Tag Archives: Confines

Review Santa Fe: Daniel W. Coburn

Over the next month, I will be sharing the work of photographers who attended Review Santa Fe in June.  Review Santa Fe is the only juried review in the United States and invites 100 photographers to Santa Fe for a long weekend of reviews, insights, and connections.  
When I first started writing about the genre of Photographing Family some years back, there were only a handful of image makers capturing the pathos of domestic interactions in a significant way.  Phillip Toledano, Doug DuBois, and Elizabeth Flemming, to name a few, brought a sensibility to telling stories that were at once personal, yet universal.  Photographer Daniel W. Coburn is following in those footsteps with his beautifully executed project, Next of Kin.  Daniel gives us a sense of place and of people. His proximity allows for an ability to be a participant observer where he is able to capture the intangible essence of family, interpreting those he loves with a lens that honors, explores, and understands.

Daniel received his BFA from Washburn University and is currently an instructor and graduate student at the University of New Mexico.  His work his held in public and private collections, and he has published and exhibited widely.
In Next of Kin I use craftsmanship and beauty to engage my viewer in
a dark family narrative.  After a
yearlong hiatus from my hometown, I returned to reexamine my relationship with
immediate family. I use the camera to describe the powerful personalities of my
parents, and the complexities of their relationship. I photograph the children
in my family to revisit my own childhood, which exists only as a set of
fleeting, enigmatic images in my aging memory.

 Next of Kin records the interaction of a working-class family living in Middle America, and the anxiety that occurs within the confines of suburban dystopia. The viewer is encouraged to contemplate the complexities of these relationships in dialogue with their own family experience. How the imagery functions in conversation with the viewers personal family narrative becomes paramount and its value is ultimately determined by its transformative potential.

When the Personal Turns Political: LaToya Ruby Frazier at the Whitney Biennial

From the outset of her career as a young artist, LaToya Ruby Frazier has always found inspiration at home. In thoughtfully constructed black and white photographs she began, in her teens, to document herself and her family life in Braddock, Pa.

“What’s the most intimate thing you can portray? For me, it’s myself,” she says.

The work Frazier has featured in the 2012 Whitney Biennial in New York City, which starts Thursday, builds on the classic documentary work she studied while in college at Syracuse University. Over time, the photographer, now 30, began to incorporate staged narratives and self-portraiture meant to challenge viewers with questions about the artist’s objectivity and representation, and that of her loved ones.

She was inspired by the famous work of the Farm Security Administration photographers like Dorothea Lange, but questioned those images. “We all remember Lange’s photograph of the migrant mother but how many of us remember her name?” she asks. “I felt social documentary can only go so far and I started to think, ‘What if the subjects of the Depression-era images photographed themselves?’”

The work featured in the Biennial leaves the confines of her family home and addresses the larger history and representation of Braddock, Pa.—yet it’s all inextricably linked back to Frazier’s life. The first series, called Campaign for Braddock Hospital (Save Our Community Hospital), began when she discovered in her research that the history of Braddock had omitted all the black families that lived there, including that of her own grandfather, who was a steel worker. It didn’t help when the clothing company Levi’s began using Braddock’s industrial history as the inspiration for a major advertising campaign. In one ad, the denim company calls for the “New Pioneers” to “Go Forth” to new opportunities in Braddock and invigorate the town’s growth.

Frazier was left stunned by what she saw as the irony and greed of the ads and eventually repurposed those images in her artwork. The series is made of two parts: first she begins a process of “copy editing” the ads with comments from members of the community, and photographs them. Then she made documentary photos of an actual protest to save the town’s hospital. All the images were made into black and white lithographic prints referencing both turn-of-the-century advertising and social documentary of the 1930s.

In a second series debuting at the Biennial, called Homebody, she created a set of narrative self-portraits in her step grandfather’s now-abandoned apartment in Braddock. The work is a more personal complement to the Campaign series and records a place steeped in memories for Frazier, memories of her deceased grandmother Ruby. The images document a performance in front of the camera as she moves throughout the empty, decaying environment. The Homebody photos expose a fragility that’s often apparent in her work: in an earlier series, The Notion of Family, she had recorded the end of her Grandmother’s life. Frazier herself, her mother and grandmother have all suffered chronic illnesses. Her portraits and self-portraits, she says, “are meant to be factual records of those things and are reflected in the collapsed landscape that is modern day Braddock, Pa.”

“I’m archiving history thats been erased,” she says. “I’m showing what the media is not showing—moments in the town that have been omitted from history and not just African American history, but the working class people I’m speaking about.”

“Braddock started to fall apart when I was born. I’m interested in how I contextualize myself,” she adds. The collapsed interiors and old blankets depicted in the Homebody series don’t provide comfort, only the feeling of whats been lost for Frazier, in a town that’s struggling to move toward an American dream that faded generations ago.

LaToya Ruby Frazier’s work is currently on view in the 2012 Whitney Biennial in New York City. She has previously exhibited her work at The New Museum, MoMA PS1 and The Andy Warhol Museum. She was featured last fall on the PBS program Art 21. To see more of her work click here.

