Tag Archives: Constructions

John Stezaker Awarded the 2012 Deutsche Börse Photography Prize

For more than 30 years, artist John Stezaker has used found images as his primary medium. In his compositions, black-and-white studio portraits become surreal two-faced beings; elsewhere, a woman’s face is replaced by the crashing white waves of an illustrated postcard. These collages, which use classic movie stills, vintage postcards and book illustrations, are sliced and re-arranged into entirely new forms—they’re simple constructions, but Stezaker’s eye for the uncanny makes them powerful.

On Sept. 3, Stezaker was awarded the 2012 Deutsche Börse Photography Prize, which recognizes a significant contribution to the medium of photography through exhibition or publication, for his presentation of photographic collages last year at the Whitechapel Gallery in London.

The £30,000 prize (about $48,000) is organized by The Photographers’ Gallery in London. “Stezaker’s work has been influential on a new generation of image-makers,” said Brett Rogers, the Director of The Photographers’ Gallery, in a statement. “Within the vastness of today’s image flow, Stezaker has managed to resurrect the power and uncanny mystery inherent in the still image using traditional photographic strategies, most especially collage.”

Stezaker’s exhibition at Whitechapel showcased work from the 1970s until today.

“I am dedicated to fascination—to image fascination, a fascination for the point at which the image becomes self-enclosed and autonomous. It does so through a series of processes of disjunction,” Stezaker said in a statement from Whitechapel.

John Stezaker is a London-based artist. See more of his work here.

An exhibition of the artists shortlisted for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2012 is on display at The Photographers’ Gallery, London until Sept. 9.

Color Constructions From a Rocket Engineer Turned Photographer

Though somewhat of a complex craft, the art of photographic printing isn’t exactly rocket science—that is, until an artist like Boris Savelev approaches the process, and decides to push it further.

Savelev, who spent his working life in the former Soviet Union as a rocket engineer, brings the same methodical eye to his photography and printing process. He has experimented with color photography since the 1980s, but those early attempts left Savelev unsatisfied with the resulting colors. That dissatisfaction has become a theme for his artistic trajectory; since then he has tried various printing techniques for his photographs. Color Constructions, a new exhibition of his work, represents the apex of his experimentation in printmaking.

“I am writing my biography with them,” Savelev says of his images and the reasoning behind the one-of-a-kind process he prepares himself. “With each new image prepared for printing, my impressions are sharpened and the final print takes on a bright expression, a personal character.”

Savelev got his first major photographic opportunity in 1986. At the start of perestroika in the Soviet Union, Thomas Neurath of London’s Thames and Hudson book publishers visited Moscow in search of “unofficial” artists, and selected Savelev’s work. A selection of those images would eventually be published in 1988 as The Secret City, the artist’s first monograph. Though a success that would gain him international attention, the color quality of the images still left Savelev wanting more from his prints.

The materials used in the process for Color Constructions are surprisingly industrial; for this particular series, the images appear printed on sheets of aluminum, which Savelev prefers for its archival quality and says ensures the “colorful saturation of the hues” in each image. But the process, which does give the appearance of a broader tonal range of color, requires unique preparation for each image. Each panel is coated in gesso, an artistic primer usually used for painting, in order to receive the pigment from each photograph, and is waxed after the image has been printed. Because of the large size and uncommon materials, the image is made with a multi-layer, flatbed printer, custom-made in conjunction with Factum Arte, a Madrid-based studio. According to Factum Arte’s Adam Lowe, in designing the process the studio became filled with 3D scanners and disassembled digital printers.

Courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery

Savelev’s Color Constructions on display in London.

The journey, physical as well as artistic, was a necessary one: “In Moscow no one knows or imagines what a multi-layered print on aluminum is,” Savelev says. “The culture of printing is lost, the tradition of master printers is forgotten, the studios are closed.”

The result is anything but synthetic. Many of Savelev’s images are from his hometown of Czernowitz, where he lived until 1966 when he moved to Moscow. A photograph of a vacant barber shop, dramatically cast in shadows, is an homage to a photographer friend of Savelev’s. The artist, also from Czernowitz, snapped a frame of the same barber shop in black and white that inspired Savelev with its beauty, and he dedicates his own uniquely moody color image to his late friend’s memory. The sum of Color Constructions is a nostalgic view of a Russia no longer in existence; the intent of the printing process is not as a technical exercise, but rather as a means to express the quiet, lonely scenes of former Soviet cities as faithfully as possible. The soft, dreamy colors that Savelev’s process renders are true to his film and his eye, which appear timeless—indeed, the series remains cohesive while including images shot in the past year as well as in the mid 1980s—and show the Russian landscape in an extraordinarily contemplative manner.

