For its latest issue (#71), Source magazine is asking the question, “What is conceptual photography?” To go along with the mag they have produced three short talking-head videos exploring this question with a handful of artists and critics. The importance of the “concept” in contemporary photography has always interested me. In the photo-world, the question regularly pops up about why “straight” photography isn’t taken seriously by the art world. Those in the straight photography corner often appear to see conceptual photography as impure in some way, as if it were not what photography is really about. Without wanting to spark off another one of these debates, it seems to me that concept is indeed considered paramount in Western art photography today (in my experience, this is not at all the case in Japan, where “serious” photography can still very much be about wandering around with a camera and taking pictures). For example, I’m often struck by young photographers struggling to hang an ill-fitting artist statement with some big ideas in it over the shoulders of work that is clearly not conceptual in the slightest… presumably because they have been taught to do so in art school. Wherever you stand on this question (or however delightfully far away you stand from it) these videos provide an interesting look at how photography became so excited about concepts and what the hell “conceptual photography” is even supposed to mean in the first place.
There is no particular order to the photographs. It is intended that the viewer spend time looking at the details of each interior, finding clues that only scratch the surface of the performer’s true identity. Debby Besford, The Boudoir of the Burlesque Performer
All photos © Debby Besford
Before I get accused of being London-centric, I’m delighted to let you know that photographer Debby Besford, who I met three years ago in Arles where I first saw this project, is exhibiting work from her series The Boudoir of the Burlesque Performer at theThe Queen of Hungary (what a fitting name) in Norwich. The show is open from 12-5pm and runs until 8 July. The work is also available as a book on Blurb.
In Besford’s artist’s statement she notes that: “These documentary photographs show the private interiors of the performers’ bedrooms. They play on the idea of what is real and what is fictional. The home-based domestic interiors are in themselves a theatre where the lives of the performers take on a different persona.
“Collaboration with these women has been a journey of immense trust and respect. I did not seek to deconstruct the female performer stereotype or their bedrooms but to explore how these women have taken on total responsibility for the acceptance of their image as well as the fantasies linked to public representation of their ‘acted bodies’.
“My work investigates a complexity of issues about the representation of the contemporary female, with emphasis on the Burlesque Stage Performer. This naturally led onto questioning both the idea of play between photographer, private space, intimacy, fantasy and the real, as well as the mystique of the performer.” From Besford’s artist statement
To see and read more…
“This body of work has evolved from a deep-rooted curiosity about female sexuality and how this can be expressed in a positive way. The New Burlesque Revival in the 21st Century could be seen as a reaction to women wanting to have fun with their sexuality and celebrate their femininity through a staged persona.
“The attraction for many of these women is that there is no dominant male structure behind these shows and full social and economic autonomy for these women is completely unlike a striptease artist. Both physical and moral integrity are preserved. Burlesque does not involve total nudity.”
Filed under: Documentary photography, Photographers, Photography Shows, Women Photographers Tagged: burlesque, Debby Besford, documentary, Norwich, photo show, portraits, The Boudoir of the Burlesque Performer, The Queen of Hungary
It’s no secret that I am a big fan of Diffusion Magazine. Published by photographer Blue Mitchell, it’s an annual publication and worth a subscription. Here is this year’s call for entry.
Group Showcase 2012.
‘Muse’ is a concept deeply seeded in the exploration of photography. Tina Modotti was the well-documented muse of Edward Weston. Paris was the muse of Eugene Atget, while some might argue that Edward Steichen’s muse was photography itself.
For this call we are considering works that address the concept of ‘The Muse.’ Your interpretation of what ‘muse’ means is entirely personal and we challenge you to think beyond the more common notions of the concept. Please provide a short artist statement explaining your ideas on what ‘muse’ is for you and how you’ve incorporated it into your work.
This call for art is open to all photographers internationally. All processes and techniques are welcomed but understand we are looking for unconventional photographic methods and alternative photographic processes.
All published photographers will receive a complimentary copy of Diffusion, Volume IV, 2012.
Best of Show will also receive a copy of Diffusion Volume II, III and a feature spread in “Editor’s Selection”.
