Vladimir Vyatkin

Vladimir Vyatkin: The Bodyguard, 1980.

Alexander Lyskin: The Walrus, 1973.

Alexander Lyskin: The Walrus, 1973.

We know a culture by the way it shares of itself, the stories that it tells and exalts to the national stage. These stories are the place where the curtain lifts up and we are held witness to something that could only happen in that exact time and place. We call it “news” until it becomes “history” and we engrave the story into the permanent record as a means to keeping and sharing our memory. This memory of something we did not personally live but becomes part of our life through the reporting of it. This memory gets handed down as a matter of fact, preserved in image and text for all the world to see.

World Press Photo Laureates from Russia and the Soviet Union 1955–2013 (Schilt) features 450 unique works by 118 photographers, along with original texts that contextualize the images. When taken together as a look at six decades in Soviet and Russian life, we are struck by the stark intensity of this world, of images like “The Walrus” by Alexander Lyskin from 1973. As Lyskin remembers, “People who do winter swimming in Russia are traditionally called ‘walruses’, which can survive really low temperatures underwater…. I  as very cold like everyone else when I finally saw my hero. Big, strong body, dynamic stride, heroic physique, not young—every detail of his appearance contrasted with the passive, grey, stiff audience watching him, and the falling flakes of wet snow made the scene even more expressive.”

Lyskin’s vision of the alpha male is one who trounces the elements, and inspires men, women and children alike. He is the kind of figure we enjoy for his discipline and commitment, who reminds us that it is not Man Vs. Nature but rather the two complementing each other. We see this theme arise in many forms, including the subversive scene called “Invasion” taken by Lev Porter in 1966. Here a flock of sheep have flooded the city streets in North Caucasus, and have effectively shut down transportation. In retrospect we can see this as a point in time where old and new worlds appear to collide. But the scene is gentle, friendly, and charming in its absurdity. Once again Man and Nature align themselves as a reminder that there is no hurry. Nowhere to be. No rush this day. It’s a lovely reminder of a time and a place that makes us ask ourselves: Can it be that it was all so simple then?

Indeed, in a country as powerful as this, a lighthearted scenario helps to balance the heaviness. Vladimir Vyatkin’s photograph of “The Bogyguard” taken in Kabul, Afghanistan in 1980 shows a man whose eyes are wildly alive, as he holds the neck of a rifle slung over his shoulder. The bodyguard resembles no one so much as Tony Montana standing guard over participants in a political press conference. The tension in this image is so palpable, one can almost imagine the bodyguard yelling, “Say hello to my little friend” before opening fire on the audience.

Part of the tension within the image reflect the tension surrounding the war itself. Vyatkin recalls, “It was a time when it was forbidden not only to photograph our troops or actual hostilities; one could not even talk about it…. Back in Moscow, I was asked to show my photographs at factories and culture clubs, during my talks about Afghanistan. However, I was forbidden to say one word, ‘war.’ What I showed and spoke about were supposedly peaceful events. It was only two years later, when the war became a subject in the official press and on television, that I decided to send those photographs to World Press Photo. In an accompanying telegram I explained that the pictures had been made much earlier, but due to censorship I wasn’t able to release them.”

War is an on-going theme throughout the book, as we bare witness to sixty years of armed conflict. War, in many ways, is the ultimate expression of man’s inhumanity in his brutal ascension to power. It is a world filled with true believers, people who are willing to give life and limb to a cause that they need to believe is bigger than them. This is why images, such as the portrait of veteran marine Anatoly Golimbievsky taken in 1989 by Ivan Kurtov received first prize in the Daily Life category.

Here we see Golimbievetsky saluted by four solider as he makes his way down the street, uniform adorned with dozens of medals, and he proudly looking up, for he is wheeling himself along on a board, for beneath the jacket he has no legs. His story was one, like the walrus, of man’s triumph against the odds. As Kurtov recalls, “In 1942, he was the only survivor in a landing party of marines led by Major Caesar Kunnikov; they landed on Malaya Zemlya beachhead on the Black Sea coast. He was wounded in the legs and arms, and they found him on the battlefield by chance as he showed little sign of life.

“Doctors at a hospital in Tbilisi could not save his legs. Not only did he take this in stride, but Anatolyi excluded such a zest for life that he managed to win over and marry the hospital senior nurse, a Georgian named Mirtsa…. He lived to be eighty years old, and he worked almost until the last day of his life, a true example of courage and optimism,” Kurtov concludes.

Indeed, when taken within the context of the stories told in this book, figures of strength, hope, and pride are necessary to balance the stark harsh reality of life in a country that has undergone massive upheavals that continue to shake the nation’s core today. The stories presented here show a nation committed to the fight for power, internal and external, as it moves stridently into the new millennium. World Press Photo Laureates from Russia and the Soviet Union 1955–2013 provides us with a history of a country that is still coming into its own, and reflects on that forces that have changed, shaped, and defined its evolution over the past sixty years.

Ivan Kurtov: Anatoly Golimbievsky, 1989.

Ivan Kurtov: Anatoly Golimbievsky, 1989.

COVER

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“One’s period is when one is very young,” Diana Vreeland wrote in her memoirs, D.V., and in this way we can consider the way in which strong sensory experiences influence and shape our developing brains. For Eric Johnson, the combination of the car and the open road has been a motif that he has explored throughout his life in the form of the photograph.

Born in Newark, New Jersey, Eric spent his formative years on the road, traveling up and down the eastern seaboard to and from his ancestral home in Charlotte County, Virginia. The distance between the two lands is more than a matter of miles logged; it is a passage from North to South, from the post-industrial city to the agrarian town, from twentieth to nineteenth century American ideals. “The road must eventually lead to the whole world,” Jack Kerouac wrote in On the Road, inadvertently reminding us that our path to freedom begins with an intuitive desire to travel. Beyond the familiar lies the foreign, and it is the paths we take that connect us to one another.

