Tag Archives: Solo Show

Thoughts on Success

I have just returned from a magical experience in Boston and thought I’d share some of my insights and highlights. Tomorrow I will get into the specifics of the events, which I strongly suggest you consider attending next year, but today, I am using you and Lenscratch as a sounding board for this intangible journey that we find ourselves on.

Some months ago, Paula Tognarelli from the Griffin Museum called to give me the amazing news that I was being presented The Rising Star Award, at their annual Focus Awards evening.  She also told me that I would be hearing from Maryann Camilleri, the head of the Magenta Foundation about being a keynote speaker and having a solo exhibition at the Flash Forward Festival in Boston.  As you might imagine, I was completely stunned, even more so because I had just finished a 14 hour day with my students at the Santa Fe Photo Workshops, and was already in a surreal mental space. How does this happen?  This wasn’t something I submitted to, that I had sought or ever thought would happen to me.  My first reaction was that they must be calling the wrong number, but I was assured that this was not a dream and soon would be a reality.

After months of preparation, self-doubt, 3 day crash dieting, more preparation, trepidation, and flat out fear, I boarded a plane for Boston with a suit case packed with my best efforts and intentions.  I truly didn’t know what to expect, and what I received mentally, emotionally, and personally, was more than I every could have imagined.

It’s funny.  One works so hard to move their careers along, to make some inroads and connections, and slowly, very slowly things start to happen and build, and all of a sudden the ten group shows turn into a solo show…and you think that will be in pinnacle.  But it’s not.  It’s just a stop on the photo train that has no specific destination, no ultimate station to navigate towards, but one hopes that it just keeps moving forward.

When I had my first museum exhibition, I remember the anticipation, the excitement of being flown to the venue, being feted and well taken care of.  I had exactly two days of feeling slightly special, and then it was back home to do the laundry, walk the dog, pick up kids.  My absence was only a blip on the family agenda and I had to paste the experience in my mental scrapbook that I pull out sometimes late at night when I can’t sleep.

It struck me that these successes or achievements are sort of
like a wedding or a prom or some life marker that requires a lot of
build up –there’s the processing of the event, the planning, the prep, the anticipation and anxiety, all the details that surround it and by the time
the event actually happens, the adrenaline is pumping at such a high level that it is
truly an out of body experience. When it’s over, you don’t
really remember it enough to savor it in any significant way…and then
it’s gone. There is no tape to wind back, no complete documentation of the experience and you go to bed that night trying hard to remember who said what, who did what, and how you are starving for the food you never ate.  I don’t know quite how to change that process and allow
myself to be more in the moment.

I guess the point I am trying to make is that all of our journeys are a success, no matter where we are on that train.  I can still remember getting into my first group show and running over the the elementary school to pick up my children and telling some of the moms that were hanging around out front that I was going to be in a photography exhibition at the Los Angeles County Fair and they smiled and looked at me blankly.  But it made me feel validated in the bigger world, and about all I could do was smile to myself as I typed out that first line on my resume.

And you know, those early successes felt just as good as the recent ones.  I’m not taking any of it for granted, and the most important lesson that I have learned is that I am not doing this in isolation, that every step I make forward is because someone has a hand on my back pushing me in that direction. And it’s that hand that is truly the success story in all of this.  It’s the connections to each other that become the true prize and the big award. At the end of the day, having a beer with a photo world friend and shooting the breeze about our shared passion is the best reward I can think of, except for maybe getting that solo show at the Museum of Modern Art.   And I promise here and now if that happens, to buy anyone that shows up, the first round.

Thibault Brunet: First Person Shooter

(c) Thibault Brunet

Exhibition on view:
April 19 – May 19, 2012

4RT Contemporary
Chaussée de Waterloo, 1038
1180 Brussels

French photographer Thibault Brunet takes a photojournalist’s approach to his seemingly studio-lit portraits of soldiers, following troops through their daily missions passing through war zones and rubble waiting for those moments when “something seems to go wrong and a state of disorder sets in.” These photographs from the series First Person Shooter, along with some work from his latest series Paris: In the Aftermath of War, will be on view as part of his solo show at 4RT Contemporary in Brussels (through May 19, 2012).

