Tag Archives: Metaphors

David Goldblatt Revisits “On the Mines”

As the German publisher Gerhard Steidl prepares a series of books on the life work of David Goldblatt, Jeffrey Ladd spoke with the South African photographer about the newly edited and designed release of his long out-of-print collaboration with Nadine Gordimer from 1973, On the Mines.

Jeffrey Ladd: Alongside the political and economic realities of mining Gold or other natural resources there can be any number of powerful metaphors associated with “mining.” For example: what is “on the surface” and “what is hidden”; social strata within the apartheid system; light and darkness; heaven and hell—what initially drew you working on a project about the mines?

Images:

The cover of On the Mines by David Goldblatt, published by Steidl.

David Goldblatt: I was drawn to photograph the mines not by any metaphor in which they might be seen but by their overwhelming presence in the life and landscape into which I grew. Photography offered both the justification and the medium for greatly extending experience and understandings begun in childhood.

JL: One of your earliest images, from 1947, is linked to mining. It shows an area called The Millsite dump purported by the local population to be the largest tailings dump in the world. You roamed this area and the mining estates as a child.

DG: As White children growing up in Randfontein my friends and I enjoyed almost unfettered freedom to roam among the mines that curved around our town. There were two provisions: never enter the fenced off areas that carried the skull and crossbones and the warning, ‘Caving Grounds’; and not to play on the slimes dams, formed by the mud that came from the mills. But we did play on the sand dumps, especially one called Whitey because of its fine white sand.

There was blind innocence to our meanderings on the mining estates. We took care to avoid the Pondo miners—our myth had been that they were ‘dangerous.’ We didn’t know their language, we didn’t know anyone who had been harmed by Pondos, but we feared them. We never wondered about the lives of the Black miners, living 40 to a room and far from their families.

JL: As a photographer were you able to see firsthand how the mineworkers lived in their compounds and hostels?

DG: Permission had been given to me by the ‘head office’ to take photographs in the hostel of the Western Deep Levels mines in Carletonville. Without consulting me the hostel manager sent out an instruction that men of each tribal group were to present themselves to me in tribal dress. I had no desire to do ethnographic “studies” and was preparing to withdraw. But then I saw the men and that they took the occasion very seriously and with great dignity. And so I photographed several groups.

JL: The book begins with a few photographs shot in color that date from the mid-to-late 60s, you turned to working primarily in color much later in your career, were these among the earliest of your color images? Was there a moment in working that you decided to use color?

DG: Professionally I worked in color on commissions since 1964. The color photographs in the new edition were made experimentally rather than from conviction that that was the ‘right’ medium for the subject. In addition, in the late 60s and in the 70s and 80s I did quite a lot of color photography underground for mining companies but I did not bring this into what I regard as my personal work.

JL: How were you able to gain, what appears to be, unrestricted access to the mining estates to photograph?

DG: Access to mining properties was quite severely restricted. If I was roaming on an estate that had ceased operations many years before, a mine policeman might appear suddenly as though from the earth to challenge me. Sometimes I would be allowed to proceed, sometimes not. On some properties I approached senior management first and was given permission to photograph. Photography in the compounds/hostels and underground would have been impossible without such permission.

JL: The 1973 edition of On the Mines is strikingly different from this second edition. You have redesigned, added 31 photographs and removed 11.

David Goldblatt

A spread from the book: “Notices in English, Afrikaans, Sotha, Xhosa and Tsonga, on the bank at New Modderfontein, Benoni, 1965.”

DG: The design of the original lacked wholeness and indulged in visual excesses in which I no longer believe. The first chapter (The Witwatersrand), was strongly graphic and contrasty, with some of the pictures going across the gutter; the second (Shaftsinking), was blighted by an ill-conceived attempt at drama, dropping the pictures into a black surround; the third (Mining Men), was classical one-picture-to-a-spread. In the new edition I wanted to give greater coherence and unity to the whole, and while not attempting to provide contemporary photographs, I wanted to enrich the mixture with many more photographs from the original archive. I invited Cyn van Houten, a designer with whom I had worked on magazines in South Africa and who had designed three other books for me, to design this one. We have a good understanding of each other’s thinking and so it became a real pleasure to put this book together.

