Page 1


# 25 Traces Winter 2010 €17,50

Seba Kurtis / Willem Popelier / Ishiuchi Miyako / Robert Frank / James D. Griffioen / Gert Jan Kocken / Anni Leppälä / The La Brea Matrix

Seba Kurtis / Willem Popelier / Ishiuchi Miyako / Robert Frank / James D. Griffioen / Gert Jan Kocken / Anni Lepp채l채 / The La Brea Matrix

5 Editorial

foam magazine # 25 traces

6 Portfolio Overview

Portfolios 31 Seba Kurtis Shoe Box

8 On My Mind images selected by Gerry Badger, Olu Oguibe, Jessica Backhaus, Enrico Bossan, Koos Breukel & Anne Marsh

text by Sophie Wright

14 Interview Diane Dufour: The Image-document and the Real

71 Ishiuchi Miyako v]dj /   Hiroshima

by Marc Feustel

21 Theme introduction Traces of Absence by Marcel Feil

51 Willem Popelier — and Willem text by Jörg Colberg

text by Mika Kobayashi

91 Robert Frank Tal Uf Tal Ab text by Philip Gefter

111 James D. Griffioen Feral Houses text by Aaron Schuman

131 Gert Jan Kocken The Past in the Present text by Maria Barnas

151 Anni Leppälä Chapter I-IV text by Harri Laakso

171 The La Brea Matrix Six German Photographers & A New Color Icon by Stephen Shore text by Christoph Schaden


192 Photobooks by Sebastian Hau

197 Foam A ­ msterdam Exhibition Programme 218 Colophon


It is appropriate that an entirely new item in this issue focusing on the past has the title ‘What’s Next?’. Based on the often-substantial changes the medium of photography has undergone in recent years, the editors pose the question of how it will develop further. How will photography look in ten years? We have also asked ourselves questions about the future of professional photographic practice, about the ­future of photography museums, about the development of the visual arts in general, and about technological, sociological and societal changes. But we don’t present the answers. In ‘What’s Next?’ we pose this one, extremely general question to extremely diverse experts, ranging from critics, curators and journalists to photographers, researchers and artists. Each answers the question from his or her own convictions and expertise, preferably in a stimulating and imaginative way. Thus in each of the next four issues a new group of experts will present their visions concerning ‘What’s Next?’. All contributions will be posted on Foam’s new website and readers are invited to respond to these points of view.

by Marloes Krijnen Editor-in-chief

History and our relationship to the past have enjoyed a clear increase in interest in recent years that takes on very many forms, varying from a wide-ranging debate on a national canon of history, as at present in the Netherlands, to tele­vision shows that focus on the ‘good old days’. It is quite likely that this interest has in part been caused by an intense insecurity about developments within present-day society. More and more people find that rapid globalisation and the increased mobility of people, goods and ideas are not necessarily blessings. Many instead view those developments as a threat to what was safe and familiar. The relentless drive forward and a constantly changing society often draw on existing traditions and social structures which offer points of reference and security. A reconsideration of the foundations of one’s own identity – national, regional as well as strictly personal – and so also interest in one’s own history, can provide an explanation. Visual media are occupying an increasingly important place in the formation of our historical consciousness. The general public is literally forming its image of the past through television, film, photography and to a growing degree through the Internet. The power of the historical image is a particularly strong factor in this. Awareness of one’s own personal history is often determined far more forcefully through a single photo album, handed down through the family, than through stories, official documents or other sources.


One final point: Foam Magazine has been restyled. The content is as still trusted as always, but after 25 issues it was time to revise the design of the magazine. With another cover, another typeface and several subtle changes in the design, its clarity has been increased, the design remains contemporary as well as timeless, and the focus on the ­image has been further expanded. •

This issue of Foam Magazine focuses on the tension between present and past that is characteristic of photography. A photo, after all, always represents an event from a time in the past that is completed. That single moment in which the photo was taken is irrevocably behind us and can never be brought back. The photo shows us what was. But the photo itself is. A photo is a trace of absence. And as a trace, as object and as representation, it has an existence all its own and can acquire a history all its own. It can be viewed, interpreted and appreciated by countless people. This issue is about the past in the present. A choice has been made not to include historical visual material but rather contemporary work which seeks a relationship to the past. It is above all a reflection on representation of the past. An extraordinarily diverse group of photographers have been brought together, with portfolios by Seba Kurtis, Willem Popelier, Ishiuchi Miyako, Robert Frank, James D. Griffioen, Gert Jan Kocken, Anni Leppälä and The La Brea Matrix, each with his or her own way of shedding light on the past. 5

Portfolio Overview

foam magazine # 25 traces

Seba Kurtis Shoe Box

Willem Popelier — and Willem

Kurtis’s family lost almost everything during the political and economic unrest in Argentina in the 1980s and again, in the early part of this decade. After this second wave of financial turmoil he and his family swept their homeland and sought work abroad, becoming illegal immigrants in Spain. For Seba Kurtis, a lightweight, inexpensive and easily recycled, shoebox and its contents are the closest thing he has to a family album, a circumstance resulting from his transitory past.

The work __ and Willem chronicles the lives of Willem ­Popelier and his identical twin brother, who, just like various other family members, did not ‘grant permission to have their portraits used.’ Consequently, their faces and names are obscured in the documentation. The blank space in the title stands for the twin brother. This body of work essentially is a collection of photographic facts that successfully frustrates our desire to know more.

Ishiuchi Miyako v]dj  / Hiroshima

Robert Frank Tal Uf Tal Ab

From the 19,000 remains of atom bomb victims that are kept and exhibited as research items in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum (HPMM), Ishiuchi Miyako selected things that had been in direct contact with the victims’ ­bodies, especially of young women, such as dresses, skirts, and accessories. She ordered an oversized light table ­specially for the shooting and took some of the pictures of clothes against the light with her hand-held camera.

Frank’s photographs are less about a specific subject than about the experience of seeing – and of being. The poetic register in Frank’s pictures of his wife and his friends is struck not only from the actual moments he captured but, also, from the quality of his own experience resonating in the frame. The vocabulary of expression is something close to Zen, or meditation.


Gert Jan Kocken The Past in the Present

Griffioen’s Feral Houses may not be imperial monuments of long-lasting historical importance; in fact, many of the houses themselves have since been demolished. Yet captured as photographs, these overrun structures still possess the weight of the ruin – in this case, one of love and family – and preserve its intense, emotive power.

The awareness of how history is written, and how the ­attribution of meaning comes about, is a powerful element in Gert Jan Kocken’s work. He’s interested in decisive ­moments in the course of history when things could have taken a different turn. He presents cornerstones of a shadow history and by doing so places an additional layer on top of the history that’s familiar to us.

Anni Leppälä Chapter I-IV

The La Brea Matrix Six German Photographers & A New Color Icon by Stephen Shore

Since Anni Leppälä’s visual voice is a soft one, more a whisper, the impact of her work is surprising, sometimes seeming almost self-contradictory. But this is precisely what Leppälä’s images do: carry within an internal tension, play an eternal game of hide and seek, or lavish us with their privacy. In this light it is perhaps not surprising that the idea of tracing is apt when considering the photography of Anni Leppälä.

The La Brea Matrix, a project initiated in 2008 by Lapis Press, Culver City and takes as its point of departure a New Color Photography icon – a legendary photograph by Stephen Shore, one of the movement’s leading protagonists. The La Brea Matrix brought six German photographers to Los Angeles in order to discover new photographic perspectives on Stephen Shore’s image.


portfolio overview

James D. Griffioen Feral Houses

On My Mind

foam magazine # 25 traces

Six well-known figures from the cultural world ­selected an image that has recently been on their minds...

Gibellina, Novembre, 1989 © Guido Guidi

Gerry Badger At the moment, I am writing an introductory essay for an extraordinary new photobook by the Italian photographer, Guido Guidi, who – and I mean this as a compliment – makes some of the unloveliest photographs I have seen. Not ugly, because paradoxically, to me they are beautiful, but unlovely. A New Map of Italy is at once a statement of Guidi’s aesthetic, or rather, anti-aesthetic intent, and a metaphor for the state of Italy. From his imagery, we can assume that the prognosis is not positive. Here, a solid enough, somewhat classically inspired stone farmhouse or cottage tilts at an alarming angle, as if upended by an earthquake. Around lie various pieces of debris, notably a number of scattered oil drums. On the right-hand side of the frame, a rocky hillside seems to be the remnant of some violent eruption. It’s an image of violence, of utter abandonment, as if something terrible has just happened to the inhabitants of this place and has driven them away – maybe an earthquake, maybe some other nameless ­catastrophe. Guidi gives us no clues. He photographs in a deadpan, supremely matter-of-fact way, eschewing any kind of overt rhetoric, either formal or in terms of palette. His colour is as downbeat as his subject-matter; his imagery is as enigmatic as it is unlovely. • This is a great photograph.  Gerry Badger (b.1948, UK) is a well-respected photo historian and critic based in London. He is the author of numerous books on the history and theory of photography and has written for many artist books.


on my mind Langston Hughes with African Dignitary (sic) and Others, 1960 © Photographer unknown, Archives of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University

Olu Oguibe In the archives of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University is a photograph known to very few. It comes from the personal papers of the poet Langston Hughes; the photographer is unknown. The archive catalogue lists the image as ‘Photograph of Langston Hughes with African dignitary (sic) and others’ and dates it to 1960. It says nothing about the occasion recorded, or how Hughes came by the photograph. Yet a cursory glance at the image reveals the African ‘dignitary’ to be Nnamdi Azikiwe, the journalist who led Nigeria’s struggle for independence from British colonial rule, and who on 16 November 1960 was sworn in as Governor-General of the newly independent nation. Langston Hughes, a special guest at the inauguration, had been a close friend of Azikiwe’s from their student days at Lincoln University, Pennsylvania. The Governor-General’s inaugural speech ended with a quote from a poem by Hughes. The photograph is a striking image of an ebullient crowd and a triumphant if humble leader who pledged at his inauguration that, henceforth, his country would lead the ­struggle for human dignity in the world. As Nigeria marks 50 years of independence from colonial rule, I have reflected much on the promise and optimism evident in this photograph, as indeed I have on the tragic fact that little of that promise has been realized and even less of the optimism has survived. • Olu Oguibe (b.1964, Nigeria) is Professor of Art and Art History and Associate Director of the Institute for African American Studies at the University of Connecticut. He is also an artist and has curated major international exhibitions for venues such as Tate Modern and the Venice Biennale.


foam magazine # 25 traces

Wanting to Make Love, 2009 (mixed media on paper) © Rebecca Raue

Jessica Backhaus The other day I saw a painting at my best friend’s house that so moved me that ever since it has been on my mind. It is by the German painter Rebecca Raue, a very fine artist whose work is deeply ­personal. I reacted to it so strongly that I felt a certain strength and vulnerability simultaneously. Her paintings feed on a deep sense of wonder and longing for the unknown. ‘Opening the door to somewhere else is how I now try to start my paintings. I then look for a long time and try to make sense of what I see. It’s like structuring, like creating a map. Mapping the unknown. The unknown often feels much more familiar, much more real than the known. That is what fascinates me. It is like coming home. My work is about that fascination, that longing, that gap.’ Rebecca Raue seeks to go behind the surface of the moment and tries to create an opening for new stories. I believe that this sense of longing and yearning is lingering in all of us. Longing to live and to love. Her work takes us on a journey into the unknown where our imagination and longing find their own way. The world is wide open. • Jessica Backhaus (b.1970, Germany) is a photographer living in Berlin after several years in Paris and New York. Her fourth photographic series I Just Wanted to See the World was published this summer, followed by her first solo exhibition at Laurence Miller Gallery in New York.


on my mind Neda’s death, Iran, 20. 6. 2009, stills taken from a video on YouTube

Enrico Bossan In Iran in May 2009 a young woman was publicly murdered during an anti-governmental protest. She is known to the world as Neda. The little we know about this incident was disclosed on the internet. The images taken with mobile phones witness the event and leave a face, without professionalism or justice. No commentary, only shouts and background noises. Thinking seems to stop each time the veil is taken from the camera. I observe the footage; I read it like a series of frames. A stand-alone image of the new martyrs of Iran. A detached picture, instead of being painted on the walls of Iranian cities like other portraits of revolution’s martyrs, the images of Neda are shared across the web. The whole world saw these mobile-photos transforming into • the symbol of an idea. Enrico Bossan (b.1956, Italy) is the editorial director of COLORS Magazine and head of the photography ­department at Fabrica, Benetton’s communications research centre.


foam magazine # 25 traces

A Life Guard and a Doctor Attempt to Save a Swimmer’s Life on Coney Island Beach, New York, 1940 © Weegee (Arthur Fellig), courtesy International Center of Photography, New York; Getty Images

Koos Breukel Weegee was an American press photographer who slept fully clothed next to his police radio, so that he could always be the first to arrive at a crime scene. He had a whopper of a cigar and a whopper of a Speed Graphic camera with a whopper of a flash attachment to go with it, providing him with the kind of straight from the shoulder lighting that he called his ‘Rembrandt light’. Many photographers were influenced by this sidewalk artist. The Netherlands’ own Ed van der Elsken had himself immortalized with a Speed Graphic by the photographer and avid collector Willem Diepraam. Van der Elsken also had a portrait of Weegee painted on his 2CV car. This particular photograph by Weegee, also known under the title Smile for the Camera (1940), must have been extremely important to Diane Arbus, too. She imitated his lighting and was always fascinated by this kind of theatre of reality. In Weegee’s photo the smile on the face of the girl kneeling next to the body of her drunken friend is more mysterious than the one of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. For me the image has several bizarre layers. On the one hand there’s the girl posing in an inappropriate manner, on the other there are the men in the background, looking at the photographer sternly, almost accusatorially. This picture proves in my view that the things in an image that are not explained always • produce the best photographs. Koos Breukel (b.1962, The Netherlands) is a Dutch portrait photographer, who has in his career photographed many international photographers and artists.


Anne Marsh Jill Orr is one of Australia’s premier performance artists and she has presented many memorable public rituals and art actions. These works are also created for the camera and are collected by galleries and museums, not simply as documentation of the events but as signature works of performative photography. Southern Cross to Bear and Behold – Burning is one of a series of photographs, which address global warming. Orr walks across the dry salt bed of Mitre Lake in the Wimmera district, situated in the west of the state of Victoria, in South-East Australia, holding a burning umbrella. This motif has recurred in Orr’s ecological actions and signifies the burning of the planet, quite literally in the hands of the people. The mirror surface of the encrusted salt lake is penetrated by the artist’s footprints, revealing black underneath where the earth itself is already scorched. Shamanism and catharsis are embedded in all of Jill Orr’s work but there is also the idea of the trickster. Close inspection shows that the figure walking the salt lake is ­smiling – like a fool – treading lightly across the arid and parched landscape she is alien and isolated, unconscious and disconnected. The flaming ball of fire she carries around her head gives off a dark, toxic smoke as she wonders through a barren land. This photograph resonates in my mind as a poetic politics. It speaks to the devastation of the planet’s ecology in a minimal aesthetic that incorporates a poetic narrative.  • Anne Marsh is Professor of Theory in Art & Design at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. Her book LOOK! Contemporary Australian Photography, about Australian Photography since 1980 has just been released by Macmillan Publishers.


on my mind

Southern Cross to Bear and Behold – Burning, 2007 © Jill Orr, Photographer: Naomi Herzog, courtesy of the artist and Jenny Port Gallery, Melbourne


foam magazine # 25 traces

After having opened Le Bal in September, Diane ­Dufour the director of this new Parisian exhibition ­venue for documentary practices, speaks with Marc Feustel about the relationship ­between the real and the possible ways of representing it.

interview with

Diane Dufour The Image-document and the Real photographs by Antoine d’Agata translation by Anne Hodgkinson



by Marc Feustel

readable at face value? How can we show phenomena that profoundly affect our society but which are far removed from the photogenic qualities of an event? As Marc Augé put it, how do you ‘record a world defined by representation, which never stops recording itself, or even recording itself recording itself?’ Le Bal takes on these questions and presents works, which deliberately put the documentary genre to the test. Our understanding of what we ‘take in’ beyond appearances is on the line.

foam magazine # 25 traces

How can we show ­phenomena that profoundly affect our society but which are far removed from the photogenic qualities of an event?

You have spoken about the changing nature of the representation of the real today. Are there any artists working today whose work you see as dealing with the changing nature of the image in an interesting way? The list would be too long, but I can mention four artists who are contributing directly or indirectly to our first publica­ tion in a series called Les Carnets de Bal, around the theme ‘The image-document between fact and fiction’: Susan Meiselas, Johan Grimonprez and Joana Hadjithomas together with Khalil Joreige. In their singular ways they shed some light on our questioning the status of the image today. Le Bal’s focus on the ‘image-document’ places it in quite a unique space within the cultural and artistic sphere. I am not aware of any other museums that have this focus. What made you think there was room for Le Bal in Paris, a city with many existing venues exhibiting photography? What differentiates Le Bal from other photography venues in Paris? Le Bal’s creation was a gamble: to open a space on a human scale that is independent, cross-disciplinary, open, mobile and reactive to all the contemporary forms of the document. In a non-institutional spirit, it aims to uncover new ground, to pass on and to reveal. We invented Le Bal to create a free zone, a territory of images shaped, put to work, etc., by the historical, social and political stakes, so that experimental or off-beat documentary works can find a place and so that curators, critics, and artists can propose unexpected exhibition projects.

You have just opened Le Bal, a new space devoted to the ‘image-document’ in Paris. How did the idea to open Le Bal first come about? I wanted to create an independent venue devoted to repre­ sentations of the real through all kinds of images: photo­ graphy, video, cinema, new media. In 2004, I discovered by chance a magnificent but ruined ballroom in Paris, which had been a meeting place for Italian immigrants in the 1920s. We set up a non-profit association to support the project, with the photographer and filmmaker Raymond Depardon as its president. The Paris Mayor’s office decided to purchase the building, and then we involved other partners and individual donors in the project to fund the renovation of the space and its programme. Le Bal finally opened on 18 September this year, after three years of work on the building and on the preparation of our programmes.