Savelev’s images belie the story of an artist seeking to overcome the gap between the image’s original emotive quality, and its representation on the printed surface. Through a process he’s honed slowly since beginning his career in photography decades ago, the complete control over the images is worth the effort, both for the viewer and the artist.

“I do not regret the time spent in search of new technology, or studying early methods and solutions, opening up for myself something personal,” Savelev says. “For me, the final goal is the print.”

Color Constructions is on display at the Michael Hoppen Gallery in London through Jan. 21.

Agata Madejska – Contact

I first saw Contact by Agata Madejska back in 2009 as part of the exhibit Menos Tiempo que Lugar, which brought together German and South American artists making work that in some way had to do with the wave of bicentennials being celebrated across the continent. I remember at the time she didn’t have a site. For some reason I thought the work the other day and, lo-and-behold, the work is online. Contact shows photos of ruins in coastal, desert Peru as well as humble, present-day constructions which often look quite similar.

Agata Madejska – Puruchuco, Peru

Agata Madejska – Trujillo, Peru

I like the emphasis of the continuity between something that is celebrated [ruins, ancient culture] and something which is not [present day slums].

Agata Madejska – Contact

I first saw Contact by Agata Madejska back in 2009 as part of the exhibit Menos Tiempo que Lugar, which brought together German and South American artists making work that in some way had to do with the wave of bicentennials being celebrated across the continent. I remember at the time she didn’t have a site. For some reason I thought the work the other day and, lo-and-behold, the work is online. Contact shows photos of ruins in coastal, desert Peru as well as humble, present-day constructions which often look quite similar.

Agata Madejska – Puruchuco, Peru

Agata Madejska – Trujillo, Peru

I like the emphasis of the continuity between something that is celebrated [ruins, ancient culture] and something which is not [present day slums].

Deconstructing Constructions: James Casebere’s Works 1975-2010

American artist James Casebere has been photographing dioramic constructions of human civilization since 1975. His tableaus—scenes from places both fictional and real—respond to current events and are the subject of a new book called Works 1975-2010, which chronicles highlights from his 35-year career.

Over the years, Casebere’s images have expanded and redefined to show his exploration of aesthetic technical challenges. “Photography resonates with me because it manipulates our perception of the world around us,” he says. “I am interested in photography as a means of persuasion, of propaganda and constructing histories. I am interested in how photography creates and reconstructs reality.”

Born in Lansing, Michigan in 1953, Casebere grew up during the era of television’s rise to becoming America’s prominent medium for creating images and manifesting visual culture. Referencing the sets of sitcoms of the 1950s and 1960s, Casebere’s early career focused on disseminating and questioning the domestic household and addressing the growing dysfunctions of the ideal American home. Though the scenes that he constructs and then photographs are often similar to the environment of his native Lansing, the images are not anecdotal. This absence of a personal narrative is a strategy Casebere still continues in his work today.

Among Casebere’s most well-known work are his images of the interiors of detainment cells and prisons, such as Prison Cell With Skylight, 1993. “I was thinking a lot about the Enlightenment era and the way that different cultural institutions were created in the late 18th and early 19th century. One of the developments was the prison,” he says. “I wanted to investigate innovations of the whole system…I was trying to critically look at the whole process of incarceration as cultural-historical phenomena.”

Color became more focal and the construction of sets more filled with detail in the work that follows the prison images. Casabere began capturing interior rooms beginning in the mid-90s, with images like Converging Hallways from Left, 1997. ”When I was working on prisons, I was really dealing with a subject that involved deprivation and denial,” he says. “When I moved to the interior spaces, they were less obviously models—they were more convincing. The images are printed quite large, and when viewing them in a gallery, they really become something one can walk into. There was confusion about what is real and what isn’t…There came a moment when I decided to break down the wall, visually— to do things with color, light and texture— literally, to break down the walls, the construction of the models.”

At times, Casebere’s work seems to be indicative of future events. Images that Casebere created from 2006 through 2007, seemed to almost foreshadow this year’s Arab Spring, addressing issues that were boiling in the Middle East for a long time. The images depict the Middle East from a place of brewing conflict, but also a place where people lead normal lives. “I was really trying to create a different impression entirely. Tripoli, 2007, the image that I photographed is actually a recreation of Tripoli in Lebanon,” he says. “Shortly after I made that image, there was a battle at a refugee camp, where the Lebanese army surrounded the village and drove them out.”

