Musée Magazine No. 15

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Cover Image: Ryan McGinley, Jack (Blue Mass), 2009. Image Courtesy Team Gallery.

















































































































E D I TO R ’ S L E T T E R

b y An d re a Bl a nch

When I think about the sentiment behind Place, I get

ing a region defined by conflict, paradox, and faith.

a little nostalgic—I remember the feelings I had at par-

Other artists transcend the physical notion of place, in-

ticular instances over the course of my life. The time I

stead locating this concept in humans’ interactions with

pretended to be asleep while robbers crept through my

their environments. John Divola records derelict, Los

Paris apartment. The time my friend and I hitched a ride

Angeles structures—which he further vandalizes with

with men who turned out to be escaped convicts on the

graffiti—linking the natural process of decay with human

run. The time I fell deeply in love after a photo shoot in

intervention. Conversely, Alec Soth’s intimate portraits

Rome, changed my life, and moved there. Life is made up

of American communities in the Midwest unite character

of places, places defined by moments in time and, if we’re

with environment. Images by Maurice Broomfield convey

lucky, captured by a lens. I’m writing this letter from the

something similar, portraying the British industrial labor

comfort of my bed when it occurs to me that this is the

force in their workspaces with dignity and grace. Perhaps

place where most people will spend two thirds of their

fittingly, this is the first time Broomfield’s photographs

life. After this realization I suddenly imagine I shouldn’t

will be published in the United States.

feel so comfortable.

Sebastião Selgado joins the physical and abstract in his

What is place, and how does it impact us? The twenty-two es-

seminal photographs which depict person and environment

tablished artists featured in this issue have approached place

with equal sensitivity, compassion, and respect. His striking

in compelling and diverse ways—investigating the intersec-

compositions betray the touch of both a naturalist and a hu-

tions of metaphysics and environment, politics and memory.

manist in their complex portrayals of subject matter.

Stephen Shore and William Eggleston, both early and es-

This issue is replete with work that challenges me to

sential advocates of color photography, meditate on and

think deeply and critically about our theme. I would like

critique perceptions of the American landscape. Their

to thank the twenty-two established artists—and addi-

iconic compositions immortalized familiar and unremark-

tional emerging artists—who allowed us to spotlight their

able spaces. In doing so, they have sanctified the Ameri-

outstanding and insightful work. In their hands, place

can road as national landmark.

becomes more than just a physical concept. Rather, it is

Shimon Attie considers the politics of place differently. In his

multidimensional—encompassing the mental, emotional,

recent project, Facts on the Ground, images feature illuminat-

and bodily (see Dianne Yudelson’s work addressing the

ed messages, which adorn sites across Israel and Palestine.

emotional fallout surrounding miscarriage). For our read-

While Facts resists invoking a particular political framework

ers—I hope the fantastic images featured in Place inspire a

or vantage point, it does prompt profound questions regard-

little bit of restlessness and adventure!

Sebastião Salgado, Gold mine of Serra Pelada. Pará, Brazil., 1986. Photo courtesy of Contact Press Images.



b y An d r é Ac i m a n

Rome is color. Ochre by day, by noon blinding white

clay hasn’t been aired in ages, the hint of gathering

marble, followed by the inevitable decline to saffron and

heat on a late October pavement, that whiff of pine

dirty blond and, finally, auburn tones that hint of a fourth

cologne on the man sweating next to me on the bus,

cup of coffee, and then Campari red. By twilight, every-

the musty feel of shops that won’t have air conditioning,

thing turns dark plum and bruised aubergine, and slate

the listless exhalation of chamomile up and down

gray cobblestones called sampietrini start gleaming in the

our stairwell telling me that sleep doesn’t come easy

dark, where by midnight the libido scurries about the

here, the sly intrusions of cigarette smoke just about

narrow lanes. Not one Roman is not beautiful.

everywhere, and that hint of damp wool after it rains

Rome is sound. The rattle of scooters threading their way

reminding me of my mother.

through old Rome, the clang of a hammer going about its

Rome is touch. An old wall, still warm after centuries of

business while everyone naps undisturbed-because naps

just standing there, leaves a film of sunburnt dust on your

need noise to spell the silence more. The tinnitus of workers

hand to tell you it can still feel things. Everything feels

hammering down the sampietrini, one by one, dousing

things here. You want to touch—the hood of a car, the

their thirst from plastic water bottles which they empty

trickle from an ice cream cone, the girl whose hand rests

and like to crush in brawny hands. The clatter of dishes

so close to yours you’re sure she knows, she knows…

and silverware as you walk about Campo Marzio and

Rome is taste. The shutters drawn slightly in to keep the

hear everyone gathered for lunch upstairs. The splash of

sun out, a glass of red wine, pasta with sauce that’s been

a fountain at two. The silence on Via dei Coronari at two.

stewed for hours, grated parmesan, fizzy water from

The shutdown of time at two. Until the clamor of rolling

anywhere, and if you’re with someone dear, stop look-

shutters being raised and the catcalls of friends having a

ing, you’ve come home.

smoke on tiny Vicolo Savelli.

Rome is memory. Like love, it never dies; it finds others

Rome is scent. Narrow hallways where musty dank

to love. Rome is love.

©Jeannette Montgomery Barron 2012-2015.


R YA N M C G I N L E Y n u d i sts o f the sub ter ra i n

ANDREA BLANCH: You’ve been going on yearly

amazing for me that you got the people to do that.

road trips since 2004. What kept this way of working new and exciting for over a decade?

RYAN: I think that the people who want to be part of my project are really dedicated. I take every measure possible to

RYAN MCGINLEY: The American landscape is so vast.

make sure they are comfortable. With the winter series, the

There’s so much to explore. Every summer, I would just

first thing we did was have a sauna. It was an ice fishing tent

chip away a part of America. We would hit the road and

that can fit four people at a time. I would bring two propane

shoot for three months straight. I would come back, and

heaters, and we would get the tent to about one hundred

edit and have exhibitions, and then go back to the draw-

degrees. The models for my project would sit in that tent.

ing board and figure out new things that I wanted to ex-

Everybody would be in winter gear going to each location,

plore in America. There’s just so much, and I still feel like

so we were all suited up, and sometimes we would have to

I haven’t come close to seeing what I want to see.

hike two or three miles to get to a really great place.

I’m so interested in different parts. Down south the landscape was so diverse and rich and interesting, with the

ANDREA: Were there any near-disasters?

swamps and the cypher trees. I spent summers doing different sand dunes in Colorado and Utah and New Mexico.

RYAN: No, there weren’t. I worked with an ice climber.

I spent time in Washington State in the rainforest, and

For all my projects, I have a producer who lets me know if

shooting along the Bay Area through Oregon, up through

my ideas are doable, and how we can do them safely. For

Seattle, WA. I did caves across America. That almost took

the ice project, I got this great ice climber. I would say, “Oh,

two years because I was so into it, exploring all the net-

I have this idea of putting someone here,” and he would

works of different subterranean environments. The major-

say, “Oh, ok. We could do that. Maybe we can’t put him

ity of the caves are the area called TAGs, which stands for

there, but we can put him here. We could rig something

Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, which is where most of the

so they’re safer. This is the time limit you have to do this

caves in the United States are. I’ve done so many things.

to keep the person warm, etc.” Then with the models, I would say, “Ok, we have the spot where we want you,”

ANDREA: Are there any must-have qualities that

and we would plan it out with all of our clothes on before-

you search for in every place you photograph?

hand. Then they would go into the sauna to change, and we would do it quick. Then they’d just bolt. Some can last

RYAN: I really go for the landscape more than anything.

longer than others. Girls usually last twice as long as guys.

Other than that, it’s just to explore somewhere I’ve never

They have a higher threshold for the cold. I guess for pain.

been. When I grew up, I never really traveled. I’m one of

How long anyone was out in the cold basically depended

eight kids, so we could never afford to go anywhere, and

on the temperature. So if it was like twenty degrees, peo-

we stayed in the Tri-state area. So when I got to start doing

ple would last about two minutes before they would be

road trips, it was exciting for me because I’ve only seen

like, “Ok, I gotta go back in!” And if it was zero degrees,

that stuff in movies.

maybe about a minute. I would always bring about four models with me so there wouldn’t be much downtime

ANDREA: What went on behind the scenes while you

for shooting. Once one person was done, another person

were working on the winter nudes in icy landscapes? It’s

would come out, and we accomplished a lot that way.

Portrait by Luisa Opalesky. All images courtesy Team Gallery.


When I started out, it was just me, and I would shoot what was going on in my life every night in downtown New York. ANDREA: Were there any surprising or unexpected chal-

a movie called “Two-Lane Blacktop.” It was a road film

lenges in making those images?

made in the ‘70s, and I really liked it. I liked “Easy Rider.” I’m a big Dennis Hopper fan, and there are Terrence Ma-

RYAN: I guess an unexpected snowstorm came in, but

lick’s movies. There’s a good one called “Days of Heaven”

that worked to our benefit, almost. I was an amateur

that I really love with Richard Gere.

snowboarder for years, that’s how I grew up in New Jer-

And then I realized that it was just too ambitious for me

sey, so I was pretty aware of the winter conditions. At one

at the time. I just wasn’t capable of pulling it off. But I

point in 2009, the New York Times hired me to shoot the

had all of this info I’d collected about where I wanted to

Winter Olympics for them, so I spent three months with

go and what I wanted to do, so I decided to go on a road

all the Olympic athletes across America while they were

trip and follow the footsteps of photographers and books

training. So I kind of knew how to shoot in the cold and

I like about traveling across America. And that’s how I

keep people warm and how to work in that landscape.

started traveling.

ANDREA: Why were these landscapes the next big thing?

ANDREA: Did you ever wish you could just go out and shoot without all the preparation and hassle?

RYAN: I’ve always been a big fan of the Hudson River School, Frederic Church and Thomas Cole. Even in high

RYAN: I like the pressure that it creates. I like making a

school, I was interested in them. Overall, I love working

plan and hiring people. You have to follow through with


the project. You hire all these people to help, you book a

It was also so I could stay close to home. My mom is get-

whole itinerary of places to go, and you have to pay for a

ting a lot older, and I’m the youngest of eight. I wanted to

lot of it ahead of time. It just forces me to go through with

be close to her and to spend more time with her, so it was

the project, regardless of where I’m at that day. I feel like a

for personal reasons also.

lot of the times when there isn’t that pressure, I’ll be like, “It can wait today. I’ll just do it tomorrow.” A lot of artists

ANDREA: Your early work was more documentary, and

suffer from procrastination, and I think that having a team

now there are a lot more logistics and planning involved.

of people lights a fire under my ass.

You’ve said that while your early work was about documenting what was going on, your recent work is like

ANDREA: You often shoot people as small shapes in an

making a movie. Can you elaborate?

expansive landscape, submerged in water, behind trees, as animals, etc. What is it about the relationship be-

RYAN: There’s a lot more people involved. When I start-

tween people and nature that you keep coming back to?

ed out, it was just me, and I would shoot what was going on in my life every night in downtown New York. In 2004,

RYAN: I like that nature is always changing. There are

I really got into traveling. One of my friends, Mike Mills,

endless possibilities. I would go someplace I’d researched

made a film called “Thumbsucker”, and he asked me to

and think, “Oh my God, this isn’t working out.” Then I’d

come onto his film set and shoot photos. I got to see the

turn around and find something ten times better.

way a team worked, and I was really into it. They were

With nature, you know what you’re going to get, and you

accomplishing so much. Over the course of two weeks, I

don’t know what you’re going to get, and I love that. It’s

got to see a good portion of a film being made. I was im-

constantly evolving and there’s so much to explore. And

pressed by it, and I really wanted to work like that. Mike

I guess on a spiritual level, that’s my church. I love be-

said, “Ryan, you should make a film. You’d be a great

ing outside, connected spiritually. When you leave the

filmmaker. You should do it; write a script and just do it.”

city and bring somebody with you, you leave so much

And I was like, “Yeah, I’m going to do that.”

behind. New York City is the place where my studio is,

I really wanted to make a road movie, and I started writing

and I do a lot of business, but I prefer shooting in nature

the script based off of traveling around America. There’s

more than anything.

Ryan McGinley, Jonas (Molten), 2009.


Being an artist is the hardest career one can choose to do. There’s not much of a road map for it. ANDREA: How did you arrive at the main themes in

and it was sort of like nature, movement, and nudity. Those

your work? Such as shooting people naked?

were the three things I was interested in. It gave me an original voice, and I think people were just really responsive to it.

RYAN: I started shooting photos at the end of 1998, and

It felt very comfortable and easy for me to do.

at that time I hadn’t studied photography. My first year I studied painting. My second year I studied poetry. My

ANDREA: What was it like for you early on in your career?

third year I studied graphic design. But my last year, I realized I really wanted to become a photographer. That’s

RYAN: The first five years, I feel I was sort of in the history

when I started practicing photography.

of downtown New York, from 14th Street to Canal Street. I

Then, for the first two years, I was narrowing down my

was trying to find my voice—publicly, since I got success-

possibilities of what I wanted to shoot, so I was shooting

ful at a very young age. I was participating in the lineage

everything. I was shooting my family and architecture and

of Allen Ginsberg, photographing his group of artists, to

my food. I would go around New York and shoot graffiti

Larry Clarke, photographing his group of artists.

and my friends. I was living on Bleecker Street with this

I feel like from ‘98 to ‘03, I was photographing in this

girl who was a dominatrix. She was really free with her

twenty-block radius that other people had also made a

body and she was the first person who was okay with be-

large body of work in. It’s almost like a school or some-

ing nude in front of the camera. I didn’t even have to ask

thing, like “Downtown.” So yeah, I had just come to New

her; she just liked to have fun and dance around and be

York and was discovering Downtown. Like most artists, I

sexy. And it was really great for me to just explore that.

was photographing my tribe, and everyone was trying to

I took an interest to that, and I also took an interest in

figure out how to be artists. Of course, most artists were

skateboarding. That was a big part of my life, skateboard-

wild and went out every night and stayed up all night. It

ing and snowboarding, from age six until I was nineteen.

was a tight group of people who didn’t really have much

That’s pretty much all I did everyday. When I was skate-

interaction with the outside world at all. We were a very

boarding I would always have a camera with a fish eye

insular family, trying to figure out how to support our-

lens, and I would be the one filming all my friends doing

selves as artists and how to live as artists. Figuring that

tricks and edit skateboard videos of people doing numer-

out has a lot of turmoil. Being an artist is the hardest ca-

ous tricks in a row. I just really like a lot of movement.

reer one can choose to do. There’s not much of a road map

That was always something that was interesting to me:

for it. Getting advice from people isn’t the easiest thing.

doing things repetitively, trying to get the best version of somebody doing something. I guess I was just narrow-

ANDREA: Who or what inspired you early on?

ing things down, the things I like. One of the things I really liked in high school was life drawing. I did that for

RYAN: Early on, I was inspired by a lot of the movies

five years to develop my portfolio. It was something I re-

I mentioned earlier. I was really inspired by Terrence

ally loved, and my mom would always drive me to life

Malick—”Badlands” and “Days to Heaven” were really

drawing classes, so I always took an interest in the body.

inspiring. Then there were certain books that I felt so in-

Once I started to photograph people nude, I was just re-

spired by, like Theatre of Manners by Tina Barney. I loved

ally fascinated by it. And once I realized I was capable of

that book and would look at it all the time. She got so deep

blowing up my photo to poster size, there was something

in her world. She just got so deep with the people, and I

about that that really blew my mind. My whole bedroom

felt like the level of trust and intimacy in the photos was

as a kid was just covered. You couldn’t even see any of

something I hadn’t seen. And it was really a world that

the wallpaper because it was just covered with posters of

I had never experienced, like Laura Ashley, that kind of

rock bands that I liked and stuff pulled out of magazines.

household. Another book I looked at when I was young

When I realized I could make my own posters, that was it.

was Jack Pierson’s All of a Sudden. I think it comes back

I was like, “Wow! So cool!” I loved it.

to that thing of people having a specific vision of a very

So I managed to narrow down my interests in photography,

small world. Things like that really inspired me.

Ryan McGinley, Opposite: Jonas, (Waterfall), 2008; Following pages: Left: Kaaterskill Falls, 2015; Right: Kensie & Clyde, 2015.


You’ve got to know when you work commercially that you’re sort of bringing two identities together. ANDREA: Who inspires you now?

gether for ten years. He was one of my close friends from New Jersey growing up. And then, since 2008, it’s become

RYAN: I’m inspired by a lot of younger artists these days.

a full studio office, and I employ six people. I have a studio

There’s an artist named Patrick Collins that I really like,

manager, a casting director, a videographer, a retoucher, a

and I think that there’s sort of a movement happening

choreographer, and a photo assistant. We work here Mon-

downtown of all of these young girls, and I’m close with

day through Friday, 10am to 6pm, and the studio itself is

a lot of them. And there’s an artist named India Salvor

sort of like an L shape. It has a very big library in it that

Menuez who I really like also.

takes up almost the entire studio with photo books and

I’m just really excited about their energy. I’m excited by

books about art. The back studio is where I photograph

how they have such a tight group and are all supporting

people for my “Yearbook” series, so that’s filled with lots of

and championing each other. Just to see them blossom as

colored paper and lots of different lighting equipment. All

artists, getting success and being able to support them-

the walls are magnetized, so we could move photos around

selves, is great. There’s another writer named Karley Sci-

easily and look at different photos in different sizes.

ortino, she also goes by the name Karley Slutever. She has a website called “Slutever” where she writes about sex and

ANDREA: I’d like to talk about your commercial work

her experiences. Yeah, those are the people I really love.

for a minute. What is it about your work that translates so well commercially?

ANDREA: I wanted to ask you about your series with the animals. I thought some of the photos must have been

RYAN: I think that a lot of people who work in fashion

very difficult shots to get. Were the animals trained at all?

advertising see my photos and they see people naked. Honestly, I think they see them as mannequins. They can

RYAN: I shot that series over the course of a year and a

picture their clothing on the photos that I’m taking. And I

half. I went to different animal rescues, to pet stores, to

think that there’s an energy, sort of like an honesty in my

zoos, and to personal owners that owned a lot of different

work, that a lot of people want to bring to their brand.

exotic animals. I kind of made a road trip out of it. I just went across the United States and shot all these different

ANDREA: Do you find it difficult to straddle the art and

people’s animals. So yeah, a lot of them were trained ani-

commercial worlds?

mals. I would bring my colored paper and set it up in the basement or on the side of a barn. Basically, each day con-

RYAN: No. I mean, most of the projects I take on commer-

sisted of however many animals somebody had who they

cially are stuff that I’m interested in. You’ve got to know

were willing to let me photograph with a model.

when you work commercially that you’re sort of bring-

A lot of those photos are happy accidents that happened.

ing two identities together. For instance, Levi’s is such a

There’s something about the spontaneity of the animals’

unique take on Americana, and they would say to weave

behavior and the honest reactions that happened between

in nature and cowboys. That was very easy for me to work

them and the models that was unpredictable and really fas-

with because I feel we were both coming from the same

cinated me. I think that was the thing that was interesting:

place. Then on the other hand if you bring in someone like

it had this unpredictability that I can’t get in the studio.

Christian Dior—that’s another company that I’ve worked with—their brand identity is so unique and different from

ANDREA: Can you describe your studio?

where I’m coming from. We sort of have to have a baby together, to come at it from two different places and see

RYAN: My studio is in Chinatown. I’ve been there since

where it lands.

2004. Before that, I was just in my apartment, and I had

It’s interesting to work for different brands or even differ-

all my photos under my bed in the East Village. I actually

ent artists. I’ve worked for people from Beyoncé to Katy

lived in my studio from 2004 to 2008. I had the front part,

Perry to Lady Gaga. To see where they are coming from,

and the painter, Dan Colen, had the back part. We lived to-

to really work with somebody and make something with

Ryan McGinley, Wes (Falling), 2009.


I do a lot of research to figure out where I want to go, and for years I would research photos of people in landscapes in different seasons. them, when you’re coming at it from two different places,

back at your work, is there any picture or series that you

is interesting. I’m always open to it.

love in particular?

ANDREA: Do you feel you can keep your artistic integ-

RYAN: I think that there are two bodies of work, the

rity doing commercial shoots? How much input do you

caves and the ice photos, because they’re things that I’ve

have, as far as the creative idea?

never ever seen in photography before, and I felt were truly original. I do a lot of research to figure out where

RYAN: It’s always a collaboration. Obviously, when I’m

I want to go, and for years I would research photos of

working on my own stuff, that’s uniquely my vision. I’m

people in landscapes in different seasons. I hadn’t seen

always collaborating with somebody to get some ideas,

cave photographs with people nude in them, or even

but with a brand, it’s a meeting in the middle. I would

many cave photos at all. And there are no images of

say that it’s more like 50/50. I always go in knowing

people nude out in icy landscapes. The only photos that

that: I know that I’m trying to bring their vision and my

I ever saw would be people who were in a sauna in Esto-

vision together.

nia or something. And they’d go and roll out in the snow and hop back in the sauna, but it was always very close.

ANDREA: Several recent campaigns you’ve worked on

There wasn’t anything like a really beautiful landscape.

have focused on diversity in identity (race, gender, etc).

So those two projects feel really original and interesting

Is that of your choosing, or is it the advertising agency’s/

when I look at them.

the brand’s? ANDREA: You took one picture of somebody over Times RYAN: I’m interested in that. One of my favorite things

Square, swinging. How’d you do it?

to do is to cast. I think, more than anything, I’m interested in people, so I love casting and finding people

RYAN: It was this rapper, M.I.A., who I was close with

and hearing about their lives. It’s a really big part of my

and loved. The New York Times was doing a story on her

artistic process, so that makes me very happy. I think

and she was on the cover, so she asked me to take the pic-

that in the recent projects you’re talking about how I

tures. She said, “I want to do something really New York

tried very hard to bring on people who may not nor-

and really crazy.” So what I did was I set up a swing. I’ve

mally be in advertising, but who I’d worked with a lot

worked a lot with stunt coordinators, so I drew this idea

in my personal projects. Whether it’s a personal project

on a napkin, and I showed it to my stunt coordinator and

or for a magazine or company, I try to have a very big

said, “I kind of want to build a swing set on top of a build-

say in the casting.

ing and have somebody swing out off of it.” And he was like, “We can do that. They can’t swing out off of it, but I

ANDREA: What’s next now that you’ve decided not to

can get it close enough that they look like they are.”

do the road trips?

Basically, what we built is what they have at a concert that they put the lights on—a steel truss. Then we made

RYAN: I didn’t expect it to happen, but I ended up hav-

a swing and a harness that went from the swing up the

ing all of these survey shows of the last seventeen years

person’s back. We constructed it, and we got a building

of taking photographs. Last May I had one in Amster-

to permit it. We were on 8th Avenue, and we put it right

dam, I recently had one in Italy, and I literally just came

in front of Times Square, so we had that as our backdrop.

back two days ago from one in Tokyo. So I’ve been

Whatever I’m asking someone to do, I’m also going to

spending a lot of time setting up those shows and re-

participate. I got on the swing, and they put the har-

flecting on my photographs since I started. That’s where

ness on me, and I swung out. It was such an amazing

I’m at right now.

feeling, being able to see the city on a swing, swinging out almost over a building—it was like the best roller

ANDREA: Now that you’ve had a chance to really look

Ryan McGinley, Alex (Levitating), 2009.


coaster ride ever.





Ali Rajabi, Silence, November 2014.







Ali Rajabi, Lonely, November 2014.







Ali Rajabi, Alone in the Dark, November 2014.




Gesche Würfel: Top: Slave Cabin (Stagville Plantation), 2015; Bottom: Slave Cabin (Pine Hall Plantation), 2014



Gesche Würfel, Slave Cabin (Hargraves Plantation/NC Botanical Garden), 2014.





Vardit Goldner, School Yard, 2004.


J AC K P I E R S O N n ext to no thi ng

STEVE MILLER: When we had talked last time you

what I saw and this is what came back. These pictures are

said something that had really resonated with me. You

what came back.

said that you thought you wanted your intervention with this to be ‘next to nothing.’ And…something went

STEVE: Ok, that makes a lot of sense to me. I think the

off in my head when you said that, and it made every-

‘next to nothing’ also is interesting in terms of—you

thing pull into focus for me with that statement. Do you

made another statement about how in some of your other

want to say a little more about your attitude about these

work you were pressing bells and whistles, going from

works or whatever you want to add to that statement? I

maximum chroma, maximum intensity—

love that idea of “next to nothing.” JACK: Yes, exactly. I feel like these are not driven by any JACK PIERSON: Ok, I guess…I think what I meant is

need to amp them up. I’m sort of drawn to their quiet

that I’m a beach walker and there’s part of me that needs

qualities. And I kind of think it’s…I hope it’s a slowed

nothing more than that. So on the days when I finally feel

down experience because certainly when you see some-

like, “well, that’s the most important thing to me,” how

thing that’s instantly pleasing and kind of goes big or goes

do I, or do I need to transmit that as an artist. And I think

intense I feel like you can consume it faster. These are the

I do need to transmit it. So, as much experience as I can

first photographs I’ve made for the wall in a while in, you

have unencumbered by that need to communicate—ulti-

know, an Instagram generation. I just feel like the experi-

mately, I need to communicate, so I tried to make them as

ence, hopefully, will be one that slows the viewer down.

light and sort of un-intervened with as possible, mean-

Partially because maybe there’s the head scratching qual-

ing I just took the picture—and of course, I probably knelt

ity about them that’s like, “well what exactly is so great

and edited and tried to compose—but I didn’t do it with

about these? No, I think they’re pretty great.” You know?

any…I don’t know, sort of masked intensity or an espe-

But, I get that they’re not…no, I might not even say that, I

cially difficult camera or looking for anything more than

think they have everything I want them to have.

Portrait by Jason Schmidt. All following images courtesy of Sabine Knust, Munich. Following spread: Jack Pierson, natural and pertient, 2016.




Jack Pierson, Above: loving to smoke, 2016; Opposite: the interval between thoughts, 2016


Jack Pierson, Following Spread: we must all die to our emotions, 2016.




Jack Pierson, Above: You don’t have to tell me about giving up, 2016;.


Jack Pierson, Above: sic vita, 2016; Following spread: escape from the dead hands of time, 2016




Jack Pierson, The West, 2016


Jack Pierson, Only in aloneness is there innocence, 2016





Carolyn Doucette, Great North American Landscapes Vol.3 #2, 2015



Isabel Zuzarte, Top: La Mer. 2016; Bottom: Violent are the Sides. October, 2015.



Isabel Zuzarte, Top: Good Friday. April, 2016; Bottom: Silence in a Bottle. 2016.


S H I M O N AT T I E si gn l an gua g e

ANDREA BLANCH: Why did you choose the places

their feedback on them. I would say about three quarters

that you did in Israel and Palestine for your series Facts

of the phrases are my artistic and literary distillations, and

on the Ground?

one quarter I kind of plucked from the history of Zionism, but shortened and condensed them.

SHIMON ATTIE: Well, it’s very, very easy to find sites in Israel and Palestine where, content-wise, context-wise,

ANDREA: How long did this project take you?

and history-wise, it would have made sense to have certain phrases inserted into the landscape. It’s not at all dif-

SHIMON: I was working on the phrases for about the

ficult to find contested, fraught, and problematic sites in

course of a year. I hired a producer in Israel to begin the

Israel and Palestine. What’s more difficult is to find sites

process of getting me permits. The actual production—ac-

that have all of those elements going on—contested narra-

tually being in Israel creating the piece—was four months.

tives, history—but that are also photographically compel-

I was invited by an Israeli contemporary art foundation to

ling. I chose those sites because they combined all of the

go there—I probably would have gone anyway, but that

content I wanted, plus I thought I could make dynamic,

made it a lot easier and gave me a platform there. The first

beautiful, and hopefully arresting photographs of them. In

two months were devoted to selecting the sites, because

other words, combining aesthetic and content together at

the phrases were already developed, and having the light

the fifty-yard line. I would probably look at fifteen sites for

boxes fabricated. So, finding the sites that would work both

every one that I selected. All fifteen had the history, had

conceptually and visually aesthetically to hopefully create

the content, would have made sense, but would have led

strong photographs. The light boxes with all those different

to very boring photographs. And above all else, one must

phrases had to be fabricated there. The second two months

not make bad art.

were spent in production—six days a week in production. Like, today we are going to go to the Negev Desert, tomor-

ANDREA: How did you come up with the phrases?

row we are going to the old city of Jerusalem. The day after we are going to an installation in downtown Tel Aviv. I

SHIMON: A lot of reflection—that’s how I developed the

mean, everything was planned like clockwork, because in

phrases. How do you condense, distill, and articulate the

Israel you can’t just pull up in a car and pull out a generator

zeitgeist? Whether the zeitgeist ensconced in the body poli-

and light boxes without the military immediately coming

tic, in the landscape—sort of the ideological, psychological,

up to you. Everything had to be permitted in advance, and

political and cultural subtext that are maybe latent in the

that also sometimes only gets you so far.

landscape of today but not manifest, not immediately visible. I have a very long history with that part of the world.

ANDREA: While you were working on this project, did

From childhood, I lived there at different phases as well as

your feelings or impressions of Israel change from before

during formative years. Also, I read a lot of literature grow-

you started working on the project?

ing up relating to the history of Zionism and nationalism— things of that sort. To answer your question, I developed

SHIMON: I was reminded that if you’re American, Jew-

those phrases over the course of a year before I went there

ish, white, male, and speak some Hebrew, you have a

to do the project, and I worked very closely with two Israeli

tremendous amount of privilege. When I think about all

colleagues. I created the phrases myself, but I would get

the things that could have gone wrong—and maybe only

Portrait by Andrea Blanch.


I wanted a medium that was more material, hence the sculptural light box pieces that actually have a physical presence.

one or two things went wrong and a hundred things went right—I was just reminded of that position of privilege that I was afforded. For example, I remember doing some of these installations in settlements in the West Bank. Now, even though we had permission from the Secretariat—the administration of the settlement—it didn’t mean that Israeli settlers on the ground were going to be cooperative with you. The letter doesn’t mean anything to them. I remember doing installations in these settlements and someone would come outside, would walk out of their settler trailer or their caravan, and they would sort of accost me, like, “What are you doing?” And I would say, you know, I would start in Hebrew, “Well I was invited by an Israeli art foundation to come here.” And I would say, “I’m from New York,” and then the smiles started. And then the settler would say, “My mom was from Brooklyn.” So then it’s sort of a mishpacha [Hebrew word for family]; it’s like an ‘all in the family’ kind of thing even though it’s not really. ANDREA: Where did your fascination with light boxes begin? SHIMON: One of the first times I worked with light boxes was in the nineties, in this underwater light box installation that I created in one of the main canals in Copenhagen. So it was sort of this aesthetic blending between illuminated image and undulating water. You know, my work is probably still quite associated with doing projections—like in my Berlin piece or my Lower East Side piece, here. And one of the reasons I was using projections in those projects is because I was working with something as ethereal as human memory. But for this project in Israel and Palestine, it wasn’t so much that I was trying to give voice to memory, per se. It was more about ideology, national narrative, national aspirations. Things that actually get codified, canonized, solidified. I wanted a medium that was more material, hence the sculptural light box pieces that actually have a physical presence. ANDREA: When you did this project, what did you want your viewer to walk away with?

Shimon Attie; A Different Possession; Israel/Palestine; 2013-14.



Shimon Attie; Above: Part of the Plan; Israel/Palestine; 2013-14.


Hopefully there is enough space in each of the pieces for each viewer to arrive at their own conclusions or questions.

SHIMON: Well, that’s the thing with art and art of a particular flavor. I don’t want it to be a specific message—that is sort of devoid of poetic sport or interpretative oxygen. So I think of the pieces as more like opportunities for reflection and using the language of visual art as a way to perhaps create new experiences and associations that might get under the radar of some of our previously held assumptions. Hopefully there is enough space in each of the pieces for each viewer to arrive at their own conclusions or questions. This is a particular challenge that arises when one deals with subject matter that is so overly mediated and overly literal in terms of political discourse. ANDREA: Did any of the phrases come from any Palestinian history? SHIMON: No, no, absolutely not. That was a place that I was unwilling to go, consciously, because I cannot be Palestinian. I would never dare to think that I could speak for Palestinians. So, I made a conscious decision to not even approach that territory. ANDREA: It must be difficult to not personalize a project like this and to be so objective about a project so particularly close to you. SHIMON: I actually do face that in a lot of projects I do, because—for better or for worse—I often do projects in very fraught, delicate, traumatized landscapes and communities, or communities’ histories. And I think what inoculates me a little bit is that I reflect a lot. I don’t do anything quickly. I try to be reflective rather than impulsive. ANDREA: That’s curious, because a lot of artists—if they are going to deal with a topic such as yours—they want to put in their own opinion. They don’t want to keep it ambiguous. SHIMON: Well, my opinion is sort of in there. But the

Shimon Attie; Following spread: Something Abnormal; Israel/Palestine; 2013-14.


I am trying to create something that is more direct and, therefore, less like documentation.

viewer doesn’t need to hear me say, “Oh, you know, I really think that such and such is not good.” That’s not necessary in that situation. The art will speak for itself. Balance. ANDREA: Why did you choose to have empty landscapes devoid of people in Facts on the Ground? SHIMON: There are several reasons, but one is, once there’s people in them, the people would presumably be looking at the installation. Then the photographs become documentation of an installation. I’m sort of trying to triangulate the viewer of the photograph, the installation itself and then the site and landscape itself. It’s like a three-way relationship. So, I am trying to create something that is more direct and, therefore, less like documentation. ANDREA: While you were doing Facts on the Ground, what were the reactions on site? SHIMON: It was varied. In Tel Aviv, there was everything from the very positive responses to negative. There was a very complicated response from one person whose English was very, very bad, and he misunderstood the phrase, “Do unto others before,” even though I was with two Israelis who were helping me that night and they tried to explain to him that he was misunderstanding what the phrase meant, and we couldn’t get it through his head. So he parked his motorcycle right in front of the installation so I couldn’t photograph it. He thought the phrase meant, “Palestinians were here before,” which may or may not be true, but that’s not what I was on about. In the Palestinian Authority-controlled areas that I worked, the responses were positive. People kind of instinctively understood that if I’m doing things at the separation wall, they understood that I was probably not applauding the wall being there. But then I had some unfortunate things as well. I’ll tell you something kind of dramatic that was in Abu Dis, which is a Palestinian university town. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. We pulled up, took our

Shimon Attie; Above: A Problem in Logic; Israel/Palestine; 2013-14.



Shimon Attie; Wild and Urgent (i); Israel/Palestine; 2013-14.


I just gave the biggest deer-in-the-headlights look that I could possibly generate.

equipment out of the car at the exact same time as two Israeli armored personnel carriers stopped. I guess they had passed the University entry and maybe someone had thrown a stone at them or not—I didn’t see that part. But they stopped and they tear-gassed us, among other people. Have you ever been tear-gassed? ANDREA: No, pepper sprayed [both laugh]. SHIMON: Actually, being tear-gassed is much worse than I ever thought. You know, you think tear gas—it’s going to, what, sting your eyes and you’re going to cry? That’s not what tear gas does. It gets inside and you’re on fire and you almost pass out. It’s really intense. Anyway, I was tear-gassed and then an Israeli sniper with a high-powered automatic weapon of some kind was pointing his weapon at my forehead for a disconcertingly long amount of time. And the problem was I would have had to raise my voice to speak to him and raising your voice in such a situation is not a good idea. So, I just gave the biggest deer-in-theheadlights look that I could possibly generate. ANDREA: So, currently, you’re working on a video about Syrian refugees? Can you say something more about the work? SHIMON: It’s an art video. ANDREA: Which means there’s no narrative, or what? SHIMON: Well, meaning it’s not a documentary. I use the whole notion of roulette—the game of roulette, the roulette table—as a way of speaking about the refugee experience, especially for Syrians, North Africans, anyone crossing the Mediterranean. Some make it alive, some drown. Some have the good fortune that their family has a few thousand dollars to get them smuggled, assuming it has a good ending. Others are never even able to leave Syria or they disappear; they just get kidnapped and disappear. So, roulette functioning as a kind of mirror and distillation for the things in our lives

Shimon Attie; Following spread: A Particular Subject; Israel/Palestine; 2013-14.