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THE CLICK

Dennis Hopper, the Last Movie © Douglas Kirkland

Dennis Hopper, the Last Movie © Douglas Kirkland

For photographer Douglas Kirkland and his wife and business partner Francoise, there are no boundaries between life, love, work, and art. Their home reflects this blurring of the lines itself. The Kirklands never stop working because it is what they love. There is no “6pm closing time” in their world. For Douglas, photography is a work in progress that keeps evolving, and it is in through the use of this space they create a creative, friendly, and peaceful atmosphere that appeals to artists, actors, performers, and personalities from all walks of life.

In 1979, the Kirklands purchased a single-floor, mid-century home in the Hollywood Hills, which only had two prior owners. The home is located at the end of a cul-de-sac dotted with similar period homes not far from the Bailey House, Pierre Koenig’s Case Study House #21. In 1980, the Kirklands added a photography studio to the house so that Douglas could work from home when he wasn’t shooting on assignment for magazines like LIFE and LOOK, on the sets of films including The Sound of Music, Out of Africa, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, or video sets such as for Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”. In 1993, a second floor was added to the Kirklands’ home, take out bringing the total square footage to 3,800.

Photo shoots happen all around the house, not only in the studio. Francoise prepares lunch, which is served to the guests and team alike every day in the garden of the house. The garden is also where Douglas and Francoise worked on his 40,000-word memoirs, which appears in Kirkland’s six-decade retrospective, A Life in Pictures (Glitterati Incorporated). The book provides a stunning overview of some of Kirkland’s career highlights across several genres including portraiture, fashion, celebrity, documentary, and nude photography.

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L’OEIL DE LA PHOTOGRAPHIE

Francis Ford Coppola © Douglas Kirkland

Francis Ford Coppola © Douglas Kirkland

Eric Johnson: Aaliyah

January 16, 2014

Eric Johnson

Eric Johnson

“If God gave you the talent, you should go for it. But don’t think it’s going to be easy,” Aaliyah Dana Houghton knew, and so she spoke. She sang and danced too, more than a woman, you know. She was, she is, an eternal flame burning in memory of a woman gone too soon. She died as she lived, a shooting star cast across the sky. On January 16, 2014, Aaliyah would be 35, were she not to have died on August 25, 2001, at her prime.

In July of her final year, Eric Johnson photographed Aaliyah for Entertainment Weekly, and since that time, photographs from the shoot that have  gone around the globe. Whether gracing the cover of Vibe magazine’s memorial issue or illustrating Aaliyah’s Wikipedia page, the photographs have become so emblematic of that singer’s mystique that they have been remade countless times as murals, paintings, and drawings that are seen everywhere from Instagram to Times Square.

Recently. Johnson went through his negatives from the shoot, revealing a series of portraits the world has never seen. “She was on,” Johnson recalls. The consummate professional, Aaliyah arrived early at the shoot with her mother. Before Johnson’s camera, the triple-threat reveals endless facets of an artist coming into her own.

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L’OEIL DE LA PHOTOGRAPHIE

Eric Johnson

Eric Johnson

Douglas Kirland, 2011 © Owen Roizman

Douglas Kirland, 2011 © Owen Roizman

The 2014 edition of photo l.a. will honor award-winning celebrity photographer Douglas Kirkland. On Thursday evening, January 16, 2014, Kirkland will be presented with a certificate from the City of Los Angeles, followed by a presentation of the photo l.a. award.

Stephen Cohen, Founder and Director of photo l.a., observes, “I’ve known Douglas Kirkland before I knew Douglas Kirkland having seen so much of his photography in publications. In 2003 my gallery was fortunate enough to have exhibited his then re-discovered ‘One Night With Marilyn’ body of work. To say he is an iconic figure in photography, and celebrity portraiture, is putting it mildly. The images we have in our heads of many major film stars are the images he’s taken. He is a beloved figure to a huge family of family members, friends, peers and clients. He has been the exclusive still photographer on all of Baz Luhrman’s films since Moulin Rouge. While Baz Luhrman is known for his cutting edge visual style, he recognizes in Douglas the ‘old school’ qualities of solid professionalism and an always interested eye.”

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L’OEIL DE LA PHOTOGRAPHIE

Pepa Hristova: HAKIJE (59) was brought up as a boy from birth, because a dervish had prophesied that her parents would have a son. She grew up in a remote village near the Kosovo border, where five other man-women lived. She still lives in her childhood home, alone and withdrawn, and tends the dervish,Aos final resting place/Albania 2008

HAKIJE (59) was brought up as a boy from birth, because a dervish had prophesied that her parents would have a son. She grew up in a remote village near the Kosovo border, where five other man-women lived. She still lives in her childhood home, alone and withdrawn, and tends the dervish,Aos final resting place/Albania 2008

“Where there is no son, there is no future.”

Such is the cultural sentiment of the Accursed Mountains of Albania, though this could be the prevailing opinion of countless cultures across the globe throughout time. How ironic it is to recognize that up until the 1920s almost one third of the male population of this country died in vendettas. Pride cometh before a fall, so it has been written.

To people with First World sensibilities, the exaltation of the masculine is at once all too familiar and all too foreign. Yet it reminds us that the commitment to women’s rights is rather novel in the history of the world. It reminds us that in many places, being a woman is fraught with unimaginable horror. How easily we forget, until we are reminded of this, not necessarily in the stark portrayals of human trafficking, but in the exploration of cultural norms. Of how some women adapt themselves to their lot, of the women of the Accursed Mountains who are the Virgjineshtë, the Sworn Virgins.