The diversity of the work included in your first exhibition Anonymes, L’Amérique Sans Nom: Photo­graphie et Cinéma suggests that your definition of the ‘­document’ goes beyond the traditional conception that is asso­ ciated with photojournalism or classical documentary photography. Yes, we want to cover a large spectrum, that of the visual document in all its states, still or moving, with all the complex­ ity of a historically fluctuating notion and all the diversity in artistic practice: from Eugène Atget’s Documents for Artists to the ‘near documentary’ of Jeff Wall, going through the docu­ mentary style of Walker Evans, the visual anthropology of Gilles Peress or the ‘critical realism’ of Allan Sekula, to mention just a few examples. There are many different hypotheses about the world, different positions, different constructions of the human experience. Le Bal’s opening exhibition Anonymes allows viewers to discover ten historic and contemporary works all questioning the place of individuality in the American public space, from Lewis Baltz to Anthony Hernandez, from Standish Lawder to Sharon Lockhart. Since the 1930s, North American

What are the aims for Le Bal? Le Bal is a platform for exhibition, production, publish­ ing, talks and debates around the multiple interpretations of the real: essays, typologies, pamphlets, reports, chronicles, investigations, albums… We want to make people think about the relationship between the real and the possible ways of representing it; we also want the public to discover artists who are concerned and aware of the political and aesthetic stakes of their work at a time when the endless flow of im­ ages is creating ever more opacity and confusion. The birth of Le Bal actually comes at a point when, more than ever, creative people are questioning the conditions of produc­ tion, distribution and reception of images: is the world still 16

17 interview

foam magazine # 25 traces

Given what you have said about the fall of photo­ graphy within the realm of news media, do you think that photojournalism still has a role to play in today’s environment? There are many co-existing forms of photojournalism. Professional news photojournalism is being challenged on one side by amateur pictures (like the Abu Ghraib Prison photos, pictures of the Iranian opposition or of the Tsunami in 2004) and royalty-free images, and on the other side by long-term projects, incompatible with the economy and speed of the media, and also by near-impossible access in many areas due to censorship, the absence of reasonable security, or the illegality of photographing in many public spaces, etc. And let’s not forget a more insidious form of control by the distributor, who often favours very poor visual stereotypes to illustrate rather than report on a situation. Today photojournalism is being forced to find other means of access and financing and other channels of dis­ tribution, and often combining them, like the Web, books, exhibitions, selling prints, prizes and grants. Above all it’s seeking a freer but more demanding visual language, which also implies a great mastery of the subject (historical, geopo­ litical), an unparalleled tenacity to overcome the obstacles on the scene and a keen awareness of the consequences of the chosen form and means of diffusion. Only a few, scattered across the globe can achieve that. With Le Bal, you will not only be dealing with photo­ graphy, but also with film and new media. How do you intend to balance these different forms of media? What can we expect from the first year of your exhibition programme? What’s important is not so much the balance of media as the strength and the singularity of the visions presented. Le Bal aims to show all kinds of documents, films, videos, installations and books. We also have a partnership with the ­Cinéma des Cinéastes, just 300 metres away from us, and we program films every Saturday morning, what you might call the UFOs of historical and contemporary documentary cinema, which extends the thinking about the exhibition. Le Bal also ­co­publishes several works a year, leaning towards young ­talent, reference works and artists’ books. For example, we’ve just co-published The Makes by Eric Baudelaire, which ­juxtaposes never-filmed scenarios written by Antonioni with anonymous photography from post-war Japanese cinema. Some other Le Bal projects are the work by Gilles Peress on the conflict in Northern ­Ireland (Power in the Blood, 1970  -  1990), 60 years of the best photo­graphy books from South America, and Japanese protest photo­graphy of the 1960s and 1970s.

culture has celebrated the individual and individualism, while nearly all its great creative minds have expressed the grow­ ing feeling of anonymity, banality or narrowing of every­day experience. These are America’s twin gifts to world visual culture, and their tensions and contradictions can be seen everywhere. How can the image take that into account? The exhibition shows the work of young talents who echo their predecessors. New writing, developed in a spirit of mobili­ zation and experimentation, is perpetuating the approach of the great figures of history for whom the documentary form has always been a challenge, an object to continually redefine and reinvent. Through the technological evolution of the past ten years, the role of photography as a tool for documentation is increasingly being questioned. Do you think that photography still has an important role to play in the documentation of today’s world? Of course it does, but the most significant and meaning­ ful propositions today come into view most often outside the immediate news event, before, after or alongside the hot news, or as reactions to long-term economic, social and poli­ tical phenomena. Freed of the illusion of objectivity and of the limitation of immediacy (video has replaced photography in delivering images for news), documentary photography is experimenting with alternatives to the famous crisis of repre­sentation and it is reinventing itself as a language. How do you capture the real in all its complexity, its opacity, its paradoxes? How can the photographer or filmmaker produce a ‘correct’ image, which takes into account what he/she has learned and experimented with, in contact with the world? The document is where we can think about the status of real­ ity and its representation.

On the subject of books, we appear to be going through a particularly interesting period in photobook production. From a situation a few years ago where photobook publishing seemed to be under threat, over the past year or two a huge number of photobooks have been published independently. What is your view on the current explosion in self-publishing? The digital revolution offers numerous new options, both technical and economic, including the web documentary, selfpublishing, interactive installations, etc., but the format does not make the message more relevant, just as freedom is not a 18

guarantee for talent. Yes, Wang Bing wouldn’t have made À l’Ouest des Rails (Tie Xi Qu: W   est of the Tracks) without a lightweight autonomous video camera, Mohamed ­Bourouissa Temps Mort (Dead Time) without mobile phones and Doug Rickard A New American Picture without Google Street View. But really distinctive ideas are still rare, regardless of the ­increased user-friendliness. Look at the hundreds of photo­ books ­presented each year at Arles: it seems that everything gets published, the best and the worst! Le Bal’s librarian, Sebastian Hau, who trained for ten years with Markus Schaden at in Cologne, is on the lookout for the best books published every year, whether self-published, published by limited-readership houses or major publishers. His selection is stunning, from the book of photocopies to the artist’s book, because it comes from a passion and thinking about the ­specificity of the medium of the book.

(or rediscovered) talents and to get people thinking about what’s at stake with the image-document. Le Bal also has an educational component, La ­Fabrique du Regard. What are the aims of La Fabrique du ­Regard and how will it integrate with the rest of Le Bal’s ­programming? Today images circulate in an immediate, uninterrupted and non-hierarchical flow. La Fabrique du Regard, Le Bal’s educational platform, is training young people to make their way through this jungle of images, and look critically at them: the image as thinking machine. Since 2008, we’ve been developing experimental programmes for kids between 8 and 18, especially kids from disadvantaged areas in Paris and in its troubled suburbs. We have four specific pro­ grammes that allow us to reach 4,000 young people each year. Our objective is to educate ‘citizen observers’, to make young people understand how images are made and what shapes our looking at them.

Your upcoming programme shows the desire to introduce your audience to lesser-known areas of photo­ graphy such as Latin American photobooks. Are there any specific areas that you find interesting and would like to introduce to a broader audience? I haven’t at all got a thematic approach to programming Le Bal. The most important thing for me is to work together with curators, artists, and historians to produce exhibitions that are demanding, free and daring. I really loved working on the current exhibition with David Campany. He wrote a very good essay, around which we built the book accompanying the exhibition. I wanted Le Bal to be a medium-size space, and try to avoid the inevitable ‘big name’ show designed to draw masses of people and balance our budget. My priority today is to co-produce quality exhibitions with French and foreign institutions around remarkable yet-to-be-discovered

Can you tell me about your background, in particular, how did you start out in the world of photography? You were ­director of Magnum Photos for many years. How did that experience inform the direction that you are giving to Le Bal? I came to Magnum at the age of 20 in 1989, the year of Tiananmen Square and the fall of the Berlin Wall. I was fascinated by the capacity of photographers to represent a tipping point, to give form to the world’s chaos, to influence our perception of history. Magnum was a place of tensions and interrogations, housing opposite approaches: ‘les temps faibles’ or uneventful moments of Raymond Depardon, Henri Cartier-Bresson’s dazzling take of the instant, the stinging 19


The digital revolution offers numerous new options, both technical and economic, including the web documentary, self-publishing, interactive installations, but the format does not make the message more relevant, just as freedom is not a guarantee for talent.

foam magazine # 25 traces

realism of Martin Parr, the dramatic poetry of Josef Koudelka, etc. I felt the excitement of a sensory experiential laboratory of the real, in tune with the movement of the world. In 2000, I became director of the Paris office. In a decade the world had changed: the metamorphosis of the visual information society into the digital, the omnipresence of the image as product, but also the art world’s recognition of the necessity of politicizing the aesthetic. In 2007 I curated the exhibition L’Image d’Après (The Image to Come) at the Cinémathèque de Paris and at CCCB (Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona). I wanted to show how cinematographic stances have influenced documentary approaches. How does the image-document position itself at the boundaries of the true and the false, the certain and the uncertain, legibility and enigma? Creating Le Bal continues this line of thought. The theme of this issue of the magazine is TRACES. Are there any specific moments in your experience with photography that have left a strong impression on you? Traces can be part imaginary… I was looking for photo­ graphs of our ballroom from the 1930s, going to collectors, dealers, the City of Paris’s historical collection, etc. There was not a single photograph of the place from that era! This insolent absence of images drove me to imagine a slightly crazy project: to collect original images of dancehalls from all over the world from the same time. At Le Bal’s opening a month ago, we published these as Chez Isis, les archives du Bal: an imaginary incarnation of Le Bal’s past, with its hoodlums, its brothel, its cabaret and even an incredible dance marathon during which the exhausted couples are still standing by lean­ ing on each other under a sign saying ‘They danced for 466 hours!’ As Nietzsche said, ‘the real world finally becomes a fable.’  •

Diane Dufour, European Director of Magnum Photos from 2000 to 2006, has curated a number of exhibitions including Euro Visions at the Centre Pompidou (2005), La Turquie par Magnum de Capa à d’Agata at Istanbul Modern Art Museum (2007) and The Image to Come at the Cinémathèque Française in Paris (2007) and the Centre de Cultura ­Contemporània de Barcelona (2008). In the past three years she was involved in setting up Le Bal, transforming a former ballroom in Paris into a space dedicated to the imagedocument – from photography, film, video to new media. Le Bal opened its doors in ­September this year. Marc Feustel is an independent curator, writer and blogger based in Paris. He has curated several exhibitions as creative ­director of Studio Equis: Tokyo Stories (Kultur­huset, Stockholm, 2010) and Eikoh Hosoe: Theatre of Memory (Japanisches Kulturinstitut, Cologne 2010; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2011). A specialist in Japanese photography, he is also the ­author of Japan: a self-portrait, photographs 1945-1964 (­Paris: Flammarion, 2004). His writings a ­ ppear regularly on his blog ­ Antoine d’Agata (b. 1961, Marseille) is a documentary photographer based in Paris. He studied photography with Larry Clark and Nan Goldin at the International Center of Photography in New York between 1990 and 1993 and became a Magnum Photos associate in 2006. His work was part of the exhibition La Turquie par Magnum de Capa à d’Agata curated by Diane Dufour in 2007 for the Istanbul Modern Art Museum.


21 theme introduction


foam magazine # 25 traces

Traces of Absence by Marcel Feil

The role of visual information in forming our memory is an extremely complex subject. From the start of preparation for this issue, the chosen theme immediately led to so many questions that realising it threatened to become a far too pretentious and possibly a doomed-to-fail exercise. An unambiguous view of the concept of history is practically impossible: is it actually possible to speak about something such as ‘history’? Isn’t history above all a mental construction which is never the same for anyone of us, and thus in essence subjective? For the sake of convenience, most people take history at face value, simply because it’s all far behind us and therefore nothing about it can be changed. But a history only comes to exist at the moment it is brought to life through our active interest in it. It does not exist outside us. That activation is a process that is inextricably bound to memories of the past, with literally re-membering, to reunite the mind with the past.  › 23

theme introduction

This issue of Foam Magazine addresses the way in which the past, by means of photography, manifests itself in the present, and more specifically, what role photography plays or could play in the way we relate to the past.


foam magazine # 25 traces

that – no ­matter how narrow-minded and disingenuous the view of that history might be. The second reason to nonetheless persevere with this issue was situated in photography itself. For isn’t photography an outstanding example of a medium whose essential characteristic is its inextricable relationship with the past? A photo always shows us a moment irrevocably behind us. Simply stated, the photo records that one moment when it was taken, while time marches on, paying no heed. The resulting depiction visible in the photo can be considered as the completed past tense and viewing a photo as a form of time travel: the photo allows you to look back in time and to connect for a moment with a place and a time which once happened somewhere. The photo as the ultimate souvenir, as a remembrance of something that is no longer present: this is precisely how photography functions for most people. Photography has had this function since its birth. The famed Eastman Kodak Company frequently made use of the view that a photo is a ‘mirror with a memory’ in its advertising campaigns: ‘(­Kodak) enables the fortunate processor to go back to the light of his own fireside to scenes that would otherwise fade from memory and be lost’ (George Eastman in 1900). And countless people still occasionally take their old family albums out of the cabinet to leaf through them and relive old memories. For many people such an ­album is among their most cherished possessions. In case of fire, much may be sacrificed but people are willing to risk their lives to save their photo album from the flames. That album, those photos, is after all closely linked to someone’s personal history, with personal memories, and is often irreplaceable – so it is the last thing that people will give up. That was true in the past, but it still is now; even though a tremendous number of photos are now produced (according to estimates, about 750 snapshots per second are taken in the United States alone), literally recording an event is considered essential to the way it is remembered.

First, the sharp rise in interest in history – in recent years history has become more popular than ever, certainly in the Netherlands. The popularisation of history is a pro­ cess that is well underway. Interest in history apparently simply manifested itself at a certain moment, possibly in response to advancing globalisation. An uncertain future has often been translated into renewed interest in the past, into an orientation of the basis of one’s own identity and that which defines and unites one’s own group. The power of the media and the ironclad law of supply and demand have then seen to it that this interest has been translated into countless programmes, magazines and columns in which the past predominates: from documentaries and TV drama series which focus on episodes from national history to magazine columns in which people use old family photos to share their personal history with readers. But the renewed interest in the past has also been expressed through government and political involvement. A decision has been taken in the Netherlands to establish the National Historical Museum and the establishment of a national historical canon has also been more or less determined by the top.

The remembrance of the past inevitably means that the past expresses itself in language and images and thus that it comes to us in a mediated and indirect manner.

But photography also has direct influence on what we remember and the way in which we remember. In the case of a photo album, we may be able to recognise or identify certain people in the photo through a caption, but that doesn’t mean we actually know them. Even with people that we do know or have known personally, their photo is ultimately only a limited and even flawed rendering. Does the photo enable you to remember someone the same way you would if you had no photo of that person – the way someone walked, moved, looked, the sound of a voice, a smile, a casual movement, a scent or a feeling of someone’s skin against yours? Can you really know someone through a photo? Can a photo function in the same way as the famed madeleine in Marcel Proust’s À la Recherche du Temps Perdu (In Search of Lost Time): a single glance at a photo opens the door of memory and immediately

We have the impression that this reorientation towards ones’ own history (whether national, regional, local or strictly ­personal) is not exclusively restricted to the Netherlands. ­Particularly in Europe, a broad development can be perceived in which populism is accelerating at the same rate as nationalism. Defining one’s own group, determining what it is that unites the group and which characteristics are common to that group, are tried-and-true traditional aspects of populism and nationalism. And besides a shared language and culture, a feeling of shared history is certainly part of 25

theme introduction

And what do we understand memory to be? There are, after all, many different forms of memory and many different ways to remember something. There is even something known as a ‘photographic memory’: the ability to call to mind an image, a text or an experience from the past in an exceedingly meticulous and detailed way, and if necessary to reproduce it. It has to do with the supposition that a photographic reproduction is exact, complete and objective. But today this supposition is just as outmoded as the idea that history is a static and self-contained fact. The remembrance of the past inevitably means that the past expresses itself in language and images and thus that it comes to us in a mediated and indirect manner. Our memories and how our memory functions is, if possible, even more intangible and so even more likely to become the subject of debate and opposing viewpoints than the concept of history. Nevertheless, the editors decided not to let ourselves be deterred by the complexity of the subject and by all the potential pitfalls we might have encountered along the way. We decided to persevere, for two important reasons.


foam magazine # 25 traces

27 theme introduction

For photos that represent a great degree of personal significance, such as photos of absent or even deceased relatives, it can be extremely satisfying to speak with someone who can tell us something about the genesis of a photo. The photo can thereby be interpreted within a larger body of facts, assumptions, possibilities and – not to be underestimated – the memories of others. Certainly in a society in which the strength and the power of images and their creation has continued to rise, acknowledging this mechanism is of vital importance. It is essential, particularly for photos which do not primarily represent the interests of a specific individual, such as in family photos, but depict events of some historical interest. Consider, for instance, photojournalistic work. The question of what is not included in the photo is often of greater significance than what can be seen. The photo depicts a split second of an extremely limited portion of visible reality at a particular moment. Far more is not visible. What value do we then assign to that single moment? Aren’t the questions more numerous than the answers? Once again: who, what, when, where, why?

foam magazine # 25 traces

evokes many more and very different memories than are contained in that one actual photo? And how trustworthy is that memory? When I think back on my own youth, the doubt also creeps in: are the images that come to me real memories or do they conform to the photos I have seen of my youth? Has photography slowly but surely crowded out other memories and taken possession of my memory? There are critics who believe that photography and memory do not go together. The French cultural critic Roland Barthes ­proposed frankly that ‘not only is the photograph never, in essence, a memory… but it actually blocks memory, quickly becomes a counter-memory.’ Barthes based his position on photo­graphy’s supposed ability to replace the immediate, physical manifestation of memory with stagnant, wooden images that lie anchored in the past. Clearly, Barthes based this on the memory as a sudden and also uncontrollable sensation which corresponds to Proust’s experience after eating the madeleine cake. Barthes denies photography a comparable capacity. In his view, photo­graphy stands in the way of the unforeseen delight of the memory and ­replaces this with the dull safety and factuality of history.

The (photographic) visual material is extremely influential and its role in how most people remember a particular event can hardly be influenced. I did not live through the Second World War, but I do have a picture of how incredibly sweeping and complex those war years were. Or rather, I have pictures. But because I have no direct, personal experiences of the war years, my images are based on photogra­ phic, historical images. My visual memory is in this case also mainly blackand-white. I deliberately say mainly, because in recent years a good deal of visual material of the Second World War has appeared in colour. Whether colour was added to the images later or whether it is authentic material, it literally colours your own images as well. The historicising effect of the black-and-white photos disappears and the past suddenly seems less distant. The nature of the image thus determines in part the distance between the present and the past. In addition, the images that are evoked in my consciousness not only strongly depend on the moment and the reason they arise, and are thus different each time; they also immediately enter into with all sorts of relationships with other images that flit through the consciousness: with snippets and fragments from completely different sources, such as from films, half-developed thoughts and unexpected associations. Thus a diffuse, associative aggregate is created where it is difficult to distinguish between memories, historical consciousness and consciousness in a general sense.

It is just as difficult to trace the circumstances under which a photo has been taken as to predict what sort of life a photo will lead.

We do not have to be in agreement with the incapacity ­Barthes ascribes to photography to recognise the power and also the danger of the image. The maker of a photo often still knows precisely under what circumstances the photo was made. The maker also often remembers much of what is not depicted in the photo and is able to place that ­single image in a context: where was the photo taken and at what point in time? Who else was present at that particular moment, but is not shown in the photo? How did it smell there, how was the weather? Was it noisy, agitated, or on the contrary, quite peaceful? This is knowledge that is in fact essential to place the photo in the correct context so that it can be interpreted and appreciated. The maker is often the only one or one of the few who has this knowledge, but the memories of the moment and the circumstances of the shot often disappear with the passage of time. And if the maker is no longer present or even completely unknown, only the photo remains and the questions increase: who was the maker, what are we looking at, what was he or she doing at that place, why was the photo taken, what were the maker’s intentions?

