posts dedicated to general musings on art: theories, practices, education, exhibition and review.
posts dedicated to general musings on art: theories, practices, education, exhibition and review.
RALPH EUGENE MEATYARD: “Reframing Photography: Theory and Practice (excerpt)” (2011)
By Rebekah Modrak, Bill Anthes, excerpt from Reframing Photography: Theory and Practice, 2011
Ralph Eugene Meatyard (1925-1972) spent three months looking through an unfocused camera in order to “learn to see No-Focus.” Working roughly 30 years before Uta Barth, Meatyard, an optician who practiced photography, began the project because of his initial attraction to the out-of-focus backgrounds in some of his images. Through his association with the local camera club and his connections at the university in Lexington, Kentucky, Meatyard was in contact with many other photographers, such as Van Deren Coke, whose condition for making a photograph was to find an appropriate background and put something in front of it. Like Barth, Meatyard eliminated the “thing” and looked only for the background, which he would then throw out of focus. Eventually, feeling that the background was still too recognizable, he abandoned this practice and began to contemplate his surroundings through an unfocused lens. Barbara Tannenbaum describes the process in her essay, “Fiction as Higher Truth: The Photography of Ralph Eugene Meatyard”:
He would then wait two or three months before developing them (the negatives). After that interval, he was no longer able to identify the scenes or objects, he had succeeded, at least for himself, in detaching the images from a bit of reality on which they had been based.
Like many Western artists at the time, Meatyard had become fascinated with the Eastern philosophy of Zen Buddhism, in which objects have meaning beyond their physical attributes. Meatyard was influenced by photographer Minor White’s belief that photography (through abstraction, sequencing, and close-up details) could be used to liberate objects from their everyday reality. The No-Focus series and Meatyard’s later Zen Twig images adhere to the minimalist tendencies articulated by the writer Suzuki: “Japanese artists… influenced by the way of Zen tend to use the fewest words or strokes of brush to express their feelings… suggestibility is the secret of the Japanese arts.” Meatyard, White, and other artists working in the Expressionist style felt that their works would contain universal or personal meanings that could be openly interpreted by a viewer.
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2013 National Conference – Celebrating 50 years of SPE
Conferring Significance: Celebrating Photography’s Continuum
This conference will examine how concentration on a subject has allowed image, concept, criticism, teaching and learning to shape the past, present and future of photography, its instruction and SPE itself.
Many thanks to SPE’s 2013 host institution, Columbia College Chicago’s Photography Department and Museum of Contemporary Photography.
March 7-10, 2013 @ Palmer House Hilton
Keynote Speakers: Richard Misrach, Martin Parr, Zwelethu Mthethwa
Featured Speakers: Mona Kuhn, John Upton, Olivia Parker
Honored Educator: Elaine Mayes
Zarina Hashmi’s prints and sculptures are as elegantly spare as they are deeply personal, each evoking some element of her long, rich, wayfaring life. They represent the borders she has crossed, the places she has lived, the techniques she has honed, the poetry she has loved, the discipline with which she works, and, above all, a long-standing relationship with her medium of choice: paper, the handmade sort, be it pressed into sheets or extracted raw from vats of pulp. She has pierced it with pinholes; embossed it with thread; sculpted it into geometric bas-reliefs; and imprinted it with maps, lines, shapes, Urdu script, and the dense, sinewy grain of unsanded planks of wood. The breadth of her output (which, on occasion, has incorporated bronze, steel, and other sculptural materials as well) will be on display in a long-overdue retrospective, “Zarina: Paper Like Skin,” opening January 25 at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.
Few exhibition titles are as beautifully indicative of the art therein. But flesh is the perfect proxy for her work, which is coarse yet intimate, organic yet refined, inked with personal totems, and scarred like a life well lived.
Though she settled on Manhattan’s West Side some 35 years ago, Zarina (as she prefers to be called — a nod to her affiliation in the 1970s with the feminist movement in New York) is something of a nomad by nature. In a sense, she says, we all are: “We are supposed to travel — that is how we work. This whole idea of being so attached to one place…I can talk about home and I can talk about my hometown, but would I want to go and live there? No, because I carry it with me.”
Zarina was born in Aligarh, a Muslim enclave in northern India, in 1937, just 10 years before the country’s declaration of independence from Britain and partition from Pakistan. Her father was a history professor at the local university, and education was nothing short of gospel in her book-filled childhood home. “My father was a great reader and a great storyteller,” she says. “And my mother read me stories of old kings and poetry from different religious traditions in Urdu, her mother tongue.”
Family road trips to historic nearby destinations like Fatehpur Sikri, a 16th-century imperial complex, sparked Zarina’s interest in architecture (and certain elements of these structures — their latticed walls, for instance — remain references in her work today). But she settled on mathematics in college, hoping to work as an engineer. That, too, led her to art.
Zarina’s family stayed in Aligarh for more than a decade after partition, but they were forced to migrate to Pakistan in the late 1950s. By then Zarina was married and traveling extensively with her husband, a member of the Indian Foreign Service. The union gave her a freedom and mobility that many Indian women at the time did not have.
