Tag Archives: Documentary Style

Looking at the Land From the Comfort of Home

Andy Adams works almost exclusively in the virtual world of contemporary photography. Whether you visit his photography website FlakPhoto.com, follow him on Twitter or take part in his daily Facebook discussions, you’ll find Adams diligently working as a young cultural anthropologist. Reaching far into the online photo ether, Adams always tries to present us with something new that he hopes you’ll be equally thrilled by.

Since 2006 FlakPhoto has grown to become a defining resource for anyone interested in the latest trends in photography online. Institutions like the RISD Museum of Art have recently taken notice of his work, calling upon Adams to curate an installation and accompanying online exhibition to complement its most recent massive show America in View: Landscape Photography 1865 to Now.

In the fall of 2010, Adams curated a similar project for FotoWeek in Washington, D.C. called 100 Portraits, which was a broad survey of contemporary portraiture. Beyond the physical installation Adams, of course, put the project in its entirety on the Internet. LightBox recently spoke to Adams about his projects:

[100 Portraits] was the beginning of my realization that you could bring the ideas of online publishing and art exhibition together to produce a public digital exhibition for everyone in the world that has access to the Internet.

The focus of the RISD exhibition curated by Jan Howard is an historical survey of American Landscape photography from 1865 till now. The parameters for ‘Looking at the Land’ were also very broad and the website component is an exploration of current photography in the documentary style with interviews that analyze and understand the evolving landscape photo tradition. 

The constraints were fairly simple — I wanted this to reflect contemporary styles and current practice, and photographers exploring new directions. In the interest of serendipitous discovery, and hoping I would see something new, I put out a public call online seeking images ‘depicting the American Landscape since 2000.’

While curating the 100 Portraits project, which I coproduced with Larissa Leclair of the Indie Photobook Library, she impressed upon me the idea that this web site that I’ve been publishing every day was becoming a kind of archive and collection unto itself. In a way, the Web has become this giant collection of contemporary photography—portfolio websites, photo blogs, Tumblrs. That’s really interesting. 

What I’ve witnessed in the last few years is this real anxiety about the abundance of images in the world, on the Internet. That’s one way to see things. I prefer to view the situation as one with infinitely more opportunities to discover new, interesting work. Of course, the hazard of what I did here is that you have to look through more than 5,000 pictures to make sense of it all.

I’m interested in learning why people photograph landscape so I asked each of the 88 photographers the same questions: ‘What compels you to photograph the land? What does that mean?’ 

One of the things that I’m trying to do is to foreground the perspective of the image-maker. This may be another way to add meaning to that huge abundance of pictures. 

I also asked each photographer: ‘Why did you photograph this place?’

With landscape photography it’s easy to tell a pro-environmentalism narrative that shows the destruction of the land or how human alterations have forever destroyed that land. That’s all true, of course. But I don’t have an agenda with this project; I’m more interested in understanding why contemporary image-makers make landscape photographs to learn how that tradition is evolving in the 21st century.

If there is a dominant theme in the show it probably is the absurd juxtaposition of nature and culture, recognition that this is the way things are now, that we co-exist with nature. Rather than preach at the spectator, many of these images describe that disconnect with irony and humor.  

One of the things that I think might be indicative of this generation is that you have all these photographers that grew up in suburban sprawl, so that whole concept of home and place is different. Maybe we’re not even lamenting development and the loss of wilderness anymore because we’ve come of age without it? I see a lot of these photographers coming to terms with those ideas and the place where nature and culture are colliding. That’s why some of these pictures seem humorous or ironic. They are less an indictment and more of an acknowledgment.

It was important for me to show the American landscape and real places. America looks very different than it did 100 years ago. It’s also important to remember that these images are not objective facts — they’re subjective interpretations, personal perspectives about how the world looks today. 

This is very much a research project that I’m making public. The ideas that I’m trying to understand and the things that we are interested in have existed before this exhibition and they will exist after. I’ve attempted to tap into the new public sphere that exists in the global online photo community, to learn collectively what these things mean and to hopefully contribute to the history of things, so one day people can look back and learn from it. That’s the bigger picture goal.”

Andy Adams is the founder of FlakPhoto.com and curator of Looking at the Land — 21st Century American Views, a collaboration with the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design. The exhibition is on view until Jan. 13 and you can visit the online version here.

