Tag Archives: Memory

Ashley Kauschinger, Bitter Hair

Ashley Kauschinger, Bitter Hair

Ashley Kauschinger

Bitter Hair,
Atlanta, Georgia, 2012
From the Avondale series
Website – AshleyKauschinger.com

Ashley Kauschinger is a narrative photographer who explores identity, memory, and family. She received her BFA from Savannah College of Art and Design and is currently in pursuit of an MFA from Texas Woman's University in Denton, Texas. Her photographs have been exhibited nationally in venues such as Rayko Gallery and Mpls Photo Center. She has recently been published in the PDN Photo Annual and is a 2012 Critical Mass Finalist. Ashley also features and interviews photographers for her blogzine, Light Leaked

Filter Photo Fesitival Week: Ursula Sokolowska

This week, I am sharing a few of photographers that I met at the Filter Photo Festival in Chicago….


Born in Krakow, Poland, Ursula Sokolowska studied photography at Columbia College and compled her BFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I first saw her Constructed Family images a year ago at Filter and I was happy to see the continued progression of the series. Ursula will be exhibiting her work at the JDC Fine Art Gallery in San Diego, opening on December 7th, running through February 23rd, 2013. I am featuring work from two series, both incorporate projection, are deeply personal,  and both explore the idea of separation of the body from consciousness and objectification.


Her photographs can be found in many public and private collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Photography, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Tanqueray. Selected exhibitions include The Travelling Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland, Saatchi Gallery, Zoo Art Fair, the Royal Academy of Arts, London, United Kingdom, Minnesota Center for Photography, and Schneider Gallery, Chicago, IL. Her work has appeared in CameraArts magazine, Light & Lens: Photography in the Digital Age, and featured in the Chicago Tribune.


The Constructed Family series  examines the trauma and uncertainty carried from childhood. In particular, I am referencing my own upbringing as a Polish immigrant. There is an undercurrent of helplessness and misdirection linked to a sort of schizophrenic parenting, excommunication, and constant movement. Typically, the perception of children handed down by my elders was that children did not have a choice. Frequently, I heard a Polish equivalent of the phrase “Children should be seen not heard”. I am attempting to give these children voices.

These photographs are projection-based installations. 

The models are mannequins and their faces are projections. The faces of the children are slides that my father took of me when he was still involved in my life. The other slides are present day images that I have shot of my mom, my dad, and myself. My goal is to reconstruct my own childhood, empowering the past for better or for worse. The result is a troubling recreation of events that may seem disturbing but are far less in context to the real events that transpired. 

Untitled Series:The images presented pose several questions towards the societal view of gender as related to the biological roles that exist. By using the flower as the reference point, we see the inequality and the taint that is applied to a supposedly natural and beautiful inevitability. These human plant-life carry their own baggage that spews out of every orifice and drips moistly from their painted skin. Their reproduction is marred by the inner psychological turmoil as related to the divisions between sexual identity and biological reality, quite unlike their floral counterparts. 

The flower represents a self-sustaining sexual organism, one of which is free from divisions of sexuality and role yet forced by design biologically. When we admire what we see, staring at its naked form, we are free from imposing predisposed notions of sex and gender. Yet when we see human form, we cognitively associate our own psychological issues with role, gender and biological fulfillment subconsciously. With the flower there is no revolt against being more than what it was created to be. It exists to be seen and to reproduce year after year. It is perfectly content being an object to be admired on a singular level. 

The question remains why are we any different? By combining a seemingly natural and innocent vision of a flower and juxtaposing it with provocative cues, we explore the seemingly inevitable chain to biology that humans fight consistently. The fight to be more than just a sexual being content with reproducing itself and the psychological frustration that ensues. Each subject has his or her own issues with their design. These hopes and fears are explored by facing the possible truth that we may be nothing more than pretty flowers, waving their prospective parts in the open for all to see.

Matt Austin

Chicago photographer/artist, Matt Austin, has created a body of work, WAKE, that is a narrative about tragic moments in his family’s life.  This project is about to become part of an experiment in the sharing of work.
Matt received the Illinois Artist Council Grant to produce an edition of 10 of the WAKE books. Each copy of WAKE is made up of a handmade clamshell box that houses four hardcover books and a ledger. On October 27, the edition will be distributed to ten people familiar to Matt, but don’t personally know one other. Their responsibility will be to read the book, sign the ledger like a library card, and register their book number location by zip code on a corresponding website.The reader will then decide who receives their copy of the book next, pass it on to the next person, and so on. The website will provide a visual for where each of the 10 books are in the world as well as a waiting list platform for requesting a book to be sent to you.

Matt received his BFA in Photography from Columbia College Chicago  and is teaching for the Museum of Contemporary Photography and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Matt is the co-founder of the open digital lab LATITUDE (be sure to explore this amazing site), staff member of ACRE Artist Residency, co-founder of the art installation project known as TAIST, and a member of the pedagogical experiment The Mountain was a Gift. His photographs have been exhibited widely, including exhibitions at the John Michael Kohler Art Center, Catherine Edelman Gallery, NEXT: Invitational Exhibition of Emerging Art, the MDW Art Fair, including solo exhibitions at Johalla Projects and the University of Notre Dame. Soon, he will be re-releasing the second edition of “/” with EJ Hill for their two-person exhibition SLOW DANCE at RAID Projects in L.A. this November.