It is here in these mountains, said to be created by the devil himself, that the Kanun, a collection of laws from the Middle Ages, passed on for generations by world of mouth, permits families to replace the male head of the household with a woman in the case of the patriarch’s death. In other cases newborn girls are declared sons and raised as boys for the purpose of providing the family with a male heir. In taking this position, the woman must take an oath to preserve her virginity for the rest of her life, and to live, dress, and work as a man in a social, rather than sexual, sense. As time goes by they adapt to their roles so perfectly that all that is female about them is lost. And what is gained is the power and prestige of the masculine.

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L’OEIL DE LA PHOTOGRAPHIE

ILMIJE (30) wanted to be free and independent. In the northern part of the country, only boys are allowed to leave home and spend the summer in the mountains with the flocks. So, after the death of her mother, she decided to lead the rest of her life as a man. Ever since then, she has been in charge of her father,Aos household, while also enjoying the liberties that come with the male role/Albania 2010

ILMIJE (30) wanted to be free and independent. In the northern part of the country, only boys are allowed to leave home and spend the summer in the mountains with the flocks. So, after the death of her mother, she decided to lead the rest of her life as a man. Ever since then, she has been in charge of her father,Aos household, while also enjoying the liberties that come with the male role/Albania 2010

Privat | Privacy

January 14, 2014

Fake, 2011. Revised from the Interlacing exhibition, Edition 12, 7677 Digitalfotos (2003–2011) auf 12 Monitoren/7677 digital photographs (2003–2011) on 12 monitors. Installation dimensions variable © Ai Weiwei/Courtesy Galerie Urs Meile, Beijing-Lucerne

Fake, 2011. Revised from the Interlacing exhibition, Edition 12, 7677 Digitalfotos (2003–2011) auf 12 Monitoren/7677 digital photographs (2003–2011) on 12 monitors. Installation dimensions variable © Ai Weiwei/Courtesy Galerie Urs Meile, Beijing-Lucerne

What is private in a public world delineates the distinction between the seen and unseen, a boundary that has become so stretched in the Digital Era that we might mistake it for the most elastic of plastics, the most porous of borders. For it is not that we, who were raised before the advent of digitization who must consider this brave new world, but all of those who are born into this life and will never know anything else.

Photography has always been one means to transgress this boundary, one way inside a world we might not otherwise see, otherwise know, otherwise behold. Photography bears witness to the temporal nature of life, by transforming three dimensions into two and making the ephemeral eternal and candy for our eyes. The photograph becomes the document of that which no longer exists, but for this piece of paper, but for this scan, but for this print.

What do we really know when we expose privacy? Do we known how the other half lives, or do we catch a glimpse of our shadow selves? Do we see in the photograph of Ryan McGinley, two men embraced in a kiss as a thick viscous white liquid explodes from their mouths. Do we know what this is, or just what it is intended to be? Do we laugh, blush, giggle, or rage at this abject display of sexuality? Can we process that which is private made public if our own private matters never make the light of day? How do we respond to these borders being crossed each and every day?

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L’OEIL DE LA PHOTOGRAPHIE

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Michael Wolf. Paris Street View (#27), 2009–2010. C-Print. 152,4 x 121,9 cm © Michael Wolf und Christophe Guye Galerie

 

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The artist book. The book as art. It is more than a matter of content, it is also a matter of process. Of production. Of the craft itself. Of the handmade book, a thing of the sense brought together, connecting mind and body to the soul as one holds and beholds that which they know on a level that few dare to go. Book publishing is challenging enough, without the exclusivity of the object itself. To have a run limited to 10, 15, 20 copies requires a precise approach to life. The object must be so exceptional that it commands respect, for the collector is nothing if not exacting in their demands for quality.

To this end it takes a visionary, someone possessed with a gift for the form, for the ability to understand and explore the realms of the printed page as culminating in the creation of a codex that is at once of this day and age, and something that goes beyond, that which speaks to us across time and space and stands as on its own merit.

For nearly twenty-five years, the Kaldewey Press has produced artists books that reveal the intricate and exquisite nature of the medium. Founded in rural Poetstenkill, NY, in 1985, the house has produced exactly 75 artist books in limited editions, some of them written and designed by Kaldewey himself, which are presented in a catalogue raisonné by Clemens Von Lucius. 75 Artist Books: The Kaldewey Press, New York (Verlag Hermann Schmidt Mainz/Princeton Architectural Press) is a sumptuous volume unto itself, a flexible paperback book covered in linen, the front and back covers tiled with titles so that it looks like a jewel case, and the text printed in silver foil, glowing elegantly in its setting. The cover opens to exquisite effect with Mediterranean blue endpapers luxuriously welcoming us to the fold.

Kaldewey Press offers entrance into another world, a world in which the object of the book is its own reward. It does not seek the same ends that mechanical reproduction does. It is an experience that predates the printing press. The desire to create by hand that which is held in the mind, to translate it into a physical fact while bypassing all technology; this is the nature of the artist book. It is brought into existence by the hand itself. Wo/man as machine, rather than use a substitute because the need for volume no longer computes. The artist book reminds us that less is more. We often forget this, yet when we behold it in the world, we fall under its spell.

As Von Lucius notes in the introduction to 75 Artist Books, Kaldewey is a singular phenomenon:  “He has managed to reinvent the book over and over, never finding one solution and simply repeating it. His books ‘leave tradition behind,…destroy received habits of looking at things,…hurt, and provoke courageous curiosity,’ as Kaldewey himself demands from the contemporary artist’s book in one of his manifestos… Kaldewey is almost completely independent from the art market, distributing the books himself at book fairs, especially in Frankfurt where he has been exhibiting since 1985. Over the years he has built a body of standing order clients who have collected every single book of the press. He cares little about the secondary market, using galleries most of the time only has exhibition spaces. This hives him the freedom to produce without demands from dealers or strong influences from movements or trends. Perhaps it is this independent position that makes Kaldewey’s work so powerful, delicate, and contemporary at the same time.”

