Vague Storytelling @Camera Club of New York

Exhibition Vague Storytelling opened on September 14, 2012 at the Camera Club of New York (CCNY). The exhibition aimed to present four projects by five artists exploring “the idea of myth and place”. It turns out to be one of those rare occasions when I am able to present the entire exhibition right here in my blog:

From Florian Göttke & Rebecca Sakoun’s project



Photobook Festivals, Competitions, Fairs

Photobook Festivals/Shows

International Photobook Festival
The Kasseler Fotoforum hosted the first festival dedicated to the photobook in 2008 as part of the Kasseler Fotofrühling. After it had been floating around for some time, as a result of many discussions it became a concrete idea to start a festival that was dedicated to the photobook. Thus the International Photobook Festival was born. The festival has two awards: The International Photobook Award and International Photobook Dummy Award 

Photobook Show is a Brighton-based arts organisation, set up in 2011 by William Sadowski and Kevin Beck to raise the profile of artist-led photobooks, with particular focus on self-published or hand-crafted works. It aims to hold several exhibitions a year, alongside talks and workshops, to promote the visibility of photobooks.

PhotoBook London
PhotoBook London is a regular event all about photo books, hosting a weekend long photo book fair, seminars and book reviewing sessions, all with the intention promoting independently, and self published books.

Photofestivals With Photobook Shows/Awards

C/O Berlin – International Forum For Visual Dialogues: Book Days
Established in 2000 as a cultural institution, C/O Berlin integrates photography with design and architecture. The program of Book Days started in 2011 includes book presentations, screenings, discussions and book signings. Open submissions for Photobook Slam Berlin.

Independent Photography Festival: Photo Book & Zine Fair 
The IPF Photo Book & Zine Fair aims to bring together the enormous and diverse spectrum of photo publications, from high-end, perfect bound coffee table books to $2 B/W, saddle-stitched zines, and everything in between.

PHotoEspaña: The Best Photography Books of the Year Exhibition and Awards
Since 1998, prizes have been awarded in three categories: the best Spanish photography book, the best international photography book, and the outstanding publishing house of the year.  The Best Photography Books of the Year exhibition  features the 100 books short-listed for the awards.

PhotoIreland: Book & Magazine Fair and The Library Project
Book & Magazine Fair includes photobooks and photo magazines from all over the world, as well as a rich example of contemporary publications focused on Art, Design and Illustration. The Library Project is a collection of books, magazines and zines on contemporary Photography.

The Rencontres d’Arles: Book Awards
The Rencontres d’Arles (formerly known as the Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie d’Arles) is a summer photography festival founded in 1970. Photobooks for the Book Awards are selected by an open call.

Photobook Competitions:

PBN / Photography Book Now Annual international photobook competition by Blurb

Art Book Fairs

AIPAD Photography Show including photobooks showcase. March, USA

 New York Antiquarian Book Fair April, USA

The Philadelphia Photo Arts Center (PPAC) Annual Book Fair May, USA

ABOUT Independent Publishing Fair For small publishing houses and self-publishers that work within the fields of art and design. May, Germany

London Art Book Fair September, England

NY Art Book Fair September-October, USA

Frankfurt Book Fair October, Germany

Small Publishers Fair November, England

Offprint Paris November, France

Paris Photo 2012 November, France

Amsterdam Art/Book Fair The Netherlands

New York Antiquarian Book Fair. Part 3: Artists’ Books and Special Items.

James Lee Byars – J* Read to Peachy Keen Forme …, 1972 . A beautiful example of a James Lee Byars’ unique original letter art object. Byars’ text, written in his usual stream of consciousness, abbreviated style, communicates several ideas in parallel and extends in a single line along the centre of the sheets for nearly 3 metres. Consists of four conjoined sheets of thick gold metallic paper. An important part of Byars’ oeuvre, influenced by his years living in Japan and the resulting interest in Japanese paper, calligraphy and origami, was the letter as art work, the object and idea in harmony, and the example presented here, to Byars’ friend Jim Butler, with calligraphic text on gold paper with characteristic divagations and abbreviations, is delightfully representative. ‘Byars did, however, maintain communication with many important people in the art world, by means of an artistic correspondence that seems to have been his most consistent practise as an artist. Nearly every day, before dawn, he would rise and begin writing his spectacular letters … They were an extension of the Byars persona, even mirroring his costumes in their strict use of a few select colours and shapes. They were simply mystifying, difficult to read, confusing in their syntax even where legible; Byars was unknown because he was unknowable. One might delight in (or be maddened by) the experience of unfolding a fifty foot long piece of pink tissue paper, only to find the gold writing nearly indecipherable, and the message as much a poetic epigram as a personal communication. One is meant to experience the letters as an aesthetic occasion … ‘. (Frieze magazine, review of the exhibition ‘James Lee Byars: Letters from the World’s Most Famous Unknown Artist’). @Sims Reed Rare Book Shop


New York Antiquarian Book Fair. Part 2: Photobooks.

