Thursday, April 14, 2016

UN-SOLVED PUZZLES RE-MAIN - a new bookwork

 

Here is the second in a series of three bookworks I published late last year under my imprint FAQEDITIONS.  Initially the set of three books were offered on photobookstore UK, where each book has with it a limited edition print. If you are interested in the book / print option you can go to the photobookstore HERE.

As with all my work, UN-SOLVED PUZZLES RE-MAIN (as the books title suggests) presents a series of oblique questions where there are no answers. The book is series of seemingly disconnected photographs, and an exploration into the nature of things where the bizarre, the unusual and overlooked is open to many interpretations.

UN-SOLVED PUZZLES RE-MAIN is a signed and numbered edition of 50 copies, 255 x 180mm, 32 pages printed on 130gsm satin stock with a 300gsm satin cover.

Prices are, €30 / £25 / US$34 / A$44 / NZ$48, which includes packing and postage. For payment you can simply log on to my PayPal account using my email address harvey.benge@xtra.co.nz

Here are the spreads from the book:


















Friday, April 8, 2016

The Uncanny in Contemporary Photography - Magical Surfaces at Parasol Unit, London


Stephen Shore, US 97, South of Klamath Falls, Oregon, July 21, 1973

Parasol unit foundation for contemporary presents Magical Surfaces: The Uncanny in Contemporary Photography, an exhibition that explores the uncanny as exemplified in the works of seven artists from two generations, all of whose work includes in different forms the use of photography as a medium. They are: Sonja Braas, David Claerbout, Elger Esser, Julie Monaco, Jörg Sasse, Stephen Shore and Joel Sternfeld.

 As early as 1835, the German philosopher Friedrich Schelling wrote of "das Unheimliche", the uncanny, as 'everything that ought to have remained hidden and secret and has become visible'. Years later, Sigmund Freud elaborated on what Schelling and others had thought about this 'peculiar quality', but he also 'felt impelled' to investigate it in relation to aesthetics. In his influential essay 'The "Uncanny"', 1919, Freud saw there was a common thread to everything that arouses our sense of the uncanny: it 'is that class of terrifying which leads back to something long known to us, once very familiar'. Although individual responses are complex and subjective, what we experience as uncanny is that which gives us a feeling of unease when something seems both familiar and unfamiliar, when some quality effaces the distinction between the imagined and the real.

The Magical Surfaces title of this exhibition derives from the thoughts of Vilém Flusser who, in his Towards a Philosophy of Photography, 1983, wrote of photographic images as 'significant surfaces' and of 'the magical nature of images'. We are always intrigued when an apparently straightforward image suddenly takes on an ambiguous, uncanny, quality as our mind grasps, as Ernst Jentsch wrote in 1906, its 'intellectual uncertainty'. The mastery each of the exhibiting artists has over their own process of manipulating the photographic image invites us to marvel at the many ways the uncanny can occur in photographic works. Essentially exploring time in his work, David Claerbout does indeed appear to do magic by bringing a pre-stardom Elvis Presley intimately back to life in three-dimensions by digitally reconstructing him from a 1950s black-and-white photograph. Julie Monaco's often hyper-real and dramatically turbulent scenes appear at first to be images of nature, but in fact are created entirely on her computer using fractal algorithmic software. An absence of presence is discernible in the apparently realistic images created by Jörg Sasse, one of the first artists to use computer technology as his brush and canvas. Both he and Elger Esser studied at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf under Prof. Bernd Becher, who together with his wife Hilla is renowned for their remarkable photographs of industrial buildings. Esser, too, deals with time and memory in his serenely lit and composed land- and seascapes that seem at once to be both familiar and unfamiliar.

Sonja Braas works entirely in analogue, sometimes from ready-made sources, often by artificially creating landscapes or by building models which she then photographs, rather than directly photographing actual nature. Among other things, her work questions what is real and what is unreal in any image. In the 1970s, both Stephen Shore and Joel Sternfeld travelled independently across the USA, taking what are evocatively revealing photographs of the time and place. Using Kodachrome film and 35-mm cameras, they managed to capture an atmosphere that is almost palpably uncanny. Their work continues to inspire subsequent generations of artists to continue innovating with photography. As Sternfeld says: 'Photography has always been capable of manipulation. [...] any time you put a frame to the world, it's an intervention [...] photographs have always been authored.'

