August 28, 2014
“All the new media, including the press, are art forms which have the power of imposing, like poetry, their own assumption,” Marshall McLuhan observed. We live in a time when new media is so ubiquitous as to be omnipresent and the only escape from the world we’ve built is to be out of satellite range—or, even more difficult, to simply turn it off.
But we don’t because we won’t because, like the greatest pharmaceutical drugs, new media has rewired our brains to change the way in which we perceive ourselves and the world itself. The way in which we live has become so extreme that we are hard pressed to remember how we operated any other way. We take for granted the way in which these interactions create and define experience, allowing ourselves to fall under the spell, whether we want to or not. At a time when to not have a Facebook account is an act of defiance, we must consider the bigger picture—the machine itself.
Gingko Press has just released The Book of Probes, a collection of Marshall McLuhan’s finest words culled from his books, over 200 of his speeches, his classes at the University of Toronto, and from nearly 700 shorter pieces he published between 1945 and 1980. The book has been designed by the renowned David Carson, and is aesthetically divided into two sections. One section features quotes, set against the traditional white background. This section is understated, simple, and easy to grasp. It allows the words to do the work of words, and requires nothing except our focused attention.
What makes The Book of Probes fascinating is the other section, the one in which Carson interfaces with McLuhan on a dynamic level. Here, McLuhan’s words are set against a graphic, a photograph, or an illustration. The spread becomes a synthesis of image and text, where the font and layout of the words change the energy of the image upon which they lay. The written word takes on an aesthetic dimension, conveying in equal parts meaning, spirit, and energy. Meanwhile, the image no longer serves as images traditional do—it does not offer reportage or meaning on its own terms. Instead it serves as a vehicle for the words themselves, fusing with the spirit and the energy of the greater thing—the Idea as Ideal.
One of the most challenging aspects of the photography book is the use of words. Words, so dominant in our culture and our society, demand our attention in the way nothing else quite does. They are perceived by the eye and translated by the brain. They are a series of symbols that mean different things depending on the way in which they are ordered. The more evocative the order, the more compelling the idea, until something clicks inside us, and the words stop being words and start being “real.”
When images appear near a photograph they are taken as something greater than words. They are taken as interpretations of the thing which we are viewing. We either read or resist, we want to know or we don’t. We trust our perceptions or we give them over to another to define our experience for us. The challenge of great photography books is how to find the balance between the image and the text, the way to provide information and context without altering our visceral experience of the image itself. Words should be used to provide support, but all too often we become lazy and allow the words to pull the cart.
The Book of Probes is powerful because it addresses just this issue, with words that comment on the experience as we are living it. Taken on their own, McLuhan’s observations are essential to cutting through the fog and the haze of cultural complicity. His insights force us to question our assumptions about the way we communicate, the way we connect, the way we create meaning through media today.
“Obsolescence is the moment of superabundance,” he notes, making us think about why print took such a sharp nosedive, a decline from which it may never recover. In the world of photography books, that superabundance was all too obvious. With the transition to digital production at the same time that China grew in the print industry, costs declined so dramatically that the publishing model of producing more for less did itself in. While publishers were focused on producing cheap product, no one was talking market share or audience building. Instead publishers stood back as superstores killed the retail industry, only now to be terrorized by the power that Amazon wields. No small thing the company named itself after the great rainforest and the great woman warrior. Did publishers really think they stood a chance against a business model that took advantage of their short- sighted thinking?
McLuhan’s single quote in a book of 576 pages stands out to me, but that is only because that is the spread to which I flipped as I write this story. Turn another page and there is a question McLuhan poses. “What happens when the ad makers take over all the popular myths and poetry?” What do you think? What do you feel? We all live in a world where advertising has become culture and culture has become advertising and it becomes very difficult to distinguish the line between art and commerce. That is—if there ever was one to begin with.
The Book of Probes is, in many ways, the ultimate objet de McLuhan. It forces us to stop rushing from end to end, to enjoy the means and the journey instead. It asks us to contemplate and consider rather than conclude. It suggests that the answers do not matter as much as the questions do.
Originally Published 12 March 2012
in Le Journal de la Photographie
August 27, 2014
The light of my face comes from the candle of my spirit.
August 26, 2014
While most teenagers daydreamed of summer break while playing records in their bedrooms, fourteen-year-old Paul Zone spent his youth immersed in the New York underground, exploring the concrete playground with actors, drag queens, and drug addicts. The mid-1970s was a time when the death of Glam and the birth of Punk collided in a celebration of glitter and grime, and Zone had a front-row seat to it all.