Artists & Photographs – New York. Multiples, Inc. 1970. A combination of both exhibition and catalogue. Consists of a box containing various ephemera, texts, images and multiples by nineteen leading artists of the 1960s: Mel Bochner, Christo, Jan Dibbets, Dan Graham, Douglas Huebler, Allan Kaprow, Michael Kirby, Joseph Kosuth, Sol LeWitt, Richard Long, Robert Morris, Bruce Nauman, Dennis Oppenheim, Ed Ruscha, Robert Smithson, Bernar Venet, Andy Warhol. With text booklet by Lawrence Alloway. @Sims Reed Rare Book Shop


New York Antiquarian Book Fair. Part 1: Photo Albums.

This year marks the 52nd anniversary of the New York Antiquarian Book FairThe first American antiquarian book fair, that would evolve into the New York Antiquarian Book Fair, was held in New York in 1960. This year’s fair was sponsored by the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America (ABAA) and the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB) and took place at the Park Avenue Armory in New York City on April 12-15, 2012. The     show featured a record number of exhibitors – 212 dealers from 15 countries. (more…)

AIPAD Panel Discussions

On Saturday, March 31, 2012 The AIPAD Photography Show featured a series of special panel discussions sponsored by Ryerson Image Centre, a research center and an exhibition space incorporated into Ryerson University, Canada. I attended two of them.

The first panel: Curator’s Choice: Emerging Artists in Photography was moderated by Lindsay Pollock, editor in chief of Art in America and featured Sarah Meister, curator of Department of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art, Christopher Phillips, curator of the International Center for Photography, and Joshua Chuang, assistant curator of photography at the Yale University Art Gallery. The discussion began with a question: Which artists or work can be considered ‘new/emerging’? Sarah Meister pointed that the age of an artist doesn’t matter; it is not an artist who is new, but his/her work has to be new. Christopher Phillips said he wouldn’t differentiate artists in this way. The curators showed work of the artists they exhibited that they considered ‘new’:
Joshua Chuang – Anthony Hernandez;
Sarah Meister – Michele Abeles, Shanghai duo Birdhead (Song Tao and Ji Weiyu), Moyra DaveyElad LassryHank Willis Thomas;
Some of Christopher Phillips – Anna ShteynshleygerMichelle Charles, Series of books My Private Broadway published by Beijing-based photographer Lin Zhipeng.

Another question was: How does contemporary photography get into collections? Sarah Meister spoke about the Fund for the Twenty-First Century at MoMA, that was created to purchase work produced during last five years by artists who were not presented in the MoMA collection. In this case, curators often look for newer practices and try to present the work the museum audience is not familiar with. Christopher Phillips looks at an artist’s career to find a perspective artist who consistently produces bodies of work. Joshua Chuang considers work that fits artwork from the gallery collection and that is not limited to the photographic medium.

The participants also discussed the problem of digital photography. Everybody has a camera now and can produce images, there is an overwhelming amount of images on the internet. The curators talked about a trend of incorporating internet images into artists’ work (ex. Doug Rickard) and how a museum can deal with such kind of practices. With the digitalizing of old photographs, photography past is growing as well. We are overwhelmed with pictures in this image saturated culture.

Speaking about new work, many of curators pointed that new artists come from all over the world – China, South Korea, Brazil. In order to understand their work, we have to learn a background of the artists and a context that the work was made in.

The second panel: A Celebration of Francesca Woodman commemorated the traveling retrospective of Francesca Woodman (organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, on view at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum through June 13, 2012 ). The panel was moderated by Robert Klein of the Robert Klein Gallery in Boston and included Julia Bryan-Wilson, associate professor of art history at the University of California, Berkeley, Sloan Keck, a designer and friend of Francesca Woodman, and Elisabeth Subrin, a video artist. Julia Bryan-Wilson is an author of the essay featured in the catalog of Francesca Woodman’s show in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The essay surveys the critical and art historical literature that has proliferated around Woodman’s art. Elisabeth Subrin presented (or at least tried) a 36-minute video The Fancy (2000), an ‘experimental biography’ of Francesca Woodman exploring the interpretation of Woodman’s work and life based on published records only (ReadWatch the trailer). The discussion bounced from one subject to another, including questions: How interpretation of curators differ from the artist intent? What artists did influence Francesca? Sloan Keck, who was a close friend of Francesca since freshman year at RISD contributed some stories behind the photographs, talked on Francesca’s personality and read some experts from Woodman’s diaries.

