at the height of its postwar manufacturing prowess, as well as its gradual decline beginning in the 1950s and exacerbated by the 1967 riots. However, he remained optimistic about the city’s prospects for a comeback, and his images unfailingly celebrated the optimistic, resilient spirit of its residents. His sharply observed images ranged across social and racial spectrums, and were marked by humor, irony and compassion. His approach to street photography was, like his images, direct and deceptively profound: “You have to know what you’re shooting, so you have to know what’s happening around you and be able to put together what’s happening with the context of the environment.” Rauhauser also taught for 30+ years at the Center for Creatve Studies, and published numerous books, including the retrospective Bill Rauhauser: 20th Century Photography in Detroit (2010).
Pierre Jamet: Ode to Joy Dean Brierly
The phrase joie de vivre is to the French what la dolce vita is to the Italians: an expression of pure joy in all of its forms—intellectual, physical, spiritual, emotional. It is an exalted state of being we all seek, yet rarely seem to experience to a satisfying degree and consistency. The concept can also prove elusive to visual artists who try to express it without falling prey to naive sentimentality or cloying cliché.
But just as French filmmakers have always excelled at expressing large emotions while retaining a rigorous complexity—from Jean Vigo’s L’Atalante (1934) to Marcel Carne’s Children of Paradise (1945) to Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast (1946)—so too have French photographers (especially those active in the early-to-mid 20th century) been adept at capturing life’s sublime moments in images that are at once accessible and uncompromising. One need only think of Jacques-Henri Lartigue, André Kertész and Robert Doisneau, among many others. All famous names, and justly so. And yet,
Pierre and Corinne Jamet in front of their house, Belle-Île-en-Mer, 1950
another French photographer from that era, one whose images rival those of the icons noted above in terms of their artistry and embodiment of joie de vivre, has only recently begun to emerge from the shadows of history. His name was Pierre Jamet, and his photographs of prewar France—from rural life to the burgeoning youth hostels movement to political demonstrations during the Popular Front period—comprise an important historical record as well as a lyrical celebration of the human spirit. Born to progressive-minded working-class parents in the northern French city of Saint Quentin in 1910, Jamet early in life learned to be independent and self-sufficient, spurred in part by his joining a scout troop at the age of eight. Scouting also helped instill in him a love of nature and a spirit of fraternity. Jamet’s creative talents also blossomed early. His vocal talent was recognized at 14, when he was chosen to sing for France at a scout jamboree in Copenhagen. And he took an interest in photography that year, purchasing his first camera, an ICA 6x6, while he was in Denmark. According to his daughter, Corinne Jamet, “From that time on, he never stopped singing and shooting.” However, upon his father’s unexpected death in 1924, Jamet was forced to leave school and seek employment as an apprentice mason, the first in an eclectic succession of jobs that included typist, film extra, radio operator in the French Merchant Marine and
Lucienne Joudachkine on youth hostel gate, Villeneuve-sur-Auvers, 1937
Village drummer, Belle-Île-en-Mer, c. 1930
Even his earliest photographs of the island’s humble, hardworking inhabitants testify to his rapidly developing compassionate vision.
