Tag Archives: Intensity

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.

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Defining identity & memory with "deep fried" photo portraits, and more

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Deep Fried. 1997, C-print, 50.8cm x 61cm. carrera de fotografia . Chino Otsuka. Image courtesy of Huis Marseille.

At age 10, Japanese-born Chino Otsuka was sent away to a progressive private boarding school in Suffolk, England. For her first two years at the school, she was allowed to do nothing. Directory Submission . Then, following her own interests, she started to pursue education with an unrelenting intensity. A book she wrote, at age 15, about her culture-shock and quest for personal identity, made her an instant hero and celebrity back home in Japan. (Twenty years later, the book is still a “must read” for many young Japanese students.) She went on to pursue photography at the Royal Academy of Art, and began a life-long career exploring ideas of identity, memory, and mental time travel, through photography and video and writing.

A brilliant retrospective of her work fills the entire photography museum at Huis Marseille in Amsterdam. And an equally inspiring photobook has just been published: Photo Album by Chino Otsuka.

See and read more in Lens Culture.

Review: Donald Weber, Interrogations

 Donald Weber, Interrogations

The title of Donald Weber’s latest book, Interrogations, is very appropriate: both because they are the book’s subject, but also because this book raises a number of difficult questions which it deliberately refuses to answer. Set in Russia and the Ukraine, the book is made up of a series of portraits of people being questioned in different interrogation rooms, each as sparse as the next. By choosing not to include any captions and very little information about the context of these interrogations, Weber has put together a book which is an unflinching and discomfiting encounter with a particularly brutal and raw manifestation of power.

Donald Weber, Interrogations

Although the interrogations themselves are book-ended by a prologue and an epilogue, these provide limited context. The prologue consists of images which set a mood for the book. They depict a bleak, difficult world punctuated by a few moments of natural beauty and provide an abstract sense of life in these parts. They also serve as a reminder that Weber did not parachute in to shoot his portraits but spent close to six years shooting in the region. Rather than showing us the specific worlds or lives of the subjects of the interrogations, the prologue creates a sense of foreboding for what is to come.

The epilogue—a longer essay by Larry Frolick and two shorter pieces by Frolick and Weber and by Weber on his own—refuses to provide much context either. Like the book’s photographic introduction Frolick’s essay is also a mood piece documenting a difficult trip that Frolick took with his Ukrainian fixer, an echo of the bleakness, strength and the violence of the world photographed by Weber.

As an object, the book is very well made. Its size, unusual ‘vertical’ format and the full-bleed one-per-spread treatment of the portraits all contribute to its intensity. The cover is initially a little confusing, until the portraits reveal that it replicates the cheap, textured wall of one of the interrogation rooms, a clever design feature.

Donald Weber, Interrogations

Naturally the meat of the book is the portraits themselves. Taken in a handful of dingy, sparse interrogation rooms, they show different people undergoing a psychologically and sometimes physically violent interrogation process. We are not told who these people are are, what they are accused of, or why they are being interrogated. Indeed the book only indirectly reveals that these photographs were not staged and were taken during real interrogations. As one portrait follows the next, the emotions intensify. Concern and defensiveness give way to terror, panic and perhaps most alarmingly to expressionless faces, the faces of people whose spirit has been broken. The claustrophobia and tension of these portraits is heightened as the interrogators are never revealed. The few glimpses that Weber affords us are manifestations of pure violence and intimidation: a hand outstretched to grab a man or to strike another on the back of the head. In two of the most shocking portraits an interrogator presses a gun to the head of their subject.

Donald Weber, Interrogations

Weber prides himself on his unflinching gaze and this comes through clearly in these portraits. Just as for those being interrogated, there is no respite or redemption in the book: we are ‘forced’ to stare head on at raw terror, at the loss of dignity, at brutal physical intimidation. The overall effect is visceral and deeply uncomfortable. In Weber’s words, “the unseen subject of these photographs is Power”. For me this is the success of the book: by removing any context about these people, thereby turning them into the “Invisible Man”, and by reducing the interrogators to faceless threats, to an abstraction of brute force, Interrogations is able to grapple with the ‘capitalised’ ideas of Power, Violence and Fear.

The book also raises some fundamental questions about the photographic process at play here. By sitting through these interrogations and photographing them without intervening, was Weber not complicit in their violence and their brutality? Indeed, by looking at these pictures are we not also complicit in their violence? What did Weber have to do to get access to these situations, who did he have to associate with and what, if anything, did he do for those that were being subjected to this violence? Why did he show them stripped of all dignity and reduce them to total anonymity? These questions are not new: they are at the heart of any documentary photographic practice, but this book poses them in the starkest manner possible.

Donald Weber, Interrogations

Although he does not answer them directly in the book, Weber has been quite open in interviews (with Colin Pantall and with Pete Brook) about his process and the questions his images raise about his motivation and responsibility as a photographer. However, for me the book’s one failure is in Frolick and Weber’s short essay outlining the intentions for this project. The text manages to be grandiloquent (“the photos in this book were … the inevitable product of a Western artistic sensibility confronting the mystery of the Other”), confused (“the artist’s goal is to shock us with our own wordlessness: to show us proofs of life in its willful alternative histories”) and sometimes a little silly (“exposing yourself to the cold winds of the void”, “speaking in silence”), in a way that feels very much at odds with the directness and simplicity of these photographs. The book would have been even more brutally powerful without this poor articulation in words of what it succeeds in doing with images alone.

Donald Weber, Interrogations

Donald Weber, Interrogations. (Amsterdam: Schilt Publishing, 160 pages, colour plates, 2011).

Rating: Recommended

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Eriberto & Estevan Oriol Opening

The Carmichael Gallery presents Like Father, Like Son, an exhibit featuring 25 limited edition prints including black and white, color, silver gelatin, and digital c-prints by Chicano, LA-based father and son photographers, Eriberto & Estevan Oriol. There will be an opening reception on Saturday, October 1, 2011 from 6-9 p.m., with Eriberto & Estevan in attendance. limousine . The exhibit will run through October 29, 2011.

The Oriols are known for their work in contemporary urban, hip hop, lowrider and Latino culture throughout Los Angeles. Their father and son bond allows them to share their intensity in their work and capture urban life in LA.

For more information please visit the Carmichael Gallery. You must RSVP to [email protected]

Photographer #290: Diego Levy

Diego Levy, 1973, Argentina, is a documentary photographer. In his series Choques, he photographed crashed cars. His intention was not to sensationalize the crash itself, but to show the violence and intensity of these impacts caused by negligence, lack of driver skills and the lack of respect for life of themselves and others. The cars that become broken sculptures in Buenos Aires function as a metaphor of the widespread violence. The images in his series Sangres, taken in Argentine, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico show gritty scenes of violence. The photographs of injuries and deaths show the reality of what has become almost a daily scenario for the inhabitants of these cities. Sangres was released as a book in 2006. Golpes is a series of portraits accompanied by a video production of old boxers that have given their lives to the sport. The faces show the scars from the beatings, referring to their dark past and the sacrifices they have made. The following images come from the series Choques, Sangres and Golpes.

Website: www.diegolevy.com