Women with [Rolie, disposable & blackberry] Cameras: From Vivan Maier to Kim Kardashian

 

Women with Cameras (Self Portrait) is a collection of vernacular photographs of women making images of themselves in a mirror, often using point-and-shoot or flip-phone cameras, often with the flash on. These images, carefully selected by Collier, predate the proliferation of smartphones, and act as a capsule folk history of the personal camera in the distant-seeming era before social media.

 

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Collier’s book links the photography of Vivian Maier and Kim Kardashian West, perhaps most simply by bridging the time periods in which the two photographers produced their work. But Collier’s book also highlights cultural shifts between Maier and Kardashian West’s respective eras, particularly concerning perceptions of privacy, fame, sex, and the concept of creating one’s own image.

Vivian Maier was born in 1926, and most of her self-portrait work was made in Chicago in the 1950s through the 1970s. Kim Kardashian West, born in 1980, published Selfish as a collection of her selfies taken between 2006 (when her job title was “Paris Hilton’s Stylist”) through 2014 (the year of her marriage to Kanye West). Presumably all of the images in Selfish were made in order to be shared through social media, with the exception an image Kim made with sister Khloé in 1984, identified in the book as her “first selfie.”

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“My very first selfie was taken in 1984 I put my mom’s clip-on earrings on Khloé and found a disposable camera and took a picture to capture this memory.”

Kim Kardashian West is, of course, a celebrity of global proportions, a woman whose image is ubiquitous throughout the media landscape and who, as of January 2019, possesses the sixth-most-followed account on Instagram. At least some measure of Vivian Maier’s fame, on the other hand, derives from her apparent desire to remain anonymous. Maier was “vehemently private about her motivation to make images.” “We look at her self-portraits for revelations, but she does not really give us much, writes Elizabeth Avedon in her foreword to Self-Portraits. “She is alone in her reflections. Her viewpoint difficult to judge, no hint of emotion or reaction. Never a portrait with a partner. She is seldom with a friend…The strength of Maier’s character is found in the persona looking back at us. There is little compromise; and ironically for such a private, autonomous person, her self-portraits are some of her strongest work thus far.”

 

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In addition to her reflection photos, Maier continually made portraits of her shadow. These shadow portraits present an antithesis to the glaring flash photography seen in Collier’s collection, and to the emphasis on the extremely visible self in Kardashian West’s selfies. Maier’s shadows transcend space and exude physicality; they project a phantom or facsimile of Maier onto the photo’s landscape while simultaneously binding her with the photograph itself. One of Maier’s portraits contains both her shadow (including her trademark hat) and her reflection, captured in a globular lawn ornament. The reflective orb distorts her body while also displaying it in its entirety. This photograph enlists Maier’s signature technique of framing and layering of subjects while retaining a playfulness in terms of space, surface and the perception of the viewer.

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The timeline of Kim Kardashian West’s Selfish begins in 2006, one year before the leak of her sex tape and the premiere of Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Most of Kardashian West’s early social media images were posted to her personal MySpace; using the Internet Wayback Machine, we can view a screenshot of her account. Her Top 8 notably includes recording artist Ray J, her boyfriend at the time and a fellow participant in the aforementioned sex tape. It’s inarguable that the February 2007 release of that tape skyrocketed Kardashian West into the upper echelons of modern celebrity, and I would argue that much of her social media presence in the wake of the tape is an effort to take control of how the media and fans perceive her. This is paralleled in the book, as there are less than 20 images before early 2007, when her image control began in earnest.

The timeline between the bulk of Maier’s photographs and Kim’s reclaiming of her own image through social media is neatly filled with the images in Women with Cameras. Collier’s book provides powerful insight to the social changes that connect Maier and Kardashian. The bulk of photos in Women with Cameras are from the 1980s and 1990s, but contain brief glimpses backward into the 1970s and also bleed over into the early aughts. If we were to order the images in Collier’s piece chronologically (as is the case with Selfie), the last image would be of a woman standing in a mirror, holding a digital camera at a skewed angle.

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[c. 2000’s]

Based on the camera she is holding, this is obviously a born-digital image. It is a distinct possibility that this image that was originally posted to MySpace. Although Selfish doesn’t indicate where or if the photographs were posted online (save for one section to be discussed below), I think it is safe to assume that the majority of the photos were first publicly posted on her MySpace and, after 2010, on her Instagram account.

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Selfish is an artist book. I like Selfish. But Women with Cameras and Self-Portraits each provide clear proof that the concept of women making their own image through cameras is not new. Although Maier’s inclination was to portray the more mysterious aspects of her personality, it is also clear that she enjoyed posing in her pictures. Collier’s image curation provides further evidence that women have been taking pictures of themselves looking and feeling sexy in the mirror for a very long time. So what makes Selfish such a culturally significant book?

