Klara Johanna Michel Dรกniel Kovalovszky Tamara Reynolds Romano Riedo Jacob Hessler Tomer Ifrah
Issue 8 Spring 2017 Spring 2017
Spring 2017 Issue 8 4
4 10 16 20
Dániel Kovalovszky’s Search for Solitude
Nouveau Icons: The Photographs of Klara Johanna Michel
A Changing Sense of Self
Tamara Reynolds: Southern Stories
Time and Tides in Jacob Hessler’s Rising Times
Roger Thompson Book Review: Akito Tsuda: Tom Robin Titchener
Tomer Ifrah on the Moscow Metro
Romano Riedo Documents Life in
Beyond the Bookshelves: An Interview
In Context: Camera Man David Rachels
Diana H. Bloomfield
with Tim Whelan
Founder/Editor-in-Chief: Senior Editor: Staff Editor: Design:
Kat Kiernan Roger Thompson W.G. Beecher Expand Creative Group
Publisher: Don’t Take Pictures 129 Joralemon St. Brooklyn, NY 11201
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My earliest photographs were made on the drive home from my grandparents’ house when I was 9 years old. They had gifted me a Pentax K1000 in a crumbling leather case, but no film. I sat in the backseat making imaginary photographs of the New England coast, clicking the shutter and flipping the lever that had no film to advance. The absence of film didn’t matter—it was enough just to look at the world through the viewfinder, discovering new ways of seeing that brought the otherwise mundane highway into focus for what felt like the first time. The act of photographing can be as important as the resulting images. Watching the world take shape through the ground glass, screen, or viewfinder, the photographers in this issue embrace the act of looking. Their images tell the stories of their travels, homelands, subjects, and ideologies. But it is for the love of looking that we are able to experience the world through their eyes. — Kat Kiernan
Bergbauer Herger Toni und sein Hund, Urnerboden Romano Reido 1996
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Search for Solitude
Frozen Flowers, Csevharaszt, Hungary
Green Bushes, Near Lake Balaton, Hungary 2012
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he images of Budapestbased photographer Dániel Kovalovszky occupy a quietly tense middle ground between somber, melancholic meditation and creeping conceptual dissonance. According to Kovalovszky, one of the necessary characteristics of a creative person is a degree of silence; “Loud and ostentatious people have no possibility to pay attention to the world around themselves.” There is an implicit stillness to a photograph, a moment sliced out of time and held
in perpetuity. This stillness becomes, in Kovalovszky’s images, a compelling vacillation between liberating and suffocating; between the serenity of the natural world and becoming lost to the wild. Kovalovszky’s recent body of work, Green Silence, is a collection of cooltoned landscapes each depicting a tight, rigidly-controlled look at what seems to be an infinite sea of trees. The images each display a striking internal consistency of palette and texture. Clear, even undergrowth
After Flooding, God, Hungary 2014
surrounds trees of uniform size and species, each bearing the same growth patterns and the same accretions of moss and lichen. The uniformity of this vegetation means that each forest is presented as a nearly seamless aggregate with no end in sight. The evenness and stillness of Kovalovszky’s images gives them a quality that feels outside of time, a quality that is aided by the infinite depth of field and the lack of a discrete visual subject. It is as though
these woods were a space that might exist after humanity finally drifts off this planet. A space without people is a space without judgment, without sound and without warmth. The forest is depicted as an implacable oasis of silence. The trees fill the frame almost totally and stretch into the distance, an almost aggressive assertion of their primacy. Green Silence took its initial inspiration from Kovalovszky’s childhood hikes in the woods with his parents, specifically the dense pine forests
surrounding Slovakia’s High Tatra mountains near its border with Poland. To a child’s eyes the forest rendered the world opaque and endless, simultaneously calming and frightening in its totality. Kovalovszky felt the woodland energy to be primal, yet reassuring. Now as an adult, he has returned to these woods to revisit this timelessness and render it in his photographs. Kovalovszky’s photographic process involves an examination of what he views to be problems in his life, with
Red Bushes, Near Nadap, Hungary 2012
the ensuing body of work existing as both an answer to this problem and the question itself. A prior body of work dealing with mortality, titled Insiders, presented a series of portraits of people who were either close to dying or who had had a near-death experience. Dreamy and flooded with white light, they appear to be pleasant, warm images from the afterlife. Trepidation about what comes after we die is soothed by the comforting gaze of one who has experienced it. The problem Kovalovszky looked to examine with Green Silence was one
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of urban existence. The city exists as a place of disorder and cacophony. Concrete lumps metastasizing for decades, each full to bursting with a swarm of voices. The forest, in his conception, stands counter to this chaos and humanity’s psychic effluvium. The structures of a forest exist wordlessly for their own sake and abide by their own unknowable order. Silence itself can be soothing or threatening. The texture and quality of silence is an elusive subject, especially for photography, and Kovalovszky explores its contours
with aplomb. There is a positive, freeing silence. A silence that heals. This is the silence that is central to Kovalovszky’s intention in creating the work. He means for the images to exist as a refuge from the noise of life and as a touchstone to an essential, inner part of ourselves. He views this silence as “the friendliest and the most tender substance.” It is the silence of the womb, and the silence that existed at the beginning of time. But alongside this silence runs another, a silence of fear and menace. Kovalovszky’s forests stand rigid and linear. These forests are foreign and
Green Silence, Soroksar, Hungary 2011
disorienting, lacking familiar markers or a visible break from the even expanse of vegetation. The array of quiet, impassible trees brings to mind, at least notionally, stories of people becoming lost in the forest. There are centuries of cultural baggage associated with the woods, a good deal of which is ultimately sinister. These connotations do not detract from Kovalovszky’s intentions, but in fact enhance them. When we look at the forests, we know that this is the terrain of the feral mind, not the civilized. Finally, above all else, there is the
silence of the infinite. The void of space, the undersea depths, and the internal infinite of the centered mind span on endlessly, but this is a different embodiment of the infinite. This is an earthly infinite. This is what human endeavors—our cities and our chattering voices—stand in opposition to. It is a primal oblivion that entices as much as it frightens. Could we slough off our sense of self and merge with the natural world? In doing so, we would come to an ultimate silence within ourselves, one that we may find we do not actually want. It is the silence, this earthly oblivion, that tempted Robert Frost when
he wrote, “The woods are lovely dark and deep/but I have promises to keep.” Seeking refuge from the cacophony of the city, Kovalovszky takes us to the edge of this woods, and in doing so, allows us to glimpse this ultimate silence. Oliver Leach is a San Francisco-based artist. He holds an MFA in photography from San Francisco Art Institute and is the man behind the popular Twitter account @BAKKOOONN.
