Category Archives: Robert Frank

2012: A Year of Deja Vu

In an age that, in many respects, is defined by photography, with millions upon millions of pictures being made every single day, it’s close to impossible for a photographer to produce a wholly original image. Someonesomewherehas no doubt shot a similar photo from a similar angle in a similar way. Avoiding photographic clichs in such an environment, when everything is a clich, becomes more and more difficult by the minute.

Then there are those times when the similarities between two (or more) images can be simply and even thrillingly uncanny.

Sometimes these similarities are purely coincidental; but occasionally, photographers purposefully return to a past subject and location to take a similarly composed photograph.

In 2011, Associated Press photographer David Guttenfelder flew to Japan to record the devastating effects of the previous December’s tsunami and earthquake. One year later, he returned to the exact same spots as his previous photographs to show the progress made during recovery. Fellow Associated Press shooter Steve Rauke has photographed the dignified transfers of numerous U.S. servicemen at Dover Air Force base since 2009, serving as a constant reminder of the ultimate sacrifice made by our troops abroad.

Steve RuarkAP

Left: July 26, 2012.
A Marine carry team moves a transfer case containing the remains of Sgt. Justin M. Hansen at Dover Air Force Base, Del. According to the Department of Defense, Hansen, 26, of Traverse City, Mich., died July 24, 2012 while conducting combat operations in Badghis province, Afghanistan.
Right: July 30, 2012.
An Army carry team moves a transfer case containing the remains of Pfc. Jose Oscar Belmontes at Dover Air Force Base. According to the Department of Defense, Belmontes, 28, of La Verne, Calif., died July 28, 2012 in Wardak province, Afghanistan of wounds sustained from enemy small arms fire.

Photographer Camilo Jos Vergara has photographed the poorest and most segregated communities in urban Americaformore than four decades,using photography as a way to understand and appreciate the spirit of those places andrecord neighborhoods as they change (or don’t change) over time.

But photo-driven dj vu can take one by surprise, too. Blog Submission . Triggered by images’ composition or content, pictures of divergent subjects in similar images can often seem like far more than mere coincidence. Unlikely connections in disparate photos can nag at us, even when the images are made years or many miles apart. And, of course, photographers working in different countries or on separate continents can have no idea that they’ve made an image nearly identical to another taken somewhere over the horizon, or on the other side of the world.

David GuttenfelderAP

Left: March 28, 2011.
A ship washed away by the tsunami sits in a destroyed neighborhood in Kesennuma, northeastern Japan.
Right: Feb. 23, 2012.
One year later, the same ship remains.

Perhaps our contemporary, collective dj vu is trigged by the news cycle’s constant hunger for images. Photographers, after all, do sometimes document annual events at the same time and place, year after year as if nothing at all has ever changed, or ever will change, at that location.

Documentary photography, meanwhile, raises its own breed of dj vu. Photojournalists often travel together and work side by side at the same event, documenting the same momentseeing the same things, taking the same pictures. Even when working independently, photographers are not immune to conscious (or subconscious) mirroring, and the 20th century has provided a litany of mastersCartier-Bresson, Klein, Evans and Frank come to mindwho have influenced entire generations of image makers. After all, we all want to pay homage to our forebears and our heroes. Is it so surprising when, paying tribute, we veer into imitation?

Even the most celebrated of photographers are not immune to this sincerest form of flattery.

In the book published alongside the Yale show “Walker Evans and Robert Frank,” Tod Papageorge writes of the influence of Evans’ American Photographs on Frank’s The Americans.

“Many of the matched photographs reproduced here obviously, and remarkably, echo one another; they demonstrate that, to a significant degree, Frank used Evans’ work as an iconographical sourcebook for his own pictures.”

With this gallery, TIME embarks on an anthropological dig through our collective visual memory, unearthing images from the last twelve months that awakened in us that singular, familiar sense that we’ve seen them somewhere before. Haven’t we?