On the break between panels, I went to The AIPAD Photography Show quite spontaneously. (I intended to attend the two panel discussions only but thanks to a photography collector who gave me a spare pass I got to see the show itself.) At AIPAD for the first time, I could hardly believe that I was seeing this enormous amount of photography history mixed with contemporary work in one location. The show was extremely overwhelming and I won’t even try to write about it at this time. Just some remarks about photobooks. There were two photobook dealer booths at the show:

Harper’s Books, founded in 1997, is a bookshop and gallery located in East Hampton, New York. It specializes in rare photography, art, and literary books. Among one-of-a-kind items Harper’s Books had on display Alec Soth’s notebook for his project The Most Beautiful Woman in Georgia and the mock-up of Ken Schles’ Invisible City. Check out the incredible list of items Harper’s Books presented at the AIPAD show. Thanks to Helka Aleksdóttir for sharing the opportunity to see those books. Look for the reviews at her wonderful blog.

Another photobook dealer was Jeff Hirsch Books from Evanston, IL., specializing in used and rare photography monographs and modern first editions.

One of the wonderful items I saw at the show is a book of famous George Tice’s photographs titled American Beauty presented by Nailya Alexander Gallery. It is a book of 24 Platinum/Palladium 8″x10″ prints on Japanese gambi paper. The book is slipcased and measures 16 x 14 inches. The preorder price is $18.000, the starting market price will be $20.000.

The AIPAD Photography Show creates a wonderful environment to look at photography treasures, to learn about the history of the medium and to experience museum-quality prints.

Book Signing: Photographs Not Taken @ICP

Photographs Not Taken, a book conceived and edited by Will Steacy with an introduction by Lyle Rexer, was recently published by Daylight. ‘The Photographs Not Taken is a collection of essays by photographers about the times they didn’t use their camera’ – stated Will Steacy. The book includes 62 stories from photographers about great images that they saw but, for one reason or another, didn’t photograph.

Photographs Not Taken features essays contributed by photographers: Dave Anderson, Timothy Archibald, Roger Ballen, Thomas Bangsted, Juliana Beasley, Nina Berman, Elinor Carucci, Kelli Connell, Paul D’Amato, TIm Davis, KayLynn Deveney, Doug Dubois, Rian Dundon, Amy Elkins, Jim Goldberg, Emmet Gowin, Gregory Halpern, TIm Hetherington, Todd Hido, Rob Hornstra, Eirik Johnson, Chris Jordan, Nadav Kander, Ed Kashi, Misty Keasler, Lisa Kereszi, Erika Larsen, Shane Lavalette, Deana Lawson, Joshua Lutz, David Maisel, Mary Ellen Mark, Laura McPhee, Michael Meads, Andrew Moore, Richard Mosse, Zwelethu Mthethwa, Laurel Nakadate, Ed Panar, Christian Patterson, Andrew Phelps, Sylvia Plachy, Mark Power, Peter Riesett, Simon Roberts, Joseph Rodriguez, Stefan Ruiz, Matt Salacuse, Alessandra Sanguinetti, Aaron Schumann, Jamel Shabazz, Alec Soth, Amy Stein, Mark Steinmetz, Joni Sternbach, Hank Willis Thomas, Brian Ulrich, Peter Van Agtmael, Massimo Vitali, Hiroshi Watanabe, Alex Webb, Rebecca Norris Webb.

Tonight March 23, 2012 the ICP store hosted a signing of the book Photographs Not Taken. Thanks to Will Steacy, Lyle Rexer, Thomas Bangsted, Juliana Beasley, Lisa Kereszi, Peter Riesett, and Peter Van Agtmael for signing my copy.

Photographs Not Taken can be purchased here (find some audio excerpts from the book too!)

