October 23, 2013
The photography book occupies its own realm in modern life. It is both an object of art as well as a repository of knowledge, of spirit, and feeling. It is a record of the world as it is seen through the lens. It is a telling of tales real and surreal, documents of our time and place that are captured in inks lavished in images spreads across the page. The photography book delights in a world of mass production, in the way that it is at once the world of an artisan and a machine, of a world of reproduction in the grandest scheme. All to tell a story, to record a moment in time that accumulates in images that bring us far and wide.
Prestel Publishing understands this. As leader in the industry, they have developed a photography list that is brilliantly situated among a larger program that includes art, architecture, design, fashion, and children’s books produced with an eye for the extraordinary. They understand the book as an object of contemplation and study, and the way in which the medium it showcases defines the parameters of its presentation. This is a tribute to a refined vision of publishing that meets market needs. Featuring a list that includes monographs by Roger Ballen, Pieter Hugo, and Horst Friedrichs, as well as collections of work by Robert Mapplethrope, David Seymour (Chim), and Magnum Photos, Prestel’s list is a distinctive mix of the classic and the cutting-edge, brought together by a commitment to high-production values, elegant design, and consumer demand.
Founded in 1924 with over 500 English titles, Prestel is based in Munich, where it is a division of Random House Germany. Yet the company maintains an international flair, with offices in New York and London, and international distribution for their list. The success of the photography list can be attributed to the work of Curt Holtz, Commissioning Editor for Photography and Architecture Books. Holtz’s understanding of the artist as author, and the story that is to be told as it is laid across the pages of each book allows him to explore fascinating subjects that command the interest of the photography world, and beyond. The appeal of the monographs on the Prestel list is their ability to transgress cultural boundaries and to bring us inside new worlds.
Holtz observes, “It comes from a gut-level response when looking at the images, at the book dummy, meeting someone, you know, there’s something here. This can work. You understand the work in its context. You know if it will fly in London and New York, and how much can move on a local level. Perhaps it is niche but it has a universal appeal. You look at how this can translate, and what makes it have popular appeal. Of course there is the materiality, the paper, the inks, the production values, but there are many beautiful books that do not move. The spirit needs to be there, in the pictures.”
Consider the works of Pieter Hugo, which as distinct as they are extraordinary. From The Hyena and Other Men and Nollywood to Permanent Error, Hugo’s monographs sweep us in a whirlwind of the foreign and the familiar. His images heighten our senses, sharpen our eyes, make our hearts beat fast then slow then gasp. It’s flow, page after page after page. The elegance of their construction adds to the intensity of the photographs, as the physical weight of the book holds together the world inside Pandora’s Box, and what we are left after we close the covers is the feeling of magic which is the photography book.
It is this feeling for books that allows Prestel to execute the exquisite precision necessary to publish the work of Elinor Carucci. Mother, which is set for release in October 2013 and was edited by Karen Levine, Prestel’s New York-based Executive Editor, follows the birth of the artist’s twins. She photographed them as babies, as toddlers, as children, exploring the complexity of the relationship between mother and child. Such a tender, sensitive, highly personal and nuanced series such as this requires a delicacy of touch and of vision, as well as an inner strength. As Holtz describes the process of the creation of this book, the very metaphor of motherhood comes into its own.
There is a passion and an understanding that allows great books to be born, stories that peel back the layers of our daily lives, stories that take us into spaces we would never otherwise be and allow us to join in as witness and audience to a wide array of themes. “We’re in a bit of a privileged position,” Holtz notes of photography and book publishing. “This is a fantastic, small community who care about producing books, who care very deeply about making work that matters.”
September 24, 2013
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.
September 22, 2013
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.
September 19, 2013
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.
September 17, 2013
Sleep. It is the portal into another world, a shadow self, a space that exists inside the mind, so far beyond any dimension we’ve known before or may known since, for it is in this way that we take flight inside out bodies, leaving them aside as we explore new and fertile earth. And here upon this plane they lay, not simply inert, but in their own passages through time and space, telling their very own story.
And because we are inside, we cannot see, sleep is like our face, our visage for all to see but we to whom it belongs. We never quite know until we stand before the evidence of who we are when we are both in and outside of this world. It is then that a work like Sleep by Ted Spagna, Edited by Delia Bonfilio and Ron Eldridge with Martynka Wawrzyniak (Rizzoli New York) comes to the fore, to show us how it is, how we live, how similar and dissimilar, how familiar and foreign.