People are just disappearing from the table. We don’t know why. Did they win? Did they lose? And the tension is building in the piece.

that we have control over and the things that we don’t and something as simple as good or bad fortune. The first thing I did with the Syrian refugees was a commission to create a new piece in Europe. I told them my idea and asked them what they thought. Like, “I want to make an art film with several of you around a roulette table,” and I explained to them my motivation, like I just did to you. And I asked them, “Does this speak to you or not?” Because if they thought it was not reflective of their experience, I wouldn’t have done the project. But much to my surprise, they were extremely enthusiastic. They were like, “That is exactly what our life experience has been so far.” I use moving image footage—you know we shoot in video—but I often have people holding static poses and maybe they’re standing on a platform that’s rotating or moving. In this particular piece, we start with seven refugees around a roulette table—they don’t speak, they are holding static poses—but the camera is moving. The camera is on a dolly, so the camera is moving in different ways and the roulette wheel, with the ball, is sometimes moving. And we use ‘old master painting’ lighting. It’s extremely beautiful. There is a lot of eye candy in the piece. And it’s very short, only about eight minutes. We had seven people, now we have six. We don’t see the people leave the table. But we go from seven to six to five to four to three to two to one. People are just disappearing from the table. We don’t know why. Did they win? Did they lose? And the tension is building in the piece. And so it’s a combination of very beautiful and a bit uncanny. Then there is a dedication at the end. Like, “For the hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing war in Syria and elsewhere, who risked their lives”—I forget the exact words, it’s actually in French—but, “who risked their lives, who gambled for their lives and risked everything for a new life in Europe. Seven such individuals appear in this piece.” But that piece is almost done. I am at the very beginning of a new piece that I am just working on now for the St. Louis Art Museum, which is in the early phases.

Shimon Attie; Finders, Keepers; Israel/Palestine; 2013-14.



Shimon Attie; Unlike Euphoria; Israel/Palestine; 2013-14.


The problem with permanent pieces is everyone has a stake suddenly. So temporary interventions are much easier in that sense...

ANDREA: Give us a hint. SHIMON: Alright, I’ll give you a hint. The St. Louis Art Museum is obviously near the Mississippi River, and it is five minutes from Ferguson, Missouri. So that’s already telling you what direction I’m thinking in. I am creating an installation inside the museum which has a sculptural aspect to it that is a bit reminiscent of a Huckleberry Finn raft, and it’s also a nineteenth century allegory to American race-relations. That raft has a few elements on it that conflate it with more contemporary issues related to police, community, race, even Ferguson. So there will be this beautiful sculptural piece in the center of the gallery with an immersive video environment around it related to the Mississippi River, that’s all I can tell you. ANDREA: That’s exciting. When’s that opening? SHIMON: The piece opens April, 2017. So that’s where I am going to be putting most of my focus for the coming year. ANDREA: Your work deals with public installation, if only for a brief amount of time, in order to be photographed. What are your feelings about public installation, and what challenges does it face? SHIMON: Well, the big dividing line is: is it permanent or is it temporary? If it’s permanent, oh my gosh, the challenges are endless. The problem with permanent pieces is everyone has a stake suddenly. So temporary interventions are much easier in that sense, the burden of due diligence or whatever, it’s easier, it’s freer. You as the artist are freer because it’s temporary; the sense is that the stakes are not as high, I suppose. Regarding why I have a need to create public installations, I think it’s because I am an installation artist, and I do have a visceral need in my own body to actually touch and intervene in actual, physical sites. Because you can fake things on a computer with Photoshop if you want to, but for me there is something about intervening in the site that’s very central to my artistic impulse.

Shimon Attie; Following spread: Land Lord; Israel/Palestine; 2013-14.



Michel Delsol, Top: Place de la Concorde, Paris, France, 1985; Bottom: Waves # 4, Acadia National Park, Maine, USA, 2001



Michel Delsol, Top: Mont Blanc, Alpes, France, 2006; Bottom: Temple entrance, Kyoto, Japan, 2006.





Hye-Ryoung Min, Untitled from the series Personal Landscape, 2015.


A B E L A R D O M O R E L L th e c u b a n mi ssi l e

ANDREA BLANCH: You were fourteen when you left

ANDREA: I have to say to you, I think your work is sub-

Cuba. I’m curious to know how your Cuban background

lime. I’m curious, how did you get to camera obscura and

influences your work?

using that process for your work?

ABELARDO MORELL: Where were you born?

ABELARDO: I was teaching at a college in Boston called

the Massachusetts College of Art, and in 1991 I had a sab-

ANDREA: Brooklyn.

batical for eight months. I had been working on optical pic-

tures; pictures of light bulbs and things like that. Just crude

ABELARDO: How does your Brooklyn background influ-

objects being examined by my work, my glasses and things

ence your work?

like that. Then I thought of how in the mid-80’s one of my

teaching methods was to turn my classrooms at Massachu-

ANDREA: Well, I have a tendency to like cities [both

setts into camera obscuras. I was really affected by these


savvy kids all kind of going, “Oh my God!” You know, they

were really touched, so I knew there was something really

ABELARDO: I think the biggest effect it had on my life

powerful about that phenomenon. So in ’91 I thought, why

was the idea of leaving a place that I had been born in, and

not try to make a picture of that effect, the phenomenon

arriving in NYC at 13 or 14. That shift, the relocation…not

itself, which had not really been made before. People have

necessarily being Cuban, but just the relocation. The exile

used pinhole cameras, but a photograph inside a room

experience that so much of America is like, that was a real

converted into a camera obscura and photographed, no

reset for me. The Cuban thing, you know, not sure that I

one had done that before for some reason. It was always

could specifically say what about Cuba or Cuban-ness has

mentioned in art history texts and things like that, so in ‘91

affected me, but I think growing up by the beach and the

I attempted to try and make a picture like that, and when

sea was very important. I grew up right by a small beach

it came out I was just kind of blown away by how wonder-

town, and I think that sense of openness and infinity did

ful and weird and crazy it was. But it did take me a while

give me some sense of ambition.

to get the technical stuff going on. Those exposures back

then were made with film and just a pinhole—well, not a

ANDREA: I’ve never met a Cuban that doesn’t work

pinhole but a 3/8ths of an inch hole—and those exposures

hard. I have a Cuban friend and I call him the Cuban

tended to be about 8 hours long, so it was a strange be-

Missile, and you’re very prolific. It may be a generaliza-

ginning. It was like the beginning of photography in some

tion, but from what I’m hearing from you I think it’s true.

ways for me. Now of course, things have changed radi-

cally, but that was the beginning. In some sense, I’ve tried

ABELARDO: I think probably exiles tend to generally

to achieve surrealism through very straight methods. Not

work harder because there is a certain thing that they’re

by putting floating elephants in the room and shit like that.

maybe trying to compensate for. I didn’t speak English when I arrived so in some ways I was trying to compen-

ANDREA: What’s the process like now? You say it’s

sate for deficiency early on. And also as a way to prove to

changed radically, so how has it changed?

Americans that, you know, I’m as good as you guys. I think we are constantly trying to prove ourselves.

ABELARDO: So the beginning pictures from ’91 were

Portrait by Robin Myers. All images courtesy of the artist and Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York.


just basically me darkening the whole room with dark plastic and then I would make a small hole, like 3/8ths of an inch looking out. So, a very dim image of the outside showed on the opposite wall. It wasn’t super bright, so those film pictures just took a lot of exposure to get them right. Some of them, like I said, were 8 hours long. Over time I’ve developed ways to get the image brighter by getting a lens made that will focus on the distance of that wall, not only brighter, but sharper. Then I found ways to invert the image so instead of them being always upsidedown, I can turn them right side up. I’ve shot in color, and recently—well the last 5 or 6 years—I’ve been using a digital camera. So the 5-8 hour exposures are now 3-5 minutes long. So it’s changed radically.

ANDREA: I have to tell you, the whole thing just doesn’t make sense to me, and I’m a photographer! So I don’t understand how you use a digital camera for your method; I don’t get it! ABELARDO: Well my digital camera is just like a film camera, except it’s got a digital back. And what happens with digital technology is that film has something called reciprocity, which means that when the light is low-level, film doesn’t react to light in a regular way. It just takes a lot longer for it to receive these photons of energy. So, if your meter says 2 minutes, it’s more like 2 hours. Digital technology doesn’t have any of that reciprocity—just, what it is, is what it is. It tends to get it a lot faster. The nice thing about that is that now, in my pictures, I can get clouds, I can even get people to show up. So there’s a certain momentary feeling of time, and I think that’s really helped a lot.

ANDREA: Yeah, and you can do much more! ABELARDO: I know! Before, I would start an exposure at eight in the morning, I would go uptown, see my dealer, see a movie, go to the Met, have lunch, and then come back and hopefully then not only come back to New York, but then take the train to Boston that evening, get home, develop the sheet of film and see if I even had anything. The process was very primitive.

ANDREA: Do you think you’re going to stay with this method? ABELARDO: I’ve been developing it more so I think they’re very different pictures that I’m making now. So yeah, I’ve been making different kinds of pictures enough to want to stay with it. I’ve also been using the Tent camera, I don’t know if you’ve seen that?


Abelardo Morell, Camera Obscura: Afternoon Light On The Pacific Ocean, Brookings, Oregon, July 13th, 2009.


Abelardo Morell, Camera Obscura: View Of Central Park Looking North – Spring, 2010.


ANDREA: The what camera? ABELARDO: The tent camera. ANDREA: Oh yes, I was gonna ask you questions about that. ABELARDO: The tent camera is sort of an outgrowth of the camera obscura technique. I had a commission to do work in West Texas a couple of years ago and they were wondering if I could do camera obscura pictures in the desert, and I pointed out that there are no rooms in the desert, so no, I can’t do it. So I thought about making a portable room in the form of a tent. And I continued to make work in that way too.

ANDREA: Would you say that texture is important to your work? ABELARDO: Yeah, well, for instance, in the ground pictures texture is very important, because if I get a landscape of a thing falling onto the ground, the different patinas and textures of the ground change the nature of image, so it’s like a painting or something, it provides—texture is part of the meaning of an image. So yes, very much.

ANDREA: You describe much of your camera obscura work as “painterly,” aside from Monet, your project “After Monet”, which other painters have influenced you? ABELARDO: Well, I’m a closet painter. I don’t know how to paint, but I love looking at painting. And of course, photography grew out of painting, so you name it. The current project that I’d like to talk to you about is Monet, but when I was a teenager in New York City, I went to MOMA a lot, and then I loved the surrealists, the Magritte and the Kiro and people like that. But then Picasso and all those modernists became very important to me and to this day my studio is mostly full of art books, which I constantly look at, and I’m constantly trying to find some avenue to combine some of my painterliness into my work.

ANDREA: Well you’ve succeeded. ABELARDO: Thank you. ANDREA: Your work is the intersection of different worlds whether it is indoors and outdoors in the case of your camera obscura series or two-dimensional or threedimensional with your Alice in Wonderland series. What about exploring the intersections of seemingly separate worlds appeals to you? ABELARDO: That’s a good question. Maybe a little bit it


goes back to that issue of being a young immigrant in New York in the sense of it being that I was definitely not in that world, I definitely felt separate you know. I don’t mean in a discrimination kind of way but just that that world was not mine. And that sense of breaching or getting to know this other side has been with me a lot; that sense of overcoming the distance. I think in some ways the New York pictures—the camera obscura pictures—are very much about a man, a young man, who was overwhelmed by a city. And now in some ways, I’m making more private New York City pictures. In some ways, understanding what I didn’t understand before.

ANDREA: Although your works are all combined elements of reality, are you at all influenced by fantasy? ABELARDO: I don’t think so. No, I’m more in tune with “the real” being quite complicated. The way that magical realism and Latin American literature suggested that real is quite crazy. The fantasy part can lead to a kind of wishywashy softness that I’m not interested in. I mean, I like Magritte very much because his paintings are of very normal things—a door, a chair, an apple. So the reality of that is really interesting and when you make something that common strange, I think it feels more earned as an artist than just making up unicorns.

ANDREA: Which thoughts or emotions do you hope to provoke in your viewers when they look at your work? Do you consider that? ABELARDO: Well of course. I always have an audience in mind. I’m not a mad person who doesn’t know what they’re doing [laughs]. I’m not a primitive artist in that sense. I do have trouble with the fact that I’m showing them something that they’ve seen before, but through a different mirror, a different conduit. I like surprising people with what they know, but seen in a different light. To me that’s the most fun.

ANDREA: How does the arduous process of setting up for a shot add to the experience of the image? ABELARDO: I think it’s important. I come from a working class background, so in order to get anything done you had to work really hard. That’s part of my philosophy. My father and mother worked extremely hard when we moved to New York. I think taking time to make something, I think the world or something pays back. There’s a certain feeling of earning it which I love. Though it may not be in the picture, or the fact that we just came back from France and we worked really hard, but for one picture we were in the tent for like four hours


Abelardo Morell, Camera Obscura: View Of The Brooklyn Bridge In Bedroom, 2009.


Abelardo Morell, Camera Obscura: Garden with Olive Tree Inside Room with Plants, Italy, 2009.


waiting for the right light. And it matters. It’s like, “no, that’s good,” ”nah,” “no, another half an hour?” Getting it right is really important I think for me, but it is also good art, I think if someone has gone the extra length to get something well-said.

ANDREA: And I would think that people would know that either doing camera obscura or using those techniques, you’ve earned it [laughs]! It’s a statement about that. ABELARDO: Someone I was living in Texas with once said something like, “Why do you work so hard? Why don’t you just project whatever the hell you want on a slide projector in a room and just do the Taj Mahal and New York or something?” And I was like, “That would be fucking boring!” While everything like that is possible, it gets really uninteresting. Part of being tied up with reality and the way that it does things is that there’s an engagement. That I think makes me even think differently. So you need to do that. You can’t just sit in your pajamas and just make whatever you want in Photoshop.

ANDREA: Many photographers say that the benefit of photography is its quickness, and with that it allows for more happy accidents. Do you ever have accidents? ABELARDO: Basically with whatever in my pictures I see exactly what’s happening. But yes, accidents happen all the time. When I make a two-minute exposure, I don’t know that the man is going to stand for two minutes on the sidewalk and show up. I don’t know that the light will change and give something a glittering look or something. Now it feels like I’m—because of the ground and the unruliness of the ground in my tent pictures—definitely welcoming chaos and chance and randomness a lot more than I’m used to. Maybe it’s my old age or something.

ANDREA: Yeah you’re very old [laughs]. You describe photography as a language and as your preferred language. How do images for you succeed where words fail? ABELARDO: Well images and words are such different animals. But I think paint it right or I think photograph it right. Sometimes, I would even say it’s better than the real thing, because it solves a certain problem of being that it is separate from real life. When you see a painting that shows an emotion or moment, like a sunset pic…er not a sunset, but there’s a certain intelligence that art brings to life that when it’s right it shows the moment at its best.

ANDREA: So you use, not all the time, but you use water, salt, natural elements in your work. How does the natural and unnatural play off of each other in your photograms?


ABELARDO: Oh, the photograms. I mean I like the idea of basic things like salt and water – like the alchemic sense of making something magical out of crude elements – so lately I’ve been making pictures of flowers. I don’t know if you’ve seen those.

ANDREA: Yes, I have. AABELARDO: And I’ve been also making cliché verres. Do you know what those are?

ANDREA: No. ABELARDO: In the 1850’s a number of French artists – French painters, namely Coureau and Melé – had this interesting idea where you take a piece of glass, you know any size, but 8’’10 say. They would cover it with soot from a candle or something, blacken the plate, and then with a drawing tool they would make drawings on this blackened glass plate. So they could draw, and make, whatever, a tree and a person. But, this is the interesting part: what they did was they exposed that plate with a piece of photographic paper, so like a contact print. What came out of that experiment is a drawing on photographic paper. So they called it glass images, cliché verres. And I love these pictures so much that I embarked on making some for a project I made for the Museum of Modern Art [MoMa] with Oliver Sacks trying to get drawings of ferns and cycads – things that Oliver was really interested in – and I made a bunch of cliché verres related to that. And lately, for this flower project that I’m calling Flowers for Lisa and the Monet project, I’m trying to work on cliché verres involving flowers, pressing flowers on color ink, things like that. And then what I do is that I scan those plates and I make a print out of it.

ANDREA: I only saw one image of that, the flowers, just recently actually. ABELARDO: The crazy flowers? ANDREA: If I remember correctly, they looked like they were in a vase on a table but they were like a big… ABELARDO: …explosion. ANDREA: Yeah. ABELARDO: That comes from a project called “Flowers for Lisa”. So I’ve been trying to photograph flowers in all kinds of ways. I’ve got two pictures like that where there are multiple exposures; there are about 20 exposures of bouquets in a vase, so essentially just double exposures times twenty. And then when you do that in Photoshop it’s kind of like a chaotic blend of accidents and plant stuff and all that. Anyway, now


Abelardo Morell, Camera Obscura: The Philadelphia Museum Of Art East Entrance In Gallery #171 With A Decherico Painting, 2005.


Abelardo Morell, Camera Obscura: View Outside Florence With Bookcase, Italy, 2009.


I have about 20 pictures called Flowers for Lisa. Not just using that technique but all kinds of techniques.

ANDREA: What are you photographing with? Camera obscura in the tent? ABELARDO: No, no. With a regular… ANDREA: A regular camera?! ABELARDO: No, my digital camera, but in my studio. I put a vase, put two or three flowers in the vase, and photograph that. Then I move the vase, take those flowers out, put another set, and do that several times. And at the end I put them together in some crazy way.

ANDREA: What about the Monet project? What is that about? ABELARDO: For the Monet project I spent time in Giverny where Monet’s gardens are. Last year I was in residence for a bid there so I brought my tent camera to the gardens and I made five pictures that I love, love, love. So I thought, “Okay. There’s a project here. I’m going to call it, After Monet and it’s to go to some places in Normandy where he painted and I’m going to use the camera obscura, the tent camera, and other things having to do with his paintings or the way he worked and all that. So I just came back, like a week ago, and I went to Girverny again for the garden pictures, I went to Ruan where he made the cathedral paintings – I made pictures there – I made pictures in Étretat, a coast town, and they’re amazing. It’s an incredible project. I’m very excited.

ANDREA: Has anybody seen those? ABELARDO: No, no, no one. ANDREA: Well, can we use some of those? ABELARDO: Well here’s the thing, I’m trying to get the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston – you know they own a lot of Monets – to…let me think about it. They’re really special. So this, after my project we’ll also include some when I’m pulling Flowers for Lisa because they’re related to a kind of Monet attitude. And I even got some camera obscuras from Paris that are amazing that I think in some ways have this Monet feeling to them. So, I can send you some stuff.

ANDREA: Yeah well if you can just remember that the theme of this issue is place [Both laugh]. Just putting it out there. ABELARDO: Okay. I got it.


ANDREA: Okay? And God I wish you were in New York I’d love to meet you. Why’d you choose Boston? Is that where you teach? ABELARDO: I used to teach there. I retired 6 years ago. I still teach a graduate class in the fall. Yeah I mean I got a job teaching at Mass College of Art in ’83. So I taught for 30 years. But I like Boston. It’s kind of slightly boring which is nice. It’s not like your city. So um…it’s so aggressive.

ANDREA: [laughs] Everyone but me. ABELARDO: Yeah you’re so nice. You don’t sound like you’re from New York.

ANDREA: I would just like to know, this is a boring question, but… You are a large advocate for older, more hands-on methods of image creation. How do you see that… what kind of an effect do you see that having on photography in the future? ABELARDO: You mean, digital technology, or…? ANDREA: Just where it’s going, you know, because everybody uses their iPhones, the technology now is like…There’s a lot of people in school who are going back to analog photography, but I would say that most people use digital. ABELARDO: Yeah, no, I agree. Many artists, including myself, have gone back to older ways of devising pictures and it’s a way to reset the original love for it, and I think that’s part of it. Students now love film because in a way it’s sort of like… this digital is a little bit of this bullshit iPhone thing. So I think they want to have a little bit more heftiness in their work. Although I agree, I do think that digital technology is just another step in the process of image making and it’s what’s working and what I love about it. I’m trying to make new pictures using… like the way those flower pictures were, giving Photoshop 20 exposures and trying to let it decide how it’s going to arrange it. It’s part of this interesting battle between your intentions and what digital stuff is.

ANDREA: Yeah. Maybe I should go back to using film. Maybe I’ll get more interested again. Seriously. The magic is gone. I grew up with film cameras and I have to say I use digital but I thought the magic was taken away for me. ABELARDO: Well I think it can. Yeah it can. And that’s why I’m inside some tent in France during a hailstorm, waiting for it to pass so I can make a picture. I’m trying to get myself the irritation of the old so I can make new pictures.


Abelardo Morell, Camera Obscura: View of Valle De ViĂąales, Pinar Del Rio, Cuba, 2014.






Marcos Vilas Boas, Vilas Boas, Scenario 03, 2008.





Marcos Vilas Boas, Vilas Boas, Scenario 02, 2008.



Marcos Vilas Boas, Vilas Boas, Scenario 04, 2012.





Marcos Vilas Boas, Structure 14, 2012.



Marcos Vilas Boas, Top: Structure 12, 2012; Bottom: Structure 15, 2013.






Tanmay Chowdhary, The wind on her hair; The sound of laughter, 2016





Piper Strasel, Top: Untitled I; Bottom: Untitled II, 2016.


J A S O N P E T E R S O N rad

ANDREA BLANCH: How do you feel about using an

ANDREA: What about the trend of a lot of young fash-

iPhone as a Creative Director? Do you feel like you’re

ion photographers going back to film?

taking away work from traditional photographers? JASON: Sure, because a lot of these guys were introJASON PETERSON: Of course I am, but I don’t know

duced in the same sort of way I’m talking about - through

what the word traditional means. Let me give you a little

iPhone, through digital – and they’re like, “Wow, there’s

background, too. I’m 47 years old and I’ve been shooting

this whole world of film out there and film is so cool and

photos every day of my life since I was 15. I shot film pho-

awesome.” I know film, because it’s all I’ve done. I know

tography, probably up until seven years ago. And I hated

how to print my own film, I know how to develop my

digital photography; I was anti-digital photography, like

own film–I know everything. It’s like anything, it’ll go

I despised the craft, because I grew up inspired by classic

back and forth, but that’s not a real viable business or

film, early fashion, street photography, stuff like that. So

trend, you know? That’s just the same as how I have a

I only shot film.

huge vinyl collection, and I love listening to records, but

I was in a dilemma, because I hated digital photography,

that’s just a blip on the radar. It’s a small, little thing, and

because the quality was just never up to my kind of stan-

people want that analog experience. And I love film pho-

dards, and the whole process itself just wasn’t the craft of

tography–I think it’s great.

shooting a photograph. So about five years ago, I launched my Instagram kind

ANDREA: So, you’re a Creative Director at Havas, do

of early, like the Tumblr days. I started shooting and I

you hire classic photographers?

shot a photo on my phone and it looked just like a Hiroshi Sugimoto shot. I thought, “This looks like an amaz-

JASON: So my day job is that I run one of the biggest and

ing medium format 10 hour-long exposures at sea, and I

most creative advertising agencies in America. So I do it all

shot it on my phone.” So I got into digital photography

the time, or I did it all the time. But now all the creatives

through shooting on my iPhone. It kind of blew up and

that work for me are these kids I’m hiring off Instagram,

went crazy from there, where I was really kind of flower-

Vine, and YouTube. Why would I hire a photographer who

ing from being a classic photographer into shooting on an

has a $100,000 day rate, when I could have these awesome,

iPhone. But that’s transferred since then. Now I’m spon-

really talented kids, who don’t carry all the baggage of

sored by Leica, so I shoot on digital for Leica and other

production and go out and make stuff themselves, you

cameras like that.

know what I mean?

But do I feel like I take away from a traditional photographer? Yeah, because traditional photography is dead. You

ANDREA: So if there were a photographer who just had

know, they’re like, “Oh my God, I miss Rotary Home.” It’s

his photographs on an iPhone, you would look at that

like, yeah, I miss a lot of things. I miss black and white

and if you like them, it’s like, let’s go. Right?

television, but we’re not going back that way, we’re going this way. The thing I try to do is capture an amazing emo-

JASON: Absolutely.

tional image, no matter what format it is. But for people to get hung up on format of a tradition are dead in the water.

ANDREA: And how would you structure the fees for

That goes with any technology.

that? Do you pay them much less, or how does that work?

Portrait by @weownthecity. All images courtesy of @jasonmpeterson.


JASON: Okay, let me give you that. Say a client is mak-

JASON: In certain situations, sure. Lighting situations, or,

ing a photographic campaign or something that’s gonna

like, if I shoot sports or concerts, which I do a lot of, where

run on Facebook, right? That’s totally viable. Why would

there’s crazy extreme lighting situations. Sometimes I’ll

I pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for an image that’s

pull out my iPhone and get something that’s really good,

going to run on Facebook, and maybe live there for only

when I’m sitting there fussing around with all my settings

a couple hours, maybe a day? What is the value prop on

on my camera, you know for 10 minutes. But, there are a

that? That’s insanity, right? That’s like wearing a tuxedo to

lot of times, where there are low-light situations or high-

a beach party. You look like a fool.

speed situations or certain things like that, where the qual-

The platform dictates what production should be. I’m not

ity of the Leica is unmatched. So, I would say it’s whatever

saying crappy images, because I’m talking about amazing,

the right tool is for the right situation.

great images. You ask the most confident photographers in the world, and “it’s the camera doesn’t mean shit.” “The

ANDREA: I can’t believe the images you get on the

best camera is the one that you have with you” is the same

iPhone. I’m serious. It’s really, really crazy. Do you have

sort of quote, and that’s the same for this kind of stuff.

any tips or tricks?

To me, it’s not about making hundred thousand dollar productions; it’s about making thousand dollar produc-

JASON: For my style of photography, which is based on

tions. But quality is important. Everyone in the world is a

the classic photographers, like Harry Callahan, the iPhone

photographer; the largest selling camera in the world is an

works really well for a lot of situations. But there are defi-

iPhone. So everyone in the world has the same tools, now

nitely a few little tricks, and they’re pretty common tricks.

it’s about photography. Now it’s about what you can do

Locking in your focus, holding your finger on the screen

with it. A great image is a great image.

and locking your focus, so your focus won’t change when

To me, these photographers who get all up in arms about

an object moves. The hardest thing on an iPhone is that

kids who are shooting and building careers on their iPhone

there’s so much technology going on there, if you’re in a

are just insecure. Because they’re afraid. You know what I

situation and say a train goes by, it’s constantly trying to

mean? It’s the LCD Sound System song; they hear the foot-

focus. So you have to lock your focus. Watch your expo-

steps coming up from behind them, and rather than adapt-

sure. There are a couple little apps that I do on my phone.

ing and focusing on your talent, they’re worried about

There are a couple of apps that kind of help sharpen up an

other people. That’s the first sign that you’re any good.

image and then I deal with dodging and burning, and really treating a photographic image as a total piece.

ANDREA: What do you do with all these other people that have been working for a while? Richard Prince had

ANDREA: What are the apps that you use?

a very good quote, “Look, you’re either doing what’s going on or you’re just kind of in a covered wagon.” So

JASON: I use two: one called Snapseed and another one

that’s what you’re saying…

called FilterStorm. With FilterStorm you can do anything on your phone that you could do in Photoshop or Lightroom.

JASON: I agree with that one hundred percent. Granted, I

It’s no different than when I print my own photos. It’s just

am not a technology whore. I appreciate the craft of photog-

understanding how to create the image and how to add light

raphy and if the image doesn’t make you feel any emotion—

and exposure to certain areas of the photograph to give it the

happy, sad, or something in that moment—it’s a bad image.

look and feel that I want. I may overexpose, and then take it

What it’s taken with shouldn’t matter. If you are some Lud-

all down, or I may underexpose and then take it down.

dite, who is anti the advancement of technology and what

You just kind of have to know what you’re doing and

it can do, you need to retire. You need to do something else.

know the limitations. I was really influenced by French

I do this little test when I speak about mobile photography,

cinema and the whole kind of day-for-night school, which

and I’m like, okay, here’s 30 images I’m going to show you.

is a French cinema technique based upon not having a lot

You tell me if this was shot on an iPhone or if this was shot

of money and location stuff. I love shooting in broad day-

on my $40,000 Leica. So you decide, because it’s half and

light, at high noon, in harsh shadows. I then take the stuff

half. You tell me which one’s which. They get them wrong

way, way down to make it look like night time, but it’s

every fucking time.

super, super crisp.

ANDREA: Do you see any difference between the images,

ANDREA: Do you have any advice to people who are try-

between the Leica and the iPhone?

ing to break into this type of commercial photography?

Jason Peterson, I promised myself I’d never feel this fucking way again, December 13, 2015.



Jason Peterson, #birdcitysaints, February 1, 2016


Jason Peterson, keep it like a secret, December 8th 2015



JASON: To me, the biggest thing is to study the path.

JASON: That is more than most television shows. I’m not

Look at things that have been done in the ‘50s and ‘60s and

stupid and I know a lot of brands want to pay me or want

‘70s. All of my favorite photographers have a specific style.

to hire me based on my feed as a media channel. But I have

I could look at a Helmut Newton image—the beginning of

rules of engagement: I only do things in my point of view,

his career to the end of his career—and I can tell it’s his.

I only shoot my style of photography, and I won’t do any-

Figure out your point of view, find your own style, your

thing corny. If it’s not right for my brand, I’m not going to

own voice, look at what was going on in the past and un-

do it. I’ve turned down hundreds of jobs that would pay

derstand how to use the tools of today. Great photography

me money, because—and it’s a luxury I have being a Cre-

is about creating a narrative for themselves and having a

ative Director by—I don’t need to do this for money, and

point of view. Have a point of view, then take one million

I’m not going to sell out my passion for my point of view

photos—take photos every single day. I have a simple little

in photography for some tea that’s going to help you lose

rule when it comes to posting things to my social media,

weight, or whatever.

which is that each photograph has to be slightly better than the last. I’m on a constant quest of perfection. Unless

ANDREA: How did that grow? As a Creative Director for

you are your own harshest crtic, and are constantly push-

Havas, did that already come with some built in audience?

ing yourself, you’re never going to get better. JASON: Not really, to be honest. It was a very conscious ANDREA: Are you hashtagging all your pictures?

decision to understand social media better than anyone else in advertising. That’s all I wanted to do. I love advertising; I

JASON: I am, but the thing about hashtagging is it is not a

love creating communications that people go: “Oh my God,

magical tool that is going to give you everything. Hashtag-

that’s so amazing,” “That’s my favorite television commer-

ging in social media is like this… Social media is the party.

cial,” and “That’s so rad!” I want to know social media bet-

Hash-tagging is like a social media party. You put that

ter than anyone, so okay, I got on all these channels.

hashtag on your photograph, which leads you into this

I remember, like six years ago, I didn’t have a Twitter ac-

room where other people might be interested. You need to

count and I opened it up. I didn’t have an Instagram ac-

go to that hashtag and interact with all those people, the

count; four years ago I opened it up. The thing to remem-

same way you’d want them to interact with you. Like their

ber is that it is social, so get on these channels, post really

photos, comment on their photos, follow them. Otherwise

awesome content, and go out there and talk to people.

if you don’t do that, it’s like going up to a party and not

My first appearance, I didn’t know what a follower was.

talking to anyone. I go, “Who’s that asshole?” It’s really,

I didn’t know what a hashtag was. I posted a photo on

really important, and the thing that people forget about

Instagram, because somebody said I should check it out,

social media is that it’s social. If you’re antisocial, nobody’s

and I was like, “I don’t know, that looks corny, that looks

going to invite you back to the party. They’re going to be

like some dumb hipstamatic, you know, a bad digital filter

like, “Yeah, that guy’s a dick and, hey, he might take cool

app.” Then I took a photo on it, and I went, “Wow, this

photos, but I don’t know who he is.” So you have to be

is really awesome.” I posted on Instagram and then that

social first and foremost. That’s what it is.

night three people liked the photo, three people I didn’t know. I was shocked; a guy from fucking Asia liked my

ANDREA: So these brands that you represent, after

photo. Then I go on his feed and he had really rad stuff

they see your Instagram feed, they come to you and say,

and I liked all of his photos and then I followed him. Then

“Well, Jason, we would love you to be the brand ambas-

two minutes later he liked more; he liked my photo, he

sador for us.” Which means exactly what? How does

commented on it, and followed me.

that function?

Then I realized that social media is social. Who’s this guy? What’s he about? So I just built it from there, from one fol-

JASON: There are two things that I’m getting hired for

lower, to ten followers, to one hundred followers, to ten

from my social media. One is for the content I create, pho-

thousand followers, to one hundred thousand followers,

tography, the point of view, my style and let’s call it the

and then now it’s gotten insane and big celebrities follow

art, the craft of it. That’s one piece of it. The other piece is

me and people say that I’m their favorite photographer.

via the media channel. You know, I have almost 800,000 followers on Instagram.

ANDREA: Was it a strategic thing moving to Chicago?

ANDREA: I know, it’s insane!

JASON: I started an agency in New York called Berlin Cam-

Jason Peterson, everything went black w @nyonair & @maverickhicopers, January 7, 2016


Jason Peterson, come thru, May 5, 2016


Jason Peterson, very temporary waste of time, March 31, 2016


eron, which was a highly creative advertising agency. I was

I’m humbled by all of it, every single day, so I’m always

a partner. We sold the agency and then I started an agency

nice and considerate.

with Jay Z and Steve Stoute called Translation. I did that for a couple years and then I had this offer to come and run Havas

ANDREA: Why do you find yourself in helicopters so

in Chicago. I said I would do it if they let me run the agency.


That is, run the culture of the company. I play the music, I paint the walls, I hire the receptionist. I lead the culture be-

JASON: Let me tell you this story. I think I was at about

cause to do creative advertising or any kind of creative social

175,000 followers on Instagram. My producer in New York,

media, you need to have a creative culture first. So I moved

who’s a content-broadcast producer, his name is Vin Far-

my wife and my two kids here and really kind of got into it.

rell – I got him hooked on Instagram, so he was in – and I

I had a New York point of view of Chicago; I lived in New

go, “Look, I want to get in a helicopter and I want to shoot

York for basically all of my adult life—for 20 years. Chicago

New York City. Can you use my influence on social media

is the most creative city in America. Hands down.

to get us up in a helicopter?” He said he would get on it. He did some research and found this company in New Jersey

ANDREA: Really?

called New York On Air, they had 200 followers on Instagram, so he reached out to them and said, “Hey, will you

JASON: See, you don’t know about it, because it’s in

take Jason Peterson up? He has 175,000 followers, here’s

the Mid-West and they don’t brag. They’re not assholes,

his feed.” So he and I, the guy from New York On Air, went

they’re really good people. I partner with everyone in

in their helicopter, took the doors off, and flew above New

Chicago constantly, across music, food, fashion, and

York City. Then, I was only shooting on my iPhone. So I

they’re the most talented, nicest people in the world.

shot photos on my iPhone and posted them on Instagram,

We make really rad shit. I was New York through and

and they went from 200 followers to 2,000 followers after

through. When I left New York, my friends were like, “No

the post. I ended up forging a relationship with them, so

fucking way, you’re not leaving New York!” I was down-

much so that they made Vin and I partners in New York On

town Manhattan. I would never go back. If you saw my

Air. So now I own equity in the helicopter company. We’ve

apartment where I live, you’d be like, “Holy shit!” You

grown it with them into a massive business where they do

can’t live like this in New York. I just love the people and I

photography tours of New York City, London, San Fran-

love the creativity. I hate being around assholes. I want to

cisco, and Miami. So they sell photo packages, for shooting

be around cool creative people who are making cool stuff.

on your iPhone or shooting on your camera, but it’s really

That’s what Chicago is.

about aerial photography. So, from that relationship, I get to shoot in helicopters all the time.

