Tag Archives: Gaze

Grids and cluster presentations of photography at Paris Photo

Amidst the endless sea of photographs hanging on partitioned walls at the Paris Photo fair this week, presentations of clusters and grids of photos seemed to multiply the attraction to some works of art.

Stopping people in their tracks, this approach forces one’s gaze to bounce around the grids, and then to hone in on one image then another, eyes concentrating with intensity, then moving on again and back. squido lense . carrera de fotografia .

Three such grids include a series of self-portraits by Lee Friedlander; jam-packed Japanese commuters in Michael Wolf’s series Tokyo Compression; and a collection of anonymous cheesecake photos selected by Alec Soth and framed in wooden boxes that echo the feeling of the cheap wood paneling one would find in the motel bedrooms where many of these images seem to have been made during furtive affairs.

friedlander-grid-2012.jpgmichael_wolf-grid-2012.jpgalec_soth-grid-2012.jpg

Europe Week: Salva Lopez

Guest editor, Jacqueline Roberts shares a week of European photographers, starting with Salva Lopez. A huge thank you toJacqueline for her insight and efforts. Her statement for why she selected the photographers follows: 


 I chose these photographs because they move me. They are portraits of people, young or old. They tell a story, maybe theirs, maybe ours. Some speak softly, hushing over us like in Lopez’ muted portraits of old people. Others exude exuberance and vitality, like in Laboile’s family life. Some are languid portraits, others raw pictures of a sore existence. Some stare right back at us, like in Videnin’s photographs; others gently lower their gaze. Yet for me, they all share that essential quality that turns a good photograph into a great one: immediacy. We know a good photograph when we see one. When I look at these images, I relate to them immediately, to the people they portray, to the narrative. They have their own language, a language that speak to me, a language that I understand. There is an intuitive connection that synchronises our own experience with a photograph. A reciprocal flow. An empathic exchange. 


I was at Getxophoto this summer, an international photo festival near Bilbao (Spain), and it struck me when two passers-by paused in front of a photograph and remarked: “Oh that’s very nice, but what does that mean? What was the artist trying to tell us?” searching for answers. Images carry meaning, they do; but in my case, it is the quest for questions that I relish when looking at a photograph. To me, these photographs tell us about loneliness, joy and pain; about dreams, beauty and hopelessness; about search and loss… Vehicles for meanings, emotions and thoughts. Stories of bodies and souls… ultimately, metaphors of life and what lies underneath.–Jacqueline Roberts


image by Salva Lopez


Salva López (Barcelona, 1984) trained as a graphic designer but when he discovered photographers Stephen Shore, Joel Sternfeld and Alec Soth, he realised that photography was what he wanted to do. Since then Salva has gained recognition in Spain as an emerging talent, winning many awards (e.g.Fotoactitud, Photoespaña) and showing his work in exhibitions and photo festivals.

Salva is currently working on his project “The Green Curtain”, about the mount Montjuïc in Barcelona. He is also co-editor of the blog “Have a Nice Book” about photography books that he edits with his friend and also photographer Yosigo.

Roig 26 is a project that I have carried
out bit by bit through observation, reflection and from my experience of living
with my grand parents, Marina y José, for five years in their modest apartment
on Roig street, in the Barcelona “Raval” district. An apartment that
has been the stage of their relationship for more than 60 years. A whole life
inside these same walls and these same fears.

With Roig 26 my intention was not to draw a true portrait of their own reality, but rather to recreate one, through what I have experienced with them.


What does your cultural heritage bring to your work?

It is difficult to know which type of cultural heritage has influence my work. Obviously I have my own cultural references, my region, my surroundings, Catalonia, Spain, the Mediterranean and Europe. But in a global world, my influences come also from the United States, through their movies, their music, their literature and particularly through their photography. William Eggleston or Stephen Shore have had an impact on me from the start. 

What difference do see between work created in Europe and in the States?

Ummm… I would say that in the United States a formal approach often predominates along with a more intuitive and visual narrative. I believe that in Europe we perhaps make it more intellectual, we try to find a concept for each photographic work. The ideal work, for me, would that which is visually strong and has an intellectual dimension, that is interesting but not necessarily explicit. In my work, there are days when I wake up as a European and others as an American. Here in Europe we too often “split hairs”.

