Author Archives: Aline - lenscratch.blogspot.com/

NAKED JUDGING: The 2012 Canteen Awards in Photography

Due date for this contest is December 30th!!

Canteen Magazine publisher, Stephen Pierson, contacted me recently about a ground breaking idea for a photography contest, NAKED JUDGING: The 2012 Canteen Awards in Photography.  Canteen is a highly respected magazine and Stephen has given this idea a lot of thought–the idea is to have a completely transparent contest, where judging is live, so that participants can experience the behind the scenes drama of how things are selected. All submissions will have some kinds of critique, and there will be a clear presentation of how all submission monies are spent.  I will be partnering with Canteen to provide the on-line exposure for the winners. This indeed, is a contest unlike any other…

Naked Judging: The 2012
Canteen Awards in Photography
Canteen magazine is holding our second photography contest
because of our general disdain for photography contests. They tend to be opaque
affairs that stifle dialogue—the winners are chosen, no one quite knows why,
and 99% of the participants are left without their entrance fee or an
explanation. The real winners are the organizations1 
that run and profit exorbitantly from them.

We are trying to do
something different. Namely, treat our participants as partners. We aim to be
fully transparent about the entire selection process, placing the judges’
criteria, biases, and disagreements on full, naked display. The result, we
hope, will be an honest and provocative conversation about photography.

To these ends, Naked
Judging: The 2012 Canteen Awards in Photography offers several novel features:
      
A live finale: The final
round of judging, featuring the top 25 submissions, will occur in front of a
live audience, and will be simultaneously streamed online. Prior to the winners
being selected, audience members (both in-person and online) can probe the
judges with questions.

      Every submission openly
critiqued:
Similar to our first photo contest, brief notes/critiques
from all judging rounds will be available on our website for every submission.
      
Longer-form critiques:
The winning submission and other select submissions will be the subject of
longer-form discussions and essays in the next print issue of Canteen magazine,
and through this contest’s official partner, Lenscratch.
In addition, select participants will be given the opportunity to publicly
respond to the judges’ comments.

     
Nonprofit model: We are
not only providing a low entry fee ($20 for 5 to 8 images, and $15 for
students), but we will document on our website how every dollar is spent. At
the contest’s conclusion, any profits will be refunded back to the entrants.

We hope not only that our
contest will produce a provocative dialogue about photography, but also that it
will nudge other organizations into adopting practices that are friendlier to
the community of photographers that they purport to represent.

For
questions and feedback email Stephen Pierson, Canteen’s Director.



Stephen Strom

Stephen Strom has a retrospective exhibition at the Verve Gallery in Santa Fe, closing January 19th, but he is is not slowing down by any means.  Stephen has a new book, Sand Mirrors that is “a marriage of poetry by Zen teacher Richard Clarke and photographs by Stephen Strom.”

Stephen spent his professional career as an astronomer and began photographing in 1978.  His work, largely interpretations of landscapes, has been exhibited widely throughout the United States and is held in several permanent collections. His photography complements poems and essays in three books published by the University of Arizona Press: Secrets from the Center of the World, a collaboration with Muscogee poet Joy Harjo; Sonoita Plain: Views of a Southwestern Grassland, a collaboration with ecologists Jane and Carl Bock; Tseyi (Deep in the Rock): Reflections on Canyon de Chelly co-authored with Navajo poet Laura Tohe; as well in : Otero Mesa: America’s Wildest Grassland, with Gregory McNamee and Stephen Capra, University of New Mexico Press (2008). A monograph comprising 43 images, Earth Forms, was published in 2009 by Dewi Lewis Publishing.

Sand Mirrors
The images in
Sand Mirrors — which might be called metaphorical photographs — were taken on a
variety of beaches located along 
the Northern
California and Oregon coasts during 2007-2011.
These beaches are
notable for their relative isolation, expanse, 
stark uplifted
and eroded rocks. backdrop of richly foliated coastal 
cliffs, and
variety of sands (basalts; silicates).