Martin Parr: Picturing the American South

The High Museum of Art commissioned Martin Parr to document Atlanta as part of its Picturing the South project—a series of artist commissions that engage with the American South. Channeling his unparalleled ability to collate humor, wit, and curiosity into his heavily socio-cultural photographs, Parr captured the oddities and eccentricities of contemporary Americana.

British-born Parr, whose photography career spans over 30 years, is known for his provocative documentary style by using cultural criticism through an exaggerated and humorous light. His analysis of how we live is not simply satire, as Parr offers his audience an approach to seeing which acts not to denounce, but to highlight (both aesthetically and thematically) patterns between people, the things we consume and the milieus in which we live.

The outcome of the museum’s commission offers a vivid, comedic and touching perspective on the diversity that lies in Atlanta. Parr covers a large body of subject matter in his findings, which ranges from the high and low—juxtaposing images from a gallery opening to an oddly lengthy corn dog on a stick. Parr’s images offer insight which would only be found through the lens of a meticulous and curious outsider.

Beyond the exhibition at the High Museum of Art, Italian publisher Contrasto released a book, Up and Down Peachtree: Photographs of Atlantaand a documetary, Hot Spots: Martin Parr in the American South. The book, a meticulously edited and impeccably designed object in its own right, is printed without text beyond the book’s title and colophon—which, undeniably, is a testament to Parr’s talent for storytelling. The documentary is a 60-minute lens behind the lens where documentarian Neal Broffman followed Parr photographing around Atlanta. The documentary includes interviews with noted curators, writers, critics and photographers, and offers a look into at Parr’s real-life affable personality and interactions with his subjects. Below, Contrasto has given LightBox an exclusive clip on the documentary:

Martin Parr’s photographs are on view now through September 9, 2012, as part of Picturing the South: New Commissions from the High Museum of Art. Up and Down Peachtree and Hot Spots: Martin Parr in the American South are both available for purchase online.

Edward Sanderson, Untitled #8

Edward Sanderson, Untitled #8

Edward Sanderson

Untitled #8,
Norfolk, United Kingdom, 2012
From the Detached Spaces series
Website – EdwardSanderson.co.uk

Edward Sanderson is a documentary-style landscape and portrait photographer. He graduated from Norwich University College of the Arts with a BA Honours in photography and his work is inspired  by the ways humans interact within the landscape. His recent series Detached Spaces highlights derelict structures and selected individuals within a rural landscape, expressing their isolation within the environment. He lives and works in Norwich, United Kingdom.

Jessica Auer, Skogafoss

Jessica Auer, Skogafoss

Jessica Auer

Skogafoss,
Iceland, 2011
From the Re-creational Spaces series
Website – JessicaAuer.com

Jessica Auer is a documentary-style landscape photographer from Montréal. Drawing inspiration from history and archeology, her work is largely concerned the study of cultural sites. From the beaten track to the frontier, Jessica explores places where history and mythology are woven into the landscape, and where contemporary landscape issues emerge. She received her MFA in Studio Arts from Concordia University in 2007 and is the recipient of several grants and awards. Her work has been exhibited in Canada and the United States and is held in various private and public collections, including the Musée des Beaux Arts du Québec and the Canada Council Art Bank. Jessica is a co-founder and co-director of Galerie Les Territoires in Montréal and teaches photography at Concordia University. She is represented by Patrick Mikhail Gallery in Ottawa.

Jessica Auer, Sublime Settlement

Jessica Auer, Sublime Settlement

Jessica Auer

Sublime Settlement,
Faroe Islands, 2011
Website – JessicaAuer.com

Jessica Auer is a documentary-style landscape photographer from Montréal. Drawing inspiration from history and archeology, her work is largely concerned the study of cultural sites. From the beaten track to the frontier, Jessica explores places where history and mythology are woven into the landscape, and where contemporary landscape issues emerge. She received her MFA in Studio Arts from Concordia University in 2007 and is the recipient of several grants and awards. Her work has been exhibited in Canada and the United States and is held in various private and public collections, including the Musée des Beaux Arts du Québec and the Canada Council Art Bank. Jessica is a co-founder and co-director of Galerie Les Territoires in Montréal and teaches photography at Concordia University. She is represented by Patrick Mikhail Gallery in Ottawa.

Love Ever After: A Valentine’s Day Special

When Lauren Fleishman’s grandfather passed away, the photographer found a book next to his bed filled with dates of birthdays and anniversaries. Tucked within its pages was a love letter he had written to her grandmother during World War II.

