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.


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

Symposium: Police Work @Museum of the City of New York

On March 13, 2012 the Museum of the City of New York hosted a symposium on Police Work – a conversation about crime photography. Currently,two exhibitions exploring the subject of crime photography are on view in New York City: ‘Weegee: Murder Is My Business’ through September 2, 2012 at ICP and ‘Police Work: Photographs by Leonard Freed, 1972-1979’ until May 6, 2012 at the Museum of the City of New York. The ICP Chief Curator, Brian Wallis called this fact ‘fantastic coincidence’.

The discussion was moderated by Sean Corcoran, Curator of Prints and Photographs for the Museum of the City of New York. He is the curator of the exhibition Police Work: Photographs by Leonard Freed, 1972-1979 that features photographs of the New York City police, including a recent gift to the Museum of the City of New York by the photographer’s widow, Bridgette Freed. On April 21, 2012, Sean Corcoran will give a tour of the exhibition.

Curator and author, Gail Buckland presented a collection of crime photographs from her book Shots in the Dark: True Crime Pictures (Bulfinch, 2001). She spoke about history of the crime photography and how it influenced the public perception of crimes and criminals. Crime photography made public to know the people behind the stories, sometimes even making a criminal into a superstar. The author emphasized that the book features photographs from police archives including shocking photographs of victims which are a bit hard to take. Gail Buckland mentioned photography as a part of the crime when a murderer would photograph a victim. She also spoke about the growing amount of images of violence that could be found on internet today.

Brian Wallis, International Center of Photography Chief Curator and curator of Weegee: Murder is My Business, spoke on the crime photography of Weegee (born Arthur Fellig, 1899-1968). Working as a freelancer, Weegee documented about five thousands murders. He focused on showing human interest in crime scenes and police work more than on documenting crimes themselves and victims’ bodies (in contrast with police photographers). The first show of Weegee’s photographs called Murder is My Business was opened in 1941 in Photo League. The work was not presented on the walls, Weegee created magazine-like spreads with his b&w photographs and added some colored blood to them. The first book of Weegee’s photographs called Naked City was published in 1945 and became a cult item for collectors. See Jörg Colberg’s presentation of Weegee’s Naked City. Brian Wallis mentioned that Weegee’s photographs can be found at the exhibition The Radical Camera: New York’s Photo League, 1936-1951 on view at the Jewish Museum through March 25, 2012. Leonard Freed’s contact sheet is featured at the exhibition Magnum Contact Sheets on view at ICP through May 6, 2012.

Paul M. Farber, visual/popular culture critic and Leonard Freed scholar from University of Michigan, gave an overview of Leonard Freed’s photographic career. See books featuring Leonard Freed’s photography here. Leonard Freed viewed the police officers as members of the city’s working class and co-citizens. His intent was bit to judge the police activities but rather to show how the officers do their job. The photographer approached his subjects with humanity and at the same time with a critical distance. The work produced by Freed changed the negative public opinion of police of the 1970th. His book, Police Work published in 1980 provided a great insight to the life and work of the police officers seeing them as collaborators for building community and safeguarding democracy. See some spreads of the book Police Work here.

The discussion revealed some important questions about modern society: How police are represented in numbers of popular TV series and what their role is in forming public opinion? How does the police use photography and surveillance cameras and how does that effect our life?  What role does the beautification of crime and violence play in modern society?

Artist Talk: David LaChapelle @SVA

Last night at the SVA Theater photographer, David LaChapelle, discussed his work with writer and curator, Lyle Rexer. The conversation lasted for over two hours and covered David’s career as a fashion/portrait photographer and as a fine artist. This event was presented in conjunction with David LaChapelle’s current exhibition, Earth Laughs in Flowers on view through March 24th at Fred Torres Collaborations.

David LaChapelle uses esthetics and personages of pop culture to discuss and criticize the morality of Western society. The themes that continue to emerge throughout his career are: richness and ownship, church and religion, the circle of birth and death, Africa, and climate changes. He became known as a fashion photographer and tried to push the limits of the medium by incorporating wider ideas, including criticism, into fashion and editorial photography. In 2006, he decided to minimize his participation in commercial photography, re-entered the art world, which earned him more creative freedom.

One of his last series published in the magazine, Vogue Homme, was Recollections In America. David called it ‘Drunk Americans’. It is a deeply critical series inspired by found photographs from family albums.  And, it was still a fashion shoot though it doesn’t to look like it. David LaChappelle stated that even he was amazed that this series got published.

In this advertising campaign produced for German luxury car manufacturer LaChapelle incorporated the idea of climate changes that is partly caused by use of cars:

His project Negative Currency is a critique of money institution:

References to Ancient and Renaissance art can be found in many of David’s works, the photographer likes to use images of Jesus, Madonna, angels, female and male nudes, often in a quite challenging ways. The photograph from Heaven to Hell directly refers us to the Michelangelo’s sculpture the Pietà where Mary is ‘played’ by Courtney Love and Jesus looks like Kurt Cobain…

David LaChapelle’s new series Earth Laughs in Flowers includes ten large-scale still life photographs. It is currently on view at Fred Torres Collaborations being shown for the first time in the United States. All photographs from the exhibition can be seen here.