The Americans List: A Salute to Robert Frank

Photographers the world over need no introduction to Robert Frank’s seminal 1950s work The Americans, an exploration of the American ideal from his outsider’s perspective as a Swiss émigré. Taken on a series of road trips around the country, the resulting intuitively-sequenced images —produced with funding from a Guggenheim fellowship—reflect both the dark undercurrents and poetic beauty of American culture.

Originally published in Paris in 1958 and the U.S. a year later, the book’s hallowed pages—containing a mere 83 images—have become one of the most referenced and revered photographic works. Many of the individual frames reside firmly in the collective memory of contemporary photographers who consciously and subconsciously reference the images on a daily basis.

Three years ago, an extensive retrospective exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art provided a fascinating and exhaustive insight to The Americans. The show, entitled Looking In, also inspired and facilitated photographer Jason Eskenazi’s recently published appreciation, The Americans List.

In 2009, Eskenazi—himself the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship—was working as a security guard at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Every day for two months, even on Mondays when the exhibition was closed to the public, he stood in close proximity with the work, studying it compulsively, attending special events and asking questions of MET curator Jeff Rosenheim.

While guarding the show, Eskenazi started to ask photographers he knew—famous or not—about their favorite images from the show. Over the next two years, Eskenazi compiled their answers, along with their explanations and thoughts about the work. His compilations eventually evolved into his own book, published this month by Red Hook Editions. In the foreward, Eskenazi writes:

The Americans is probably the one book that connects more photographers than any other, so while guarding the show, I saw many photography colleagues enter. I began asking them what was their knock-out favorite image. Though many said it was too hard to choose and many images were important to them I insisted. I discovered that many of the answers revealed much more about the photographers themselves.”

The Americans List assembles selections by 276 photographers from Joel Meyerowitz (Canal Street – New Orleans. plate #19) and Joseph Koudelka (Covered car – Long Beach, Califonia. plate #34) to Eskenazi’s own personal favorite (Men’s room, railway station – Memphis, Tenn. Plate 52). Eskenazi considers the book a present to the photographic community and a homage to a great living photographer.

Guarding the exhibition also afforded Eskenazi the opportunity to meet the legendary photographer, first at the exhibition opening and then at Frank’s house in New York City, where he asked Frank to confirm the long standing rumor of his own favorite photograph from The Americans (San Francisco. Plate 72).

Eskenazi quit his day job at the end of the Looking In exhibition and has since returned full time to his life as a photographer. “I became very intimate with the work,” Eskenazi says. “It brought me back to life. And Frank was very moved by the book when he was recently given a copy in Nova Scotia.”

Clark Winter

Nova Scotia
September, 2012

Jason Eskenazi is a Istanbul based photographer. See more of his work at JasonEskenazi.com.

The Americans List is published by Red Hook Editions and available through the photo-eye bookstore.

Delpire’s Children’s Books at The French Embassy

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Photos Courtesy Cultural Services / The French Embassy in the U.S.

Over the course of the last month, upwards of 300 children from elementary schools across New York City were invited to visit the special exhibition of Robert Delpire’s children’s books at Cultural Services of the French Embassy, part of the city-wide celebration of Delpire’s six decades of visionary publishing work, in conjunction with Aperture’s own 60th anniversary celebration.

These free morning workshops offered interactive, bilingual activities including monster mask-making inspired by Actibum’s The Masks, readings from André François’ Crocodile Tears and Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, book cover design and more.

The exhibition closed Friday, June 8, 2012, but if you missed out make sure to view this video from the French Embassy, Where The Wild Things Are : an Homage to Maurice Sendak and Les editions Delpire, and check out the remaining Delpire & Co. exhibitions on view.