Here we see sleep through stop motion photography, which reminds me of how I light I sleep, awakening to every change in my space. The other night I lay in bed frequently awoken by a snore that was not my own and when I opened my eyes, we had both moved. New positions, over and over again. The choreography of the unconscious in continuous motion, and me, I’m taking note and smiling at how right before the sun arises, he has the covers gathered up under his chin.
And in these positions, he tells stories, stories I don’t know, in the very same way Spagna photographs capture a plot as it unfolds. It is said that gesture does not lie, and so when we look at each and every frame we find the mind in body as it responds to the travels of the mind and wherefore it goes, we can only imagine for the land of the unconscious is more a poem than an essay or a speech. It is both linear and not in that rhythm follows measure and time, just like music and dance.
Sleep then becomes a performance of sorts, private dancer to no one and nothing except the Lord up above. Or not. Hard to know, until gazing upon these grids, frame after frame after frame, each one a slight variation on a theme, a gesture that is created out of biological necessity. When looking at the body in this way, we see a kind if floating, a swimming, a movement through space that has nothing whatsoever to do with our upright nature.
As Dr. Allan Hobson writes in “The Influence of Science,” an essay which appears in the book, “Ted Spagna’s photographs have done more than any other medium to make sleep science visible and, hence, directly understandable to the general public…. Whether or not Spagna’s sleep portraits capture a hidden self, they are unquestionably surprising in their revelations of sleep as behavior—especially the tenderness of sleeping couples—and they are unquestionably visually rich, owing to Spagna’s meticulous concern with photographic technique.”
Spagna’s photographs reveal sleep as nothing so much as an adventure we barely fathom, as memories of out time in the shadow world fade int the light of day. Yet we engage, night after night after night, and for some, it is never not enough. And for others, it has become far too much. But there it is.
Sleep is that which we do in ways we do not know, until we reflect and study ourselves, investigate a world we all go, a world we all know, a world we can but barely begin to describe and it is in this way that Spagna’s photographs contribute to the vocabulary of sleep and build a dialogue, giving us a new means upon which to reflect and consider this world in which we live.
September 17, 2013
Rumi said, “Be the change you want to see in this world.” This is where it all begins. The power to create the world in which we want to live, to exact a future that is happening now, today, using all that exists at our fingertips. Exactly, it is this, I type as my fingers fly free across the keyboard. The Universe conspires to remind us of this. D.I.Y. Do It Yourself.
It’s like the 70s all over again. A return to the era when the artist represents the underground and brings new worlds to light through the publication of their vision in print form. It is this space, this world at our fingertips, a world we unconsciously read as our hands traverse the page. We feel the image, we let it sink in, we read the words as the pages turn. We see it unfold, with our eyes and our hands, the stories touching us as they rest in our laps. It is the book made manifest that reminds us of the beauty of physical life.
Bruno Ceschel knows this, though it came to him by way of seeming happenstance. After curating an exhibitions of self-published artist books for A The Photographer’s Gallery in London in 2010, the digital response was large enough to propel the website into ongoing curatorial project for artists and authors alike [we don’t really distribute books, we feature them, showcase them] and from this Self Publish, Be Happy was born.
Ceschel observes, “Digital has caused a renaissance of printed matter. Self-publishing is not a way to make money. That is a burden. Self-publishing requires you to spend money which paradoxically free you from being concerned about profits. That is the restriction of the traditional publishing house. The people who do it today are very young. They are born into the digital generation. They are used to the computer and the online world. Self-publishing is their response to it. They are finding a complement to it in book form; they now have a physical object in reality and can share it with people. Books give them a different way to communicate.”
And this idea inspires and uplifts print more than anything ever could. Because it is not simply a matter of marketability, of consumer appeal, but of a need to tell stories, produce objects, create content the enlivens, inspires, and elucidates all sorts of spaces in the Universe we would never otherwise know, were the author not driven to make manifest that which holds them captive. And it is in this same way that the publisher operates.