 

For one thing, it’s designed well; Kim is, after all, concerned with aesthetic. But the design of Selfish also informs the story that the book wants to tell. Selfish “starts” less than a year before the Ray J tape leaks, but 427 out of its 444 pages
women_with_cameras019are made up of images taken after 2007. There is also a section in which the photographs are printed on black pages. This section is visible on the fore edge, head and tail of the book, and when we open to it, we find images that feel ~slightly~ more private than others. In many images, we don’t see Kim’s face; just her body or close-ups of her breasts. In a bit of text, Kardashian writes: “#WifeLife” and later explains ” I wasn’t intending to put these in the book but saw them online during the icloud hack. I’m not mad at them. lol They are taken with a blackberry and I don’t have icloud… it’s all a mystery!”

Kim plays with the role of intimacy in her image so well– the text and the nature of the image imply these were images intended for her husband, but she continues to share them with the public. The images are not more or less explicit than the others in the book, but it is the context and design that make it feel that way. Anticipating the now common flippant caption: “felt cute may delete later lol”. Including these images also calls into question whether the hack (or the initial sex tape leak) was choreographed in any way, and allows Kim to take back the narrative. Kardashian deeply understands that part of the allure of these images is the audience’s experience of voyeurism, and this narrative furthers the images’ power.

 

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Most significantly, all three of these books are defined by the ways in which they display women’s power and agency in creating their own image. In Women with Cameras, a pair of friends pose together in a mirror with a yellow Kodak disposable camera with images of a pair of celebrities taped to the concrete wall. We are clearly in a dorm room or perhaps a summer camp bunk, a space where young women are in the process of understanding who they want to be. women_with_cameras006

Kim’s psychology can be inferred more casually, because she broadcasts and curates it on television and her social media. These media underpin her ultimate goals: to be a cultural icon, to be considered beautiful. Kim’s photography was an integrally important tool in allowing her to accomplish these goals. Initially, Kim’s fame was the result of the release of images over which she did not have full control. But her self-portraits, first on MySpace and then, inescapably, on Instagram, reclaimed to the owner the image of herself; Kim has in turn used that image to define her career.

There is a coyness to the incidental act of being caught in a mirror which can be alluring. For Maier, this form of happenstance was a way of engaging with her subjects by catching their reflections and allowing her own image serving as almost a signature. “We were here, and I made this photograph.”women_with_cameras001

Self-portraiture becomes a dialog with ourselves and our intended audience, but, importantly also the camera itself. There is an agency in seeing the camera. It disrupts the gaze and informs the viewer that the photographer made this image, of herself.

Lynne Tillman’s essay in Women with Cameras (Self Portraits) concludes: “[Collier] documents people’s incessant need to see themselves, over and over, and to be their own image-takers and keepers.” Vivian Maier and Kim Kardashian West in many ways exist as opposite poles, Collier’s work calls both to mind, in the sense that she seems to be saying that we need to see ourselves (over and over) in order to understand ourselves, regardless whether that need plays itself out in a private, public or liminal space. But does our perception change when we present our image towards an audience of friends and strangers?

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Ambiguity and photography

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Eugene Atget: The Eternal Inspiration is the record of an exhibition at the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum that ran from December 2017 till January of the next year. It is part three in a series of exhibits held by TOP about Atget, the previous two showing in 1992 and 1998 respectively. This show specifically highlights Atget’s influence in America and Japan in the 20th and 21st centuries, and collects work from Atget himself as well as Americans Alfred Stieglitz, Man Ray, Berenice Abbott (as well as her prints of Atget’s work), Walker Evans, and Lee Friedlander; Japanese photographers Moriyama Daido, Araki Nobuyoshi, Fukase Masahisa, and Seino Yoshiko; as well as Atget contemporaries Henri Le Secq and Charles Marville. In addition, the book contains supplementary essays by Suzuki Yoshiko and Yokoe Fuminori.

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Eugene Atget “Saint-Cloud” 1904

Yokoe’s essay walks the reader through the history of Atget’s life and work, in the process debunking common misconceptions, including a background to his methodologies, context for his work, and details of his complicated relationship with Berenice Abbott as well as Man Ray and the surrealists. Atget did not see himself as an “art photographer” or a surrealist, yet many saw in his work something beyond mere documentary. In the posthumous 1930 book Atget: Photographe de Paris, Pierre MacOrlan writes that photographs can contain “sentimental knowledge” and “a truth that can serve as a point of departure for our own interpretations”. In some ways, truth was not quite as solid as Atget perhaps trusted it to be in his life’s work: the project to photograph the disappearing Old Paris.

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Seino Yoshiko “Everywhere – Gather Yourself – Stand” 2009

In her posthumous, second photo book, Everywhere – Gather Yourself – Stand (2009), Seino Yoshiko echoes MacOrlan, “Today…We cannot focus on anything and the present gets diffused for everyone. What, then, do we try to find in the images of photographs? I do not believe that photography is a medium that represents memory, history, story, or sentiment alone. I do not like such photographs anyway. It has become clear to me that photographs that just consume our “hope” eventually fail to reach us. Photography makes sense only when it manages to find a narrow passageway; it becomes valid only when the photographer manages to create a “passage”. The passage opens up before the viewer and what lies ahead is left for [them] to decide.”

