Matthew Schenning is a Brooklyn based photographer originally from Baltimore, MD where he spent his youth playing in the abandoned spaces under highway overpasses. After studying sculpture at the University of Maryland he turned his focus toward photography as a means to understand his relationship to his surroundings. Making most his work while travelling, he photographs the landscape with a large format camera favoring the slow and deliberate way of working. He has been included in many exhibitions both in the United States and Europe. His work was featured in the first edition of The Collector’s Guide to Emerging Art Photography published by the Humble Arts Foundation and most recently in the exhibition catalogue for If This Is It published by Waal-boght Press.
Lauren Marsolier was born in Paris, France, and now lives in Los Angeles. The images in her Transition series address the psychological experience of transition and our conflicting relationship to a world that is becoming increasingly fast-paced and dematerialized. She is represented by the Robert Berman Gallery in Los Angeles and she will be part of 31 Women in Art Photography opening July 26, 2012 at the Hasted Kraeutler gallery in New York.
A conversation with Phil Toledano and Debra Klomp Ching
Editor's Note: Flak Photo is proud to feature this conversation in support of Phil Toledano's, A Shadow Remains, a multimedia story that considers the impact that love and loss have on contemporary family life. The film will be availble for online streaming beginning Tuesday, June 12, 2012. For more information, visit MediaStorm.com.
Debra Klomp Ching: It’s hard to imagine, that there is anyone unaware of Days With My Father. Two years ago, 1.2 million people had already seen the work online. How many people have visited the website now?
Phil Toledano: Last time I checked, it was over two million, which is really quite mind boggling.
Debra Klomp Ching: Days With My Father really started out—from your own account—as a way to record and appreciate your relationship with your father. And, poignantly, it was spurred by the sudden death of your mother. Do you feel that you have fulfilled that real need that we all have, to reconnect before it’s too late?
Phil Toledano: Well, the sad thing about life is that sometimes it takes something really miserable, to point out what you've been missing all along. So did I reconnect with my father—well, I never felt disconnected. But what the death of my mum pointed out to me, was the importance of being awake, of seeing what was in front of me, and remembering it. That's what I tried to do with my dad.
Debra Klomp Ching: You’ve said in the past, that the actual upload of Days With My Father to the web, was done without any real objective, except perhaps to unburden. At the time, you didn’t know what you were unburdening, are you able to articulate that now?
Phil Toledano: I'm still not sure I can explain myself very well. It was a kind of animalistic urge, to unburden myself of all the weight I had been carrying for the last few years. In some ways, I felt quite relieved to be so light.
Debra Klomp Ching: Have you felt particularly vulnerable for sharing your story? Or, have you found an additional inner strength, a more solid grounding in your relationship with family and friends?
Phil Toledano: I've never felt very vulnerable about sharing that story, in part, I suppose, because I was sharing it with strangers—who I probably would never meet. But the reaction and extraordinary feedback from so many people has made me grateful, and more aware of how lucky I was to be able to say goodbye to my dad the way I did. Also, in some ways, I do feel stronger for my story being adrift in the world. I'm not sure why, but I do.
Debra Klomp Ching: This journey and experience must also impact on your own family. Now, you’re the father and husband, rather than the son.
Phil Toledano: I've found it quite hard to come to grips with the idea that there is no one left alive who knew me as a child, as a teenager, as a baby. The idea that those memories only exist for me now, is quite sad. And yes, it's odd, no longer being a 'son'. But on the other hand, all the qualities that my parents left me, instilled in me, are drawn in sharp relief by their absence. I can now see their gifts to me clearly, and I’m grateful. I miss their advice, in a way that I never did before.
Debra Klomp Ching: You’ve shared a pivotal experience in your life, something so incredibly personal and intimate, yet something that is undeniably universal. How have you been affected by the collective responses to the story?
Phil Toledano: The annoying thing about clichés is that they're true. So, when I say that the response has made me aware of how similar we all are, it's boring, but quite true. Not to get all John Lennon, but love belongs to all of us. It's just that we let other things get in the way of seeing that.
Debra Klomp Ching: There have also been a huge number of individuals sending and posting messages. One person contacted you and offered to translate your text into Portuguese. Are there other points of direct contact that you’ve had with people through your story?
Phil Toledano: I've had quite a few Skype calls with total strangers, who just wanted to talk about taking photographs of their own parents, and were looking for some advice. I recently received an email from someone in China who is trying to get people together to publish the book. People seem to feel that this story belongs to all of us—and so it does.
Debra Klomp Ching: And of course, there’s been extensive global media interest. Has your relationship with the photographs, the website and book altered due to it, essentially, taking on a life of its own?
