Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The New Color Photography - Sally Eauclair, 1981


Sally Eauclair's milestone book The New Color Photography, compiled and edited by Eauclair in 1981 was the first book of serious (for want of a better word) photography that I had ever come across. The book contained, to me, fresh new voices. Eggleston in particular was a revelation. The book and the work it contained resonated with me because many of the photographs seemed so similar to the pictures I was trying to make at the time.
Although now almost 35 years have passed, the best pictures in the book still hold up.

What I didn't know at the time was that there was also a show of the work, to support the book, at ICP New York. On November 8, 1981 The New York Times published a rather jaundiced review of that show. The exhibition includes the works of 45 younger photographers who have come to the attention of the art-loving public since 1970, some as well known as William Eggleston, Jan Groover, Joel Meyerowitz, Lucas Samaras, Stephen Shore and Eve Sonneman, others still relatively unknown. It also includes the works of two older photographers, Harry Callahan and Helen Levitt, who have made new starts in color photography in the 1970's. 

This is important because there is a wide range of styles, subjects and approaches in this exhibition. Landscapes predominate, but there are also still lifes, portraits and what used to be called genre subjects, pictures in which groups of people are shown engaged in everyday activities. Some of the pictures are obviously carefully posed, while others are caught on the wing. Some of the photographers work with large format view cameras, while others use small hand-held cameras.

The moods vary from romantic to jokey, with a touch of the sinister here and there. Indeed, there is enough variety in this show to make it difficult to characterize it as a whole. About the only thing some of the photographers in this show have in common is that they work with color film and eschew the kind of hand work that so many other young photographers practice today. That and the fact that all of them first came to public attention not through publication in the mass media but by exhibiting in museums and art galleries. 

And then there is Eggleston. It is sometimes said that he is compiling a pictorial guide to his native southland, and to be sure, some part of his native southland is often visible through his viewfinder when he presses the button. But why he chose that part rather than another is an impenetrable mystery - which could not be said of a magazine photographer. A magazine photographer has to please an editor and a public, and the point of his picture has to be reasonably clear. An art photographer, however, does not have to please anyone but himself - and the curators, dealers and collectors who make his career - and therefore he can be as obscure as he likes. Eggleston has said that he takes pictures because he has to do something to fill up the time, and that is what his photographs too often look like. 

You can read the complete New York Times review HERE. You can still get hold of copies of The New Color Photography, here is a link to amazon.

Also strangely included in New Color is David Hockney and the French photographer Bernard Faucon. And New Zealander Boyd Webb gets coverage. Others names have quietly faded into the background of the medium.







Eauclaire published two subsequent bookworks - new color / new work in 1984 and American Independents in 1987. Both books worth checking out.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Helensville - New Zealand's country heartland

Last Saturday I drove north from Auckland to go to Helensville's annual A&P show. Helensville is a small rural township that still embodies the Kiwi spirit of settlement and working the land. The Helensville A&P Association held it's first Show in 1900 and barring two occasions it's been held every year since.
The A&P Association was formed for the purpose of friendship and exchange of agricultural and pastoral ideas among the settlers, and agricultural competition among the farming and village community. The show became an annual event with surrounding communities challenging for the right to be judged Champion of the Champions.
Today the Association's aims are still basically the same, to promote excellence in agriculture and to bring the country a bit closer to town and to promote things rural, while at the same time bringing a bit of the town to the country. The competition schedule covers horses, cattle, sheep, goats, pet dogs, sheep dogs, pigs, woodchopping, calf club, pet lambs, cooking, horticulture, art and craft, painting, garden produce, needlework and a children’s section. Photography too!

Here are a few pictures I made.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Andy Adams - FlakPhoto Digest

The amazing Andy Adams, blogger, writer, curator, photographer and founder of the influential facebook groups Flak Photo network (with, as I write,13275 members) and Flak Photo Books (with 5476 members), this weekend launched his all new weekly weekend photography digest.

