Foam For You has launched the second in its series of short films with Jessica Backhaus giving an insight into her working practice as she explores the theme Wonder for Foam magazine. Backhaus featured in Hotshoe magazine way back in April/may 2006 with her series Jesus and the Cherries.
“Foam For You is an online resource which features professional photographers providing inspiration and advice for amateurs looking to improve their own work. At the core of Foam For You’s content is a series of extended films about the work of three internationally renowned artists: Michael Wolf (USA), Jessica Backhaus (GER) and Melanie Bonajo (NL).
“They have given Foam exclusive access to their working practice in three fifteen minute documentaries. They explain the thinking behind their work and, in particular, how it relates to themes taken from different issues of Foam Magazine, in which their work appeared.”
What’s more, the best ones will appear in a gallery on the Foam website and you could win a year’s subscription to Foam Magazine.
Wild Horses; from the series My Dakota (c) Rebecca Norris Webb
Recently profiled by Time‘s LightBox and New Yorker‘s PhotoBooth, Rebecca Norris Webb’s My Dakota, on view at the Dahl Arts Center in South Dakota (through October 13, 2012), is an intensely personal engagement with the landscape, a photographic response to the sudden, unexpected death of her brother. Following the family tragedy, the photographer’s “explorations shifted from the geography of the West to the interior landscape of grief,” writes Suzanne Shaheen.
For the duration of the exhibition, Webb will be opening up and soliciting photographic responses to her own inward-looking work from an online photography community through the Our Dakota open flickr group. Group members will be offered three response assignments over the course of the next few months, created by Webb and her husband and creative partner, Magnum Photojournalist Alex Webb. The first assignment, which explores the notion of loss and landscape is now live. The following two will be posted on July 1, and September 1.
In addition to being a photographer, Rebecca Norris Webb is also a poet and educator. She and her husband have been conducting popular photography workshops for some time now, including one at held at Aperture Gallery in late March of this year, which sold out. The two are offering another weekend workshop called “Find Your Vision” in October immediately following the joint slide talk, which is still open for registration.
Select images from My Dakota are also being exhibited at the group showWeather (through August 17, 2012) at Ricco Maresca Gallery in New York.
Facebook’s billion-dollar acquisition of photo-sharing software Instagram on April 9 confirmed that the world wants to take and look at pictures with interesting filters. But artistic manipulation of the photographic process is not new and, contrary to what users might expect, interest in Instagram has had a positive effect in a surprising place: at analog-only photography company Lomography, which has opened 12 new stores just since this past fall and has plans to open two more, in Chicago and Antwerp, in the coming months.
Matthias Fiegl, one of the original founders of the 20-year-old, pinhole- and fisheye-loving, Vienna-based company, recently visited New York City. He sat down with LightBox at the company’s Greenwich Village store— where signs proclaim the “prophecies of the analogue future” and the walls are papered with photographs—to discuss why its competitor’s success is good for business.
“People have tried out filters on Instagram and now they want to do the real thing,” says Fiegl. “We hear that all the time in the shop.”
Lomography started as a way to buy the Russian Lomo cameras that Fiegl and his friends loved, and now sells a variety of cameras, accessories, film, clothing and books. Fiegl says that people are often surprised that the Lomography website sees up to 8,000 images uploaded daily and about 2 million unique visitors each month. It’s a tiny sum compared to sites like Flickr but, Fiegl notes, users tend to be more selective when they need to develop and scan their photos. “Lomography is a niche,” he says. “From that perspective it’s a huge community.”
The Diana F+
According to Lomography USA’s general manager Liad Cohen, Lomography benefits from blending online and live communities. Lomography’s website has sharing capabilities, and the stores host photography workshops and exhibitions. One such exhibition is a traveling world tour of a collection of vintage 1960s and ’70s “Diana” cameras (Lomography sells a model) amassed by the award-winning photographer Allan Detrich. The exhibit, which also features camera customizations by local artists at each stop it makes, returns to the U.S. on May 10 and will spend about a month in San Francisco before going on to Los Angeles, Austin, Chicago and New York City.
