D Nâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;T TAKE PICTURES Dmitry Gomberg Josephine Cardin Jordan Sullivan Robert Shults Marc Wilson Lori Vrba Jen Ervin
Issue 5 Fall 2015
Don't Take Pictures Issue 5 – Fall 2015
The Shepherd’s Way Dmitry Gomberg
2 Emma Kisiel
Summer’s Ark The Photography of Jen Ervin
10 Inga Schunn
Book Review: An Island in the Moon Jordan Sullivan 18
The Last Stand Marc Wilson Lori Vrba’s Life Assembled
Installation Photography Transformation of the Viewer Altered Reality Robert Shults 26
A Dancer’s Dream The Photographs of Josephine Cardin Nostalgia and the Collapse of Imagination
In Context West 31st and South Halsted
Founder/Editor-in-Chief Senior Editor Staff Editor Designer
Publisher: Don’t Take Pictures 129 Joralemon St., Brooklyn, NY 11201
18 W.G. Beecher 26 Kat Kiernan 32 Roger Thompson 38 Allison M. Walters 44 Diana H. Bloomfield 50 Joshua Sariñana 61 Derek Haas
Kat Kiernan Roger Thompson W.G. Beecher Union Jack Creative
Sainte-Marguerite-sur-Mer, Upper Normandy, France Marc Wilson, 2012
odak recently tore down one of its 92-year-old film manufacturing buildings, making it the 46th Kodak building demolished since 2003. While the company still has other factories in operation, its closing sparked a conversation in the photo community about the longevity of film. As is usually the case whenever news breaks of another blow to the analogue film industry, albeit symbolic, the discussion devolves from being about photography to being about photographic tools. This debate suggests that by losing a piece of technology, photographers could lose their way of seeing. Whether there is film in the camera, or pixels on a screen, or collodion on glass, tools are simply a way of recording what a photographer sees. Over the course of their careers, photographic artists will use different methods of capture to realize their visions. Should some of those devices cease
to be available, the best photographers will still be able to communicate their ideas with alternate tools. In this issue, an article on photography’s role in installation art discusses how photographs become one piece of a larger work. An article on Instagram filters and instant film explores the effects that these formats have on our relationship with nostalgia. Some artists featured use digital cameras, others use roll or sheet film or Polaroid, and one artist incorporates found objects into her photographic work. These portfolios were made with a variety of materials, yet all find a home in this publication. I hope that with each turn of the page you will look beyond how the work was made—and with what—to contemplate instead why it was created and how it makes you think and feel. —Kat Kiernan, Editor-in-Chief
Dmitry Gomberg The Shepherd’s Way Emma Kisiel
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he way of the shepherd encompasses all the facets of life: birth and death, creation and consumption, solitude and fellowship, times of work and times of celebration. Above all, it is a journey. In an ever-connected, technological world, we are irresistibly drawn to lifestyles like those of high mountain shepherds, ones that feel in tune with something deeper and more authentic than our own modern ways of living. There is beauty in the simplicity and harshness of the shepherd’s life. This is what Dmitry Gomberg found in the five years that he spent among the shepherds and cheese makers of the Caucasus Mountains and in the people who were his companions until their death. Gomberg did not set out to make a statement about the shepherds that he lived with
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and photographed in the Tusheti region of the Republic of Georgia. A photographic storyteller, he found himself fascinated by a lifestyle that he had never seen before. Born in Moscow in 1980, Gomberg moved to New York in 2000, changing professions several times before pursuing photography at the International Center of Photography. While living in New York, he made friends with a group of Georgians who invited him to the tiny mountainous nation. Having grown up watching Georgian cinema, reading the literature, and listening to his father’s stories of traveling throughout the Soviet Union, he was already enchanted by the place. He readily accepted his friends’ invitation and travelled to Tusheti, Georgia where he was introduced to Vazha, a brigadier and the leader of the shepherds. Gomberg joined Vazha and his cousin, Sasha, on a
journey leading a flock of sheep from winter fields to the mountains. Their main goal was to keep the sheep alive. Gomberg’s photographs document the time he spent in Tusheti and the lives of the people he met, but also include landscapes, candid portraits, and still lifes. The comprehensive series contains images of a rustic lifestyle: people making bread and cheese, spinning wool, and preparing meals; men wrangling flocks of sheep over stunning mountain passes; and animals grazing and shuffling along on green grass and in deep snow. It is fitting that in this digital age Gomberg uses film to document a way of life that seems to be from an earlier century. Made from 2008 to 2013, these pictures address the seasons, both of the year and of life. While the life and work of a shepherd
varies from season to season, there is constantly food and feast. Throughout Gomberg’s story of the high mountain shepherds of Tusheti, the life and death cycle, and its effects on both the animals and their human caretakers, is explored in beautifully atmospheric color photographs that favor a lush earthy palate which compliments the harshness of the subject matter and the richness of the landscape. Heartwarming images of fuzzy, bright lambs appear early in the series. They seem to glow in a dark interior or clinging to the shoulder of a shepherd, too little to walk quickly through the snow. Seas of sheep spill through valleys and speckle the countryside. They walk in long lines, cutting into the sides of snowy mountains. Guided by shepherds on horseback, the sheep ford streams and slide down rocky slopes. Gomberg’s images transport the viewer to this remote and beautiful land, presenting the shepherd’s life as a harsh yet fulfilling existence. Alongside the wide, breathtaking photographs of the flock making their way through the mountains are scenes of butchered sheep for feasts, or animals that died during the difficult trek. In one image, three horses slide precariously down a mountainside thick with wet, slushy snow. The animal in the center tumbles forward, its hind leg high in the air. There are wolves, bears, and large birds in the mountains. The sheep on this trek regularly fell to predators, slipped into ravines, or perished from hunger or disease.
these make life in Tusheti seem idyllic and simple for both humans and animals.
To the Summer Fields 2008
In Gomberg’s photographs, we see things begin and end, and all of the affairs in between. Although the shepherds’ work is hard, it is portrayed as humble and rewarding. Life ends, but it moves on. In 2013, after living with and photographing the shepherds for half a decade, Gomberg’s guide and good friend Vazha was killed along with two other shepherds when their car fell from a cliff. After the tragic event, Gomberg decided the project had come to an end. Returning home, he reflected on his five years’ worth of images and began to put them together as one cohesive body of work. Back in the mountains of Tusheti, the friends and relatives of the deceased killed a small black goat and threw it from the mountain at the location of the accident. They didn’t look back at the sight of the falling goat, and they vowed never to look down from that place again.