WAKE is currently on exhibition at the John Michael Kohler Art Center in Sheboygan, WI in the show The Kids Are All Right.  The exhibition runs through January where it will then travel to the Weatherspoon Art Museum in Greensboro, NC and the Addison Gallery of American Art in Andover, MA throughout 2013.

WAKE is a photographic and literary narrative that presents my account of several tragic moments regarding my family over the past 4 years. The story begins with e-mails between my dad and I exchanged over the days that followed a violent eviction from his apartment and my simultaneous arrival in Ireland to study abroad. 

In the following chapters, WAKE gives an account of three family deaths over a short few months, drawing comparisons between economic failure and physical mortality. While providing one of many stories of a family’s experience with economic devastation, the book poses an optimistic perspective of learned appreciation through difficulty.

Eleonora Ronconi

I’m excited to introduce photographer, Eleonora Ronconi,  as next week’s guest curator and writer.  My busy travel schedule this fall opened an opportunity to ask a few guest editors to share work from different parts of the world, giving Lenscratch readers a fresh perspective on photography outside of the United States.  Next week Eleonora will be presenting photographers from Latin America, and in upcoming weeks, German photographer, Jacqueline Roberts, will be sharing work from European Photographers.  I can’t wait to see who they feature and learn more about global photography starting on Monday.  Thank you in advance to Eleonora and Jacqueline for all their efforts.

Eleonora Ronconi by Aline Smithson

Growing up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Eleonora tried to balance her love for the arts and sciences. She attended medical school for four years, but then had a change of heart and followed her entrepreneurial spirit and fluency in multiple languages to begin a career in conference interpreting. Her business has allowed her to travel extensively, and in 1998 she settled in Northern California and established her own interpreting company. Her photography has been a life long passion. Eleonora’s first solo exhibition was in her native Buenos Aires in 2009 and she has exhibited around the globe. Her work has been published by numerous magazines including Fraction and F-Stop.  She is best known for her project, Once Upon a Time, that deals with memory and loss. I am featuring her cell phone project, Fragmentos today.

image from Once Upon a Time
FRAGMENTOS 

These photos are part of an ongoing personal project about my childhood.

I have been living in California for 13 years and even though I visit Buenos Aires every year, this was the first time that I photographed there.

I have been going through a difficult transitional time, so I decided, on this visit, to go back to my roots and rebuild myself with a camera in hand. 

These images represent my past and symbolize ephemeral moments that developed right before my eyes, just like an old Polaroid photo. From the window of my now empty bedroom in the house where I grew up, to the fish head caught by my departed father, which sits on top of my aunt’s fridge, these photographs document the objects of my past that make up a puzzle I am trying to put together… 

I chose to use my iPhone camera because its small size and ease of use helps me stay in the moment with my surroundings. It also affords me spontaneity and the freedom to express my feelings right in that very moment.

Kris Graves, Abandoned HP Plant

Kris Graves, Abandoned HP Plant

Kris Graves

Abandoned HP Plant,
New England, 2005
From the Permanence series
Website – KrisGraves.com

Kris Graves creates photographs of landscapes and people to preserve memory. The images stillness cause the viewer to acknowledge the inevitability of change and the passage of time. He suspends his belief and knowledge of this change, not to document a moment or state, but rather to sustain it. In addition to being a photographer for the Guggenheim Museum, Graves acts as the director of +Kris Graves Projects and IYVEE (coming soon); acting as a curator, reviewer, and independent dealer or photography and works on paper. He also works as an editor for Iris Editions, Ltd., London.

Maggie Steber’s ‘Rite of Passage’ and the Gift of Memory

It was almost a decade ago that photographer Maggie Steber realized that her mother, Madje Steber, was not going to get better. Although her mother had always lived independently, her dementia had gotten to the point where that would no longer be possible.

“I started photographing my mother as soon as I realized I was going to have to move her out of her home in Austin,” says Steber. “She would never let me photograph her before. When her defenses were down—and I’m sure some people will say that’s not right—I started photographing her.”

The project was originally intended as purely personal, a way for Steber to cope during her mother’s illness and a way for her to remember her mother in later days. There was also video, filmed as Madje Steber’s condition deteriorated, which would allow the photographer to remember how her mother moved and sounded. But along the way, says Steber, she realized that the project could be more than something she would dust off and look at when she wanted to remember. After a shorter project created for AARP and then a period of time away from the work after her mother’s death in 2009, Maggie Steber (in collaboration with MediaStorm) made a film, Rite of Passage, which will premiere June 11 at Galapagos Art Space in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Steber’s film involves photos and video taken at difficult moments and at beautiful ones—moments when Steber says her mother came out of herself and lost her shyness. Her mother’s reluctance to be photographed was, she thinks, a result of her youth and beauty passing; “it was so lovely to have these pictures where she was happy and beautiful again,” she says. The photographer hopes that those transcendent moments will teach viewers that illness comes in waves, that stages will pass and—perhaps most of all—that if you are willing to be a “warrior” on behalf of your loved one, they can have a positive end-of-life experience. Nobody told her how to navigate doctors and medications, and part of her goal is to help others with the research that accompanies a loved one’s death. “If you can stick with it,” she says, “there’s this rather remarkable gift at the end.”