Casebere’s latest series of images, each work titled a numerical variation of Landscape with Houses (Dutchess County, NY), reveals his return to focusing on the domestic, a move influenced in part by the advent of the mortgage crisis. But this time around, the artist brought color and dramatic lighting into the work. “I was really working with the lights, recreating morning light, afternoon light, evening light, twilight, moonlight, all kinds of light to exhaust the possibilities and color,” he says. The latest image in the series, however, depicts the idyllic suburban houses with a catastrophic, albeit humorously cartoonish, fire burning in the background. “The fire is metaphoric of the sense of crisis of living in the home, the loss of the American dream,” Casebere says. “I emphasize and criticize [the fact] that we’re caught in a cyclical lifestyle that is destructive and self-destructive.”

Works 1975 – 2010, was published this month by Damiani and distributed by D.A.P.

Success Stories: Tami Bone

I’m been a fan of Tami Bone’s dreamy and surreal photographs for a long time and I have been remiss in sharing her work on Lenscratch. I recently received a newsletter from The Center of Fine Art Photography sharing the news that Tami’s work had received the Juror’s Award in the Center Forward exhibition, and in addition, her work has been selected for The Texas Photographic Society Print Program. As her achievements mount, I thought it would be a good time to share her success story.

Born in South Texas and currently living in Austin, Tami attended the University of Texas and has continued her photographic education through classes and workshops. The images from her newest work are sometimes, but not always, constructions of several images. Each one begins as handwritten notes about a particular memory or imagining from her childhood, forming a narrative for the image. As the story unfolds, she begins photographing, often times going back and re-photographing an element over and over until it becomes clear as to what it should be. The journey from concept to finish seems to have a mind all its own, as if the story wants to be told as much as she wants to do the telling.

Congratulations on your Center of Fine Art Photography Award! It’s great to see your work getting recognition. Tell me a little bit about your photographic history. What drew you to the medium?

Thank you! I’ve always related visually to my surroundings, although my interest in photography started about 20 years ago when my children were young. I wanted photographs reflecting how I saw them, and decided then to study photography. So, at that time I started taking photography classes at my local community college, and fell in love with the darkroom. A few years later I was doing freelance portrait work, mainly photographing children in an environmental style. I was also fortunate to photograph in a journalistic way at the local elementary school, and began submitting work to a suburban newspaper and getting images published regularly. So I would say that photographing my own children as well as others initially drew me into photography, although thinking back to my early years, I remember being mesmerized with my parents’ Life and Look magazines. I believe it was the often raw emotion that was so compelling.

How did you develop you signature style? Was it evolutionary? Did you start off with toy cameras?

That’s interesting about a signature style, as I don’t think of it that way, but more as a way of seeing. I can’t remember where it began. I think to some extent it’s always been a part of who I am. I would say that tapping into my vision and learning to photograph and print in a way that expresses it has most definitely been evolutionary and taken years to unfold. I am fairly driven and I want to understand the process as best I can, so I’ve always got myself on a learning curve. My grandmother gave me a white Polaroid camera when I was in my teens, but it wasn’t then that I fell in love. Later, when I knew I had to study photography I bought a Nikon film camera. It felt like an extravagant purchase, and the manual was daunting!

Were/are you influenced by a particular photographer or artist?

Yes, there are so many wonderful visual artists, but specifically I have been influenced by Keith Carter for his sensitivity and love of being astounded by beauty. I have two of his pieces on a wall that I pass by many times a day, and the work never ceases to move me. Sean Perry’s personal vision has been an influence. Sean is the quintessential artist and I was also fortunate to have him as a teacher. He pulled me out of a class one day to talk about my work, and it was the first time that I started to understand that it could move beyond portraiture. Bill Kennedy, a teacher in the photo department at St. Edward’s University in Austin, and owner of K2 Press has been a wonderful encourager. Some years ago Bill said to me, “The most important thing about your work is knowing what you have to say.” I think of that piece of advice often.

I also have to say that the natural world, everyday people and creatures, pure ordinary light at the end of a day – these things have been a constant influence as long as I can remember.

Your resume is ever expanding–you were in 10 shows last year and 5 already this year. Do you have a philosophy or approach to submitting to competitions?

Initially my philosophy was to just get the work out and to start building a resume. I was doing the work long before I started submitting, so I felt I was playing catch-up. Now I am more selective as far as choosing competitions with jurors I’d like to get the work in front of.

Are you active in Social Media and has it changed how you promote your work?

I’m not as active as I probably should be with social media. I have a twitter account, but haven’t caught on. I use facebook primarily to stay in touch with fellow photographers/artists around the world. I love being able to see what people are doing and read about their work.

Have you attended portfolio reviews?

Yes, I attended PhotoNola in 2007 and Review Santa Fe in 2008. I was as nervous as I’ve ever been in my life before PhotoNola! I’m going to Photolucida in a few weeks, and am still getting ready, and yes, nervous.