Ceschel’s background is in magazines. He began working as a journalist for Colors in 2001. He then joined Chris Boot in 2013 where he learned the process of publishing and saw the tyranny of the trade firsthand. Most books are simply not economically viable, and an industry built on this offers a tightrope held at great heights. It’s a challenging business model from any angle you look. Self Publish, Be Happy avoids this by forgoing the model itself. It exists on its own terms, as defined by Ceschel. It is less a company and more a curated space, a digital doorway that transports us into another world of books and art as they are being lived today. Liberated from the burden of profits, the artist is free to do as they wish.
And it is here that Ceschel reveals his own love, establishing the SPBH Book Club that funds the production SPBH Editions. These are books that Ceschel selected, chosen from love. “It’s a small enterprise that’s very personal. I went to my people: Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, Brad Feuerhelm, Christina de Middel.”
And it is here that we come full circle, back to a love of books that is without beginning or end, but born of a desire to see in print our vision of the world and the way in which we want to live. As both publisher and a curator of the self published illustrated book, Ceschel has found himself in a new and dynamic world that combines tradition and experiment, classic and avant garde to sublime effect. Self Publish, Be Happy is more than a name, it is an ethos, a call to action, and way of being that speak to people from all walks of life, the single common denominator being a wish, want, desire, and need to produce a book.
Many are called, few are chosen. Come see why. Self Publish, Be Happy will be exhibiting at the New York Art Book Fair from September 19-22 at P.S. 1 in Queens, New York.
August 30, 2013
I did not know until it began and then and only then it began to expand, this desire and will for all things photography, for publishing, for books, for essays poems odes sonnets everlasting of stories told, for the people who lived and live forevermore captured on the page where the photograph is born.
It had been since 1999 that I found myself captivated by the spell of the photography book, page after page after page of lives unfolding, one page after another. It had found me, this thing I had been living unconsciously, and it has been to this I have given myself completely, with everything I possess, a true believer driven to act upon the printed page, with words, photographs, stories being told in complete and utter silence.
I beheld, held these things to be sacred, though I didn’t know the hows or the why of it at all, and I still don’t. But I do know it is fate for in my life it transforms…
I began as a publicist, a publisher, and I became a journalist, a book reviewer. It was Jean Jacques Naudet at Le Journal de la Photographie who made this possible, with a daily newsletter detailing the international photography world, documenting an expansive array of festivals, fairs, exhibitions, events, and industry moves. It also features notable profiles and interviews, as well as archival stories and weekend portfolios. I was given the freedom to cover anything I’d like, anything that sparked my interest and fanned the flames of curiosity and wonder, anything that inspired tribute and reverence, consideration of ideas that exist only in pictorial form.
I had never thought, until I had to, of the nature of the photograph and how it held me spellbound like Ingrid Bergman in the Hitchcock classic. And as I began to write, it came to me, that it was the photography book that is my destiny. And that is a beautiful thing, the freedom to create the world in which I wish to live. I was given cause to speak with artists, publishers, visionaries, to peruse these very powerful pages of their lives, to share in ideas and wisdom, to listen to the words and the silence and the stillness of the single image…
and then to return to the world with this new found knowledge, to share of these photographs and books. I remember standing outside Bookmarc on Bleecker Street as a cop on horseback watched the scene. Old punks gathered thick and deep to celebrate “Just Chaos,” curated by Roberta Bayley. And it was at that moment that I knew punks were the last of the hippies. Never sell out, never say die, just keep on keepinn onn, because art is life. Life is art. The Art of Living, like Epictetus wrote.
And so we gather here today to salute Le Journal de la Photographie, which bids us adieu after three years sailing the uncharted waters of digital publishing. Of communications, community, and communion; we stand here today in honor of the photograph, of what it is, what it was, what it shall be, for we know, without words, we know in our souls these things. Cheers to Le Journal for making this possible, for giving writers like myself the opportunity to discover our Truth in photography.
August 28, 2013
…and still the chills come as the words reverberate in the ear, Martin Luther King Jr.’s voice as clear as the call of the clarion. “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’
“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
“I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heart of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but the content of their character.
“I have a dream today!”
King first spoke these unforgettable words on August 28, 1963, at the historic March on Washington, where he stood at the Lincoln Memorial before 250,000 people gathered at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to mount a peaceful protest demanding Civil Rights, justice, and equality for African Americans nearly one hundred years after slavery was abolished in the United States.