dancer in the Ballets Weidts dance company. His scouting experience proved handy when he was chosen as the summer camp director on Belle-Île-en-Mer, a sunswept island off the Brittany coast. He was immediately smitten by the terrain and people, and returned there repeatedly for the rest of his life. Even his earliest photographs of the island’s humble, hardworking inhabitants testify to his rapidly developing compassionate vision. Furthering his progressive social and political orientation, Jamet in 1933 joined the choir of the Association of Revolutionary Writers and Artists (AEAR), which was formed under the auspices of the Communist Party and whose members included such photographers as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Man Ray and Germaine Krull. Although Jamet was “a man of the left,” according to Corinne, he never joined the Party, being too “individualistic.” Another important association occurred in 1937, when Jamet became an active member of the Centre Laique des Auberges de Jeunesse (CLAJ, or Secular Youth Hostel Center), whose expansion was closely allied to the coming of power of the Popular Front (1936-1939), a left-wing governing coalition led by prime minister Leon Blum. Blum
sought to reverse years of economic depression through a series of stimulus reforms, including a 40-hour workweek, increased wages and two weeks annual paid holiday. These changes marked the beginning of tourism in France, as masses of workingclass people had the time and means to travel widely throughout the country, particularly to the mountains and the seaside. In tandem with these measures, UnderSecretary of State for Sport and Leisure Leo Lagrange created a 40 percent reduction in train fares and encouraged the formation of new youth hostels, whose numbers grew from 250 in June 1936 to 400 by December of the same year. According to Corinne, “The hostels became a rallying point for youth, not only for vacations, but for sharing, debating, singing and building different lifestyles and new solidarities.” All of these dynamics created, in the words of historian Julian Jackson, “a political, social, and cultural explosion that attempted to break down the barriers between all aspects of human activity in the highly compartmentalized society of France in the 1930s.” Jamet was an active participant in and photographic witness to this prewar movement, thanks to his involvement with the CLAJ (through which he created “Le groupe 18 ans,” a group of nearly 20 young people who sang French popular songs) and his interest in the social and political changes sweeping the country. Despite his leftist sympathies, Jamet’s photographs were, in the main, refreshingly nonpolitical; the only “ism” they evoked was humanism. While he covered public demonstrations and striking workers on assignment for the Communist magazine Regards, his most characteristic—and personal—images were of youth hostels and life on his beloved Belle-Île-en-Mer. Moreover, Jamet approached the medium from the perspective of the amateur, in the best sense of that word. While his images are unfailingly compelling and wellcomposed, they betray no striving for effect. His vision had nothing in common with Kertész’s spatial complexity or Cartier-Bresson’s existential surrealism. In spirit he was closer to Willy Ronis and Doisneau, to whom he also felt a strong personal affinity. Jamet approached his subjects with disarming directness, and rendered their images on film with unpretentious yet undeniable
The big jump, summer camp, Belle-ĂŽle-en-Mer, 1938
Children playing in the surf, Belle-ĂŽle-en-Mer, 1934
Singer-actor Marcel Mouloudji, summer camp, Belle-ĂŽle-en-Mer, 1938 0
Despite his leftist sympathies, Jamet’s photographs were, in the main, refreshingly nonpolitical; the only “ism” they evoked was humanism.
emotional power and empathy. He formed close relationships with many of those he met through the Belle-Île summer camp and youth hostels, including several who would become famous, like the jazz guitarist Henri Crolla, singer-actor Marcel Mouloudji and, most significantly, Dina Vierny, model and muse for the sculptor Aristide Maillol. “Dina and Pierre met in 1934, as both were members of the AEAR choir,” says Corinne. “They rapidly became friends and joined the Youth Hostels movement at the same time. Dina, who sang very well, was integrated into Pierre’s ‘Groupe 18 ans.’ Over the same period she posed for Maillol. The photographs of her taken by Pierre are particularly interesting in that they reveal Dina’s vital energy and the charm, making it easy to understand why Maillol was under her spell. “When Maillol died in 1944, Dina inherited of all of his work, and in 1947 she opened a gallery in Paris. She later established the Musee Maillol, operated by the Fondation Dina Vierny, also in Paris. Pierre and Dina remained friends after the war, and he took numerous
Public demonstration, Paris, February 12, 1938