Of course there are images which are much more vivid than others, for whatever reason, and therefore are part of our collective memory. The crying girl running naked toward the camera after a napalm attack during the Vietnam War in 1972, the man standing in front of the tank on Tiananmen Square in Beijing in 1989, the moment the plane crashed into the World Trade Center in New York, the Iraqi man with a hood 28

29 theme introduction

foam magazine # 25 traces

over his head and electrodes attached to his fingers in Abu Ghraib in 2006 are all examples of images that have become icons of specific historical events in the recent past. Sometimes the iconic status of the moment could have already been anticipated soon after the picture was taken, but far more often a variety of external factors influenced the attainment of value ascribed to an image. It is just as difficult to trace the circumstances under which a photo has been taken as to predict what sort of life a photo ultimately will lead. What the photo depicts may irrevocably represent a moment in the past and thus refer to the past, but the photo itself exists in the present. A photo could be placed in a totally unexpected and unforeseen context and a meaning ascribed to it which could not have been predicted beforehand.

scattered throughout. The duality represented by the neat 1950s interior and the messiness and ephemerality of the crumpled plastic is reflected in his choice of motif. Just as the bags reveal nothing of their hidden contents, so the photographs say nothing about the woman’s personality. Instead these intimate still lifes tell a more abstract story. They take us into three imaginable realities: the now, before and after. The fleeting existence of a plastic bag implies the action that is usually bound up with it; the bags lie there literally for the taking. At the same time they are a relic of an ephemeral act that stopped abruptly at the moment their owner died. They become a symbol of transience, evoking both the presence of the woman and her absence. The wealth of detail in these razor-sharp photos expresses the multilayered nature of the series. If you look closely you can see the dust on the plastic, which gives these still life photos a slow motion quality. As with his earlier series Blind Room (2001) – interior photos of the homes of blind people – Johannes Schwartz deconstructs a room in order to gain a better understanding of the everyday environment and therefore of human existence. He selects a specific slice of the space but pays equal attention to everything in the picture, a form of abstraction that allows him to relinquish the recording function of photography and instead to treat the photographic image as a possibility for investigation. Passion was exhibited in its entirety at the Cobra Museum in Amstelveen, the Netherlands, in the early summer of 2010.

If the reconstruction of historical context is already exceptionally difficult, it is even more difficult to predict the future context in which a specific image might be placed. One and the same photo might be relegated to obscurity in an old shoebox in the attic, be discovered by a collector, be used in an artist’s work and viewed by thousands of museum visitors, or simply end up somewhere on a mantelpiece. It is the viewer, the user, that gives an image its connotation, status and meaning. Just as Immanuel Kant most commonly described reality as a mental construction based on the idea of ‘das Ding an sich’, it could also be argued that a photo does not actually exist outside of the viewer. In this, a photo would seem most to resemble a symbolon such as this functioned in ancient Greece. A symbolon was half of an object that had been cut in two. Usually this was a piece of pottery, but it could also be a coin or a piece of paper. Such a piece of pottery was mainly used as identification: only when another party could show the other half which fit together exactly, would the secret messages be revealed. A symbolon referred thus to the other, absent part. The symbolon exists by itself, but is incomplete. Completion only takes place after reunification. A photo also refers to something that is in essence absent: the moment in the past that it represents. That past can never return in the literal sense of the word. But the distance to the past can be bridged because of the fact that the viewer can form an image of that which is absent through the use of the photo, and the photo then can be provided with a context and a meaning. Only then is the photo complete and whole, in the here and now, and only then can the distance be bridged from the present to the past, in order to give meaning to the past for the future. A photo thus does not show the completed past, but rather an unfinished past time.  •

All images from the series Passion, 2010 © Johannes Schwartz, courtesy Van Zoetendaal Collections, Amsterdam. List of works (in order of appearance): # 1, # 12, # 8, # 5 and # 2 Passion (2010) is a series of portraits of plastic bags, of a house, and of the life of a deceased woman. After her death, at the request of her family, Johannes Schwartz visited the woman's house repeatedly and photographed it. He found the essence of the house in the carrier bags that were


Johannes Schwartz (b.1970, Munich) lives and works in Amsterdam. He studied photo­ graphy at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam from 1995 to 1998. Passion (2010) can be seen in the context of his ­other photographic series of different ­inte­riors; e.g., of kids’ cottages, blind people and hunting stands – Kinderhütteninterieur (1998), Behandlungszimmer (2001), ­Blindenzimmer (2001), Jagdzimmer (2002), Kunstarchief (2007) and Model’s Room (2005). Schwartz explores humankind with his ­camera, without portraying people, but rather focusing on their surroundings and traditions. His photographs are complex ­tableaus describing and revealing an ­equivocal and ambiguous reality by showing human existence in great detail. His ­monograph Das Prinzip (Amsterdam: Van ­Zoetendaal, 2007) compiles a part of his ­extensive oeuvre. He has been head of the Photography Department at the Gerrit ­Rietveld Academy since 2003. Johannes Schwartz is represented by Van Zoetendaal Collections, Amsterdam.

Seba Kurtis Shoe Box

portfolio text

Seba Kurtis

A Box Full of Memories by Sophie Wright

Lightweight, inexpensive and easily ­recycled, shoeboxes are frequently used as repositories for memorabilia. For Seba Kurtis the contents of a shoebox is the closest thing he has to a family ­album, a circumstance laid down by his transitory past. Kurtis’s family lost almost everything during the political and economic unrest in Argentina in the 1980s and then all over again in the first few years of this decade. After the second wave of Argentine financial turmoil Kurtis and his family sought work abroad, becoming ­illegal immigrants in Spain. There they 47

lived an undercover life denuded of ­personal possessions until two years ago, when permission was finally granted for them to stay in Europe. Once free to travel again, Kurtis’s parents returned to Argentina to visit their relatives and recovered a shoebox of family photographs, which they brought back to Spain. ­Kurtis’s Shoe Box project does not feature the box itself, rather the title is shorthand for its contents, the old prints and a roll of home movie film. Although badly water damaged, they retain a significance for Kurtis and his family far beyond their material worth: the last traces of a life, a time and a place left behind. ›

foam magazine # 25 traces

↗ Tant from the series A Few Days More, 2008 © Seba Kurtis

Entwined with Kurtis’s family’s sense of identity, the collection of found photographs is at its simplest an archive of primary sources. Archives are being ­rediscovered, re-presented and re-imagined by contemporary curators, photo­ graphers and artists, and their significance as historical sources, or evidence, is continually being assessed and questioned. The family album is the vernacular photo­ graphic archive in its most familiar form. Produced for private consumption by amateur photographers motivated by love rather than money, it is a repository of both personal and historical infor­mation, a distillation of identity and heritage. Susan Sontag explains that through snapshots, ‘each family constructs a portrait chronicle of itself - a portable kit of images that bears witness to its connectedness’. The language of the family album is personal and of course speaks most powerfully to those whose lives are caught within it. At its most essential the family photo album is a multiple memory jog, a fractured narrative of frozen moments, tied together by personal recollection. For Kurtis and his family the shoebox represents their history, its survival embodies their own and with few belongings

directly referencing their collective past, its role is almost talismanic. However, for the viewer, much of this emotional resonance remains a mystery, reliant as it is on individual memory. In presenting the Shoe Box prints, Kurtis acknowledges that lack by choosing to offer no captions. Who other than ­Kurtis’s family will care which aunt or baby a photograph depicts. Even with the family information, the true power of this collection of prints would still elude any third-party observer. Yet, despite their anonymity, family ­albums still contain a more general social history. The subjects in Kurtis’s photographs wear outmoded fashions, flares and facial hair dating them to the Seventies. One image shows a group of men and boys proudly displaying the white and blue of the Argentine flag, ensuring that the viewer can guess the nationality of this family. As well as recording the historical appearance of things, information can be gleaned about leisure pursuits: sunbathing, swimming, a love of the outdoors and football are all recorded for posterity. The church also seems ­central, as in any good South American family – a school depicted in one image is attached to a church, in another the 48

family has gathered for what looks like a christening, a further picture depicts two young girls dressed up for first communion. Along with these specific details many of the pictures employ familiar compositions, unconsciously replicated in family albums across time and nationality: smiling grandparents holding a baby, groups of friends, records of ­holidays or special events. Such generic subject matter illustrates our common desire to show domestic happiness and record aspirations in family photography. The amateur photographer doesn’t reach for a camera at times of strife, instead he prefers to record moments of achievement or good times for posterity. By ­doing so he records the past selectively rather than truly reflecting reality. As a photographer Kurtis’s interest in the Shoe Box prints stems from the effects of time and water damage on the photographs. The effect accentuates their ­slippage between history and memory: ‘I was attracted to them, the traces of other pictures, emulsion, colours... photos that we never will see again, but they leave a mark...’ The abstract patterns of the Shoe Box prints also bring to our attention the photograph as object and chemistry, as

The damaged pictures operate like metaphors for the inefficiencies, elaborations and gaps in memory.

well as image. Analogue printing, particularly inexpensive, colour printing for public consumption, was anything but archival. While not entirely throw-away it did have an inbuilt obsolescence. ­Kurtis’s presentation of this work to date has been either online or in the form of digital prints. As for his decision not to include any visual record of the shoebox itself, his interest has been in exploring the appearance of the prints rather than presenting them in three dimensions. As with many old photographs, the once bright colours of the Shoe Box prints have turned murky. A young man caught in mid air leaps into purple-tinged waters, and blues turn skin tones dull. The physical manifestation of water damage ­creates a further filter between the viewer and any depicted realism. No pictures are obscured completely, but water has left its mark on almost every image. The semi-erasure of the home movie by clouds of cracked blue chemicals separating on the film surface illustrates the damage at its most extreme. Paper emerges through a print’s surface. Seams of psychedelic yellow and orange spread like mineral deposits across the page and smudges of brown discolouration hover 49

Although found images, the Shoe Box prints are at the heart of all Kurtis’s work. Just as immigration is a recurring theme, so the aesthetic qualities of the damaged and incomplete family snaps have influenced the presentation of his own photo­graphy. The transient nature of the photographic object and the instability of its chemistry are for him a power­ful metaphor for the insecurity of life. He seeks to reproduce the distorting effects of the water damage on his ­family album in his own work and employs ­elements of amateurish family snaps, recreating their imperfections in his photo­graphs. As with his family album, his series retain their anonymity and are reproduced without captions and with limited texts. All of which combines to produce a poetic documentary, subjective and more atmospheric than illustrative, unashamedly beautiful, yet rooted in the political. ›

seba kurtis

↗ Khaled from the series A Few Days More, 2008 © Seba Kurtis

like ectoplasm within the images. By including the backs of the prints Kurtis further emphasizes these abstractions. Here, rather than taking anything away, the water damage creates a new, decorating the once plain paper. The separation of scene and chemistry has left residues where prints have stuck together. Outlines of something tangible are visible here and there, but mostly the colours that once combined to reflect reality now separate in swirls. A mechanical means of reproduction is transformed into painterly abstraction, like time diluting onceclear detail to leave traces of something vague and undefined. The damaged ­pictures operate like metaphors for the inefficiencies, elaborations and gaps in memory.

foam magazine # 25 traces

Immigration Files documents stories of immigration, from North Africa to ­Europe in the case of the series Drowned and A Few Days More, and from South to North America in 700 Miles. In Drowned the physical hardship experienced by the travellers is manifested in the prints. ‘Thousands of Africans have reached the Canary Islands in recent years, thousands more are believed to have drowned or died of thirst or exposure in the attempt. I drowned the boxes with the sheets of film off the shores of the same ocean that they crossed.’ The sea­water damaged Kurtis’s original negatives, speeding up the aging process, yet a surprising amount of the outline of the pictures remains intact. What remains are literally washed out images of the islands: purplish tundra landscape, bleached shorelines and blue-tinged hotels. These delicate, pastel traces of the almost unpopulated, ideal, islands seem like aging illustrations from a holiday brochure. Yet the sea that has swept away the layers of print emulsion has also claimed many of those lured to these beaches, desperate people, risking dangerous sea crossings for the promise of a new life in Europe.

Seba Kurtis’s shoebox is both a family archive and metaphor for our minds. The contents, damaged prints and film, docu­ ment an historical past and serve as prompts for personal recollection. An incomplete social record, the family photo­graph also reflects a shared identity. The water damage on Kurtis’s prints serves to illustrate the fragility of the photographic process, the degraded print surface is a delicate memento mori, a ­reminder of the ephemeral nature of memory, and our own transience. Yet these prints’ trauma has also created something new, abstract traces beautiful in themselves. The survival of the shoebox is matched by Kurtis’s own story of immi­ grant resilience, the appearance of the prints and their emotional pull reinter­ preted in much of his own contemporary documentary.  •

The titles of A Few Days More and 700 Miles emphasize the physical distance to the promised land and the lengths to which people go to reach it. Kurtis uses purposeful light leaks within the images to give his portraiture the feel of the vernacular, in one case completely erasing the subject’s identity. That snapshots, easily transportable, imbued with meaning, are a means for immigrants to retain their identity is illustrated in a picture from 700 Miles of the ramshackle interior of a temporary home filled with cheap religious iconography and family photographs. Cheap reproductions huddle together on shelves creating an altar to a far away home. In A Few Days More Kurtis includes photographs of other ­images with tears or breaks in their surfaces – a ripped poster of horses, broken glass amongst a collection of framed family photographs, as if to further emphasize incompleteness, as a metaphor for memory and loss.

All images © Seba Kurtis Seba Kurtis (b.1974, Buenos Aires) is a photographer living in Great Britain. He grew up in Argentina under the military dictatorship. He initially studied journalism and became a political activist. When Argentina suffered economic and political collapse in 2001, Kurtis left with his family for Europe and remained in Spain as an illegal immigrant for over 5 years, an experience that became the main inspiration for his work. He has since explored illegal migration and its impact on culture, society and individual lives. His work was exhibited at Noorderlicht Photofestival in Groningen and New York Photo Festival in 2009 and in solo exhibitions at Host Gallery in London and Kiosk Gallery in Manchester. Sophie Wright (b.1974, Belfast) is Cultural and Print Room ­Director at Magnum Photos, London, where she has worked since 2003, curating and coordinating touring exhibitions in the United ­Kingdom, the Middle East and Australasia. Before that she was deputy editor of PLUK magazine and co-curated exhibitions at PLUK’s gallery. She regularly lectures and writes on photography.


Willem Popelier and Willem






P moves in with new parents K and R on Biesterweg 11.



B B goes to live on his own.


Date: Place of residence P:

1983—1986 BURGHPLEIN 6

Date: Place of residence W:

1983—1991 BURGHPLEIN 6

Date: Objects: Concerning:

1996 17 train tickets Hengelo / Eindhoven 22 train tickets Eindhoven / Hengelo Journeys W to P (going and returning)

portfolio text

Willem Popelier

Photographic Facts as Memory by Jörg Colberg

Of all the media at our disposal, photo­ graphy is the one we tend to rely on the most when remembering our own his­ tories. The strong connection between images and memory is even reflected in our language. For example in the case of something gruesome we had to witness we speak of an image that we will never forget. It seems that for some ­reason – maybe even because we are hardwired 67

this way  – images have special relevance for us. People often have diaries or home movies, but when it comes to photo­ graphs in a family album, it is not sur­ prising to see them react just like toddlers before they have acquired the ability to speak: They will simply point at some­ thing, their faces lighting up. Photo­ graphy has that power, it can – and often will – make us point.  ›

foam magazine # 25 traces

↗ Rejected Identities – 39 ID photo’s with their corresponding criteria-numbers of which 20 were rejected by the Dutch government, 2009 © Willem Popelier

It is thus not surprising that photo­ graphers themselves use the medium to try to either record their life or to some­ how come to terms with it. This need not even have anything to do with the artist’s own life – the power of a lot of vernacular photography derives from the fact that photographs are being treated as substitutes for memories, when they are not exactly that (such as in the case of school portraits, for example). When looking at vernacular photography we know that someone must have had some memories (that are unknown to us) attached to it. Our imagination will fill all the gaps for us. If we are looking at photographs of our own past, everything gets quite a bit more complicated. We usually remem­ ber at least some things unless the photo­ was taken when we were too young to remember anything. Since we take ­photographs as objective objects, we then – either consciously or subconsciously – reconcile what we remember with what we are seeing, with our imagination fill­ ing in whatever gaps there might be. When looking at family albums we basi­ cally remember what is presented to us. We do not really see it that way, thinking

instead that the photographs show us what we remember. But in reality, it is the other way around. Just recall what happens when someone presents you with a photo­graph from something in the past you had completely forgotten about: After the usually brief moment of initial surprise, you will probably remem­ ber what you are seeing. It gets even more complex when we use (I should be more precise and say when we create) photography as a means to remember. Our long-term memory is very fickle. It certainly does not feel as if it was – we tend to be very certain about what we remember. But we are also aware of all the scientific research that has shown that many things we remem­ ber in fact never happened that way. There is a significant branch of contem­ porary photography dedicated to family photography. There are many different possible interpretations of this type of photography, but clearly at its core lies a desire to remember, to create evidence, personal evidence. Family photography is an incredibly tough field: It is one thing to produce photographs that appeal to one’s own sense of a good photograph 68

(good in the sense of being a reflection of the subject matter), but it is quite another thing to also end up with photographs that speak of the human condition and that thus have an appeal that goes ­beyond the small circle of people who know the subject matter intimately well. Make no mistake, family photo­graphy usually is not seen in this light. The focus is not put on the fact that photographs can serve as our own personal evidence. But to think of family photography while denying that the ­aspect of remember­ ing plays a role seems almost absurd. Of course, the photographer wants to remember things, even if the photo­ graphs end up hanging on the walls of the most prestigious art galleries. It is safe to say that the focus of family photography is usually not remembering. Remembering is typically a minor aspect. However, there are projects focusing on using photography as a way to record, to create evidence. But how can one pos­ sibly consciously use photography as a means to remember in this context, given that there are so many complex emotions present? Willem Popelier’s solution is straight­ forward: Just the facts. __ and Willem

→ Visual Proof of My Existence – Tourist photo, in front of the The Art Of Disney store, 2010 © Willem Popelier


The big question, of course, is: Where does this all lead us, the viewer? The first reaction will probably be confusion. There are nineteen people who are part of the extended family network, and apart from the list giving their details, they are all referred to with codes. Willem becomes W, the twin brother whose real name is not given is P, there are two Marias, M1 and M2, etc. The descriptions of the family relationships almost read like a mathematical code, for example ‘W moves in with K, R, and P.’ I wager that apart from the artist and the family itself most people will find it next to impossible to keep track of things. I also wager that even if this effect was not created intentionally, it does serve a very useful purpose.  We also need to realize that reading something like ‘W moves in with K, R, and P.’ will probably not necessarily make us think of a family. W, K, R, and P – those are abstract quantities. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that the people, a part of whose lives is chronicled in __ and Willem, have become abstract quantities. They are reduced to ciphers. We do know what some of them look like – the unobscured portraits of eleven of the protagonists are featured in the book  –

willem popelier

If we are looking at ­photographs of our own past, ­everything gets quite a bit more ­complicated.

essentially is a collection of facts, photo­ graphic facts. The work chronicles the lives of W   illem Popelier and his identical twin brother, who, however, just like vari­ ous other family members, did not ‘grant permission to have their portraits used.’ Consequently, their faces and names are obscured in the documentation. The blank space in the title stands for the twin brother. A documentation it is, with a set of distinct parts. If we did not know any better, it could almost be the product of some scientific research. Just the facts. There are portraits of most of the pro­ tagonists, a detailed chronology of the family relations, another chronology that combines the portraits and family rela­ tions into a series of increasingly com­ plex family trees (which end up looking more like abstract art than anything else), photo­graphs of keys for the various places of residence, scans of correspondence between the protagonists and various authorities (e.g. Magistrate of the Juve­ nile Court), photographs of objects that belonged to Willem and his twin brother (e.g. birth tiles), and, lastly, reproductions of older snapshots, one must assume taken from family albums. If this sounds like an exhaustive and exhausting collec­ tion of material, it certainly is.

foam magazine # 25 traces

but embedded in what is made to look and feel like ­scientific research looking at these portraits does not reveal much – if anything. We might want to remember Thomas Ruff ’s well-known portraits, shot like passport photographs, without any emo­ tion – they do not say anything about the portrayed. It works the same way (of course!) in Popelier’s work. Portrait photography as a ruse: Hey look, I’m showing you a person, and you learn absolutely nothing from looking at the photograph.The juxtaposition with the old snapshots makes for a jarring effect. We get to see the very young twins, we see them growing up, at some stage – it is impossible to tell at what age – creamcolour boxes appear on some of the faces again. There clearly is a connection with the portraits, and the boxes obscuring the faces provide us with clues about some of those. But the snapshots feel more real. It is not that they reveal anything other than that which the portraits do, namely noth­ ing at all. But the feeling is there, that we are given more (whatever that more might really be).