75 Artist Books reminds us of the power of D.I.Y., of the artist’s ability to create on their own terms, to maintain absolute authority over one’s integrity, aesthetics, and destiny. To create is the nature of wo/man, and our purpose on earth. Kaldewey Press offers a vision of the book that is so pure in its essence, it recontextualizes our relationship to the form. We come to new levels of understanding through contemplation of that which exists on its own terms, inspiring a call to self-determination that is found in the best of all art.

Samuel Beckett, Qautre Poemes—Four Songs

Samuel Beckett, Qautre Poemes—Four Songs

John Eric Broaddus, Sphinx and the Bird of Paradise

John Eric Broaddus, Sphinx and the Bird of Paradise

Gunnar A. Kaldewey, Changing Waters

Gunnar A. Kaldewey, Changing Waters

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“In Soviet days, photography was regarded as subversive. It posed a potential danger, capturing images whose content and impact could not be fully monitored,” Thomas Köhler writes in his essay, “In the Streets”, which introduces Boris Mikhailov’s new monograph, Time Is Out of Joint (Distanz Verlag).

Köhler informs us, “Boris Mikhailov trained as an engineer. In the mid-1960s, he suggested to his superiors that it might be nice to make a short film about the factory where he worked. This short film was Mikhailov’s entry into artistic production. He took photos in a purely private context, too, and according to Mikhailov it was these nudes that drew suspicion when the KGB discovered them in the company laboratory. Photographs of this ilk—even though the subject was his own wife—were seen as pornographic and an expression of Western decadence. Mikhailov felt the force of state control and censorship first-hand: he lost his job and was thereupon confronted with an existential problem. Henceforth he worked entirely as a photographer, earning a living for many years thanks to a side job as an assistant photographic technician.”

It is here in Time is Out of Joint that we see what came of this, of the life that began through the camera lens, of a way of seeing and a way of looking inside the former Soviet Union and after its fall, in a world inhabited by people whose life stories are but a mystery, whose visages belie the hardship of life and death, of a world that is in equal parts as grim and determined as it is aching with loss.

Read the full review atHatje Cantz Fotoblog

ohne Titel aus der Serie In der Straße/Untitled from the series In the Street, seit/since 2000 Farbfotografien/C-Prints Größe variabel/Variable sizes Courtesy Sammlung Berlinische Galerie, Berlin Copyright Boris Mikhailov

ohne Titel aus der Serie In der Straße/Untitled from the series In the Street, seit/since
2000. Copyright Boris Mikhailov

William Claxton: Jazz Life

December 9, 2013

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“Early in 1959 I received a telephone call from Germany. The person introduced himself as Joachim-Ernst Berendt, a musciologist living in Baden-Baden. In very good English, he explained that he was coming to America to do a study of ‘America’s great art—jazz.’ He went on to say that he needed a photographer to work with him—a photographer who liked and understood jazz. He had seen a great deal of my work published in European magazines and on record covers and thought that I would be the perfect choice to work with him—‘because your pictures have soul,’” William Claxton recounts in the foreword to Jazz Life: A Journey for Jazz Across America in 1960 (Taschen), a 600-page compendium that takes us on a fantastic voyage through one of the country’s most indelible and evocative arts….

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HATJE CANTZ FOTOBLOG

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Make a book or a building, if you want to leave your mark. Transform perception through experience. Redefine point of views from the inside out, or the outside in. Allow people to inhabit every dimension of space. We reconsider the world, as it is, with and without relation to us. We honor monuments of original thought, as they take form in the blocks that build human history. The book is the word recorded, the story that is told, passed from one generation to the next, over centuries made manifold. The building is the definition of wo/man in time and space, the portals through which we walk going into a past made present, that which lives both then and now. It is here in the building, that our story unfolds.

Kevin Lippert was an architecture student at Princeton, when he came upon master works in the library, and it was there that his love was born. Princeton Architectural Press began in 1981 when Lippert began making student edition reprints of volumes he thought worthy of attention. Though there was never a university tie-in to his publishing house, the name stuck after Lippert graduated.

He attributes his ignorance to his biggest asset in those early salad days. “I was in architecture school and began making books as a student. I found it was easier to make books than buildings. I graduated into the Regan recession with a 10% unemployment rate. It was easier to keep doing that than to get a real job. I wasn’t really running it as a business. I was reprinting books like Monuments of Egypt, a two-volume set with 700 or 800 pages of prints made during the Napoleonic era. It was elaborate. One volume was filled with gatefolds and a map that was suitable for framing. I wasn’t doing P&Ls then. By the time I figured out what these are, it was too late. We were up and running.”

In 1985, Chronicle Books was distributing Princeton Architectural Press. Lippert describes this partnership as, “A quantum leap from a hobby into a business.” The company, based in New York, is now home to a staff of 20 and releases 45 titles a year. With over thirty years in the business, the company has published over 1,000 titles to date. Each volume shares a love for the form, for the architecture of the book, from the photographs, drawings, and text to the art direction, design, and typography. Each book released by Princeton Architectural Press is distinctive for its stylish approach to some very smart ideas.

Take New York Changing: Revisiting Berenice Abbott’s New York by Douglas Levere and Paris Changing: Revisiting Eugene Atget’s Paris by Christopher Rauschenberg, a dialogue of photographs that bear witness to the all the beautiful confusion we like to call “progress.” That is where the building comes in, makes its entrance into the story, bringing us back to where it all began. The photograph, the building, the landscape, the city plan, the way in which design, man, and world intersect, all as collected between the pages of volumes dedicated to stories as diverse as Ghostly Ruins: America’s Forgotten Architecture by Harry Skrdla, Mythic City: Photographic New York by Samuel H. Gottscho, 1925–1940, and The Disappearance of Darkness: Photography at the End of the Analog Era by Robert Burley.  Through many of these books, we begin to see how the building is a creature as much alive (and as dead) as the people who inhabit its walls, who use it as it was intended. We see the rise, the highs, and the lows, the ebb and flow, the way in which the building defines and redefines itself.