In tribute to the fiftieth anniversary of one of the proudest days in this country’s history, Getty Publications has just released This Is The Day: The March on Washington by Leonard Freed, with texts by Julian Bond, Michael Eric Dyson, and Paul Farber. Most of the seventy-five photographs featured here have never been published before, and taken as a whole they offer a compelling, powerful, and uplifting vision of the day itself—before, during, and after the march.
As Dyson writes, “The moral beauty of Freed’s photographs bathes the aesthetics that guides his flow of images. The folk here are neat, dignified, well-dressed—in a word, sharp, with all the surplus meaning the word summons, since black dress can never be divorced from political consequence…. Freed captures the simple dignity and the protocols of cool—the ethics of decorum—that characterizes large swaths of black life. And when his camera swings wide to include a vision of America too rarely noticed in the mainstream press at the time, and in some cases even now, he records almost mundanely, and hence rather heroically, the everydayness of the encounters between white and black. He allows the images to steep in the crucible for American race. One can almost catch the subliminal suggestion: This is what it should always be like.”
Indeed, the legacy of this historic day is that it offered to not only America but to the world a vision of the power that healing brings. We return again and again to the day, not only for what King verbalized for us but for what Freed’s images say. We see in these images the American ideal: all power to the people, and for that we reflect with a quiet reverence and hopeful spirit that the dream shall be fulfilled.
August 23, 2013
Flying High. That’s the way it was, the way it is, the way it can always be. High is a state of mind, of body, of spirit. It is the transcendental reality we call can achieve when we divest ourselves of anything less than the divinity that exists in every existence, every being that sets forth in the Universe. There are many paths to the same place, making life like a Choose Your Own Adventure novel, you see.
Destiny is the handshake between God and Man, and it is Destiny that takes us by the hand and draws us into possibility, and it is here that life is actually happening. We have a say in this path, and we can follow its highest course when we align ourselves with eternity. Greatness distinguishes, inspires, and elevates. Greatness is a state of mind, a choice, a willingness to listen to the inner self, the place where the soul resides and speaks in pictures, sounds, and words.
It is in the photographs of Jamel Shabazz that we know our greatest selves. It is in looking at Jamel’s photographs that I discovered the soul, the place where light meets film meets paper meets my eye and my eye meets Jamel. I feel high, ohh so high, flying like nothing else, high off the heady mix of people doing things in places I’ve never been but already seem to know, of people who remind me of a time and a place not too long ago but so very, very far away, only I’m in Brooklyn, like his photos and his photos are all that remains.
Jamel Shabazz for A Thousand Words: Flying High and Crack Kills.
August 17, 2013
A Thousand Words in every language. A thousand worlds all seeing the same image. The stories captured forever and then—
We behold because what we see is always there when we look. It is in the image that we live forevermore, photographs from the Album of Life, every page a reverie, a memory .. of a shared time and a place that was and is forevermore captured on the page. It is this, the photograph, a vessel of soul, three dimensions transposed into two, the ephemeral made eternal and then—
We print it in a book, print it on the page and hang it on the wall. In this way the photograph is precious for a piece of paper is easily torn. But what holds well, endures and can be born? Cotton. It is a canvas upon which we have created egalitarian style, a casual chic that is all that is great about America. The t-shirt is a space for hopes and dreams as it stands before us to bear witness. It is this, as the billboard of the heart, the the t-shirt is where art becomes love.
Koe Rodriguez launches A Thousand Words, a new line of apparel and home design that showcases the work of New York legends Joe Conzo, Martha Cooper, and Jamel Shabazz. I’ve been waiting for this. That Dondi t-shirt! Cause, I mean, who would have ever thought? I gotta give it up. Props to Koe Rodriguez for having the knowledge and the vision to make this happen. Because it’s what the world’s been needing. Art, sweet, art.
Once upon a time, the trains actually ran, and you could see burners, throw ups, tags, whether you wanted to or not. That was live. Fly handstyles add energy to the mix. Graff is life as art, and everyone’s taken along for the ride. Just like music, block parties, shows around the way, kids inventing the world in which they want to live.
Do It Yourself. That was and it is the ethos by which I was raised, New York in the 70s. We know it, that’s why we create. What else can you do? “Be the change you want to see in the world,” like Rumi said.
July 27, 2013
“In the house of lovers,
the music never stops.
The walls are made of songs,
and the floor dances.”