This compelling
landscape was born in a cataclysmic collision 
of continental
plates and vigorous vulcanism, and shaped over 
millennia by
continuing tectonic activity, and the erosive power 
of the Pacific
Ocean. Fresh water streams flow through many of 
these beaches,
carrying silt and minerals seaward from the nearby 
coastal range. It
is the merging of ocean sands and finely ground 
minerals at the
interface of fresh water and ocean tides that creates 
patterns that are
at once transient, yet somehow timeless as well.

By recording
these patterns, Stephen Strom aspires to achieve the nearly possible: evoking
the seen and unseen rhythms of an ever-changing landscape, reshaped by wind,
tide, and the pulse of the earth itself.

The images invite
viewers to “quiet wonder at these few inches of sand that proclaim perfection’
and to remind them in the words of Lao Tzu “to the mind that is still, the
whole universe surrenders.”
 not wings of butterfly nor of bird

primordial
crafting on the shifting sands
of shadows of
forms to come
blue
among the
wandering lines
of mind that
tries to contain
or explicate
than leave it
as it is
in awe and
quiet wonder
at these few
inches
that proclaim
perfection
on this beach
for us to
stop
to stop and
see

 so neatly pieced together

with bold
dynamism
as we would
like our life to be —
smooth,
impervious and impeccable
a joy to
behold and to show to others
but what
really is
this fabric,
this tissue of self?
could it be
that it is
as mutable and
ungraspable and transient
as water and
sand?

 we keep seeking out and coming back

with faith —
the proof of things unseen,
that certainty
which, though yet unknown,
draws us on;
the sandy
surface an analog of simple silence
which all
those who directly know the Path
cultivate
as the place
of opening —
so here it
seems a tear in that surface,
yet what is
revealed beneath
is of one
substance with that which seems torn:
tantalizingly
blue feathery hints
that all our
seeking may only hide from us
what only
silencing will give some chance
at revelation
that
knowing is
intimacy

 are these building blocks for a nascent future

or shards from
the last great kalpa
our future is
our past and our past our future
or so it has
been said
converging
onto this point without dimension
that is now
we cannot but
look
and reflect
upon what affinity
what resonance
what aesthetic
compels us to
stop
and not walk
by

 needle and thread invented before the world needed them

no fabric but
sand and water
but sand and
water accommodates to the thread
like an oxbow
river
things that
otherwise might seem bizarre together
come out fine
on an Oregon beach
wear one
sandal and no other clothing
play a flute
you can hardly hear above the ocean surf
sand and water
blend it all into the one organism that it is
a real world
bigger than our rules


sea-crafted jewels emerge
from sand’s
soft silky fabric
with no one
and nothing to adorn
intrusions
into the stark innocence
of a
sufficient world that never asked for them
whose hidden
reaches lie modestly above and beyond
unwanted
treasures —
begs us to ask
what or who confers value on jewels?
or deems them
treasure?
and why would
naked beauty
wish further
adornment?

our lady stands before us
bedecked in
fishes scales
snakeskin and
Irish lace
her
translucent robe
hangs loose
upon her wondrous body
she rises from
the ocean in tidal time
gives us
demonstrations of skills
designs
of symmetries
we had not even hoped to see
we poor
landlocked creatures
that only
replicate and model
what she can
vision and create

it does seem that we might be viewing the sketchpad
of the
designer of many things
or doodles of
nothing at all
yet
everything in
this world comes from nothing at all
all
derives from
this generative exploration
a pencil
on a sketchpad
finding forms that appeal
that interact
what we are as
human beings
through all
the time we’ve ever known.
ocean holder
of all origins and memories
lays a record
down in sand
transient
between today and tomorrow
ideas
buildings empires of cities
and rooftops
streets and alleys
just this
where or what
or
sand-thoughts knowing not
what the next
wave might bring

an abstract artist or the imagined god create
from
Emptiness, the pregnant void
leave their
creations for a brief time in these compliant sands
until the next
cycle —
strong yet
gentle perfect curves
decisive
strokes
declaring what
mere words can never say —
their
magnetism holds us
to look and
maybe see
what silence
and the sounds of sand and sea
announce
ceaselessly —
if we but come
with patience
matching in
our timeless being
their
unhindered Source

in these few inches on the beach
vast river
basins being topographed
and in another
blink
are waving
strands of grasses
fossilized by
light
in flesh-soft
sand
until another
era washes over
by creator
wave

Louis Porter

Louis Porter is a little like a novelist who looks at the urban landscape for clues to weave together into stories. He has been photographing those clues and categorizing them into an collection titled The Small Conflict Archive.  They are humorous in their simplicity and telling in the small narratives that they create. Louis a British born photographer who currently lives and works in Melbourne.  His work has been exhibited widely throughout Australia and internationally. He has published books with independent publishers in Australia, France and England and been included in the photographic compendiums Hijacked II (Big City Press) and The Collector’s Guide to Emerging Fine Art Photography (Humble Arts). He recently established his own publishing imprint, Twenty Shelves.