ANDREA: I’m sure you haven’t, because I didn’t realize you were married, but have you ever become romantical-

ANDREA: That’s an amazing story. And it’s so inspi-

ly involved with a follower? Have you ever had stalkers?


JASON: I’ve definitely had stalkers. I meet up with peo-

JASON: It’s honestly probably one of ten stories that

ple from Instagram all the time, because I travel a lot for

I’ve had that has come from this. I think that if you create

work. I’m doing a bunch of work in Atlanta right now.

really awesome work and then you’re able to hustle and

I’ll show up in Atlanta and I’ll get messages from five

put yourself out there, there’s tons of stuff you can get

different people, “Come hang out, let’s go shoot pho-

from it that’s not just money. Money is just shortsighted.

tos.” I go and look at their feed and go, “Oh my God,

I would rather have opportunities or relationships that

you take really rad photos.” They have really cool loca-

can bring me into situations where I can make more rad

tions in Atlanta. I’ve done that, not exaggerating, prob-

content. A lot of times, for The Chicago Bulls or any of

ably 1,000 times. Every single person I’ve met through

the music stuff I do, I’m not charging any of them any-

there has been awesome, amazing, and talented, and

thing. I’m just going to do it because they give me access,

super nice–I would say 99% of the time. I think there’s a

because A$AP Rocky’s manager goes, “Jason’s the only

commonality between creativity and photography that

one who’s allowed on-stage to shoot photos during Lol-

gets kind of interesting people. That said, I’ve definitely

lapalooza.” It gives me this iconic image of A$AP Rocky

had some kind of stalkers. One time, some girl showed

at Lollapalooza that no one else in the world has. That

up to the office, somehow got by security, and was

is more valuable than any money. I’d rather have that

standing by my desk. I don’t have an ego about any of it.

every single day.

Jason Peterson, clocked in, model: @tobishiobu, April 18, 2016 clocked in






Deb Young + Francisco Diaz, The International Collaboration Project, The New Girl, 2014





Molly Lamb, Untitled 23 from Take Care of Your Sister, 2015.


O L I V O B A R B I E R I n e gati v e sp a ce

ANDREA BLANCH: The theme of our upcoming issue is

operate, the risks they face. Like a painting by Caspar

Place. Can you talk about the role of place in your work?

David Friedrich, the images are lost in the landscape. But I describe them not with the veil of romantic sublime but

OLIVO BARBIERI: I am interested in the genius loci, the

from a noisy technological tool such as a helicopter.

sense of place. I try to learn in a way in which place can be apt to imagine or understand the future.

ANDREA: Later in the book, you include a news story that describes a skirmish between foreign climbers and

ANDREA: What were the logistical and technical chal-

local workers. Why did you include this?

lenges you faced when creating your Alps-Geographies and People photographs? What equipment did you use?

OLIVO: The story tells how in recent time, mass tourism has pervaded these places, and how by paying several

OLIVO: I used helicopters and an eighty megapixel cam-

guides you may feel like a skilled climber. There are no

era. In order to get the permit to fly over the Alps, I had to

more natural places, but rather theme parks.

use Alpine Rescue Team helicopters. ANDREA: One description of your work Adriatic Sea ANDREA: Were there any surprises or unexpected cir-

(staged) Dancing People says, “Using cities and land-

cumstances that came up when working on this series?

scapes as his subjects, Barbieri creates photographs that appear digitally manipulated, but which in actuality

OLIVO: As usual, in the high mountains the weather was

are constructed through his photographic technique.”

a challenge. It changed abruptly.

And yet many of your images are clearly altered in some way—this is a bit confusing. Can you elaborate on what

ANDREA: In the intro to the Alps book you say that the

you capture in-camera, and what you do in post?

proportions, the forms, and the positions of the people are all true. How do you reveal or explore truth in your work?

OLIVO: As mentioned above, I do not change the shape of what I represent. I transform only the colors. However,

OLIVO: I do not change the shape of what I represent. I

you mention my “photographic technique.” This refers to

only transform the colors. My work is not about truth, but

my images created with tilt and shift.

about images. Before I take pictures, I try to see the images that exist—drawings, paintings, photographs, movies etc.

ANDREA: You play a lot with form and color. In one example from Adriatic Sea, you leave the forms of people

ANDREA: You say that “The subject of Alps – Geogra-

but strip them of color so they appear as white silhou-

phies and People is how the mountain is perceived from

ettes. What is the significance of removing or simplify-

the climbers’ point of view,” but the photographs picture

ing the color of forms? What do you hope to achieve or

the climbers from very far away, which seems to be more

reveal by doing this?

an observer’s perspective. Can you elaborate on what you mean by “the climber’s point of view?”

OLIVO: The images with white silhouettes show a possible preliminary design stage of the choreographies, as in

OLIVO: I try to show a sense of danger in which they

a rendering or in a maquette.

Portrait by Olivo Barbieri. All images courtesy Yancey Richardson Gallery.


ANDREA: What drives your decisions as to what to change and how you change it? OLIVO: The changes are in accordance with the concept of the project. ANDREA: Do you consider this work minimalist? OLIVO: I don’t know. Minimalism has so many meanings. Sometimes negative. Minimalism started in the sixties… ANDREA: Can you talk about how you planned and choreographed the group scenes in Adriatic Sea? OLIVO: In the title Adriatic Sea (staged) Dancing People, “staged” is a bit ironic. People were really staged, but not by me. They were staged by gym instructors or dance teachers. ANDREA: You described the scenes in Adriatic Sea as “a manifestation of the genius loci of those places where folk dance is extremely popular and historically regarded by the old and new generations and where still the big disco clubs stand like cathedrals in the desert.” This is fascinating—can you say more about your inspiration for this series and how you came to this idea? OLIVO: I was shooting the film Cittá Perfetta along the Adriatic coast for the MAXXI Museum in Rome. I noticed that at certain times of the day, often at the end of the morning, groups of tourists staged choreographed dances. The coastal area where the photographs were taken includes the city of Rimini. After World War II, this city became the most popular in Italy for the fun summer entertainment. To understand the mood of this area, just remember that Rimini is the birthplace of Federico Fellini. ANDREA: Your recent work focuses more on natural environments, whereas your previous work focused on built landscapes. Do you consider this a departure from your earlier work, or a continuation? OLIVO: In a way it is a continuation. I focus on natural places as if they were theme parks. Actually, several natural places, such as big waterfalls, the Dolomites and the Alps, paradoxically survive thanks to tourism. Moreover, my projects on natural sites do not show them as such. I represent them as we remember them. ANDREA: Do you spend leisure time in any of the places you photograph, such as the Alps or the sea? Do you ski? Do you enjoy the beach? OLIVO: Years ago I spent time in these places. I don’t ski. I re-

Olivo Barbieri, Previous spread: Alps-Geographies and People: #14, Alps, 2012.


Olivo Barbieri, Above: Alps-Geographies and People: #3,Alps, 2012; Following spread: Alps, Geographies and People: #2, Alps, 2012.


The hierarchical relationships between the objects are obvious, as if we saw them for the first time, away from voices, words, sounds.

ally like to look at the sea but I don’t spend time at the beach.

ANDREA: You have made many short films, including on Site Specific locations that correspond to cities that

ANDREA: Your combination of the tilt-shift camera and

you also photographed. What do you think you were

aerial photography makes real cities appear to be minia-

able to capture through film that you couldn’t with still

ture reproductions seen from above. Was it your inten-

images, and vice versa?

tion to create this effect? If so, why? OLIVO: Cinema and photography are two media which OLIVO: In 1999, I was tired of the idea that photogra-

are not comparable. They are mechanisms that build sto-

phy is the portrait of reality. That, as stated in the manu-

ries in different ways.

al of photography, you can’t simultaneously see the tree and each leaf. I wanted to decide what the starting point

ANDREA: Can you talk about what it was like to transi-

of reading an image was. I used the selective focus tech-

tion to films given your background as a still photographer?

nique and found that all seemed a plastic scale model. In this way it was possible to re-read the world as if it

OLIVO: The main difference is that with photography,

was a temporary installation. Finally I started the Site

you can do it nearly alone, while in film you need a crew.

Specific project.

Although technology is changing, in photography you require more assistants than before, while in the film you

ANDREA: What do you think is revealed about the

need less than one.

world, about cities and landscapes, when we look at them from above?

ANDREA: You are very prolific in your work. What continues to inspire you? What excites you about your subjects?

OLIVO: The architect Le Corbusier wrote that in order to understand the urban planning of a city, it must be filmed

OLIVO: I am attracted to what I don’t understand. Why do

by plane. When we see things from above, we understand

so many people like to go to a soccer stadium so much? Why

real dimensions and shapes. The hierarchical relation-

do people take enormous risk to climb to the top of a moun-

ships between the objects are obvious, as if we saw them

tain? Why do people like to go to the beach so much? Why do

for the first time, away from voices, words, sounds.

we build megacities so sophisticated and energivorous, etc.

ANDREA: Who would you say have been your greatest

ANDREA: What are you working on now?

influences throughout your career? OLIVO: Next July I will do an exhibition with all my OLIVO: Man Ray, Andy Warhol, Gertrude Stein, William

films. For 2019, I am preparing a book and an exhibition

Burroughs, William Eggleston.

on China, a country that I have photographed since 1989.

Olivo Barbieri, Opposite: Alps-Geographies and People: #7, Alps, 2012; Following spread: Alps-Geographies and People: #13, Alps, 2012.





Max Kraanen, Mirror, 2015



Alexis Vasilikos, Untilted* (Mohican), 1998.




P E T E R B E A R D bl oodr ush

ANDREA BLANCH: You helped put Montauk on the

that—getting all the pieces together and hoping that they

map in the 1970s—what did it mean to you, both as

fall in an orderly way. The writing is part of it, the dots are

a sanctuary and a place that bred wild behavior and

part of it, and the humor of the Hog Ranch Art Depart-

brought so many icons (Andy Warhol, Mick Jagger, Jack-

ment’s artistry goes with my photographs.

ie Kennedy Onassis, and many others) together? ANDREA: You use ink and blood in your collages. How PETER BEARD: In the 1920s, my father used to go to Mon-

did the practice of using blood in your collages come

tauk to fish. I grew up on ocean beaches, South Hampton,

about? Is all of the blood you use your own blood?

and fresh air. It has always had great appeal for me. In the early 70s, Paul Morrissey and I put our heads together and

PETER: Well frankly, I’ve always used blood. It’s bet-

got his permission to organize Eothen for Lee Radziwill and

ter than paint, and has an absolutely amazing quality of

myself. At the time, I was also working on my book, Long-

its own. You have to dry it in a certain way, you have to

ing for Darkness. Jackie was the editor, and Andy loved being

smudge it when it’s necessary, leave it alone when it can’t be

around when Jackie came to visit. The Stones came a little

touched. Basically, when you’re in Africa, you can get blood

later. Being right on the ocean, Montauk has always been

anywhere. Here, unfortunately, there are so many rules.

a refuge away from the stress of New York City. Where we

And you know, in my Taschen book, if you look at some of

were had the reputation of being “the dead end” of Long

those drawings, full page, it’s all done with blood. It’s good

Island, and we were right there at the end, feeling very lucky.

if you let it be. If you push it too much, it’s a mistake. In Africa, you can find blood easily, it’s everywhere. “Das Blut

ANDREA: You’ve mentioned in the past that you see your

ist ein ganz besonderer Saft.” (Blood is a very special juice).

habit of scrapbooking as a “total waste of time” and that “small minds have big collections.” In retrospect, has

ANDREA: You photograph wildlife, both in the natural

your attitude towards your scrapbooking habit changed?

and unnatural/fabricated human world. And sometimes, you photograph these worlds together. How do these two

PETER: Well, I don’t feel that way. That was just a quick an-

worlds inform each other, and inform your work?

swer. It’s just something one says when one does not want to say something specific, but actually, for me, working on

PETER: I don’t really consider myself a photographer.

my diary gives me immense pleasure. If you use things like

Photography is an easy way of amalgamating a great deal

bark and plants and things that you find—objets trouvés—

of subject matter to an artwork. If the wildlife is there, I’m

you can get a mixture of original systems, and that’s the

going to be photographing it. I’ve done Veruschka and all

way I like to go. I’m more of a collector of memories.

sorts of things with Vogue. I don’t consider myself a fashion photographer either, but I think anybody can be. You just

ANDREA: Your work focuses on nature and capturing

have to have excellent-looking girls and an attitude that is

natural states, but your work is also, on the other hand,

fresh and different so it doesn’t look like what everybody

very tactile and layered—what about the process of al-

else is doing. When you go out into the field, if you come

teration/layering and collage is attractive to you?

across an elephant or a rhino, or something dies, it’s luck!

PETER: I don’t have a program, but I thoroughly enjoy

ANDREA: You’ve mentioned that we (human beings) are

Portrait: Peter Beard, Montauk, 2016 ©Zara Beard, Courtesy Peter Beard Studio. All following images courtesy Peter Beard Studio and Art + Commerce.


We are beginning the end of the natural world. Humans are the disease. We need to take a seriously close look at what we’re doing.

part of the destruction of the environment, and yet we

accidents. How did you learn to benefit from accidents?

are the only ones who can appreciate its beauty. How has this paradox informed your work?

PETER: Have a couple of drinks and just go at it.

PETER: “I thought of the long ages, during which the

ANDREA: You include writing and poetry in many of

successive generations of this little creature had run their

your collages. Do you like to write? How does that relate

course—year by year being born, and living and dying

to your photography?

amid these dark and gloomy woods, with no intelligent eye to gaze upon their loveliness; to all appearance such

PETER: My work is generally a narrative; it is a commen-

a wanton waste of beauty. Such ideas excite a feeling of

tary on the world. I use writing and poetry to emphasize

melancholy. It seems sad that on the one hand such exqui-

the point I am making about a particular image.

site creatures should live out their lives and exhibit their charms only in these wild inhospitable regions, doomed

ANDREA: Which writers’ voices do you relate to and

for ages yet to come to hopeless barbarism; while, on the

draw inspiration from?

other hand, should civilized man ever reach these distant lands, and bring moral, intellectual, and physical light

PETER: R.D. Laing, Dick Laws, Charles Darwin, Alfred

into the recesses of these virgin forests, we may be sure

Russel Wallace, Leonardo Da Vinci, Albert Einstein, Jo-

that he will so disturb the nicely-balanced relations of or-

seph Conrad, to name a few.

ganic and inorganic nature as to cause the disappearance, and finally the extinction, of these very beings whose

ANDREA: You’ve mentioned that it’s important to be

wonderful structure and beauty he alone is fitted to ap-

“in touch with what’s out there”—on that note, what do

preciate and enjoy.” – Alfred Russell Wallace

you think about technology’s impact on our society? Is it making us more connected to each other and aware of

ANDREA: You’ve once described art as anything that

the world, or is it intensifying our disconnect from it all?

enhances life. Would you define art the same way now? PETER: Well, that’s a loaded question, because obviously PETER: Yes. Whatever is life-enhancing.

there are many great advantages that come with technology, but there are also great disadvantages. These can be

ANDREA: Last year was the 50th anniversary of your

seen in things like the youth generation not knowing how

book The End Of The Game—have we learned anything

to talk or relate to each other on a personal level. Everyone

as a society since then about our relationship to the en-

is glued to their phone. It’s actually very depressing.

vironment? Or are we only getting worse and more ignorant about exploitation?

ANDREA: Creativity, and creation, seems to be a constant state of being for you. What do you consider a

PETER: We are beginning the end of the natural world.

day well-spent?

Humans are the disease. We need to take a seriously close look at what we’re doing.

PETER: Walking the beach, collecting rocks, spotting whales and seals, finding things to put in my collages…bones worn

ANDREA: Photography as a medium is full of happy

by the ocean, driftwood, horseshoe crabs…swimming…

Peter Beard: Opposite: Roping Rhinos with Ken Randall in Hunting Block 29 1964/2015; Following spread: Lions, Cheetahs, Leopards.


Peter Beard: Previous spread: Gorongoza, Mozambique, 1955; Above: Rhinoceros.


Peter Beard: Elui with Tusk 1962/2006.



Peter Beard: Boulder-Dash, 1975, 2016.



Peter Beard: I’ll Write Whenever I Can..., 1965, 2004.



Lawrence Sumulong, Clockwise from top left: Head of tribal school, Lumad community leader Emirito Samarca stabbed, shot, and throat slit open, 2016; Lumad community leader Dionel Campos shot in the head in front of his neighbors and family members, 2016; Press Freedom/Maguindanao massacre, 2016; Impunity/Maguindanao massacre, 2016.



Lawrence Sumulong, Reenact/Maguindanao massacre, 2016.





Zelda Zinn, NY Revelation #2063D, 2016


ST E P H E N S H O R E sh ore to sho re

To be entirely truthful, I rarely do much research before

world and saying, “This is something you should pay at-

conducting an interview with an artist. I know it might

tention to.” And the straight photograph is the self-con-

seem lazy, but I often find that a little naïveté is invit-

scious work of art that says, “If you were to look at this

ing and, in a way, challenging to both parties. I had to

image I’ve created, this is what you should pay attention

ditch my modus operandi, however, for Stephen Shore,

to.” We extend this to the formalist photograph and the

exactly because I did not want to rely on my visual in-

equivalent, to use Stieglitz’s term.

stinct, for if I did, I would too easily slide into a David

But what struck me is that, at the time, what I was look-

Lynch-inspired cavalcade of truisms about diners, drive-

ing at the most was Walker Evans, who is also the subject

ins, and dives. Shore enjoys the dual acclaim as a skilled

of Newhall’s first one-person exhibition. His pictures, to

technician/practitioner and the creator of an emotional

use your term occupy, occupy all four of Newhall’s trends.

and visual genre (alongside William Eggleston). I won-

I think people recognize his work as a formalist experi-

dered how form and thematics collide in the aftermath

ment, as a document, and that he’s a self-conscious artist.

of the “Pictures Generation” discourse, or, more broadly,

Perhaps the least understood is the equivalent. The one time

the discussion surrounding postmodern photo-conceptu-

I saw Evans speak was in 1972. The main theme of his talk

alism. Shore led me one step closer to an answer.

was the term “transcendent documents.” So he was talking

Shore’s work is currently included in “Ordinary Pictures”

about his work, in a way, as equivalents – as an image stand-

at the Walker Art Center (until October 9, 2016) and “This

ing for or embodying a state of mind. The one other thing I

Place” at the Brooklyn Museum (through June 5, 2016).

would add to that is something that Newhall didn’t mention; Evans also spoke of his work earlier, probably at the

WILLIAM J. SIMMONS: In Stephen Shore: Survey,

time he was making it, as photographing in documentary

you and David Campany discuss your occupation of

style. He was saying that he was adopting a visual language

multiple genres, namely documentary and conceptual-

that has a cultural meaning, so that he could draw that cul-

ism. I want to take that one step further and think about

tural meaning to his work and explore it. And the reason I’m

your embodiment or your occupation of multiple histor-

bringing all of this up is that when you talk about the Pic-

ical strands in addition to genres. Looking back at your

tures Generation, I would think that Evans is a progenitor.

varied artistic production, I wanted to ask you, how can we think about the history of photography in a less seg-

WILLIAM: It’s interesting, because I took a seminar

mented fashion? There are photographers like you who

on documentary photography at the Graduate Center

occupy multiple realms.

taught by Siona Wilson, and the only artist of the Pictures Generation who was included was Martha Rosler.

STEPHEN SHORE: Beaumont Newhall was the first

Considering what you just said, it makes me think that

curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art.

as scholars and critics look back retroactively, it seems

He wrote The History of Photography, which went through

that we impose a different relationship to that cultural

many different editions, and in one of the earlier editions,

documentary mode between, say, Walker Evans and

the last chapter is called “Recent Trends.” He defines four

Laurie Simmons. What is the nature of that shift?

trends: The document, the straight photograph, the formalist photograph, and the equivalent.

STEPHEN: I’m not so sure that the shift is as dramatic as one

The document is obviously pointing at something in the

would expect, and I think where the difference is that, to use

Portrait by James Gurney. All photographs ©Stephen Shore, courtesy 303 Gallery, New York.


Stephen Shore, Top: New York City, New York, March-April 1973; Bottom: New York City, New York, September-October 1972.


Stephen Shore, Top: Granite, Oklahoma, July 1972; Bottom: Holbrook, Arizona, June 1972


Newhall’s framework, if a picture is only a document, and

when you take a history of photography survey, you likely

not a self-conscious work of art with no formal or structural

learn that Eggleston, Shore, and diCorcia do banal scenes

intent, it comes across as an illustration. John Szarkowski

of Americana. Then you learn about Cindy Sherman’s and

once said, “An illustration is a photograph whose problems

Laurie Simmons’s feminism. And then you learn Robert

were solved before the picture was made.” So there is a gulf

Longo critiques masculinity, and so on. In photography

between, say, a certain kind of journalistic photographer and

after 1960, it seems that only a few photographers are al-

Walker Evans. That gulf between the journalistic photog-

lowed to have, in the mindset of critics, a formal ground-

rapher and Walker Evans may be greater than the distance

work to their pictures. They become entirely transparent

between Walker Evans and Laurie Simmons, even though

to subject matter, which I think is part of the postmodern,

superficially, we might call both of their work documents.

poststructuralist desire to make things more politically

Or to make it even more complicated, I teach with Gilles

active, but isn’t there politics of form as well?

Peress, who is viewed as a photojournalist, but the aesthetic intent of his pictures is so sophisticated that I would

STEPHEN: I think a huge amount is communicated struc-

say that there is an equally deep gulf between his view

turally in the picture. Think of how much is communicated

of photojournalism, and the kind of illustrative photo-

through the structure of music. Visual structure is photog-

journalism you may find in typical magazines these days.

raphy’s equivalent of that. I don’t know if you’re familiar

And that kind of photography, which is entirely content

with Gregory Crewdson’s earlier work, where the pictures

driven, may cloud how people who are not photogra-

are like dioramas. They were scenes like a pond with gi-

phers or people who don’t have a lot of experience in

ant insects, with a suburban house in the background, and

photography think about the intentions of other people

these pictures were done entirely in his studio. He had this

who are doing pictures that are more complex.

large, square table, and he would decorate it; he would put

What I mean by content driven is that…sometimes people

up a backdrop—a photograph or a painting—and then

send me pictures and say, “This is my version of one of your

he would get artificial plants, and different items and put

pictures.” And it may have a gas station in it, but it doesn’t

them in and build this complex world. So everything in the

look anything like mine. It’s not the way I would structure

picture was fabricated, but then he would take his camera

it, it’s not the way the light would look, and it’s not even the

and walk around it and take the picture. He built a square

distance I would use. It looks nothing like one of my pic-

table, but if he knew what the picture was in advance, all he

tures. The only similarity is that it’s not a pretty landscape;

had to do was build a triangular world. So when he takes

it’s of an urban intersection or something. So I understand

his camera and decides the picture to take, he’s making a

what these people are seeing when they look at my work

decision that is exactly like my decision, of where I’m going

– only the content. And they think that if their picture has

to stand and where the edge is going to fall.

a gas station in it, even though it doesn’t look vaguely like

So I’m taking a world that is a result of cultural forces and

one of my pictures, then it will look like one of mine.

natural forces, and deciding what segment I’m going to

Another example is the architect and architectural writer

photograph and where I’m going to stand exactly, what

Christopher Alexander. He wrote a book on aliveness in

the structure will be like and what I’m including and not

art, and I find his perception of architecture to be absolutely

including, and what visual juxtapositions are going to be

fascinating. As an example of aliveness, he uses a picture

created by my vantage point. Crewdson is doing exactly

he took of this beautiful old Havana building, and then he

the same thing. And again, to repeat myself, if he had the

juxtaposes it with an image of a rubble-strewn alley with

picture in his mind in advance, he didn’t have to spend

some kids playing in it, and this is an example of a lack of

hours extra building things that wound up not being in-

aliveness. He’s not thinking of any formal relationships; the

cluded in the picture. All he would need is a triangle that

camera is simply pointing at something. And the picture

matched the angle of sight of the lens. There are obvious

of the alley is taut and beautiful and poetic. And so to my

differences between us; I’m dealing with the world that’s

mind, it’s the exact opposite. Because, I’m seeing the whole

in front of me and he’s dealing with a world he’s creating.

picture and he’s only seeing what the picture is pointing to.

But on another level, we’re doing something very similar.

There are those photographers who see that way, and in the minds of some people who really don’t grasp photography,

WILLIAM: So in that way, society, embodiment, and

they conflate people who are only pointing at things with

form are unified for the both of you in the sense that it’s

people who are making complex images even though on a

about your particular construction of a viewpoint.

superficial level the pictures may look very similar. STEPHEN: Yes. And what content we choose to put in. WILLIAM: That makes perfect sense to me, but I had never thought of it that way until you articulated it. At least

WILLIAM: Continuing off of what you were saying about

Stephen Shore, Top & Bottom: Luzzara, Italy, 1993; Following spread: Holbrook, Arizona, June 1972.



Stephen Shore, Top: Beverly Boulevard and La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles, California, June 21, 1975; Bottom: Natural Bridge, New York, July 31, 1974.


Stephen Shore, Top: South of Klamath Falls, U.S. 97, Oregon, July 21, 1973; Bottom: Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California, August 13, 1979


Stephen Shore, Top: Crosby Street and Grand Street, New York, New York, February 24, 1974; Bottom: Room 131, Howard Johnson’s Motor Lodge, Phillipsburg, New Jersey, June 21, 1974


Stephen Shore, Top: Lookout Hotel, Ogunquit, Maine, July 16, 1974; Bottom: Texas Hots, 2693 South Park Avenue, Lackawanna, Pennsylvania, October 25, 1977



misinterpretation of your imagery, is how interesting it is

tions. Two out of 170. And they both happen to be in the same

that the gas station has become such a forceful symbol of

intersection–two views of the intersection of Beverly and La

a certain kind of glam, West Coast, neo-noir Americana.

Brea. The original edition only had one gas station.

I don’t know if this is totally far afield, but to expand on this, I always saw your subject matter and your use of col-

WILLIAM: There’s a resurgence of interest in these sort-

or as a particularly queer activity. I always thought it was

of liminal, debased icons of American culture. Maybe it’s

so interesting that you’re a straight photographer. But a

because of Lana Del Rey or Matthew Barney. But what

lot of your images have this campy glitz interspersed with

you said made me think that your photography might be

a mundane aura, which makes them feel kind of queer to

more connected in a certain way to Félix González-Tor-

me. I do not mean in the sense of same-sex desire, but rather

res, in that his works are entirely and self-consciously

in with regard to an imaginary that is rooted in both every

part of the everyday, to the extent that you can actu-

day and something beyond the every day.

ally take it home with you, but as you mentioned, the impact is all the more powerful as a result. That would

STEPHEN: I can see that. I can’t really put my words

be an interesting exhibition, because you were working

in the frame of a queer mindset, but would you say that

contemporaneously. But again, going back to the issue

there is an aspect of detachment?

of historicism, we put González-Torres in the gay artist camp, and the non-photographer camp, but it seems like

WILLIAM: I think that’s a really great way of putting it.

there may be more connections than differences.

I’m a bit of a closet formalist myself, and I’m constantly accused of being apolitical, but I still like to think that

STEPHEN: Yes. To pay attention to something that’s ex-

there’s some sort of a queer aesthetic that is not necessar-

traordinary doesn’t take a great aesthetic leap.

ily attached to queer bodies, which is why I was thinking

Recently I’ve been doing lots and lots of interviews and I’ve

about your work in this vein. Detachment is exactly right

been thinking that, in a certain way, I want to hear what oth-

because queerness inherently represents being a part of cul-

er people have to say. My answers are the same every time

ture, being a part of the visual economy, but always being

because those are my answers. But other people have per-

invested in something that is slightly removed. Like camp,

ceptions about my work that I also find interesting, because

like nostalgia, like cruising spots in a suburban wasteland.

an artist’s production can come partially from intentional

Detachment is, in some sense, intrinsic to photograph, right?

concerns of theirs, but also from their unconscious. An artist could be doing things, or things may be arising in their

STEPHEN: I’m not sure. But it’s something that I rec-

work, that they’re not fully, consciously aware of. Someone

ognize is in my work. I’m fascinated by the culture and

else could bring a perception to the work and open a door to

taking actual pleasure in the culture, but with some kind

it or a facet of it that may actually help the artist see the full

of detachment from it.

range of what they’re doing. So, I’m actually very interested in other people’s perceptions of my work.

WILLIAM: Now I’m realizing that the opposite strategy is actually more associated with queer and feminist art-

WILLIAM: I think what I was getting at by suggesting

ists like Nan Goldin and Robert Mapplethorpe–who give

a queer element of your work is the wide-ranging emo-

you more immediacy. But at the same time, that’s not

tional register in your photography. Could you discuss

necessarily the psychic experience that one goes through

the evolution of this emotional component of your work?

when one is thinking about gender and sexuality. Queerness has to do with hidden items, items that are slightly

STEPHEN: Well, there was evolution of formal concerns;

too far away from us to grasp; all of these things I see in

there was an evolution of content. In the ‘70s, I mostly fo-

your work as being the extraordinary nature of the every-

cused on North American culture. A lot of it focused on the

day, or the strangeness of the everyday.

built environment. In the ‘80s, a lot of it was focused on landscape, and part of the shift was that as I evolved as a person,

STEPHEN: I find that I’m fascinated by seeing the ev-

there were other levels that I wanted the works to deal with.

eryday with attention. That comes into play, or is clearer

In the ‘90s, the work took a turn, with a series I did in Luz-

when the subject is in fact everyday.

zara, Italy, which is just about to be republished as a book.

Regarding the nostalgia that some people see in my work-

Most recently, I did a book in Ukraine and in each of these

it’s simply because the pictures from the 70’s were taken 40

different bodies of work the content is different and the

years ago. When people saw them at the time, they didn’t look

emotional investment is different. And it’s not something

nostalgic. Another thing is that the new edition of Uncommon

that’s necessarily planned. It’s that I’m getting older and

Places has about 170 pictures in it. Two of them have gas sta-

my response to things changes.

Stephen Shore. Opposite: Top: Home of Abram Ruvinovich and Malka Pavlovna, Bazaliya, Khmelnytska District, Ukraine, July 27, 2012; Bottom: Home of Vera Vulfovna, Khust, Zakarpatska District, Ukraine, October 12, 2013



Tal Yaron, Untitled 22, 2015.



Tal Yaron, Untitled 12, 2015





Katelyn Bladel, An Accumulation, 2016.


M A U R I C E B R O O M F I E L D i nd ustr i a l g ra ce b y N ora L a nd es To a photographer like Maurice Broomfield, place means

factory in York. Broomfield was known to use the com-

very little when one ignores what’s in it. Architects have

pany darkroom after hours to process his own images,

long debated the meaning of space: is space a physical

even after being fired from his position. Impressed with

container that defines a void, or is it the void itself? A sim-

Broomfield’s hard work in the darkroom, the director of

ilar debate must be held about the nature of place. Does

the factory eventually reinstated him.

place, as opposed to space, imply a human presence? Is

Industrial settings and photography continued to go

place a defined location? Is it an action? Or is it something

hand-in-hand throughout Broomfield’s career. For over

else entirely? Each one of Broomfield’s photographs is an

thirty years, he documented industry in not only the Unit-

exploration of the notion of place itself. Taken as a whole,

ed Kingdom, but worldwide. He received commissions

Broomfield’s body of work reveals his unique under-

from corporations to shoot their European headquarters,

standing of place, which ironically, is represented through

South Asian production plants, and even West African

portraiture, and not through landscape or still life.

mineral mines. No matter the client, Broomfield always

These latter two photographic genres are commonly used

portrayed industry as more than just a process or a place,

to define place or objects in place. They call specifically

but as a means of dignified work. In this way, each person

upon a physical environment to lend credence to their ty-

who makes an appearance in Broomfield’s photographs is

pological identities. Portraiture is different. It invites the

depicted as nobly and distinguished as if they were pos-

viewer to develop a relationship with a human subject.

ing for their own portrait—as a woman carefully aligns

A landscape or still life photograph sets the stage, but a

threads on a loom, the line from her eyes and fingers is

portrait adds narrative texture to the scene. The element

perfectly perpendicular to her textile-to-be, or, in a room

of narrative figures prominently in all of Broomfield’s im-

filled with dozens of fur hats, a single worker is illuminat-

ages. Rather than stark representations of the technical

ed by a nearby window, his white shirt aglow with light.

mechanisms of industry, Broomfield’s photographs focus

In the end, these photographs were always tinged with

on the workers–the actors who animate industrial envi-

the photographer’s own humility; Broomfield was once a

ronments. The stunning use of light that characterizes his

factory worker and, had he not realized his photographic

images, captured with equal parts skill and luck, high-

talent, would have likely spent the rest of his life on a fac-

lights the individual at work, to whom British industry

tory floor just as many of his subjects surely had.

and economy owe their success.

It was because of his direct relationship with his subject

This affinity toward industrial workers, more than just

matter that Broomfield was able to produce such tender,

industry itself, comes from Broomfield’s own relationship

intimate photographs of a world often typified as cold

with factories in industrial Britain in the years leading up

and impersonal. Without references to humanity, the as-

to World War II. He began his own professional life work-

sembly line or the inspection room is just a place. Present-

ing in factories. In 1931, at age 15, he left school to work at

ed as such, it takes on a robotic, Orwellian tone, discon-

a Rolls Royce factory, taking courses at the Derby College

nected entirely from human life. By shifting the subject of

of Art in the evenings. It was no surprise then, that his

industry from machines, conveyor belts, and technical in-

earliest envoy into professional photography took place

struments to the workers who operate them, Broomfield

in a factory. In 1935, he helped to produce promotional

crafted a vision of the British industry that transcends

graphics and photographs for the newly launched Black

place and elevates the power of craftsmanship. In this

Magic Chocolates produced by the Rowntree’s sweets

way, industry is always associated with the human spirit.

Maurice Broomfield in Pakistan, Pakistan, 1961


Maurice Broomfield, Top: Paper Making, Bowater Paper Company, Thames Mill, Northeet, 1960; Bottom: Stainless Steel Tubes, TI Stainless Tubes Ltd, Birmingham, 1958.


Maurice Broomfield, Carbon Black Filter Hoppers, Cabot Carbon Plant, Stanlow, Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, 1958.


Maurice Broomfield, Taper Roller Bearing, British Timpkin Works, Daventry, Northamptonshire, 1957.


Maurice Broomfield, Assembling Warp Threads for Weaving, English Sewing Cotton, Belper, Derbyshire, 1954.


Maurice Broomfield, Malt Whiskey Being Distilled, Scotland, 1960.


Maurice Broomfield, Top: Bessemer Platform, Bessemer Platorm at Stuarts & Lloyds, Corby, Northamptonshire, 1957; Bottom: Combing a Guard’s Bearskin, The Workshop of J Compton, Sons and Webb, London, 1957.






Christoph Morlinghaus, CYRIX CX486DX2-V66GP, 2015.





Christoph Morlinghaus, CYRIX GXM200GP, 2015.



Christoph Morlinghaus, INTEL A80486 DX, 2015.







Christoph Morlinghaus, MOTOROLA MC68020RC16B, 2015.



S O H E I N I S H I N O trai l o f l i g ht

MUSÉE MAGAZINE: What were your intentions with

MUSÉE: You describe your walks as a way to filter out

this project? How did you come up with this idea?

the noise of others. What or who is the source of this noise and why must you escape it?