Saturday. July 27 from 3–6pm, The Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles hosts a conversation and book signing with April Flores and Carlos Batts on the occasion of the publication of FAT GIRL, a Barnacle Book. And though I cannot be there in person, I am there in spirit, writing this morning of April Flores and Carlos Batts. Writing? Well, really, listening.
The words come. They always do. It’s a river, just step into it. I sit still and listen and then I hear the words tap dance across the pages of my mind, and I take dictation and pretend these words I write are really mine. I’ma say I share in them, with this voice. But it’s not a voice, it is a compulsion to translate the ineffable into words.
So I put fingertip to keyboard and I stroke away, ratta-tat-tat like Snoop Dog said on some track off his first album. And I’m saying Los Angeles. California. There’s something in the air, the water, the light, the sky, the sun. For this is where I first met Carlos Batts, in a hotel lobby in Irvine, back in 2002. And we sat talking photography, and talking books. These things happen, and then they happen again, and seeds are planted, and the thing is, you can’t ever know, even if you think you can.
From this came that and then it took a turn. And then it circled on back. And then one day last summer i began. To put fingertip to keyboard and stroke away, and write the foreword to FAT GIRL and Miss Flores told me she read it aloud, like a poem, like a troubadour, like me I can’t not ever not, so I keep on keepinn onn. And I don’t re-read, because i can’t, not til time has long passed, and the ink has dried upon the page. And the book is releasing, and my words are there, alongside the photographs and stories that Flores and Batts share.
And I am honored. More than that. I am humbled because there but for the grace of God… I was just thinking, allaboutthat. About that song by Machine. You know that. But yea, There is a grace, a divine energy, a cat landing upon its feet, tumbling tumbling tumbling. It is always as it is meant to be. It is a Barnacle Book, and me I am fanning Tyson Cornell for making this a reality. And I am saying y’all gonna learn today.
July 27, 2013
And so it had finally come, From the Edge of the World, because this is where it is. This, yes, California Punk. 1977, 78, 79, right on to 81. Turn the decade I remember it. My first. It. Was. Big. Brave New World like Huxley said. But out in SF, we talking Burroughs. She caught him with a gun. Darby Crash. Hellinn Killer and Sid Vicious. Poison Ivy. Kids on stage. Kids off stage. All this raw gorgeous energy. Black and White. Color shots. A sweet little photo album, remembrance of things past like Proust said.
And me, quoting novelists I’ve never read, and never will, because words, they do go onn. But photos, now they be screaming, shouting, whispering sweet nothings without ever saying a word. And they embed themselves in memory just like I am there and it is happening to me, like I am hanging with John Maxwell and Roky Erickson at Mabuhay Gardens, and I’m standing against the wall and Ruby Ray is taking photographs in the mirror and it’s just like yesterday, it’s like Fate Keeps On Happening. And that’s Anita Loos, you see ..
July 24, 2013
Bubbele. A Yiddish word I hear in my ear, my grandmothers and their words of love for me, children just lavish in the energies, imprinted like birthday cake in my memory bank, all these great loving vibes that grandmothers bring everywhere they go. And I am reminded of this every time I connect with the inimitable Paola Gianturco. Her book, Grandmother Power: A Global Phenomenon, has touched hearts around the world, won awards, and introduced the world to an incredible array of powerful women who have single-handedly made the world a better place.
Miss Gianturco is not only a colleague and a friend, she is an inspiration. A source of light and love, of warmth that flows through vibrations. She brings a dynamic mix of verve and intellect to all she encounters with a full and open heart, and she is granted access into countless worlds to share stories of tragedy and triumph, of courage against the odds, of a path to truth and justice, a woman who lights the way.
I am pleased to have had the opportunity to speak at length with Miss Gianturco, to reflect on her path, and to share of herself once more. It is, it was, and it shall always be that the Universe has graced us with a presence spiritual, uplifting, and enlivening. Cheers to Paola, my comrade in photography books ~*~
Please talk about the grandmother as archetype, as what she represents and carries forth as the matriarch of her tribe.
The loving, beloved, respected, matriarch grandmother still exists in some cultures. In Dubai, every family, every Friday, shares a meal at grandmother’s house. In Peru’s Altiplano, grandmothers are the keepers of weaving traditions, revered I was told, as “the only ones who understand the vocabulary, the patterns, processes and meaning. They are the book.