1st and 2nd place photographers will receive a feature spread in “Editor’s Selection”.
Submit images (300 ppi) in JPEG or TIFF format, sized to approximately 12” in the longest direction. Images should be titled with photographers first name then last name and image title. For example, If the title of my photograph is “Learning to Feel” then my file name should look like: Blue_Mitchell_Learning_to_Feel.tiff
Submit files on CD only.
20.00$ submission fee for 5 images. $5.00 for each additional image with no maximum. Submission fees are non-refundable.
Payable to One Twelve Publishing (we accept check or money order)
What to send us
No entry form is required, but please enclose a text document or PDF that includes your name, address, email (mandatory for notification), image titles, photographic process, website, artist statement (discussed above) and any other information pertinent to your submittal.
All entries must be received by December 1st, 2011
Send entries to:One Twelve Publishing 1631 NE Broadway #143 Portland, OR 97232
If you are outside of North America and wish to save money on shipping, please email us at [email protected] and we will work with you to gather your information electronically.
TEN DAY LEFT TO REGISTER FOR CRITICAL MASS 2011
There’s just one week left to enter Critical Mass 2011. Registration closes Friday, July 15 at midnight PDT. But that’s plenty of time to select 10 of your favorite images, polish up your artist statement, and submit!
If you’re still considering whether to participate, scroll down for more details on the Book Award, Top 50 Touring Exhibition, Blue Sky Solo Exhibition, and the 200+ fantastic jurors who’s role in this program leads to some pretty amazing success stories.
Still have questions about what we do with the registration fees? Check out our recent response to these concerns.
If you’ve already registered, congratulations! You’re well on your way. You can continue to edit your submission until midnight PDT on July 15th.
Deadline: August 21st
The Lunch Box Gallery is pleased to announce the call for submissions for its SUMMER PHOTO SHOW 2011. The exhibit will be displayed from September 10th to October 4th of the same year.
The Lunch Box Gallery is a small but vibrant and cutting edge space founded in 2011 and located in the popular Wynwood Art District of Miami. Its mission is to show and support the work of emerging regional, national and international artists of all media, with a particular emphasis on contemporary photography and its new trends; and where styles like conceptual, fine art, documentary and mixed media photography are subjects of exploration.
The Lunch Box Gallery also provides a venue for dialogue across all art forms, with the idea of creating a link between the community and the artists, and therefore bringing a deeper appreciation and perceptiveness of photography through exhibitions, discussions and lectures. [email protected]
Deadline: July 13th
The purpose of the Aperture Portfolio Prize is to identify trends in contemporary photography and specific artists whom we can help by bringing them to a wider audience. In choosing the first-prize winner and runners-up, we are looking for work that is fresh and that hasn’t been widely seen in major publications or exhibition venues.
In 2011, first prize is $3,000 and an exhibition at Aperture Foundation. The first-prize winner and runners-up are featured in Aperture’s website for approximately one year. Winners are also announced in the foundation’s e-newsletter, which reaches thousands of subscribers in the photography community.
The entry period for the 2011 Aperture Portfolio Prize is from Monday, May 2 through Wednesday, July 13, 12:00 noon EDT. All entrants will be contacted with final results by the end of 2011.
Deadline for FotoFest 2012 approaching. Ends July 14 2011
FotoFest boasts sixteen days of Portfolio Reviews, from March 16 – April 3, 2012, organized in FOUR 4-DAY SESSIONS and open to all photographic artists.
Spaces are limited and fill up early.
Over its 28-year history, the Meeting Place has been a launching pad for the careers of hundreds of photographic artists. In 2012, it will bring 160 curators, editors, publishers, gallerists, collectors and photo agency representatives to review the work of registered artists.
This review only takes place every 2 years and is by far the biggest of its kind.
