Tag Archives: art

Top Photo Books of 2017

I had the good fortune to review a number of great photo books this past year for Wobneb Magazine, F-Stop Magazine, and Vantage… and what would the end of the year be without a ‘Best Of 2017’ list? The past year has been eventful and insightful on many fronts – so my list of top books from my reviews covers a range of projects from the intimately personal to broad society.

My top choices are:

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Cig Harvey – You an Orchestra You a Bomb

Cig Harvey’s third monograph is a vibrant and bold book, capturing moments of awe, icons of the everyday, and life on the threshold between magic and disaster. The breathless moments of beauty in her images propel us to fathom the sacred in the split-seconds of everyday. A raw awareness of fragility permeates this work. Harvey’s moments captured in her camera speak to the temporal nature of life, and her intimate poetry weaves them together in this memoir of symbolism.

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Giles Duley – One Second of Light

Conflicts come and go, but their legacies remain. It takes courage to be an advocate for something greater than ourselves. It requires something more than just the absence of fear. Any fool can be fearless. The essence of courage comes from the best version of ourselves, and the strength to do the right thing, to do hard things for the lasting benefit of others. It takes this type of courage to photograph people caught in the effects of war, in hopes that the quiet pairing of empathetic images and words speaks louder than the bloody spectacle of war. Duley’s personal story is secondary to this subject, and yet it is also intimately intertwined.

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Kathy Shorr – SHOT: 101 Survivors of Gun Violence

Many of the gun-violence survivors in Shorr’s new book SHOT have recovered against odds, put their lives back together and now taking an active role in inviting a public back into the tough dialogue about American gun violence. Kathy Shorr depicts the determination of the human spirit. The survivors are together in themselves and more importantly they are together collectively. Their lives from this point forward are made of a new set of challenges but they know they are not taking on these challenges in isolation. Shorr’s SHOT gives us a chance to listen.

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Al Brydon – Based on a False Story

This psychological evaluation of one’s current self against one’s past self reveals what we know to be true — we are not who we once were. By examining our past self, we change not only who we were, but who we are now. Through the process of creating ‘False Story’, Brydon’s conversation with his past self and destruction of his original images has actually revealed glimpses of his present self. This gem from Another Place Press is one of several I reviewed this past year – keep your eye out for more great books from them in 2018.

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Lauren Greenfield – Generation Wealth

Generation Wealth by Lauren Greenfield is both a retrospective and an investigation into the subject of wealth over the last twenty-five years. Greenfield has traveled the world — from Los Angeles to Moscow, Dubai to China — bearing witness to the global boom-and-bust economy and documenting its complicated consequences. Provoking serious reflection, this book is not about the rich, but about the desire to be wealthy, at any cost.

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Mark Speltz – North of Dixie: Civil Rights Photography Beyond the South

My review for this book gets special consideration for 2017. The review published at the end of December 2016, and set the tone for the coming year. A black man has served as a two-term president. People of color have held some of the highest offices in the government — yet the nation has not seen many issues of race and inequality disappear in the everyday lives of many Americans. But the overall feeling I got from North of Dixie is a combination of hope mixed with disappointment. It is my personal hope that people of different races, color or creed will see there is far more to be gained in life by working together and accepting each other for who we are. North of Dixie brings to light numerous lesser-known historic photographic images and illuminates the story of the civil rights movement in the American North and West. The book reveals the power of photography to preserve historical memory, impact social consciousness, and stimulate critical dialogue among everyone interested in social justice, human rights, American history, the African American civil rights movement, Black studies, and photojournalism. And hopefully, by better understanding the failures of our past we can avoid the pitfalls of repeating it. North of Dixie certainly goes a long way to guide the path.

Cig Harvey – You An Orchestra You A Bomb

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Cig Harvey’s third monograph is a vibrant and bold book, capturing moments of awe, icons of the everyday, and life on the threshold between magic and disaster. The breathless moments of beauty in her images propel us to fathom the sacred in the split-seconds of everyday. A raw awareness of fragility permeates this work.