The Lamb on the Bed 2008 Below
Morning Khash After Village Feast 2011
Emma Kisiel is a photographer and the author of Muybridge’s Horse, an art blog and index that explores humans’ interactions with animals and nature. With her husband, dog, and three cats, she is currently making her way from the Midwest to the Northwest.
In the village, Gomberg documented an enormous festival, for which many sheep and some cows were butchered. Having grown up in the city, the experience of seeing animals killed with a knife and then eaten was new to him, and his curiosity is evident. Although the sheep are thought of more as product than as pets, the animals possess their own personality and character. One poignant image features half a dozen sheep overrunning a building, climbing on the stairs and grazing on the nearby grass. Pictures like
River Crossing Near Dartlo 2008
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Four Shepherds 2009
Sheep House 2010
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Three Horses Taking the Pass to Tusheti Mountains 2008
Summer’s Ark The Photography of Jen Ervin Inga Schunn
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Ervin’s images present the freedom of youth as timeless and vibrant, just like the wilderness that grounds them.
very time it rains in Virginia, I look out the window and imagine the world has suddenly turned into a black and white photograph: low hues of grey draped over bright white highlights and rich black shadows. It was only fitting that the first day I explored Jen Ervin’s work was such a day. Her photographs—familiar with a hint of mystery—quieted my mind. Young girls holding freshly shed snakeskins and untamed vines gently cajoled me into dark waters filled with baby alligators and horseshoe crabs. For the last three years Jen Ervin has been exploring the magic of childhood and its ties to nature through the lens of her Polaroid Land Camera. Her images present the freedom of youth as timeless and vibrant, just like the wilderness that grounds them. Ervin’s main subjects consist of her three daughters during summers spent at their family’s rustic vacation home deep in the woods of South Carolina. Built in the 1940s and known as Ark Lodge, the cabin provides a glimpse into the ever-receding wilderness that once ruled the American East. A safe haven for all forms of
wildlife, the cabin’s surroundings are an entrancing dream world where the mosquitos reign and the cicadas sing. It is a place where, as Ervin puts it, “Time literally stands still … It hasn’t changed in the last 50 years at all.” Ervin was raised in rural northwestern New Jersey, near the borders of Pennsylvania and New York, a region defined by hills, lakes, and woods. Her parents worked tirelessly to provide their four children with a simple life, surrounded by nature, music, and the freedom of visual expression. With her mother’s influence and encouragement, Ervin knew she wanted to be an artist by the time she was five. “[My mother] taught me how to wonder and appreciate my surroundings—to really look at things,” Ervin says. “We didn’t have a lot money, so I became very resourceful. I would draw on paper bags from the grocery store, try to make my own paint with glue and chalk, and [build] natural sculptures in the yard.” When she was 16, Ervin’s family relocated to South Carolina where she felt uprooted, shy, and out of place in the unfamiliar south-
In a Floating World 2015 Right
The River’s Arch 2012
ern culture. A year later she met the young man who would become her husband. He invited her to his grandfather’s summer cabin, Ark Lodge, nestled deep in the Southern backcountry. Ervin remembers being amazed with the wildness of the land and river, and surprised by the length and roughness of the dirt road that led there. Until she became familiar with the place, she was frightened by the wilderness: “I found the swamps haunting and I was terrified of snakes and alligators.” Ervin’s academic background is in painting, religion, and graphic design. Her images are rooted in tradition, emotion, and an interest
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in storytelling that she has harbored since childhood. Compositionally, her photographs exhibit a deep understanding of the balance between tonality, texture, and form. Each image independently stands stoic, yet forms a visual poem when paired with another. This is particularly evident in her most recent work. In one photograph, water delicately envelops her daughter’s slow float down the river as bubbles threaten to burst or merge with the water’s surface. Combined with other images depicting the various water textures, the photographs could be the formation of the first sentence to an introspective poem: A young girl in a river, lost in the nature of thought.
The Beast & The Butterfly 2014
Despite their clear freedom to play, Ervin often depicts her children with a serious demeanor. This challenges the dominant stereotypes about children, which portray them as constantly happy, able to turn the most banal moment into a carefree one. “There are a lot of reasons why I look for moments [that run counter to such stereotypes],” Ervin explains. “I think I’m a mother, and there are a lot of ideal expectations of motherhood and what it’s like to raise children and a lot of them are wrong. In fact I didn’t transition into motherhood easily at all … I think we have this idea that children are very innocent and that they’re happy all the time and they’re not. They may not be able to articulate how
they feel … especially where my girls are now at their age, they have a lot of conflict and emotions and thoughts and they can’t really articulate it necessarily in words but they do it in expression.” There is a growing movement in contemporary photography for a photographer to document the somber moments of childhood. The pause between smiles represents the composure and introspection of adulthood. The uncut immediacy of the Polaroid format parallels the immediacy felt in youth. More significantly, Polaroids are closely associated with snapshots made of friends and family, a quality that is accentuated by the small size
Untitled (Snakeskin) 2014
of Polaroid prints. Their size is an important part of the presentation of Ervin’s work. Scanning and enlarging the Polaroids would undermine the quiet nature of the work. “People want to see big, perfect large format photography, that seems to be the popular thing. I think it’s a challenge to show the small works, and then an even bigger challenge to show small, intimate, subtle work.” Ervin says that her photographs are “born from my need to create and my daughters’ need to run wild.” This beautiful collaboration between artist and subject makes for images that are subtle yet profound. The series is the result of lives running alongside one an-
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other. Her girls are on the brink of their teenage years, but Ervin is unfazed. Her interest in creating a collaborative visual archive of time spent at Ark Lodge may resurface one day when her daughters return to the lodge as adults with their own families, ready to explore the wilderness anew.
Inga Schunn is the oldest of four girls, thusly fated to be forever focused on the empowerment of the feminine energy. She enjoys writing poetry and photographing her siblings.
