MUSﾃ右 P HOTO
NO. 12 CONTROVERSY
Catherine J. Morris Dina Goldstein Edmund Clark
Edward Lachman Erik Ravelo
Gordon Parks adam harvey Jen Davis
hank willis thomas
Robert Mapplethorpe Joel-Peter Witkin Marilyn Minter
Sebastian Junger Thomas Struth
Tomas Van Houtryve and a collection of emerging artists
INTERNATIONAL EDITION NO. 12
Founder / Editor in Chief Andrea Blanch Creative Director Sam Shahid Art Director Matthew Kraus Publication Director Marsin MOGIELSKI Editorial advisor steve miller Editorial Directors Ellen Schweber, Ann Schaffer
GUEST CURATOR Marilyn Minter
MANAGING EDITOR JOHN HUTT Photo Editor / WEB MANAGER Paula Rey Jiménez
WRITERS / EDITORS Conor O’Brien, Lana J. Lee, Jacqueline Flyn, Sabrina Wirth, Steve Miller retoucher Maricela Magana MUSéE TEAM Paul McLaren, Mirabelle Zhou, Marlin Reid Website www.museemagazine.com Email info@museemagazine Facebook facebook.com/museethemagazine Twitter twitter.com/MuseeMagazine Tumblr museemagazine.tumblr.com behance behance.net/Museemagazine instagram instagram.com/museemagazine pintrest pinterest.com/museemagazine/boards linkedin linkedin.com/pub/musée-magazine/42/3b4/ba4 vimeo vimeo.com/museemagazine
Cover Image: Neil DaCosta, Elder Searey and Elder Kimball.
©2015 MUSÉE MAGAZINE. REPRODUCTION WITHOUT PERMISSION IS PROHIBITED.
INTERNATIONAL EDITION NO. 8 VOL. 1
INTERNATIONAL EDITION NO. 12
artist spotlight II
emerging artists VIII
EMERGING ARTISTS I
jess t. dugan
artist spotlight III
emerging artist II
emerging artists IX
artist spotlight I
emerging artist X
emerging artists III
emerging artists IV
Emerging ARtist XI
emerging artist V
emerging artist XII
emerging artists VI
emerging artist XIII
emerging artist VII
tomas van houtryve
by Andrea Blanch
BY STEVE MILLER
ILARIA CROSTA, LARA TABET
BY ANDREA BLANCH
SAYRE HARVELL, GERGORY PRESCOTT
by andrea blanch
by andrea blanch
by sabrina wirth
evelyn chevalier, ido abromsohn
by andrea blanch
sergio ximenez, stephen spiller
by andrea blanch
jean paul gomez
by shershah atif
brooke goldman, jada fabrizio
by andrea blanch
by andrea blanch
by andrea blanch
victor koroma, pacifico silano
by andrea blanch
by andrea blanch
julia sh, maddalena arcelloni
by andrea blanch
by andrea blanch
by conor o’brien
by conor o’brien
by andrea blanch
MUSÉE MAGAZINE. established 2011.
EDITOR’S LETTER “The more controversial it is, the more necessary it is, and the more it means for people to see it.” -Jess Dugan I’d say this issue is about “seeing it.” When considering the topics to cover in our “Controversy” issue, a colleague posed the question, “What can be controversial in the world today?” Imagine, he suggested Charles Manson. When Caitlyn Jenner is on the cover of Vanity Fair, one could say “we’ve come a long way baby,” even so, the question made me think. So what is controversial today? Income inequality, drone warfare, police brutality, racism, gender discrimination, child abuse, sex trafficking, the Israel-Palestine question, these are among the most important polemics of our day, the subjects that inspire debate, that people try to avoid. There is a need to think, to talk, and to act. Art is powerful. Art can change the world. It brings awareness, opens discourse, moves people to action. Musee no. 12 gives us a chance to address these difficult issues, and not turn a blind eye. “Controversy has different meanings in different contexts. One person’s controversy is another person’s melatonin,” says Barbara Kruger in her interview. This begs us to ask the question: what is the responsibility of the artist in the world today? Each artist in this issue has a commitment to a standard of excellence other than public applause and improves the viewer’s awareness of the times he or she is living through. Erik Ravelo’s series, “Los Intocables” or “The Untouchables,” addresses child abuse, poignantly illustrated as a form of crucifixion. Meanwhile, on the lighter side, “Mormon Missionary Positions” by Neil DaCosta takes a satirical look at the Church of Latter-day Saints’ “position” on gay marriage. Jess Dugan captures beautiful and dignified portraits of the transgender community while addressing the need for representation, which, she tells me in her interview, can be a matter of life and death for young LGBT people. Tomas Van Houtryve’s “Blue Sky Days,” winner of this year’s ICP Infinity Award for Photojournalism, looks at America from a drone’s eye view. The images are striking, and raise important questions about the effectiveness of America’s drone program overseas. “The Restraints: Open and Hidden,”Gordon Parks’ influential 1956 photo essay, puts a human face on the experience of segregation and forced a nation to confront it’s racism. Innovative and extreme: Robert Mapplethorpe is this issue’s Master Photographer. His photographs of the BDSM subculture of 1970s New York are as dangerous and mysterious today as they were when they scandalized the art community during his lifetime. Our deep gratitude to the Mapplethorpe Foundation for their generous contribution of the artist’s work. The fierce and controversial Marilyn Minter returns to Musée as our guest editor, and shares her selection of works by artists Sandy Kim and Hank Willis Thomas. While Industry Insiders Catherine Morris, curator of the Elizabeth Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum, describes the influence of feminism on contemporary art, and Fred Ritchin, Dean of the International Center of Photography, talks about the future of photography in the digital age. Musee introduces a new feature about filmmakers. In the first part, we talk to cinematographer Edward Lachman (Far From Heaven, Erin Brockovich, Carol) about his photographic work. We also get up close and personal with journalist Sebastian Junger, author of The Perfect Storm, War, and director of Restrepo, who discusses his wartime experiences in Afghanistan. There’s much left to address. The controversies that face the world are many and our space is limited. While not able to cover everything we would have liked to, it’s a start. Good night and good luck.* Andrea Blanch *Edward R. Murrow
Jess Dugan, Laurel, 2014.
ADAM HARVEY hidden in pla in sig ht
STEVE MILLER: This issue of Musée is about controversy and you are focusing your artistic efforts on an important global discussion but, before we go there, you started out as a photographer. What led you to first think about photography? ADAM HARVEY: I was motivated early on to be a photographer by the world I saw through magazine photography in the mid 1990s, like GEAR and National Geographic, but was reluctant to act on it. Things changed in 2001. I saw and was deeply moved by Sebastião Salgado’s Migrations exhibition at ICP. I obtained a part-time position as a photojournalist at my school’s newspaper which eventually led me to change my major, and then 9/11 happened. From that year on I’ve been closely following photography and its changing role in a landscape of mass surveillance. SM: One of the biggest controversies of our era was Edward Snowden revealing the massive extent of the data collected by our government. As a photography magazine, Musée is primarily about photographers recording the world through a lens and getting those images out into the world. Traditional photography is an act of seeing, and the way we look. Surveillance is about being seen to record our look. It strikes me that your enterprise as an artist is to do the complete opposite, to avoid being seen. Would you like to comment on that? AH: Although my work takes an antagonistic approach to surveillance, it’s really about creating new ways of appearing. I consider how both people and machines see and explore how the former can control visibility in both perceptual states. For example, my project CV Dazzle is about existing in a recognizable state to people, but in an imperceptible state to machines. The idea is that human-scale observation is tolerable, but automated mass surveillance is not. The project’s designs exploit a vulnerability in some face detection systems that relies on symmetry and the visibility of the nose bridge area to locate a face. By altering the contrast and gradients of these key facial features, a computer no longer sees a face. Yet in human-perception the person is still identifiable. I take a similar approach with Stealth Wear, using metal-plated fabrics to cloak the wearer’s thermal signature. The garments look normal in the visible light spectrum, but in the thermal spectrum the metal-plated fabric hides the wearer’s radiated thermal energy. In both cases, the user appears more visible in one spectrum and less visible in the other. Appearance is relative to the spectrum being observed. SM: How did you develop your point of view? AH: A lot of my opinions formed while working as an event and party photographer during my first few years in New York City. In the beginning, around 2004-05, everyone seemed to love being photoPortrait by Adam Harvey.
graphed and having their photo posted online. But within the next two years, more people had cameras and had become their own photographer, in control of their own image. I felt like I was doing some people a disservice by taking their photograph, especially if I posted it online. So I began looking for other ways to creatively engage with photography, by subverting it. The response to this approach was overwhelmingly positive. For all the technological development that has advanced the art of photography, very little has been done to advance our ability to hide or control visibility. The result is that we are more exposed than ever. We have powerful, cheap and ubiquitous tools to see over great distances, in low light, in multiple spectrums, and with tiny or even hidden devices. For all these advancements in augmented seeing, we seem to forgotten about the art of not being seen, of controlling visibility. This creates a power asymmetry between the photographer and the subject. The projects Iâ€™m working are about restoring a balance by empowering the subject.
Adam Harvey, ‘Anti-Drone’ Burqa, 2013.
SM: When I heard you speak at NEW INC on ways to avoid a digital footprint, it struck me about how much work it takes to avoid detection. Would you talk a little about the techniques you use? For example, Tor. AH: In the past year, I’ve quit most Google services and stopped using Facebook. I’ve upgraded my browser with extensions like Disconnect, Privacy Badger, and Ghostery. Whenever possible I use iMessages or Signal to communicate with friends instead of email. I always use a VPN to hide my Internet traffic and IP address. I use Tor occasionally, when more security is needed. I also try to pay in cash whenever possible to avoid credit card companies form selling my purchase data. Depending on who you work for, these tactics are considered either suspect or savvy. I would not recommend this digital detox approach to everyone. It’s expensive and time consuming, but also very educational. To share some of what I’ve learned and help others improve their privacy, I run a bi-monthly event in NYC called Privacy Happy Hour, which is a hands-on approach to learning, installing, and celebrating privacy enhancing technology. SM: Do you ever consider that the effort you make to reduce your footprint makes you look irregular and more obvious and thus, more visible? AH: I’ve already crossed that threshold and now fully embrace that I have a red flag somewhere. It used to bother me more. SM: One of the things you showed in your NY Times article from 2013 was the idea and images of a new concept of fashion to avoid detection. While the visual concepts are artistically fascinating, technology develops so quickly. Two years later, are any of these visual camouflage strategies still relevant or have you had to invent new ways to beat new tracking systems and their algorithms? AH: The difficulty of developing camouflage against computer vision is that it has to continuously adapt to new detection algorithms. The image for the New York Times commission uses a different strategy than the previous four looks. Earlier, it was possible to use blocky makeup to obscure large parts of the face. This worked well against OpenCV’s haarcascade detectors, but not as well against new detection algorithms that use other approaches like local binary patterns or neural networks. I hope to release an updated technique at some point this year that targets these newer approaches. However, many commercial face detection applications do still use the haarcascade method and the original CV Dazzle style is still relevant in some cases. SM: What are you developing to keep up with the advancing speed of surveillance? How is the race going between artist and computer? AH: Right now, my big concern is how Google and Facebook are amassing petabytes of information from their users and leveraging it to build artificial intelligence. This has a dark potential to combine the intelligence and insight of every Google or Facebook user into proprietary commercial technology that could be massively manipulative. SM: You and I know a world (or at least I do) before mass surveillance. It’s impossible to turn back the clock. There is a new world reality. One aspect of this was described in the Ideas City Program sponsored by the New Museum in May. “Everything we do, from messaging our friends to streaming music to using public transportation, generates information. 90 percent of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone, and its sheer volume means that a vast proportion of our lives exists as an invisible online record of our identities, interests, and affiliations.” Pre-Patriot Act privacy no longer exists. What can you say to a person born after 2001 who grew up in our Brave New World? Is there even a definition of privacy, a word that can only reference the past? AH: There are at least two ways of defining privacy. The first, from the Cypherpunk manifesto, states that privacy is the power to selectively reveal oneself to the world. The second, by Dr. Helen Nissenbaum, states that privacy is about the appropriate flow of information about people. I like both views Adam Harvey, Opposite, Top: ’Anti-Drone’ Hijab, 2013; Bottom: ’Anti-Drone’ Hoodie, 2013.
Adam Harvey, ‘Anti-Drone’ Burqa, 2013.
and fall somewhere in the middle, willing to participate in a data-driven society but unwilling to let others decide in secret what is considered appropriate. The definition of privacy is always a balance between the needs of society of the needs of an individual. SM: Are there aspects of your work that can reference days before 9/11 and is there any possibility of privacy in our mega data future? AH: The key to establishing privacy in the future is establishing transparency now in how data is collected and used. If we let the Googles and NSAs of the world define privacy, it will not be in our favor. Citizens, and especially artists, should play just as aggressively as companies and spy agencies in the struggle for privacy.
EMERGING A RTISTS Ilaria CROSTA
Salvatore Ilaria, Nancy With Cans #2.
EMERGING A RTISTS Lara Tabet
Lara Tabet. Opposite and Above: from the series The Reeds (in collaboration with Michelle Daher).
J oel - P eter W it k i n the g iver
Andrea Blanch: Can you talk about how you came to work with Edward Steichen at 16-years-old? Joel-Peter Witkin: First, I didn’t “work” with Edward Steichen. I had accrued 30 or 40 slides. I didn’t make black-and-white prints. I couldn’t afford all that. I was just a kid. I had a Kodak Pony with a Kodachrome film. I would go around photographing what I thought I was really beautiful. I edited about 20 of those images, and I just made an appointment through his secretary. I took the box of slides, and said, “I’m presenting these for Mr. Steichen to look at.” After 15 minutes, he came out and asked me to come over to the viewing box. I explained the work the best I could. He chose one for the permanent collection, and also for an exhibition coming up called “Masterpieces from the Museum Collection.” I went there with my twin brother because he had suggested I go see Mr. Steichen. It was a wonderful time, and it gave me the idea that maybe I could spend my life making photographs. AB: Why did you join the military? How did the experience inform your art? JPW: I joined because it was my duty, especially during the Cold War. I enlisted to work as a photographer because that’s what I do best. After that, I worked in different studios. I learned by working with different photographers: fashion photographers, medical photographers and I worked in labs. My experience in the service, if I could pin it down, made me appreciate the value and holiness of life because I was trained in the concepts of destroying life. AB: Your photos are hauntingly potent and morbid. Why the focus on social outcasts, people with unusual physical capabilities or deformities, and mutilated corpses and amputated body parts? JPW: OK, well, my photographs are not “morbid.” Morbid means unhealthy and deformed. I photograph social outcasts because I want to celebrate their singularity and the strength it takes for them to engage life. An example is a photograph called “Un Santo Oscuro,” a man born in Canada because his mother took thalidomide, which was banned in the United States under the Kennedy administration. He’s born without skin, and without arms or legs. He’s in pain from the moment he was born. As a child, he was a sideshow freak. I had a friend in L.A. who saw him begging on the sidewalk. My friend was overwhelmed. He told me about him on the phone. I got on a plane to L.A., to convince this man to be photographed. I was very struck and emoPortrait: Joel Peter-Witkin, Self-Portrait (Reminiscent of Portrait as a Vanite.). All images courtesy Catherine Edelman Gallery.
tionally engaged in photographing him. It’s titled “Un Santo Oscuro,” or “The Obscure Saint.” Again, what I want to say is: I don’t work in the world. I work from what the world gives me as far as ideas and emotions. AB: Why do you choose social outcasts to portray religious, erotic, and perverse themes? JPW: I don’t photograph “perverse” things, because that means the celebration of perverted intentions. Instead, I celebrate the courage to live, especially the courage to live through the struggles we’ve been given in life. There’s always the negative connotation when people see my work. They think that I’m taking advantage of situations. They think I’m taking advantage of people who are a certain way, and may live lives that they would be frightened of if they had to live them. There’s a lot of mixed baggage out there as far as how my photographs are perceived. That’s normal and natural in the history of art, especially with photography because it’s closer to the reality we all can see and understand. What I want to do is make photographs that are made like no other photographs. That’s the criteria of all art regardless of medium. I’ve been doing this for over 40 years. I have to turn myself inside-out every day. That’s what a “giver” does. I prefer to say “giver,” rather than “artist.” We’re like light meters, in a way. We want to measure what our capacities are to evoke and to emote ideas, which are very powerful and can change lives and heal and share through what we’ve discovered in our love of things. I make all my photographs for myself. I don’t make them for anyone else. My work bounces around different subject matter, especially Joel Peter-Witkin, Adam and Eve, 2015.
now in my later age. I’m almost 76. I want to share what I love, and I don’t share it to make money. I have been able to live off my work, but I don’t compromise. I make work sometimes that I don’t even send out to shows, because they will never be sold. I make the work for myself, for my own sense of purpose, and meaning and love. AB: How does mortality inform your work? JPW: I photograph death because it’s part of life. In fact, I haven’t photographed death in about 20 years. The last time I photographed death was in the ‘90s. You change, you change your direction, and a lot of things change for you. The motivations may change. You’ve covered a theme and you want to move on. That’s a natural state. Though, as with any other theme, if something came up that was really wonderful that I thought would be important to work with, I would. I’m a visual dramatist, and things that are pretty and beautiful like nature, I appreciate, but I don’t involve my aesthetic life with them. I like horrible things. Things that change us when we see them. I’m not a minimalist; I’m a dramatist. That’s a big factor in the subjects I choose. I make with the purpose to share and to illuminate the possibility that what is being seen is something wonderful and incredibly different. You walk away with a reverence of the subject matter.
Joel Peter-Witkin, Correspondence between Freud and Mailol, 2015.
AB: There must be a lot of misinterpretations regarding your work. JPW: Sure. Because people have different baggage. Especially in this time, when people see something, they see it at face value. When you look back on art history, a person like Max Beckman, James Ensor, even Emile Nolde, were making different forms of painting or, in their case, picturing life. Basically, good things are defeated. Beckman’s famous painting “The Night,” is about the terror, and obviously we’re going through a terror now too, which is very damaging and reflects all the problems of imperialism in the 18th and 19th century. My work is loved by people who have a historical connoisseurship. I work on a level that invites challenge. It’s not “nicey nicey” art. It’s not the art that goes over most people’s sofas in their living room. It’s an art that informs, very much like the art of a writer. AB: Is your inspiration mostly literary or is it visual, or both? JPW: I love Giotto. He basically invented Western painting. My deepest intention, if I were doing a better job (maybe I’ll do that in the coming years before I leave this reality) is to make work like Giotto. Regardless of what the subject matter is, even though I have dramatic subject matter, as he did, I want people to think and know that there is something clear, and profound, and immediate happening. Maybe it’s because we’re living in the same time, and we’re sharing those experiences and we’re not removed enough. A lot in the visual arts is conditioned by the art market. You have a disparity of wealth, and a lot of people who have wealth do not have the aesthetic depth to understand. They want trophies. They want what’s in the art books. I make the work because I care, and I have to express that. I’ve done it so long that I see the change in myself. That sustains me. Every morning when I wake up, I’m thinking of making photographs. Every night when I go to bed, I’m thinking of making photographs. This doesn’t
Joel Peter-Witkin, The Master is in Hell! (Picasso), 2015..
mean I’m obsessive. It means the deepest desire of my life is to express myself this way. AB: How long does it take you to develop, produce, and print a photograph? JPW: Sometimes it takes me about six months. I always make sketches, and I refine my intention. Then there’s the time it takes to get everything set up, to build the set, and paint the set. I work with one person part-time, who I’ve worked with for over 25 years, and we talk things over, put things together, I suggest what I want, and I rely on her to do what she has to do. I’m usually surprised with what she comes up with. Every object and person in every photograph is a world to me. I process my own film and I print my own work, which I must because the final print is the final and most clear definition of what I wanted to create. AB: You also manipulate the photographic surface to make it appear aged. Can you speak about this? JPW: If I really wanted to make old looking photographs, I would make photographs using older processes. There was a magazine called The Daguerreotype Magazine, and there were two images I saw recently. One was a straight black-and-white photograph, and then the same shot taken with a daguerreotype. And the daguerreotype was magnificent. What that meant for me was that one of the first forms of photography, daguerreotype, made the most bland objects look wonderful. That continued on to tintype. When paper come about, platinum and palladium prints, they had their own kind of looks. Unfortunately, in contemporary processes, because I’ve been printing for over 50 years, I’ve seen paper go from being heavy and silver, to being, for economic reasons, thinner and less able to have the rich look I’ve always wanted. For me, the most important and beautiful photographs are the daguerreotype and older methods. Joel Peter-Witkin, Above: Un Santo Oscuro, LA, 1987.; Following spread: The Raft of George W. Bush, NM, 2006.
Joel Peter-Witkin, Insects Reenacting the Crucifixion, 2015.
To acknowledge that beauty, I make my work in that manner. Not because I want the photographs to look old, it’s because I want that wonderment of newness in a photographic reality, which I prefer over the dull, modern look of what you have to work with in paper. I have reverence for the prints. I first make a master print, and when I make an edition, the edition must match the master print. AB: What are the challenges in creating photographs that juxtapose art from different ages in history? JPW: My photographs reflect something that comes from painting. When I was kid, instead of playing stickball, my brother and I went to museums. We thought we were in houses of beauty and wonder. We learned from the descriptions of paintings, the stories of the past. What I wanted to do with photography is to create narratives that first came about with Western painting. I don’t believe that photography should be only in the moment. Obviously, it’s made in the current moment, but it can be about the past and about the future, just like filmmaking, because it’s the story of life and how life changes. In my work, I like to make photographs with a narrative that comes from the past but is relevant for today. AB: Your photographs speak to political and social aspects of history and contemporary life. Are you politically active? JPW: I am. I always have been. I stay informed. I get the New York Times everyday for the last 25 years. I look at BBC on television. NPR on radio. I’m a registered Democrat. I’ve never been so saddened by what’s going on in Washington as now, with the gridlock in Congress, the mediocrity and the stupidity. I have made, in that reference, a photograph called the “Raft of George W. Bush.” It was meant to show the damage that a mediocre Republican president and his Congress and advisors can make on all our lives. We’re still paying the price of that. That particular print is based on Gericault’s “Raft of the Medusa,” where in 1818 the ship called The Medusa went aground, and the captain and his officers took the lifeboats and left the passengers to fend for themselves. What the passengers did was rip the ship apart and created this raft. There was about 200 people on the raft, and there was cannibalism, and horrible things. There was only a few survivors. That was the basis of my making the “Raft of George W. Bush.” The way I depicted it was to show the mediocrity and stupidity of these people not being able to see the results of their actions. Another photograph I made of political failure is the “Capitulation of France.” That was the failure of France not to see the dangers of national socialism. AB: Why did you decide to live in Albuquerque? JPW: I came here because I was accepted to the graduate and postgraduate program of photography here. I knew the work of Van Deren Coke, one of the founders of this program and I wanted to get out of New York. I was living in an apartment that was 11 feet wide by 22 feet long for about eight years. I always joke that it was so small that I only had to shave on one side. I moved here on the G.I. Bill, I had three years of it, and that sustained me, but in that time I gained a wife and son. When I began my postgraduate work, I was making photographs in the daytime and working as a busboy in an Italian restaurant. I was 44-yearsold. I worked there for five years. By the 1980’s, I was picked up by a gallery in New York and one in Paris. AB: What did you take away from your years in art school? JPW: I went to Cooper Union first, and I knew from the get-go, because I was usually older than the teachers, that art can’t be taught. Either you have the flame of passion or the spark of interest, or you don’t. A fraction of one percent of all graduate students in studio art actually live a life of working that way full time. It’s a hard trip. But I’ve always been impassioned. I’ve always done what I’ve wanted to do. The definition of all artists, actually the definition of all human beings, is to inform yourself of why we’re here, what our purpose in life is, and how to make life better. We have to ask the profound questions. Am I an atheist? Am I a religious believer? Or is life just a crazy conglomeration of planetary movements that made us and made time and space, and we live a life of futility? I’ve tried living that way, and it didn’t work. I don’t like futility or anything nihilistic. I like things that are human and positive. Otherwise, it’s all self-involvement, and it’s all escapist, and it’s all meaningless. I’m not just a spiritual person. I’m a religious person. That’s another reason why I photograph death. I think death is the doorway to eternal life, and we have to die to get there. I believe we are given life to make life better, to find our spirits, and to nurture each other. Then that’s over with, as it will be with me pretty soon. I have maybe 10 or 20 years left. And I’m going to die in the darkroom, printing.
