Tag Archives: Little Bit

Boys Don’t Cry: Joseph Cultice

My friends at Baang + Burne Contemporary in New York are opening a new exhibition, Boy’s Don’t Cry, on October 4th. This three person exhibition features the work of Rich Tu, Joseph Cultice, and Chris Jehly. Joseph Cultice, the only photographer in the exhibition. brings his series, The Garden, to the B+B walls.

Joseph comes to fine art photography with a long career as a celebrity and fashion photographer, with a love for shooting musicians.  He is also a well know video director, including his feature, Dead to the World, a documentary about Marilyn Manson’s tour. More importantly, he has gotten stoned with Mick Jagger, been hit on by Freddy Mercury, and joined a prayer circle with the Jonas Brothers. He has been told he looks like Bono, Mel Gibson and Johnny Cash, but only by people with glaucoma.


The Garden is drawn from his personal experience of building a family and the contradictions that come from being a parent, homeowner, good citizen, yet the pull to keep a little bit of debauchery in one’s life is ever present.

Michelle Alexis Newman

Humor is a double edged sword.  To get it right, one needs to be right on the blade, and it better be a sharp blade and maybe even a little bit bloody. Los Angeles photographer, Michelle Alexis Newman, explores this subject with her project,The Open Mic.  This is an ongoing series of portraits of standup comedians.  They pick the joke that goes under their images and she hand writes their attempts to be funny as a way to combine and reference both of their creative processesSometimes it’s hilarious and sometimes, it’s not.
Originally from Seattle, Michelle received her BFA from Western Washington University’s School of Visual Arts and now lives and works in Los Angeles.  She is drawn to humor and handwriting, horror and family. She is a member of Phoot Camp and has exhibited in solo and group exhibitions around the United States.

A little bit about my process for Ochava Solstice

On sunny days, I’ve been busy working on my project Ochava Solstice. I thought I’d write a little bit about how I’ve been going about it recently. Here’s a picture of me shortly before taking a picture for the series.

Me about to shoot an Ochava

The building in question is on the north-facing corner of Marcos Paz and Asunción in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Villa Devoto. Here’s a gratuitous close-up of the image on the ground glass. Since I’m standing in the shade and the building is in the sun, I don’t need to use a darkcloth.

Image on the ground glass of the building with the ochava shadow

For all the camera geeks out there, I’m shooting this series on a Busch Pressman Model D. It’s a press camera from the 1950s similar to a Speed Graphic. The main difference is that the back rotates, letting me shoot vertically, which I do a lot. I’m using a 210mm lens which is slightly telephoto for the 4×5 format.

I had already scouted out this building online. When I first started this project I’d look for these buildings on foot. At first these triangular shadows were just something I noticed in my walks around the city and I’d snap them with my digital camera. Once I got serious about the project, I returned to those same buildings with my 4×5 and a tripod, and waited for the moment when the shadow is exactly in the middle.

The buildings in the series are functional apartment buildings from the 1960s that just happen to cast a triangular shadow. It’s not intentional. It’s the result of a law requiring corner buildings to have a diagonal cut on the ground floor [known as the “ochava”] combined with real estate developers’ desire to maximize square footage [or meterage, I suppose].

Apartment buildings from this era are everywhere in Buenos Aires but ones suitable for my project can be hard to find. They have to face the sun and not be in another building’s shadow. There’s almost always a kiosko on the ground floor or something else “wrong” with the building. In finding the ones I’ve taken so far, I’ve scoured a number of neighborhoods, on foot, in great detail. Recently, in the name of efficiency, I’ve taken to using the Mapa Interactivo run by the city government. It’s less efficient than Google Street View [which doesn’t exist here yet], but still faster than walking around. In the map, you zoom in on a block, click on a plot of land, and it shows you a photo from several years ago. Here’s the photo of this particular building I found on the site.

Marcos Paz & Asuncion

As I’m navigating the site, I confine my search to neighborhoods where I think I’m likely to find buildings like the one above [not too urban, not too suburban]. I only click on the street corners that face north, towards the sun [remember we’re in the southern hemisphere]. To keep track of my progress, I’ve been marking up a map with little dots:

Map I'm using to check off street corners (the black dots)

Of all those little dots on the map above only two were buildings suitable for my project. It’s a bit like panning for gold.