SOHEI NISHINO: Working on the series “Diorama Map” for past the 13 years and walking around the cit-

SOHEI: I try to filter the noise of the city actively which

ies, I gradually realized that to be a city from one place

I hear during the walk. It is a refreshing feeling, my mind

within a long elapsed time, various elements have been

getting clearer as I walk, which in the end creates the condi-

passing by and with the piles of organic human’s walk,

tion that make the noise of other surroundings disappear.

cities have been composed and created. I became inter-

That means the act of walking creates a kind of meditation.

ested in human’s movement, which is a very primordial act from ancient times. For the works called “Day Draw-

MUSÉE: Do you walk alone? If not, with whom do

ing,” I am focusing on the act of my personal every day

you walk?

life’s movement as one of these enormous acts of human’s movement.

SOHEI: Basically, I walk alone but it depends on the area, I sometimes walk with a local assistant and by doing that,

MUSÉE: Can you describe your process?

I can reach and get to know the local community well.

SOHEI: Since 2014, I have been recording the data of

MUSÉE: Are you an introvert? How does this inform

my daily movement with a GPS. For the “Day Draw-

your work?

ing” series, I pick up different dates and locations from everyday records from the past two years, then I

SOHEI: I think originally, I didn’t think of myself as an intro-

open the small, enormous halls over the paper which

vert and I am a rather sociable person. For me I find it more

I traced over according to the GPS line. After that, I

curious to think about the distance between other people,

bring the paper in the dark room and expose the light

and I think distance is a very important essence for my work.

from the backside of the paper to photograph the light which comes through the halls. By observing the earth

MUSÉE: What percentage of your time do you spend alone?

and myself from the GPS data, which is a very objective and transcendent point of view as God in ancient

SOHEI: It changes and it depends on the city, but 60% of

times, I try to visualize my physical act as single form

the time I spend alone.

of line. Each of these enormous lights that compose the lines appearing in the photograph reflects every

MUSÉE: How long do you walk for? Do you ever listen

moments of my act of movement and accumulation

to music when you walk?

of my steps in one day. By visualizing and abstracting the act of my daily movement as a single line, I

SOHEI: At maximum, I walk about 8 hours a day. What

convert the personal physical movement into the uni-

I try to do when I walk is that I don’t listen to music and

versal visual form. These lines, which can only be rec-

I don’t walk in the same way there and on the way back.

ognized from the objective data of a GPS, signifies my

This is because I think what I can discover during the

act of drawing on the earth.

walk is important.

Portrait © Sohei Nishino. All images courtesy Michael Hoppen Gallery.


I would like to express how the act of walking is creative…

MUSÉE: How does “Day Drawings” relate to your pre-

MUSÉE: You portray your walks with a bright, glowing

vious series Diorama Maps?

path. What does this represent about your thoughts during these walks? What do you think about? What do you

SOHEI: The similarities of these two works are that they

learn about yourself on your walks?

reflect my physical action, although they visually look different. For instance, if the “Diorama Map”

SOHEI: I think about the connection between myself

is like a tapestry which was woven with thousands

and others. I also think comprehensively about the dis-

of threads, “Day Drawing” is one of these threads

tance between my internal and external world through

pulled out from the tapestry.

the act of walking.

MUSÉE: The pieces in “Day Drawings” depict your dai-

MUSÉE: Who are your inspirations?

ly walking paths across various cities. What drew you to these cities?

SOHEI: I have an influence from works such as John Divola’s “As Far as I Could Get” and “Dogs Chasing My

SOHEI: I decide the next city to visit from the cities

Car in the Desert,” and Richard Long’s “Walking a Line”.

which I am interested in, sometimes by hearing a story of it from people I have met or sometimes it is derived

MUSÉE: Why did you choose photography as a medium

from a previous city. So far, I choose big cities, as I find

for these works? Will you work with it again in the future?

it interesting to discover the character and personality of each city, including unexpected surprises and the energy

SOHEI: “Day Drawing” is created based on the objective

of the people there. These open my mind and give me

data of a GPS although it looks like a drawing. So, I think

lots of energy, too.

to reflect my everyday movement, photography is a suitable media which is also an objective media. I am still

MUSÉE: Out of all possible paths, how do you choose

keeping the record everyday and would like to continue

your path in each city?

this project in the future, too.

SOHEI: When I have a destination already, I try to walk

MUSÉE: What impact would you like your work to

alleys on the way. This may be something like an intu-

have on viewers?

ition which I found as I carried on this project but I can see the real, everyday life of local people when I walk

SOHEI: I respect the nature of photography as record-

alleys more than on a main street.

ing. For the “Diorama Map” series, I created Tokyo twice in 2004 and 2014. This is because I would like to

MUSÉE: You mention that your paths are your way of “draw-

see how I looked at the city and also to capture the ex-

ing on the earth.” Why do you consider these paths drawings?

perience which could never happen twice. So, I would like to continue every 10 years in the future, too. For the

SOHEI: I see the similarities between the act of draw-

“Day Drawing” series as well, I’m keeping the record

ing and keeping GPS which also records the line on

of daily movement, which is unique every day. In this

earth. Reflecting personal action is an important es-

modern age, we are seeking efficiency and trying to reach

sence for my work and that’s why I used the word

the destination as quickly as possible. So, nowadays, it is

“drawing” to express the action. Also, by recording on

becoming rare that we enjoy the process of the way itself

a GPS every day, I realize that there is not a single day

and normally the way is very practical. So, if people also

where I draw the same line. They are all different no

share the excitement of discovering new things and hap-

matter how long I record, whether for a month or 3

penings which might occur during the way by looking

years. I would like to express how the act of walking is

at my work, I am very pleased. Also, I hope people will

creative and when we look at them as a macrocosmic

have a chance to think about the fact that we all draw

point of view, we realize what beautiful lines we all

unique lines in our daily life, and we all make our own

draw on the earth every day.

map based on our experiences.

Sohei Nishino, Opposite: 6, June, 2014, Amsterdam; Following spread: Left: 14, July, 2015, Tokyo-Hachioji; Right: 28,June, 2015, Heda.





Marco Castelli, Clockwise from top: Undershoe; Pizza; River, from the series A Micro Odyssey, 2016.



Marco Castelli, Clockwise from top left: Money; Grass; Billiard Pool, from the series A Micro Odyssey, 2016.



Esther Boesche, I Keep Bleeding, 2016



Esther Boesche, Politically Incorrrect, 2016


B I L L M C D O W E L L th e p unch

ANDREA BLANCH: Explain a little about your project,

ANDREA: Why did you want to stay with this project?


Could you talk about the process a little?

BILL MCDOWELL: Ground is an artist book in which you

BILL: They kept haunting me. I was drawn to the first killed

have photographs joined together by the commonality of the

negative once I saw the odd relationship between abstrac-

black hole punch, and the fact that they all come from the

tion and representation. At the time, I didn’t know anything

Farm Security Administration (FSA) collection. The book is

about the history of the killed negative. I saw a photograph

predicated on the uneasy relationship between the visual and

in a magazine in 2002—a street scene in a city—and there

the historical, the abstract and the representational. With that,

was this black dot or circle or hole inserted into the picture,

I do a dance with the historical nature of the photographs and

which changed everything in terms of the relationship be-

the FSA. The purpose of Ground is not to lay open Roy Stryk-

tween that shape, that mark and everything around it.

er’s crazy autocratic editing style. My interest is in working

At that time, I knew a lot about John Baldessari, and of

with a group of photographs that are joined together because

course I thought of him when I saw that mark, as well as

of their disparate functions. It is in the interaction of those du-

the FSA photographic collection. Then, once I did some

alities where the layering of meaning takes place.

research into the number of killed negatives there were, I began to play with them and see what might happen.

ANDREA: Do you think vandalizing art is a way of

In the beginning, I had an interest in how they looked, but I

claiming ownership over it?

knew that that in itself would not be enough. If I just stayed with the surface quality of how the pictures appeared, then

BILL: I guess it could be, but certainly not in the context of

it would become a novelty or a parlor game. Somehow, I

Roy Stryker’s holepunching of negatives. That was an exer-

had to create a series of relationships using the hole in each

cise of power—not to make an image, but to destroy an image.

picture, while also creating a relationship between the pictures themselves. That is what took so much time, and it

ANDREA: What do you think the criterion was for

was pretty maddening.

punching one photograph over the other? ANDREA: How did you decide on the positioning of the BILL: Well, I’m not sure, and I don’t think anybody re-

hole or the type of image you were going to use? How did

ally knows. Not that much has been written about it, but

you produce that flow, and what were the criteria?

I have looked at thousands of killed negatives, and for the most part, they are not very provocative photographs and

BILL: It took years and the project went through many

weren’t provocative to begin with. Oftentimes, the images

iterations. I used many different processes to figure out a

were already damaged, whether from mistakes processing

certain code for myself. I went through the online catalog

the film, or possibly on the part of the photographer.

at the Library of Congress, and every time I came across a

However, you can find almost identical photographs in the

killed negative that had any interest to me visually, I would

FSA files online that were not killed, which would suggest

download it. I had hundreds and hundreds of these, and I

to me that he was using the hole punch in order to clarify

placed them into different categories like agriculture, cities,

which images he did not want to have printed. It was a

portraits, and industry. I think I had ten or fifteen differ-

clumsy way to edit.

ent categories. I tried this wide sweep, searching through

Portrait by Andrew Frost. Following spread: Bill McDowell, Getting fields ready for spring planting. North Carolina. 1936. Carl Mydans. 8a01340


photographs of cities, rural areas, landscapes, but it really

would be able to get some context. I started to think about

wasn’t interesting to me.

the common ground between today and 1930’s America.

Throughout the project, but especially in the beginning,

There is a certain physical relationship we all share because

I had to deal with the urge to alter the individual photo-

we are still standing on the same land people in the 1930’s

graphs. I experimented with all kinds of cropping and

stood on. This led me to the elemental things we share with

breaking apart the already damaged picture frame. I spent

an earlier time: the need for water, food and shelter.

considerable time digitally repairing the holes, responding

From there, it became a matter of, “okay, how am I going

to the violence of the hole punching.

to create a relationship between these pictures?” How am

Gradually, some of the photographs appeared to be such

I going to create a flow between them and through them.

violations—with holes punched in people’s faces, in peo-

And that was through dispassionate editing, a lot of star-

ple’s bodies—I decided I would repair them. I digitally

ing at photographs, moving one picture from one place to

replaced them with analogous subject matter (from similar

another and working on the computer. My studio has three

downloaded frames) so that the “repair” looked seamless

long walls with track lighting, so I put hundreds of photo-

and natural. I presented the “killed” and “repaired” ver-

graphs up at a time and just hours and hours and hours of

sions together, as diptych prints. In each diptych, the killed

moving pictures around until there was a certain intuitive

version always overshadowed the repaired one. It was a

correctness between a series of pictures. I began to add pho-

far more intriguing image both emotionally and visually.

tographs of people and domestic situations, again relating

But my interest in this waned because the work wasn’t ad-

to those elemental means—food, water and shelter—into

dressing what I found most compelling about the killed

the mix. I think I made six maquettes, or book dummies,

negatives: their potential for abstraction, their surrealist-

and through those I really began to work on the sequenc-

like strangeness, and their temporal duality. And the vio-

ing of the pictures and how they might work in book form.

lence…I came to accept that the violent nature of the damaged negatives was congruent with our history.

ANDREA: Did you get a grant to do this project?

Then it became a question of, “okay, every picture is going to have a hole, is this sustainable?” By the time some-

BILL: I got a couple of grants to do this. I got a grant from

body gets to the fourth photograph, they are going to know

the University of Vermont, and then I got a Peter S. Read

there’s going to be a hole, and it becomes like a one note

fellowship, which helped tremendously in terms of fund-

symphony. Is it sustainable?

ing the project. That was really, really important.

And yet, with every picture, there was a different relationship among the placement of the hole, what was happen-

ANDREA: All in all, how many years did this take you?

ing around it, and the representation of one picture relative to another one. So over time, I began to think about what I

BILL: I started in earnest in 2009 while working on other

might be able to do with those relationships.

projects at the same time. So I worked in fits and starts at

From the very beginning, because of Baldessari and other

the beginning, but I would say it took three solid years of

artists such as Thomas Barrow—a photographer whose

concerted work. And they kept nagging at me, but I tend to

work I knew quite well—I thought of that hole as a con-

work very slowly and let projects drag over time because

temporary mark. These killed negatives are distinct from

that certifies that the work remains meaningful to me. That

the rest of the FSA collection because of how they look,

long distillation process really becomes the Litmus test as

because of that hole. So I started thinking: would it be pos-

to whether this really is going to have legs or not. That took

sible to use these images in a different way, joining them

me a while to figure out with this project.

together, so you could think of them as both contemporary ANDREA: The connection to Roy Stryker begs me to ask

and archival images?

you about Dorothea Lange. Did you come across that ANDREA: You seem to be interested in landscape pho-

famous image of hers or any images of hers that were

tography. Could you elaborate as to why? How did that


help with the flow of your work? BILL: She and Roy Stryker—who was the Director of the BILL: I began to work with landscapes because there was

Photo Documentary Project and, in fact, fired her at one

less temporal tagging in the photographs. You are unsure of

point—worked together. But none of her negatives were

the time period, whereas if there was a car or clothing you

killed because she processed her own film. Most of the pho-

Bill McDowell, Opposite: Five-bedroom house, Meridian (Magnolia) Homesteads, Mississippi. 1935. Arthur Rothstein. 8a07005; Following spread: Sharecropper and dog. North Carolina. 1938. John Vachon. 8a03148.



tographers, when out in the field, would periodically send

unless someone had a strong interest in surrealism, perhaps.

their film to the government labs in D.C. The film would

But probably not, and that speaks to a certain change in his-

get developed, contact prints would be made and Stryker

tory, and that is something which allowed the pictures to be

would be the first one to see them.

regarded in a distinctly different way now than when they

But that wasn’t the case with Dorothea Lange because she was

were created. What that mark, what that hole signifies today, is

processing her own film. So that was a bit of a different rela-

different—distinctly different than what it would have been in

tionship and also, I am not sure she shot any 35mm film. All

the 30’s or the 40’s, and in that it became interactive.

of the hole-punched negatives that I’ve seen have been 35mm film, and she usually shot larger format. So, after a long-wind-

ANDREA: What was the criteria for censoring the land-

ed answer, no, there were no Dorothea Lange killed negatives.

scapes? Was there any censorship of the landscapes with

I checked into it because I knew about the difficult relation-

people if they didn’t want to show something?

ship she had with Roy Stryker, and I could not find any. BILL: Again, I don’t think these were provocative photoANDREA: Why did Dorothea Lange have a difficult re-

graphs. I think censorship is too strong of a word. I would go

lationship with Roy Stryker?

back to autocratic editing. So there is a photograph, early in the book, of a landscape with cattle grazing, somewhat like

BILL: That’s pretty well documented. I think she was very

a moonscape, and it was made in Nebraska, I think in 1936,

insistent on how her work was to be presented, and he was

by John Vachon. In that photograph, you can see these white

not very agreeable to that. She was very strong-minded,

streaks going through the sky and the field, which resulted

and I think he had a tough time with that.

from the negative being damaged in processing. So that would be an example of a landscape that was killed because of the

ANDREA: Okay, [laughs] so the same old argument.

damage to the negative. And yet, I kept those streaks in, be-

Everything you dealt with in the pictures you chose, it’s

cause I thought they were beautiful, but I also decided that in

very modern, the whole project. Was that something you

all of the photographs that I would use, I would only clean up

were conscience of? What drew you to this?

the dust. Any marks from the processing or poor handling or whatever, I would keep because they were part of the picture.

BILL: Sure, sure. Throughout the project, I was interested in layering and creating several layers of meaning. I knew

ANDREA: Would it be fair to say that you found edit-

I had to extend the photograph past a superficial interest in

ing this project, in a sense, easier than editing your own

that black hole. And then it became a question of how do you

work? Because most photographers have a difficult time

layer meaning? And that got me thinking about abstraction

editing their own work. Why do you think that is?

in general and how these pictures work as abstract pictures. And I realized once Roy Stryker and his staff hole-punched

BILL: It’s brutal to edit one’s own work because it is ex-

those negatives in the 1930’s, those photographs no longer

tremely difficult to find the emotional distance from one’s

entirely belonged to the photographer who took the original

work, it’s very difficult to take one’s ego out of the equation.

negative. They became a hybrid; they became something else.

In that sense, this was a little bit easier than if they were all originally my photographs, but editing is a very challenging

ANDREA: Like a hostile collaboration?

process. It is so difficult. And so it was a little helpful in having that emotional distance, but I still found myself gravitat-

BILL: Yes, and certainly an unwitting one, because he had

ing towards certain photographs more than others, having

no intention in making a new picture, but when I began to

to constantly challenge myself as to why I was including

work with them, I realized these odd images, these strange

certain photographs, really trying to take my emotions and

photographs, had no true authorship; they were no longer Ben

my ego out of the equation as much as possible.

Shahn’s or Walker Evan’s or John Vachon’s, because of Roy Stryker’s interference. My re-contextualization of them altered

ANDREA: Can you explain the title of your project, and

them once again. It then became an interactive project between

how it connects to the holes punched into those negatives?

artistic concerns today and the 1930’s. I was very aware of how much our practice has changed since the 30’s; say for example,

BILL: The title Ground refers to the agricultural and land-

if a photographer had come across these in 1938, would she

scape focus of the photographs, but also to the impact that the

or he have been interested in them as images? Probably not,

black hole has in altering the figure/ground relationship (the

Bill McDowell, Opposite: Mud bath, Prince George’s County, Maryland. 1935. Carl Mydans. 8a00531; Following spread: Levee workers, Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana. 1935. Ben Shahn. 8a16572


spatial depiction of foreground, middle, and background) in

from New York, to Alabama to photograph cotton produc-

many of the photographs. The black hole disallows an easy

tion, and he might have given the person a shot list of what

reading. It disturbs and intercedes, but never in the same

to look for, as well as a government report on cotton pro-

way. Sometimes it becomes largely a graphic element, while

duction, but you still have somebody displaced in a foreign

in other pictures it takes on an emotional bearing.

environment photographing something they know very

The black hole effectively confounds the photograph’s origi-

little about. So that documentary process is an inherently

nal purpose. Its presence challenges the established tenets of

challenging process to begin with.

the FSA project that can be discerned in the unpunched pho-

I think the photographs in Ground raise questions about

tographs. In becoming the dominant pictorial device in each

how the conditions of 1930’s America might relate to the

photograph, and a poetic one overall within the structure of

situation we face now in the United States. But keep in

the book, it shifts the narrative from documentary to art.

mind, it’s a poetic relationship I’ve established. For me, when grouped together in a specific way, these odd photo-

ANDREA: Did Stryker have any relationship to photog-

graphs, that were never intended to be seen publicly, have a

raphy or art at all?

resonance that relates both to today and the past. The black hole’s tendency to abstract, coupled with the documentary

BILL: No. Not at all. He was not a photographer. He came

nature of the original FSA photographs, places the photo-

from sociology. He was a teaching assistant at Columbia

graphs into a state of ambiguity where they exist neither as

University, and so he had no background in art and no

complete abstractions or documentary images.

background in photography. ANDREA: Are you aware of the hoi polloi that has been ANDREA: So it was easy for him to punch those holes

going around about Steve McCurry?

[laughs]. BILL: I don’t know that much about Steve McCurry, reBILL: [laughs] And that was part of the source of difficulty

ally, but I do know that photography is ceaselessly used

he had with the more established photographers. I spoke

in order to exercise power, and you can see that on a daily

earlier about the difficult relationship he had with Doro-

basis in how Hillary Clinton is being represented, in the

thea Lange, and he had an equally as challenging relation-

choices made as to which photograph to show of her, or

ship with Walker Evans.

Donald Trump or Bernie. Those are political decisions that are made and sometimes they have to do with power.

ANDREA: Do you think the photographers profited from

And the classic case is of the darkening of OJ Simpson’s face

the hard times for people and difficult situations they

on the cover of TIME magazine, I mean wow! That’s an ex-

were photographing? Did anyone question that at the

ercise of editorial power. That’s being used all the time in

time? Or did everybody think of it as documenting as it

terms of how things are edited, and it’s always going to be

was happening?

used that way. It was used that way back in the 30’s and it’s used by me today in the way I organized the Ground book.

BILL: That’s a really interesting question. There was certainly

I’d say that my selection of photographs is non-comprehen-

a motive of propaganda behind the creation of the Farm Secu-

sive and intentionally narrow, and yet, my project is not a

rity Administration photographic position and that was not

documentary project. It is an art book using documentary

lost on the photographers. And yet, I think most of the pho-

photographs, but it is distinctly not a documentary project.

tographers felt like—and I speak based on what I’ve read— they were contributing in a positive way. I know Ben Shahn

ANDREA: How does this project differ from your other

felt that way. Evans didn’t, but he was a really cynical guy,


always. Dorothea Lange definitely did and yet, documentary photography has always been a really problematic, complex

BILL: It’s actually very similar to much of my other work

undertaking because photography is always political, wheth-

in that I am always interested in the poetic document, in

er one wants it to be or not, and it’s about power relationships.

some relationship between photographs of everyday life

One person has the camera, the other person or subjects do

or of very basic things that are shifted a little bit so that

not. So, there is a disproportionate power relationship inher-

you see things a little differently. You know, one of my

ent in the making of photographs. So it gets complicated.

favorite quotes is by the poet and novelist James Dickey,

Roy Stryker might send a guy from New York, or a woman

who wrote Deliverance: “Poetry occurs when the utmost

Bill McDowell, Opposite: Mr. Tronson, farmer near Wheelock, North Dakota. 1937. Russell Lee. 8a22121 (detail); Following spread: Planting locust root cutting, Natchez Trace Project, Tennessee. 1936. Carl Mydans. 8a01547


reality and the utmost strangeness coincide.”

terms of showing them a real broad range of work. That

All of my work is kind of based on that notion. I will often

engagement is important to me. Teaching photography

work with a certain body of photographs and try to figure

at the University of Vermont, I often work with students

out relationships between them, as well as a relationship be-

who are just learning the medium. This forces me to stay in

tween abstraction and representation, and I think that’s what

touch with the “beginner’s mind” and to think about what

originally got me interested in the killed negatives. They felt

is important to discuss beyond the technical basics.

like my pictures. And so, I think I felt a tremendous simpa-

That notion of the beginner’s mind—of constantly having

tico with the relationship between abstraction and represen-

to break things down in a very elementary way—is very

tation and how that can just shift the world a little bit so that

healthy. It helps me consider how to present the medium

that little angle of deflection changes the way we think about

to people who know very little about it, in terms of making

things. There are a lot of similarities between this project—

pictures, but also thinking about pictures.

which didn’t originate with my own photographs—my pre-

I sometimes joke with my students that my class is really a

vious projects and the current work that I am engaged in.

mindfulness class. With the camera, we’re trying to become more aware of our place in the present moment, and to stay

ANDREA: What are you working on other than Ground?

a little longer in that awareness. So, yes, I think it does help me engage with photography in a number of different ways.

BILL: I’ve got a couple of projects; one is called the Memo-

I think photography is more mysterious, more alchemical,

ry of Grapes. I am making a series of photograms of grapes

than we give it credit. Whereas poetry and prose revise and

and grape vines that were grown by my late brother who

stir our ancestral oral traditions, we also have a history of

died in 2015. I have been taking cuttings from his grape

working with light. Our lives depended on it. They still do,

arbor—he made wine—and making these photograms

although few of us acknowledge this.

that are really beautiful. I just began with the notion of taking something of his to make pictures with, to make

ANDREA: Wow, because I was just going to ask you, if

images with. But then I started thinking about how some-

you were going to send out a photographer today, hypo-

thing he created or helped create, these grape vines, sur-

thetically, to photograph poverty, how different do you

vived after his death. So it’s in part a homage to him, but

think it would look from the 1930’s?

I think they speak to other things, too. I am working on that, and I’ve started something a number

BILL: I think the same challenges are there. In that, say a

of years ago I just called No Project and that was based on the

photo agency, whether it’s a government agency or a media

idea of just going out to photograph and not thinking about

agency, sends a photographer to Flint, Michigan, that pho-

how it connects to a certain project. It just seemed like I was

tographer’s going to have the same challenges in photo-

always involved in some kind of project, and I wanted to get

graphing tea pickers in California that resulted in “Migrant

back to making pictures for the joy of making a photograph.

Mother.” I think the same challenges of trying to represent

So I began to do that, and I began to carry a camera around

an issue or trying to figure out what the issue is or what the

with me, which I hadn’t done for years. Now it has been a

issues are and then translating that visually is hugely prob-

number of years and I’m beginning to put these together,

lematic. The way things get communicated has changed

because of course it becomes a project even if you call it No

since the 30’s, but the general issues a photographer has

Project, and so I’m beginning to figure out what the relation-

in confronting and working with a series of issues really

ship between these seemingly disparate photographs is.

remains. I think a place like Flint, Michigan would have been of interest to the FSA photography division.

ANDREA: You also teach at the University of Vermont, correct?

ANDREA: Is there anything like the FSA photography division today?

BILL: Yes, I teach photography. BILL: Well, in terms of government sponsored photogANDREA: Do you feel that teaching helps keep you curi-

raphy, there is something called the NSA. [laughs] NASA

ous and interested in photography?

has an incredible collection of government sponsored photographs and then you have commercial sponsored

BILL: Yes, yes, yes in that I really try to maintain a very

projects like Google, which involves tremendous docu-

pluralistic orientation to photography for my students in

mentary photography.

Bill McDowell, Opposite: Untitled. Alabama. 1936. Walker Evans. 8a44525. Following spread: Untitled. Nebraska. 1938. John Vachon. 8a04038.



Jada Fabrizio, Above: The Conqueror Pig, 2016; Opposite: Working Class Hero, 2016.







Jennifer Garza-Cuen, Untitled – Backdrop, Eden, VT 2014.


D I A N N E Y U D E L S O N ab o v e a nd b ey o nd

ANDREA BLANCH: The theme of our upcoming issue is

you? And finally, can you talk about when and why you

Place, in the broadest sense. Can you talk about psychological

stopped trying?

spaces in your work? For example, the mental space of loss? DIANNE: Firstly, as an optimistic person by nature, I beDIANNE YUDELSON: I would define the mental space

lieved if I wasn’t told to stop trying, there was hope. Sec-

of loss as a place where one is powerless over the void that

ondly, miscarriages are not considered a medical problem

is present in one’s mind and heart. In my series Lost, this

requiring testing until you have suffered through three, and

void is represented by the black empty space surrounding

a great majority of women will be given the same diagnosis

the subject matter.

that I received: “unexplained.” Thirdly, during this journey, I did have two successful pregnancies. People are often sur-

ANDREA: The womb is a place. What relationship do

prised to know that having a healthy child does not change

you have to this place?

the emotional connections to those you have lost.

DIANNE: I believe the womb is a place of fundamental

ANDREA: Miscarriage isn’t just a women’s issue—men

rejuvenation and new beginnings. I feel a deep connection

also have to deal with grief at the loss of a baby. I read

to this philosophic construct, as I am a person who awak-

that you have received positive feedback, from both men

ens each day with a sense of new possibilities.

and women, for bringing this topic into conversation. If it’s not too personal, could you talk about how your

ANDREA: What mental space were you in when you

husband dealt with the miscarriages? And how did these

became able or willing to share your experience through

multiple losses affect your relationship?

art? What changed to allow this to happen? DIANNE: My husband Jim is a compassionate and generDIANNE: Last July, after helping a friend through a pain-

ous man and my best friend. Although men do not have to

ful loss, I reflected on my own personal experience. These

deal with the physical pain of miscarriage, they too suffer

thoughts propelled me to take down the big white box in

a loss and grieve. Even greater than Jim’s “grave disap-

my closet, which safeguards the mementos of my lost ba-

pointment” over the loss, I found that his main concern

bies. It had been quite a while since I last took each item

was to relieve my suffering. Our relationship grew stron-

out and laid them on my bed. I felt their story needed to be

ger as we traversed this experience together. A number

documented. I have read the assertion that meaningful art

of men reached out to tell me how the images not only

occurs when you share yourself and create from the depths

comforted them, but also propelled them to speak up and

of your soul. So I shared, through photographic expression.

share their experience in an attempt to help one another. I was told that after viewing my images, one man, an obste-

ANDREA: I’m not sure if there’s a way to ask this ques-

trician performing a routine D&C, began to consider the

tion that doesn’t come off as insensitive, but because

impact of the miscarriage experience on his patient.

you’ve opened up the conversation around miscarriage, in part to dispel social taboos, I hope it’s ok to ask

ANDREA: In your statement, you say you created the

bluntly—why did you try to conceive so many times?

images in a “humble and pristine fashion” in order to

Many women would give up after a few tries; why didn’t

honor their short and pure lives. Can you talk about your

Dianne Yudelson, Self Portrait.


process in creating this work? Both your technical deci-

come to photography as your preferred artistic medium?

sions, and your emotional journey? DIANNE: As a girl, I would draw, paint, dance, and sing. DIANNE: For each baby, I saved the sonogram and preg-

Out of high school, I performed on stage in Honolulu

nancy test in an envelope labeled with their name along

in musical comedies, drawing in the green room while

with their mementos wrapped in tissue. I arranged these

waiting for my cue to go onstage. Then life takes many

items in a manner I felt told the narrative in a “humble

turns and twists you didn’t expect and you find yourself

and pristine fashion in direct correlation to their short and

removed from your first loves. On my 30th birthday I took

pure lives.” When dedicating myself to creating some-

a trip alone to England and my best friend gave me a cam-

thing humble and pristine, I decided to produce the im-

era as a going away gift. That camera was my companion.

ages in black and white (white is the color of purity and

I realized that photography was not simply for taking

innocence) using natural late afternoon light—those last

documentary snapshots. I discovered photography as an

bright moments of light before evening begins. There

artistic medium. There is a tangible element to photogra-

were two main challenges when creating my series Lost.

phy that is like no other medium.

The first was maintaining the consistency of natural late afternoon light across all ten images. This challenge was

ANDREA: Who have been the greatest influences in your

solved by shooting the series over a two week period at

work and in your life, and how do these influences mani-

exactly the same time every day. Since it was mid-sum-

fest in your own work?

mer, the light remained consistent. The second challenge was to balance my emotional connections to the memen-

DIANNE: Personally, my grandmother, mother and hus-

tos with the technical requirements and artistic eye neces-

band have encouraged me to follow my talents and inspi-

sary to capture the image. Fortunately, when looking at

rations. Artistically, the great eclectic artists such as the

the compositions through the viewfinder, I felt a sense of

painters like Magritte and Rousseau as well as the pho-

visiting the images as an outsider, helping me remain re-

tographer Jerry Uelsmann have influenced my work by

moved enough to clearly complete my vision.

inspiring me to freely explore varied conceptual ideas and not conform to imposed artistic restrictions. Ansel Adams’

ANDREA: How did creating this work change your re-

use of tonal scale and his meticulous attention to detail

lationship to your loss? Did it bring a sense of closure?

also motivates my work.

DIANNE: They say in giving you receive. I have found

ANDREA: I read that you are developing a series about

this to be true, especially when you give from the heart.

how to cope with loss—can you say any more about that

In helping to heal others’ emotional pain from pregnancy

project at this time?

loss, I have lessened my own.

DIANNE: The first stage of this project is completed in ANDREA: In your picture of Gwendolyn, you include

that I have documented my personal experiences. I am

a few pages from your diary. Did you keep a journal

currently in stage two, where I am turning my focus out-

through all your pregnancies?

ward and working to spotlight the experiential point of view of other women. This series is in its early conceptual

DIANNE: No, I kept a journal for my first pregnancy and

stages and as I prepare the initial images, the elements

during those that went to the second trimester.

and final direction of the series may transform.

ANDREA: What advice do you have for artists who

ANDREA: Are you working on any other projects simul-

want to share deeply personal aspects of themselves?


DIANNE: When you share a deeply personal experience

DIANNE: This week I am working on a few new im-

from your heart and soul, you will find that you touch

ages for my series Under the Surface, which is a portrait

the viewer of your image on a more profound level.

series about the voyage of self-actualization. This summer

They will identify with the human truth within the mes-

I will also be out on location capturing new images for

sage of your piece.

my Antique Aviary, a wildlife series that documents and celebrates the beauty of avian wildlife while faithfully at-

ANDREA: You call yourself a “master of the New Eclec-

tempting to heighten awareness of the devastating effects

ticism” because it is your artistic aesthetic, rather than

of climate change and the need to protect and preserve

a subject or genre that defines your work. How did you

these majestic creatures.

Dianne Yudelson, Opposite, Clockwise from top: Lost, Jane; Lost, Charlie; Lost, Robert, 2015



Dianne Yudelson, Clockwise from top left: Lost, Violet; Lost, Jeff; Lost, Tommy; Lost, Mary and Vivian, 2015


Dianne Yudelson, Lost, Georgia, 2015.


Dianne Yudelson, Lost, Bryce, 2015.


Dianne Yudelson, Lost, Gwendolyn, 2015.





Julia Murakami, Exercises in Levitation I, 2015.


J A M E S CA S E B E R E si ze ma tter s

ANDREA BLANCH: The theme of our upcoming issue

scale. He made small things monumental. I wanted to express

is Place. Can you talk about the role that place plays

big ideas in little things.

into your work? ANDREA: Is there something about the controlled enviJAMES CASEBERE: Place has been of primary impor-

ronment that you find particularly appealing?

tance to me from the start. I think of Gaston Bachelard and The Poetics of Space. I wanted to anchor objects in a visceral

JAMES: No. I was making art, and that meant making things

relationship to the body through personal memory, history,

from scratch to create a language of my own. Is making art in

and experience. This is why William Faulkner was important

general about asserting control over one’s world? In this re-

to me. He knew how to create a sense of place in order to

spect, what I was doing was more akin to painting or directing

address the relationship between personal and social histo-

a film than to the traditional practice of photography. I wanted

ries. This became my mantra: how to address the relationship

to direct attention to the way photos are made, and not taken.

between the individual and the social group through archi-

I wanted to direct attention to the way we construct our own

tecture and place.

realities, the ways we each create the reality we inhabit—or to the ways others try to construct the perception of reality for

ANDREA: Your work is unique. You were at the forefront

us. I utilized architecture and design as a sign system to ex-

of artists working in constructed photography, and have

plore other ideas. Some of the most interesting thinking about

been working in this technique for decades. Why did you

semiotics for me grew out of architectural theory, particularly

begin photographing miniature models in the first place?

Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture by Robert Venturi

How did you come up with the idea to work this way?

and Denise Scott Brown. Post-Modern theory was first articulated in architecture.

JAMES: I had been making small architectural models—diagrammatic or skeletal structures—as well as collecting small

ANDREA: What has kept this way of working alive for you?

detritus, like chunks of Styrofoam, plastic, glass, and other, sometimes natural, objects that I found on the beach, and put-

JAMES: I love to build things and experiment with the re-

ting them in small boxes.

lationships between film, sculpture, painting, architecture, and

I was interested in the way photography had shaped my expe-

the history of art and design in general. I continue to vacillate

rience of art and was working at a time when many conceptual

between the social and the personal. I feel like I am working

artists were documenting installations and temporary perfor-

in an area opened up by early modernists and exploring inter-

mances. I wanted the photograph to be the primary means

media relationships initiated by Dadaists, Constructivists, and

of communication. It was the main way I had experienced

the like. There is another challenge around every corner.

art from around the world. In my case, I wanted there to be nothing more important than the photograph. There would be

ANDREA: Who were your greatest influences?

nothing you missed if you saw the photo. In addition, making something small was akin to the effect created when Claes Old-

JAMES: Siah Armajani, John Baldessari, Claes Oldenburg,

enburg made things soft. It referred to childhood and play. In

Giorgio De Chirico, Hannah Höch, Louise Nevelson, Louise

his case it was stuffed animals. My work alluded to toy soldiers

Bourgeois, Vito Acconci, Alfred Hitchcock, both my grand-

or dollhouses. But, like him, I was also interested in the issue of

fathers and my grandmother, and Mr. Rose, my teacher

Portrait by Giorgia Fanelli, December 2014.


when I was five at the Detroit Institute of the Arts, and then again in high school. I saw this art at the Detroit Institute of the Arts as a child: a Van Gogh self-portrait and retrospective, a Francis Bacon painting, Auguste Rodin’s “The Bather,” Robert Morris retrospective, and Louise Nevelson, as well as a Pop Art show in the ‘60s at the MoMA.