This exhibition is curated by Ziba Ardalan, Founder/Director of Parasol unit. It is accompanied by a comprehensive publication which includes essays by Ziba Ardalan, David Claerbout, and Marta Dahó who is an independent curator and teacher of History of Photography, based in Barcelona.

Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art / 14 Wharf Road / London / N1 7RW

Joel Sternfeld, Mclean, Virginia, December 1978

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Sotheby's New York report their April photography sale results



Sotheby’s New York auction of Photographs on 3 April totaled $3,323,000, nearing its high estimate of $3.4 million. Leading the auction was Helmut Newton's, 'Sie Kommen (Dressed)' and 'Sie Kommen (Naked),' which sold well above its estimate for $670,000 (est. $150,000 - 250,000). Other highlights of the sale included exemplary photographs by Man Ray, Annie Leibovitz, Ansel Adams and Irving Penn.

Here are the highlights:








Monday, April 4, 2016

Seydou Keïta at the Grand Palais, Paris

 

Just opened at the Grand Palais and running until July 11 is a survey exhibition of Mali photographer Seydou Keïta. The photographs come from the collection of Jean Pigozzi.

Curator André Magnin talks about Seydou Keïta:
I have to say that my true passion for photography was born when I met Seydou Keïta in Bamako in 1991. That year I attended the inauguration of the exhibition “Africa Explores: 20th Century African Art” organized by Susan Vogel at the Center for African Art in New York.  This exhibition mixed classical, traditional, modern, contemporary, and pop art and also showed some old photographs.  Some were credited “anonymous photographer, Bamako, Mali, 1950s, 1955…”  Jean Pigozzi, who discovered them in this exhibition, found them remarkable and faxed the catalogue images to me. I had enough experience in Africa then to affirm that, if the anonymous photographer of these portraits was still alive, I would know how to find him. So, I left for Bamako alone (as I do for all my travels) equipped with photocopies of three portraits reproduced from the New York exhibition’s catalogue. It was my first trip to Mali. A little after my arrival, I met Thairou, who became my loyal accomplice.  He drove me to a photographer known to all of Bamako, Malick Sidibé, whose only occupation then was repairing cameras.  Without the least bit of hesitation, he identified the photographer behind these portraits: “That’s Keïta’s! He’s still here, at Bamako-Coura, behind the central prison.”

And it was there, in his plot, that Seydou Keïta received me:  “You travelled all those kilometers for this?”  Retired since 1977, he couldn’t imagine that thirty years after having closed his studio, one would come from far away drawn by the beauty of his photographs.  He remembered the time when he was still practicing this craft:  “It’s been a long time since I’ve been done with that, but, you can see, I really love photography, all my archives are here, in this blue trunk.”  Seydou appeared to me like a reserved, quiet, serious man, but, also, thoughtful, respectful and appreciative. I spent whole days examining, one by one, the thousands of negatives accumulated since the opening of his studio in 1948 until 1962, when he became the official photographer for the first Malian socialist government.  

Paris based André Magnin is a specialist in contemporary African Art,  you can go to his website MAGNIN-A HERE






Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Melbourne Art Book Fair - April 29 to May 1





Running April 29 - May 1,The National Gallery of Victoria presents the Melbourne Art Book Fair 2016. The Fair will feature some of the world’s most creative emerging and established publishers, artists and writers, the 2016 Melbourne Art Book Fair presents a dynamic program of free talks, book launches and performances over three days from Friday 29 April to Sunday 1 May. Now in its second year, the fair, which drew 16,000 visitors to NGV International last year, presents twice as many publishers and events in 2016.
Bangkok-based artist Wit Pimkanchanapong has designed a translucent canopy comprising thousands of geometric polymer folds suspended from the Great Hall ceiling under which guests can browse more than 60 stalls showcasing art books, independent zines, limited edition prints and more.  
The program launch on Friday 29 April features an all-day International Symposium on the Future of Design for Publishing, followed by a ticketed Evening Preview granting visitors exclusive first access to limited-edition publications as well as music performances, art, pop-up bars and food.
The Melbourne Art Book Fair hosts special international guests Sternberg Press from Berlin in their Australian debut. Max Bach, editor of Sternberg Press, participates in a keynote In Conversation event with Melbourne writer and academic Justin Clemens on Sunday 1 May.
In 2016, over twenty publications will be launched at the Melbourne Art Book Fair.