EMERGING A RTISTS Sayre Harvell
Sayre Harvell. Havana, Cuba, 2015.
EMERGING A RTISTS Gregory Prescott
Gregory Prescott. Alex and Nat.
J ess T. D u g a n var ia tio ns o n a theme
ANDREA BLANCH: Can we talk about what it means to be gender variant? JESS DUGAN: Sure. Gender variant is a term by people whose gender identity and expression doesn’t fit the expectations of male or female, or our traditional binary gender system. These identities are used by people who don’t solely identify with either male or female. Also, gender variant applies in some cases to people who are not a part of the trans community; for example, a young boy who has a more feminine side, or someone born female who is more masculine. AB: What role has your mother played in shaping your feelings of identity and self-acceptance? JD: I grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, which affected my childhood in many ways. I was very masculine. I got teased at school. I got chased out of bathrooms. This heavily affected my identity today and the place where my artistic work comes from. My mom was supportive of me from the beginning. When I came home one day from school crying from having been picked on in the bathroom, my mom gave me the choice of either growing my hair out and pleasing the girls at my school, in which case the teasing would stop, or keeping my hair short, keeping my clothes the way I wanted them, and just understanding that if I made that choice, the teasing would continue. I made the second choice and I have always continued to make that choice. Having her treat me with enough dignity to even give me that choice at a young age was really important and validating. AB: That was very progressive of your mother. JD: My mom has always been a fighter. She’s also a lesbian. She came out when I was seven. Growing up in Little Rock, Arkansas, it was brave of her. AB: In the series with your mother, you are exhibiting your scars from chest reconstruction surgery. What was that experience like, and what made you decide to share it with the world? JD: I came out as gay at 13. I was pretty young. I had moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts by that time with my mom and, needless to say, that was a better experience than coming out in Little Rock, Arkansas. By the time I was 14 or 15, I was questioning my gender. At the time, I knew people who had transitioned from female to male, but that never really felt like who I was. I went my own way for a while, thinking, “Well, maybe that’s not really my path.” Then I went to a trans conference and I saw a video someone had made as an art piece about their experience accessing chest surgery. I was 16 when I saw that video and, silly as it sounds, I had this total “aha” moment. It had never occurred to me before that you could just pick and choose parts of transition-related procedures. I had only known people who were transitioning all the way, and that was just never really my truth. When I was 17, I decided I definitely wanted chest surgery, and I had my surgery when I was 18. My mom came with me. I think in a way it was hard for her, just watching your child go through surgery is challenging. We flew from Boston to Texas for this surgery. When we got home, I was in this moment where I had this new body and trying to make sense of what was going on. For me, photography has always been the way I make sense of things in my life and figure out how I relate to the world around me. As soon as I got home from Texas, I picked up my camera and made a picture. I originally was going to make a picture of me, then my mom was there, and I asked her to be in the picture with me and we decided to do one topless next to each other. On an intuitive level, I recognized that that moment was really Portrait by Jess Dugan. All images courtesy Catherine Edelman Gallery.
important between us. When I look back on it, I see it a little bit differently. You know, I look very much like my mom. I recognize a lot of myself in her. I was interested in this moment where we started from a similar path but we have made such different decisions about our bodies. Looking back a decade later, I view that photograph as the beginning point of so many things that would continue in my work. AB: What has the general reaction to your work been? JD: The reaction varies depending on the audience and the geographic location. Of course, within LGBT communities, I’ve generally gotten very positive reactions. Some people find the work moving, and find it an important representation of LGBT communities. I’ve also exhibited it in places that are less friendly. I had a show in Birmingham, Alabama. I’ve shown the work in North Carolina. I’ve shown the work online and had it end up on sites in Russia and other countries. I’ve had some people unwilling to publish or exhibit certain images because of the content. Overall, I hope that all people can connect with it on some level. AB: Did you not label any of your subjects’ sexes on purpose? JD: Correct. I’ve always struggled with how much information to give about someone’s specific identity versus how much ambiguity to leave. My work is about something larger than just the trans identity. It’s definitely about something larger than just the body. I’ve always been interested in talking about someone’s internal and psychological identity. I never wanted to reduce my portraits to figuring out who is this and who is that. With the trans work, I’ve always only listed the work by people’s first names. I often leave enough clues or signifiers to understand some things about their gender or their body, but I’ve always heavily resisted pinning too specific an identity on any portrait. It’s too complicated and kind of impossible. Many people I photograph, their identities are shifting or are at an earlier point in their transition. How they think about their identity changes. It’s a slippery slope, to try to start labeling everyone. Also, more conceptually, I want viewers first and foremost to engage with them as a human, and for all of the layers about gender and identity to come as a second wave of thought. I’ve had people ask me why I didn’t photograph more surgeries. For a long time in my work, I really pushed back against this more mainstream idea that a trans identity is all about the body and the physicality. I wanted to make a portrait that went beyond the surface and the specific gender, but also included that element. AB: When you were younger you had problems with the bathrooms. Can you talk more about this? JD: Bathrooms are loaded places for some trans people, especially public restrooms. For some trans people, those spaces can be sites of harassment and violence. I am pretty much guaranteed to have a problem using a public restroom. I use women’s restrooms mostly now. For a period of time, I did try to use men’s rooms because it was easier. Until I say something, I can pass as male. If I walk into a women’s room, there’s a 90 percent chance that I’m going to get looked at or someone’s going to chase after me and tell me I’m in the wrong bathroom. But, while the chance of something happening is higher, the severity of what will happen is lower. Chances are I’m not going to get attacked and I’m not going to get arrested for using the “wrong” bathroom. If I’m in a men’s room, there’s a 90 percent chance that nothing will happen. Men don’t look at each other in bathrooms; my theory is because of homophobia. But if something does happen, the severity is worse. There’s a higher chance for violence. Over the years, I’ve become really proud of being female-bodied and masculine presenting. I feel there’s no reason I shouldn’t be allowed to use a women’s restroom without a problem. Going back more globally, restrooms are set up on this binary gender system. In the case of women’s restroom, that’s supposed to be a space that’s free from “men.” Part of that fear comes from violence against women. There are these added layers of why people are afraid of difference in the restrooms. For many trans people it’s a place of anxiety and harassment and fear and sometimes violence, especially for trans women who can’t blend as easily. Trans women definitely face more violence. I have many friends who will never use a public restroom. They’ll drive home to use the bathroom just to prevent having an uncomfortable experience. I’m pretty excited when I see a single stall bathroom or a gender neutral bathroom. AB: What do you think the biggest issues challenging the LGBT community are today? JD: In some ways, we’ve made a of progress in terms of acceptance, but we’ve got a long way to go. In many states, people can’t legally get married or legally have children, don’t have access to healthcare, etc. Also,
Jess Dugan, Taan, 2012.
Jess Dugan, Erica and Krista, 2012.
Jess Dugan, Aiden, 2012.
there are significant burdens for trans people and non-trans people in the LGBT community relating to race and class. I see a pretty significant divide between white upper-class gay men and lower-class trans women of color. I think they’re fighting for two different things. Especially for trans women, there are huge burdens in access to housing, access to healthcare, and access to employment. Even within the community, there are multiple layers of work that needs to be done. More broadly, we’re making progress because people are coming out, people are telling their stories, and we’re one-by-one changing the way people think about LGBT and queer folks. One of my friends is an educator who does trainings and she asks everyone to raise their hand if they know a gay person personally. Everyone in the room raises their hand. Then she asks them all if they know a trans person personally, and almost nobody in the room raises their hand. In part, that familiarity is what has led to our current climate around acceptance and progress for gay and lesbian folks in the United States. It’s a lot harder to discriminate against a group of people when someone you know and care about is gay or lesbian. That’s true for trans folks as well. That’s part of why I make the work that I make. If people feel like they’ve seen a trans person, they know a trans person’s story, and they’ve had this moment of engagement with someone who has a trans identity, people’s minds and hearts will start changing. AB: What would you tell other photographers who want to photograph LGBT culture and issues? JD: That would really depend on who the photographer is and what their motivations are. Traditionally, there’s been a lack of representation of LGBT people. It’s important to be thoughtful of how and why you’re making those images, and how you’re engaging the community. Is it something that will benefit them, or is it something that’s more of an exploitative undertaking? I don’t, by any stretch, think that you have to be a part of the community that you’re making work about, but it gets complicated if you’re not. There’s more potential for exploitation. We need more positive representations, and I don’t mean sugarcoating because that’s problematic as well, but more respectful presentations. AB: What other photographic or artistic work regarding LGBT experiences have influenced you? JD: When I was coming out, I didn’t see myself represented anywhere in the media. Some of the first representations I saw of LGBT people were in fine art photography books. The first photographers that heavily influenced me were Catherine Opie, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Del LaGrace Volcano. I found other works by feminist artists like Carrie Mae Weems and Lorna Simpson. It was the first time I saw photographs of my community, and photographs that reflected my own identity back to me. I saw photographs that were about something political, about something powerful, and about representing people who were underrepresented. I think representation could literally be the difference between a young LGBT person living or dying. Luckily, now we have some more representations in the mainstream media. As I got a little bit older and started studying photography, my interest shifted a little bit from artists who were directly representing LGBT identity to work that had more psychological ambiguity around identity and around sexuality. In some ways everything seems fluid. My gender is such that it doesn’t fit in the binary, and my partner is queeridentified and her gender fluctuates. In some ways it seems like everything I do is transgressive, but in other ways I’m just kind of, I don’t want to say I’m boring, but I’m just doing my thing. I don’t have any anguish or secrets to hide. Coming into my identity has freed me up to not worry about it anymore. One thing I feel strongly about is the way that gender roles and gender expectations are restrictive. All of these expectations we have around gender and sexuality, how a man is supposed to behave, how a woman is supposed to behave, they fail everyone. Everyone goes through this process of figuring out, “Who am I? Who am I attracted to? How do I want to live?” That process is incredibly human. Everyone is complicated and you can be what you want to be. You don’t have to fit into any prescribed notions of what a person should be. AB: When I asked if you wanted to be included in our “Controversy” issue, at first you were hesitant because you didn’t feel the topic was controversial. Why don’t you feel that it’s controversial? JD: I try to make pictures that show the humanity of my subjects, work that’s specific to their experience without pigeon-holing them, or being too abrasive. Making the work that I make, there is a component that feels natural and beautiful. I have such a respect for the people I photograph. I am aware that the work that I make is politically engaged. I view it as my way of being an activist. There is something really important about making representations of LGBT people that they feel empowered and validated by. I wish it wasn’t controversial, but I am aware that it is. I want to show my work in places where it’s mean-
Jess Dugan, Betsy on the bed, 2013.
Jess Dugan, Devotion, 2012.
ingful, and those places are the same places where it’s controversial. In general, the more controversial it is, the more necessary it is, and the more it means something for people to see it. I’m protective of my subjects. I try my best to be thoughtful about when the work might get negative feedback, and I do my best to take that upon myself and not upon the people in the work. AB: Do you plan on documenting any other personal relationships in your life? JD: I’ve always been interested in relationships. Right now, I’m continuing the photographs of my mom. I’ve been re-staging the original black-and-white photograph of us every year. We have about five in that series. I’ve been working a new series for a little over two years, photographing my relationship with my partner Vanessa. I’m excited and curious to see how it develops, because even within a couple years, the images have gotten more complicated and the emotions have changed. In so much of my work, I have this highly formal environment that I love. But making the work with Vanessa, it’s more exciting technically because I’m making different kinds of pictures with different kinds of poses and different kinds of moments. I’m excited to see how that evolves.
Jess Dugan. Opposite: Self-portrait (muscle shirt), 2013. Above: Emmet, 2013.
Jess Dugan, Jillian, 2014.
Jess Dugan, Kim, 2014.
EMERGING A RTISTS Joy McKinney
Joy McKinney, Armed Forces, Photographic Series.
E ri k R avelo “ censo r ed”
Andrea Blanch: You’ve been living in exile since 1998. Can you tell me more about what led you to leave Cuba? Erik Ravelo: I was a student at the Fine Art Academy. At the time, I was a rocker with long hair. I was trying to find a way to avoid military service. It was difficult for me in Cuba. I had a difficult situation with my family. My father left the country. I remained lonely in Cuba, living with a very old grandfather. After he passed away, it was difficult for me to think of having a future there. I was not part of the system because I’m not into politics. In Cuba, either you are really a part of the system or you are completely outside it. I started feeling the need to leave the country. When I left Cuba to go to Argentina, I had to face the reality that I need money to eat, rent a house, and so on. The job I found was inside an advertising agency that at the time was well known and awarded. I started in a whole new world that updated me in tools of communication. When I started working for advertising, the intention was to just make a living, but I found that there were a lot of techniques and tools that you could mix with art and concepts. It brought me great results. The fact is, my life since I left Cuba has always been the life of an exiled person. It’s always been a problem, as you can imagine, with visa issues and nationality. In the beginning it was really tough. Thank God, right now I’m an Italian citizen. AB: How did you come to work with Fabrica and the UNHATE Foundation? ER: I was working in Argentina at a news agency, and one of the guys working there was invited by Toscani, the founder of Fabrica, also a famous photographer. He spent a year at Fabrica and then came back to Argentina. When I was leaving for Italy, he was the one who gave me the contact and told me to send a portfolio. They called me for a two-week trial where the head of the department meets you and sees how you work in a team. After that two week trial they decide if they want to invite you for a year. That’s what happened to me. I started my adventure in Fabrica around 2002. AB: How would you describe Fabrica’s philosophy and mission? How is that mission different from the UNHATE Foundation? ER: UNHATE Foundation has nothing to do with Fabrica. UNHATE is something small that Benetton did for the purpose of funding projects. Benetton comes to Fabrica to work with us sometimes. They ask us for campaigns but we don’t work for them all the time. I work for Fabrica; I don’t work for Benetton. Fabrica is the communication and research center of the Benetton Group, but we have many clients and projects. Benetton is just one. AB: So you work with Benetton but you aren’t owned by Benetton? ER: Well, we are owned by Benetton in a way. They are two different brands that are owned by the same people. Benetton is a clothing brand and Fabrica is the communication and research center of the brand, but it doesn’t work only for Benetton. It works for many other clients. For example, it works for United Nations and World Health Organizations. We work primarily with social issues. We want to be remembered for social campaigns. Portrait by Davide Bernardi. All images: Erik Ravelo. From the series The Untouchables.
AB: How much did Toscani influence this? ER: To be honest, I don’t like to talk about Toscani. I don’t really like to answer these types of questions. He’s a very important artist and of course he’s inspired many people in the world. AB: You say you aren’t political, yet your artwork is very political. ER: Yes, my work is political in terms of “politically incorrect.” It has no position. My work wants to create debate, create a consciousness. More than anything, I’m questioning things. Maybe my art becomes political, but me as a person, I don’t have a political position. I don’t belong to any party. In Cuba, you really have to be involved with official politics. Of course, the kind of work I do would have been a risk for me in Cuba, because of the situation with freedom of speech. AB: I understand what you’re saying. But when an artist creates a work, it’s what they stand for, more or less. It’s what they think about. ER: Yes, but they are two different things. I stand for it and I fight for it, but I do that through my work. Of course I’m standing for something and I’m standing strong, but I want to avoid the social character of the artist. I’m not into the art system or the art environment. I really don’t even like it. AB: Why don’t you like it? ER: What I do is like a disease. It’s something I can’t avoid. I do it as a natural reflex. It’s not premeditated, like, “I’m doing this because I want to become this.” No, it’s more something that happens to me. Artists and creators have always been really hard on me saying that I’m not an artist, I’m an advertising guy. I’ve never had the feeling that I was well-received. To be honest, I’ve only been invited to a few exhibitions in my life. The fact is that even where my art lives, which is on the web, it became a tool for people to say what they think. The nature of where my art lives is not yet well-understood by the art system. In the art world, I’m an advertising guy. In the advertising world, I’m an artist. So, I’m a hybrid. I try to avoid the judgment of people. I think they judge me with the wrong tools. They judge me the way they would judge an artist whose art belongs in a gallery. I’ll be glad if my art ends up inside a gallery, but that’s not the only place where it’s going to live. I don’t feel that I’m like, say, Jeff Koons or an institutional artist. AB: What does your role as creative director at Fabrica entail? ER: In Fabrica, there are three departments: design, photography/editorial and social engagement campaigns. I run everything that is related to social issues and social campaigns. And social campaigns means everything that is not a profit campaign, where they don’t want to sell anything, they want to share a social message. Fabrica brings young artists from all over the world who present their ideas. More than anything, I try to inspire them. I tell them what I think, what could work, what might not work. But, more than anything, it’s the work of a team, where I lead from a creative point of view. AB: Your Facebook page was deactivated because of your series “Los Intocables.” Musée Magazine, by the way, also had its Facebook page taken down for some time. What are your thoughts on censorship in the digital space? ER: Because I was fighting against censorship in Cuba. We had many issues from people in Cuba saying, “Why are you not participating in the censorship debate in Cuba?” Censorship in Cuba is real, but they only want to talk about that censorship, I want to talk about censorship in general. I can’t say that censorship only exists in the Cuban government, because Facebook is censoring my page right now. My Facebook page was blocked for “pornographic content,” it has nothing to do with pornography. It’s a campaign to defend childhood. People should get angry with the issues, not the photos. People are getting angry with the one who’s talking, not with the one who’s raping. AB: Facebook bans content when it is flagged as inappropriate by users. In this way, it favors a few negative reactions over the majority. What do you feel was the response to the work outside of
Facebook? Do you think it was truly as controversial as the Facebook ban made it seem? ER: Actually, I’ve never had such a positive reaction to my work as I did with this series. I’m still receiving emails from people saying, “Thank you for the work.” Some people may feel offended. But a huge amount of people contacted me to support me and tell me that the work was important for them. I’m talking about people who were raped when they were kids, people who faced really tough situations. They felt the need to write me and share that with me. It makes me feel like I did something that helps people and inspires them to keep fighting and keep trying to live with that dignity. AB: Did the church comment on it? ER: They saw it. It was published in an online newspaper called “Vatican Insider.” The thing is, we came out of a big scandal with the UNHATE “Kissing” campaign. You could question the “Kissing” campaign, but what can you say about “Los Intocables?” I’m not offending anyone. I’m just reflecting on what’s really happening, and saying that kids who are suffering can be compared to Jesus Christ, because Jesus went to the cross for our sins. There is no point that you can argue there. The iconography is really clear. I’m not offending Jesus. I’m just offending the people who are using the word of Jesus to harm people. I think the Church understood that, so they didn’t fight the campaign. I’m glad that this pope is starting to face all these issues. I still think they have to do more, but the fact that they published it in Vatican Insider, and didn’t let it go as if nothing was happening, that was great. It was different with the “Kissing” campaign. With that, they made a statement saying, “We don’t want this.” It creates a big mess. We can’t use those pictures today. I’m glad it didn’t happen with the children. AB: How does the censorship of artistic expression in the U.S. differ from say, Europe, Argentina, Cuba, etc? Is there a difference? ER: I think censorship is worldwide right now. It’s not fair to say there’s censorship in Cuba but not in the U.S. There is a different kind of censorship. In the U.S., you can call Obama a “faggot,” and you won’t go to jail. If you do that in Cuba, you will face charges. Of course, in the U.S., if you want to make a deep speech about issues that are very sensitive, you will be blocked, by Facebook, by Twitter. So, it does exist. Also, in a system where a curator decides what’s good and what’s wrong, there’s a chance of censorship. Art that can fight certain issues without a gallery and a curator in the back is free art. I’m a normal guy, so use my pictures, make it yours. If it helps with what you’re trying to say, why not? Art should be an entity that talks about what’s going on today and creates debate. The difference between creating debate with words and with art is that art can inspire people, in my opinion, in a better way than speaking. AB: Talking about the work itself, when did you become interested in the problem of child abuse and in portraying it artistically? ER: I live in Italy, and when I started seeing all the scandals on TV… to be honest, I’m not a Christian. I do believe in God, and I have my own relationship with it. I do respect the figure of Jesus, more in a cultural way than a religious way because I was raised in a Christian culture. So, I was really shocked by someone dressed like a priest and sharing Jesus’ words, and, at the same time, touching a baby. I felt the need to talk about it. Here in Italy, it’s difficult to talk about that because the Church is powerful. The only chance I had was to place them on Facebook and in the media and make it global. It’s not an attack on the Church. I really respect good priests and religion. I think the institution is full of amazing, incredible, and good people. I’m attacking the corrupt ones, who are worse because they’re standing behind the dress of a priest, and the fact that you are dressing like that makes me trust you. It doubles the evil. If you are dressed like a priest, I will give you my son trusting that everything will be good inside the religious world. I had to do something. One day I start thinking, and I found the iconography. When I put the kid there I thought, “Wow. This really works. It’s really powerful.” In the beginning, many people tried to convince me that I don’t have to do that. Thank God, I followed my heart. After I presented it, they said they didn’t want to use it because it was too much. I said, “OK. You don’t want to use it. I want to use it. Can I put it on Facebook?” I put it on Facebook. It became massive. They were telling me that it was shit and now it’s earning awards. Besides that, it’s been a great experience and a great adventure with “Los Intocables.”
AB: Why did you put the pedophile’s face to the wall, and why did you blur the faces of the children? ER: At first, I didn’t have the guy facing the wall. I had him turned the other way. But it was too much. I thought, “You don’t need to be that explicit.” It’s important to know when the iconography works and is carrying a message. You don’t have to be redundant or obvious. The thing I like about them facing the wall is that they are in a kind of punishment, like when children behave badly, and you put them against the wall. That was a way for me to say, “We don’t want to see you. We want to punish you.” If we see their faces, we are giving them too much attention. As for the children’s faces being blurred, in the beginning they were not. We had the release forms. Then I thought, I’m defending childhood, so I don’t want to put any children in a position where they would see the picture and feel ridiculed. Also, I didn’t want to the child just to be one child; I wanted them to represent all the children who were raped. AB: Religious imagery plays a large role in your work. Why is that? ER: I come from a communist country. I was raised in a culture where there is a cult of personality of the leader. Communism becomes almost a religious practice. Mao is like the pope. Stalin is almost like Jesus. I live in Italy so I’m invaded by all of this religious iconography. I use those icons because they are icons that everyone can understand in our culture. It’s easy to communicate with people. More than saying I use religious icons, I’d like to say that I work with commonplaces. Religion is one of those commonplaces that links me to people in my culture. I’m not really focused on religion, to be honest. My thing with religion is more the use of an iconic image rather than a reaction to religion. AB: How would you respond to people who say you are just trying to shock people or sensationalize? ER: This is easy to answer, because normally when I work, I don’t think I’ll have that much exposure to my work. I work for myself. I don’t do things because I want people to get angry. Once again, I think people should get more angry at the pedophilia. Maybe they should say that about the priest. You know, the priest is raping the kid so maybe he’s sensationalizing. My artwork is not shocking at all. The issues are shocking. A guy goes into a school in Newtown with a gun and kills 20 children. That’s shocking, not the pictures. There are different opinions about what’s shocking. AB: Do you create any personal work outside of your campaigns for Fabrica? ER: Yes, of course. Art is strong and wide and open. Fabrica is still a company. Inside Fabrica, there are still politics and an institution. Unfortunately, some of the work is so strong that I have to use it on my own or else no one would use it. AB: Of all of your campaigns, which, in your eyes, is the most successful or fully realized? Would it be this one? ER: Yes, “The Untouchables.” I still go to Google and put “Erik Untouchables.” Last week, it was in a Chinese journal, then it was a Georgian journal, then it was a Greek journal and a Uzbekistan journal. It’s going to places where I say, “Where the fuck is this?” It’s still running after three years. There was an issue with a Facebook page called “Saudi in the States.” These are Saudis who live in the States and have their own communities there. The editor reblogged my post, and there were 35,000 comments. That was five months ago. I thought it was already dead, and then it came back again. AB: What are you working on now? ER: Honestly, I’m in a very weird situation right now. I’m growing up. There are some issues that I feel I should start doing on my own. I really love Fabrica but I think I’m going to start to develop my “real art” side. Of course, I’m trying to find some people who can help me with exhibitions because I really don’t know anyone. I’m going to try to see if I can form relationships with people who can support my art. Why not? Maybe one day I’ll be able to live off of my work with dignity, without having to do commercial things.