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Nouveau Icons: The Photographs of Klara Johanna Michel
lara Johanna Michel’s photographs verge on the mystical, transcending time and space. Embracing early techniques like Felice Beato’s handapplied color, her portraits reference the early pioneers of photography. Their simplicity is reminiscent of Julia Margaret Cameron’s portraits of women, but with a contemporary twist that reminds us of today’s fashion advertisements. Based in Germany, Michel studied communication design in Munich before she moved her focus to photography, continuing her studies in Berlin. “I started taking pictures playfully. The topics that I was interested in circulated around physical feeling and the dispute of growing up. Even back then, I noticed that I was focusing on the single image rather than on a series.” Michel finds her inspiration in literature, horror movies, video, and above all, music. “Recently I started to compile mix tapes in relation to various images and themes. This connects my passion to music and composition and can be seen as a soundtrack to my images.” Although her images are ostensibly broken into different
Frances Jakubek series, the fluidity between sittings and the time it takes to create individual images all speak with each other and we are able to see her bodies of work as an analogous and ongoing project. It is refreshing to discover a photographer who is not focused on finding the one right word, but the whole paragraph; not the signature image, but addressing the work as a continuous story. Growing up in a small town in Germany, Michel found it difficult to make friends. This isolation, couple with the effects of her religious upbringing, plays a significant role in her work, causing her to find a creative outlet in the church. “I really liked the feeling of the Christian religion, which made me feel small and irrelevant. The dimension of the church, the bloody and cruel imagery, alongside
Michel focuses on the magic and mysticism of finding (or in this case, creating) a higher truth.
the admirable and aureate sound of church music intrigued me; and it was fun to process my impressions and play with it. It may sound foolish but sometimes it makes me feel my place between good and evil.” Michel focuses on the magic and mysticism of finding (or in this case, creating) a higher truth. Through her portraits, she transforms the literal figure into a greater story that encompasses religious art and its portrayal of women. On the surface, a portrait can only tell a portion of the subject’s story. Perhaps we can identify visual clues to place them in a certain region or denote a specific background, but allowing the subject’s essence to exude from their sitting gives them power. Michel works like a sculptor, careful with her time and with her subjects. Her images emphasize the strength of her sitters, allowing them the flexibility to find the right pose, the right gaze, and the correct gesture that will live on far beyond the click of the shutter. An emblem to permanence, she captures her human subjects much like the repeated motif of flowers in her imagery. Providing her subjects with a legacy beyond their own lifetime, she focuses on all things that will fade
All images are untitled, 2015–2016
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away—youth, beauty, a stolen glance, a fleeting gesture. Usually producing only one image per sitting, there is fragility in the capturing of these ephemeral moments. Michel’s use of selective and limited color within the imagery is a strong reminder of the artist’s hand, allowing the viewer to connect with the photograph as an object. She explains that the application of color by hand is an integral part of her process, providing a closer connection to the photographs. After the print is made and hand-colored, she scans the piece into the computer for the next phase of its life. The tangibility of Michel’s work is important. She notes, “The picturesque component comes out of the compulsion of working by hand. The manually added color allows me to rear the portrait subject out of reality. In the future, I will
work more with color film again, but the manual retouching will certainly remain.” The distinctions between temporality and permanence blur when viewing these works. There is a timelessness to her subjects and the way they are portrayed but there is a contemporary slant, referencing fashion photography and giving these young women (for the most part) a higher standing as icons in this new art history. Michel encompasses all stages of art making and has found the direction of her voice. Christian figures in religious icons have long been presented in specific symbolic poses and aesthetics. By photographing contemporary women in a manner that evokes these icons, Michel’s photographs bring these figures into a contemporary context that the viewer can relate to in today’s world. Though, with the
emphasis on fashion and costuming, another conversation arises, speculating on what we hold in higher regard. In an age where we are constantly exposed to high saturation of fashion photography, Michel’s subdued approach allows the viewer to look beyond the articles of clothing worn, inviting the viewer to take a moment and recognize the subjects as part of something holier, something with a greater message to be disseminated.
Frances Jakubek is a lover and supporter of photography. She lives in New York City where she works at Bruce Silverstein Gallery. Jakubek is a resource for working artists and a champion for the photographic medium.
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A Changing Sense of Self Lisa Volpe
t is perhaps atypical to begin this essay with one of the more polarizing trends of our time: the selfie. Selfies are not art, but richly revealing agents of contemporary culture. Selfies and their social media brethren have prompted change in the field of photography, especially contemporary self-portraits. When we look at selfies, we are looking at the beginning of the 21st century. As early as 2004, everyday digital photographers were posting self-portraits labeled as selfies on image sharing sites. But it was the introduction of smartphones—most notably Apple’s iPhone 4 in 2010 with a front-facing camera—that fostered the viral invasion of the selfie. Today, 85% of young adults own smartphones. Social media users upload
Muma Baba and Me from the series Color Falls Down Priya Kambli 2008
Courtesy of the artist Opposite
Pandora from the series House/hold 2011
Hillerbrand+Magsamen Courtesy of the artists 1.8 billion images a day, an estimated 30% of which are selfies. The endlessly multiplying and expanding terrain of the internet reifies an expansive understanding of self-portraits.
cation. In today’s digital age, the selfportrait is best defined as a broad practice of self-analytical image-making or curating rather than a particular subject matter and authorship.