“I read the letter and thought about the importance of histories,” Fleishman says. “I wanted to work on a project where I could almost save these histories.” Three years ago, she began photographing couples who have been married for more than five decades, and has recently started a fundraising campaign on Kickstarter that’s designed to bring the project to an end. Fleishman says she’ll feel done when she shoots as many portraits as she can, and that the project will evolve into a book.

Although Fleishman’s background is as a photographer, she taught herself how to conduct an interview in order to also record oral histories of those she photographs—couples she meets at supermarkets, on the street and through their grandchildren. It was the first time she had interacted with her subjects so extensively, erasing the usual boundary between photographer and reporter, and she says the in-depth working process has been both rewarding and necessary to her archival goal.

“I tell the couples, ‘I’m taking the photograph but you are writing your love story,’” she says. “And a lot of the things that they’re talking about, I get the impression that they haven’t thought of these things in years.” After 50 or more years of marriage, a first date can be a hazy recollection—but Fleishman has found that the process of remembering can bring out a deep tenderness between spouses, a visible expression of love that she can then capture on film.

She limits herself to two medium-format rolls per couple, forcing herself to wait for those instances of intimacy. It’s a skill she says is related to her work as a documentary-style photographer, where her subjects did not pose. Within the confines of traditional portraiture, the spontaneous moment may be smaller—“like the way that a wife will touch her husband’s face,” she says, “or the way that they’ll kiss”—but the moment comes nonetheless.

The twin acts of remembrance and preservation, the interaction of which allows her to capture emotion, are key in helping Fleishman make good on her original intent of saving romantic histories. With such long-term couples as subjects, it’s not surprising that some of the individuals in her portraits have died since she met them, lending another level of significance to their images and voices. “The best thing for me is to get phone calls and letters from the spouses who are still alive, thanking me for recording them,” Fleishman says. “It’s a document.”

It’s also a lesson for lovers of all ages. Fleishman says that when she began the project, she was looking for the secret that these couples all seemed to know, the most important rule for a lasting relationship—but now she thinks that secret doesn’t exist. “I thought that there would be one common thread that kept them all together all these years,” she says. “There really isn’t. Everybody is just so different.”

Lauren Fleishman is an award-winning photographer based in New York City. To learn more about Love Ever After and donate to her project, visit her Kickstarter page here.

Photographer #435: Bharat Sikka

Bharat Sikka, 1973, India, is a documentary photographer who also concentrates on editorial and advertising work. He moved to New York to study at the Parsons School of Design where he earned a BFA in photography. His personal work concentrates on contemporary visions of India. His recent series Matter blends studio, street, landscape and portrait photography. Combined they form a portrait of the “new” India. It is Bharat’s vision of a fast changing country. His narrative editorial work often show females in film-like settings, photographed in a unique, documentary style. Amongst his numerous editorial clients are Vogue India, Another magazine, Time, ID and Wallpaper. His work has been exhibited throughout the world as the Rencontres d’Arles photography festival and the Helsinki Art Museum. He works and lives between India and Europe. The following images come from the series Matter, Salvador do Mundo and various Fiction portfolios.

Website: www.bharatsikka.com

New Books by Christian Patterson and Deborah Luster on Sale at the MoCP Bookstore

1.11.12_Patterson_blog.jpg
Christian Patterson, Storm Cellar, 2008

Crime Unseen closes on Sunday, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop enjoying the exhibition.

Exhibiting artists Christian Patterson and Deborah Luster recently released books containing their works showcased in Crime Unseen. Each book takes a different spin on chronicling real-life murder.

In his book, Redheaded Peckerwood, Christian Patterson melds documentary style with creative storytelling as he follows the trail of teenage lovers Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate, who, in the winter of 1957-58, committed a string of murders in Nebraska and Wyoming. By taking photographs and documents stemming directly from their crimes, Patterson focuses on the inherent emotional responses people have toward these objects even before they know the objects’ dark origins. MoCP Curator and Associate Director Karen Irvine wrote the book’s forward.

In Tooth for an Eye: A Chronology of Violence in Orleans Parish, Deborah Luster explores New Orleans, a city where the murder rate is eight times that of the national average. Each image in the book brings the viewer in through the gun sight to the murder location, which teems with disruptive energy. In this way, Luster––whose own mother was a victim of violent crime–creates a complex and vivid portrait of loss and remembrance.

Visit our online shop to purchase these books, or any other title from our bookstore. For more information about Crime Unseen, please visit our website.