photographs for catalogs she needed.” Jamet’s images of Vierny and her fellow youth hostellers are also remarkable for their tactile quality, for how vividly they evoke the act of basking in the sun, cavorting in the water, or just feeling the earth beneath one’s feet. To a degree unmatched by his contemporaries, Jamet caught the poetry and spirit in the simple act of being alive. In the process his images allude to the creative and spiritual potential of the human spirit. The collective impact of this body of work is breathtaking. The images take on added poignancy when one considers the storm clouds of global war gathering on the horizon. In 1939, Jamet was mobilized as a radio operator in the French Navy. After being demobilized, he was able to earn a little money with his camera, mainly by doing children’s portraits in their homes. But overall it was not a financially comfortable time. Nor was it always socially comfortable, according to Corinne, because, unlike some of his friends (including Dina Vierny), he did not join the French Resistance, owing perhaps to his pacific, nonviolent character. In 1942, with the war still underway, Jamet put his photography to the side and joined “Les compagnons de route” (later called Les Quatre Barbus), a French vocal group founded in 1938. With each member wearing beards and singing an eclectic repertoire inclusive of cabaret, anarchist and children’s songs, the group achieved wide popularity after the war, touring throughout France and abroad for two decades and recording numerous albums and singles. Jamet took photographs in the various countries the group appeared—Sweden, Germany, Madagascar, Iran, Portugal, et. al.— always focusing on small but revealing moments in the lives of regular people. “My father’s career as a musician had a double-edged effect on his photography,” notes Corinne. “In the first place, it freed him from worrying about money and allowed him to pursue and capture the beautiful according to his own lights. At the same time, it kept him from wanting or seeking notice of his photographic achievements.” When Les Quatres Barbus disbanded in 1969, Jamet resumed professional photography, often taking photos for Vierny’s museum, and began the considerable task of indexing and organizing his prints and negatives. He
Fisherman during a flood of the Seine, Paris, 1968
Fraternization, liberation of Paris, August 1944
To a degree unmatched by his contemporaries, Jamet caught the poetry and spirit in the simple act of being alive.
never made much effort to publicize his work during his lifetime—excepting a 1991 group exhibition organized by the National Foundation of Photography—even though he was aware that his collection of photos of the Youth Hostels during the Popular Front period was probably the most comprehensive on the subject. Corinne says he referred to his photographs as his “secret garden,” in the sense that no one but himself paid attention to them. Throughout the 1970s and ’80s, Jamet and his wife, Ida Jamet Kliatchko (whom he married in 1948), ran a gift shop on the Île SaintLouis. He also spent more and more time on Belle-Île-en-Mer, where he had purchased a house in 1945, and where he passed away in 2000. One of the notations in the lifelong diary he kept read, “I seem to be chained to this rock. I am in love with this island. It is a homeland for my family and myself.” After his death, with no one to tend his “secret garden,” Jamet’s photographic legacy could easily have been lost to history.
Corinne was initially reluctant to come to terms with his archive, especially as he left no instructions with her on how to manage it. But when she saw the Willy Ronis exhibition at the Hôtel de Ville in 2006, which drew enormous crowds for imagery that had much in common with that of her father, she realized the importance of bringing Pierre’s work to public attention. “I was very innocent when I started this undertaking, and had no idea how to achieve it,” she says. “But I gathered information from specialists, and gradually learned how to clean and scan the negatives and make digital prints. The archive is presently in good condition, and comprises approximately 20,000 black-and-white negatives and about 1,000 prints made by my father. “Much of my time is spent preparing images for publication, maintaining a website, managing and curating exhibitions. My feelings are a mix of sadness and joy. I’m happy that the exhibitions are successful, but sad that he is no longer around to enjoy the warm welcome and recognition his photos receive from the public.” Asked to describe how her father’s work stood out from his contemporaries, she says, “I think the difference lies precisely in the fact that Pierre Jamet did not shoot as a ‘professional’ photographer. Even if the photographic styles of Ronis, Doisneau and Jamet are definitely similar, Pierre Jamet’s work has its own merits and originality. His best pictures are joyful and disciplined, exuberant and controlled.” “If I am so fond of photography, aside from the emotional and formal pleasures, it must be the desire to make the ephemeral last, to salvage the moment.” — Pierre Jamet
Addendum All images copyright the estate of Pierre Jamet ©. To see more of his work, or to order his books “1936 Au-devant de la vie” and “Belle-Île-en-Mer 1930-1960”, visit www.pierrejamet-photos.com. An exhibition of Jamet’s photographs will be on view at the Musee de la mine in Cagnac, France through December. Corinne Jamet is presently working to organize exhibitions of her father’s work in the United States. She can be contacted through the website.