The River, Tanyard 2012
Sycamore Bark 2013
An Island in the Moon Jordan Sullivan Ampersand Editions, 196 pp., $35
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hile most photobooks are a means to present a body of work, Jordan Sullivan’s newest monograph, An Island in the Moon, extends beyond the traditional photographic series to become a self-contained, intimate photography exhibition. Like many of Sullivan’s projects, it was conceived as book, with the imagery crafted afterward to fit its design. The result is a beautifully executed volume in which the photographs are wedded to the book’s structure. Published by Ampersand Editions, An Island in the Moon is not a conventional photobook. Though perfect bound, soft cover and beautifully printed, the similarities end there. There is neither an introduction essay nor any accompanying captions or titles. Aside from the spine and a page of publishing information, it is completely devoid of text. The title, An Island in the Moon, is repurposed from a work by William Blake, completely stripped of context. Lack of context is a recurring element in the book, with the photographs showing no identifying markers of
place or time. Absent a narrative, the book relies heavily on the relationships between the images to move the viewer along. Monochromatic and heavily toned images show a lone tree in the fog, a nude young woman with a palm fond, a quiet portrait against a white wall. Lacking a coherent sequence or sense of place, the individual images give way to the book’s distinctive photographic style: infused with muted sexual energy, and consciously disinterested in visual clarity or “good” composition. The figurative images—exclusively women, generally in states of undress—dominate the pages. The photographs of these women are intermixed with landscapes, more traditional portraits, and abstract collages. Designed and sequenced by the artist, the seemingly random arrangement of the photographs is at first jarring, but integral to Sullivan’s purpose. The resultant feeling is that of a scrapbook of deeply personal moments and enigmatic memories. Known for his informal displays of his work, often pinning loose prints to the walls, An
Island in the Moon brings the uniqueness of Sullivan’s installations into book form. The salon-style hanging of differently sized photographs is echoed in the book’s layout. The images are presented in a variety of sizes, with some filling the pages, and others the size of postage stamps. Each turn of the page reveals a new assortment of photos that forms its own tableau. Unlike the common one-photo-per-page design, Sullivan relies on the ample negative space and clustering to accentuate certain pieces. Some photographs are left alone on a page, allowing the viewer a breath before turning the page to find a cluster of four mixed verticals, horizontals, and panoramics of varying sizes. The experience of looking through An Island in the Moon is like trying to decipher someone else’s dream. From the inscrutable title, to the ambiguous photographs and collages of women and the natural world, to the intimate design of the book itself, it is best not to ask what it all means, but to instead embrace the impossibility of interpretation, and appreciate the book’s mysterious beauty.
N O ILS
T S A EL
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D N STA
s the shadow of war spread over Europe
during the last world war, military construction sprang up, dotting the landscape with pillboxes and artillery platforms, constellations of steel and concrete. Construction was densest along the coasts, where fear of the enemy’s landfall spurred the development of elaborate shoreline defense systems. As Nazi Germany constructed its “Atlantikwall,” Great Britain built its own series of coastal redoubts, anti-tank barriers, and maritime booms. These structures were abandoned when the war ended, left to slowly decay and fall into the sea. Today, these forgotten defenses are the tangible memory of a war that has largely faded from the public consciousness. Documenting these memories is the primary aim of The Last Stand, a series by British photographer Marc Wilson. Although he was born in London well after the war’s conclusion, Wilson was drawn to these coastal defense structures because of his interest in photographing landscapes that contain distinct histories and stories. The Last Stand was initially limited to the United Kingdom, but the project soon grew to include visits to 143 sites along the coasts of the U.K., the Channel Islands, France, Denmark, Belgium, and Norway. Traveling these distances required time and funds, stretching the project to four years. Wilson’s time and effort was well spent: Upon its completion in 2014, Triplekite Publishing released a monograph of the series, which is now in its second printing.
The images from The Last Stand were the product of careful planning. Wilson photographed each site with his large format camera over several days, working in the soft light of the early morning and late evening. For many images, the tides also had to be considered. When asked about this process, Wilson commented, “Many hours were spent standing on isolated beaches, cliff tops, or in the sea, waves lapping—or in the case of the North Sea off the coast of Denmark, crashing against me—as I peeked out from under the darkcloth.” Despite this, his reverence toward his work and subjects made the process calming and enjoyable. The images themselves are striking yet serene. The structures jut out from the landscape, straight lines and sharp angles springing from atop jagged rocks and rolling coastal dunes. Despite this, Wilson depicts them as monolithic and almost organic, now at home in the land that claims them. The concrete is weatherworn and covered in accretions of moss or seaweed that tell of age and disuse. Wilson’s deliberate compositions highlight how much these defenses are consumed by the landscape, both by design and decay. The anti-submarine “dragon’s teeth” of Scotland crumble and fade in the morning fog, while elsewhere bunkers built on soft ground have listed from the shifting beaches or toppled into the surf completely. Everywhere, the muted, heavy sky accentuates the surrounding stone and heath, imbuing the scenes a sense of rugged solemnity. The delicate colors of morning emphasize the tranquility
of the present. The absence of human life makes clear that in peace, these structures are forgotten. Wilson is part of a growing photography movement that seeks to document stories bound up in the landscape. These artists make pictures that recall past lives and events by depicting the fragments of those histories now etched into the earth itself. Their photographs serve as recorded evidence of these past stories, and as a statement that, through such documentation, they will not be forgotten. In The Last Stand, Wilson’s images tell of World War II, both in broad strokes and in the particulars of each place, be it Norway or Normandy. The coastal defenses of World War II have been decaying for more than 70 years, and will probably continue their slow journey to dust for hundreds more. But for Wilson, time was of the essence. Direct participants in the war are largely gone, and stories of the war have receded or lost vitality in their retelling. Wilson wanted to photograph these structures before their use and meaning was lost to our collective knowledge. He sought to photograph beautifully but honestly, encouraging the viewer’s gaze to linger long enough for the subject matter to seep through. Nonetheless, The Last Stand is not about the beauty of industrial decay or the reclaiming power of nature. Wilson’s interests lie more with the power of man—the power to transform the land, and ultimately, the power to remember.
Wissant I, Nord-Pas-De-Calais, France 2012 Opposite
Abbot’s Cliff I, Kent, England 2010
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Portland, Dorset, England 2011 Right
Newburgh I, Aberdeenshire, Scotland 2012
Cramond Island, Firth of Forth, Scotland 2012
By documenting the land itself, Wilson’s images serve to remind us of the lives lived in war and in fear of attack, as well as the physical impact that the Second World War had on the European coasts. But just as importantly, The Last Stand reminds us of time’s inexorable march forward, and that mankind’s achievements will all crumble and eventually be lost without dedicated preservation. While some landscape photography celebrates the unceasing power of time and tides, Wilson’s images lament the fading of memory and
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crumbling masonry that comes with the passage of years. The images of The Last Stand are conspicuously devoid of contemporary life. Only rarely does an empty park bench or distant building intrude upon the solitude of the scene. To include any more would shift the focus away from the stories of these places and toward our present relationships with them. While a few are part of managed historical sites or parks, the majority of these coastal defenses are essentially forgotten
or ignored, left to adventurous beachgoers and idle youth. For Wilson, this tangled relationship distracts from the stories and lives lived at these places, and from the war itself. It is important to him that his subjects be addressed with sensitivity, and that these remnants of war not receive undue drama or bombast in their photographic treatment. As Wilson comments, “For me, the history is quite dramatic enough.” W.G. Beecher is an Editor for Don’t Take Pictures.
