Bunny by Polly Borland. One of my favorite ever photos. Happy Easter!
With thanks to the lovely Beatriz Olabarrieta for sending me these astonishing images. So mysterious, so evocative! Well, I guess I would say that given my practice but I have spent a long while trying to figure out what goes on in the picture plain, only to be sucked in by the photograph. It is a feeling I love, so I will try to make it to the show. Nice references too: Atget, Surrealism and Chanel.
Paradise Row Gallery
74 Newman Street
London W1T 3EL
18 NOVEMBER – 23 DECEMBER 2011
Borrowing its title from one of Eugene Atget’s iconic photographs of Parisian shop fronts, Avenue des Gobelins is a meditation on the mystical, ritual nature of material desire and consumption. The central work of this exhibition is a slide-loop projection, The Consumystic. By double and triple-exposing the film, Gluzberg adopts the analogue photographic techniques of the Surrealists to produce a mesh of consumer signs and spaces: the black gleaming lacquer of Chanel, reconfigured by the chaos of a Saturday afternoon at Primark.
I am clearing up, throwing things away, filling, and wrapping, as you do when you finish as long a project as this five-year work. I cannot quite stop yet, I am not resting, although I know I need to. I keep contacting my supervisors with more or less legitimate excuses – my new symptom, it has to stop. I want to write, and I cannot. I am enjoying reading (‘Mansfield Park’ by Jane Austen, ‘Cosmos’ by Witold Gombrowicz and ‘The Man who was Thursday’ by G.K. Chesterton, since you are asking). I am generally leading the life and the moods of someone who is totally lost and a bit bereaved, but it is not a bad thing, as I want to move on (of course I do!).
I am also updating, uploading and making some things available. In general, dragging things out until I they lead me somewhere else.
You can now see the photobook I submitted for my PhD here … As for the textual work, well, that somewhere else I want to go might be publication so I am holding the text for a while. Still, if you want a copy, do get in touch and I will happily respond.
Olivier Theyskens for Nina Ricci, Fall/Winter 2007/2008, by Julien Claessens.
This looks stunning:
Voyeurism, Surveillance and the Camera
Tate Modern 28 May – 3 October 2010
Exposed offers a fascinating look at pictures made on the sly, without the explicit permission of the people depicted. With photographs from the late nineteenth century to present day, the pictures present a shocking, illuminating and witty perspective on iconic and taboo subjects.
Beginning with the idea of the ‘unseen photographer’, Exposed presents 250 works by celebrated artists and photographers including Brassaï’s erotic Secret Paris of the 1930s images; Weegee’s iconic photograph of Marilyn Monroe; and Nick Ut’s reportage image of children escaping napalm attacks in the Vietnam War. Sex and celebrity is an important part of the exhibition, presenting photographs of Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, Paris Hilton on her way to prison and the assassination of JFK. Other renowned photographers represented in the show include Guy Bourdin, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Philip Lorca DiCorcia, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Nan Goldin, Lee Miller, Helmut Newton and Man Ray.
The UK is now the most surveyed country in the world. We have an obsession with voyeurism, privacy laws, freedom of media, and surveillance – images captured and relayed on camera phones, YouTube or reality TV.
Much of Exposed focuses on surveillance, including works by both amateur and press photographers, and images produced using automatic technology such as CCTV. The issues raised are particularly relevant in the current climate, with topical debates raging around the rights and desires of individuals, terrorism and the increasing availability and use of surveillance. Exposed confronts these issues and their implications head-on.
By now, you know I hate my birthday. I have always done so and every year, I go on a self-questioning journey, trying to find out why, to make amends. I have decided that this year will be different. I have a strange relationship to gifts, to presents, not letting myself be pampered and always wondering if I deserve it, if I will be required to give in the same way. I worry too much and I am not grateful enough. I love but don’t let myself be loved very well. This year, my birthday has reached its peak of spoiling-ness (no, it is not a real word but it will work).