What is the state of photography in your country (how is photography perceived in the art scene, is there support, are galleries selling, etc.)?
As everybody knows, Spain is going through a massive crisis and the first budget cuts have affected cultural activities. Most grants are gone now, and what is left will not last long. I am not too familiar with galleries so I can’t really say, but one thing is sure, sales have fallen dramatically.
Having said that, I think that Spanish photographers are getting better and we are gradually reaching European levels. People are very motivated and there are more and more groups that support young talented photographers. I know quite well the world of photography books and I can see the progression. Publishing houses are publishing very interesting things and photography books are now making the Top 10 list for best books. Last year for instance, Ricardo Cases with ‘Paloma al aire’ and Julian Barón with ‘CENSURA’ were among the top 10. And it is very likely that Cristina de Middel’s book ‘Afronautas’, will make it this year. 
There is still loads more to do, support and funds are scarce, but luckily and thanks to the Internet it is now much easier to access information and promote your work. The intermediaries who were once indispensable are less so today.

Land of Stories and Myths: Yaakov Israel Photographs His Homeland

The land upon which the nation of Israel sits is steeped in stories and myths. It’s ancient, holy; all three major faiths that took root here see salvation in its domes, its olive groves, its cracked earth. It’s a land where people still seek the messiah. In one Orthodox Jewish messianic tradition, He will return riding a white donkey. On a blistering summer’s day in 2006, Yaakov Israel peered through the heat waves and saw, emerging in the distance, a man atop a white donkey. “He materialized,” says Israel, a photographer based in Jerusalem, “like a fata morgana,” a mirage.

Israel’s book The Quest for the Man on the White Donkey will be released in the U.S. this fall.

This man on a donkey was no illusion — nor, most would contest, was he the messiah. Instead, his arrival from the desert and into Israel’s lens gave the photographer a guide for a photo project he has worked on for the past decade, crystallized in a new book, The Quest for the Man on the White Donkey. Israel’s pictures are the product of years of wanderings in Israel, in the Occupied Territories and in the spaces in-between, seeking to document a vision of its people and landscapes away from the noise of an intractable political conflict and the rumbling news media that watches it.

In the spirit of U.S. photographers who chronicled their journeys through the American vastness, Israel would wake up early in the morning and head off in a direction, photographing what he saw and whom he encountered along the way. Of course, unlike in the U.S., Israel, traveling in the country that bears his name, would invariably run into one or two political borders by nightfall. And so his gaze dwells on the quiet of certain moments — “the small clues for me that exist in each image,” as he puts it — that tell a story of daily life in a land whose deep history and uncertain future are woven through with gestures that are at once religious, political and inescapably human.

A girl wades into the Sea of Galilee, her arms held wide as if choosing between crucifixion and baptism. Spools of barbed wire are followed in the book by tangles of thorns and a sea of dandelions; men with guns look on, at times curious, at times detached. A backpacker sleeps. The hills glow and soak in sunlight.

Israel emphasizes the everyday nature of his subjects — “these are people I’m just bumping into every time I go out.” Often, they would go out of their way to accommodate Israel, posing patiently, introducing him to family and friends, pointing to new vistas for his camera. In one scene, a pair of Arab workers who had intended to go to work choose instead to hang out with Israel and share their breakfast with him. “These episodes of human courtesy happened again and again,” says Israel. “For me, these small things tell another kind of political story.”

The man on the white donkey, a Palestinian farmer, was no different. In 45 degrees Celsius heat, he agreed without hesitation to participate in Israel’s project, desperately trying to keep his steed still until an image became clear.

Yaakov Israel is a Jerusalem-based photographer. See more of his work here.

The Quest for the Man on the White Donkey will be available in the U.S. this fall. The project recently won the PhotoEspaña Descubrimientos (PHE12 Discoveries) 2012 Award.

Today’s Shot: Africanis dog

linkwheel creation .

Africanis dog, Sneeuberg Pass, Murraysburg district, South Africa, 2/2/2009 Africanis dog, Sneeuberg Pass, Murraysburg district, South Africa, 2/2/2009,Daniel Naud

“While on a road trip through South Africas Karoo region in 2006, Daniel Naud encountered a feral dog foaming at the mouth and wearing an intent gaze. This run-in motivated Naud to begin his series of photographs on the Africanis, wild dogs thought to have migrated from Egypt and now inhabiting the South African countryside.”

More from DanielNaud

Thibault Brunet: First Person Shooter

(c) Thibault Brunet

Exhibition on view:
April 19 – May 19, 2012

4RT Contemporary
Chaussée de Waterloo, 1038
1180 Brussels

French photographer Thibault Brunet takes a photojournalist’s approach to his seemingly studio-lit portraits of soldiers, following troops through their daily missions passing through war zones and rubble waiting for those moments when “something seems to go wrong and a state of disorder sets in.” These photographs from the series First Person Shooter, along with some work from his latest series Paris: In the Aftermath of War, will be on view as part of his solo show at 4RT Contemporary in Brussels (through May 19, 2012).