Jazz guitarist Henri Crolla, summer camp, Belle-ĂŽle-en-Mer, 1938
Trio of youthful campers, 1937
Two brothers, youth hostel, Villeneuve-sur-Auvers, 1937 0
Female collaborator with shaved head, liberation of Paris, 1944
Postman crossing the Kerel Valley, Belle-ĂŽle-en-Mer, c. 1930
Dina Vierny, summer camp, Chalifert, 1936
Rodney Smith: Elegance and Humor Stuart I. Frolick
Rodney Smith, who passed away last year at 68, left a 40-year legacy in photography that delights our eyes, brings smiles to our lips and a sense of wonder at his singular achievement. Typical of the photographs for which Smith is best known is this one: A man in an overcoat and fedora is photographed from behind, standing on the top step of a ladder that leans against a leaf-covered wall. With his hands clasped behind him, the man looks at something (or nothing) on the other side of the wall.
The design and symmetry of the composition are critical, as is the flat light. The focus is razor-sharp, the moment, perfectly still. The man’s body language is relaxed, as though he has all day for gazing. The picture not only amuses, it manages to make a statement about gardens, ladders, leaf-covered walls and, through the human gesture of the hand clasp, something about time, human curiosity and the simple pleasure of looking. Humor is especially difficult to achieve in
Rodney Smith, 2015 (photo by Chris Orwig)
still photography. There’s Lartigue, some of Doisneau, the witty Elliott Erwitt and maybe Wegman. Funny photographs are rare because there’s no pause between the setup and punch line. Print cartoons need that perceptual pause between visual image and unpredictable written caption. In a photograph everything is visible all at once, at first glance; there’s no element of surprise. In the history of photography there are humorous moments captured, such as Ruth Orkin’s little girl cheating at cards on the steps of a New York City apartment building, and Doisneau’s couple at Romi’s Paris shop window. In those cases the humor is in our recognition of universal human behavior. In hundreds upon hundreds of instances, in images that look both preconceived and carefully designed, Smith, who claimed he did neither, took models and minimal props to pre-scouted locations, and created his magic. Some of his pictures suggest Buster Keaton’s deadpan, Harold Lloyd’s dandy, Magritte’s sense of the absurd, Seurat’s people in the park and Steinberg’s captionless everyman conundrums. No doubt that Smith was aware of all of these artists, but in photography, he was an original. Born to a wealthy and imposing New York fashion industry executive—a father he felt he could never please—Smith said that he became a photographer to get as far away
A.J. Looking Over Ivy-Covered Wall, Harriman, NY, 1994
Some of his pictures suggest Buster Keaton’s deadpan, Harold Lloyd’s dandy, Magritte’s sense of the absurd, Seurat’s people in the park, and Steinberg’s captionless everyman conundrums.