At the same time, we come to understand the photograph as a construction of the very book itself. Windows, portals into other realms. Photographs on photographs, books on books. Books to inspire, to guide, and to provoke. Books like Publish Your Photographs Book by Darius D. Himes and Mary Virginia Swanson, 75 Artists Books: The Kaldewey Press, New York by Clemens von Lucius, and Big Up by Ben Watts, which exemplifies everything that is exciting about the monograph.

The best part about the list is its broad appeal, its ability to reach so many people who have an instinctive love for the medium. For the object-nature of the book, the way it inhabits space, the feel of the papers and the inks, the paperback with flaps or the flexible fabric covered boards. The way in which every aspect is considered in service of the story. Form follows function. That is the Princeton Architectural Press way.

Kevin Lippert

Kevin Lippert

Edie Sedgwick & Nat Finkelstein © Stephen Shore

Edie Sedgwick & Nat Finkelstein © Stephen Shore

A cat like Nat Finkelstein had nine lives before he died in 2009. A photographer, journalist, world traveler, animal smuggler, gun runner, drug dealer, ex-convict, revolutionary, and only God (and Nat) knows what else. Born in 1933 in Coney Island, Finkelstein studied with Alexey Brodovich at Brooklyn College before joining Pix and Black Star agencies before leaving the United States in 1969 to escape the Feds.

Possessed with blessings and curses in equal measure, Nat was drawn to the underground—and the underworld. As his memoirs recollect, “I am an anarchist and believe in the overthrow of Capitalism. I am studied and trained. I know that revolutionary victories are achieved through preparation, organization, stealth, and subterfuge, followed by violence only when victory is assured. I also believe in Lenin’s dictum that the problem with the bourgeois revolutionary is that the bourgeois revolutionary always believes that the STAGE of revolution in which they are participating is The Revolution. This accounts for my antipathy to certain insurrectionists (Hoffman, Ginsberg, et al) of the late 60s and early 70s.”

Never a follower, Nat set his own path, with New York City as his base of operations.  His iconoclastic disposition landed him at Andy Warhol’s Factory in 1964 while on assignment from Black Star. With unfettered access to the creation of art, film, and Superstars, his documentation of the earliest years of the Factory reveal a scene that has influenced New York’s downtown identity ever since. The glamour of Hollywood with the grittiness of New York conspired to create Pop Art as a way of life.

In his superb book, Andy Warhol: The Factory Years, 1964-1967, Nat recalled, “Andy Warhol’s greatest work of art was Andy Warhol. Other artists first make their art and then celebrity comes from it. Andy reversed this. For me the Factory was a place of sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, for some of the others it was: from ferment comes art.

“Andy’s strategy was organized like an air-raid though radar-protected territory. He would drop these showers of silver foil out of the plane to deflect the radar. Behind this screen of smoke and mirrors, there was Andy at work. That was the real function of the entourage. It was a way to get the attention away from Andy, while he hid behind them, doing his number. The entourage was there to distract the attention, to titillate and amuse the public, while Andy was doing his very serious work. Andy was a very hard-working artist, a working man. He hid this very carefully, creating the myth that his products just kinda appeared. I’m probably one of the very few photographers who actually has pictures of Andy with his hands on a paintbrush and the paintbrush touching the painting. He didn’t want to get paint on his hands. So like any great artist, he had an atelier. He manipulated people to do things for him. It was a very studied casual act, ‘Hey, you do it.’ While he was working, he also had others work for him… Well, what else is a Factory? It was a brilliant scam.”

Older than everyone (except Warhol), Nat was a macho from Brooklyn, the straight guy in a sea of Superstars and Pop Art, with a camera, a sharp tongue, and no time for most men. He called the Velvet Underground, “The Psychopath’s Rolling Stones.” Lou Reed’s response? “The three worst people in the world are Nat Finkelstein and two speed dealers.”

At a time when drugs became part of America’s identity, Nat knew the score, always able to access the counterculture’s inner core. In his memoirs, he recounts,  “The C.I.A utilized psychomemetics in the MK-ULTRA Project, a secret experiment in mind control, AKA ‘Brain Washing,’ often on unwitting subjects, several of whom would kill themselves. Time-Life publicized and popularized LSD in a stream of articles and pretty (although bogus) pictures. And then, in 1964, the mainstream media appointed an academic mercenary, ex-West Point, ex-Harvard Professor Timothy Leary as their ‘New World’ poster child. Leary—sponsored, financed and supported by a group of old wealth American industrialists—peddled ‘The Psychedelic Experience’ from a 4,000-acre estate in Millbrook, New York.  Buttressed by the intellectual cachet of Aldous Huxley, plus the financial backing of the Mellon family and the CIA, Timothy Leary founded an organization called IFIF (International Foundation for Internal Freedom) and recruited a coterie of academics with a mystical bent, who forgot that after Brave New World came 1984.”

Nat was invited to Millbrook, and the meeting with Leary was less than successful. For even a drug dealer as successful as Finkelstein was leery of the relationship between the government, the media, the figureheads that brought LSD and amphetamines into American popular culture. He eventually retreated to his home in upset New York, where journalist Al Aronowitz (who introduced the Beatles to Bob Dylan in 1964) described him as, “Nat Finkelstein, Kokaine King of Woodstock.” Nat reigned supreme for a moment or two, and then, as is the case in the underworld, the cover blew.