“An undefined gaze or the glassy eye of a soldier; the disorientation at a Paris Métro station,” the gallery writes in their press release, “clearly familiar to us but now emptied of its usual crowds and devastated by an unknown conflict: these visuals challenge the spectator and require another look, a second reading.”

His work was profiled by Time‘s LightBox last year, which also explored his use of video game screenshots in the series, accompanied by a gallery of images from the show now in Brussels.

Brunet was also selected as runner up for Aperture’s 2011 Portfolio Prize for his work in First Person Shooter. More information on the 2012 Portfolio Prize call for entries will be available soon, but only Aperture magazine subscribers are qualified for entry, so have a look at some of work of the past recipients and runners up, and sign up today.

‘Dark Tourism’: Ambroise Tézenas and the Pull of Death

It’s not unusual for photojournalists to travel to places that have been scarred by genocide, accident and natural disaster. But photographer Ambroise Tézenas has spent the last few years turning that norm on its head to capture what happens to those sites after the journalists leave, when they become tourist destinations.

In 2008, Tézenas was looking for his next photographic project when he read that a train, swept into the Sri Lankan jungle by a tsunami, was still there four years after the fact. Tézenas happened to have been in Sri Lanka at the time of the storm—on a vacation that became a job—and was fascinated to learn that the train had become a place of pilgrimage.

“Some tourists were coming to have their pictures taken there,” the photographer says. “I thought about what the victims and the survivors would think.”

That question became the seed of a long-term project, Dark Tourism, now on view at Galerie Mélanie Rio in Nantes, France. Tézenas immersed himself in the tourist experience: he always traveled with a tour group, always paid for the experience and only took pictures of things any tourist could see. Sometimes that ethos meant his pictures were restrained—he only had the time allotted by the tourism groups, so he was unable to wait for ideal light—but it also allowed the photographer to comment on more than the scenery.

“It wasn’t just to find new places nobody had seen,” says Tézenas, “but to link these places and to have a portrait of a new tendency of tourism.”

Not that so-called “dark tourism” is new. Professor John Lennon of Glasgow Caledonian University, who coined the term in 1996 and whose work influenced Tézenas’ project, says that the urge to turn the tourist’s gaze on horror—what Lennon calls the “pull factor” of the macabre—dates back to the spectators at the Battle of Waterloo, and further than that, to the first people who watched crucifixions as spectacle.

“It’s a human fascination with our ability to do evil, a human fascination with death,” he explains. “It’s so unimaginably terrible but it exerts this fascination.” Survey data has shown him that the impulse comes from a cross between genuine interest in history, voyeurism and, especially in recent years, commoditization, the kind of pre-packaged deals of which Tézenas availed himself. That ease of access is, according to Lennon, the new factor in the equation.

Tézenas saw that commercialization in action at a Latvian jail where tourists could pay to play prisoner and be terrorized by guards in the middle of the night, on a guided visit to Chernobyl and on a “genocide tour” of Rwanda. Lennon points out that “visiting sites of genocide doesn’t prevent genocide from happening again” and that certain gift shops can make visitors queasy, but tourism can benefit economies that are still recovering from disaster.

And, for Tézenas, it was a subject that was ripe for exploration. “In our time, we are so close to death through news and cinema and video games, but at the same time death is so removed from our contemporary society,” he says, explaining that he hoped to use photography to get to the root of the sociological phenomenon. “I want to raise the point, very humbly, because there are so many questions.”

Dark Tourism will be on view at Galerie Mélanie Rio in Nantes, France, through May 12. Ambroise Tézenas is a French photographer. See more of his work here.

Retratos Pintados – Painted Portraits and the Lima Photography Biennial

I’m very lucky to be in Lima right now because kicking off this week is Lima’s first ever Photography Biennial. As part of the event there are over 30 official shows, about half a dozen of which opened last night. My first stop was at a show of painted photo portraits entitled “Memorias Visuales, el retrato iluminado y la historia cotidiana” (Visual Memory: the Illuminated Portrait and Daily Life). The exhibit, which is curated by Carlos Sánchez Giraldo and  Sofía Velásquez Núñez contains painted photo portraits from the 1920s to the 1970s.

Installation view of "Memorias Visuales, el retrato iluminado y la historia cotidiana"

The wall text mentions that the curators were inspired to mount this show because they themselves had grown up with the constant gaze of these portraits (of grandparents, great grandparents) in their houses. Painted portraits were very common across Latin America. The involved painting directly on black and white photos. They have this weird way of bringing the subjects to life (in color) but also sucking the life out by removing the photo-ness of the image.