Sainte-Marguerite-sur-Mer, Upper Normandy, France 2012
Brean Down I, Somerset, England 2012
Lori Vrba’s Life Assembled Kat Kiernan
or 18 years I have kept a box underneath my bed. It holds letters and objects and tokens of memory that I consider significant. Made from now-crumbling cardboard, the box itself is perfectly ordinary. Over the years its contents have been purged and built up again as I moved my tangible history into different homes in different states. Many people have similar boxes with similar contents. For Lori Vrba, an artist whose work is autobiographical, the metaphorical “box underneath the bed” became an intimate series of photobased assemblage pieces. After moving from Texas to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Vrba began to examine her life—past and present—through the lens of a camera. During this time she was busy caring for her children and exploring the lush Carolina surroundings. Her sepia toned photographs are rich and earthy, and her children appear like woodland sprites— floating in streams, peeking from behind trees, and holding carefully arranged flower petals on their outstretched palms. While her children are often present in her photographs, she sees them as vehicles through which she tells her own story. Her children, she says, “are characters in my play. And my story is a long languid Southern tale of blood kin, chosen family and kicked-to-thecurb-don’t-come-around-here-no-more types. It’s just the truth of me.” While developing her series Drunken Poet’s Dream, Vrba began to consider her photographs as having a life beyond their two-dimensional existence. In that series, she used her own images as a backdrop, laying objects directly onto the prints and re-photographing the resulting fantastical scene. Combining photographs with three-dimensional objects was thrilling, and she soon moved out
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of the darkroom and into the woodshop, incorporating her images into boxes that stood as their own art pieces. Despite her affinity for assemblage, Vrba identifies solely as a photographic artist. Every assemblage piece holds at least one of her original images. Though they are often manipulated, the prints are the central component around which the rest of the sculpture grows. In these boxes, Vrba tells an enigmatic story of her life using found objects—feathers, discarded dolls’ hands, letters, and other curios—arranging them into aesthetically pleasing displays. These pieces are exhibited alongside her equally personal black and white photographs. As a photographer, Vrba takes pride in the analogue process, methodically printing and toning her images by hand. Each photograph’s narrative informs all other aesthetic decisions for her assemblage work. From there, she considers how to combine various elements to tell the story, how to arrange them so that the eye is stimulated but not overwhelmed, and how to use the right tools to achieve the desired aesthetic. The photographs she includes are often cut up or collaged versions from other series. Vrba enjoys “giving them new life,” believing that, “they get to participate in a new conversation and tell a new story.” She personifies each piece stating, “I respect what and who they’ve been up to that point, but I firmly believe that if I could just ask them if they’d like to be a part of something else, they would all jump up and down with hands raised, ‘Pick me, pick me!’” The photographs she ultimately chooses find themselves in strange places. Covered in feathers, distorted by magnifying glasses, hidden behind doors, and trapped inside a snow globe; each one, the centerpiece of
Each sculpture contains a personal story, one that is rife with symbolic objects, yet difficult to decipher.
Childless Mother 2013 Opposite
Through the Wee Hours 2013
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an elaborate structure. Pulled from an earlier series, the image entitled “Cocoon” tells a new story when coated in encaustic and placed in a small wooden box. It is surrounded with small vials containing unidentified materials. Entitled “Specimen,” this new piece gives the photograph a darker connotation. The small child playing with fabric now seems to be straightjacket bound, carefully studied and preserved in the contents of the vials. “I’ve been collecting curious oddities all of my life,” Vrba explains, “My home is kind of like a life size assemblage box except nothing is fixed in place and I rearrange it constantly so that my eyes don’t get bored. Just about every single piece in my home is fair game when it comes to finding just the right thing.” Vintage materials in varying states of disrepair find their way from her home and
studio and into a piece of art. Though the objects are often unrefined, they are greater than the sum of their parts when put together, and the finished pieces are elegant and complex. While each assemblage is open to broad interpretation, she provides subtle hints to their origins through her poetic titles. In “A Woman’s Worth,” six black and white photographs, some found, some made by Vrba, are each contained in a section of a wallmounted shadow box. The images are displayed next to a small clock, a rolled up letter, a magnifying glass, and a letter opener. The women in the photographs are difficult to identify, obscured by shadows or turned away from the camera. The placement of these items and the mysterious identities of the subjects posit a question to the viewer about a woman’s role as a silent, unobtru-
sive figure and the secrets they keep. Secrets are an important element in Vrba’s work. By never revealing the exact meanings of the individual pieces, she simultaneously keeps her secrets hidden while alluding to them in her art. Each sculpture contains a personal story, one that is rife with symbolic objects, yet difficult to decipher. Whether in a still image or an elaborate display of objects, Vrba creates stories and scenarios that are a bit dark, a bit mysterious, and contain a bit of Southern Gothic. Her work feels as though she took her “box of things” out from under the bed and arranged its contents into wondrous and sometimes melancholy assemblage.
Kat Kiernan is a collector of small treasures, and the Editor-in-Chief of Don’t Take Pictures.
Opposite, Clockwise from Top Left
The Last Word 2012
A Woman’s Worth 2013
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Installation Photography and the Transformation of the Viewer Roger Thompson
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he heart of installation art is immersion. Installations rely on the gestalt—the entirety of the vision—to create a greater response in a viewer than a more conventional exhibition. Perhaps more importantly, they aim for transformation by immersion; the viewer becomes not simply audience, but participant in the art. As one enters or engages with an installation, one is transported to a fictional space that bends time, distorts reality, and reimagines the parameters of artistic creation.
Contemporary art has seen a flourishing of art installations, with some, like the works of Christo and Jean-Claude or Rebecca Horn, on a scale never before imagined. Installation art theory has flourished along with it. Critics and historians have sought to understand installations in the context of art history, placing them alongside precedents such as religious architecture and iconography, and contrasting them with
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more static exhibition aesthetics. Nonetheless, contemporary photography has yet to find its footing within the world of installation art, nor has it put forward comparable installation stars like Christo and Jean-Claude.
Every Boy’s Dream John Brill (installed 2015 at Outsider Art Fair). Courtesy of the artist and Kent Fine Art.
Photography as Installation Commentators typically draw attention to two primary features of installation works. The first is immersion. As University of London professor Harriet Hawkins observes, “installations create space to which you take your whole body,” and lead to “intimacies of encounter” made possible only through an immersion in the artwork. That intimacy highlights the second feature of installation art, which is its dialogic character. Installations demand a kind of dialogue between audience and work simply because the audience becomes part of the art experience. The audience member transforms from, in Hawkins’s words, “not one looking at or into a frame, but rather being within that frame.” As such, the work
(installed 2014 at Oxford House). Courtesy of Oxford House, London and the artists Peter Ainsworth, Marcello Simeone, Ian Rudgewick-Brown, Ella Bryant.