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Seino Yoshiko “Everywhere – Gather Yourself – Stand” 2009

Atget did not wish to make any sort of imperative statement with his images yet at the same time didn’t see himself as an artist creating open-ended works either; his self-image was that of documentarian whose work would speak for itself in its neutrality. However, this precise lack of added narrative in his work is what attracted impresario gallerist Julien Levy, and Man Ray, to him. Suzuki Yoshiko writes of Julien Levy: “Drawn to the idea that the principal appeal determining whether a photograph is good or bad is concealed within an elusive ambiguity, Levy was preparing the groundwork for passing on the aesthetics of straight photography, which originated with Atget, to the next generation.” Ironically, what is named here as the defining characteristic of something “straight” is that mysterious and slippery quality called imagination. In trying to achieve an impossible objectivity without qualifiers, Atget opened up a new space for a genre of photography in between literal documentary, staged fiction, and figurative abstraction. Straight photography would come to define the 20thcentury even though its inspiration was largely unintentional. The Eternal Inspiration leaves no doubt in the readers mind that ambiguity is indeed central to photography’s ephemeral and sometimes mysterious power, even beyond the realm of straight photography.

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Eugene Atget “Versailles, Parc” 1924-25

It’s this assistant librarian’s opinion that the photography that inundates us: advertisements, ‘non-fiction’ documentary and news, “Instagram friendly photography”, this is to say photography without history, or photography that “just consumes our ‘hope’” is artistic photography without this crucial yet unnamable ambiguity that Levy saw as the foundation of the now-anachronistic idiom of straight photography. The resulting void is replaced with commodity fetishism and spectacle – thus ambiguity in the age of digital advertising is a political and anti-capitalist quality. TOP’s volume on Eugene Atget may at first seem like an unnecessary rehashing of “old masters”, however the value of ambiguity cannot be overstated, and The Eternal Inspiration makes an absolutely convincing case for its title.

 

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Two Books, a Dog a Son’s Profound Longing

Please enjoy a guest post by our lovely volunteer, Artist Erika Morillo:

Making work about family is complicated, and in Sohrab Hura’s two books Life is elsewhere and It’s getting sunny outside, he gives us a visceral look into his own. At face value, both books (which were published three years apart) might seem like a progression from darkness to light, a transitioning out of dysfunction, but upon closer inspection, we familiarize ourselves with Hura’s penchant for paradoxes.

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Comprised of writing and black and white photographs, Life is elsewhere inspects Hura’s surroundings and relationships, most prominently the relationship with his mother, who suffers from severe mental illness, which turns her abusive behaviors towards him. Instead of recoiling, he stays. He writes about the pain and turns his gaze towards her, photographing the ripples of her mental state, an emotional black hole of hospital gowns, decaying walls, and locked doors. We see glimpses of the outside world, where lone horses stand in vast fields at night and individuals incinerated by light become faceless against a black landscape.

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The middle of the book provides a respite from this familial chaos. An image of a boat and the presence of the sea signal a point of departure from life at home. Schools of fish, joyful women splashing in the water and encounters with friends speak to the expansion of his world and desire to find community.  When taken as diptychs, the spreads of man-swan, hand-reptile, woman-cat feel like a Kafkaesque desire for transformation or looking at animals for answers. His images evoke a sense of longing, as he becomes a voyeur of physical affection, of his friends’ romantic pursuits, of coupling reptiles and most poignantly, of his mom’s affection towards her dog Elsa.

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His second book, It’s getting sunny outside, is in direct dialog with the first one. The moths on the previous cover are now cherry blossoms that house a collection of color images. The image of a hospital gown has now been replaced with a yellow dress; his mother is out of bed, her hair brushed and toenails painted. Things seem to be getting better. But as his mother’s mental health improves her dog’s health declines. Elsa becomes the protagonist of the book and his mother, her caretaker.

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Life is elsewhere gave us the foundation to understand that on this second book, Elsa becomes a canvas unto which Hura starts to project the intricacy of his relationship with his mother. In the first book, he conveys his imprisonment more literally, through candid writing and documentary photos of heavily locked doors, dirty walls and pills at hand; But here, through Elsa;, he finds abstraction. These saturated images of life at home feel darker than his black and white photos and say more about his own feelings than those of Elsa. There are photos of gutted dogs lying lifeless, Elsa looking longingly at a bird and a photo of him and Elsa sitting next to each other in bed, taken by his mother, cements the notion that in this work, he and Elsa are emotional equals, two children made to carry the same heavy burden.