from his father’s world as possible. After earning his Bachelor’s degree in Divinity at the University of Virginia, he attended Yale’s vaunted MFA program in photography (then headed by Walker Evans) in the early 1970s. Though he was not an Evans acolyte, the maestro’s influence is evident in the work Smith produced after leaving Yale. In his escape from privilege he set out for points unknown, traveling for years, seeking to understand the experience of others through his chosen medium. A fellowship to work in Israel resulted in Smith’s first book, In the Land of Light, and he also lived and worked in Wales, Haiti and the American South. Smith portrayed the “common” people he encountered with an uncommon touch. His socially conscious, penetrating portraits express the nobility we’ve come to accept as a given of the genre, but Smith’s sense of light, scale and composition, and his ability to reveal character, make these early portraits stronger than most of their kind. What came next could have proved disastrous, but didn’t. Instead, it gave Smith a career. Upon his return to New York he landed his first major commercial assignment: a
Man on Ladder in Times Square, New York, NY, 1999
series of executive portraits for H.J. Heinz, a daunting task for any young professional. Smith approached these captains of industry just as he had the coal miners in Wales—he humanized them. He attributed his successful results, first to his comfort level with these men—they were no different than the business associates of his father’s that he’d known as a child—and second, to his surprise, he found that he liked many of these CEOs, some of whom became his friends. Smith got beyond the formal pose and trappings of privilege and power, and created penetrating, intimate portraits. His photographs of women tell a different story. In these pictures Smith fulfilled contemporary fashion and style assignments with his personal visions of the Feminine Muse. An unabashedly old-school romantic, his drive was to capture Her essence and ethereality. Feminist ideology and critique of the male gaze must be at least temporarily suspended to appreciate this body of Smith’s work. His muse is delicate, fluid and always beyond reach. One senses that rather than telling his models what to do, Smith paid close attention to what they did. While these alluring images reflect the formal photographic trends of their time, they will also endure as timeless homages to his feminine ideal. Smith’s career flourished as he began to develop his signature style. He was hired by clients such as Neiman Marcus, Ralph Lauren and The New York Times, among many others, to solve a wide range of commercial, editorial and advertising assignments. His work was sophisticated and worldly, accented by international flavors—perhaps most prominently, British for the men and French for the women. According to his wife, graphic designer Leslie Smolan, Smith had a complex personality; he was “a worrier, a nervous Woody Allen type—always seeing the glass half-empty, yet with a big smile on his face.” By phone from the home she shared with Smith for the past 30 years in Snedens Landing, New York, Smolan continues: “Rodney was the classic outsider. He never wanted to be like anyone else….The people who hired him and let Rodney do his own thing got the best results. Regardless of the assignment, he was always making his own pictures, always in black and white, always on film, always with available
Elena and Jessy at Birdhouse, Snedens Landing, NY, 1999
Skyline, Hudson River, NY, 1995
Two Women in Black, Long Island, NY, 1992
“Rodney was the classic outsider. He never wanted to be like anyone else.”
light, and he was best when given openended themes, such as “The Lines” [a 1995 New York Times Magazine assignment] that gave free reign to his imagination. For that one he shot skylines, hemlines, airlines, etc.” Of Smith’s now-famous figures in landscapes, Smolan says, “He was more interested in the body language of real people than he was in fashion and models.” Smith’s working process, she says, “was one of spontaneity and discovery. When scouting a location, he spent very little time there. He didn’t take Polaroids. On the day of the shoot, he’d just start moving and suddenly stop when he’d found the right spot; using the environment as a studio, editing with light. He’d use his intuition about proportion and scale to feel ‘it’ when things were in sync. The pressure of the shoot actually made Rodney relax; no matter how many people were on the set, or how big the production, he was calm behind the camera and totally in control.” Smith had a deep appreciation for things well-crafted, whether it was clothing, tools or architecture; “things that took time to build piece by piece,” says Smolan. “He wasn’t into immediate gratification. He chose antique glass for his windows, hired masons from Ireland to plaster his walls instead of using
sheetrock and had paint applied with a brush, not a roller. It wasn’t about status,” she says, “it was about quality, precision and attention to detail.” Smith’s books reflect all of those values. Among them is his 1993 collaboration with Smolan, The Hat Book, a perfectly balanced showcase of photographs, text, design and printing. In 2005, he published a hardbound, Smyth-sewn 424-page self-promotion, with a tongue-in-cheek cover price of $95. Smith and designer David Meredith divided his most iconic images into 21 chapters, each one titled with the name of a great book. From the compendium’s preface: This cleverly designed book’s most enduring joy resides in its ability to provide readymade images capable of conveying innumerable ideas and feelings—everything from the delightfully decorative to the suggestively religious, from cunningly whimsical to sincerely surreal. That clarity and self-confidence is also evident in the retrospective of his work presented last year at B&H (it’s posted on YouTube). Relaxed and on point, Smith matter-of-factly takes the audience through the highlights of his career, sharing stories and images, including photographs made 30 years prior that remained among his favorites: a moody land-
Twins in Tree, Snedens Landing, NY, 1999
Men with Boxes on Head, Brunswick, GA, 2001
Collin with Magnifying Glass, Alberta, Canada, 2004
Reed Balancing on Top of Topiary, Longwood Gardens, PA, 2013
Man with Feuilloley Clock, New Haven, CT, 2003
“...But somehow the whole range of human experience, ranging from anger to joy, fear to happiness, etc., is an acceptable and downright positive attribute in my pictures.”