But worldwide, grandmothers’ roles are changing. There are more grandmothers alive today than at any other time in the history of the planet. They are living longer, healthier lives. In the Global North, they are better educated and many are professionally experienced.
Some different kinds of contemporary grandmothers:
*Many American grandmothers don’t live near their grandchildren, which alone transforms their roles. Gaga Sisterhood and Conscious Grandmothering groups are redefining what long distance grandmothering can mean in the United States.
*Grandmothers are parenting. Throughout the African continent, grandmothers may each be raising as many as 10 or 15 grief-stricken grandchildren orphaned by Aids. In the US, grandmothers bringing up grandchildren are learning to be good parents in a time when technology, sex, drugs, alcohol and violence make the world a different place for raising children.
*In parts of Ghana and Mauritania, grandmothers are reviled as witches and forced to live in isolated compounds. When hundreds of grandmothers gathered in Swaziland in 2010, a crucial issue was violence against grandmothers all over the continent.
All over the world, contemporary grandmothers are making news by defining what it means to be a grandmother.
I like the description that the Canadian and African grandmothers wrote for the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s 2006 Toronto Statement: “We have within us everything needed to surmount seemingly insurmountable obstacles. We are strong, we are determined, we are resourceful, we are creative, we are resilient, and we have the wisdom that comes with age and experience.”
You are a grandmother. Please talk about how the birth of your grandchild transformed your relationship to family, and to your understanding of womanhood. (oo I love this question !)
I flew to my son’s house the morning he took his wife to the hospital. By evening, it was raining so hard that the freeways were closed, mud was sliding down the hillsides and my charge, the horse-sized family dog, was trembling at the thunder and lightening. Five inches of rain fell; it was the third wettest day in the city’s history. Finally the phone rang: my first grand girl had arrived!
The next day the December sky was still dark, drenching. Yet three times the indomitable sun blazed. Three times, luminous rainbows arched over the city. The baby’s mother’s family is Chinese and the rainbows seemed auspicious. We considered naming the baby with the Chinese word for rainbow. But ultimately we called her Alexandra.
By the time Alex was two, I was shocked to recognize myself as a little girl, mysteriously reflected in this beautiful AmerAsian child. I never expected to experience myself as a little girl again, much less in such a glorious disguise. Something was familiar about her shining eyes. I told no one what I saw, but secretly, I searched for old pictures of me as a toddler, wanting evidence, wondering if I were just wishing. I knew something linked us: something inexplicable and miraculous.
Until Alex was born, I had focused almost exclusively on the present. As a photojournalist, I documented “the moment,” always watching for news, for stories, for ways to show others what I saw. I reacted by clicking, quite literally, the very second something happened.
The birth of my first grandchild shifted my reality fast: a switch flipped. My exclusive preoccupation with the present was over. I began anticipating the future. Specifically, Alex’s future, and now my second grand girl, Avery’s, future.
Their world will be increasingly global, connected, borderless. I yearn for there to be hope and possibility but I fear there will be, instead, environmental degradation, disease, poverty, injustice, and violence.
I used to be a Mother Bear, but now I am a Grandmother Bear. I rage, “Not good enough! Our troubled world is not good enough for my grandchildren—and not good enough for yours!”
I am in good company. Grandmothers around the world are collaborating so their grandchildren can have more secure, healthy, happy lives. I documented those grandmothers in GRANDMOTHER POWER. And then I joined them.
What was the inspiration for Grandmother Power? Where did it begin, and what kinds of gifts has it revealed as you traveled this path through life?
Interviewing women in Kenya, Cameroun, Senegal, Swaziland and South Africa, I was shocked to meet so many African grandmothers who were raising their grandchildren because their adult children had died of Aids. It seemed that the future of the continent rested in the hands of the grandmothers! That insight compelled me to explore what grandmothers were doing other places.
Here are some gifts given by the grandmothers I interviewed and photographed:
1) Experience becomes wisdom. As a photojournalist, I had centered my attention on documenting experience. But experience is just the beginning, as I learned from the Jewish Israeli grandmothers of Machsom Watch, whose families experienced Hitler’s brutality. Those grandmothers are doing something courageous and controversial: monitoring Israeli checkpoints to protect Palestinian’s human rights. That is wisdom.
