February 20, 2014
“All art is propaganda,” George Orwell said, and we know this best through the study of art history itself. We reflect on a civilization’s achievements through its art, the creation of its greatest image of self through the sublimation of the life force. And what results is what remains, that which transcends time and place and speaks to in all languages at the same time.
“History is written by the victors,” it has been said, and it is in that space between art and history that we find the propagandist. We see in the work the message being told, sold, signed, sealed, and delivered, then, more often than not, consumed whole. We, moved the spirit that resides in the work itself, fall under the sway of its siren song as it captivates our heart with its soulful gaze.
Yet, in this day and age, when art has been liberated from the state, when it no longer serves to necessarily reinforce the power structure but to question and even destabilize it, the artist is a channel, a vessel for thought, for mediation and expression on subjects that are sometimes too heavy and too profound to be taken head on. And, in this way, David Levinthal has emerged as one of the foremost war photographers of our time, though he has never stepped foot on the battlefield itself.
Read the Full Story at
L’Oeil de la Photographie
February 18, 2014
February 17, 2014
From Frank Espada Photography:
A SHORT STORY OF MY LIFE UNTIL NOW…
I was born in Utuado, Puerto Rico, in 1930. My family and I migrated to New York City in 1939 for reasons unknown to me. My background is not unusual for a Puerto Rican immigrant. We were quite poor, always struggling to make ends meet, living in apartments with no hot water or refrigerators, with no heat in the winter and rats in the hallways. I was never going to be a Boy Scout, for the uniform cost $14. My first bed was a necessity of my marriage, for which I bought my first suit.
I went through the public school system, where my name was immediately changed. I thought this was a good thing at the time, for everyone told me we had to act like Americans. I tried college, found it not to my liking (my chemistry professor bluntly told me that I “would not make it”). I joined the Air Force, and in 1952 married Marilyn. We proceeded to raise a family of three: Lisa, Jason and Martín, all independent, progressive, creative and outspoken, and all quite different.
Photography became an important element in my life early on. I attended The New York Institute of Photography in New York City on the GI Bill, where I learned that I was not going to be a commercial photographer that I would forever stay away from formal education. But I was encouraged by one of my instructors to follow my first love, documentary photography, which I have pursued diligently all my life. I was fortunate to have some of the greatest role models to emulate: Gene Smith, with whom I studied; and Dave Heath, a friend and teacher, being the most influential.
Having to support a family, I went to work for an electrical contractor, a job I despised for all of ten years. It was around this time that I became involved in the Civil Rights movement, then in its infancy, and went to work in 1967 for a community action program, the Puerto Rican Community Development Project (PRCDP), directed by my good friend Manny Díaz.
The story goes on, but in retrospect I can say that I believe it was all a bloody waste of my creative years. Although I documented some aspects of the struggle, I was too busy being an organizer and “leader” to think of much else. So much for that. In 1979, in my 49th year, I finally got the opportunity to realize my life-long dream of shooting a major documentary, when I came up with the idea for a project on the Puerto Rican Diaspora. This book is one of the results of that endeavor. Another is the enormous effect it has had on my life, all positive and rewarding.
It was rather late in life that I discovered I love to teach, which has resulted in eighteen of the best years of my life, after moving to San Francisco in 1985. I have Michael Lesser to thank for giving me the opportunity to teach at the UC Berkeley Extension Program in San Francisco.
Finally, when asked about the single worst thing that has ever happened to me, I cite the fact that I was brought to this country, where I found I was not good enough to be what I was. Then I quickly add: But the best thing that has ever happened to me is finding my wife of 60 years, whom I never would have met had I not left the island.
Así son las cosas de la vida.
Thanks to Joe Conzo.
February 16, 2014
Once, Picasso was asked what his paintings meant.
He said, “Do you ever know what the birds are singing?
You don’t. But you listen to them anyway.”
So, sometimes with art, it is important just to look.
~ Marina Abramović
February 14, 2014
Born in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, in 1971, Adama Delphine Fawundu is the only first-generation American of her siblings. Her brother and sister were born in Freetown, Sierra Leone and lived there until 1975, when Fawundu and her mother returned to bring them to the United States.