Meanwhile in my apartment I’ve taped up the contact prints of Ochavas I’ve already shot in order to track my progress. Here are the ones I did last year:

2010 Ochavas

And here are the Ochavas I’ve done so far in 2011

2011 Ochavas (so far)

My goal is to reach 50. It’s a bit arbitrary but I want to show a large number of these shadows and 50 seems like a good number. I’ve got around 40 so far. There are a number of good buildings I’ve already scouted out but I need to wait a few months for the sun to get higher in the sky.

Buenos Aires is totally flat and built on a grid, although it’s actually several different grids. The grids don’t all face the same way. The time of a particular corner’s “solstice” is determined by its cardinal orientation. The height of the shadow is determined by the time of year, with summer casting longer shadows. [Curious tidbit: maps in Buenos Aires don’t all face north. There’s at least three different orientations commonly used when depicting the city.]

Most of the street corners in my project so far are north-facing corners taken in winter [June & July]. A few are east or west-facing corners taken in the summer morning or afternoon, respectively. The arc of the sun is much higher in summer so the window of time when the sun is at the right position to cast an appropriately sized shadow is shorter. I drew this diagram below to explain this to a friend, although I’m not sure it makes the concept any clearer.

Porteño Calendar

I’ve previously compared these triangular shadows to the serpent-like shadow that appears on Chichen Itza at the equinox. It seems that I’ve now drawn up a sort of Aztec-like calendar for Buenos Aires. There are no geographical references in Buenos Aires. The river is distant and cut-off from the main part of the city and there are no mountains to provide a reference point. Walking around the grid of the city can sometimes feel like being lost in a kind of labyrinth. If I’m beginning to lose that sense of being lost it’s only because I’ve now memorized good chunks of that grid, recreating it mentally in my head to orient myself. These street corner photographs are like totems of my wonderings around Buenos Aires.

I’m now scouring [online] the very edges of the city, places I’ve yet to reach during my 3+ years of walking around the city. Obviously I only shoot this series on sunny days. If it’s cloudy I work on other stuff. Partially cloudy days are a real source of frustration because I never know if I should risk spending an 90 minutes on a bus to reach the neighborhood only to have a cloud erase the shadow at the critical time. There’s only about a two minute window when the triangle appears visually to be in the middle.

For this building the day was in fact partially cloudy but they were very low and moving fast in the stiff wind. Arriving at the corner early I sat in the sun as the day was very cold. I shot this video below which shows the shadow disappearing as a quick cloud passes by:

I was fortunate that day in that by the time the shadow reached its midpoint the clouds had departed. Here’s a snapshot of the contact sheet I just got back from the lab. One more corner to cross off the list.

Contact sheet of Marcos Paz & Asuncion Ochava

I’ve also written more about this project in these two blog posts; Ochava Solstice and Ochava Solstice – Things that Go Wrong.

Submissions for Aphotostudent are Always Welcome

If you’re a photographer with a new body of work to show or if you’re a photography fan who has a new photo crush, you’re always welcome to submit it for posting on Aphotostudent. The majority of the posts on here for the past two years have showcased the work of world-renowned photographers. I’d like to devote more time to showcasing new work from emerging artists, but I need your help to do it.

Photo For The Week: Yamaguchi-san Peeling Chestnuts, 2008. James Luckett

Ways to reach me:

1: Feel free to email me at [email protected] but please write “aphotostudent submission” or something similar in the subject line so I don’t confuse it with the many requests for help I receive from Nigerian Royalty with millions of dollars stuck in limbo.

Please include a little bit about yourself and the body of work in the email. A bit of context always helps.

or

2: Head over to my Facebook page and post a comment on the most recent call for work.

Pretty simple!

Thank you in advance for any submissions you send. And, my apologies if I don’t reply to your submission right away. Sometimes emails stack up. It’s nothing personal.

I look forward to seeing lots of amazing work! – James Pomerantz

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What’s Next?