JL: I recall you telling me that Sam Haskins offered advice with the design for a couple of your early books, did he help also with the 1973 edition of On the Mines?

DG: Sam’s influence is strongly evident in the first chapter of the first edition—bold, graphic, contrasty, but as far as I can recall, he was not involved with the design. Sam was remarkably generous to me. At a time when I knew nothing about using photographs in a book, he designed a dummy for my first essay, Some Afrikaners Photographed. In the end, I adopted a completely different approach from his, but in the process I learned a great deal about book design. The design of the first edition of On the Mines marked a sort of hybrid point in my understanding, where the first chapter is heavily indebted to Sam’s thinking and the last one, my departure from there.

JL: As Steidl publishes other volumes of your life’s work, will they all be completely revised and newly designed?

DG: I can’t say at this stage how we will approach subsequent books. I would hope to come to each on its merits. For me the particular attraction of a new edition is the opportunity to correct errors and to strengthen what was done originally.


The new addition of On the Mines is now available from Steidl.

David Goldblatt is an award-winning South African photographer represented by Goodman Gallery.

Jeffrey Ladd is a photographer, writer, editor and founder of Errata Editions.



Europe Week: Salva Lopez

Guest editor, Jacqueline Roberts shares a week of European photographers, starting with Salva Lopez. A huge thank you toJacqueline for her insight and efforts. Her statement for why she selected the photographers follows: 


 I chose these photographs because they move me. They are portraits of people, young or old. They tell a story, maybe theirs, maybe ours. Some speak softly, hushing over us like in Lopez’ muted portraits of old people. Others exude exuberance and vitality, like in Laboile’s family life. Some are languid portraits, others raw pictures of a sore existence. Some stare right back at us, like in Videnin’s photographs; others gently lower their gaze. Yet for me, they all share that essential quality that turns a good photograph into a great one: immediacy. We know a good photograph when we see one. When I look at these images, I relate to them immediately, to the people they portray, to the narrative. They have their own language, a language that speak to me, a language that I understand. There is an intuitive connection that synchronises our own experience with a photograph. A reciprocal flow. An empathic exchange. 


I was at Getxophoto this summer, an international photo festival near Bilbao (Spain), and it struck me when two passers-by paused in front of a photograph and remarked: “Oh that’s very nice, but what does that mean? What was the artist trying to tell us?” searching for answers. Images carry meaning, they do; but in my case, it is the quest for questions that I relish when looking at a photograph. To me, these photographs tell us about loneliness, joy and pain; about dreams, beauty and hopelessness; about search and loss… Vehicles for meanings, emotions and thoughts. Stories of bodies and souls… ultimately, metaphors of life and what lies underneath.–Jacqueline Roberts


image by Salva Lopez


Salva López (Barcelona, 1984) trained as a graphic designer but when he discovered photographers Stephen Shore, Joel Sternfeld and Alec Soth, he realised that photography was what he wanted to do. Since then Salva has gained recognition in Spain as an emerging talent, winning many awards (e.g.Fotoactitud, Photoespaña) and showing his work in exhibitions and photo festivals.

Salva is currently working on his project “The Green Curtain”, about the mount Montjuïc in Barcelona. He is also co-editor of the blog “Have a Nice Book” about photography books that he edits with his friend and also photographer Yosigo.

Roig 26 is a project that I have carried
out bit by bit through observation, reflection and from my experience of living
with my grand parents, Marina y José, for five years in their modest apartment
on Roig street, in the Barcelona “Raval” district. An apartment that
has been the stage of their relationship for more than 60 years. A whole life
inside these same walls and these same fears.

With Roig 26 my intention was not to draw a true portrait of their own reality, but rather to recreate one, through what I have experienced with them.


What does your cultural heritage bring to your work?