The
Small
Conflict
Archive 
The Small Conflict Archive is a collection of fragments, markers and traces of a minor
conflict, which can be easily found on the surface of any modern town or city. These
are not the conflicts that make the evening news: the protracted wars, acts of
terrorism, murders and kidnappings. Instead, The Small Conflict Archive contains
evidence of perforations, in what might be considered a typical day. What constitutes
a perforation is diverse and subjective: it might be a broken key, some discriminatory
graffiti or even a spilt carton of milk. What unifies the objects and photographs in the
archive is their ubiquity; the archive is first and foremost a collection of familiar
things. 
What the Small Conflict Archive proposes, is that the material aspects of urban space,
should not be considered as merely functional, aesthetic or unwanted, but also as
symbolic and potentially empathetic devices. The objects and photographs collected
for the archive, have been sifted from the soil of the everyday and although some of
them standout more than others, they have all sat undisturbed, waiting to be
collected or photographed. It is from the prosaic remnants of daily life that
archeologists build our understanding of the past. But for the Small Conflict Archive, it
is these very remnants that we can also construct our understanding of the present.



Bad Driving

On any given day, countless pieces of street furniture have their utilitarian roles
abruptly brought into question by careless driving, and it is the results of these
minor mishaps that are the subject of Bad Driving. As a foot passenger in life I have
always been acutely aware of the impact of cars on the urban environment.
Sometimes I wonder for whose benefit many cities have been built, its citizens or its
cars. These points of impact, the twisted poles and buckled signs, become selfreferencing
historical markers, that sink into the surface of the city, becoming almost
invisible.

Crap Paint Jobs

The series of photographs depicting Crap Paint Jobs, like the majority of the sections
in the archive, portrays the remnants of an event, the protagonist of which is no
longer present. In its practical manifestation, painting an object, particularly one in a
public space, is by its very nature an act engaged in aesthetic harmony. The object is
painted to either fit in with its environment, or (especially in commercial settings)
stand out.  

Two extremes of environment come to mind, the historic centre of a European city, where the way a thing is painted might be legislated in order to maintain a sense of cultural authenticity and an outer suburban shopping complex, where almost identical prefabricated concrete boxes, are painted wildly different colours, in order to differentiate themselves from one another. In either example, if the paintjob is done rather badly, the overall tone of the surrounding area is called into question. 

Crap things tend to multiply and travel in packs. If the previous painter has done a terrible job, the standard required by the next painter to do a reasonable job lowers. Although the suggestion is not that a poorly painted lamp post can set in motion a chain of events, that lead to the collapse of a civilization, its contribution to a sense of urban decline is a subject of great interest to The Small Conflict Archive.

Signs of a Struggle

Like many of the sets in the Small Conflict Archive, Signs of a Struggle began with a
single visual encounter that set in motion a series of thoughts. Seeing a spilt paint can
at the base of a small hill in suburbia, I wondered what events had led up to the
incident and what had resulted from it. This paint can was, I decided, evidence of a
moment of a minor conflict in life. Perhaps it was the “straw that broke the camels
back”, perhaps later that day the owner decided not to paint the fence after all,
perhaps that was for the best. 

I decided to search out more of these tell tale signs. Signs of a Struggle, therefore searches out and collects the traces of accidents, mishaps, disagreements and other deviations in the smooth running of life. There is naturally a large amount of conjecture in any such exercise, as it is impossible to know the exact circumstances of how a spade was broken or a pot of paint spilt. This series and the archive as a whole, should therefore be considered more a musing on the symbolic nature of objects, than a series of confirmed and catalogued facts.