And it shudders me to think of my own objects and photographs, and to think about how much they tell me about my own past. I know I remember things a certain way, and I have reconciled what I remember with the many scanned images my father produced from the various boxes unearthed where I grew up. But what does this all really tell me? What certainty can we hope to gain from photography? Photographs are real, of course. If you have a print in your hand, an actual object, that is real. But still… what does that trace from your own – or someone else’s – past tell you? There is no need to despair about photography being less certain than it would seem. On the contrary, there is immense promise. If photographs ask us questions they have the power to turn us into different persons – if (and only if!) we let them! That is the promise of photography. We might as well use it to the best of our abilities. •

Thinking about the differences between the photographs, about why family snap­ shots feel more real, is a topic for another day. Here, I will just claim that photo­ graphy derives a lot of its power not from what is there, but from what we think, hope, or feel is there. Photographs on their own have no meanings. For me, the power of __ and Willem ultimately derives from how successfully it frustrates our desire to know more. Popelier presents everything there is, lays it all out on the table, for us to see. We can look and look, but in the end, we do not understand all that much more than before. I love this. I look at photography not for answers, but for questions.

All images © Willem Popelier Willem Popelier (b.1982, Eindhoven) is a Dutch visual artist focusing on the different uses of photography, especially the photographic representation of identity through portraits. After studying at the Royal Academy­of the Arts in The Hague in 2008, he won the Public Prize of the prestigious Steenbergen Stipendium for photo­graphy graduates. His project Rejected Identities (2009) was nominated for the Dutch Doc Award for best experiment and innovation and in the same year he received a publication grant from Fonds BKVB to realise his book project _ and Willem, published by Post Editions in early 2010. _and Willem was e ­ xhibited at the DutchDoc!Space during the New York Photo Festival and at the 7th  ­International Biennial of Photography and Visual Arts in Liège, both this year. He has just finished his master’s degree in photo­graphy at AKV St. Joost in Breda, the Netherlands. Jörg M. Colberg (b.1968) is the founder and editor of Conscientious, a widely read weblog dedicated to contemporary fine art photo­graphy. This summer he became a faculty member of the Inter­national Limited-­residency MFA Photography Program at Hartford Art School (Northampton, MA). His writings have appeared in international photo­graphy magazines and he has contributed introductory essays to monographs by various photographers.


Ishiuchi Miyako

portfolio text

Ishiuchi Miyako

The Traces of Absent Bodies by Mika Kobayashi

From the 19,000 remains of atom bomb victims that are kept and exhibited as ­research items in the Hiroshima Peace ­Memorial Museum (HPMM), Ishiuchi Miyako (b.1947) selected things that had been in direct contact with the victims’ bodies, especially of young women, such as dresses, skirts, and accessories. She ordered an oversized light table specially for the shooting and took some of the pictures of clothes against the light with her hand-held camera. Rather than ­taking each item as a whole at a distance, she photographed from very close, focusing on the details of clothes such as burned and torn parts by the heat and harsh light 87

of bombing; buttons, hand-sewn seams, laces, colours and textile patterns. The light shining through the clothes makes the colours and patterns appear even more vivid and thus gives an almost ­tangible presence to the bodies that were once inside the clothes. Many of the clothes are hand-made and show the traces how people treated the textiles that were scarce during the war. For example, the two boku-zukin (air raid hoods) (ひろしま No.19 Tsukamoto H. and ひろしま No.33 Nishimoto O.) that were made over from used kimonos show how carefully people made and wore the clothes.  ›

foam magazine # 25 traces

Her feelings for the remains are deeply rooted in her personal dedication to the memory of people who died on 6 August 1945. The title of each picture includes the name of the people who donated the item to the HPMM. In the brochure for her exhibition in Okinawa, Ishiuchi says ‘The personal effects of people who were in the bombing are not forgotten items from the past, but objects that stayed and continue to be to this day, to share a com­ mon era with me.’ The work on Hiroshima was a new turn­ ing in Ishiuchi’s career and is a milestone in the history of Japanese photography. To fully understand her approach and significance of her work, it would be helpful to trace back briefly how photo­ graphers in the past have tackled the same subject and how Ishiuchi’s career as a photographer from the late seventies led ultimately to the Hiroshima series. Looking back the history of post-war Japanese photography, the aftermaths of atom bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki have been crucial subjects for photographers to raise questions about what the Second World War meant for Japanese society. It should be noted that until 1952, Allied Powers severely re­ stricted the publication of photographs documenting the aftermath of the atom bombs and the incendiary air raids. After the Japan Council against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs was established in 1955 to campaign for the abolition of nuclear weapons, photographers and journalists gradually gained more opportunities to cover the issue. Some photo­g raphers published seminal photo books in the late 1950s and 1960s. Ken Domon (1909-1990), who had been active as a news photographer from the 1930s visited Hiroshima for the first time in 1957 and was struck by the fact that many victims were still suffering from the wounds and after-effects. He made frequent visits to the Hiroshima Red Cross Hospital & Atomic Bomb Survivors’ Hospital, interviewing victims and their families, photographing victims, including their surgical operations in the hospital. His book Hiroshima (­Tokyo: Kenko-sha, 1958) conveyed the horrors of a nuclear attack as well as the dignity of the victims. On a commission from the Japan Council against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs, Domon collaborated with Shomei Tomatsu (b.1930) and

published Hiroshima Nagasaki ­Document (1961), intended for an ­English readership. ­Tomatsu photographed the ruins, the victims and the remains of the atom bomb dropped on Nagasaki. He combined the pictures of remains burned and deformed by the heat and the pictures of victims with ­severe burns on their bodies and faces, emphasizing the textures of the objects and the skin of victims. Five years later, Tomatsu published ­Nagasaki 11:02 (Tokyo: Shashin Dojinsha, 1966), which included the pictures he took for the previous book but re-edited. The title indicates the time of bombing and a picture of a broken wristwatch placed on a white cloth, stopped at 11:02 is printed on its cover, a picture included in both books: the watch shows the moment of no return. Nagasaki 11:02 is focused on the experiences of people and how the city had since changed.­Tomatsu’s editing of the pictures of ­remains clearly shows his intention of narrating different aspects of war in a symbolic manner. 88

↗ No. 5 from the series Mother‘s, 2001 © Ishiuchi Miyako, courtesy The Third Gallery Aya, Osaka → No. 35 from the series Mother‘s, 2002 © Ishiuchi Miyako, courtesy The Third Gallery Aya, Osaka

Another seminal photobook from the same period is Chizu (The Map) by Kikuji Kawada (b.1933), published on 6 August 1965, the twentieth anniversary of bombing in Hiroshima. The book was designed as fold-out double-spread pages and contained images related to memories of war such as blood-drenched Japanese flags and portraits of dead soldiers, the post-war Americanization and the development of a consumer society; Coca Cola, Lucky Strike and television sets. Among the images that pile up in the folded pages is a picture of blood stains on the ceiling of the Atomic Bomb Dome (Peace Memorial Dome) in Hiroshima. Both Tomatsu and Kawada experienced the war in their youth and witnessed the drastic post-war changes and at the time of publication in the 1960s the photo­ graphers and the readers still shared the experience of war but while the victims of war were still to be seen the war was quickly being forgotten. The next generation, with fewer memories of the war took a different approach to Hiroshima. Hiromi Tsuchida

(b.1939) began to photograph Hiroshima in 1976 and produced three projects that eventually appeared as photobooks: ­Hiroshima 1945-1979 (a series of interviews and photographs of people who experienced the bombing in their childhood, published by Asahi Sonorama, 1979), Hiroshima Monument and Hiroshima Monument 2 (a series of cityscapes taken from fixed observation points to show how the city was changing, starting in 1979 and still ongoing), Hiroshima Collection (a series on remains kept in the HPMM, published from NHK Publishing in 1995). The projects are researchoriented, demonstrating a more clinical approach compared to those of Tomatsu and Kawada. He wanted to make the ­invisible Hiroshima visible as the whole subject of the bombing of Hiroshima was no longer visible by the 1970s. Tracing works on Hiroshima by past photographers and looking at Ishiuchi’s Hiroshima again, her approach to the subject seems to be rooted in a more personal dimension. She did not visit Hiroshima until 2007. More than 60 89

years had passed, almost as long as she’d been alive. She made her debut as a photo­ ­grapher at the end of the 1970s and pub­ lished the trilogy of books, Apartment (Tokyo: Shashin Tsushinsha, 1978), Yokosuka Story (Tokyo: Shashin Tsushinsha, 1979) and Endless Night (Tokyo: Asahi Sonorama, 1981), about the spirit of place deeply imbued with lives lived there.Yokosuka is the city where she spent her childhood in a US military base. Endless Night is the series that documented former red-light districts. The texture and tangible quality of her black-and-white photographs remained her signature style. Since the late 1980s she has turned her attention toward the body and began to make close-ups of parts of the body such as hands, feet, toes and nails. Starting with (Tokyo: IPC, 1990), the series she photographed the hands and feet of women who were born in 1947, the same age as herself, she developed her interest in how skin and the details of body trace the passing of time. Aging and scars have become her focuses of attention and she

ishiuchi miyako

Her feelings for the remains are deeply rooted in her personal dedication to the memory of ­people who died on 6 August 1945.

foam magazine # 25 traces

published several books on those themes. Although the scars are ­often related to painful experiences such as accidents, injuries and surgical operations, she tries to show that it is not ­directly related to those experiences. She regards scars as traces of time inscribed on the surface of bodies and sees a ­person’s skin as ‘vessel of time’. She published Scars (Tokyo: Sokyu-sha, 2006), close-ups of bodies with scars and ­I nnocence (Tokyo: AKAAKA Art Publishing, 2007), the bodies of women with scalds and scars. In these books, models remain anonymous and thus show the scars as universal experiences. She says, ‘The scars are very similar to photographs for me, almost the same in nature. Both are the recorded memories of past events, made visible in the present. Scars and photographs awaken the memories of the past that cannot be brought back to the present.’

The project of Hiroshima was started from a suggestion given by an editor, who visited the exhibition Ishiuchi ­Miyako: Mother’s held at Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography in 2006. She photographed the remains of victims in HPMM in the same way she had photo­graphed her mother’s remains. The reason why she especially chose the remains of young women partly seems to be rooted in her deep attachment to the memories of her mother.  •

Mother’s (Tokyo: Sokyu-sha, 2002) also belongs to the works on skins and scars and has more personal aspect that ­directly leads to the project of Hiroshima. The book is about her own mother who died in 2000 at the age of 84. After her death, there were a lot of personal belongings left behind, such as undergarments, shoes and lipsticks, all of which hold the shapes and traits of the woman who had used them repeatedly. Taking the pictures of these remains became a mourning process for her, in which she saw and accepted the absence of her mother. While she photographed the undergarment, she took them against the subtle backlight, which makes the details and patterns of the textile more tangible. In the book, the pictures of undergarments are put side by side on the double spread with the pictures of her mother’s skin. Resembling in their appearance and texture, the garments show the traces of a body which was once in them and the absence of her mother in made visible.

List of works (in order of appearance) from the series ひろしま, 2007: No.39, Doguro N.; No.9, Ogawa R.; No.5; No.19, Tsukamoto H.; No.7, Takase H.; No.60, Abe H.; No.53, Abe H.; No.13, Yazu I.; No.33, Nishimoto O.; No.67; No.24; No.43, Yamane M.; No.71; No.22, Kubo S.; No.14, Horimoto S. All images © Ishiuchi Miyako, courtesy The Third Gallery Aya, Osaka ひろしま means Hiroshima written in Japanese Hiragana characters. Hiragana is one basic component of the Japanese writing system. These characters were extensively used by women in former times; using this style for the title means to the artist that this s­ eries is made from the point of view and feelings of a woman. Ishiuchi Miyako (b.1947, Gunma) grew up in a Japan whose ­culture had been infiltrated by the military occupation after Second World War. She is one of a renowned group of Japanese photographers, including Shomei Tomatsu and Daido Moriyama who confronted the trauma of post-war Japan and the dawning of a new era expressed in their photographs. During the past forty years she has built an extensive oeuvre shown in numerous solo and group exhibitions all over the world. Her first retrospective in Europe, named Miyako Ishiuchi Photographs 1976 – 2005 was held in 2008. As most of her other series are published as photobooks, Hiroshima has been released by Shueisha Inc. publishers in 2008. Hiroshima has been shown in several exhibitions including her retrospective Ishiuchi ­Miyako Hiroshima/Yokosuka (Meguro Museum of Art, Tokyo in 2008), Hiroshima Strings of Time (Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art in 2008) and Hiroshima in Okinawa (Sakima Art Museum, Okinawa in 2010). Ishiuchi Miyako is represented by The Third Gallery Aya in Osaka, Japan. Mika Kobayashi (b.1973) is a photo critic and curator. One of her curatorial projects, Heavy Light: Recent Photography and Video from Japan (2008), was presented at the International Center for Photography in New York. Currently, she holds the position of guest researcher at the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo (­MoMAT). Her book Shashin wo Yomu Shiten (The Viewpoints of Reading Photographs) was published in 2005 by Seikyu-sha.


Robert Frank Tal Uf Tal Ab

portfolio text

Robert Frank

The Bohemian Beat Poetics of Robert Frank by Philip Gefter

No one has had a greater influence on photography in the last half-century than Robert Frank, despite the fact that his towering reputation rests almost entirely on a single, modest book published five decades ago. He has produced other work over the years and made 31 films and videos, but he is regarded primarily for his masterpiece, The Americans, an intimate visual chronicle of ordinary people in everyday situations, drawn from several trips he made across the United States – his adopted country – in the mid-1950s. 107

Several years ago I interviewed Robert Frank for The NewYork Times. He didn’t want to talk about why The Americans has had such a persistent afterlife or why it has become such an important marker in the history of photography. But he did tell me why the book is still meaningful to him: ‘I’m very proud of this book because I followed my intuition,’ he told me. Throughout the twentieth century, photo­g raphy as proof, or documenta‑ tion, of the objective world came to be regarded as a defining feature of art

foam magazine # 25 traces

photo­g raphy. No one exemplifies this point better than Walker Evans. The orderly visual geometry and descriptive clarity typical of Evans’ work is often equated with clear-eyed objectivity: he centres the subject in his frame; all the elements are parallel to the picture plane. But suppose that formalist approach was just a matter of style? Until Robert Frank came along, the hallmarks of good documentary photo­graphy were sharp, well-lighted, classically composed pictures. Life magazine photo­ graphers had been setting a standard for the picture essay for years when Frank first moved to the United States in 1947 at the age of 23. Frank liberated the picture frame from those conventions, although when the The Americans was first published in the United States in 1959 a chorus of critical disdain rose from the few then bothering to write about photo­graphy. Popular Photography magazine derided Frank’s black-and-white pictures for their ‘meaningless blur, grain, muddy exposures, drunken horizons and general sloppiness.’ Frank was not interested in the kind of Life magazine photography that told a complete story within the picture frame. His pictures are often taken at a moment when nothing is happening, as if contemplation itself is the subject. Here I want to quote some advice given by Walker Evans in a letter to a friend. ‘Stare,’ he wrote. ‘It is the way to educate your eye, and more. Stare, pry, listen, eavesdrop. Die knowing something.You are not here long.’ It seems that the act of staring is what Frank so astutely captures in his photographs. When Frank set out on his legendary road trips across America, Abstract Expressionism defined the artistic climate of the period. Frank had settled in downtown Manhattan when he arrived in the United States from Switzerland in the late 1940s and counted among his good friends Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Allen Ginsberg and, later, Jack Kerouac. These were the people who set precedents for other Beat generation artists and writers, whose improvisational art-making practices aimed to capture the spontaneous act of expression in their work. Equally, Frank’s pictures reflect the stream-ofconsciousness art-making of the period as he set out to grasp the authenticity of his own experience in visual terms.

In the 1980s Frank advised Allen Ginsberg to make prints of the snapshots he had taken in the 1950s of his friends ­William Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, and Gregory Corso, opening a second career for the great poet as a photographer. In a 1991 interview, Ginsberg recounted Robert Frank’s method of working: ‘There is a great element of chance in Robert’s photo­graphy, shooting from the hip. At one time, I think he even experimented with throwing the camera up in the air with a delaying click to see what would come out. Not setting things up, but accepting what passed before his eyes – that feeds into the notion of the spontaneous writing of Kerouac. So there are a lot of parallels. First thought, best thought, or first glimpse, best glimpse, unpremeditated awareness. It’s like taking little flashes in your notebook, little flashes of thought. That aspect of chance Robert introduced into photography to some extent. The idea of ordinary chance or ordinary magic is the same as bohemian Beat, Buddhist poetics.’ The pictures in the portfolio published here exemplify Ginsberg’s idea about what passes before Frank’s eyes. Frank photographs his experience of looking as

↗ Bowery NYC © Robert Frank


His pictures are often taken at a moment when nothing is ­happening, as if contem­plation itself is the ­subject.

was also on the Guggenheim Foundation committee. Three people of historic significance, Alexey Brodovitch, Edward Steichen and Walker Evans nominated Frank for the Guggenheim Fellowship that gave him the means to photograph across America in 1955 and 1956.

The young photographer landed in the very center of the 1950s New York art world. While getting an inspired tutorial from his association with the artists Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning and the poet Allen Ginsberg, he was at the same time cultivating the kind of professional ­associations that would be enviable for any artist. He had already trained with top professional photographers in ­Zurich. When he first arrived in New York he studied with the legendary Alexey ­Brodovitch, who was regularly assigning Irving Penn and Richard Avedon at that time. Brodovitch gave Frank his first ­professional assignment. Frank had been in the United States for less than five years when he befriended Edward Steichen, then the Director of Photography at The Museum of ­Modern Art. He soon became very good friends with Walker Evans, then the ­picture editor of Fortune Magazine who

I asked Frank about the idea of spontaneity and improvisation in his pictures, and how the period in the early 1950s – Abstract Expressionism, existentialism, The Beats, spontaneity, the artists he was hanging out with – informed his approach: ‘That’s what influenced me a lot, their lifestyle,’ he said. ‘The way they lived. I didn’t know any people in Europe who lived like that. They were free and that impressed me. They paid no attention to how you dressed or where you lived. They made their own rules. They didn’t belong to bourgeois society, which I come from in Europe, so that impressed me.’ He went regularly to his neighbourhood bar, a legendary art-world hangout of the 1950s. ‘The Cedar Bar was really an important place,’ he told me. ‘You sat there and met everybody there, you came outside on the street to see people.’ He said that they spent hours talking about art and poetry and ideas and philosophy.

