Gitta Seiler

Gitta Seiler

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

Gitta Seiler

Gitta Seiler

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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.

Photograph: REVS / Photo © Jaime Rojo/BrooklynStreetArt.com

Photograph: REVS / Photo © Jaime Rojo/BrooklynStreetArt.com

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.

Photograph by Guzman

Photograph by Guzman

“We thrive on confusion, on not being pinned down. You should not have to be the same person you were five minutes ago,” Connie Hanson says, sharing of a point of view that has endowed Guzman with a wit and a joie de vivre. Guzman itself embodies the Dada charm of the absurd, as the husband/wife team of Russell Peacock and Ms. Hanson let it be known that Guzman had a back story. He was a fifty-five year old Czech man with a grey Mercedes. Guzman had also lived in various hotels throughout Paris. And perhaps this is because Guzman is a spirit that inhabits the space between the photographer, the subject, and the stage.

Shoots will have unlikely things, like bouquets of bok choy. Or they will unfold as happenings, a way of art and life that was of a place and a time that defined New York as a bohemia and into this personalities appear. It is just this ability to create alternate universes that makes a Guzman photograph a complete affair. Whether constructing suits of various checked patterns to be born alongside Louis Vuitton accessories (because the brand did not yet have apparel lines), Guzman came along with a complete vision of how Vuitton appears in our lives. It is in this same way that they fully inhabit fashion as a way of life that Geoffrey Beene collaborated with Guzman throughout his career.

The quintessential outsider, Mr. Beene had his own way of doing things. He created Summer/Winter, just because he could. He broke every rule and created another in its place, and in his indomitable way, he was decades ahead of the curve. It was this vision of design that Mr. Beene brought to Guzman, and together they created a series of images that blur the boundaries, as we see not only a dress and a design, but the very idea of the way in which fashion can make us feel. It appears as architecture for the body. It lays between us and the world itself, and it is this which appears as the metaphor dancing across the photograph. It is both object and idea at the same time, and in this space Guzman plays with dark and light, with a blur of boundaries and the transformation of space, as the garment slips from three dimensions into two, and what remains is a beautifully selected collection of images that take us back into time to the glamorous life that New Yorkers do so well.

Guzman shares stories of Geoffrey Beene with THE CHIC.

Juergen Teller: The Face, 1989

Juergen Teller: The Face, 1989

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.

love is power

July 17, 2014

Portrait de la comédienne Marie-Anne de Châteauneuf by Nicolas de Largillierre, 1712 (detail)

Portrait de la comédienne Marie-Anne de Châteauneuf by Nicolas de Largillierre, 1712 (detail)

The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.
~Marcus Aurelius

Photograph by Eric Johnson

Photograph by Eric Johnson

Freddie Leiba is the embodiment of elegance. He is at once both very cool, and warm. His lyrical voice soothes and charms. Once seated in his resplendent abode in midtown Manhattan, Mr. Leiba begins to reflect on the early days, and how they laid the path to a life in fashion, photography, and style that is undeniably glamorous. His vision has been seen on some of the most beautiful women of our time, from Iman to Beyonce, Meryl Streep to Sandra Bullock. He recounts his humble beginnings, and the path he took, back and forth across the Atlantic, though our story begins in the Caribbean.

Mr. Leiba recounts, “I was born in Trinidad and left at the end of the 1950s to go to England. When I grew up, there was no TV. Instead you joined the library and hopefully, you for a good book. I remember as a young boy, my mother took me for a walk one Sunday, as we often did, and we saw Rita Hayworth filming ‘Fire Down Below.’ I had never seen anyone like that in life. I was fascinated by this woman who looked like a goddess on a Caribbean island.

“I would go to the library and research books, then to the movies where it would cost twenty-five cents to see a double feature. I felt at home in this world, but it still felt untouchable. I didn’t think there was any way I would ever be a part of a world like this.

“When I went to London, I really found my place. I just fell into the right group of people. I was attending the Royal College of Art, the most prestigious, most respected art school in the world. I drew incessantly. I drew women in dresses. I was obsessed.

“My mother was broad-minded and had no problems with me doing dress design. She sewed for a living, and taught herself how to sew, and how to play the piano. She worked and worked and worked—and never complained about anything. Everything starts at home, no matter how rich or poor you are. She was a single mother. She did everything to make everything possible for me. I will never forget that. I wouldn’t ever disappoint her even though she’d dead now. She worked so hard to get me to the place I am. I still feel I have to shine. I just have to do it.”

Read the full story at THE CHIC.

Cover

sleepinglion

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

chalkgeese

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Photograph by of Maddie the Coonhound by Theron Humphrey

Photograph by of Maddie the Coonhound by Theron Humphrey

Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.
~Epictetus

Douglas Mayhew

Douglas Mayhew

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.

Ominta / Barn / Tara 2009 © Nicola Lo Calzo

Ominta / Barn / Tara 2009 © Nicola Lo Calzo

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

Assada / Tannery / Niamey 2009 © Nicola Lo Calzo

Assada / Tannery / Niamey 2009 © Nicola Lo Calzo

Azize / Vegetable garden / Niamey 2009 © Nicola Lo Calzo

Azize / Vegetable garden / Niamey 2009 © Nicola Lo Calzo

art forms of nature

July 9, 2014

Self Portrait - The Frame, 1938 ~  Frida Kahlo

Self Portrait – The Frame, 1938 ~ Frida Kahlo

Some days it storms,
some days it shines.
This is how flowers grow.

~Pavana

Kevin Davies

Kevin Davies

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.

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If you weren’t surprised by your life you wouldn’t be alive.
Life is surprise.

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In the magical universe there are no coincidences and there are no accidents.
Nothing happens unless someone wills it to happen.

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Happiness is a byproduct of function, purpose, and conflict;
those who seek happiness for itself seek victory without war.

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There is nothing more provocative than minding your own business.

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Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer.

~*~
Photographs by Sean Kinney
Quotes by William S. Burroughs

Ernst Haeckel illustration from Art Forms of Nature, 1904

Ernst Haeckel illustration from Art Forms of Nature, 1904

Claude Monet, The Boat Studio on the Seine, 1875

Claude Monet, The Boat Studio on the Seine, 1875

I am not afraid of storms,
for I am learning to sail my ship.

~ Aeschylus

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