The selfie, the much-maligned synecdoche of the social media craze, represents the prospect that who we are as individuals is a sum total of our public images. Each of our online pictures, tweets, snaps, and posts say something about us. They not only add to our profiles, but to a continuously evolving description of self—defined not only by our visage, but our preferences, political views, vacation destinations, and favorite meals. In the same way, the popular understanding of self-portraiture has moved indefinitely from narrow imagery of the self to broad self-expli-
This new understanding is part of a long history of self-portraiture, one that experienced a paradigm shift with the dawn of photography. The invention of the medium signaled a revolution in visual culture. LouisJacque-Mande Daguerre announced his photographic method—a oneof-a-kind image on a highly polished copper plate—to the French Academy of Sciences in August 1839. In October 1839, American Robert Cornelius made a three-quarter selfportrait outside his family’s Philadelphia lamp and chandelier store using a box fitted with a lens from an opera
glass. In the portrait, Cornelius peers heroically into the camera, holding an even gaze through the exposure— which in the early days of photography ranged from three to 15 minutes. His bold look in the photograph is matched by the proud inscription he included: “The first light Picture ever taken.” Though certainly not the first photograph, it is believed to be the first self-portrait made in the United States. Recently, Cornelius’s photograph has gained new notoriety, now bestowed with the title of “the first selfie” on webpages across the internet. Though perhaps not accurate from a historical or technological standpoint, the popular understanding of this photograph is now linked to selfies. This re-framing is notable. It demonstrates that the definition of the “selfie” has expanded and now includes a wide historical range of self-portraits. New trends have long reframed photography’s history, styles, and genres. Consider the pictorialist movement through the eyes of John Szarkowski—influential Museum of Modern Art curator and director of the photography department for almost 30 years. Szarkowski’s particular interest in the artist’s point of view is evident in the titles of many of his catalogues—The Photographer’s Eye (1966), Looking at Photographs (1973), William Eggleston’s Guide (1976)—all of which position the viewer in line with the photographer’s vision. Working amid the 1960s and 70s boom in photographic education, Szarkowski’s curatorial mission was to solidify photography’s place among the modern arts by emphasizing the unique vision of the artist. He claimed photography as a medium in the strictest sense, a medium
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of the artist’s subjectivity. Within this new conceptual frame, Szarkowski looked to photography’s history and suggested that all pictorialist photography was self-referential claiming that pictorialist photographs mirrored the unique vision of the artist/ maker. Though today, this analysis has become standard, it was Szarkowski’s framework re-applied to a past style that altered our popular understanding of pictorialism. Like Szarkowski’s reconsideration of pictorialist photography, selfies have changed the way we understand a whole history of self-portraits. While it is evident that selfies have changed the way we understand photography’s past, how are they shaping its present? The work of fine art photographers Priya Kambli and artistic duo Hillerbrand and Magsamen represent notable approaches to self-portraiture in our selfie age. The work of these artists can be defined as self-portraiture, though neither conforms to the older definition of the term—a portrait of oneself, done by oneself. Their artwork, instead, exemplifies the “self-portrait” of the digital age: self-analytical image-making and/or curating. That does not imply that contemporary photographers fully embrace all aspects of social media. As theorist Abigail Solomon-Godeau noted, “art photography has always defined itself…in opposition to the normative uses and boundless ubiquity of all other photography.” Though they adopt the new expansiveness of the category of self-portraiture, these artists simultaneously reject certain elements typical of social media, challenging it through their process and products. Their resulting self-portraits characterize this genre in the wake of the selfie trend.
The work of Priya Kambli is a beguiling mix of her own acceptance and rejection of social media trends. Her work—with its combination of found and constructed imagery—demonstrates the expanding definition of self-portraiture in our digital age. Yet, in a digital world in which family albums have been replaced with digital ones and zeros, Kambli’s work insists upon the importance of the hand-made and the hand-held. Born in India, Kambli moved to the United States in 1993 after the death of her parents. She notes that at 18, she arrived in a new country with nothing but a 20-pound suitcase. In that case were family photographs and several family heirlooms, too precious to be left behind. Much of Kambli’s work combines those well-worn family mementos with her own contemporary photographs. The collaged collection is then re-photographed, and presented in seamless, panoramic format. Kambli’s self-portrait constructions rarely give us a good view of the artist, if they include her at all. Instead, in her series Color Falls Down, Kambli represents her identity through the juxtaposition of images—only some of which she authored—and challenges the viewer to construct her character through their related meanings. In “Muma Baba and Me” an heirloom photo of the artist’s parents is centrally placed. On either side, Kambli herself is depicted, though her face remains out of view. On the left, she wears the same cuff that her mother wears in the central photo. On the right, she presents her ear in comparison to her father’s, turning her head like his. We are tempted to understand which images Kambli’s hand created. Yet it is the overall combination of imagery
matic style of typical of commercial images, to spotlight simple moments and situations. The titles in Hillerbrand and Magsamen’s series reference well-known myths and legends, thereby aligning the everyday with the epic. In “Pandora,” the construction of a ready-to-assemble chest of drawers unleashes trouble on the artists and becomes a struggle of epic proportions. The box has consumed two figures and their arms and legs jut out of the cardboard at humorous angles. The seriousness of their execution contrasts with the lighthearted nature of their subject matter. Ultimately, this combination of subject and approach alludes to greater meanings within our own everyday experiences.
that best exemplifies the artist and describes her character. Through her careful juxtaposition of images, Kambli suggests the correlation between generations and cultures while the panoramic format of the work emphasizes the ideas of time and lineage. Though at first glance, the eye-catching images of Houston-based artistic duo Hillerbrand and Magsamen seem far removed from the realm of social media, it was the overwhelming abundance of digital media that inspired the artists’ series. They note, “As a society, we haven’t lost that ability today to see the monumental in the mundane, but because of the speed, volume and quantity of what
is given to us, we really have to take an active role in fleshing it out.” Their self-proclaimed self-portrait series House/hold includes more than images of the couple. Like an online profile, their possessions, their children, their spaces, and their dogs are all bound up in this work. Social media has made it acceptable to document every mundane aspect of our lives, presenting it to others digitally. In their series, the duo questions this trend. Does our constant documentation and sharing celebrate or obscure our daily lives? In House/hold the couple creates mountains out of everyday molehills, adapting the hyper-pigmented, dra-
Photography, perhaps more than any other medium, reflects every aspect of our culture, and thus changes with it. In 2010, David Colman, a critic for the New York Times, noted that the selfie is so common that “it is changing photography itself.” The inescapable selfie trend has altered how we understand the medium’s past and has changed our definition of selfportraiture in the present. Selfies, it seems, have changed photography’s sense of self. Lisa Volpe is the Associate Curator of Photography at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
Self-portrait Robert Cornelius 1839
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
Woman in Hat at 72nd Iroquois Steeplechase, Nashville,TN 2013
Southern Stories Sarah Coleman
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hat comes to mind when you think about the American South? Do you contemplate dark things (slavery, gothically dysfunctional families) or something more comforting (country music, biscuits and gravy)? Do you envisage sweet tea on a porch, or guns and pickup trucks? Are your images based on specific memories, or well-worn stereotypes? For Tamara Reynolds, the answer is easy: “Home.” Raised in Nashville, Tennessee, Reynolds currently lives a
Lawn Care Guy with Cigarette, Nashville,TN 2012
mile away from the house where she was born, and her feelings about the South pervade her work. “I’ve been all over the world, and the American South is inviting and playful, but of course there’s some darkness to it, too,” she says. Even for a Southerner, though, it can take a while to understand the fragrant stew of history, culture, and politics that unites this disparate bundle of states. “You have to get comfortable with being Southern, and you do that by learning,” she says. In 2011, Reynolds decided to em-
bark on a personal project that would allow her to delve deeply into her heritage and learn about her fellow Southerners. Five years later, Southern Route has seen her traversing more than ten states, driving back roads and making portraits of people she met along the way. “It was my attempt to come to terms with the history and reality of Southern culture,” she says. “Where it all came from, what it is.”
subjects, cutting across racial and socioeconomic lines. A black gardener and a society woman at a steeplechase are presented as equally complex individuals; young people who in some circles might be written off as poor, uneducated and insignificant come across as thoughtful and sympathetic. In this way, the work is disarming: it sneaks under the skin of our preconceptions, dismantling long-held stereotypes of the South.