The Guardian
Whiteboard Journal

The Radical Camera: New York’s Photo League, 1936-1951 @Jewish Museum

One of the most important photography exhibitions of this (and may be last) year, The Radical Camera: New York’s Photo League, 1936-1951 at the Jewish Museum is closing this weekend. The show presented the work of the Photo League members, known for capturing sharply revealing, compelling moments from everyday life.  The exhibition included 150 black and white photographs from 73 different photographers covering the period from roughly 1910 to 1959, with a concentration between 1936 and 1951. If you didn’t have a chance to visit the exhibition, have a look at the Jewish Museum website that features information on history of the Photo League, artists, selected photographs from the show, and a Photo League photomap as a nice interactive element.

From the New York Times review: ‘A collaboration between the Jewish Museum and the Columbus Museum of Art, which both have extensive holdings of Photo League work, “Radical Camera” was organized by the team of Mason Klein (from the Jewish Museum) and Catherine Evans (from the Columbus Museum). The exhibition is, in some ways, as unwieldy as its subject. The curators have a lot to say about documentary photography in general, which went through a kind of growth spurt between the Depression and the Cold War, nurtured by an explosion of photojournalism in magazines like Life and Look. They deserve a lot of credit, though, for capturing the breadth and spirit of the league. There are some big names in “Radical Camera,” but the show’s best moments involve lesser-known talents like Lucy Ashjian, Jerome Liebling and Sid Grossman.’

From DLK Collection review:  ‘This show is roughly chronological, and this design allows the viewer to see the evolving stylistic approaches being employed by League members over the years of the club’s existence. Simplistically, one can imagine a continuum, at one end, documentary photography informed by activism, engagement and advocacy, a witness with an ideological purpose and a particular kind of social commentary to put forth. At the other end lies documentary photography informed by more subjective concerns, including individual emotions/reactions, aesthetics, formalism, and more personal questioning. As the years passed from 1936 to 1951 (the beginning and end of the League’s operation), it is possible to watch this internal debate raging on, where a new sensibility gradually starts to take hold.’

The exhibition catalog was published by Yale University Press and available online as well as at the Jewish Museum store.

There is also a film titled ‘Ordinary Miracles: The Photo League’s New York‘. It is the first documentary that tells the story of the Photo League. The film features interviews with a dozen surviving League members. Campbell Scott’s narration and 350 images paint a unique and unexpected portrait of New York City from the 1939 World’s Fair to Be-Bop and Abstract Expressionism. I didn’t find it on DVD but hopefully it will be available soon.


The Radical Camera was an important show to see. It included a lot of forgotten names and showed unique details of New York history. The main reason is very well explained by DLK Collection, and I will quote this review again: ‘I finally started to visually understand the small steps that made up the aesthetic and conceptual changes that took place between the 1930s and the 1950s, those missing evolutionary links between Abbott and Frank; The Americans now seems to me less like a thunder strike of genius out of nowhere and more like an innovative, original extrapolation from visual ideas that were already beginning to percolate around. <…> But the reason I found this to be one of the best photography shows of the year is that it also successfully fills in an important (and largely missing) gap in the recounting of the American photographic narrative.’

As my personal observation/note at the end of this post, here are some photographs from the exhibition with the same formal structure based on multiplicity of similar elements:

1.Consuelo Kanaga, Untitled (Tenements, New York), c. 1937

2. Jack Manning – Elks Parade, Harlem, from Harlem Document, 1939

3. Arthur Leipzig – Doll Factory, 1949

Panel: Photography in Flux – Reinventing the Medium organized by Art in America

The March 2012 issue of Art in America, for the first time is fully devoted to American photography. In connection with this fact, the magazine organized a panel discussion Photography in Flux: Reinventing the Medium hosted by art company Phillips de Pury & Co on March 15, 2012.

The panel was moderated by curator, writer and Art in America contributing editor, Marvin Heiferman. He noted that there is no a single way to think of photography. Photography is now in the stage of radical transformation, but the medium was always about a change. Digital revolution has been happening for about forty years since the first digital camera was invented in 1975.

Photo: Vintage 1975 portable all electronic still camera.

Heiferman recalled numerous discussions in the photography community that recently took place and raised such questions as: Is photography dead? What’s next? Photography has also caused cultural and social changes and has a great impact on our life. Photography is a medium that is always in flux. Marvin Heiferman’s exploration of photography is featured in his new book Photography Changes Everything that will be published by Aperture in June 2012.