For 20 years the couple bounced between Europe and Asia, touching down in Thailand (where she made her first woodblock), then France (where she embraced New Wave film and existentialist literature), then Germany (where she saw art by Carl Andre, Robert Rauschenberg, and Joseph Beuys), with several sojourns in India in between.
Zarina made art throughout. She studied doggedly too. In Paris, she apprenticed with printmaker Stanley William Hayter. “He thought like a scientist, and we both had never gone to art school, so there was a bond,” Zarina says. “And he was a great teacher. He showed me that there are no shortcuts in prints. Like when you solve a problem in mathematics, you can’t jump a step because you’ll get caught.” She studied the craft at the Toshi Yoshida Studio in Tokyo as well.
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In our last feature, we compiled a list of 20 notable and prestigious artist residencies. Yet while researching that piece we found so many others worth noting for their sheer strageness that we put together another list, this one to capture what we call the “alternative” category of artist residency. From an expedition to the North Pole to a residency in a local Laundromat, these weird and wonderful residency programs offer experiences you just can’t get anywhere else. Seriously.
In addition to the unorthodox and specialized programs on this list, we’d also like to give a shout out to a few programs that, while undoubtedly bizarre, are not currently accepting applications, including residencies at the Facebook headquarters, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), New York City’s Department of Sanitation, and the now-defunct NASA AIR artist program. All of these would have made our list of noteworthy “alternative” residencies — and perhaps in the future they will again if they return. In the meantime, enjoy the fruits of our research.
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The path to a successful art career can be a twisting one, but one commonly traveled route is the artist residency. There are hundreds of residencies out there, ranging from highly prestigious programs that are invitation-only — like those of Artpace, the Walker Art Center, or UCLA’s Hammer Museum, all of which mainly invite established artists to create fully funded projects — to more open, or even experimental, retreats.
Not all residencies are created equal, and while some may help you get a leg up in the art world, you may still have to pay for the opportunity. Programs can be grouped several ways: Some are fully funded without fees; some are partially funded with fees; some offer stipends/awards; still others are project/work based. There is even a thriving “alternative” category (check out Part 2 of this series where we’ll look at some of the funkier options out there). Despite the wealth of programs in the United States, and a plethora of funding options, there are few user-friendly guides — though Res Artis and the Alliance of Artist Communities online directories are valuable resources. Below, we assemble information on 20 programs that cover the spectrum, offering the most important information for each, including who is eligible, important alumni, pros, and cons.
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The Lightroom catalog
Martin Evening | Software Techniques | Published Dec 28, 2012
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is built atop a database architecture that relies on a centralized catalog to house information about your still images and video files.
One of the most common questions I’m asked about Adobe Photoshop Lightroom from new (and sometimes not so new) users is, ‘Why do you have to import photos to the catalog first before you are able to edit them?’ The answer to this question goes right to the heart of Lightroom’s approach to information storage and retrieval, which to my mind more adequately addresses the needs of today’s photographer. In this article I’ll lay out the basic principles of image management in Lightroom and explain how this approach can actually make the task of locating your images more efficient.
Image browser vs. database manager
As computer users who’ve come of age during the PC revolution, we have grown accustomed to the idea that everything needs to be sorted into folders, and indeed folder hierarchies have become the primary means of organization. This file directory management approach may make sense with task-specific Word documents but becomes extremely limiting when applied to large collections of less easily-defined images. Yet this is exactly how image browser software, like Adobe Bridge operate. For all their admittedly useful features, they simply browse the existing folder structure on your hard drive.
And my chief complaint about sorting images by folders is the very real problem of determining just which folder they should go in. Someone once told me about an underwater photographer who maintained a small photo library of his work. When adding new transparencies, he would have dupes made so that a photograph of say, a diver with a shark could be filed in one set of physical folders labeled ‘sharks’, another named ‘divers’ and another broken down by ‘location’. This physical duplication was necessary in order to make the library system work effectively, but no one would call it efficient. Yet there are people who work this way with digital files precisely because they are not using a database-driven management system.
Here is an example of an underwater photo (in this instance a photo shot by Jeff Schewe). It makes sense to categorize this by the location it was shot in, the presence of a diver, as well as the coral featured in the foreground. In the folder-based example I mentioned above this could involve duplicating the master image several times. Using digital asset management software such as Phase One Media Pro or Lightroom, however, there is no need to create physical duplicates.
I can’t count the number of times I have sat through a seminar where the instructor has come unstuck when relying on folder/browser navigation to locate their demo files. Meanwhile, the audience waits impatiently while the instructor sifts through a complex hierarchy structure of folders known only to himself. Sound familiar?
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Portrait of Simon Baker © Hugo Glendinning.