In 1969, his lawyer called him to New York and revealed a document from the FBI that stated:

A NOTICE

WE THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
HEREBY EMPOWER YOU TO BRING BACK THE BODY
OF
NATHAN LOUIS FINKELSTEIN
CLASSIFIED ARMED AND DANGEROUS
NONSUICIDAL

In fear for his life, Nat Finkelstein left the United States. He traveled the Silk Route in the 1970s, appearing in the most unlikely places, eventually sentenced to four years in prison in France for possession of hashish. Nat’s memoirs revealed, “While in prison, I petitioned the United States government, the CIA, the FBI, and the Drug Enforcement Administration, under the Freedom of Information Act. Both the FBI and the CIA to this day have refused to release my records. However, the DEA records stated that in 1973, while I was still a fugitive, all charges against me were dismissed upon judicial review by a Judge Hector (Lopez or Gomez), with an extreme castigation of the Federal government for illegal actions against me. However, the government not only did not inform myself, my family, my in-laws, or my attorney that these charges were dropped, but forced me to live the life of a fugitive until 1978. Further, my agencies, my publishers, my family, et cetera, had been informed that if they were to publish any work done by me, prior to this dismissal, that they would be arrested for aiding and abetting a fugitive. My voice had been effectively silenced.”

When Nat returned to America in 1982, a free citizen, he inquired to Black Star agency and Life magazine about the whereabouts of his negatives. He notes in his memoirs, “Previously, Howard Chapnick of Black Star had told my ex-wife Jill that a woman purporting to be my wife, with a supposed letter from me, had come to the agency demanding that all my negatives be turned over to her. The only thing remaining of my work, aside from my Warhol series, were four or five prints which were made during various assignments.”

While many photographs remain lost, other come to light. In 1995, a collection of 170 color transparencies from The Factory was discovered to be misfiled under the wrong name at a London photo agency. Among the images are Warhol eating pizza, John Cale dozing off, Nico reading the paper, Edie Sedwick applying lipstick—the intimate moments Nat shared through the years.

His time at The Factory was but a chapter in one of those rare lives that crisscross the world at length, as photographs continue to emerge from the recesses of the earth. Photographs shot on August 8, 1965 at a civil rights protest in Washington D.C. came forth from the archives of Life magazine in 2004. As Nat recalled in an essay for The Blacklisted Journalist, there were members of, “The DuBois Society, CORE (Congress Of Racial Equality), SNCC (Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee). Fresh from voter registration drives in Mississippi, militants from Newark and Harlem were joining up with kids from Y.A.W.F. (Youth Against War and Fascism). White middle class kids and black militants coming together in an uneasy alliance. Together with the various Pacifist societies, as well as the followers of Martin Luther King, who previously had eschewed the anti war movement, they joined to form an Assembly of Unrepresented People, determined to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right of free assembly in order to petition their government and declare the war in Vietnam to be a racist war.”

Then things got ugly. As Nat wrote, “The first people to be accosted and intimidated by the police were the Afro-Americans. During the march, an apparently late Nazi threw some of his own paint, and was also roughed up by the police. However, he was not arrested. At this point, the police forces were led and instructed by a non-uniformed, unidentified man, who apparently commanded the police to be rough. In fact, you can see this man in the pictures.  Who he was, no one may ever know. As you can see from the photographs, the other photographers stayed at a short distance from this action, whereas I was fully involved, as you can see one picture, to the point of being punched in the stomach by a policeman during the melee, even though I was wearing official press credentials identifying me as a photographer from Life magazine. I did my job recording the information before me; the brutality, the obvious concentration on people of color, the fingernails crunching nerve endings, the faces squeezed, the glee of the oppressors, the courage of the kids.

“As you’ll notice from these photographs, there were no “long-haired freaks?: no Abbie Hoffman, no Jerry Rubin, no Allen Ginsberg. No pot, no gratuitous violence on the part of the protestors.   This came later.  It is my firm belief this was done by the so-called capitalist “Free Press.” The mainstream media that appointed theatrical clowns such as Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Allen Ginsberg, and Timothy Leary, as representative of the antiwar movement. When actually, the antiwar movement consisted of the students and the ordinary American working class.”

Throughout his years on this earth, Nat was a champion for the underdog, defying the corrupt system through his art, words, and actions. His actions—while not always legal—held to another ethic; that integrity means holding firm in a raging storm. A typhoon like Nat Finkelstein may have left this earth, but his legacy is a life that challenged and ran counter to the hypocrisy of the world.

Originally published in
Le Journal de la Photographie
18 March 2011

Fat Girl :: A Love Story

September 24, 2013

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Carlos Batts

Carlos Batts

Man and Woman. Husband and Wife. Artist and Muse. It’s a path few travel because it demands. A kind of commitment to creativity unparalleled, as standard of excellence, an ability to balance the personal and the professional, the private and the public, a kind of elasticity and mutability that comes from years past, experiences shared, mysteries unfolding, new opportunities revealed, the moment made eternal. The photograph, the space where the two meet, where time stops and what once was shall now and forever be.

Fat Girl by Carlos Batts (Barnacle Books) is a love story. It is a story of love that begins with a knowledge of self, a fearless acceptance of truth, of a way of being that is deeply one’s own, so FTW if they complain. April Flores found her happiness in the body voluptuous, the body scorned by society as this, that, and the third thing because they won’t let a woman live.

April Flores does not just live. She flourishes. She is not but a flower but a field, a meadow, a deep luscious jungle, for she is not merely muse and model, she is a feminist porn icon to (knee-high) boot. This is her body—and this is her world. And it began with her first encounter with Batts, when he suggested she put on a bikini, and after a moment’s hesitation, Flores freed herself, and she stepped before the camera, and the love affair began.

Fat Girl is a tribute to the beauty of woman as she is, as she discovers herself in all her glory, as goddess, siren, and beauty. The photograph is the space where artist and muse meet, each enchanted with the other in the self, enacting Nature’s math of one plus one equals three. The photograph lives in our world, now a thing to contemplate as a reflection of both Flores and Batts and the space in between, where all are invited to meet.

