September 16, 2014
In the 80s, a time before Photoshop and plastic surgeons offered picture perfect complexions, masking even the slightest imperfections, Johnny Rozsa captured the flawless features of Hollywood’s fresh crop of celebrity beauty. Rozsa captures pristine beauty and the exuberance of 115 stars before they were famous, and shows us what they were like before they began following the plan for eternal youth, an elixir of Botox, surgical procedures, and editorial support in the form of computer generated beauty.
From Hugh Grant to Halle Berry, Janet Jackson to Nicholas Cage, John Malkovich to Natasha Richardson, with a special section dedicated the gay legends including Leigh Bowery, Quentin Crisp, and Divine, Untouched (Glitterati Incorporated), captures the era’s most enduring icons at a time where ingénues rubbed shoulders with luminaries like Charlton Heston, Jane Russell, Joan Collins, Dolly Parton, and Tina Turner.
Rebelling against the paparazzi’s obsession with capturing unflattering shots that compromise the integrity of celebrities to increase sales to a snark-fueled populace, Rozsa’s work pays tribute to the old school Hollywood model of glamour. Be it Rick James or Robert Mitchum, Aretha Franklin or Muhammad Ali, Mariah Carey or Sade, Rozsa’s camera captures all the glitter and glitz of fame, beauty, and celebrity style during the 80s.
Born and raised in Nairobi, Johnny Rozsa spent his earliest years in a beautiful and remote country where every day was an adventure. “Living in Kenya made me curious,” he observes in his introduction to Untouched (Glitterati Incorporated), a collection of celebrity portraiture. He arrived in London in the 1960s and, after college, ran a vintage shop in Covent Garden where he met fashion editors, models, actors, and photographers on a daily basis. Making the rounds at all the parties, Rozsa hobnobbed with the likes of Ian McKellen, Leigh Bowery, and John Galliano while setting off on his own journey as a portrait photographer.
Rozsa recalls, “When I was a teenager I painted. I enjoyed the texture of oil paints and painted almost every day from the age of 15 until I turned 20. In Nairobi, I had several solo exhibitions and sold quite a few paintings, which were mostly of faces, with big eyes, long lashes, and big pouty feminine lips—and that was just the men!
“I loathed filling in backgrounds because they were so time consuming, and often wished I had an assistant to do the boring bits! I studied Communications at College in London and it helped me develop the ability to connect with other people and to comprehend the immense power of journalism, of radio and television.”
Read the full story at THE CHIC.
September 4, 2014
We who know most paintings by their photograph are more often than not looking at distortions that arise from the process itself. Flattened a three dimensional object, the painting becomes a shadow of its former self, the energy that once was live on the canvas now lost on the page. But our eye acclimates, and we read distortions of color and texture and surface with infinite grace, and we have mentally replaced the copy with the original until we come to see it face to face.
Where the tradition of Western painting once sought to become a time immemorial depiction of the transitory nature of life, the camera easily upset this apple cart. By producing a more accurate representation of the thing itself, the camera liberated the painter from reality and allowed them to explore the medium itself. This would begin in the mid-nineteenth century, just as the camera took hold, and painters, informed by this process, began to study the effects of light itself.
But before this, there was one last gasp at a kind of realism that showed the danger of time elapsed. This is most evident in the still lifes of the period, of the faithfully rendered fruit and flowers that sparkle with life and hint at death. These still lifes remind us of the place where Man and Nature meet, as Man carefully culls from the garden to create a bounty upon the table and plate.
During this era, worked American painter Raphaelle Peale, who concentrated intently upon the genre to create a distinctive atmosphere that has been described by art historian Alexander Nemerov as eccentric. As Nemerov notes, “Raphaelle’s paintings simulate the artist’s own physical existence projected into the objects of perception,” creating a tangible quality that makes his subjects more life than still.
In response to Peale’s work, Sharon Core has created Early American (Radius Books), a series of photographs faithfully recreating the paintings themselves. Core was interested in the uncanny lifelikeness of Peale’s work, which blended an American austerity with a distinctly non-American style of painting to create a series of paintings that are more of a period than of a place. Core was also interested in the relationship between illusionism, trompe l’oeil, and photography could be explored through replication of the original still life itself.
As Brian Sholls notes in the book’s introduction, “It took Core long hours to collect the items (both organic and inorganic) necessary to re-create Peale’s compositions. At first she spent time exploring antiques stores, garden centers, and flea markets in New York’s Hudson Valley. However, the age and rarity of what she sought made that work impossible, so she turned to more systematic methods. For dishes and tableware, including a particular kind of Chinese export porcelain so prevalent in Peale’s canvases, she monitored auctions on eBay. For rare and heirloom species of fruit and flowers, such as Anne Arundel melons, she likewise turned to online sources, such as the Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants.”
