Tag Archives: Urban Landscapes

Louis Porter

Louis Porter is a little like a novelist who looks at the urban landscape for clues to weave together into stories. He has been photographing those clues and categorizing them into an collection titled The Small Conflict Archive.  They are humorous in their simplicity and telling in the small narratives that they create. Louis a British born photographer who currently lives and works in Melbourne.  His work has been exhibited widely throughout Australia and internationally. He has published books with independent publishers in Australia, France and England and been included in the photographic compendiums Hijacked II (Big City Press) and The Collector’s Guide to Emerging Fine Art Photography (Humble Arts). He recently established his own publishing imprint, Twenty Shelves.

The Small Conflict Archive is a collection of fragments, markers and traces of a minor
conflict, which can be easily found on the surface of any modern town or city. These
are not the conflicts that make the evening news: the protracted wars, acts of
terrorism, murders and kidnappings. Instead, The Small Conflict Archive contains
evidence of perforations, in what might be considered a typical day. What constitutes
a perforation is diverse and subjective: it might be a broken key, some discriminatory
graffiti or even a spilt carton of milk. What unifies the objects and photographs in the
archive is their ubiquity; the archive is first and foremost a collection of familiar
What the Small Conflict Archive proposes, is that the material aspects of urban space,
should not be considered as merely functional, aesthetic or unwanted, but also as
symbolic and potentially empathetic devices. The objects and photographs collected
for the archive, have been sifted from the soil of the everyday and although some of
them standout more than others, they have all sat undisturbed, waiting to be
collected or photographed. It is from the prosaic remnants of daily life that
archeologists build our understanding of the past. But for the Small Conflict Archive, it
is these very remnants that we can also construct our understanding of the present.

Bad Driving

On any given day, countless pieces of street furniture have their utilitarian roles
abruptly brought into question by careless driving, and it is the results of these
minor mishaps that are the subject of Bad Driving. As a foot passenger in life I have
always been acutely aware of the impact of cars on the urban environment.
Sometimes I wonder for whose benefit many cities have been built, its citizens or its
cars. These points of impact, the twisted poles and buckled signs, become selfreferencing
historical markers, that sink into the surface of the city, becoming almost

Crap Paint Jobs

The series of photographs depicting Crap Paint Jobs, like the majority of the sections
in the archive, portrays the remnants of an event, the protagonist of which is no
longer present. In its practical manifestation, painting an object, particularly one in a
public space, is by its very nature an act engaged in aesthetic harmony. The object is
painted to either fit in with its environment, or (especially in commercial settings)
stand out.  

Two extremes of environment come to mind, the historic centre of a European city, where the way a thing is painted might be legislated in order to maintain a sense of cultural authenticity and an outer suburban shopping complex, where almost identical prefabricated concrete boxes, are painted wildly different colours, in order to differentiate themselves from one another. In either example, if the paintjob is done rather badly, the overall tone of the surrounding area is called into question. 

Crap things tend to multiply and travel in packs. If the previous painter has done a terrible job, the standard required by the next painter to do a reasonable job lowers. Although the suggestion is not that a poorly painted lamp post can set in motion a chain of events, that lead to the collapse of a civilization, its contribution to a sense of urban decline is a subject of great interest to The Small Conflict Archive.

Signs of a Struggle

Like many of the sets in the Small Conflict Archive, Signs of a Struggle began with a
single visual encounter that set in motion a series of thoughts. Seeing a spilt paint can
at the base of a small hill in suburbia, I wondered what events had led up to the
incident and what had resulted from it. This paint can was, I decided, evidence of a
moment of a minor conflict in life. Perhaps it was the “straw that broke the camels
back”, perhaps later that day the owner decided not to paint the fence after all,
perhaps that was for the best. 

I decided to search out more of these tell tale signs. Signs of a Struggle, therefore searches out and collects the traces of accidents, mishaps, disagreements and other deviations in the smooth running of life. There is naturally a large amount of conjecture in any such exercise, as it is impossible to know the exact circumstances of how a spade was broken or a pot of paint spilt. This series and the archive as a whole, should therefore be considered more a musing on the symbolic nature of objects, than a series of confirmed and catalogued facts.