Phil Toledano: Well, of course, I often wonder what my parents—especially my dad—would have made of it all. I tried to explain the concept of the Internet to my father once—he was 95 or 96 at the time. He asked if it was 'in color', and 'where was it'. As it turns out, it's quite hard explaining something so intangible. My parents exist, first and foremost in my heart. I don't need the photos to remind me of them, but somehow the experience of making the photographs and writing about them, made me remember all that I need to remember. I do look at photos of my parents, and think about physical aspects of how they were. I remember how soft my father's face was after I’d shaved him, the way I could feel my mother's love, sometimes, when she looked at me.
Debra Klomp Ching: You were recently approached by MediaStorm to make a film about Days With My Father. What is the film about? Is it a documentation of the whole experience?
Phil Toledano: It's about lots of things— my parents, my relationship with them, the website, the book and the experience of both. It's also about me as a father, and my family as it stands now. And of course, it's about love. For my parents, my wife, my child. When I see the film, it's tremendously emotional for me—I inevitably start snuffling into my hankie. I don't know what it'll mean to other people, but it's a thing of perfect crystalline beauty to me.
Debra Klomp Ching: Behind all of this, still, there remains the story of Phil and his dad! A strange question perhaps, but has your relationship with your family (dad, mum, sister), changed as a result of Days With My Father?
Phil Toledano: Well, in some ways, it's made me regret not being a better son, and better brother. I wish there were things I could have told my mum, before she died. But I guess life is like that. It's imperfect, and by the time you've thought of everything you'd like to say, some of the people you'd like to say those things to aren't around anymore. I'm more aware of what they gave me. I'm more aware of how lucky I was to be their son, and to have basked in so much love.
Debra Klomp Ching: What do you believe is the legacy of Days With My Father?
Phil Toledano: I think 'Days' will be the best thing I ever do. If I croak tomorrow, at least I'll have done one good thing, and to be honest, that's a lot more than I expected.
Martin Usborne lives and works in London. He trained in architecture, then philosophy, then psychology, then 3D animation before finally settling on photography. His current work consists of portraits, both human and animal, and he is particularly interested in capturing the relationship between the two whether directly (when both appear in the frame) or indirectly (as in the case of his MUTE: the silence of dogs in cars series, where the human's role is implied). He strives to make his work poignant but playful – he feels there is too much unremitting sadness in contemporary art photography. He has published two photography books, the first called I’ve Lived in Hoxton for 81.5 years about an old man that has only once left East London, and another, My name is Moose about what it is like to be a dog in the recession. His third book, The Silence of Dogs in Cars is due out in October.
Emiliano Granado was born in La Plata, Argentina. His family moved to the United States when he was four years old to escape the political insecurity following The Dirty War of the late '70s. He graduated from Amherst College in 1999 and has studied at the International Center for Photography and School of Visual Arts. His interest in popular culture can be seen in his earlier work, At the Track and Beach Party, a study of motor racing culture and Spring Break debauchery and hyper-sexuality, respectively. His newest project, Time for Print, showcases the need for exhibition, reflects our notions of sexuality, and focuses on our relationship with The Internet. Emiliano lives in Brooklyn, New York. He likes bikes, sunglasses, and Mexican Coke.
SEO Experts search engine marketing . Blogging Services . We have just come across this bonus footage from the DVD, Eggleston In The Real World, which takes a brief look at the relationship between the work of Stephen Shore and William Eggleston, possibly two of the most important photographers to tame colour photography back in the early 1970s, alongside William Christenberry, Luigi Ghirri and others. Fotografia . For those of you who, like us here at 1000 Words, enjoy to hear Bill Eggleston in laconic interview mode, this snippet will uncover some unexpected delights.
Tessa Bunney is a documentary photographer interested in landscapes and the ways they are shaped by human activity. She works closely with the individuals and communities she photographs and her work explores people’s relationship to the environment. Home Work, her series surveying domestic labor in craft villages in Vietnam, was published by Dewi Lewis in 2010. Previous projects include documenting the lives of nomadic shepherds in the Romanian Carpathians and hill farmers in the remote moorlands of North Yorkshire (UK) where she lives and works. She is represented by Zoe Bingham Fine Art in London and KLOMPCHING Gallery in New York.
Colin Pantall has written an interesting post on his blog regarding the many year-end ‘best photobooks of 2011′ lists that have been published of late. In the post he raises questions about this process, the role of “tastemakers” in today’s photobook market and discusses the need for the expansion of the photobook market. I started to respond to his post initially as a comment on his blog, but it got so out of hand that I decided to turn my response into a post of its own.