“An undefined gaze or the glassy eye of a soldier; the disorientation at a Paris Métro station,” the gallery writes in their press release, “clearly familiar to us but now emptied of its usual crowds and devastated by an unknown conflict: these visuals challenge the spectator and require another look, a second reading.”

His work was profiled by Time‘s LightBox last year, which also explored his use of video game screenshots in the series, accompanied by a gallery of images from the show now in Brussels.

Brunet was also selected as runner up for Aperture’s 2011 Portfolio Prize for his work in First Person Shooter. More information on the 2012 Portfolio Prize call for entries will be available soon, but only Aperture magazine subscribers are qualified for entry, so have a look at some of work of the past recipients and runners up, and sign up today.

Shanghai duo Birdhead fly into Paradise Row for first solo show in London

Click to view slideshow.
All Photo Stroll iPhone photos, © Miranda Gavin. Photos of work © Birdhead.

If you want to get a taste of contemporary Shaghai in the 21st century, then head down to Paradise Row gallery where the debut London solo show of Shanghai-based photographic duo Birdhead – set up in 2004 by friends Ji Weiyu and Song Tao  – is on for the next two weeks.

Daily life in China is captured through a series of black and white images, Welcome to Birdhead World Again, using a snapshot aesthetic and arranged for the show as a series of grids and sets of multiple images. The images are specifically arranged and organised, much in the same way collectors categorise objects, while the grid arrangement allows the work to be read and experienced in multiple ways; left to right, right to left, up and down and vice versa, as well as diagonally. this arrangement could also been seen as echoing the block-like structure of buildings and the layout of many modern cities, making the reading of the work as dynamic as the city itself.

The classical Song dynasty poem, Youth Does Not Know How Sorrow Tastes, by Xin Qiji and translated by John Scott and Graham Martin, is  re-presented in the gallery space and provides inspiration for the images . “Each word of the poem is extracted photographically from neon signs and billboards around the city”, writes Katie Hill in the catalogue;  fragments from the past appropriated from contemporary culture.  One gallery visitor commented that the translation was, perhaps, too flowery. Welcome to Birdhead World Again runs until 4 April and is highly recommended.

Being touted as China’s hottest duo, Birdhead showed work at the recent 54th Venice Biennale. See over for more about the work.

All photos above © Birdhead, courtesy of the gallery.


Birdhead “use photography to capture, mediate and occupy their contemporary experience of daily life in Shanghai, China’s greatest metropolis whose ever increasing scale and vitality is more than itself – being read the world over as a gauge of the flow of power from West to East.

“Their tactical use of the snapshot aesthetic and the high volume of images they deploy make manifest a visual stream of consciousness. We see the artists going about their lives; being with friends, laughing, talking, eating, working, partying, sleeping etc. all this against the backdrop of the urban landscape of Shanghai. Tall towers, skyscrapers, telecoms masts and vast flyovers punctuate the images of human activity, of youth and consumer culture, illustrating the strange symbiosis between inanimate infrastructure and the life that it shelters and facilitates.

“Alongside their images, Birdhead present, Youth Does Not Know How Sorrow Tastes by Xin Qiji, a classic poem from the Song dynasty era. A melancholy masterpiece, the poem reflects upon the arc of experience that forms each life, the Romantic naiveté of youth and the price paid for wisdom. In common with Birdhead’s sensibility, the poem is imbued with the pathos of the individual set against the sweep of historical time.’ From the press release.

Filed under: Photographers, Photography Shows, Visual Artists Tagged: Birdhead, contemporary photography, Ji Weiyu, Katie Hill, Paradise Row, Shanghai, Song Tao, Youth Does Not Know How Sorrow Tastes

The Dark Side: Roger Ballen’s ‘Asylum’

Roger Ballen’s photographs are as much alluring as they are unsettling. For nearly 50 years, Ballen has used photography to explore some of the most upsetting parts of the psyche—and, in that period, he has created some of the most exquisite and unique images of everything from people and skeletons to animals and nature.

Born in New York in 1950 and based in Johannesburg since 1980, Ballen originally started as a documentary photographer. His mother worked at Magnum Photography, and later opened one of the first photo galleries in New York. Ballen recalls that, as time passed, he moved away from street photography toward work that was more conceptual. “My early work was somewhat documentary, but as time went on, the world became increasingly intense, increasingly more abstract, so my work became more complex in all sorts of ways,” he says. Since moving to South Africa, Ballen has left behind his early reportage style, instead choosing to stay within the frame of the camera to create an image.