ANDREA: Did you take any architecture classes in college? JAMES: No. ANDREA: Your earlier work seems simpler, more modellike, while your newest work is more detailed, more lifelike, to the point where one could mistake it for the real thing. Can you describe this progression and why you moved in this direction? JAMES: The work only first began to look convincing when I moved inside and made simple prison cells. Here it was not clear whether it was life-size or miniature, a real or constructed space. From the start, the images were simplified pictures of things, which had been stripped of detail. They already existed as magnets, for projections—vessels for associations and memories, but the prison interiors were models of spaces that were already stripped down and generic, so they appeared more realistic. The things I am working on now are actually simpler again, and more model-like. It is apparent that the materials are exactly what they are, and less effort is made to persuade the viewer otherwise. In this sense, they are a bit more schematic, like the first pictures I made: Life Story, for example, or of the fan, and the fork in the fridge, minus the real objects.

ANDREA: Is it important for you that people who see your work get the historical and cultural references? Do you expect them to? And, if not, what do you intend for your viewers to walk away with? JAMES: I would like them to. This comes with thought and reflection. The more you know, the more you get. This goes for any art. Generally, I am not hitting anyone over the head with a message, but I try to let the images sink in and grow. I want to draw the viewer in, visually, viscerally. The hope is that the viewer will ask those questions that open up new areas of inquiry. Sometimes those references are art historical, sometimes literary, and sometimes contemporary. For example, the 30 inch wide image called “The Rally” that was made for the Haus der Kunst in Munich is a reference to the origins of the building in Nazi-era Germany, and the building as theatrical backdrop to political spectacle. However, any-

James Casebere, Above: Big Sur, 2013


James Casebere, Following spread: Caffey’s Inlet Lifesaving Station (Dare County, NC), 2013.




James Casebere, Above: Cloudy / Sunny Skies, 2013.


I think the interest comes in breaking down the barriers between categories and not allowing them to be clearly defined.

one who is familiar with the place associates that history with

JAMES: They are partly idyllic. I wanted to create the sense of

contemporary politics, and the right-wing populist national-

the idyllic, but also a sense of anxiety or fear of its loss. It’s the

ism rising up and concerning many in Europe as well as in

American Dream endangered.

the U.S. It is also a Frieze that refers to the Parthenon, and a landscape that reminds one of Bosch and even 18th and 19th

ANDREA: In addition to all your photography, you

century history painting.

have also done larger sculptural installations, and even a few films. Do you find there are certain ideas or themes

ANDREA: Can you talk about lighting? So much of your

that are best executed in one medium or the other?

work is of interiors, where you mimic window lighting, but more recently you have also mimicked various

JAMES: The film projects are largely about editing, and

outdoor lighting situations, for instance, in Landscapes

Life Story is also a series of still photographs that deal with

with Houses. Do you have any tricks of the trade to

editing. It’s about creating a storyboard for a film. The first

share? What’s your favorite or most interesting method

sculptures I made were all white and about image. Instead of

for recreating natural light in a controlled setting?

traditional sculptural things like weight, material, and mass, I wanted them to be weightless and ephemeral images. Later

JAMES: Keep it as simple as possible, but hire the right peo-

sculptures involved lumber and other building materials, ac-

ple with the right expertise.

tually constructing parts of houses in something like ¾ scale and squeezing them into an interior gallery space. So, I guess

ANDREA: What materials do you use to make your

the answer would be no. I think the interest comes in break-

models, and how have they changed over time?

ing down the barriers between categories and not allowing them to be clearly defined.

JAMES: They really have not changed that much. It’s a combination of foam core, museum board, paper, card-

ANDREA: There is some new work on your website that

board, chicken wire, plaster, Styrofoam, joint compound,

seems to be a departure from all your previous work, a

wood, paint, and, sometimes, other found materials. In the

series of untitled images of dried plants in snow. What

landscapes with houses I began using more model train

was the inspiration/idea/impulse behind this series?

materials, like the miniature flowers, grasses, turf, etc. The water is something called E-Z water, from the company

JAMES: After the Landscapes with Houses, I started

Woodland Scenics.

thinking more specifically about landscape, and this led me to Caspar David Friedrich. I made one very complicated

ANDREA: Your Landscapes with Houses series was a

model based on his famous painting called “The Sea of

response to the mortgage crisis, the loss of the American

Ice,” otherwise known as “The Wreck of Hope.” The sub-

Dream, and yet many of the scenes could still be read as

sequent images that you’re referring to are based on his

idyllic. Can you say more about this?

paintings of trees and bushes in the snow from the Dresden

James Casebere, Following spread: Dusk on Exeter Road, 2013.




James Casebere, Landscape with Houses, 2012


Heath. Their construction was simple. The original paint-

means to specific projects. “The Rally” and “The Sea of Ice”

ings were also simple.

at the Haus der Kunst in Munich, for example, were both changes, and certainly deviations from architectural model

ANDREA: What prompted this stylistic change?

making. But, in addition, I’ve simplified the process, and eliminated all the elaborate illusionistic landscaping of a

JAMES: It seemed like the most direct way to represent the

model train set.

idea. I pulled up dead plants from my backyard in Brooklyn, and photographed them in a bed of baking soda designed to look like

ANDREA: What are you working on now?

snow. At this point, I was tired of making very complicated, labor intensive models, and wanted to make images that were simpler,

JAMES: Some of what I’m working on now derives from the

more direct, and did not require an entire crew to construct.

images I started for Haus der Kunst. They were not finished or included in the show, and I’m looking at them from a different

ANDREA: Is this a signal that you are headed in a new

angle now. In addition, they are simpler, and more like the earli-

direction with your work?

est images from 1975-6. They leave all the seams showing, with the construction paper and other materials apparent. They are

JAMES: It may be a sign that I’m willing to adopt specific

James Casebere, Falling House with Fire (For MK), 2012.


looser, more schematic, abstract, and more spontaneous.


Vlad Dubovsky, Untitled, 2015.



Vlad Dubovsky, Untitled, 2016.


J O H N D I V O L A l e ft be h i nd b y Joh n Hut t Los Angeles is a sprawling metropolis that views land

building contains infinite possibilities. To restless

as an infinite resource. When there are no natural bor-

kids in LA, these possibilities almost always manifest

ders to a city, the tendency is to push ever outward,

through spray painting and smashing things. To the

leaving abandoned neighborhoods and buildings in

government, or some organization, these possibilities

the wake of progress. John Divola is a creature of this

result in the complete destruction of the building, or

place. Growing up in San Fernando and attending

a limbo. Divola is, at heart, a bored LA kid. He would

school in LA, Divola saw firsthand the leftovers of

enter an abandoned place and either find what he

LA’s expansionist ambitions. His various series focus

was looking for, or trash the place a bit, and then find

on what happens to what is left behind, be it build-

what he was looking for. In various interviews Divola

ings whose owners have left, or plots of land where

has said that he goes in to look for a picture and to

houses were wrenched out for an airport.

find something interesting to shoot; it is only after

Divola’s work is not a musing on the misguided

his thorough investigation that he decides to paint

manifest destiny of a culture built on disposable re-

on the walls or throw things around. Divola says the

sources, though it easily could be and is often ap-

whole action is the work: the entrance, the destruc-

propriated as such. It is not inherently critical of the

tion, the vandalism, then the picture. It’s telling that

reality he is a part of, but rather an exploration of the

his earlier work finds him with a greater need to cre-

leftovers- a musing, not on what should have been

ate the scene than his later pieces, featuring already

done with the land, but on what is being done now.

destroyed places, because the work also includes you

The place he is in, the reality of southern California,

and your friends walking through a disused factory

is so ingrained within him that there is no room for a

at night taking pictures and quickening your pace as

critique of misappropriated resources.

you run upstairs. It’s the dumb shit you did when it

Divola does what kids do in these situations. An aban-

was summer.

doned building equals freedom and agency. Freedom

Kids lack agency, even those raised in the embrace of

from the long, boring days of a perpetual summer in a

LA’s materialism. The spray paint is used for more

place where materialism is as concrete as it is fleeting.

than just to make an object more interesting for a pho-

An abandoned building is there to be destroyed. Privi-

tograph. The spray paint is an attempt to mark one’s

leged southern Californian youths who come across an

existence, to let others know you were there. Why do

old house will break in and wreak havoc. The destruc-

artists break into buildings to write their name in let-

tion of structures and places, such a seemingly infinite

ters fifty feet high? Because these artists have no other

resource in LA reality, is a gleeful afterthought to the

voice. It is a scream to be heard. Divola comes from a

need to put a hole through a wall.

similar place, but is by no means a graffiti artist, even

It’s the audacity of youth to go into these places. Unsafe

if his series is called Vandalism.

structures are there to climb inside of and be mess with.

Divola paints the walls and adjusts the image as a

The exploration of abandoned buildings, the fearlessness

way to show he has been there, but also as a way to

and disregard for authority is, as others have pointed out,

affect the landscape and location. Living in San Fer-

pretty punk rock. It can be described as boredom and ni-

nando, surrounded by endless houses and endless

hilism, but even the most bored nihilist is compelled.

roads, it must feel stifling and impossible to make

The discovery of a slowly disintegrating and disused

a mark- especially a mark on any of the coveted

Self Portrait courtesy of the artist. All following images courtesy of Gallery Luisotti, Santa Monica, CA.


property he is a part of. The picture is there: it’s a

throws a book and shoots it to add a sense of urgency,

beautiful seascape out a shabby bay window of an

to inject the piece, we are told, with some kinetics in

abandoned house. That’s interesting enough—nicely

an otherwise stale environment. This is of course all

framed, Divola could take the shot and move on. He

retroactive. We know that Divola went in there with

certainly has the eye to pull it off. But that is not what

a can of spray paint and that he was going to use it.

he does. He adds a bit of paint, to bring out the sea

We know he threw the book a few times before trying

color, he tells us. Perhaps the room is not adequately

to shoot it, and we know that he kicked and smashed

disarranged, so he throws some things around, sim-

the hell out of the interior of this house. We know

ply to prove the abandonment of the location. He

because we share these urges.

John Divola, 74V01, 1974.


John Divola, Top: 74V13; Bottom: 74V17, 1974; Following spreads: Zuma #70; Zuma #8; Zuma #3, 1977.




Matthias Heiderich, Reflections 04, 2015.



Matthias Heiderich, Material Eins 01, 2016.





Matthias Heiderich, Studie Eins, 2011.



Matthias Heiderich, Studie Zwei, 2011.





Matthias Heiderich, Systems / Layers III 01, 2015.



Matthias Heiderich, Systems / Layers III 19, 2015.



M I S H K A H E N N E R i l l u si o n o f p er ma nence

MUSÉE MAGAZINE: As a French-Belgian, how do you

MUSÉE: It took Robert Frank years to photograph and

relate to America?

culminate this work into a photobook. How long did it take you to complete this project? In these comparative time

MISHKA HENNER: I was born in Belgium, have a French

frames, can something be said about our relationship to im-

and British passport and live in Manchester, so it’s com-

ages today versus when Robert Frank was photographing?

plicated. I think I’m playing a trans-Atlantic game of ping pong with America. It sends a lot of stuff my way, I process

MISHKA: It took me about a month to do. “The Ameri-

it, and send it back.

cans” was an epic tale, and it influenced me a great deal when I was younger, but I think our relationship to im-

MUSÉE: In your opinion, what is the role of an image?

ages has changed in recent years. The image is so much more malleable now and it circulates around the world at

MISHKA: I think images are another language. They’ve

the speed of light.

been compared to mirrors, windows, tabletops. I like to think of them as a crystal lake.

MUSÉE: I am curious about your opinions on identity, especially the national identity of a country. It’s as if

MUSÉE: What was the impetus behind your project Less

this project aims to delete history. In your words, what

Américains (2012)? Why this work by such an iconic Ameri-

would you like this project to say?

can photographer? I read that you were initially inspired by Robert Rauschenberg’s Erased de Kooning Drawing (1953).

MISHKA: That’s not for me to say. I have so many takes on it that if I went through them all I would bore your

MISHKA: I was interested in the process of erasure.

readers to tears.

Rauschenberg’s gesture was one of several I’d read about that influenced me. The work of John Cage, too. But also

MUSÉE: It’s interesting that Frank’s book was first

the defacement of adverts, the degradation of Jpegs, archi-

published in France in 1958. You reference and tweak the

tectural and ideological ruins.

original French title. How do you feel you’re regaining

There was a lot of mythologizing and fetishizing of The

this interplay between cultures?

Americans going on at that time and I think I was reacting against that, but it’s four years since I made the work, and I

MISHKA: A friend of mine came up with the title. It was

still struggle to come up with a definitive interpretation of it.

genius, really, and the moment he said it I knew that had to be it. I experienced a rupture with language when moving

MUSÉE: Was there a specific current event that inspired

from Belgium to England as an 8 year-old, and I’ve thought

this project?

a lot about finding ways to introduce French into my work, but it’s not been easy. It was more by luck than design that

MISHKA: I can’t say for sure, but maybe the memory loss

“The Americans” had such a strong French connection.

one experiences working with digital media. I’ve dropped too many hard-drives in my time, and your relationship

MUSÉE: The book shocked the public. The Guardian said

to permanence changes radically with each catastrophic

it was on the verge of insulting, Lens Culture said it was

memory failure.

mechanical and glib. I feel that the works’ intention was

Portrait by Liz Lock. 2016. Images Courtesy Bruce Silverstein Gallery, New York. Following Spread: Mishka Henner, Cafe No 2. 2013.


People get too hung up on the authentic status of the image and forget that without the eye of a beholder, an image has absolutely no meaning.

to be mechanical or glib. That was the point; it wasn’t ac-

MISHKA: Each iteration is very different. I think of the

cidental. How would you respond to those reviews?

individual prints as landscapes, whereas the book is more of a composition, and the complete portfolio of the smaller

MISHKA: I’ve learned over the years that some people

prints is sculptural.

who occupy positions of authority really don’t have a clue, which would be fine if they didn’t pretend otherwise.

MUSÉE: Would you consider the work constructive or deconstructive? I feel that it has elements of both.

MUSÉE: In an interview you said you are interested not in narrative, but in seriality: the ongoing sequence

MISHKA: I don’t think one can exist without the other.

of images. Could you speak about this in regards to Less Américains? Does this idea pertain?

MUSÉE: In regards to utilizing the work of another photographer, what do you think of the term ‘unintended

MISHKA: Well, I listen a lot to musicians working with


loops, remixes, beats, samples, and so on. And that’s how I like to work with images. With “Less Américains,” it was

MISHKA: I like it. I think if you’re making art you’re con-

really about diving into each image and carving a new

stantly doing that with your peers—those that have gone

landscape from it. The material was already there; I just

before, and those that are yet to come.

had to reshape it. MUSÉE: Through Less Américains, you have simultaMUSÉE: Could you explain the software or process you

neously disrupted and inserted yourself into the classi-

used to delete the data in Robert Frank’s images?

cal canon of photography. How important is the presence of your ‘signature’ within this work and your work

MISHKA: The eraser in Photoshop.

in general?

MUSÉE: Were the deletions of data spontaneous or cal-

MISHKA: I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding about

culated? How has your relationship to negative space

appropriation and originality--especially in Photography:

changed as an artist?

the one art form that relies entirely on capturing what’s already there.

MISHKA: Spontaneous. I’ve learnt that there is nothing

What I’m interested in isn’t the image, but how it’s read. Peo-

negative about negative space.

ple get too hung up on the authentic status of the image and forget that without the eye of the beholder, an image has ab-

MUSÉE: Did you discover anything new about Frank’s

solutely no meaning. The image comes into being only when

work through the process of isolating details?

it’s being observed, and of course we all bring different readings to images, especially when they’re ambiguous. So “Less

MISHKA: Only in the visual patterns and geometric shapes

Américains” is really an attempt to capture one such read-

I’d find myself revealing over and over again, but that might

ing, or 83 different readings at a given moment in time. If I

have nothing to do with Frank. That could just be me.

hadn’t made “Less Américains”, it would never exist. Or it certainly wouldn’t exist in the form I gave it.

MUSÉE: Less Américains is shown in both book and print form. What is the ideal mode of viewing the images

MUSÉE: What are you working on now?

and why? Or does it not matter whether they are on the wall or in a book?

MISHKA: This interview!

Mishka Henner, Opposite: Top: Studio de télévision.; Bottom: Ascenseur; Following spreads: Canal Street; Rodéo No1; Hoboken. 2013.




Graeme Williams, Top: A city refracted 3, 2013; Bottom: A city refracted 4, 2014.



Graeme Williams, A city refracted 5, 2014.





Karen Glenn, Reflecting Chinatown 1, 2015.


P H I L I P K WA M E A PAGYA co nstr ucti ng sel f

ELIZABETH MEALEY: I love your work, but when I

is called Paul Kofi Apagya, and I am Philip Kwame Apagya.

was researching you I couldn’t find much written recently.

He is senior and I am junior.

Could you orient us to what you’re doing at the moment? ELIZABETH: So, can you tell me about growing up and PHILIP KWAME APAGYA: My initial idea was to come

any experiences that lead to you becoming a photogra-

and expand my photography business in the United States,

pher yourself?

because I had wanted to travel out of my homeland somewhere else to expand my business. When I came to the

PHILIP: Yeah, when I was a small boy, I had no idea; all

United States for the first time, it was to do an exhibition

I knew was my dad was a photographer. I grew up in the

in Houston—we did a group exhibition. I went back home,

photo studio. I woke up early in the morning, and I lived all

but then I came to Georgia.

my life in the photo studio. At that time my dad was doing only black and white. I was a small boy, and my father just

ELIZABETH: What brought you to Georgia of all places?

regularized the tripod to a certain height, ignoring mine. So I had a small stool in the studio that I stood on when cus-

PHILIP: Actually, it was somebody who I knew from back

tomers came. It took a bit of time, but I just got used to it.

home; since childhood I was taking her photograph. I got in

So I stood on the stool to focus and shoot, and people really

contact with her, and she was living there with her husband,

liked my photos. They would see me with the camera after

so I paid them a visit, and that was that. First I came to New

school, during lunch, in my sleep. A lot of things ran around

York, and then I flew to Georgia. That was in 2006. Just for

my brain, and they stayed with me when I grew up.

the time being, I’ve settled here, because the whole world’s

I learned so much from my father—he is one of the best

photographic market is in the United States.

photographers in the city of Sekondi-Takoradi, I bet you.

Right now things are not working the way I want. I want

And it’s not just because he’s my father. I know, as compared

to be straight before the photographic business moves

with other photographers at that time—I mean, everybody

on. The ideas have been piled up, and it’s a studio in my

knows my dad. He is called Mr. PK. So if you talk about PK,

head, I tell you. It’s blowing my mind, but I can’t exhibit

you know that’s concerned with photographs.

it right now. ELIZABETH: What did your mom do? ELIZABETH: Are you doing photography right now? PHILIP: You know, African living is different. It’s not like PHILIP: Photography is who I am and what I am. I’ve

this American type of living; she always played her role in

just been working to keep myself up, but that is not my

the market. She used to do a little petty trading and all that.

dream. I want to be straight before coming out, and then

She’d get up and just move on with her business, and in the

that will be a great boom.

evening she’d come home to cook for the family.

ELIZABETH: I wanted to go back to your childhood. I

ELIZABETH: When you started to do photography, did

read that your father was a photographer?

you consider yourself an artist?

PHILIP: Yes, my dad, my great dad is a photographer. He

PHILIP: In those days I wasn’t considering myself as an

Philip Kwame Apagya, Best Seller, 2004. All images courtesy gallery FIFTY ONE, Antwerp.


In my homeland Ghana, everybody wants to travel by air, to go to travel outside, to see what is happening in different parts of the world.

artist. But you know, in comparison with the photo back-

ones with the airports—you know, somebody traveling. In

drops my dad was using—those days it was just black and

my homeland Ghana, everybody wants to travel by air, to

white, you know, painted with the staircases and a whole lot

go to travel outside, to see what is happening in different

of things. And being a young man, I should think modern.

parts of the world. It’s like, “Eh! That is my wish. That is my

By then color photography wasn’t there. It was a new in-

dream; I wish to travel by air.”

troduction. My dad tried to take photographs with color, and the printing was very difficult. I had two pen pals,

ELIZABETH: When did you open your studio?

one in Bahrain and also one in the Netherlands. They helped me print my early works. I would send them rolls

PHILIP: I started the studio in 1982, December. And from

of film, they would print them and send the prints and

there, if the studio doesn’t work the way I want, I just travel,

the negatives back. That was the first time those ideas

and then it works for me. In Ghana, back home, we have a lot

started. I took color photos of friends, and whatever

of festivities—you know, different festivals going from place

I saw, and I mailed it to these friends and they printed

to place. So sometimes it got to a certain time where I would

them for me. So with that I said, “Wow, it’s better I go

work as a traveling photographer. I’d just roll down my back-

from the old system to this new system.”

ground, and drop them by the sides of the festivities, and the

By then color was just beginning in Ghana. So I had my

moment I opened the backdrops, people would get attracted

dad’s ideas and my new modern ideas, and I said, “This

to them. They just come, I take them—maybe stay there for a

color should portray in the view of people.” That is how the

week—and just do my work. It could take three days to print.

whole thing started. By then the Lebanese and the Koreans

So I have to make sure that by showing my photographs to

started bringing their old second-hand printing machines

the people, maybe they show me where their houses are, and

to Ghana. We started doing something. We’d take them and

I can stay with them. Then, when the prints are ready, I just

send them to the laboratory, and they’d print it. It was a new

distribute them to my customers, and then off I go.

boost. So we started the competition rolling, up to now.

My work was a great change, because in those days photographers stayed in their studio, and expected the customers

ELIZABETH: Can you talk about your backdrops? I know

to come. But I chase the customers with the backgrounds,

that you would customize your backdrops, and kept mak-

and bring them to the studio. So it’s an extra income for

ing new ones. Did your clients have favorite backdrops?

me, by doing so. By going close to the customers, it changes their lifestyle. And also going outdoors, taking the photo-

PHILIP: I made my first background in black and white,

graphs outside, will redirect them to the studio. And when

and it was an airplane behind me. I made that shot and

they come in, they see another backdrop, and they will still

people loved it. That was the first black and white backdrop

like to take another photograph. They don’t think about

I did anyhow, and it sold out. Somebody came, and I sold

how much they are spending, but just want to get whatever

it to him. But since then I’ve changed it to color. Different

you have. That’s why I have different types of backgrounds,

ideas came in. I just take the cues from my customers. I

and keep on changing them all the time.

mean, Shama is a small town—it’s an old, ancient town. So I go round and ask my customers, what do they think? Some-

ELIZABETH: I read that you commissioned a local

body might say, “Oh, I wish to travel by ship,” or maybe to

painter, Daniel A. Jasper, to create your custom back-

do this or do that. So I try to put all these combinations in

drops. Did he do all of your backdrops? How did you

simple, detailed backgrounds. And it works! It works. Be-

start working with him?

cause everyone wants to be seen in modernity. When there’s a new backdrop, people rush on it. Most of

PHILIP: Initially, I started with an artist from Elmina, one

my investment goes into the backgrounds, because it’s the

of the old coastal towns in Ghana. He was very good. I think

backdrops which make the business. When people are at-

I did about five or six different backgrounds with him, and

tracted to the backdrops, they rush on it, especially with the

it was great. I tell him what I really want, because I know

Philip Kwame Apagya, Opposite: Come on Board! 2000; Following spread: At the Airport, 1996.


People like to look at photographs that tell their own stories at a certain time.

what my people want. But then one day I went to a coastal

about illusion—illusionary ideas.

town, and there was a festival going on over there—I went there just to enjoy myself and take photographs at the fes-

ELIZABETH: How long do the backgrounds take to

tivity—and I saw one of my old backdrops being openly


displayed close to the festivity’s center! So I went over and greeted the photographer, and asked

PHILIP: It depends. This artist is in great demand. Since

him who did this painting for him, and he said, “Oh, it’s

I’m a good customer to him, he tries really hard, but it will

from Akwando.” And I said, “Oh, he did a very nice job.”

take around three weeks, sometimes two weeks. It depends

He said, “I went to the art studio and he was painting one,

on the project. If there are a lot of details, you need more

so I requested for one and he did it for me.” I said, “Mmhm-

time. I know I don’t have to rush him: he is trying his best to

mm.” So I showed him some of my phtotographs: “This is

make sure the details are all okay.

the original backdrop,” I said. And he’s just like, “Oh, ok.”

This guy, he does a lot of video posters. You know, in those

So I went and mounted mine on a different place, different

days, those Chinese films were at all corners, and people

direction, all known to each other, and I just did my work.

just copied them, but they didn’t have posters. So this guy

The fortunate part of it was I had brought a different back-

made posters for some of them, for those people who took

drop with me—so that was my win.

the films around the villages, so they could sell them and

But after that I went to the artist and told him, “Now look

also have some coins. Now it’s no more. But back then,

here, I don’t do work with you any more. Because you can’t

that was the demand. So the artist was always busy. He is

be copying things, no, no, no.” So I stopped with him, and

always busy. But with me in question, it’s no problem. He

I found Jasper to be another good artist who is more even

always tries to fulfill his promise.

modernized than that Akwando in Elmina. The artist is in Accra, in the capital. I work with him—even right now

ELIZABETH: What do you think your photographs say

though I’m not requesting painted backdrops, I do always

about contemporary Ghanaian people and society?

call him. I have a lot of different backdrops on the pipeline, so I’m just waiting for the good time to have all those—

PHILIP: People like to look at photographs that tell their

about ten different ideas—to have those backdrops painted.

own stories at a certain time. Some people would like to be

For financial reasons, I can’t do it right now.

seen in different types of clothes. People cannot remember certain things at a certain time. But a photograph tells the

ELIZABETH: I’m curious what your ideas are. What

whole story. Let’s assume a young boy and a young girl just

things do you want to do?

go to have a photograph taken; It’s not just a pose, no. It tells their whole story. And by seeing their story, it gives them a

PHILIP: For instance, New York. When you talk about

remembrance. The picture is a story of its own. Everything

New York, it’s about the Liberty Statue. It tells the city’s

from the clothing to the background, when taken together,

story. No doubt about it.

it tells the whole story. We have different ideas explained in different images we

ELIZABETH: Did you ever paint the backgrounds your-

take. Back home, when you ask somebody who has never

self? Or did you always commission someone?

been to school to give you an update of what happened in a particular photograph, it is easier for them to tell you. They

PHILIP: I always commissioned somebody. I’m not a good

will tell you, “Oh, it was during the funeral of such and such

artist. But I direct the artists on what I want. Sometimes I

person who died, and we made one common cloth among

take some photograph cut-outs and combine them with im-

us, just for remembrance.” That person will tell you the

ages from magazines, or some other views I like and just

story, just from the photograph. So we have our own story

mash them up. It is a combination of ideas. I advised him

on each photograph. We have our stories. So photos became

to make this to this, add this to this, and so on. It’s always

part of our culture.

Philip Kwame Apagya, Nana Cockpit in Shama, 2006.


A girl of around ten or twelve years old asked me, “So, when will Africans live in houses other than trees?”

ELIZABETH: So you’re sort of completing their story

about. Then the exhibition in Bamako exposed me to the

with these backgrounds? That’s really interesting.

French community. And another exhibition at the Barbican Art Center in London exposed me to the English commu-


nity. So that is how the international recognition came: the film, and doing a lot of different exhibitions.

ELIZABETH: Some people have compared your work to

I exhibited in almost all the major cities in France—Nantes,

Seydou Keïta. What are your thoughts on him?

Lille, Paris—and in Germany too: Munich, Berlin, Cologne…different cities. I came through immigration a lot.

PHILIP: I met Keïta in Bamako, in Mali. He’s one of the

Sweden too. A lot of different places.

best photographers I’ve ever seen. It was a photographic program being organized by L’Alliance Française in Bama-

ELIZABETH: You’ve traveled so much. What country or

ko, and I was invited to represent my country. It was there

city have you most enjoyed visiting?

that I met him, Seydou Keïta, and also Malick Sidibé. It was organized by the French Embassy in Bamako, so I was in-

PHILIP: London. When I exhibited in Barbican Center, I

vited through the Embassy of France in Accra.

loved that place, because besides the exhibition, I had a lot

Seydou was an old man by the time we met, and he has

of different educational programs for the students at some

done a great job over there in his country. They are French

schools. I was very busy. I don’t know how the education

speaking people, and we are English speaking people. So

system works over there, but most of the children—espe-

there’s a great difference between us, but everyone is trying

cially children between ages eight and twelve—still have a

to pick up his mantle, you know? Until we met in Bama-

different view of Africans. A girl of around ten or twelve

ko, I never knew there was a great photographer like that.

years old asked me, “So, when will Africans live in houses

They’ve done a very good job, he and the legendary Malik

other than trees?” At this age, asking such a question! I told

Sidibé. I went to Malik Sidibé’s studio as well, just close by

her, “Look here, if somebody’s riding in a Mercedes Benz

to their central mosque. It’s in a very commercial area, so

in London, somebody is also using the same machine in

photography is well patronized by his customers. But be-

Ghana. We are human beings like you.”

fore then, I never knew anything about Seydou Keïta. He

That gave me an idea: to sell my country wherever I go. It

was doing the photography before the time we met. When

seems my colleagues, photojournalists, are never doing jus-

I met him, Seydou wasn’t actively involved in photography

tice to us. You know, they portray different stories in different

anymore. He’s one of the past photographers. People re-

magazines, but they always try to portray the sad part of our

member his works through his archives.

country, or Africa in general. The poverty, hunger, and what and what. Besides all this, we have life! We are living human

ELIZABETH: Your work has been featured in numerous

beings, so what they should see, what they should come out

international exhibitions and publications dating back

with, is life. It’s not always about war, hunger, poverty, sick-

to 1998. How did you first achieve international recogni-

ness, no no no. It is time for them to come out. But when they

tion? Were you actively seeking an international market

come out with this truth, their work is going to end…nobody

for your images, or was your first exposure more coinci-

will be interested in that. So they always portray the negative

dental? How did that happen?

part of it, and it keeps them moving in their job.

PHILIP: I’ll tell you how the international market came

ELIZABETH: Yes, it’s sad, but true that this is how Af-

about: it was just a miracle. The documentary film Future

rica is still portrayed. If there was one thing that you

Remembrance, Photography and Image Arts in Ghana (1998) by

could tell everyone about Ghana, what would you want

Tobias Wendl was what exposed me to the world. Then the

them to know?

white people started coming to my studio, “PKS Normal Photo Studio,” in Shama, and I didn’t know what it was all

PHILIP: Ghana is a beloved country, as I always tell

Philip Kwame Apagya, Opposite: Business Lady, 1996; Following spread: No place like home, 1996.


If you travel there, you love it, and you will love to go back every now and then. This is my country, Ghana, and I love it.

people. We have a very good history. Of our cocoa, of

PHILIP: I have my digital camera right here with me. I’m

our timber. We have a lot of different resources, but it’s

preparing myself to face the digital world. You have to work

only our politicians that are destroying our country.

with the system.

There’s life in my country Ghana! People travel from America, and they keep on going back, because life

ELIZABETH: Out of curiosity, what kind of camera do

over there is very good. If you have something doing,

you have?

you will live happier to the death. So I always say my country is good. The love we have for foreigners, espe-

PHILIP: Canon. I like everything about Canon. I have all

cially. If you’re a visitor and you go there, you will have

the series of Canons back home. I have an assistant back

thousands of friends. If you travel there, you love it, and

there, so I left everything with him before traveling out.

you will love to go back every now and then. This is my country, Ghana, and I love it.

ELIZABETH: Obviously Ghana is always going to be home, but do you feel like Georgia is also home now?

ELIZABETH: Do you miss it? PHILIP: Ahhh…yes. Georgia is another home. Because PHILIP: Yeah. But I will never miss forever, eventually I

I’ve been here for 10 years. It’s telling its own story. Yeah,

will go back. That is where I was born.

I love it. I’d love to be back home, but right now, since I’m an international figure, I don’t want to stay in one place for

ELIZABETH: On a completely different note—I noticed

a long time. I like to keep moving from place to place. That

on your Facebook page you posted a Turkish Airlines

is my idea, to always be traveling, to see things, travel to

commercial featuring the Ivorian footballer Dider Drog-

different parts of the world, and just go on with the story.

ba. Were you involved in creating this commercial? ELIZABETH: Where do you plan to go next? Do you PHILIP: That was a copy. I tell you. When I go back home,

have any plans to go back to Ghana or any other places?

many people have copied my works, and my ideas have spread all over Ghana. People use the painted backdrops—

PHILIP: For now, America is number one for the whole

they don’t know the root is right here.

world! You look and America is next to heaven [laughing].

ELIZABETH: So I guess you’ve influenced a lot of people.

ELIZABETH: What is the next thing you want to work on?

PHILIP: Yeah. On one of my journeys I went to Abidjan

PHILIP: My next idea—I know people don’t have time.

and somebody just called my name, “Yeah, I saw you on

Americans don’t have time. But if I will be able to break

the French Channel 5! Will you please come to my studio?”

through, they will have time for it, to look for you. So galler-

I said, “Please, please, I’m going back to Ghana.” He said,

ies, museums, and other areas, I will just have contact with

“No, no, I have seen some of your backgrounds, and I’ve

them, just keep the ball going.

copied it.” I said, “Ok, ok, thank you.” I had an artist in Togo—I don’t know if that man is still

ELIZABETH: Any last thoughts?

alive—I did a work with him. I do travel, whenever I hear about any artist which is very good, so I can do some paint-

PHILIP: Well, there are more questions than answers. But

ings with them. So it also spread to Togo, and they are also

the answer would be, I am not as I used to be. I am strug-

using the same ideas.

gling. But I will soon come out to continue what I was doing, God willing. That is my aim. I have been hiding for

ELIZABETH: Have you ever done digital work? Or do

a while, but I know people are still looking for me. They

you stick with analogue?

should keep looking, because I will soon come out.

Philip Kwame Apagya, Happy Day in Shama, 2006.





Raphael Shammaa, Café Scene, 2013.


E R I C F I S C H L I spy

STEVE MILLER: So this is you, prowling with your camera?

STEVE: Grab what you can.

ERIC FISCHL: This is me prowling…

ERIC: It’s got nothing to do with photography other than the simplicity of it capturing a moment. But I’m interested

STEVE: Do people know you’re doing it when you’re

in the body language of people. I’m interested in their out-

doing it?

fits, I’m interested in the black....

ERIC: By now they do.

STEVE: When did you say, “Oh, I can use photography, it’s a great tool.” How did that happen?

STEVE: When we saw you at Frieze (2014) did you feel anonymous or did you think, “Everyone knows Eric’s do-

ERIC: I was sitting with a friend in Venice on the Lido,

ing this,” and—not that it’s an issue, I was just curious.

and I saw some topless women a little ways away. So I grabbed my sketchbook and tried to draw them. Mean-

ERIC: I think by, the Frieze, New York, the one you’re talk-

while, my friend grabs a Super 8 camera and goes

ing about? I think I was still relatively anonymous in there.