I cannot fully understand the life events that take a woman through her youth and into middle age. However, I am a parent, a husband, and am squarely in middle age. My wife is a writer, and has introduced me to a number of poets. This expansion of my previously limited knowledge of great writers has made an immense difference – and thus, Harvey’s book spoke to me. The rawness of Harvey’s written passages and relevance to where she finds herself in life struck home. But you don’t need to be a peer of Harvey to get the drift. She photographs and writes with the passion of a Beat poet. To quote, and slightly edit, the poet Neal Cassady, “One should write, as nearly as possible, as if she were the first person on earth and was humbly and sincerely putting on paper that which she saw and experienced and loved and lost; what her passing thoughts were and her sorrows and desires.” Harvey does not hold back – with understated power, she records her broad experiences with the world. Harvey’s moments captured in her camera speak to the temporal nature of life, and her intimate poetry weaves them together in this memoir of symbolism.

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“In my 20s I wear vintage dresses every day. / 1940s ball gowns to get coffee. Fringed flappers to the post office.  / They are itchy and smell of someone else’s transgressions. But I am fearless and my life is a photograph. / When I turn forty, I retire them all in favor of tight jeans and high boots. / I put one thousand dresses in a room upstairs. / A room now a galaxy of velvet, taffeta, crinoline, lavender, silk, fur, cashmere, magenta, chartreuse, and moths like stars in the night sky. / I like the idea of the moths taking back the clothes of these women, slowly making dust of our stories.”

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Cig Harvey’s hugely successful books You Look At Me Like An Emergency (2012) and Gardening At Night (2015) both sold out rapidly. Her photographs have been exhibited widely and are in the permanent collections of major museums, including The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the International Museum of Photography, George Eastman House, Rochester, NY. She has been a nominee for John Gutmann fellowship and the Santa Fe Prize, and a finalist for the BMW Prize at Paris Photo and for the Prix Virginia, an international photography prize for women. You Look At Me Like An Emergency was first exhibited at The Stenersen Museum, Oslo, Norway. Cig’s devotion to visual storytelling has lead to innovative international campaigns and features with New York Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar Japan, Kate Spade, and Bloomingdales.

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Design: Deb Wood
ISBN 978 90 5330 893 6
Format: 22.5 x 22.5 cm
Hardbound with cloth cover
144 pages with 72 photos in full colour
Schilt Publishing, Amsterdam

To order a copy of the book from the publisher, please visit their website here

Once there was there wasn’t: An exhibition of work by Svetlana Bailey

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© Svetlana Bailey

Filter Photo is pleased to announce once there was there wasn’t, a solo exhibition of work by Svetlana Bailey, at Filter Space gallery.

Until the age of eight, Svetlana Bailey’s childhood summers were spent at her grandmother’s house in the Russian countryside. It was an influential period in which she discovered the world on her own and her earliest memories were formed. Sixteen years ago her grandmother passed away and now the house stands empty. For this body of work, once there was there wasn’t, Bailey returned to her grandmother’s empty house to examine those early impressions. Through this journey of returning, she was transported in time, as if opening a time capsule. Here Bailey discovered layers of image fragments captured in stories, old objects, images in albums and magazines. They pointed to the invisible marks, the impressions and mental images that remain, and perhaps for this reason — besides the dust, spider webs and the thicket of birch and cherry trees that had enjungled the outside — the house did not seem abandoned.

Using still life techniques, Bailey constructed installations within and around the house that included the objects that she found on location with photographs that she brought with her of her life after leaving Russia. She followed a similar process with images from her parents home in Germany and her own home in the US, constructing photographs that visualized times and places that are in reality far apart yet exist together psychologically. Similar to the act of carrying pictures in wallets or pendants, on coffee mugs or lock screens, displaying pictures in living rooms or as tattoos — an impulse for continuity, where separate events are rebroadcast into the present through a jumble of images.

http://filterphoto.org/portfolio/once-there-was-there-wasnt/

About the Artist:

Svetlana Bailey was born in St Petersburg in 1984, and after the fall of the Soviet Union emigrated to Germany with her family. Commencing studies at FH Dortmund, Bailey moved to Australia to complete her BFA at the College of Fine Arts in Sydney. In 2011, she undertook a residency in Beijing at the Three Shadows Photography Art Centre, which shifted the focus of her practice to China, and she has, inter alia, been photographing there since. Bailey recently graduated with an MFA in photography from the Rhode Island School of Design, and lives in New York and Sydney.

once there was there wasn’t — Svetlana Bailey

Exhibition Dates: December 1 — December 30, 2017
Opening Reception: December 1 | 6pm — 9pm
Location: Filter Space 1821 W. Hubbard St., Ste. 207
Gallery Hours: Monday — Saturday | 11am — 5pm

Filter Space is free and open to the public.

Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2017

Featuring works from Dana Lixenberg, Sophie Calle, Awoiska van der Molen, Taiyo Onorato and Nico Krebs

Exhibition on view: November 16, 2017–January 11, 2018
Opening reception: Wednesday, November 15, 7:00–8:30 p.m.

Aperture Foundation, in collaboration with The Photographers’ Gallery and the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation, is pleased to present the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2017, featuring works from the shortlisted artists: Sophie Calle, Awoiska van der Molen, duo Taiyo Onorato and Nico Krebs, and this year’s winner, Dana Lixenberg, who was awarded the prize, worth £30,000 GBP, in May of this year. This marks the first exhibition of the prize in the United States.

The twentieth iteration of the prize, one of the most prestigious international arts awards, celebrates established photographic narratives alongside experimental and conceptual approaches to documentary, landscape, and portraiture. The four finalists investigate questions of truth and fiction, doubt and certainty, what constitutes the real and ideal, and the relationship between observer and the observed.

The opening of this exhibition at The Photographers’ Gallery in London, began an international tour of the show that went on to exhibit at the Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt am Main, and subsequently at Aperture Foundation, marking the first exhibition in the United States of this prize. This year’s exhibition is curated by Anna Dannemann, Curator, The Photographer’s Gallery.



Featured Artists

Dana Lixenberg (b. 1964, the Netherlands) won for her publication Imperial Courts (Roma, 2015). In 1992, Dana Lixenberg traveled to South Central Los Angeles for a magazine story on the riots that erupted following the verdict in the Rodney King trial. What she encountered inspired her to revisit the area, and led her to the community of the Imperial Courts housing project in Watts. Returning countless times over the following twenty-two years, Lixenberg gradually created a collaborative portrait of the changing face of this community. Over the years, some in the community were killed, while others disappeared or went to jail, and others, once children in early photographs, grew up and had children of their own. In this way, Imperial Courts constitutes a complex and evocative record of the passage of time in an underserved community.


Sophie Calle (b. 1953, France) was nominated for her publication My All (Actes Sud, 2016), which finds the artist experimenting with yet another medium: the postcard set. Taking stock of her entire oeuvre, this set of postcards functions as a beautiful portfolio of Calle’s work, as well as a new investigation of it, in an appropriately nomadic format. Over the past thirty years, Sophie Calle has invited strangers to sleep in her bed, followed a man through the streets of Paris to Venice, hired a detective to spy on her before providing a report of her day, and asked blind people to tell her about the final image they remember. In her practice, she has orchestrated small moments of life, establishing a game, then setting its rules for herself and for others.

Calle’s Exquisite Pain is an installation in two parts that unfolds stories of devastating personal experiences as a means of reexamining and, ultimately, exorcising grief. The first part of the project presents Calle’s journey preceding “the unhappiest moment of [her] whole life,” told through collected photos and ephemera of ninety-two days that the artist saw as a countdown to romantic rejection. Each photograph or document is stamped with a number indicating the remaining amount of “days until unhappiness.” The second part of the exhibition pairs Calle’s story, told repeatedly from several different angles, with others’ recollections of their own pain and heartache. Through recursive recitation and empathy, the project explores the universality of pain and resilience.


Awoiska van der Molen (b. 1972, the Netherlands) was nominated for her exhibition Blanco at Foam, Amsterdam (January 22–April 3, 2016). Van der Molen creates black-and-white, abstracted images that revitalize the genre of landscape photography. Spending long periods of time in solitude and silence in foreign landscapes, from Japan to Norway to Crete, she explores the identity of the place, allowing it to impress upon her its specific emotional and physical qualities and her personal experience within it. With this intuitive approach, Van der Molen aims to find a pure form of representing her surroundings, by focusing on the essential elements in and around her. Her work questions how natural and man-made environments are commonly represented and interacted with.