Looking at the images in Southern Route, what comes across immediately is Reynolds’ empathy for her
For Reynolds, the intimacy of the work is an all-important step to healing the South’s divisions. Before
Mississippi Burning Field, Clarksdale, MS 2012
even beginning Southern Route, she started reading about the history of the region, coming to terms with her responsibility as a white, middle class woman. Though her Irish Catholic parents were liberals who supported Civil Rights, “just by being in the South there’s a degree to which you’re prejudiced,” she says. For example, in her Catholic school there wasn’t much talk about the Civil War. “We didn’t delve into it. There was just this attitude of, that’s over now and it’s not an issue any more.”
“Let’s give space to those who are in pain, and just acknowledge it before we do anything else.”
But after reading books like James Allen’s Without Sanctuary, a photographic history of lynching, she realized that the scars of slavery and Jim Crow ran deep. It is a legacy that can perhaps only be remediated in tiny, incremental steps—the first of which, Reynolds believes, is to listen
to people. “Let’s just stop and listen, instead of trying to deflect, disregard, or fix,” she says. “Let’s give space to those who are in pain, and just acknowledge it before we do anything else.”
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No doubt, Reynolds’ commitment to this process comes from being steeped in the South all her life. Though many young photographers go to New York and Los Angeles to try to make a name for themselves, Reynolds never wanted to leave Nashville. As a result, she cut her teeth by photographing country music stars and working for Reader’s Digest—which sent her to small towns all over America, giving her a knack for getting ordinary people to open up. “I’m just a short Southern blonde lady, I’m not very intimidating,” she says with a laugh. “Photography is an invitation card into people’s lives, and usually they want to share with you.” For Southern Route, she started in her own back yard—literally. The first portrait in the series features the African-American man who cuts
Man with Oxygen Tank, Cisco, GA 2012
Reynolds’ grass, who exudes sophistication and soul. Another image, of a waiter at the Nashville institution Jimmy Kelly’s Steakhouse, speaks volumes about the South’s history: dressed in a white jacket, the dignified old black man stands in front of a gilt-framed painting of a white patriarch. It’s a picture that “reminds me of all the people who serve, but are never acknowledged,” Reynolds says. Building on these home-city portraits, Reynolds then embarked on road trips where she followed her nose and stopped when she saw something intriguing—like the old man on oxygen selling peanuts on his front porch in north Georgia, who told her that he had been given four months to live. She also sought out scenes that had symbolic resonance, like the “controlled burn” in Missis-
sippi in spring to clear fields. “They’re burning the fields to prepare them for planting, it’s standard—but I was thinking of that movie Mississippi Burning,” she says. “It’s a smoldering fire that’s not being looked at. For me, that’s symbolic.” At heart, Reynolds says that she is a collector—gathering people and their stories—but she is clearly also a preservationist. A powerful force driving her is the knowledge that the South’s special character is ebbing away, as quirky old places are bulldozed in favor of homogenous strip malls and housing developments. “The South is becoming whitewashed and generalized,” she says. “But it’s the old places that have the ambience.” One such place is Miss Kitty’s, a
Nashville bar in a poor black neighborhood near downtown Nashville, where Reynolds was welcomed on a Sunday night. A warm, soul-filled neighborhood hub where people gather to dance and swap stories, the bar looks as if it has not changed much since the 1950s—but, as Reynolds notes, it is a dying breed. “It breaks my heart that a place like that might be torn down soon,” she says. “I want to record those things before they disappear.” Sarah Coleman is the author of the photography blog The Literate Lens. Her writings on photography, film, and books have been featured in a variety of publications including Art News, Salon, and Photo District News. She lives in Manhattan with her husband and two children.
Robert and Jimmy Kelly’s Restaurant, Nashville,TN 2014
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Macy on Tire Swing, Kingston,TN 2011
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Time and Tides in Jacob Hessler’s Rising Times Roger Thompson
he sign reads “Danger.” A bird perches on top of it, apparently unaware of the dire warning beneath its feet. Around the bird and its sign, endless, placid water stretches from one edge of the photograph to the other, a thin horizon in the distance and clouds mounding even further, almost out of sight. What the danger is, and how it could exist in a scene of such calm, smooth serenity, requires an act of the imagination. It requires the viewer to remember well worn, but often sterile, narratives of destructive climate change and inevitable rising sea levels. With that memory comes realization that the danger, which once seemed so distant, is all around us. Jacob Hessler’s series Rising Times brings to bear the power of this troubling false serenity. In “Danger, Georgia,” the peaceful seascape is disturbed by a warning—a literal sign—rising up from the water. The absurdity of the bird, quite at home and entirely nonplussed, drives home the commentary that the danger will not affect all life the same way. It also suggests that no matter what we think climate change might be, we are bound to underestimate or misunderstand the signs of warning.
