Tag Archives: Luminaries

Julia Dean: Forty Years Behind the Camera

A dozen years ago, photographer Julia Dean changed my life by asking me to teach at her photography school, The Julia Dean Photo Workshops in Los Angeles. Over the past thirteen years, Julia has taught hundreds of classes, thousands of students, and exposed the Los Angeles community to photographic luminaries and educators such as Keith Carter, Duane Michals, Mary Ellen Mark and many others too numerous to count.  Her school has created a photographic community in Los Angeles, a place to share portolios over a glass of wine, a place to hear lectures, experience wonderful exhibitions, and take a broad array of classes (160 offered each year). Julia’s desire to open our eyes, to see one world, and to bring attention to those who have no voice has been remarkable.  Her generous and enthusiastic spirit is infectious and I feel so lucky to be her friend.  So today I celebrate a woman who has spent a lifetime engaged, enthused, and involved in photography.


Julia has spent the last year revisiting negatives and spending month upon month in the darkroom creating beautiful silver prints in preparation for a 40 year retrospective of her work that opens at the Julia Dean Gallery in Los Angeles tomorrow night, December 15th.  I am featuring work from her General Stores project today — she recently rediscovered the negatives and printed the images for the first time for the exhibition.  Julia is also offering photographs from the exhibition for sale online at a special anniversary price on her site.


Forty Years Behind the Camera: A Retrospective

When I worked as an apprentice to Berenice Abbott’s in 1978, I was 23 years old. Berenice was 80. 


She taught me how to print, among many other photographic skills. She taught me about life in Paris in the 20s, about working with Man Ray, about meeting and photographing people like Eugene Atget, James Joyce, and Jean Cocteau. She even taught me how to do the Charleston. 


I remember using an 8×10 camera with 8×10 film and an 8×10 enlarger. The film had to be processed in complete darkness, one sheet at a time, in 8×10 trays that you lined up just right so you knew what to do in the dark. 


images from General Stores

I learned how to bend light with my hands under an enlarger, how to add light, how to subtract light, how to make a print look just like our eyes saw the subject when the picture was taken. I learned that photography renders 10 tones compared to the hundreds of tones that our eyes can differentiate. I learned that it can take hours to get one good print.

I also learned how to flatten the prints, how to retouch the dust spots, and the patience it takes to produce one beautiful black & white fiber base print.

 I was asked recently what the difference is between the traditional role of film and the digital era. It is very simple. It is much easier to be a photographer today than it was in the past. (Photographers before me would say the same thing!) Though today’s cameras are much heavier than my Leica M6 and have more buttons, once you learn your tools, digital photography makes life quicker and easier.

I don’t look down on those who didn’t learn the hard way. I wouldn’t have minded an easier path myself. But I am grateful for knowing what I know about photography that digital shooters will never know: the craft of the black & white print. 

To me, there is no more beautiful craft in photography than the black & white print from a black & white negative. I learned from a master and for that I am eternally grateful. Printing is a dying art that I hope I never give up, even if I, too, have embraced digital. This retrospective exhibit is in honor of the beautiful black & white print.

TIME’s Class of 2016: The Political Leaders to Watch

As Barack Obama and Mitt Romney fought for the presidency this fall, TIME contract photographer Marco Grob was crisscrossing the country to meet the men and women who may be doing the same four years from now.

From September to October, Grob, a Swiss photographer based in New York, traveled to 10 states and Washington, D.C., to shoot the 13 political leaders who comprise TIME’s Class of 2016 (Hillary Clinton and Andrew Cuomo were photographed earlier this year). “This series was very exciting because the fact that one of these politicians could be the next president was always on my mind,” says Grob, who took a variety of different kinds of shots and snapped extra rolls of photos to memorialize the moment.

Some of the subjects in Grob’s essay are American political royalty. Among the luminaries on TIME’s list are a First Lady (and now Secretary of State), a First Brother, six current and former governors and the current vice-president. Others, like San Antonio mayor Julián Castro and Florida Senator Marco Rubio, are rising stars – members of the fastest-growing demographic group in the U.S., men marked for higher office within their parties.

In the space of a single 48-hour stretch, the whirlwind assignment whisked Grob from Palo Alto, Calif., to Columbus, Ohio, to Baton Rouge. None of the subjects hinted at their political aspirations, and Grob preferred not to ask. “I don’t talk to them about their plans. I actually think it’s better if they don’t think I know much about their political careers,” he says. “They feel they can open up more.”