Julia Dean: Forty Years Behind the Camera

A dozen years ago, photographer Julia Dean changed my life by asking me to teach at her photography school, The Julia Dean Photo Workshops in Los Angeles. Over the past thirteen years, Julia has taught hundreds of classes, thousands of students, and exposed the Los Angeles community to photographic luminaries and educators such as Keith Carter, Duane Michals, Mary Ellen Mark and many others too numerous to count.  Her school has created a photographic community in Los Angeles, a place to share portolios over a glass of wine, a place to hear lectures, experience wonderful exhibitions, and take a broad array of classes (160 offered each year). Julia’s desire to open our eyes, to see one world, and to bring attention to those who have no voice has been remarkable.  Her generous and enthusiastic spirit is infectious and I feel so lucky to be her friend.  So today I celebrate a woman who has spent a lifetime engaged, enthused, and involved in photography.


Julia has spent the last year revisiting negatives and spending month upon month in the darkroom creating beautiful silver prints in preparation for a 40 year retrospective of her work that opens at the Julia Dean Gallery in Los Angeles tomorrow night, December 15th.  I am featuring work from her General Stores project today — she recently rediscovered the negatives and printed the images for the first time for the exhibition.  Julia is also offering photographs from the exhibition for sale online at a special anniversary price on her site.


Forty Years Behind the Camera: A Retrospective

When I worked as an apprentice to Berenice Abbott’s in 1978, I was 23 years old. Berenice was 80. 


She taught me how to print, among many other photographic skills. She taught me about life in Paris in the 20s, about working with Man Ray, about meeting and photographing people like Eugene Atget, James Joyce, and Jean Cocteau. She even taught me how to do the Charleston. 


I remember using an 8×10 camera with 8×10 film and an 8×10 enlarger. The film had to be processed in complete darkness, one sheet at a time, in 8×10 trays that you lined up just right so you knew what to do in the dark. 


images from General Stores

I learned how to bend light with my hands under an enlarger, how to add light, how to subtract light, how to make a print look just like our eyes saw the subject when the picture was taken. I learned that photography renders 10 tones compared to the hundreds of tones that our eyes can differentiate. I learned that it can take hours to get one good print.

I also learned how to flatten the prints, how to retouch the dust spots, and the patience it takes to produce one beautiful black & white fiber base print.

 I was asked recently what the difference is between the traditional role of film and the digital era. It is very simple. It is much easier to be a photographer today than it was in the past. (Photographers before me would say the same thing!) Though today’s cameras are much heavier than my Leica M6 and have more buttons, once you learn your tools, digital photography makes life quicker and easier.

I don’t look down on those who didn’t learn the hard way. I wouldn’t have minded an easier path myself. But I am grateful for knowing what I know about photography that digital shooters will never know: the craft of the black & white print. 

To me, there is no more beautiful craft in photography than the black & white print from a black & white negative. I learned from a master and for that I am eternally grateful. Printing is a dying art that I hope I never give up, even if I, too, have embraced digital. This retrospective exhibit is in honor of the beautiful black & white print.

SW Regional SPE: Carol S. Dass

Sharing photographers that I met at the SW Regional SPE Conference hosted by the Center of Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins, Colorado….

Carol S. Dass has created a project, Mother, where she looks at the significant female figure in her life with a new perspective–not as the woman who raised her, but as a human being with her own history and dreams. As children (and even as adults) it is difficult to see our parents outside of our familial arena, but then again, it works both ways–as parents, our children will always be our children–people to be watched over and concerned about.

Carol was born in Oakland, California, raised in rural Missouri and she received her BA in Art from Northwest Missouri State University. She has lived in Colorado Springs for 30 years and has been an instructor of photography at the University of Colorado – Colorado Springs for the past 12 years. Carol’s work has been shown nationally and is in the collections of the Denver Art Museum, the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center and numerous private collections.

MOTHER 

Typed out in bold that word seems foreign to me. Partly because I have never been or will ever be a mother. As I move through this life, thinking about aging and one’s place in the world a lot of time has recently been spent with my mother. She has been alone for several years, and I have been seeing her with new eyes while listening to her history. It’s funny how growing up we tend to view our mother’s as just that “Mother”, unable to see beyond that role of the woman who carried me in her womb, raised me the best that she could, and will in many ways continue to view me as a child regardless of my age. 