It is difficult to know which type of cultural heritage has influence my work. Obviously I have my own cultural references, my region, my surroundings, Catalonia, Spain, the Mediterranean and Europe. But in a global world, my influences come also from the United States, through their movies, their music, their literature and particularly through their photography. William Eggleston or Stephen Shore have had an impact on me from the start. 

What difference do see between work created in Europe and in the States?

Ummm… I would say that in the United States a formal approach often predominates along with a more intuitive and visual narrative. I believe that in Europe we perhaps make it more intellectual, we try to find a concept for each photographic work. The ideal work, for me, would that which is visually strong and has an intellectual dimension, that is interesting but not necessarily explicit. In my work, there are days when I wake up as a European and others as an American. Here in Europe we too often “split hairs”.

What is the state of photography in your country (how is photography perceived in the art scene, is there support, are galleries selling, etc.)?
As everybody knows, Spain is going through a massive crisis and the first budget cuts have affected cultural activities. Most grants are gone now, and what is left will not last long. I am not too familiar with galleries so I can’t really say, but one thing is sure, sales have fallen dramatically.
Having said that, I think that Spanish photographers are getting better and we are gradually reaching European levels. People are very motivated and there are more and more groups that support young talented photographers. I know quite well the world of photography books and I can see the progression. Publishing houses are publishing very interesting things and photography books are now making the Top 10 list for best books. Last year for instance, Ricardo Cases with ‘Paloma al aire’ and Julian Barón with ‘CENSURA’ were among the top 10. And it is very likely that Cristina de Middel’s book ‘Afronautas’, will make it this year. 
There is still loads more to do, support and funds are scarce, but luckily and thanks to the Internet it is now much easier to access information and promote your work. The intermediaries who were once indispensable are less so today.

Announcing the winners of The 1000 Words Award

1000 Words is proud to announce the results of the inaugural 1000 Words Award for European photographers.

Having attracted considerable interest from a diverse spectrum of committed and passionate photographers, the standard of the open submissions was exceptionally high. And while the deliberations were difficult, the judges selected in their opinion, four photographers who could most benefit from the mentoring and workshop experience and go on to produce interesting and innovative bodies of work from having the time to focus on their practice.

In total, 348 submissions were received from 24 EU member countries.


The winners are: Henrik Malmström (b. 1983, Finland), Lucy Levene (b.1978, United Kingdom), Tereza Zelenkova (b. 1985, Czech Republic) and Virgílio Ferreira (b. 1970, Portugal).


At the core of my practice I seek to destabilise different subjects by reassessing their potential as metaphors for broader questions surrounding photography’s capability for representation and its relationship with the real. My latest work is an installation that comprises of a series of black and white photographs and several objects from my personal collection. This work can be understood as a metaphor for the night as a time associated with both inspiration and imagination, but also melancholia, solitude and isolation. The darkness of the night, like the darkness inside a camera, is a space where images are conjured. Here I am not really interested in the images brought to us by dreams but rather by that point of insomniac vigilance when one can no longer recognise what’s a dream and what’s reality; when familiar objects start to take on shapes of something else, undergoing a sort of metamorphoses. Tereza Zelenkova




A series of un-staged images taken in an Edinburgh nightclub. The title is from the poem by Maya Angelou; Come, And Be My Baby.
Lucy Levene


This series deals with ideas of intangibility related to states of being, by capturing candid moments of anonymous people in the streets of London. In these pictures I attempt to evoke those feelings of vulnerability, bewilderment, impermanence and solitude, which are related to the uncertain times that we live in. They are haunted depictions of our world, and maybe they reflect us.

