Tag Archives: Terrific Project

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.

Medium Festival: Claire Warden

Several weeks ago, I had the great pleasure of attending the inaugural year of the Medium Festival of Photography in San Diego, CA, conceived by the very capable Scott B. Davis.  It was a three day event kicked off by a keynote lecture by Alec Soth, and continued on with workshops, artist lectures and portfolio reviews.  Most importantly, it was an opportunity to connect with a wonderful community of photographers.  Over the next week (and into the next), I will be featuring a few of the photographers who attended the festival.

Claire A. Warden, a photo-based artist working in Los Angeles, California, brought a terrific project about preserving the natural world, titled Salt: Studies in Preservation and Manipulation. The project includes methodically captured images of plant life preserved in salt, but when exhibited, also includes some of that flora and fauna under bell jars and on the wall.  The fragile quality of the salt is reminiscent of snow and only adds to the delicate nature of the object and the approach to her image making. The images are timeless and exquisite.
Claire received her BFA in Photography and BA in Art History from Arizona State University where she worked along side Guggenheim fellow Mark Klett and former Eastman House curator, Bill Jenkins. She now works in Los Angeles as a fine art photographer and photographing and working at the Getty Research Institute. Claire’s work is in personal collections and has been displayed in galleries nationally and internationally, including Rayko Photo Center in San Francisco, CA, the Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins, CO and the Center for Photography at Madison, WI with upcoming shows at Soho Photo in New York, NY and Agripas 12 Gallery in Jerusalem, Israel. Her SALT series has earned her the Ted Decker Catalyst Artist Grant. 
Salt: Studies in Preservation and Manipulation: Despite the best efforts of science, authentic preservation of living matter is an impossible act. It is an ideal that stands in tension with the transient ephemerality that qualifies life. And yet – or perhaps because of it – this tension makes the humble ambitions of the botanical sciences intriguing. In order to preserve and document specimens for future study, scientists must ‘fix’ the organic complexity of the botanical specimen through human intervention.  

It is a process that, ultimately, restructures the essence of the specimen. In this way, botanical life can only endure as a specimen in a liminal state, the extended occupation of a pause between natural growth and decomposition. It is in this otherwise invisible moment, one reachable only through the intervention of the preservative act, that I find a deep and uncanny beauty. 

I emphasize the manipulation that manifests from preservation through the use of salt. This paradoxical mineral, that is necessary to sustain life—yet, if the delicate balance is outweighed, can extinguish it—reflects the structure of a preserved specimen and acts to preserve it. I submerge each living plant in a bath of salt water and allow the salt to crystallize on and within the living form.

Inspired by the intentions of botanical illustrations as a method to understand and control one’s environment, I seek to impress the human urge to order nature and in the process fundamentally change it. Using the platinum-palladium photographic process for its chemical stability and long-lasting image, these direct contact prints complicate the ideal of preservation, albeit, at the expense of the most authentic act of living matter, decay.

Review Santa Fe: Marc McAndrews

Over the next month, I will be sharing the work of photographers who attended Review Santa Fe in June.  Review Santa Fe is the only juried review in the United States and invites 100 photographers to Santa Fe for a long weekend of reviews, insights, and connections.  

I know I am not the first to share Marc McAndrew’s terrific project, Nevada Rose, (recently featured on the NY Times LENS blog) but it’s the kind of project and quality of work that deserves to be revisited on several occasions. Marc grew up in Reading, PA and received his BFA from the School
of Visual Arts. After returning from living and working in Europe, Marc began traveling the
country, concentrating on photographing and documenting American culture. It
was through these travels that Marc began his book project, Nevada Rose which captures the places and personalities of Nevada’s legal brothels. 

 His work has been seen in the New York Times, Interview,
Time, Stern, D Magazine, The Observer, Inc., Exit, Fortune Small Business, Marie
Claire South Africa and many others. Marc was a recipient of the Magenta Art
Foundation’s 2006 “Flash Forward” award was nominated for the
2009 NY Photo Awards and was an official selection for the 2011 and 2009 Lucie
Awards. Nevada Rose was published by Umbrage Editions in May 2011.  On October 4th, Marc will be presenting an illustrated lecture (and book signing) at the Observatory in Brooklyn, NY.

 Nevada Rose:PScattered throughout the state of Nevada, tiny desert towns like Pahrump, Ely and Scotty’s Junction are home to the country’s only legal brothels. Legalized prostitution is vitally important to the economic survival of the many counties and towns where they reside. It’s because of this interdependence and tolerance that the Nevada brothels are so deeply rooted in the history and settlement of the American West. 

Photographed over the past 5 years, Nevada Rose rolls back the curtain to reveal not just the brothel interiors, but it’s varied cast of characters – the women, the owners, the various workers and even the customers. My goal with the work has been to document the industry as honestly and objectively as I can, neither glorifying nor demonizing the sitters. In the spirit of August Sander and of Bellocq’s images from the Storyville brothels, Nevada Rose is a cultural survey and the only complete photographic document of a slowly fading chapter in American history.

Matthew Gamber

One of the best rewards of being in Boston last week was meeting photographers.  I’ve been a fan of Matthew Gamber and his compelling imagery that challenges us to rethink how we see, think about and perceive color, so it was great to finally put a name to a face at the Flash Forward Festival.