My mother was forced to work to support us, went back to night school while working and taking care of nearby relatives. She was not at home to greet me with a plate of warm cookies when I came home from school asking after my day. I remember when I was an adult coming into my own finally seeing my mother as a “person”, a unique individual who had many adventures and stories to tell. 

The reasons behind perceived and real dysfunction became easier to understand. These images are a small documentation of “mother”, a reflection of what has occurred and what is ahead. 

SW Regional SPE: Skott Chandler

Sharing photographers that I met at the SW Regional SPE Conference hosted by the Center of Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins, Colorado….

I think most of us would like to think we lead interesting lives, but Colorado photographer, Skott Chandler provides the evidence that much of what we do is routine or banal. Skott gave a spirited presentation at SPE that spoke to his creative approaches to making images. The photographs featured today from his project, House Watch, are the result of self-created pinhole cameras secured to the ceilings of a whole host of living spaces.  The results reflect how people (and dogs) use space–those who are in focus or semi-focus are more stationary, those who disappear are only moving through the room.

Skott is a  photographic artist in Denver, Colorado where he teaches at the Art Institute of Colorado. He received his degree in Studio Art at Southern Utah University, and during that time he received a UGRASP (Undergraduate Research and Scholarship Program) grant for his surreal Photocubism series.
He then received his MFA from the Savannah College of Art and Design. Skott has exhibited work throughout the United States, as well as internationally in Bordeaux, France, Hong Kong, and Geneva, Switzerland. His work was selected for Klopmpching Gallery’s inaugural FRESH 2011 photography competition and he was recognized by Gallery 263 in Cambridge, MA, as one of the Top 30 Emerging Artist Under 30 for 2011.

 House Watch

Humans have many levels of connection with their personal spaces. Narratives within these domestic spaces differ depending on the inhabitants and their activities that may be mundane, ambiguous, hilarious, absurd, or unsettling. The space within a house affects the inhabitants, and the inhabitants affect the space–an oddly intriguing phenomenon that proves difficult to visualize. 

Creating a photographic representation of such an abstract emotional experience was my motivation. The photographs take the perspective of an omniscient voyeur investigating the dynamics of space within a home. Ceiling mounted pinhole cameras cast an unflinching gaze upon the inhabitants and rooms within the walls; not to judge, but to witness.

SW Regional SPE: Brenda Biondo

Sharing photographers that I met at the SW Regional SPE Conference hosted by the Center of Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins, Colorado….

When I met Brenda Biondo and spent time with her terrific project, Once Upon a Playground, I realized that it had so much potential–as a teaching tool, as a museum exhibition, and as a book. As a teaching tool, it was a great reflection of how a project forms, from a few photographs and ideas, growing into significant research of a subject adding additional layers of insight and thought. As Brenda states, she discovered that no institution is documenting objects of play, and her project may one day, be an important historical record.  Her museum options range from Children’s Museums, The Museum of Play, the Smithsonian, and a host of other options.  Finally, the book dummy that she shared in Colorado is a thorough and fascinating look at the history of playgrounds. Publishers, where are you?

Brenda received B.A. degree in communication arts from James Madison University in Virginia. After working in corporate communications in Manhattan and Washington, DC for a decade, she left the corporate world to focus on freelance writing. As a writer, she had her work published in The Washington Post, The Denver Post, The Christian Science Monitor, USA Weekend magazine and many other publications. In 2004, she decided to discontinue writing in order to concentrate on fine art photography. Her work has appeared in group and solo shows throughout the country, including exhibits at the Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins, CO; the Hubbard Museum for the American West in Ruidoso Downs, NM; the Dairy Center for the Arts in Boulder, CO; and the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, VA. A native New Yorker, Brenda now lives in a small Colorado town at the base of Pikes Peak with her husband and two children.

Once Upon A Playground 

This was the first project I started after turning 40 and having my first kid. Even though I had been taking photographs for more than two decades, I had never pursued it seriously until then. As I was thinking about subjects I could shoot with a baby in tow, I began noticing that the local parks I visited with my young daughter hardly ever had the type of equipment I had grown up with. 