Last year, a definitive exhibition on The Americans, called Looking In, opened at the National Gallery of Art in Washing­ ton DC and completed its tour at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Sarah Greenough, a senior curator at The National Gallery, who organized the show, wrote that Frank often ex­ pressed his great awe and respect for the passion and dedication of the Abstract Expressionists and acknowledged their inspiration and influence on him. He was moved, she wrote, ‘by their profound ‘struggle,’ their willingness to face a blank canvas and bring forth their art entirely from within... Though working in very different styles, many of these artists had been inspired by the idea that art was an expression not of fact, but of experience, and that what they created was a record of their confrontation with the canvas.’ Frank later said that he learned his standards from artists such as Franz Kline and de Kooning, by which he meant, according to Sarah Greenough, ‘that he emulated not only their fierce, uncompromising dedication to their work and their implicit faith in its importance but also their willingness to lay them­ selves open to the vagaries of chance and intuition, and to the possibility of discov­ ery through the act of making art.’ Frank might well be called the father of the snapshot aesthetic, a term coined a decade after The Americans was pub­ lished to identify a new photographic style that combined the unselfconscious informality of family snapshots, the ­authenticity of documentary photo­ graphy, and the active style of news ­pictures. Here’s what Lisette Model had to say about the lowly snapshot: ‘Inno­ cence is the quintessence of the snapshot. I wish to distinguish between innocence and ignorance. Innocence is one of the highest forms of being and ignorance one of the lowest.’  ›

↗ Peter/ Gregory / Allen © Robert Frank


portfolio robert frank text

much as the moment itself. The graininess, the blur, the drunken horizon lines to which early critics of The Americans objected are in fact qualities of emotion – or pure experience – rendered in visual terms within the frame, the way a feeling will surface in the flash of a memory.

foam magazine # 25 traces

The ordinary, incidental moments captured in Robert Frank’s pictures in the 1950s – and their raw, informal look – paved the way for photographers like Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander and Garry Winogrand a decade later. Their work was introduced less than eight years after the publication of The Americans in a 1967 show called New Documents at The Museum of Modern Art. Critics scratched their heads, unable to figure out what the subject matter was. Today the work of Arbus, Friedlander and Winogrand is thought to have complex formal properties, visual intelligence and a variety of perceptual mysteries. Their photographs, like Frank’s pictures, are less about a specific subject than about the experience of seeing – and of being.

Tal Uf Tal Ab is a portfolio of moments, both intimate and incidental, that reflect Frank’s essential approach to making photographs. Pictures of his wife and his friends and rooms and landscapes are drawn from the composition of his daily experience. Each one is an image, in the true, poetic sense of an image as it conjures a feeling or a memory. The poetic register in Frank’s pictures is struck not only from the actual moments he captured but, also, from the quality of his own experience resonating in the frame. The vocabulary of expression is something close to Zen, or meditation. I look at these pictures and think of being here now as much as Frank experienced the moment of being there then.  •

The fact of perceptual experience in a photograph has long been accepted as subject enough, but without Robert Frank’s intuitive and spontaneous approach to documenting America during the era of Abstract Expressionism – and making a visual expression of his own experience at the same time – that might not have been the case today.

List of works (in order of appearance): Mabou Robert Younger / June June /Annie Bad Ragaz Mabou Ilanz Willy Freitag Cape Breton Robert / Reginald Rankin Mabou Hotel Lobby François-Marie Banier / June Gunther / June Jack Kerouac NWT Canada Raoul Hague All images © Robert Frank, courtesy Pace  /  MacGill Gallery, New York All images from the book: Robert Frank,Tal Uf Tal Ab (Göttingen: Steidl Publishers, 2010) Robert Frank (b.1924, Zurich) is considered one of the most influential figures in the history of photography. For more than fifty years, he has redefined the rules and aesthetics of photography and film making, challenging the boundaries between the still and the moving image. ‘Tal uf Tal ab’ is Swiss-German and means ­direction up the valley – down the valley. Frank’s subjects in this compilation of old and new photographs are his life now, an inquisitive existence shaped by memory: streetscapes, portraits of friends and his wife June Leaf, interiors, a self-portrait, the mountains of Switzerland and his home in Mabou. Tal Uf Tal Ab is published by Steidl Publishers in 2010. This photobook is perceived as the latest phase in Frank’s unceasing exploration of photography. Robert Frank is represented by Pace  /  MacGill Gallery in New York. Philip Gefter is Senior Picture Editor and photography reviewer for The New York Times, and the newspaper’s former Page One Picture Editor. His critical articles about photographers like Lee Friedlander, Ryan McGinley, and of course Robert Frank, originally written for the newspaper, are collected with unpublished texts in the book Photography After Frank (New York: Aperture, 2009).


James D. Griffioen Feral Houses

portfolio text

James D. Griffioen

Exemplary ­Frailty by Aaron Schuman

In the summer of 2006, at the age of twenty-nine, James Griffioen moved to Detroit with his wife and one-year-old daughter, abandoning a successful career as a securities lawyer in San Francisco in favour of a life as devoted and unapologetic stay-at-home dad – or a ‘Gentleman of Elegant Leisure’ as his business card reads. A year earlier, ­Griffioen had begun a blog – - on which he has since chronicled, in both pictures and words, his experiences of personal transition, the new city he’d moved to, and full-time fatherhood. ‘Twenty-somethings must tremble at the possibility of ending up like me,’ he reflected in one post. ‘A man who abandoned everything 127

he spent his twenties working towards because he became a father, and was suddenly seized with the delusion that everything he thought was important when he was twenty-three actually didn’t mean shit to him anymore. I went through that same journey of fear and dread, knowing that creating new life brings unpreventable changes and new responsibilities. Of course, what I hadn’t been prepared for was how much love it would stir up inside me; this primal, ­r iotous love… When I realized that ­con­tinuing to live how I was living meant that I would barely get to watch my kids grow up, something snapped. I walked away.’ ›

foam magazine # 25 traces

Over the course of the last five years, has developed a strong reputation as one of the web’s most brave, thoughtful and heartfelt blogs about the trials and joys of parenting, particularly from a father’s perspective. But Griffioen himself admits that nothing he has ever produced has resonated as much as a series of photographs that he posted in July 2009, which he called Feral Houses. Introducing the images, he wrote, ‘Our word feral comes from the Latin root fera, or ‘wild beast’, but it also has a connection to another Latin word, feralis, literally: belonging to the dead. I’ve seen the word used to describe dogs, cats, even goats. But I have wondered if it couldn’t also be used to describe certain houses in Detroit. Abandoned houses are really no big deal here.’ Throughout the first half of the twentieth century, the city of Detroit – once the heart of the American automobile industry, thus the nickname Motor City (or Motown) – was one of America’s most promising and prosperous urban centres. But over the course of the last fifty years, Detroit has been in steady decline; its population has halved, most factories have closed or significantly downsized, one in fifty of its inhabitants are homeless, and it has earned a reputation as one of the most desolate and dangerous cities in the country. Most recently, with the onset of the current economic crisis,

Detroit has become the mainstream media’s go-to icon for the failure of the American Dream, with photojournalists flocking to the city’s streets in search of the most graphic and obvious representations of contemporary urban decay and the fall of the American empire – as Griffioen had said himself, ‘Basically the only thing they're interested in shooting is ruin porn.’ By contrast, Feral Houses is anything but ruin porn. Rather than exaggerating their subjects in order to illustrate fashionable social, political, and economic generalities, or exploiting such sites in order to conjure up explicit and lurid post-apocalyptic visions that are solely intended to titillate rather than inform the viewer, Griffioen’s photographs depict these structures dead-on, under flat light, with seriousness but without sentimentality. His strategy succeeds in that it aesthetically reflects his own approach to such scenes, as expressed in his own words: ‘no big deal’. At the same time, the images – landscapes as much as architecture; with an emphasis on the natural world, invading and then subsuming the man-made one – invariably invoke a long-standing metaphoric tradition within Western art, philosophy, religion, literature and poetry, which has been with us since the Renaissance: the ruin as memento mori. As the architectural historian, Christopher Woodward,

→ Untitled One from the series Detroit Public Schools Book Depository, 2008 © James D. Griffioen


points out in his book, In Ruins (London: Chatto & Windus, 2001), ‘In Christianity the decay of the individual was a necessary prelude to resurrection. Ruins were a perfect metaphor for this process, for the skull beneath the skin…When Pope Pius II introduced the very first law to protect the classical monuments from destruction, one of his reasons for doing so was to preserve the sight of their ‘exemplary frailty’.’ Yet, what sets Griffioen’s ruins apart from those that Woodward cites, and Pope Pius II preserved, is that they are not ancient monuments, temples, amphitheatres, forums or palaces – they are houses, structures that rarely preserved even when ancient. Such buildings do not inspire grand imaginings of great ­societies or symbolize the wonders of bygone civilizations (thus their rarity as ruins), but instead speak of modest ­families, and the subtle fragility of their fleeting memories. Elsewhere, Woodward writes, ‘When we contemplate ruins, we contemplate our own future. To the statesman, ruins predict the fall of ­Empires, and to philosophers the futility of mortal man’s aspirations. To a poet, the decay of a monument represents the dissolution of the individual ego in the flow of Time; to a painter or architect, the fragments of stupendous antiquity call into question the purpose of their art.’Yet again, Griffioen does not suit this mold – he is not a statesman, a philosopher, a

Our word feral comes from the Latin root fera, or ‘wild beast’, but it also has a connection to another Latin word, feralis, ­literally: ­belonging to the dead.

poet or a painter, nor does he feel comfortable with being regarded as a lawyer, a photographer, a journalist or even a blogger. As he has declared time and time again, in both his actions and his words, he is first and foremost a father, a family man. And it is this – the family – whose frailty and future are contemplated in the feral houses. Such ruins are not representations of something imperial, philosophical, poetic, political, economic or artistic, but instead, that which is most deeply and profoundly personal. So, let’s get personal. In 1939, my own grandparents – newly married, in their early twenties, and pregnant with my mother – moved to Detroit and stayed for nearly sixty years. My mother generally talks fondly of her childhood, yet the mere mention of Detroit, as a city, abruptly bring tears to her eyes; then she goes quiet for a while. I have very little experience of the city myself. I was born in 1977, and by the mid-1980s my grandparent’s neighbourhood had gone severely downhill – the house across the street had become a crack den, burglary was a common ­occurrence, and gangs clashed regularly on their block. Although they came to see us on the East Coast at least twice a year, I only visited my grandparents at their home in Detroit once, for a day; before it got dark, my parents and I drove out of town, and stayed with my aunt and uncle in the suburbs. Nevertheless, my grandfather – an incredibly proud and 129

impossibly stubborn man – insisted that he would never sell the house he had worked so hard for all his life. But by the 1990s, both bricks and bullets started coming through their living-room window (a brick landed on my grandfather as he sat on the sofa and broke his foot; the bullets missed them), and – with the ­passing of both their eightieth birthdays and dementia beginning to seriously effect my grandfather – my mother and her siblings insisted that it was time for my grand­parents to move. Despite my grand­ father’s increasingly angry protests, they sold their house for hardly more than they’d bought it for, and moved to ­Colorado; my grandfather died three years later, still proud, but bitter and confused as well.  After studying Griffioen’s photographs for hours, and in the midst of writing this article, I decided that it was time that I learn more about my mother, and particularly, about her family, her house, her neighbourhood; her Detroit. So I asked her to send me some childhood memories of the city – this is what she wrote: ‘When Mom and Dad first came to Detroit they rented a small apartment, and saved their earnings. Dad was a factory-worker all his life. At first, he worked in a cardboard-box factory and she worked in an automobile factory, sewing seat covers. He studied at night, and passed the test to become a tool and die man.Then he worked at various factories, and eventually got a job at

james d. griffioen

→ New Book of Knowledge from the series Detroit Public Schools Book Depository, 2008 © James D. Griffioen

foam magazine # 25 traces

Chrysler making the molds that were used to cast various automobile parts. After three years, they bought a house on Moran Street for cash; they always paid cash, no credit. It was a two-story woodframe house. Dad used a blowtorch to get off all of the old paint, and then painted the house light-yellow. It was on a narrow lot, and in front there was a miniscule bit of grass and a few sumac trees – in the fall the narrow little leaves were very pretty, red and yellow, and we used them as pretend money, banking our “money” through the thin slot in the wooden mailbox that was nailed beside the front door. Alongside the house, there was a narrow sidewalk that went between our house and the next one. It was a great place for playing “bounce the ball” during hot summer days. We spent hours at this game: you threw a tennis ball hard against one house and it would ricochet back and forth between the two houses, making a staccato echoey sort of sound.The bleeding hearts and irises that were planted there sometimes took a real beating.  There was a small fenced-in backyard, which you entered through a metal gate that made a great clanking sound. It was a soft wire fence with big holes – good for bending, for climbing, for talking over with the neighbors,  and for supporting blue morning glories; beanstalks, too. The yard was planted with scraggly grass on one side, and dirt on the other. Dad made a swing with pieces of wood and chain, and put it on the dirt side. It was great fun to kick up the dust, or slosh through the wet puddles underneath, as you were swinging back and forth. In the winter, the backyard became an ice rink – we would shovel the snow into mounds around the edges of the yard, bring out the hose, and fill it up. At the back of the yard there was an old barn, which smelled of wood and dirt. It had rickety stairs to a loft, which had a large window opening out onto the neighbor’s pear tree. I often spend hours there, listening to the rain, smelling blossoms in spring, and climbing out onto the branches of the tree, where I could sit and eat juicy pears while spying on the neighbors. Beyond the barn was a dirt alley. It was like a little street with smelly garbage bins, feral cats and wild hollyhock flowers in all sorts of colors. I loved picking their blossoms, and pretending they were ladies in beautiful evening dresses. Once a week, we would walk over to Chene Street – to the big outdoor market – where we  often  bought a live chicken  for Sunday dinner, and tons of fruits

vegetables for mom to can. The canning cupboard was set at one side of our back porch, at the bottom of the  back stairs; that’s where the root-beer that Dad made every year was kept too. Sometimes it exploded. Down the street there was a grocery store and a beauty shop; on the next block was the fire station, and on the block after that was a bakery. Across the street on the next block was the tiny movie theater where I saw Snow-White and the Seven Dwarfs; next to that was a bar. Two blocks away was the Better-Maid potato-chip factory, with a big window where you could look in and see the chips moving down the  rollers.We bought gallon-size tins of chips and spent many afternoons on our front steps, sipping Vernors ginger ale or orange pop and eating chips. And then there was the Wonder Bread factory – at Halloween they handed out miniature-sized loaves of bread. For many years we didn’t have a basement.When I was nine years old, Dad jacked the house up, dug underneath it, got some cinder blocks and concrete mix, and made a basement for a furnace. Before that, we heated the house with a kerosene stove in the living room. But after he dug the basement, it was my job to stoke the furnace when I got home from school, shoveling in coal and pushing it around over the still-glowing ashes with a long poker. The rhythm of Detroit traffic followed the automobile factory shifts, I think that there were three shifts over a twenty-four hour period.We always went to the annual Auto Show to see all the new models of cars

that were coming out. At Christmas we went out to Grosse Pointe to see the fancy houses, with all of their Christmas lights. On Sundays we went to church, visited family, and sometimes went for a Sunday drive to look at all at the new houses that were being built. Mom said that she wanted a white-brick house, on a corner lot, with a proper chain link fence. Dad wanted a garage. When I was fifteen, we moved to a house on Bloom Street (bought for cash, of course). I was very disappointed – I thought we were going to move to a larger house in the suburbs, with a big lawn and big trees, hopefully near the first shopping center ever built in America. Instead, we moved to an area near Hamtramck. Now I understand why we moved there; it was a brick house in a nice neighborhood. It had a basement. Mom got a new washing machine and a Frigidaire. And they could still afford to send my brother, my sister and me to Catholic school – which you had to pay for – and save some money to help us go to college.  OK, it’s getting late. Got to go. Love, Mom.’ Griffioen’s Feral Houses may not be imperial monuments of long-lasting historical importance; in fact, many of the houses themselves have since been demolished. Yet captured as photographs, these overrun structures still possess the weight of the ruin – in this case, one of love and family – and preserve its intense, emotive power. ‘Exemplary frailty’… indeed.  •

All images © James D. Griffioen James D. Griffioen (b.1977, Kalamazoo, Michigan) followed a career as lawyer in San Francisco before becoming a father and making the major shift to work as writer and photographer in Detroit. In the past years he built up an extensive photographic work on the postindustrial decline and degeneration of Detroit. Due to the fall of the local economy and automobile industry, this former ‘Motor City’ suffers nowadays from a serious depopulation. Griffioen documented these effects in different series Lost Neigh­borhoods, Be Patient, Scrappers, Vacant Schools, Detroit’s Public Schools Book Depository and more. Griffioen’s photographs have been featured in numerous American and international magazines as well as on various websites, including Harper’s Magazine, Vice Magazine, Time and The New David Weinberg Gallery in Chicago showed his work in the exhibition Social Landscapes in 2009 and Merwin Gallery at Illinois Wesleyan University hosted his solo exhibition. Aaron Schuman (b. 1977, Northampton) is an American photo­ grapher, editor and writer based in the United Kingdom. He is a Research Fellow and Senior Lecturer at the Arts University College at Bournemouth, a Lecturer at the University of Brighton and the founder and editor of the online photography journal SeeSaw ­Magazine.


Gert Jan Kocken The Past in the Present

Madonna with Child, Geneva. Defacement 9/10 August 1535 165 × 85 cm, 2005

Annunciation, Swanden. Defacement 21 December 1528 150 × 105 cm, 2005

Charles Sweeney, Pilot, B 29 Bock’s Car, Nagasaki, 9 August 1945 245 × 180 cm, 2010

Madonna of Nagasaki. Defacement 9 August 1945 39 × 28 cm, 2010 The original target of the second American ­atomic bomb ­dropped on Japan was the city of Kokura, but because of bad weather the crew of B-29 ­Superfortress Bock’s Car diverted to Nagasaki. ­Above Nagasaki the weather appeared to be poor, too. The bomb ­missed its target by more than 2.5 km, exploding above the Urikami ­Cathedral, at that time the largest Catholic church in Southeast Asia. Nagasaki had the ­greatest concen­tration of baptized ­Christians anywhere in Japan; of its 12,000 Catholics, 8,500 were killed.