Anthony Hernandez Landscape for the Homeless #2, 1988. All images courtesy: Galerie Polaris.
Anthony Hernandez. Landscape for the Homeless #3, 1988.
Anthony Hernandez. Landscape for the Homeless #4, 1988.
Anthony Hernandez. Landscape for the Homeless #5, 1988.
Anthony Hernandez. Landscape for the Homeless #6, 1988.
Anthony Hernandez. Landscape for the Homeless #7, 1988.
D i n a Goldstei n once upo n a time…
by sabrina wirth
Controversy and art are by no means strangers. As a photographer, it is difficult to avoid it, especially since most subjects worth photographing are by nature controversial, or reveal a provocative narrative. The challenge in undertaking a touchy subject then, is to present it tastefully without censorship. Although, whose taste is the artist serving ultimately… and who determines what is “tasteful?” On June 3, 2015, a Catholic monthly newspaper published an article about family and faith, using one of the images from Dina Goldstein’s series “Fallen Princesses” on the cover. The photograph portrayed a not so happily-ever-after scenario for Snow White in which she looks miserable and overwhelmed with her four children, while her husband lies around watching TV. Besides the cover image, the publication included another image from the series—Rapunzel undergoing chemotherapy— in order to challenge Goldstein’s message about reality: “It was inevitable that people who lost sight of God would eventually turn against fairy tale endings in the name of “realism.” While the publication’s intention was to disapprove of the series, to which it had a right, it was using the copyrighted images without permission. Now the question is, what is more controversial: the unlicensed use of images in a publication or the images themselves? Unintentionally, the Catholic publication may have just provided free press for Goldstein! This wouldn’t be the first time photography has struck a nerve with the Catholic community with unintended — and beneficial— consequences for the photographer; Andres Serrano’s photograph “Piss Christ” immediately comes to mind. Those offended by Goldstein’s photographs may not realize that they have made a case for the series’ success; the images have effectively provoked conversations about topics such as innocence, reality, cynicism, and faith. It is easy to forget that most Disney fairy tales we have grown up with are versions of Grimm’s original stories, which, if anyone has read them, are usually a little more complicated. The little mermaid Ariel sacrifices herself, Rapunzel gets pregnant in the tower, and the wicked queen in Snow White dances to her death in glowing-hot iron shoes. Considering the number of variations, one wonders, “What is more disturbing, reality or fiction?” Goldstein’s series are particularly relevant now that there is a growing trend towards reimagining fairy tales (i.e. Wicked) or creating more surprising endings (Frozen). However, the concept of a grim (pun intended) alternative to the traditional “happily ever after” ending visualized in a still image has Portrait by Robert Kenney. Following Spread: Dina Goldstein, Rapunzel.
produced a torrent of emotional critics as well as supporters. Who knew fairy tales could be so controversial? It’s clear from these letters and articles that the series “Fallen Princesses” represents more than an alternative to childhood stories. These images are not published in children’s books or promoted for children, which indicates that it’s a conversation Goldstein is having with an adult audience. Perhaps the reason they evoke such passionate responses is that the subject is a recognizable part of most people’s childhood memories. Conjuring up childhood memories is a delicate territory. It is a vulnerable area, and it is ripe with controversial possibilities. SABRINA WIRTH: What was your inspiration behind the Fallen Princesses? DINA GOLDSTEIN: When my daughter, Jordan, was 3-years-old, she began to be enamored with Disney Princesses. At the same time my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and these two events colliding made me think about the realities and hardships of life, as opposed to the ‘happily ever after’ scenarios spoon-fed to us by popular culture. I began to imagine these perfect Princesses with troubles of their own and then conceived narratives that placed them in modern times. SW: Did you imagine all the reactions you would receive for this series? DG: I could never have imagined the massive response that I would receive from this series. When the Fallen Princesses first went ‘viral’ in 2009 I was inundated with press requests and personal letters. Mostly the reaction was positive and many thanked me for confronting the mythology around the Princess culture. Mothers wrote about their experiences with their daughters who had been enchanted by these characters and their displeasure with Disney, who appropriated the Princesses and have inserted a fluffy version of the original parable into the hearts and minds of young children throughout the world. I heard from young women who have grown up imagining a life where they would be ‘saved’ by a man who would provide and protect them, only to be disillusioned and left without the tools to deal with the realities of the world today. I was confronted with some negative feedback from those that had their own interpretation of the work, specifically Red Riding Hood and Jasmine. With Red the conversation revolves around fast food and obesity. Jasmine, a Middle Eastern character garnishes discussion about discrimination and completely misses the mark about woman at war, my main theme in this piece. Also, much of the criticism comes from those that don’t fully understand the underlying social critique that I offer within my work. Despite the many international publications and web sites that have featured the Fallen Princesses in the past, the series continues to go viral, and attract new eyes and much discourse. SW: Rapunzel is particularly a touchy image for a lot of people. Can you give a little background on this photograph please? DG: Rapunzel was the first piece that I conceived because it was inspired by my mother’s breast cancer. I wanted to speak to the fact that cancer is so prominent in our society and that, regardless of age, social standing, etc., no one is immune. Also, hair is so cherished and beauty standards today dictate what is sexy and what is not. Rapunzel’s hair is essential to her narrative and I wanted to investigate how would she fare with the loss of it. SW: Do the negative letters you receive in response to the series offend you? DG: I try not to get offended but actually the opposite happens. I am excited by any response that my art creates. In fact, discourse within my art is essential and welcomed. SW: How would you like to respond to all the critics? DG: There will always be critics out there making their positive or negative opinions known. I am all about free speech and I try to stay open to all views. I rarely respond to comments because the artist interfering in conversation diverts the whole point of art as a means of discussion and interpretation. I will, however, respond if my art is misrepresented and used for propaganda that I do not subscribe to.
Dina Goldstein. Opposite: Top: Sleeping Beauty; Bottom: Red Ridding Hood. Following Spread: Snowy.
EMERGING A RTISTS Evelyn Chevallier
Evelyne Chevallier. Top: Fuck Nature, Montreal, Canada 2014. Bottom: To See Or Not, New York, Paris 2013/2014.
EMERGING A RTISTS Ido Abramsohn
Ido Abramsohn. Clockwise from top left: Boxing Gloves, 2014; Suicide Vest, 2014; Rocket, 2014; Radio, 2014.
Ido Abramsohn. Clockwise from top left: Lighter, 2014; Mortar Shell, 2014, Training Gun, 2014; Snow Globe, 2014.
F red R it c hi n inventing the f utur e Andrea Blanch: In our interview with Mark Lubell, he claimed that you are incredibly tapped in with the millennial generation. Any comments on this assessment of you? Fred Ritchin: Until this past December, I’d been teaching at NYU for 23 years. Every year, you get young people coming in. You ask the students what they’re afraid of, what they’re happy about, what they want to use, how they feel about media imaging every year. It’s a way to test your own ideas and find what they respond to in passionate ways. This past semester, I gave them a reading from the New York Times, on whether reading to a young child with a book is the same as giving them an interactive book. Many students felt giving them an interactive book was a form of child abuse. Then we talked about how some Silicon Valley executives send their kids to Waldorf schools with no technology. It’s like a drug; the people producing it know that you have to limit it. AB: Is their biggest fear technology? FR: No. They’re very happy about technology. I tell them it’s the biggest media revolution in history, and they have a bigger palette than any media producer ever had. You could work analogue, digital, and all kinds of different combinations of media. You can make photographs digitally and output them as music. I showed them surrealists in the past who experimented with the medium. They could do it now too. To find out that you actually have to invent the future is both an excitement and a fear. In a sense, you’re leaving home and you’re going into a new territory that hasn’t yet been invented. It’s exciting but then you worry, “How do I get a job to do that? Where is the support? Who can I use as a reference point?” AB: Are there any advantages this generation has over the last? FR: They’re younger, so they get to learn this stuff from scratch. The older photographers knew film and paper and chemistry very well, but they didn’t know software. Now you have a generation that grew up with software, but one of the handicaps they have is they don’t know typewriters. I find in a lot of schools, ICP among them, there’s a tremendous demand for darkrooms, chemistry, film, and the older processes. AB: What are some other ways you plan to update the ICP curriculum? FR: We’re going to do the media narratives one-year certificate programs starting in September with Elizabeth Kilroy. Those courses will also be available to the other full-time programs: the documentary photography people, the general studies people, and the MFA people will all be able to take some of those courses. It looks at what you need to know in terms of digital coding, social media, data visualization, or multimedia nonlinear narratives. If you want to produce on a mobile phone, or if you want to use hashtags, barcodes, geotag, meta-tagging, etc. We’re interested in teaching them how to curate all the new media out there, from the billions of images produced daily. What are the important images coming out every hour, every minute? If I want to know something about Iran besides what the newspaper publishes, I’d like to be able to ask someone to show me 50 important images coming out of Iran in the last six months. The program teaches them to be comfortable using new media: producing it, editing it, filtering it, and curating it. We’re looking for people who are not just conventional photographers, but maybe social workers, architects, anthropologists, someone interested in politics. I always think of Robert Capa in the ‘30s, when he did his famous falling soldier picture. He was 23-years-old, and he was using a new technology, 35 mm cameras, without which he never could have taken that photograph. The question with Instagram is: what does it allow us to do that’s interesting? Portrait by Ports Bishop. ©International Center of Photography.
AB: What are your thoughts on the direction that Mark is leading ICP? Do you both have the same vision for the future or are there some places where you disagree? FR: I think he’s right. His thought is to make this a community, a center of thinking about it all. We’d like to start a think tank here just to get people around the world asking some of these questions: why does ISIS dictate so much of what we think of in terms of imagery? While there’s hardly any imagery on climate change that has that kind of impact. Why is it that we’re finding the non-professionals making such important imagery and what do they have to teach us? Mark and I agree that we’ve got to experiment with new stuff, while we preserve and respect the past. AB: You claim that digital photography has very little to do with traditional photography, that photography is not even an accurate term for this new medium. What do you think are the major differences between the two mediums? FR: My book After Photography is about that subject. The argument there is that the analogue processes are continuous while the digital processes are discrete, you can change it pixel by pixel. Digital is code-based. It’s not an accident that at the same time we re-conceive of ourselves as code-based with DNA, we invent code-based media. This digital work is going to move into an exploration of what it means to be code-based and DNA-based. The analogue is very much like Newtonian cause-and-effect. Digital is like the quantum sense of the world. It’s like genotype versus phenotype. The old photography is phenotype, appearance. The new imaging is much more genotype, code infrastructure. When we invented the automobile we called it a “horseless carriage,” because we didn’t know what it was yet. When we did, we changed the name. It’s the same with what we call “digital photography.” As we start to move forward, we’re going to find it’s not simply a more efficient analogue photography. Once something’s in code you can output it as another medium. If I photographed you digitally, I could output it as music with an algorithm. It becomes a musical instrument. AB: What trends do you see emerging in photojournalism in the present and in the future? FR: We’ve seen a lot of photographers fired recently. There’s a sense that photographers aren’t that valuable on a website the way they might have been on paper. On paper, if it’s Annie Liebovitz or somebody of that quality, it can last for a whole week. It’s more like a painting or something tangible. On a website, often things are very small, and it doesn’t have to have so much depth or complexity. Cartier Bresson would be wasted on a website. Plus, it’s ephemeral. You may see a great image and then an hour later it’s not there anymore because they’ve updated. It’s a 24-hour news cycle. If I asked you to name the most iconic photographs in the world from the last decade, there aren’t that many. The Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movement had lots. Part of reason for that was the fact that they were works on paper and they lasted for a week or a month. On the Internet, everyone is not looking at the same stuff. They’re hiring multimedia people who can use video, sound, photography, text. There’s often teamwork too: you need a sound person, you need an image person, and so on. It’s more of a cinema model. The other angle is that the photographer is liberated to do their own stuff, like how painters in the 19th century, when photography was invented, became impressionists, cubists, pointillists. You can argue that it’s a great moment for photographers to do innovative work because they’re against the mainstream at this point. AB: You have said the most important and iconic images today are coming from amateurs. What can professional photojournalists learn from amateurs? FR: If you look at Robert Frank in Americans, in a way he was a professional working like an amateur. He was intuitive. He was following his own muse. I think social media is pointing to this idea that, just like Jacques Henri Lartigue or the snapshot photographers, sometimes it’s just good to work in an idiosyncratic, intuitive way. It’s loosening. I always think of Imelda Marco in the Philippines. The great image was of her shoes, but that’s something a five-year-old would be interested in. We need more and more people working in the margins, showing us stuff that we wouldn’t normally think of, and that way it penetrates. AB: Are there any photographers or photojournalists working today who you think are radically defining the new medium?
FR: I think Jonathan Harris, who is a computer programmer, a photographer and an artist, is somebody who’s doing extraordinary things in terms of storytelling. There’s one where he’s following indigenous people on a whale hunt and you see the rhythm of the images speed up according to his heartbeat. Jim Balog’s extreme ice survey, where he put cameras to go off automatically so that scientists and others could see the melting of the glaciers. The nice thing is you cannot say there’s one or two movements, there’s many. It’s like 1920 in Paris. If somebody said, “Could you just say the interesting painters or artists?” There would be so many that you’d want to point out. I think we need more experimental work. It could be a poet using imagery, it could be people making use of imagery from surveillance cameras. AB: Considering all that you’ve said, what do you think is the biggest controversy in photography today? FR: I think the biggest controversy is its worth. I did a panel years ago at NYU with professional photojournalists, and I asked the question, “What does the professional offer that the amateur doesn’t?” There were two answers: “We can rely on the professional not to fabricate,” and, “They’re better at photo essays or longer form.” I’d like a more complicated answer than that. We fought so hard for photography to be accepted as an art form equivalent to painting and the other arts. Photography is really asking to be reinvented at this point. I wouldn’t call it the biggest controversy; I would call it the biggest question. I think the answers are going to come from the practitioners, as they make their work. For me as a teacher and a dean, I’m trying to open up the ideas so that they find plenty of room to experiment. Eventually forms will emerge that make sense. I’m thinking of Sophie Calle’s project where she found the someone’s address book and then photographed the people who were in it. That’s an inventive way to make a portrait. You don’t have to copy Avedon. You can do it some other ways. AB: What are your thoughts on Photoshop, regarding digital manipulation regarding photojournalism? FR: I started writing about that in 1984 for the New York Times magazine, about the coming revolution of photography. I said we have to do something now so we have standards: what can we change and not change, what can be done and not done, or else people won’t believe it. I wrote a book in 1990 called In Our Own Image on the same subject. Then I came out with different plans such as an icon that you would put under an image like a copyright sign, in case it was manipulated, and then you could click on it and find out how it was manipulated, so the reader wouldn’t be duped. That was 1994. Always the industry said, “Don’t worry we know what we’re doing.” Now you have a case where 20 percent of the World Press Photo New York finalists were rejected for too much manipulation, but nobody’s really set up an industry standard that the public knows, let alone the photographers. The way I think of it is a photograph is a quotation from appearances. If I say something now and you change my words, it’s not a quotation anymore. If you change a photograph in a way that is not quotation from appearances then you have to tell the reader, if it’s in a journalistic, as opposed to an artistic, context. The only question then is where do you draw the line? If you darken the sky a little bit, is that okay? The journalistic industry has been very slow to come to standards that are publicly known. How can 20 percent be rejected? They must not have known the standards. We need a big discussion about that, but also once you lose credibility it’s hard to get it back. That’s why I thought 20 years ago we needed to talk about it. In some ways it’s good because photographs have never been the truth anyway, they’re just an interpretation. But we want to know which ones are fact-based interpretations and which ones are not. If you go to a bookstore, you know what’s fiction and nonfiction. In photography, is Cindy Sherman fiction or nonfiction? Is Ansel Adams fiction or nonfiction? We don’t even know how to apply the terms. AB: What do you think the future of print is? In 10 years, will we be looking at anything on paper? Is there a future? FR: I think that there will be things in print, but they will be things that deserve to be on print, things where the print brings a different texture, a different permanence. A lot of things don’t deserve to be on print. You see more and more photographers with these oversized publications now in print. They’re kind of screaming out, “Print is important and my pictures need it!” Either it has to be printed well or the print has to serve a purpose. That’s all to be decided, but I certainly think print and printed photographs will continue to be very important.
EMERGING A RTISTS Sergio Ximenez
Sergio Ximenez. Top: “27.944312, -82.445485z”; Bottom: “41.003763, -80.662802”.
Sergio Ximenez. Top: “46.346126, -2.557571”; Bottom: “49.833315, -24.037474”.
EMERGING A RTISTS Stephen Spiller
Stephen Spiller. Untitled #6, from the project Fashion Is Murder, 2015.
Neil D aCosta mo r mo n sutr a
Andrea Blanch: Are you a Mormon? Neil DaCosta: No. Sara and I are married and we’ve both lived in Salt Lake City. We have a lot of friends who are Mormon, who aren’t Mormon, and who were Mormon but aren’t Mormon now. We were around the LDS church a lot, just from being in Salt Lake. AB: Tell me a bit about your background and how you got into photography. ND: I did most of my growing up across the river in New Jersey, and got a camera when I was in high school and then learned that you can make that into a career. I went to college in upstate New York, at Rochester Institute of Technology. There I decided that I didn’t want to go on the path of moving to to New York or L.A. or Paris to become a famous photographer, so I got into snowboard photography which I did for a handful of years. Once I felt like I was done with that aspect of photography, I wanted to move into more of a commercial aspect. I ended up in Portland, Oregon shooting advertising, lifestyle, and product photography but also doing projects like this to keep it fun for me. This project was done in Portland. We’d always wanted to do a project about Mormons, Sara and I. [To Sara] You want to give your background? Sara Phillips: I snowboarded, so that’s how I met Neil. We were doing that together for a number of years. Then I went to an experimental advertising school in Portland. That was the impetus for wanting to do more projects. ND: That brings us to the first project we worked on as a team, “Astronaut Suicides.” She had access to an astronaut suit for a weekend, and it was right when the funding got cut for NASA and the last space shuttle landed. We did a series of this astronaut committing suicide in different ways. That one made its rounds on the Internet. It was pretty popular. SP: It was the timing. JFK had made such a powerful speech about going to the moon by any means necessary. A lot of people in that community were losing their jobs. It was interesting to take a black humor approach to it. We thought it would engage people that typically wouldn’t care about that. ND: It worked out great. Someone who got laid off from NASA after the shuttle landed emailed thanking us for the project and that his former colleagues really enjoyed it. Portrait by Andrea Blanch. All images from the series The Book of Mormon Missionary Positions by Neil DaCosta, Sara Phillips and Shelby Menzel. 85
ND: After that project, we wanted to work on another. SP: It was organic. It wasn’t like we plotted it for three years. Things just coincided, with the timing of the elections and everything. It seemed like a fun thing to do. AB: How did you come to this idea of putting Mormon missionaries in sexual positions? ND: It had different meanings for the three of us involved. I thought it was a response to Proposition 8 in California that outlawed same-sex marriage. Prop 8 was, from my understanding, back-ended by the Mormon church who called on their congregation to donate money to it. Even though they’re not allowed to meddle in the government, they blurred the lines there. This was a visual discourse about the separation of church and state. It wasn’t an all out attack on the church, but a rebuttal to the way that they handled things. SP: If you can laugh or joke about anything, you’re much more open to having a discussion about it. So it was a way to open up a dialogue. The project was based on a quote and there was no skewing it one way or another from our perspective. ND: The church was in the news because Mitt Romney was running for president. We knew from the Astronaut Suicides that timing was important. That’s when we decided to finally make it happen. Missionaries go out as a pair usually, so that’s why we had two guys. It’s a time where you’re coming into your sexuality. Young males and females are put together and told to suppress those feelings. I obviously didn’t go on any missions, but I have friends who have, and they say it’s pretty wild, what’s going on in your brain at that age. Teenagers have a hard enough time figuring things out in that point of their lives. AB: What debate do you think you started with this series? ND: I hope it made it easier for people and families to talk about this subject of marriage equality by breaking the ice and giving it some humor. It might not be something they want to talk about unless they saw these photos and said, “Oh, that’s pretty funny.” Hopefully they go into a bigger discussion about it instead of keeping those ideas to themselves because they don’t know how to bring it up or approach it. AB: Why did you decide to keep the models clothed? SP: It was never meant to be offensive. It was meant to be humorous. Showing them in any state of undress would have charged it sexually and been offensive. There was a comedy in how pristine they looked. You wonder more what they’re thinking about. It was more interesting to depict these sexual positions with someone that kind of looks disengaged, rather than making it overtly sexual. AB: What was the process of preparing for the shoot like? ND: Shelby was really involved in that. He was in the church, and his brother went on a mission. He had all the technicalities of how the suit should fit what they should look like. I was almost thinking of doing it in an actual bedroom scene, but Sara being the art director suggested that we do it on the grey. It makes it sterile and makes you concentrate on the idea of it and not what’s going on in the actual photo. AB: The series became a viral hit after it was posted on Reddit. Were you surprised by the popularity of the project? SP: It got exposure on different media sites, but Reddit caused it to shut down the server. We had to reupload the server speed at 4 a.m. Some people wrote some great reviews about it, and from there it got big. It was done organically rather than us sending it to other people. Anytime there’s that much debate and people have organically shared it in that way, it feels successful. AB: What has the reception to this project been like? Have you received a lot of backlash? Neil DaCosta. Top: The Missionary Position.; Bottom left: Congress of Crow.; Bottom right: Pounding the Spot.
ND: There was some hate mail that threatened our lives, but most of it was positive. What I took away from it was that younger people in the church don’t have the same views as the old, indoctrinated views of the church. Their views are changing with society’s views. Their church is even starting to catch up with that. Not as fast as it should, but they are recounting some parts of it. They’ve had to do it before with other things, like allowing black people into the church AB: Were you anticipating any backlash? ND: Yeah. It’s a touchy subject. Like I said, we didn’t want to just go out and attack someone’s belief system and their religion because that’s easy to do. It’s not the way that I want to live my life. Even with putting this out the way that we did, I figured people would take it as an attack and some did. SP: We tried to reply to everybody except for a couple where there was obviously no point in replying, but it was just nice to be able to communicate with people who thought it was funny. AB: No emails from the head of the church? ND: That was a concern to us, because who knows what goes on in those upper levels of the church that people like us don’t know about. I definitely saw some heads from the Church of Latter Day Saints headquarters coming to the site and thought, “Oh boy. Is this going to turn into something bigger?” It hasn’t happened yet, knock on wood. I think it would happen to the Book of Mormon show people before it would happen to us. SP: I think that the church would realize it was a respectful way to do it. There was an effort to make it tasteful rather than just be offensive. AB: To be clear, you did this project because this whole question just got under your skin, so to speak, and you wanted to talk about it? SP: We all have slightly different perspectives. For me, it was a time when there was an election, and a candidate who was part of this religion wasn’t answering questions about the issue, even with a lot of people asking a lot of questions about it. AB: From your knowledge of the Mormon church or religion, why do you think he didn’t answer questions about it? ND: I personally believe that the church and Romney made a conscious decision to separate themselves because they know how they look in the eyes of non-church members. SP: He said that he very specifically didn’t want his religion to be part of the conversation, which seemed strange. You can’t shut that off when you’re running for an office as big as that, especially when you as a candidate aren’t able to separate a political decision that you make from your religion. At that point there was no separation. That, to me, was fascinating. AB: Personally, how would you feel about having a Mormon as a President? ND: I don’t want to go too much into my religious beliefs. I think that politics are ridiculous to begin with, let alone adding the religious aspect to it. SP: We want someone that’s open. If somebody has beliefs that are that strong, I would want them to be open about it and know that they would be able to govern without that being a factor. I appreciate that they have strong beliefs but in a position of power, they should be able to separate that. ND: Which I don’t think would have happened if Romney won. AB: For me, it’s cultish. I met a young woman who was in a cult until she was about 18 or 19. It took her that long to escape. Neil DaCosta. Top left: Drawing the Bow.; Top right: Phoenix Red Cave.; Bottom: Supported Congress.