Taiyo Onorato and Nico Krebs (both b. 1979, Switzerland) were nominated for their exhibition EURASIA at Fotomuseum Winterthur (October 24, 2015–March 14, 2016). EURASIA playfully draws on the iconography of the road trip, constructing experiences drawn from memory and imagination. Onorato and Krebs’s journey begins in Switzerland, continues through the Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Russia, and ends in Mongolia. Throughout their travels the duo encounters landscapes and people in a state of ongoing transition from ancient traditions and post-Communist structures to modernity and the formation of an independent identity. Using a mix of analogue media and techniques including 16 mm films, large-format plate cameras, and installation-based interventions, Onorato and Krebs compose a narrative that is as much fiction as documentation.

 


About the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize

Founded in 1997 by The Photographers’ Gallery, and now in its twentieth year, the Prize has become one of the most prestigious international arts awards and has launched and established the careers of many photographers over the years. The Gallery has been collaborating with Deutsche Börse Group as title sponsors since 2005. In 2015 the Prize was retitled as the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize following the establishment of the foundation as a non- profit organization dedicated to the collection, exhibition and promotion of contemporary photography. Past winners include Trevor Paglen, Paul Graham, Juergen Teller, Rineke Dijkstra, Richard Billingham, John Stezaker, and Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin. A jury including Susan Bright, curator; Pieter Hugo, artist; Karolina Ziębińska-Lewandowska, curator of photography at Centre Pompidou, Paris; Anne-Marie Beckmann, director, Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation; and Brett Rogers, director, The Photographers’ Gallery, as the non-voting chair, selected the four finalists featured in 2017.

The Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation is a Frankfurt-based non-profit organization. The foundation’s activities focus on collecting, exhibiting and promoting contemporary photography.
For more information, please visit www.deutscheboersephotographyfoundation.org.


The Photographers’ Gallery opened in 1971 in Great Newport Street, London, as the UK’s first independent gallery devoted to photography. It was the first public gallery in the UK to exhibit many key names in international photography.
For more information, please visit www.thephotographersgallery.org.uk 


Aperture Foundation was created in 1952 by photographers and writers. The not-for-profit foundation, connects the photo community and its audiences with the most inspiring work, the sharpest ideas, and with each other — in print, in person, and online.
For more information, please visit aperture.org.


This story was also published on Medium

In the Country of Stones by Nicolas Blandin

Poetic visual narrative of Armenia

© Nicolas Blandin www.nicolasblandin.com

Busy lives being what they are — I did not have the opportunity to sit down with In the Country of Stones when it published in June of 2017. My copy arrived, and time slipped by. Shame on me. Nicolas Blandin’s book is a wonderful collection of images made when he travelled to Armenia in 2013–2014 after being captivated by the land and its people on a previous visit.

The landscapes Blandin captured are beautiful in their stillness. The layers of history, memories and culture appear in icons made visible. Telephone poles, highway ruins, and ancient carvings all evoke an ancient Christian past, and the Soviet government that ruled there for over 70 years is recognized as well. Both exist, at least visually, in a harmony knit together by the people of Armenia. Blandin comments on this aspect of the people in the book: “We had heard about the legendary Armenian hospitality, but we were still humbled by the level of openness and generosity we encountered. During those three weeks on the road we had the strange feeling that we had reunited with distant relatives…”

© Nicolas Blandin www.nicolasblandin.com

© Nicolas Blandin www.nicolasblandin.com

The mix of images in the book include almost as many portraits as images of the land itself. Yet I undoubtedly consider the book to be about Blandin’s journey to this raw, poetically beautiful place. The placement of the images within the book are such that one image leads the viewer into the next with a feeling of wonder, and time seems to fold back and forth on itself. A portrait of teenage boys wearing contemporary clothes is juxtaposed with an image of a house interior with a metal stove that could easily be from the early 20th century. Massive Soviet brutalist architecture follows an interior photo of a monastery from the 9th century complete with early Christian iconography. And each person shown in the book gazes directly at the camera, and thus right at the viewer — hinting at the openness and familiarity Blandin felt.