New York Times, Tuesday, 11 September 2001. Microfilm, National Library NY 67 × 59 cm, 2004

portfolio text

Gert Jan Kocken

The Hand of the Maker by Maria Barnas

When I describe an artwork in an article, I help to determine how that work is seen and interpreted. There’s a chance that more people will read about the artwork than see it for themselves, that the artwork will become a description that replaces the work itself. I can’t allow myself to think about that too much. I’d end up watching my words so carefully that I’d never get another line down on paper. The awareness of how history is written, and how the attribution of meaning comes about, is a powerful element in Gert Jan Kocken’s work. He’s interested in decisive moments in the course of ­history when things could have taken a different turn. He presents cornerstones 147

of a shadow history and by doing so places an additional layer on top of the history that’s familiar to us. Gert Jan Kocken: ‘History is stored away in the collective memory as a struc­ ture made out of facts, beliefs, inter­ pretations and visual impressions. History books and the media have an ­important influence on this process. They try to keep the past alive, but in doing so they transform it into something that’s con­ sistently presented as less ambiguous than the actual events. In my work I try to adopt a critical stance. I want to show history in all its complexity, accentuate entirely new aspects, and trace an alter­ native route through the past that will prompt the viewer to take another look.’

impact and ­potential uses of the image. Up ­until then artists had mainly depicted and copied biblical scenes.’

foam magazine # 25 traces

↗ Installation shot. Exhibition Questioning History at Nederlands Fotomuseum Rotterdam, The Netherlands, 2008  /09 ©  Gert Jan Kocken

When he was researching the Dutch sixteenth-century outburst of iconoclastic fury known as the Beeldenstorm, Kocken noticed that identical illustrations were used time and again in history books. History had become a set of images, a story about people violently attacking artworks. There were hardly any images of the consequences, the reality they left behind. Kocken discovered that hardly ­anything remains of artworks defaced by militant Calvinists in the sixteenth ­century in obedience to the second commandment: ‘Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;   And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.’  (Exodus 20:4-6) Along with the images themselves, ­virtually all traces of their history have disappeared. It’s as if the Beeldenstorm has been made invisible. You can look

at destruction by iconoclasts the way you would look at choices made by an ­artist. For example, in the wooden relief ­Madonna with Child, Geneva. Defacement 9/10 August 1535 (2005) it’s possible to determine the direction in which the iconoclast’s hand was moving as he ­began his attack on the Virgin Mary. Up to a point her head has been spared, as if only the part that housed her face needed to be eliminated. At the place where Jesus must have lain in Mary’s arms, a hole has been hacked into her waist. Kocken shows that something in­ complete can have a particular beauty. The indeterminate places, the cracks and holes resonate with an aesthetic that’s ­familiar from modern art, both abstract art, in which omissions and deliberate vagueness are intended to stimulate the imagination, and art that uses destruction as a technique within the work. ‘Although the iconoclasts were not intending to create beauty, they recognized and used the power of the image to transmit their message. They knew exactly what they were destroying and what they were leaving intact, and why,’ Kocken says. ‘The Refor­ mation is of fundamental importance to modern art. On a grand scale people started contemplating the meaning, 148

Kocken tries to avoid his own signature as far as possible. His work is characterized not so much by a style as by an attempt to create an image of his subject that’s as impersonal as he can make it. To give the subject maximum clarity he attempts to record it with as much personal detachment as possible. Like a journalist refraining from personal comments, Kocken is an objective observer. He is not interested in presenting himself as the maker; his personal signature is irrelevant. Although Kocken himself avoids handwriting and signatures, he concentrates on marks made by creators and destroyers. His research into the evidence of destruction during the ­Beeldenstorm is not so much an indictment of those acts as an attempt to trace the signature of the iconoclastic fury ­itself. Kocken’s interest in iconoclasm began with the destruction by the Taliban of the ­Bamiyan ­Buddhas in Afghanistan in 2001. They date as far back as the second century and were probably completed in the fourth or fifth century. The Taliban announced that the giant sculptures were idols, and idolatry is strictly forbidden under Sharia law – reason enough for the Taliban to blow up the statues with dynamite. By showing his images of damage wrought during the Beeldenstorm at the very time when the world was outraged by the destruction of the Buddha statues, Kocken placed iconoclasm in a broader framework. As part of that same series about turning points in history, Kocken photographed watercolours by Adolf Hitler, which are closely guarded by the Pentagon. They are endearing, extremely detailed village scenes. I would use the word ‘prissy’ were it not so far removed from what I know of their creator. AltWien, of 1908, formed

← Installation shot. Exhibition Positions at Stedelijk Museum Schiedam, The Netherlands, 2010 © Gert Jan Kocken

part of Hitler’s application to study at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. What would the world be like had Hitler been accepted? What if he’d been a slightly more adventurous painter and had managed to convince the admissions board? These are unanswerable questions, of the kind that are of no interest to historians but that certainly do occur to me as I look at Kocken’s work. Becelaire was painted by Hitler in 1917, during the Third Battle of Ypres. His style had not changed since Alt Wien. There, you see, I feel able to conclude, this man was imperturbable. Emotionless. Hitler rarely painted people. When he did, he reduced them to little dolls. Or am I too eager to discover evil in what in themselves are innocent trifles? Although I know that, historically speaking, it’s incorrect to do so, I can’t help colouring the past with knowledge gleaned from the present day. Illustrative of the significance that has been attributed to these watercolours is the fact that they are held by the Pentagon. According to the US government, ‘the very brush strokes of the painter have such incendiary potential that they must be guarded from the gaze of all but screened experts.’ This seems to reflect 149

Kocken explores the use of signatures by presenting those of Hitler and of Paul Tibbets. Hitler signed his work as an artist; he was hoping to be famous one day. Tibbets had already achieved fame when he began handing out signatures. On 6 August 1945 he piloted the plane that dropped the atomic bomb, called ‘Little Boy’, on Hiroshima, killing 78,000 people outright. As a result of radiation exposure, the death toll eventually reached 140,000. For years ­Tibbets, a celebrated war veteran, put his name to photographs of the mushroom-shaped cloud. Like an artist signing a painting, he wrote his name on top of the explosion. His signature is quite literally a means of appropriating history and demanding a role for himself in it. Even before his flight to ­Hiroshima he tried to assert his own importance by renaming the plane that would drop the bomb after his mother: Enola Gay Tibbets. Possibly ­Tibbets identified personally with the bomb. Every­thing in me resists trying to place any interpretation on the fact that he felt he was honouring his mother by making her the bearer of the atomic bomb. The images of those attacks are well known. They have become part of the collective memory. In that sense it’s as if I’m looking at a double image: the one in my mind, and the one presented by Kocken. To my horror I see that the

gert jan kocken

His work is ­characterized not so much by a style as by an ­attempt to ­create an image of his subject that’s as impersonal as he can make it.

a fear of forces within the work, as if it’s made not of paint but of the ideas of its creator, which must be kept out of sight. By photographing them in their surroundings, Kocken shows not only the watercolours themselves but how people deal with history and art, and how the attribution of significance ­arises. Through his work he makes the viewer aware that observation is ­coloured by knowledge, by facts from history and current affairs. He continually studies the tension between visual information and the transmission of non-visual ­content.

foam magazine # 25 traces

mushroom clouds themselves are like grotesque signatures across the sky. Photographs were not the only items on which the bomber crew signed their names. With his 1 Dollar Silver Certificate signed by Enola Gay Crew (2010), Kocken presents a dollar bill bearing their signatures on the front. The reverse side of the bill was signed by the crew of the plane that dropped a second – and up to now last – atomic bomb, this time on Nagasaki, three days after the Hiroshima explosion. The dollar bill has been enlarged by Kocken to such an extent that George Washington’s head is life-sized, transforming him into a person who gazes at the viewer. Is it my imagination or do I see a dumbfounded expression on Washington’s face, surrounded as he is by the names of people who are honoured as heroes but who caused death and mutilation? The signatures of the bomber crews demand our attention, just as they themselves demanded attention for their role in history. The signatures of famous airmen made that dollar bill into an object that some are willing to accept as worth more than its face value. The dollar bill is a symbol of America, and of capitalism. The veterans were not merely signing money, they were signing America, as if the country was theirs.

Looking at Mary I also see a mask. Anyone can put it on and look through the eyes of a witness to history. It’s signi­ficant that I’m looking at a depiction of the statue of the Virgin rather than at the statue itself. The way Kocken presents it, the statue is freed from its context. In the surroundings of a church it would have a different impact. Although it indicates an origin, a history and a present-day signi­ ficance, I can see it as a statue in its own right, as an autonomous object. Kocken’s work makes me conscious of the fact that it’s not possible to observe anything without it being coloured by our own knowledge and experience. He examines the transmission of content, of significance. More than images as such, Kocken presents ways in which people look at those images, and ways we can look at them ourselves. His work makes us aware of the fact that you can’t take anything for granted. History is not a given. It’s rewritten every day. So what kind of relationship can we have with the here and now? Kocken offers no answer. He presents powerful metaphors that cast a new light on reality. •

Visiting Nagasaki, Kocken found a statue of the Virgin with its eyes burnt out. The statue once stood in a cathedral, a place of worship for the largest Catholic community in Southeast Asia, an enclave of Japanese Catholics in Nagasaki. As a result of poor visibility, the atomic bomb originally intended for Kokura was released above Nagasaki. The city was reduced to rubble. The bomb exploded directly above the cathedral. It’s a cruel stroke of fate that the Catholics of Japan, a minority driven together in the district of Urakami, were wiped from the face of the earth. As if by a holy miracle, the head of a statue of the Virgin was spared. Except that her eyes had been burnt out. You’d almost think it had been designed to touch a religious chord, even in unbelievers. It couldn’t be more perfect if you want to convey a message from God: Mary’s eyes couldn’t bear this suffering. She became blind, just like those survivors who had stared into the light of the explosion. She also reminds us of the poor visibility that caused the bomb to be dropped on the cathedral.

Gert Jan Kocken (b.1971, Ravenstein) is a visual artist living and working in Amsterdam. He graduated from the Royal Academy of the Arts in The Hague in 1998 and will hold a residency at the Rijks­akademie van ­Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam in 2011. For his work ­Kocken performs extensive ­research before he photographs the o ­ bjects involved in parts, which he later conjuncts into one print at almost actual size or even enlarged a few times (Depictions of ­Amsterdam ­1940-1945, 2009 and Enola Gay Tibbets, 2010). Both in solo and group exhibitions, his work has been exhibited widely in the ­Netherlands and abroad of which the most recent were his solo ­exhibition P ­ ositions this summer at the Stede­lijk Museum Schiedam and Monumentalism, the municipal art a ­ cquisitions at the Stedelijk Museum ­Amsterdam. His work has been part of the group exhibition Nature as Artifice (2008 – 2009) shown at the George Eastman House, Rochester, the Aperture Gallery in New York, the Alte ­Pinakothek in Munich and at the Kröller Müller Museum in the Netherlands. The exhibition Questioning History, in 2008 at the Nederlands Foto­museum Rotterdam, featured a large selection of Kocken’s Past in the Present series. Maria Barnas (b.1973, Hoorn) lives and works in Amsterdam. She is a poet, novelist and visual artist, having studied at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie and the Royal Academy of Visual Arts in Amsterdam. Barnas writes a weekly column for the Dutch daily newspaper NRC Handelsblad and is editor of the literary magazine De Gids. She is the co-founder of Missingbooks, a publishing house for books that never have been reprinted.


Anni Lepp채l채 Chapter I-IV

portfolio text

Anni Leppälä

The Very Last Image by Harri Laakso

Anni Leppälä (b. 1981) has, despite her relative youth, created an admirable and much-lauded body of work and a distinctive visual voice. Since that voice is soft, more a whisper, the impact of her work is surprising, sometimes seeming almost self-contradictory; it carries its own internal tension, playing a game of hideand-seek, or lavishes us with its privacy. In this light it is perhaps not surprising that despite the work’s elusiveness, the idea of tracing is apt when considering the photography of Anni Leppälä. In her works that can mean three things: smudge, pursuit and translucence. 167

Smudge We are all familiar with the fact that the photographic image is an impression of a real contact – the well-known indexical sign. That is photography’s distinctive mark and contemporary photography has often relentlessly incorporated and underlined that foundation in its imagery. The tears, the cuts, the drops of what appear to be blood, or the archaic and worn spaces, all of which we might find represented in the images of Anni Leppälä, add not only the element of a time passed but an unapproachable material physicality. ›

foam magazine # 25 traces

What is offered is a state of loss and of remove, in more ways than one. We become aware that events have taken their course and are no longer visible, except as a sign, a vestige, and as the starting points for many inconclusive stories. At the same time, the general attention to surface – the wallpaper, the material of the cloth, skin, inviting hair, surface of water, all almost within reach – reverberates with the untouchable surface of the image itself; the unattainable temporalities and the haptic limits of the visual regime are tested. Even the images that most forcefully block our approach, freezing us in front of the gloomiest black recesses of a forest, or as unwilling spectators to some clandestine scene, without promising any easy access, often make us want to extend our hand and feel the textures, however far away they may seem. It is a test of our here-and-now, a touch from a distance. Anni Leppälä’s work puts us in real contact with ‘absolute distance’, the ‘surging forth of a presence’ – if we understand that ‘presence is not something present; what is there, not approaching, not withdrawing […] and yet designates an infinite relation’ (Maurice Blanchot). We are given an incomparable presence that offers itself in its strangeness, smeared and smudged – something that offers itself as other. Pursuit The presence in Anni Leppälä’s images is nameless and unknown. Everyone is either turned away or masked, sometimes both at the same time. It becomes very clear that the camera has sought and found, to its advantage, an unfavourable viewpoint. The distinguishing features of subjects are framed out, are out of focus, or behind a tree, or smudged behind a frosty window.

↗ Installation shot. Exhibition Young Artist of the Year 2010 at Tampere Art Museum, Finland, 2010 © Anni Leppälä

We happen upon the images, as much as they happen to us. They might appear to bear all the traits of surprise, something Michael Fried has called anti-theatrical in paintings and photographs. They seem to deny the presence of the beholder in favour of the subjects’ mundane state of absorption. However, in Leppälä’s images the feeling of surprise comes coupled with something altogether different, the abundance of theatrical props and motifs: velvet curtains, stages, masks, keyholes, the stillness of poses – many things that underline the processes of staging and of looking. It does not end there. The negative strategies of evasion necessarily imply the existence of a favourable viewpoint and a focus somewhere else. They designate an elsewhere, and allow that elsewhere, the unknown itself, to turn towards us, in all the strangeness and absolute distance that separates one man from another. To see that distance before one’s eyes is a privilege. The images manage to estrange us from something we had falsely become accustomed to. Tracing can imply a narrative action of tracking down, investigating and unearthing something. Here the narrative 168

dimension does not work that way. These photographs are not actions, properly speaking. They are, at best, fragile apparitions, undecided between action and passion. Here trace is a noun that must be heard as a verb, and then again as a noun. By way of alternation of attraction and repulsion the images nevertheless manage to take us to their own threshold, to the mouth of the burrow, or to the edge of an alluringly dark forest. There is uncertainty and slippage in trying to decide the who of these pictures. Who are the subjects? It is obvious that many of the images are of women and of girls. Someone would no doubt say that they are about the world of women and girls, even about gendered inner experiences and fantasies symbolized and ­externalized. To me it seems just as ­apparent that the photographs are ­already prepared to evacuate these subject positions to become something more neuter, a more neuter presence. That is connected to the images’ ­cultural orientation. I can recognize the subtle northern light, a familiar type of weather, a characteristic forest, but hesitate to call the images Finnish because of

their subject matter. I would, however, call the images Finnish for their grammar, because the Finnish language is ­imbued with one immense philosophical advantage, the lack of gender, the inability to differentiate between ‘she’ and ‘he’ that offers the ability to speak with decided imprecision.

↗ Installation shot. Exhibition Inner Yard at Korjaamo Gallery, Helsinki, 2008 © Jussi Tiainen

seeing: frosty glass, the semi-translucent ­balloon (whose static electricity attracts the woman’s hair), a model submerged, figures in the landscape seen through vegetation, or the way in which a stream traces its own path in the snow.

We happen upon the images, as much as they happen to us.

Translucence A third aspect of tracing implies making a copy by following the contours of the thing traced, or making faint marks stronger, reinforcing one’s own lines, a process of marking and of superimposition. Something is seen as if through something else. In Leppälä’s images we have many related instances of such 169

Superimposition means that one sees one thing while thinking another. Properly speaking one does not then see what one thinks one sees. Leppälä’s images are thus layered with thoughts. Given their peculiar passivity I think they exemplify what Jacques Rancière calls pensive images, images ‘full of thoughts’ without necessarily having anyone thinking them. According to Rancière an image cannot be pensive in the sense that it would think, but it can contain ‘unthought thought’ that cannot be attributed to its maker’s intentions or its viewer’s action linking the image with a particular object. The pensiveness refers to the indeterminate fluctuation between the active and the passive as well as between the photographic image’s dual foundations as a duplicate of a thing and an artefact, an intentional man-made operation. It also refers to the difficulty of making the various layers in the image coincide. For

anni leppälä

Leppälä’s images approach the neuter, and the neuter can be threatening for thought, because it is the direction of the unknown. It also adds a certain coldness to the images that are, despite their romantic and nostalgic undertones, already in some way impersonal. The images ­provide us with material bodies. We might see figures that are young and vibrant but appear to be, at the same time, somehow non-living. The intensity of sentiment becomes misplaced in the characters and the images offer no possibility of identification. This is probably one reason for the unmistakable feeling of horror that some of the images evoke – akin to the psychological horror films of past decades (I’m thinking of Nicolas Roeg’s films). Adding to that uneasiness is the voyeuristic sense of observing the subject in secret, the intensity of colour – red ­especially, that seems to point to some undisclosed ritual – the vulnerability of a child, or the general fact that the identities remain hidden. It almost feels as if the figures in Leppälä’s images have already passed on or are lingering in limbo.

example, the matter-of-factness, almost the indifference of, let us say, a little girl in an image, counter-posed to the dreamy fantasies that are necessarily evoked.

foam magazine # 25 traces

The constant remainder of different scales and measures is another way in which the images place vision in a state of flux. The use of models, the alternation of the large and the small, detail and overview, constantly forces the eye to size things up, to assess, re-evaluate, placing (or tracing) one estimate and approximation over another. The variation in size hinders the ability to take charge of things, to find the proper, tactful distance. Always too close or too far. The images cannot be controlled; quite the opposite. They beguile us, constantly seeking some hidden inner logic and ­reassurance of their status as images.

But Anni Leppälä seems to be searching for something more, something more ­essential: the fresh beginning and the sombre end, the birth and the demise of the image. Robert Bresson wrote in his book Notes of the Cinematographer (Copen­hagen: Green Integer, 1997): ‘Be the first to see what you see as you see it.’ To me it seems as if Leppälä was ­tracing not only the very first but the very last image.  •

Envoi ‘Symbolic meanings are essential in my works,’ Leppälä writes in her artist’s statement. But is this a ruse? There are obvious similarities between Leppälä’s thinking and that of the so-called symbolist poets. She too projects inner feelings and invokes previously inexpressible things to surface. She too suspends time and hails metonymy as the preferred form of substitution. Such strategies come naturally to a photographer.

All images © Anni Leppälä, courtesy Gallery TaiK, Berlin Anni Leppälä (b.1981, Helsinki) graduated in 2004 from the Arts Academy at Turku University of Applied Sciences in Helsinki and continued her s­ tudies in the master’s program of Helsinki’s University of Art and D ­ esign. This year she was named Young Artist of the Year 2010, an award accompanied by a solo exhibition at Tampere Art Museum and a publication. Her work was part of group shows mainly about Finnish photography: On Top of the Iceberg: New Photo­graphy from Finland (2009) at the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg in G ­ ermany and The Helsinki School (2010) at Helsinki City Art Museum. Purdy Hicks Gallery in London showed her work together with that of Susanna Majori in early 2010 and this fall Gallery TaiK (Berlin) presented Chapter IV, Leppälä’s most recent work. Harri Laakso (b. 1965, Helsinki) is Professor of Visual Culture at the University of Art and Design Helsinki, Pori School of Art and Media. He has worked as a photographer, curator and researcher and published many articles on art and photography in Finland and abroad. He is the author of Valokuvan tapahtuma (The Event of Photography) ­published by Tutkijaliitto, Helsinki, 2003.