I’ve just written a piece for the magazine European Photography in which I touch on the lack of substantial online discussion on current trends in photography and where things are going. I’ll be posting the piece on eyecurious soon, so I won’t go into detail here, but in general my feeling is that although online activity on photography is growing by the day, it is becoming commensurately shallower as a result. Fortunately there are examples which buck the trend. Foam, the Amsterdam photo-museum, has recently added What’s Next? to its expanding range of content. What’s Next? is a supplement to Foam’s quarterly magazine but also an online discussion forum which is designed to spark discussion on current trends and how they are affecting the development of photography. The museum recently organised an expert meeting in Amsterdam around the What’s Next project with an impressive line-up including Charlotte Cotton, Fred Ritchin, Thomas Ruff, Joachim Schmid and many others (you can see a number of the presentations from the meeting on Foam’s youtube channel). Although the design of the site messes with my eyes and head a little bit, there is some terrific content on here running from photobooks to photojournalism. As a blogger I find that the most satisfying experiences writing online are those which spark a discussion, debate or even an argument. If you are interested in any of the above, I highly recommend a visit to What’s Next?

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Related posts:

  1. Paris in Amsterdam
  2. Notes on 2010
  3. Unless You Will

Review: Sunder by Bruce Haley

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Bruce Haley spent a few years (1994-2002) wandering around some of the backwaters of the former Soviet Union to take photographs. The Soviet Union is “long” gone. It is mostly remembered as a prop, as a cypher, as a stand-in for the other side in debates that rarely involve any actual information about what really happened. In that sense, talking about the Soviet Union is pointless. I don’t see Sunder, the newly released book that shows Haley’s work, as centering on the Soviet Union. Instead, it’s a book about us, about our human follies and dreams. (more)

Peel aside the theories, the systems, the propaganda, and human history is a collection of human dreams and human follies. We all aspire to do better – otherwise, why even bother? Sometimes, we succeed, sometimes, we fail. Sunder is filled with images showing just that.

There might be a Lenin on the cover, but many of the images could have been taken anywhere. The photograph on page 117 reminded me of the post-industrial wasteland that you can find just a short drive out of Pittsburgh, PA, where I lived for a few years. The photographs of young children playing I could see taking a walk.

I think one would really want to look past anything that points to a certain other time and place in Sunder, and look at what points to our time and place – just like how we should study history not to cram facts about what happened at a certain time and place long gone and far away, but to see what we can learn from that.

And then the question is not whether we are just like “them,” whether we are the new Rome for example, but instead how we can tilt the dreams-to-follies ratio a little bit more towards the dreams, and less towards the follies. Of course, this is what we would expect our politicians to do, but looking at how things are going right now that might not necessarily be happening.

If there’s something to be learned from the photographs in Sunder it’s that there will always be those dreams, and that there will be photographers like Bruce Haley willing to spend a few years on taking photographs to show us. Now it’s up to us to look.

Sunder, photographs by Bruce Haley, introduction by Dina & Clint Eastwood, essay by Andrei Codrescu, 144 pages, Charta/Daylight, 2011

Success Stories: Tami Bone

I’m been a fan of Tami Bone’s dreamy and surreal photographs for a long time and I have been remiss in sharing her work on Lenscratch. I recently received a newsletter from The Center of Fine Art Photography sharing the news that Tami’s work had received the Juror’s Award in the Center Forward exhibition, and in addition, her work has been selected for The Texas Photographic Society Print Program. As her achievements mount, I thought it would be a good time to share her success story.

Born in South Texas and currently living in Austin, Tami attended the University of Texas and has continued her photographic education through classes and workshops. The images from her newest work are sometimes, but not always, constructions of several images. Each one begins as handwritten notes about a particular memory or imagining from her childhood, forming a narrative for the image. As the story unfolds, she begins photographing, often times going back and re-photographing an element over and over until it becomes clear as to what it should be. The journey from concept to finish seems to have a mind all its own, as if the story wants to be told as much as she wants to do the telling.

Congratulations on your Center of Fine Art Photography Award! It’s great to see your work getting recognition. Tell me a little bit about your photographic history. What drew you to the medium?