Andy says this: And we're live! In a way, this project is about going back to the drawing board — thinking differently and seeing what's possible. A reminder: You're on this email list since you opted in to the FlakPhoto Digest beta. To begin with, we're capped at 5,000 email subscribers. This is an experiment so I'm planning to play fast and loose with the format in the coming weeks. Eventually we'll open this up to the public. For now, let's keep things small. The Digest is the start of a new direction for FlakPhoto. And it's going to impact the shape of our website reboot later this year. As always, your feedback will be essential in helping me find the way. I want to hear from you. Please feel free to reply to this and future emails with feedback, suggestions, solutions and criticism. Your opinion matters. Thanks in advance for your time and insights. Now, sit back and relax.

Anybody, any photographer, with even a passing interest in what's happening in the photoworld should (must) connect with one or other of Andy Adams photography ventures. I cannot think of anybody else in this crazy photography business who has selflessly done so much to spread the word and the works out to we practitioners. As I said in my this mornings tweet GO ANDY! And Andy thank you! 

If you remain unconvinced check out Andy Adams web presence HERE at

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Henri Cartier-Bresson Award 2015, Call for Entries

Henri Cartier-Bresson, World Fair, 1967, Montreal, Canada

Presented by the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson every other year, the HCB Award is a prize of 35,000 Euros intended for photographers who have already completed a significant body of work with an approach close to that of documentary. Candidates should be nominated by an institution - museums, galleries, independent curators or publisher.  Eighteen months after the reception of the prize, the winner will have an exhibition of his work at the Fondation HCB in Paris and a catalogue will be published. An international jury will announce the prize-winner in June 2015.
The HCB Award is made possible with the partnership of the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès.

For more information you can go HERE.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Shelley Jacobson - landscape and more...

Shelley Jacobson - Geyser (on) #4, Wairakei, Surface Expressions, 2014

Shelley Jacobson is an Auckland based photographer whose practice deals with landscape and intervention. Her impressive body of work reveals a simplicity of approach and the presentation of the obvious, but there is always something else. Something unsettling.

Jacobson's latest body of work, Surface Expressions is a study of the Wairakei geothermal area in New Zealand's central North Island. It draws attention to the region’s unique natural features and to the human forces that have formed its current state.
Victorian-era Wairakei was a world renowned and exotic geothermal tourist destination. In the mid-twentieth century it was radically transformed by its conversion to a site for generating electricity. Through this intervention, the underlying geothermal system was irrevocably altered: the spectacular Geyser Valley was extinguished; the steaming craters of Karapiti were revealed. More recently, a man-made geyser has come to accompany the power station in this disrupted landscape.
The photographs in Surface Expressions offer a view of the land forms present at Wairakei today.

This series is supported by a publication which takes a wider view, incorporating found text dating from the late nineteenth century through to the present day. These newspaper clippings, advertising materials and Trip Advisor ratings speak in the vernacular of their respective times and frame social ideas and expectations of tourist attractions.

You can see more of Shelley Jacobson's work HERE.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Taryn Simon at Jeu De Paume, Paris

Taryn Simon - Financial Panics, The Picture Collection, 2013

Taryn Simon, Rear Views, A Star-forming Nebula, and the Office of Foreign Propaganda from 24 February 2015 until 17 May 2015 at Jeu De Paume.

Taryn Simon (b. 1975) has constructed an ambitious body of work that is the result of an invisible and rigorous process of research and investigation. Her works combine photography, text, and graphic design, in conceptual projects addressing the production and circulation of knowledge, and the politics of representation. Simon interrogates the power and structure of secrecy and the precarious nature of survival. 

The exhibition at the Jeu de Paume presents a collection of Simon’s works produced since 2000. Her earliest series, The Innocents, documents cases of wrongful conviction throughout the United States, calling into question photography’s function as a credible witness and arbiter of justice. She underscores photography’s ability to blur truth and fiction – an ambiguity that can have severe, even lethal, consquences. 