In these photo-chemical experiments the use of light has a double function: it both records and destroys the information in the picture, denying any secure reality. These manipulations are made on the moment of capture, and all the process of image transformations happens inside the apparatus. Virgílio Ferreira






My work up until now has always been connected to home and identity. I like to challenge myself into finding new perspectives and angles in a search for how things can be represented. Sometimes it can appear as fiction, but still there is always a deeper social aspect to it.
Henrik Malmström  

The 1000 Words Award for European photographers is a major initiative in collaboration with The Other European Travellers, a project co-ordinated by Cobertura Photo and co-organised by Atelier de Visu1000 Words and Festival Voci di Foto in partnership with Magnum Photos. It is part-funded by The Education Audiovisual and Culture Exchange Agency (EACEA) under the auspices of the EU Culture Programme.

Photographers were invited through open submission to apply for an opportunity to realise a new body of work with the supervision of several high-profile photographers and industry experts.
The 1000 Words Award includes:
• £1,000 cash prize
• 18 month mentorship programme
• 3 workshops with Jeffrey Silverthorne, Antoine d’Agata and Patrick Zachmann in London, Marseille and Seville respectively, including financial assistance with accommodation and travel
• Travelling group exhibition through the UK, France, Spain and Italy
• Catalogue and DVD
• Feature in 1000 Words Photography Magazine.
The 1000 Words Award selection panel were:
• Simon Baker, Curator of Photography at Tate
• Brett Rogers, Director of The Photographers’ Gallery, London
• Dewi Lewis, Director at Dewi Lewis Publishing
• Tim Clark and Michael Grieve, Editors at 1000 Words Photography Magazine.

The 1000 Words Award and The Other European Travellers have been supported, in part, by The Education Audiovisual and Culture Exchange Agency (EACEA).

Review Santa Fe: Santiago Vanegas

Over the next month, I will be sharing the work of photographers who attended Review Santa Fe in June.  Review Santa Fe is the only juried review in the United States and invites 100 photographers to Santa Fe for a long weekend of reviews, insights, and connections.  

Santiago Vanegas has navigated in and out of two cultures throughout his life, bringing a unique perspective to his photographs. Born in Philadelphia and then moving back and forth between the United States and his native country of Colombia, eventually staying in Colombia for the next 14 years. Inspired by his mother, a painter, Surrealist art, Latin American magic realism, music, and the world of cinema, Santiago creates work that looks at the dark and the light in life. “I see the world in a way that even to me is a bit strange, but very real. The world is a strange, complicated, and fascinating place. I’m constantly drawing metaphors of how I see the world and its future. My images are about the relationship between reality and perception.”
His work has been featured in Surface Magazine, WIRED, Flaunt Magazine, Picture Magazine, GRAPHIC Magazine UK, Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport, 
Santiago has created a wonderful bookend to his previous publication, Antarctica, with a new offering, Iceland,  A project that captures the stunning landscape of an under-explored country.

ICELAND: Ice. Land. Fire. Motion.
Metamorphic. Technological. Volatile. Outlandish. Lush. Oceanic.
Mythical. Alive. Thinking of Iceland, I’m lost for words and the ability
to think in complete sentences. One of the few places in the world I
have visited that undeniably has a powerful pulse of its very own. The
land breathes and evolves right before my eyes. The land is an organism
in itself. Temperamental volcanoes, mighty glaciers, the rhythm of the
ocean. It’s a language of time.

To a degree, Icelandics know. Their respect for the land isn’t political, or left only to environmentalists and celebrities. Many are aware of nature’s fragility and power. It’s power to create, destroy, transform, and transcend. This is a time when humanity has the choice to be enlightened, or disciplined by nature. Although part of me thinks nature has already made up its mind.


Santiago Vanegas

I recently had the great pleasure of getting to know Santiago Vanegas and exploring his varied portfolios of interesting projects. Santiago brings an interesting set of aesthetics to his work. He has navigated in and out of two cultures throughout his life–born in Philadelphia and then moving back and forth between the United States and his native country of Colombia, eventually staying in Colombia for the next 14 years. Inspired by his mother, a painter, Surrealist art, Latin American magic realism, music, and and the world of cinema, Santiago creates work that looks at the dark and the light in life. “I see the world in a way that even to me is a bit strange, but very real. The world is a strange, complicated, and fascinating place. I’m constantly drawing metaphors of how I see the world and its future. My images are about the relationship between reality and perception.”