Matthew Witkovsky, curator and chair of the department of photography at the Art Institute of Chicago, spoke of the changing medium from the museum perspective.He noted that changes affected not only photography as a single discipline, but the whole world of art making. Since Hugh Edwards became a Curator of Prints & Drawings at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1959, the photography collection of the museum represents diversity of photographic medium. The Art Institute of Chicago tries to fit a variety of photographic practices through exhibitions that feature diversity of works – photobooks, snapshots, combination of sound and images, conceptual photography – and through a variety of ways, the museum uses the exhibition space to present the work.

Artist, Roe Ethridge, spoke on his practice of the photography medium. He incorporates his commercial work into his personal projects. From 2005 to 2010, the artist was commissioned to photograph the construction of the Goldman Sachs building in lower Manhattan. This work became a basis for his book Le Luxe published by Mack Books. See the book here.

Dealer and Wallspace Gallery owner, Jane Hait, spoke of the diversity of photographic practices by the artists presented at her gallery. Walead Beshty, explores the relation between the materiality of the photograph and its topic. Daniel Gordon, had another approach to the material side of photography – he photographs three dimensional sculptures created from images found on the web. Mark Wyse, works with history of the medium – he cuts out images from the other photographers’ books and pairs them discovering new meanings of well known images.  Shannon Ebner, returned in her practice to handmade simple materials constructing objects and photographing them. John Divola, in his series Zuma Beach, 1977–78 performed for the camera.

Critic Vince Aletti talked about photobooks as an original form of presenting photography projects. He was one of writers featured in The Book of 101 Books: Seminal Photographic Books of the Twentieth Century (2001). Aletti presented some examples of significant photobooks – William Klein ‘New York’ (1956), Richard Avedon and Truman Capote ’Observations’ (1959), Bruce Weber ‘All-American Volume Eleven: Just Life’ (2011), Alec Soth ‘Sleeping by the Mississippi’ (2004), Collier Schorr ‘Jens F.’ (2005), Paul Graham ‘a shimmer of possibility’ (2007). Historically a photobook was a way to show the work before the galleries and museums were interested in photography. Now a photography book has become a special form of presenting the body of work as a piece and in the sequence. Many photographers like the scale of photobook and the control they have on how their work is being seen. The way a photobook delivers work can’t be duplicated in the exhibition. Aletti noted that the photobook stayed a favorite form of presenting the work for many artists and the interest in photobooks is rapidly growing.

During the discussion there were some questions raised: What is the difference between electronic images and photographs as objects? How does the physicality or its absence impact the work? What is the difference in our reactions when we look at the photograph on screen compared with a printed picture? How do we select images that deserves more attention than the others? How do we divide art from the overwhelming number of images that are out there?

Art in America’s March 2012 issue features Luc Sante’s essay on Weegee, Leah Ollman’s article on Robert Frank, Steve Watson’s writing on Lillian Bassman, a number of articles on contemporary photography including a discussion Photography Now, exhibitions and books reviews. A lot to read and to learn!

Panel: PDN’s 30 – Strategies for Young Working Photographers @SVA

On March 14, 2012 the School of Visual Arts hosted a panel titled, PDN’s 30: Strategies for Young Working Photographers, organized by Photo District News (PDN), the monthly magazine for the professional photographers. The panel moderated by PDN’s Editor, Holly Hughes included 2012 PDN’s 30 photographers Sam Kaplan, Peter Ash Lee and Ryan Pfluger, as well as Andy Katz from Sony Artisan of Imagery, and Clinton Cargill, Associate Photo Editor of the New York Times Magazine.

The young photographers discussed how they got to where they are today, including how they got their first job and how they structured and financed their first promotional efforts. Clinton Cargill talked about working on the magazine story from an editor’s perspective and explained how a photographer gets chosen to shoot a story. He also presented a number of stories that were shot by photographers for the New York Times Magazine Magazine as their first assignments.

Among recommendations for emerging editorial photographers given by the speakers were:
– Choose the range of themes or subjects you like to photograph.
– Develop your style and esthetics through practice. Look at work of photographers you like for ideas, but always try to create something original.
– Create a portfolio/book, and show your best work.
– Design your promo materials. Have a clean, clear and concise website. Be consistent in your design and pay attention to every detail – it is your brand!
– Research the magazines and people you would like to work with.
– Try to show your work to these magazines. Send promotional materials, go to portfolio reviews, make connections. Don’t be intrusive.
– Even if you don’t get jobs at the very beginning, keep working and let other professionals see your work.
– Be consistent in your work and persistent in promoting it. Be patient and your clients will come to you.

The panel was followed by a reception with a possibility of beginning to make professional connections right there.

More: PDN’s blog