Working closely to recreate every last detail of the original works, Core has produced a series of photographs at once magnificent, evocative, and provoking questions about the nature of the relationship between the mediums. Artists aim to recreate both their inner and outer world, more often than not producing a dialogue between the two. Where Peale was inspired to use still life to document America’s bounty in the country’s earliest decades, showing us how the newest nation of earth was rapidly modernizing and kept abreast of the developments in Europe, two hundred years later, Core is inspired to reflect on this in the medium that surpassed painting as the most faithful mode of representation.
It is here that Core’s work as a photographer gives us pause, for her dedication to the original work creates a surreal feeling of hyper-realism that is unfamiliar in photography. It is a kind of realism that is about the medium of painting itself, as Core deftly manipulates her camera to record the painterly qualities of light, color, and the invisible brushstroke that makes realist painting so real it’s fake. Looking at Core’s photographs we are reminded of the act of painting itself, and the way the camera can manipulate the surface of the image to create the same feeling on its own terms.
Early American is a treasure trove, a collection of photographs that are both new and old. These images remind us of a way of life so long gone it evokes a powerful response, a kind of nostalgia for a time and a style that is no longer part of our lives. And yet at the same time, Core reminds us that the past is never over, it is part of our lives, forever recreated as we need it to serve us as a means to understanding and experiencing life.
First published 8 March 2013 in
Le Journal de la Photographie
August 28, 2014
“All the new media, including the press, are art forms which have the power of imposing, like poetry, their own assumption,” Marshall McLuhan observed. We live in a time when new media is so ubiquitous as to be omnipresent and the only escape from the world we’ve built is to be out of satellite range—or, even more difficult, to simply turn it off.
But we don’t because we won’t because, like the greatest pharmaceutical drugs, new media has rewired our brains to change the way in which we perceive ourselves and the world itself. The way in which we live has become so extreme that we are hard pressed to remember how we operated any other way. We take for granted the way in which these interactions create and define experience, allowing ourselves to fall under the spell, whether we want to or not. At a time when to not have a Facebook account is an act of defiance, we must consider the bigger picture—the machine itself.
Gingko Press has just released The Book of Probes, a collection of Marshall McLuhan’s finest words culled from his books, over 200 of his speeches, his classes at the University of Toronto, and from nearly 700 shorter pieces he published between 1945 and 1980. The book has been designed by the renowned David Carson, and is aesthetically divided into two sections. One section features quotes, set against the traditional white background. This section is understated, simple, and easy to grasp. It allows the words to do the work of words, and requires nothing except our focused attention.
What makes The Book of Probes fascinating is the other section, the one in which Carson interfaces with McLuhan on a dynamic level. Here, McLuhan’s words are set against a graphic, a photograph, or an illustration. The spread becomes a synthesis of image and text, where the font and layout of the words change the energy of the image upon which they lay. The written word takes on an aesthetic dimension, conveying in equal parts meaning, spirit, and energy. Meanwhile, the image no longer serves as images traditional do—it does not offer reportage or meaning on its own terms. Instead it serves as a vehicle for the words themselves, fusing with the spirit and the energy of the greater thing—the Idea as Ideal.
One of the most challenging aspects of the photography book is the use of words. Words, so dominant in our culture and our society, demand our attention in the way nothing else quite does. They are perceived by the eye and translated by the brain. They are a series of symbols that mean different things depending on the way in which they are ordered. The more evocative the order, the more compelling the idea, until something clicks inside us, and the words stop being words and start being “real.”
When images appear near a photograph they are taken as something greater than words. They are taken as interpretations of the thing which we are viewing. We either read or resist, we want to know or we don’t. We trust our perceptions or we give them over to another to define our experience for us. The challenge of great photography books is how to find the balance between the image and the text, the way to provide information and context without altering our visceral experience of the image itself. Words should be used to provide support, but all too often we become lazy and allow the words to pull the cart.
The Book of Probes is powerful because it addresses just this issue, with words that comment on the experience as we are living it. Taken on their own, McLuhan’s observations are essential to cutting through the fog and the haze of cultural complicity. His insights force us to question our assumptions about the way we communicate, the way we connect, the way we create meaning through media today.