Matthew holds a BFA from Bowling Green State University and an MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts/Tufts University.  His star is on the rise as his work seems to be everywhere: included in the 2012 deCordova Biennial, the the Abstract Photography Then and Now exhibition at the deCordova, at the Flash Forward 2011 Exhibition, and last year at the Sasha Wolf Gallery in New York.  He has also been granted numerous awards and fellowships, and just got off the plane from Santa Fe, where he attended Review Santa Fe.

Matthew’s new project, Any Color You Like, is a bit like losing the sense of  taste right as you are about to bite into something you have been looking forward to eating, and the expectation of that enjoyment usually comes from the memory of having eaten it before.  By removing the memory and one of the senses, the experience changes. Matthew’s images look at objects that we have traditionally seen in color and that speak to the idea of color, and force us to see and think about them anew.  It’s a terrific project that challenges our perceptions, pays homage to an era where all objects were captured in black and white, but also creates tension (the bird image particularly) where the mind leads one to wonder about the image in color.  

The photographs in Any Color You Like are an experiment in how photography can confuse our perception of information. These photographs represent objects whose primary function is to simulate our observation of color. When these items are rendered in a traditional black–and–white format, the information that remains is merely an abstraction of its previous form.

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

The Point by Kirk Crippens and Michael Jang

Somewhere in the virtual world, I came across The Point, a new Blurb book that is the collaborative effort of Kirk Crippens and Michael Jang. I’m a big fan of both photographers, and I love the idea of working apart and together to create a significant project. Their statement and some of the book’s imagery follows, but as this is an on going project, there is surely more to come. Congrats to both photographers for a terrific project and book.

The Point is an ongoing collaborative project between Michael Jang and Kirk Crippens. Each spread in the book spans a decade, with one unlabeled photograph by each artist. The series began in 1999 when Jang, a native San Franciscan, became curious about the often-ignored Bayview/Hunters Point neighborhood of San Francisco. Sometimes referred to as The Point, this was the last remaining San Francisco neighborhood left untouched by developers. http://www.kirkcrippens.com/portfolio.html?folio=2011

In the process of taking pictures, Jang built trust with some of the residents and heard rumors of big changes on the horizon: the area was slated for massive redevelopment. He completed his work on the series in 2001, set aside the negatives, and per his usual practice, moved directly on to another project.

A decade later, Jang was making his way through his volumes of negatives when he discovered the Hunters Point work and began editing and printing it. During the same time he came across Kirk Crippens’ series on The Great Recession: The Dealership Wreck. He sent an email to Crippens that began, “I know you shoot change…” and he asked Crippens if he would consider continuing his Hunters Point series. It was an unusual proposition, but Jang had an intuition. So did Crippens, who began working in Hunters Point the next day.

He chose a church in the heart of the neighborhood and began attending services each week. The congregation immediately
welcomed him, making an effort to shake his hand and remember his name. Soon Crippens found himself describing the project to the pastor. Meetings were then coordinated with pillars of the community who invited him to photograph their homes and granted access to photograph some of the iconic rooms slated for redevelopment.

Although a core group of long-term residents remain, many changes have taken shape in and around the neighborhood since
1999, and the changes continue. Today, a vast wave of construction just north churns closer each day. The largest redevelopment site in San Francisco, the decommissioned Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, promises to convert 700 acres of The Point’s eastern waterfront into 10,000 residential units. Photography has also changed dramatically since 1999. When Jang completed his work in 2001 he was using film, processing with chemicals, editing on a light table, and printing at a color lab. By the time Crippens began working on the project he had the opportunity to make digital images, upload and edit on a computer, and print large format photographs in his home.

Still, much of the process Jang and Crippens employ in the creation of The Point remains the same. Relationships must be
formed, trust must be earned, and access must be granted.

David Kimelman

Brooklyn photographer, David Kimelman, has created a body of work that once again brings Andy Warhol’s prediction of our desire for 15 minutes of fame into the spotlight. The series, Reality Wanted, are portraits of individuals who are drawn to performing on reality television. The result is ultimately a feeling of sadness about needing to find validation and affection in the public eye.

David is a graduate of Pratt Institute and his photographs “reveal the tenuous and often contradictory relationships people have with the natural world”, but they also take a look at our society, our culture, and our place in time. He is a regular photography contributor at East Village Boys and Dirty Magazine, including features on Barnaby Whitfield, Cammi Climaco, Jeffrey and Cole, and Scooter LaForge.

Reality Wanted is just one of David’s terrific project, another will be featured in the coming months.

Reality Wanted is a series of portraits of individuals who hope to be cast on a reality television show. I became interested in fame and people who seek fame when I worked for a number of years as an art director at Star Magazine. During that time, I found myself particularly drawn towards those who were looking to become famous through the medium of reality television.

Though some of the people I photographed for this series have particular skills and talents that warrant our attention, such as singing, cooking, or design, the main commodity being offered by my subjects is simply themselves. Many of the people I photographed just want to have a television show made about their lives.

The subjects are all shot in their own clothes and have styled themselves. By letting them style and pose themselves with minimal direction, I am allowing them to be seen in the way in which they want to present themselves to the world. However, I also want to show the vulnerability that goes along with putting themselves in the public eye. The photo sessions took place in New York City, Las Vegas and Southern Florida.

In addition to taking their picture, I asked my subjects to answer some questions about their interest in being on reality TV.