Through July 19, 2012:

  • Classic publications by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, William Klein, Josef Koudelka, Sarah Moon and more at Aperture (547 West 27th Street, 4th Floor).
  • Contemporary photography from Michael Ackerman, Jehsong Baak, Michel Vanden Eeckhoudt, Harry Gruyaert and more at The Gallery at Hermès/Fondation d’entreprise Hermès (691 Madison Aveune).
  • Illustraitions from the Poche Illustrateur series, celebrating Roman Cieślewicz, Honoré Daumier, Etienne Delessert and more at La Maison Française of New York University (16 Washington Mews, at University Place).

Through July 16, 2012:

  • Sarah Moon: Now and Then at Howard Greenberg Gallery (41 E. 57th St.).
  • A Tribute to Robert Delpire: Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander, Josef Koudelka, Duane Michals, and Paolo Roversi at Pace/MacGill Gallery (32 E. 57th St., 9th Floor).

Delpire & Co., Opening Tonight



 

Delpire season is upon us.

Tonight Aperture Gallery launches the New York City run of Delpire & Co., opening their W27th street space to the public, showcasing a rich, multimedia exhibition celebrating the revered curator, editor, publisher, and overall champion of photography, Robert Delpire.
In the next several weeks, a comprehensive retrospective of Delpire’s career will be exhibited across four venues in New York City: Aperture Gallery, The Gallery at Hermès, Cultural Services of the French Embassy, and La Maison Française. Concurrent with Delpire & Co., Pace/MacGill and Howard Greenberg will have exhibitions on view in celebration of Robert Delpire’s life and work.

Here’s what you can expect to see throughout New York City:

 

Aperture Gallery


On view: May 9 through July 19

Highlights: Classical and seminal publications by now-iconic photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, William Klein, Robert Frank (see: “The Americans”), Josef Koudelka, and Sarah Moon. Delpire’s work with magazines will also be featured, including the very first issue of Neuf (founded by Robert Delpire at the ripe age of 23), and Nouvel Observateur Spécial Photo, as well as advertising projects for diverse clients from Cacharel, Citroën, L’Oréal, and the French Ministry of Culture.

 

Cultural Services of the French Embassy


On view: May 11 through June 6

Highlights: The embassy will be exhibiting the original French editions of beloved illustrator Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are and Crocodile Tears.


The Gallery at Hermès/Fondation d’entreprise Hermès


On view: May 11 through July 19

Highlights: Robert Delpire’s famed Photo Poche series is on view, as well as prints from contemporary photographers such as Harry Gruyaert, Jehsong Baak, Michel Vanden Eeckhout, Michael Ackerman, Francesco Zizola, Raymond Depardon, Robert Doisneau, Paolo Pellegrin, Marc Riboud.

 

La Maison Française of New York University


On view: May 18 through July 19

Highlights: This exhibition focuses on the Poche Illustrateur series, celebrating notable illustrators such as Roman Cieślewicz, Honoré Daumier, Etienne Delessert, Guy Peellaert, and Saul Steinberg.

 

› In addition, two supporting exhibitions will be on view; Sarah Moon at Howard Greenberg Gallery, featuring new work, and Pace/MacGill Gallery will exhibit works by prominent photographers such as Robert Frank, Josef Koudelka, Duane Michals, Paolo Roversi, and Alfred Stieglitz.

Visual Supplement: This week in the magazine The New Yorker ran photographs by Sarah Moon and Lee Freidlander, both of which are part of exhibitions celebrating the work of Delpire. Online, The New Yorker presents a stunning and concise slideshow summary of books and photographs from among the displays at Aperture, Hermès, Pace/MacGill, and Howard Greenberg.

———

Delpire & Co. is coproduced by Rencontres d’Arles, la Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Delpire Editeur, and Aperture Foundation.Delpire & Co. has been made possible with the support of the National Endowment for the Arts, Fondation d’entreprise Hermès, Etant donnés: The French-American Fund for Contemporary Art, the E.T. Harmax Foundation, and with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

Review: Roberto Schena, SP 67

The road trip is one of the primal photographic gestures. It has given rise to some of the most celebrated series of photographs as well as to countless clichéd and forgettable pictures. Thanks to—or maybe even because of—Robert Frank’s ten thousand mile drive across America which led to The Americans, it also feels like a quintessentially American exercise. The term also has an epic quality: it conjures up the idea of a seemingly never-ending journey. With his book SP 67, the Italian photographer Roberto Schena has played with the mythology of the road trip to explore a short (13km) stretch of road running through the mountains in northern Italy.