“Obsolescence is the moment of superabundance,” he notes, making us think about why print took such a sharp nosedive, a decline from which it may never recover. In the world of photography books, that superabundance was all too obvious. With the transition to digital production at the same time that China grew in the print industry, costs declined so dramatically that the publishing model of producing more for less did itself in. While publishers were focused on producing cheap product, no one was talking market share or audience building. Instead publishers stood back as superstores killed the retail industry, only now to be terrorized by the power that Amazon wields. No small thing the company named itself after the great rainforest and the great woman warrior. Did publishers really think they stood a chance against a business model that took advantage of their short- sighted thinking?
McLuhan’s single quote in a book of 576 pages stands out to me, but that is only because that is the spread to which I flipped as I write this story. Turn another page and there is a question McLuhan poses. “What happens when the ad makers take over all the popular myths and poetry?” What do you think? What do you feel? We all live in a world where advertising has become culture and culture has become advertising and it becomes very difficult to distinguish the line between art and commerce. That is—if there ever was one to begin with.
The Book of Probes is, in many ways, the ultimate objet de McLuhan. It forces us to stop rushing from end to end, to enjoy the means and the journey instead. It asks us to contemplate and consider rather than conclude. It suggests that the answers do not matter as much as the questions do.
Originally Published 12 March 2012
in Le Journal de la Photographie
August 11, 2014
The portrait has become the icon of our times. Where we once venerated gods and saints, we now elevate ourselves to the object worthy of beholding, worthy of veneration—by ourselves, our loved ones, or by perfect strangers. The portrait is a means of recording that one moment in time as a universal constant; this is us now and forever more, this is who we are and how we see the world. And as we see, so we are seen. And as we believe, so we become.
The portrait was originally an invention of painting and sculpture, a means of recording greatness to sway the populace. Kings and queens and lesser nobles had likenesses produced as a means of asserting their power. For the image speaks in every language and can be understood by all, no matter when we live, what we perceive through our eyes is a mirror of the world.
When photography replaced painting as the tool of recording life, painting had to redefine itself. But photography, photography was immediately taken as a form of truth, as a means of both art and reportage at the same time. It is a construction, in as much as all objects exist in our mind first. But it also the reconstruction of memory as mediated through our contemplation of the object itself.
It is this, the significance of portraiture in our lives, that makes the work of photographers Seydou Keïta and Malick Sidibé so profound. Their ability to show us the lives of modern Africans forever changes our assumptions about the place in which life began. The politics of Africa are so tremendous it does not behoove me to try to frame them within this piece, but suffice to say the work of these photographer strips us of the assumptions, prejudices, and distortions that history has decreed.
There is something about being one of the people that one photographs that has authenticity. Not just authenticity, but authority. Both Keïta and Sidibé are from Mali, one of the poorest nations in the world. But you would never know this to look at their photographs for the people who stood before their cameras maintain a dignity that defies the worst of circumstance. Humanity, such as it is recorded in portraiture, is how we see ourselves in our own eyes—and thus we reflect our self-image back on the world.
It is in these reflections that two beautiful new books have been released: Seydou Keïta: Photographs Bamako, Mali 1948–1963 (SteidlDangin) and Malick Sidibé: The Portrait of Mali (Skira). Sidibé’s photographs cover the period of the early1960s through the 1980s, making these volumes a discourse on the continuity of people, photography, and portraiture created in Mail from colonialism to revolution to dictatorship. Democracy was finally established, but that was after these photographs were taken, so what we are looking at is people living in the shadows and aftermath of French occupation.
The Keïta book is a marvel. It stands at 17 x 12.3 inches, with 412 pages and over 400 photographs. It is as much a piece of furniture as an objet d’art unto itself. It is a timeless compendium of portraits, mostly unpublished, taken by the man who became Bamako’s most successful portrait photographer during the 1950s and 60s.
It offers us a glimpse into the space where the public and private meet. For no matter how carefully we compose our face, there is always something in the eyes that gives us away. There is desire, dreams, hopes, fears. There is who we think we are and who we wish to be. There is who we are with one another, and who we are when we stand alone. Seydou Keïta: Photographs Bamako, Mali 1948–1963 is a picture window into a time and a place that few of us know or understand or investigate for the mythology of Africa is so vast and grand.
Keïta’s portraits show us that all the world over, in any time or place, humanity is more alike than it is different. We know love and we know hate. We know beauty and we know ugliness. We know others in as much as we know ourselves, and when we look at these portraits, what we see is the the ephemeral forever caught by the eternal.