scape in Wales, a Cubist composition made in a French kitchen, and a forest scene that took hours for him to find just the right angle from which to shoot. Watching Smith in the B&H video, there is no indication that illness would cut his life short. The last few images screened come as a surprise, and leave us wanting more: his muse reimagined in sensual, saturated color. In his blog, The End Stops Here, Smith shares publicly everything from philosophical and psychological insights to anecdotes about celebrities, and, once a year, an interview with himself. His posts provide intimate glimpses into the less-secure aspects of his personality. “Rodney’s struggle was to feel accomplished,” says Smolan. Two excerpts from the blog: 12/3/12 …But somehow the whole range of human experience, ranging from anger to joy, fear to happiness, etc., is an acceptable and downright positive attribute in my pictures. It is nothing to be fearful of. It represents what it means to be a small person in a very large universe and one’s reaction to forces much
larger than ourselves. How could one not be anxious, as we are finite, small creatures, surrounded by a large emptiness? People seem to need some resolution to this quandary. I stand at the threshold, where fear cannot and perhaps should not be eliminated. Yet unfortunately, I cannot accept my own personal failing in my dealings with people. I am critical and at times destructive. As a photographer I succeed, as a person I am prone to constant failure. 3/4/13 One of my worst nightmares is of me standing with a group of other men, completely naked in front of a row of women. We have nothing but ourselves to share. We have no houses, cars, money, power, etc., to offer, only ourselves. I wake from this dream terrified that no one would choose me. This is how I stand before you in my pictures, completely vulnerable and naked, with a terrible fear, yet a small hope that in the end, despite all my failings you could still find a way to love me simply for who I am. Why Smith found ladders and umbrellas so amusing remains a mystery. Maybe it’s because umbrellas can only protect us from so much, and ladders, well, those are always accidents just waiting to happen. Addendum All images courtesy of Rodney Smith. See more of his work at rodneysmith.com, and read his blog The End Starts Here at rodneysmith.com/blog. He is represented by galleries in Europe, Asia and the United States, including the Fahey Klein Gallery (Los Angeles) and Robert Klein Gallery (Boston). His work is on public view at the Mjellby Konstmuseum in Halmstad, Sweden through January 28, 2018 and the Smithsonian Institution Studio Tour in May 2018. Watch the B&H retrospective video on his life and work at: bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/tip s-and-solutions/photographs-rodney-smith1970-2016.
Three Men with Shears no. 1, Reims, France, 1997
Laura on Top of Boat, Lake Placid, NY, 2006
Kelsey Balancing on Tightrope, Amenia, NY, 2013
Woman Running Through Doorways, Pound Ridge, NY, 2006
“These images deepen an understanding of myself and allowed me to make peace with things from the past.”
Fact File Amy Kanka Even Yuhuda, Israel amykankaphotography.com email@example.com 12 x 12 inch prints are available in editions of 10 for $750.
