Tag Archives: Jerusalem Israel

Medium Festival: Claire Warden

Several weeks ago, I had the great pleasure of attending the inaugural year of the Medium Festival of Photography in San Diego, CA, conceived by the very capable Scott B. Davis.  It was a three day event kicked off by a keynote lecture by Alec Soth, and continued on with workshops, artist lectures and portfolio reviews.  Most importantly, it was an opportunity to connect with a wonderful community of photographers.  Over the next week (and into the next), I will be featuring a few of the photographers who attended the festival.

Claire A. Warden, a photo-based artist working in Los Angeles, California, brought a terrific project about preserving the natural world, titled Salt: Studies in Preservation and Manipulation. The project includes methodically captured images of plant life preserved in salt, but when exhibited, also includes some of that flora and fauna under bell jars and on the wall.  The fragile quality of the salt is reminiscent of snow and only adds to the delicate nature of the object and the approach to her image making. The images are timeless and exquisite.
Claire received her BFA in Photography and BA in Art History from Arizona State University where she worked along side Guggenheim fellow Mark Klett and former Eastman House curator, Bill Jenkins. She now works in Los Angeles as a fine art photographer and photographing and working at the Getty Research Institute. Claire’s work is in personal collections and has been displayed in galleries nationally and internationally, including Rayko Photo Center in San Francisco, CA, the Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins, CO and the Center for Photography at Madison, WI with upcoming shows at Soho Photo in New York, NY and Agripas 12 Gallery in Jerusalem, Israel. Her SALT series has earned her the Ted Decker Catalyst Artist Grant. 
Salt: Studies in Preservation and Manipulation: Despite the best efforts of science, authentic preservation of living matter is an impossible act. It is an ideal that stands in tension with the transient ephemerality that qualifies life. And yet – or perhaps because of it – this tension makes the humble ambitions of the botanical sciences intriguing. In order to preserve and document specimens for future study, scientists must ‘fix’ the organic complexity of the botanical specimen through human intervention.  

It is a process that, ultimately, restructures the essence of the specimen. In this way, botanical life can only endure as a specimen in a liminal state, the extended occupation of a pause between natural growth and decomposition. It is in this otherwise invisible moment, one reachable only through the intervention of the preservative act, that I find a deep and uncanny beauty. 

I emphasize the manipulation that manifests from preservation through the use of salt. This paradoxical mineral, that is necessary to sustain life—yet, if the delicate balance is outweighed, can extinguish it—reflects the structure of a preserved specimen and acts to preserve it. I submerge each living plant in a bath of salt water and allow the salt to crystallize on and within the living form.

Inspired by the intentions of botanical illustrations as a method to understand and control one’s environment, I seek to impress the human urge to order nature and in the process fundamentally change it. Using the platinum-palladium photographic process for its chemical stability and long-lasting image, these direct contact prints complicate the ideal of preservation, albeit, at the expense of the most authentic act of living matter, decay.

Yaakov Israel: The Quest for the Man on the White Donkey

I am always thrilled for photographers whose work I feature and then write back a year or two later that their project has been realized in book form. Yaakov Israel is one of those fortunate photographers. I featured his work almost two years ago and I am happy to share that Schilt Publishing has just released his monograph, The Quest for the Man on the White Donkey. The book is currently available in Europe and will be release in the US and Canada in September/October 2012. It can be purchased directly from Schlit if desired.

Yaakov Israel lives in Jerusalem, Israel and that fact informs much of the work he creates. Yaakov received a B.F.A in photography, from the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design and his work has been shown in solo exhibitions in Israel at the Tel-Hai Museum of Photography and the Haifa Museum of Art. He has participated in a variety of group show and is currently a teacher of photography at leading photography collages and institutions in Israel.

Congratulations Yaakov! How did the book come about?

I started the Q.M.W.D in 2002, from the beginning I knew I wanted to build this body of work in a different way from the other bodies of work I was working on. The other projects were based on the idea of accumulating images that were done in the same visual language and thus defined the idea, content and story. The narrative in the Quest evolved around the idea of connecting images that were about an idea, images that were done in a verity of visual languages. In a way I was learning to use the photographic medium in a different way. I hoped that the images would connect around the context of the story. After a few years of work I reached the understanding that the kind of narrative I was pursuing would convey itself best in book form, so I started editing my images with this thought in mind. Then I started to look for a publisher that would be interested in the work and was extremely lucky that Maarten Schilt took an interest in it.

What have you learned from seeing “the Past, Present, and Future” all at once?

This is a sentence from my statement about the work. I wrote it after a specific experience. While viewing a scene I was about to shoot I observed visible fragments from the past, the present and in a way the future that may emerge (at least in my imagination). I can’t really say that I learned anything; I don’t photograph with an objective to learn. In a way photography is an excuse to stop and look at the world. I photograph what I find interesting and try to convey the experience in the image.

What has informed you most about Israel? Do you see it differently after this project?

I wasn’t informed by anything but my personal history, experience and understanding of my country. I can say that in the last 10 years I bumped into many extremely nice and helpful people from all origins, nationalities and political backgrounds, these encounters with people and places are very much at the core of this project.

Describe a typical shooting day–are you hiking, sitting and waiting, exploring?

Usually my shooting day starts at about 04:00 in the morning. I head out in my car in a direction I had decided on beforehand and I just stop when I get a hunch, or if something caches my eye. Usually I walk a lot but I wouldn’t call this hiking, my cameras are very heavy, so I try to avoid lugging them for too long or too far. Occasionally I do climb up or down a hill to get to the spot that I think is interesting to me. I rarely reach my original destination; too many interesting things stop me on the way. Sometimes I try to start again from where I stopped before, in these cases I usually drift off in a new direction. For me the journey is the important aspect not getting to a specific destination. I find that once I know what I am looking for it presents itself everywhere.

What camera do you shoot with?

Most of my work is done with an old 8×10 inch camera and sometimes with a 4×5. I like working with a big camera as it slows me down, so I make less mistakes not to mention the fact that people are more willing to stop and participate when they see the big camera (they understand the importance to me so a lot of the time they will let me make a portrait even if it is time consuming). I also carry with me a 6×17 that a friend was kind enough to lend me and I enjoy using when it suits my vision.

What’s next?

I’ve got a few ideas I’m thinking of, but simultaneously I’m going to finish up my other two projects that I’ve been working on in the last decade. I assume this will take a few more years…

What took your career to the next level?

I find it difficult to answer this question. I guess I just really believed in what I was doing and kept working hard and never compromising.

What advice can you give for emerging photographers?

I would advise any emerging photographer to simply find a theme that is of real interest to him, and stick to it no matter what the trends of the day happen to be. I find that photography I’m interested in always reflects how fascinated the photographer was in its making.

And finally, what would be your perfect day?

There are many options to answer this Q as I enjoy and cherish many things, but I will share with you a day I experienced mid winter 2011.

It was a very rainy day and I was driving Emanuel, my 6 year old son to kindergarten when the mobile rang. A friend was on the phone telling me that the weather was getting better and urging me to take the day off and go walkabout. Emanuel caught on to this and immediately said:”I’m coming with you”. After a second’s thought I said ‘why not?’ so I turned the car around headed home, collected the camera and some food and we headed out. I can’t say I made as many exposures as I usually do per day, but we had a tremendous time arriving home late at night muddy and happy.

Standing on an abandoned bunker top, on the Jordanian border, completely covered in mud and nibbling a piece of bread Emanuel quoted a cartoon he loves: “we went till infinity and beyond!”