*dudududududududu*. And I’m sitting there trying to draw, and they’re moving and I’m getting nothing. He

STEVE: Cause nobody seems like they’re noticing you.

looks at me and he says: “Why don’t you just get a camera for God’s sakes?” I thought to myself, “Oh no. I have to

ERIC: No, and I’m pretty quick with the camera.

get this the old fashioned way”. But watching him capture what I was looking at so quickly, I thought, “Shit, I gotta get

STEVE: Are you just snapping as quickly as you can

a camera.” I even resisted Photoshop at first, even though

snap, as much as possible, or are you composing?

there were years between me taking pictures and when Photoshop was introduced. When Photoshop came out,

ERIC: No, I’m just snapping. I’ve got no interest in the

April (Gornik) gravitated to it immediately. I was think-

photograph whatsoever. All I’m looking at in this photo is

ing, “No, I think it’s going to screw up my painting.” The

this purply­pink banquette with her sitting on it.

same thing happened when I started to use it and I realized, “Wow, this makes my life a whole lot easier.” I can go

STEVE: Looking at her cell phone.

through so many different ideas so quickly using this tool. Now this photo, this guy ends up as an important character

ERIC: Yeah, looking at her cell phone. And I don’t even

in the painting entitled “Rift Raft.” As you can see in the final

see the rest of it. In this one, I’m looking at these two

image he’s been flipped around, no longer leaning against

people, and his hand on her shoulder, and I’m not seeing

the desk. Now he’s leaning on what appears to be a sculpture

anything else around it. It’s ironic.

of a naked woman. It is in fact a John DeAndrea sculpture.

STEVE: Yeah well irony abounds in these works for

STEVE: Okay and then from this, just structurally, I

sure. So your approach is pretty much…

wanted to ask you a question about “Rift Raft.” From the raw photo you go to a series of collages—do you

ERIC: Pretty straightforward.

Portrait by Ralph Gibson. Courtesy Eric Fischl Studio.


make it in Photoshop?

ERIC: Yes. The next thing for me would be to cut and paste figures and objects onto a background in Photoshop. [Looking at the left and right panels of “Rift Raft.”] STEVE: So you flipped him? ERIC: I flipped him into the position you see him in now, leaning against the nude sculpture. I struggled more with finding the artwork that hangs on the walls behind all the people in the scene. I was constantly swapping images of artworks in and out trying to see if I could slip in… STEVE: Slip in something else.

Eric Fischl. Top: Art Fair: Rift/Raft, 2016; Below: Untitled (Pink Circular Couch).


Eric Fischl. Above: Left: Untitled. (collage). 2015; Right: Untitled (Man Leaning on Desk).



ERIC: Something that made more sense. Was more relevant.

to terms with the transformation in the art world over the time that I’ve been in it. And from the 70s to now where it

STEVE: Why are the women naked?

did move from an “art world” to an “art market.” And it is something I hate, and tried to reject, fight against, and

ERIC: These are John DeAndrea sculptures.

ignore. But while I was writing my memoir, the publisher insisted that I focus as much on what happened in the art

STEVE: All of these?

world from the 90s forward as I had focused on my life and career up to the 90’s.

ERIC: All of them. And I just put them all together. But they all are his work.

STEVE: By memoir you mean Bad Boy: My Life On and Off the Canvas.

STEVE: When you made “Rift Raft,” were you delib-

erately thinking about your painting, “A Visit To/ A

ERIC: Yeah, Bad Boy. So once I finished the book I felt

Visit From/ The Island,” which employed a similar

now I should go and make paintings that really took a

strategy of juxtaposing two polar opposite images

hard look at this new iteration of the art world. What

that were both happening simultaneously.

better place to start than the Art Fair? And so I started to go to the art fairs to gather material. It was a lot of

ERIC: Yes, I was very consciously revisiting that theme

fun. I was a spy. No one knew what I was taking pho-

and that structure of presentation.

tos of, or how I would be using them. No one knew what I was seeing. I had a lot of freedom and took my

STEVE: Obviously you were just thinking, like, noth-

time finding my way into the visual cacophony of these

ing’s changed, right? The world condition is the same.

places. Besides the subject matter, the Art Fair provided

Are you thinking about political statements when you’re

me with compelling painting problems. The temporal-

doing this?

ity and artificiality of the Art Fair came with the problems of how to organize the overwhelming visual stim-

ERIC: I’m thinking more about conditions, I guess. I don’t

ulation. How to paint the colors, the flimsy walls, the

think it’s as judgmental as people at first think it is. What I’m

incongruous overlapping of art work that should by all

thinking is that these are two realities that are present at the

rights cancel each other out, the glitz, the amusement,

same time. They are profoundly conflicting emotionally. Nei-

and the poor galleries trying as hard as they could to

ther one is a place you can tolerate living in for any length of

not make what is crass appear crass? These became re-

time, yet both are present at this moment in time. The panel

ally interesting painting problems. And surprisingly,

on the left reflects the ennui and inertia brought about by the

to me, these problems took me back to my early work

privilege of disengagement. Choosing not to care. The objects

when I was an abstract painter.

that surround the people in this picture reflect the emptying out of what should have great meaning for us.

STEVE: Let’s talk about your abstract paintings. I remember reading your book and thinking, like, “Oh yeah,

STEVE: And the panel on the right?

you were an abstract painter.” When I was looking at your recent exhibition at Skarstedt, it seemed to me that

ERIC: This is a scene of grave danger and desperation.

with the Chris Wool paintings you referred to in Rift

People are trying to survive a life-threatening situation.

Raft, it gave you license to be an abstract painter again.

They are refugees who have fled the Syrian conflict and

ERIC: Well, in a literal way, I suppose yes. But I meant

their boat has capsized. They are trying to save their chil-

that the problems of organizing so much information as

dren from drowning and trying to save themselves from

you experience at an Art Fair hinges on compositional

drowning as well. It is at moments like this where caring is

structures and decisions that can only be realized through

the most urgent and meaningful.

an understanding of abstract painting.

STEVE: So I guess the question is the art fair. It’s like

STEVE: The way you told me you did the Chris Wool

the new phenomenon, right? It’s just changed everything,

with an aerosol spray can….

and it’s changed the way people do business. I don’t want to answer your question, so tell me--why did you

ERIC: I’d never used one of those before. I must say that I

go this way? What drew you to it?

get great pleasure from painting other artist’s work.

ERIC: Well I think what drew me to it was first coming

STEVE: I was thinking that for an artist going to an art

Eric Fischl. Opposite: Art Fair: Her, 2016; Following Spread: Eric Fischl. Art Fair: The Cat’s Meow, 2015.


fair, it’s always so weird. Did you go to art fairs before

STEVE: It feels like, for me, in this body of work, which

this or does the camera give you the excuse to be there?

I guess was the reason why I wanted to do this in the first place, was—and this is for you to disagree with

ERIC: No. I never went to the art fair until I decided to go

me—everything has come together now in your work. It’s

to research it, to watch, to be a spy….

fully modern now. I don’t know what that word modern means, but let’s say it’s fully of-the-moment and up­-to­

STEVE: But wasn’t that fun to do that?

date. You’ve got the sociological thing of the changing commerce. I really enjoyed the notion that abstraction

ERIC: It was great. But it is for entirely different reasons

came back into your work with all the backgrounds and

than why younger artists go there today. For them it is

non­figurative aspects even though they’re representation-

business. They bring all their promotional materials to

al. You have everybody looking at their cell phone and

hand out to galleries and collectors. They’re unabashed

nobody looking at the art—which I think is also another

about pushing their work, promoting themselves, etc. All

kind of phenomena. From the photograph to the assem-

the things that were repugnant to my generation.

blage of the compositional capabilities of Photoshop,

STEVE: In your earlier stuff, the suburban paintings,

then you can get to the painting that’s like Jasper Johns. I

like “Sleepwalker” (1979), in which an adolescent boy is

just want to do the painting, you know the flag just made

depicted masturbating into a children’s pool, was any of

it really easy. Once you get that Photoshop composition,

that stuff photo­based? The early work?

how much of a struggle is the painting part of it? It seems you really loosened up on this last body of work.

ERIC: Those works were not. “Sleepwalker,” “Bad Boy,” those were not photo­based. They were memory­derived.

ERIC: Well, the thing is that I make my Photoshop col-

I’m trying to remember when I started using the photo.

lage, which has its own format, its own size, rectangle, etc.

By 1984, the early beach scenes were all based on photos.

I preorder stretchers in various sizes I like to paint in, and

Eric Fischl. Art Fair: The Disconnect, 2015.


none of them conform to the actual dimensions of the Pho-

it, all of those things I can do in Photoshop like *snap* that.

toshop image. So when I go to the painting I’m already

And so that’s taken away that anxiety about discovery.

adjusting to fit it in, I’m already beginning to edit, to crop,

Now it’s just down to painting and making it fit into the

to change things, etc. It just makes it a lot easier to know

shape that I have in front of me and it becomes more fun to

where certain masking takes place and certain kind of is-

do and easier in that way. So I think that’s reflected in the

sues about color and light sources and stuff like that are. So

painting in that there’s a kind of directness to it.

it’s still very much a kind of a drawing tool. STEVE: Do you collect photography? STEVE: Right. I thought about it differently. I was thinking like, “Okay, now it’s automatic.” But you’re

ERIC: I have some, yeah.

telling me that the painting process has actually been the same all the way through your practice.

STEVE: Did you acquire it because it’s friends’ work, trades, or you saw stuff that you said “I’ve gotta have

ERIC: Yeah, and the difference is that I think there’s a

that photograph”?

level of relaxation because I have something that’s much more concrete already figured out. In earlier work, where I

ERIC: It’s a combination. I have some photographs, like

didn’t have the Photoshop collages, what I had was a lot of

I have a Diane Arbus photograph because she’s some-

small snapshot photographs in which I was visually tak-

body I greatly admire, and represents feelings that I

ing out one figure, putting it here or taking out another

share with her and her worldview. So it’s an example

chair from another, putting it there, taking out a dog form,

of that kind of thing. I have photographs like…a Bill

etc. Making scenes and then going, “Oh shit, I need to

Brandt photo that I used a figure from in a few of my

turn that person around, they need to be looking the other

paintings. I have many friends who are photographers

way,” and then having to scrape off, erase, paint over, flip

and have bought or traded with them. I have a lot of

Eric Fischl. Art Fair: False Gods, 2015.



Ralph Gibson photographs, Sally Gall, Thomas Joshua Cooper, Peter Paul Rubens, Erica Lennard, Jock Sturges, to name some. And I have some of Pierre Bonnard’s photographs, which I was thrilled to get. I didn’t even know he did photography. STEVE: I didn’t either. ERIC: He did it for a few years, and they are really strange. STEVE: Are they like the paintings, compositional? ERIC: Well they’re more like snapshots of figures that show up later in his paintings. The revelation for me was that when you strip the color away from Bonnard, you get to a deeply anxious, maybe misanthropic vision of the world. His characters are so awkward and in some cases sort of sinister. And it’s like all these things that I never thought about with Bonnard when you just look at his paintings, ‘cause his color, his light, is just so celebratory and beautiful you don’t notice how uncomfortable he is in his flesh, and how angry he is in the world. I did a program about Bonnard for the BBC. They took me to his house in southern France, to a big show in Lausanne, and to Paris to meet his nephew. In the course of our conversation he offered me some of Bonnard’s photographs.

STEVE: Wow, so you’ve got a strong connection to photography. ERIC: What photography does is capture life in such thin slices that everybody is off­balance and everybody is in motion. In snapshot photography everybody is slumping, turning, twitching, closing an eye—doing something animated. And it is that animation which triggers narrative. You put somebody in a scene where they’re beginning to turn and, you immediately wonder about why. Are they turning towards something, or away from something? If they’re turning towards, what is it that they’re turning towards? If they’re turning away, why are they turning away? You can just sort of take it from there. Is somebody turning to somebody who’s turning away? Are they both turning towards each other? Is one turning because somebody just left the room? Can you see the evidence of that? Is somebody turning because their dog just walked in? What is going on here? And so all of these are results of that kind of questioning. I start with a figure or two and then just begin to build a narrative. So my process is allowing myself to wander and to associate and to try to understand the feeling these images of people, these characters, are causing me to feel. Art is about trying to make sense of it all.

Eric Fischl. Art Fair: Watch, 2015.




Eva Stenram, Part 6, 2013.



Eva Stenram, Part 5, 2013.





Eva Stenram, Part 7, 2014



Eva Stenram, Part 1, 2013.



A L E C S OT H h on e stl y sp ea ki ng

ANDREA BLANCH: You have been called the greatest

Magazine. First, you said you always wanted or needed

living photographer of America’s social and geographical

an excuse to shoot fashion. Why do you need an excuse?

landscape. How did you choose your subject, and why? ALEC: As a young photographer, I was so impressed by ALEC SOTH: Well, first of all. I’ve been called a lot of

fashion photography: technical skill, efficiency, constant

things! That’s just one of them, I certainly did not have

creativity. I was curious about what would happen if you

ambitions to be some monumental recorder of America or

threw me into that world. And the truth is, I’m not a great

anything like that. I came to photography from the kind

fashion photographer, because the bulk of what it’s about

of true documentary-style photographic tradition. You

is actually clothing. And as it happened, I’m actually less

know, the whole Walker Evans lineage. But I was a very

interested in that. But I was interested in the phenom-

introspective person and, if I’m honest, initially I was more

enon of fashion photography and sort of playing in that

interested in exploring myself than society, or American

arena briefly.

society. So I think it’s inaccurate to claim that was my motivation. I’m not saying I didn’t, along the way, make some

ANDREA: Did you find any vulnerability in that world?

sort of record of things. But that wasn’t my intention. ALEC: I found less because of the way in which I was ANDREA: You’ve said that vulnerability is the most

working—it was a real shift in my style of working. I

beautiful thing. In regards to the subjects that you

had come up doing projects by myself, working in isola-

choose, do you find more vulnerability in those people

tion. But when I did fashion, suddenly there were teams

than with, let’s say, more privileged people? Is that why

of people: people arranging things, sending me casting

you’re attracted to some of this? Or are you attracted to

things, polaroids, all that stuff—like machinery. Thus, it

it as a documentarian? I’m just curious because some of

generally prevented that kind of intimate relationship.

your images are really difficult. To be with people like

One thing that I found fascinating along this line is that

that all the time, I would get depressed.

at a certain point I said, “Okay, no more models. I don’t want to work with models anymore.” Models are profes-

ALEC: That’s an interesting question. It’s a question that

sionals. They have a switch that they click, and they do

hits on photography in general. Photography is so much

the model thing. It looks amazing to the camera—you’re

about access. Essentially, it is quite challenging to get ac-

just like, “Wow! That was beautiful!” But there’s no vul-

cess to people of money. People of money often have gates:

nerability there. Understandably. This is something I’ve

they have literal gates, and they can have emotional gates

found true of famous people in general. Or CEOs, people

as well. On the other hand, if you’re driving around in Mis-

who get photographed a lot. It’s just a job. It’s easier to

sissippi, not a lot of people have gates. A lot of people are

glimpse something raw and real with people who are less

just sitting out on stoops or whatever, and access is easier.

photographed in a professional context.

So it wasn’t intentional—and I think it’s ethically problematic—but yes, I do think that I was able to access that kind

ANDREA: In regards to the third Fashion Magazine

of vulnerability more easily from people without means.

called Paris Minnesota (Magnum Photos, 2007), was your sense of wonder as great photographing in Paris as

ANDREA: I have a couple of questions about Fashion

Portrait by Carrie Elizabeth Thompson.


when you were shooting the counterpart in Minnesota?

ALEC: Well, there was a sense of wonder. I mean it was like, “Wow! Look at this situation I’m in.” But it was a total fish out of water situation. I got kicked out of my first fashion show because I didn’t understand the backstage photo protocol. I was meeting different people, you know, who are like big cheeses. But I didn’t necessarily know who they all were. I thought it was funny and entertaining, and this is sometimes the way I use assignment photography: it’s just for the experience, and to be given a glimpse into other worlds. But I wasn’t going to dedicate my life to that work. I wasn’t going to move to Paris and become a fashion photographer. ANDREA: On one hand, you say that you drive around looking for your subjects, then on the other hand you say that assignments like The LBM Dispatch have different parameters. Can you explain that a little further? ALEC: Well, part of it is the evolution of my process. It’s not any one thing—it’s changed from project to project. I confronted this contradiction of sorts very recently: I was just on a collaborative project down South, and it was right in the neck of the woods that I worked in for Sleeping by the Mississippi (Steidl, 2008). I had to come to terms with the fact that I’m really not the same person. I’ve had so much experience since then that I don’t approach the world in the same way anymore. When I started out, I was pretty timid, always alone, and quite naïve in some ways—but in a hopeful way. I was wide-eyed. I definitely didn’t have the intention of being a professional photographer, but I got lucky and became one. Then I got thrown into many different situations, working with lots of people. The thing is, when you work for a magazine, you have to make a picture. If I’m wandering alone doing my own thing, and I see someone, I can start talking to them. And then I can change my mind. But if it’s a magazine, and they’re expecting a picture, I have to produce that picture. So I’ve had to go through that and learn how to do those things, which inevitably changed my mode of working. Like with The Dispatch, I’m working collaboratively with a writer. Sometimes there are things that interest him that are less interesting to me. And of course I’ll pursue it because we are collaborating; that’s just the nature of collaborating. It’s been a number of years now where almost all of my work has been collaborative. But I’m actually shifting back to working alone again. ANDREA: Was Songbook (Mack Books, 2014) collaborative? ALEC: It truly was, because the work is really pulled from The Dispatches or from my work with the NY


Alec Soth. Cade and Cody. Au Gres, Michigan, 2012.



Times. As a book I was offering it myself, but so much

have to use a flash. You know you’re not going to create a

of the work was made in collaboration with others.

Jeff Wall and restage this thing for a month and a half. So the flexibility of the flash makes sense. In a similar way,

ANDREA: In regards to Songbook, why did you choose

black and white has this efficiency for reporting purposes

to pose as a journalist when you didn’t feel the need to

because it just cancels out that factor. So if the mayor is

do that in other projects?

wearing a yellow suit, and looks ridiculous or something, you can neutralize the scene in a way. So I liked that, but I

ALEC: Songbook has a funny history. I had been doing

was also making reference to newspaper photography of

this very internal work, and I suddenly had a desire to

the past and evoking that aesthetic.

work out in the world again. I called my friend Brad Zeller, who had previously been a newspaper journalist,

ANDREA: In Sleeping by the Mississippi, how did you get

but has a deep understanding of art photography. And

permission to shoot inside the penitentiary in Louisiana?

we’d go out for the day to do an imaginary newspaper assignment. That was it: just as an experiment. We had

ALEC: I did write a letter in advance. I had no creden-

so much fun doing it, so we did more and more in Min-

tials, so it was kind of miraculous. It’s funny: I’m not that

nesota. We didn’t know what we were doing. It wasn’t

old, it wasn’t that long ago, but everything before 9/11

called The Dispatch yet—it wasn’t anything, but it grew

seems like a more innocent time photography-wise. It

into something. I had this opportunity to speak some-

has nothing to do with 9/11, but security everywhere

where in Ohio, and I said, “Hey, why don’t we take this

changed, and suspicion changed. I also just felt with Sleep-

on the road? Let’s try driving around Ohio.” We actually

ing by the Mississippi I had so much good luck. Everyone

published that Dispatch. Then it was years of working; we

said yes. It is a feeling that I have, having just been in the

eventually did seven of these Dispatches. But at the same

South again, that there is just a warmth and openness. It’s

time, I was also doing NY Times work, and other sorts of

so much easier photographing in the South. And some of

side projects, and making all of this work. I wanted these

that is for economic reasons. But a lot of it is cultural.

pictures that I was making to have another life, a life that was separated from the text component. Then Songbook

ANDREA: Are you still shooting with an 8x10?

emerged. The reason we posed as newspaper people, first of all, is because we were eventually publishing our

ALEC: No, not so much. I do it project by project. It’s

own newspaper. The newspaper and journalist metaphor

worth noting that my second project, Dog Days, Bogotá

was helpful because the work itself was about engaging

(Steidl, 2007), was medium format; a small camera. And

socially, and the newspaper is an understandable way

I’ve done plenty of small projects. I did a book with a

of communicating social information. So that was the

disposable camera. I’ve done all sorts of wacky different

strategy and that was why we distributed it in that way:

things. But my early work was identified with 8x10s, so

only 2,000 copies of each newspaper, and it wasn’t really

I have to live with that, you know. My theory now, or my

newsprint in the end. But that mode of operating seemed

way of working, is to try to think of myself as functioning

worthwhile. Plus, the work itself was looking backwards

more like a filmmaker, because I’m so project-based. Song-

in a lot of ways: looking back to another time, thinking

book was photographed medium format digital. And who

back to another time in America, and another time of

knows what the next thing will be photographed with.

communication—that being the newspaper. ANDREA: Was your equipment always with you? ANDREA: I read that you like the aggressiveness of a flash. Why do you think that was good for this assign-

ALEC: For Songbook it was essential to be fast moving,

ment? Do you equate flash with journalism?

along with the flash. And I used a zoom lens. Previously I hated zoom lens, they felt lazy to me, but it was kind of

ALEC: In a sense, yes. I had once worked as a suburban

essential to work that way.

newspaper photographer, and of course I’ve done years of assignments. One of the things that you learn as a pho-

ANDREA: Why did you choose a muted palette?

tographer is that if you’re on assignment, as I said before, you have to come home with a picture. Especially in a

ALEC: I don’t want to pretend I was overly conscious of

newspaper context, you’re thrown in a lot of different

it, but I was conscious of it. Photographers’ works that I

situations. The mayor is giving a talk and the sun is be-

studied and I really responded to had this kind of softness

hind the mayor. And you’re only allowed to stand in this

of color, not an exaggeration of color. There’s this funny

one little area, how are you going to get a picture? You

thing with Eggleston; everyone talks about “The Red Ceil-

Alec Soth. Opposite: Top: Bree. Liberty Cheer All-Stars, 2013. Corsicana, Texas, 2012; Bottom: Home Suite Home. Kissimmee, Florida. Following spread: Execution. Huntsville Prison. Hunstville, Texas, 2013.


ing” picture as being the quintessential color photograph.

ing with. When I’m photographing, I photograph strangers.

But it’s actually pretty atypical of his work. If you look at

I’m responding in large part to their physical presentation

the great color photographers, they generally got past this

of themselves, and that is a different thing. I tend to identify

point of, “oh wow! Oh purple, I’ll photograph it,” and dealt

more with men; and if you want to make it more incriminat-

in experiencing the mood and color of something overall.

ing, white middle-aged men. Women I often see as somewhat

So I responded to that kind of softer, more nuanced qual-

different from myself. I just have an awareness of that. It’s

ity, and part of the thing about using 8x10 was the even-

problematic and all, but you know…I’m just being honest.

ness. There’s sharpness to everything, and everything’s rendered with evenness. So hard shadows work against

ANDREA: Why do you think it’s problematic?

that in a lot of ways. And hard light works against that, too. ALEC: I think it can be, in terms of how one represents ANDREA: I think it lends to the mood of what you’re cap-

women. Photography is the art of objectification. It’s all

turing. Speaking of people that influence you, I read that

about surfaces. It’s really hard. You’re not getting ev-

Robert Adams and Diane Arbus influenced you early on.

eryone’s personal history. So when I put a picture on a

Can you give examples of where we see that in your work?

wall, part of it is allowing viewers to confront their own issues about how they perceive people. How they per-

ALEC: Influences are a funny thing. There are the really

ceive overweight people, or thin people, or poor people,

obvious ones: Stephen Shore, Joel Sternfeld; those were

or rich people. It’s kind of a springboard for a zone of

big influences. I think you can see Arbus in the portraiture.

issues, and to confront those issues.

There’s a physical parallel with my best known picture, “Charles” from Sleeping by the Mississippi (the guy with

ANDREA: You had said you romanticize or sexualize women.

the airplane), and Arbus’ “Child with Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park” (1962). I think Robert Adams is a much

ALEC: I think there’s an element of that.

tougher one to identify, and part of the Adams influence is that it’s not a direct influence. I’m sort of in an imaginary

ANDREA: The only one I’ve seen like that was this wom-

conversation with him all the time. And I would say that’s

an, Florence, because she was in bed and you see her breast.

true of Robert Frank as well. There’s the road photography

Do you sexualize them because there is an attraction there?

thing, sure, but visually you don’t see a huge overlap. But I have sort of an imaginary conversation with these people.

ALEC: This relates to the fundamental question that I’m always asked about portraiture: why do I pick this per-

ANDREA: Speaking of the photograph “Charles”, with

son over that person? And I always equate it to sexual

the airplane, I also read that when you photograph men

attraction, but at the same time it’s not sexual attraction.

you feel there’s a playfulness and awkwardness to them.

It’s something, a physical thing. I respond to that per-

Do you think that “Charles” shows that?

son. I’m always asked, what is that thing? And I don’t know, it’s like why you are attracted to a person across

ALEC: It’s interesting how that picture has become The

a crowded room at a bar. If you analyze it, it’s cultural;

One. But in a lot of ways it makes sense to me, because

it might have to do with what your mom looked like or

there is this funny sort of self-portraiture wrapped up

what your sister looked like. My attraction to people that

in it. I don’t know if I’m projecting it on to him. There’s

I photograph is a complicated thing, and I’d be lying if

something slightly comical and maybe a little sad about

I said it was the same thing between men and women.

it. If I were to make a self-portrait, it would probably

It’s just not. And it’s not the same thing when I’m pho-

have both those qualities as well.

tographing in a different culture versus my own culture. I respond differently in different contexts, I guess. And

ANDREA: When you talked about photographing wom-

I’m just being honest about it.

en, you said that at one point you were coming to terms with how you honestly see and perceive women. I’m

ANDREA: Do you really photograph a lot in different

thinking of the period where you photographed Florence

cultures and different countries?

in the bed (Paris Minnesota). I want to know if you’ve come to terms with that and how that has informed your

ALEC: A fair amount. I’ve been photographing in Japan

work or how your work has changed?

lately, but I don’t do major projects on it. But I did a thing in the Republic of Georgia, in China and in South America.

ALEC: Yeah, it’s a really tough question. It’s actually one of those things that I have been thinking about and engag-

ANDREA: I only associated you with America.

Alec Soth. Top: Bil. Sandusky, Ohio, 2012; Bottom: Prom. Cleveland, Ohio, 2012.



Alec Soth. The Key Hotel. Kissimmee, Florida.


ALEC: Totally, because I’m more comfortable doing it. I’ve never produced big projects out of those other works because I’m somewhat uncomfortable with the idea of photographing and making work in other places. ANDREA: What do you teach? ALEC: I don’t teach much, but I am really involved right now in this project with teens. It’s called the Winnebago Workshop—it’s actually an art school in an RV. I take the kids out and have them meet other artists. I think what I’m pretty good at is going out in the world and exploring, while also exploring internally. Being pushed out into the real world can be really powerful creatively, and I think there’s a timidity that a lot of artists have. In the smart phone era we forget that there’s a world, a physical world. But I’m not a great teacher. I just think of myself as a bus driver. ANDREA: In regards to the timidity you mentioned, you said that you’re less nice now, and that pushing into the world and confronting people made your work so much better. Can you give an example of what that work might be? What time period this was? ALEC: I have a reputation of being nice. And I’m not sure that’s totally true. I don’t think I’m an asshole, I just don’t think I’m Mr. Nice Guy. There’s a great quote from Weegee, someone produced an album where he is talking to students. He says, in his wonderful accent, “You got to get past the point of just photographing your friends and family. I was scared to, but you got to learn to go out in the world. You can’t be a nice nelly.” And that’s what my feeling is. Frankly, sometimes it’s annoying people. But that act of disruption can lead to something really beautiful. You just have to take the risk of being annoying. ANDREA: When you had just left Gagosian, you said you had gotten tired of photography. And you ran away. Do you think that’s the recipe if you get tired of something? I’m not saying that facetiously. I’m looking for a clue! ALEC: I think artists need to take bold steps and change. Just this morning I was reading a passage by Louise Nevelson. She had lots of turmoil, and was very depressed, but didn’t go to a psychologist till much later in life. He went to her show and was like, this is the most masochistic work I’ve ever seen. And she said, “Well is it good?” And he said, “It’s good despite yourself.” Then she wrote about how she was really adamant that it wasn’t ‘despite of herself,’ that she was willing to go internally and dig this stuff out in her work. I think that’s the important thing: you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do with your work. It’s cliché, but it’s true.


ANDREA: I read that you started with staged photog-

you were going to take of the falls? The very first one that

raphy, and then moved into documentary photography.

I saw looks like you’re just about to fall over.

ALEC: In the beginning, I came to photography through

ALEC: The crazy thing about that picture is that it’s the

painting and sculptures, so I didn’t begin through Mag-

picture that 8 billion photographers have made. Every

num and photojournalistic ‘save the world’ stuff. And I

person stands in that exact spot. And it’s one of my best

did do staged photography. If you broke it into a spec-

selling pictures.

trum, I would have been on that side of the spectrum. ANDREA: You photographed the images of the falls, ANDREA: Would you consider that some of your por-

cheap hotels, portraits of ordinary couples, and then you

traits are staged photography, in this sense?

have these love and hate letters. Did you ask those people to write them? Or did they already exist?

ALEC: Yeah. I take the stuff that’s there and I move it around and play with it. I have no problem with that. I see

ALEC: They already existed. It was quite a challenge to

all this stuff as a spectrum, so there are gradations. I’m not

get them. That’s what I’m talking about with overcom-

casting models and decorating sets. I’m somewhere in the

ing one’s timidity. It was so uncomfortable approaching

middle, which for me is the exciting place, a more honest

people and having to ask if they had love letters. Just be-

place. The presence of the author shapes the work.

cause there’s no context for that.

ANDREA: I read that Prince bought your house. In an

ANDREA: Did you know you wanted to include that

interview someone asked him, why Minnesota? And he

before you started, or did something come to you when

said, “It’s so cold that it keeps a lot of the bad people

you got there?

out.” Having grown up there, how has Minnesota influenced your work? Why stay there? It’s so cold!

ALEC: I had been working there and had been very frustrated photographing couples. They were lifeless. I knew

ALEC: I went to Sarah Lawrence College, and I knew I was

the project was about love, but I wasn’t getting voices. I

not an East Coast guy. I do think it has a huge impact on my

needed that.

work for multiple reasons. Particularly, not living in New York or another art hub affects me because I can get away from the

ANDREA: Would you say that Alex Soth’s America is

influence of things. I don’t have all of the shows, the buzz, and

about melancholy and loneliness?

this and that around me. I can go and engage with that world, but I can leave it very easily. It’s important for my sanity.

ALEC: You know, I’m uncomfortable with such broad statements, but I do think that America has something

ANDREA: You had said that small-town, Middle Amer-

to do with treasuring individualism, which I love, and

ica is not just strip malls. Each place is different and it

freedom of movement. But this also comes at a price, and

has its own subtleties. You mean the people, right? When

part of that price is solitude. But I kind of love loneliness.

I’ve driven through Middle America it all seems the same. ANDREA: In an interview for the Telegraph, you said ALEC: This is why you should come on my bus, because I

that with the emergence of new media, i.e. Instagram, you

would show you how it’s not. A few days ago I went from

had to let go of the photograph as preservation and conser-

Greenville, Mississippi to Bentonville, Arkansas, and I

vation, and embrace the fact that photographs were being

might as well have gone from Texas to San Francisco. It was

used conversationally. How has the shift from preserva-

so culturally different. The people looked physically differ-

tion to conversation changed your approach to your work?

ent, the economy was different, the racial breakdown of the people is different. We don’t see this because we drive on

ALEC: Everything is too in flux. I don’t know how it plays

freeways, we pull off, and there’s the hotel, and the Burger

itself out in my work yet. I have held onto the way I make

King. You just have to go further in, and you have to talk to

work, and that’s still a big part of me. I engage with these

somebody. Then, very quickly, things change. There are dif-

new tools, which surely are affecting the way I’m produc-

ferent regional qualities, and that’s not understood broadly

ing work. But I haven’t sorted it out yet. I think it’s fasci-

in America, or at least in the media.

nating what’s happening, and I’m eager to see what the people who are 20 are going to be producing in 20 years.

ANDREA: I’d like to talk a bit about Niagara (Steidl, 2006). How long did it take for you to decide what angles

ANDREA: You have your own publishing company,

Alec Soth. Dave and Trish. Denver, Colorado, 2013.



Alec Soth. Dover Burial Park. Dover, Ohio, 2012.


Little Brown Mushroom. What determines what LBM publishes and what a traditional publisher—like Mack or Steidl—publish? ALEC: All of my serious books are published by serious publishers. I call Little Brown Mushroom my playground. It’s a place to play with different ideas and to collaborate. It’s a sand box: I’m just making little sandcastles, but they’re not serious. We’ve stopped publishing now because I’m working on this Winnebago Workshop. I really have great respect for real publishers. I know what it takes to make a book, and put it out in the world properly, so I don’t really compete with that. ANDREA: I want to tell you that the picture you took in the cave with the make-shift coat rack and hangers was just one of the most beautiful images I’ve ever seen in my life. It so touched me, I can’t even tell you. John Szarkowski said, it isn’t what a picture is about but what it’s of. Could you explain the difference? ALEC: That’s a tough one, and I love processing Szarkowski quotes. He also talked about how photography, on a mental level, is just pointing. It’s just pointing your finger, and saying, look at that. And when you point to something you’re not showing the molecules, you’re not showing its history, its ‘everything’. You’re showing this thing, in this context, in this fraction of a second, in this light. Everything beneath the surface exists, but it’s imagined. And one has to come to terms with that. As a photographer, I’ve learned over and over again that I’m actually not photographing the thing; I’m photographing light bouncing off of the thing. For example, if you ever have to reshoot a tree, and you go back and photograph it the next day, it’s a completely different tree. And so I would actually add to Szarkowski’s quote and say, it’s not the thing, it’s the light bouncing off the thing that you’re photographing. ANDREA: You said there are photographs that work well on a wall and not in a book. Why is that? ALEC: Sometimes images function best when stripped of all contexts, as well as with the physicality and scale of the print. Sometimes you need that. ANDREA: It sounded really satisfying when you said that you like being called a photographer. Because a lot of people don’t, they don’t think it’s enough. What’s next for you? Are there any personal projects that you’re working on or thinking about? ALEC: Yeah, I’ve been trying to get a personal project off the ground for the last year. And I’m struggling, but the last thing I want to do is talk about it, because I’ll be super self-conscious when I do. So yeah, I’m trying.



Anne-Laure Autin, Pulse, 2015.



Anne-Laure Autin, Tingling Chaos, 2015.


S E B A ST I Ã O S A LG A D O s c ra tchi ng the sur f a ce b y Joh n Hut t Sebastião Salgado is observably good at everything he

huge budget will not be sun-downing any time soon.

does. He is an exemplary photographer. He has, until

In all likelihood, there exists no textbook on photog-

recently, used large format cameras to capture pristine

raphy which excludes his work. Salgado’s gallerist

pictures of difficult subjects with an undercurrent pro-

thought he was staring at an Ansel Adams archive

moting social consciousness. They beg consideration

when he saw Salgado’s most recent landscapes: per-

to be crowned as perfect. His photographs are as clear

fectly framed, adhering to the rule of thirds and with

and big and scary in their scope as in their implication.

a clear point of focus.

The images are infused with empathy and respect for

It is unfair to criticize Salgado because his prints find

his subjects, man or beast. Salgado even steps out

a home on the walls of offices, hotels and gallery

from behind the camera and regrows rainforests, an

walls. It is not his fault that his work will appreciate in

attempt to save humanity from itself.

value, beloved by the kind of arch-capitalist that can

Salgado spends months with his subjects before he

afford them. Salgado has faced criticism that some of

snaps the shutter. Steeped in photographic learning,

his shows, like his Genesis exhibition at the Natural

they offer immediate aesthetic enjoyment and infinite

History Museum in 2014, are backed by those who

detail for those who care to look. To find fault in his

fund the violent scenes his camera captures. None of

compositions is an arduous affair. In between fund-

the criticism he experiences can or will stick. He can

raising for his most recent projects and lecturing on

step off the stage of a TED talk having inspired hun-

how a little solidarity can turn the world away from

dreds of millionaires to save our dying planet, and

the path of man-made construction, he is a goodwill

only a few of the millionaires doing the damage can

ambassador for UNICEF.

make the necessary difference.