The book is an invitation into their world, and a celebration of all the spirit made flesh, manifest in each photograph, for Miss Flores is an energy, radiating fire, light, flame. She changes her image but never her identity, like a diamond revealing facets of herself, as she grows, blossoming like the flora for which her name stands.

Flores writes, “It is hard for women of all sizes to feel confident because, from the time we are young girls, we are bombarded with messages and images in the media and other places that make us feel like we can never be too thin, too young, or too successful. It is even harder for plus size women to feel good about themselves because rarely are plus sized women represented in a completely positive way. The book is my answer to that problem. This book is an exhibition of my confidence and happiness as a plus size woman.”

Indeed it is, a beautifully, thoughtfully, tastefully curated collection of Batts’ deliciously vivid celebration of his wife, the yin to his yang, the fusion of seeming opposites. Through his photographs, we come to see his vision of a world where women are creatures of completeness, knowing themselves better than anyone else. No longer do we ask, “What do women want?” so much as we say, “Yes, more please.”

Flores is more than a sex symbol, she is a symbol of the sex that inspires the act of creation, be it in life and in art, in the way that the book becomes a treasure chest to be perused at leisure. Fat Girl is one woman’s path through this world, one that is exquisitely pleasurable, risqué and erotic, an adventure in art and style, a tongue planted firmly in chic. Batts’ photographs of Flores naked but for red stilettos and a Miss Piggy mask, remind us that the truest icon of womanhood begins with the Venus of Willendorf.

Fat Girl is deeply personal, yet splendidly friendly, just like Flores and Batts themselves, their lives an open book, a collaboration of kindred spirits now pressed in inks on paper and tucked between the covers. Fat Girl reminds us that she is we and we are she is beauty is deep. It is of the skin, muscle, flesh, bone, soul, and spirit. We are lucky to witness and share it.

Carlos Batts

Carlos Batts

COV_TROLLEYOLOGY_FIN_LR

Many people see their lives as worthy of books, of stories and histories, of memories repeating themselves over and over again with every turn of the page, memories of a time and a place that was once not too long ago but with every passing moment it slips further away. It is the ether to which we return and we hold to its shores, as the river sweeps through. We see and we smile and we think and we know that it comes and it goes.

The book then sets forth to stop time, time capsule, treasure chest of a world that will live on. In ink printed on pages in images and in words and the book speaks to us from the past in the present for the future and we hold it  close. We clasp it in our hands, we cradle it to our chest, and our eyes feast upon its contents, devouring every last bit. This is life in print.

And so it is to the book that we return to celebrate the great Gigi Giannuzzi. Trolleyology: The First Ten Years of Trolley Books is a delightfully bright mango number, all board debossed with the simplest boldface, and I’m thinking of that Classic A B C D F U C K t-shirt from back in the days. I love it, this little brick of a book, a marvel of engineering that needs no refinement whatsoever. Form follows function, like Le Corbusier said, and it is here that Trolleyology sets forth.

“Trolley is ten. We would like to thank, from the bottom of our hearts, all those that have helped us reach this milestone, the artists and the people that always believed in us, from our resolute supporters to our very patient printers. Glimpsing at the world as it appears now we little anticipated then, at the outset of this journey, what we have witnessed in those ten years. Wars waged on the precepts of lies, the dramatic effects of collateral damage on millions of innocent people, Geneva Convention rules ignored by ‘First World’ countries, the resurrection and proliferation of torture as a normal means to obtain information. Above all, we have witnessed the rise of fear, the emergence of a new breed of global authoritarianism and corresponding brutal methods of repression, from Burma to the UK, from France to Zimbabwe. At the same time there has been a dramatic fall in the sales of informative books. At Trolley we still believe in the power of information and the people’s undeniable right to know what is happening in their name. We shall continue to promote and support our authors in the next ten years, as we have done since Trolley first began a decade ago.”

Gigi penned these words, before his death. And like Biggie Smalls said, this is Life After Death, for in the circle spinning around in full, a revolution has been completed. Gigi stands for revolution, for things coming around again, and the legacy of Trolley can be found in all that have stood at his side, aligning themselves with Truth, Justice, and the Integrity of the Soul.

Trolleyology reveals it as this, and so it is here that we set forth, looking to what was done, how it was built by the mind of a most swashbuckling lunatic, who possessed a passion that could not be denied. It is a passion for speaking truth to power, for creating art, for using the book as the medium to bring us together, to marry the sacred and the profane, the book is art in the age of mass reproduction and it lives and it breathes in a new milennia where it has a new kind of weight. The book exists. It cannot be erased. And it is the job of the publisher to tell stories worthy of the ages. Stories that command attention and respect, stories that force us out of our comfort zones, into the world outside the known, to a place that calls to our deepest humanity and asks us to be the change we want to see in the world.

Trolleyology offers up chapters from The Book of Life, each chapter dedicated to telling the story of a book on the Trolley list. Consider just a few and you’ll understand the depth, breadth, courage, and strength it takes to publish stories of this caliber:

Chernobyl: The Hidden Legacy by Pierpaolo Mittica
Purple Hearts: Back from Iraq by Nina Berman
Open Wound: Chechnya 1994-2003 by Stanley Greene
A Million Shillings: Escape from Somalia by Alixandra Fazzina
Say Yes to a Rosy Future: Nicolas Righetti
Double Blund: War in Lebanon 2006 by Paolo Pellgrin
Crosses: Portraits of Clergy Abuse by Carmine Gallasso
Taliban: Thomas Dworzak

The list goes on and on, each chapter a rabbit hole into another world, each book a portal into a truth on earth. Gigi’s gift was his passion, and it was this passion that he brought where ever he went, and it was this passion that changed our lives, with each and every book. It is this passion that we see in the pictures and read in the words, in the stories of how each book came to be, and the lives Gigi touched with love.