We are all at conflict. Whether with others or ourselves, with our own ideas, thoughts, desires, history, present, future. We are all at conflict as we try and navigate ourselves through a life we understand only through our experiences, through our confrontation both internal and external with social, political, cultural, and personal strife. My visual arts work in multi-media assemblages, sculptures, 3-D collages, mise en scene photography, and installations, are always inspired by a negotiation through these conflicts, a negotiation between worlds and the multiple experiential landscapes that shape them. My recent work in particular is based largely on the dialogue between the external, contemporary experiences of conflict and the internal – mental, spiritual, and emotional – responses to it that continue to shape the understanding of my own identity and the world I live in. Through and across the different works, one can find threads of cultural tradition (be it real, imagined, invented), identity, politics, diasporas, war, and reconstruction weaving reflections, often contradictory, of humanity; a humanity which finds itself in a post-modern world that is simultaneously globalizing and fracturing, forcing us to confront each other and ourselves in ways we have yet to learn or understand. Complementing this work are my anthropological studies (B.A., M.A.) which provide a strong grounding in the debates around conflict, cultural change, post/colonialism, third-world development, and the representation of culture; while my continuing experience working and creating in Afghanistan provides the contextual richness that leads me down the path of trying to identify and understand not ways for resolving conflict, but rather ways in which we accept conflict as a life-long experience. Creating art as an aspect of, rather than response to, conflict is ultimately an exercise in dissecting the human condition in order to expose the sometimes fragile, sometimes durable, but always shifting relationships we have with each other, with ourselves, and with the conflicts we must endure throughout our lives. In order to do this, it will be necessary to see that condition as a place where external conflicts tied to global processes and internal battles tied to our own experiences are blurring into each other, becoming confused, indistinguishable, and equally personal.
Growing up in a war, where the bombs were 12,377 kilometers or 7,691 miles (or 6,683 nautical miles though Afghanistan is land-locked so perhaps not as relevant) away. An Afghan-American suburban dream punctuated by weekend sleepovers, Saturday soccer games, fist-fights with racist children of the Confederate South, and religio-nationalist driven demonstrations chanting “Down with Brezhnev!”, “Long live Islam!”, “Down with Communism!”, and “Long Live Afghanistan!” before I even knew what that meant. It is what I was fed growing up, in between southern-fried chicken and garlic mashed potatoes, cumin-scented meat and basmati rice…
In his work, Aman often uses contemporary, post-modern ideas of conflict and globalization combined with traditional narratives rooted in culture, belonging, and identity. He collects the materials and inspiration for his work from his internal and external landscapes, including growing up Afghan in the Confederate South of the United States and spending the better part of the last decade living and working in Afghanistan.
He has exhibited his work in galleries, independent spaces, and cultural centers in New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Singapore, Cairo, Hong Kong, and Kabul.
Aman currently lives, works, and creates in Kabul, Afghanistan.
A Day in the Life of a Jihadi Gangster:
Out of the Conflict Bling installation emerged the character in these images, the Jihadi Gangster, as I continue to explore the idea of globalized gangster styles and iconography while exploring my own dual cultural heritage as an American-born Afghan with strong familial ties to politics in Afghanistan, including jihad.
Inspired by real events which led to the death and disappearance of 183 family members in Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion.
The first in a line of mobile furniture for conflict environments developed by Emeric Lhuisset and Aman Mojadidi, with support from designer Pierre-Francois Dubois.
Jihad Gangster Afghan Parliamentary Campaign:
The final culmination of the Jihadi Gangster, a faux run for Parliament in Afghanistan.
SLOGAN – “Vote for Me! I did Jihad and I’m Rich”
FACE – “Your favorite Jihadi Face Here”
Jihadi Gangster Afghan Parliamentary Campaign Street Installation:
Be sure to check out Aman’s site HERE or click on any of the photos above to see more from the series.
*From the verb obfuscate meaning to obscure or perplex.
Welcome to a post about Artist Statements. Love them or hate them, they’re part of the artist’s arsenal. I posted this yesterday on the New York Photo Festival 2011 blog where I am a guest blogger, however, I will also be cross-posting all my posts here in my cyber home too. And thanks to those who sent in some more funny photos, I will be posting all the ones I receive without filtering, unless of course, they are offensive or unsuitable. Keep sending them through.