Playground: Growing Up in New York Underground (Glitterati Incorporated), Zone’s first book, is an incredible photo memoir in which the author his reminiscences alongside never-before-seen photographs of a time and a place that have become synonymous with the history of music and culture in the late twentieth century.
As Hilton Als wrote in The New Yorker, “Zone’s black-and-white images are beautiful because they’re filled with attitude. His subjects are all so young and trying not to show it; the poses they strike speak of their relative innocence and glory, and their fearlessness, too. The photos document the importance of the glitter stuck on one’s heel in those long-ago days when not fitting in was more than a badge of honor: it was a commonplace, like courage.”
Playground features photographs of bands including Blondie, The Ramones, The New York Dolls, Iggy and the Stooges, the Dead Boys, Suicide, T. Rex, and KISS, as well as musicians, artists, and scensters such as Richard Hell, Johnny Thunders, Patti Smith, Lou Reed, Wayne County, Alice Cooper, Lance Loud, Stephen Sprouse, Christopher Makos, Anya Phillips, Cherry Vanilla, Arturo Vega, Anna Sui, Sable Starr, James Chance, Lydia Lunch, and more.
As Legs McNeil, author of Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History Of Punk, recalls, “Besides being a rock star, Paul’s artistry with his camera captures all the glam, glitter and garishness of that sinfully decadent time—and reminds us again how much fun everyone was having! We want to be standing there—in every photo—just out of frame– watching, listening and laughing as Debbie Harry and Joey Ramone trade one-liner—before deciding whether to go to Max’s or CBGB’s?”
McNeil continues, “The great feeling we get from his photos—is that Paul Zone was actually ‘In’ with the ‘In Crowd,’ one of those charmed people who was everywhere, every night with all the right people! And he got the goods to prove it! Of all the photos from this period, Paul Zone’s pictures breathes a refreshing new life into a time that is fast becoming a fading memory—and makes us see that wonderful scene for the truly vital moment it was! I love Paul Zone’s visions of the past, which became our future!”
Read the Full Story at THE CLICK.
August 25, 2014
“If God gave you the talent, you should go for it. But don’t think it’s going to be easy,” Aaliyah Dana Houghton knew, and so she spoke. She sang and danced too, more than a woman, you know. She was, she is, an eternal flame burning in memory of a woman gone too soon. She died as she lived, a shooting star cast across the sky. On January 16, 2014, Aaliyah would be 35, were she not to have died on August 25, 2001, at her prime.
In July of her final year, Eric Johnson photographed Aaliyah for Entertainment Weekly, and since that time, photographs from the shoot that have gone around the globe. Whether gracing the cover of Vibe magazine’s memorial issue or illustrating Aaliyah’s Wikipedia page, the photographs have become so emblematic of that singer’s mystique that they have been remade countless times as murals, paintings, and drawings that are seen everywhere from Instagram to Times Square.
Recently. Johnson went through his negatives from the shoot, revealing a series of portraits the world has never seen. “She was on,” Johnson recalls. The consummate professional, Aaliyah arrived early at the shoot with her mother. Before Johnson’s camera, the triple-threat reveals endless facets of an artist coming into her own.
Read the Full Story at
L’OEIL DE LA PHOTOGRAPHIE
August 22, 2014
For twenty years, “Law & Order” ruled the television airwaves, broadcasting stories ripped from the headlines into the privacy of our living rooms. From 1990-2010, the show brought the darkness of New York’s criminal world to the light. What made the show successful was the way it refused to turn away, but instead moved into murky waters in every episode. For some, truth was found in the details. Talented location scout purposely chose graffiti-laden settings as backdrops upon which these tragic dramas were told.
In tribute to the show that stood so long, New York artists Mint&Serf began publishing SGU (Special Graffiti Unit), a newsprint publication. Featuring photographs, stories, and art, SGU was designed to be a tangible catalogue in what is becoming an increasingly digital world. “Never Too Young” the seventh edition of the publication, is being released in a conjunction with a group photography exhibition of the same name, running August 22- September 7th at No Romance Galleries at 355 Broadway, NY.
Featuring the work of four emerging photographers including Osvaldo Chance Jiminez aka Slutlust, Mike Krim, PJ Monte, and Harry McNally, the exhibition showcases a world that is equal party edgy, glamorous, and banal, a world that is New York City in the new millennium. Co-Curator Mikhail Sokivikov (Mint) spoke with The Click about the ways in which restless youth continue to define the city’s ever-changing landscape. .