Since attending the MFA program in photography at the Academy of Art College in San Francisco, Santiago has been working as an editorial. commercial, and fine art photographer, and has been featured in Surface Magazine, WIRED, Flaunt Magazine, Picture Magazine, GRAPHIC Magazine UK, the Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport, and many more. He currently lives in Atlanta with his wife and children. I am featuring two of Santiago’s projects, People and Nature and Anartica.

People and Nature: When experiencing this particular natural landscape, I cannot help notice a disconnect. Disconnect between people and their surroundings. Disconnect between people and other people. Disconnect between people and themselves. Sometimes it’s all pretty harmless. People just are how they are. No harm done. It is what it is. Other times that disconnect can lead to our discordance with nature.

When I think of “people & nature”, ideally I envision a person out in the wild loaded with sporting gear, exploring and becoming one with nature. It’s a nice picture, and it happens in reality. It is a good thing. However, I can’t help noticing how odd so many “normal” people can be in nature. Some choose to go in high heels, glued to their mobiles. Others may take the nature hike while sipping energy drinks out of brightly colored containers and getting their family picture taken with blank smiles that quickly disappear after the digital camera’s beep (click). People become the landscape.

In one way or another, I’m one of them. Aren’t we all?

It’s hard to unravel how I see people in nature. My lack of an explanation is why I’m drawn to making images of it. More than actual statements about people in nature, I have questions. Sometimes when I observe it feels bizarre, odd. Other times it feels like something isn’t right, something is off. Then there are moments of choreographed reality. I guess when it comes to people and nature, harmony and disfunction go hand in hand.

Antarctica: It’s been a while since I’ve returned from Antarctica and I still can’t fathom having been there. It’s like going to another planet. I’ve never been to another planet, but I imagine this is the closest I’ll ever get to one. Ironically, being in Antarctica is probably the closest I’ll ever feel to Earth. The experience has fostered images of absolutes. Vast landscape, infinitesimal human. Our dire threat to nature, and the delicate polar ecology. Navigating the treacherous Drake Passage, our small boat at the mercy of fifty foot waves. Life, death. The list goes on. It’s humbling. It’s a place where the miniscule and the monumental are mutually epic.

People ask me, “Why go to Antarctica?”. There are many reasons. Some of which I have yet to discover. I went to Antarctica because soon it will be a very different place. In the past few years, ice shelves as massive as countries have broken off the continent and are melting into the ocean. Death and Beauty. Antarctica is dying. Such an unlikely and complex place. I had to go, absorb, and tell a story.

Success Stories: John Chervinsky

Exploring the work of John Chervinsky is intriguing and very inspiring as his photographs are a reflection of a thinker and doer. The more I researched John, the more impressed I became by not only his exquisite work, but the level of professionalism and thought he brings to the production, marketing, and execution of his images. As John opens an exhibition of An Experiment in Perspective at the Wallspace Gallery in Santa Barbara, running from May 31st through July 3, 2011, I would, indeed, call John a Success Story.

A self-taught photographer, John brings a host of visual, intellectual, and scientific tools to his work. He is an engineer working in the field of applied physics at Harvard’s Rowland Institute for Science, originally founded by Polaroid’s Edwin H. Land. John spent eighteen years running a particle accelerator at Harvard University and has collaborated with Museums, using accelerator technology in the analysis of art. His work has been celebrated in a number of solo and group shows, and held in significant museum collections across the country.

John has an interesting new body of work, Studio Physics, that is still in production. Examples follow in the interview below.