Danger, Georgia 2014
Hessler, who grew up in Camden, Maine, has always had deep affection for the natural
Vacant Stilts, Louisiana 2015
Littoral Capacity, Florida 2015
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Sea Wall, Marthaâ€™s Vineyard 2015
The Old Road Home, Florida 2015
world. After a childhood in the Maine woods, he moved west to attend university in Montana. After a couple of years there, he headed to Santa Barbara, where he studied photography, working under Jill Greenberg on celebrity photoshoots. The work with Greenberg was intense, exciting, and formative, but ultimately, for someone like Hessler, it was also soul crushing. Even the perfect climate of southern California and the endless sunny skies of LA grew monotonous and heavy to him. “I missed seeing a cloud,” he says. Hessler continued this peripatetic life, moving to New York City to work in graphic design and then briefly to San Francisco before returning home to Maine. The move seemed providential. A house near his parents became available for sale, and on the day he signed his mortgage to purchase it, he also met his future wife. Hessler’s return to Maine brought with it not only new focus on photography, but renewed dedication to exploring changes to the environment. As a child, he spent hours upon hours on the water, sailing around a small island where his family had a cottage. Accessible only by boat, the island and the sea around it were wonderlands for an eight-yearold boy, and when he returned home after years of traveling the country, he found renewed energy to not only experience the wonders of nature, but to help others understand what he was witnessing. Rising Times bears witness to the dramatic changes occurring in coastal North America. Hessler prints each image at a large size in order to provide the viewer with a sense of the scale of problems created by rising
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sea levels. Printed on aluminum, the images are at once durable and approachable. Unmediated by matting, framing or glass, when the viewer gets close to them, everything else around them disappears. It is just the sea, the landscape, and a view of the rising waters.
would power is only a memory. That the viewer of the photograph is unable to see the ocean only reinforces Hessler’s point that our fantasy life of coastal living may now be obliterated by something that seems to exist in some unseeable distance, but is in fact present and powerful.
In some images, the impact is both mysterious and unsettling. In “Sea Wall, Martha’s Vineyard,” a broad, cloudy sky weighs heavily on a distant sea. In the foreground, a road cut bank turns to the left. The angle of the road disrupts the horizon line of the sea, cutting into the blue, but the sea has obviously left its mark by apparently collapsing part of the concrete retaining wall. An exposed butt of the wall, rough and crumbling, undermines any sense that the human creation is smooth, precise, or perfect. The horizon line and the wall are so low in the frame that it disorients and unsettles, as though the viewer can’t quite surmount the concrete edifice to see the sea rolling beyond. Despite extensive open space in the image, it is remarkably claustrophobic.
The folly of human persistence in the face of destruction emerges in images like “Littoral Capacity, Florida” and “The Old Road Home, Florida.” Despite clear evidence of rising seas, we continue to build, and build along beaches. Still, Hessler is keenly interested in beauty, walking a line between commentary and aesthetics. In doing so, he offers not so much a vision of destruction, but a vision of a natural world whose processes persist despite human desire. Nature adjusts to our incursions, frequently unpredictably, and changes our world precisely because we initiated a chain of actions whose end points we couldn’t imagine. Hessler’s photographs startle us with their power to destroy our creations, even while they remind us of the persistent beauty of natural systems that we have yet to fully understand.
Other images convey a sense of loss by showing the effects of rising water. In “Vacant Stilts, Louisiana”, the lush green of a lawn and the waving of high sea grasses in the background only serve to highlight the absence of a house. Foundation columns rise up out of the green, and stringers stretch from column to column, reminders of the structure they once supported. Off center to the left, a staircase to nowhere rises up from the edge of a concrete foundation. They end in empty space, still below the line of tall grasses in the background. Power lines stretch overhead, but the house which they
Roger Thompson is Senior Editor for Don’t Take Pictures. His features have appeared in The Atlantic.com, Quartz, Raw Vision, The Outsider, and many others. He currently resides on Long Island, NY, where he is a professor at Stony Brook University.
Opposite from top
This Ride Won’t Last, New Jersey 2015
Buried Treasure, Florida 2015
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Akito Tsuda: Tom Self-published, 96 pp., $36 USD
everal years ago I happened across the Japanese photographer Akito Tsuda. Before returning to his native Japan, Tsuda had spent a number of years in the early 1990s studying in Chicago. Living in the neighborhood of Pilsen, he integrated himself into the community and amassed a wonderful archive of images showing the day-to-day life of neighborhood residents. I was taken with a group of pictures that Tsuda had separated from the main body of work, entitled simply, Tom. Now, four years after I first saw the series, Tom has been released as a book, Tsuda’s second self-published volume looking at the people of Pilsen, Chicago. This beautiful and moving collection of images takes one man (Tom) as its subject, and documents his life during the artist’s stay in the area. There is a freshness to the images that could almost be naive, but Tsuda’s wonderful sense of composition and masterful use of light make this a very elegant and accomplished study. A simple enough premise, and one that has been executed before—however, the connection and trust between
the two men makes this one of the warmest and most emotional collections of photographs that I have come across. Tom is widowed and lives alone. His house was destroyed in a fire and he is estranged from his children who live on the other side of the country. Apart from a stray dog whom he has befriended, he is by himself. Tom could easily be any of us. Circumstances can turn on a dime, and we take what and who we have for granted at our own risk.
is reassuring to know that there is still room for a beautiful piece of human storytelling. Tsuda is now back in his home country of Japan. He has not had the opportunity to return to the United States, and it is unlikely that Tom is around to see the result of their time together. I think he would approve. Robin Titchener has been avidly collecting photobooks for over 30 years. He lives in London.
The images in this book are not only skillfully executed, but could only have happened with a degree of trust and friendship normally reserved for family or the closest of friends. This makes the fact that Tsuda and Tom were brought together by a chance encounter all the more amazing. Quotes from both Tsuda and Tom punctuate the book, intensifying its emotional punch without ever descending into sentimental manipulation. At a time when aggressive political statements and experimental boundary-pushing techniques seem to be dominating the photobook genre, it
Tomer Ifrah on the Moscow Metro Diana H. Bloomfield
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All images are untitled, 2012–2014
omer Ifrah’s Moscow Metro reveals both the romantic and futuristic vision that was 1930s Stalinist Russia, an opulent glittering subterranean utopia, and the austere fluorescent-green of a post-Stalin otherworld. The grandiose architecture and Soviet history of Moscow’s transit system, built in the 1930s, serves as the dramatic backdrop for Ifrah’s visual narrative. This architecture was not simply decorative, but also ideological, aiming to display the glory of communist government and the USSR, both to its own citizens and to foreign guests.