Sokovikov observes, “This is our first group photography show. We began by curating the show with focusing on two photographers and realized we needed to open it up to different aesthetics and the ideas behind them. We chose to work with emerging photographers because didn’t want to tap anyone who has already had shows and acclaim. We never had anyone who looked out for us, and thus we were always making our own mistakes. It’s great to be able to give back in a way. We can share our experiences in the art world with these artists, put them on to things they may not know about. It’s the underdog you fight for.”
Read the Full Story at THE CLICK.
August 21, 2014
August 20, 2014
When people talk listen completely.
Don’t be thinking about what you’re going to say.
Most people never listen. Nor do they observe.
You should be able to go into a room and when you come out
know everything that you saw in there and not only that.
If that room gave you any feeling
you should know exactly what it was that gave you that feeling.
Try that for practice.
August 19, 2014
Sugar and spice and all things nice, like glitter and gold, sparkle and shine and delight, like lip gloss and candy-colored purses with matching shoes and perfume that smells like spring, like flowers in bloom. All things femme, feminine, sexy, sex, lots of it, like seconds and thirds and even fourths. A way of being, of flowing, of feeling, a vibration that is sweet and juicy, like a bowl of mixed berries over cherry vanilla ice cream. And it keeps going, glowing, the way that April Flores with energy, a feeling and a beauty that goes so deep below that you know that it’s love. True Love. Self Love. One Love…because that’s all it ever is, especially when you bring another person into the mix.
This is where Fat Girl (Barnacle Books) begins. Before the lens of Carlos Batts, husband to April Flores, he who dies October 22, 2013, just a few months after the book was released. He who gave his heart, his soul, his love to his muse. He began photographing Miss Flores in June 2000, and from that thousands and thousands of images were born, images of the beauty of the beloved before the man whose heart she adored.
Fat Girl is a love story, a story of wonder, of self-discovery, to be or not to be beauty, to be art, to live as your own creation and to collaborate with your other half, to live as Goddess, Queen, and Consort. Here, the masculine and feminine come together in the celebration of the spirit made flesh, in the celebration of one woman, an icon of glamour that belies the great D.I.Y. art of self invention. April Flores carries her curves the way other women carry their furs. She wears her body like a luxury.
Miss Flores observes, “I have come to have such an ease within my skin by learning over time that confidence is what really matters. I used to be super-uncomfortable within myself because of my weight. Slowly I realized that the happiness I wanted to feel inside would not magically come if I lost the weight. I decided not to base my happiness on something as trivial as body size. It has all been a growing process for me.”
Read the Full Story at THE CLICK.
August 18, 2014
It begins, as it always does. With a question or two, three, four. Where we began and where we’ve come, the spiral of eternity known as time. Which is really just distance, measured by rotations of the earth and sun. We come and we go and we never really know unless we stop and ask. And so it is that we reflect, and where we’re going because we’ve been here before, for energy cannot be created or destroyed. But remade once more…
I had no idea it would come to this, but I should have known cause I could have guessed. Without further adieu, I am honored to bring you the words of Negro Libre, once again.
Mr. Fuego: So basically what you’re saying is that Feminists, most typical Western intellectuals, lawyers, and other Post-Modernists are all philosophically descendent of the Sophists? What about the Solipsists? Were they a derivative of the Sophists?
Mr. Libre: I think, Sophists in particular represent something completely different, you can almost say sophists are the enemies of philosophy. Solipsists are just another kind of sophist, but aren’t as vindictive or as Machiavellian.
Understanding the Sophists, is kind of an exercise in understanding a lot of the history of not just white people, but also the rise and fall of nations. In Ancient Greece, (Athens in particular) most of the societies were dual class. The upper class were the free people, the lower classed were slaves (this has to do with the men primarily). The free people got a liberal education; whereas the slaves got a servile education. The liberal education served the purpose of teaching all the members of that class, what they needed to manage any civil/political activity in the country. Anytime the city wanted something to be done politically, they would literally just throw a name in a hat, put a name, and anyone whose name was picked out was supposed to have the skill and talent to be a leader, thus the primary purpose of the liberal education was to bring about leaders; the purpose of the servile education, was to teach a slave to do a particular job or task…you can guess where our educational system evolved from.
The point is that since there was this divide in the society, the classes evolved differently. The upper class evolved to see things big picture and often talked about big ideas and mulch-faceted things, this was the kind of society that Southerners were trying to rebuild in the U.S, which played a major role in their desire to fight the Civil War, you can find references, which they openly talked about during the Civil War. However, unlike in the South, many of the Grecian slaves were not dehumanized, and weren’t meant to be slaves all their lives.