© Nicolas Blandin www.nicolasblandin.com

© Nicolas Blandin www.nicolasblandin.com

© Nicolas Blandin www.nicolasblandin.com

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© Nicolas Blandin www.nicolasblandin.com

The book sold out its first edition 150 copy print run, not surprisingly. Much like many of the other editions published by Another Place Press, the book’s size is very personal in nature; lending to a meaningful interaction between the images and the viewer. The photos are printed beautifully on uncoated paper, which gives them a warmth and softness without sacrificing clarity.

© Nicolas Blandin www.nicolasblandin.com

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© Nicolas Blandin www.nicolasblandin.com

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Blandin speaks to the backstory of the project, as well as the historic narrative of Armenia and how it frames his work in those contexts. He closes his statement in the book by saying, “The images in this book are the result of a personal journey. They are partial, subjective, selective, even oblique. They do not amount to a definitive vision of the country. How could they even presume to record a nation in such a state of flux? In my photographs, I am seeking to tell my own story, as well as the stories of others, as honestly as I can. Rather than documenting the history and the landscape, my approach to both is rather more poetic and lyrical. And yet, to borrow Jocelyn Lee’s words, photographs, unlike paintings or drawings, remain “mysterious but irrefutable anchors to a real event in space and time.”

Nicolas_Blandin_Book_cover

In the County of Stones — Nicolas Blandin

76 pp / 150 x 190mm
Perfect Bound
Fedrigoni & GF Smith papers:
350gsm Colorplan cover
170gsm Uncoated text
Edition of 150
APP011
ISBN 978–1–9997424–0–9

 


Nicolas Blandin is a self-taught French photographer based in Annecy, France. Winner of the 2017 Feature Shoot Emerging Photography Awards, his work has been featured in various publications both printed and online. Besides freelancing for editorial and commercial clients, Nicolas is working on several long-term personal projects. His first book entitled “In the Country of Stones” was published by Another Place Press in June 2017.

Feel free to get in touch for commissions, collaborations, print inquiries or just to say hi.

Another Place Press is a small independent publisher interested in contemporary photography that explores landscape in the widest sense, covering themes which include land, place, journey, city and environment — from the remotest corners of the globe to the centre of the largest cities. Iain Sarjeant is the founder and editor of Another Place, and Another Place Press.

 

 

The Uncommonly Common Photos of Emmanuel Monzon

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Emmanuel Monzon is a french photographer and visual artist based in Seattle, WA. He graduated from the Academy of Beaux-Arts in Paris, France with honors. His work has been featured throughout the US, Europe and Asia. 

The work of Emmanuel Monzon focuses primarily on the idea of urban sprawl and the urban expansion of its periphery. Monzon photographs urban banality as though it were a Romantic painting, trying only to be “stronger than this big nothing” in controlling the space by framing the subject. Monzon’s aesthetic of the banal obeys its own rules: a ban on living objects, a precise geometrical organization, and the revelation of a specific physical and mental landscape blurring the lines between city and suburb, between suburb and countryside, a process that results in an independent identity.


Monzon’s images are often shot at a low perspective right off the ground. This approach gives the viewer a fresh take on how we observe the world around us; buildings, cars, even the sidewalk that is flatly underfoot takes on depth and scale not seen otherwise. This is one of the strengths in Monzon’s work that gives a new perspective at what we often overlook.

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In no particular order, Monzon says this about his work and his creative process:

  • My plastic artist and painter background influences my photographic work.
  • I am a photographer who paints or a painter who uses photography – I am caught in the middle, in an “in between state”.
  • This in-between state can be found also in my landscapes or urban sprawl series. I photography places of transition, borders, passages from one world to another, am I leaving a city or entering a new place?
  • My landscape pictures always feature human traces (billboards, traffic lights, poles, roads), a reminder of urbanity built by human beings but no human beings are ever shown in my pictures.
  • I always admired painters such as Giorgio De Chirico, and Edward Hopper.
  • Living in the US, I have the impression to live in the painting, in the picture, being able to move around within this frame, to be part of this American mythology which keeps reinventing itself.
  • I choose square frames because it focuses on the subject and allows me to distance myself from the photography
  • I like repetitions, I like series, and I like driving around.