Beautifully complementing this volume is the book by Sidibé, a paperback book that offers us a look both inside and outside the photographer’s studio. Sidibé’s work is taken after colonial occupation ended and we see the people of Bamako creating themselves as in a new world. It is a space where traditions of the past meet the opportunities of the present, where one can create themselves in the space between. Sidibé’s portraits have an emotional intensity that can only be ascribed to the space in between the photographer and the subject, that one moment in time where eyes connected and energy was shared, and the spirit of life is forever caught on silver gelatin paper.
In going outside the studio, Malick Sidibé: The Portrait of Mali shows us a larger world, an environment and a context into which these people appear. We see Mali through the eyes of one of its citizens, and the Mali he knows is not the Mali that is reported to the world. This is a place of power and beauty and style, and though it may be among the poorest nations in the world, you cannot put a price on pride.
The work of Keïta and Sidibé serves a great purpose—to enlighten and inspire us with self respect and self love. To understand Africa is to understand ourselves. Let us begin by listening to Africans tell us their truth.
First published 22 March 2012
Le Journal de la Photographie
August 8, 2014
Coney Island is a world unto itself. It is a time and place that exists independent of everything else. Situated where South Brooklyn meets the Atlantic Ocean, it is an urban fantasy of beachfront life. It is equal parts escapism and entertainment, strange and seedy and strikingly American at its core. It is a fantasy world of populist delight: rides, games, and half-naked girls.
Harvey Stein has been photographing life in this inimitable stretch of land since 1970 and the result is Coney Island: 40 Years 1970–2010 (Schiffer), and it features a carefully curated selection of images that take us there. From the boardwalk and the pier to the amusements and the Mermaid Parade to the workers and the beach, Stein’s photographs take all that is original and iconoclastic about Coney Island and puts them in arm’s reach.
While Coney Island is available to all, it is home to Brooklynites. It is a place that breeds its own kind of people and attracts them in kind. It has a “you tawkin to me?” kinda vibe that allows its denizens to live in the public eye with a kind of shameless nakedness of spirit that makes its inhabitants unlike any other. It attracts exhibitionists and voyeurs, the people themselves being the greatest part of the show. And whether they are participating or simply kicking back, they make for what, in Stein’s eye, is undoubtedly, a memorable photo opp.
There is a spirit of love and acceptance that surrounds this neighborhood, and part of that comes from being a place for escape—what goes on in Coney Island stays there. There is an urban edge to this slice of paradise, a way in which the bright sun casts a long shadow and there is a sense of something else lurking within this distinctive world. It is that the stress of New York is not quite forgotten but simply put aside, and it lingers and it floats and it makes one wonder just who these people are. How did they get here and how did they get this way? Stein’s photographs do not provide answers so much as they provoke question after question with each turn of the page.
Mr. Stein observes, “Coney Island is about people, it’s the people that intrigue me and what I am always drawn to photograph. All sizes, shapes, races, ages, religions, behaviors. The amusements, the sea, the open air, the sun and the sand all impart a kind of freedom of behavior that I don’t see anywhere else. And I am interested in the contradictions and ironies present in its social world. I am always impressed with how we all get along at Coney Island.”
Read the full story at THE CLICK.
Marilyn Monroe is a star cast to earth, a spirit in the flesh, and on camera, that’s ethereal. Eternal. Forever a star glowing bright in the sky and we watch as it burns, burns everything in its wake until one day, it’ vanishes. Explosions of sorts, and things leading in that direction, and stories and legends and myths. And Marilyn was the greatest star of them all.
August 5 marks the 52 anniversary of her death, a death that has become as iconic as the legend herself. Less than one year before she died, Monroe posed for Douglas Kirkland, who was then a young photographer on assignment for the 25 anniversary of Look magazine.
The date was November 17 and as Kirkland recounts in his book, With Marilyn, An Evening/1961 (Glitterati Incorporated), “My greatest difficulty during that meeting was telling Marilyn exactly how I wanted to photographer her. As I’d looked into her eyes, which seemed especially warm and virginal to me that evening, I felt as though my two older colleagues were sitting there in judgment, like two ancient schoolmasters, as I tried to gently seduce her into doing the picture I had envisioned, I felt conflicted: one part, the masculine, photographer side, just wanted to say, ‘You’ll get into this bed we’ll have, with nothing on, and we’ll figure it out from there. Period!’
“However, the Sunday School-side of my background wouldn’t let the words come out. Marilyn, with her sweet intuitiveness, made it easy. She simply said, ‘Okay I know exactly what we need. We need a bed with white silk sheets and nothing else, and it will work. But,’ she added, ‘the sheets must be silk.’ She had done the biggest part of my job for me: understood my ideas and articulated them better than I had been able to—bless her.”