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In It’s getting sunny outside there are no breathers, no seaside escape, just a photographer’s relentless gaze at his inner turmoil, conveyed in the most refined and contradictory of ways. Its paradoxes evoke important questions: has being a caretaker for Elsa helped the mother heal, distracted her from her demons? Is Hura’s emphasis on Elsa jealousy or projection? Has Hura come to terms with his upbringing? The work does not provide these answers, it resists resolution, and by making us sit with this complexity, it yields a deeper understanding of the notion of family.


Born and raised in Dominican Republic, Erika Morillo is a freelance documentary photographer and artist based in New York City. She studied clinical psychology and sociology, which influenced her to photograph as a way to understand her family dynamics and the social environment she inhabits. Her work focuses on the issues of family, inner city life and the finding of identity. Her photographs have been published and exhibited nationally and internationally. She lives in Manhattan with her son Amaru.

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Caleb’s Guide To ICP Library New Acquisitions 2018 part 1

Working at the ICP Library is a gift that keeps on giving. Not only am I surrounded by the canon of photography from past and present, but I’m also exposed to new work every day. I have been blessed to come into contact with the following books this year, the first part of my Favorite Books of 2018 list, and have had the pleasure of cataloging all of them. Not all of them were published this year, but all were added to our catalog in 2018. Caleb’s Guide To ICP Library New Acquisitions begins here and continues in part 2~

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LUIS SERGIO – PU MAPUCHE

Pu Mapuche is Luis Sergio’s sleek, nuanced, and comprehensive documentary look at the Mapuche people of the Araucania region of Chile. Sergio approaches non-fiction from a variety of angles, and the book is structed as three mini-ethnographies in multiple styles of breathtaking photography. The first section is an impressionistic look at rituals and traditional social customs, the second tackles land and forestry disputes, and is the only section in color, and the third looks at the intersection of Mapuche culture and urban landscapes/contemporary Chile. Includes a detailed index, endnotes, and expository text in three languages. Gronefot Ediciones 2018.

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XITEK – NEW TALENT AWARD 2015 & 2016

Xitek’s yearly “New Talent Award” showcases young Chinese photographers working in a broad array of styles. 2015 and 2016, the two most recent anthologies of the competition, are published portfolio style with each artist producing their own miniature publication, which are then housed together in cardboard slipcases. Much of the work in “New Talent Award” focuses on specific, nonfiction content, and I’m always struck by how attentive the photographers included are to the visual idiosyncrasies of their subject matter, setting the bar high for new documentary work. Equally as affecting is the work of the more personal, diary style projects, which often veer into the realm of the conceptual while retaining emotional depth. I’ve included images of two works from each year: 2015’s “Human Brain Project” by Yang Mu and “Wonderful Human” by Sickgirl; 2016’s “Lingering Garden” by Guo Guozhu and “Harmony Southern Xinjiang” by Sun Junbin. Xitek, 2016 & 2016.

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AUDITORY DEPRIVATION – JOHN CATES

Off-kilter photographs of noise performances in and around American music’s fertile crescent: Detroit, Michigan. “Auditory Deprivation”, Cate’s debut photo book, offers views of a genre known for its impenetrability that are graceful but remain accurate. His detailed index gives the project a formal, documentary feel, even when the photographs are more perplexing than informative. On one page we see a metalhead seated next to a table covered in blood-stained electronics and a woman’s leg about to kick it over, on the next page we see a woman playing a saxophone side by side with a motion-blur abstraction. Cates captures strange meetings and head-scratching performances as charming tableaus, by “depriving us of audio” he makes the often sonically unpalatable enjoyable. Self Published in 2018, Edition of 50

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HELENA GONI – BEHIND BLUE EYES

Last month we were visited by Bilbao based photographer Helena Goni, who was in the States on a Guggenheim fellowship and stopped by to donate a copy of her 2016 book “Behind blue eyes” to the library. Goni uses portrait and interior photography to create a striking narrative about the hopelessness and vitality of youth and counterculture. Her images of young people and their accouterments function as something of an index of contemporary Bilbao. Measured portraits sit montage style within a pastiche of abstractions; the people we meet in this book exist in an impossibly fast chaos. Bookended by pages of instant photographs which function as something of an artist statement or fore/afterword of the main body of work. Self Published in 2016

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NAKASHIMA YUKA – FUGU

Nakashima Yuka’s “FUGU” is a project about pufferfish that when eaten produce a mild high and when improperly prepared can be lethal to the consumer. Nakashima’s subjects are found in murky fishtanks, the glass between the camera and the creature is often dirty and scratched, and the photographs dwell in an uncanny zone between playful documentary and psychedelic abstraction. Depth of field is thrown out the window, and washes of color from neon signs and restaurant ornamentation give a glamorous yet mysterious aura to these dangerous fishes. The edges of the tanks are never included within the frames, so there is no sense of scale. The fish could be any size, floating in a bubbly, eternal abyss ~ a purgatory before they are thrown onto the cutting boards of late night eateries. Each page is a photo print, with the photo on one side and the paper watermark (FUJICOLOR Ever-Beauty Paper for LASER) shown on the back with writing and signature in sharpie by Nakashima. Self Published in 2015. (previously written about in this post)