Breaking through that veneer of formality was one of the tasks confronting Grob, whose portfolio of portraits for TIME includes comedians and actors, world leaders and Ground Zero first responders. Politicians are trained are trained to stay on script. Grob’s challenge was to get them to veer from it. “Politicians, of all my subjects, are the most self-aware. They’re careful not to lose any voters, so they don’t get into anything controversial,” he says. His trick? “I always let them smile for a couple frames, but then I aim to make a more thoughtful portrait,” he says. “When you smile, you cover up your true face—that’s just what humans do.”

Alex Altman is a Washington correspondent for TIME. Follow him on Twitter @aaltman82.

Marco Grob is a contract photographer for TIME. View more of his work for TIME here or on his website.

Happy Birthday, LightBox: A Year of Great Photography

In its first year, TIME’s photography blog, LightBox, has published well over 500 posts—an average of ten a week. We hope that the strength of LightBox has not only been evident in the quality of the work but also in the variety of photography showcased.

The site’s intent was established from the first post, a multimedia piece about Eugene Richards’ eloquent and moving War is Personal. Original essays by TIME’s contract photographers, most notably James Nachtwey in Japan and Yuri Kozyrev in Libya, set the bar for LightBox in its first weeks—and for photojournalism in general—in an unprecedented year of extraordinary consequence.

Alongside the work of art world luminaries including Rineke Dijkstra and Cindy Sherman was an essay on poverty by Joakim Eskildsen, which continued the tradition of publishing original work, commissioned for TIME, on the site. The eclectic mix of photography published on LightBox has ranged from rediscovered buried treasures (like the work of Joseph Szabo and Stephane Sednaoui) to stories supporting the work of young photographers, through pieces on the Magnum Foundation Emergency Fund and profiles of photographers like Justin Maxon and Krisanne Johnson, as well the Next Generation photo contest. Alongside the work of professionals both young and old, there was work by amateur practitioners—an astronaut photographer, an accountant photographer of the homeless and the wonderful photographic memories of 1960s pre-Gaddafi Libya by Jehad Nga’s father. There have been the crowd-pleasing, unpublished photos of Johnny Cash and creative galleries edited from the wires, including Two Takes and Surprising Photos. And, of course, there was the daunting undertaking of 365: A Year in Photographs.

In the gallery above, some of TIME’s photo editors reflect on a year of tremendous images and recommend posts that are worth a second look. We’ll also be highlighting selections from more of the staff behind LightBox throughout the day on our Tumblr blog. We welcome suggestions from our readers as well, either in the comments below or on Twitter.

From all of us at LightBox, thanks for being a part of our beginning—and here’s to another year of great photography!

SNAPSHOT: Paolo Ventura

By Anna Carnick

Paolo Ventura, self-portrait

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Aperture is pleased to present the second installment of “SNAPSHOT,” a new series of interviews with photography’s luminaries inspired by the Proust Questionnaire.  This week, we spoke with one of our favorite artists, Paolo Ventura.

The Italian-born, Brooklyn-based photographer builds intricate, miniature sets from found objects (often flea market finds) and shoots them to appear life-size, creating haunting, narrative series. “Venice 1943,” an excerpt from his new series L’Automa, is featured in the latest issue of Aperture magazine. Ventura is also included in the new Aperture-Library of Congress co-publication, Photographic Memory: The Album in the Age of Photography, which is the subject of tomorrow’s panel discussion at the Aperture Gallery.

Ventura’s work is presently on display in the Italian national pavilion at the Arsenale at the Venice Biennale. He is also part of Otherworldly: Optical Delusions and Small Realities, on view now through September at the Museum of Art and Design, NYC.

AC: What is your present state of mind?
PV: Very content. I’m under a pergola of grapes that are just starting to emerge.

How do you describe your personality?
Shy.

What do you think is your greatest strength?
My imagination.

What is your definition of beauty?
A farmhouse in Tuscany during the twenties or thirties.

Name your greatest hero or heroine.
When I was little, Tin Tin. When I was a teenager, the Corto Maltese.  And now I’m too cynical to have a hero.

What do you believe is your greatest achievement as an artist so far?
My most recent show [L’Automa] at the Museo Fortuny in Venice. It has always been one of my favorite museums.

