Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Peter Hujar: Speed of Life at The Morgan Library and Museum NYC

Susan Sontag, 1975,

Peter Hujar: Speed of Life is showing at The Morgan Library and Museum from January 26 until May 20. The exhibition presents one hundred and forty photographs by this enormously important and influential artist. Drawn from the extensive holdings of his work at the Morgan and from nine other collections, the show and its catalog follow Hujar from his beginnings in the mid-1950s to his central role in the East Village art scene three decades later. 

The catalogue features full-page reproductions of all 160 works in the exhibition, essays by curator Joel Smith, Philip Gefter, and Steve Turtell, and the first fully researched chronology, exhibition history, and bibliography to be published on Hujar. 

The life and art of Peter Hujar (1934–1987) were rooted in downtown New York. Private by nature, combative in manner, well-read, and widely connected, Hujar inhabited a world of avant-garde dance, music, art, and drag performance. His mature career paralleled the public unfolding of gay life between the Stonewall uprising in 1969 and the AIDS crisis of the 1980s. In his loft studio in the East Village, Hujar focused on those who followed their creative instincts and shunned mainstream success. He made, in his words, “uncomplicated, direct photographs of complicated and difficult subjects,” immortalizing moments, individuals, and subcultures passing at the speed of life. 

Boy on Raft, 1978

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Susan Meiselas, Meditations, at Jeu de Paume, Paris

Portrait de Susan Meiselas, Monimbo, Nicaragua
Septembre 1978 (detail) © Alain Dejean Sygma

Running until May 20, Jeu de Paume presents a retrospective devoted to the American documentary photographer Susan Meiselas. The exhibition brings together a selection of works from the 1970s to the present day.

 A member of Magnum Photos since 1976, Susan Meiselas questions documentary practice. She became known through her work in conflict zones of Central America in the 1970s and 1980s in particular due to the strength of her colour photographs. Covering many subjects and countries, from war to human rights issues and from cultural identity to the sex industry, Meiselas uses photography, film, video and sometimes archive material, as she relentlessly explores and develops narratives integrating the participation of her subjects in her works. The exhibition highlights Susan Meiselas’ unique personal as well as geopolitical approach, showing how she moves through time and conflict and how she constantly questions the photographic process and her role as witness.

The Guardian's Sean O'Hagan presents a perceptive overview of the exhibition...
When Meiselas became a Magnum photographer in 1976, she was one of five women. Today there are 13. In all its attempts to reinvent itself of late, it remains a predominantly male institution. “I can’t deny that,” she says. “And I’ve seen the comings and goings of women who have been involved. It’s a complicated issue. Do I want to say, ‘I’m a woman photographer and that’s what validates my view on the world?’ Really? Is that it? But, on the other hand, I do speak from a different perspective. I do have a different approach. Part of my role is to be a mediator, someone who brings people together.” She pauses. “People often ask me, ‘Why do you do it?’ Perhaps the more important question is, ‘What are they getting from it?’” You can read O'Hagan's full piece HERE.

You can go to Susan Meiselas's website HERE and Jeu de Paume HERE

Muchachos attendant la riposte de la Garde nationale, Matagalpa, Nicaragua
1978 Susan Meiselas © Susan Meiselas/ Magnum Photos

Fouille de toutes les personnes voyageant en voiture, en camion, en bus ou à pied, Ciudad Sandino, Nicaragua
1978 Susan Meiselas © Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Roger Deakins - Beauty in Simplicity

British cinematographer Roger Deakins is best known for his work on the films of the Coen brothers, Sam Mendes, and Denis Villeneuve. He is without doubt acknowledged as the pre-eminent cinematographer of our time. 

Roger Deakins was born in Torquay in the English county of Devon. While growing up in Torquay, Deakins spent most of his time focused on painting, his primary interest. He later enrolled in the Bath School of Art and Design where he studied graphic design. While studying in Bath, he discovered his love of photography and this led to his being hired to create a photographic documentary of Torquay his home town. About a year later, Deakins enrolled in the National Film and Television School in Buckinghamshire. He has never looked back...

This short YouTube documentary by Blake Keys explores some of Deakins primary visual language and is will worth a look. Even if you never stray from still photography there is much to learn from Roger Deakins artistry. You can watch the video HERE.