Amy Kanka Portfolio Contest Winner
Amy Kanka led a totally invested career for 25+ years as an executive with a high-tech firm. Her distinguished accomplishments spelled out a future of financial security and a lifestyle designed by her own choices. All these indicators seemed on track until the day her position was eliminated. Confronting a midlife career crisis of this magnitude might derail most ordinary professionals, but for Kanka this externally imposed circumstance proved an answer to questions that dwelled subconsciously for many years; suddenly a new landscape of unexplored options commanded attention. It was akin to flipping a switch to “on,” giving Kanka the opportunity to embrace the new void. Prior activities associated with linear thinking, facts and logic transitioned into a right-brained strategy emphasizing intuition, imagination and visualization of feelings. The liberation was exhilarating and intimidating as she browsed through the precious family photographs she had scanned prior to arriving in California from Tel Aviv two years earlier. “At first I was experimenting with different ways of layering and understanding this puzzle of assorted images. I remember the moment that I resolved ‘Present Absence.’ The little boy on the tricycle is my dad, with whom I had a very loving relationship. I layered a digital image of specular reflections on the ocean. It created a physical path of light connecting ‘now and then.’ I knew a visual shape to my feelings of loss and longing had reappeared.” Inspired by Sally Mann’s Southern Landscapes and Nadav Kander’s Yangtze images, Kanka connected immediately to nature “to work through emotions that are at the very core of what drives me to create.” With the body of work entitled Between Here and Then she reinterprets her family album featuring her grandparents and parents “as a response to my longing to connect with family.” Photographer Joyce Tenneson identifies this pursuit: “If you go back to your roots, if you mine that inner territory, you can bring out something that is indelibly you and authentic—like your thumbprint.” Kanka’s family album helped define the influence her
ancestors played in shaping her identity. Marianne Hirsch’s book Family Frames, in part, addresses the complexity of the photographic family album—specifically those related to the Holocaust—as a source of unanticipated emotions affecting succeeding generations of Jewish families. Hirsch examines Art Spiegelman’s Maus, Roland Barthe’s Camera Lucida and Susan Sontag’s On Photography to further clarify this “syndrome” of surviving family members and the web of generational issues that often reveal themselves with an ambiguity of darkness, victimization and post-traumatic stress. Hirsch identifies this phenomenon as postmemory, ”a powerful and particular form of memory because its connection to its object or source is mediated not through recollection, but through an imaginative investment and creation.” The family album helps define interpersonal connections and historical relationships among individuals who, in many instances, never had opportunities to meet one another. The family album is a singular photographic tradition completely unlike the written or spoken word. The photograph and its meaning are implicit clues to unraveling history. With each candid moment categorized and memorialized, the viewer is provided a deeper understanding of the whole (the family) becoming so much more than the sum of its parts (the individual). Kanka sees the direct connection between the start of this project with her relocation to Southern California a few years ago and her longing to return to family in Israel. The integration of past and present creates a vision of nostalgia, revelations and communication that becomes part of visualizing the deepest recesses of her emotional self. “These images deepen an understanding of myself and allowed me to make peace with things from the past….and to realize that some people, though gone, continue to be part of my life today and their stories [continue] to play a part in the future for all of my family.” — Steven A. Heller
All that Remains, Santa Monica, CA, 2016
Present Absence, Santa Monica, CA, 2016
The Ticking of the Clock, Santa Monica, CA, 2016
Through Your Eyes, Santa Monica, CA, 2016
The Piano Lesson, Santa Monica, CA, 2016
Robert Hewgley Single Image Winner CITYSCAPE/STREET
Robert Hewgley Round Rock, TX hewgleyphotography. com firstname.lastname@example.org
Times Square Nite I, New York City, 2014
Taking photos in Times Square is like shooting a fast-action sports event: everything you see changes in a split-second. On the night I made this image I found myself observing, framing and re-framing. And lighting? Talk about extremes. No such thing as subtle grades along the black-to-white spectrum 0
when immersed in the intensity of Times Square lights. So, after settling on an area where I wanted to focus my attention, I shot five frames and continued my night walk. I thought that I might just have tamed a little bit of the chaos by composing order between competing, disparate parts.
Published on Mar 12, 2018
Published on Mar 12, 2018
This issue includes: The lyrical and inspiring work of Pierre Jamet, one of France’s most overlooked social documentary photographers. • The...