Tag Archives: Conscious Decision

Review Santa Fe: David Emitt Adams

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.  I was fortunate enough to be a pre-juror for this event. 
Arizona photographer, David Emitt Adams has a wonderful project that pulls us back and forth through photographic history.  Exquisitely presented, his project, 36 Exposures, shines a light on what we have lost in the digital world–the tactile presence of objects that surround film, and the creation of work that does not require a battery or outlet.  His work focuses on historical media and uses that media to create an informed contemporary dialogue about photography’s past and present.

David received a BFA from Bowling Green State University in Ohio and an MFA from Arizona State University.  His work has been exhibited throughout the United States and
abroad. David was selected for the prestigious Lens Culture
International Exposure Award 2011
and most recently, was awarded the Freestyle
Crystal Apple Award
for Outstanding Achievement in Black and White
Photography.  Within the last year,
David was awarded the Nathan Cummings Foundation $5000 travel grant that funded
a trip to France and England.  This
opportunity enabled him to investigate the resurgence of antiquated processes
at its source and their application in contemporary photography. Currently he is working on two new bodies of work as an
Artist-in-Residence at Art Intersection in Gilbert, Arizona. 

Images from 36 Exposures
As an artist who is enthralled with photography, I gain
pleasure from exploring its past and discovering how that past relates to where
the medium is today.  Photography
is in the era of megapixels and I have made the conscious decision to embrace
the processes and elements of display from
photography’s past.  This is
not to say that I have rejected the digital era. 
I, too, own a digital camera, but have chosen to conduct a
constant search to understand everything photography is, and could be.

In the piece 36
Exposures, I have used 35mm film canisters that were discarded by my
“Introduction to Photography” students as a base to hold their portraits.  I employed a labor-intensive, 19th
century, chemical photographic procedure known as the wet plate collodion
process to make the students’ photographs on the very film canisters that
played a crucial role in their initial understanding of photography.  The canisters and the process I used
speak of the evolving nature of photography, representation, and culture.  By mining the history of photography, I
can find the relevance of my work today. 

Naoya Hatakeyama: a book and an exhibition

My most recent trip to Japan in October happily coincided with Naoya Hatakeyama’s first retrospective at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography. Regular readers will know that I am a big fan of his work – and there is quite a lot of it – so I was curious to see how this exhibition, entitled Natural Stories, would be put together. The exhibition has now closed in Tokyo but opens at the Huis Marseille in Amsterdam today until the end of February 2012. To coincide with Natural Stories, Hatakeyama also released his latest book, Ciel Tombé, which I included on my best books of 2011 list, so I thought I would discuss them together here.

I will admit to being a little surprised at the selection of work in Natural Stories. Although there are ten different bodies of work in the exhibition, none of Hatakeyama’s work on Tokyo (Underground, River, Maquettes/Light…) was included. However, in the curator’s text on the exhibition she is quick to explain that this was a conscious decision given that Hatakeyama already had several solo exhibitions in Japan including a 2007 show at the Museum of Modern Art in Kamakura & Hayama which took the city as its theme. With that in mind the exhibition’s focus on the natural landscape makes sense.

The title Natural Stories is an intriguing one. I think it works best in french (Histoires naturelles), which I believe is the language in which the title was originally given. In french ‘histoire’ can mean both history or a story. The title evokes Natural History, stories about nature, and perhaps even a history of nature itself. The essay by the French writer Philippe Forest in the exhibition catalogue explores these notions in detail so I won’t dwell on them any further, but the title evokes the very different considerations that inform Hatakeyama’s photographic approach to the landscape. His landscapes are never ‘just’ landscapes: they are always the reflection or the echo of something else. For instance, although it depicts the limestone mines, the series Lime Hills deals with the transformation of the natural landscape to feed the insatiable growth of the city of Tokyo.

Although it is almost never directly present in this exhibition, the city is never very far away. In the series Ciel Tombé Hatakeyama explored the Parisian catacombs and their underground ‘fallen skies’ (ciel tombé). This series is the subject of Hatakeyama’s latest book, Ciel Tombé (Super Labo, 2011). For this book Hatakeyama has deviated from the standard photobook formula and asked the French author Sylvie Germain to contribute a short story based on his photographs . I won’t go into detail about this book as this post is already overly long, but I will say this: I first saw the work from Ciel Tombé a few years ago at a gallery in Tokyo. Several months later I had the opportunity to read Sylvie Germain’s deliciously strange and unsettling text. I had not seen any of the images since that first viewing, but as I read through the story the images appeared in my mind as if I had only just seen them. For the moment the book only exists in a deluxe edition of 200 which includes a print, a book of Hatakeyama’s photographs and another book containing Sylvie Germain’s text in French, English and Japanese, but there is word of a second edition in the making.

Returning to Natural Stories, for me the final two rooms of the exhibition were the highlight. The first of these rooms (pictured at the top of this post) contained Hatakeyama’s most recent work on his hometown of Rikuzentakata in Iwate prefecture, one of the many towns destroyed in the tsunami of 11 March 2011. Although very little time has passed, Hatakeyama decided to include a series of photographs in the exhibition that he took in the wake of the disaster. Many images have been produced of the aftermath of the tsunami, but most of these fail to connect beyond conveying the scale of the physical destruction. What stands out about Hatakeyama’s images is how matter of fact they feel. He has photographed these landscapes with the same unflinching precision, intelligence and quietness tinged with nostalgia as any other landscape. His photographs strike me as the most natural possible response to the disaster, but they must have been incredibly difficult to make given the deeply personal and tragic nature of the subject. These images are presented on three adjacent walls in the space, while on the fourth a slideshow of images taken between 2008-2010 in his native region is presented in the guise of a framed photograph.

The final room contains the companion series Blast and A Bird. Both series have been exhibited and published in the past, but for this exhibition Hatakeyama also chose to present Blast as a stop-motion video projected on a huge wall in the space. These photographs have a potent mix of beauty and brutal force which is heightened even further when animated in this way. It is an overwhelming end to the exhibition and one which resonates long after you leave the space.

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Related posts:

  1. Review: Naoya Hatakeyama @ Rencontres d’Arles
  2. Review: From Back Home (book and exhibition)
  3. Some more fuel on the photo-book fire