As Fawundu remembers, “My first trip to Freetown was when I was about four years old. I went with my mom. Strangely enough, I remember a few details about Freetown but not ever meeting my siblings for the first time. It seems like they were always there. I do remember my mom and aunts laughing gently about attempt to speak Krio, ‘Samwell (my pronounciation of Samuel) Mama dey call you!’ They thought that it was so funny how I was picking up on the language. My mom said that I was eager to play with the other kids and just blend in.
“My mom loves to tell the story of how she left me at the house in Freetown, to go take care of some business and when she got back she found me sitting on the floor outside of the house with some of the neighbors. I decided to take off my socks and shoes just like the other four year olds and eat Okra soup and fufu with my hands. She was shocked because this wasn’t something that I was use to in Brooklyn. From her stories she tells me I was amazed and had so many questions. ‘Do people carry loads on their heads to protect them from the sun?’
“As excited as I was to be in Africa as a child, the vivid memories slowly faded to curtains that separated one room from the next along with echoed dialogues in Krio sprinkled with laughter. I remember just this summer waking up in a pastel colored room at my friend’s house in Bamako, Mali to the voices of women laughing and conversing in Bambara. Minutes later, an echoed voice of a baby girl complained to her mom, the mom tried to reason but the baby just was not satisfied. Although I didn’t understand the language I understood this snippet of life and it brought back a feeling of warm memories that I can’t quite put my finger on. “
Read the Full Story at THE CLICK
February 13, 2014
February 13, 2014
Graffiti is the ultimate expression of the ephemeral, the here today, gone tomorrow game of cat and mouse with the Vandal Squad, property owners, and other graff writers, who move in a world of art, politics, and criminal mischief. Once upon a time, New York City was covered in scrawl, in tags and throw ups that lined every surface you could imagine.
It started on the streets then took to the trains, then on to the highways, vans and trucks, and eventually, canvases, art galleries, museums, and auction houses. Graffiti has become one of our most evocative sources of anti-social expression, a means to becoming equally parts famous and hated among the public at large.
But over the years, New York whittled away at this form of public discourse as fines were raised and jail time was incurred, as cases were built and kids were getting locked up. It got to the point that the trains and buses ran clean, and the streets slowly but surely were reclaimed by the clean, wholesome image that New York now projects, a beacon for foreign investments and bourgeois children of privilege.
And so as it was, and so it shall be that those dedicated to living the life, to pursuing the dream, they must adapt or die, as Darwin says. Mint&Serf, better known as The Mirf, have been walking the line between commercial and criminal throughout their lives. The received commissions from clients as diverse as the New York Yankees, the Ace Hotel, and Marc Jacobs, all the while running downtown studios with the support of Red Bull.
Read the Full Story at
L’OEIL DE LA PHOTOGRAPHIE
February 12, 2014
Perception of ideas leads to new ideas.
February 11, 2014
Who we are is how we are. How we live, love, hate, fear. How we are when we are alone, by ourselves, in our own room. In our space, in a place that we can truly call our own, when no one is watching and we are finally free, at peace, as one. Who we are is always in a state of flux, a state of evolution towards a truer or falser self, a being that we both expose and protect, that we exist as and exist with, throughout our lives. And perhaps one of our earliest declarations of self is how we live when we grow up, in our parents’ home, defining ourselves.
Photographer Rania Matar has just released A Girl and Her Room (Umbrage Editions), a collection of portraits of teenage girls from the United States and Lebanon photographed in their rooms and the affect is stunning in its simplicity. The girls share more in common with each other than not, even though the externals—wealth, religion, culture, fashion, and culture of femininity differ remarkably. Perhaps this is because external differences can only go so deep and once they are identified, we need to look beneath. Into the eyes of each girl to feel her energy, her pride and prejudice, her power and strength, her fear and discomfort, her love and grandeur, her sense of self as she understands it.