Roger Deakins: All I’ve ever wanted to do is take stills of people, or take documentaries about people, and try to express to an audience how somebody lives next door. You know what I mean? Just how similar we all are as individuals. And...If reviewers don't mention your work, it's probably better than if they do.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Jeff Mermelstein - the extraordinary out of the banal

Barbara Tannenbaum, Curator of Photography, at the Cleveland Museum of Art writes her take on "rule breakers" on the Don't Take Pictures web magazine. Tannenbaum zeros in on her pet hate - street photography. She says - I never want to see another street photograph. Especially one of New York. Yes, street photography captures an ever-changing spectacle, with new fashion trends and hairdos. But human behaviour and emotion, which are at the core of street images, remain stubbornly consistent. After decades of looking at people traversing the streets of New York in person and in photographs, what is there left to surprise me? 

I share Barbara Tannenbaum's dislike of street photography. It's not so much the name but the images that so many street photographers come up with. I've seen the same images time and time again, often silly stupid juxtapositions that are supposed to be funny or ironic. Whatever... these are what I call "one trick pony pictures" they mostly present nothing, say nothing and are like cotton candy at the County Fair one suck and it's gone. Further, so many "street photographers" still think it's 1972 and their photographs look like it too. Boring as fuck! 

When it comes to street photography Tennenbaum sites New Yorker Jeff Mermelstein as her "rule breaker". She says this -  there is plenty to surprise me when New York’s streets and their denizens are seen through the lens of Jeff Mermelstein. His images caught my eye, my heart, and my funnybone when I came across them on Instagram

Tennenbaum is right, Mermelstein does it his way, strange, bizarre and somewhat crazy. These are images of today, they reflect the ease and superficiality of social media connection. The rush of the every day, time passing in an instant. Click and like. Many of his instagram pictures are tight shots of iphone screens...private messages are revealed and we wonder at it all. Jeff Mermelstein is one of my favourite photographers, his pictures are a litmus test of today... Jeff's pictures do for the street what Bill Cunninghams's pictures did for fashion. 

You can read Barbara Tannenbaum's complete piece on Don't Take Pictures HERE. And this YouTube clip is well worth a look - Jeff Mermelstein tells it like it is HERE

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Simon Baker to head the MEP, Paris

British curator Simon Baker, former director of photography at Tate Modern London, has been appointed director of the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris. Baker succeeds Jean-Luc Monterosso, director and founder of the institution, whose mandate finishes on March 31, 2018. Monterosso has run the Maison Européenne de la Photographie since it opened in 1996 and was also the founder in 1978, with Henry Chapier, Francis Balagna and Marcel Landowski, from the Paris Audiovisual Association that foreshadowed the creation of the MEP.
Simon Baker has a Ph.D. in art history, and is a graduate of the University College of London (UCL). In 2009 Baker joined the Tate London Photography and Art Department as a curator. In 2015, he was appointed chief photography curator with the primary mission of developing a strategy of acquisition, conservation and exposure.
Baker has curated numerous Tate exhibitions, with photographers including Boris Mikhailov, Sirkka-Liisa Kontinen, Guy Bourdin, Yutaka Takanashi, Bernd and Hilla Becher, and recently exhibitions such as Salt and Silver (2015), Nick Waplington / Alexander McQueen: Working Progress (2015) or Performing for the camera and The radical Eye: Modernist Photography from the Sir Elton John Collection (2016). Simon Baker has also been Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Nottingham (2004-2009). He is the author of numerous publications on the history of art and photography.
You can read the complete story by Jonas Cuenin on The Eye of Photography HERE

The MEP Paris

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Nan Goldin - artist and activist