Maggie Steber

Madje Steber naps with her favorite toy, a stuffed kitty, in her room at Midtown Manor, an assisted living facility, in Hollywood, FL. in 2007.

Part of that gift is knowing that you’ve done what you could. Steber says that she was aware from a young age that her mother, the single mother of a single child, would die one day and that she had a responsibility to be there for it. And she was: “I was able to hold my mother while she took her last breath,” she says.

The other part is meeting your parent all over again, with all the barriers down. Steber says that, as her mother lost touch with the past, they lost touch with the mother-daughter relationship. “They don’t recognize you anymore. They fall in love with somebody else. They think the caregiver is their daughter,” she explains. “That’s a little startling, it hurts a little bit, but I started to see her as Madje.” It’s difficult for children to see their parents as individuals separate from themselves, but Madje became a whole woman to Maggie, someone who told marvelous stories, someone who had been a scientist and would have wanted her last days to help ease medical confusion, someone who could have become a friend if they had started out as strangers. “I just fell in love with her,” says Steber. “I know I would have just really enjoyed knowing this woman.”

Steber’s photographs and videos were made in order to preserve just one woman’s memory of a mother, but she says she hopes that her decision to share will help other people decide to look for those gifts of memory. “It doesn’t come easily, but it’s worth it,” she says. “You have to live with that for the rest of your life and I just think if you can live with the happier memories, the discovery and seeing somebody blossom even as they’re disappearing right in front of you, you have that to hold onto. And maybe it is the best thing you’ll ever do.”

Maggie Steber’s Rite of Passage premieres June 11 at Galapagos Art Space, along with Phillip Toledano’s A Shadow Passes, another film from MediaStorm about the loss of a loved one. More information about the event is available here.

Interrogations: terrifying real-life photographs from Ukraine

weber_5.jpg

From the photobook Interrogations Donald Weber

This work stopped me cold the first time I saw it. It looked terrifyingly real, but how could it be? Are some of these people being forced to write confessions while loaded guns are pressed into their heads? It must have been staged. But soon I came to realize that these are indeed real photographs of real interrogations of suspected criminals in Ukraine.

Canadian photojournalist Donald Weber first went to Ukraine during the Orange Revolution of 2004, on assignment. Following that first trip, he soon returned, and spent the next six years in Russia and Ukraine trying to photograph contemporary life, and its hardships, as well as the vestiges of a still-powerful, hidden system.

Interrogations is the result of his personal quest to uncover the hidden meaning of private, unpleasant encounters with unrestricted Power. proveedor factura electrnica . It is a simple, elegant book that sears itself into your memory.

See many more photographs, and read the compelling interview with Donald Weber, in Lens Culture.

Legacy in Leaves: The Vietnam War Remembered

When Binh Danh was a child he noticed the impression of objects left on a grass lawn over time. This observation, combined with an early fascination with science and a personal legacy of war—Danh immigrated to the States as a child refugee from Vietnam—would later coalesce into the series of images for which he is most widely known. Danh appropriates iconic images of the Vietnam War and prints them on organic material such as leaves and grass, using a unique printing process he calls Chlorophyll printing. The images—ethereal and fragile, endowed with a sense of heart-wrenching loss—speak poetically of memory, impermanence and the remnants and aftermath of war.

April 30th marks the 37th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, the official end of the Vietnam War. For Danh, a Vietnamese American, the legacy of that conflict is complex and profoundly personal: photography is his means to connect with the painful shadows of that legacy by empowering a narrative that grounds him in his own identity. “It’s something that my parents I think want to talk about, but it’s difficult for them to communicate because they have such a direct relationship to what happened,” he says.

The artist uses two different processes to create his images. The first resembles traditional black and white printing where a negative is placed on a living patch of grass or leaf. Like the imprint of a hose on a green lawn, light-blocking material removes the green chlorophyll pigment from organic matter. The image transfers when the dark portions of the negative block light, removing the pigment, while the transparent sections keep the underlying portion of the grass or leaf alive. In the second method, grass is cut and layered on a board to form a canvas onto which the artist projects a positive. The clear part of the transparency that lets sunlight through gets washed out, forming an image.

In an ode to the impermanence and fragility of memory, it is impossible to chemically fix the photograph like a silver gelatin print. The artist recommends pressing the material in a book to retain color, and displaying and storing them away from direct sunlight. However, Danh takes this a step further and casts his work in resin, which, for him, becomes a way to preserve the leaf to hold onto that memory. “I feel that when we forget about the memory of war, war can happen again,” he says. “And of course in this country we forget very quickly.”

Binh Danh is an artist presented by Haines Gallery in San Francisco and Lisa Sette Gallery in Scottsdale, Ariz. See more of his work here.