Saturday, April 14, 2007

Rough Beauty

Rough Beauty was a project begun in 2003 and published in 2006. Simply stated Rough Beauty is meant to be a photographic documentation of Vidor, Texas.

In my humble opinion, this collection of Dave Anderson’s work is not ground breaking, or earth shattering. This is the kind of work that should have and probably would have disappeared into oblivion if not for all the controversial racial underpinnings. I’m not saying that it’s bad work – it’s not bad, it’s just not new. I suppose one could beg the question ‘Does originality exist?’ Personally, I believe originality does exist and significant work should contain a degree of originality. Rough Beauty is an emulation of Keith Carter and Diane Arbus – and while emulation is acceptable for a student, I feel there comes a time when a professional photographer should make their own mark.

Vidor is only a short distance from where I live. Controversy has surrounded this body of work since its release. I have found the issues raised by the work far more interesting than the work itself. That said, however, not every issue is interesting. Take the issue of racism, for instance…. Yes, this area has had a history of racism, but there have been issues of racism in every part of this country. I raise the question: why Southeast Texas? I really don’t make a connection between the work and the issues of racism anyway. His subject matter doesn’t directly address racism – he chose not to photograph the Ku Klux Klan, so I feel the issue is actually a lack of diverse ethnicity.

I find the ethical dilemmas raised by this work to be the most fascinating issues. He included statements made by the people he photographed. Quotes such as “I was born down thataway ‘bout a mile in a little log cabin. My dad built it with crosscut saws and they put mud in the cracks.” or “We threw grass on the chicken’s grave and were like ‘Why’d he have to die?’” or “I been having to look for a job for a long time.” illuminate the lives of his subjects. My concern here is Anderson has comprised one version of the truth: this is one aspect of Vidor, but this isn’t all of Vidor. This work may be construed for representing a complete depiction of Vidor. In my opinion, Rough Beauty is a very narrow glimpse of an area that deserves more depth and less media hype.

Visit the Rough Beauty webpage...

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

David Levinthal

Some information on a popular contemporary photographer...

David Levinthal was born in San Francisco in 1949. Levinthal received his B.A. in Studio Art from Stanford University in 1970. He went on to earn a Masters of Fine Arts in Photography from Yale University in 1973 and in 1981 he received a S.M. of Management Science from MIT. He currently lives and works in New York.

He has participated in numerous group and solo exhibitions over the years. The most recent solo exhibitions in Texas took place in 2006. Gerald Peters Gallery in Dallas hosted “David Levinthal” and The Menil Collection in Houston hosted “Blackface”. His work has become a part of many public collections both nationally and internationally. Three public collections in Texas include Levinthal’s work: Amon Carter Museum of Fort Worth, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, and Museum of Fine Arts of Houston.

Levinthal does not limit himself to creating work only for art’s sake, he also creates commercial pieces. He has photographed for Absolute Vodka, and IBM. He has also collaborated for magazine spreads such as Entertainment Weekly and Wired Magazine.

David Levinthal has had 10 books published, the most recent being Netsuke.

As a child, Levinthal was completely comfortable with the ability to transform his physical environment by any means necessary. This compulsion to alter his environment translates into his method of photographing miniature worlds, which he has created. He creates these worlds by utilizing doll houses and accessories. The figurines he uses are ordered from a company in Germany that specializes in train sets.

Formally, Levinthal’s first concern is the manipulation of space, secondly light. Levinthal treats color as a means to an end. Color only heightens the theatrical sense of drama achieved by the manipulation of light.

Technically, Levinthal uses a 20 x 24 Polaroid camera. I was unable to find any documentation to verify specifically how Levinthal creates his editions. However, a Polaroid camera (complete with an operator) is available for rental. One cost effective method to create editions from a Polaroid would be to create one 20 x 24 Polaroid print, have it scanned and printed as a lambda or light jet print.

Conceptually, Levinthal uses issues that he addresses in his personal life. He is Jewish, so creating a series addressing the Holocaust is one way of exploring his heritage. He has explored cultures different from his own in his series “Blackface” and “Netsuke”. Levinthal addresses American ideals in “Baseball” and “Barbie”. Voyeurism is a conceptual element that consistently reappears. Voyeurism can be found in the series “Modern Romance”, ”American Beauties”, “Desire”, “XXX”, and “Netsuke”. Nostalgia is another popular element in his work. The figurines are in and of themselves a nostalgic component considering the fact the figurines are basically children’s toys. Nostalgic subject matter is found in his series “Wild West”, “Barbie”, and “Baseball”. One might even say “Blackface” and “American Beauties” have a nostalgic ambiance.

Check out his web page: David Levinthal

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Stephen Gill - Flower Photographs, Kind of

British artist Stephen Gill is working with/on/around the photograph. Gill is using images from Hackney and then uses different flowers found in Hackney to create a kind of new, fictional landscape. He then re-photographs the final product and returns the physical disruption to the good old fashion, flat photograph. His pictures of Hackney Flowers have an interesting mix of whimsy and the subversive and are a unique way to also speak about Hackney as place itself. Stephen never lets a photograph get away with just being a photograph.

