Tag Archives: Visual Culture

Kerry Skarbakka

Last year, Center awarded Kerry Skarbakka the 2011 Excellence in Teaching Award for his passion in the classroom. After experiencing his photographs and teaching philosophy, it appears that everyone would benefit from a semester with Kerry.  His high spirited photographs, thoughtful approach to his own image making, and profound understanding what it takes to give students an informed visual language in an “image-prolific” society, make him a force to be reckoned with. He was recently celebrated for his teaching in PDNedu.

We are a visual culture wherein photography has become an
exceedingly powerful form of communication. Moreover, the development of
digital technologies in the past ten years has wiped traditional artistic
boundaries away. As a result, it is now vital to educate students to have a
broader vision. As an artist, it is imperative to be aware of the language of
photography and to understand the responsibility image making has within our
culture. To be a successful communicator, it is necessary to learn the tools
and skills inherent within this practice. More importantly, is the
understanding of how to control the medium and apply its principles with
thought and sophistication.


He is a self processed  performance-based photographer, using his own body and physical prowess to create his images and video. He received his B.A. in Studio Art with an emphasis in Sculpture  from the University of Washington School of Art and his MFA in Photography from Columbia College in Chicago. Kerry’s work has been exhibited internationally in museums, galleries and art fairs. He has had solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, Fifty-One Fine Art Photography in Antwerp, Belgium, Irvine Contemporary in Washington DC, and Lawrimore Project in Seattle. His work has been exhibited at the North Carolina Museum of Art, the Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke, Virginia, Ahlen Art Museum, Ahlen Germany and the Warhol Museum. Publications include Aperture Magazine Afterimage, Art and America and ArtReview International Additionally, Skarbakka has received funding and support from the Creative Capital Foundation, the 1% for the Arts (City of Seattle), the Chicago Center for Cultural Affairs and the Illinois Arts Council. He is represented by Fifty One Fine Art Photography in Antwerp, Belgium and Contemporary Wing in Washington DC. Currently Kerry is faculty of Digital Media and Photographic Studies at Prescott College.

The Struggle to Right Oneself 

Philosopher Martin Heidegger described human existence as a process of perpetual falling, and it is the responsibility of each individual to catch ourselves from our own uncertainty. This unsettling prognosis of life informs my present body of work. I continually return to questions regarding the nature of control and its effects on this perceived responsibility, since beyond the basic laws that govern and maintain our equilibrium, we live in a world that constantly tests our stability in various other forms. War and rumors of war, issues of security, effects of globalization, and the politics of identity are external gravities turned inward, serving to further threaten the precarious balance of self, exaggerating negative feelings of control. 

This photographic work is in response to this delicate state. It comprises a culmination of thought and emotion, a tying together of the threads of everything I perceive life has come to represent. It is my understanding and my perspective, which relies on the shifting human conditions of the world that we inhabit. It’s exploration resides in the sublime metaphorical space from where balance has been disrupted to the definitive point of no return. It asks the question of what it means to resist the struggle, to simply let go. Or what are the consequences of holding on? 

Using myself as model and with the aid of climbing gear and other rigging, I photograph the body as it dangles from dangerous precipices or tumbles down flights of stairs. The captured gesture of the body is designed for plausiblity of action, which grounds the image in reality. However, it is the ambiguiy of the body’s position in space that allows and requires the viewer to resolve the full meaning of the photograph. Do we fall? Can we fly? If we fly then loss of control facilitates supreme control. 

It is necessary to point out that I do not consider myself a glorified stuntman; nor do I wish to become a sacrifice to art. Therefore, safety is an important factor, however the work does carry with it a potential risk of personal injury as I engage the moment. This is unavoidable as much of the strength of the images lie in the fact that they are all recorded on location. The images are layered with references to an experienced background in sculpture and painting, and the cinematic quality of the work suggests the influence of commercial film. The dimensions are important to establish a direct relationship between the image and viewer. 

The images stand as ominous messages and reminders that we are all vulnerable to losing our footing and grasp. Moreover, they convey the primal qualities of the human condition as a precarious balancing act between the struggle against our desire to survive and our fantasy to transcend our humanness.

Is Photography Over?

Here’s a blast from the not-too-distant past. Back in 2010 SFMOMA organised a fantastic two-day symposium, Is Photography Over? which has since prompted much debate on the current state of the medium.

Photography has almost always been in crisis. In the beginning, the terms of this crisis were cast as dichotomies: is photography science or art? Nature or technology? Representation or truth? This questioning has intensified and become more complicated over the intervening years. At times, the issues have required a profound rethinking of what photography is, does, and means. This is one of those times. Given the nature of contemporary art practice, the condition of visual culture, the advent of new technologies, and many other factors, what is at stake today in seeing something as a photograph? What is the value of continuing to speak of photography as a specific practice or discipline? Is photography over?