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LUCAS REIF – DISRUPTOR ISSUE 5

Disruptor is Lucas Reif’s dexterous and impeccable ongoing zine series documenting underground punk and hardcore in the United States. Issues contain risograph printed, black and white photographs of bands-in-action, audiences dancing, and the occasional mise-en-scene, alongside interviews with musicians and organizers. Reif is the photographer, editor, interviewer, printer, designer, and publisher, under the name Shelf Shelf. Issue 5 is the cleanest risograph publication I have ever seen, and focuses on Chicago, Illinois. In addition to photographs, 5 features illustrations by Kyle Butler, a lofty and enlightening interview with Behavior, another with the provocative Chicago Musical Development Collective’s Suzy Vogenthaler, and a third with sound engineer Mike Kriebel. Printed in black and red on classic “off manila” paper stock in an edition of 150. Shelf Shelf 2018.

Thank u for reading, stay tuned for part 2 !!!!!

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Photo books, exhibitions & related events 2018 edition, part 1 – Peter Hujar, Oliver Wasow

  1. Peter Hujar (1934-1987)

The exhibition and catalog Peter Hujar – Speed of Life at the Morgan Library & Museum (January 26 – May 20, 2018) is an auspicious way to begin a review of the past year. The acquisition of Hujar’s prints, contact sheets, and related materials by the Morgan represents the most extensive institutional presence of his work extant, which was beautifully presented at the Morgan by the assiduous and sensitive curator Joel Smith. While Hujar’s work has circulated widely since his early death, this is a leap into the mausoleum/museum world of culture, ostensibly for eternity, where it can exist and be found undisturbed. The constellation of presences in Hujar’s portraits move from their downtown neighborhood to a marble palace, among them: Edwin Denby, Lotte Eisner, David Wojnarowicz, Susan Sontag, and Vince Aletti. The East Village of cheap rents, sex, and creativity was erased long ago at this point by a juggernaut of AIDS and gentrification. Hujar’s immaculate portraits are now a ghostly reminder of what we are missing in New York City.

One of the great ironies of Hujar’s presence in the New York art and photo worlds is that, despite the many accounts of Hujar’s temperamental behavior, an artist who successfully scuttled a “career” in the gallery system in his lifetime, who shunned its shallowness, Hujar nevertheless left a legacy to be articulated by brilliant friends, including the writer Fran Lebowitz and photographer Gary Schneider. Thanks the gods for that! Likewise, his estate has been handled by a series of blue-chip galleries, leading up to its eventual perch in the collection of the Morgan. Hujar died in 1987. I met him once, in 1984. That doesn’t seem so long ago, but will another 31 years need to pass before there is a new perspective to contemplate? Who would have expected our local history to be so slow?

Peter Hujar – Speed of Life,  with texts by Philip Gefter, Joel Smith, and Steve Turtell, Edition FM/Aperture, 2018

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Peter Hujar, Peggy Lee, gelatin silver print, 1974

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Peter Hujar, Gary Indiana, gelatin silver print, 1981

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Peter Hujar, Boy on a park bench, Stuyvesant Square, gelatin silver print, 1981

2. Oliver Wasow (b. 1960)

When did I first become aware of Oliver Wasow’s work, and why was I so slow to notice it? We shall assume the first piece I saw, recognizing it as his, was a grid of inkjet prints of UFOs at the Met, in the exhibition Dream States: Contemporary Photographs and Video, in 2016, curated by Mia Fineman. That’s not that long ago. We never crossed paths in the East Village in the 1980s, when we were both there.

Where I really took notice of Wasow was on Facebook, where I became aware of him through the painter Carl Ostendarp and their voluminous and humorous shared posts. Wasow also “debuted” a series of electronically manipulated portraits of current political figures titled the “Rogues Gallery.” These were exhibited at Steven Harvey Fine Art Projects with the proceeds directed to either the ACLU or Planned Parenthood. Wasow wrote about his frustrations and anger with the administration (and the mediascape of the administration, which is how we see it/them). Working from existing images Wasow transformed these mundane examples of photographic “objectivity” into opaque caricature, akin to the political cartoons of Daumier, or a gesture like Marcel Duchamp’s Mona Lisa titled L.H.O.O.Q. (a pun in French “she has good ass“).

Seeing Wasow “through” Carl Ostendarp, and getting a sense of their ongoing, deep irreverence towards images, including photography,  through extensive visual references and juxtapositions, animates what is otherwise an endgame of psychically dead mass media, cluttering our minds with the inert ether of the world wide web.