One Big Self: Prisoners of Louisiana Deborah Luster (installed 2004 at Jack Shainman Gallery), 1998-2002 photograph, silver emulsion on 288 aluminum plates, steel cabinet, and lamp © Deborah Luster. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.
becomes, in Katarzyna Kosmala’s terms, “engaged practice” whereby the artist and the participant fully embrace dialogue as a central feature of the work. Kosmala, a curator and professor of visual media at the University of West Scotland, finds this engaged practice as one of the defining characteristic of installation art. The photograph, with its representational qualities, asks viewers for a different kind of engagement than other visual arts, one akin to the practice Kosmala describes. Photographs are ubiquitous in our culture, and their popularity rests on their ability to “capture reality.” The power of photography as an art form is its ability to challenge the line between representation and expression. It holds that power because audience expectation of what constitutes a “photograph” is deeply embedded in society through the pervasiveness of the camera. Because photography has a rich history of broad (even democratic) use, it offers a particularly powerful way to connect with personal histories and the wider world. Installations promise even greater capacity for that connection. Among recent artists creating installations is John Brill, whose work explicitly weds the personal with the unexpected to challenge audience expectations about place and memory. Entirely self-taught, Brill is loathe to self-identify as an “installation artist.” Instead, he imagines himself an obsessive seeker of new photographic processes. He is fascinated with the details of photography—the subtle differences between types of paper, the layers of processing that give birth to unexpected images, and the history of materials that has changed as digital expression has made so much of darkroom alchemy obsolete and unattainable. In 2002, Brill was given an opportunity to create an installation by Kent Fine Art in New York, and the success of that work led to a second installation in 2006, and a
third in 2013. At the 2015 Outsider Art Fair, Kent exhibited a portion of one of Brill’s installations, drawing significant attention from attendees. The OAF exhibit excerpted a portion of Brill’s 2013 “Every Boy’s Dream” installation, which originally occupied an entire room. A small desk and two side consoles were littered with photographs, as though someone had been interrupted while compiling a photo album. Scattered across the desktop next to candlesticks, dolls, and lamps, the photographs invited viewers to come close and pick them up, just as you would if you had been invited into a friend’s room. The images, however, challenge the familiarity
of the scene. Faces in portraits melt away to become unrecognizable shadows; waxy surfaces betray ghostly images beneath them. If these were family histories, they were dark memories and distorted lives. Brill is keenly aware of the theater he creates. Installations provide him with a medium through which he can engage an audience in a new way: “What I gain mostly is the opportunity to play with and ultimately subvert the expectations set up by the seemingly familiar personal tableaux.” He does so by combining the autobiographical with the whimsical to create a purely fictional reality. The familiar scene of a
cluttered room, strewn with photographs, invites viewers to physically join in the process of seeing the photographs in new ways. Picking them up, setting them down in different places, placing some alongside others, the viewer becomes participant, shaping the imagined history of that room, that place, and the people who populate its images. The family photo album is completely reimagined, and the impact of the room is dependent on what the viewer brings to it. Brill comments that this dialogue is “like a big Rorschach.” Brill’s installations, then, function in two directions. On the one hand, the individual small photographs across the tops of the desks and consoles invite viewers to engage
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with the photographs. On the other hand, the entire installation welcomes audiences to a familiar world: an everyman’s room, if a somewhat eccentric everyman. These invitations forge connection between the artist and the photographic work, transforming viewers the minute they choose to engage with the installation. That Brill’s images, many haunting and ethereal, might unsettle anyone is almost beyond the point. The fact that the viewer has experienced their eerie stories by stepping into that world means that a new creation has come from their immersion in the scene. Of course, personal engagement is the hallmark of many photographers. Deborah Luster’s series One Big Self, for example,
Shadow Gardens Sally Ayre (installed 2004 at Visual Arts Centre of Clarington), cyanotype and Van Dyke on silk organza. Courtesy of the artist
was exhibited in a cabinet so that viewers would open drawers to discover her tintypes of inmates in Louisiana’s infamous prisons. The act of opening and then cradling in one’s hand the image of a prisoner humanized the subjects, creating a connection that fosters dialogue about the nature of crime and punishment. Similarly, Sally Ayre creates installations whose tactile qualities connect layers of personal history with the transitory nature of memory. Challenging notions of certainty, Ayres’s work bridges entire room installations like Brill’s and the single artifact installation like Luster’s, yet it relies on the same immersion that animates the others’ art. Ayre has built her artistic reputation on cyanotype and Van Dyke brown printing. Most of her work comes through scanning physical objects, usually natural ones like flowers or stones, in a difficult process that captures the intricacies of the object. From these scans, she creates cyanotypes and, more recently, screen prints. She prints each image on a very fine silk organza and hangs several one in front of another with a small space between. The base image, typically on a thicker silk fabric and printed with the Van Dyke process, provides a foundation and grounds the images on top of it. The layers of images floating above the base provide depth, such that the viewer gets the sensation of looking into something, not simply at something. Each piece of the installation, often hung from the ceiling by a fine, virtually invisible nylon line, hangs freely, and as people move toward or past the installation, small currents of air in the room lift and shift the fabric and the images. As the air in the room circulates, the installation changes, even if each image individually never does. That shifting quality embodies the indeterminate nature of memory. Ayres sees both the layering of the images and the quiet, airy movement of each piece of fabric as representing our own way of recollecting
our past. Memories build up in the mind, each one influencing others, and trying to pinpoint the absolute base or the absolute truth of any particular memory is impossible. “Objects turn into my memory” she says, “and they transform into a visual cue that other people can access with their own memories.” In this way, the viewer and the artist become linked, joined together with a shared experience and visual vocabulary. Ayres’s work, unlike Brill’s, does not typically occupy an entire room, and yet it offers a similar intimacy. Even Luster’s work illustrates that intimacy, existing only when an installation invites a viewer to participate in the moment that has been created. This engagement through immersion is the promise of installation art for photographers. The form seems to be growing in popularity. Last year, London’s Oxford House held an exhibition of installation photography, and recent scholarly articles on the social and political impact of installation photography testifies to a growing movement to redefine the boundaries of photographic expression. As with photography’s history more broadly, those boundaries will challenge conceptions of creator and receiver of art, and if work like Brill’s demonstrates anything, it is that photography as an art form finds its strongest and most lasting expression when the artist deliberately uses photographic media to blur the lines between creator, audience, and reality.