In 2001, three significant events moved John to retreat to his studio and begin taking his work to another level — his wife became seriously ill, the World Trade Center was attacked, and his friend and fellow photographer Guy Pollard died unexpectedly. This focused time allowed him to find solace in a world that seemed out of control, and create a body of work that is “ an attempt to find metaphors within the laws of nature that can be universally applied to every day life. Conceptually, the work deals with the divide between rational or scientific explanations of existence and man’s need to explain the world around him with various systems of belief. “

His photographic experiment began when he tried to answer the question: “Could one draw a circle in a square corner of a room and still have the circle look round in a photograph?” To create his photographs, John builds vertical and horizontal chalkboard surfaces, then points a view camera at the 90-degree angle formed by their intersection. With chalk he creates markings drawn in projection so it appears, from the viewpoint of the camera, that the markings are floating in space or on the surface of the photograph.

John’s chalk markings—arrows, diagrams, scientific formulae—are juxtaposed with real objects, giving the photographed image an effect that is at once visually unsettling and intellectually provocative.

Lenses and cameras are the tools of the trade for a working photographer, but it is the field of optics, as it relates to human vision, that can carry with it multivalent symbolic possibilities for the artist. It can stand as a testament to our expansion of human knowledge and perception. It can also symbolize aspects of our weaknesses, thus leading to a greater understanding of the human condition. Are we prone to the same limitations as our trusty camera on a tripod, held to the earth, seeing the universe from a fixed and single point?

First of all, congratulations on your upcoming show at Wallspace Gallery. I appreciate that you are challenging our visual and spiritual limitations with this series. Did you have any new revelations while creating it, or are you exploring territory that is already familiar to you?

Thanks Aline! I feel very fortunate to be at Wall Space amongst some very great artists, and I love working with Crista Dix.

When I first dragged chalkboards into my studio, I knew that I wanted to play tricks with perspective, but that’s all I had in mind. It was mostly unfamiliar territory. I exercise so much control in other aspects of my work, that it would make me unhappy if I controlled the direction too forcefully. I like that period in the course of a project, when the work itself is reflecting something back for me to take hold of. When I first started, I didn’t think the images would have objects at all – only abstract chalk markings. I tried that for a while and it looked terrible. Eventually, I became satisfied with the relationship between object and line and realized that I could then play with symbols and communicate something to viewers.

The biggest revelation with the project, was that it seemed that I could present a fairly ambiguous framework of symbols, and a significant subset of viewers responded to it – and not only that, they did a good job of decoding it. I enjoyed hearing from people who were paying attention to the fact that the tic-tac-toe game in one of my images was an unwinable one; or that those with a scientific background understood the connection between water and the planet Mars.

Is there an image from An Experiment in Perspective that is most meaningful to you?

There is one that features two photographs of my mother; one taken in her 20’s and one taken by me in her 80’s. She is inserted into a mechanics diagram with a physics equation. The image that I created is first and foremost, an expression of my worry about my mother. I also had hoped that the image would serve as a commentary involving the ability of humans to bisect our world along emotional lines and rational lines, simultaneously.

I am very impressed with how you packaged this project as a traveling exhibition (see site for more details). I think we can all learn a lesson from not only your exhibition proposal, but also your approach to showing work. How did this come about?

My very first solo exhibition was here in Massachusetts at the Griffin Museum of Photography in 2005. I hand framed all 23 pieces in the show. Several months later, I attended my very first portfolio review (Photolucida) and made a connection with Mary Virginia Swanson. It was her idea to market the framed pieces as a traveling show. She pointed me to a traveling exhibition organized by the George Eastman House and I wanted to do something similar. I grew up in a very self-reliant household. My father built the house that I grew up in with his own two hands. It was only natural to me, to build the crate. It was a surprising amount of work to complete, but it has been very worthwhile for me. I have to warn that the approach is not for everyone as there are many considerations: storage issues, the intricacies and cost of shipping artwork via motor freight, insurance, etcetera. Like anything else, do your research.

Your amazing print quality is often remarked upon. Are you approaching print making in a unique way or tips you can pass on?