Everybody is conscious of my interest in photography and is giving me related gifts. It is very nice to feel heard, paid attention to. My husband is giving me the best present, testing my ability to let go. I am dining at the most luxurious restaurant in Glasgow. I am also getting a magazine of my choice each of the next 12 months. Well, rather, 11, as for my first month I have chosen an extravagant new publication called Eyemazing, lush, beautiful, moving, but as expensive as a coffee table book. This is surely worth 2 months of my concession… What I like the most about this present is the process of choosing, which is a double edged sword of course. Where does one start with magazines, these days? There are hundreds, all with high production value, some with excellent content. This is a present I am going to learn a lot with. After I made my choice and got my magazine, I returned to the shop to browse more, to look again at some images that caught my eye. There was a Mark Abrahams portrait of Marisa Tomei in V Magazine, some incredible compositions in Exit, the always reliable Bon, and some surprising shots by Bryan Adams, the singer — who I very much dislike but may have to re-think as a photographer, in Photographie n. 45. By far, though, the most surprising image I have seen this morning comes from Art World Magazine. It’s from Vanessa Beechcroft, and just look at it:
I had a retail impulse and went for the Nikon D40. A strange choice, as this camera was not in any of the shortlists, but, in hindsight, it makes sense. I do not want whatever piece of kit I buy for my photography work to end up like my video camera, having not seen the day of light for about 3 years now. And when I bought it, I went as top of the range I could. What for? So, with the D40, I bought time to test my commitment to digital photography. It is the right machine for that, lightweight and entry level, so I have no excuses to take it out everywhere.
The pixel ration is not great, but I want to see how the enlargements work. After all, the most successful images in my last show were the small framed ones… My PhD submission will be an A4 book of images (with a twist, of course) so 6.1 is OK for the time being, saving me thus far about £300 which will get put into my next camera fund.
I have had it two days and have taken a fair amount of images with it already, most of which are far better than those obtained with my point-and-shoot. This is really a camera for dummies, so all I have to do is think about the picture. It is a real pleasure. And a light one, assuaging my biggest fear. What a delight not to have live view, either. Looking through a view finder changes your relationship to the image, as Serge Tisseron pointed out. It helps to conceptualise the world and understand it, rather than just represent it. Almost a mystical experience, one I knew about from using the blind Mamiya.
Here’s my first self-portrait, à la Friedlander. Bonus point to anyone who can guess what the background is.
The first realisation I had during my PhD was the fact that what I was looking for, the objects of seduction I longed for, were already out there. I did not need to spend unfruitful hours trying to re-create, imitate what industrialization, and capitalism had already achieved. To compete, in terms of seduction, what I had to devise was a way to capture the relationship, to apprehend what was going on, to replicate it in order to study it in depth. Photography was my discovery. Four years later, photos are the works of art that titillate me most in an art gallery, as you may have noticed from the way I write on this blog. Photography makes me look twice at things, whether I am in front of a printed image, of behind the viewfinder. Even more if the two conflate and I show what I saw behind the viewfinder. Soon, my image — not the one I have taken, but, rather, me as a model — will take hold of a gallery, and I am looking forward to a new way of seeing myself.
I have been particularly taken by fashion photography, by its glossiness and its fearlessness, by the new language it has created and how it has seeped into the close-knit, inbred fine art world. I found it a breadth of fresh air, especially this show, which I saw on my last visit to New York. I even feel I finally understand Terry Richardson and the Vice Magazine culture! But Fine Art Photography has also had things to say outside of the fashion discourse. I might have been less observant (as fashion photography is all about seduction, and so grabbed me) but interesting things such as this have been going on around me. And then, there are the blogs: from Sartorialist to Belen Cerezo and Neil Scott’s FOTO, I always find inspiration in those pages.
Then, onto the title of the post. I want to commit to photography. It is embarrassing to think that everything I have done has been with a point-and-shoot or a borrowed medium-format camera. I know, I know, the camera is not important, it is what you do with it, but I feel ready to take the plunge into DSLR-world now that my least favourite time in the year is approaching and I may have some disposable cash (she says, wishfully). The problem is, of course, which one. The information out there is dizzying, and everyone has a favorite and an opinion. I am fed up with it, so I want to make this short and sweet. The shortlist is between Canons and Nikons, semi-professional range, moderately light so I don’t get lazy about taking it out with me. Remember I always carry books for comfort… What do you reckon? Do you have camera experiences you want to share with me?