Roger Thompson is the Senior Editor for Don’t Take Pictures. His critical writings have appeared in exhibition catalogues, and he has written extensively on self-taught artists with features in Raw Vision and The Outsider. He currently resides on Long Island, New York, where he is a Professor at Stony Brook University.
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Robert Shultsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Altered Reality Allison M. Walters
e live in a world of science fiction. In imagining technological marvels, radical experimentation, or a distant, dystopian future, we often overlook present-day science, the stuff of which was once found only in novels and movies. Photographer Robert Shults conjures this science fiction, the kind that exists today, in a not-so-far-off place: a research facility deep beneath the University of Texas. Shults’ series, The Superlative Light, presents the viewer with a world that is, on the one hand, fiction-turned-reality, but on the other hand, ghostly and fantastical. Through stark compositions, high contrast, and harsh film grain, Shults
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recasts the work of this establishment as science fiction—thrilling and sinister, mysterious and fraught with urgency. Light itself is the subject of research in this facility in Austin, Texas. It is home to the Texas Petawatt Laser, a device that has produced the brightest known light in the universe. Shults’ work both examines and embodies the idealization of technology that is integral to science fiction and so much of our modern, wired lives. In one image, we see a man behind a glass panel, mouth and nose obscured by a facemask. With knitted brows, he appears concerned, his head awash in a strange, glowing light. He looks out and down, as if observing a dangerous experiment from behind the panel. The glass
All images Untitled, 2012
in front of him reflects the alien and synthetic environment that he inhabits. The viewer intuitively understands that these images are not of the real world, even if they represent something close to reality. Shults produces photographs that live in our own in time but reference the stuff of science fiction. Many of the images recall the still frames of Chris Marker’s La Jetée, a post-apocalyptic film depicting a future of time travel, questionable science experiments on non-consenting human subjects, and general dysphoria. Like the images in La Jetée, Shults’ photographs capture an ominous rendition of technology, science, and the future. Selected from real life situations in a state-of-the-art research facility, these photographs are carefully crafted with a black and white film camera and the eye of the artist.
These elements come together to turn the already unique setting into the photographer’s fiction. Because they are intended for an audience that is unfamiliar with laser research, the devices pictured seem foreign and incomprehensible, scrutinizing the relationship between man and technology. Without a background in science, Shults felt compelled to undertake this series by his irrepressible interest in science fiction. After a personal contact allowed him access to the laser facility, he studied the technology intensely for a year. The Texas Petawatt Laser is a complex device that is used by researchers to create types of matter unique to the centers of stars and planets. Researchers also per-
form advanced nuclear fusion, removing electrons from atoms in the same manner as the center of our sun. They are even able to create tiny stars and supernovae. It is this type of modern-day sorcery that appears in Shults’ stark photographs, where he has captured and translated that science reality into a compelling visual fiction. Shults’ photographs are often sparse, focusing on details but denying us an understanding of location and context. Harsh divisions between light and dark conjure mysteries, and we are convinced that some shocking truth is hidden in the shadows or just outside the frame. We see people at work, but they are often obscured by protective eyewear, suits,
and masks. We get the sense that they are being secretive or engaging in classified activities. One photograph features a hooded, completely covered figure standing behind a translucent barrier that nearly bisects the frame. Anonymous and genderless, the figure’s face is hidden in shadow and blur, a deep black triangle. A translucent barrier bisects this void: A sheet of plastic or glass distorts the outer two thirds of the image. The figure’s raised hand suggests that it holds a monitor or other device for communication, and we perhaps imagine the figure reporting to some superior outside the frame. This sense of secrecy and hidden communication allows our imagination to fill in the dark empty spaces and construct our own narratives.
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Without accompanying language or context, the photographs convey a sense of the unknown. Had Shults chosen to include such text, these photographs could stand as documentation of the Petawatt facility. However, without this information, they allow for broader narratives, reminding the viewer of recurring ideas within science fiction rather than reality. This ambiguity allows the viewer to recall the trope of the immoral “mad scientist,” instilled in the collective consciousness by numerous popular science fiction books and films. The Superlative Light is a project in decontextualization, abstraction of reality, and construction of a new narrative using the familiar vernaculars of science fiction and cinematic presentation. Shults has thor-
oughly explored not only a facility, but also an entire genre, taking bits and pieces of reality, combining them, and through his own radical alchemy, created a new story. These images move beyond documents of reality to serve as spaces for the imagination. He leaves the viewer with room to contemplate what lies within the frame, but he fosters even greater desire to imagine what lies beyond. The series explores the idea of light and lasers, but leaves us enmeshed in darkness.
Allison M. Walters is a visual artist based in New York.
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A Dancer’s Dream:
The Photographs of Josephine Cardin Diana H. Bloomfield
Be Set Free 2014
hat Josephine Cardin trained as a ballet dancer comes as no surprise when viewing her photographs. Like an interpretive dance sequence, her images reveal themselves unhurriedly, in a lyrical, fluid, and often dramatic way. Emphasizing the narrative, Cardin groups her images in miniseries of five or more, each with its own evocative title. These groupings frequently borrow from other art forms, often translating as a slice of performance art—complete with masks, mystery, and melodrama. At other times, she draws from literary culture, unfolding her two-dimensional art form in fantastical wordless storytelling.
someone dreaming.” And, like any dream, what follows is at once surreal and nonsensical, logical and familiar. We are meant to identify with these stolen dreams—inspired, in part, by “human themes of loneliness, isolation, fear, and transformation.”
One such series, entitled Nevermore, pays homage to and draws inspiration from Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven. Nineteen monochromatic images, including five distinct triptychs, embody a kind of hazy supernatural atmosphere, much like Poe’s poem. These soft romanticized images depict a woman in a long white gown, dreaming perhaps of her wedding. She soon appears in a transparent white veil, one that flows from a tightly woven crown of vines, and which ultimately transforms into black. As in Poe’s poem, she is visited by a raven-like bird. In movement and in stillness, this woman displays emotions that range from a dreamy kind of happiness and imagined love, to one of wonderment, disappointment, fear, sadness, and loneliness. This visual narrative is multifaceted, laden with symbolism, and, like all of Cardin’s work, wholly interpretive.
Another of Cardin’s visual stories, entitled Upon a Time, not only borrows from the traditional opening lines of a fairy tale, but the eight images that comprise this series reveal a woman who embodies many of the roles given to fairy tale women. In deep saturated color, clothed in royal purple and crowned as a princess, the woman’s eyes remain closed and ultimately blindfolded. She is manipulated like a helpless marionette. Disembodied female hands, possibly her own, hold the strings that control her. For reasons unknown, she soon breaks free of those binds, and those once-controlling strings loosely undulate like liquid ribbon. She moves voluntarily in a kind of rapturous delight. The final ghostly image offers no definitive closure; rather, Cardin allows us alternative endings, completely dependent on the individual viewer’s reading.