In Kirkland’s photographs from this historic sitting, there is an energy, a spirit flowing through the ether, captured forever in these images, a force that floats through our fingers as we page through the book, which is page after page of Marilyn wearing nothing but Chanel No. 5 in bed. It is quite literally exquisite.
Read the full story at THE CLICK.
July 31, 2014
On the cover of Gitta Seiler’s About Girls (Kehrer Verlag) is a beautiful teenager carefully applying mascara to her lashes as she gazes in a compact. Her skin glows with the porcelain finish that youth possesses in droves, and she reclines comfortably as she makes herself beautiful. This image, one of pure repose, is soon revealed in a chapter headed by a single word: Aborted.
It is in this chapter that Seiler visits an abortion clinic for underage women, taking casually composed photographs that belie the pathos of the moment. There is something horrific about these images in that they are understated glimpses into a moment the turning point in many a girl’s life. We may debate the idea that pregnancy is ever unplanned, we may consider that every boy and girl knows the consequences for their actions and are tempting Fate for reasons we cannot understand, but we can consider this: once conception occurs, all preconceived notions are meaningless in the face of this decision. Life or death is controlled for the first time by women, very young women.
Seiler writes, “…I wait with mothers at bed who comfort, and concerned father. I wait for girlfriends who accompany their girlfriends. I wait for a very small ray of happiness. And there: The only boy on the bench serves the hopes of all. There are still people like this, if you’re lucky, people who stay, people who come with you, people who are there. I am stuck in the girl’s soul and I weep. I wipe away my tears and look in them mirror. Like the laughing girl in the mirror who says: it’s over, it’s better than yesterday, things will go on, things will happen. It is a passing misfortune.”
But is it?
Seiler’s photographs are distinctly unsentimental, quiet yet emotionally charged challenges to our assumptions about and understanding of girls. This challenge is issued to both men and women, for in looking at her photographs I find myself reconsidering everything.
Jailed is the single word of another chapter. Seiler takes what has become a fetish and shows us the dirty underbelly; reform school girls are not sexy. Skin is littered with self-inflicted cuts, with self-made tattoos, ad aged by stress. Does it matter what they did to get here, or should we consider who failed them first and led them to act out crimes as a way to release their pain?
There is something taboo about females committing crimes, if only because most shut down and quietly punish themselves. But here we see the girls whose aggression is so extreme, they decided to punish society instead. Like the girls in the abortion clinic, we can never know what lurks deep within their heart, what remorse they may feel (if any) for betraying themselves in this way.
Prison is a lonely place, a place where one is not just locked away from the world, but locked within themselves, forced to deal with or avoid the real issue. That recidivism is high is understandable; nothing about this space creates a feeling of trust, respect, or human potential.
Unwanted is a terror, a living nightmare. It is the story of some girls who did not have the abortion. It begs the question that we can never know; is it better to take a life or to bring it into this world under these conditions? I would hazard to say, there is no answer to this question, for no matter how you try to slice it, abortion is a horrific act. But so to is bringing a child into this world that you deeply resent.
And yet it is all too common for people to just this, not stopping to consider that not one person on this earth ever asked to be born. How it has come to pass that sex has become a thing that we so easily disrespect, so much so that lives can be destroyed by one of Nature’s greatest gifts is evidenced in Seiler’s photographs. There is no love; there is resentment and disgust, there is despair and despondency, there is a much bigger problem waiting to grow up and act out these emotions, emotions passed from by a dark spirit across generations.
Lastly, there is Ran Away, the first chapter of the book. Maybe these girls were unwanted, unloved once. Like all of Seiler’s photographs, it is impossible to know what has brought these girls to this point, what it takes to break them down into nothing but crumbs. About Girls is one of the most powerful and provocative portrait of girls that I have ever seen, taking on some of the darkest aspects of humanity without offering reprieve. But more than that it offers no answers at all but it offers a question mark, a call to rethink what we know.
First Published 28 October 2011
Le Journal de la Photographie
July 29, 2014
Debra Shriver, a 12th generation Southerner, Francophile, passionate preservationist and jazz devotee, is the author of two books on New Orleans: Stealing Magnolias: Tales from a New Orleans Courtyard (Glitterati Incorporated) and In the Spirit of New Orleans (Assouline). Although she is an inveterate New Yorker, living and working as a media executive here in the city, her heart belongs to New Orleans.
Shriver recalls, “Creating both books was a labor of love. Each was written in less than a year. I’d been collecting clips, photography, and books on New Orleans for years. I have always been a student of the city. Both volumes are a great mix of old and new, of vintage, historical, and contemporary street scenes, portraits, landscapes and still lifes.