On a side note, another series of works of Stephen's was referenced in the blog I Heart PHotograph which is a blog i check frequently. It consistenly shows fresh, interesting and definately unique photographic work from around the world. Laurel, i like your style.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Dashwood Books

It is of little surprise to me that the majority of photographers I am aware of has much to do with the exceptional relationship between photography and books. I often find, although not always, that the presentation of artwork in books is sometimes stronger and more effective than a series sequenced on a gallery or museum wall. Everyone can attest not only to the invaluable privacy provided by books, but also to their endless inventiveness in presenting artists and promoting their projects.
Recently, on a relatively cold weekend spent in Manhattan, my girlfriend and i stumbled upon a warm, wooden enclave of monographs at 33 Bond Street. Dashwood Books, situated in the East Village, inevitably casts shame upon all other like-minded shops that proclaim to have an eclectic and substantial inventory. Although Robert Frank's "The Americans" can be found, it will most likely be situated between some obscure saddlestiched collectible, and a brilliant Japanese hardcover. Both of which will blow your socks off. After some time spent browsing the shelves, you'll notice that the titles you don't know far outnumber the ones that you do.
Hopefully, any visitors to this wonderful basement shop will find themselves inspired by their supporting of artists big and small, as well as the realization that there exists in the world a wealth of photographers making remarkable work.


Thursday, March 01, 2007

Photo Echo

Photo Echo
Aperture Magazine

“Do you have an idea for Photo Echo? If so we’d love to hear about it” reads page 88 of the current issue of Aperture Magazine. I regret to inform you that originally I passed right by, and if it hadn’t been for the combination of Julia Roberts and George Clooney, I wouldn’t have given Photo Echo so much as a second glance. The unfortunate truth about advertisements is they too often get overlooked, especially when placed toward the back of the magazine.

As a senior in the art department at Lamar University, professors here are supportive and constantly encourage students to enter competitions. As both a student and an artist, I am always looking for ways to be involved in the art community.

Photo Echo is a competition sponsored by Aperture to gain readers and support. The prize of this competition is a free one year subscription to Aperture. (Students love “free”!) From a graphic design viewpoint, Aperture is utilizing this strategy to gain readers and support, I don’t feel the annoying pressure experienced when bombarded by internet pop-up ads for magazine subscriptions. Actually, quite the opposite occurs, my interest has been piqued.

Photo Echo is a comparison of one historical photograph with one contemporary photograph. Not only does this approach benefit Aperture but it also promotes awareness of Art History and familiarity with Contemporary Art, thereby, benefiting the readers as well.

That said, I am interested in submitting to this competition, however, I am confused. How often is this feature published? I noticed in Aperture Magazine, Issue no. 185 that Photo Echo was not included. What is the deadline? Also in the current Aperture, Issue no. 186, the published comparison is of both a book and a magazine cover: What are the criteria? Obviously submissions should be mailed, but I am unclear as to exactly what should be included (tear sheets, jpegs, tiffs). I have searched online to no avail for more detailed information. If there is more information online this should be stated with the address information in the excerpt.

This is a wonderful idea, and I might add a lovely layout, however I would like to participate but remain confused.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Fanny Pack Not Included

While sitting through a recent lecture, a fellow photography student made it clear that school is where we begin to set ourselves apart from the average tourist armed with a point&shoot. Even though this statement has some sense of validity, what I find infinitely more interesting, however, is L.A. based photographer Mark McKnight's suggestion that all photographers are essentialy tourists.
Tourism is arguably more complex than just travel for recreation. How far does one have to travel exactly? And is it still considered recreation if you're not having a good time? A more important question looms though; if tourist photos are simply trophies of things seen, or proof of one standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon, is that any different than Richard Misrach making sure the world knows that bombs are being dropped in the middle of the desert? Perhaps there is no difference, and an artist like Hiroshi Sugimoto sees a monument in the ocean, just like my Grandma would if she peered up at the faces on Mt. Rushmore.
It seems that what Mark McKnight implies has little to do with the "snapshot" vernacular attributed to say, a tourist and William Eggleston. His assertion, as I understand it, has much more to do with ideas of observation, evaluation, experience, and judgement, which is of course, the root of why any photographer would want to photograph, and why any tourist would want to travel. So with that said, perhaps Mark McKnight is right, and not only are all photographers tourists, but in many ways, maybe that's all we are.

You can see more of Mark McKnight's work on his Blog at

Monday, February 19, 2007

Painting on Pictures

The idea of painting on a photograph is not new. It has been going on since photography's inception. Although, early uses were more apt at removing or adding details that would allow the photograph to tell a deeper truth instead of a more conceptual aim. What does painting or drawing on a photograph offer? Can this combination successfully question and expand the ideas behind the photographic process and function?

Gerhard Richter's abstract interventions into banal 4x6" snapshot landscapes are very crude and simple compared to his larger and better known paintings which deconstruct the photographic institution, but are able to offer abstraction a fresh utility.

Another artist who imaginatively and overtly talks about painting and photography is Marc Luders. I am especially drawn to his early works where the paint becomes like a UFO discretely entering into the photographic spaces.

The artist Sebastiaan Bremer uses much more illustrative approach by applying precise points of ink to large photographs. The lightness of conceptual intervention here is made up for through shear visual intrigue at how Bremer as enlivened a seemingly irrelevant photograph.

Photography and painting are two heavyweights in today's art discourse. Using them together, literally, can start to challenge the convictions and readings of both.