Fiegl theorizes that people who are interested in making art in a novel way want to do something unusual: “The younger the people are, the more they want to do analog,” he says. Lomography once considered selling a digital camera, but a survey of customers revealed that “Lomographers” were more interested in new analog cameras instead. And even if digital filters can achieve Lomography-like looks, Fiegl thinks that users who see themselves as artists, rather than snapshot-sharers, are drawn to his company because it encourages users to keep and come back to older work, whereas the streaming format favored by media platforms like Instagram makes it hard not to just look at what’s most recent.
Even though new customers often have to be taught how to load film and reminded that they can’t see the photos right away, Fiegl says that amateur photographers for whom digital is normal see something appealing in old-fashioned technology—and unlike larger and older photo brands, Lomography has grown alongside digital photography and has not had to struggle to reorient itself in that landscape.
“Maybe the technology is redundant,” says Fiegl, “but it’s opening up new possibilities.”
The Diana World Tour returns to the U.S. on May 10, opening at the Lomography Gallery Store in San Francisco. The show will then travel to Los Angeles, Austin, Chicago and New York. Information from past stops the show has made is available here, and more information about Lomography is available here.
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Installation shots at Aperture Gallery, New York, 2009 by Elliot Black Photography
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The photographic process is often credited in part with displacing representation from painting, pushing it over the course of the first half of the last century further into the domain of abstraction. The camera was commonly thought to capture and document a supposed objective reality in a way the human hand never could. However, photography itself has also been variously employed for nonrepresentational abstraction since its inception.
In a twopart video interview, independent writer and critic Lyle Rexer, who curated the exhibition and authored the 2009 Aperture-published book by the same title, says he was drawn to artists that “were making pictures that moved away from from an easily identifiable subject, or that complicated the picture or the response that we normal have to pictures, in what is essentially thought of as a denotative medium.”
The traveling exhibition, which has been on view in a number of places around the world, each time in a slightly different iteration, features work by a diverse group of contemporary artists including Bill Armstrong, Carel Balth, Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, Ellen Carey, Roland Fischer, Michael Flomen, Manuel Geerinck, Edward Mapplethorpe, Penelope Umbrico, Silvio Wolf, and more listed here. For Rexer, he says, bringing this group together and seeing what they have in common is meant to address the following question:
What is it about photography now that makes it possible for us to have artists that on the one hand do very documentary work, and other artists at the same time, sometimes the same artists, who are also doing work that would qualify as abstract?
For more information on the work on view, be sure to check out the Edge of Vision Video Interview Series, conducted during the installation at Aperture Gallery in 2009, on vimeo:
Penelope Umbrico persents her work “For Sale/TV’s From Craigslist,” and explains why she considers herself a documentary photographer, “a traveler through media.”
Ellen Carey discusses her large-scale work “Pulls with Lifts and Drops,” film pulled through the rollers of a Polaroid large-format camera, and her color photogram, “PushPins,” exploring how each challenges the viewer to rethink the medium.
Barbara Kasten explains her work based on physical constructions that play with light and are created only for the purpose of being photographed. By this approach, the photograph itself becomes the object and is removed from being representative or documentary.
Silvio Wolf presents his work which combines straight photography and the unexposed ends of film rolls as negatives exposed to light. The end results are mesmerizing and meditative colorful images about light and absence of light.
Bill Armstrong puts in context his “Mandala #450″ piece, explains why he uses blurring as a process and explores his “painterly approach to photography.”
Charles Lindsay speaks about how he started working with his unique carbon emulsion process, his inspirations and the combination of his photographic, video and sound works.
Seth Lambert contextualizes his work in the show “Nothing on the Bed of an Epson Expression 10000XL” within his Failures series of grids mapping out anything from beard hair, mirror pieces to nothing with a blank scan.
Carel Balth explains the process behind his works “Moving IV” and “Madrid V,” and how his appropriation of images through a digital format functions as a new medium.
Jack Sal speaks about his piece “Sale/Sala (Salt/Room)” while you watch him installing it.
Manuel Geerinck, who started his career as a painter, speaks about his unique process combining his drawings that he then photographs in motion.