ND: That’s what’s so sad about it. They really don’t have the choice. And when they do have the choice to leave, or if they get out without having the choice to leave, there are still residing issues because of how much control there was at one point in their lives. AB: How do people receive them when they leave? ND: Families that stay in churches don’t appreciate when their family members leave, but the church does try to get them back. Like Shelby, every once in awhile, they try to find him and send him a letter, like, “We forgive you. Come back.” I think his grandparents were never that excited that he left the church and his parents don’t really follow along with the church’s beliefs anymore. AB: Would you say that this is the most personal or controversial work you’ve done to date? ND: I believe so strongly in the equality issue that I almost feel like Astronaut Suicides was more controversial. We probably got more emails on that, like, “This is completely insensitive. How dare you do this? I just lost a child to this.” I’ve lost friends to suicide through various ways and it sucks. But when it comes down to it, I guess it is their choice. It’s not something that I’m going to repress and not talk about because it does happen. I don’t believe as strongly about that as I do about the equality issue. AB: What’s next for you? ND: Now that we’ve had an astronaut killing himself and two mormon guys boning in their clothes, it’s going to be tough to top. We’re trying to figure it out. SP: The thing is, neither project has come from us sitting around saying, “We need to do a project. Let’s come up with something.” They’ve just come from issues that are around. You start talking about it and it bubbles up from there. AB: Has this been monetized? Are you going to do a book or anything? ND: No, but my feeling is I don’t want to make money off of it. That wasn’t the intent in the first place. Maybe we could make it into something and donate the money towards one of the advocacy groups. SP: It would be cool to see them big, because right now the only format you can see them is online. Being able to produce something tactile is always super fun. ND: It’s just doing it properly, now that this thing has had such a life. Neil DaCosta. Above: left: Pressing Twining.; right: Yawning Position.; Opposite: Top: Hanging Bow. Bottom: left: Sixth Posture.; right: Mare and Swing. 90
EMERGING A RTISTS Jean Paul Gomez
Jean Paul Gomez. Opposite: Untitled #21; Above: Untitled #4.
R o b ert M applethorpe by shershah atif
Robert Mapplethorpe once said that for him, S&M does not stand for sadomasochism, but for “sex and magic.” Mapplethorpe’s photography explored the richness and complexity of a thriving underground subculture and challenged society to reconcile with material thought of as taboo: homosexuality and eroticism. His work, ranging from black males to female body builders to still lifes, coupled sexually charged subjects with high-brow stylistic artistry recalling classical sculpture and portraiture. At a time when mainstream culture ignored and rejected homosexuality, Mapplethorpe’s presentation of homoeroticism, which mixed feminine grace with masculine vigor, demanded attention. He roused society and provided the public with access to a downtown New York City subculture through his art. His elevation of BDSM as an artistic subject speaks to his photographic prowess, making him the master photographer of this issue of Musée. Even after Mapplethorpe’s death due to AIDS in March 1989, his traveling solo exhibit titled “The Perfect Moment” was met with censorship. The exhibit included graphic depictions of sadomasochism, bondage, fistfucking and more. Conservative politicians called to revoke public funding for the exhibit. The Corcoran Gallery of Art declined to host the exhibition to avoid controversy, yet in effect, the decision perpetuated public contention surrounding the subject matter and federal funding of the display. The Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, which presented all the images in the exhibition without censorship in 1990, along with its director Dennis Barrie, were charged with obscenity. They were acquitted, but in the wake of this surprisingly late example of the obscenity trial, there resurfaced debates on free speech, artistic expression and government regulation, both in the U.S. and internationally: one gallery owner in Madrid was jailed for exhibiting the work. What was the controversy? For Mapplethorpe, his friends, and colleagues there was nothing at all offensive about the images. Mapplethorpe was channeling the subculture for which he felt so much affection and sense of community. Each photograph, no matter how extreme the content, was taken with the same graceful aestheticism with which he photographed orchids. The controversy, then, is the act of bringing these images from subculture into culture, from an insulated community into the mainstream art market. Self-portrait with a Bullwhip, in which Mapplethorpe is penetrating his anus with a bull-whip, artfully blurs the border between sadomasochism and art photography, between the photographer and photographed, between the fucker and fucked. Mapplethorpe turned to another overlooked subject matter in his 1986 exhibition titled “Black Males” and book titled “Black Book,” which were critiqued for being exploitative. In the photo Man in a Polyster Suit, 1980 the subject’s penis is the focal point. By cropping the subject’s head, Mapplethorpe exemplifies the subject as a sex object. Ajitto, 1981 also serves to further question mainstream objectification of black men. Along with techniques from sculpture and portraiture, the black and white images accentuate the beauty of the human anatomy through statuesque nudes. At the same time, the black male is sexually idealized as an object of racial fantasy. Surrounding Mapplethorpe’s celebratory and life-filled imagery is an aura of tragedy, a sense of life’s ephemerality. Some of the men in “Black Book” died within a few years of being photographed. Mapplethorpe was not only photographing nude black males as subjects not previously explored, but he was also recording a lifestyle that unfortunately resulted in an indomitable disease that plagued him and so many of his close friends, including Sam Wagstaff, his collector, friend, and lover. Mapplethorpe was not merely a voyeur, but a participant. Mapplethorpe’s work challenged the status quo. Asserting race, gender, and sexuality as artistic subjects, he opened the medium up to a wider representation of human experience. He was ahead of his time. He was bound to be misunderstood. And what society and mainstream culture misunderstands, they bash. Mapplethorpe has left a legacy and a body of work that pushed the boundaries of art, morality, and legality. Robert Mapplethorpe, Self Portrait, 1985.
applethorpe sex a nd ma gic
Robert Mapplethorpe, Ajitto, 1981.
Robert Mapplethorpe, Charles Bowman, 1980.
Robert Mapplethorpe, Cock and Knee, 1978.
Robert Mapplethorpe, Man in Polyester Suit, 1980.
Robert Mapplethorpe, Calla Lily, 1988.
Robert Mapplethorpe, Brian Ridley and Lyle Heeter, 1979.
Robert Mapplethorpe, Patrice, 1977.
Robert Mapplethorpe, Self Portrait, 1978.
EMERGING A RTISTS Brooke Goldman
Brooke Goldman, Above and Opposite: Untitled, from the series Revisit.
EMERGING A RTISTS Jada Fabrizio
Jada Fabrizio, Nobody Falls In Love Half Way, When you open your eyes and realize that the person you cared for has nothing to offer you, but heartache.
Kay Cher n u sh lea ve no victims
ANDREA BLANCH: Do you think sex trafficking can be brought to an end through legislation? Why or why not? KAY CHERNUSH: You need to make a distinction between trafficking and prostitution. Laws can definitely be changed so that sex trafficking, if not totally eradicated, can be vastly reduced. Ultimately, it can be eradicated but there are laws in this country that need to be changed. Congress just passed a law that will make some inroads with that. For example, in New York, Carolyn Maloney is very active in the space, and other senators and congressmen have put forward new legislation to try and make sure that victims are treated not as criminals, but as victims, and that help is provided. The trick is to get funding for those laws once they are passed, so it is not enough to pass the legislation and feel good about it. The public needs to be made aware of the situation, which is where we come in as the awareness piece of it. Once there is awareness, they can bring all kinds of pressure to bear so that there is proper funding to help victims. AB: What other organizations or leaders are you working with to continue raising awareness on this issue? KC: We work with individuals and with organizations. Some of the trafficking organizations that I work with are Free the Slaves, Polaris, my partner in Singapore is EmancipAsia, called EmancipAction, and Courtneyâ€™s House, which is a provider of direct services here in D.C. Fair Girls is another provider of direct services, and we are also partnering with the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta to do an awareness campaign this fall, and with a group called Unseen U.K in Bristol in looking towards an awareness campaign in England in 2016. We are also with Frontier Organization in Mumbai and other anti-trafficking NGOs in India. Those are just a few. We had our first U.S. awareness campaign in Jacksonville, Florida working with Freed Firm, my partner Crystal Freed in Jacksonville, the Dolores Barr Weaver Policy Center in Jacksonville, and the Florida Coastal School of Law. We were exhibiting at Michigan State University and a wonderful group of the departments came together with the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force. We had two exhibits up there for two months. There is also the NYU student group called Against Child Trafficking. Portrait by Kay Chernush.
AB: Why, in your opinion, does the government throw sex work like prostitution and sex trafficking in the same basket? KC: It has to do with the differences of how people view sex. There is a wide spectrum how people view prostitution, so this somehow gets entangled, with all those nuances. AB: What do you want your viewers at your exhibition to walk away with? KC: The ultimate take-away is, “Oh my God, I did not realize this” or “I did not realize the extent of it and I am going to do something about it and I am going to use my own skills, whatever they may be, whether I am a student, lawyer, doctor, health professional, graphic designer, artist, social worker, etc.” Imagination is our one renewable resource. It’s important that we get all hands on board because this is such a complex and insidious problem. Once we build these communities of goodwill and awareness, people can start taking action in things that really do make a difference. By using multiple layers in my images, they are constructive photographs. What I’m after is letting people see another point of view. I want people to be able to burrow into the experience of these people, and just for a moment or two, try to grasp what that’s all about from the inside. AB: It’s difficult but you have to continue to chip away at it. You have to infiltrate it because there is so much money involved. KC: 50 billion dollars AB: Very hard. KC: It’s very hard. It’s hard also because there is a lot of mom and pop activity, not necessarily a big mafia. There are organized trafficking exploiters but there are also a lot of opportunists. If we can educate young people, especially boys, to think differently about women, that’s a huge starting point. We need to enlist men. This issue resonates very strongly with young people, so we have a wonderful opportunity there. We also need to fairly address the issue of labor exploitation, because that is the biggest piece of trafficking. Sex trafficking is not the largest part of it, but it’s easier for us to talk about the sex trafficking. Labor exploitation is something that is intertwined with the products that we buy, with the food that we eat, the clothes that we put on our back, the electronics that we purchase, and how we live. How can we avoid that and how can we encourage companies that are not using slave labor in the production of their products? That is a really huge piece and that is something that we can really tackle. The survivors themselves offer strength and I always learn from them. There is always something new to learn. It’s pretty amazing to see the accomplishments that people have made coming out of such trauma. AB: You guys are heroes. I know you don’t want to hear that. KC: We are not the heroes. What I am hoping our work helps accomplish is to change the moral landscape. Whatever we think about Uncle Tom’s Cabin and that artwork, it changed the landscape. When Harriet Beecher Stowe met Abraham Lincoln, he is reported to have said, “ So you are the little lady who wrote the book that started this great war.” This was 150 years ago. Without question, whatever we think about her book, it did help change the moral landscape of that time, and we need nothing less now. It’s unacceptable in the 21st century that we have people who are bought, sold, and forced into a life of slavery.
“…I remember every client, every face, like a horror movie that replays over and over in my nightmares.”
EMERGING A RTISTS Dawid Furkot
David Furkot. Opposite and Above: Untitled. 113
E dm u n d Clar k th e re’s no place lik e ho me
Andrea Blanch: How did you gain access to Guantanamo Bay? Edmund Clark: I applied to the Pentagon to do a body of work about the American experience at the camp. Very few people knew about the camp until the news coverage began. All we were seeing were pictures of people in orange jumpsuits in cages. I wanted to show a wider perspective of the place. AB: What restrictions were placed on you? EC: The restrictions were different depending on whether you were on the naval base itself or in the prison camps within the naval base. When I was with the naval base, there were escorts everywhere. You were told what to photograph and what not to photograph. In the prison camp, it was much more prescriptive and restrictive. You were escorted everywhere and before you went you had to agree not to photograph certain things. No security cameras, no unmanned watch towers, not more than one watch tower in an image, and no identifiable faces. You weren’t allowed to have the sky and the sea in the same picture. Subsequently, I have found pictures with obvious infrastructure deleted. AB: Did you work around the restrictions to get the kind of photographs that you want? The pictures I saw were quite powerful, poignant and surprisingly artful. EC: I knew the kind of imagery I didn’t want to take at Guantanamo. The photographs I had seen before going were nearly all by news agency photographers. They were pictures of men in shackles, men out of focus through cell windows, backs of people’s heads, even the military guards were presented in disembodied ways, as camouflaged presence without faces. All those pictures were contributing to this narrative of dehumanization, regardless of whether you thought of it as a good or bad place. I didn’t want to perpetuate that way of seeing the place. The pictures I took inside of Guantanamo itself were of the spaces of detention and the objects of the people who were detained or in the act of detention. They were part of a wider body of work that also looked at spaces of occupation in the naval base and consequently the spaces where people were living once they had been released from Guantanamo without charge in the United Kingdom or in the Middle East. I was looking at the issue of Guantanamo through these three notions of personal space, home, and domesticity. I was trying to look at this event through imagery that spoke about the everyday, about home. I was trying to re-contextualize the event, which is all about dehumanization, and get people to identify in terms of their own daily experiences. I’m not in Guantanamo to be a photojournalist and take news pictures. Is it art? If that’s what people want to see, then that’s fine by me. I think the point of that work is to use imagery as a way of re-contextualizing this place in a way that engages people enough to want to stop those things. I think that is the point of art: to create something that engages people and then gives space to reflect. AB: With Guantanamo and almost with all your other work, you photograph spaces rather than people. What do you feel space reveals about the people occupying it? Following spread: Edmund Clark, Naval Base.
EC: In the personal spaces, I wanted to photograph homes that people didn’t expect to see in relation to detainees at Guantanamo Bay. I concentrated on people in the UK and Europe or people living in the Middle Eastern countries that have a strong link with America. I didn’t go to Afghanistan or Yemen, to photograph in those homes because that’s the kind of place people expect to see. That kind of experiential distance between people living in the West and people living in villages in Afghanistan would just serve to further the disconnect between them. I photographed in homes in developed Arab cultures that have the furniture and fittings and decorations that can identify a Western presence there. I wanted to show what small-town America looked like in relation to these places. I want the spaces I photograph to show ordinariness and normality, because introducing those in relation to Guantanamo Bay is not what people expect. AB: What, if anything, did you find at Guantanamo Bay that surprised you or changed your preconceptions of it? EC: I tried not to go there with preconceptions. The American side of the naval base rather than the prison camps themselves was what I found the most unexpected. I was interested in the naval base because I found out it was a base outside of America that’s been there for over a hundred years, existing behind this big razor wire fence and minefields. I was surprised, and this might sound naive, to find the Americanness of the place - to find a McDonalds restaurant and a Subway. It was incredibly interesting to see this microcosm of a place that has effectively been part of America for a hundred years even though it’s not America. To see so many motifs and reflections of militarism, spirituality, consumerism, and confinement going on in this little world that’s like the Western world, but in this geopolitical event of the prison camps. AB: Despite promises and attempts from President Obama, America has yet to close the prison in Guantanamo Bay. In your opinion, what are the reasons for this? EC: I’m not a politician. For what I am, I feel there has been perhaps a lack of political will to push it through on the part of the Obama administration. I think perhaps they missed a golden opportunity at the start of the president’s first term in office. This was the first thing he said he was going to do when he came into office. You know he could have tried to relocate some of the prisoners to American soil as early as possible. I think the passage of what he wants to do is being blocked by Congress not giving him the budget, not giving him the chance to relocate people at Guantanamo to American territory, and it clearly became a symbol in America for ‘you’re with us or you’re against us’. America doesn’t have the appetite to do it. There’s little awareness in the West about what happened at Guantanamo, who’s there and why they’re there. It’s painted with the brush of “They’re all terrorists; they get what they deserve.” It’s been simplified. AB: “Control Order House” is another series in which you explore incarceration, though a much different form of it. What drove you to incarceration as a subject? EC: It’s because incarceration has been a response to what’s known as the “War on Terror.” It’s about the use of incarceration in Guantanamo and Control Order represents the exercise of state power over the individual at its most profound form. You have people who are detained without due legal process, without proper evidentiary process. Individuals have their liberty taken away from them and are put in situations where they don’t have the opportunity to prove their innocence. For a country like America to pay bounty money to people in Afghanistan to detain people without due process, yet claim to be the beacon of honesty, democracy, and fair play is a fundamental change in the West. Guantanamo Bay is an example of the spaces that will be seen in years to come as these epoch-changing definitions of what we’re prepared for the state to do to individuals. AB: Being an American living four blocks from the World Trade Center, seeing the plane go into it and both buildings tumbling down, you feel that you want to do whatever it takes so that doesn’t happen again. I say that in an abstract way. I’m not talking about someone being detained illegally. EC: It was an appalling and obviously indefensible act of terrorism. But my work is not campaigning. My work is as much producing objects and documents of history as anything else. I have a lot of sympathy with the administrations in America and Britain that had to respond to the events of 9/11 and the events of the London bombings. I think with the passage of time and history, in hindsight people will look back on Edmund Clark. Top: Camp X-Ray, interrogation huts. Bottom: Naval Base. Following spread: Camp 5, detainee’s cell.
things like Guantanamo Bay, and realize that they are far from being exercises that produced intelligence and prevented attacks like 9/11. Guantanamo Bay has become a symbol of injustice and resentment around the world, and has actually perpetuated the probability of threats, making us less certain rather than more certain. I’m trying to do something that chrysalises these events and a way of looking at these events that takes away from all the political rhetoric, all the drama around them, to look at them with more perspective. AB: Your bio says your work links history, politics, and representation. How do you feel you have linked your background in history to your photography? EC: It’s realizing that the visual document has surpassed the textual document. It used to be that things were written down. You can call me a photographer, but in a sense it’s more about how I use the pictures. I’m interested in how imagery can explore ideas and say things about experiences rather than being seen as single images telling a truth. I don’t believe that images tell a truth. You create documents and bodies of work that explore ideas. The series called “Letters to Omar,” they’re not even photographs. They’re scans of this man who was held in Guantanamo Bay, and you see the messages and cards he received. He never received anything original because he was at the highest level of non-compliance and he wouldn’t abide by the camp rules, so every part of his life was controlled by his guards and interrogators. The material sent to him was scanned, redacted, stamped, given a unique archive number, and then given to him as a scan. The documents represent the aesthetic choices people make for a card or message, then they have the images created by the bureaucratic process, which then got used as part of control process exercised over the individual, and then added to his sense of paranoia and disorientation: the key precepts of the process of detention and interrogation at Guantanamo. Those are historical documents, but they are also images created by Guantanamo. They’re testimony to the experience of degradation and control. AB: Why did you decide to become a photographer after studying history? EC: I initially was interested in photojournalism and the idea of using a camera to look at the world. I went off to do a post-graduate course, and soon realized that I didn’t think photojournalism was the way I wanted to work. It was slightly outdated. I’d say it took me ten years to understand how what I could do with images. I’ve been working for about 20 years. AB: Why do you think photojournalism is outdated? EC: When it’s good, it’s interesting. I think the place for it has gone. The idea of the photographer who works for a magazine and gets sent out to shoot something we wouldn’t see otherwise, that way of working and a way of showing an audience has gone. The audience is much more cynical than it was in the heyday of journalism. The people and the places that were going to be photographed are much more widely known and sophisticated and aware of how they are being represented. I’m not saying it’s dead. Sometimes people talk about photojournalism as though it were a thing that tells us ways of seeing, representing, modes of believing, what’s true and not true. To people who don’t know anything about photojournalism, it’s a little bit like portrait or fashion photography. It’s something they understand as a category of photography. As a practitioner, claiming that I’m a photojournalist that’s going to show a true thing is quite limiting. There’s much more complexity in how you can use images. I use painting. I use poetry. I use sculpture. For me, it would be like being a painter but owning a palette with only five colors. Of course you can recreate your own colors from the five colors but if you’re not allowed to make those mixes you’re only going to use those five colors. AB: I think that’s a good analogy. With Mountains of Majeed, you turn your focus to Afghanistan. What did this local painter Majeed and his work represent to you? EC: I was in Afghanistan to do some work on another project. I was initially there to photograph it as an extension of what I’d done at Guantanamo, to look at these enclaves of Western technology and life. The vast majority of people who go to serve in places like Afghanistan never actually leave the base. The base is surrounded by mountains. I hadn’t expected the proximity and size of the mountains. I found them interesting and threatening. The mountains would come and go during the day depending on the amount of dust or light, but you knew they were always there. I realized that this is the background of Afghanistan for Edmund Clark. Top: Camp X-Ray, interrogation huts. Bottom: Naval Base
Edmund Clark. home.
Edmund Clark. Camp 6, mobile force feeding chair.
the people who live there and never leave that base. Within the base, you come across other representations of Afghanistan, whether it be through murals in meeting rooms, or as I found in this dining facility, a series of paintings by a local Afghan called Majeed, which were interesting because of where they were, screwed to the wall of a dining facility, seen by tens of possibly tens of thousands of pairs of eyes of people serving in this enclave. They were idealized scenes, and I was interested: were they like postcard images for a Western eye, almost like a tourist eye, or were they an Afghan artist reflecting on idealized landscapes of his own country at a time of war and destruction? I was interested in the contrast between the Westerner in this enclave photographing with a state of the art digital camera and an Afghan artist creating simple paintings. It was a way of including the “Other” into our discourse about the war, an Afghan perspective by an Afghan artist, to make his representation as relevant as my representation. In the book, I also use Afghan poetry. AB: What’s next for you? EC: I’m close to completing a project about extraordinary rendition: the process of picking people up and flying them around the world to either be interrogated in black sites run by the CIA or detention centers run by other countries.
Edmund Clark. Original, hand-censored letter to a detainee from his daughter.
Edmund Clark. Top: Model of 1990s Refugee Camp in Naval Base Museum. Bottom: Camp 1.; Following spread: Camp 1, exercise cage.
Jen Davis, Seconds. All images courtesy of Lee Marks Fine Art, IN and ClampArt, NY.
Jen Davis, Untitled No. 16.
Jen Davis, Untitled No. 11.
Jen Davis, Untitled No. 39.