The Rogues Gallery can be found in a fantastic array of portraits, Friends, Enemies and Strangers, published by Saint-Lucy, the imprint of artist and writer Mark Alice Durant. Wasow mixes his own portraits with found images, blurring distinctions of authorship, effect, and intent. Portraits hover between the suspension of disbelief seen in the UFO images, and the neurotic villainy of the Rogues Gallery. The relentless probing of Wasow in regards to form, genre, and authorship, the mix of public and private, questions of ownership and worthlessness, the overt sense of drives shaping aesthetic choices in the electronic free-for-all of the web is generative and generous in its simultaneous cynicism and ardor. I can laugh my ass off in a forum that is also thoughtful and considered. This is like finding a flea market in the sterile, mall-like “global village” of the internet – what a relief!

Oliver Wasow, Friends, Enemies and Strangers, with texts by Matthew Weinstein and Rabih Alameddine, Saint-Lucy Books, 2018

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Oliver Wasow, page spread from Friends, Enemies and Strangers, 2018

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Oliver Wasow, Kellyanne Conway, inkjet print, 2016

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Marcel Duchamp, L.H.O.O.Q., mixed media, 1919

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Honoré Daumier, The Legislative Belly, lithograph, 1834

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in artists' books, caricature, collections, color photography, Exhibitions, gelatin silver print, global village, Honoré Daumier, inkjet print, internet art, Marcel Duchamp, memory, Morgan Library & Museum, nostalgia, Oliver Wasow, parataxis, Peter Hujar, portraits, publishing, Saint Lucy Books, self-publishing, vernacular photography, Visual Research, web browsing | Leave a comment

Some Photobooks I liked in 2018 (Part Two)

 

 

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  1. Aleksey Kondratyev’s Ice Fishers (London: Loose Joints, 2018) is a slim and quiet edition of only fifty two pages with a one page insert of colophon and text. The images are placed on such a perfect whiteness that it is hard to know what we are looking at first. The narrative is that for generations Kazakh fisherman have set out on to the frozen Ishim River in the hope of catching fish beneath the ice often in temperatures of forty below zero.  What we are seeing is the fisherman wrapped in plastic to keep warm from the biting icy winds. Kondratyev’s images are a beautiful commentary on the impact of global capitalism, with the repurposing of plastic packaging of Russian and Chinese goods, on the local people. 

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    7. Studio Volta photo by Sanlé Sory (Co-published by the Yossi Milo Gallery New York & Tezeta (Edition of 400, plus a special edition of 100) 2018) was produced in conjunction with an exhibition at the Yossi Milo Gallery April 26th to June 23rd 2018. The studio photographs of Sory Sanlé are brilliant depictions of his participation in the vibrant music scene in Bobo-Dioulasso in the 1960s through to the 1980s. This beautiful book features never seen before images from the photographer’s archive of vintage negatives. This really is a special body of work and it is always great to see an exhibition catalogue that is also an artists’ book.  The publisher and designer Sébastien Girard, and also an accomplished artist himself, has been making some great books this year and experimenting with the risograph to produce some engaging works. The reason I selected this photobook, is that Sanlé Sory’s work is visually stunning and also his personal story is an amazing one that needs to be recognized.  Sory attended his exhibition at the Yossi Milo gallery and not only was it his first time in New York, it was also the first time that the artist had been on a plane!

     

     

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    8. Taco Hidde Bakker’s The Photograph That Took the Place of a Mountain (Amsterdam: Fw:Books, 2018) contains very few photographs. It is a book featuring twenty of Bakker’s miscellaneous writings, originally published in art and photography magazines and on two blogs between 2007 and 2016. The Photograph That Took the Place of a Mountaincontains writings on the work of theorists and artists such as Vilém Flusser, Ariella Azoulay, Witho Worms, Onorato & Krebs, Renato D’Agostin, Stephan Keppel, Marie-José Jongerius, Paul Kooiker, Tom Callemin, Dirk Braeckman, Francesca Woodman, and Mariken Wessels. There is also a lovely interview with Ken Schles. Taco’s writing on images and text is a very enjoyable read. The Short and subtle writings produced here, which include poetry, song lyrics, a few careful images and intense visual philosophy, are really a window into to some of the most profound contemporary photographic artists and their processes. The photobook has come a long way and now it is ready to enter the next phase of its evolution. In the recent past, to DIY and independently publish and get your book out there seemed to be the only goal and once the book was published that was enough, mission accomplished. I now feel we are really ready for a more serious critique of the photobook and for that we need more skilled writers like Taco.