2) Long term work works. Americans are renowned for expecting instant gratification. For 30 years, the Argentine Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo have searched for their grandchildren who were abducted by the military dictatorship. Lolas (grandmothers) in the Philippines are still seeking compensation, apology and a place in the history books, having been forced into sex slavery during World War II. Both groups are demonstrating that patience and perseverance ultimately bring results, and that fighting for justice is worth doing for as long as it takes.
3) There is no time for lollygagging. Big problems can paralyze us, so I learned a good lesson from the International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers. When they first met, they were appalled by the world’s dire condition: violence, war, hunger, poverty, spiritual disconnection, corruption, pollution, materialism and loss of human rights. Big issues. Many people might have given up before they began. But the 13 Grandmothers’ reactions? “We are in the 11th hour.” “We must move as quickly as the light.” “We better hurry up.”
4) Grandmothers have power. Stereotypical grandmothers are powerless: disenfranchised by being women and doubly so, by being old. People assume they are incapable of agency: of disrupting, innovating, and having impact. That stereotype is just plain wrong. Discovering that fact was a gift for me but also for young women who read GRANDMOTHER POWER; they say, “Thank goodness. Now I have something to look forward to.”
5) Collaboration magnifies that power. When grandmothers from Canada and 11 African countries co-invented the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s Grandmothers to Grandmothers campaign—across borders, across oceans, across hemispheres—they decided to work in groups. Today, 8000 Canadian grandmothers in 240 groups…and 300 grandmother groups in 15 African countries…are standing in solidarity on behalf of 15 million African children orphaned by Aids.
The reception to the book has been magnificent. It is a beautiful thing, to see the power of the photography book touch so many lives. Please talk about the medium of the book itself and how you think it transfers these energies from one heart to the next.
First, I want to talk about photographs as a way to connect hearts. Today, virtually everyone takes pictures: check the sea of cell phones at Buckingham Palace yesterday, all raised to record the sign (!) that said the royal baby had arrived. Now ubiquitous, pictures could have been drastically devalued. But I am relieved that good images still communicate clearly, instantly, powerfully, seemingly skipping past the screen of the mind straight to the heart.
Books: I love the luminosity of seeing images on my computer screen; I revel in doing things never done before; I had long wished my books could be price-accessible everywhere in the world. So as soon as the iPad was announced (not yet introduced, and way before it had competitors that could display color images) I began lobbying powerHouse Books to release GRANDMOTHER POWER in electronic as well as hardcover format. I was wrong. Only a tiny fraction of my readers have bought e-books. They are glad to invest in a well printed, beautifully produced, color photography book that they can hold in their hands. Since I have loved doing exactly that ever since I was a child, their preference (which seems almost quaint, come to think of it) pleases me very much.
Perhaps you might share a memory of a moment, or words of wisdom, your grandmothers shared with you …
One New Years Eve I stayed at my grandparents’ house while my parents went to a “grown up party.” Granny and Pop, wanting to share the fun with me, created a ceremony around opening the New Year’s wall calendar.
I was two and had never heard of a New Year. It sounded so apocalyptic that at first I was frantic and very soon, hysterical. “I don’t want a new year. I like the old year! Stop the old year from leaving us!” I howled.
“The only difference between last year and the new year is one page,” said Granny pleasantly. “Otherwise, they are the same. You’ll see!” She opened up January and I prepared to die.
My grandmother taught me to welcome the future. Other grandmothers taught me that I could—and should—help shape it.
Photographs by Paola Gianturco
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July 23, 2013
From Integral Options Cafe—
For this week’s Fast Five, Tharchin offers five ways to reconnect with your peaceful inner self.
“I was surprised to hear you wanted five,” he said.
The number five is sacred and mystical in Tibetan Buddhism. The mandala symbol has a center and the expressions of four directions for a total of five, Tharchin said.
In Buddhist thought there are five elements – inner and outer- five emotions, five wisdoms, five colors and five directions that all work together to connect our inner and outer worlds.
Tharchin offers five things to meditate on or just ponder that may unlock the way to peace.
1. FROM THE OUTSIDE IN
There are five outer and five inner elements that correspond to one another. Becoming aware of them helps us find our place in the flow of things.
The five outer elements are earth, water, fire, wind and space.
2. INSIDE OUT
The five inner elements are flesh, blood, warmth, breath and mind.