In An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar, Simon compiles an inventory of what lies hidden and out-of-view within the borders of the United States. She examines a culture through documentation of subjects from domains including: science, government, medicine, entertainment, nature, security, and religion. In her own words, this work “confronts the divide between the privileged access of the few and the limited access of the public.” The objects, sites, and spaces assembled by the artist are integral to America’s foundation, mythology and daily functioning, but nonetheless inaccessible or unknown.

Contraband presents an inventory of items seized by American customs officials at John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York. Simon remained on site over a period of five days and four nights, continuously photographing and collecting data on 1,075 objects that were refused entry to the U.S. These images are classified in a manner reminiscent of an entomological collection: placed within Plexiglas cases, they represent an archive of global desires and perceived threats. 

A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters was produced over a four-year period (2008-2011) during which Simon traveled around the world researching and recording bloodlines and their related stories. In each of the eighteen “chapters” comprising the work, legacies of territory, power, religion and circumstance collide with psychological and physical inheritance. The subjects documented by Simon include victims of genocide in Bosnia, test rabbits infected with a lethal disease in Australia, the first woman to hijack an aircraft, and the living dead in India. Her collection is at once cohesive and arbitrary, mapping relations of chance, blood, and other components of fate. 

The Picture Collection (2013) takes as its subject the New York Public Library’s picture archive, which contains 1.2 million prints, postcards, posters, and printed images. It is the largest circulating picture library in the world, organised according to a complex cataloguing system of over 12,000 subject headings. Since its inception in 1915, it has been an important resource for writers, historians, artists, filmmakers, fashion designers, and advertising agencies. Simon highlights the impulse to archive and organize visual information, and points to the invisible hands behind seemingly neutral systems of image gathering. Simon sees this extensive archive of images as a precursor to Internet search engines. 

Simon’s video works will also be on view. The first, Exploding Warhead (2007) shows a test of an MK-84 IM (Insensitive Munition) Warhead conducted at the Eglin Air Force Base Air Armament Center, in Florida. The Air Armament Center is responsible for the development, testing and deployment of all U.S. air-delivered weapons. This film was taken using a remote sequencer that detonated the warhead from a control bunker. The second, Cutaways (2012), is an absurdist video resulting from a Kafkaesque moment when Simon was being interviewed for Prime Time Russia, a show on the Moscow-based news channel Russia Today. The two presenters, sitting across from Simon, asked her to remain silent for several minutes and stare at them while the scene was filmed for cutaway editing material. The final video work presents Simon’s earliest film, The Innocents, in which she interviews the subjects of her photographs about the process of misidentification. 

Taryn Simon - Bird corpse, labeled as home décor, Indonesia to Miami, Florida (prohibited), 2010

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Grégoire Pujade-Lauraine A Perpetual Season


One of the stand-out books that I came across at the Melbourne Photobook Festival was Grégoire Pujade-Lauraine's elegant and beautifully realised work A Perpetual Season. The book presents an imagined city that we have all encountered, in fragments here and there.
It's seems a hostile place and its occupants appear to be in a dream. There is much to contemplate in this profound work.

A Perpetual Season lays a photographic trail through a dream-like city, offering glimpses into a network of spaces that loom as silent witnesses to some forgotten order. Recurring concrete shapes and perplexed human beings punctuate the journey with a faintly elegiac tone which conjures up an inverted Arcadia, illuminated by the hopes and visions of a bygone era. This is fertile ground for a series of unsettling encounters which act as cryptic symptoms of an ominous presence – a reversed staircase, an unreachable doorway, people frozen in precarious gestures, disturbed conversations.
This 'perpetual season' alludes to a self-contained pictorial space, and the naturalistic approach embedded in such photographic practice is a guise for the construction of a world that ultimately belies its own familiarity. The formal and thematic echoes running throughout the sequence can be viewed as transverse lines drawn within an apparent chaos, connecting discarded buildings with bewildered passers-by, decaying natural arrangements with enigmatic corridors. As each is seemingly doubled or reincarnated, they condense in this peculiar scope of light and space, like an ever-returning cross-section of a global cycle.