For the past nine years, I’ve worked on this project on and off, traveling around the country photographing whatever old playground equipment I can find in schoolyards and public parks. I see this series as a type of cultural archeology, because playgrounds have played such a prominent role in the lives of American children for generations. The classic metal and wood structures were a distinctive element of the American landscape for most of the 20th century and are part of the personal histories of most Americans over the age of 30. 
The towering metal slides, spine-jarring seesaws, colorful spinners and other classic equipment was gone from most playgrounds. As I started focusing on these childhood icons, I realized that the equipment designs often reflected the popular culture of the times, with geometric metal and wood apparatus of the early 1900s supplemented by pieces in the shape of cowboys and Indians, Wizard of Oz and Charlie Brown characters, rocket ships and satellites, motorcycles and geodesic domes during the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. 

Unfortunately, it gets harder to find this equipment with each passing year. When schools and towns renovate their playgrounds, the old equipment is almost always hauled away to the scrap yard. As far as I can tell, no institution — hello, Smithsonian — is collecting and preserving this equipment. I can’t remember how I stumbled across the first playground catalog on eBay, but I began buying them whenever one came up for auction, not really sure what I would do with them but knowing they provided historical context for my photographs. 

After several years, I had nearly two dozen catalogs, published from 1920 through 1975, along with a growing pile of historical playground postcards. I’ve recently combined the historical documents with my photographs and created a book on Blurb to show to potential publishers. All the elements of the book are viewable on my website, www.onceuponaplayground.com.

SW Regional SPE: Vivian Keulards

Sharing photographers that I met at the SW Regional SPE Conference hosted by the Center of Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins, Colorado….

Meeting Vivian Keulards in Colorado was a complete pleasure and her wonderful projects set the tone for a new friendship and fan club. It’s hard not to respond to an image like the one below, simply a portrait of a neighbor, but obviously there was more to the story from her series, 80439, Bloody Mary and Sloppy Joe

And then there was her adoration of redheads, in her series, Elusive Beauty…

Vivian was born and raised in the Netherlands and currently lives in Evergreen, Colorado. In 2009 she received a degree from the Photo Academy in Amsterdam and she gained a Master Degree in Communication Science at the KUN University (Nijmegen, Netherlands). She also participated in inspiring Master classes of Carl de Keyzer, Rob Hornstra and more.

Vivian was a Critical Mass finalist and she was selected for the NEW Dutch Photography Talent book (by the makers of the magazine GUP) this year. Her work is part of several public collections and the work has been exhibitied widely.  Six of her portraits from the series Elusive Beauty are currently on display at the Ogden Museum in New Orleans and her  project 80439, Bloody Mary and Sloppy Joe will open in January 2013 as a solo exhibition at CPAC in Denver.

Elusive Beauty 

They will likely be extinct in the next 100 years: red headed children. Only one percent of the human population carries this unique red head gene. 


 For years now those children take my breath away; the orange/red hair, their pale skin with clusters of freckles and their bright light eyes. At times they even seem to be translucent. When they look into my eyes I’m staggered. Sometimes I even feel intimidated. Their fragile and sensitive appearance is often accompanied by their very powerful and strong willed character. I experienced it myself and this surprising combination makes them even more exclusive to me.

I know by saying this all out loud, a lot of them feel offended. They don’t want to be examined as special, different or exotic. And they don’t want to be generalized, stereo-typed or even fetishized. They are a group with a history of bullying, discrimination and abuse, all because of their looks. So I understand their skepticism towards me.

In my photos I create scenery where their strong looks come to life and capture the moment where you can feel their power. I desperately want to show that red hair is admirable and desirable, instead of a reason to be treated differently.

80439, Bloody Mary and Sloppy Joe

In 2010, I moved from The Netherlands to Evergreen, Colorado, for three years. My new home environment is very different, confusing, and intriguing at the same time. Of course I grew up with watching American movies, shows, and videoclips. And of course, in real life up here, I sometimes recognize similar places and people from those fiction scenes. In truth it feels like I’m living in a constructed reality show – the fiction and the reality confuse me. More important, I fear my new life will fade like a dream when I go back home…that all this will be forgotten.