Trolleyology sits behind my desk on a narrow ledge, a shelf that is home to the books that shape my inner and outer worlds, from The Rumi Collection and The Way of Chuang Tzu to I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp by Richard Hell. And it is that image of the tramp that stays with me, the tramp whose heart is huge, whose spirit is luminous, and whose legend lives on in eternity. It is that trap that is Gigi and his trolley of books, his curiosity lit like a fire, like a flame, whose soul radiates with each and every turn of the page.

The book is the mirror into which we look, not just at ourselves, but a reflection of those who bring it into existence. The book as object, idea, invention, inspiration. The book that calls to a higher self. The book as created by Gigi Giannuzzi. Visionary. Activist. Artist. Emissary. Gentleman. Madman. Publisher. God Bless.

~*~

NYC Book Launch: Trolleyology
The First Ten Years of Trolley Books

Monday Sep 23, 2013
7:00 pm – 9:00 pm

THE POWERHOUSE ARENA [Dumbo]
37 Main Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201

For more information, please call 718.666.3049

RSVP appreciated: RSVP@powerHouseArena.com

Men (- Shirts) + Books = Ahh

Men (- Shirts) + Books = Ahh

Joie Iacono: J.O.I.E.

September 19, 2013

Autoportrait by Joie Iacono

Autoportrait by Joie Iacono

Detail of "Power Play" by Cédrix Crespel

Detail of “Power Play” by Cédrix Crespel

Autoportrait by Joie Iacono

Autoportrait by Joie Iacono

Joie Iacono is a diamond, polished to shine, reflecting, refracting, and bending light at she desires. A photographer, painter, designer, director, stylist, actor, DJ, and collaborator, Iacono is a many-faceted gem who best embodies the phrase, “I am every woman.” She first picked up a camera at the age of eight and turned the lens upon herself, becoming both artist and model in each frame.

“My work is diaristic; I am always pulling elements from what is going on in my life, to re-enact and perform these moments for the camera. I am an artist, a business woman, a wife, a homemaker, and a world traveler—yet I’ve been an outsider all of my life. As humans, we are such chameleons. I believe in making the world what I want it to be. My birthday is December 31; according to astrocartography, that’s the Day of the Joker. The Joker is no card and yet it is all the cards in the deck at the same time. I experience nothing and everything. In my art I am capturing the experiences I am having from a tertiary place. I am observing the changes and allowing the process to take place. My mantra for the last couple of years has been to let experiences pass through myself, rather than carry them with me. I am being a receptor, a channel, a path for these ideas.”

It is through these channels that Iacono’s imagery travels, finding its form as it makes its way through time and space. In 2003, Iacono debuted her photographs in “To Drown a Rose,” a solo exhibition in New York’s Chelsea Gallery District. Her work was met with great acclaim. She recalls, “After my success, I got shy about being so open with my life. It took me a long time to begin working intuitively again. I could hear the voices of critics in my head, or wondered what buzz words gallerists might use to pigeonhole my work, and that made me scared of success. Working on commissions for other artists such as Antony and the Johnsons helped. I could put things forward for other people, and explore where my vision and their vision would intersect. That really helped on a personal level. It got me back to myself. My work became about exploring insecurities, narcissism, vanity, beauty, self hatred and self love.”

It is now, ten years later that Iacono returns to the world stage in “J.O.I.E.”, a collaboration with Cédrix Crespel opening September 19 at AD Galerie in Montpellier. The exhibition, which features Crespel’s paintings of Iacono’s photographs, runs through October 19. Crespel’s press materials describe an admiration that borders on idolatry, a love and affection that elevates Iacono to kitten on a pedestal status. The text notes, “From this exchange emanate the grandiose portraits of J.O.I.E., with their fluorescent lipstick traces that illuminate the penetrating and piercing tints, their fluttering black satin sheaths and their cracking garters. The artist does not center sexuality in the glimpse of a thigh, an erect nipple or a moist mouth, but in these stretched forms, gloved in black, playing striptease with the arms and the hands of the model. Joie is depicted as dressed, and her finery, though light, seems like a substitutive virginity. She is passionate about her role, and she photographs herself in the poses the artist will later reproduce in paint.”

Iacono embraces all of the luxuriousness a sex kitten promises. “These works show how I see myself, and then how Cédrix sees me. They place importance on the object and this gives me the opportunity to perform, to act, to be Bardot. I didn’t have to overthink a thing. I just put on a little make up, locked myself in, and I took pictures of myself. It was a great way to blow off some steam!”

Iacono then references a Buddha quote: “You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” Her portraiture reflects her profound respect for her being, and the photograph becomes a marriage of inside and out, of soul and visage, of director and star, of bridges across seemingly opposite sides of life, each image Iacono creates is a collaboration between artist and muse. Two equals one in this duet that celebrates the feminine, the goddess, the siren song that calls to all in the mortal realm.

“Being human you can affect change. I’d much rather be a dolphin but they can’t effect change in the same way. That’s part of the burden. The human condition is heaven and hell. The cycles of beginning and ending, light and dark, spring and fall, death and rebirth, they are universal principles. This is a space of discovery, and of meditation. Think of crying and laughing; the place where they meet is rapturous. When we love ourselves as much as we love others, we allow ourselves to be open and let it pass through you. That’s a huge driving force in my work right now.” Which makes Iacono ripe, vibrant, and alive, her vision of self is strong and passionate enough to capture Crespel’s imagination this Fall.

Studio View of "Accident In Paradise" by Cédrix Crespel

Studio View of “Accident In Paradise” by Cédrix Crespel

"Folle De Joie" 130x97 2013

“Folle De Joie” 130×97 2013

Valerian" 162x130 2013 Personal Collection of Cédrix Crespel

Valerian” 162×130 2013 Personal Collection of Cédrix Crespel

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