The books cover sets the mood: the landscape is wintry and barren and the air seems to be heavy with moisture. This is a book that is all about atmosphere. Although its title and endpapers (a reproduction of a map of this mountain road) seem to place importance on the particular location that Schena has chosen for this project, its subtitle, La strada della tramontana scura (The road of the dark north wind), is more revelatory of its nature. The book is structured like a drive from East to West along the SP 67, one almost entirely shrouded in a thick fog which only allows for glimpses of the surrounding landscape.

Most of the images in SP 67 are technically landscape photographs, but they reveal very little… the odd curve in the road… the foliage that surrounds it… always obscured by the incessant fog. This unsettling visual backdrop is punctuated by the odd animal apparition. This is what gives the book its rhythm: a pig running along a ridge on the horizon, a closeup of a horse’s head, a goat or some dogs picked out of the darkness by the car’s headlights. This creates the sense that this world belongs to animals rather than to men. This road seems to run through a parallel universe, a place that we recognise but where space and time are distorted and unfamiliar (another reviewer compared Schena’s world to that of a Murakami novel).

While Schena has undeniably created a heavily atmospheric world with this work, I found it to be a little too impenetrable. SP 67 is a slippery book that left me with a lingering sense of frustration. Like a dream that you awake from feeling unsettled, but, no matter how hard you try, you just cannot remember.

Roberto Schena, SP 67 (Rome: Punctum, 112 pages, 51 colour plates, 2012).

Rating: Worth a look

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apertureWEEK: Online Photography Reading Shortlist

Aperture aggregates the best posts from this past week in the photography blogosphere.

 

apertureWEEK: Online Photography Reading Shortlist

Aperture aggregates the best posts from this past week in the photography blogosphere.

  • Time magazine’s Lightbox features Manish Swarup’s photograph of a Tibetan exile self-immolating during a demonstration in New Delhi in their Pictures of the Week, reminding of Malcolm Brown’s iconic image of a Buddhist monk who set himself aflame in protest in 1963, and the photojournalistic ethical issues that go with it.
  • Conscientious explores the challenges of still portraiture and points to a new study published by the British Psychology Society which finds that “the same people are rated as more attractive in videos than in static images taken from those videos.”
  • NPR’s The Picture Show features “A Lifetime of Photos in a Little Email Retrospective,” images by “somewhat hermetic” Dennis Darling who relishes “staying under most radar” and rarely publishes or exhibits his work for other than those on his small email chain.
  • The New Yorker‘s Photobooth commemorates Edward Steichen’s would-be 130th birthday with a slideshow of the seminal photographer’s images published in their magazine across the years.  Several limited edition prints from his early work are available at Aperture.
  • “Taking a photograph is a response… it’s a pre-rational response, it’s an intuitive emotional response, it’s spontaneous, it’s immediate,” says Alex Webb of The Suffering of Light in Part 4 of 6 of the Q&A  session with Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb by David Chickey of Radius Books at The National Museum Of Singapore on March 9, 2012, now all posted on Invisible Photographer Asia.
  • APhotoEditor suggests, “Perhaps Most Photographers Don’t Understand the Value of Usage,” posting a reader-submitted story in which an “ex-student lied about having [her] permission and gave the image to the college, which then used the image on a billboard advertisement that wraps around a 20 story building on a very busy road in the city.” How was this resolved and did she get paid?
  • Ansel AdamsHenri Cartier BressonRobert FrankStephen ShoreNan GoldinWilliam EgglestonAlec SothDiane Arbus are all photographers you should… IGNORE? That’s according to Bryan Formhals’ brash OpEd piece on LPV Magazine “10 Oeuvres Aspiring Photographers Should Ignore.”  Wired and the Click got a kick out of the post, which was inspired by “The 10 Most Harmful Novels for Aspiring Writers.” We think self-willed ignorance is more harmful than knowing one’s precedents and counter with this oldie but goodie: those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Retouching a Classic: ‘Less Américains’