Bar b ara Kr u g er cur r ency of langua ge ANDREA BLANCH: You seemed uneasy about being included in our “Controversy” issue. Is there something you don’t like about the word “controversial,” or being labelled as such? BARBARA KRUGER: I am wary of categories. I’m not sure what that word “controversy” means. It has different meanings in different contexts. One person’s controversy is another person’s melatonin. AB: Speaking of labels, your work gets different labels from critics. “Appropriation art”, “conceptual art”, etc. Do you have any issues with these labels? How might you describe the work you do? BK: Again, the labelling is usually a journalistic device. Unfortunately, it can be a lazy device. It can narrow the possibility of what meaning can be made. It puts you in a box. It’s not really about appropriation. I’ve never used that word. Labelling is not productive as far as I’m concerned. AB: How did you get to do what you do? BK: I started at a young age working at magazines. I have no undergraduate or graduate degrees. I developed this fluency in terms of engaging photography and text on a page. If you didn’t get people to look at the page, you were fired. In a way, my job as an editorial designer morphed, with many alterations, into my work as an artist. AB: So you didn’t start out thinking you were going to be an artist? You started off in a commercial venue? BK: The idea of being an “artist” was so distant to me. I was one of the kids in elementary school who could draw. Skill in drawing doesn’t necessarily make you an artist, what with the invention of photography and other ways of replicating. At that time, it seemed the art world was twelve white guys in Lower Manhattan. The idea of being a young woman making art, there were so few models for that. When I started working at magazines I wanted to be art director of the world. That lasted for about five months. I realized I just didn’t have the ability to create so many other people’s images of perfection. I think the difference between being a so-called “artist” and a so-called “designer” is the client relationship. As a designer, you have to have a very broad creative “range,” because you have to deal with so many other people’s preferences and wishes. As an artist, your job is to define yourself someway through your work. The limitations you’re fighting against are not some other person’s, they’re your own. AB: What happened that led you to pursue art? Did you just wake up one day and say, “OK”, or did Mary Boone discover you? BK: Mary actually came much later. At first, I was doing work using fabric and stitching. The problem was, I felt I was putting myself to sleep with that work. It was a repetitive procedure that just didn’t work for me, so I had to figure out what it meant to call myself an artist. I’d taken a few visiting teaching jobs, living in different towns for six months a piece, doing a lot of reading, and trying to figure out what I could do that would engage me. Ironically, I came to rely on the skill I had developed working in magazines. I tried to figure out how to make that my own. I had shows at Franklin Furnace, Artist Base, and at PS1 of early photo-text work. Larry Gagosian was my first dealer. I did two Los Angeles shows with him in ‘81 and ‘82. Through Larry I met Annina Nosei, a New York dealer who I had my Barbara Kruger. “Untitled” (We have received orders not to move), 1982.
first New York show with. About four years later, I showed with Mary. Before that, I had met Monika Sprüth in Germany. She’s been my dealer for 28 years. 28 years feels like 28 minutes. It’s scary how time flies. That’s the trajectory. It was incremental. I feel so fortunate that someone even knows my name and my work. I’m not being disingenuous when I say that. I think the whole subculture, like many, is full of arbitrary decisions and crapshoots. AB: Have you always been a big reader? Or did you become more so during this time in your life when you were trying to figure yourself out? BK: I think I became a reader during that time, and don’t read as much as I’d like to now. In many ways, I have a short attention span, and that has helped me connect with the quality of reading going on today. Who ever thought that the literature of the future would be the haiku? AB: In Interview Magazine you are quoted as saying, “There can be an abusive power to photography,” singling out street photography and photojournalism as examples. How can photography become abusive, in your opinion? BK: I’ve done so much work about the power of pictures and words to tell who we are and who we aren’t, and how stereotype works. There’s an act of power pointing a camera at a person. Street photography, for instance, was a whole career niche based on the ability to look for the most divine moment, the most grotesque extremity, the most extreme comment you could make, and to build up a career of capturing those moments. I don’t think it’s evil, but it has been underexamined as a methodology of power and capturing. The same thing is true for photojournalism in general. The question today is: do pictures make a difference? Things have changed in terms of everyone carrying a device that is camera-like and capturing every moment. We’re seeing a transformation of what photojournalism and journalism is through Twitter and through Instagram. It certainly dislodges the uncontested site of the “photojournalist.” AB: Especially when an amateur gets the cover of Time! But as a photographer, I think it’s exciting. BK: Me too! I think it’s a democratization of access to technology and picturing. Again, because it’s a tool, it can serve both good and evil and everything in between. AB: Had you ever met Susan Sontag? BK: No, I’d never met her. AB: Were you influenced at all by her writing? BK: I only found out later about her writing on photography, which I agree with. You have to understand that Diane Arbus was a teacher of mine. AB: What was that like having Diane as a teacher? BK: She was terrific, I liked her tremendously. She was the first female role model I had that didn’t wash the floors six times a day. I was saddened, and even angry, when I heard of her death. But, even at a young age, I was very uncomfortable with her practice. AB: Because of her subjects? BK: Because of the method and manner with which she pointed her camera. It worked for her, but I really had some problems with it and still do. But again, I adored her as a person. AB: Language can create as well as distort meaning. How would you describe your relationship to language in your work? BK: It varies. In the image work, it’s on top of an image. My large, immersive installations are only text. Barbara Kruger. Clockwise from top left: Untitled” (Your body is a battleground), 1989.; “Untitled” (Your gaze hits the side of my face), 1981.; “Untitled” (Not ugly enough), 1997. 140
Barbara Kruger. “Beliefe + Doubt,” 2012.
And in my video, it’s interspersed; sometimes it’s spoken, sometimes it appears as an image. Because the video is time-based and immersive, it asks something else of the viewer. Whereas some of the pictures and words together, it’s a quicker read. That’s the kind of economy you learn at magazines. AB: Your work has appeared in a variety of formats outside of galleries and museums, everywhere from postcards to billboards, buses to coffee mugs. What are the reasons for this? Is this an attempt to break out of institutions and address people directly? A comment on commercialism? BK: It’s a little of both. But it’s also trying to “reach out and touch someone.” There are so many different ways of working and being an artist. The subculture is so professionalized now. Everyone thinks they need an MFA or a PhD, and I have none of those things. That doesn’t mean I wish I didn’t. It would be nice to be a little more educated in a specific way. Nevertheless, some work is more coded than others, and if you don’t crash the code, you don’t get the full meaning of the work. That’s true with abstract and conceptual work. My work, some of it, not all of it, is available on a broader level. You don’t have to have a PhD in conceptual art to understand it. I felt I could occupy a number of sites and still make meaning that, hopefully, promotes doubt, asks questions, and tries to be vigilant. Again, all the work is a series of attempts. I make no great claims for myself. I’ve said before that I’m fortunate that people know my name and my work. The work that is known and not known is so arbitrary. Now that the market has become so narrow, but huge, things have changed for young artists who think they are going to make money off their work. Most artists will never be able to support themselves through their work, even with the inflated market that’s happening now. AB: Your signature style, text over appropriated images, seems to have transitioned well into the digital era. What do you think about the influence of digital mediums on art? BK: The biggest influence that digital mediums have on art is that people buy art from jpegs now. That has fueled a very narrow portion of the market. The way it’s changed things on a broader level is that images and meanings are available globally and instantly. Not only the making of art, but the commentary around art. The commentary around art can be rich, developed criticism and theoretical writing, or the most damaging opinion-making and pathology-driven declarations and judgments. It could also be the fact that, when you walk into a museum now, people have cameras and are making videos, or they’re talking to their friends and not even looking at what’s on the wall, or they’re just taking pictures of themselves saying, “I was here.” I don’t think that’s bad, but I do think it represents a crisis in what it means to be a museum. How institutions deal with that is going to be interesting, especially in a country where there is no government support for culture and the arts. When I lived in New York, I was not part of museum culture. When I came out to California, because museums here have artists on their boards, I got involved with being on boards of museums, so I understand both the privileges and the struggles. Museums in Europe are going through the same problems now because there has been withholding on government funding for culture. AB: Talking about museums changing, I can’t help but think of Jeffrey Deitch. He’s been influential in changing the landscape of museums by creating these spectacles, which have been become an important part of how museums today function and bring in an audience. What are your thoughts? BK: I’ve known Jeffrey since 1978. There’s been a long history of doing populist shows in museums. Even before he came to MOCA, there was the Murakami show and there was a boutique in the lobby. These things did exist. I thought his street art show was fabulous and was in the line of what MOCA shows are. So, I don’t think that it’s anything new. Also, I did the very first show in Jeffrey’s Wooster Street space. I have tremendous affection for Jeffrey. I just think (and he would agree) it wasn’t a match. MOCA has always been a curatorially driven institution. Jeffrey saw himself as a curator, which meant the curator felt out of loop. It was far more complicated than the way it was reported in the press. There were no good guys and bad guys. It was just a situation that was an example of the difficulties of cultural institutions today. I’m not avoiding the controversy thing, I just think it’s a construct. What is controversy? If you go on a right-wing website, you’ll see what they think controversy is. What’s controversial in little skirmishes in the art world are like tempests and tea pots. What is so-called transgressive behavior? Barbara Kruger. Top: “Untitled” (Thinking of you), 1999-2000.; Bottom: “Untitled” (We don’t need another hero), 1987.
What creates conversation and shame? What makes shock? Who knows? These are very variable situations. AB: Which you address. BK: I try! I have a series of attempts. AB: It’s interesting what you said before, because one of the reasons I like your work, aside from it being appealing visually, is that I can understand it without having to read about it. I just wonder what a lot things would be like if you didn’t have a piece of paper to explain them. BK: It’s complicated because that’s the way the subculture has changed. I remember going to an art show in SoHo when I was young and didn’t know the art world at all, and feeling so angry and intimidated by this work because I hadn’t crashed the code. I thought it was a conspiracy against my own intelligence. I can relate with those yahoos in Congress who said, “My monkey could do that.” Do I think they’re right? No, I don’t! But I do know that people who feel a lack of knowledge, feel shame and anger. It’s possible to be educated and to crash the code and to get a great deal out of that work in consideration. Examined lives are interesting and productive and priceless in many ways, and they get examined through many methodologies, some more complex than others. It doesn’t mean that the complexity makes for a better examination, but it can wield some great rewards when you have crashed the code. I’m for all different ways of thinking. I’m also wary because America has always been such an anti-intellectual culture. I think it’s possible to be brilliant and to make huge leaps that are productive and mind-blowing, and not use language that is impenetrable and opaque. Some language purposefully mystifies and doesn’t even know it’s doing it. I frequently say to students how important it is to begin to learn how to write about their work. If you don’t at least have a baseline of what you think you’re doing in your own language, you’re going to have someone else write a press release, and you don’t want to hear how dealers talk about your work. AB: How would you write about your work? BK: I wrote for Artforum for many years. I didn’t write about art, I wrote about movies and television, because I grew up with both of those things. Writing is like pulling teeth for me. I’d just say I’m an artist who works with pictures and words because I think they have the power to tell us who we are and who we aren’t, what we can do and what we might not do. I try to make work about how we are to one another. It deals with power, with definition, and with agency: all of the things I think about. AB: You and Richard Prince are two artists who use the vocabulary of mass production in their work. In our last issue, we featured Richard’s Instagram series. What do you think about social media? Have you ever consider using it in your art? BK: I don’t know about using it in my art. I very much follow it. It’s interesting because it brings all this information to us, and yet it can narrow us. I frequently tell people that when we used to read newspapers in hard copy, I would read every section rigorously, three hours a day. When you read online, you read more selectively and not as rigorously. You go to websites that you have bookmarked. I think Richard’s discovery of Instagram has been very productive for him, and another part of what his engagement has always been. He’s an amazing artist. AB: You often address the viewer directly in your work, usually using the pronouns “you” or “we.” Is there a particular response you are trying to provoke from viewers? BK: I think a work or an image makes meaning in different ways, and different places, and different bodies. There are generalized meanings that can be taken, but people have such varied opinions about what those meanings are. It’s not like I can make a prediction. In general, I’m interested in ideas of power, of life and death, of money, control, sexuality, and pleasure. It’s a broad base of possibilities for me. Once again, I’m wary of categories so I like to leave it as open as possible. Barbara Kruger. Opposite: “Untitled” (Don’t turn me inside out), 2008.; Following Spread: “Untitled” (Unacknowledged/Untold/Unafraid…), 2007.
EMERGING A RTISTS Victor Koroma
Victor Koroma. Our Fantastic Death by Crayons, a series that juxtaposes a tool that symbolizes death and destruction and a tool that symbolizes creation and youthful imagination.
EMERGING A RTISTS Pacifico Silano
Pacifico Silano. Opposite: One Hundred Sets of Eyes, 2014; Above: Figures in Red, 2014.
Catheri n e M orris the k eeper
Andrea Blanch: You have said that your priority as curator at the Elizabeth Sackler Center is to “show that if you’re looking at visual culture in 2015, you’ve been impacted by feminism.” What, in your mind, are the most significant ways that feminist movements have influenced contemporary art? Catherine Morris: We did an exhibition here a couple years ago about that called “Materializing ‘Six Years’: Lucy R. Lippard and the Emergence of Conceptual Art.” One of the major points of that exhibition was to describe the impact that feminism had on conceptual art. The impact of that old adage “the personal is political” is a way to start thinking about the way that feminism has impacted visual culture. The emergence of feminism coincides with the emergence of identity politics as material, and with the acceptance of personal and biographical narrative being reintroduced into art-making in the 60’s and 70’s after a strong period of formalism. The emergence of conceptual art, and women in particular, refocused on narrative and biography as legitimate content for art making. I would credit feminism as participating in that. We can see the ramifications of that today in identity politics and in the strong marriage between a lot of contemporary practices and political content. AB: That’s very interesting. In general, women’s art is about their emotional experiences and interior self, in comparison to men’s art which is less so. CM: I hate to generalize, but I feel that when you come from an experience of oppression and repression, or lack of equity, part of the job becomes reinforcing the validity and currency of your experience which had not been focused on. That does boil down to personal issues and personal politics. One of the other things that feminism has impacted is revisionist history. Judy Chicago and other art historians had an image of rewriting history and reinserting women’s biography into the history that they had been written out of. By inserting voices that had been left out, you change history. For feminists and people of color and other people who are not part of that White Guy Narrative, it becomes about telling smaller stories that open up into larger issues. Rather than grand historical narratives, history becomes about individuals and it becomes about “lived experiences,” an expression that Lucy Lippard uses that I really like. “Lived experience” is valid material for art-making. Feminism has made that true in contemporary art. AB: Who do you think today’s feminist artists are? CM: One of the things I’m conscious of, being a curator of feminist art, is that feminism permeates visual culture in so many ways. I think now the idea of feminist art is not so much a movement as it is a pervasive reality. Different artists prioritize feminism in their work in different ways and in different moment of their careers. Rather than thinking of feminist artists, we think more of artists whose work Portrait by John Surface. Following Spread: Installation view of Lorna Simpson: Gathered. (01/28/2011-08/21/2011). Christine Gant photographer. All images courtesy The Brooklyn Museum.
has feminist content. If you think of feminism as a social movement that is, at it’s most basic level, about equity, then it should be important to everybody regardless of gender. One of the most significant cultural shifts that we’re experiencing in our lifetime is the idea that gender is something fluid that we can each identify for ourselves. From that sense, feminism becomes not just about men and women, but about lived experience for people who don’t necessarily identify as either. What that translates to when it comes to making art, then becomes broadly based. That’s what I’m interested in. That’s why we make such an effort in the Sackler Center is to find many different examples of that. The show we have up now is Zanele Muholi, a South African artist, who has a clear connection to feminist politics. Before the Zanele exhibition, we had a show by Judith Scott, who never in her life would have had a conversation about feminism, yet I feel that feminism impacted Judith Scott’s ability to make art. Those are two different kinds of approaches to what feminist methodology could be. AB: You have also said that the Brooklyn Museum offers an important context for the Sackler Center. Can you speak a bit more about how the Sackler Center interacts with the larger institution? CM: When the Sackler Center opened seven and a half years ago, there was a perception that it needed a discrete place in the institution. What I was just describing a few minutes ago about the ways binaries are breaking down and the ways in which fluidity between cultural understandings of feminism is important. The Brooklyn Museum offers the Sackler Center a larger historical context. I often say that
Above: Installation view of Judith Scott--Bound and Unbound (10/24/2014-03/29/2015). Jonathan Dorado photographer. Following Spread: Installation view of Zanele Muholi: Isibonelo/Evidence (05/01/2015-11/01/2015). Jonathan Dorado photographer. 158
I’m more interested in the Sackler Center because it is housed in a historical institution like this, than I would have been if it is was a stand alone. AB: How did you come to the Sackler Center? CM: I was an independent curator for a very long time, specializing in contemporary practices of the 60’s and 70’s, often alternative practices. That obviously engaged an involved feminism, and I had done several exhibitions focused specifically on feminism. And that’s how I came to be here. AB: For the 10th anniversary of the Sackler Center in 2017, you said you plan to expand the center to examine the entire museum through a feminist lens. How are you planning to do this? CM: It’s a very exciting project. One of the most exciting things about it is that it gives me and the Sackler Center the opportunity to work closely with every curator in the museum. Every curatorial department in this building will focus on how feminism has impacted their collection. We’re not going to be making the claim that any Egyptian goddess is a feminist. We’re making the claim that our history been impacted by the same idea of revisionism and methodologies. So what does that mean in each department? The Sackler Center isn’t a discreet, stand-alone world functioning onto itself. By virtue of the Sackler Center being here, you have to look at everything else in this museum differently. In 2009, the “Elles” project at Centre Pompidou, in which Camille Morineau rehung the collection as all women artists, was a radical gesture. She said about the exhibition, “Every exhibition that happens in the Centre Pompidou after ‘Elles’ will look different because of ‘Elles.’” Because the Sackler Center is a permanent installation, it will always have that impact. This is a historical institution so we’re not just talking about Modernism. The fact that we are all modern people, or post-modern people, we look at everything through the lens of feminism. The historical institution taking on this question is what makes this truly unique. AB: “Feminism” is a broad term. How does the Sackler Center attempt to address and include the many voices of “feminism?” Are there areas of feminism which you feel the Sackler Center has yet to address or you would like to bring more focus to? CM: The thing I’ve always loved about the Sackler Center is that it is a center for feminist art, not women’s art. I think that’s a great thing, but also a challenge. What that means is that we always have to be aware of the currency of feminism, and how people are thinking about it. Having said that, we are a relatively small space. Are there things I feel we should be doing? Sure. But I think the overarching goal is to think about the ways we need to touch down with each exhibition in a different relationship to feminism. The other thing we have in the Sackler Center is the “Herstory Gallery,” which is meant to relate to the 1,038 names on the “Dinner Party.” It’s a small exhibition space where we do small, focused exhibitions based on one of those women. That’s been a really fun opportunity for us because it allows us to look at the personal biography as an expansive way of looking at larger social issues, which I absolutely claim as a feminist methodology. We’ve also done a lot of historical shows there. The Sackler Center is largely understood to be functioning in relation to contemporary practices and post-feminist or Second Wave Feminist art. But one of the things I love to do is take advantage of the history this institution has to offer. We’re the only center of our type. AB: In your opinion, what are the biggest controversies today that feminism and feminist art, needs to address? CM: That’s an interesting question. I probably live in a bubble, but I don’t see feminism as controversial. Feminism does not have political, social or cultural equity by any stretch, but it is so much a part of the world we live in. Yesterday, I was on the phone with somebody talking about Emma Sulkowicz’s piece, which is a good example of something that raised a lot of discussion and certainly some controversy. She’s a young woman who graduated from Columbia, who carried her mattress around as a performance for her thesis project but also as a political statement to a person who she says perpetrated a sexual crime against her. That’s an example of the ways in which feminism can still raise controversial positions, and can still push against cultural norms. What’s interesting about Emma Sulkowicz’s project
is that it has such a strong link to the history of performance art, which is where her power comes from. AB: We recently talked to artist Barbara Kruger, and she said that when she began her career as an artist, the New York art world seemed like just “twelve white guys in Lower Manhattan.” In your opinion, how has the contemporary art world improved in terms of inclusivity and where does it need to improve? CM: I think the art world is entirely different from that description Barbara Kruger gave you. In the last 20 years, in particular, the art world has exploded in terms of the sheer number of people who participate. And there has been a shift from the focus of intellectual content coming. Everyone used to want to be a critic; everyone wants to be a curator now. It is a completely different animal. At the same time, it maintains some really pathetic fidelities to that original world Barbara Kruger described, which prioritizes male artists and young men, in particular, over young women. There is still a way where men are promoted based on potential and women are promoted based on what they’ve done. More and more curators are doing shows and work on women artists. It’s one of the reasons the Sackler Center has the opportunity to think more expansively about feminist methodology. The market is the biggest thing that’s stuck. Most of the people enrolled in art school and in art history programs are women, but they are not most of the people who are getting the jobs. AB: I’m curious. At the New Museum a couple years ago, Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev who was the curator for Documenta that year, someone called her a curator, and she said, “Please don’t call me that. It’s become that everyone’s a curator.” What do you think about that? CM: I’m definitely one of those people who’s old enough to roll my eyes every time I hear a new iteration of the word “curator” applied to a Williamsburg restaurant, or a design shop in Tribeca, or a sausage company in wherever. I feel a certain desire to have some fidelity to the original use of the word. At the same time, I have to recognize the fact that it’s being used so much also points to the ways people are interested in the idea. There’s something about the fact that we live in a culture that is so committed to social media that there is a real shift in thinking about images telling stories. That’s where curating becomes interesting to people. The old fashioned term for curators in the 19th century is “keepers.” So the charge when you’re a “keeper” of something is to protect it, to make it safe. The primary goal was you doing the research into it and protecting it and writing its history. Now, our job has shifted to bringing people through the doors to see interesting stuff. AB: What does it mean to be a curator, especially one working in a feminist context? CM: What I often, jokingly, say when I’m asked that question is that one of the things I get to be is a dilettante. I get to look around the Brooklyn Museum and talk to a colleague in decorative arts about a woman ceramicist or about 18th century quilts. I get to talk to an Egyptologist about funerary practices. I get to think broadly. I am trained in contemporary art and 20th century art, but I get to talk to other curators about what they do and think about how we can incorporate their voices into the Sackler Center. AB: How did you come to be a curator? CM: I did not come by a typical route. I do not have a PhD. I have a Masters from Hunter. I was an independent curator for about a decade, back when that term primarily meant “unemployed,” as opposed to today where it means you travel the world in someone else’s jet. I became a curator by curating. I was lucky early on. I came up in the art world with friends who I supported and who supported me. I did some exhibitions at local nonprofits like White Columns and other places, and I built up a resumé out of curating. I’m lucky to have a job as a full time curator without a PhD and without the institutional experience. Before I came to the Brooklyn Museum, I had worked with a lot of institutions but I had never worked in one. AB: That’s one of the observations repeated over and over again about Anne Pasternak. So what? She can hire people who can deal with the minutia. CM: That’s the secret of any successful person, to find the people who know what you don’t. Thomas Campbell didn’t have experience with contemporary art. What he did have was a very deep experience with museum culture. Anne has a very deep experience with New York creative culture and brainstorming around how one realizes and finances objects. She and Arnold Lehman share a strong sense of what the community
is interested in and where the interests of the community meets up with interesting artistic practices. AB: What do you think Anne Pasternak’s nomination as director means for the future of the museum? CM: Anne brings an incredible energy, an incredible commitment, and incredible intellectual curiosity. It’s a very exciting opportunity for both of us, the museum and for her, to join forces and see what will come of it. There’s such a strong feeling that I sense from people of where Brooklyn Museum is positioned and what it could be. Anne is exactly the right person to move that forward. AB: What do you think the Brooklyn Museum could be? CM: I think it could be more of what it is. It can continue to think of ways to incorporate historical collections into contemporary conversations, in smart ways. And think about who the people are to do that; obviously, the curators should be primary, but I also think the voices in the community and artists. There’s such a strong engagement right now with contemporary artists looking at history as material for their own work. A lot of institutions are doing it, but what we have is a unique collection and position in Brooklyn. Our history of engagement with our community can be expanded upon. A project like what we did with Creative Time, “Between the Door and the Street,” is a great example of a project that was very much thinking along those lines of what the Feminist Center has to offer, of what Creative Time can do in terms of marshaling resources in the city, to produce something that the museum partnered on, but that happens in the local community rather than inside the walls.
Above: Installation view of Chicago in L.A.: Judy Chicago’s Early Work, 1963-74 (04/04/2014-09/28/2014). Jonathan Dorado photographer. Following Spread: Installation view of Rachel Kneebone: Regarding Rodin (01/27/2012-08/12/2012). Christine Gant photographer. 163
T homas S tr u th
Thomas Struth. Mount Bental, Golan Heights, 2011. All images courtesy the Artist and Marian Goodman Gallery.
Thomas Struth.Top: Al-Ram Quarry, Kafr 窶連qab, 2011; Bottom: Hushniya, Golan Heights, 2011.
Thomas Struth. Top: The Faez Family, Rehovot, 2009; Bottom: Mount Bental, Golan Heights, 2011. Following spread: Front Yard, Tel Aviv, 2014.
E d L a c hma n th e idea behind the ima ge
Andrea Blanch: Can you speak about your art and the connection between photography and film? Ed Lachman: I came out of art school, so I think of imagery on a conceptual level as well as how you use images to tell stories. Images for me are like painting, whereas films have a beginning, middle and end to tell a certain thematic narrative. When images work, they’re open-ended. They allow the viewer to complete the story. I respond to the idea that people can subjectively imbue an image with their point of view. In film, you can show where you are, but it’s much harder to enter the interior world of a character. What I try to do in film is to create a world that allows the viewer to discover who this character is through images. In writing, it’s just the opposite. You can enter the interior world of the character but it’s much harder to show where that character is. AB: You’ve said that taking photographs on set is part of your filming process, like note-taking. When did you realize these photos had artistic value in themselves? EL: When I was doing “I’m Not There,” a large part of the film was in black-and-white. I used a blackand-white polaroid camera for exposure checks, purely for utilitarian reasons. Because the film was shot in black-and-white I had the only reference in how the wardrobe, the set, the makeup, the way the actors would look in black-and-white. Cate Blanchett saw some of these photos and asked me if she could have one. I have taken thousands of these photos over the years as references and I never did anything with them. I put them in a box someplace. It made me think about these as private moments with the actors. I realized I had captured personal moments for the actor—being in character, or within themselves. I scanned some of these polaroids and made larger prints and did a show with them. That was the origin of the series I called “Exposure Checks.” AB: You’ve described your photographs as “open-ended images.” What do you mean by this term? EL: Images work for me when there is an open narrative. The beauty of a photograph is that it’s a nonverbal form of communication like music. It can reach people intellectually or emotionally. I love the idea that you could create a narrative in reality that is left for the viewer to complete. Images are the subtext for the psychological world you’re creating for the characters. For me, photography is about documenting your personal experience. What you’re looking at is a subjective point of view. For me, in a Robert Frank photograph, I’m experiencing his personal experience in a poetic realism. The word ‘eidetic’ encapsulates what I think photography is. It is about constituting the visual imagery vividly through what’s reproducible of your own self. Edward Lachman on the set of I’m Not There, 2007.