Thank you! I’ve always related visually to my surroundings, although my interest in photography started about 20 years ago when my children were young. I wanted photographs reflecting how I saw them, and decided then to study photography. So, at that time I started taking photography classes at my local community college, and fell in love with the darkroom. A few years later I was doing freelance portrait work, mainly photographing children in an environmental style. I was also fortunate to photograph in a journalistic way at the local elementary school, and began submitting work to a suburban newspaper and getting images published regularly. So I would say that photographing my own children as well as others initially drew me into photography, although thinking back to my early years, I remember being mesmerized with my parents’ Life and Look magazines. I believe it was the often raw emotion that was so compelling.

How did you develop you signature style? Was it evolutionary? Did you start off with toy cameras?

That’s interesting about a signature style, as I don’t think of it that way, but more as a way of seeing. I can’t remember where it began. I think to some extent it’s always been a part of who I am. I would say that tapping into my vision and learning to photograph and print in a way that expresses it has most definitely been evolutionary and taken years to unfold. I am fairly driven and I want to understand the process as best I can, so I’ve always got myself on a learning curve. My grandmother gave me a white Polaroid camera when I was in my teens, but it wasn’t then that I fell in love. Later, when I knew I had to study photography I bought a Nikon film camera. It felt like an extravagant purchase, and the manual was daunting!

Were/are you influenced by a particular photographer or artist?

Yes, there are so many wonderful visual artists, but specifically I have been influenced by Keith Carter for his sensitivity and love of being astounded by beauty. I have two of his pieces on a wall that I pass by many times a day, and the work never ceases to move me. Sean Perry’s personal vision has been an influence. Sean is the quintessential artist and I was also fortunate to have him as a teacher. He pulled me out of a class one day to talk about my work, and it was the first time that I started to understand that it could move beyond portraiture. Bill Kennedy, a teacher in the photo department at St. Edward’s University in Austin, and owner of K2 Press has been a wonderful encourager. Some years ago Bill said to me, “The most important thing about your work is knowing what you have to say.” I think of that piece of advice often.

I also have to say that the natural world, everyday people and creatures, pure ordinary light at the end of a day – these things have been a constant influence as long as I can remember.

Your resume is ever expanding–you were in 10 shows last year and 5 already this year. Do you have a philosophy or approach to submitting to competitions?

Initially my philosophy was to just get the work out and to start building a resume. I was doing the work long before I started submitting, so I felt I was playing catch-up. Now I am more selective as far as choosing competitions with jurors I’d like to get the work in front of.

Are you active in Social Media and has it changed how you promote your work?

I’m not as active as I probably should be with social media. I have a twitter account, but haven’t caught on. I use facebook primarily to stay in touch with fellow photographers/artists around the world. I love being able to see what people are doing and read about their work.

Have you attended portfolio reviews?

Yes, I attended PhotoNola in 2007 and Review Santa Fe in 2008. I was as nervous as I’ve ever been in my life before PhotoNola! I’m going to Photolucida in a few weeks, and am still getting ready, and yes, nervous.

What advice would you give other emerging photographers?

I would say several things – decide on a project, any project, as long as it’s accessible. Begin photographing and try to see the process as being as important as the final prints. There is wonderful opportunity for growth both photographically and personally in project-driven work. The two are so intertwined. Also, I would say to give a lot of thought to whatever it is that is unique to you. Think about what has been never-changing and there for as long as you can remember. Ask yourself why it is important, and then figure out how to start expressing that uniqueness visually. You’ll know when you’ve hit upon it because it will feel completely vulnerable.

And finally, describe your perfect day.

Okay, my perfect day would be surfing gentle waves in a remote area on the Pacific side of Costa Rica, followed by aimless wandering with my camera until the sun came down. And if that isn’t doable, I’m thrilled to have a few hours to devote to photography, especially when I have a concept in mind for an image. I love getting caught up in a good story.

A Conversation with Nadav Kander di Joerg Colberg

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Jörg Colberg: How did you come up with the idea of doing the Yangtze River project?

Nadav Kander: I don’t generally work like that. There wasn’t first an idea and then off I went to take pictures. I suppose I always look for places on the edge of uneasiness, I’ve called them troubled lands in the past. China seemed to be a place moving at such an unbelievable pace, changing so quickly, that it would be a place that would be very interesting for me to go and photograph the way I do. I think of things more that way.

