Tag Archives: Postcards

Displaced History and the Art of Collective Memory

Somewhere in Switzerland there’s a municipal archive, the collective memory of a town, with negatives and newspapers and postcards and photographs that tell the story of the area from 1880–1940. It’s the collective paper memory of the place, including a picture of four children who might not have grown into respected elders, a picture of a priest who may have performed important rituals in the town, a picture of a young woman whose face you might recognize—if the town’s memories are your own.

On the other hand, for photographer Nicolas Dhervillers, who spent only six months residing in Sion, the people in those images were more like characters in a play he would write. Acting the parts to which the photographer assigned them, they appear throughout a series called My Sentimental Archives which will be exhibited at Galérie Bacqueville in Lille, France through Nov. 20. In a meditation on appropriation, each photograph is a two-in-one. Dhervillers’ landscape photography from the area was subjected to a digital process adapted from the cinematic “day for night” technique, lending an eerie look to pictures taken in broad daylight; the archival figures are placed within those landscapes and washed with the unnatural digital light.

“It was very important to find a technique that gives an impression of being ‘outside time,’” Dhervillers told TIME in an email. “Thus, it’s not about a simple photograph but rather a photograph that mixes different mediums that I particularly like: theater for the positions and attitudes of the characters, movies for the light, photography for the idea of controlling the framework, painting for the final rendering.”

Each figure from the archives—small, dusty, black and white people—has been carefully restored by Dhervillers. And, in the process of restoration, the photographer says he felt that the images raised a spiritual question: can we create a present, a now, out of the scraps of the past? “The appropriation of the collective memory, of photographic memory, overlaps with the desire to question a picture in a larger sense,” he said. “This series takes us into a fictional space outside of time, through the photographic processing.”

Dhervillers has worked with appropriated figures before; his series Tourists uses images taken from the internet. But in this case, in the end, his questions about photographic appropriation took on another dimension: the archives from which Dhervillers took the figures did, in a way, become “his.” Even if he didn’t share the town’s history, he felt he knew its inhabitants well. “I spent a lot of time with these little characters,” he said. “I raised them, I colorized them, I gave them life.”

This interview has been translated from French.

Nicolas Dhervillers is a Paris-based photographer represented by School Gallery/Olivier Castaing in Paris.

Jen Davis featured in Abe’s Penny August 2012 Edition

“…Abe’s Penny is a lit mag paired down to the most essential elements: image and text. Each issue consists of one story divided into four parts and printed on postcards. ‘They are not photographs and they are not texts,’ The New Yorker says of Abe’s Penny‘s unique publishing style, ‘but a combination of both, tangible objects with a heft and significance of their own.’”

Abe’s Penny’s August 2012 edition features images from Jen Davis, whose decade spanning “Self Portraits” series was featured in reGeneration 2: Tomorrow’s Photographers Today, the second book in the esteemed series shining a spotlight on the next generation’s rising stars.

›› Shop Jen Davis’s limited-edition print Untitled No. 32, from the “Self Portraits” series
›› Buy reGeneration 2: Tomorrow’s Photographers Today


Postcards From America: The Box Set

In May 2011, Magnum photographers Jim Goldberg, Susan Meiselas, Paolo Pellegrin, Alec Soth and Mikhael Subotzky, as well as writer Ginger Strand, set out from Austin, Texas in an RV. Two weeks and 1750 miles later, they arrived in Oakland, Calif.

Together, they documented their experience, the result of which is a new, limited edition book that launches this week. Postcards from America is a collection of objects: a book, five bumper stickers, a newspaper, two fold-outs, three cards, a poster and five zines, all in a signed and numbered box.

“We knew each other through Magnum, obviously, but we’d never actually tried to work together,” says Soth. “We wanted to see what that would be like, to see if we could create a kind of polyphonic sound. Hopefully the box book achieves that. It also gave us an opportunity to push each other creatively and conceptually, which I think has carried over into our individual work.”

The book does not attempt to document the American Southwest in y traditional sense. Instead, it uses the prototypically western experience of a road trip as an entry point into depicting the region. “Some of us are used to working only on immersive, multiyear projects,” says Subotzky. “Obviously this was very different. Doing it collectively brought a great energy and looseness to the work. The box, with all its moving and arrangeable pieces, really reflects that and reflects what we found on the road—a divided and often contradictory society, unsure about its identity and future.”

The Postcards from America box book, in a signed edition of 500, is available exclusively at www.postcards.magnumphotos.com 

The second Postcards from America project is scheduled to begin this April in Rochester, New York.

To read more about the project background on Lightbox click here. To read a dispatch from the project click here.