SFMOMA invited a range of major thinkers and practitioners to write brief responses to this question and then to convene for a two-day summit on where photography is at. Participants include Vince Aletti, George Baker, Walead Beshty, Jennifer Blessing, Charlotte Cotton, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Geoff Dyer, Peter Galassi, Corey Keller, Douglas Nickel, Trevor Paglen, Blake Stimson, and Joel Snyder.

Additional responses to the question and reports on the research project can be found on their blog, Open Space.

Below is the entire video recordings from the event, split up according to the various sessions held across the two days:

Day One, Part One

Topics broached – Anxiety about the future of photography. Do we need to talk about photography? Why do pictures mean something to us?



Day One, Part Two

Topics broached – Aspects of photography to be removed. Can we agree on what photography means? What has changed?

Day Two, Part One

Topics broached – History of image manipulation. Photographer or artist who uses photography? What if analogue photography becomes nothing more than a hobby?

Day Two, Part Two

Topics broached – What is contemporary? Issues of authorship. Responses of the gallery/museum to the changes in photography.




Day Two, Part Three

Topics broached – Overlapping use of still and moving image. Age of uncertainty? Size of prints and the art market. 

These videos were originally posted on SFMOMA’s YouTube channel.

Stan Douglas Named the Recipient of ICP’s Infinity Award for Art

Stan Douglas has been named the recipient of the prestigious Infinity Award for Art by the International Center of Photography. Tonight, he will be presented the award at a ceremony in New York City. Douglas works in various media including video, installation and photography. Here, Lightbox visits highlights of three projects from the artist’s prolific photographic endeavors.

What is real? What is unreal? In a world where reality and history can be recreated and manipulated to appear authentic in a photograph, it is imperative that we ask these questions. We, as a society inundated with visual culture, are trained to ponder the truth and meaning behind what we see—but what if a photograph was created to question reality? To question history? Stan Douglas creates images that catalyze critical analysis and force their viewers to revisit the scenes they depict. Douglas, in creating new images of scenes in history, ponders the truth within the medium of photography and the sociological issues that lie in the passages and stories illustrated in his photographs.

Based in Vancouver, Canada, Douglas approaches each image with epic, Hollywood-level production—tapping into his history as a maker of films and video. Demanding the most active viewer who questions, challenges and investigates all that he or she sees, each image is created to excruciating detail.

Linda Chinfen; Courtesy the artist

A production photograph depicting the lighting and building of the set of Abbott & Cordova, 7 August 1971, 2008.

Courtesy the artist

A 3-dimentional rendering Abbott & Cordova, 7 August 1971, 2008.

In producing Abbott & Cordova, 7 August 1971, 2008 (slide #4), Douglas built a set to recreate a scene of the actual intersection in Vancouver. The placement of the actors in the image was pre-envisioned in three-dimensional renderings to anticipate the actual photograph. Not one detail was left unnoticed—down to the products in the dressings of the windows and the scraps of paper that lie on the streets. The mural-sized image, which was composited from 50 different images from the same shoot, is one of four in his series Crowds & Riots. All the images in the series are large scale tableaux depicting vignettes from Vancouver’s history—reflecting on matters of the police, class and social order.

Gjon Mili / Time & Life Pictures / Getty Images

Multiple exposure stroboscopic shot of actress and dancer Betty Bruce doing a routine for Broadway show High Kickers

In his series, Midcentury Studio, Douglas took on the identity of a photojournalist working between 1945 to 1951 (a selection of this work is represented by slides #6 – #9 in the gallery above). Inspired by imagery from this time, Douglas created images that discuss the decisive moment in photography—as Henri Cartier-Bresson explained, the exact moment that the photographer makes the photograph by firing the shutter of the camera—that very moment which is creative. Unfolding on Cartier-Bresson’s expression, Douglas constructed and carefully created these scenes to capture this experience and illustrate the scrupulous amount of information and action that lies in each frame of a photograph. In Dancer II, 1950, 2010, Douglas created an image similar to one from our own archive shot by famed photographer Gjon Mili for LIFE Magazine.

