Tag Archives: Personal Achievement

SNAPSHOT: Shen Wei

Self Portrait, © Shen Wei

By Anna Carnick

For this week’s SNAPSHOT, we spoke with New York-based artist Shen Wei. Born and raised in Shanghai, Wei’s photographs-primarily still lifes and nude portraits-offer the viewer a glimpse into very private, still moments, which seem to stand in direct contrast to the larger, ever-changing exterior world. Wei was named one of the fifteen “new generation of photo pioneers” by American Photo in 2007, and was also part of PDN’s annual “30 New and Emerging Photographers to Watch” list in 2008.

Wei’s first monograph, the dreamlike Chinese Sentiment, was published by Charles Lane Press earlier this year. The collection is an intimate exploration of the human impact of China’s arrival as a superpower, and features an introduction by Peter Hessler, staff writer and former Beijing correspondent for The New Yorker. It was guest-edited by Aperture book publisher Lesley A. Martin.

This summer, Wei is included in the Museum of the City of New York’s Moveable Feast: Fresh Produce and the NYC Green Carts Program. This group exhibition on view through September 5 is co-curated by Aperture editor Denise Wolff and documents the ongoing Green Cart Initiative, which placed 1000 mobile food carts offering fresh fruit and vegetables throughout the five boroughs. The exhibition was presented by Aperture and the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund.

Wei spoke with Aperture’s web-editor, Anna Carnick.

AC: What is your idea of happiness?
SW: To have the freedom to do what I want.

How do you define beauty?
The smell of home and my dog.

What do you see as your greatest achievement as an artist so far?
My latest self-portrait project, I Miss You Already.  It took me so many years of struggle to finally breakthrough my shell to be completely free and open and willing.

Your greatest personal achievement?
Convincing my strict Chinese parents on numerous difficult issues throughout my life.

If you weren’t a photographer, what would you be?

Probably something musical, a violinist or a dancer.

Your favorite artist, of any genre?
Where should I start?  I have so many.  Recently I have been fascinated by the work of French filmmaker Jacques Tati.

Your favorite photograph?
It has to be Diane Arbus’s Child with a toy hand grenade in Central Park, N.Y.C. 1962.  I had known nothing about photography before I moved to U.S.  The first photo book I ever owned was Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph.  I absolutely love that photo when I see it.  It kind of reminds me of myself as a boy in a way.

Your favorite emerging photographer?
I have been a follower of another Shanghai-born photographer, Yijun Liao.  Her current work is a series of self-portraits with her Japanese lover, which is very mysterious, seductive, and intriguing.

Your current soundtrack?
I love French Chanson, Serge Gainsbourg, Patrick Bruel, Bénabar, Marc Lavoine. . .

The last book (photo or other) you really enjoyed?
The Revenge of Thomas Eakins by Sidney D. Kirkpatrick.

Name a person – living or dead – you’d really like to meet.
A Chinese poet from the Dang Dynasty, Li Bai.

What qualities do you appreciate most in friends?
Honesty.

Your favorite motto?
From caring comes courage. – Lao Tzu

SNAPSHOT: Tod Papageorge

By Anna Carnick

Portrait of Tod Papageorge by Deborah Flomenhaft,courtesy of Tod Papageorge

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For this week’s SNAPSHOT, we spoke with respected photographer, teacher, and author Tod Papageorge. Papageorge’s much-anticipated new book, Core Curriculum: Writings on Photography—a series of essays, lectures, reviews, and interviews—offers critical insight into the role of artists like Atget, Brassaï, Robert Frank (with Walker Evans), Robert Adams, Josef Koudelka, and his close friend, Garry Winogrand. It also delves into photography’s relationship to poetry, and how the evolution of the medium’s early technologies led to the twentieth-century creation of the self-conscious photographer/artist. The book is available for pre-order now here.

One of the most influential voices in photography today, Papageorge has been the Walker Evans Professor of Photography at the Yale University School of Art since 1979.

He will be in conversation tomorrow with photographer John Pilson at the Aperture Gallery. More details here.

Papageorge took a few moments to speak with us on the eve of his book release.

 

AC: How do you describe your personality?
TP: Attic.

What is your definition of happiness?
Birdsong. Or Louis Armstrong’s fanfare and solo in “West End Blues.”

Name your greatest hero.
Mozart, for writing The Requiem, The Magic Flute, and his clarinet concerto in the last year of his short life.

Your greatest achievement as an artist so far?
To remain an artist so far.

The greatest challenge you’ve faced as an artist?
To call myself an artist (as I did in the previous response) and not a photographer.

Your greatest personal achievement?
Being Theo’s father.

The biggest life lesson you’ve learned so far?
That life is the thing in front of you, there, immensely larger than the lesson it might seem to promise but, in my experience, withholds.

If you weren’t a photographer, what would you be?
The timpanist for a small-city orchestra who, in his off-hours, writes poetry in strict rhyme.

Your favorite photograph?
Read Core Curriculum.

Your favorite new (or emerging) artist?
Roberto Bolaño. A Chilean writer, actually. And dead since 2003. But the most exciting artist I’ve encountered in the past five-ten years.

Your favorite photography exhibit of all time?
The one I most learned from was the 1968 Brassaï exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. I just “got” it, at a particularly crucial moment in my development as a photographer, although I couldn’t have said then what it was that I got. Equally remarkable to me, though, in this new century, were the ICP exhibitions of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s “Scrapbook” [Henri Cartier-Bresson’s Scrapbook: Photographs, 1932–1946] and Garry Winogrand’s “1964” [Winogrand 1964].

Your favorite photo book ever?
The Decisive Moment, which I initially saw in 1962, a few months after I began to photograph, and, on the heels of that, The Americans, which I discovered in San Francisco shortly before I heard Robert Frank give his first public lecture at the museum there.

Name a person—living or dead—you’d really like to meet.
Shakespeare, preferably after he’d given up writing for the stage. Among other things, I’d ask him why he stopped; how he filled his time and (great) mind; and who he’d name as a person—living or dead—he’d really like to meet.

Do you have a mentor?
Garry Winogrand was a mentor of mine, although what he taught me had as much to do with how to think and live (in the moment) as it did with making photographs.

The natural talent you’d like to be gifted with?
Organization.

For what fault do you have the most tolerance?
Disorganization.

Your favorite quality in a man?
The willingness to acknowledge pain.

What qualities do you appreciate most in friends?
Humor and a ready hand when the waiter brings the bill.

Your favorite motto?
“The best way out is always through.” —Robert Frost


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.)