HOME.SWEET.HOME: Gerald Slota and Neil LaBute

Slota, LaBute

Exhibition on view:
January 7–February 4, 2012

Robert Berman Gallery

Bergamot Station:
2525 Michigan Avenue
Santa Monica, CA
(310) 453-7535

Robert Berman Gallery presents a collaborative exhibition from photographer Gerald Slota and filmmaker and playwright Neil LaBute. Embracing themes of family and relationships, HOME.SWEET.HOME showcases the two-way effort of ominous photographic collages by Slota and accompanying suggestive text by LaBute.

The ideas for this exhibition began when Slota and LaBute started communicating via e-mail which developed into a series of menacing postcards titled, “Because the Darkness Feeds My Soul,” featured in Aperture magazine issue 196.

Portraits of Power: African Kings in an Age of Empire

For too long, African art has been viewed in the West through a distorted lens. The modernists of the early 20th century saw in its shapes a kind of atavistic ideal — divorced from the realism of European traditions — which became in part the basis for the budding genre of abstract art. But a new exhibit at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, accompanied by the photographs above, seeks to overturn that narrative.

Heroic Africans: Legendary Leaders, Iconic Sculptures is a landmark collection of sculptures, masks and portraiture from a range of historic moments and cultural centers in Africa, all presented with meticulous historical detail. Context is important, says the exhibit’s curator, Alisa LaGamma. “African art always gets presented as a type. These people have this kind of mask, or people from this region produce those kinds of figures. It’s so generic and I was very uncomfortable with that.”

Instead, LaGamma’s exhibit shows how many of the works on display, if considered in a particular context, could conform to traditions elsewhere. Why should we see this graceful sculpture below of the Queen mother of the King of Benin in a different light than, say, a bust of a Roman emperor or latterday European potentate, styled with mythic flourishes and a hopelessly perfect nose? Throughout the exhibit, there’s an awareness of the imperatives that produced much of these sculptures and objects through the centuries: namely, the impulse of local societies and those who led them to create totems of their power.

The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection

Queen Mother Pendant Mask: Iyoba, 16th century

On the sidelines of Heroic Africans is a series of photographs of various African chieftains, tribal elders and kings taken in the late 19th century and early 20th century. These were produced by studios and ateliers that sprung up in parts of Africa; the pictures were disseminated as postcards and collectibles across the continent and to the rest of the world. The photos “are being taken at a very special moment in history,” says LaGamma. “A lot of the artistic traditions that make up the body of the exhibit wind up becoming anachronisms.”

After all, the introduction of photography came alongside the advent of direct European colonial rule through much of Africa. There was a craze to catalog and document the continent’s alien, subject peoples. There was also, in particular, an obsession with African nobility. In Ornamentalism, a history of the British empire, the social historian David Cannadine discusses how European imperial powers cemented itself by reinforcing and co-opting local hierarchies: “ceremony, monarchy and majesty… were the means by which this vast world was brought together, interconnected, unified and sacralized.”

As we can see, a lot of local African potentates were happy to pose for the foreigner’s lens. The postcards still show leaders in all their pomp and majesty, but they inevitably bear the weight of Africa’s subjugation by foreign powers. At the same time, more traditional objects and sculptures that defined whole communities and spoke of their ancestors were being whisked away to museums and private collections in Europe. Amassed as nameless artifacts in dusty imperial showrooms, they lost their local resonance. “There’s a disconnect that happened then,” says LaGamma, “between the image of power and the reality of that power.” That connection may not be ever fully restored, but LaGamma’s efforts are heroic in their own right.

Heroic Africans: Legendary Leaders, Iconic Sculptures is on display at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City until January 29.

Ishaan Tharoor is a writer-reporter for TIME and editor of Global Spin. Find him on Twitter at @ishaantharoor

Exquisite discourse. Poet meets graphic artist meets type designer, and the consequence is …

A graphic artist and a typeface designer, working blind to each other, design two-word typographic postcards illustrating a poet’s turn of phrase, writes Hamish Thompson. There were many serendipities, say Sarah Maxey and Kris Sowersby. The process used to create the twenty typographic postcards in the Sentimental Journey set is reminiscent of the game of drawing creatures in a relay (also known a ‘Consequences’ or ‘Exquisite Corpse’) with the part you’ve added folded over so the next person can’t see what you’ve done. The results that I recall were mostly absurd, sometimes hilarious.