The La Brea Matrix

Six German Photographers & A New Color Icon by Stephen Shore

portfolio text

The La Brea Matrix

Make Something or Be Forgotten! by Christoph Schaden

The billboard slogan is undoubtedly meant to hit you in the gut, scrawled in gigantic capital letters across the side of a bank on an intersection. You look up and read the words ‘Make Something or Be Forgotten’. It’s an unapologetic Big Brother-style directive, verging on a downright threat, and leaves you no choice. But what exactly are you supposed to do? The graffiti-like writing reveals no further clues, so your eyes stray to the large, sepia-saturated background image. It signals, within fractions of a second, that absolutely everything is at stake here. A man is running on sweltering asphalt, running for his life. 187

There are no distracting details, only the driving forces of motion are at work here. So it doesn’t, in fact, seem ironic that the man has forgotten his trousers – even though, of course, by now we’ve realised that this is an advertisement for the global jeans giant Levi’s. Whether it seeks to appeal or dictate to consumers, this image clearly also throws up some very fundamental questions. Frozen in what seems to be a film still, the man has turned his head away from us and is actually looking backwards. What can he see that we can’t see? What is he thinking? And what can be done to preserve these memories? ›

foam magazine # 25 traces

↗ La Brea Ave / Beverly B ­ oulevard, Los Angeles, California thanks to Google Street View

‘Make Something or Be Forgotten’. In January 2010, Max Regenberg recorded the memorable Levi’s image at the intersection of Overland Avenue and Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles. For the ­Cologne-based photographer, who has documented billboards in the public sphere for more than 30 years, it must have been a welcome treat to apply this advertising slogan as a leitmotif to his own medium. After all, in the world of documentary photography, the dictum still holds that the photographic image is supposed to preserve an endangered object and save it from collective amnesia. Regenberg has effortlessly met these require­ments by producing visual memories from advertising imagery. At the same time, his chosen motif also raises the question of what should be immortalised in photography in the first place: make something or be forgotten... In his colour photo, the billboard image is part of a wider view of the street. We see an expanse of asphalt, a car, and traffic lights that are switched to red and green, respectively, and further in the background, palm trees and another billboard.You can also detect a certain emptiness which will be familiar to connoisseurs of photography. The sky is blue, the light is gentle. Undoubtedly, the photographer himself has also turned his gaze backwards. What can he see that we’re also

supposed to see? What are his influences and references? And what has he done to anchor his work within the canon of images, both real and imaginary? As viewers, perhaps the decision is ours. Various advertising blogs have recently speculated about whether the Levi’s campaign might be a playful reference to the advertising industry itself, which derives its impetus from the conditions of a present severed from history. Never­ theless, photography’s references lie else­ where. We might, for example, be tempted to think of Ed Ruscha’s oeuvre, works from the New Color Photography move­ ment, or the countless film stills conjured up by the catchwords ‘Los ­Angeles’ and ‘Hollywood’. And caught up in this play of references, we might even build our own visual matrix. Something For The First Time Regenberg’s colour photograph is just one of the results from The La Brea ­Matrix, a project initiated in 2008 by ­L apis Press, Culver City, and, Cologne. As its point of departure, the project takes a New Color Photo­graphy icon – a legendary photo­ graph by Stephen Shore, one of the movement’s leading protagonists, along with William Eggleston and Joel Sternfeld. Shore recorded the image on 21 June 188

1975 on an intersection in Los Angeles. His picture Beverly Boulevard and La Brea Avenue soon made photographic history, thanks in part to its positive ­reception in ­Europe. Early on, the ­German documentary photo­g raphers Bernd and Hilla Becher ­acquired a print of the image and disseminated it among their students at the art academy in ­Düsseldorf. They also helped to show the photograph at the ­documenta 6 in Kassel in 1977. In 1981, Sally Eauclaire included the image in her survey The New Color Photography (New York: Abbeville Press) and praised its precise composition; the following year, it appeared in Shore‘s famous photobook Uncommon Places (New York: Aperture). More ­recently, the La Brea picture was published in Naomi Rosenblum’s classic volume The World History of Photography (New York: Abbeville Press). It has since come to occupy an important position in the canon of photo history. As a consequence, Shore‘s New Color icon has also become a point of departure for various analytical discourses. For instance, in 2005 Geoff Dyer examined the picture’s current symbolic value and its importance as a documentary artifact: ‘Shore actually took his picture in 1975 […] but at some point America went from looking like that to looking like this. Shore shows what America still looks like

Perhaps it is the variety of theoretical interpretations of his work that allows Shore’s image, more than ever, to exert such fascination on the viewer.

↘ La Brea Ave /  Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles, California thanks to Google

Instant City Doesn’t it make sense, then, to take up Hilla Becher’s quote and to place the La Brea picture back in a transatlantic context, all the while focusing on the individual photographer? That was the goal of The La Brea Matrix when it brought six German photographers – Jens ­Liebchen, Max Regenberg, Oliver Sieber, Olaf Unverzart, Robert Voit and Janko Woltersmann – to Los Angeles in order to discover new photographic perspectives on Stephen Shore’s image. The results that are now in demonstrate that the visiting photographers did not simply pay hommage to Shore’s work. Instead, their various series analyse different ­parameters of the iconic image, which in turn attain a heightened meaning against the backdrop of today’s megametropolis. Regenberg’s studies of billboards, for instance, which refer back to a McDonald’s advertisement in the La Brea picture, highlight a contemporary crisis in American consumer culture. Many of the billboards he captured remain empty, so that their abstract white surfaces often resemble a blank slate. Commenting on Shore’s 1975 portrait of Los Angeles, Geoff Dyer points out: ‘It is impossible to imagine a time when this will look like the past, partly because what it incarnates and enables as an instant civilization (fast-food, self-service) is predicated entirely on speed of trans­ action and immediate gratification.’ Today’s white billboards, meanwhile, raise the question whether the times are perhaps changing after all. Make Something or Be Forgotten… A contradictory impulse also infuses the work of Olaf Unverzart, whose photographs illustrate the fleeting aspects of mobility. In the tradition of a strolling flaneur, the Munich-based photographer throws sidelong glances at his surroundings, breaking with the La Brea picture’s strict central perspective and capturing seemingly peripheral details. One composition, for example, in which we observe two women crossing the street may at first seem voyeuristic, but then gains a whole new meaning when we discover, upon second inspection, that the asphalt is marked as a bicycle path. In view of L.A.’s longstanding self-image as an ‘autopia’ – a term coined by the British theoretician Reyner Banham to describe a utopia dominated by cars – Unverzart’s chosen motifs are often unsettling. In one


the la brea matrix

now.’ Christy Lange, on the other hand, suggested in 2007 that the tension of the image derives from a supposedly empty space: ‘Shore saw how a photograph “imposes order on the scene” or “simpli­ fies the jumble by giving it structure”. There’s so much readable information, but few conclusions to be drawn about this place.’ In retrospect, perhaps it is the variety of theoretical interpretations of his work that allows Shore’s image, more than ever, to exert such fascination on the viewer. There have also been less abstract, more personal approaches as well. Hilla Becher once observed on the La Brea picture: ‘Intersections, that is America’, speaking from an expressly subjective, German point of view. ‘You could almost say that outside of Manhattan life is concentrated at intersections. And he sought and found the intersections. It is a question of artistic intelligence to find them and recognize what they symbolize. For us, the first trips to America were like a dream. We absorbed the country like a sponge, like a child. The photo­ graphs of Stephen Shore are somewhat like this, they are like seeing something for the first time.’

foam magazine # 25 traces

picture, three beaten up mattresses are propped up against the side of a house; in another, two termite-infested houses are covered in red and white canvas. With formal simplicity, Unverzart’s photo­ graphs tell alternative narratives that have nothing in common with the classic Chandleresque tales of Los Angeles. By contrast, Janko Woltersmann’s polaroid pictures deliberately examine the stereo­ typical images contributing to the myth of Los Angeles, even today. The Hanover­based photographer spent weeks roaming the blocks around La Brea Avenue in order to compare the ­reality of the city with the images he had collated in his mind from numerous films and photographs. The resulting pictures throw the viewer off balance. A blonde mannequin waits indefinitely at the curbside, a framed Western hero hangs on the wallpaper. Woltersmann’s subjects, captured in pale, refined tones, seem frozen into still lifes and determined to outlast the present. ‘Los Angeles is instant architecture in an instant townscape,’ Reyner Banham once wrote. While the city has always compulsively defined itself in relation to the immediate present, now­ adays one might ask whether the home of Hollywood is actually deconstructing its own history. The fresh sheen once recorded in Shore’s La Brea picture certainly seems to have vanished in Woltersmann’s photo­graphs.

Voit foreshadows the stagnation and emptiness that a future of depleted oil resources would hold for Los Angeles. Jens Liebchen, who lives in Berlin and ­Tokyo, drew a different conclusion from the principle of unconditional mobility and decided to examine Los Angeles from the passenger seat of a car. He drove around the city for thousands of kilometres in order to observe the outside world from a driver’s privileged point of view, and by limiting his perspective he dis­covered a hidden side to the city. His hyper-real colour photographs show homeless people, isolated pedestrians and people waiting for the bus in front of anonymous facades. ‘His images reveal a haunting setting. It’s a ghost-like curtain you’d rather not look behind,’ Freddy Langer recently wrote about Liebchen’s photo series. ‘DO NOT BLOCK INTER­SECTION’, a traffic sign declares somewhere – there’s probably no more succinct way of capturing the photographer’s sociological observations than that. Oliver Sieber’s images, on the other hand, sound a hopeful note for the future. Based in Düsseldorf, he took

photo­graphs in Los Angeles as part of a long-term project called Imaginary Club, which examines questions of identity from the perspective of youth culture. While Stephen Shore’s La Brea picture embodies an ideal form of the ‘cool’ culture of the American West, with its promise of a collective identity and cohesion, Sieber now applies this culture to a global context. In search of L.A.’s various subcultures, he visited clubs, concerts and illegal parties, all the while documenting the anonymous venues in black and white. He contrasts these images with classic colour portraits of people who consciously define their identity through coded styles to show that they belong to a group and to set themselves apart from the mainstream. Their ancestry or ethnicity, on the other hand, seems to play a far lesser role. Sieber has portrayed protagonists in cities all over the consumer-driven, Western-oriented world, but his universal approach lends itself particularly well to Los Angeles, a megacity that has witnessed innumerable migration waves throughout its history. Perhaps we can draw hope for the future from this. Everybody can find themselves in Los Angeles, and Los Angeles can be found everywhere. •

The original La Brea image: La Brea, 1975 © Stephen Shore, courtesy 303 Gallery, New York

Do Not Block Intersection Two further participants in The La Brea Matrix were inspired by Stephen Shore’s photo icon to examine the automotive nature of the city. In Los Angeles, the car permeates and determines nearly all aspects of life, like in no other city in the world. Thus Robert Voit, another photographer from Munich, decided to focus on the natural resource on which all urban development depends: oil. His topographic analysis takes a closer look at the city’s oil supply and its refineries – or at least what’s left of them. Not without pathos, his sublime colour images document a heavy industry which, like a dinosaur, is a monumental relic of a past long gone. One night shot, for example, shows an industrial plant covered in the stars and stripes of the American flag. Any more questions? Continuing the motif is a photograph of a petrol station, also recorded at night. As a decided counterpoint to Shore’s La Brea picture,

List of works (in order of appearance): © Stephen Shore, La Brea, 1975 © Janko Woltersmann, The La Brea Matrix, 2010 © Robert Voit, The La Brea Matrix, 2010 © Oliver Sieber, The La Brea Matrix, 2010 © Jens Liebchen, The La Brea Matrix, 2010 © Max Regenberg, The La Brea Matrix, 2010 © Olaf Unverzart, The La Brea Matrix, 2010 All images from the L.A. Portfolio Box of The La Brea Matrix (released November 2010). The La Brea Matrix™ is a project of, Cologne and The Lapis Press, Culver City, supported by the Goethe Institute, ­Germany. Christoph Schaden (b.1967, Bonn) is an art historian and publicist based in Cologne. He is co-publisher and co-owner of the bookstore in Cologne, focussing on photobooks. In the past he has lectured on the theory of photography; currently the exhibition Der rote Bulli – Stephen Shore and the Neue Düsseldorfer Fotografie curated by Schaden is on show at the NRW-Forum in Düsseldorf. The La Brea Matrix is an ongoing project ­until 2012 with international exhibitions, workshops, publication. Follow the project: 


Foam magazine's annual Talent call is open. We are looking for the world's next photography talent. Submit your work and it might get published in Foam Magazine's 2011 Talent issue. Don't let this chance pass you by. Go to / talent for submission guidelines and requirements.


upcoming talent issue

Talent Call Now Open!

Photobooks by Sebastian Hau

foam magazine # 25 traces

André Cepeda Ontem

Takuma Nakahira For a Language to Come

Heinrich Kühn Perfect Photography

An aura of mystery has always sur­ rounded this book. Published in 1969, it became a legend in Japan. The original, however, was known to only a few ­specialists in the West until it was repub­ lished by Christoph Schifferli. The third edition was published this year by Osiris in Tokyo and has a cover that is reminis­ cent of Victor Vasarely. Well printed and with accompanying essays by the philo­ sopher, author and avant-garde artist Takuma Nakahira, this book is an intel­ ligent reinterpretation of a cult publi­ cation. Slight changes have been made to its format and it is scaled down in size. When considered alongside the equally radical Provoke classics of Daido Mori­yama and the more objective Toshi-e of Yutaka Takanashi, it stands out on ­account of the programmatic and consistent response it makes to a self-posed challenge, namely to establish photo­graphy as an independent lan­guage at the cost of everything previously thought or done. The raw pictures with their deep blacks and barely recognisable subjects may repel or entice the viewer, but their power and sensitivity cannot be denied.

Around the year 1900 pictorialism was in full vogue and its adherents were ­every­where. Today we are rediscovering a second path taken by photographers of that time: early colour photography. The images in this volume are not ­coloured photographs but dye-transfer prints made in a complicated printing process with three layers of colour. When seen in person they are objects of great beauty. An exhibition and a monograph are now paying tribute to the early Swiss inventor and artist, ­Heinrich Kühn, whose pictures of family or models appear charming at first sight. A classical sense of order, an exact study of light and colour, and a reserved approach to sitters give carefully balanced photographs. But Kühn did not only photograph walks or idyllic scenery; he cropped and enlarged his pictures until they became almost pointillistic. The academic essays and the large selec­ tion of pictures make the practice and ­oeuvre of this photographer accessible even for someone who has grown tired of the pictorialists. The appendix is ­valuable, since it explains photographic techniques that are often difficult to grasp.

A striking book with the title Ontem (Portuguese for yesterday) has recently been released by the Belgian publishing house Le caillou bleu. André Cepeda is a young Portuguese photographer who for a number of years has photographed the inhabitants of a small district on the outskirts of the city of Porto. Many people here eke out a living only through prostitution and petty crime. The book contains portraits, apartments and landscapes, often in the colours of dusk or under a grey sky. Some portraits reminded me of Chauncey Hare or Jacob Holdt. These are interspersed with pictures of people having sex or trashed rooms. There are also portraits made with great clarity and sobriety. The book seems to show a bare life (Agamben), one that is reduced to an absolute mini­ mum, but it also displays the absolute sympathy the photographer has for his sitters. In an interview at the end of the book Cepeda mentions a couple who found one another only late in life and describes their love under these difficult circumstances. This allows us to under­ stand small details, such as plant pots outside a closed door or a broken window, and we are more willing to accept nakedness and unadorned physi­ cality in the images. This is an important book alongside Messina by Pieter Hugo and Niagara by Alec Soth as it too uses a new documentary style (flash, reduction, the artistic use of colour) to confront viewers with the inhabitants of a small peripheral world that is more representative of ours than we wish to acknowledge.

Osiris ISBN 9784990123987

Hatje Cantz ISBN 9783775725699

Le caillou bleu ISBN 9782930537061


Parisian street scenes? After looking at the first two pictures I thought ‘cliché!’ and almost put this book aside. In the pages that followed, however, I encoun­ tered a number of small gems: portraits of friends or acquaintances perhaps, and encounters and discoveries on the street: a garbage bag for example, transparent and almost happy against the light of a sinking sun. Working together with Daido Moriyama and Ota Michitaka, Miki Fukumoto has taken a carefully edited selection of pictures and made this small book, which will delight, amuse and move readers again and again with its casual portrayal of the colour and richness of life in this almost over-photographed city. She pulls this off by showing not only typical French scenes but also several migrants, a wedding couple who look proudly into the camera, a waiter, and a saleswoman. In every case, these people face the cam­ era with an astounding openness. The Japanese publisher Sokyu-Sha develops a different approach for every book; this volume is elegant but simple and shows great affection for a type of photo­graphy that tells enthralling short stories in unremarkable scenes and images and with restrained prose.

Serralongue sees himself as a reporter on a self-assigned mission. Whenever he feels drawn towards a story in the news (a strike in India, unrest in Chiapas, demonstrations in Johannesburg), he travels to the scene, photographs the events and protagonists in an unob­ trusive manner, and develops series, exhibitions and books from these pic­ tures. As in the work of Luc Delahaye or Allan Sekula, viewers themselves must be interested and willing to work through stories that often take place outside their worlds. But the images, which appear neither casual nor detached and are taken without tricks or artificial light, are able to satisfy viewers solely by renouncing drama and concentrating on events. In this way they enable us to see beyond the everyday and into distant political developments. Published by Ringier, this book is clean, cool and smooth. When I held it in my hands for the first time, I wanted to quickly leaf through it because it appeared to be repetitive, but that was not the case. As part of a long tradition starting with American Photographs by Walker Evans, Serralongue strikes an exact balance between description and narration.

The New York artist William E. Jones searched the Web for images of the Farm Security Administration (FSA) archive (a total of 170,000 negatives) that reveal traces of the private and homosexual lives of its photographers. Led by William Stryker from 1935 to 1945, the FSA’s Information Division employed a large number of photographers to make documentary images of American life. Stryker had a clear visual programme and most of the photographers quarrelled with him. Jones found nega­ tives that had holes punched in them. This brutal method was used by Stryker to sort out unsuitable pictures and these pictures make up the majority of the book. In many cases the pictures by Walker Evans, Marion Post Wolcott, Arthur Rothstein, Ben Shahn and others are wonderful scenes of everyday life, portraits and photographic sketches. The holes were punched not along the side but right in the middle of the people shown, as if Stryker had been trying not only to devalue the pictures and the photographers but also to ‘kill’ the people in the photographs. Lavishly published by Andrew Roth, this sober and elegant book brings together the pictures in a mysterious dance. The photographs are reproduced on a black background and appear invigorating and sensuous owing to this reappraisal of an important period in the history of documentary photography. An appendix shows several private photographs from the collection in which viewers can easily recognize sexuality and homosexuality: pictures taken in hotel rooms or at the beach, hidden in an endless number of street scenes.

Sokyu-Sha ISBN 9784904120057

JRP | Ringier France ISBN 9783037641415

PPP Editions / Andrew Roth ISBN 9780971548084

Miki Fukumoto À Paris

Bruno Serralongue



William E. Jones Killed

foam magazine # 25 traces

Julien Magre Caroline Histoire No 2

Maziar Moradi 1979

This is another superbly produced publication from the ambitious Swiss Kodoji Press, which exhibits a number of surprising and successful solutions. With Japanese binding, this book consists of individual images, some of which over­ lap. If we release the clasps, the pages can be taken out as spreads and can be directly pinned to the wall. The pictures are like photographs from a family album, snapshots from trips, and small romantic moments. There are pictures of mountains, both in Switzerland and Japan, a Kabuki actor, snow, and family pictures of the Swiss-Japanese artist. The photographs have large borders and are printed in different formats. What first appears to be a strange ragtag collection that ignores the laws of art photo­graphy becomes a light and pulsating web of private moments and valuable memories as well as a rough self-portrait of the artist as a restless young man. The title is Japanese and translates as ‘Diffusing a memory drop by drop’.