Thanks for that. I don’t know whether my approach is unique but I’m happy to share all. I did come to digital printing with extensive darkroom experience, so it was helpful to know in advance what a good print looks like. I did think that a major weakness of digital printing on matt paper (my choice, for printing images of blackboards) was that the blacks were kind of anemic – and so I spent some time finding an ink and paper combination that produced the deepest blacks that I could get. I found an inexpensive X-rite densitometer on eBay, so that I could make actual measurements. I then figured out a process to have precise calibration for any ink/paper/printer combination. Beyond that, it’s just taking care of basics: starting off with a properly exposed negative, scanning at the highest bit depth possible, avoid having blocked shadows and blown out highlights. For post-process editing, I do rely heavily on the history brush, to finesse my dodging and burning.

You have a fascinating new body of work, Studio Physics. Can you tell us how the new work came about and more about it?

I spent some time thinking about Chris McCaw’s photographs and how he not only created very compelling and beautiful images, pushed his materials to the burning point, actually – but he works at timescales involving hours. It is a time interval that is used in photography, but it is sort of unusual. There are others who work in timescales over years and decades, either studies of people (Nicholas Nixon’s The Brown Sisters, for example) or many who take “then and now” approaches of city shots. I started thinking about a time interval that no one seemed to care about and started thinking about creative ways to exploit that in a still life.

I was already interested in perspective issues with chalk drawing, when I ran into a photographer at Fotofest named Rick Ashley. He used Chinese artists to make straight reproductions of a few of his photographs. There are many commercial painting studios in China that will paint a reproduction of an image that one can send in an email. They can paint a picture of your husband or wife, or they can forge a Van Gogh – you simply have to pay them to do it. It was then, that the idea hit me to use oil painting for my specific purposes.

The idea is to extend the image capture interval from the standard click of the shutter to a period lasting weeks: I shoot a straight still-life, crop the resultant image. I then email a jpeg of the cropped section to China and have them make it into a painting. Meanwhile, my studio setup sits there, but change to it is occurring, the apples begin to rot, the flowers die and the mold advances. Eventually they send the completed painting back to me in the mail. I insert it into the still life, and re-photograph.

Then I just starting having fun! Is the light changing over time? Does the painting fit back into the still life perfectly or can I change its position in space for creative purposes? Does the pull of gravity change an object’s position? I’m hoping to capitalize on, in a very straightforward way, the preoccupation of the physicist: time light space and gravity, and look at them with photography.

How has creating work that takes “not seconds, but weeks” changed your perceptions about making photographs?

Well, only a small subset of objects change noticeably, over weeks – mostly living things, or recently living things. I don’t want the work to be just about decay, however. As in real life, we have growth and decay.

This is a collaborative project–will you ever let your collaborators in on the final product?

Yes, but I’m not in a hurry to tell them. If they find me, so be it. Meanwhile, I’m actually enjoying the challenges of communicating with them. It’s all been very formal, but with broken English and peppered with plenty of exclamation points:

“Thanks for your letter! We are appreciated about your business chance!”

I’ve been trying to get conversational with them to try to find out how many people work at a given facility, what their lives are like, the weather – but those inquiries mostly get ignored. There have been technical challenges associated with the collaboration too – sometimes they’ll change the size of a painting or reorganize the placement of objects, not always in favorable ways. In fact, rarely so.

What advice can you give emerging photographers, especially on presentation, on networking, on consistently producing excellent work?

Well, unless you pay attention to all three aspects, you will only exist at the hobbyist level. At some point in our lives, we have to consider what might happen to our work after we’re gone. You are not Henry Darger. You will not have someone find your work in a shack only to share it with the world. This is not a bleak assessment: more, it is a call to be good not just at one thing, but several.

What opportunity took your career to the next level?

It was not one thing, there are no big breaks, or they are very rare.

Has social networking changed how you promote and market your work?

Yes, and it has made marketing even more perplexing. There are those of my contemporaries that choose to ignore social media entirely, but I believe it is to their own peril. It’s basically too big to ignore: adapt or die. There is power in numbers, however – and if you can crack the Facebook Newsfeed algorithm, you might be able to organize a meaningful strategy.

Do you ever have periods of self-doubt and feel creatively unmotivated?