Also, watch a panel discussion on Abstraction in Photography from 2009 at the Hammer Museum at UCLA, moderated by Rexer, and read a review of the exhibition when it was on view at Lewis & Clark College in Portland earlier this year, from the Oregonian.
Exhibition on view: Thursday, May 10 – Saturday, June 16, 2012
Penelope Umbrico on her piece For Sale/TVs From Craigslist at Aperture (May, 2009).
Consumer culture can be an ugly reality to face. Despite what might seem to be an oxymoronic concept, the contemporary sense of self is increasingly predicated on possessive individualism, a self-definition by way of consumption, or more simply put, the thought: ‘I am what I buy.’ Not only has shopping long become a pastime, so too has the proclamation of these purchases across social media.
Umbrico’s work over the past few decades offers a radical doubletake on the consumer and vernacular images with which we are bombarded. She aggregates photographs that follow a kind of “script,” compiling thousands of somehow related images found on social media websites like Craigslist and Flickr. Some are selling used products, others are sharing personal but generic vacation moments. All, however, have hints of privacy or intimacy in them. As she explains in the clip above, the used TVs people sell on Craigslist often bear reflections of themselves or their apartments. Her most recognized work Suns From Flickr, which made the cover of her conceptual first monograph from Aperture in Fall, 2011Penelope Umbrico (photographs), is made up of thousands of found snapshots, generic vacation photos tagged with term “sunset,” cropped down to sun alone, sometimes 5% of the original photograph, and installed on a mural-sized grid. The monumental result is meant to explore ”what [these images] can tell us about our relationship to photography, technology and each other.”
Ulrich’s work on view at Julie Saul is part of a decade-long exploration of the American consumer landscape for a series called Copia. The project, he explains for Time’s Lightbox, is something he embarked on as a response to the president’s call for the nation to bolster the economy in the wake of the 9/11 attacks by way of shopping. The series, comprised in three parts tracking the degradation of this consumer cycle–”Retail,” “Thrift,” and “Dark Stores,”–was also published by Aperture in Fall, 2011 as Ulrich’s first monograph, Is This Place Great or What.
Gurnee, IL (2003); from the series Retail (c) Brian Ulrich/Aperture Foundation
“Retail” featuresoften vibrant candy-colored, mostly medium-format images taken in big box stores. He captured candid moments with the help of a waist-high viewfinder. The nameless shoppers within his frame carry hollow expressions that convey a kind of alienated stupor during the precise moment, Ulrich says, “the Germans call Konsumieren Rausch or Consumer Intoxication.” “Thrift” features more cluttered images of consignment stores and second-hand shops where the original goods are discarded, while “Dark Stores,” features images of derelict, hollowed out, abandoned malls and shopping centers across the country that have shut their doors.
Belz Factory Outlets (2009), from the series Dark Stores (c) Brian Ulrich/Aperture Foundation
In 2008, accountant and amateur photographer Lee Jeffries was in London to run a marathon. On the day before the race, Jeffries thought he would wander the city to take pictures. Near Leicester Square, he trained his 5D camera with a long, 70-200 lens on a young, homeless woman who was huddled in a sleeping bag among Chinese food containers. “She spotted me and started shouting, drawing the attention of passersby,” Jeffries says. “I could have just walked away in an embarrassed state, or I could have gone over and apologized to her.” He chose the latter, crossed the street and sat with the woman. The eighteen-year-old, whose complexion indicated she was addicted to drugs, told Jeffries her story: her parents had died, leaving her without a home, and she now lived on the streets of London.
This experience had a profound effect on Jeffries, sharpening the focus on the subject matter of his street photography—the homeless—and defining his approach to taking pictures. He didn’t want to exploit these people or steal photographs of them like so many other photographers who had seen the homeless as an easy target. In an effort to make intimate portraits, Jeffries would try to connect with each person on an individual basis first. “I need to see some kind of emotion in my subjects,” Jeffries says. “I specifically look at people’s eyes—when I see it, I recognize it and feel it—and I repeat the process over and over again.” Jeffries tries to keep the contact as informal as possible. He rarely takes notes, feeling it immediately raises suspicion, and prefers to take pictures while he is talking with his subjects to capture the “real emotion” in them. “I’m stepping into their world,” he says. “Everyone else walks by like the homeless are invisible. I’m stepping through the fear, in the hope that people will realize these people are just like me and you.”