AB: What about conceptual photos? EL: That’s a different world. I respect it and sometimes like it but it usually doesn’t speak to me. AB: Some of the photographs in your shows are still frames from your films. How do you think an image is changed when it is isolated in this way? EL: It goes back to what I’m saying. I’m not a still photographer on a set. I’m a motion picture camera guy. If you take a frame out of a film, which I’ve done in an exhibit at the French Cultural Institute, it opens up the possibility of what the narrative is, because the image is isolated out of the context. If you extract an image out a film, you can allow the audience to create their own narrative as to what that image represents, like a painting. I’m always trying to find what is unique in the story that allows you to approach the story in a visual way. In other words, no story should be told the same. You have to look for clues. All those things are subtext to the story. AB: So “Shadow”—an installation that you did at The Whitney—came out of an unfinished film that starred River Phoenix. EL: Slater Bradley, an artist, came to me and he had done a number of projects about dead icons that were important to him as he was growing up. I was resistant at first to do anything about River because there was so much publicity around him. I looked at Slater’s work and it was very connected to what his other work was. We were originally going to recreate the last scene that I shot with River, where he was in LA. We had built a paper mache tunnel and he has a long soliloquy with Judy Davis. It was apocalyptic what he was talking about, because he died that night. The other aspect was the last take: the camera was never turned off. You heard the director say, “Cut” and the lights went down, but when the assistant turned the camera off, I inadvertently turned the camera back on. You saw River become a ghost. He was in a silhouette against candles lit in this cave. He stood there for about ten seconds. Then he walked up to camera and his body covered the lens. And it went black. That was the image we were going to recreate. It was too expensive to recreate the whole set, so I said to Slater, “Why don’t we go back to the area in Utah where we shot the film?” It was this incredible area within a national park. I actually bought a ranch nearby. I said we could go to the location where we shot 17 years ago and see if we could find anything that was left. Well, we found the most incredible things. We found photos in the bar that belonged to River’s friends. We recreated another narrative with a doppelgänger. I became a doppelgänger myself by photographing a location that I had already shot on with the idea of River’s ghost. AB: Unlike photography, cinematography is collaborative. It’s not just a personal vision. You have to work with a team. What is the process like for an artist? Can it be frustrating? EL: I always say the relationship the cinematographer has with the director is like a marriage. Sometimes when you disagree with the director and you both have strong opinions about the visual interpretation of the story, you have to find a compromise, and that becomes better than what either of you had first conceived. Not all directors are visual. I like to work with directors that have a strong visual sense, like Todd Haynes, that you can plug in to their vision. In Europe, I find the language of how you tell the story is as important as the story you’re telling. In the studio system you’re expected to shoot the film a certain way so that you can control the images in the editing process. Whereas in independent or European cinema, images are more about a point of view of how you tell a story. Many scripts I read from Europe are not dialoguebased. They’re written through description and ideas about what the images will portray. Scripts in America are only written through dialogue. I always found that a limitation to understanding how to tell stories. AB: I find that very interesting because it explains why I always find European films more natural. EL: They come from a visual tradition through painting. In America, up until the abstract expressionists, we didn’t create our own visual idiom that was uniquely American. We come out of a more literary tradition. That’s why I think America doesn’t deal very well with different forms of irony. For people here, it has to be upfront, reinforced, black-and-white. They don’t deal well with the grey area. Edward Lachman. Opposite: Top, bottom and following spread: Far from Heaven, 2002
AB: It’s difficult to pinpoint a consistent style in your work. Your process is chameleon-like in a way because with each film your style changes. You often mimic other filmmakers as in “Far from Heaven” and “I’m not There.” Why do you prefer to work in this way? EL: Todd Haynes comes from a world of semiology. He uses film language as a metaphor for his storytelling. It isn’t just to make the film look like a Douglas Sirk ‘50s film, but it was about using melodramas—heightened gestures and mannered stylization—to express the characters’ claustrophobic stories of disillusionment in their picture-perfect world, that they’re seduced by, but can’t act on their own personal needs. Sirk was using the surface beauty of things as a form of repression. He was showing something about the false sense of optimism in America, about what the values of our lives were. That’s the way Haynes was playing with melodrama. Would it work today the same way it worked in the 50’s? The dramatic irony, through music, color, lighting, and camera movement, becomes a description of a world that ideally could be but is never allowed. AB: How do you go about planning a film visually and how is that process different from photography? EL: I’m interested in photography as an immediate response to something that I see. I’m interested in street photography. I’m not interested in staged or constructed photography. I think someone who does stage photography can have a particular narrative, but I don’t get the form over content photography. AB: Movies take a long time to complete, while photographs do not take as long. Do you prefer one over the other? EL: No, it’s about the process. Even in film, I prepare to capture what’s spontaneous about the image. To me, all films are some kind of documentation. Even in the narrative film, no take is ever the same. The actor doesn’t stand in the same light, the way the camera moves is never the same. For me, all images or all forms are a documentation, and that’s what I love about still photography: It becomes a documentation of your experience in that moment. AB: You’ve talked about how color is not just decorative but can be psychological. Can you give me an example from your work where you try to use color to bring out a psychological dimension? EL: When I studied painting, I looked at how color can represent a psychological emotion. I like to play with a two-color palette where there is a receding and an advancing color. Warm colors are advancing and cool colors are receding. In “Far from Heaven,” I showed night change as their relationship was disintegrating. In the beginning, the night has more of a periwinkle and purple tone. As the relationship changes, it became more acerbic and more yellow green. The relationship between Kathy and the gardener was saturated with natural colors, but they were primary colors. Then I showed the aberration of the husband in the gay bar in magentas, yellow-greens, and colors that would be secondary. In “Carol,” my latest film, an adaptation of a Patricia Highsmith book that takes place in the early ‘ 50s, I used a muted palate of colors, more in magenta and greens. I tried to reference the way film stocks responded to colors in the ‘40s and ‘50s and their grain structure. We shot in super 16, not in 35mm film, because film stocks have become almost grainless. In the digital world, filmmakers try to capture the texture and exposure of film grain, but because the image is pixel fixated on one digital film plane, it loses the depth of film’s three color layers, and the way grain interacts with exposure, which also affects how colors interplay between each other. AB: What is it about Todd Haynes that you like to work with? EL: Todd Haynes, Paul Schrader, Todd Solondz, and Ulrich Seidl. They’re able to understand cinema and the language of cinema, but they’re also telling their own stories. The incredible thing about great directors is that they’re original in the stories they want to tell. They have a personal connection to the stories they’re telling. Someone like Haynes has such a control of understanding the language and images. He doesn’t reference images as an imitation. He references images as a metaphor for the story. To me, images work best in metaphor. Images aren’t about representation. They’re about an interpretation of the world you’re portraying. I’m interested in the form of poetic realism. It is a subjective viewpoint and moral position that tells the poetic or psychological truth of an image. Edward Lachman. Top and bottom: Ken Park, 2002.
EMERGING A RTISTS Julia SH
Julia SH, Hello Bunniie! Model: Jordan Bunniie.
EMERGING A RTISTS Maddalena Arcelloni
Maddalena Arcelloni. Smith, 43, diagnosed with ADD at the age of 30.Â 183
Ke n Go n zales - day a bsence of pr esence
Andrea Blanch: How long did the Erased Lynching series take you? Ken Gonzales-Day: I’ve been doing research on the subject of lynching since about 2000. I was researching the history of Latinos in California and looking at portrait photography for the period between 1850 and 1900. I kept coming across images of Latino men who ended up being hanged. That was what started the investigation. It’s the history before the history of lynching that we all know. I discovered 354 cases in the state of California that revealed Latinos, Native Americans, and Chinese, when combined, were the largest group. I started the Erased Lynchings in 2002 or 2003 because nobody had ever heard of this history and I was trying to find a way to talk about historical erasure. On one level, it was a metaphor but on another level, I was trying to provoke people to talk about these missing histories. AB: Why do you think the Latino community was singled out? KGD: Most of the cases date from when California first became a state in the 1850s. There was antagonism and a fair amount of border crossing from renegade bandits. There was anxiety about the US-Mexico border, not unlike today. That was another reason I started the project, to talk about current tensions between the US and Mexico. I started the project during the Bush administration when we were talking about building a wall and other such measures. AB: What was your research process like? Did you encounter any difficulties? KGD: All of the books published don’t record this history or when they do, they often diminish the impact of Latinos. I started by reading Wild West adventure novels and historical books from the period and then later I had to actually go and fact-check, so I read the newspapers for Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento and the Steamer editions from 1850-1877. AB: How do you think this body of work brings in the history of photography? KGD: A number of different ways. For “Searching for California Hang Trees,” I took the Deardorff camera, which was used by Weston and Berenice Abbott and others, and used the master’s tool to rethink the California landscape. We are used to thinking of it as an empty space that is ready to be explored, conquered, exploited, farmed, mined, or whatever. I was trying to get at the idea that there was a history before history, invisible in the landscape, of people that were here before. I tried to create images that spoke to that without doing any triggering. I wanted to create a photographic meditation on this idea of the history. AB: In your opinion, why were the lynchings of the Latinos in the West more erased than that of those of the African Americans in the South? KGD: For one, the history of lynchings in the South begins its worst era after the Civil War. There are certainly cases before, but the numbers really begin to increase after the Civil War up until the 1880s. That’s Portrait by Ken Gonzales-Day. All images courtesy Luis de Jesus Los Angeles.
Anonymous, Santa Rosa Triple Lynching, 1920. Collection of Ken Gonzales Day.
Ken Gonzales-Day, Franklin Avenue, Erased Lynching Series, 2004.
when we get the first lists from the NAACP of Southern lynching. In 1910’s and 20’s, the number of lynchings of African Americans was at about 100 per year. By this point, Latinos were not being lynched as much. The small number of cases after 1920 were not well-documented. Part of it was because in the ‘20s and ‘30s they used the term “colored,” so they made a list that said “colored” and “white.” Latinos, Asians, Native Americans and others were recorded under the word “white,” because “colored” was reserved for African Americans. When you look at the lists, there are Latino names and Asian names, names that are not recognizably white. The NAACP ended up recording almost 5,000 cases, of which 2/3 are African American and about 1/3 are not African American, so “white” and whoever else is mixed in. AB: Why do you think lynching still occurred when there were formalized methods of law enforcement in place and even when lynching was explicitly outlawed? KGD: Sometimes it was because the legal system had been taking too long. Sometimes it would be the accusation was something dramatic, like a villainous crime against a woman or a child. Sometimes it was just being in the wrong place at the wrong time: they might go into the sheriff’s office to get a particular bad guy, and just take everyone else as well. Some of the early cases are from the 1850’s and 60’s, when the legal system was still developing. There was a 16 or 17 year old Latino who got lynched in downtown Los Angeles because he was accused of killing a German woman who ran a grocery store. They catch this kid in the street and stab him, and then they take him to the corner and hang him. The thing is, we don’t know if they got the right kid, or if there was guilt of a crime. Everyone deserves the legal process. There are also cases where they didn’t like the legal process. Say somebody got a life sentence rather than a death sentence, they might break in and actually execute them there. I came across the coroner’s report which had details for a specific lynching in the 1920’s. In this particular case, it seems the police were involved because there had been a shootout and a detective was shot. A group of these men were arrested and lynched from the prison. It happened within 12 minutes from the time they were broken out of the jail cell. It was not a mob in the way people imagine how a mob works; it was a planned event. In terms of contemporary events, I wanted to talk about the police violence that we’ve all been engaging in recently and put that in a larger context. AB: What is the symbolism behind these absences and empty spaces in your images? KGD: The absences are for the histories that are not represented, for all the social and cultural dynamics we can’t name, all the things that escaped naming. The current project is about collective violence versus collective resistance, and pairing contemporary events with the historic. When you look at the Ferguson images, you see burned down buildings and the empty streets. Is that a result of mob violence or collective resistance? The only way we can interpret that information is if we have the historical information. The photograph itself is unable to give you the editorial; it can record but it’s not necessarily truthful. The absences allow the viewer to think about their relationship to the image, not just my relationship with the image. We are all responsible for how these images function and how these histories manifest themselves. AB: In your opinion, how has race related violence evolved and changed in America throughout the course of history and what is the difference, if any? KGD: Initially, the idea was to use the vigilance committee, the mob, as a way to bring justice to the Wild West. By 1920, the vigilance committee was used as a way to mask an intentional, targeted killing. If you look at the statistics, one sees that often a person of color will have to do less to receive capital punishment than an Anglo person. We see that from the very beginning. I have, in the book, a parallel record of legal executions which is roughly 20-25% people of color, which is disproportionate for the population at the time. Today, we are aware that there are histories of racial violence and oppression but we also imagine ourselves to be beyond racism.. The invisibility and the nuance of difference are harder to talk about. We can talk about education, prison populations, and the distribution of food. It’s still a factor, but now we would say it is an economic, biological, cultural, or social factor. AB: Do you believe, as civilians, we can improve the situation with police brutality and vigilante justice, such as with the Trayvon Martin case? Ken Gonzales-Day, East First Street, Erased Lynching Series, 2004.
Ken Gonzales-Day, der Wild West Show, Erased Lynching Series, 2004.
KGD: Certainly, there have to be ways to improve the procedures, whether that be through training or better education, not just of the police, but also of the community members. I photographed the protests after the grand jury verdict to not indict the police officer for the Michael Brown case. 180 people were arrested, mostly young adult activists trying to exercise their civic duties. Some of them will now have criminal records. How does one even talk about that? The theme for the show is “collective resistance vs collective violence.” Can we really tell the difference? I was thinking about the lynch mob in the 1920s case and the protest marchers of our own time, and the strange dynamic of what we consider the legal, moral, and ethical high ground. Who is the bad guy, and how does that function? Are we all a part of the mob? A mob is not how people have imagined a spontaneous collection of people. For the most part they were planned in advanced. So the question of spontaneity has been a way of masking what has really been racial violence. In the same way we can think of these police shootings as masking a bigger problem. Why is it happening all across the country and happening in such numbers? Maybe it has always been happening in such numbers, as some studies suggest, but the larger question there is what will it take to eliminate that situation? Forget blaming the victim or the police officer. What do we have to do to socially and culturally create a place where people don’t have that kind of fear, anxiety, and pressure? AB: What have been some of the reactions to this project? KGD: It varies, but mainly supportive. It’s still hard for people to look beyond the drama of the images at the larger questions. That’s why I wanted to revisit it in a new form. I thought the film would allow people to have a temporal experience, to engage with the history in a new way. Like in Erased Lynchings, I allowed the viewer to see the figure up until the moment he reaches the tree and then he is no longer visible. You have a feeling of an absence but you’re not exactly sure how it manifests itself. My hope was that people would see the connections to current events, and understand that they are part of a continuum dating back to the origins of our nation. AB: Do you feel as though you’ve explored all you’ve wanted to explore with this subject? KGD: I’m working on a public art project for the LAPD. I’m going to be doing a series of work that pools images from both scientific or ethnographic collections in museums, and looks at how race has been depicted through time. We have all read texts and we can all imagine various theories. But it is different is to read someone’s editorial versus seeing the object. For example, what did a cast of a Native American look like when it was first displayed in 1915, and then what did it look like in 1930? Which color did they paint the skin? Did they accent certain features? The Profiled book looked at the idea of artistic representations of race. I always imagined there would be another book that looked at the scientific depiction. I’ve been photographing in museums over three continents and I have about 12,000 images so far. For the most part, these objects are embarrassments for the institutions responsible for their upkeep. Their scientific value is nonexistent, but they do tell us something about how people back then were thinking about a group or community. A lot of the things are in storage spaces and are no longer encountered. Nobody has seen or has wanted to see many of them for hundreds of years. I’m bringing them out of the shadows. It’s an invisible museum, I suppose, on some level. AB: Do you view your photography as a mode of social justice? KGD: I think of it as a mode of social engagement, as political speech or as a speech in general. These series take such a long time because to elicit the kinds of engagement I hope for is more than one image can do. It’s more like a pathway that allows viewers to engage with different histories, different approaches, and hopefully with a beautiful aesthetic to engage them on another level as well. Some of these strange, racist plaster objects from some ancient museum are quite beautiful; there’s a melancholy to them. I am inviting people to slow down and contemplate things that are not inherently pleasurable, but there might be some pleasure in trying to piece out the jigsaw puzzle that is racial and cultural discourse. AB: How does your identification as a Mexican-American influence your work? KGD: It influences certainly the topics and the issues I’ve been drawn to. I’m mixed race: my mom is Ken Gonzales-Day, Disguised Bandit, Erased Lynching Series, 2004.
Ken Gonzales-Day, Tombstone, Erased Lynching Series, 2004.
Anglo-American, Germanic, and my father is Mexican and Native American. I’ve always been aware of the different cultural things that might be put on me depending on the context. I do think that that has informed my interest in looking at the periphery of these discourses and not simply stating the obvious, but maybe the more nuanced part, how that legacy continues today or how that might be symptomatic of larger cultural, social, and economic issues. AB: What do you think about the anti-semitism that is going on in Europe? KGD: I haven’t been to Europe in a while so I only get what I know from the news, but certainly it seems that it’s revisiting a trend we have seen historically. What’s interesting about that is the way that it should help us to think about the question of ethnicity versus race. For example, if Latinos are not a race and just a cultural practice, then certainly we could think about the Jewish experience in that same way, right? Then the larger part of that, of course, is the question of whether race exists at all, and how it exists. There’s lots of cultural theories to argue that it’s more historical than biological, and for many people of color, of course, they emphasize the notion of skin color, the visibility of difference. For Jews, often the visibility is manifested through cultural visibility: through practice, dress, and other significations. AB: What advice would you give for an artist or photographer that wanted to embark on a project this large in scope? KGD: Don’t do it! Take your vitamins and get lots of rest! I don’t think I realized exactly what it was when I started out so it’s hard to imagine. For me it was trying to plan it out visually, to create artwork that engages and that can be engaged with socially and culturally. As an artist, we can speak to those issues in ways that are different than the historian or the politician. Sometimes my students will ask, “Shouldn’t I just go write the book or make the documentary or change the world by adding information?” With a lot of cases, the information has always been there; it’s a matter of getting the information back out there to re-engage people, and provide them with a new way to experience the complexities of human interaction.
Ken Gonzales-Day, This is What He Got, Erased Lynching Series, 2004.
EMERGING A RTISTS Yoav Friedlander
Yoav Friedl채nder. Camera Obscura, 2014.
S e b astia n J u n g er man of war Andrea Blanch: I’m curious, what’s your fascination with war? Why go from The Perfect Storm to war? Sebastian Junger: I actually went to my first war before I wrote The Perfect Storm. In 1993 I was in Bosnia during the civil war, or genocide, or whatever you want to call it. I learned how to be a foreign reporter. I was at the bottom of the food chain, but it was incredibly exciting work and I came home to this country very reluctantly to write The Perfect Storm. Then as soon as I was done, after I turned in the manuscript (and in those days you actually turned in a manuscript), the next day I was on a plane to Afghanistan. There was a civil war in Afghanistan in the 90’s of course, so I went there to cover that. The book came out a year later and really locked me up for awhile. By 1998, I was back in Kosovo covering that war. There was room in my life for both and I definitely wanted both. It’s all journalism but they’re not thematically connected. AB: Why did you choose the Korengal Valley? SJ: I didn’t choose the Korengal. I had been in Afghanistan for years long before the U.S. was involved there. As the war got bogged down and dragged on, I wanted to understand the American experience there. I was an “embedded reporter” with a battle company, the 173rd airborne in ‘05 and I liked those guys a lot. I had zero experience with the U.S. military. I grew up during the Cold War; I never thought U.S. forces would ever be in a protracted ground war. It never occurred to me that anything like Vietnam would happen again. My experience with them was profound and incredible. I thought Iraq was a mistake, but I thought differently about Afghanistan. I wanted to follow one platoon for a year. They went to Afghanistan, and they wound up in the Korengal Valley. So I didn’t really choose the Korengal. That’s where they were. AB: What did you think was the difference between Iraq and Afghanistan? SJ: Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. I don’t think it had anything to do with oil either. It was a ginned up pretext for a war. I think it was pretty clear Bush did not want to go into Afghanistan. He went in as lightly as possible, which is why the war dragged on. But it was extremely connected to 9/11. Our presence in Afghanistan was to a) collapse the Taliban regime, which was an awful regime, and b) push Al Queda into Pakistan where we eventually killed them. Afghanistan can be helped tremendously by international presence, like Bosnia and Kosovo. They desperately need military intervention in their civil war. AB: Your work is not so much a study of war, as a study of people fighting them. What did you find were the motivations to volunteer for war and specifically for combat among the soldiers you met? SJ: A lot of guys joined because their father was in Vietnam, their grandfather was in WWII, and they were from a family that had a real military history. When their chance came with the War on Terror, they jumped on it. Some of them said they just wanted to experience combat. They’re curious about combat. These are boys who played war when they were young in their backyards. Some of them said, “You know, my life is a mess. War would make a man out of me.” One guy was in fifth grade on 9/11, and as soon as his teacher told him what had happened, he decided he was going to join the army as soon as he could, and he did. AB: There’s a theory about war photographers and conflict photographers, that it’s difficult for them to stop, because they’re attracted to the adrenaline. Do you think that applies to you? SJ: I stopped. I think when it’s described in terms of adrenaline, it diminishes the seriousness of what’s happening. Adrenaline is about thrill, and that’s only a small component of the work. A more accurate word is “meaningfulness.” You’re capturing images of things that are of enormous consequence, which the world needs to make wise, Portrait by Andrea Blanch.