Yes, but I use that time for technical hacks that might lead somewhere interesting. Recently I learned how to take x-rays in one of our labs. I spent quite a bit of time learning and reading about technique, but I have not yet been able to create a body of work that was compelling enough to share with others. I think it’s important to keep busy and during dry spells. You never know when a simmering pot may boil over.

And finally, what would be your perfect day?

It would involve swimming across Walden Pond with my wife, playing Frisbee with my dog, running up the spiral staircases at the Rowland Institute, shooting “a keeper” in my studio, listening to good music, listening to bad music, fish on the grill, a pint of fine ale, another pint of fine ale. I have lots of perfect days – my needs are simple.

Asian Contemporary Art Week – Tomorrow: A Conversation with Jungjin Lee and Vicki Goldberg

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Aperture Foundation would like to thank everyone for coming out Thursday, March 24 for the opening reception of the exhibition presented in collaboration with sepiaEYE, Jungjin Lee: Wind

Tomorrow,  a book signing and conversation between the Jungjin Lee and Vicki Goldberg will take place at 2 pm at Aperture Gallery, coinciding with the ten-day annual festival Asian Contemporary Art Week (ACAW).

Wind, a solo exhibition by internationally acclaimed Korean photographer Jungjin Lee features twenty-six stunning panoramic landscapes. A limited-edition artist book, as well as the artist’s first trade book, co-published by Aperture and Sepia, accompany the exhibition. Beautiful in their composition and physical execution, Lee’s images present metaphors for an interior state of being and the forces that shape it. Lee’s landscapes are imbued with an elemental vastness, at once powerful and serene.

As in her earlier work, Lee’s printing technique utilizes a liquid photosensitive emulsion brushed on handmade Korean mulberry paper. The texture of the paper and the gestural marks of the brushstroke create a unique, painterly effect that further emphasizes the fusion of image and photographic intent. In the accompanying book’s text, photography critic Vicki Goldberg writes:

“In these photographs, subject is subservient to content. The subject may be a giant fog that eats a mountain and nibbles away the hills, or a cloud that has invaded a forest and advances steadily, softly, like a determined angel. The content is Jungjin Lee’s response to what she saw, shorthand notes from her spirit.”

Exhibition on view:

Thursday, March 24-Thursday, April 14, 2011

Click here to purchase Wind, the book of Jungjin Lee’s exhibition.

Click here for more information about the book signing and conversation between the artist and Vicki Goldberg


City Metaphors by Oswald Mathias Ungers



Seen from the clouds, my old suburban neighborhood in Arizona with its dozens of cul-de-sacs must have looked like a gaggle of spermatozoa about to ride off into the sunset. Whether that was the holistic thought of the architect and land developer can’t be confirmed – keep in mind it was the late 60s, early 70’s though.

I would like to be able to read maps the same way that I read photographs. Meaning, to enable my first impressions to be filled with analogies, metaphors, and symbolism but instead, the rational mind takes over and I see measured facts and deadpan reality. For the German architect Oswald Mathias Ungers however, bridging imaginative perception and a blueprint from a city planner produced a fascinating book titled City Metaphors just re-published by Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther Konig.

Originally appearing in 1982, City Metaphors presents over 50 pairings of various city maps throughout history with images from science and nature. Each of the pairings is then “titled” with a single descriptive word printed in both English and German.

In Ungers’ mind, the division of Venice becomes a handshake, a spirally designed city in India becomes the universe, the plan of the city of St Gallen, Merian from 1809 becomes a womb and so on. Easily, the formal similarities can be seen in each pairing but there is the third level of perception introduced by the title. The factual reality (the plan), the perceived reality (the image), and the conceptual reality (the word).

As Ungers writes in his foreword; The way we experience the world around us depends on how we perceive it. Without a comprehensive vision the reality will appear as a mass of unrelated phenomenon and meaningless facts, in other words, totally chaotic. In such a world it would be like living in a vacuum; everything would be of equal importance; nothing could attract our attention; and there would be no possibility to utilize the mind.