After having compiled a non-exhaustive meta-list of 52 of the Best Photobooks of 2011 lists, I am interested by the reactions that these lists have generated. It seems to me that many of us have a love/hate relationship with them. We hate the idea that everything seems to get boiled down to a top 10, or even a top 50. But we can’t help but read them, particularly when they are written by people whose opinions we respect or have been on the telly, or just because everyone else is reading them and liking them on Facebook. As I recently posted in a Facebook group, there are myriad and sometimes very good reasons why we make and read lists. Umberto Eco has said it a little better than I can here (and Ken Schles has written a marvellous response to Umberto Eco’s ideas on lists which you can read here).
In his post Colin focused on Christian Patterson’s Redheaded Peckerwood, the “winner” of my meta-list, as an example of a book that is getting all the plaudits. Colin bought it after it received so many recommendations but it left him cold. I got the feeling from his post that it was a book that he admired but did not enjoy. What I found amazing in the mind-bendingly tedious exercise of compiling all these lists is that Redheaded Peckerwood only got 14 mentions in the 52 lists that I compiled. In total 313 books got mentions. Colin mentioned Martin Parr, Alec Soth and Markus Schaden as three of the ‘tastemakers’ on photobooks, but Redheaded Peckerwood is not actually on Parr or Soth’s lists on Photo-eye (Soth did an expanded Top 20 list on which it does appear) and as far as I know Markus Schaden hasn’t done a 2011 list. What I found particularly interesting about the 2011 lists is that the tastemakers seldom agreed. To use Colin’s example Soth and Parr only agreed on 3 books of the 10 that they each selected. Expand the list of ‘tastemakers’ to 5 (I took Gerry Badger, Martin Parr, John Gossage, Alec Soth and Todd Hido) and there isn’t a single ‘best’ book that they all agreed on. John Gossage, who makes photographs and photobooks, designs and publishes them, and looks at more photobooks than most, said it best in his comment in response to Soth’s Top 20 Photobooks list, “None of us see more than a small part of what is being done in photobooks these days. So many things that touch people. A good time to be alive”… at least, if you like photobooks… it’s probably less good if you invested in sub-prime mortgages. That is the positive side of today’s photobook market. I think the tastemakers are generally a positive force: the more there are of them and the more that their opinions differ, the better. You can take or leave their recommendations, but they are often helpful in drawing your attention to new work.
That is the good side of the current photo-market. But as Colin points out, there are many bad sides too: books that are being bought and kept in shrinkwrap so that they are worth more on some “mythical future date of sale”, books that are bought and never looked at, photographers being stalked at their hotel by overzealous book dealers to sign hundreds of books so that they can be sold at an inflated price (true story)… I was amazed to see this article on the Guardian Money website a little while ago, which seemed to suggest that photobooks have become a good investment vehicle and a reliable way of doubling your investment within a couple of years. That might be true for a handful of books, but what percentage of the books being made are sold for less than their retail price 6 months after they have been published? Go and spend $100,000 on photobooks today and then try to sell them in 2 or 3 years time. Let me know how that goes for you.
I think that the most important and difficult question that Colin raises is the need for the expansion of the photobook market. As an artist it must be incredibly frustrating to spend years making a book only for it to be bought by a maximum of 1,000 people and seen only by a few hundred. The issues with the fragmentation of the photobooks market, the problematic distribution model, the proliferation of tiny independent publishers and self-published books, all made me think of some of the issues that there are with the music industry (although the almost-total digitisation of music has yet to happen to photobooks and is unlikely to). Big record labels are struggling, and people are distributing their music themselves or via small labels through the internet. Like with the photobook, I think this is a time where there is a huge amount of musical experimentation, of trying everything and anything. As a consumer of music, I see this as a golden age: I have never been able to access so much music so easily. Name an obscure musical genre (e.g. post-gangsta neofolkcore) and I will be able to listen to it within minutes and own (or steal) several albums of it within hours. But for those people making the music (let’s not worry about the ones selling the stuff) it is more complicated. I am no expert on the music industry but my understanding is that musicians now have to rely on concerts to make their money since virtually no-one makes anything from selling albums any more. What is the photographer’s equivalent of the tour? Exhibitions? Surely there is even less money in that than in books. Workshops maybe?
While I would love to see the photobook market expand, I can’t help but wonder exactly how big its potential is? The “population at large” never really bought photobooks before all these pictures were available online for free, so I’m just not sure why and how that would happen now. But then stranger things have happened. Allow me to leave you with this beautiful chart of vinyl sales over the last two decades which, if my tenuous musical analogy holds water, suggests there may be hope for photobooks yet.
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