The first book, Stealing Magnolias, was a very personal book. “There were many intimate vignettes taken throughout the house, like a café au lait served in the morning or a beautiful banana truffle adapted from a recipe I remembered as a child.
“New Orleans feeds all the senses,” Shriver said. “For me, ‘chic’ is another word for beauty. It could be the scent of a perfume, or a bottle of wine just poured, or the color of flowers on the table, or a person walking down the street with a bigger-than-life attitude.
“I opened Stealing Magnolias with a beautiful quote by Roald Dahl: ‘And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.’’
Read the full story at THE CHIC.
Steven P. Harrington and Jaime Rojo are Brooklyn Street Art (BSA), one of the most successful and influential websites dedicated to the underground ART scene that has taken the world by storm. Since 2008, BSA has been documenting the creative energies that take root and flourish in the street, like an insistent flower spouting through slabs of concrete.
Street Art is public art, usually unsanctioned work, which is executed outside of traditional art venues. Because much of it is posted illegally, it exists as a conversation between artist and audience independent of traditional realms for making, selling, and displaying art. With Street Art, there is no product. There is simply the idea made visual and expressed in physical form for all the world to observe.
Today, artists who choose the streets as their gallery are sharing their work in every corner of the globe, which makes BSA one of the most important hubs in the publishing world. BSA documents the trends in Street Art, covering the new hybrids, new techniques, and new mediums as they continue to expand our understanding of public art, speaking at length with The Click about the way in which photography and publishing preserve what is amongst the most ephemeral of all the arts.
Mr. Harrington and Mr. Rojo recall, “BSA started as an abbreviation for our first book Brooklyn Street Art (Prestel/Random House) and a way for people to quickly refer to us. The site initially was a simply page to give people an online location to learn more about the book with additional information about the scene on the street. We didn’t have any idea that it would grow into a clearinghouse for a global scene—in fact our first month we got 53 visits.”
Read the Full Story at THE CLICK.
July 18, 2014
For the past three decades, Ziggi Golding has set the bar for a standard of originality and creativity in the fine art and commercial photography worlds. She is devoted to cultivating talent and style within her roster of artists. As she notes, “I’m an enabler. I like to help people develop and realize their dreams.”
Since first becoming an agent in 1983, Ms. Golding has developed the careers of many of the top talents in the art, photographic, fashion, film, and music industries today. She sits down with The Click to discuss a life in photography.
Ms. Golding remembers, “Growing up in Jamaica, my mom always had a Roliflex. It was the one you looked down in. It was unusual then. It’s interesting that photography wasn’t my love. It was painting and drawing, art in its trues form. But I got interested in photography when I fell int modelling at the end of the 70s.
“As a job, I didn’t find modeling that interesting. I was more into the process of photography itself. After about six years in the industry, I started my own agency, the Z Agency. I wanted to protect models, as they were young and put in compromising positions. I also thought modeling was what you do when you didn’t know what to do with your life.
“I chose interesting people with a good look, amazingly talented people, and I started representing photographers early on like Andrew McPherson, and Geoff Stern, who had made the film, ‘Underground.’ It was part of my role to make things happen on a bigger level. For the ‘Underground’ I helped make a deal with Palace Pictures and Collin Callender, who went on to be the President of HBO Films. I made an early point of generating original work, in addition to booking people.
“With i-D and The Face, all through the 80s, two thirds of the content was connected with Z Agency, whether it was the photographers, models, stylists, make-up or hair. However I was not fulfilled by the modeling side of the industry. I was more interested in being the master of the project.”
Read the full story at THE CLICK.
July 14, 2014
We have a disturbing relationship with animals, perhaps founded in the idea that we are not one of them. As humans, we enjoy creating hierarchies where there may be done, consistently creating artificial tests of intelligence that elevate us above the animal kingdom. Does anyone think it strange that we would suggest a hypothesis like “A dog has the IQ of a three year old child”? What does that really prove except mankind is arrogant to a fault?
By presenting and reinforcing false walls between ourselves and the natural world, we forever doom ourselves to an arrogance born of ignorance, one that does more harm than good for both ourselves and all those inhabiting the planet today. We live at a time when we have altered the environment in such a powerful way that it is not just mankind who suffers from our hubris. Animals are the creatures Nature put forth to create balance in the cycle of life. Yet we have upset this balance in a myriad of disturbing ways.