Salgado exposes not destruction, but rather beauti-

Why do these pictures which teem with life, respect,

ful environments, with a solemn understanding of

flawless execution and textbook ‘fine art photogra-

the impending destruction if there is to be no change

phy’ ring so hollow? Salgado shoots people and ani-

in protocol. He frames scenes of decay saturated by

mals with an eye for what they represent.

pedestrians or showered with oil. He frames scenes

He has specific types that he chooses: the put upon

sparsely populated, dotted only by the noble poor

worker, the noble poor, the cute kid in an awful situa-

or the indigenous hunters tending to their work. He

tion, the dignified animal, the austere ice sheet, and he

frames an unending stream of gold miners tearing the

freely admits that he chooses his subjects for this reason.

earth apart. Salgado’s images may exhibit the abhor-

He is documenting a lost place or way of life. Sal-

rent cost of human industry, but in his hands, they

gado’s images are the platonic ideal of his subject.

become a thing of somber beauty.

Salgado has no responsibility to insert misery into

Laborers are cleaving the earth in support of man’s

his work.

toxic greed, but Salgado makes an image more akin

Salgado shows controversial subjects without being

to propaganda extolling the virtues of industry than a

commercial, espouses radical ideas without being

documentation of its horrors.

radical. He shows an inarguable reality which is either

His work remains immune to irony and fatalism, and

swiftly disappearing or has already been destroyed.

though he has arrived at old age, his flair for high con-

Salgado effectively tugs our moral heart strings with-

trast black and white, large format photography and a

out pushing us to the tears which more saccharine

Portrait by Nicole Toutounji. Courtesy of UNICEF. Photos courtesy of Contact Press Images.


[ T]he real beauty of Salgado comes out when the viewer examines the picture for more than just the immediate flawless aesthetics.

works condescendingly force upon us. Even after his switch to digital, he is able to deliver an effect authentically natural, yet entirely contrary to anything found in nature. His images departing from portraiture tend to linger on the grandiose scenery of an impossible world to which he desperately clings. His style does not differ between a herd of zebras and a herd of humans, shooting portraits without distinction. He deliberately equalizes the experiences of the species. Salgado’s pictures embody the quintessence of his subjects. The firefighter in Kuwait surrounded by sputtering oil and flames is an example of his work which speaks so clearly that there remains nothing more to be said. His photography transcends reproach. Perfection and the platonic ideal are something to strive towards, and when we encounter an image which encapsulates both, it is as if we had known what it looked like all along.

SebastiĂŁo Salgado. Above: Other Americas: Candy Apples, The Outskirts of Guatemala City, Guatemala, 1978.


SebastiĂŁo Salgado. Following spread: Genesis: Colony of Chinstrap Penguins, Bailey Head, Deception Island, Antarctica, 2005; Following spread: Oil wells firefighter. Greater Burhan, Kuwait, 1991.



Ted Anderson: Above: 6,5,& 4, 2012; Opposite: Waiting To Be Recalled, 2015.




M I C H A E L B E N S O N pan n ing f o r g o l d

ANDREA BLANCH: We’re about to put an issue out,

ANDREA: When and how did you become interested in

and the theme is “Place.” Does your work, specifically in

space landscape photography?

Otherworlds, provide you with a sense of place? MICHAEL: Well, it’s a product and by-product of a bunch MICHAEL BENSON: It’s interesting that you ask that be-

of things. I’ve been a writer and photographer since right

cause from one angle, my project is about expanding our

out of college, even before actually, and was, for example,

sense of place. Where are we? Allegedly, here. But where’s

providing my own photographs for pieces I wrote back

that, really? Up until about fifty-five, sixty years ago, we

in the day for Rolling Stone, among other venues. We’re

only had a reasonably good idea of where we were when

talking mid-eighties here. And simultaneously, I’ve found

it came to the surface of this particular world. But in the

that opening up the solar system to human eyes—for the

last half-century, we’ve managed to acquire considerable

first time after centuries of speculation and misinforma-

knowledge about the other planets under the sun, and also

tion—to be an amazing, noteworthy, and significant

their moons. And we can now see that they’re effectively a

thing—and in particular, a very visual achievement.

suite of related landscapes, all anchored by the same light-

When it comes to photography, it’s as though the cameras,

source. It’s like a Calder mobile, or a kinetic archipelago.

after a great deal of tweaking and workmanship across

And we know what those other landscapes look like now,

the generations—and also a good deal of rocket science—

at least to a certain extent. So the sense of where we are—

literally leaped out of our hands and vaulted millions of

our sense of place—has been augmented, hugely. We now

miles away mounted on our increasingly sophisticated

know, down to granular detail, that our world’s landscapes

automated spacecrafts. So the old simultaneity of action

belong to a continuity, a solar system-wide continuity. Even

of the finger, hand, and camera, not to mention the action

if we only take images acquired from our own planetary

of the photographer—the human photographer—was all

system—setting aside deep space images from other parts

rendered obsolete by this genre. Yet, we could still control

of the galaxy or other galaxies taken from observatories like

these cameras by sending long chains of zeroes and ones

the Hubble Space telescope, which of course have also put

vaulting across huge distances via huge deep space anten-

us into a far wider context than we once knew—even if we

nas. And the remote cameras in turn could send images

set all that aside and only look at our own small sphere of

back as zeroes and ones to be reassembled here on Earth.

space, our own solar system, we fit into a much wider view

The whole thing is utterly astonishing, actually, and it

than before. So definitely, our sense of place is far, far wider.

seems to me that more people might look up occasion-

And then there’s another way that art, photography,

ally and notice it. (Not that this activity doesn’t get a good

literature, and philosophy, can provide a sense of

deal of support; actually, there’s a high level of support

place, of course. And that’s by freighting a great deal

for NASA’s deep space missions across the board. On the

of interesting and worthwhile information, some of it

level of “things the government does that don’t suck.”)

subliminal, which can provide a wider field of view

But as to the photography of it, I never had any doubt,

in a less literal way. Call it meta-data. “Place” with

even when I only saw the few pictures that made their

meta-data is preferable to “place” sans meta-data, be-

way through the keyhole of choices made by TIME or

cause a lot of what’s going on when we contemplate

Newsweek’s photo-editors in the 1970s and 1980s—mean-

our place takes place behind the lenses, so to speak.

ing pre-internet, of course—I never doubted that this ex-

Not in front of them.

traordinary new genre of interplanetary image-making

Portrait © Lucie Goodayle, Natural History Museum, London. All images courtesy of NASA STEREO Project/Michael Benson, Kinetikon Pictures.


belonged to art as much as to science. And also, that it was

there is to work with. Usually, a composition suggests

part of a big, long story, not just of photography, but also

itself if the source images are of interest in the first place.

of all graphic representations of phenomenal reality. It is part of a story that reaches back to Chauvet or certainly

ANDREA: Were you aware of the fact that you would be

much further. How do we grapple with the overwhelm-

panning for gold before you began this project?

ing inputs and complexities of nature? It’s overwhelming. We tend to want to reduce it to images or films, and then

MICHAEL: Well, that’s part of the fun of it—going on ex-

grapple with it that way. And I knew that there must be

tended journeys along what I’ve called the image-trajecto-

thousands or hundreds of thousands of raw frames in the

ries of some of these spacecrafts, to see what they saw. Call it

archives from those robotic interplanetary missions. But

what you will, you can make your own judgments, but what

before the Internet, it wasn’t so easy for non-specialists to

I see is an embarrassment of riches, really. Imagine a series of

access them, and I was in the film and filmmaking world,

portholes punched into space-time, and you can stroll along

or involved in photography and writing. I’m not a scientist

and look through each of them. Sometimes, what you see is

by any stretch, even if I appreciate it and write about it. It

pretty underwhelming, sometimes it’s amazing, sometimes

was only with the arrival of the worldwide web in the late

just mystifying. And there are all the various gradations in

1990s that I started to be able to access the archives where

between. That’s kind of what it’s like. When I say image-

the raw frames that serve as the basis for the final com-

trajectory, the images quite literally delineate a trajectory, or

posite images I make are stored. So, with this work, I’m

if it’s a surface rover, a topographical route.

making the case that the visual legacy of fifty plus years of

As to the panning for gold part, it’s like I have access to in-

interplanetary exploration belongs to art as much as to sci-

numerable contact sheets—of course, even knowing what

ence. It’s a form of détournement, really. Only, unlike with

a contact sheet is dates you, but hey—there’s a zillion raw

the Situationists, it’s not about producing short-term scan-

frames in the archives, and I get to function like the pho-

dals. It has an ethical dimension, or so I would submit. It’s

tographer’s superego, because the robots can’t do it by

about leveraging a wider view. It’s about creating context.

themselves. So, while planetary scientists go into those archives looking for data to back their theories concerning,

ANDREA: In Otherworlds: Visions of our Solar System

for example, the atmospheric dynamics of Jupiter, or the

you alter the colors of the images you get. What is the pro-

surface mineralogy of Mars, I go in looking for a different

cess of composing the images and manipulating the colors?

order of discovery- one that has to do with aesthetics. So they do their thing, and I do mine. Although, another way

MICHAEL: That’s not exactly right. What I do is take raw

to look at the work is as a reflection of a great achieve-

source images from the Planetary Science Archives, which

ment, one that isn’t a-priori about aesthetics or the image.

almost invariably come in the form of black and white, raw frames, and work them in Photoshop and other processing

ANDREA: What was the criterion to change the images

platforms, constructing final print files by compositing im-

to color rather than to leave them in black and white?

ages to get color—if a color image is in fact the intent—and then putting a mosaic of the frames together to get wider-

MICHAEL: Well, it all depends on subjective considerations,

field views. Color can be achieved when two or more of

really. I love black and white photography, and have spent

the black and white source frames of the same subject have

years up to my elbows in developer and fixer in darkrooms

been shot through different filters within the visible spec-

back in the previous millennium. But many of these plan-

trum, for example blue and red. So, if say, the Northeastern

etary images end up wanting to be in color. It depends on the

quadrant of Saturn was shot in red, green, and blue filters,

nature of the subject. The Moon is a monochrome object, it

producing three frames imaged within the same few min-

doesn’t really need to be in color, unless Earth is in the frame.

utes, they can be stacked in Photoshop, assigned their place

Again, I’m being highly subjective here. Same with Europa,

in the visible spectrum, and produce an RGB composite.

a particularly enigmatic and fascinating ice-covered ocean

And if the spacecraft did the same thing in the Northwest

moon in orbit of Jupiter. It’s very monochromatic. But Euro-

quadrant, then Southeast and Southwest, you can produce

pa’s sister moon, Io, really wants to be in color—or anyway,

a global image with those four composite color frames

that’s my perception. It’s the most volcanic object ever seen,

after a certain amount of work. So, I’m only “altering the

and all the sulfur being ejected by all of its hundreds of active

color” if you mean using existing black and white frames

volcanoes makes it yellow-orange, and even red in places.

shot through different filters to produce a color composite.

It’s an astonishingly lurid object and to print it in black and

You’re right that it’s no longer black and white material, but

white doesn’t do it justice. So it all depends.

I didn’t just make up the color. It’s built into the material. As for composing, it all depends on how much material

ANDREA: How many frames were you working with per image?

MIchael Benson, Top: Lunar Transit of the Sun #1, STEREO-B; Bottom: Lunar Transit of the Sun #2, STEREO-B, February 25, 2007, 2010.




MICHAEL: It varies radically. Up to three hundred tiles,

one of the most virtuosic film stylists in film history, among

each of which is a color frame made out of two or three

other things, when it comes to capturing some of the mystery

filters, making what…nine-hundred frames? Those

of the natural world. So, it was an honor to be involved.

kinds of images can take many days to bring to completion. Or single frames from Voyager that you can’t print

ANDREA: Based on your cinematic work, More Places

bigger than fifteen inch squares, but which are so perfect

Forever, you seem to be interested in Arthur C. Clarke’s

and pristine that there’s no need to composite or mo-

works and ideas. How did he influence your career?

saic or do any of that—you just need to clean them up and print them in black and white. And there are many

MICHAEL: Well, I got to know Arthur in the last decade

gradations in between. And the work isn’t always built

of his life; I really learned a lot from the man, and ended

out of discrete single frames; sometimes there are long

up considering him a friend. He was a great person, al-

image-swathes, running, for example, north to south on

ways good-humored, always cracking jokes, even when

Mars, each taken through a different filter. Then these

living in a wheel chair and not in the best of health. And

need to be wrangled, composited, and cropped.

the sequence I think you’re referring to features Clarke directly, because I filmed him—actually on digital vid-

ANDREA: How does your cinematic work influence

eo—during my three visits to him over a decade ago.

your photographic series?

How did he influence my career? It was mostly through a film he cooked up with Stanley Kubrick from 1964-68 called

MICHAEL: Well, I tend to think cinematically, particu-

2001: A Space Odyssey. That film was the first masterpiece in

larly when sequencing images—meaning I’d like to think

any medium that had a real impact on me. My mom took

I know how to tell a story in purely visual terms. Using

me to see it when I was six. And of course I subsequently

cinematic vocabulary—such as wide shots, medium shots

read most of his fictional and almost all of his non-fictional

and close ups—that syntax helps people understand

writing as well. We don’t necessarily remember that Arthur

where they are and what’s going on. It’s certainly useful

was one of the great advocates for human expansion into

in sequencing books; it also makes all the difference in

the universe, not just in his fiction, but also in his very beau-

exhibitions. But there’s another aspect that’s interesting,

tifully written and convincing advocacy for spaceflight. He

and that’s the way time can kind of worm its way into the

told me that when Wernher von Braun was trying to con-

process. Andrei Tarkovsky called filmmaking, “sculpting

vince John F. Kennedy that landing men on the moon was

in time.” With some of the images I’m putting together,

a feasible goal in 1961, he gave him Clarke’s 1951 book, The

several days of observations can all find their way into

Exploration of Space. I believed him. By the way, Clarke was

the same single, final composite image. So the old para-

in turn influenced by the great Russian visionary futurist

digm of a photo being a single moment in time when the

and rocket scientist, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, the man who

shutter falls is sort of supplanted—replaced by a more

came out with the great utopian pronouncement, “Earth

cinematic logic, even if it’s encoded within a static im-

is the cradle of the mind, but humanity can’t remain in its

age. Sometimes you can sort of sense time pulsing within

cradle forever.” Arthur didn’t talk about that influence so

a static image. Last week I was in Vienna, and went to

much, but it’s everywhere in his writing.

look at the Bruegels in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, as I always do when I’m in Vienna. Those paintings are like

ANDREA: Where do you set the boundary between ar-

feature films, each on its own big canvas. There’s a lot

tistic and scientific photographs?

of time unfolding in them. It’s proto-cinema. And with some of these planetary images, time is also compressed

MICHAEL: In terms of a general principle, I don’t have a

within a single frame. I don’t mean to compare this work

formula. In terms of how I personally view it, again, it’s

to Bruegel otherwise, of course. Just to link the phenome-

very subjective and has to do with whether it has the abil-

non of time unfolding within an apparently static image.

ity to acquire a resonance or a set of resonances. If it can sort of vibrate and transmit a sense of…let’s call it won-

ANDREA: You collaborated with space sequences for Ter-

der for want of a better word, or a sense of awe or simply

rence Malick’s Tree of Life movie. Many of his films have

surprise, with its ability to be simultaneously photo-real-

a captivating, spacey feel; was it provoking to coordinate

istic and abstract—there are a number of images that I’ve

with an artist who seems to be on the same wavelength?

discovered that seem to be both at the same time—then maybe you’re getting somewhere. You’ve moved from the

MICHAEL: Well, it was a pleasure to work with Terrence

purely scientific into another category.

Malick, certainly, but I wouldn’t presume to say we’re on the

But if you simply reach into the grab-bag of a hundred thou-

same wavelength. He’s got his own distinct bandwidth. He’s

sand raw frames and pull one out and dump it on the table,

Michael Benson, Opposite: Top: Lunar Transit of the Sun #3, STEREO-B, February 25, 2007, 2010; Bottom: Eclipse of the Sun by Earth, Solar Dynamics Observatory, April 2, 2011, 2012; Following spread: View Across Rhea at Dione and Saturn’s Rings, Cassini, January 11, 2011, 2012.


it’s probably not going to be “artistic,” whatever that term

MICHAEL: I’m interested in frontiers in general, also on a

means. Though, it’s indubitably a found object. But if you

microscopic level. I’m interested in how the farthest limits

really work the problem, and reconnoiter in these huge da-

of our perception are being continuously redefined as our

tabases, you can find the material. When you have several

techniques of seeing and perceiving grow more capable.

million frames in total in the database, you’re really walking

And I’m interested in extracting that from the realm of pure

around in a kind of outside-in universe, and your freedom

specialization and bringing it into the field of culture. As

of navigation is pretty wide. So the boundary is set through

to the frontier up there, it’s hard to explain the draw of it.

choosing, editing, processing, compositing, printing, and so

We’ve wondered about those places for millennia. Those

on. You have to add the subjective human element to the

of us alive today are lucky to live in a time when we can

archive of images acquired for scientific research purposes.

actually see what they look like for the first time. It’s been

And as I said before, you’re re-purposing it.

a book of revelations for the last five decades; I find it hard to understand not finding it compelling and awe-inspiring,

ANDREA: What was it like to work with NASA? Did

at least a bit. It’s kind of like that Einstein quote, “The most

you have unlimited access to all of their images?

beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom the emotion

MICHAEL: I’ve only worked with them indirectly, in the

is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand

sense that at one time they gave me some much need-

rapt in awe, is as good as dead—his eyes are closed.”

ed funding, and I have a connection to various players within the system there. But because we all paid for these

ANDREA: How have your perceptions of space changed

missions—meaning we the taxpayers—and because they

since you focused your art on it?

acknowledge that and understand that very well, all the data from the planetary missions is public domain. Any-

MICHAEL: Well apart from the purely visual side—mean-

body can access it globally, with full equality. They’ve

ing apart from becoming better acquainted with the visual

made sure it belongs to our collective human heritage,

woof and warp of these places—a succession of book dead-

not to sound pompous. But it’s really a great thing.

lines has forced me to get my act together when it comes to understanding a lot of things that I might have been too

ANDREA: Do you think our fascination with outer

lazy to figure out if I didn’t have that motivation. Because

space reflects our oblivious attitude towards our own

I’m also writing about this stuff, you know. Nothing settles

reality here on Earth?

a man’s mind like the knowledge that he’ll be executed in the morning; that’s what a deadline is like. There’s a great

MICHAEL: I would put it another way: we’re basically

New Yorker cartoon—a guy is in his office at his laptop writ-

oblivious in general. I don’t find much evidence that we’re

ing and a faceless, hooded figure with a big scythe is en-

so fascinated by space, beyond a relatively small part of

tering the room. The guy doesn’t even raise his eyes from

the population, really. What we’re really fascinated with

the screen, and says, “Thank goodness you’re here—I can’t

is if Brangelina is breaking up and what the hell Trump

accomplish anything unless I have a deadline.”

belched out of his braying red face this time. I mean yes,

I also have a better understanding of how incredible some-

Star Wars and Interstellar and Avatar made money, but

thing rather than nothing is. There’s a hell of a lot of noth-

that’s different. Apart from their physical locations, many

ing, and only a very little something, at least to human

hundreds of millions of miles away, the actual exploration

perception. So any something is amazing and valuable,

that produced the images I’m working with have taken

and worth looking at, particularly when the alternative is a

place at the farthest edge of our largely collectively myo-

hard vacuum and nothing much else going on. In the same

pic, self-absorbed view of things. They’re understood to

way that an island, however small, is a remarkable thing

belong to a highly trained group of specialists, and maybe

when you’re at sea for weeks with no sight of any land.

a small tribe of space-geek fellow travelers. In general, we’re preoccupied by our provincial squabbles, our te-

ANDREA: What was it like working with Brian Eno for

dious power grabs, our pop-cultural brouhaha and manu-

the Otherworlds exhibition?

factured scandals. It’s at the expense of a broader view. MICHAEL: Brian’s a great person, very thoughtful, unpreANDREA: Do you believe there is life on other planets?

tentious, and original. He shares his ideas in an enthusiastic and seemingly egoless way—the focus is on the ideas them-


selves, not the messenger. That’s part of what I like about his music. He found a way to exit from the pressure and

ANDREA: What initially drew you to the final frontier?

limitations of being a rock star and directed the spotlight

Michael Benson, Top: Comet Tempel 1 After Projectile Impact (Near View), Deep Impact, July 4, 2005, 2012; Bottom: Neptune and Triton, Voyager 2, August 31, 1989, 2010.




at the work itself, not the personality—at least after a bit of

ANDREA: How do you think the time you spent work-

a glam rock phase with Roxy Music. I had the advantage

ing in Slovenia continues to influence your work?

that I was staging a large show in a beautiful space, the Jerwood Gallery, in the much-loved London Natural His-

MICHAEL: Well I used to joke that my favorite thing about

tory Museum, which is a kind of great, hulking cathedral to

Slovenia was the Croatian coast. I’m a sea guy more than

Darwin across from the V&A. I wasn’t inviting him to pro-

a mountain guy, and the Adriatic coast of Croatia, with all

vide music to my show just anywhere, you see. Also, I owe

its islands, is one of the wonders of the world. Slovenia has

thanks to my gallerist in London, Matthew Flowers, who

much more than its fair share of natural beauty as well, of

knows Brian and set the first meeting up. After my show’s

course—it’s a beautiful place. And it has its own short coast,

opening in late January, I corresponded with Brian a bit, and

with two old Venetian towns on it, complete with the Lion

had the privilege of being sent various new compositions,

of St. Mark on the fortress walls. But the far larger Croatian

one of which we switched out for the original piece. The

coastline is truly extraordinary as a planetary landscape,

first piece was about twenty minutes, the final piece was

and it definitely still influences my thinking on many levels.

almost an hour, very beautifully modulated and meditative with gong-like elements and so forth. I would say it was a

ANDREA: Can you give us any insights into Nanocosmos?

perfect combination of image and music, and I really mean that. The same combination is now up in Vienna, at the out-

MICHAEL: It’s an investigation of natural design at sub-

standing baroque-rococo Natural History Museum there.

millimeter scales using scanning electron microscopes. I did initial proof of concept at the Center of Bits and At-

ANDREA: I understand that Beyond: Visions of Our

oms at the MIT Media Lab from 2013-14, then moved back

Solar System was the largest collection of planetary

down here and did more work at the Analytical Research

landscape photography ever assembled in one place; was

Center at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the

it surreal for you to have such a prominent exhibition in

Bronx. Then I ran out of grant money, and now I have an

the Air and Space museum?

opportunity to move forward on the project again in Manhattan, but can’t really be specific on that yet because the

MICHAEL: After all the years of pre-production it was

agreement isn’t signed yet. I’m still a Visiting Scholar at the

surreal in a different way than you might think, mean-

Media Lab, and plan to go back there later in the project

ing it was surreal to actually pull it off. That show was

and work on making some three dimensional objects based

back in 2010-11, presented for a year in the art gallery of

on the electron micrographs I’m producing. I hope to show

NASM, which is seven big rooms. We had one-hundred

all this in gallery and museum contexts eventually.

and forty-eight prints up in there. But really, the new show, Otherworlds, which has seventy-seven prints—with

ANDREA: Do you think that capturing something mi-

many of them being quite large—was an interesting ex-

croscopic will act as an interesting contrast to your

perience in a different way. Because, for all the good work

previous series?

and good offices of the people at NASM, the institution is woefully understaffed and underfunded. And in the

MICHAEL: Definitely. The difference is that I will be

case of the Natural History Museum in London, I worked

looking at design strategies at micro scales in biology,

quite closely and intensely with a dedicated group of

so we’re talking life here. Although, I also plan to look

museum professionals—designers, producers, content

at inanimate objects, for example minerals and so on. I

people, managers, and so on—for over a year. There was

think it’s going to be really, really interesting.

a team of twenty or more people working on the show. And we really collaborated on everything, including the

ANDREA: What else can we expect to see from you in

design of the final exhibition layout in Jerwood, which

the near future?

is a beautiful vaulted space in the old building. We may not have staged the largest collection of this kind of work

MICHAEL: I’m cooking up a book of trade nonfiction

ever assembled, but I would submit that we staged the

that my agent, Sarah Lazin, will be shopping to various

most cutting-edge of such a show. And I think they were

publishers this summer. It’s outside of visual art pro-

as pleased as I was that Brian Eno got involved. So I sa-

duction entirely. Essentially, I tend to use the medium

lute my friends at the museum, and hope to work with

that best suits my obsession of the moment. If I get the

them again. There are some really creative and dedicated

deal, I will spend a good part of 2016-2017 working on

people there, and they’re not exactly being overpaid, ei-

that. And this November I’ll have my first solo show in

ther. And now that show is up in Vienna. I hope to bring

a commercial gallery in London, at Flowers Gallery on

it to the States. It will be in Brisbane next spring.

Cork Street. So I’m working on new pieces for that.

Michael Benson, Top: Atmosphere of Titan, Cassini, March 31, 2005, 2015; Bottom: Mimas Above Saturn’s Rings and Shadows, Cassini, November 7, 2004, 2012





Markus Henttonen, Mar d’es Codolar, 2005.


W I L L I A M E G G L E STO N f o ur co l o r b y C on or O ’ B ri en In his poem “Pastoral,” William Carlos Williams describes,

Eggleston offers no instantly gratifying answer. In fact,

in plain language, a walk through a rural backstreet, along

whenever he can, Eggleston actively disposes of any extra-

which he observes the dilapidated homes of poor folk: yards

neous reference point, any ideological crutch, any clunky

littered with chicken wire and old furniture, fences and out-

expository framework that would comfortably account for

houses, “smeared a bluish green.” Williams concludes his

what is—simply, plainly—the act of creating images. John

poem with a simple reflection: “No one will believe this of

Szarkowski, the MoMA Director of Photography who was

vast import to the nation.”

among Eggleston’s earliest champions, wrote in the intro-

When William Eggleston debuted a series of color photo-

duction to William Eggleston’s Guide: “one might say a

graphs at the Museum of Modern Art in 1976, one critic

photograph’s subject is not its starting point but its destina-

(echoing a general consensus) declared it, “perfectly ba-

tion.” The images that Eggleston presents us intrinsically

nal, perfectly boring.” The art community had accepted

carry their own urgency of purpose within the bluntness

photography as serious, capital “A” Art, but with a few

of their existence. If Eggleston’s subjects are supposedly

conditions. Fed on Capa, Cartier-Bresson, and Frank, crit-

trivial, it is to remind us that we are surrounded by such

ics felt that Serious Photography needed to be socially and

objects every day, each with an absolute presence that de-

politically engaged, or have the transcendent grandeur of

fies definition. It is our fault if we believe they aren’t of,

Ansel Adams, and—above all—be in black and white. The

“vast import to the nation.”

work they discovered at MoMA in May of 1976 checked

The movement of Eggleston’s images should be familiar to

none of these boxes: images of the utterly commonplace,

anyone who has read modern poetry, such as that of Wil-

composed in a seemingly haphazard way, and all printed

liam Carlos Williams. It is a movement toward common

in vibrant, garish color. No wonder they found Eggleston

speech, the effort to discover within the idiom and rhythm

so confounding.

of local accent a universal poetic. This is an organic art

Black and white was the Latin of photography. By conven-

rooted in a specific place, which feeds and informs that art’s

tion, it supplied images automatically with an aura, an

growth even as it is transcended. For Eggleston, this place is

intensity, and a sense of high-meaning. Black and white

the South, specifically the Mississippi Delta where he grew

clearly delineated—and protected—Serious Photography

up and continues to work to this day. His work is located at

from the work of unrefined hobbyists or gaudy advertise-

the intersection of the unique cultural thumbprint of Missis-

ment, in which color was prevalent. Color was vulgate, the

sippi and the larger homogeneity of American Suburbia and

vernacular. Eggleston’s solo show was not the first time

corporate branding (one image shows a billboard for Co-

MoMA had exhibited color photography, and Eggleston

ca-Cola above a hand painted sign that reads “Peaches!”).

was hardly the first major photographer to utilize it. His

Many have described Eggleston’s images as snapshots, but

1976 show was, however, the boldest argument that had

this doesn’t seem appropriate. The work is much too delib-

been made for the inclusion of color in Serious Photogra-

erate. It seems more accurate to say that Eggleston uses the

phy. This is perhaps why the work disappointed many of

idiom of the snapshot, and discovers the poetry within it.

its initial viewers. If one intended to posit color photogra-

This is an idiom made up of odd angles, obscured figures,

phy as artistically valid, why choose subject matter that

found scenes, varying degrees of focus, and not-quite-per-

was so...ordinary? What is so important about a car tire,

fect framing. From these elements, he composes images of

a corner store, a child’s tricycle? What is he doing that the

considerable aesthetic weight. These rough edges do more

average person with a camera can’t do?

than simply add character; they are central to the effect. As

Portrait by Amanda Edwards/Getty Images. All following images ©Eggleston Artistic Trust.


It seems more accurate to say that Eggleston uses the idiom of the snapshot, and discovers the poetry within it.

much as what is there, the images are made up of what is half-there or else entirely invisible. Take “The Red Ceiling”: a seemingly careless shot of a single light bulb hanging from the ceiling of a monochrome room. The blaring, hallucinatory red, the color-scheme and the pattern of wires (which seem to recall a Nazi flag), the suggestive figures half-obscured in the bottom-right corner, the frame ever-so-slightly askew; all of these elements build an image that is as visceral and disorienting as a fever dream. This image in particular is evidence of Eggleston’s frequently cited influence on filmmaker David Lynch. Even today, as color has taken over photography, Eggleston’s pictures remain as mystifying as they were 40 years ago. One struggles to account for it. His contribution to photography extends beyond justifying the use of color. More importantly, he gave photography a singular point-of-view, one that revealed the realm of the local and everyday to be limitless in its dimensions. Eggleston was able to create some of photography’s most unique images simply because he thought to look at what was right in front of him. To look at that which is so common and familiar that most of us drift through thoughtlessly, and thus spend half of our lives in a state of unconsciousness. Eggleston’s images release us from that state. They are a call to consciousness. A reminder to, in the words of Robert Frank, “keep your eyes open.”

William Eggleston Portraits is at the National Portrait Gallery, London, 21 July- 23 October, organised with support of the artist and the Eggleston Artistic Trust.

William Eggleston, Above: Untilted, 1974 (Karen Chatham, left, with the artist’s cousin Lesa Aldridge, in Memphis, Tennessee), 1974.


William Eggleston, Following spreads: Dennis Hopper, 1970-74; Untitled, c.1975 (Marcia Hare in Memphis Tennessee), c. 1975; Untitled, 1974 (Biloxi, Mississippi), 1974.





Vitaliy and Elena Vasilieva, Inspired. 2014.


J O H N C H I A R A th e vi s co si ty o f i ma g e

ANDREA BLANCH: How did you get involved with the

doesn’t get back up.” I thought that was really generous and

world of photography?

beautiful. He basically said, “We don’t really need to meet anymore, but when you’re ready and you want some feedback,

JOHN CHIARA: My Dad bought me a camera for Christ-

I’m here,” which is amazing to hear from somebody like him.

mas when I was nine years old. I think he gave me five rolls of film, and I just went out and shot it all immediately. I still

ANDREA: And this mentorship was when you were in

remember it, seeing this grass field, and going up to it, re-

or out of school?

ally close, trying to see how it looks through the viewfinder, trying to capture something from it. It was so much fun,

JOHN: This was when I was in school, at the Master’s pro-

and it felt empowering. But I was taking pictures of noth-

gram at CCA. If you want to work with somebody that’s

ing, you know? When my dad developed all of the film, he

not with the school, and if they agree to it, then the school

was like, “What is this??” So after that, I didn’t get as much

will pay them to work with you. I said I wanted to work

film to shoot. But eventually I went to school for photogra-

with him, and Larry Sultan was kind enough to approach

phy, so I’ve been really into it for a long time.

him and he agreed to do it, so I was really lucky.

ANDREA: Where did you go to school?

ANDREA: So how do you translate from that kind of teaching experience, being a student, to what you do now?

JOHN: I went to the University of Utah. I think I got a really good traditional photography education there, and also an

JOHN: All I do started right as I was entering grad school,

art education—I studied painting there. After college, I came

and it morphed and changed—it still does. It’s all a cohe-

back to San Francisco and just worked jobs for six years, and

sive, continual growth out of that time. I think not going

caught myself up on the things I thought I’d missed in my

directly back to school, and taking those six years off was

education in Utah, such as studying the actual history of

really important; I think I matured. When I got into grad

photography more in depth. I got really into Grand Street,

school I already knew the type of work I was really inter-

which was a quarterly here, and I read that obsessively. Then

ested in making. Maybe I didn’t know how to articulate it,

I applied to grad school—I only applied to California College

maybe I didn’t know how to fully produce it yet, but I was

of Arts and Crafts (now California College of Arts/CCA). It

learning from each picture how to do it, and I was getting

took me three tries, but by the time I got in, I was ready for

really good feedback and support.

it. It was an amazing experience to go there. I studied under

Now I don’t really meet with people to get feedback. When

Larry Sultan, and Richard Misrach was my mentor.

I get together with other photographers, we’re usually talking about really technical things, like where to get paper, or

ANDREA: What was the biggest lesson that you brought

who’s making chemistry.

away from having him as a mentor? ANDREA: What’s your printing process? JOHN: There came a point where he just said, “Okay, you know what to do, you just have to go out and do it. When you

JOHN: Whatever format I want the image to be, I build

get the cojones, come meet with me again, and show me new

equipment to shoot directly onto that format. I like the

work. Call me up and we’ll meet until one of us falls over and

viscosity of that image and the depth that it can have, the

Portrait by Andrea Blanch. All following images are © John Chiara, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York.


I’m not really interested in the spectacular, I’m more interested in how haunting it is sharpness. I shoot directly onto the material I’m going to

JOHN: Yes—but I’m not really interested in the spectacu-

exhibit. For the Hudson River Valley show, I shot directly

lar. I’m more interested in how haunting it is, in a way.

onto Ilfochrome and had to do all of the “dark room work” while I was shooting. I was out taking the picture, and si-

ANDREA: The light and the colors are unbelievable—do

multaneously filtering the color and dodging and burning

you applaud that in your photographs?

as if I was in the dark room. For Manhattan, I shot onto Fuji Flex Crystal Archive, which is a chromogenic paper that

JOHN: No, the photographs I took definitely feel older, sort

turns into a negative when you shoot directly onto it.

of timeless or haunting, and I focused on things that feel more like relics. I’m still figuring it out. It’s tough. It’s almost too

ANDREA: So you know how big it’s going to be before

beautiful. One issue is that all of the roads are really narrow,

you go out?

and all of the properties just go right up to the road, so often there’s nowhere to pull off. It’s hard to find areas where you

JOHN: Yes. For instance, the camera we’re using right now

can photograph freely, so it’s kind of limiting in that regard.

was built specifically for Manhattan. I was shooting with a 34 x 28 camera, and I was doing these diptychs where I

ANDREA: Where were you shooting?

would shoot from one view of the scene, and then move it over and shoot another view. For instance, I would shoot

JOHN: Mostly around Beacon and Peekskill, not even that

the bottom, and then I’d point it up. They weren’t supposed

far into the Hudson. I think the Hudson is going to take a

to be two images that create one seamless image; they were

long time to photograph—years and years.

meant to be this staggering of diptychs that were two different views of the same scene. I couldn’t get back far enough

ANDREA: So you hand-built your own camera obscura.

to really make a larger image, so I realized that I needed a

How did you first become interested in camera building?

more vertical format with the same fixed lens. With the vertical diptychs, the 34 x 28’s, it’s basically a 50 mm lens with

JOHN: When I was in undergrad, I was shooting 35 mm

a 35 mm camera. That’s how your eyes see, but because you

and 2 ¼. Then I started shooting with my grandfather’s 4

can’t get back far enough, it feels way closer in than that. I

x 5, a Linhof Technika field camera that he left me, and I

wanted to make it larger, so that it feels more like what your

started contact printing the prints. I was blown away by

eye sees. So we did 50 x 30, and that seems to be the right

how you could really meditate on them, how sharp they

format for shooting here.

were, and how much depth they had. Right then I thought: “Well, alright, now that I’ve seen this, I am going to have

ANDREA: And shooting the Hudson Valley was the

to build the equipment to the format that I want the final

same or different?

image to be, and find the lenses.” It took a long time to figure out where to get the lenses, be-

JOHN: We shot mostly with a 50 x 55 camera obscura.

cause this was like 1993, pre-internet and before eBay. I was looking in the back of Shutterbug and calling people to find

ANDREA: How long have you been working on that?

them. I finally found the lenses seven years later on eBay. I lost an auction, and I was so pissed off that I contacted the

JOHN: I’ve been working here since the March before last,

guy who I lost it to. I emailed him and said, “I’m devas-

so it’s been over a year.

tated, I’ve been looking for that lens for forever.” He had that application that automatically outbids you.