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For more information about Emmanuel Monzon, or to see more of his signature work, visit his blog or portfolio.

Mile O’Mud by Malcolm Lightner

Mad Max cruises Alligator Alley

At the heart of Mile O’Mud is the thrilling sport of swamp buggy racing. For the uninitiated, swamp buggy racing consists of custom buggies that are part boat and part love-child of NASCAR and high octane drag racing. The buggies and their driver/pilot tear through swampy, muddy terrain that is more like the lake in the center of Daytona International Speedway than the track surrounding it. And much like the famed rowdy crowds who inhabit the infield of NASCAR races, swamp buggy fans do not disappoint.

Fans pile meat in baking pans, cans of Budweiser in boxes, and stack themselves in bleachers, truck beds, and on top of homemade platforms to cheer for the Swamp Buggy Queen and pray for drivers’ quick recoveries when the track proves too treacherous, because the drivers literally risk life and limb.

 

Malcolm Lightner grew up down the street from the original “Mile O’ Mud” swamp buggy track off of Radio Road in Collier County, Florida. His own family has roots in the beginning of swamp buggy racing. Lightner’s great-uncle R.L. Walker was one of the first swamp-buggy drivers back in the late 1940s and 50s. Lightner, after getting college degrees, including his MFA, moved to New York in 1999, and he returned at least once a year to the Florida Sports Park from 2002 to 2013 to document the races — missing only 2005 due to a hurricane forced cancellation.

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Lightner’s images include portraits of the racers, the fans, the vehicles both on and off the track, as well as traditional events of the sport — including the crowning and subsequent dunking of the Swamp Buggy Queen. There is the thrill of speed and danger at the races, and a palpable rush of energy. “On my first visit to the track, I drove into the parking lot, heard the engines of the buggies roar, and witnessed the great plumes of water trailing behind the boat-dragster hybrids,” Lightner says. “I could feel the vibrations from the raw horsepower pound against my chest, and it almost took my breath away. I thought to myself, ‘this is going to be fun!’”

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Lightner’s superb images of this sport and frank depiction of its culture make me feel much the same. I was drawn into the world he has photographed, felt like a voyeur at some southern bacchanalia, and ultimately I wanted to start over at the beginning of the book and view it again. And again.

In addition to the excitement and thrills, Lightner also says “I’ve come to understand Swamp Buggy Racing as a metaphor for life’s daily struggles and the innate drive to overcome obstacles against great odds while trying to maintain a sense of humor and grace. The races demonstrated to me the all-American desire to compete to win, as well as the power of family and community.”

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This book documents the people and the culture Lightner is from, but of course this is more than an immersive documentary project. He has shown us his own clan, and paid homage to his family and community. Many of us yearn to escape the world we grew up in, to prove to ourselves and the world that we are greater than small beginnings. Yet for many people, their roots call them back. ‘Mile O’Mud’ not only called Lightner back, but it brought along a cooler of beer, some good tunes, and the thrill of the sport that helped shape him.


MALCOLM LIGHTNER is a photographer who works and resides in New York. Born in 1969 in Naples, Florida, he is a fourth generation native Floridian. Malcolm has been the recipient of numerous awards and grants and his work has been featured in a range of exhibitions including Art + Commerce Emerging Photographers and NYPH (New York Photo Festival). Malcolm’s photography is included in the permanent photography collections at the Southeast Museum of Photography in Daytona Beach, Florida. His work has appeared in Dear Dave, The Oxford American, VICE, Aint-Bad and Life among other publications. Malcolm is a member of the photography faculty at the School of Visual Arts in New York City since 2002.

All images are from Mile O’ Mud by Malcolm Lightner, published by powerHouse Books., and used by permission.