Filigranes produces a small number of photo books every year, most of them by younger photographers, and is com­ mitted to productions that emphasize poetry and emotion. Julien Magre selected photographs of his wife and his two daughters from three different periods, the years 2000, 2004 and 2007. These pictures were then brought together in a medley of love and astonish­ment. The small scenes (which reminded me of Takashi Homma and Eva Bertram, two artists who have worked on similar projects) use available light and hidden colour accents. They speak of trust and closeness and were made during pregnancies, games, trips and masquerades. The pictures are quietly presented in a small book with a white cover. Recent years have witnessed the publication of several books fo­cussing on the theme of family. This interest, which can also be found in contemporary literature, may be tiring for some (the French disparagingly refer to naval-gazing in some cases), but Magre avoids that danger by his eco­ nomical use of intimate and private moments and allows his images to stand on their own without relying on our curiosity.

This book contains 37 photographs and English and Iranian text and can be viewed from front to back or the other way around. Staged as scenes with models, the pictures have been conceived as individual images but when considered together they form a dis­ turbing family story. The young GermanIranian artist is clearly influenced by his role models Gregory Crewdson, Philip-Lorca diCorcia and Tina Barney. I nevertheless found myself confronted with an idiosyncratic work that was not easily deciphered. Whether the photo­ graphs are of a seemingly quiet meal in the garden or of a man standing on an upside-down flowerpot and being hit by a stream of water, they speak of an Iran we know very little about and allow us to sense terror, trauma and memories. The family shown here, which is certainly middle class, often appears caught or lost in moments that isolate the indi­ vidual from the outside world. In other pictures family ties become apparent by the way family members interact in the living room, in the garden, or on the street. With a scrupulously precise use of light, unsettling and ambivalent scenes, and a small cast of characters, Moradi has created a strong series of images that resonate with us, whether we can decode them or not.

Kodoji Press ISBN 9783037470190

Filigranes Editions ISBN 9782350462004

Kehrer Verlag ISBN 9783868281187

David Favrod Omoide Poroporo


The seventy-odd colour photographs in this book by Pascal Hausherr tell per足 sonal, political, fictional and documen足 tary stories. The tranquil pictures were taken with a medium-format camera and form a loose essay that includes demonstrations and policemen, a man on his deathbed, a fashion show, family reunions, and quiet moments. I sensed that Hausherr was coming to terms with his native France and with its internal and external borders, and I noticed an openness to epiphanies and a desire not to succumb to simplification. Seldom are mixtures of commissioned work, visual inventories, and observations as mature and confident as this. Trans Photographic Press has produced a gorgeous book that allows readers to devote their full attention to the pictures.

When Johan van der Keuken went to Paris in the mid-1950s, his intention was to make films and take photographs. While several of his films can be found on YouTube, his photographs languish in largely out-of-print books such as the famous and rare Paris Mortel. Galerie van Zoetendaal has now edited and produced a small, masterfully designed book that reproduces the photographs on the contact sheet that contained the picture of the dancing couple, the one that Van der Keuken decided to publish. The images are of a national holiday in France and people are celebrating. The photographer decided to spend the day at a spot on the banks of the Seine and instead of wandering he stayed close to a stage and watched the groups of people that gathered there. He was also interested in the various foreigners, the young people who were perhaps dancing for the first time, and the decorations. This new publication reveals the ability of photography to capture the flow of time, something hitherto only attributed to film.

Trans Photographic Press ISBN 9782913176591

Van Zoetendaal Gallery ISBN 9789072532091

Pascal Hausherr De quoi demain



Johan van der Keuken Quatorze Juillet

Sebastian Hau has worked ten years for and opened this fall Le Bal Books, the specialized Photobookshop linked to the independent exhibition space Le Bal in Paris. This issue features an interview with Diane Dufour, director of Le Bal.

Missed an issue?

foam magazine #25 traces

You can order back issues of Foam Magazine online. The ­earliest editions of Foam Magazine doubled as exhibition catalogues. Since the release of #3, Foam Magazine is no longer linked to the ­exhibition programme of the museum. Foam Magazine has become an ­exhibition space in itself. A timeless collectors-item, a source of inspiration and reflection, containing over a hundred pages of photography featuring a specific theme. Collect them all and go to to see the latest offers!

foam magazine #15 construct Melanie Bonajo / Thomas Demand Moira Ricci / Toshiko Okanoue / Martina Sauter / Myoung Ho Lee

foam magazine #16 talent Unver / Jacob Aue Sobol / Bamberg / Gebert / Mann / Nga / De Limburg/ Liu / Pickering / Missika / Ebeling

foam magazine #17 portrait Samuel Fosso / Franziska von Stenglin / Bill Sullivan / De Wilde, Stark & Bolander / Koos Breukel / Schels & Lakotta

foam magazine #18 displaced Henk Wildschut / Roland Bonaparte & Friedrich Carel Hisgen / Jim Goldberg / Juul Hondius / Dana Popa

foam magazine #19 wonder Jaap Scheeren / Jessica Backhaus Syoin Kajii / Koen Hauser / Madi Ju & Patrick Tsai / Sanna Kannisto

foam magazine #20 talent Asfar / Bergantini / Castilho / Faulhaber / Fritz / Gerats / Gronsky / Klos / Koyama / Kruithof / Leong / Lundgren / Monteleone / Naudé / Purchas / Schuman / Van Agtmael/ Wilcox

foam magazine #21 merge Adam Broomberg & Oliver ­Chanarin / David Claerbout / Andrey Tarkovsky / Penelope Umbrico / Gunnel Wåhlstrand / Freudenthal & Verhagen / Nickel van Duijvenboden / Naoya ­Hatakeyama

foam magazine #22 peeping Michael Wolf / Paul Kooiker / Tim Hetherington / Prague's Secret Police / Evan Baden / Trevor Paglen / Chris Jordan / Yasmine Chatila

foam magazine #23 city life Mohamed Bourouissa / Takashi Homma / Nontsikelelo Veleko / JH Engström / Otto Snoek / Bertrand Fleuret / Reinier Gerritsen / Joel Sternfeld

foam magazine #24 talent Bergström / Boske / Dubuisson / Engman / Gibson / Lopez Luz/ Lowy / Herman /  Nagahama / Prager  / Rotatori / Stephenson / Somers / Volpatti / Weiner


foam amsterdam

� ams�erdam

Fo�m exhibi�s all genres of pho�ography: fine art, ­documen�ary, applied, ­his�orical and ­con�emporary. Along wi�h large exhibi�ions of es�ablished world­famous pho�o­graphers, Fo�m ­exhibi�s emerging young ­�alen� in ­smaller, shor�er shows.

foam magazine # 25 traces Steelworker with Goggles, Pittsburg, 1955 Š The Heirs of W. Eugene Smith, courtesy Black Star


W. Eugene Smith: More Real than Reality �� December ���� – �� March ���� This winter, Foam presents a retrospective exhibition of work by W. Eugene Smith (19181978, United States), hailed as the founder­ of the photographic essay. His extensive pictorial ­narratives, accompanied by captions and comments, appeared in magazines such as Life magazine in the 1950s, the heyday of photographic journalism. Smith’s blackand-white reportages exhibit a powerful sense of involvement and a ­subject matter that reflects his social commitment. Foam features six of his finest series, including The Country Doctor (1948), acclaimed as photo­journalism’s first official photo essay. Other famous series such as Nurse Midwife, A Man of Mercy, Spanish Village, ­Pittsburgh and Minamata are also part of this exhibition. Magazines are on show alongside the photos, plus the short documentary Lamp Unto My Feet. Smith became interested in photography at an early age, inspired by his mother who was an enthusiastic amateur photographer. At fifteen his first photo was published in the ­local newspaper, marking the start of his professional career as a photographer for publications such as Newsweek, with the high point being his appointment by Life, which published about fifty of his series, including The Country Doctor, Nurse Midwife, A Man of Mercy and Spanish Village. A tremendous sense of involvement, an essential humanism and desire to achieve social change are all characteristic of W. Eugene Smith’s photography. Yet his tenure at Life was marked by constant conflict with the editors. Smith researched his stories thoroughly and submitted his photos with extensive captions, notes and lay-out suggestions; that these were generally ignored eventually led to Smith’s resignation. In 1955 Smith joined Magnum in the hope of attaining the freedom to publish his photos the way he wanted. His first project for Magnum, Pittsburgh, was also his last: the series failed to meet his exacting demands. Smith invested all his emotional and financial resources in Pittsburgh. Other subsequent reportages, such as Minamata, suffered a similar fate. Wounded while photographing on the front line during the Second World War and overcome by frustration and bedevilled by his own perfectionism, Smith succumbed to drug and ­alcohol abuse. His health quickly deteriorated. He ended his career as professor at the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, only to die shortly after his appointment.  •


foam amsterdam

foam magazine # 25 traces Doctor Schweitzer, Men of Mercy, 1954 © The Heirs of W. Eugene Smith, courtesy Black Star


foam amsterdam Doctor Schweitzer, Men of Mercy, 1954 Š The Heirs of W. Eugene Smith, courtesy Black Star


foam magazine # 25 traces

Orogenesis Derain, 2004 © Joan Fontcuberta

Joan Fontcuberta: Landscapes without Memory

�� November ���� – �� February ���� For the project Landscapes without Memory Catalan artist Joan Fontcuberta (b. 1955, Spain) used software developed by the US Air Force, which converts two-dimensional cartographic data into a simulated three-dimensional image. Instead of feeding maps into the software, in Landscapes without Memory Fontcuberta inserts painted landscapes; from Gauguin to Van Gogh, Cézanne, Turner and Constable. The software translates them into new, virtual landscapes that Fontcuberta calls post-landscapes, that form a no-man’s land between the virtual and the real, between truth and illusion. Ever since the medium was invented, photography’s relationship with the real world has been as perplexing as it is fascinating. Far more than a medium such as paint, photo­graphy was supposed to have a certain level of truth. In recent decades in particular the idea has taken root that truth and reality are ambiguous concepts in photography. The digital revolution has brought the potential for manipulation into play. How much more reliable is the photo­graphic image of the real world? Who and what can we still believe? The juxtaposition of illusion and reality is central to Spanish artist Joan Fontcuberta’s oeuvre in which he refers to the connection between science and truth. Like photography (itself a product of science), we see science as a way of expanding our knowledge of the real world using rational, objective and verifiable methods. Science has a certain authority: what science proves is true. Fontcuberta turns the myth of scientific authority around and manages in many of his projects to persuade the public of the veracity of a purely fictitious narrative – simply by expressing himself in the language of science.  • 202

Foam 3h: Alexandre Maubert, Justine Pluvinage and Vera Schöpe: Immersion � November ���� – �� January ���� This autumn Foam joins Maison Descartes and Museum Van Loon in presenting work by three young French photographers. Alexandre Maubert, Justine Pluvinage and Vera Schöpe all studied photography at the École ­Nationale Supérieure de la Photo­graphie (ENSP) in Arles. The three Amsterdam institutions, located within a stone’s throw of each other, offer a variety of multimedia presentations in which the relationship between the individual and society forms the principal theme. The three photographers complement each other well, in form and substance, all tackling such overlapping subjects as environment and identity in their own ways. New projects are shown at Foam and Museum Van Loon, while Maison Descartes presents the photographers’ final exam work. At Foam, Vera Schöpe shows a city undergoing permanent reconstruction. In her installation Another Beirut, the focus is on everyday urban scenes and the way individual people deal with a sense of uprootedness. In a multimedia presentation, Utopia, Alexandre Maubert examines the development of an ideal city in South Korea. New Songdo is the prototype of a future city in which new technologies are central. Maubert explores how the inhabitants experience living in a city that is inextricably bound and dominated by information techno­ logy. Justine Pluvinage presents video portraits of individuals who have chosen to opt out of today’s rat-race world. Music is the theme running through the four portraits of people who have liberated themselves from society and have chosen to follow their own path.

Anais, from November, 2010 © Justine Pluvinage


foam amsterdam

Dana Lixenberg: Set Amsterdam

foam magazine # 25 traces

�� March – � June ����

For Set Amsterdam, Dana Lixenberg (b.1964, The Nether­ lands) portrays Amsterdam in a series of cityscapes, landscapes and interiors. She captures the city in the style of a film set, a decor, created and designed by its inhabitants, and those who have lived here in the past. An essential element of this series is the absence of people, which heightens the emphasis on the physical surroundings, on what happens there and the details that give a location its particular atmosphere. Lixenberg explored places in different parts of the city including locations such as a Ghanaian church, various cemeteries, the OLVG (Onze Lieve Vrouwe Gasthuis) hospital morgue, the municipal garbage incinerator, shelters for the homeless, the Zeeburg campsite, the animal shelter and ­several interiors of offices and homes (including those of people buried by the municipality). Lixenberg looked for places that relate to the transience of life, places that reflect the impact of the people who use them and live there; places full of the evidence of ­human activity, however paradoxical that may be. Yet her series also include places where life is lived to the full. Places that, despite the absence of people, show through ­atmosphere and details how people live their lives.  •

Stelsel08, 2010 © Joris Jansen

Foam 3h: Joris Jansen: Kosmos

�� January – �� March ����

Foam 3h presents work by Joris Jansen, winner of the 2009 Steenbergen Stipendium. Kosmos is an ode to analogue photography. The exhibition revolves around a single old analogue photo that does not actually ­appear in the presentation, rather Jansen uses word and image to analyse all the information c ­ onveyed by the photo. The result is an encyclopedia of everything relating to the photo, while at the same time examining the material of the photo itself using microscopic images in which the chemistry and grain are magnified hundreds of times, presenting an abstract world in which the structure and texture acquire an extraordinary appearance.  •

Globe budget hotelroom 301, 2010 © Dana Lixenberg


Foam A�b�m 10

Foam high�igh�s of 2010 Kar� B�ossfe�d� / Pa�� Graham / A�exander Grons�y / Johan van der Ke��en / Inez van Lamsweerde & Vinoodh �a�adin / Ari �arcopo��os / A�exander Rodchen�o and many more The young, avant-garde, historic, modern, established, experimental and promising; they were all there in 2010, offering something for everyone. New people, projects and exhibitions once again placed Foam at the cutting-edge of photography. This album presents an abundant selection of work, together with insightful commentaries by the experts. You’ll find images that were on display at the Keizersgracht, the Zuidas, in Amsterdam-West, and published in Foam Magazine. There is also a specially made series revealing the faces behind Foam. A chain of

unusual portraits of the people who made Foam possible in 2010: photo­graphers, curators, visitors, supporters, art directors and more. In a photographic relay race, they took pictures of each other and then passed the camera on to the next person. The result is a personal record of creative minds who feel connected to photography. Follow the chain, see who they are and find out what inspires them. Foam Album 10 is an absolute must-have for everyone with a passion for photography.

Colophon Issue # 25, Winter 2010 Editorial Advisers for issue # 25 Andréa Holzherr & Aaron S­chuman Editor-in-chief Marloes Krijnen Creative Director Pjotr de Jong Editors Caroline von Courten, Marcel Feil, Pjotr de Jong & Marloes ­Krijnen Managing Editor Caroline von Courten Magazine Manager Niek van Lonkhuijzen

foam magazine # 25 traces

Magazine Administrator Lieke Jacobs Communication Intern Nienke Sinnema Concept, Art Direction & Design Vandejong: Pjotr de Jong, ­Hamid Sallali, Marcel de Vries, Luisa Heinrich & Femke Papma Typography Hamid Sallali Contributing Photographers Antoine d’Agata, Robert Frank, James D. Griffioen, Gert Jan Kocken, Seba Kurtis, Anni ­Leppälä, Ishiuchi Miyako, Willem Popelier, Johannes Schwartz, The La Brea Matrix (Jens Liebchen, Max ­Regenberg, Stephen Shore, Oliver Sieber, Olaf Unverzart, Robert Voit & Janko Woltersmann) Cover Photograph No. 9, Ogawa R. from the series Hiroshima, 2007 © Ishiuchi Miyako Contributing Writers Maria Barnas, Jörg Colberg, Marcel Feil, Marc Feustel, Philip Gefter, Sebastian Hau, Mika Kobayashi, Harri Laakso, Christoph Schaden, Aaron Schuman & Sophie Wright Copy Editor Pittwater Literary Services, Amsterdam – Rowan Hewison Translation Anne Hodgkinson, Iris Maher, Marion Schnelle, Liz Waters

Every effort has been made to contact copyright holders. Any copyright holders we have been unable to reach or to whom inaccurate acknowledgement has been made are invited to contact the publishers at

Lithography & Printing Drukkerij Slinger Strooijonkerstraat 7 1812 PJ Alkmaar – NL Binding Binderij Hexspoor Ladonkseweg 7 5281 RN Boxtel – NL

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording or otherwise without prior written permission of the publishers. Although the highest care is taken to make the information contained in Foam Magazine as accurate as possible, neither the publishers nor the authors can accept any responsibility for damage, of any nature, resulting from the use of this information.

Paper Igepa Nederland B.V. De Geer 10 4004 LT Tiel - NL Editorial Address Foam Magazine Keizersgracht 609 1017 DS Amsterdam – NL T +31 20 551 65 00 F +31 20 551 65 01

Distribution The Netherlands Betapress BV T + 31 16 145 78 00

Advertising Niek van Lonkhuijzen Foam Magazine PO Box 92292 1090 AG Amsterdam – NL T +31 20 462 20 62 F +31 20 462 20 60

Great Britain Central Books

Subscriptions Hexspoor Support Center Ladonkseweg 9 5281 RN Boxtel – NL T +31 41 163 34 71 Subscriptions include 4 issues per year € 70,– excluding VAT and postage Students and Club Foam members receive 20% discount Single issue € 17,50 Back issues (# 2 – 24) € 12,50 Excluding VAT and postage Foam Magazine # 1 is out of print / shop Publisher Foam Magazine PO Box 92292 1090 AG Amsterdam – NL ISSN 1570-4874 ISBN 9789070516208 © photographers, authors, Foam Magazine BV, Amsterdam, 2010. All photographs and illustration material is the copyright property of the photographers and  / or their estates, and the publications in which they have been published.

Great Britain Comag T +44 18 95433600 Greece Hellenic Distribution Agency Hongkong Foreign Press Distributors LTD Italy Intercontinental S.r.l. Japan DIP Lebanon Levant Distributors New Zealand Mag Nation Norway Interpress Norge Poland Internews S.C.

Export Press supplies to the ­following distributors

Portugal International News

Australia Speedimpex Australia

Spain Comercial Atheneum

Austria Morawa Pressevertrieb

Sweden Svenska Interpress AB

Belgium Imapress NV

Switzerland Motto Distribution

Canada LMPI

Taiwan Multi-Arts Corporation

Denmark Interpress Danmark

USA Source Interlink

Finland Aketeeminen Kirjakauppa ­Stockmann


France Import Press Germany W.E Saarbach Gmbh


Speedimpex (USA) Venezuela Distribplumes For distribution in other territories please contact Export Press.

PREVIEW Foam Magazine Issue #25 Traces  

Want the full issue? Go to This Winter issue of Foam Magazine addresses the way in which the past, by means of photography, m...

PREVIEW Foam Magazine Issue #25 Traces  

Want the full issue? Go to This Winter issue of Foam Magazine addresses the way in which the past, by means of photography, m...