With Simon Baker at the helm, Tate becomes an unlikely champion of photography
Author: Jean-Kenta Gauthier, translation by Laurence Butet-Roch of Polka
Two days before their seminal exhibition opened in early October, William Klein and Daido Moriyama were brought together in the dining room overlooking the Thames at Tate Modern, surrounded by a group of VIPs – friends, collectors, trustees and guests. But when the director of Tate, Sir Nicholas Serota, took the floor, it was to praise Simon Baker, the man he hired in 2009 as the institution’s first curator of photography and international art, commending him for his work in constructing the museum’s photographic strategy. Baker – for whom it was the first major show he had seen through from beginning to end – bowed his head modestly.
Joel-Peter Witkin by Elizabeth Avedon
Joel-Peter Witkin and Son, Albuquerque 1988. Photograph by Herb Ritts © Herb Ritts Foundation
“Witkin is a photographer who has been mistaken for a grave robber, whose works were described by Marina Isola as “Part Hieronymus Bosch, part ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre.’”
Cindra Wilson, Salon.com
“I’m a really happy person, but I think most people think I’m some sort of a monster. I’m intensely poetic, intensely sincere. I want to make a contribution to life and the quality of life, because I want to diminish evil and raise the possibility of goodness. I think that’s what every artist wants to do whether they’re totally conscious of that or not.” Joel-Peter Witkin
Joel-Peter Witkin, born in 1939 in Brooklyn, New York, now based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, may be at the height of his career. This month his exhibition Heaven or Hell is opening at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and running concurrently at a gallery in Paris is an exhibition of all new work titled History of the White World.
“It begins with my first conscious recollection, I was six years old. It happened on a Sunday, my mother was escorting my brother and myself down the stairs of the tenement where we lived. We were going to church. Walking through the hallway to the entrance of the building, we heard an incredible crash mixed with screams and cries for help. The accident involved three cars, all with families in them. Somehow in the confusion, I was no longer holding my mother’s hand. I could see something rolling from one of the over-turned cars. It stopped at the curb where I stood. It was the head of a little girl. I reached down to touch the face, to ask it, but before I did, someone carried me away. It could have defeated me, and I would have become insensible. Instead I chose to accept the injury and go on; because my will is stronger than death, stronger than the lostness of these times. This, my first conscious visual experience, left it’s mark.” Witkin wrote in his monograph, The Bone House (Twin Palms Publishers).
Over the last five years investors have funneled tens of millions of dollars into fledgling websites that help users buy, sell, borrow, and learn about art online. Backers range from flush art world figures like Dasha Zhukova to successful venture capitalists such as Jack Dorsey, a founder of Twitter, and Peter Thiel, a former PayPal executive. But can a cultural sector that typically relies on exclusivity, personal contact, and (often) opacity make an effective transition to the web? And if it can, will these new websites find a way to monetize their services swiftly enough to give investors a good return? A profusion of selling sites appeared during the dot-com boom of the late 1990s and early 2000s, but only a few—among them the limited-edition contemporary print venue Eyestorm.com and auction service iCollector.com—are still around. Could history repeat itself?
Founders and funders of today’s start-ups insist that the time is right for the art business to expand online. “Think about the size of the art market and the fact that it’s growing disproportionately in emerging markets where people are less connected to major art world hubs,” says Sebastian Cwilich, the COO of Art.sy, an online selling site and image repository that officially launched in October. Cwilich notes that the average distance between a buyer and seller on its site is 2,398 miles. The website VIP Art measured a staggering increase in visitors from emerging markets at its VIP 2.0 fair this past February, including a 409 percent increase in visitors from Turkey and a 278 percent increase in those from India.
Like other online art initiatives, Art.sy hopes to attract existing collectors and also to nurture new ones by offering art at a wide range of prices outside the gallery and fair contexts, which can seem intimidating to beginners. As a generation that has grown up with the web begins to collect, Cwilich predicts, “There will be more and more people who are comfortable discovering and buying art online.” Christopher Vroom, cofounder of the affordable-to-high-end purveyor Artspace.com, expresses comparable certainty: “It could take 10 or 15 years for a significant portion of the market—billions of dollars’ worth—to move online. But I absolutely believe that it will happen.”
Today these websites face two principal challenges to develop a brand and to create a sustainable business model. Branding has been complicated for all by the sudden rise of several companies with overlapping aims and market approaches. Within the last two years, the number of online art start-ups has shot up and now sits at well over 25. Unsurprisingly, the wider public may have difficulty distinguishing among the options. “It takes time on all these sites to figure out what’s different,” admits David Frankel, a partner at the venture capital fund Founder Collective, which has invested in the sites Art.sy, 20×200, and Paddle8.
A close look at seven of the best-funded, most innovative, and most intensely promoted art initiatives on the Internet today—Exhibition A, Art.sy, 1stdibs, Paddle8, 20×200, Artspace and VIP Art—reveals a variety of business models. Each seeks to capitalize on the dramatic globalization of the art market, which has developed significantly since an earlier generation of sites flopped a decade ago. “Some will make it and some won’t,” Frankel says. “At this point, we’ve spread our bets a little bit.”
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