Tag Archives: Native New Yorker

SW Regional SPE: Brenda Biondo

Sharing photographers that I met at the SW Regional SPE Conference hosted by the Center of Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins, Colorado….

When I met Brenda Biondo and spent time with her terrific project, Once Upon a Playground, I realized that it had so much potential–as a teaching tool, as a museum exhibition, and as a book. As a teaching tool, it was a great reflection of how a project forms, from a few photographs and ideas, growing into significant research of a subject adding additional layers of insight and thought. As Brenda states, she discovered that no institution is documenting objects of play, and her project may one day, be an important historical record.  Her museum options range from Children’s Museums, The Museum of Play, the Smithsonian, and a host of other options.  Finally, the book dummy that she shared in Colorado is a thorough and fascinating look at the history of playgrounds. Publishers, where are you?

Brenda received B.A. degree in communication arts from James Madison University in Virginia. After working in corporate communications in Manhattan and Washington, DC for a decade, she left the corporate world to focus on freelance writing. As a writer, she had her work published in The Washington Post, The Denver Post, The Christian Science Monitor, USA Weekend magazine and many other publications. In 2004, she decided to discontinue writing in order to concentrate on fine art photography. Her work has appeared in group and solo shows throughout the country, including exhibits at the Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins, CO; the Hubbard Museum for the American West in Ruidoso Downs, NM; the Dairy Center for the Arts in Boulder, CO; and the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, VA. A native New Yorker, Brenda now lives in a small Colorado town at the base of Pikes Peak with her husband and two children.

Once Upon A Playground 

This was the first project I started after turning 40 and having my first kid. Even though I had been taking photographs for more than two decades, I had never pursued it seriously until then. As I was thinking about subjects I could shoot with a baby in tow, I began noticing that the local parks I visited with my young daughter hardly ever had the type of equipment I had grown up with. 

For the past nine years, I’ve worked on this project on and off, traveling around the country photographing whatever old playground equipment I can find in schoolyards and public parks. I see this series as a type of cultural archeology, because playgrounds have played such a prominent role in the lives of American children for generations. The classic metal and wood structures were a distinctive element of the American landscape for most of the 20th century and are part of the personal histories of most Americans over the age of 30. 
The towering metal slides, spine-jarring seesaws, colorful spinners and other classic equipment was gone from most playgrounds. As I started focusing on these childhood icons, I realized that the equipment designs often reflected the popular culture of the times, with geometric metal and wood apparatus of the early 1900s supplemented by pieces in the shape of cowboys and Indians, Wizard of Oz and Charlie Brown characters, rocket ships and satellites, motorcycles and geodesic domes during the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. 

Unfortunately, it gets harder to find this equipment with each passing year. When schools and towns renovate their playgrounds, the old equipment is almost always hauled away to the scrap yard. As far as I can tell, no institution — hello, Smithsonian — is collecting and preserving this equipment. I can’t remember how I stumbled across the first playground catalog on eBay, but I began buying them whenever one came up for auction, not really sure what I would do with them but knowing they provided historical context for my photographs. 

After several years, I had nearly two dozen catalogs, published from 1920 through 1975, along with a growing pile of historical playground postcards. I’ve recently combined the historical documents with my photographs and created a book on Blurb to show to potential publishers. All the elements of the book are viewable on my website, www.onceuponaplayground.com.

Matt Licari

On October 26th, The Kiernan Gallery will host an evening for photographer, Matt Licari in his studio in Richmond, Virginia. Earlier this year, Matt unfortunately lost nearly all of his photography equipment in a robbery, so The Kiernan Gallery Presents: Matt Licari will be part fundraiser, part salon, as Matt’s
studio transforms into an alternative gallery space to display his work. I am featuring one of his series, Ride, about the experience of day to day travel on the NYC subway system.
Matt  received his BFA in photography from the School of Art +
Design at SUNY Purchase in New York. Inspired by street photography,
his work explores urban, suburban, and rural subjects. The work –
primarily in large format – has been exhibited widely, including Sasha
Wolf Gallery, Kris Graves Projects, and The Neuberger Museum of Art.
Licari has worked for the Guggenheim Museum and the Richard Avedon
Foundation, and currently serves as the Programs Chair of ASMP. He currently lives, works and travels between Richmond, Virginia and New York City. 
Ride is a series of images I have made in the New York City subway system. I’m a native New Yorker and have ridden the train since I was young, so the images didn’t start as an attempt to create a series, they were simply made in transit as I rode from place to place. I’m particularly fond of the el (elevated) lines due to the unique cityscapes they offer and the flickering, dappled light that the interior of the car receives. I also love the crowded midtown trains, where you often find every type of person in the same space. 
And of course, the elements provide another dimension to the rail system, which rarely seems to shut down even in inclement weather. It is not a conceptual series in the least – it is rather visceral – it is a place where people cram into a small space for a short time, and for the most part, deal with it quite gracefully. And then there are the people who don’t act so gracefully or ordinarily, which becomes a spectacle and sometimes a fun diversion for the rest of the travelers. The images are, in essence, about the experience of riding the train and seeing the city and it’s people through in that context. All images were made between 2008 and 2012 and are Untitled (Ride), year created.


Andy Freeberg

Andy Freeberg should have been a major league baseball player as his projects hit home run after home run.  His new project, Art Fare, just rounded the corner and crossed home base, again. And he’s just opened an exhibition of Art Fare at the Paul Kopeikin Gallery in Los Angeles which will run through October 27th.

Born in NYC, Andy was an early observer of a sophisticated city culture and after college in Michigan, began a professional photography career in New York taking portraits for such publications as The Village Voice, Rolling Stone, Time, and Fortune, photographing the likes of Michael Jackson, Bill Gates, and Neil Young. I think being a native New Yorker cultivates a wry and subtlety pointed way of looking at the world, kind of like the cool guy at the party who holds back and observes the drunken dance floor, with a smirk and a knowing.

Stroganov Palace, Russian State Museum, from Guardians
Andy has been fascinated with the gallery and museum worlds for a long time and often turns his camera on the dealers, gallery patrons, artists, museum guards, and their interplay with the works of art themselves. His project Guardians, about the women that guard the art in Russian museums, won Photolucida’s Critical Mass book award and was published in 2010. One of my favorite series, Sentry, takes a look at galleristas that stand guard at the reception desks in the world of Chelsea galleries in NYC.

Metro Pictures, from Sentry

Art Fare: Gallery owners and their staff are usually hidden behind large entry desks and closed office doors. But at the major art fairs I’ve visited, like New York’s Armory Show and Art Basel in Miami and Switzerland, they’re in plain view in their booths.
As if on stage, you can see art dealers meeting with collectors, selling and negotiating, talking on cell phones, working on laptops, and manipulating touch screens in 21st century postures newly adapted for the latest electronic devices. I found the lighting, costumes, and set design excellent for photographing these living dioramas, where the art world plays itself.



Nina Menocal
Sean Kelly
 Annie de Villepoix

Skarstedt
Andrea Rosen
Christopher Cutts
Chuck and Andy at Gagosian

Claire Oliver

Gagosian

Hasted Hunt Kraeutler

Ileana Tounta

Leonard Ruethmueller
Marlborough
Rokeby
Gary Snyder
Spinello