Colleen Plumb’s new monograph, Animals Are Outside Today (Radius) is a powerful look at the way in which we have fetishized, capitalized, ostracized, appropriated, incarcerated, ignored, and observed the Others of the animal world in which we live. As Lisa Hostetler writes in the introduction, “Plumb’s photographs are not those of an animal-rights activist, wildlife photographer, or social documentarian…. If art is a form of philosophy, Animals Are Outside Today is less a manifesto and more a thought poem.”
Indeed, taken individually or as a group, Plumb’s photographs are a meditation on the way in which we have so consumed animals that, if not for her questioning eye, we might not notice at all. Most provocatively, the way in which animals have become a source of food is a questionable subject, for we know now full well that the cause of so many degenerative diseases is their regular consumption. Yet we choose to ignore this, placing pleasure over respect for both bodies—theirs and ours. Plumb’s image of the pigs hanging from meat hooks is incredibly powerful, perhaps because they look more like corpses than anything else. In a later image one such carcass is roasted up for the enjoyment of a group at the barbecue.
Another way in which our relationship appears as questionable is in the images taken at zoos, the cruelest prisons on earth. As animals are not afforded the same rights to which we give our prisoners, which is to say, no inhumane treatment, they are kept in false environments forever on public display. Do we think animals are unaware of their captivity and the way in which they are being treated as circus freaks for our amusement? Maybe the polar bear in Central Park has limited intelligence on the human scale, but it seems highly likely that it understand who the real fools are.
In that same way we may wish to consider house pets, animals confined to our domestic arrangements. Plumb includes an image of four birds in a cage hung beside a clothes dryer, creating an image of nightmarish possibility. The birds, no longer able to fly must now also contend with living besides a monstrous machine that reinforces a lack of concern about their welfare.
On the other side of this equation are the images of animals appropriated into our visual landscape. From posters and paintings to rugs and sculptures, from museum fossils and taxidermied examples to feather hats and lawn flamingos, Plumb offers a gentle look at the way in which we have appropriated animals into our landscape, making them objects of contemplation, enjoyment, and mystical beings. No longer are animals real but rather they are symbolic, standing for what we want them to mean rather than what we are. Compare the photograph of the sculpture of an elephant to the photograph of the elephant working in the circus tent—which one has it better? Perhaps the one that never lived.
Lastly, Plumb provides us with the most distressing of all images: the animal who have died free and independent. Their decomposing bodies, shot at the site of their death, are humbling images of the way in which life is never ever sentimental. Taken as a whole, this best represents the lack of romanticism of these images, yet something sacred remains, powerful and emotional, in each of these pictures. In Animals Are Outside Today, Plumbs images suggest (to me) that we question our assumptions and our position out of respect to all creatures on earth.
Original published October 2011 in
Le Journal de la Photographie
July 11, 2014
The world is a ghetto. We of the first world forget this but it is everywhere, more common than not, people living below the poverty line in conditions too raw for us to fully comprehend. When we do consider it, we vilify or romanticize; we imagine it not as it is, for rarely do we venture into the world of the underclass. Yet artists venture forth, exploring lands unexamined and unexplored, discovering stories waiting to be told. Douglas Mayhew does just this in his first monograph, Inside the Favelas: Rio de Janeiro (Glitterati Incorporated).
Mr. Mayhew observes, “The World Cup is a diversion driven by politics to keep people in line. Just like soap operas and Carnaval, they are a form of control—powerful tools the government has always used to take people’s minds off their problems and those of the country. And so, the climate of public dissidence that occurred prior to the start of the games is remarkable. Given the country’s colonial origins, public demonstrations as a form of social protest are shocking and the government hasn’t a clue of how to deal with angry citizens who are rising up, crossing class barriers, and fomenting against one of the basic tenants of Brazilian culture – corruption. The government’s reaction has been to increase police presence on the streets, ease regulatory restraints on the use of force, use increasingly confrontational forms of crowd control, and to restrict, in an informal way, access by journalists and photo journalists to protest events. Once the games are over, the elation of winning the right to host the games will quickly fade in light of their cost.”
Douglas Mayhew speaks with THE CLICK, taking us inside the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. Read the full story at THE CLICK.
July 10, 2014
The Republic of Niger, the largest nation in West Africa, ranked 186 of 187 on the United Nations’ Human Development Index for 2011. With over 80 percent of its land covered by the Sahara desert, the country’s predominantly Islamic population of 15 million is mostly clustered in the far south and west of the nation. The capital city of Niamey is located here, situated on the Niger River, the third longest river in all of Africa.