Cardin describes her carefully constructed imagery as that of a “voyeur in the mind of
In each series, the images could all exist as stand-alone pieces with their own compelling and malleable plot line, yet Cardin’s multi-image groupings suggest more than a single image or conventional triptych could. At times, they seem reminiscent of a found filmstrip, allowing us a voyeuristic journey into Cardin’s own vivid imagination and dreams.
Cardin feels that she needs to tell a story, to look at something or someone, and “capture the essence, the emotion, and
the soul of the subject.” To reveal these seemingly infinite narratives in a single image feels impossible to her. Consequently, the best way for Cardin to tell her stories is to show multiple photographs in sequence. When she views others’ single images, she is invariably left with wanting “something more.” In choosing to create multiple images within each series, she of-
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fers that “something more” to her viewers. Most of Cardin’s narratives follow a theme, frequently ending with some sort of selfrealization or transformation. In dreams, as in reality, these changes can be subtle, at times indecipherable, and not always presented linearly. Cardin exposes just enough to allow space for the viewer’s own reading and interpretation, presenting a meaningful
Ground Underneath 2014 Opposite
interactive experience. She also wants the viewer to make a connection—to look at her imagery and say, “I have felt that, right there!” Cardin treads a fine line between making images that remain contemporary, but that also recognize and often exploit historic depictions of women. In her series, Silenced, she explores the question of Who is Mary Magdalene? Early oral and written history describes Mary variously as saint, sinner, whore, goddess, demon, mother, savior, and disciple. In Silenced, Cardin touches on
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a few of those roles ascribed to Mary. In each image, Cardin’s Mary of Magdala appears with a black tape covering her mouth. This tape, echoing the shape of the cross she carries, essentially silences her own voice. Many of these same themes, to varying degrees, can be found in all of Cardin’s imagery, whether ascribed to or adopted by the women she creates for her narratives. Many of the women in her images often appear silenced, literally bound, or rendered sightless, as in the thirteen images that comprise Keeping Secrets. Others, such as
Keeping Secrets 2014 Opposite
Upon A Time 2014
Ground Underneath, reveal a woman in what appears to be a state of reverie, often in levitation—ethereal and gravity-defying. The majority of Cardin’s work is self-portraiture, which began solely out of necessity. Initially, not knowing any models, she placed herself in her own storylines. Surprised by how much she enjoyed the process, it was then that she “truly connected to her figurative work,” combining all that she loves—dance, photography, storytelling—into one art form. To connect with and own one’s work to such an extent is
both rewarding and challenging, in that, as Cardin describes it, “you’re literally putting yourself out there.” Yet her compelling image-making derives, in no small part, from that literal and willing participation. Every movement—elegant, efficient, and beautifully rendered—infuses depth and meaning to her work, where “harmony and truthfulness” are in the telling.
Diana H. Bloomfield is a photographer, independent curator, and writer. She lives and works in Raleigh, North Carolina.
na Joshua Sariña
e h t d n a a i g l a t Nos n o i t a n i g a m I f Collapse o
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Nostalgia-based photographic filters change our perception of time
here will always be a need to connect to the past. Contemporary culture actively and unconsciously cycles through past follies and reflects upon progress. It is no surprise then that we see popular culture re-presenting past generations. Perhaps more so than any other period in our recent past, today’s pop-cultural climate is mimicking that of the 1970s. Mobile photography, the newest significant photographic technology, also finds its social roots in the 1970s via the Polaroid camera and postmodern art. A considerable driving force of today’s ‘70s throwback is the hyper-growth of social media brought about by the smartphone—specifically the ubiquitous use of retro filter-based apps that harken back to the photographic styles of the decade. Photography emphasizes nostalgia to visualize and understand a future that we cannot—or try not to—imagine. The ever-increasing use of retro nostalgia within the space of photo sharing may collapse our ability to imagine a coherent future by altering the region of the brain that forms autobiographical memories.
Untitled 2004 Polaroid One with Polaroid 600 color film Photo: Joshua Sariñana
Nostalgia is the yearning to return to the past. Research examining the psychological impact of nostalgia indicates that it may have evolved as a resource against negative emotional reactions, like sadness. Imagine moving to a new city without social support and feeling lonely. You might go to Facebook or Instagram to look at photos of yourself with friends and family. Sifting through images will evoke strong emotions, some of which may be positive, and remind you of how you overcame isolation. When nostalgia is used to integrate the past with the present, one can de-
velop strategies to tackle an uncertain future. While nostalgia can help with coping, however, it can also cause one to withdraw from present issues. Imagine a tumultuous break up. Looking at photos of your ex-lover can block the growth necessary to get on with your life, if the photographs depict only happy times. Because photography is a primary mode of communication on social media, the photograph has the potential to either support or block growth. In longing for the past and ignoring the present or imagining a hopeful future, images can shape our perception of time. What happens then to the potential benefits of nostalgia when we are constantly cued to the past? Nostalgia-based photographic filters could change our perception of time by altering how we perceive ourselves in relation to our past and future. The part of the brain that is responsible for integrating past and future is the same region that is responsible for memory formation. Image overload may result in abnormal brain function. Before we get to the brain, let’s first look back to the 1970s.
Retromania and The Analogue-Digital Transit ion The 1970s marked the transition from modernism to postmodernism, from analogue to digital, and gave rise to social media as we know it. Photography in the ‘70s was creating a visual culture unknown by any previous generation because of its new position in the museum. The solo exhibitions of Stephen Shore and William Eggleston at the Museum of Modern Art in 1976 cemented photography’s place as a fine art. Both Shore and Eggleston formed a poetic nostalgia
of 1970s Americana through their color photographs and snapshot aesthetic, which occurred at the same time that the instant and amateur-friendly Polaroid SX-70 camera became popular. By the end of the 1970s, Polaroid had
tionality of these cameras eliminated the need for technical expertise that had been required to successfully operate a camera, allowing the everyday person to make photographs and photographic art. The retro-nostalgia-imaging of today’s mobile photography pays homage to the aesthet-
shutter, select Instagram’s 1977 filter, and upload for the world to see. You can also use Hipstamatic to add a toy camera affect. The ShakeItPhoto app can add a Polaroid border to any mobile image. Newer apps like Mextures have dozens of vintage filters that create images with warm saturated colors and faux-textures. We have entered into an era of hyper-analogue where we can digitize any photograph into an image seemingly old and authentic.
and Future Imagination Is Past Nostalgia is inseparable from the past, and the past is represented as memory. Autobiographical memories are established in the hippocampus and are formed through the creation of new connections between brain cells, or neurons. These new connections change the activity of the hippocampus, and which represents a novel memory that occurred in the past.