Número Tres: de la Casa a la Fábrica

From Summer Nights, Walking (c) Robert Adams

The Centre National des Arts Plastiques (CNAP) in France presents Número tres: de la casa a la fábrica, a group show of photography and video exploring the interplay of professional and domestic spheres and spaces as well as their representation, featuring work by Robert Adams, Darren Almond, Maria Thereza Alves, and many more.

Número tres, which opens next Thursday, May 31, 2012 at La Virreina Centre de la Imatge in Barcelona (on view through September 30), was inspired in part, and plays off of Jean-Luc Godard’s 1975 film Numéro Duex. Godard’s acclaimed experimental piece explores links between work and home, machines and people, and the power struggles of an ordinary French family. It presents two juxtaposed “observations” shot on video and played back on two side-by-side monitors which were then simultaneously recorded on 35 mm film.

Given the delocalized role of the factory in today’s multinational economy and society, Número tres offers an opportunity for the reconsideration of these links. “Through a selection of contemporary representations of domestic life, urban landscapes, and gestures of love and labor,” according to the press release, “the exhibition traces new paths from house to factory, from home to work, between these two spaces that are so far apart and yet so close.”

In related programing, CNAP presents Número cuatro/Pantallas paralelas, a panel discussion exploring art, texts, and theoretical work that addresses the privatization of public space, and the publicizing of private space, curated by Pascal Beausse, Curator of Photographic Collections, CNAP and Pascale Cassagnau, Curator of cinema, video, new media, CNAP. More info on date and time to be announced here.

Robert Adams, whose classic monographs The New West (2008) and Summer Nights, Walking (2009) were recently reissued by Aperture, also has a traveling retrospective, The Place We Live, currently on view through June 3, 2012 at LACMA, organized by the Yale University Art Gallery, profiled here by Time’s LightBox.

Adams’ work is also featured in Aperture issues 197180, 169 and 168.

Número tres: de la casa a la fábrica
Exhibition on view:
May 31 – September 30, 2012

La Virreina Centre de la Imatge
La Rambla 99
Barcelona, Spain

One Shot Teenie: A Retrospective of Charles Harris

Charles "Teenie" Harris

Photographer Charles “Teenie” Harris holding a camera while standing on the sidewalk.

Watch many photographers today working on digital SLRs and you’ll see them shoot, pull the camera down to peek in the digital screen to check the image, then repeat. This action has become known as chimping, and old salts will say that it betrays the photographer as an amateur, because back in the days of film, once you took a photo, that was what you had.

But in the days of film, especially in a controlled setting, photographers often made redundant shots to make sure they captured what they wanted. Not Charles “Teenie” Harris. A native of Pittsburgh’s Hill District, the city’s cultural center of African-American life, Harris was a semi-pro athlete and a numbers runner before he bought his first camera in the 1930s. He opened a photography studio and specialized in glamour portraits, earning the nickname “One Shot” because he rarely made his subjects sit for a second take. Nearly 80 years later, a retrospective of the photographer’s work is on view at the Carnegie Museum of Art.

“One Shot” Harris freelanced for the Pittsburgh Courier, chronicling the life of black neighborhoods throughout the city. In 1953, he closed his portrait studio, and for the next 20 years, he captured the late Jim Crow and Civil Rights eras, photographing Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Muhammad Ali, John F. Kennedy, Dwight Eisenhower and dozens of others who shaped the late 20th century. But Harris is most remembered for his images of daily life—urban landscapes, social gatherings, musical performances and sports from boxing to Negro League baseball. He captured the vibrant times and slow death of the Crawford Grill, perhaps the most famous jazz club in the Hill District.

Harris made more than 80,000 images in his career, nearly 60,000 of which have been scanned and catalogued by the Carnegie Museum of Art. The Museum maintains a searchable archive online and a retrospective exhibition of Harris’ work will run until April 7, allowing visitors to see an era and a place captured one single shot at a time.

Teenie Harris, Photographer is on view at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh through April 7.

Sarah W. Newman, Untitled

Sarah W. Newman, Untitled

Sarah W. Newman

Crested Butte, Colorado, 2011
From the Through Place series
Website – SarahNewmanPhotography.com

Sarah Newman was born in Miami, Florida, and began making black and white photographs at the age of seven. She has a BA in Philosophy from Washington University in St. Louis, and is currently completing her MFA at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Sarah’s photographic explorations run alongside her more general explorations of the world and its diverse environments. Her thesis, Through Place, explores human marks in the landscape and the various (visual, linguistic, and philosophical) parameters that underlie our notions of “nature.” Sarah recently began a new body of work photographing green energy technologies, such as wind and solar power, and considering how these innovations are integrated (or not) in our social and urban landscapes. She plans to continue this project in Malmö, Sweden in 2012-2013.