As photographer Nicola Lo Calzo writes in the afterword of his book Inside Niger (Kehrer Verlag), “The origin of the name Niger has proved enigmatic among modern researchers, and thus cannot be traced with certainty. The most accepted hypothesis is that the name derives from the Tuareg word: ‘gber-n-igheren’ or ‘river of all rivers’…. Since time immemorial, the Niger River has been a meeting point and a place of exchange among various ethnic groups. A genius loci, the river has served as a depository of myths and legends, as well as being the abode of great deities like Ba Faro (mother of humanity) and the all-important Noun. The Niger River is a fountain of living waters and a breath of life.” And so it was that Lo Calzo began to photograph the people of Niger as he followed the river some five hundred kilometers through the land.
Lo Calzo photographed people that work and live on the river, where most of the commercial activities take place, such as universities, public works, markets, fishing, slaughterhouses, vegetable gardens, and tanneries. The portraits show us people who are employed in a nation known by its high rates of unemployment, thus giving us a glimpse at the haves in a world of have nots, ensuring we understand how vital work itself is to the pride and identity of (wo)man.
The result is at once powerful and provocative, challenging any and all assumptions about Africa as anything other than a majestic world. As Laura Serani notes in her introduction to the book, “Lo Calzo’s empathy and respect towards his portrait models transforms them into heroes; a transformation that echoes the words of the Italian journalist Pietro Veronese: ‘No, all men are not equal; yes, races do exist and are divided between inferior and superior. Superior to all is the African.’”
Lo Calzo’s photographs reveal the heroism of a people living on the brink, caught in a web of poverty and environmental degradation that keeps them in harms way. Yet despite a quality of life that is virtually unfathomable to all in the first world, the people photographed by Lo Calzo maintain a dignity that belies their circumstances. Each portrait reveals only the subject’s first name and their location, bringing us face to face with the people who defy all odds by simply surviving in a nation facing constant hardship.
Most of Lo Calzo’s subjects are men of various age, and as they stand before his camera we witness a pride of being that challenges commonly-held Western perceptions of gender, class, and race as it pertains to the African man. Whether a ractor of the Catholic Church, clothed in the finery begetting his position, or workers in a slaughterhouse, covered in layers of blood, the men stand before Lo Calzo as they are, with a strong, silent, and somber masculinity that demands our attention.
Respect comes when respect is earned, and when it is given it is returned ten thousand fold. The men who stand before Lo Calzo like a mirror facing itself, and the honor and prestige bestowed upon the most common of men resonates like nothing else. His portraits recall nothing so much as the Biblical passage Matthew 20:16, “So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many are called, but few are chosen.”
Lo Calzo portraits show us that though we can never fully know what fortune has bestowed upon us, when we look into the eyes of his subjects we can see all that we have been given—and all that has been lost.
First published 25 Janiary 2013 in
Le Journal de la Photographie
July 8, 2014
Photographer and subject have a distinct relationship that is based on the sharing of ideas in mutual exploration of that which does not yet exist until the two come together to bring forth the work, the image that holds the wall or rests, nestled inside the book. The photograph is the space where two become one and what we see is the way in which they create something the world has never seen before.
“Every hat I have ever made has begun in my mind as a photograph. I can see it on the model, at the right angle, before I even begin. I can see what the girl’s going to look like and how it’s going to be worn. But it’s something that’s just for me,” writes celebrated milliner Philip Treacy at the introduction to Philip Treacy by Kevin Davies (Phaidon), an intimate and breathtaking retrospective of Mr. Treacy and Mt. Davies’ two decade-long partnership.
Mr. Treacy continues, “Photography, like design, is an obsession: an obsession with the final image. And most photographers, like most designers, are control freaks, because they care so much that it all looks incredible in the end. We believe in it. Whether you’re a make-up artist, stylist, designer, architect, photographer or anyone working in the creative industries, your work is a point of view. It’s your point of view.”
Mr. Treacy’s hats recall nothing so much as a time long gone, a time when men and women dressed head-to-toe before stepping out of the house. Hats are the last hurrah of a bygone era, a time when attention to detail was as important as expression of self. Mr. Treacy’s hats remind us that glamour is a state of mind, for to carry off one of his superb chapeaus one must have presence, power, and fearlessness.
Kevin Davies’ photographs of the hats themselves are a spectacle of the simplest effect. Set upon a faceless mannequin head, set against a white backdrop, there is nothing to see except the hats themselves. Photography is a comfortable reminder that this is likely as close as we shall ever get, but this closeness will set your heart aflame. That the hats can be worn seems almost too grand. To simply gaze upon their eloquent and effortless form would be enough.
Mr. Davies speaks with THE CHIC about his partnership with Philip Treacy as it developed throughout the years. Read the full story at THE CHIC.