Roger Ballen

Complex Ambiguity, 2009

Working strictly in black and white, Ballen creates unique pictures that explore, and then revisit, imagery of people, skeletons, animals, nature and faces. He has always taken an interest in animals in his photographs, and is curious about how the animal kingdom interacts with nature and humanity. Perhaps most striking in his photographs are the faces that always seem to be looking at the viewer. Taking inspiration from South African mythology and ancestor worship, Ballen says, “There’s faces everywhere, and I guess at the end of the day, who are the faces? Who’s telling you what to say? Who’s producing the dreams that come out of the night? There are mysterious third parties that govern our behavior in all sorts of ways.”

Ballen’s most recent project, and the subject of a solo show at the Manchester Art Gallery, stems from two other bodies of work: Boarding House, 2009, and Shadow Chamber, 2005. In each, Ballen found his way into an old South African mining house and former warehouse. It was while exploring these buildings for many years that Ballen found the location for his current body of work, Asylum.

Right near the boarding house building, Ballen came across a house in which the owner allowed people to stay for very little money under one condition: he insisted that the birds he collects be allowed to fly all over the house, and that they don’t stay in cages. “The house is full of birds, ducks, chickens, pigeons, doves, whatever, different birds and they’re all over the house, flying from one room to the next,” Ballen recalls. “The people that live in the house are people from different aspects of the streets in South Africa—some people come from other places in Africa, some are unemployed, some are products of poverty, violence and anything else. I interacted with these birds and animals to create these photographs.”

It is through this interaction that the photographer explores what he refers to as the dark side of one’s psyche. For Ballen, the problem begins with how the Western world defines dark. “In American culture, or western culture, dark means evil, scary or something you stay away from, something you don’t want to confront you,” he says. “You want to live your life in a very light way. I think the pictures deal with an aspect of the so-called dark side.” In Ballen’s mind, it’s through the dark that one finds the light. “The dark is what people actually refer to as the side of themselves that they’re scared of,” the photographer says. “The dark side is the side of themselves that they don’t want to work through. Dark is really fundamental to the work.”

Asylum is on view at the Manchester Art Gallery from March 30 – May 13. More of Roger Ballen’s work can be seen here.

Tono Stano @ Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York

© Tono Stano

An exciting exhibition is opening very soon at the Pace/MacGill Gallery in New York. Tono Stano‘s series of haunting and surreal images are due to go on display from 2 February through to 17 March, 2012, marking the Slovakian photographer’s first solo show in the United States and features 20 unique gelatin silver prints from his ongoing series of surreal portraits, White Shadow

With White Shadow, Stano seeks to turn reality negative, transporting the viewer to an inverted monochromatic realm. Produced in-camera, his photographs are analogue paper negatives that appear as positive representations through Stano’s meticulous and unique process of painting the white portions of his subjects’ bodies and faces black, and vice versa. When photographed in this fashion, that which is negative appears positive. The resulting images, which are graphically striking and seductively haunting, present a fusion of both the negative and positive. In this way, Stano is interested not only in the physical aspects of this negative/positive transformation, but also in “promoting this conversion as a life philosophy” according to the gallery‘s pr
Since 1984, Stano’s work has been the subject of solo and group exhibitions worldwide. His photographs can be found in the permanent collections of the Art Institute of Chicago; the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris; the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris; the Museum Ludwig, Cologne; the National Media Museum, Bradford, England; and the Slovenská narodná galéria, Bratislava, Slovakia, among others. 

Mark Marchesi, Fowler Farm Road

Mark Marchesi, Fowler Farm Road

Mark Marchesi

Fowler Farm Road,
Scarborough, Maine, 2006
From the The Town and the City series
Website – MarkMarchesi.com

Mark Marchesi was born in a suburb of NYC. He studied photography at Maine College of Art and graduated with a BFA in 1999. Mark's work has been exhibited in group exhibitions across the US and abroad. His most recent solo show was in April/May 2011 at Space Gallery in Portland, ME. Mark has been awarded two Maine Arts Commission grants to support efforts in photography. He currently resides in South Portland with his wife and two daughters.