In Douglas’s most recent series, Disco Angola, most recently shown at David Zwirner Gallery in New York City in April, he once again approaches the identity of a photojournalist. This time, he is one who travels between New York City and Angola in the 1970s. Each image in the series utilizes the nature of body language as insight into the historical moment—from the pensive waiting of the Portugese colonialist awaiting evcuation (Exodus, 1975, 2012), to the interracial-intercultural array of dancing people (Club Versailles, 1974, 2012), to the group of rebel fighters performing capoeira, the Brazilian martial art that originated in Angola (Capoeira, 1974, 2012). Disco, a source of escapism for New Yorkers from the nearly bankrupt city at the time, traces its roots to Africa. Connecting these two seemingly disparate places, separated by thousands of miles of ocean and cultural-political borders, Douglas traces subtle parallels between New York’s struggles and the emerging Angolan liberation fight for independence from Portugal—one which would ultimately lead to a decades-long civil war.

Douglas’s series Midcentury Studio is currently on view at Victoria Miro Gallery in London through May 26, 2012. More information about the Infinity Awards can be found here.

Cindy Sherman Retrospective

Untitled Film Still #14, 1978 © Cindy Sherman

Exhibition on view:
Present–June 11, 2012

The Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd St
New York City, NY
(212) 708-9400

Cindy Sherman, a traveling exhibition of one of the most important contemporary artists, is being presented in New York City, San Francisco, Minneapolis, and Dallas.

Cindy Sherman has built an international reputation, photographing herself in a variety of semblances and personas. Her subject matter is topical, humorous, and confrontational. She holds a mirror up to contemporary society, referencing visual culture: movies, magazines, television, the internet, and art history.

The exhibition features 150 photographs from public and private collections, some over-sized and site-specific and others never-before-seen. One of the highlights is her black-and-white body of work, Untitled Film Stills, where the artist became the stereotypical female featured in 1950s and 1960s Hollywood and film noir. An illustrated catalog accompanies the show along with a series of films that were of great artistic influence to Sherman.

The next stops for Cindy Sherman will be The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (July 14–October 7, 2012), Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (November 10, 2012–February 17, 2013), and The Dallas Museum of Art (March 17, 2013–June 9, 2013).

Sherman is featured in Aperture issues 200 and 169. Her photographs can also be seen in The New York Times Magazine Photographs.

Last Exit: Pictures

Perpetual Photo No. 210, 1989 © Allan McCollum

Exhibition on view:
March 12–April 12, 2012

Blondeau Fine Art Services
5, rue de la Muse
Genève, Switzerland
41 (0)22 544 95 95

Challenging ideas of originality, a group of appropriation artists share the common thread of relating to images in a newfound way. Earlier exhibition’s, Pictures (Artists Space, New York, 1977) and The Pictures Generation (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2009) pioneered the way for ‘appropriationist’ practices, advocating the importance of painting as a medium and the borrowed, sampled, and recycled aspects of our visual culture.

Last Exit: Pictures, curated by Lionel Bouvier, seeks to articulate the can of worms ‘re-presentation’ tends to open. Understanding the picture itself, whatever the sources used, becomes inherently important rather than attempting to absorb an alternate or lost reality beyond the image. Despite generational or aesthetic differences, the heart of this exhibition is to display pictures in every state: appropriated, displaced, painted, re-photographed, and combined.

Featured artists: Troy Brauntuch, Jack Goldstein, Louise Lawler, Sherrie Levine, Robert Longo, Allan McCollum, John Miller, Steven Parrino, Richard Prince, David Robbins, David Salle, Laurie Simmons, Alan Vega, and James Welling.

Allan McCollum contributed to Words Without Pictures. Louise Lawler is featured in Aperture issue 145. Laurie Simmons has an Aperture published book, Walking, Talking, Lying, she is featured in The New York Times Magazine Photographs, and has a print available. James Welling is featured in Aperture issue 190 and contributed to Words Without Pictures. Aperture, in association with the Cincinnati Art Museum, will publish a survey of James Welling’s work in Spring 2013.

Venue Change for Tomorrow’s W.J.T. Mitchell Lecture

3.19.12_WJT%20Mitchell_blog.jpgThose of you coming to tomorrows W.J.T. Mitchell lecture will have to walk a little father to get here… about 20 steps farther.The lecture by distinguished University of Chicago Iconology scholar will be moved down the hall of 600 S. Michigan Ave., from the Ferguson Lecture Hall to the Museum of Contemporary Photographys main gallery. set up basic cable service . The lecture, which begins at 6:30 p.m., discusses the capability of digital photography to expand the potential scope of photographic truth-claims along with the potential for lying. Admission is free and open to the public. proveedor factura electrnica . For more information, visit the Events page on our website. About W.J.T. MitchellW.J.T. Mitchell is a scholar and theorist of media, visual art, and literature associated with the emergent fields of visual culture and iconology (the study of images across the media). A Professor of English and Art History at the University of Chicago, Mitchell is editor of the interdisciplinary journal, Critical Inquiry, and the author of numerous publications including What Do Pictures Want? The Lives and Loves of Images (2005).