Matar has done the remarkable in creating continuity so that at first glance the very obvious differences between lives disappears. The unpainted, unplastered walls of a girl’s room in a Palestinian refugee camp melt away as we look at how Miriam, who lives there, has inhabited her space. She carefully hangs a few things, photographs, a prayer rug, a scarf and purse, from the window gate above her bed, in as much as a thin mattress on the floor serves as her nest. She sits on the mattress with eyes that tell of an awareness of self and of life beyond the walls of her room. We cannot begin to imagine what she has seen and known in her short time on earth but we feel from this image that she holds together, centered deep inside herself.
Opposite this image, something far more American, a girl named Sidonie lies across her bed with her head flipped over the edge, her hair tumbling down to the ground. Her bed is luxurious comfort compared to Miriam’s thin mattress, and her room is decorated with care. She hangs ten purses around her bed, along with the names of her favorite brands cut out from advertisements and hung to the walls. The contrast is remarkable in as much as we see how much some have and how little we need, and how comfort goes far beyond the physical world into a state of being. Sidonie, hanging her head so that we cannot see her face, is hiding from Matar, from this project, from herself.
Throughout the book the images contrast and complement until one is constantly checking the captions to see where each girl is from. The distinctions of décor and dress somehow fade away at first glance as the body language, gesture and expression of each girl becomes the thing that becomes most telling. And that’s the thing that is most remarkable. The less a girl has the more powerful her image feels. She has but herself and she knows this well. She does not rely on things to define who she is. On the other side are girls who appear to have it all but one look in their eyes shows they are no happier for it. Chances are likely they didn’t work for most of it; that which they own is given by others until it becomes something of a prison. A weight around each of their neck, a vision of the feminine that they try to live into by purchasing it. They paint their face and do their nails and pose underneath photographs of half naked models. They aspire to look like others, rather than themselves, so caught are they in the American Dream.
Return to Lebanon and we see girls with a different set of concerns yet all the same, they have more in common than they do not. They have the same issues facing their lives, their final years at home before they venture out into the world. On whose terms, it cannot be known, but as we look at Matar’s portraits we understand that each has her own destiny to uphold.
February 10, 2014
Launched at BookMarc, New York, on Friday, February 7, Maripola X is a collection of Polaroids from the artist’s private collection of work from her earliest days in New York through to the present day. Featuring photographs of Grace Jones, Naomi Campbell, Pat Cleveland, Steven Meisel, Vincent Gallo, Francesco Clemente, Klaus Nomi, and Joey Arias. Among many others before it, Maripola X is an exquisite guide to the art of seduction.
Many of the photographs are exquisitely risqué, giving us a guided tour into the sexual exploration of a woman deeply comfortable with herself. “I don’t have any shame. I don’t have anything to hide,” Maripol notes. “These pictures are so personal. I might have been angry when I was making them, and put drops of blood on one, or carved the pussy from another. There is a sense of self indulgence that makes this my personal work.”
See the Full Story at
L’OEIL DE LA PHOTOGRAPHIE
February 9, 2014
“We’re not here to sell clothes” are the words printed on a t-shirt in big, brash strokes of hand, underscored by a peace sign that reminds us of a time gone by. The ethos of hippiedom had been usurped by punk, once the ideals of free love became cooped by the status quo in order to market products. But in theory, both countercultures served the same ends: to reject the system in search of freedom, truth, and the full expression of self. It was the flames of these fires that had scorched the earth, affecting art, music, and politics in equal measure for it was culture of the youth, of the generations coming of age, first in the 1960s, then in the 1970s. But, come the 1980s, what remained?
Art, music, style, life. The culture of youth fans the flames of passion of hearts that had not yet been corrupted by the system itself, and perhaps in no small part this is why the energy of youth is so highly prized. It reacts, it rebels, it aspires to a new way, a better way, one that is rooted in authenticity. It is everything that would make your parents cringe, a rejection of the mores and morals of the middle class. It answers to no one other than itself, and in doing so, it charts a path all its own.
BLITZ: As Seen In Blitz—Fashioning ‘80s Style by Iain R. Webb (ACC Editions) is a tour-de-force of the British magazine that showcased not just an aesthetic but a way of life. Fashion can be more than just a sartorial stance; it can be a political act designed to provoke the status quo out of its complacency and in doing so, it becomes more than just a product, it becomes a form of art that offers a conversation worthy of consideration on its own merits.