There seems to be a lot of interest in retratos pintados today. Photo historian Geoffrey Batchen has written about fotoesculturas in Mexico as part of his interest in vernacular photography. Yossi Milo Gallery in New York did a show of Brazilian retratos pintados in 2010. In Argentina, Florencia Blanco did a series of photos placing retratos in different contexts. While I was in Iquitos recently, nearly every house I went into had one of these portraits hanging on the walls.

The curators did a fantastic job of mounting the show, decorating the space with vintage wall paper and furniture, making the gallery into a cozy, domestic space. It allows the visitor to appreciate the domestic function of these portraits and makes visiting the show an experience that cannot be reproduced in a book or website (or blog post!).

Installation from "Memorias Visuales, el retrato iluminado y la historia cotidiana"

Installation from "Memorias Visuales, el retrato iluminado y la historia cotidiana"

In viewing some of the portraits I was reminded of the Fayum Portraits from ancient Roman Egypt, some of my favorite works of art. I was particularly fascinated by a few of the portraits where the paint was laid on very lightly in places.

Retrato Pintado

There is an interesting play between the painted surface and monochromatic undersurface. Where the paint is light, it’s like the flesh is dissolving away. This is cheesy, I know, but I was reminded of the end of Terminator, when Arnold’s flesh is gradually stripped away in places, revealing the silvery robot underneath.

The front room of the exhibit has painted images from the last 20 years. The practice of directly painting on black and white photographs has died out and one of the many current vernacular practices of family photography involve making painted versions of pictures, often snapshots.

Installation from "Memorias Visuales, el retrato iluminado y la historia cotidiana"

It’s weird to see these pictures all hung together. I haven’t paid much attention to these recent photo-paintings before. They lack the formal stiffness and nostalgic charm of the retratos pintados and sit in this sort of uncanny valley of being too recent to be revered. Still, I appreciated their inclusion for showing the ongoing customs of vernacular photography in Peru.

Installation from "Memorias Visuales, el retrato iluminado y la historia cotidiana"

The show is up until April 28, 2012. If you are in Lima, do go see it.

CYJO (Cindy Hwang) is KYOPO

For the most part, all Americans have immigrant roots. We are a country that is an ever shifting melange of cultures. With each addition, our stew of what makes up America, is richer and more flavorful. And within each flavor, or nationality, there are other flavors, individual flavors. We sometimes assume that because people look alike, that they ARE alike. Artist CYJO, who immigrated from Korea to the U.S. in 1975 has a new project, KYOPO ( those of Korean descent that reside outside of the Korean Peninsula (seven million strong). This project “seeks to unify these people and challenges the idea of the stereotypical Korean émigré. The photographs, coupled with words from the kyopo themselves, challenge the idea of a monolithic, “authentic” Korean identity while stimulating exploration and a renewed perception of what it means to be both Korean and a citizen of the world.”

KYOPO has recently been published by Umbrage and will be on exhibition at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in the exhibition “Portraiture Now: Asian American Portraits of Encounter,” running August 12, 2011 through October 14, 2012.

KYOPO Composite from CYJO on Vimeo.

The KYOPO project features a series of over 200 standardized full-body portraits of kyopo from around the world. It shows each subject in their “analogical plenitude”, as Roland Barthes would say, and betrays/displays the intimate relationship between the photographer and the subject. The individuals are posed frontally, their eyes returning the camera’s and the viewer’s gaze, against the static backdrop of the photographer’s studio. Thus, each subject connects with and mirrors the others, while also reflecting their inherent differences and awareness of their simultaneous contemporary visions and experiences.

Book Cover for KYOPO

The clear and standardized composition allows the viewers to focus in on and project onto the subjects, eliciting questions about their backgrounds and stories. Ranging in age from teen to septuagenarian, the subjects are novelists, actors, politicians, comedians, athletes, executives and retirees – some were born and raised in their respective countries and some are more recent émigrés. The striking diversity of the group – the subjects do not appear to have much in common other than their Korean ancestry – challenges the idea of a monolithic, “authentic” Korean identity and stimulates exploration and a renewed perception of what it means to be Korean and a citizen of the world. The KYOPO project also poses the question of how kyopo negotiate the sometimes conflicting expectations and sensibilities arising from their intrinsic multi-cultural identity.


Astrid Park. Fashion Extraordinaire.


Daniel Dae Hyun Kim. Actor.


Grace Lyu-Volckhausen. Retired Government Officer & Professor.


Juju (Hyunju) Chang. Reporter.


Kyung Hwa Lee. Senior VP, International Commodity Brokerage Company.


Maggie Kim. Musician, Writer.


Malco Kim. Art Director.