Alex Webb Opens Last Week-Join Saturday for an Exhibition Tour

Last Thursday night, Aperture Gallery hosted an Opening Reception to celebrate Alex Webb‘s exhibition The Suffering of Light. Corresponding to the monograph of the same name, The Suffering of Light is a comprehensive look at over 30 years of Webb’s vibrant color photographs. Taken in international locales from India to Haiti, Webb’s photographs bridge the gap between street photography, photojournalism and fine art photography genres. The exhibition will be on view at Aperture Gallery through January 19, 2012.

Alex Webb will give a walkthrough of the exhibition this Saturday, December 17, from 4:00 – 5:00 pm at Aperture Gallery. The tour is FREE and open to the public.

In the Gallery Bookstore, Aperture is also presenting work by David Favrod, winner of our 2010 Portfolio Prize. in his first New York solo show. In his series Gaijin—which means foreign or alien—Favrod imagines his own personal Japan within Switzerland, playing on visual clichés of Japanese culture and recreating scenes from his childhood memories of Japan.

Photographer Alex Webb with Rebecca Norris Webb

Alex Webb signs his monograph The Suffering of Light.

Aperture’s Executive Director Chris Boot on right

A guest reads a copy of The Photobook Review, Aperture Foundation’s brand new bi-annual publication. Stop by the bookstore to pick up your copy before they run out! Stay tuned to find out when the digital version becomes available.


Tom M. Johnson

I recently received this e-mail from my friend Tom M. Johnson:

If you happen to find yourself in Paris next month I invite you to My Private Art Room in the Marais for a glass of champagne. I am having a solo show where I will be exhibiting work from both “Lakewood: Portraits of a Sacred American Suburb” and “Au Bout de la Ligne (At the End of the Line).” As written on the invitation, it is truly a photographic journey into contemporary suburban life. Besides, Paris is beautiful in October.

All I can say is, “Wow, I wish I could”. Tom is no stranger to Paris, having worked in the city of lights in his earlier incarnation as a model, but he already had a camera in hand and created a terrific project on what he found at the end of the Paris metro lines…all 29 of them. When he returned to the states, and to his hometown of Lakewood, CA, he began to see small town life in a new way, and has captured it brilliantly through portraiture and place. It was recently featured on the NY Times Lens blog.

His exhibit of these two bodies of work opens at My Private Art Room in Paris on October 13th and runs through October 30th.

Au bout de la ligne
It was living in Paris in the eighties that inspired me to become a photographer, however, it wasn’t until I returned twenty years later that I was roused to photograph the city that had taught me so much about life and art. Yet, I wanted to avoid taking just another of the tens of thousands of photographs that had already been taken of Paris. I mulled over this for weeks, trying to conceptualize a new technique or method of approach to the project, until one early morning, after a long dinner party sitting on a train in the direction of La Defense, the northwest terminus of line number 1, the inspiration emerged. I had ridden the metro throughout Paris, yet I had always traveled in the direction of, but never to, Au Bout de la Ligne. I asked myself–What type of Paris exists at the end of each line? Do the lines end in the suburbs (banlieue)? Are the people who live in the banlieue dissimilar to those who live in the center of Paris? I took the metro to all 29 ends of the 14 metro lines in search of provocative moments, visuals, portraits, and answers to my questions.

Bobigny Terminus Picasso

Châtillon Un Couple

Créteil Un Batiment

La Defense Des Voitures et Grand Batiments

Mairie de Lilas Un Joint

Mairie des Lilas Un Mur

Mairied Ivry Des Couleurs et Feuilles

Nation La Manège

Pont de Levallois Un Biere

Porte de la Chapelle Un Champ

Lakewood: A Photographic Journal of a Sacred American Suburb: I search for provocative portraits and relics of Lakewood’s middle class. I come upon kids riding their bikes whose parents are watchful of strangers but not threatened by them, women tending their yards, and men tinkering inside their garages. I interact with these folks, many whom I share similar concerns and interests. They question why I am taking pictures or if I work for a newspaper. When I tell them my pursuit is only artistic many shake their heads. But for every one who is uncomfortable with my presence, there are those who welcome me to photograph them and their front yards.

Images from Lakewood