responsible decisions about. It feels like incredibly important work, almost like a sacred task. Someone has to do this, and I can’t believe I’m one of the people that gets to. What journalists really get addicted to isn’t adrenaline so much as the feeling of importance and meaningfulness. It’s spiced with adrenaline, but it’s not the main course. AB: You say you stopped covering war. How are you going to feel meaningfulness now? SJ: It’s a huge dilemma. I feel like if I fail to figure that out, it’s a lack of imagination on my part. War is dramatic, but that doesn’t mean it’s more meaningful than other things. It takes a subtler mind to find the meaning in less dramatic aspects in life. That’s what I’m doing. AB: When was the last time you were over there? SJ: ‘08. The end of the Restrepro project. AB: Then you started RISC? SJ: After my friend Tim Hetherington was killed, I started RISC. That’s why I got out of war reporting, because of Tim. AB: Did RISC help you find meaning? SJ: Absolutely. Someone’s got to keep doing the job. I want to support the people that continue doing it, and try to keep it safe. I don’t personally want to do it myself but this is how I’m pitching in. AB: In terms of skill-set, was there a big difference between journalism and filmmaking? SJ: Journalism is inherently investigatory and filmmaking can be as well. But the kind of film that Restrepo happens to be is not investigative. It’s experiential and expository. I did not want Restrepo to be a journalistic investigation into the war. Other people have done that, and I wasn’t interested. I wanted to understand the emotional experience of these young men in combat. And that’s intellectually different than an investigative piece where you’re trying to expose corruption in the Afghanistan government or the failures and successes of the U.S. military command. AB: You talk about the trust factor. Did they accept you right away? SJ: No group accepts an individual right away. Firemen, when they get a new fireman in the house, don’t trust him. Why would they? If you’re the new kid on the football team, no one will throw the ball to you. That’s just group behavior. With soldiers, the stakes are very high. The stakes are life and death. So the consequences of misplacing trust are even higher. And they’re predisposed to dislike the press, so you have to work against an anti-press bias that’s bred into them. But all things like that break down with time. After two or three trips I felt like I was part of the platoon. AB: The writer Joan Didion was quoted saying, “Writing was an occasion of daily dread.” Do you feel that way? SJ: I love Joan Didion. She’s one of my very favorite writers, and it’s heartening to know that she dreaded writing also. That you could dread something that you do that well is an interesting idea. Dread is a strong word, but there’s always this queasy feeling that you just don’t have it in you to pull this one off--this assignment, this book, whatever it is--you’ve just been faking it this whole time and now you’re going to be revealed. I think dread is healthy and good. If you’re living life and there’s nothing in life that you dread, you’re not testing yourself very much. If you’re entirely within your comfort zone, you’re not living your life well. It doesn’t feel good, but a life without dread is a poor life. AB: For the film, you put yourself in harm’s way. What was the fear factor like for you? SJ: Anytime you’re in combat, it’s frightening. Though, I would say it was less frightening than other wars I covered when I was by myself. I was with a platoon and I knew I was going to be taken care of one way
or another. I was in wars in West Africa where I was by myself, and it was chaotic and terrifying. It was way more frightening to be in a West African civil war than to be in combat with a platoon in Afghanistan, no matter how many bullets are flying. AB: There’s an expression used by soldiers from the American Civil War about the “strangeness and charm of combat.” What would you say is the strangeness of combat? And what is the charm of it, if you think there is any charm? SJ: I think all soldiers are simultaneously repelled by war and attracted to it. The charm of it--and that’s an interesting word you use-- is that you’re operating at an exceedingly high level: physically, mentally, spiritually. You’re very closely affiliated with the people around you. Every single thing you do is enormously meaningful because it could result in your survival or your demise. It has all the things that, if you took them out of the context of combat, would easily describe a religious experience. That was pointed out to me by Carl Marlentes, who was in the Vietnam War. He said that everything people go to church for is on the battlefield: your awareness of mortality, your zen presence in the moment, and affiliation with others that is transcendent, where you feel less important than the group. All that is what religions are pushing people towards, and they don’t even get there. But you do get there on the battlefield. Then you come home from the civil war, and suddenly you’re behind an ox plowing the fields. Which is going to feel more meaningful? The civil war, unfortunately. As a result, men often go back to war over and over again because it feels like that’s where real life happens. It’s an illusion, but that’s what it feels like. AB: How do you think all of this would change if a woman was in the platoon? SJ: She wouldn’t be in the platoon if she couldn’t turn into a man. Effectively behave, think, react, feel exactly like a man. If there was a woman who learned how to act exactly like men act in combat, they wouldn’t make that distinction. AB: How is that? How do men act in combat? SJ: They get incredibly dirty and exhausted. They are enraged by the deaths of their friends. They have zero empathy for the enemy. They have a loyalty to the other people in the group that gets them to expose themselves to risks and even die. And they have an absolute willingness to obey orders and the chain of commands. Your civilian identity disappears in combat. You could be gay, or you could be Harvard educated, your dad could be in prison--all of that doesn’t matter if you’re a good soldier. It disappears. No one gives a shit if your dad’s in prison or if you went to Harvard, no one cares either way as long as you’re a good soldier. I don’t mean the officers; I mean your peers don’t care. They’re judging you as a soldier because their lives depend on you. So there are hazing rituals; they’re pretty painful and humiliating and everyone goes through it. These guys are carrying upwards of 100 pounds on their backs for days at a time in the mountains. Very few men can do that, and very, very few women can do it. But if you found a woman who could do all of that, who was effectively functioning and thinking and acting like a man, I don’t think it would change the dynamic of the platoon at all. If there was a woman who wasn’t doing that and was retaining her civilian identity, whatever that is, she would be marginalized and eventually pushed out of the platoon. There were guys that were pushed out of the platoon because they were a liability. They found another place for those guys, where the risks were lower. AB: Has being in combat changed you and your character in any way? SJ: I think it matured me. I grew up in a pretty affluent suburb. Very quiet, safe, peaceful little town in Belmont, Massachusetts. I always felt overprotected, not by my parents, by the society I was in. Overprotected, underchallenged; I never really had to prove myself. I had never been in a situation where I had to sacrifice for others. I hadn’t been subjected to any of these core human experiences, which makes me very lucky on the one hand but on a human level, I felt like I had a poverty of experience. My exposure to war changed that radically. AB: Did you ever think of enlisting yourself? SJ: There weren’t wars to fight when I was in my 20’s. Maybe, had 9/11 happened when I was 23. It’s hard to reconfigure my own history, but I can absolutely imagine having signed up. Also you have to understand, because I’ve been to Afghanistan so much, I knew how much they needed international help .When 9/11 happened, the Afghans’ reaction was, “Thank god. Help’s coming.” Politically, I’m completely liberal, and all my friends are
liberal. There was a lot of cynicism about the war. My experience of the war in 2001 is memories of sitting on the roofs of houses by the frontline with Afghan families, and everyone’s watching the American bombers fly overhead and drop bombs on Taliban positions, and every time a bomb goes off they cheer. Of course that’s not part of the liberal narrative back home, but that’s absolutely what was happening there. We got into Kabul after Kabul fell, and the city was just ebullient. People were celebrating and cheering and dancing in the streets. It was a city liberated from an oppressive regime. When people found out I was American, they would come up and hug me and thank me for what America did to help them. It was a very moving experience. AB: Would you direct another film? SJ: I’m not going to find a topic in order to make another film, but if I’m working on the right topic, I’d definitely love to make another film. Filmmaking is amazing. AB: Why? SJ: You’re working with this medium which goes straight to your brain. Words are black marks on a page, and you decode them and take out the ideas that they represent. If you’re reading a book about war and you read about the sound of gunfire on the page of the book you don’t jump. You know you’re sitting in a chair reading a book about war. But if you’re in a theater and a gun goes off, you do jump. Part of your brain, the amygdala, doesn’t know you’re not at war. The two mediums are often very different things to the human brain. One is information and understanding, learning about something, analysis. The other is a direct immediate experience that goes straight to the very center of your reptilian brain. When you’re working in film, you’re working at a very intuitive, immediate, and primitive level. AB: This issue that we’re doing is about controversy, so other than war what do you perceive as the most controversial social issue today and why? SJ: I’m trying to think about what controversy is... AB: Well, war is a result of controversy. SJ: War produces controversy. I’m not sure it’s the result of it. I don’t think we got into World War II because of a controversy, but our decision to go into World War II created controversy. I think there are just wars and unjust wars; I certainly think there are stupid wars and smart wars. All of it should be controversial because the stakes are so high. There should be controversy if only so people don’t get lulled into the idea that every war is good and just. AB: What else do you consider controversial in the world today? SJ: I’m just going to start saying things that reveal my politics, which is fine. Other than war, I think the income gap in this country is controversial. Some people don’t think it’s controversial but I personally do. I don’t think gay marriage is controversial but a lot of people do. Controversy requires a whole society to be in conflict about it. What’s upsetting to me personally? I think the alienating effect on the individual of our society is catastrophic. The article that I just finished talks about the link between affluence, modernity and mental health. As modernity increases and as affluence goes up, so do suicide rates, depression, schizophrenia, etc. This is one of the reasons modern societies like the United States have such high rates of PTSD; it’s just another mental health issue that goes up along with everything else. The theory is that as income goes up, people live more individualized lives, which feels empowering but also is tremendously alienating. It feels like we’re advancing but actually in human terms we’re going backwards because what we want to do is affiliate in a group. People in London missed the Blitz. They were nostalgic about it, because everyone lived in camps in the tubes, which I’m sure were miserable and cold and horrible, except that they were all together. So that alienating aspect of modern society, and particularly in Northern European society, leads to an enormous amount of dysfunction and unhappiness. I also think we’re just creating an environmental catastrophe that future generations will suffer for. We got the first little prick of it in California. We keep putting off the problem, and we can’t keep getting away with it. I was saying to my girlfriend, it’s like a guy who keeps cheating on his wife and worrying he’s
going to get caught. You have to change the behavior or eventually you are going to get caught. I feel like that’s what we’re doing with the environmental problem. We keep dodging bullets. The behavior will eventually catch up with us. Industry and business have way too much say in our national policy in that regard. I think we’re not acting like a good tribe. AB: This sense of community that you talk about, what suggestions do you have to increase that awareness and create communities? SJ: I think mandatory national service with a military option would create a sense of unity in the country. Looking down the road, whenever our dependence on cars and gasoline collapses, people will be forced to function in much closer communities. If the furthest you can go in a day is how far you can walk, you’re going to spend a lot more time with people around you. That’s a long time in the future, but society’s going to change. There are going to be a lot of stresses on society: food stress, climate stress, disease stress. I think what society does when it’s stressed is it regroups in an intimate way. You could see it when Sandy hit New York. Neighborhoods were quite collaborative. Humans do it very instinctively. As the calamities that I fear our society is going to encounter more and more frequently, as those happen, I think society organically is going to retrench in a more communally organized way. I think we’re going to be forced to do it. No one’s going to leave their cul-de-sac in the suburbs voluntarily. AB: Do you miss being in war? SJ: I’m nostalgic about it. It was a very evocative time in my life, an incredibly powerful time. I don’t wish I was back there, but I miss it. But I wouldn’t ever recreate it. I would never go back. AB: Really? I don’t know why that surprises me. SJ: Ask someone who’s happily married, “Do you miss being single?” Part of the answer might be, “I love my wife and I don’t want to not be married. But do I miss being 25 and single? Yes! How could I not?” It’s the same kind of thing, I mean they’re contradictory impulses but humans contain contradictory impulses all the time. So, I miss war but I love the life that I have now. I don’t want to be back in war. I don’t need it. AB: That’s good. The transition couldn’t have been easy for you. SJ: It wasn’t. Tim’s death shocked me into changing my behavior. It’s like an alcoholic having a car accident. Not to equate war reporting with alcoholism, but basically the shock of his death jolted me into a radical life change, one which I was probably already thinking about. I did it for others. I wasn’t scared of dying. I mean you make your peace with that if you do this kind of work. What I didn’t want to do was harm and damage the people I love. I saw what Tim had suddenly done to everyone he cared about. I just didn’t want to do that to the people I care about. It’s a very primitive thing. You protect the people you love. Going to war is not protecting them; it’s jeopardizing them. AB: What suggestions do you have for steps our society can take to ease a soldier’s transition into civilian life? SJ: That’s what this Vanity Fair article is about. That’s a very complex topic. The real answer is that we would need to transform our society into something more community-oriented and cohesive in a way that would help all of us, and in so doing we would help soldiers. The Israeli military has a PTSD rate of one percent. I studied anthropology in college, and I did my fieldwork on the Navajo reservation. My guess is that the Sioux, and the Apache, and the Cheyenne, etc, had PTSD rate of zero. PTSD seems to be a function of mostly the cohesiveness of the community you’re in. You can be mildly traumatized in a fragmented community and your trauma goes on forever. You can be deeply traumatized and recover very quickly if you’re in a cohesive community. Any tribal society is extremely cohesive. Israel for a modern society is quite cohesive. And the war’s on their doorstep. My friend called it the shared public meaning of the war, and it’s much stronger if the war is on your doorstep and you understand the existential threat that you’re facing. If the war is 8,000 miles miles away, the shared public meaning of the war can be distorted; it can fragment; it can disappear altogether. We are all over the place, so people are traumatized for their whole lifetimes. What can we do for the vets? We could reorganize our society so everyone’s a little happier, but I don’t think thats going to happen.
Richard Mosse. Top: Tombstone Blues, 2012; Bottom: Lost Fun Zone, 2012. All images courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.
Richard Mosse. Madonna and Child, 2012.
Richard Mosse. Hunches in Bunches, 2011.
Richard Mosse. Top: Safe From Harm, 2012; Bottom: Colonel Soleilâ€™s Boys, 2010.
Richard Mosse. Top: Tutsi Town, North Kivu, Eastern Congo, 2010; Bottom: Of Lillies and Remains, 2012.
M arily n M i n ter g uest editor
featuring hank willis thomas and sandy kim with text by marilyn minter
When artists are considered controversial, it’s usually because they are speaking their native language to people who don’t understand it, and refuse to even learn the alphabet. Without any language in common, there is confusion and often anger from the viewer. In his “White Women” series, Hank Willis Thomas shines a light on mainstream advertising images that were not intended to be controversial at the time they were produced. Now they are appalling. The language of images changes over time. What was once considered quaint and funny- guys in blackface serving a white woman coffee- is so offensive today that it’s hard to even write about. The received ideas in advertising of race and gender have been altered so much in my lifetime that it’s shocking to see what passed as normal not that long ago. His show at Jack Shainman Gallery was so insidious. It’s scary to think about the subliminal damage that has been done to white women and black people- it’s incalculable. I think the work of Sandy Kim & the feminine grotesque is a backlash to the cultural ideal being perpetrated on women- especially young women. The culture industry creates robotic, unattainable ideals through Photoshopping and editing women’s bodies and lifestyles. I think Sandy Kim is actually staging a kind of a punk rebellion against these images, and it’s about time. This type of work is an important counterweight to images we’re inundated with every day. Sandy shines a light on something all women know, something that the culture industry says we should have shame about and she says fuck you, this is who we really are and shame on you for trying to erase us. Portrait by Nadya Wasylko. Following spread: Hank Willis Thomas. Golly, Mis’ Maria, Folks Jus’ Can’t Help Havin’ a friendly feeling’ for Dis Heah!, 1935/2015, 2015. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.
Hank Willis Thomas, Above: Top: That careless look, 2015. Bottom: Hospitality is quickly recognized, 1949/2015, 2015. Opposite: Will not go dull and lifeless, 2015. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.
Sandy Kim, from the project XXX.
Opposite and above: Sandy Kim, from the project XXX.
EMERGING A RTISTS Larry Torno
Larry Torno. Ride â€˜Em.
p ilgr im’s pr o gr ess
by conor o’brien
Between the real and the ideal there is an impassable gulf. If the Statue of Liberty represents a national ideal, the unconditionally receptive Mother, Ellis Island is her counterpoint. It represents the monitoring and control of people, and the rigorous enforcing of borders between them. For some of the immigrants who passed through there, Ellis Island was excruciatingly purgatorial. Their fates were uncertain: if they failed to meet a standard of health and could not recover, they were sent back home. For his Ellis Island project, part of the ongoing “Unframed” series, street artist JR exhumes the experience of turn of the century immigration to America, one for which “Ellis Island” has become almost metonymic. From archival photographs of the old Immigrant Hospital, the artist isolates scenes and people, enlarges them, and integrates them into the existing structure. Once among the largest and most advanced hospitals in the country, the Ellis Island Immigrant Hospital has had minimal upkeep since closing in the 1930s, and has fallen to ruins. While it was recently opened to public touring, with groups like Save Ellis Island petitioning for repair, JR is not interested in restoration. He works with the natural decay of the building, implying that the ghosts of a space are built into its physical presence, and that their ephemeralities are intertwined. Traditionally a more objective representation of the past, one could say the photograph is limited by being tied to the past it represents. JR’s photographic installation pushes beyond these limits, subsumes the past into the present, and breaks down barriers: between art and audience, between a place and its history, between one consciousness and another. JR is not concerned with the disconnected ideal; he is interested in (re)constructing a real experience. In one example, the life-size figures of a man, woman, and child stand at a window, looking out at the Hudson River. If one stands in the right place, the distant Statue of Liberty can be seen between them. In the original photograph, the same three figures stand at the same window, look across the same river toward the same statue. A photographic image is two-dimensional; here one experiences space and time, sees the area surrounding the figures, and senses the distance between them and the statue, how close and how far. JR pulls their experience from the frame of the past and places it in the immediate moment. He conjures these people, their hopes, their anxieties, and their memories along with their ghosts. Portrait by JR. All images © JR-ART.NET, Unframed Project - USA, Ellis Island, 15 September 2014.
EMERGING A RTISTS Justin Bartels
Justin Bartels. Opposite: Head Turning Heels; Above: Underwire Cups GIve Laurenâ€™s Boobs A Boost.
g ordo n par k s color blind
by conor o’brien
A possible obstacle in understanding Gordon Parks’ series “The Restraints: Open and Hidden” nearly 60 years after its publication in Life Magazine is the illusion of distance. That figure - 60 years- while surprisingly close, is still far enough to remove the photographs from us, to neutralize them with historicity. A younger generation, comparing the world of these photographs superficially with the one in which it was raised, might see in them a society that’s foreign, even quaint, in its open expression of racism. To look at these photographs and muse about how far society has progressed, how stark the contrast between this world and the one strewn with “White/Colored Only” signs, in other words, to only allow these pictures historical relevance, not only does a disservice to Parks’ message, but is a profound, and dangerous, misunderstanding. Parks’ photographs, in many ways, are a more honest representation of our own time, and a more accurate dissection of the current American psyche, than most surface depictions would reveal. For “The Restraints,” Parks followed three Alabaman families during the 1950s, at what was both the height and turning point of de jure segregation in the South. Jim Crow was still firmly in place, but what Parks’ photographs evidence is the fact that around this time, it was beginning to be seriously examined and questioned. The Thorton, Causey, and Tanner families are not among the cannon figures of the Civil Rights mythos, nor will these scenes of them buying ice cream, clothes shopping, or relaxing at home likely become part of the historical narrative of the movement. However, what Parks offers is something that bears an important relation to historical drama. Parks reveals how segregation was experienced on the level of the everyday, through the personal narratives of these three families. Whereas history casts a reductive eye on events, pitting protagonists against antagonists, with a clear set of themes, motives, and vocabulary terms, lived experience is much less sensational. Parks’ photographs not only show how public spaces were divided but also the gray areas where these divisions prove themselves inept and absurd. History divides; Parks opens opportunities to unify. Parks focused on the arena of the everyday, which he showed as being not only a stage for subjugation and separation, but also a place where experience is shared. If part of the original purpose of Parks’ series was to bring a white audience into intimacy with the black population from which it had separated itself, to restore a human ordinariness to the lives of people exoticized by segregation, then this purpose is still relevant today if in a slightly different form. Parks’ pictures offer a sense of the mundanity of how segregation was experienced. For the people in these photographs, segregation was something engrained into their day. “White/ Colored” signs were heeded like traffic signs or, perhaps more analogously, gendered bathrooms. Part of the value of these photographs today is their role as a reminder that the form in which discrimination flourishes is routine. There it remains unnoticed, and therefore unquestioned and uncontested. Consider the series’ title: it not only differentiates restraints that are “open” and those that are “hidden;” it also suggests that some restraints are both “open and hidden.” Because they are so routinely encountered, they make up a default reality, and are thus openly hidden. Portrait by Gordon Parks. All images courtesy The Gordon Parks Foundation.
Often, it is only in looking back after 60 years that we realize just how glaring an injustice was. Borders drawn on public spaces can be redrawn; borders drawn on the consciousness of a society are not so easily undone. The signs that once divided the public across racial lines have been outlawed, but this doesn’t touch the deeper problem, which is that their message has been internalized and continues to influence the experience of people raised in this country. Segregation has not been eradicated; it has mutated into something more difficult to identify, and more difficult to photograph. Gordon Parks’ pictures may no longer reflect the exterior landscape of American public space, but they have gained value as X-rays of a country still sick with the legacy of its racist policies. Understanding Parks’ photographs means not sanctioning them off to a departed era of history. It means realizing that these seemingly departed eras are also separated by borders that don’t actually exist, and that the practices of a previous generations are not contained within them. These practices seep into the succeeding generations. By turning his camera on the everyday experience of segregation, Gordon Parks brought visibility to a social problem that was both open and hidden, something the work still has the power to do. Gordon Parks. Opposite: Malcom X at Rally, Chicago, Illinois, 1963.; Above: American Gothic, Washington D.C., 1942.
Gordon Parks. Top: Department Store, Mobile, Alabama, 1956.; Bottom: At Segregated Drinking Fountain, Mobile Alabama, 1956.
Gordon Parks. Untitled, Nashville, Tennessee, 1956.
Gordon Parks. Mr. and Mrs. Albert Thornton, Mobile Alabama, 1956.
Gordon Parks. Above: Untitled, Mobile Alabama, 1956.; Following spread: Drinking Fountains, Mobile, Alabama, 1956.
EMERGING A RTISTS Maha Al-Asaker
Maha Al-Asaker. Opposite and Above: from the series Undisclosed, 2014.
T omas Va n H o u tryve f lying high
Andrea Blanch: How did you come to the idea of using the drone as a photographic tool? Tomas Van Houtryve: I was thinking of how I could use photography to talk about the drone war. It seemed like a significant development in warfare, but there weren’t any pictures associated with it. I had a National Geographic assignment where I had to photograph a mine. Nat Geo wanted an aerial photo and the altitude was too high to use a helicopter so they sent down an engineer from Nat Geo that had a drone. That’s where the two ideas crossed in my head. AB: How did you choose which sites to shoot? TVH: I did research looking through human rights reports. Some of the strikes are repetitive, but some strikes are much more telling and have personal details that humanize it. Residential homes, religious schools, wedding convoy or a funeral being hit bugged me. There have been hundreds of these strikes and I picked out ones that have a human hook to them. I took my drone to the United States and looked for those kinds of situations to fly over and take pictures. If I saw a strike report about a wedding in Pakistan then I’d go look for a wedding in the United States and fly over it with my drone. The idea was to turn the mirror. The U.S. government is looking at Pakistan from a drone’s eye view. What would it be like if we were looked at from a drone’s eye view? AB: Do you like doing this? TVH: ‘Like’ is not the right word. I’m used to photographing on the ground where there’s human interaction. If you wanted to gain access to something sensitive, you’d have to talk your way in there and get to know people. The drone can just fly over and take its picture. I’m using a medium that I’m not 100 percent comfortable with myself. I don’t like the idea of drones being everywhere. It’s a powerful tool. It comes with good and bad. You can see things that you wouldn’t see otherwise but there are privacy implications. I’m playing with a tool that’s dangerous and testing my own ethical boundaries. I’m trying to push that into the work to raise questions about how we should be using this technology. The technology is advancing faster than the regulations or the ethics that come along with it. AB: Where are you operating the drone? TVH: I always keep it in sight for safety reasons or I work with a spotter who keeps an eye on it. I vary my distance depending on what I’m flying over. If I was flying over a playground full of kids, I’d put myself in an obvious area so a parent can come and talk to me and I can show them what’s happening on the screen. It’s case by case based on how I think people will react or my own sensitivities to it. AB: What camera were you using? TVH: It’s a small point-and-shoot camera with a big sensor, an APSC-size sensor. Often I have it pointing straight down, and I have a video transmitter hooked up that sends me a live feed back to the ground Portrait by Andrea Blanch. All images: Tomas Van Houtyryve, From the series Blue Sky Days.
station. I can see exactly what the camera sees and then fly the drone in order to compose my shot. Most of the drones that you buy on the market are set up for video, so it took a bit of tinkering to get highresolution single shots rather than a continuous stream. AB: Do you consider yourself a photojournalist? TVH: “Blue Sky Days” breaks out from what I was doing before. I started my career as a traditional photojournalist. I worked for the Associated Press for three years, then I moved into documentary photography and long-term projects not necessarily linked with the news or current events. This one goes even further away from photojournalism, there’s a conceptual edge to it. I’m using visual language to make us think about something at home that we are doing abroad. But I don’t have a background doing conceptual art, so I’m not quite comfortable calling myself that. I’m a documentary photographer in evolution. I set out to say something journalistic, but I took some artistic risks. I make some purely aesthetic choices that can lead to ambiguous photographs. That was kind of a richness that I discovered while doing it. It wasn’t the initial motivation. AB: Using surveillance as an artistic tool, did you gain any insight into how the government might become obsessed with surveilling its citizens? In other words, did you experience firsthand the addictiveness of surveillance? TVH: Yeah,. I would say the addictiveness and the ambiguity. It’s like watching a silent movie. The patterns of life that we have on the ground when seen from afar don’t reflect who we are as people. That’s the lesson I learned. I spoke to a father whose son had been killed in a drone strike. He lived in a rural village in Yemen where Al Qaeda was linked to certain tribes and threatened people who tried to make alliances.This man had denounced Al Qaeda. From afar the drones were watching and following Al Qaeda suspects along. One day, an Al Qaeda suspect went to this guy’s house probably to threaten him and they fired the missile. Surveillance is observation stripped of context. You could watch someone persistently and think you know more about them, but you’re actually building upon your own misconceptions. You start seeing what you want to see. AB: How did you find these strike reports? Did you have problems getting them or researching them? TVH: No, I went to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. There’s a good one called the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which is based in London. Every time there’s a strike, they try to get information from the local newspapers, from people on the ground, from NGOs, and triangulate. They’ve done the best job of keeping tabs on these things. AB: You talk about how drones strike are based on signature behavior. What exactly are these signa-
ture behaviors and who or what determines them? TVH: I don’t know exactly what all the criteria are. It used to be that when the drone program first started they were after specific individuals. At some point, they allowed the drone operators to strike anyone that was doing a certain type of activity. There’s a quote I found in the New York Times where a State Department official says, “For the CIA, three guys doing jumping jacks is evidence of a terrorist training camp.” It could be a terrorist training camp but it could be a soccer team. I wonder about the wedding strikes. Some suspects are cousins or friends with somebody who’s getting married. From the drone’s point of view, they say, “Wow, this must be a huge terrorist get-together - let’s strike it!” The criteria for signature behavior haven’t been publicly released. AB: What, in your opinion, are the implications of drones in modern warfare? TVH: One thing is the distance between soldiers or combatants. Most of the drone pilots are in Nevada controlling drones over Pakistan and Yemen. Everything’s happening through a screen. They’re in this immersive multimedia environment of warfare but physically no harm could possibly come to them. The idea that you can have a warrior who never puts his life at risk is a huge change in the history of warfare. The ease of hiding it from the public is another implication. In a democratic society, there’s supposed to be a debate about war. The Pakistan program is run by the CIA, and it’s 100% clandestine. Even when Obama talks about it, he never mentions that it’s a drone program because that’s still classified. A ten-year long targeted killing program that stays undercover is more like a dictatorship than a democracy.