Crowded subway stations, with their dimly lit film-noir interiors, have always offered a dynamic visual playground for photographers. Commuters, just trying to get from one place to another in the quickest way possible, rush past, taking little notice of a camera pointed at them. Lost in their own thoughts, those who ride the subway often appear distant, world-weary, or disaffected. Subway commuters, superficially at least, seem to differ very little from one another, regardless of wherein the world they are commuting. Moscow Metro, however, offers us something more. Between 2012 and 2014, Ifrah, an Israeli photographer, made several trips to the Russian
capital to document its metro stations. “The visual aspect of the Moscow metro was very impressive— the light, people’s style of dress, and the Soviet symbols that were everywhere,” he states. Ifrah first noticed that introverted Muscovites do not talk much in their daily commutes. The only sounds heard inside the stations were people’s footsteps and the coming and going of trains. Still, on the few occasions when he approached passersby to ask them to pose for portraits, he found them willing participants. He was fascinated by the way people dressed; long fur coats and hats that echo a classic Russian elegance. At
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the same time, the Metro is a place visited by all levels of society, rich and poor, young and old. “When you walk into the metro, you see all of the classes, all of the people,” Ifrah states. “ Even the rich people, because traffic is too difficult.” Ifrah feels his images are a small window into a different reality. That reality, as seen through Ifrah’s lens and vision, suggests a cinematic otherworldly dreamscape. Photographing in medium format, Ifrah patiently waited for moments to materialize, all the while trying to remain invisible as scenes and people moved past his lens. Indefinable colors remain dark and softly muted against
flashes of vivid, symbolic red. Perspective and composition are often slightly skewed, exploiting the svetloe budushchee (meaning “a radiant
The only sounds heard inside the stations were people’s footsteps and the coming and going of trains.
future”) that Stalin’s architects and artists were told to design. Stalin directed his architects to design structures which would encourage citizens to look up, admiring the station’s art, as if they were looking up to admire the sun and—by extension—himself as a god. With their reflective marble walls, high ceilings and grandiose chandeliers, many Moscow metro stations have been likened to an “artificial underground sun.” Compelling, graphically simple compositions and smart use of light, give strength to Ifrah’s images. Dimly lit and red-encased escalator stairs, devoid of people, lead passengers to a
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bright, chandelier-lit room, where all that can be seen, while ascending, is the canary-yellow ceiling above, ornately carved in white and what appears, from these moving stairs, as gold embellishments. Ifrah contrasts that ascension with the image of a man descending from a hazily lit gray outdoors to the dark tunnel of a subway. Angularly framed, the man is in silhouette, except for his face underlit in red. Like any photographer who attempts to remain inconspicuous, Ifrah is an equally adept voyeur. When he moves away from the opulent Soviet backdrops to the more austere monochromatic green of the sub-
way platforms, he still manages to create compelling photographs and near-perfect compositions. One such image reveals a train rushing by and a woman in the foreground, on the platform, moving at seemingly the same speed, while two lovers, in the background and lit brightly from above, stand in both perfect oblivion and clarity, and kiss. Their only backdrop is the blur of the moving train, and the only distinct color is the red jacket the man wears. Not merely a patient observer, Ifrah also actively engaged with his subjects. Some, glancing at Ifrah from a slight distance, make a brief connection with him; others, he has singled
out and photographed. He gives his subjects space within the limitations of a rectangular photograph, and places them front and center. Each of these individuals faces the camera full on and stares directly into it. Solemn and self-possessed, their expressions give away little, yet they appear completely at ease with themselves, and with this stranger from another country who wishes only to photograph them. In so doing, he gains insights into and an appreciation for these people and their unique culture. One of his Ifrahâ€™s most striking images depicts people moving fluidly amid this cylindrical yet sumptuous subway
station. Chandelier-lit, their blurry images echo through the reflective marble walls, the multiple arched entrances, and the ornately framed scenes of revolutionary and historical characters, as well as those of common Soviet workers, farmers, and students. The walls all incline inwards, and people, past and present, seem to merge, making the entire scene suggestive of falling down an Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole. This image, like most of the others, remains timeless. This one, in particular, translates as a dreamy outtake, set in a luxurious subway station built of another time and country, constructed solely as a â€œpalace for the people.â€? This is 21st century Russia, where the past is
a constant, always informing the present and invoking the future.
Diana H. Bloomfield, a native North Carolinian, is a photographer, independent curator, and writer. She currently lives and works in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Alpaufzug, Brülisau, Appenzell 1995
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Romano Riedo Documents Life in the Hinterlands Franz Nicolay
magine a time before photography, when oral tradition was paramount to perpetuating culture. Passing family lore from generation to generation, grand moments of the past became embellished with each retelling, to the point of myth making and legacy building. Our firsthand knowledge of the past went back only one or two generations at most. History was a belief system of trust. In earlier days it was primarily painting and sculpture that recounted the major markers of the times (coronations, epic battles, religious allegories, portraits of the wealthy, majestic landscapes, and the like). For centuries, our history relied on these three traditions to sustain collective memory. The expense and painstaking
skill needed for detailed expression made commonplace events difficult to justify recording. Daily life, once passed, was often lost to eternity. Enter photography. From its inception, photography took on the role of storytelling with greater immediacy, clarity, and longevity than any of its predecessors, and quickly displaced them as the keeper of truths and continuity. Photographs assumed the cultural mantle of memory for the masses, linking even the most common moment to a more vital history. Specifically, documentary photography stepped in to give voice and distinction to daily life, revealing the heartbeat and soul of humanity. It is in this rich tradition of storytelling that Romano Riedo has concen-
trated his creative efforts for the past three decades. His ongoing series, Hinterland, investigates his homeland in Switzerland. In this work, Riedo gives us images of intimacy and unassuming magnitude as people of modest means create their lives from the land. His images not only record ephemeral moments, but also invite the viewer to delve into to a deeper place of meaning and understanding carried within those moments. Riedo turns his lens on the rural farmers and their daily practices. His subjects haul milk, cut hay, make cheese, move livestock, and mend fences. We are invited to witness these lives in all seasons, and we feel Riedoâ€™s pulse as an observer and storyteller throughout. Each photograph is purposeful, and brings respect and dignity to the
Berglandwirtschaft im Winter 2002
work of hands and lives inextricably linked with the earth. Riedo embraces the square format in Hinterland. With each dimension being equal, it does not benefit from the built-in energy of a strong vertical or a pastoral horizontal thrust. What the square frame offers is a neutral presence, in which the action un-
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folds without subtext or coloring of orientation. Riedo understands this tool, and because of his experience and intuitive response, we can pay more attention to the suspended animation of the young boy at the family table during mealtime. We can appreciate the non-sequitur nature of the running swine as it passes the weatherworn, wooden cross on the
crest of the range. We can feel the central struggle of farmers carrying a heavy milk container over the edge of the hillside into the low-hanging clouds. These images are complemented with close-up textural meditations that rely more on structural composition and the graphic balance of light
Mittagstisch, Alp RĂ¤mmisgummen, Emmental 2005
and shape for their strength. They give density and grit to his more contextual and deeply layered environmental portraits. Yet Riedoâ€™s strength in these accumulated stories emerges when he stands back and sets the scene for us, allowing the environment to contribute needed information, demonstrating the impact of the land upon these people.