After the events of the Greco-Persian wars (what the 300 movies are about), the Greeks started to get interested in imperialism, especially the city of Athens, and began to educate themselves on other people’s cultures. Over time, a lot of guys began to realize that due to the fact that cultures differed so much, that the idea that there could be an “objective truth” was dumb. And due to that fact, the easiest way to achieve dominance or political significance was not in being able to persuade people what truth was, but being able to disprove the foolish idea that anyone could know truth. These people became the first group of lawyers, where they started teaching people how to manipulate crowds, got murderers and criminals off, since they were able to argue that it was impossible to know what truth was, all that mattered was creating a story (narrative) that people felt agreeable.
These guys started to get rich, and many of those older traditionalists in the society started to get scared because they could see that the country was in decline. People no longer wanted to be engaged in politics, or take leadership roles, but were more concerned in training themselves in rhetoric to disprove arguments. One of the few people who did a good job refuting these sophists though, was Socrates. Socrates was a broke philosopher, who used to challenge the Sophists, and often embarrassed them publicly. And he separated himself from them, by saying that anyone who charged to give knowledge to others, would by default become a sophists, since they would only profit from complexity. He began to develop a following among many young children, so to traditionalists, he was just as much a sophist as the others, however, it was the sophists managed to convince the traditionalists that Socrates was the main Sophists corrupting the young, so they gathered together and had him executed.
Due to the corrupting forces of the Sophists, the Greeks eventually divided up and it was hard for them to engage in collective action, since they were all caught up in the disproving of their opposing competitors “truth”, that they forgot that it’s the idea, acceptance and working towards the discovery of an objective truth that actually brings people together, on all levels, despite the ugliness that might occur during such pain. They ended up becoming extremely weak as city states and it was this political weakness that enabled Alexander the Great to completely conquer the nations of Greek, and eventually provide the Romans with the blueprint of Empire, that has been passed down from generation to generation, and is applied by our leaders today.
Post-modernism which is more a modern development, has the same origins in multiculturalism (Lol I sound like a conservative, but it is what it is). Where other cultures, under the guise of diversity, are used instead of as a wider scope of knowledge, but as a way of exercising power over other people and achieving political means. So rather than engaging in the painful debate over facts that is required to arrive at objective truth, Academics just divide up truth based on a group’s consciousness. Which is why there is African American History/Studies, Feminist/Women History/Studies, eventually LGBT studies/history and of course White History, which is just normally History. So rather than having professors and thinkers have to seriously debate the facts of what actually happened in the History of the U.S. for example, various groups of people are only taught the history of the group they choose to associate with, as if your group determines your reality, rather than we all being a part of it. In their desire not to have to defend their points and stick to the facts, but attain unity through propaganda, we all become conflicted in our education, which manifests itself in our politics and prevents intellectual unity.
It all ends up leading to self-imposed divide and conquer which is driven primarily by ambition and appeals to bitterness; it also proves the axiom by my favorite historian Will Durant, that an empire is destroyed from within before it is destroyed from with-out. And it’s usually because people are so caught up in their divisions that they only see the present moment, but cannot see the next 50 to a 100 years in advance. Which is what I think has been the mindset of the black community since black feminism became the dominant ideology among black people. A great example of this is the example of Welfare. We all know welfare is destroying the black community, but in the short term giving up on welfare, would require, mostly black women to have to struggle immensely and not only that rely on black men a lot more, which a lot, especially in that situation are not prepared to do. So what’s the solution…well leave things the way they are, and blame white people. Even as society crumbles, blaming white people, only helps rationalize inaction, where regardless of whether or not you blame white people, it doesn’t change the timetable for your own self-destruction.
August 14, 2014
There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man;
true nobility is being superior to your former self.
August 13, 2014
Art is my way of understanding the world.
August 12, 2014
Joie Iacono is a diamond, polished to shine, reflecting, refracting, and bending light at she desires. A photographer, painter, designer, director, 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.
Iacono reveals, “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 iconography travels, finding its form as it makes its way through time and space. As she changes location, she also changes form. Where she was previously focused on photography in New York, Iacono has become much more invested in music in Berlin. She recalls, “A few years ago when I was touring around Europe a lot with Antony and the Johnsons, I began to have very strong desires to leave the U.S. permanently. Growing up in New York, which is such a transitory place, I met so many people from all over the world who were dying to get to New York City, meanwhile I was dying to experience the places they had come from. As my concerns about the current climate in America grew, my desire to move grew. Living in New York started to feel too forced to me.”