Self-taught and self-funded, Jeffries has used vacation time to travel to Skid Row in Los Angeles three times, as well as Las Vegas, New York, London, Paris and Rome, to continue his project. The way that Jeffries processes his images and the heavy use of shadow and light within his pictures is a direct reference to the religious overtones he felt while photographing the beggars and homeless in Rome. The underexposure in camera and process to dodge back light where he wants it—although done in a digital environment—relate more to the traditions of analog printing. The effect of the subjects on the photographer is equally heavy: “When I’m talking to these people, I can’t then leave that emotion, so when I get back to my computer so emotionally involved, sometimes I will start to cry when processing the image,” Jeffries says.
The photographer’s passion has become his life mission. He uses his photography to draw attention to and raise funds for the homeless, posting the images to Flickr and entering the work into competitions. Over the past three years Jeffries has placed third, second and second in an annual Amateur Photographer magazine award contest, and has won separate monthly contests which come with a camera as a reward. Each of the half dozen cameras he’s won has been donated to raise funds for charities, including homeless and disability organizations. The proceeds from Jeffries’s Blurb book, which features homeless portraits, go to the Union Rescue Mission in Los Angeles and the photographer allows any charity to use his images free of charge. Jeffries also runs the London and New York marathons to raise money for Shelter, a U.K. housing charity. He’s committed himself at a more personal level too, buying lunch for a man who had lost his fingers and toes to frostbite or taking a woman with a staph infection to the hospital when she was sick. Jeffries estimates he has given thousands of dollars to these individuals, but what he has given them in terms of a sense of dignity and outpouring of concern is immeasurable.
Jeffries’s powerful portraits are getting noticed. He recently won Digital Camera magazine’s Photographer of the Year award. There has been an explosion of interest in the last two to three months as the images have been shared across the web, spreading virally via Flickr, Facebook and Twitter, and more recently, appearing on blogs and in mainstream media including the Independent and Guardian. A book is slated to be published next month by Yellow Korner. The increased exposure is welcome news for a man whose self-funded journey can be difficult. “I can’t change these people’s lives,” he says. “I can’t wave a magic wand but it doesn’t mean I can’t take a photograph of them and try to raise awareness and bring attention to their plight.”
Lee Jeffries is a photographer based in Manchester, England. See more of his work here.
I’ve been meaning to write about Los Angeles photographer, Gilda Davidian for sometime. Gilda knows how to take a Portrait (with a capital “P”) and her website and flickr pages are full of wonderful imagery of her friends and Armenian family members, taken with a an artist’s eye. “(I am) interested in using photography to explore ideas involving home, familial relationships, and the process of forming identity through the act of portraiture.”
Gilda graduated from Cal Arts with a BFA in 2006 and soon after helped start the Los Angeles photo collective, From Here to There, which allows fellow Cal Arts graduates to create exhibition possibilites as a group. J. Wesley Brown has an interesting interview about the collective with Gilda on We Can Shoot Too.
Two series are featured below: Portraits and Portrait Studio. In her portrait series, Gilda manages to tell a story within each image, where the setting, the clothing, the color, and the person combine to provide the viewer with significant insights into the sitter.
Images from Portraits
One of my favorite series, Portrait Studio, is a wonderful look at those behind the camera. The fact that these Armenian portrait photographers, mostly from Glendale or Pasadena, spend day after day in small, unassuming studios, working to create memories, has a sad poignancy as they pose next to faded images of by gone days.
What seems like a lifetime ago, I spent a quiet afternoon down the rabbit hole of looking at photographs and came across the work of Angela Bacon Kidwell. I think I was on Flickr or some photo sharing site, and I discovered imagery that was powerful, unique, and compelling. I contacted Angela immediately and over the years, we have become friends and supporters. I have featured Angela’s work several times on Lenscratch, but when she recently shared her new work with me, I literally got the chills. Her work was breaking new ground and I knew it was time to highlight Angela’s many success stories.