I photograph very intuitively and try to see what affects me in the place, rather than documenting what a place is. The Yangtze River was a way of giving me a pathway through China that would keep me on a certain route. It’s a great metaphor for change, of course, and also very much spiritually in the hearts and minds of most Chinese people.

JC: Given what you just said, I take it you did not really prepare much for the trips? You went and looked? Or did you look into Chinese history and into the background a little bit?

NK: The information that I will tell you about China was found out much later. I would first go there very open-mindedly. I made a trip to the mouth of the river and then halfway up the river to Chongqing. And then as I came back I would learn little things, I would read on China. It’s the extraordinary things I read that made me return. But each time I would return it became more and more conscious what was affecting me there and how I was responding to it. Then I could go back, do similar things, try to slip into the same way of working, and slowly a body of work forms. That’s more how I work.

JC: So things were very organic. It grew out of its own?

NK: Yeah. I think that the amount of time I spent on it really shows in the work. Had I gone there and made one trip over two or three months I’m sure my work would have appeared much more documentary-like. Although it has become a sociological document, it was never intended to be a documentary project.

JC: You don’t speak Chinese, do you?

NK: No.

JC: So you had to rely on interpreters and on people helping you get around and maybe even to get permissions. How was that, relying on other people to help you in certain situations to take photographs?

NK: Really difficult. There was a great person who accompanied me, an American. That made it a bit easier. But when I was working with a translator and a driver who were Chinese often, after a few days, a mist of mistrust would come over the thing. I think it would be heightened for them by being yelled at by the public sometimes: “How can you let these foreigners photograph the streets of our town?” They come from a very Communistic culture, where the only useful photography is certainly camera-club like, always photographing the sunset or the views of famous bridges. People got a lot of stick who worked with me. That often broke things down after about ten or twelve days.

JC: You mentioned that in your book, where you say that some of the people were taunting your translators.

NK: Yeah. I think they found it really difficult. It all started of with the best intentions, and they’re very generous people, but after a while they really had a hard time understanding how I worked. Sean Hakes . I couldn’t tell them what I was looking for. I needed just to look, and then when I found what I was looking for I might be excited by it. They absolutely couldn’t understand it.

JC: This must be a very difficult situation. You ended up with the photographs that you wanted, though, right? Or were there situations where you couldn’t just photograph because it became impossible?

NK: There were. One instance was when I was photographing closer to Tibet, which is a very military area. Wherever we went we were followed. It was very difficult to get any pictures of that area, they thought we were taking pictures of this highest railway in the world. So once they were onto me that area became impossible. But generally I found it free and accommodating and fine. I don’t know if I was followed or there’s a file on me.

JC: If a lot of the Chinese people didn’t really understand why you were taking those photographs in some ways it’s similar to people complaining that a lot of contemporary photography is “boring.” A lot of people in the West also love photographs of sunsets and something that’s beautiful, the beautiful landscape photograph. For you, when you see a picture or a scene that you want to take a photograph of – what is the appeal of that which you see? If somebody came up to you and said “why is this photo not boring? Can you explain this?” what would you say?

NK: I think it’s a universal Western truth that we have a real problem thinking any lower than our head into how we feel about things. I think when we are always trying to make our brain do the work and separate a picture into why I like it or why I don’t and what are the reasons for it, it’s often as simple as that it touches me in an emotional place, in a place inside me that responds to this for whatever reason. Maybe the way I was brought up, maybe the way my parents were brought up. Who knows how far these things go? We all have a problem in knowing that.

Good art works on that level very, very well. Think of Rothko as an excellent example. There’s almost no information on the canvas, and people can sit in front of them for hours, with very, very strong feelings. So composition in itself and weight of composition and colour can give you very strong connections to you and your past. I think that probably explains it.

But I would say to people, if I was going to simplify it, that I photograph everyday situations that compositionally attract me in a very beautiful way. What’s probably more succinct is what is boring is something that is justbeautiful. Beauty, like yellow or red or boy or girl, is just a word.

JC: I was gonna ask you something that’s related a little bit to something you said earlier. There are photojournalism and documentary photography, and we always think of those as very different from what artists do. I’ve always thought that a book like the one you did in a certain way is documentary. It’s just a different kind of documentary. Even though it is art it also informs us about a place.