In September 2013, painter Cédrix Crespel collaborated with Iacono on “Exhibition J.O.I.E.” at AD Galerie in Montpellier. She recalls, “I used the show as a jumping off point to leave New York, without really knowing where we would end up, like Lewis Carroll wrote in Alice in Wonderland…
Read the Full Story at THE CHIC.
August 11, 2014
The portrait has become the icon of our times. Where we once venerated gods and saints, we now elevate ourselves to the object worthy of beholding, worthy of veneration—by ourselves, our loved ones, or by perfect strangers. The portrait is a means of recording that one moment in time as a universal constant; this is us now and forever more, this is who we are and how we see the world. And as we see, so we are seen. And as we believe, so we become.
The portrait was originally an invention of painting and sculpture, a means of recording greatness to sway the populace. Kings and queens and lesser nobles had likenesses produced as a means of asserting their power. For the image speaks in every language and can be understood by all, no matter when we live, what we perceive through our eyes is a mirror of the world.
When photography replaced painting as the tool of recording life, painting had to redefine itself. But photography, photography was immediately taken as a form of truth, as a means of both art and reportage at the same time. It is a construction, in as much as all objects exist in our mind first. But it also the reconstruction of memory as mediated through our contemplation of the object itself.
It is this, the significance of portraiture in our lives, that makes the work of photographers Seydou Keïta and Malick Sidibé so profound. Their ability to show us the lives of modern Africans forever changes our assumptions about the place in which life began. The politics of Africa are so tremendous it does not behoove me to try to frame them within this piece, but suffice to say the work of these photographer strips us of the assumptions, prejudices, and distortions that history has decreed.
There is something about being one of the people that one photographs that has authenticity. Not just authenticity, but authority. Both Keïta and Sidibé are from Mali, one of the poorest nations in the world. But you would never know this to look at their photographs for the people who stood before their cameras maintain a dignity that defies the worst of circumstance. Humanity, such as it is recorded in portraiture, is how we see ourselves in our own eyes—and thus we reflect our self-image back on the world.
It is in these reflections that two beautiful new books have been released: Seydou Keïta: Photographs Bamako, Mali 1948–1963 (SteidlDangin) and Malick Sidibé: The Portrait of Mali (Skira). Sidibé’s photographs cover the period of the early1960s through the 1980s, making these volumes a discourse on the continuity of people, photography, and portraiture created in Mail from colonialism to revolution to dictatorship. Democracy was finally established, but that was after these photographs were taken, so what we are looking at is people living in the shadows and aftermath of French occupation.
The Keïta book is a marvel. It stands at 17 x 12.3 inches, with 412 pages and over 400 photographs. It is as much a piece of furniture as an objet d’art unto itself. It is a timeless compendium of portraits, mostly unpublished, taken by the man who became Bamako’s most successful portrait photographer during the 1950s and 60s.
It offers us a glimpse into the space where the public and private meet. For no matter how carefully we compose our face, there is always something in the eyes that gives us away. There is desire, dreams, hopes, fears. There is who we think we are and who we wish to be. There is who we are with one another, and who we are when we stand alone. Seydou Keïta: Photographs Bamako, Mali 1948–1963 is a picture window into a time and a place that few of us know or understand or investigate for the mythology of Africa is so vast and grand.
Keïta’s portraits show us that all the world over, in any time or place, humanity is more alike than it is different. We know love and we know hate. We know beauty and we know ugliness. We know others in as much as we know ourselves, and when we look at these portraits, what we see is the the ephemeral forever caught by the eternal.
Beautifully complementing this volume is the book by Sidibé, a paperback book that offers us a look both inside and outside the photographer’s studio. Sidibé’s work is taken after colonial occupation ended and we see the people of Bamako creating themselves as in a new world. It is a space where traditions of the past meet the opportunities of the present, where one can create themselves in the space between. Sidibé’s portraits have an emotional intensity that can only be ascribed to the space in between the photographer and the subject, that one moment in time where eyes connected and energy was shared, and the spirit of life is forever caught on silver gelatin paper.
In going outside the studio, Malick Sidibé: The Portrait of Mali shows us a larger world, an environment and a context into which these people appear. We see Mali through the eyes of one of its citizens, and the Mali he knows is not the Mali that is reported to the world. This is a place of power and beauty and style, and though it may be among the poorest nations in the world, you cannot put a price on pride.
The work of Keïta and Sidibé serves a great purpose—to enlighten and inspire us with self respect and self love. To understand Africa is to understand ourselves. Let us begin by listening to Africans tell us their truth.
First published 22 March 2012
Le Journal de la Photographie