And finally, not to forget what all this is about, I leave you with some images, which are what matters, really (even though none were, I think taken with the cameras mentioned above).
Dan Graham – Slide
Santu Mofokeng, Dove Lady #2, Diepkloof Zone 3, Soweto, (2002) Black & white photograph on Baryth paper, 70 x 100 cm
Terry Richardson, Skateboard P
Keller & Wittwer, I knew some of you better than others, but I miss you all (self-portraits)#2, 2007, b/w Fine Art Prints, edition 6 + 1 ap, 57 x 43 cm
Steven Klein, Untitled, 2008
Michael Thompson, Ruffled Neck, New York City, 2007
The talk at MFIT went very well. I realised afterwards that this is the very first time I have talked about seduction without any of the padding that you usually have to put together for conferences, in order to fit into the overall theme. I confronted seduction in a public way for the first time, and it was fantastic. I was motivated, enlivened by the subject and its curious manifestations, by its contradictions, by the philosophies that try to study it. I hope it was interesting to the audience; it certainly was great Viva preparation for me. Colleen’s questions were excellent, direct, the sort of thing that relates seduction to real life and they reminded me of that book I would like to write and publish after the PhD. The public also had interesting things to say: the issue of a subjective approach in research came about, and so did the relational elements of the seducer-seducee dyad. I expected them (as I had asked the same questions) but I never heard myself answering them.
Part of the success, though, comes from the fact that the exhibition I was talking about was consistently good, more Manolo than Boucher, diverse, playful and very very seductive. I nearly fell on my back when I saw the encased Louboutin-Rodarte platforms. I had a picture of them for my presentation and Tamsen took an amazing shot of the talk with the image commanding authority over my head. As it should be.
After that, I have been very busy here in NYC. I have done portfolio advice, organised an alumni get together and done a couple of institutional visits on behalf of the School I work for. Still, I have managed to see the Whitney, Paul Graham’s show at the MoMA, the new museum of contemporary art, and the International Centre of Photography. The photographic bias of my choices is due to the fact that I am also here to take some photos whenever possible. Out of these Paul Graham was distinctly wonderful. His display was a breadth of fresh air. He seemed to be saying “Look! Look! Look again!” I engaged with the photos, I understood, I got inspired by his images and their presentation, their richness of colour. Green looked green, and so did the other elements of the visual spectrum. The content was not groundbreaking, but then, it was, because it seemed I had never seen it before. At least, not seen it enough. It reconciled me with photography. I don’t call myself a photographer but in that gallery, I saw what I wanted to do and how I wanted to display it. I really enjoyed it, although the fact that a nice security guy got me a free ticket, since I was only going to see one room, may have somewhat contributed to my joy.
New York is full of nice people. My New Museum experience proved that the MoMA guy was not unique. The gallery opens at 12. I was baffled when I found out, and also how I found out. I managed to slip into the administrative offices, all on my own, the little spy that I am. It was freezing outside so I dismayed when the security guy told me (completely calm at finding me there), the museum would open in one hour. His mention of a nice coffee shop down the road sounded much better. I managed to read a fair bit of my Serge Tisseron book, something I hadn’t manage all week, and eat excellent cake. When I finally made it to the museum, I understood why it opened so late. The four floors of display contained only 4 pieces!! I found it wonderful, again a matter of engagement. I seemed to be in the minority, though, as some people found the ticket’s value for money a bit of a cheat. This is the first time I have managed to see video work in its entirety, staying for more than one viewing at times. I even had time to live and breathe in the Jeremy Deller piece It Is What It Is: Conversations About Iraq. I have to say that this changed my opinion of his work and of relational art in general. I found it cutting edge, contemporary, contingent; for once, competent practice rather than just Bourriaud’s theories and a bunch of cool names. I suppose it is like performances: you have to be present, you have to give time. Time, oh time, we don’t realise how important it is when it comes to art…
All and all, the efforts to revitalise and give my work some time (time, again!) and thought have paid off: I have been to Macy’s and Bloomingdales, up and down Fifth avenue (where I was so inspired by a Valentino shop window), and the boutiques of the Meatpaking district. Let’s see if, for the last couple of days of my stay, I can be as energetic with finishing this methodology chapter that is driving me up the wall…