9781576877944

Mile O’ Mud: The Culture of Swamp Buggy Racing
By Malcolm Lightner, Introduction by Padgett Powell
Hardcover, 12–1/2 x 11–7/8 inches, 144 pages
ISBN: 978–1–57687–794–4

For more information about Malcolm Lightner, please see his website:http://www.malcolmlightner.com/

To purchase the book, visit powerHouse Books here


Published originally in F-Stop Magazine – http://www.fstopmagazine.com

Photographer Malcolm Lightner

Malcolm Lightner’s work, as seen here from his new book, Mile O’Mud, will be shown at the New Orleans Photo Alliance Gallery through the end of May.

Watch for my upcoming review of Mile O’ Mud – as I slog through his images of Florida mud racing culture and portraits of the people connected to it.

Malcolm Lightner: Mile O’ Mud Through May 29, 2016 Churning the buttery muddy water at the Florida Sports Park, swamp buggy races keep Florida’s frontier heritage alive. With Mile O’ Mud, 4th generation native Floridian Lightner shows us his home’s beauty; scarred and raw, surrounded by lush blue sky and restorative greens and we witness…

via Malcolm Lightner @ New Orleans Photo Alliance Gallery — F-Stop Magazine

Photography is a Marathon, Not a Sprint: Interview with William Olmsted

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William Olmsted’s work does not hit you over the head, or scream at you for attention. It is smarter than that. He shoots mainly with film and film cameras; opting for the approach of selective shooting. His approach toward taking photos involves long walks around his local area once a week or so with his camera, but it is common that he does not take a picture. Olmsted is thoughtful and patient. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

“Sometimes I see something in the backyard, or the store parking lot. Shooting isn’t really a regular thing for me, it is more like something that might happen…Something that catches my eye for a reason that is hidden from me at the time, something that can potentially fit in a body of work, something that I can’t imagine as a photograph, something I want to record for seventy year old me.”

His work includes images of birds and other animals native to his area. Some of the animals are trapped – both literally or figuratively in their environment. There are also images of discarded or broken objects – found by the roadside, or inside homes that appear to have sections that are not used, or the entire home may be abandoned. These thematic elements, his visual interplay with color or witty juxtaposed views, are well thought out. His recurring images with birds might leave the viewer with the metaphoric idea of flight or escape, in a physical or possibly spiritual way. His use of elements common to his particular area of the country could seem surreal to people who live in very different places. Olmsted’s images that include guns, knives, and the intrinsic artifacts of hunting exposes a distinct difference between people who live in rural areas versus urban environments.

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When asked to give a statement or overall description about his work, Olmsted wrote, “All my photographs are from the same small town on the coast of Maine where I have lived my entire life. They are a result of my desire for my hometown’s demystification and a consequence of my liminal place here, a looking-back, to say goodbye before I pack things up and leave for good. While not an authoritative view on what is often portrayed as a beautiful vacation place, I hope my photographs stand as an alternative one, because I find Maine’s marginal landscapes more compelling and important than it’s beautiful ones.”

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Q&A

Wobneb Magazine (WM): Why do you photograph? What compels you to make the images you create?

William Olmsted (WO): I like the process, the wandering. I wouldn’t have discovered the kind of perambulatory exploration I now enjoy so much were it not for photography and carrying a camera goes well with that.

I feel photography is something I can do and I enjoy its limitations and lessons.

There is also the little excitement of looking at my pictures for the first time weeks or months after I take them. That never gets old.

WM: There are so many ways to express oneself in a 21st-century world; What makes still photography your choice of expression? Do you create work in other mediums?

WO: I drew a lot as a young kid, then in high school I found photography and have mostly had a monogamous relationship with it. For a couple years, 2011 and 2012 I think, I didn’t take pictures at all. I dedicated myself to writing for hours a day, but it drove me nuts. A fundamental thing I learned from it was that I’m not a studio artist. I like being out in the world too much, and photography is a good compliment to that desire.

WM: In your opinion, what makes a good photograph?

WO: It would depend on the photograph. I don’t know if any general rule is applicable. Reasons for liking something can often be more ambiguous than not. I can tell you what makes a bad photograph, or why I don’t like something, but when something clicks and jives with my sensibilities, justifications often feel like hollow rationalization.

Maybe the one thing I could say is, something (is) hinted at. There is usually a sense of a thing left unsaid that I like about quality photographs and projects.

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WM: What/who are your photography inspirations – and why?