From a New Zealand perspective, photobook aficionado Anita Totha, who is the driving force behind REMOTE PHOTOBOOKS will be at the Art Book Fair representing the best of NZ. You can check out Anita's offering on the REMOTE website HERE.


Friday, March 25, 2016

Roberto M. Tondopó - Casita de Turrón, a strange and wonderful book

 

When recently in Wellington for the Photobook Festival I came across Roberto M. Tondopó's amazing book Casita de Turrón or Gingerbread House. Tondopó is a Mexican photographer and not surprisingly the pictures in this book are saturated with the hues of dusty turquoise, faded pinks and acid yellows. Underlying these bright and cheerful colors there is something sinister going on. The book is like a Pedro Almodóvar movie on speed. 
Each chaotic frame has a complex narrative that draws the reader in, you are left wanting to work out what really is going on. The layered pictures surprise with small details that once observed add a malevolent twist, a sort of "stone in the shoe" that makes one question what seems to be the obvious. For example the boy in the oven with the broken egg shells on the floor. The boy in the bed with a hand at the window. This is a strange, complex and compelling book, hard to work out and hard to put down.

Roberto Tondopó talks about Casita de Turrón: It is a book about the transition between childhood and adolescence of my nephews, Andrea and Angel. Although settled in reality, it is a fictional narrative evoking the transition period in the development of our sexuality.  My interest is to detonate those parts of the repressed unconscious... touching aspects of the sinister, to open the threshold of representation of the image that alludes all interpretation.  My work revolves around... a need to restore those deep connections between past and present, fantasy and memory.

Here are some photographs from Casita de Turrón. You can see the book in its entirety on a vimeo video HERE.








Thursday, March 24, 2016

Photography is easy, photography is difficult

 
A good example of a bad photograph!

Making photographs is deceptively easy. That's what makes it so difficult. After all anybody can do it and everybody is. The truth is to make a good photograph, one that works, is incredibly hard. This probably has a something to do with seductive pull of making the pictures, After all there is nothing quite like the pleasure of being in the world, looking at it and shooting. This can be somewhat aimless, with no direction home.

For me, I need to know what I'm shooting for. What's the idea? With a good idea in mind I think you can make better pictures. My ideas are abstract intangible creatures, I don't photograph coal miners, or water towers. A recent book-work of mine was titled NOT FOOD OR SEX. As soon as I came up with that title I could look at a picture and know immediately if it fitted the idea. This meant I could go into my archive and find images that worked and I could shoot with that idea as an objective. This doesn't rule our shooting intuitively, Winogrand's maxim, that he shot so see what things looked like on film (read pixels) still holds.

In March 2012 I made a blog post, Some Thought on Editing and Sequencing, you can go to it HERE.  Jörg Colberg, founder and editor of the well known and influential blog Conscientious wrote to me... he made the point that whatever you do, wherever you want to head with your work you need good photographs. So obvious, so true.  

Well, first of all you have to have good photos to make a good photobook. Without good photos, it's an uphill struggle (some books don't need good photos, but they rely on a great concept). And then the concept of the book just has to work. There's a lot of gimmicky work out there, where people are trying too hard to be cool. So making a really good book is very hard, much harder than most people think. And people don't realize that the only thing that will make books stand out is the quality of the whole package, not your elaborate shrink-wrap or whatever you come up with. So yeah, substance it is.

Then this morning I read the following quote from American writer Jim Harrison - “You have to follow the affections of your heart, and the truth of your imagination. Otherwise, you will feel badly.”

Not a bad starting point. Go well... go out and make photographs, good photographs...

Post Script: A reader reminded me of Paul Graham's 2009 piece, of the same name -  Photography is Easy, Photography is Difficult - you can read that on ASX HERE.