ANDREA: What do you think of the Hudson Valley?

So I said, “Do you know where I could get this lens?” He said he was a treasurer for an engineering firm in Or-

JOHN: I think the Hudson Valley is going to take forever

ange County, and any time he saw a better lens come up,

to figure out!

he’d buy it and then sell the other one. So he said, “I have these three lenses, I’ll sell them to you for five thousand

ANDREA: It’s quite spectacular isn’t it?

bucks.” And I accepted. It wasn’t the one I wanted, but

John Chiara, W 39th Street at 11th Avenue, 2016.




I’m thinking of what the final image will be, trying to pre-visualize it, and then taking the steps to make that happen. this other one is the lens I use for everything right now.

ANDREA: So you’re actively involved.

I built one camera that was on wheels. You could focus with two boxes that you could pull out from each other. It fit

JOHN: Yes. I’m thinking of what the final image will be,

perfectly in the back of my truck at the time, and I started

trying to pre-visualize it, and then taking the steps to make

shooting with that right when I entered grad school. Then

that happen.

I got really into manipulating the image by putting things on the paper like tape or oil soap, stenciling the paper with

ANDREA: Before you take the image, do you visualize

light, and then going out and shooting. I did a whole series

what you want?

of these during grad school, then I realized that I was affecting the image a little too much with my hand, and that

JOHN: Yes. I go out, I look at the world around me, and I

I needed to be more of a photographer and find these sort

see things. I know what my capability is with the equipment,

of obstructions out in nature. These intense things that pull

and that allows me to go out and have a vision. I write every-

you from it being an image, where you can go into the im-

thing down—everything—and take notes on everything, so

age but at some point you have to come back to the fact that

when I get the result I can look back and see exactly what I

it’s an object, and you go back and forth. There’s a really

did; what filters I used, what the lighting was like, etc. It’s the

nice play in that I think. So I built this larger camera ob-

framework my imagination can peer through. So when I go

scura that I could achieve 50 x 80 on. Then I would put it on

out and see certain things, I’ll know how to work with it. I’ll

a trailer—I spent all of grad school working on this—and

say, “Okay I can do this, and then come back at this time of

then the very last four weeks of grad school I was finally

day,” or, “Let’s do this right now, and we should do it for 30

able to shoot with it. I went out and took as many pictures

seconds, and we’ll use this filter.” It allows me to see, in a way.

as I could. I think I took six, which became my entire grad

Then there’s time before I develop it, so I’m still processing

show. I just pinned those final six onto the wall. It was a big

what happened, which is very different than taking a picture

breakthrough for me.

and having the camera reveal it to you right away. That’s what I enjoy most about this: I try and let the process complete the

ANDREA: And you’ve been building cameras ever since?

work. I’ve been working this way for so long, and it’s the only way I really want to work right now. I’m on my own trip.

JOHN: Yes. At different places I have different cameras in different formats. I have two in Mississippi, two here in

ANDREA: Do storytellers of other mediums inspire you?

New York, and two in San Francisco, just so I don’t have to lug them. So I’ll shoot here, and then what I’ll do is I’ll

JOHN: Yes, definitely. I think that’s why I loved Grand

break them down flat and put them in storage. I built film

Street so much. It was a quarterly that would have a topic,

backs for them. They’re basically 4 x 5 film backs, but they

let’s say “Paranoia.” Then there would be writings—there

shoot 50 x 30 format, so that takes a long time to build.

is a piece by Antoine Artaud I remember really clearly. He wrote a poem, but the poem was so fragmented and so cra-

ANDREA: What do you like so much about the camera?

zy it didn’t make sense. So Artaud and the French poetry/ literature magazine would exchange these letters where he

JOHN: Well, I do it all because they take a particular pho-

would ask, “Why wasn’t my poem allowed in?” He’s one

tograph where I can be so involved in it. There’s an expan-

of the most articulate writers I’ve ever come across, it’s so

sive time that happens in the photograph. The exposure

insane and amazing. In the end, the editor said, “Why don’t

takes twenty minutes. Different things happen in that pro-

we publish the letters? Because they’re amazing.” So that

cess. The light can change, and I can react to that.

would be in the “Paranoia” magazine, next to a portfolio from a painter who’s making paintings during epilepsy or

ANDREA: How would you react to that?

something, and then there would be a short story. This I found really inspiring.

JOHN: I might lengthen the exposure, or I might dodge

Right when I got out of grad school, I came across this book

something while taking the picture.

“Rule Without Exception” (1991) by Lewis Baltz, which

John Chiara, 10th Avenue at W28th Street, West, Variation 2, 2015.


John Chiara, Washington Street at Little W12th Street, 2015.


John Chiar, W34th Street at 11th Avenue, Variation 1, 2015.


I went to LA and I said, “I am not going to photograph the ocean, I’m going to photograph LA as an urban desert.” But then at some point I looked at the ocean and said, “Well, that’s a desert too.” also has a lot of essays in it, and I just studied it. In gen-

rary photographers that have worked there. So I know the

eral, when I read about an artist and their process, I always

collective photographic memory of this place. But I didn’t

feel inspired by how they develop work, how they develop

know the place I was going to was the “Home of the Blues,”

their practice. I feel very akin to that.

or anything about the town. I go places where I’m going to be able to have opportunities to exhibit the work. That’s

ANDREA: Do you have any examples of work that you’ve

important to me, being able to exhibit where I’m doing the

done that was inspired by writers, poets, or storytellers?

work, so I promise the exhibit before I start working.

JOHN: There’s no literal inspiration. Writers, artists, poets,

ANDREA: In Mississippi, or another place?

and musicians develop culture. I think when I was younger, when I was on my own more, didn’t have any represen-

JOHN: Well, for example, I came to Manhattan partially

tation, and nobody was looking at what I was doing, it felt

because I had support, because we were going to have an

really supportive to read about how they were doing it, that

exhibition, and so I said, “Well, I should go there and work.”

they were a part of the struggle. It felt empowering.

ANDREA: What is the Hudson Valley work for? Is that ANDREA: What photographers inspire you at the moment?

for your next exhibition in New York?

JOHN: Right now, the work that I wake up thinking about

JOHN: We had Hudson in the New York show. My plan

is from Paul Graham.

all along was to have these positive photographs of the Hudson with all of these negative images of Manhattan. I

ANDREA: Do you view landscapes and places that

didn’t know how they would really work together, because

you photograph as characters, or subjects with distinct

they’re so different, but I just felt that’s what it had to be.


We ended up choosing a lot less of the Hudson, but I feel like the four that we chose for the show really held their

JOHN: Well, I go and I start working, and I photograph

ground. I was really happy with the way it all worked out,

what’s there. But, yes, definitely. San Francisco has this very

and the way they worked together. I have support up in

particular type of light, and this identity that’s kind of falter-

the Hudson, and I have a place to live there. That’s where I

ing currently. It’s getting a little lost due to all of this influx

store my equipment. But the opportunities to photograph

of the tech industry. In Mississippi, where I photograph,

down here in Manhattan are much more intense, so I’m

there’s an emotional weight to the place, and it’s in the land-

mostly shooting here. This whole month I’ll probably just

scape. It’s enlivened in the landscape: the history of it is on

be shooting here.

the walls. At first I said, “The one thing I am not going to do is photograph the Mississippi river.” But then, eventually,

ANDREA: The appeal to me to photography as a medium

after going there for years, it calls to you—you say, “Okay,

is how quick it is to get a large amount of images. Your av-

now is the time to do it.” The same for LA. I went to LA and

erage is about one image a day. Do you ever want to exper-

I said, “I am not going to photograph the ocean, I’m going to

iment with the spontaneity of smaller-scale photography?

photograph LA as an urban desert.” But then at some point I looked at the ocean and said, “Well, that’s a desert too.”

JOHN: I have a 4 x 5, and I’m kind of messing around with it. I used to be very into photographing my life, or recording my

ANDREA: How do you choose your locations? Do you

life for posterity. I did this for a long time, and I started mak-

have a preconceived idea, or when you get there do you

ing these gigantic collages of all of it, along with drawings I’ve

sort of get the vibe?

done, and with other random things I photographed. I used to photograph the TV a lot, and different things that were happen-

JOHN: It’s from looking more than anything. I drive

ing on the TV. I made wall-to-ceiling collages for a while, with-

around looking. I know the basic history of Mississippi,

out really knowing why I was making them. It drove my neigh-

and I know the photographic history, and the contempo-

bors insane, they were like, “What the hell is this?” But I think

John Chiara, Broadway at W73rd Street, 2015.




I like the thought that goes into it.You know, If you could only take one photograph a day, what would you take a picture of? I was doing those because I was looking for direction. I don’t

JOHN: It’s nice. Now that I have an assistant, I usually stay

really have any interest in doing that anymore. My friends will

on the inside of it. In the large camera obscura I have in San

say, “John, it makes us sad, you used to take all of these great

Francisco, I stay on the inside. It’s really nice because you get to

photographs of all of us.” I used to make these sort of poetic

see this really modest projection of the world outside. It’s dim,

scrapbooks of my life. But my current practice takes so much

but you can see things that move through the image, and it’s

work, that I’m just focused on that. This is what I want to do,

upside down, which discombobulates the view of the world.

so I don’t really feel like diluting it by taking any other pictures.

It’s pleasant to see these shifts of whatever happens with the light, or cars that go by. Everything is so sharp. I stay in there,

ANDREA: What appeals to me about large-scale pho-

and I can watch my assistant and direct him on what to do. If

tography is the process of it, and then of course the result

he’s dodging and he needs to dodge more I can see it because

that you get with this huge, beautiful print.

I’m watching it. I can tell if we need to change the time; if all of a sudden it gets darker, it’s much easier to see in there than

JOHN: It’s all for the result. You can’t get these results any

when you’re out. It’s a more effective way of working for me.

other way. There’s no easy way to get them. If there was, it would be different, and it wouldn’t have the same meaning. I

ANDREA: You feel like you have more control, in a way?

like the thought that goes into it. You know, If you could only take one photograph a day, what would you take a picture of?

JOHN: Yes, definitely.

ANDREA: Your Coahoma, Mississippi photographs (2014)

ANDREA: Where are you planning on shooting next?

have a warm, soft quality to them—the visual equivalent of experiencing the outdoors on a balmy day. Do you see

JOHN: Well, I’m going to go out tomorrow and take more

your photo manipulation as distortion, or as a way of

pictures of Manhattan. And I’m going to do that for the next

clarifying a mood?

month. Then I’m going to go to Mississippi, and will shoot that every day for two weeks, but I’m going to do Ilfachrome

JOHN: I don’t really see it as either. I see it being more in

and keep working on developing the Mississippi work. Then

line with memory than with distortion or a mood. I see it

I’m going to go back to San Francisco to start developing

being aligned with how we recall things, and how imper-

work there, because I’m going to have an exhibition there.

fect that process is, more than anything.

ANDREA: How do you think the digital revolution has ANDREA: Do you try to access nostalgia in your pic-

affected photographers?

tures, or is it a way of making new memories and seeing the world through a different lens?

JOHN: I don’t know. I’m aware of what’s going on, but I’m more concentrated on the work I’m making, so I don’t try to

JOHN: I’m not interested in nostalgia, personally. I don’t

react to it. I think reacting to it is the wrong approach. Too

think that’s part of my work. I think it’s tied to memory, but

many people react by following trends, looking at blogs,

not a longing for the past. Maybe it’s a visual that’s burnt

and making decisions of what they’re going to make from

into your memory, because it’s more about reconciling with

that. I had a friend say to me, “Analogue photography

the past. Like when you’re staring into space and that gets

is over.” And I just said, “Fuck you, photography is over

burnt into your memory, but what you’re trying to reconcile

when I say it’s over.”

isn’t there anymore, it’s unhinged from that. That’s different

My friend just laughed, but I hope that every person that

from nostalgia to me. That’s more what I’m interested in.

wants to work with an analogue medium—every painter,

That’s what I think of when I’m looking at my work, but it’s

every intaglio printer, any person that makes something

not what I’m thinking about when I’m making it.

physical—I hope they all have my attitude. We still find meaning in this. Once we stop finding meaning in it, then

ANDREA: How does it feel when you’re inside one of

it’s over. But I think there’s still a lot of meaning in it, and I

those big camera obscuras?

think the medium is still developing.

John Chiara; W31st Street at 9th Avenue, 2015




Jan Staller, Parking Berths, 1979.



Jan Staller, Ellis Island N.Y., 1998.







Jan Staller, Land Fill, Pennsylvania Avenue, N.Y., 2003.





Jan Staller, Mirror, West Palm Beach, 1978.



Jan Staller, Torched Car, Jersey City, 1986.



M AT T H E W B R A N DT gu e st cura to r

The following invitation was sent by the guest curator for this issue of Musée Magazine to artists who echoed the theme of ‘Place’. The letter provides an insightful prelude to the portfolio of work which Matthew Brandt has selected, revealing just a peek behind his discerning process.

Hi, I have been invited to be a guest curator for a section of Musee Magazine, it’s a photo based art publication out of New York. They have asked me to present a group of artists and their work in relation to the theme of ‘Place’. Rather than asking artists whose work specifically ties to the theme of ‘Place’, I am asking artists who hold a specific place in my own experiences. Those who have personally occupied my own space, those who … in a way hold a special place in my memory. In this list are Artists who I once worked for, past professors, mentors, friends and a father, all of whom I greatly admire. Each Artist will have a two page spread with a presentation of 1-5 images [...] and a very brief anecdote on each artist. Thank you again, not just for reading this but for everything. Please let me know if you would be interested in taking part in this. All we would need are some images and info. If easier I can also contact your gallery. Best, Matt Brandt

Portrait courtesy of David Brandt, 2014.


Whenever I am photographing something with him, he is always telling me what to do and it is very annoying‌ because he is always right.

David Brandt. Paris Statues courtesy of David Allan Brandt.


David Brandt. Mannequin1 courtesy of David Allan Brandt.



The best Samba dancer I have ever seen in person.

Andrea Fraser, Projection, 2008. Two-channel HD video installation, video stills. Courtesy the artist and Galerie Nagel-Draxler.


When he taught me the Korean game ‘Go’, we never finished our game, but I wasn’t too far from winning before we moved on. I am almost certain that he let me feel as though I was winning the entire time.


Whorl (Ella and Emmett), 1997. private collection. Courtesy of the artist and James Cohen Gallery.


Catherine Opie, Left: Rusty, 2008; Right: Untitled #12, 2013. Courtesy of Regen Projects, Los Angeles, and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong


She gave my bulldog his first skateboard. After much practice, it became his favorite chew toy.

Catherine Opie, Left: Sunset #1, 2009; Right: Justin Bond, 1993. Courtesy of Regen Projects, Los Angeles, and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong


Loves soon tofu

James Welling. Torso 9-7, 2005-2006.


James Welling. Top: 4:55 PM Departure, South Station, (Boston, MA), 1991; Bottom: 0806, 2006.


Marco Breuer. From left to right: Spin (C-813), 2008; fig. 2 (Tokyo Lot), 2007; Untitled (C-1186), 2012; Untitled (Tip), 2001.


I savor the sweet bottle of maple syrup that was produced on his farm, and only break it out on very special Sunday pancakes.

Marco Breuer. From left to right: Study for Artificial Light, 2001; Motion (C-872), 2008; Untitled (E-240), 2015; 0/0/0 (#14), 2015.


The smartest and tallest man I know.

Morgan Fisher, Top: Negative Kodak Plus-X 120 March 1950, 2015; Bottom: Negative Ideal Fine Grain 120 December 1951, 2015. Courtesy the artist and Bortolami, New York.


Morgan Fisher, Top: Negative Ansco Plenachrome 120 March 1956, 2015; Bottom: Negative Kodak Kodacolor 120 July 1957, 2015. Courtesy the artist and Bortolami, New York.



I’ve spent a lot of time with Robert. Driving, waiting, eating, drinking, looking, and taking pictures, we called it ‘tea photography’.

Robert Polidori, Pertra Hotel, Beirut, Lebanon, 2010. Courtesy of the artist and Paul Kasmin Gallery.


I spent several months in his cavernous studio after he passed in 2008. Touching, gazing and photographing all of his life’s work to the howling echoes of the Santa Ana winds made me feel uncannily close to this profound master.

William Brice, Untitled, 1984.


William Brice, Untitled, 1998.



When I first met Walid as a student, He walked into the classroom with the freshest Nikes. Since then I have been looking for a similar pair for myself, but have never been able to find them.

Walid Raad/The Atlas Group, Opposite: Top: Civilizationally, We Do Not Dig Holes To Bury Ourselves: Plate 843, 1958-59/2004; Bottom: Civilizationally, We Do Not Dig Holes To Bury Ourselves: Plate 969, 1958-59/2004; Above: Civilizationally, We Do Not Dig Holes To Bury Ourselves: Plate 016, 1958-59/2004. Š Walid Raad. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York.



Born in Havana on the Northwest coast of Cuba,

the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Los

ABELARDO MORELL is a contemporary photogra-

Angeles County Museum of Art; and the Whitney

pher who utilizes Camera obscura, an age-old tech-

Museum of American Art, New York.

nique that dates as far back as Da Vinci. He adapted a tent to take such photographs outside. He also works

BILL MCDOWELL’s recent book, Ground, creates a

with collages and cliché-verres. He received his Bach-

dense narrative connecting contemporary and Great

elor of Arts from Bowdoin College in 1977, and went

Depression America through his sequencing of “killed”

on to achieve his Master’s Degree from Yale Universi-

negatives from the Farm Security Administration.

ty School of Art in 1981. His work has been exhibited

McDowell is the 2013 recipient of the Peter S. Reed

at the Bonni Benrubi Gallery (1994, 1998, 2000, 2002,

Foundation Grant, and has received the Aaron Siskind

2004, 2007, 2012), Caroussel Du Louvre (2001, 2002),

Individual Photographer’s Fellowship, the New York

Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo (1999), Yancey Rich-

Foundation on the Arts Photography Fellowship, and

ardson Gallery (1996, 1999, 2003, 2005, 2010), and the

many other artist grants. McDowell’s photographs are

Irish Museum of Modern Art (2009), the Museum of

represented in collections at the Yale University Art Gal-

Modern Art in New York, the San Francisco Museum

lery, the International Museum of Photography at the

of Modern Art, among many others. His work has

George Eastman House, Museum of Fine Arts in Hous-

been featured in works of literature such as Pleasures

ton, among others. He is a professor in the Department

and Terrors of Domestic Comfort (1991), Alice’s Adven-

of Art and Art History at the University of Vermont.

tures in Wonderland by Leonard Marcus (1998), and Spirit of Family by Al and Tipper Gore (2002). He has

DIANNE YUDELSON is an award winning photog-

been published in nine pieces of literature, and was

rapher, master and innovator of the New Eclecticism

most recently awarded the International Center of

Photography. Her images have been published in

Photography’s Infinity Award (2011). He is currently

over 50 countries on 6 continents including The Huff-

being featured at the Edmund Hoek Gallery.

ington Post, Slate Magazine, Washington Post, International New York Times, The New Yorker, CNN and

Since his inclusion in the 2004 Whitney and São

the Daily Mail. Dianne’s work has been exhibited in

Paulo Biennials, which coincided with the publica-

Spain, France, Malaysia, Thailand, and all throughout

tion of his first monograph, Sleeping by the Mississip-

the United States. Dianne is a two time Critical Mass

pi, ALEC SOTH (b. 1969) has stood out as a vibrant

Finalist and a Julia Margaret Cameron Award win-

and distinctive voice in contemporary photogra-

ner in documentary and street photography. Recent

phy. His iconic large-format color photographs of

exhibitions include the Natural History Museum in

people and scenes from Middle America met with

San Diego California, National Geographic Museum,

immediate critical acclaim. Rooted firmly in the

Griffin Museum of Photography, The FENCE in Pho-

narrative framework of traditional photographic

toville and The Center for Fine Art Photography.

expression, Soth has continued to push the boundaries of the medium through his long-term projects

ERIC FISCHL was born in 1948 in New York City and

and his prolific book-publishing activities. His pho-

grew up in the suburbs of Long Island. He attended

tographs have been featured in numerous solo and

Phoenix College and earned his B.F.A. from the Cali-

group exhibitions, including the Jeu de Paume in

fornia Institute for the Arts in 1972. His early work

Paris and Fotomuseum Winterthur in Switzerland

thus became focused on the rift between what was ex-

in 2008. In 2010, the Walker Art Center produced

perienced and what could not be said. His first New

a large survey of Soth’s work titled From Here To

York City solo show was at Edward Thorp Gallery

There. Soth has also published NIAGARA (2006),

in 1980, during a time when suburbia was not con-

Fashion Magazine (2007), Dog Days, Bogotá (2007),

sidered a legitimate genre for art. Fischl’s paintings,

The Last Days of W (2008), and Broken Manual (2010).

sculptures, drawings and prints have been the subject

Soth has been the recipient of numerous fellow-

of numerous solo and major group exhibitions and

ships and awards, including the Guggenheim Fel-

his work is represented in many museums, as well as

lowship (2013). In 2008, Soth started Little Brown

prestigious private and corporate collections, includ-

Mushroom, an independent publishing company

ing The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Whitney

devoted to small-run artist books. His work is in

Museum of American Art, The Museum of Modem

the permanent collections of numerous museums,

Art in New York City, The Museum of Contemporary

including the Museum of Modern Art, New York;

Art in Los Angeles, St. Louis Art Museum, Louisiana



Museum of Art in Denmark, The Paine Weber Collec-

tity. Jason is responsible for creating and overseeing

tion, and many others.

integrated campaigns for Reebok, NBA, Coke USA/ Japan, Heineken, Ford, GM, McDonald’s, StateFarm

JACK PIERSON was born in 1960 in Plymouth, Mas-

and many more. He is currently Chief Creative Of-

sachusetts, and graduated from the Massachusetts

ficer of Havas Worldwide. Beyond mainstream brand

College of Art in Boston in 1984. In his photography,

building, Jason has been tapped by some of the

Pierson references traditional Americana visuals and

world’s leading brands (e.g. Dom Perignon, NHL,

presents a lost era of cultural symbolism through

Bloomingdales and Volvo) to collaborate on social

beautiful rust infested testaments to a bygone era.

campaigns based on his signature black and white

His resulting word sculptures are imbued with both

photos and close to a million Instagram followers (@

nostalgia and disillusionment. He lives and works in


New York. Pierson has had recent solo exhibitions at the CAC Malaga and the Irish Museum of Mod-

JOHN CHIARA was born in San Francisco in 1971. He

ern Art, Dublin. His work is in the collections of the

is an experimental photographer who makes pieces

Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum

by means of directly manipulating hypersensitive

of American Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Mu-

photo paper. Chiara decided too much information

seum, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Ange-

was lost in the darkroom enlargement process that

les and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art,

diluted the inherent effects of a captured image. In

among other museums worldwide.

1995, he was working primarily with making contact prints with large-format negatives, but in subsequent

JAMES CASEBERE was born in 1953, in East Lan-

years he developed equipment and processes that al-

sing, Michigan. He graduated from Michigan State

lowed him to make large-scale, color, positive pho-

University and the Minneapolis College of Art and

tographic images without the use of film. In 2015,

Design in 1976. His photography is based on archi-

Chiara’s work was exhibited along with 7 other living

tectural, art historical and cinematic sources. His ta-

artists in Light, Paper, Process, Reinventing Photography,

ble-sized constructions are made of simple materials,

at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, CA. The Pilara

pared down to essential forms. Casebere has been the

Foundation again commissioned Chiara in 2014 for

recipient of numerous fellowships, including three

the group exhibition “A Sense of Place” at Pier 24

from the National Endowment for the Arts, three

Photography. Chiara also curated in 2012 the duel-

from the New York Foundation for the Arts and one

exhibition “In Conversation: June Schwarcz and John

from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Founda-

Chiara” at the Richmond Art Center, CA.

tion. His work is collected by museums worldwide, including the Whitney Museum of American Art,

JOHN DIVOLA has been embedded in California

New York; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum,

for much of his life. Born in Los Angeles in 1949, he

New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New

graduated California State University, Northridge

York; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the Los

and the University of California, Los Angeles. He has

Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art; the Los An-

taught photography and art since 1975 at institutions

geles County Museum; and the Victoria and Albert

such as the California Institute if the Arts (1978-1988),

Museum, London, England, among many others.

and has been the Professor of Art at the University of California, Riverside since 1988. In Divola’s most

JASON PETERSON is a master of black and white

recent work, he explores the dilapidated buildings of

street photography. Drawing inspiration from urban

San Fernando and captures his own vandalism in his

landscape and the human condition within it, Ja-

photographs. These photographs capture a concep-

son manages to capture moments that are sharp in

tual interest in the indexical nature of photography.

clarity and alluring in contrast. Negative space is

He is currently capturing a series of photographs of a

used effortlessly and the faceless subjects flow per-

decommissioned George Air Force Base in Southern

fectly in each image. Influenced by iconic photogra-

California, continuing his themes of destruction. His

phers of the past, Jason creates smooth and powerful

work has been featured in over 200 group exhibitions

compositions that breed a dark and mysterious fan-

across many countries, including the Centre Pompi-

tasy. For more than 20 years, Jason has been igniting

dou in Paris (2006) and the Museum of Modern Art in

cultural conversations across all media, including

New York (1989).. He also recently had a three-venue

digital, television, print, and content and brand iden-

solo exhibition at the Santa Barabara Museum of



Art, Los Angeles County Art Museum, and Pomona

etfall (2012), and Otherworlds (2016). Michael Benson

College Art Museum, Los Angeles (2013). He has

is currently working with a scanning electron micro-

received numerous awards including a John Simon

scope at the Center for Bits and Atoms at the MIT Me-

Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship (1986), a Califor-

dia Lab and at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine

nia Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowship (1998),

in New York on a project called “Nanocosmos.”

and has received several grants from the National Endowment for the Arts Photography Fellowship (1973-

MISHKA HENNER is a Belgian artist living and work-

74, 1976-77, 1979-80, 1990-91).

ing in Manchester, England. His work has been featured in several surveys of contemporary artists working

MATTHEW BRANDT (b. 1982, Los Angeles) received

with photography in the Internet age. Henner created a

his BFA from Cooper Union in 2004 and MFA from

stir of controversy in 2012 with the publication of “Less

UCLA in 2008. Brandt has been the subject of recent

Américains.” In this self-published work, he erased

institutional solo shows at the Columbus Museum

much of the content of 83 photographs from Robert

of Art; Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art and

Frank’s celebrated photo book, “The Americans.”

SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah. Recent group exhi-

Henner has created and released 12 self-published art-

bitions include “The Magic Medium” at the Los An-

ist’s books since 2010 and has received the Kleine Hans

geles County Museum of Art; “Light, Paper, Process:

Award (2011) and the Infinity Award (2013).

Reinventing Photography” at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; “Second Chances” at the Aspen

OLIVO BARBIERI was born 1954 in Carpi, Emilia-Ro-

Art Museum; “What is a Photograph?” at the Interna-

magna. He is an Italian artist and photographer. He is

tional Center of Photography, New York; and “Land-

known for his innovative technique creating miniature

marks” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New

still photography from actual landscapes by simulating

York. His work can be found in the permanent collec-

shallow depth of field via the use of tilt-shift lens pho-

tions of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Ar-

tography, that share reflections on the quantity of reality

mand Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; J. Paul Getty

found in our system of life, and on how our perception

Museum, Los Angeles; Metropolitan Museum of Art,

is capable of understanding it. He was awarded The

New York; and Brooklyn Museum of Art, among oth-

Higashikawa-cho Award, Japan (1992), San Francisco

ers. In 2015, Brandt was shortlisted for the prestigious

Film festival’s Best New Visions (2006), and Best Ex-

Prix Pictet award and had his work showcased in an

perimental Short at the Nashville Film Festival (2008)

exhibition at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de

among other achievements. More than 50 monographs

Paris. Other upcoming events include a video work

and artist books have been published on his work.

that will debut at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and participation in a thematic exhibition at

PETER BEARD is an American artist, photographer,

the George Eastman Museum, New York. Matthew

diarist and writer who was born, lives and works

Brandt lives and works in Los Angeles.

in New York. His photographs of Africa and African animals have been widely published since the

MAURICE BROOMFIELD was a photographer whose

1960s, and he integrates his photographs in many of

work documenting the inner landscape of industrial

his own publications as well. Beard’s first exhibition

Britain from the 1950’s to the 1970’s has recently been

was at the Blum Helman Gallery, New York, in 1975.

rediscovered. He succeeded through his striking

He went on to exhibit at the International Center of

photographs in revealing both the grit and beauty of

Photography (1977) and Kunst Haus Vienna (1999) in

the people, factories and processes that manufacture

addition to many others.

everyday objects. It wasn’t until nearly two decades after the Second World War that he began to exhibit

PHILIP KWAME APAGYA followed in his father’s

widely, curating and presenting his work at the Royal

footsteps when he found himself behind a camera.

Photographic Society. He also represented the UK at

His style is very unique in that he is characterized as a

the 1964 World’s Fair in New York.

photographer who shoots people standing in front of colorfully painted back drops. Phillip was born in Gha-

MICHAEL BENSON is an American artist, writer, and

na in 1958, and has put on a range of diverse solo and

filmmaker, born March 31, 1962. He is know for his

group exhibitions, including Gallery Fifty One, Ant-

presentation of space and planetary photographs, as

werp, Belgium (2000), Rena Branston Gallery (2005),

well as his books, including Cosmigraphics (2014), Plan-

Galerie Stähli, Zürich, Germany(2003), and Das Gesi-



cht Afrikas, Hamburg (1997). He also has photographs

of three months, exploring many vantage points and

in many collections, including The Metropolitan Mu-

gathers hundreds of rolls of exposed film. He then

seum of Art, and The Studio Museum in Harlem.

painstakingly prints the photographs by hand and compiles them. Since 2004, Nishino has exhibited his

RYAN MCGINLEY was born in Ramsey, New Jersey,

work internationally and gleaned numerous awards

and is the youngest of eight children. He is known for

including ‘President Award’, Osaka University of

putting his subjects in unusual locations such as rock

Arts (2004), ‘Young Eye Japanese Photographer As-

concerts and art schools while shooting them. He has

sociation Award’ (2005), ‘Canon New Cosmos Pho-

also been known to contrast people with nature, cre-

tography Award’ (2005) and the ‘Canon Excellence

ating amazing portraits of people in stunning, and at

Award’ (2005). He has also participated in several

times, unusual landscapes. In 2003, at the age of 25,

group shows, festivals and solo exhibitions: “Daegu

he was one of the youngest artists to have a solo show

Photo Biennale,” Korea (2010), the “Out of Focus”

at the Whitney Museum of American Art. American

exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery in London (2012),

Photo Magazine also named him Photographer of the

“Contemporary Japanese Photography vol.10” at To-

Year in 2003. He has numerous other awards and has

kyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography in Tokyo

also exhibited in multiple places, including The Dae-

(2012) and in “A Different Kind of Order: ICP Trien-

lim Museum (2013) and The Guggenheim (2015).

nial” at ICP in NY (2013).

SEBASTIÃO SALGADO was born on February 8,

STEPHEN SHORE shook up the world of photography

1944 and is a Brazilian social documentary photog-

with his series of exhibitions at Light Gallery in New

rapher and photojournalist. Salgado works on long

York in the early 1970s. These exhibitions increased

term, self-assigned projects many of which have been

public intrigue in color photography and promoted the

published as books: The Other Americas, Sahel, Work-

view camera for documentary work. He was the first

ers, Migrations and Genesis. The latter three are mam-

living photographer to have a one-man show at the

moth collections with hundreds of images each from

Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York since Alfred

varying countries all around the world. His best-re-

Stieglitz, forty years earlier. He has followed this with

ceived photos to date are ones taken of a gold mine

one-man shows at numerous other museums, includ-

in Brazil called “Serra Pelada.” He has been awarded

ing Jeu de Paume, Paris and Hammer Museum, Los

the Oskar Barnack Award (1992), The Grand Prix Na-

Angeles. He has received fellowships from the Gug-

tional French Ministry of Culture (1994), and the In-

genheim Foundation and the National Endowment for

ternational Award from the Photographic Society of

the Arts, and has been the Susan Weber Professor in the

Japan (2003) among other awards.

Arts and director of the photography program at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY.

SHIMON ATTIE was born Los Angeles in 1957 and

is a contemporary, American visual artist. He was

WILLIAM EGGLESTON was born in Memphis, Ten-

awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2008, The

nessee and has attended multiple universities, in-

Rome Prize in 2001 and a Visual Artist Fellowship

cluding Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN, Delta

from Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute for Ad-

State College in Cleveland, Mississippi, and the Uni-

vance Study in 2007. His solo exhibitions include:

versity of Mississippi in Oxford, Mississippi. He has

2013 Wexner Center for the Arts (2012), Jack Shain-

been shooting with color film ever since he began to

man Gallery (1996, 2011) Cleveland Museum of Art

experiment with the medium in 1965. He has been

(1995), Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery (1995).

commissioned for many photographs, such as Elvis Presley’s Mansion (1983), and several film shootings,

SOHEI NISHINO was born in Hyogo, Japan in 1982.

including Annie (1982) and Eve’s Bayou (1996). Among

He graduated from Osaka University of the Arts in

his many exhibitions, he has displayed his work in

2004 and began working on his Diorama Map series

Brooks Memorial Art Gallery in Memphis Tennessee

where he combines photography, collage, cartogra-

(1977) and the Cheim & Read Gallery in New York

phy and psychogeography to create large prints of

(1999, 2001, 2005). He has won several awards for

urban landscapes. Drawing inspiration from the 18th

his work, such as the University of Memphis Dis-

century Japanese mapmaker, Ino Tadataka, his prints

tinguished Achievement Award (1996) and the Gold

re-imagine the cities he has visited. To build his Diora-

Medal for Photography from National Arts Club in

ma Maps, Nishino walks a city’s streets for an average

New York (2003).



cha·os ˈkāˌäs/ 1. noun : chaos ; plural noun: chaoses 2. complete disorder and confusion. “snow caused chaos in the region” synonyms: disorder, disarray, disorganization, confusion, mayhem, bedlam, pandemonium, havoc ,turmoil, tumult, commotion, disruption, upheaval, uproar, maelstrom;

PHYSICS •behavior that is unpredictable so as to appear random, owing to great sensitivity to small changes in conditions. •the formless matter supposed to have existed before the creation of the universe. GREEK MYTHOLOGY •the first created being, from which came the primeval deities Gaia, Tartarus, Erebus, and Nyx. •noun: Chaos


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