An artist (or artist’s) statement is a short text by the artist that helps explain and give a context to the work. It all sounds simple enough but the reality is far from straightforward. One of the recurring debates facing photographers and visual artists in the fine art and art photography arenas today is the language used in artists’ statements.
Here’s a taste of some of the views from photographers, visual artists and publishers on why they are important as well as some comments the writing of the artist’s statement. What do you really think? Do you have any tips for writing an Artist Statement? Are there some examples that you think have got it spot on in terms of language, tone, length etc? Please comment below and I will then collate some of tips on writing Artists Statements to share.
A couple of recent discussions on a closed network Flak Photo Network managed by Andy Adams of Flak Photo turned up some interesting insights and salient points recently concerning writing artists’ statements in general and the language that is sometimes used, including the (in)-accessibility of some writing. You’ll need read more to enter the debate…
It was stressed again at a seminar recently how important it is to speak the language of fine art photography in order to progress as an emerging artist. Is this a foreign language to anyone else but me?
Eye Caramba then makes some interesting points:
I spent about five years as a photo editor and was sort of amazed at how self-important artist statements can be. I recognize, and love, that photography can be important, life changing, awareness raising, haunting, process celebrating, but to say something is visceral doesn’t make it so. One person’s poetry is another person’s psycho-aesthetic wretching. Self-importance is one of the most common over-reaches in the “language” of fine art photography. I have to admit that my own take is something of a cop out. I love language and I love photography – and I do work seriously – but I sort of refuse to self-celebrate with ten-dollar words. I am not sure I have always done the right thing at every turn as I am still rocking some very chic obscurity but I think I am being honest by not claiming the poetic everything stuff, even if I do hope an image jangles your zipper here and there.
I add my tuppence worth:
I agree that there is a lot of BS out there. I use a simple rule of thumb, drawn from my experience in journalism, I ask who the audience is? Too often people write without thinking about who they are communicating with. Texts/statements, for me, should assist in understanding work not make it impenetrable, unless that is an intention. I love words and language too but I despair at non-sense and hackneyed meaningless phrases.
Well, if you guys consider that talking about your work is important (and I personally believe that this is the case), then I can’t understand why you would feel so strongly against artist statements and blurbs about a series. I mean, it’s like talking with a pen, right? It is also a way for me to refine one’s thinking, to find the proper words (when in a conversation we could get away with a “know what I mean”) and, sometimes, to rediscover one’s work through somebody else’s eyes, someone who’s never heard you speak….
Later, in response to the comment: “I’ve read ‘artists’ statements before that I’ve read and read and read and STILL not understood the rambling nonsense”, Dillinger adds:
If we don’t understand what someone says, it is not necessarily the “fault” of the interlocutor. There is always the solution of learning their language. I mean, blaming the artist and asking them to make things simpler is the easy way out, I think. What feel like nonsense to you is not nonsense to the artist, so why should they “dumb down” their language? It’s a bit like listening or reading a foreign language: you can either dismiss it as gobbledygook, or learn it. No?
There are extremes in every profession. I’ve read a lot of indecipherable, meaningless words, too. My feeling is that I’m the artist, my purpose in making it is to communicate, so an honest, plain language explanation for people (especially who feel they don’t understand art) is the best service I could do for them and for my photographs.
Sylvia de Swaan at Insight Out writes:
I’d like to add that an artist statement develops over time – along with the work itself. Each time one edits the photographs, prepares for exhibition, publication or competition, it’s worth reviewing if the statement still is relevant to the work. Visual art itself is a vocabulary that one doesn’t necessarily get at first sight – worth coming back to again and again to wrest its meaning
At its best, an artist statement is a metaphoric equivalent of the work… and though I do think it’s important to take into account one’s audience, if one does that too much one might fall into the trap of doing work that is facile and simplistic. There will always be some people who don’t “get it” – not because their dumb – just because they’re into another language.
Photographer and editor/publisher of SuperMassiveBlackHole magazine Barry W Hughes writes:
An issue I’ve had from beginning my Fine Art degree to editing SuperMassiveBlackHole some 10 years later is the over-reliance on clotted intellectual language used by artists, and others in the field, to support an artwork. I do not have a problem with images being accompanied by statements, especially in photography, as the photographic image is so prevalent in our current technological context, a statement, usually, is the best way to sort the accidental from the considered; the lucky from the practiced.