In the digital age, touching the work of established photographic masters can be sensitive business. Recently a Swedish artist named Sanna Dullaway applied her colorizing skills to several historical photographs that included Dorthea Lange’s “Migrant Mother” and Eddie Adams’ harrowing image of an on-the-spot execution of a Vietcong on the streets of Saigon. The debate surrounding these modified versions was whether the interpretation was an improvement that could somehow be more powerful emotionally—due to addition of a color palette and the ability to reach newer generations who disconnect when they see black and white images—or simple vandalism.

The artist Pavel Maria Smejkal in his Fatescapes series took his appropriation of historical images one step further by digitally removing the people from images such as Nick Ut’s photograph of a young Vietnamese girl running from a napalm attack and the aforementioned Adams image. By leaving only the landscapes or streetscapes to play on our subconscious memory of historical places and events, he questions the limitations of a photograph’s accuracy at the representation of history.

Perhaps the most provocative example in terms of potential copyright infringement is when the artist Sherrie Levine re-photographed some of Walker Evans’ famous images from the 1930s Farm Security Administration project and presented them unaltered and with her name (the series was called After Walker Evans). Many viewers were outraged. Her act called into question many issues regarding a photograph’s author, copyright (Legally the FSA photographs are owned by the American public, which financed the project so there is no copyright infringement case that could be brought against Levine) and the portrayal of the poor. To some it was Art, but to others, it amounted to Blasphemy.

After Evans, Robert Frank may well be the most influential photographer the medium has seen. Frank’s book The Americans, published in the United States by Grove Press in 1959, was equally celebrated and reviled for its view of the U.S. and its citizenry. Today there is hardly a contemporary photographer who does not acknowledge that Frank accomplished greatness while photographing America for two years on a Guggenheim Fellowship.

The Americans hasn’t escaped its own touches with appropriation. In his newest bookwork Less Américains, London-based artist Mishka Henner takes his humorous title from the French Edition of Frank’s book Les Américains, published in 1958 by Robert Delpire in Paris. By scanning and applying Photoshop to Frank’s images, Henner has proceeded to remove most of the vital subject matter from all 83 photographs—leaving only small details hovering around the frame like background props on an empty theater stage.

Of course, as the title suggests, Less Américains does away with the “Americans” in Frank’s photographs so all that remains, for example, of the Hoboken City Fathers are a line of hats and some political bunting hanging on a two-by-four. And what has been spared in the most famous of all New Orleans street car picture which so perfectly expressed the implied race hierarchy of Jim Crow in the United States? A few vague, unidentifiable shapes that sit within the frame like mismatched puzzle pieces. To quote Jack Kerouac, who wrote an introduction to the American edition of Frank’s book, “The humour, the sadness, the EVERYTHING-ness and American-ness of these pictures (!)” linger like a ghost in these secondary elements.

Less Américains includes an introduction by the artist Elisabeth Tonnard that takes the form of a concrete poetry version of Kerouac’s prose. Tonnard’s approach was to systematically white-out the individual letters A.M.E.R.I.C.A.I.N.S. from Kerouac’s text, leaving an incomprehensible soup of vowels and consonants. His “…basketa pittykats…” becomes the even more cryptic “…B k t p tty-k t …”

Well, what can we make of Henner’s reworking of this masterpiece? I think Kerouac said it best: “What poem this is, what poems can be written about this book of pictures some day by some young new writer high by candlelight bending over them describing every grey mysterious detail.”

Less Américains was published earlier this year.

Jeffrey Ladd is a photographer, writer, editor and founder of Errata Editions. Visit his blog here.