Having a ringside seat at Angela’s trajectory, I have watched her professionalism, her artistry, and her thoughtful approach to the photographic journey take root and soar. Her photographs have fans around the world; she has garnered award after award, most recently, winning First Place in the Texas Photographic Society International Competition, is one of the ten finalists for the John Clarence Laughlin Award, and has been nominated for the Santa Fe Prize for Photography. Her work is exhibited all across America and featured in numerous magazines. Born in Dallas, and now living in Wichita Falls, Texas, Angela draws inspiration from her life and experiences, her family, and surroundings. She’s a thinker, a dreamer, and a true artist.
Her new series, Traces of Existence, combines emotion, travel, the unknown, and the new, all mixing into new ways of working and seeing.
from Traces of Existence
The motive in this body of work is to mend the tension and tragedy created when conflicting emotions meet. Walking through the highs of my recent travel to China and the lows of significant personal loss, I have been searching for a visual level of communication that would unite traces of my existence. I have become increasingly fascinated by how tenacious life is and yet how in a moment survival ceases. The fragility of life is represented in this work by a personal language of symbols. I want all my images to have real meaning for me, even if it is not easily read by the viewer. By working more abstractly, the dissimilar images connect to one another in unexpected ways causing a thought or idea to evolve. The juxtaposition of death and despair, represented by skeletons, old age and holes connected to a joyous life filled with children, birds and Ferris Wheels examine the complicated and chaotic ways in which life contracts, expands, converges and divests in our personal journeys. By stretching the image to near disintegration by burning, freezing and submersions I seek to release my emotions and give respect to a life that has been fully lived. The emotions I sought to bandage together resulted in a somber, but completely liberating experience.
Process: Numerous layers of hand painted photographs, drawings and resin make up a single image. The final results are a complex layering process and not complete digital manipulations. The image is printed and re-photographed under various conditions in one final effort to heal the tender wounds that bind my own existence.
You state that the work was created as a way to “mend the tension and tragedy created when conflicting emotions meet. Walking through the highs of my recent travel to China and the lows of significant personal loss, I have been searching for a visual level of communication that would unite traces of my existence.” Has the process of creating the work been therapeutic for you?
The short answer is yes, but let me give you a little background on how the work evolved and share a simple quote I stumbled across while in China that helped lead me in producing this body of work. “You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from building nests in your hair”. — Old Chinese Proverb
Over the last several years, I’ve been working on a series that address the complex stages of grief after a death. During this time, of searching and gathering my ideas I was simultaneously processing two events in my life: First, the joy of my travels in China and second the loneliness that followed significant personal losses. I decided to take a detour from the new series and move in closer to some of specific events and emotions in my immediate space. The decision I made was to limit myself loosely to the photographs I took in China, personal effects from my grandparents’ home and images my son and I took the last day we occupied their home. My vision was to create a new object that would tie and seal my recent experiences into a single ambiguous memory. And, to keep those nests out!
The process of creating the work became therapeutic because it forced me to work abstractly with the subjects and that helped to create order, distance and a bridge between my internal and external worlds. The work took a considerable amount of time and energy to create, and the more layers an image embodied the more “new” life it took on. The long process of creating each image allowed much time to pass, and you know the saying “time heals all wounds”. It helps.
Did your trip to China change how you see and how make work?
My trip reinforced by belief that images have power beyond what we are able to communicate verbally. There was clearly a barrier in my communications with the people in China but our understanding of visual language provided an alternative to the lack of verbal ability. We are all much more similar than different. This reaffirmation helped me to explore a new way of creating and I sensed that the work would be able to communicate universally. At least I hoped it would.
Your approach is totally unique—hand painting, resin, photographing…can you describe this process?