     

     

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    9. The New Colonists by Monica Alcazar-Duarte (Bemojake 2018) comes in a space age silver bag, complete with a cloth patch and the promise of being a highly ‘tricked out’ publication. Alcazar-Duarte’s The New Colonists is a project split into three distinct parts. Part one consists of the twilight images of the suburban town of Mars in Pennsylvania, USA.; Part two begins to include space travel technology from the European Space Agency, images from the terrestrial ‘Mars Yards’, robotic rovers, would be-cosmonauts and astronauts, polar deserts and Hawaiian lava fields, and; Part three consists of an “Augmented Reality Portal”.  The portal is accessed through an app, designed by Paul Ferragut, brings the viewer/reader into contact with 3-D animations of spy satellites and space colonies by Levan Tozashvili as well as narration from Dr. Ian Crawford, Professor of Planetary Science and Astrobiology at Birkbeck. Dr.Crawford presents his ideas on Space colonisation exploring the notions of “space law” and “space ethics”.  Perhaps the “Augmented Reality Portal” and the use of QR codes in photography books will be the CD-ROM of the future? The future is un-written after all. Alcazar-Duarte’s The New Colonistsis a strong photobook of exciting possibilities and dynamic graphic design and imagery. The all American images from Mars, Pennsylvania, connect us back to the sublime life on earth, a world of gas stations and fast food places, but somehow it will never be the same again.

     

     

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    10. The Castle by Richard Mosse (London Mack 2018, with 28 double gatefolds, printed with silver inks on black paper, with texts in the booklet by Judith Butler, Paul K Saint Amour, Behrouz Boochani and Richard Mosse). Silver ink on black paper is always a delight to see in a book. This is a very haunting, beautiful and meaningful body of work. The Castle is formed from a selection of photographs from Mosse’s series Heat Maps that show temporary encampments and border crossings along migration routes to Europe from the Middle East and Africa. Using a military grade thermographic camera the “Heat Map” is constructed from hundreds of frames. This camera was primarily designed for border surveillance, search and rescue missions, and for identifying and tracking targets when used as part of a weapons system. The images are not made from light, but are recordings of heat. This is a sinister series of images in book form, disturbing as an idea and concept and equally disturbing and jarring visually.

 

Dear friends, While you are here

The ICP library is home to over 25,000 books, periodicals, archives, artist files, films and more. Each week ICP staff, students, members and scholars utilize the library as a space for both leisure and education, creating a community of collaboration and engagement. As we look ahead to an exciting future, and our new home at Essex Crossing, I look to you to help fund all of the ICP Library’s ongoing efforts.

Plans are currently underway to open our newest library exhibition old space/new space which will take place at both our old space in mid-town and our new space in Essex. Synchronizing the 50th anniversary of the moon landing with the opening of our new home, we will be exploring photobooks and hosting events around all things astral and include such themes as NASA, astrology, UFOs, psycho-geography and more! We are also working on our first full time exhibition at Essex, Poetry and Photography – watch this Space!

 The ICP Library is supported exclusively through the generosity of our donors. I hope you will consider making a gift to the Friends of the ICP Library Fund to directly impact and grow our collections, collaborative space, and programming.

My sincerest thanks for your support,

Matthew Carson

Head Librarian & Archivist

 P.S. All donors who make a $100 or more gift will be invited for a private walkthrough of our new space at Essex in 2019.

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Some Photobooks I liked in 2018 (Part One)

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I haven’t produced one of these types of list for a few years now and this year. . . This year it just seemed right to do so again and so I have selected some of my personal favourites for your perusal. My selections are my own and I share them here with you, in no particular order and without any hierarchy. Firstly, I must make mention that the ICP Library operates in accordance with S.R. Ranganathan’s Five laws of library science:

  1. Books are for use.
  2. Every person his or her book.
  3. Every book its reader.
  4. Save the time of the reader.
  5. The library is a growing organism.

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Twenty eighteen has been a good year for the photobook and this year I have a renewed feeling towards the photobook and I am again excited by the possibilities it has to offer. It is a democratic art form, with a lot of potential and each book can be a successful realization of a project. Each book is a mini-portable gallery and an exhibition unfolding with the turn of the page and that is tremendously exciting. In the past decade or more we have seen the rise of the self-published and the independently published photobook. Characteristics of this independence include smaller edition sizes, creative and unusual design and often more esoteric content. We are in a world where the photographic artist has greater control over the finished product. It is almost easier to define them as what they are not: They are not coffee table books. This is not your Grandfathers library. For me the books that I find the most engaging are artists’ photography books as they are like immersive theatre. I like the books that burn with intensity. They are the books that compel you to interact with them. Good photography always helps too!

 

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  1. Antony Cairns CTY published by Morel books (London: 2018, Edition of 750) with text by Simon Baker (Director of the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris). CTY is a photobook exquisitely printed duo tone on very beautiful and rare pearl paper. I am a long-time fan and admirer of the work of Antony Cairns; he has created some amazing book works over the years including a hacked e-reader and another printed on old IBM punch cards. CTY also does not disappoint. This publication brings together a selection of Antony Cairns’ previous projects in London, Las Vegas, Tokyo and Osaka, (LDN3, LDN4, LPT and OSC) and is interspersed with six texts by Simon Baker who introduces his excellent writing pieces with quotes by JG Ballard, William Gibson, HP Lovecraft and Benjamin Péret. Antony Cairns work is about experimental processes, obsolete technologies and the investigation of the aesthetics of abstraction and alienation. This photography is dark and haunting, sensual science fiction and we as readers/viewers get to experience this directly.