Here is how the inner and outer elements connect: earth-flesh; water-blood; fire-warmth (body temperature); wind-breath; space-inner mind.
“They are interdependent and connected,” Tharchin said. “What we must do now is become aware of this connection so we can positively manifest in the world.”
These have negative and positive manifestations that become both the impure and what Tharchin calls the “perfect aspects” of wisdom, he said.
3. WE ALL HAVE SECRETS
There are five secret, afflictive emotions that are at the root of suffering, he said. These are the impure aspects of wisdom. Understanding them is the first step in mastering them, instead of letting them master you, he said.
Ignorance, anger, pride, desire and jealousy: These negative aspects can undermine our path to peace.
4. WISE AND WONDERFUL
Here are the five pure aspects of wisdom. In Buddhist teaching, “wisdom simply means awareness,” Tharchin said. “Having awareness of why we are suffering, recognizing it will mark the beginning of the journey to peace.”
Dharmadhatu wisdom (Chying Yesh, color blue, at the center of the mandala), is the most secret and divine aspect of awareness. It is the pure expression of the afflictive emotion of ignorance. It is knowing in the profound and vast sense. Lack of awareness (ignorance) of our true nature creates great turmoil, Tharchin said.
Mirror-like wisdom (Mlong Yesh, color white, direction is east) is the pure form of anger. It is clear, luminous wisdom that is objective and simply reflects and accepts what is.
Wisdom of Evenness (Nyam Nyee Yesh, color yellow, direction is south) is the pure side of pride. Being prideful creates unevenness.
Discerning wisdom (Sor-tok Yesh, color red, direction west) is the pure form of desire. This is understanding the nature of a phenomenon by simply knowing, being aware, without intellectualizing it.
All-accomplishing wisdom (Ja-droob Yesh, color green, direction is north) is the pure form of jealousy. It is the natural base of the mind that will allow the accomplishment of everything without effort, Tharchin said.
To think of these aspects as opposites is too simplistic, Tharchin said. “It is not that dualistic. There is a pure and impure form of each. One helps you. The other creates suffering.
5. MAKING IT MANIFEST
To make it practical is the work, Tharchin said.
The outer, inner elements and pure aspects of wisdom become clear when you put them into practice.
So, understanding that maintaining and caring for the environment, or the outer elements, is a way of nurturing our inner elements, or physical health.
Tharchin recommends meditation as a way to help people recognize how the five inner and outer elements, secret emotions and wisdoms live within ourselves.
“The journey inward will lead you to the manifest peace in the outer world,” he said.
Joe Maloney is that guy, the one who works on two levels at the same time. He takes what we know, what we see, our cultural vernacular, and translates it through the lens of the camera so that he speaks in all languages without ever saying a word. It is seen, it is felt, it is… understood.
And yet, there is more, always more.
“Maloney was a member of the stable of legendary photographers at LIGHT, the preeminent New York gallery of contemporary photography which included many notable photographers whose work in color helped revolutionize the acceptance of the medium. Maloney, along with Stephen Shore, Mitch Epstein, Carl Toth and others helped set the stage for today’s generation of photographers whose use of color is automatic and not necessarily a conscious choice.”
So begins the text for Maloney’s exhibition of previously-unseen work now showing at Rick Wester Fine Art, New York, through August 16.
The text continues, “At a time when polychromatic images were radical and their validity fought over, Maloney found the subject matter closest to him, suburbia, the receding rural landscape and the cultural oddities that America had created of them bathed in sunlight of enormous emotional range and conflict. Late, electric, raking sun cut swathes of scenery into patterns sewn together by streets and parks populated by pleasure seekers, poseurs, and other characters caught up in what Bruce Springsteen sang as ‘this runaway American Dream” Maloney’s exploration of the Jersey Shore and in particular Asbury Park is fueled by the urge to discover something immediate, concrete and candid within the artifice of the resort town culture.”
Through Maloney’s lens, we see a world we know, a world in which we once lived, as children and adults on summer break. His photographs are at once nostalgic, and something more; they embrace the enthnography of the Jersey Shore without trying too hard. There is no tongue planted in cheek, there is no pedestal to be placed upon or knocked down a peg. There is no self-consciousness, no self-referential narcissism. There is simply a time and a place and the people who lived it, just as they live it today.
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Joe Maloney :: Asbury Park & the Jersey Shore, c. 1979