Studio Thomas – Iquitos, Peru

I lucked out. I managed to rent the exact same apartment I had last year in Iquitos. It’s nothing special, but I like the light from the window. Here’s a shot of my very basic “studio”:

My living room in Iquitos

Some of my favorite images from last year were taken in this very spot. I remember at the time feeling guilty for not getting out more (although I did a lot of that too). It seemed impossible that I could make great photos just within the confines of my apartment, especially in such a fascinating city. However, after nine months of ruminating on my work from last year, I decided these portraits are really the core of the project and I could stand to have a few more.

Here’s one from last year, to give you an idea:

Roger

Brad Wilson

Brad Wilson knows how to take a portrait. His site is filled with stunning commercial and editorial portraits of a wide array of sitters, each captured with dignity and respect. He brings these same qualities to his fine art work. Brad’s soulful images of animals are quite remarkable and reflect an intimacy rarely seen in animal photographs.

Chimpanzee #4, Los Angeles, CA, 2010

Brad began his studies in art at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and continued on to study at various workshops and work with notable photographers until he began his own career in 1996. He now lives in Santa Fe, is published around the world, which includes images on over 400 book covers around the world, and numerous advertising campaigns, annual reports, and music packages. He has numerous European exhibition slated for 2011, in Switzerland, London, and Belgium.

ANIMALS: There is something appealing about a purely instinctual, intuitive existence. Perhaps it is the common human longing for a simpler life, or the desire to be fully present in each moment – largely free of our recent past or imagined future. For me at least, animals embody this special type of immediacy. Not long ago I began to wonder what it would be like to work with them in a studio environment without cages or scenic landscapes or any other distractions. What would they reveal and what could I create? This whole complex project was really born of those few basic curiosities. A few months and many, many phone calls later, I was standing in front of a chimpanzee, then a tiger, and later an elephant. My journey into the unknown had begun.

Chimpanzee #2, Los Angeles, CA, 2010

The first thing I learned was that I was not really in control, nor was I going to be. For the most part, the animals did what they wanted within the confines of the photography set. Waiting and patience quickly became an integral part of the project. So in the middle of what I can only define as a gentle and unpredictable chaos, I tried to find a specific moment – a moment where mood, composition, and stillness combined to create something uncommon, something unexpected. I was looking for a final image that could stand completely on it’s own, regardless of context, and that also transcended the obvious beauty and power of my subjects. This series of photographs is the result of that exploration.

Chimpanzee #1, Los Angeles, CA, 2010

Bull #2, Los Angeles, CA, 2011

Cheetah #1, Los Angeles, CA, 2011

Cheetah #3, Los Angeles, CA, 2011

Elephant #1, Los Angeles, CA, 2010

Elephant #4, Los Angeles, CA, 2010

Giraffe #3, Los Angeles, CA, 2011

Lion #3, Los Angeles, CA, 2010

Orangutan #1, Los Angeles, CA, 2011

Orangutan #3, Los Angeles, CA, 2011

Tiger #1, Los Angeles, CA, 2010

Zebra #2, Los Angeles, CA, 2010

Zebra #3, Los Angeles, CA, 2010


New! Sanna Kannisto Video

In this clip, Finnish photographer Sanna Kannisto speaks about her experience working with biologists in the rainforests of Latin America and the different series’ she developed in the exhibition and accompanying monograph, Fieldwork.

This edited excerpt is from the artist talk with Jason Houston, picture editor of Orion magazine which took place on Monday, April 25, 2011 at Aperture Gallery.

The photographs in Fieldwork explores the dialectics of nature and culture in both artistic and scientific contexts. Since 1997, Kannisto has spent several months per year living alongside biologists in the rainforests of Latin America. Adopting elements of her companions’ scientific methods, she developed her own form of visual research, extending her depictions of flora and fauna beyond the confines of the natural sciences.

View the talk in full here:

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

The exhibition Fieldwork is currently on view at Aperture through June 23.

Click here to purchase the book of the exhibition Fieldwork.

Click here to purchase the limited-Edition Portfolio by Sanna Kannisto.

Tim Hetherington 1970-2011

As most readers will already know by now, Tim Hetherington, the war reporter, photographer and filmmaker was killed on Wednesday 20 April 2011 in a rocket-propelled grenade attack in Misrata, Libya, alongside another photojournalist Chris Hondros. The news has clearly shocked and deeply saddened the photojournalism community, but also many people far beyond the confines of that world. Bryan has written a post which provides an interesting account of how the news spread very rapidly through Facebook and Twitter and was then held back by some out of respect for the families of the deceased men, until it finally became official. I am not really involved in the world of photo-journalism or reportage, but I had been following Hetherington’s work for some time and saw his excellent documentary Restrepo only a few weeks ago. My impression was that he was a truly unique figure in his field who seemed to be aware not only of the many potential ethical pitfalls of his profession, but also of the need to break with a burdensome past to try and find genuinely new ways of telling stories. He considered himself an “image-maker” rather than a photographer and seemed to be constantly interested in trying new approaches to getting a message across. It also appears from the many tributes that have emerged in the past few hours that he was a profoundly compassionate man who managed to remain sensitive to the suffering that is caused by the violence about which he made his images. To understand what made Hetherington such a unique figure in his field, I recommend watching the last film, Diary (2010), that the uploaded to his Vimeo account. A “highly personal and experimental film” it shows how deeply and carefully he thought about his profession and its implications for his own life, and illustrates why so many people have recognised that his loss is a tragedy not only for his family and friends, but for anyone interested in hearing those stories that can be so hard to tell.

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