 

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  1. Sohrab Hura’s Look It’s Getting Sunny Outside!!! (New Delhi, India: Self Published (Ugly Dog); 2018. Edition of 600) is a book of colour photographs and the title seems to suggest that life is getting better. In 2015 Sohrab Hura published Life is Elsewhere, which was a photographic journal, with some text, of his life, family, work, love, friends and travels. It was a book of dark doubts and contradictions; A book about a young man in India as he tried to deal with life and how to experience life while also coping with his schizophrenic mother. He desperately trying to connect with the world around him and we as readers/viewers (voyeurs) all went along for the ride. In Look It’s Getting Sunny Outside!!! We are informed that his Mother’s condition was improving and that Sohrab was comfortably photographing at home more. His mother and her dog Elsa are the main protagonists in the book. Although, this new work is in colour and the title appears optimistic this is a book that in many ways goes to much darker places. The death of the dog Elsa, the separation of his parents and the trigger of his mother’s illness all come into play and are documented here. Don’t be too fooled by the spring blossoms on the cover.

 

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  1. Mongrelism: The mighty mongrel mob nation of Aotearoa New Zealand by Jono Rotman together with 16 Barks, Two Hakas and A Waiata (Co-published by Here Press London & Vevey Switzerland 2018 (edition of 1500)). The publication takes the form of a gang handbook. Photo artist Jono Rotman spent eight years documenting the Mongrel Mob of Aotearoa New Zealand who are a gang notorious for extreme violence. Here Jono depicts their members, mostly indigenous Maori, with the most stunning portraits, complete with their iconic patch of a British bulldog wearing a nazi helmet. The symbolism of the Mongrel Mob is a response to Colonialism and also a proclamation of war against the state and society. The identity of the Mongrel Mob is further explored through artefact studies and brutal first person narratives (much of which is produced in its redacted form). The order and grouping of images is the result of consultation with members and hews to their geographic, familial and hierarchical relationships and the overall feel is one of an unholy alliance and collaboration with the Mob themselves.

 

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  1. Radial Grammar by Batia Suter (Amsterdam: Roma Publications, 2018. Roma volume 323) was created on the occasion of her eponymous exhibition at Le Bal in Paris, from May 25 till August 26, 2018. This is a large book of 292 pages with an accordion-folded supplement inserted. This book is derived from Batia Suter’s collection of second hand tomes, which have been scanned and reproduced here under the themes of natural science, precision machinery and art history. This tome really is a condensed exhibition in book form where selected visual phenomena, strange objects creating an odd pattern, are manipulated with a rhythm that is both curiously engaging and overwhelming.  Produced with a text by Henri Michaux from 1968 and expertly designed by Roger Willems.

 

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  1. Strokes by Tiane Doan na Champassak (Paris: Siam’s Guy Books, (Edition of 350) 2018) is a lovely tactile experience that deals with our most intimate possession our mobile phones. This book is reminiscent of a self-published publication Digit by Christian Erroi (2013) although this instance of parallel thinking results in two very different books. Strokes is the work of dirty finger smudges on a screen and it is an experience of the pure tactile pleasure of scrolling, fondling and stroking the pixels. Naked female forms are obscured by the touching. This is a very sensual and appealing book hidden beneath a black velvet cover in which the viewer can create their own strokes on the fabric.Part Two of this 2018 list to follow shortly. 

    But while you are here, Our very Dear friends, 

    The ICP library is home to over 25,000 books, periodicals, archives, artist files, films and more. Each week ICP staff, students, members and scholars utilize the library as a space for both leisure and education, creating a community of collaboration and engagement. As we look ahead to an exciting future, and our new home at Essex Crossing, I look to you to help fund all of the ICP Library’s ongoing efforts.

    Plans are currently underway to open our newest library exhibition old space/new space which will take place at both our old space in mid-town and our new space in Essex. Synchronizing the 50th anniversary of the moon landing with the opening of our new home, we will be exploring photobooks and hosting events around all things astral and include such themes as NASA, astrology, UFOs, psycho-geography and more! We are also working on our first full time exhibition at Essex, Poetry and Photography – watch this Space!

     The ICP Library is supported exclusively through the generosity of our donors. I hope you will consider making a gift to the Friends of the ICP Library Fund to directly impact and grow our collections, collaborative space, and programming.

    My sincerest thanks for your support,

    Matthew Carson

    Head Librarian & Archivist

     P.S. All donors who make a $100 or more gift will be invited for a private walkthrough of our new space at Essex in 2019.

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