What is the greatest challenge you’ve faced as an artist?
Dealing with gallerists.

Your greatest personal achievement?
Becoming a father.

What is the biggest life lesson you’ve learned so far?
I’ve always been against school. “life lesson” sounds too scholastic for me. I’m not sure life teaches you lessons.

If you weren’t a photographer, what would you be?
A police detective.

Who is your favorite artist, of any genre?
Piero della Francesca. I just saw the Madonna del Parto in Monterchi and it was stunning.

What is your favorite photograph?
A photograph by Ernst Haas. It’s an image of the return of the German veterans from a Russian gulag in the early fifties, and among the crowd there is a woman showing a photograph of her son to these returning veterans. It is communicative, direct, deep, strong. It challenges you—makes you think. It’s what photography can be when it’s really good. It’s also aesthetically nice to look at.

Name a person—living or dead—you’d really like to meet.
Lee Miller.

Do you have a mentor?
My wife, Kim.

The natural talent you wish you’d been born with?
To play music.

For what fault do you have the most tolerance?
I have a twin: I spent nine months sharing a tiny space, so I’m very tolerant of other people.

Your favorite motto?
Ite missa est. (Go—the mass is over.)

 

 

 

SNAPSHOT: Alex Webb

Interview by Anna Carnick

Alex Webb, self portrait in Hong Kong while on press for The Suffering of Light.

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Aperture is pleased to introduce “SNAPSHOT,” a new series of interviews with photography’s luminaries, inspired by the Proust Questionnaire. For our series debut, we spoke with the always thoughtful, ever-surprising Alex Webb.

Webb’s latest photography collection, The Suffering of Light: Thirty Years of Photographs by Alex Webb, is available now through Aperture.

AC: How do you describe your personality?
AW:
Obsessive, persistent––maybe even Sisyphean––but with a sense of humor.

What is your idea of happiness?
I suspect pure happiness is only attainable for brief periods.  Creative fulfillment, however, seems like a more sustainable goal––taking the work one believes in to its ultimate end.

What do you believe is your greatest achievement as an artist so far?
If I’ve made some sort of contribution to photography––and that’s not for me to say––I think it’s about having discovered a way of working in intense color in the tropics with an eye towards the enigmatic, the unexpected, and the sometimes paradoxical.

I also think that Rebecca Norris Webb and I have made a small but unique contribution to the history of photographic collaborations with the Violet Isle project, a project which created a more complicated portrait of the island––and its people and animals––than either of our individual visions could have done alone.

If you weren’t a photographer, what would you be?
Perhaps a novelist, though I am quite sure that I would have failed miserably at it.  I think I need the immediacy of the experience of the world for inspiration.  I think I do much better walking the streets and responding with a camera than staring at a blank sheet of paper in a room.

Who is your favorite artist, of any genre?
Blues is my favorite kind of music, and I love Buddy Guy’s music––though I think Stevie Ray Vaughn’s version of Little Wing is pretty special . . .

What is your favorite photograph?
I have a lot of favorite photographs, but I’ll mention one that has lingered in my mind for many years: Robert Frank’s picture of the back of a hearse-like vehicle in London.  I love the open-ended questions that Frank’s photograph poses:  Is that a hearse? Where exactly is that child in the fog running––and why?

The last book you really enjoyed?
I recently read Vargas Llosa’s The Way to Paradise, a novel that interweaves the lives of Flora Tristan, a nineteenth century social activist, and her grandson, the painter Paul Gauguin.  The depiction of the latter is particularly compelling.

Name a person—living or dead—you’d really like to meet.
I wouldn’t even know where to begin. . . . I suppose, if I spoke Russian, I would have liked to have met Tolstoy–especially on his estate.

What qualities do you appreciate most in friends?
I think probably a good-natured sense of humor, especially the ability to laugh at yourself.

Your favorite motto?
I love the following from the sculptor Henry Moore, from late in his life:

The secret of life is to have a task, something you devote your entire life to, something you bring everything to, every minute of the day for the rest of your life. And the most important thing is, it must be something you cannot possibly do.

 

Anna Carnick is a Brooklyn-based writer and editor. Previously the editor of both Graphis Inc. and Clear Magazine, she has been an Aperture editor since 2010. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times Style Magazine (The Moment), Photo District News (PDN), PopPhoto.com, Dazed & Confused, Casa Vogue, Dwell.com, Coolhunting.com, and others.