WO: My inspirations are people who work seriously at something over long periods of time. That drive is compelling to me, even when it flies in the face of convenience or even good judgement.

WM: You’ve cited photographers such as Gregory Halpern, Stacy Kranitz, and Lars Tunbjork as influences. In a way, do you see your work being stylistically similar and/or making a statement in a similar fashion as some of your influences? What is your intent for the viewer?

WO: Jeez, I dunno. Those are pretty big names who create really stellar work. To some degree, sure. Between equipment and environment I am probably treading similar path, so I guess it’s only natural that we might share something in common. Their work has influenced me, but so has the work of others across disparate mediums. Maybe there is some relationship between me and them, but that is probably best for the viewer to decide.

I know that a viewer will likely derive meaning from the work, so I might use that as a starting point, but any intent I have for a viewer is mostly non-existent. I guess it’s easy because there really aren’t any that I know of! On some level, I do want people to see my work and I like interacting with other photographers, so I throw my stuff on the internet, but another’s reading of my work isn’t a primary concern right now. Don’t hold me to it though, my feelings about an audience could change from project to project. I could see myself playing with the idea of viewership at some point.

WM: Do you feel your work makes a comment on a universal level, as well as the personal level? Your work is specific to a certain place – is it more about your experience, or do you feel it translates well to other people’s experiences or lives?

WO: My work is related to, and is a product of, my experience; but I don’t know how universal that is. Through the cadence of the photographs perhaps the viewer can enter the landscape and gain or feel something, even if their experience is distant from mine. Maybe that’s using the personal to access something less specific, more universal, I don’t know.

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WM: Would you please explain the idea behind the ‘Void Fraction’ series on your website? Why did you select these image to work together/against each other in a multipart series?
WO: Within photography’s coupling of vagueness and specificity I try to explore memory, sense of place and time as well as create as kind of clouded autobiography. I think these pictures ultimately reduce useful information about the places they were taken and create a kind of fictive alternate dimension which I enjoy adding to. I wanted to create something that was inspired by a year here while playing with the sense of the seasons and day/night cycles. I also found myself photographing many of the same subjects at different times of the year and I noticed patterns emerging that I thought might coalesce into an interesting project.

WM: There are elements of nature, wildlife, landscape, man’s inclusion/interaction with nature in your work – will you comment on why you choose to depict these elements in the way you do?

WO: Maybe I feel my photos of this place are more honest in some way, even though I feel they are lying too. That desire to portray this landscape a little differently gets filtered through various limitations and comes out as whatever it is.

Mostly its just intuition.

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WM: Who are the people that appear in your photographs? Do they have significance beyond the role of a”Figure” in your scenes?

WO: The people in these photographs are all immediate family. I wanted to approach this project from everywhere. Landscapes, portraits, still life, whatever. If it’s lacking one thing at this point it’s more pictures of people, but I still have a years worth of film to develop so we’ll see how things go.

WM: Besides throwing your images out on the Internet, do you see other avenues for your work at this time? Photobook? A gallery exhibition? Have you looked for a gallery to represent you, or do you feel that is an antiquated idea?

WO: I like the idea of a book. I’ve made some PDFs that are on a hard drive somewhere around here that function as a kind of ersatz book. I’ve made some small zines and prints on request, but that is about it.

I’ve never looked for a gallery to represent me and wouldn’t know how to go about being represented. I don’t think I’ve ever even been inside a gallery, so my ignorance is great enough that I have no reason to feel the idea is antiquated either.

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WM: Your statement that you are ready to pack up and leave your hometown for good leaves the impression that you possibly are at odds with the idea of your sense of place, and somewhat the idea of Beauty. Are not ‘marginal’ landscapes ones of Beauty as well? You could make strong work wherever you end up, but why leave Maine?

WO: I guess there is beauty, and then there is Beauty, and there is everything between. Perhaps conventional beauty is a better descriptor, or maybe I need to reword something.

Why leave? I’m finding other places more interesting, and this one less so.


William Olmsted
website: www.williamolmsted.com
tumblr: http://wramo.tumblr.com/
All photographs used by permission. Photos © William Olmsted. Originally published September 2015 by Cary Benbow in Wobneb Magazine.