AB: I know you’re not a politician, but in the world that we live in now, do you find that it’s necessary? TVH: My role as a journalist and an artist is not to ask what’s necessary. Whenever our government decides to use force, it’s the duty of journalists to question that. The argument that comes back is that it’s better to use a drone than to carpet-bomb these people or to send thousands of people who could die. But if we have a secret killing program, my job as a journalist is to bring it to light so we can have a public debate. I’m not trying to say that there is no problem with terrorism but how do we want to deal with it? In a democratic society, there can’t be a blank check for violence. We have to push our government and make sure they’re being honest with us, that they’re accomplishing what they say they’re accomplishing, and they’re not killing who they’re not supposed to be killing. I feel that drones add a layer of obscurity that I’m not comfortable with. It’s like Pandora’s Box. What is the drone technology opening up? If we don’t want Saudi Arabia and China and Russia doing targeted killings around the world, then we better come up with some clear democratic guidelines that we believe in. I don’t want this targeted killing program around the world run by intelligence agencies. That seems like a totalitarian situation. If we’re going to keep the drone program, we have to drag it into the democratic position, which means oversight and transparency. If we think we’re right, and these people need to be killed, why is it being kept secret? AB: How could we make the program more transparent? TVH: One of the most basic proposals is to take the drone program away from the CIA and give it to the Department of Defense. There’s a lot of review and oversight that goes over the armed services that the CIA is not subject to at all. I don’t think you have to give blanket transparency that would put people at risk who are running the program, but you could do way better than what’s going on right now. AB: Blue Sky Days was awarded the ICP Infinity Award for Photojournalism. Were you at all surprised that the series was categorized in this way? TVH: I was definitely surprised. In a way I like it, because that helps push the boundaries of photojournalism. Our audience, like the photo-viewing public, is getting more sophisticated because we’re exposed to so many more images now. I do think that as photojournalists we can push the limits a little bit more than what we could in the past. AB: Let’s talk a little bit about the scandal, when Amazon used a photo of yours without your permis-
sion. Tell me how that came about. TVH: Part of what they sell is what they have in their own warehouses, and then part of it is like Ebay where anybody can sell anything. On Amazon, they put them all under the Amazon name brand, and then Amazon takes care of the fulfillment and the shipping and the payment. So when you think you’re dealing with Amazon the company, sometimes you’re dealing with these dodgy third-party vendors. I had one photo taken by a drone that was selected as one of Time magazine’s top ten photos of 2014 and an iPhone case manufacturer stole the photo, and starting making iPhone cases and selling them on Amazon.com. When I found out, I wrote to Amazon to take it down, and it became this battle. It was like this six-week long campaign just to get my photos off of these iPhone cases. I found it to be amazing because if it had been a third-party vendor selling drugs or child pornography, it would have been down in 24 hours. It was like, “Copyright for photographers? What do we care?” I felt it was pushed to the back of the line. Either their business doesn’t care about copyright or they created something they can’t control. It’s a bad sign for artists and photographers. How copyright law stands right now is that to bring a copyright case against somebody could cost you millions of dollars. Amazon has protected itself with its contracts with the third-party vendors. They’re just doing the very bare minimum that they legally can. AB: You studied philosophy in school. How would you describe the philosophy behind your photo-
graphic practice? TVH: There’s not one single philosophy behind it. If I had just studied photography, my reference point would be other photographers. If I just studied journalism, my reference point would be journalism. When
I spot trends that I’d like to photograph, sometimes there’s a philosophic link to it. For me, photography was an answer to what I didn’t like about studying philosophy. It gets incredibly abstract, and away from people. You get lost up in the Ivory Tower. Photography is concrete and you have to interact with the real world. Sometimes journalism lacks context and gets too nitty-gritty. It helps to bridge the two. AB: I read that you were the first AP photographer to document Guantanamo Bay. For your “Behind the Curtains” series, you took photographs from inside North Korea. How did you gain access to these places? TVH: Guantanamo Bay was pure luck. I was working for AP, and I was based in Puerto Rico. The direct flights to the military base in Guantanamo came from a military base in Puerto Rico. When they announced they were going to open the prison, the Pentagon said, “OK, we’re going to allow ten journalists in.” I was selected as one of the ten based on proximity. North Korea was trickier. They don’t like journalists and photographers, so I infiltrated two different delegations. One was a business delegation. I couldn’t behave like a photographer while I was there. I had to behave like a businessman the whole time, rarely taking photographs. AB: What do you think about citizen journalism? TVH: Overall, it’s a very broad trend. I think it’s a good thing that everybody’s got an accessible camera that they carry with them all the time. That shooting in North Charleston, where the guy was shot in the back running away from police, that was just a guy walking by who had his phone with him. That kind of thing would never have been recorded if we didn’t have phones with cameras with them all the time. So that’s a good thing. I don’t think it’s good that the normal press has really taken a financial hit lately. The journalistic institutions are much weaker. There’s less foreign correspondence. And citizen journalism is good, but it’s not the same as having like a really experienced foreign correspondent, a fact-checking team and editors, because citizen journalists, they just see and post. And then once in awhile something sneaks in there, they lie or they’re just trying to get likes or get people riled up. So I wish that they would both really coexist, but it feels like traditional journalism is really going downhill for economic reasons. I would love if there’s a big event that happens in Moscow and I can get the Times correspondent who’s been there for fifteen years, and whose story is fact-checked and also see footage of what people on the ground got with their own cameras and then make my own decisions. But if the Times can’t afford to have somebody in Moscow anymore, I don’t think just having the citizen journalism is quite enough. It doesn’t fill in the gap completely. For me, I think that more pluralist forms of information are good, if each of those can be as credible as possible. AB: Your web site says that your projects start with a nagging curiosity about a subject. What subject
has been nagging you recently? TVH: I don’t want to risk that I announce it and produce nothing. I’m like 80% done with the one I’m working on now, shooting America, so we can talk about that. I grew up in the United States but I haven’t lived here for sixteen years now. And I’d always wanted to do a project where I could look at America but finally have enough distance from it. This is an opportunity for me to look at this country at a different point in my life. When I lived here before, it was while I was going to university and school, so I was learning about America from Americans inside the American system. Since then, I’ve traveled to fifty different countries. I live in France, so now, I look at America, I have all these ideas of how the rest of the world sees America. Then, drones allows me to have yet another point of view. They go well together. It’s almost like discovering America for the first time, AB: What advice would you give a young photojournalist? TVH: I think there’s a tendency to look at what the great photojournalists the last 50 years have done, and to think you can make a career out of that. Those folks existed in a totally different visual and media landscape than we do right now. So Cartier Bresson sending his images into an image vacuum is way different from today, where there are photographs everywhere. It’s an opportunity. Photographers really need to think about how they can be somebody that speaks eloquently, not somebody that makes photographs in a vacuum. It’s different than just being the first person with a Leica camera running around.
ARTIST B I O G R A P H I E S Adam Harvey is a New York based artist and designer. He runs the Privacy Gift Shop, an online marketplace for counter surveillance art and privacy accessories. He created a collection of clothing titled Stealth Wear to raise awareness about advanced surveillance technology and explore the possibilities of fashion as counter surveillance technology. He is currently working on CV Dazzle (computational camouflage), the OFF Pocket (faraday cage), and a Rhizome Commission. His artwork has been recognized with a Core77 design award, a FutureGreat nomination from Art Review, and was once included in a classified intelligence document. Born in New Jersey 1945, American conceptual artist Barbara Kruger attended Syracuse University and Parsons School of Design. Her background in design is evident in the work for which she has received international acclaim. Her works consists of collages and photographs from existing sources accompanied with texts that address constructions of power, identity, consumerism, and feminism. The photos she uses are often from the mainstream world that she is challenging in her works. The texts in the works are typically short but aggressive phrases such as “I shop therefore I am” and “Your body is a battleground.” Since the 1990s her work has included video installations and site-specific installations for museums worldwide. Kruger lives and works in New York and Los Angeles. Prior to joining the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art in the Brooklyn Museum, Catherine Morris was an independent curator for twelve years. Many of the exhibitions curated by Morris have explored issues related to feminism and its impact as a social, political, and intellectual construct on the development of visual culture. Some of these include Decoys, Complexes and Triggers: Feminism and Land Art in the 1970s at the Sculpture Center, Long Island City, NY, and Gloria and Regarding Gloria at the White Columns, NY. Some of the exhibitions curated for the Sackler Center include award-winning Materializing “Six Years”: Lucy R. Lippard and the Emergence of Conceptual Art (co-curated with Vincent Bonin); Twice Militant: Lorraine Hansberry’s Letters to “The Ladder” among others. In 2004, Morris received a Penny McCall Foundation Award for Independent Curating and writing. Dina Goldstein is a Canadian photographer working with large-scale tableau, exploring elements of the human condition, through the lens of Pop Surrealism. Dina’s career began as a photojournalist, editorial and commercial photographer. She describes her early work as photoanthropology, where she documented and exhibited portraits of Palestinians, Gamblers, Teenagers, Weightlifters, Wrestlers and various other subcultures. Dina was inspired by personal events when she created the highly conceptual ‘Fallen Princesses’ series 2007-2009. The series questions the “happily ever after” motif created by Disney and Western society. The project was a huge online success and continuously goes viral. Her second major body of work ‘In the Dollhouse’, 2012, is a 10 part sequential narrative that takes place within a very pink adult sized Dollhouse belonging to Barbie and Ken. Dina has won numerous awards such as the Arte Laguna Grand Prize, which invited her to attend a residency in India. Dina recently released ‘Gods Of Suburbia’, 2014, her most complex photographic initiative to date. She was awarded the Prix Virginia in 2014, an International Prize for Women, and invited to Paris where an exhibit was mounted. Edmund Clark is an award-winning artist whose work links history, politics and representation. His work traces ideas of shared humanity, otherness and unseen experience through landscape, architecture and the documents, possessions and environments of subjects of political tension. Recent works ‘The Mountains of Majeed’, ‘Guantanamo: If The Light Goes Out,’ and ‘Control Order House’ engage with state censorship to explore the hidden experiences and spaces of control and incarceration in the ‘Global War on Terror’. He was the only artist to get access to a control order house at the prison camp. Clark has won multiple awards and nominations including the 2011 Royal Photographic Society Hood Medal, 2011 New York Photo Awards, 2012 Association of Italian Photo Editors Book of the Year Award, 2011 International Photography Award for Best Book, 2014 Magnum Foundation Grant Award and 2003 Gold Pencil Award from One Show Advertising Awards.
Born in Morristown, New Jersey in 1948, Edward Lachman is an American artist, director and cinematographer who has worked mostly with American independent films but also several documentaries and non-American movies. Lachman went to Harvard University, and also got a BFA in Art and Film at Ohio University. He was greatly acclaimed for his work in Carol , which was nominated for the 2015 Palme d’Or.. He has also been the director of photography on Todd Hayne’s I’m Not There, Steven Soderbergh’s Erin Brockovich and Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides. Lachman has also collaborated with French electro band Daft Punk to created videos for their 2013 album Random Access Memories. Cuban sculptor and painter Erik Ravelo was born in Havana 1978. He studied art at the Academia Nacional de Bellas Artes, San Alejandro, but moved to Argentina at the age of 18 to be able to work freely as an artist. Today he is the creative director at Fabrica, the communications agency owned by the Benetton group in Italy. As part of his personal work he created the Unhate campaign, which earned a lot of controversy by showing images of world leaders kissing. He did however win a Grand Prix award at Cannes in 2012 for the very same campaign. His work Los Intocables, which was part of his personal research as an artist, also got a lot of controversy showing children crucified on the backs of adults. This conveys the different issues children are facing in the world resulting in loss of innocence. Author and critic Fred Ritchin writes and lectures about challenges and possibilities in the digital revolution. He focuses on digital media and the fast changes within the photography field. He is currently the dean of the school at the International Center of Photography where he also was the founding director of the Documentary Photography and Photojournalism Program. Ritchin has previously been a professor of Photography and Imaging at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and worked as picture editor at the New York Times. For the New York Times he did a research project on how to transform print into multimedia publications. Ritchin is also the co-founder of PixelPress, which creates online multimedia documentary and photojournalism projects. Gordon Parks (1912-2006) was a self-taught photographer born in Fort Scott, Kansas. He bought his first camera at the age of 25 after seeing photographs of migrant workers. His photographs from 1948 on a Harlem gang leader gave him a position as photographer for Life Magazine, which he held for 20 years. Parks also became the first African-American photographer for Vogue magazine. His photography ranged from fashion to documenting racial segregation and city life. Subjects for his portraits included Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali. Parks also went into film and became the first African-American to direct a major Hollywood film: the adaption of The Learning Tree. His movie, Shaft, became one of the biggest hits of 1971. Jess T. Dugan’s work explores issues of gender, sexuality, identity and community. Jess has a BFA in Photography from Massachusetts College of Art and Design and a Master of Liberal Arts from Harvard University, where Jess’s photographs are in the permanent collections of their art museum. Jess’s work has been exhibited nationwide, including exhibition at the San Diego Museum of Art, the Griffin Museum of Photography, and the Gallery Kayafas (Boston, MA) to name a few. Dugan’s first monograph, Every breath we drew, will be published by Daylight Books in 2015. Joel-Peter Witkin is a photographer whose images of the human condition are undeniably powerful. For more than 40 years he has pursued his interest in spirituality and how it impacts the physical world in which we exist. Finding beauty within the grotesque, Witkin pursues this complex issue through people most often cast aside by society -- human spectacles including hermaphrodites, dwarfs, amputees, androgynes, carcases, people with odd physical capabilities, fetishists and “any living myth ... anyone bearing the wounds of Christ.” His fascination with other people’s physicality has inspired works that confront our sense of normalcy and decency, while constantly examining the teachings handed down through Christianity. By using imagery and symbols from the past, Witkin celebrates our history while constantly redefining its present day context. Visiting medicals schools, morgues and insane asylums around the world, Witkin seeks out his collaborators, who, in the end, represent the numerous personas of the artist himself. Joel-Peter Witkin lets us look into his created world, which is both frightening and fascinating, as he seeks to dismantle our preconceived notions about sexuality and physical beauty. Through his imagery, we gain a greater understanding about human difference and tolerance.
Self-proclaimed “photograffeur” JR is an anonymous artist and photographer. He fly-posts black-andwhite images in public locations similar to how graffiti artists uses the built environment for their art. Starting on the streets of Paris as a graffiti artist, JR soon started documenting his graffiti works with a camera he found in the Paris metro. He moved on to meeting with graffiti and street-artists all over Europe and started pasting their portraits on the walls of Paris. JR received the TED Prize in 2011 for an innovative vision that can create global change. Based on this he started a project called Inside Out which is an initiative that allows people around the world to make their voices heard through portraits wheat pasted in public spaces. Kay Chernush is an award-winning photographer with more than 30 years experience in commercial and fine art photography, shooting for SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE, GOURMET, Fortune 500 corporations and governmental agencies. In 2005, an assignment for the U.S. State Department brought her face to face with the evils of human trafficking and modern slavery. Challenged and appalled by this pervasive human rights atrocity, Kay began working with anti-trafficking organizations around the world. She gradually developed an innovative approach, using collaged and constructed imagery that dignifies trafficked persons and re-frames how their stories are portrayed. To broaden the scope of her project, Kay founded ArtWorks for Freedom in July 2011, a non-profit organization that uses the power of art in all its forms to fight modern slavery. Born in Santa Clara in 1964, Ken Gonzales-Day is an American artist whose photography mainly focuses on the identity and construction of race and the limits of representational systems. He is focused on the Mexican-American identity relationship. Gonzales-Day got his BFA from Pratt Institute and his MFA from University of California, Irvine. He also spent a year in the Independent Study Program at the Whitney Museum of American Art. His early work bore resemblance to the work of Cindy Sherman, where he would cast himself as different characters in a photo series set during the Mexican-American War. His more recent work has explored the history of Mexican-American lynching in the west by digitally altering 19th and 20th century postcards depicting these actions. Gonzales-Day is currently a professor of Art at Scripps College, and some of his work is currently displayed in the Smithsonian Institution and LACMA to name a few. Neil DaCosta was born and bred on the East Coast, and eventually headed west. SARA PHILLIPS’ journey led her from England, to mainland Europe, and eventually a lot further west. They both ended up where they met and now reside, in Portland, Oregon. Neil as a photographer; Sara as an art director. They have since collaborated on a few projects together, including Mormon Missionary Positions.” He received his BFA in Applied Photography from Rochester Institute of Technology, New York in 2002. After graduating, DaCosta worked as a sports photographer for the K2 Snowboarding team in 2003 and the Roxy Snowboards Women’s Team in 2005. Aside from commercial projects, DaCosta also works on personal projects such as “Astronaut Suicides,” a response to the government cutting funding for NASA, in 2010. DaCosta is represented by Held & Associates. Robert Mapplethorpe’s (1946-1989) work has established him as one of the most important photographers of the twentieth century and his work can be found in galleries and museums across the world. Mapplethorpe studied art at the Pratt Institute and was working with mixed-media collages until he began using Polaroid camera in 1970. In the beginning, these photos were only meant to be part of his collages but soon became the focal point of his artistry. His first solo exhibition was also called ”Polaroids.” Later he acquired a Hasselblad camera and started documenting the New York S&M scene. He also did more commercial works such as Patti Smith’s album covers and portraits for Interview Magazine. His vast body of work includes male and female nudes, flower’s, still-lives and studio portraits of artists, writers and celebrities. The year before he died he founded the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to promote photography and fund HIV and AIDS-research. American Journalist Sebastian Junger was born in Massachusetts in 1962 and has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wesleyan University in cultural anthropology. He is most known for his book The Perfect Storm from 1997, where critics compared him to Hemingway. He started The Perfect Storm Foundation to provide educational grants to children of parents in the fishing industry. Together with photographer Tim Hetherington he was rewarded the DuPont-Columbia Award for broadcast journalism for his work on The Other War: Afghanistan which was produced with ABC News and Vanity Fair
in 2008. Together with Hetherington he also created the documentary feature Restrepo, which was nominated for an Academy Award and won the grand jury prize for a domestic documentary at the Sundance Film Festival in 2010. Junger lives in New York where he co-owns bar The Half King. Photographer, artist and author Tomas van Houtryeve was initially a philosophy student that developed a passion for photography while studying in Nepal. He claims that his work is based on a belief that human activity becomes increasingly absurd and dangerous when it loses empathy. His subjects include different aspects of contemporary warfare. Working as a photojournalist, he became the first AP photographer to gain access to Guantanamo Bay. After leaving AP he focused on projects such as the Maoist rebellion in Nepal. The project documented the rebels’ rise to power and earned him the Bayeux Prize for War Correspondents among other awards. In 2013, Van Houtryve started a project called “Blue Sky Days,” which shows a drone’s-eye view of America. This series, which was published in Harper’s, was awarded with the 2015 World Press Photo Award as well as the 2015 ICP Infinity Award. Thomas Struth was born in 1954 in Geldern, Germany. He trained at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf from 1973-1980 and produced “photopaintings.” Struth turned his attention to photography in 1976 and in 1978 he was awarded Kunstakademie’s first scholarship to New York, where he produced black and white cityscapes. In the 1980s, he began a series of portraits of individuals and families. Since the 1990s, Struth has expanded his photography to include natural landscapes, architecture and nature studies. His work has been organized in exhibitions by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Kunsthalle Bern, Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, Carré d’Art, Musée d’Art Contemporain in Nîmes, Dallas Museum of Art, Museum für Gegewart in Berlin and Museo de Art de Lima. He currently lives and works in Berlin. Richard Mosse is a photographer and filmmaker whose work focuses on war torn regions such as Iraq and the Eastern Congo. His series, “Infra,” captures the latter region in Kodak Aerochrome, an infrared surveillance film, which renders green in pinks and reds. Mosse was born in 1980 in Ireland, received his MFA in photography from Yale University in 2008, and currently lives and works in New York. He is the winner of the 2014 Deutsche Börse Photography Prize, and represented Ireland in the Venice Bienniale in 2013. Mosse is represented by Jack Shainman Gallery in New York. Jen Davis was born in 1978 in Akron, Ohio. She is a Brooklyn-based photographer who focuses on self-portraits as a way of exploring themes of beauty, body image, identity, and relationships. In 2014, a book of her self-portraits, Eleven Years, was published. She has an MFA from Yale University and a BA from Columbia College Chicago. She is represented by Lee Marks Fine Art. Anthony Hernandez was born in 1947 in Los Angeles. After taking some basic course at East Los Angeles College from 1966 to 1967, he began photographing his neighborhood. From 1967 to 1969, he served in the United States Army. He spent 1968 in the Vietnam War. After his return, he turned to street portraiture. In the early 1980s, his series of photographs of people waiting for the bus caught the attention of a magazine art director who hired Hernandez for commercial work. Hernandez later left the job to pursue his creative career. He produced a series of photographs of Rodeo Drive in 1985. In 1986, he became an artist-in-residence at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. He made a series of photographs called “Landscapes for the Homeless” (1988-2007) that documented living conditions of homeless people. It was first shown at the Turner/Krull Gallery in Los Angeles in 1993. In 1995, the Sprengel Museum Hannover published a book of the photographs. His subsequent projects, “Pictures for Rome” and “Pictures for LA” focused on urban deconstruction and redevelopment. Marilyn Minter (b. 1948, USA) lives and works in New York. Minter has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 2005, the Center for Contemporary Art, Cincinnati, OH in 2009, La Conservera, Centro de Arte Contemporáneo, Ceutí/ Murcia, Spain in 2009, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland, OH in 2010 and the Deichtorhallen in Hamburg, Germany in 2011. In 2015, the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, TX will host Minter’s retrospective, which will travel to Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, the Orange Country Museum of Art and the Brooklyn Museum.
SPECIAL THANKS TO SHAHID & COMPANY & THE MUSÉ E TEAM
SUBMIT YOUR WORK TO MUSÉE NO. 13 For our 13th Issue, Musée is doing something different: an issue focused entirely on women! As women continue to be underrepresented in the art world, Musée has decided to put together an issue that celebrates their voice, their experience, and their essential contribution to art. For this issue, we will ONLY be accepting submissions from women. Sorry, boys, you’ll have to wait for Issue 14! 1. Submit high resolution images. 2. Please do not include watermarks. 3. Use ‘Issue No. 13’ as the email subject. 4. Include name, photo title and contact information that you would like to see published. 5. Deadline for submission is September 10, 2015. 6. To submit, please visit www.museemagazine.com or send your work to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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