Nan Goldin - Self-Portrait 1st Time on Oxy, Berlin 2014

Nan Goldin takes a stand on the scourge of opioid addiction. 
The Guardian reports: Her most recent drug experience was very different to the old days, when she became one of the world’s most famous art photographers, capturing herself and those around her getting high, having sex and hanging out in downtrodden homes in the 70s and 80s.
This second experience began with a doctor in Berlin, where she has a second home. In 2014, Goldin was prescribed the potent narcotic OxyContin for painful tendonitis in her left wrist. She promptly became addicted, despite taking the pills exactly as prescribed.
“The first time I got a ‘scrip it was 40 milligrams and it was too strong for me; they made me nauseated and dulled. By the end, I was on 450mg a day,” she says. Eventually she was crushing and snorting them. When, back in New York, doctors refused to supply her any more, she turned to the black market, and to cheaper hard street drugs whenever she ran out of money.
Emerging from a rehab facility in Massachusetts last March, she began reading about OxyContin and realised the branded medicine was prime suspect in the opioid crisis that has ripped through the US over the past 20 years. The epidemic has killed more than 200,000 people so far. Now she is declaring war against members of the secretive US family behind the invention of OxyContin, and behind the ingenious marketing strategy that was used to convince doctors it was harmless and patients that they needed it.
With charitable foundations on both sides of the Atlantic, the Sacklers, who are based in New York, have donated millions to the arts and sponsored faculties at Yale and many other universities. In each case, the family’s name is displayed prominently as the benefactor. Forbes listed the collective estimated worth of the 20 core family members at $14bn (£10bn) in 2015, partly derived from $35bn in sales revenue from OxyContin between 1995 and 2015. 

But few know their wealth comes from Purdue Pharma, a private Connecticut company the family developed and wholly owns. In 1995, the company revolutionised the prescription painkiller market with the invention of OxyContin, a drug that is a legal, concentrated, chemical version of morphine or heroin. It was designed to be safe; when it first came to market, its slow-release formula was unique. After winning government approval it was hailed as a medical breakthrough, which Goldin now refers to as “magical thinking”.
Goldin is now hurrying through a modern activist learning curve. “First I wanted to go out with signs and picket a Sackler wing of something, because that’s what we did in the Vietnam war and that’s what we did with Act Up in the Aids crisis,” she says. But she recently discovered social media – “I went on Instagram for the first time three weeks ago,” she says – and realised that petitions are online these days, so has set about organising one, which will be presented in due course to those Sackler family members on Purdue Pharma’s board of directors. She is also now on Twitter, so there is a hashtag campaign, #ShameOnSackler, while her campaign overall is called Prescription Addiction Intervention Now (Pain).
You can read the full story in The Guardian HERE and the New York Times HERE.
Nan Goldin - Dope on my rug, New York, 2016. 

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Mitch Epstein - Rocks and Clouds

Mitch Epstein's wonderful new bookwork Rocks and Clouds has arrived from Steidl. Following his impressive photobook, New York Arbor published in 2013, Rocks and Clouds further heightens the rewarding experience of close observation. The book celebrates the mystery and wonder that surrounds us all, that is if we can be bothered to look. Potentially this is cliche territory however these quietly intelligent pictures turn the ordinary everyday (rocks, clouds) into the extraordinary and make for a sublime meditative experience.

The viewer is left wondering at our place in the scheme of things. Mankind's insignificance. Notions of impermanence come to mind where the city slips into nothingness against the limitless sky. We are reminded that all of mans feeble constructs will eventually fall to dust and that in our world it's the simple profundities of nature that endure. This work shatters ones sense of certainty. What we take to be familiar becomes the unfamiliar and we are asked to re-evaluate what we take for granted and where is truth.

Rocks and Clouds is published by Steidl and as usual it's a stunning production, an object in it's own right. 160 pages, 70 images,  four colour process,  clothbound in slipcase 29.5 x 36 cm.

Steidl writes: In his new series, Mitch Epstein investigates the meaning of time by photographing rocks that last millions of years and clouds that evaporate before our eyes. These large-format black-and-white pictures examine society’s complex relationship to nature, a theme Epstein has explored in previous work, including his acclaimed tree pictures (New York Arbor, 2013). The way the sky and ground can mirror one another intrigued ancient Chinese painters, as well as modern earthwork artists and the Surrealists, all of whom inspired this project. Epstein draws attention to the sculptural quality of New York City’s clouds, bedrock, and architecture—which, at its most elemental, is made from rock. Cloud wedges engulf a cargo ship, buildings recall constructivist paintings, and erratics are imposing elders in the middle of a park or sidewalk. Rocks and Clouds suggests society’s inability to control time and tame nature. While it seems impossible to make a fresh picture of New York, Epstein gives us a surprising portrait of it.

You can go to Mitch Epstein's website HERE and Steidl HERE.

Pelham Bay Park, Bronx 2014

Clouds #89, New York City 2015

Clouds #94, New York City 2015

Clouds #18, New York City 2014

Clouds #33, New York City 2014