Noorderlicht International Photography Festival 2011

© Michael Wolf

The press release for the 18th Noorderlicht International Photo Festival in Groningen (18 September-9 October 2011) has just landed on our desks here at 1000 Words and looks very promising.

Since the beginning of the 21st century, more than half of the world’s population live in urban areas. In two successive exhibitions Noorderlicht is examining the consequences of this development for both the countryside and the city. After Land – Country Life in the Urban Age in 2010, from 11 September through 9 October 2011 the photo festival Metropolis – City Life in the Urban Age will be seen in Groningen. This multifaceted and innovative exhibition will provide insight into a process that touches everyone, directly or indirectly.

“The” city doesn’t exist. Although cities are at the heart of modern society – certainly now that 3.3 billion people are packed onto 3 percent of the earth’s surface – they are not all exactly the same in nature. The city is an feverish economic, cultural and social nerve centre; it is the place where the dreams of architects and urban planners come to life or collide with recalcitrant reality. Cities grow wildly, sometimes anarchically, and swallow up everything in the vicinity. They suck in people who – successfully, or in vain – are in search of a better life. In the midst of an oppressive massiveness, people are still able to carve out a small space for themselves and find their own fulfilment. The city is a place that offers opportunities and dashes hopes, where you can be seen everywhere and at all times but where you can equally well be completely alone.

From Michael Wolf’s traumatised faces in the Tokyo subway to Michael Najjar’s sterile futuristic urban landscapes, on the basis of work by more than eighty photographers from The Netherlands and other countries, in Metropolis Noorderlicht exposes the many sides of the city. To do this, Noorderlicht breaks new ground, both in terms of content and design. The six ‘chapters’ and the unusual arrangement in the main locations offer space to the city, and bring across Noorderlicht’s view of the city in an insightful and perceptive manner.

Metropolis is a city of images, an exhibition about the soul of urban society.

Click on the links for more information on the participating photographers, the Metropolis – City Life in the Urban Age exhibition and to read an interview with the curator Wim Mellis.

Photographer #284: Kevin Cooley

Kevin Cooley, 1975, USA, is a landscape photographer and video artist especially known for his night photography. In 2000 he received an M.F.A. at The School of Visual Arts in New York. He often uses man made light sources creating unusual and strong effects. He has followed film crews at night (series: Night for Night) or the tourist boats with powerful floodlights in Paris (series: Bateaux Mouches) “borrowing” their light to create images of urban landscapes. In his project Nachtfluge Kevin made long exposure photographs of airplanes taking of or landing creating bizarre stripes and dots in the sky. In Lights Edge he used light flares in remote snowy areas to make fantastical and serene images. The snowy landscapes return in his latest series Refuge using various different light sources. Cooley has exhibited his work throughout the USA and several cities in Europe. The following images come from the series Refuge, Lights Edge and Nachtfluge.

Website: www.kevincooley.net

Sze Tsung Leong – En Español

Born in Mexico City and raised in the UK and US, photographer Sze Tsung Leong does urban landscapes with an 8×10 camera. His current show at Yossi Milo gallery in New York, Cities, features a number of photos from Latin America.

© Sze Tsung Leong – Havana

I didn’t know it was possible to take a photograph in Havana that doesn’t feature an elegantly decayed pastel interior or a 1950s American automobile.

© Sze Tsung Leong – La Paz

© Sze Tsung Leong – Mexico City

© Sze Tsung Leong – Potosí

© Sze Tsung Leong – Quito

My favorite photo in the series is, of all places, of Manhattan. I can’t remember the last time I was surprised by an image from New York.

© Sze Tsung Leong – Lincoln Center

It’s ridiculous to post 400 pixel jpegs of big ass C-prints from an 8×10 negative [Yossi Milo’s website has bigger jpegs from the series]. I’m actually going to be in New York for a couple of weeks at the end of March so I’ll have the privilege of seeing this show in person.

I was curious if there were any interviews of Leong on YouTube. Interestingly, the only one I could find is in Spanish. It accompanied an exhibition at the Monterrey Museo de Arte Contemporaneo of his work, Horizons.