What advice would you give other emerging photographers?

I would say several things – decide on a project, any project, as long as it’s accessible. Begin photographing and try to see the process as being as important as the final prints. There is wonderful opportunity for growth both photographically and personally in project-driven work. The two are so intertwined. Also, I would say to give a lot of thought to whatever it is that is unique to you. Think about what has been never-changing and there for as long as you can remember. Ask yourself why it is important, and then figure out how to start expressing that uniqueness visually. You’ll know when you’ve hit upon it because it will feel completely vulnerable.

And finally, describe your perfect day.

Okay, my perfect day would be surfing gentle waves in a remote area on the Pacific side of Costa Rica, followed by aimless wandering with my camera until the sun came down. And if that isn’t doable, I’m thrilled to have a few hours to devote to photography, especially when I have a concept in mind for an image. I love getting caught up in a good story.

New Videos: Nicole Robson and Daniel Kaufmann from reGeneration2

Nicole Robson and Daniel Kaufmann, artists from reGeneration2, are focusing their work on re-creating domestic scenes. Using different approaches from digital to physical reconstructions, they both reveal the impact of consumer society and the fatalism of modern people today.

In this clip, Australian photographer Nicole Robson explains the process of her work from building a domestic environment from scratch, to selecting her subjects, and playing with the outside light. Robson speaks about how she tries to convey an image of the modern family and domestic environment in a theatrical, superficial way, evoking also a feeling of nostalgia.

In this clip below, photographer Daniel Kaufmann guides us through his work of digital constructions from photographs of real homes. By combining ordinary environments as well as commercial catalogs from retail stores, Kaufmann reveals how advertising photography influences our lifestyles.

reGeneration2: tomorrow’s photographers today exhibition is still on view for another week at Aperture Gallery and stay tuned for more artists’ interviews on the blog!

Click here to purchase the accompanying publication of reGeneration2: tomorrow Photographer’s Today

Click here to view limited-edition prints by artists from reGeneration2

Go See – New York: ‘Picasso: Guitars, 1912-1914′ at the MoMA through June 06, 2011

Pablo Picasso, Guitar (1913). Via MoMA
At a time when Picasso exhibitions are plentiful and auction sales are lucrative, the Museum of Modern Art curates an impressive exhibition, Picasso: Guitars 1912-1914, which brings together 65 works from this short period in Picasso’s career for a one-stop show in New York.  The exhibition, on view through June 6, 2011, follows the two years prior to World War I during which Picasso explored a thematically rigid style focusing on guitars, through a multidimensional set of media.

Pablo Picasso, Violin Hanging on the Wall (1912-13). Via MoMA
More text and images after the jump…

Picasso, cardboard Guitar (1912). Via MoMA

Picasso, sheet metal Guitar (1914). Via MoMA
Both gifts to the museum from the artist, the two Guitar constructions are central to the exhibition and punctuate the beginning and end of this period: 1912 and 1914. The cardboard Guitar from 1912, never before exhibited in a museum, was constructed using cardboard, paper, wire, glue, and string. The physical structure of the guitar allowed Picasso a greater authority in designing the composition not only from his ability to physically rearrange his display, but also from his knowledge and familiarity with the guitar he acquired when building it. Picasso later rearticulated the guitar in 1914 using ferrous sheet metal and wire.
Picasso Photographic composition with Construction with Guitar Player and Violin (1913). Via MoMA
As the exhibition seamlessly conveys, Picasso engaged a multitude of media including newspaper, wallpaper, sheet music, paint with grit, faux bois, faux marbre, paperboard, cardboards, and sheet metal in a radical move that marked his career with a focus on the physicality, multidimensionality, and materiality of the subject. The 65 works exhibited in Picasso: Guitars 1912-1914 uniquely demonstrate Picasso’s formal, technical and aesthetic evolution during a radically experimental time in his art.

Picasso, Installation in the artist’s studio at 242, boulevard Raspail in Paris. (1912). Via MoMA
Picasso: Guitars, 1912-1914 is on view at the MoMA until June 6, 2011.
-K. Vervoort
Related Links…
Picasso: Guitars 1912-1914 Exhibition [MoMA]
When Picasso Changed His Tune [New York Times]
The Quintessential Guitar Hero [Wall Street Journal]
Kravis, Michael Stipe Admire Picasso Guitars: Scene Last Night [Boomberg]
Picasso: Guitars 1912-1914 Examines a Moment of Radical Experimentation in 20th Century Art [ArtDaily]
Picasso’s True Grit [The Economist]
Pablo Picasso, Guitar Hero [Newsweek]