In a winter scene of a lone cow trudging up the path home, it is the majesty and starkness of the distant mountains that creates contrast with this vulnerable, lumbering creature, dutifully returning through this highland valley. In the photograph of two men scanning the local scene from their second story window perch, the sure line of bells above them car-
ries the weight, order, and symmetry of their lives, in resonant tones you can almost hear. What gives documentary and environmental portraiture their strength, is the feeling of connectedness, and empathy portrayed, between the subject and the photographer. Riedo, through his familiarity with his sub-
Alp Eischoll,Turtmann Wallis 1995
jects and region, and his seasoned approach to reportage, elevates these images above the simple documentation one might record as a photojournalist in an unfamiliar land. This work is made from within. Riedo understands this lifeâ€”we can practically feel the dirt under his fingernails, and see the love in his eyes for this place and its people.
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There is often a temptation in documentary photography to tell too much of the story; after all, that is what cameras with sharp optics were designed to accomplish. But accurate recording in photography also encourages passive acceptance, and the unengaged, dutiful nodding of heads, with nothing more. The delicate balance then is not to give too much. A
Handmelken, Poganggenalp, MĂźrren, 1996
photograph should ask more questions than it answers. In this way, the viewer is transformed into a more curious and active participant in the image, always searching for more. Strong photographs will have a beating heart and will outlive centuries of recognition. They will remain alive in every moment, in every era, with new questions to offer, and deeper
understandings to unwrap. In Hinterland, Riedo does just that. We are invited into a scene to experience its pulse, but always left eager for more. In one image we look over the shoulders of two men in the foreground in a field to witness their companions bonded in singing. This does not take place in the village
Im Ziegenstall, Hirschberg, Appenzell 2006
for tourists to see, it is for them to experience together. It is personal, revealing, but not encapsulated. We are privy to this moment, and our witness bears the responsibility of engagement. Riedo moves us forward for a closer look. To touch this instant is to ap-
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preciate the importance of the small events of our lives in building culture. Photographs, like Riedoâ€™s, ironically extend the life, and deepen the impact and resultant meaning over time, of that fleeting experience.
Franz Carl Nicolay is a photographer, ceramicist, writer and teacher of over four decades. He also directs the Edwards Art Gallery at Holderness School in New Hampshire, and has curated numerous exhibitions in all media for that space.
Bergbauer Herger Toni und sein Hund, Urnerboden 1996
Beyond the Bookshelves: An Interview With Tim Whelan Kat Kiernan
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Ask anyone who has attended the Maine Media Workshops in the past two decades and they will all mention Tim Whelan’s bookstore as an invaluable part of their education. Before closing in 2010, his Rockport bookstore was famous nationwide and his current, smaller location as part of the Maine Media Workshops Gallery continues to be a legendary meeting place for photographers and photobook enthusiasts. With over 20 years of experience, Whelan is an encyclopedia of information about photography, photobooks, and the industry. Don’t Take Pictures Editor-in-Chief Kat Kiernan interviewed Whelan about his journey collecting and dealing photobooks, how tastes have changed over the years, and what he thinks makes a photobook special. Let’s start at the beginning, how did your photobook collection begin and how did collecting photobooks evolve into selling them? My interest in photography began when my mom took me to the gallery in Yosemite and I saw Ansel Adams prints on the walls. She asked me if I wanted anything, and I wanted a photograph. Not what she expected to hear, but she bought me one. Who knows why we love the things we do? In high school and college I photographed for the school newspapers and yearbooks. I loved giving prints to the people that I photographed. It got me to all sorts of events and helped me make friends. I ran a camera store for many years and took any spare money to a great bookstore to buy photography books. I moved to Maine to work for the Maine Media Workshops and met my partner, Lisa Cummings, who worked in the Workshops’ library. She moved to Santa Fe to work for William Clift, and I followed her. I was fortunate to work for Paul Caponigro in Santa Fe, as well as the Santa Fe Photo Workshops. It was
the year Rixon Reed opened Photo Eye books in Santa Fe. We returned to Maine and my first shop was in Rockport in an old schoolhouse. The schoolhouse had three darkrooms on the main floor. Paul Caponigro, Tillman Crane, and a photo conservationist were all there. When Tillman moved I took his darkroom and had the bookshop in his studio area. It was perfect. I could print pictures most of the time and the rare customer could browse. A few years later, wanting to stay in Maine and make a living, a great small space was for rent. Lisa encouraged me to take the space. She gave me a bookmark that said, “Go out on a limb, that is where the fruit is,” and explained that the worst thing that could happen is I would have a great ocean view for a year and lose a little money. It was a crazy idea to open a bookstore selling only photography books in a somewhat geographically handicapped town of just over a thousand people on the coast of Maine, but for 18 years it worked. Then then one day it didn’t, and I had to close the shop. A few weeks after closing, Charles Aultshel, the president of Maine Media Work-
shops, very graciously asked if I would like to sell books in the Maine Media Workshops Gallery. For the past five years I have done just that. What advantages does the book format have over other means of presenting photographs including prints, folios, or digital display? A well-printed book, though always different than a photographic print, can have a great beauty to it. The ideas in a book, the sequencing, and surprises that it can hold are varied, and turning pages has a textural feeling to it. You can put it on a shelf and keep studying and learning from it. I know a lot of photographers that have learned photography by studying books. Some memorize the sequencing and can tell you the order of the images. It traditionally took a lot of people, time and effort to print a trade edition book, and it was hard to find a publisher. Something happens in that process—you learn more about your work, try harder, and have to really think about all aspects of what you want to say. Once it is printed
great new books are, or what my favorite book is. Before answering I like to find out if they have a favorite photographer, or a few favorite books. At that point I can sometimes show them what that photographer is up to, or show them others with similar aesthetic. I will also try to show them a book that might be a stretch, but that has been important to me, or that I feel is just a great book that could be helpful. More often than not I put too much out for them to look at. What are some of your most interesting finds of rare, out-of-print, or unique photobooks? it becomes a part of photo history. You cannot take it back, so you have no choice but to make it exceptional. All that said, books have their weaknesses as well. They are expensive, can easily turn out wrong, not sell, etc. These days we are getting information differently. What the future of books is, I really do not know. Going to a photographer’s website and seeing all of their work for free is amazing. You can get such a potentially great education in photography online just watching and listening to photographers speak on Vimeo and YouTube. Folios and digital displays have their strengths and weaknesses as well. But books have a long life and often end up in many hands. They have through the last 177 years of photography been important in inspiring, teaching, and spreading photography all around the world. I am surprised that I do not see more handmade books than I do. So many
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options are available to print—so many papers, and other materials. We now all have these potential amazing printing presses in our houses. As a collector, what are your thoughts on small editions versus mass-market books? I have always tried to collect, and for that matter to sell, books that I love. No question that smaller edition books are far more likely to go up in value than larger editions. Depending on who the photographer is, an edition of 500 copies or less of a book is far more likely to become collectable than an edition of 5,000. I am not fond of scarcity and hype for books. People often come to you looking for recommendations. What do people most often come in looking for, and how do you guide them toward a new discovery? I am most commonly asked what the
I love Linda Connor’s On the Music of The Spheres, Minor White’s Mirrors, Messages, Manifestations, Yousuf Karsh’s Regarding Heroes, Ernesto Bazan’s Cuba, Michael Kenna’s Japan, and the book of Lartigue’s work, Boyhood Photos of J. H. Lartigue. With more photobooks ing published than ever fore, how has the role of bookstore changed in last decade?