Venue Change for Tomorrow’s W.J.T. Mitchell Lecture

3.19.12_WJT%20Mitchell_blog.jpgThose of you coming to tomorrows W.J.T. Mitchell lecture will have to walk a little father to get here… about 20 steps farther.The lecture by distinguished University of Chicago Iconology scholar will be moved down the hall of 600 S. Michigan Ave., from the Ferguson Lecture Hall to the Museum of Contemporary Photographys main gallery. The lecture, which begins at 6:30 p.m., discusses the capability of digital photography to expand the potential scope of photographic truth-claims along with the potential for lying. Admission is free and open to the public. For more information, visit the Events page on our website. About W.J.T. MitchellW.J.T. Mitchell is a scholar and theorist of media, visual art, and literature associated with the emergent fields of visual culture and iconology (the study of images across the media). carrera de fotografia . squido lense . A Professor of English and Art History at the University of Chicago, Mitchell is editor of the interdisciplinary journal, Critical Inquiry, and the author of numerous publications including What Do Pictures Want? The Lives and Loves of Images (2005).

Deconstructing Constructions: James Casebere’s Works 1975-2010

American artist James Casebere has been photographing dioramic constructions of human civilization since 1975. His tableaus—scenes from places both fictional and real—respond to current events and are the subject of a new book called Works 1975-2010, which chronicles highlights from his 35-year career.

Over the years, Casebere’s images have expanded and redefined to show his exploration of aesthetic technical challenges. “Photography resonates with me because it manipulates our perception of the world around us,” he says. “I am interested in photography as a means of persuasion, of propaganda and constructing histories. I am interested in how photography creates and reconstructs reality.”

Born in Lansing, Michigan in 1953, Casebere grew up during the era of television’s rise to becoming America’s prominent medium for creating images and manifesting visual culture. Referencing the sets of sitcoms of the 1950s and 1960s, Casebere’s early career focused on disseminating and questioning the domestic household and addressing the growing dysfunctions of the ideal American home. Though the scenes that he constructs and then photographs are often similar to the environment of his native Lansing, the images are not anecdotal. This absence of a personal narrative is a strategy Casebere still continues in his work today.

Among Casebere’s most well-known work are his images of the interiors of detainment cells and prisons, such as Prison Cell With Skylight, 1993. “I was thinking a lot about the Enlightenment era and the way that different cultural institutions were created in the late 18th and early 19th century. One of the developments was the prison,” he says. “I wanted to investigate innovations of the whole system…I was trying to critically look at the whole process of incarceration as cultural-historical phenomena.”

Color became more focal and the construction of sets more filled with detail in the work that follows the prison images. Casabere began capturing interior rooms beginning in the mid-90s, with images like Converging Hallways from Left, 1997. ”When I was working on prisons, I was really dealing with a subject that involved deprivation and denial,” he says. “When I moved to the interior spaces, they were less obviously models—they were more convincing. The images are printed quite large, and when viewing them in a gallery, they really become something one can walk into. There was confusion about what is real and what isn’t…There came a moment when I decided to break down the wall, visually— to do things with color, light and texture— literally, to break down the walls, the construction of the models.”

At times, Casebere’s work seems to be indicative of future events. Images that Casebere created from 2006 through 2007, seemed to almost foreshadow this year’s Arab Spring, addressing issues that were boiling in the Middle East for a long time. The images depict the Middle East from a place of brewing conflict, but also a place where people lead normal lives. “I was really trying to create a different impression entirely. Tripoli, 2007, the image that I photographed is actually a recreation of Tripoli in Lebanon,” he says. “Shortly after I made that image, there was a battle at a refugee camp, where the Lebanese army surrounded the village and drove them out.”

Casebere’s latest series of images, each work titled a numerical variation of Landscape with Houses (Dutchess County, NY), reveals his return to focusing on the domestic, a move influenced in part by the advent of the mortgage crisis. But this time around, the artist brought color and dramatic lighting into the work. “I was really working with the lights, recreating morning light, afternoon light, evening light, twilight, moonlight, all kinds of light to exhaust the possibilities and color,” he says. The latest image in the series, however, depicts the idyllic suburban houses with a catastrophic, albeit humorously cartoonish, fire burning in the background. “The fire is metaphoric of the sense of crisis of living in the home, the loss of the American dream,” Casebere says. “I emphasize and criticize [the fact] that we’re caught in a cyclical lifestyle that is destructive and self-destructive.”

Works 1975 – 2010, was published this month by Damiani and distributed by D.A.P.