As Webb writes in his preface, “I WOULD HOPE that the pictures are seen as reflections of the multi-faceted society within which we live. They are intended to INSPIRE, DELIGHT, or even, at times, ANGER. They are essential photographs which just happen to have clothes within their boundaries. These pictures should be used as a springboard for creativity on the part of the reader.”
BLITZ was both the name of Webb’s magazine and the name of a nightclub in London’s Covent Garden, both of which appeared around the same time in 1980, although they had no original direct link with one another. Both the magazine and the club celebrated all that was hot and all that was cool as the New Romantic scene made its way into the culture as a reaction to the stripped down aesthetic of the punk point of view.
As Webb writes in the book’s introduction, “The Blitz club was full of bright young things wishing to overthrow the establishment with their alternative vision of the world: part nostalgic and rose-tinted, part broken and dystopic post-punk. It was the energy of these would-be fashion designers, writers, artists, make-up artists, filmmakers, and photographers that needed a stage on which to perform. In 1980 three magazines were born that would turn the spotlight on this new army of dreamers: BLITZ, i-D, and the Face.”
BLITZ: As Seen In Blitz—Fashioning ‘80s Style reconnects us with the likes of Boy George, David Bowie, Katharine Hamnett, Jean Paul Gaultuer, Yohji Yamamoto, Vivienne Westwood, Rifat Ozbek, Barry Kamen, Stephen Jones, Ziggi Golding, Ann Demeulemeester, among Leigh Bowery, dozens more. It brings us back to a place and a time that took its lead from the world in which it was a part, revisiting iconic shoots and featuring reminiscences from the people who made each image possible. From the photographers and the models to the designers and the make-up artists, each image is presented within the larger context of its creation.
As photographer Nick Knight recalls, “The reason those photo session went on until two or three in the morning was because we worked until we’d experienced something. We were all young and we were trying things out. We’d try all sorts of things as a way to discover what was inspiring, what suited us. We’d try on other people’s visions and viewpoints like clothes. That experience is how you see things. Stylistically we were pulling things from lots of different places; there were lots of influences. And then as you go along you dismiss things. You lose bits of things along the way in an effort to speak more clearly, to focus your vision, and sometimes that’s ad. I believe in life’s mistakes. So much of the time we allowed chance to get involved. Often you’d find beauty in the things that didn’t work.”
Reflecting on the images and stories in BLITZ, we witness the way an idea takes hold and becomes manifest through the act of photography. For it is the photograph that exists long after the moment has passed as both an image worthy of veneration as well as a kind of historical fact. Yet through these stories we also see the photograph itself as a kind of act—an act of creation in its own right, not merely an object to be beheld, but an action independent of the final product.
February 8, 2014
The average American consumes 130 pounds of sugar each year but most have no idea about the true cost of this white powder exacts. Photographer Ed Kashi’s gives a voice to the silent in his new project, “Island of the Widows,” which is now up on Indie Voices.
In Nicaragua, which exports 40% of its sugar to America, the average life span of men who harvest sugar cane is 49 years. At the root of these early deaths is an epidemic of fatal Chronic Kidney Disease (CKDu). In the town Chichigalpa, often called the “Island of Widows,” one in three men are in end-stage renal failure. The cause of this epidemic is unknown. A notoriously corrupt government continually mutes this issue by intimidating workers and advocates. Research on the subject of CKDu by La Isla Foundation has indicated that repeated dehydration, severe heat, and environmental toxins may play a huge part in the rising death toll among cane workers. These clues need further investigation and increased media coverage to find a solution to this critical problem.
In 2013 Kashi worked for two weeks with La Isla Foundation in Nicaragua documenting this issue and the effects on families impacted by the disease. Using the power of photography and video, my goal is to generate education, support, and community awareness. Ultimately this material could be utilized in local information and outreach programs to address problems confronting the workers and their families, to stimulate conversation within Nicaragua, to facilitate the development of community-lead solutions, and to expand the network of people willing to take a stand.
For more information, please visit