Turn that process over to poet Kate Camp, graphic artist Maxey and typeface designer Sowersby, and the result is quite extraordinary. From the title page: ‘Kate chose twenty phrases of two words, and splitting them, she shipped half to Sarah and half to Kris. Sarah and Kris worked independently on their respective words, only revealing them to each other at the end of the project. No changes have been made to them since.’ The postcards are sold as a limited edition set. As Sarah Maxey says: ‘There’s one to suit any occasion. Although I haven’t had reason to send out “Screw you”. Yet.’



Hamish Thompson: Were there any particular sources of inspiration used?
SM ‘Some were immediate responses to the word, like ‘ahoy’ or ‘leaf’. Some were unrelated flights of fancy.’
KS ‘I mined my specimen books for quite a few of them, even re-creating Excoffon’s terrific Calypso [see cover of Eye 79] for “freshly”. Some are continuations of logotypes I’ve done; others are works-in-progress.’


What about techniques and materials?
SM ‘I used florist’s wire on a couple, and an old eraser. Otherwise good old ink and pencil on paper.’
KS ‘I used the Brushes app on the iPad to make “just” and “muchly”. It was rather enjoyable to spontaneously finger-paint! Most of my normal work is highly structured & considered— typically drawn with Bézier curves on the computer.’



What was your reaction when you saw them together?
SM ‘I was delighted, there seemed to be many serendipities. There’s only one that I really hate and regret. Which just so happens to be one of Kris’s favourites. That tickles.’
KS ‘I was rapt! It was a great surprise to see them in pairs. There were so many happy coincidences.’


Kate Camp is a poet, and her first collection, Unfamiliar Legends of the Stars, won the NZSA Jessie Mackay Award for Best First Book of Poetry at the 1999 Montana New Zealand Book Awards. She is currently in Rajasthan.

Sarah Maxey is a graphic artist based in Wellington, New Zealand. Recent commissions include typographical drawings for clients including The New York Times and City Gallery Wellington.

Kris Sowersby started the Klim Type Foundry in 2005 and is based in Wellington. Sowersby’s work has included projects with Christian Schwartz, Erik Spiekermann, Chester Jenkins, House Industries and Pentagram. Read Mark Thomson’s Reputations interview with Kris in Eye 79, out any day now.


You can buy Sentimental Journey here.


Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It’s available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions, back issues and single copies of the latest issue. For a visual sample, see Eye before you buy on Issuu.


Emiliano Granado – Go Big or Go Home

I first started following Emiliano Granado’s work in 2008 when he was named part of the PDN 30 for that year. As I do each year, I looked at everyone’s website and for those who had blogs, added them to my RSS reader [lamentably, a technology that’s never taken off]. Since I was living in Argentina at the time, I was obviously very interested in his take on the place.

© Emiliano Granado from the series 'On the Coast'

About a year later I was doing an unpaid internship for a free English language newspaper in Buenos Aires. We were doing a story on Cumbia Villera and I emailed Emiliano asking for permission to use one of his photos.

© Emiliano Granado from the series 'Cumbia Villera.' That's Pablo Lescano

He said no, as I would have, because we had no budget and we were trolling for free content. Nevertheless, we struck up a correspondence and another year later, in the winter of 2010, we were both in Los Angeles at the same time and we met up for coffee. Afterwards, sitting in his rental car, he took out a box of these precious little 4×5″ polaroids from his “secret” project.

© Emiliano Granado – Time for Picture

I felt like an effete Englishman in the 19th century, on a grand tour of the Middle East, being shown a book of “naughty” postcards by some sly merchant. I wanted to look, to really stare, but felt guilty in his presence.

I remember asking him how many photos he took in a single session. The response floored me, accustomed as I was to the modest endeavors of cash-strapped photographers in Argentina. Sensing my surprise he said, simply, “go big or go home.” Perhaps it’s not the most original advice, but it’s something I’ve taken to heart in all my subsequent projects. Though I’m sad to miss tonight’s opening of his project Time for Print, I can’t wait to see it in person and stare to my heart’s content.

Postcards from Google Earth

Google just won’t stop popping up in the art world these days. After the much-hyped and thus far disappointing Google Art Project and several interesting photographic projects using Google Street View technology, the French artist Clement Valla has used Google Earth to create his Bridges series. The series began when Valla, who has worked as an architect and designer, noticed a bug in Google Earth’s 3D view: while the software uses the altitude of the ground to create it’s 3D renderings, it isn’t accurate enough to pick up on bridges which find themselves warping and melting according to the contour of the surrounding landscape. The results remind me a little of Fontcuberta’s Landscapes without memory, landscapes that seem only to be possible in a computer’s imagination.


Related posts:

  1. Interview: Joan Fontcuberta, Landscapes without memory
  2. Naoshima: Paradise on Earth?