Once I decided to shape the photographs and objects into a new story or expression the path became quite clear. I wanted to experience an emotional release with each layer of the image. I felt like many times creating the work I was going through certain stages of grief. There are many stages of grief, and they don’t follow a systematic order. They are messy, and this work was messy to create. I printed hundreds of images and began to deconstruct them by cutting, tearing, layering other objects, drawing and painting. The assemblage of the work allowed me to experience different emotions: the tearing and cutting was aggressive contrasted with the painting and drawing that was contemplative. There was a dance that I went through with each individual image- pushing it to near disintegration and then rescuing it again till I was finally ready to let it be. The final stage consisted of defrosting images, and at times allowing my son to interact with the melting image, submerging an image in water for days while adding oil to the water and watching it move, and burning the image. I re-photographed the images going through a new metamorphosis before the image would cease to exist. The final step was a visual and emotional closure.
Was there a reason for working in Black and White?
Honestly, I never considered approaching this work in color. I saw it in black and white.
How does living in a small town in Texas, without the influences of a metropolitan experience and an active physical photo community, affect making work?
I was raised in Dallas, Texas and even though that is a large city I always felt I would move to a larger city such as LA or NY to pursue the arts. Instead, thirteen years ago I moved to Wichita Falls, Texas and this city has boosted my artistic spirit. I do believe that I could be creative anywhere, but I feel where I live is truly conducive to the way I work. I’m a receiver type of personality, and I absorb the energy that is going on in my immediate environment so high energy cities tend to drain me over a period of time. I’m much more productive and peaceful in a small town. The city I live in has a rich, and talented artistic community, and many of my early mentors live here, and that brings about a feeling of safety for me which helps keep me centered.
Your son Bleu has been integral part of your image making. How does he feel about being part of you photographic journey?
Since the moment, he was born I knew I would no longer create in solitude but with a partner. The last six years with Bleu have been nothing short of amazing for me, and I’ll take it so far as to say he has had a pretty interesting, creative childhood.
But, I’ll let him answer that question for himself.
How do you juggle your ever growing success and the demands of motherhood?
Without a doubt, my husband and son are my biggest supporters-on a good day. No, honestly my husband although not a creative being and I know I drive him crazy at times is always in my corner. He understands me and my need to create and explore. He calls me the “white tornado” because I have a ton of energy and I’m rarely still. I can get a lot done! My focus the last eleven years has been on my work and family and one would not succeed without the other. They work in tandem so to speak. I feel very blessed and thankful and would not change a single thing about my life.
What advice can you give emerging photographers, especially on presentation, on networking, on consistently producing excellent work?
The best advice I can share is to attempt to be in a constant state of graciousness. We all have so much to be thankful for, and if you can believe that where you are at the present moment is exactly where you are supposed to be then you are free to create and enjoy what is around you in the present. I started out sharing work via different photography, and social networking sites and my involvement with this media allowed me to gain exposure. The feedback I received from all around the world was crucial because it gave me a boost in confidence to present my work to reviews and competitions. I know networking via Facebook etc… is relevant, but it is also crucial to devote the majority of your time to your own creativity and sometimes too much networking steals precious time. I feel I’m getting closer to my truer self in recent years, and that comes from having a quieter mind and, tweeting etc… is not harmonious with peace. I also think that if you are being honest with yourself then the people that can help you show up in your life at just the right moment without enormous effort on your part. You did that for me years ago, Aline. Thank you!
To be consistent at anything in life you have to keep trying different avenues of expression- it’s all in the doing and doing a ton that produces better work and better work attracts a larger audience. It is a numbers game.
What opportunity took your career to the next level?
Without a doubt, Photolucdia and Review Santa Fe in 2008 opened up some wonderful doors for me and allowed me meet some amazing fellow artists. I think it is also very important to surround yourself with a few caring individuals that support you and your vision. Even one is fine.
Do you ever have periods of self-doubt and feel creatively unmotivated?
Yes, but I don’t focus on those feelings. Every fiber of my being is about creating so I paint something, make something, do something. I’m never without a creative project going on in my life even if it has nothing to do with photography the act of making always impacts the next artistic endeavor. Most people think that being a creative person and living a creative life comes easily but it is a ton of actual work. Of course, there are moments of unique vision but those are fleeting- it is work and for unknown reasons it must come out of me. Annoying sometimes but I wholeheartedly accept it.
And finally, what would be your perfect day?
Finishing this interview is a nice day. Now back to doing. If, the doing goes good today than it is a perfect day!