Regardless of what it signifies, any photographic image also connotes memory and nos talgia, nostalgia for modernity and the twentieth cen tury, the era of the pre-digital, pre-post-modern . – Lev Manovicht
become the best-selling camera in history. The SX-70, the first Polaroid format to have the iconic white border, was the product of decades of research. It integrated chemical and mechanical engineering with optics and electronics, similar to the integration of multiple technologies in the smartphone. The easy-to-use func-
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ics of postmodern photography as exemplified by Shore, Eggleston, and the Polaroid. The smartphone is a technological wonder of twenty-first century photography. Yet it is often used to create an analogue representation of 1970s film. Click the iPhone
The hippocampus is not only important for making new memories, but it is also necessary for imagining possible events. If someone with hippocampal damage looks at a picture and is asked to describe that picture, they can do this without any problems. However, if asked what could exist outside the frame, that person is unable to provide any imagined scenarios. Similarly, hippocampal damage also affects the ability to imagine future possibilities. Imagination is the basis of memory and future planning. Our perception of the past is filtered as much as our perception of the future. The mobile screen is the most popular media interface, and photographs serve as social currency. Because mobile photography is everywhere and enmeshed with rapid technological progress, it is precisely this progress that allows photography to alter our sense of space-time more so than any
Untitled 2014 SX-70 with Impossible Color SX-70 film Photo: Joshua Sariñana
other artistic medium. Thus, the retrofilter serves as the most influential mediator of social media and has the greatest affect on how we perceive of past, present, and future.
William Eggleston, Untitled (Wonder Bread Sign, Mississippi) from the Southern Suite c. 1970 © Eggleston Artistic Trust. Courtesy Cheim & Read, New York
Inundation of visual imagery causes information overload that can impair hippocampal function. Environmental cues activate memories, which update current information into the pattern of the brain’s activity. Too much information can degrade our attention to such a degree that a collapse of our ability to form new memories and imagine the future may occur. It is a very real possibility that our ability to remember (i.e., imagine) our past and to incorporate new information into future possibilities will become severely limited.
With technological growth, digital filters have come, in part, to represent nostalgia. The ubiquitous use of digital nostalgic imagery represents our need to control our perception of time. The compulsion to filter the presentation of time is a shortterm solution for a long-term problem. Every photo implies the past, but it is necessary to use the past as a way to guide us towards the future and not as a place to find refuge from the unknown. If we are to transcend the distraction of pseudo-nostalgia, it will be necessary to imagine photography outside the realm of the past. Joshua Sariñana is a neurology research fellow at Harvard Medical School. In addition to being an amateur photographer, he examines photography as it relates to neuroscience and culture.
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Each month we release an exclusive edition run of a photograph by one of the featured artists. Each image is 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.
Up to the Mountains in the Fog Dmitry Gomberg 6 x 9, signed and numbered edition of 5 Archival inkjet print $95 Available in October
Untitled Robert Shults 6 x 9, signed and numbered edition of 5 Silver gelatin print $150 (includes signed book) Available in November
For more information, or to purchase a print, visit DontTakePictures.com
Hayling Island, Hampshire, England, 2013 Marc Wilson 8 x 9, signed and numbered edition of 5 Digital C-type photographic print $150 Available in December
Be Set Free Josephine Cardin 6 x 9, signed and numbered edition of 5 Archival inkjet print $100 Available in January
Emergence Jen Ervin 3.28 x 4.25, signed and numbered edition of 5 Archival inkjet print from original Polaroid $75 Available in February
The Boston Marathon draws runners from around the world every April to make the 26.2-mile trek from Hopkinton, MA to Boston. The course is legendary – the ladies of Wellesley, the hills of Newton, the gauntlet of BC spectators just over Heartbreak Hill – and the experience is one of a kind. Printed offset on bright white, archival stock, this train roll style poster commemorates each of the towns runners encounter along the route of The Marathon. 15”x24”. $20 shipped. Ships loosely rolled, USPS Priority Mail. Looks equally sharp matted and framed (not included). For more images or to purchase, visit shop.unionjackcreative.com.
Union Jack Creative
SEPTEMBER 24 - 27 // CHICAGO // 2015
© Penelope Umbrico, Courtesy of Mark Moore Gallery
MILLENNIUM KNICKERBOCKER HOTEL PORTFOLIO REVIEWS // WORKSHOPS ARTIST TALKS // LECTURES // EXHIBITIONS WWW.FILTERFESTIVAL.COM
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West 31st and South Halsted Derek Haas
Photo courtesy of Accidental Mysteries, collection of John Foster
“You’re pulling my leg, Harvey.”
Harvey exhaled, exasperated. He watched Caesar take another drag off his Lucky, clamp one eye closed to block out the smoke. “You need to see a doc.”
“Don’t look… don’t look… Christ, you’re looking right at him. I told you not to look.” Harvey raised his eyebrows, his hands deep in his pockets, a fool’s battle against the cold. Why’d Luce stick him with Caesar? “Look where?” “Blue van.” “That’s Gil’s van.” “That’s what you think.” “I saw Gil get outta that van. Twenty minutes ago.” “The hell you say?” “He bummed a smoke off you before he went inside.” “You’re pulling my leg.” “Like hell.”
“Don’t say that.” “What’s your brother’s name?”
Home and maybe Shirley, maybe Louisa. Maybe a bottle. Gil came out of the door, walked over to them. “Hiya,” said Caesar, eager. “How’z it, Gil?” Harvey glared at him. “It is what it is. You guys stay put until the big man comes out. Drive him wherever he says.”
“Ha ha. Wise guy.” “I’m serious. What’s your brother’s name?”
“’Course we will,” answered Caesar. Gil touched his cap, crossed the street, climbed in the blue van, and took off.
“Calvin Coolidge.” Harvey just kept on staring at him. “My brother’s name,” Caesar muttered. “You gonna ask me that? My brother’s name? You’re the one’s gonna need a doctor.” Harvey let that threat hang in the air until it stunk. His hands ached, his nose, his ears. Couple more hours and that was it.
Harvey bore a hole into the side of Caesar’s head, but his partner just smiled. “I like that Gil.” Harvey didn’t answer. Couple more hours. Then home, maybe Louisa, maybe-“Harvey, don’t look. Don’t look Harvey. Across the street. Black Ford. Ahh, you looked.”
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.
IN CONTEXT FALL 2015
Dmitry Gomberg Up to the Mountains in the Fog 2009