I am always surprised to see how many photography books are being published. There are so few bookstores left. Without the generosity of the Maine Media Workshops, there is no way I could keep the bookstore open. Besides Jeff Bezos, there are not many wealthy booksellers. Frankly, I take fewer chances in book buying than I once did, as do other booksellers that I know, which is not good for the industry. Over the years, many renowned photographers have
visited your store. Which ones have had the most impact on you? I like to say jokingly that it is a dubious honor to know so many famous photographers. So many have become my friends over the years, and so many others have inspired me with their knowledge, energy, and kindness. Many non-famous customers and photographers have had great effects on me as well, but the list of renowned will be leaving out more that I am mentioning: Arnold Newman was so very gracious about signing books. When he was older and I had a huge stack for him to sign, I started to apologize. He stopped me to say he only minded if I had no books for him to sign.
ponigro were talking to one another. When they left he was a bit amazed and asked me if I knew who they were. I said I had no idea, but they come in all the time, and I canâ€™t get rid of them. The fact is, I have a great respect for anyone that loves photography. There is a kindred spirit feeling that is immediate. As photographers, we mostly work alone. That is one reason that the Workshops, and the bookstore, have worked so well together in many ways. Photography is a wonderful way to live, but a terrible way to make a living. It takes a lot to stick with it.
A bookseller from New York was in my shop one time when Mary Ellen Mark, Arnold Newman, and Paul Ca-
Print Sale Each month we release an exclusive edition run of a photograph by one of the artists featured in this issue. The photographs are printed by the artist, signed, numbered, and priced below $200. We believe in the power of affordable art, and we believe in helping artists sustain their careers. Artists receive the full amount of the purchase price. Available in APRIL
Tamara Reynolds Mississippi Burning Field, Clarksdale, MS 2012 Archival inkjet print 6 x 9, signed and numbered edition of 20 $100
Available in MAY
DĂĄniel Kovalovszky Green Bushes Archival pigment print 7.5 x 9, signed and numbered edition of 5 $120
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Available in JUNE
Klara Johanna Michel Untitled Archival pigment print 9 x 7, signed and numbered edition of 5 $110
Available in JULY
Jacob Hessler Cargo Archival inkjet print 6.5 x 10, signed and numbered edition of 10 $150
Available in AUGUST
Romano Riedo Bergbauer Herger Toni und sein Hund, Urnerboden 1996 Archival inkjet print 8 x 11.5, signed and numbered edition of 5 $150
EDITED BY SHARON LOUDEN
The Artist as Culture Producer LIVING AND SUSTAINING A CREATIVE LIFE ISBN 9781783207268 | Price $42, £30 Available to buy from www.intellectbooks.com “This book not only demystifies the
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Contemporary Arts Museum Houston
difficulties into new practical models.” Adam D. Weinberg, Alice Pratt Brown Director, Whitney Museum of American Art
intellect | publishers of original thinking | www.intellectbooks.com
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The Art of Photography Meets the Art of Print
BRILLIANT is proud to print Bill Yates’ masterpiece of documentary photography, Sweetheart Roller Skating Rink, published by Fall Line Press. Utilizing an innovative printing technique, Brilliant translated the images into rich black and white printed plates under the direction and guidance of the photographer, Bill Yates. Working directly with the artist is so important to the finished piece. Sweetheart Roller Skating Rink is a stunning book, and true to Yates’ vision. It is available for purchase at www.FallLinePress.com.
We can help you achieve your vision in print. 56
Contact Bob Tursack 866-271-9955 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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EXTON, PA | NYC | www.brilliant-graphics.com
Writing About Your Work With kAt kiernAn
mAine meDiA College + Workshops Writing About Your Work with Kat Kiernan Maine Media College + Workshops Workshop Dates: August 27-September 2, 2017
Workshop DAtes: August 27 â€” september 2, 2017
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he man carried a camera on a tripod. He was short, so he hugged the camera to his chest at an angle. Otherwise, the legs of the tripod would have dragged the ground.
The man stopped across the street and began to set up the tripod. We stopped, too.
We were walking on the other side of the street. Our clothes matched and we felt proud. We were walking to be seen, so we took no alarm when he saw us.
“Yes!” Bernard said. “Take my picture!”
We felt safe from him because we had the road between us. If he began to cross the street, we could outrun him as long as he carried the camera. We would never have imagined that he might prefer us to the camera. “Wow!” he called from the other side of the street. “This is heavy! What are your names?” He was talking to Susan and me. He was looking back and forth at our eyes. We knew better than to tell him anything. He was too old. Susan said, “Good afternoon!” But then Bernard said, “I’m Bernard! Who are you?” Bernard was not old enough to know better. “I’m Raymond,” the man said. “Are these your sisters?” Susan is Bernard’s sister, and she hit his shoulder before he could answer.
He said, “Do you mind if I take your picture?”
“Not you,” the camera man said. “Just the girls.” This made Bernard run away. He went through a stranger’s gate, climbed a fence, and escaped through a window. That was forty-two years ago. Ever since, Bernard has asked what happened with me and Susan and Raymond. Ever since, we have told him nothing but lies.
Courtesy of Accidental Mysteries Collection of John Foster
Photographs lacking context offer numerous possible stories, and few photographs are more mysterious than those without a known author or time period. In Context playfully brings more attention to both photographic narrative as well as the role that context plays in how we interpret images. In each issue, a writer is presented with a found vintage photograph to use as inspiration for a micro-fiction story. In doing so, the photograph is given new meaning, and the truth of the image is subject to interpretation.
Cargo, Pacific Ocean 2014