What I do have a problem with is artists who use a statement to flex their diction, without caring for a second as to why it is necessary at all. From an editing point of view, the first two sentences will tell me not only whether someone is currently or recently undertaking an MA (as they seem to be the main culprits, usually getting mired in the academic language that these courses insist on), but also how that person views their own practice.
If the artist feels they must write about their own work as though they are an academic considering someone else’s work, then it tends to suggest that the work is less authentic in its conception, and that it has been produced to satisfy a system, as opposed to an artist’s individual concerns. If the idea in word fits the idea in image, then it all makes sense and this could possibly lead the viewer to further revelations. If the idea in word is so deliberating misleading that it neutralizes the idea in image, then neither one, nor the other will succeed.
Finally, I think there is an element in the Fine Art world that not only worships the super intelligent but is snobbish about it. In an effort to not stand out, and to try to camouflage oneself against this foliage of intellectualism, artists tend to paint their faces with unnecessary language. What they don’t realize is, it is okay not to be Susan Sontag, Gilles Deleuze, Roland Barthes or Guy Debord. You don’t have to be that great thinker, polymathic hero; you just have to be clever at what you do.
David Saxe at Black Star Rising in the States cuts to the chase in a post Why I don’t like Artist Statements, which has interesting comments too…
But if you’re really stuck there’s always the 10gallon artist statement generator, which takes key words and – tongue firmly planted in cheek – pumps out quasi artist statements. Now, if only some of the fields could be rejigged and there was an option to add a cultural theorist, preferably one with a surname beginning with B – Barthes, Baudrillard or Benjamin – then it could all start to really take shape. Till my next post.
Filed under: Uncategorized Tagged: Andy Adams, artist statement, Barry w hughes, Christophe Dillinger, David Saxe, Eye Caramba, Flak Photo Network, Garrett Williams, SuperMassiveBlackHole, Sylvia de Swaan
All images © Alina Kisina
Here’s an interesting project by Ukranian-born, London-based photographer Alina Kisina. City of Home is a series of half abstract, half representational photographs that conflate Kiev cityscapes and interiors. Kisina’s images become a dialectical and lyrical space questioning the changing state of both personal and cultural values in Ukraine. Malcolm Dickson, Director of Street Level Photoworks in Glasgow (where she recently exhibited), said of the work: “…Whilst there is a longing in the images, Kisina is too young to be nostalgic (!). She is an image-maker embarking on her artistic journey, wide awake to her task and too driven to dwell on distances to lose sight of the road ahead. These photographs, which glow and pulsate, help plot the way.”
I had the pleasure of meeting Alina in person at this year’s FORMAT International Photography Festival in Derby which she was also part of, and she immediately struck me as a very sincere but fiesty and fearless person with an intersting story to boot. Here is her artist statement on becoming a photographer:
“Having been brought up in a rather conservative family and trained as a linguist I never questioned my beliefs, tastes or occupation until a single event drew a line between ‘Before’ and ‘After’ and the power of visual language revealed itself to me.
I suddenly became intrigued by mysteries and the spiritual qualities of things, realising the potential of visual discoveries made within this extraordinary means of communication. Photography became an obsession and a way of finding my place in the world.
I do not convey facts but merely suggestions, questions and emotions, relying primarily on my sincerity, the force with which I myself feel the emotion I transmit, to help me infect the viewer and share my interrelated but universal concerns.
I prefer not to intellectualise my work but admit the role philosophy played in my education – I cannot escape the categories of time and space that give me the illusion of replacing the material world with the world of ideas.”
Have a listen to Kisina talking about her work on the BBC here.
good read 2010
for walker evans 2010
rain dance 2010
smoke signals 2010
32 dodge 2010
all content copyright © greg drasler, all rights reserved
many thanks to greg drasler for providing the images for this post!
see more of greg’s work at betty cuningham gallery