NK: I think when you photograph new lands or new views with the clarity of a camera it always has a layer of documentary in it. But I think the intention of an artist needs to be away from documentary for it to fit into the art context. For it to fit into an art context it needs to reference or react to other art. I think it needs to sit well or change the direction of the mainstream. I think when you go and just document that isn’t one’s intention. That’s the main thing, the intention.

But of course, by photographing China with the clarity of the lens it of course becomes a sociological document, even though that wasn’t the intention. The intention was much more to make photographs the way I make them, which is to really go on automatic and to go with one’s feelings and let the humanness of the person making the work clearly show.

JC: I suppose it comes a little bit down to the question of truth, too. In documentary photography we wouldn’t argue so much about whether the images are true, whereas in art we would. But I think there is actually… maybe we can call it a poetic truth in the work, which, I think, can be used in some ways to learn about China. China seen through your eyes, even though there is the beauty in the images that you look for… there still is something that is simply true.

NK: Sure, but I think had I asked a person to stand still for me I would have manipulated it. If I waited for a sunset I would manipulate it. search engine optimization Philadelphia . If I waited for very harsh light or rain I would manipulate it. Every decision you make before you let the light hit the film… all of those decisions are your decisions. It always completes that three-way triangle. Is it a landscape in front of you, or is it actually the person behind the lens that you’re seeing, and I think it’s very equal. I think whether it’s a portrait or a landscape there are three corners, you’ve got your scene, your artist, and the viewer. And with art all three interact pretty equally.

JC: Let me take that and be a little bold. Let’s apply that thinking to the pictures you did of the Obama people, the then new administration. You took their portraits. The different context aside, is there a different way for you to work, or do you still apply your vision?

NK: Obama’s people actually are a very good example, because most commercial work isn’t, because it’s so much about a collaboration. The more people collaborate the less it is distilled down to that single person behind the lens, and that triangle breaks down.

With Obama’s people it was a very clear idea with Kathy Ryan and myself to work in a similar way to how the Bechers work, where if you photograph multiple things in a very similar way you will very accurately see the differences. That was really the thinking with the Obama’s people.

In its accuracy it was probably not in the normal realm of what Americans or people in the West see as celebrity photography. It certainly didn’t glorify people. It was really intent on being accurate. And I really like it.

In that same way it’s pretty similar to China because I’m again trying to not think about it, but just work with a person, without talking to them very much, and just willing them into being themselves. Nobody can be themselves better than themselves. If I can just let them be that, whether it’s nervous or very comfortable or however they are, very connected, not connected… when they are who they are knowing it and pressing the shutter. So in a funny way it’s a good question, they’re quite similar.

JC: I kind of thought that you would say that, but I didn’t want to assume anything.

NK: People quite often have asked me why my portraiture – my other portraiture, which is really quite different to Obama’s people – why does it often have the same kind of feeling as my landscape work. I would describe it in a similar way. With a landscape you might travel hundreds of miles and feel nothing, and then a little later suddenly you get out your car and the atmosphere is different. It all comes down to the atmosphere. And you start to photograph. Things feel right for you.

With portraiture I always start with an opinion and light accordingly. It’s not an opinion whether I like the person or their views or not, it’s more about how I can show them in an interesting way, which is the same with a landscape. And if it isn’t working – what if I asked them to turn slightly? Or what if I moved a light? – so it’s very similar, you’re making the atmosphere and taking advantage of it when it’s there in the room.

JC: The difference is in a landscape if something doesn’t work you can just get into your car and drive on, whereas in a studio you literally have to make it happen with what you have.

NK: That’s right. But what you’re doing is changing the circumstances so that you can then react to the atmosphere. It’s not really making the atmosphere, it’s more changing the circumstances so that the two come together.

Again when you look at a portrait do you think you’re looking at that person, or do you think you’re looking at the person who made the picture? I think it’s incredibly equal – one is useless without the other.

top image: Chongqing II, Chongqing Municipality, (c) Nadav Kander; all images courtesy of and (c) Nadav Kander, Obama’s People photographed for thr New York Times

Original post by jmcolberg.com