The time that we are together
This section focuses on books that are informed by the commonplaces within a group of people, from photographer to sitter, as well as the protagonists of the images being together not physically but in the same life stage, with similar hopes and preoccupations.
I have always wanted to see Juergen Teller’s book Go-sees (Zurich :Scalo;New York, 1999) in person, because besides the incomparable feeling of seeing a book in the screen or holding it and flipping through the pages, you can only find a small amount of the images on the internet that appear in the book. Go-sees is a compilation of photographs taken for the duration of one year, of model candidates that would show up in Juergen Teller’s studio and he would photograph them in his front door. The fact that the images are not taken in front of a white background, like its often times the case in this types of test shootings, gives us a better sense of the context where those images are created and also a sense of the passing of time through the repetition of the same space but occupied with different people. The dates when the images were taken also appear in the book so we can easily identify days were he would photograph 4 models or other times where it would be just one. The fact that they are always photographed in the frond door also gives us the harshness and competitiveness of the fashion world and the hopefulness of those models to make it to an agency or final photoshoots with brands. Although the images are quite contemporary, they were made 24 years ago, the concept of how the work was created could barely happen today. With the appearance of social media and the democratisation of photography, nowadays models make their test shoots with their phones or just upload their photographs to a social media platform and it is all much more immediate.
Imagine the protagonists in Juergen Teller’s book, wondering if they will get the call, if they will achieve some sort of stable ground. They have been in castings all day and at night they meet with their friends in a club or a house. They could be the protagonists of Paul Graham’s End of an Age (Zurich :Scalo;New York, 1999). In this book we find young people photographed in a sort of isolated space, having a moment for themselves. With their gaze away from the camera.
When thinking about works in photography that have been important for my development as an artist and had a certain cinematic aesthetic, dealing with the passing of time and the relationship between sitter and photographer, it was impossible not to think about Nan Goldin. While looking for her well known work The Ballad of Sexual Dependency in the library, I re-discovered her work (and book with the same title) Soeurs, Saintes et Sibylles (Paris : Editions du Regard Festival d’Automme a Paris, 2005.) which is a three-screen projection commissioned by the Festival D’Automne à Paris, who also published the book in 2004. In this work Nan Goldin explores the experience of women who are oppressed through her sister’s institutionalization and suicide when she was very young, her own experience in a mental health institution and the figure of Saint Barbara. It is a very intimate book, small sized, with texts and images.
A contemporary to Nan Goldin and the scene in New York City, in his recently published book, FEVER (New York, Matte Editions 2021), Allen Frame shares with us a selection of film color photographs taken of his close friends and artists in NYC from 1981 onwards. A time where HIV was silently spreading and who later took away many of the lives of people that Allen had photographed. The book includes an introduction by Drew Sawyer as well as interviews with five of the artists photographed by Allen that survived the AIDS pandemic.
Pictures from Here by Sunil Gupta (London, Chris Boot, 2003) is a monograph of Gupta’s work, published in 2003, divided in nine sections. It reads as a a memoir (and map) of the artist presenting his very intimate and political photographs. In the book, a written biography is presented as introductions to different works and moments that were crucial for the artist life such as leaving India for Canada, then moving to New York City in the 70’s and later on to London in the 80’s. A book that deals with issues related to migration, masculinity, being gay and living with HIV, ethnicity and family.
In the liminal of the intimate and the political, I have included a book which is deeply grounded in love and the end of one particular relationship. In Take care of yourself, by Sophie Calle (LeMâejan : Actes Sud, 2007), the artist has opened the narrative presenting 107 interpretations to a break up email from the perspective of artists, writers, scientists, historians, among others.
Past, present, future
Here I have included the books whose content challenges any linear understanding of time and traditional storytelling. Also most of them are long term projects or include works from different times and dates with only one eccentric exception that I have allowed myself.
I am going to start with an author that was unfamiliar to me and I discovered while researching for this exhibition, Vasantha Yogananthan. The book that I have selected is called The Promise (France : Chose Commune, 2017) and it is a work that I discovered through looking at Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation shortlists. In 2021 Amma was shortlisted for best Photobook of the year, and I was very intrigued when I read that it was the seventh book from his long-term project A Myth of Two Souls. In this project the author draws inspiration from the imagery associated with The Ramayana and its pervasiveness in everyday Indian life. The Promise is the second book published for this project.
The next book I have included in this section, Weathering Time by Nancy E. Floyd (London. GOST Books / ICP, 2021). The work is based on what might seem like a simple premise, taking a self portrait a day, but imagine realising this task for 40 years almost every day. In the book she talks about times when she would be burnt out, and then years later starting to realise the importance of the archive she was creating and being passionate about the project again. It’s a great example of an artist’s perseverance and commitment to their vision. I also love the way it was designed, not chronologically but categorising the self portraits in different sections as varied as “pets”, “interesting hair” or “Mom and me at 63”.
Another self portrait book that I have included is Lee Friedlander‘s Self Portrait book (New York. Museum of Modern Art, 2005). I don’t know if I have much to add, I love self portraits, I love the bodies changing and growing old and how each photographer decides to depict that when they do.
And in this matter and the weirdest book from this selection is Self-exposures: a workbook in photographic self-portraiture by Naomi Weissman and Debra Heimerdinger (New York. Harper & Row, 1979). It is an old school instruction book on how to set up a camera to take self portraits. I have to admit the images are quite fun and it reveals the shift in the way we used to learn things vs how we learn nowadays or where do we get the information from and how quickly this kind of books have become obsolete.
The last two books included in this section are probably the ones who most directly engage with moving image or the cinematic. One of them sets the theoretical framework or starting point for this curatorial selection and is David Campany‘s (Ed.) The Cinematic, published in The Documents of Contemporary Art collection (Whitechapel; Cambridge, Mass. : MIT Press, 2007). This book is a collection of interviews and essays surveying the history and relationship between the use of moving and still image since early modernism.
Lastly, in this collection and continuing with the back and forth relationship from still to moving image and their mutual influence, I have selected the book La Jetée by Chris Marker (New York : Zone Books ; Cambridge, Mass. : Distributed by MIT Press, 1992) based on the 1964 film, that is at the same time composed almost entirely of still images.
Additionally, I just want to add that each book deserves to be written about individually in more detail but the goal of this text is mainly to give one or two ideas of each book in relationship to this specific context which is the curation of 17 books from ICP Library.
There are other many books that I thought about when making this selection for the library and here is a small list of extra books that I see relate to this curation.
Yurie Nagashima, Self portraits. New York, Dashwood Books, 2020
Sara Perovic My fathers legs. New York, J&L Books, 2020
10×10 (Ed). What They Saw : Historical Photobooks by Women, 1843-1999
Collier Schorr, Jens F. Gèottingen : SteidlMACK ; [London : Thames & Hudson, distributor], c2005
Bernardita Morello, Eden. Fiebre, 2016
Sofia Ayarzagoitia, Every night temo ser la dinner. La Fábrica, 2017
I hope you all enjoyed reading about it almost as much as I have enjoyed putting this works together and writing this text.
Lastly, you can follow my work on my Instagram page https://www.instagram.com/helena_goni/