Tag Archives: family

Julio’s House by Orestes Gonzalez

A Home Becomes a Touchstone

Julios House Living Room

The colorful photographs in Julio’s House show us extravagant, Liberace-inspired interior living spaces within a modest Miami house. We see scenes of a very personal setting, but devoid of people. The only people shown in the book are in vintage photographs taken of Orestes Gonzalez’s uncle Julio, his uncle’s friends and lovers, and his life as a cruise ship entertainer. Julio worked as a magician, tour guide and entertainer aboard a ship that took tourists between Miami and Cuba before Castro took power in 1958.

Current images of Julio‘s house are juxtaposed with vintage photographs of the same rooms and largely unchanged decor from over 30–40 years ago. The bitter-sweetness is palpable. How does Gonzalez come to terms with the loss of a family member who was somewhat estranged by his family, and put it all into context while sorting through his belongings and walking through Julio’s personal spaces?

Julios House aboard the SS Florida with Tourists 1958
Julio Santana aboard the SS Florida with tourists, 1958

Julios House Credenza

Julios House Bedroom

Julios House Wall portrait

When I first saw photographs of this project almost a year ago, I recognized the importance and the weight of responsibility for photographing spaces that belonged to a significant person in one’s life. Gonzalez’s photos include rooms that feature knickknacks, reading material on a side table, and all the ephemera that were in place while his uncle was living in his home. So the photographs are part document, part remembrance. It is a potentially revealing and rewarding endeavor to explore the themes that come from this process, decipher meaning from all of it, and try to understand it.

I had the opportunity to photograph my grandparents house while they were both living. I went through their house with a large format camera and took careful photographs of each room. The images were originally taken as a documentary study of where they lived. Looking at those photographs over twenty years later, they have transformed into vignettes of spending time in the house as a child. When I asked Gonzalez about the images in his own project, which was developed into this wonderful book, he said, “They lasso you in to a reality, away from incorrectly fantasizing over a period of time or a place. My intent with the story was to shatter the stereotype of the gay man (that my generation grew up with) as just an effete, and not family orientated individual.”

Julios House Studio portrait 1971

Gonzalez’s text throughout the book is well paced with the images chosen. The interior scenes of the house are counterbalanced with personal photographs or close-ups of a setting that give us a real feel for what it was like to be in the home. We see the rooms, how they are decorated, personal effects on shelves and side tables, stuffed birds attached to black velvet in picture frames, striped foil wallpaper in the dining room and green shag carpet in the front room. Bright daylight floods the rooms in his images — a stark contrast to the nightlife chronicled in some of the text describing evening parties with energetic music, dancing, and Cuban food that went straight to the gut and soul of the merry-makers in Julio’s house.

Julios House Night stand
Julios House Closet
Julios House Pajaritos (Birds)
One can sense Gonzalez’s conflict, from the way Julio was marginalized by his close family long ago. But while going through Julio’s belongings and paperwork, Gonzalez discovered that his uncle had scrimped and saved and lived modestly in order to eventually bring 12 members of his immediate family to the United States from Cuba. Gonzalez discovered his uncle was a caring, family-centric man who lived a life that was at odds with the stereotypes that gay men (Cuban-American men especially, according to Gonzalez) faced in the 1970s and beyond. His previously held opinion about Julio as a flamboyant, superficial man quickly transformed into pride for his uncle.
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 The book feels like a hand-written letter one would write and send it to someone who has been a significant influence in their life. A letter to convey the complex emotion: ‘I understand now better what you mean to me, what you meant to me, and why our relationship is important.’ So many things are seen clearer if given enough time and distance, whether it’s physical or emotional.
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It would be easy to view this collection of photographs and written memories as primarily being a remembrance. But, I feel one should look at the project as a sense of discovery. Gonzalez is presenting a visual and written exploration of the over-arching question: what would his life possibly be like if he had experienced his family in a different way, and how would that difference impact his own life as an openly gay man? Does the myth of one’s past hold up to the scrutiny of the present? Gonzalez’s photographs are taken from the angle and perspective of an adult, and they were not naively taken nor considered. The narrative text is written by a man who is recalling the past, and providing context for the life and times of his uncle. This process of self discovery, as well as trying to understand the people who influence and mold your life, is potentially one of the most important things a person can undertake. And the act of treasuring or honoring the lives of those we love reminds us of our own mortality. With consideration to Julio’s House, one could say our own possessions might mean nothing to one person, but to another it may be the key to unlocking memories and understanding.

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Julio’s House by Orestes Gonzalez
Essay by Roula Seikaly
10 x 8.5″ perfect-bound, hardcover
60 pages
Limited edition of 400

Julio’s House is published by Kris Graves Projects, and can be purchased online at http://www.krisgravesprojects.com/store/julioshouse. For people who want to buy a copy at the only bookstore in New York that carries it, get info at the website for Printed Matter, Inc.

Julio’s House received much deserved attention and accolades in 2017. Notably, the book was bought by The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York) as part of their book collection in the Thomas J. Watson Library, and the images have been picked up by The Fredric Snitzer Gallery in Miami. The opening date for the show “Julios House”, at the Fredric Snitzer Gallery is Friday April 6th, 2018.

To see more work by Orestes Gonzalez, please visit his website at http://orestesgonzalez.com or read our interview in F-Stop Magazine here or on Medium here.

 

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

ECHOLILIA by Timothy Archibald – Artist Talk at Fort Wayne Museum of Art, April 8th at 10 am

17424841_10155068208997356_6715294596662139966_nECHOLILIA is an eleven-image curation from a larger body of work, a collaboration between photographer Timothy Archibald and his eldest son, Eli. Taken at their home in El Sobrante, California, these primarily unstaged images intimately narrate a tense but respectful artistic and personal relationship between father and child, when the two are learning to understand the meaning of autism and importance of awareness.

Acquired by the Fort Wayne Museum of Art in 2017, Timothy’s affecting and technically impressive photographic prints visualize a poignant message that is applicable to humanity as a whole: The indispensability of empathy when regarding the human condition allows us to understand that idiosyncrasies exist among us all. 

This exhibit is presented along with Sharon and Expressions of Existence, forming a triad of exhibitions exploring the impact of disability on the creation of art. They are made possible by the AWS Foundation.

Join us for an artist talk and tour with the creators of the ECHOLILIA photographs, Timothy Archibald, and his son Eli. Sign language interpreter will be present. Free with museum admission.

Fort Wayne Museum of Art, Fort Wayne, Indiana – http://www.fwmoa.org

To see more work by Timothy Archibald, visit his website: http://www.timothyarchibald.com

Photographer Blake Andrews – Because The Past is Just a Goodbye

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Emmett (2013) © Blake Andrews

Exhibit review by contributor Patrick Collier – Blake Andrews at Blue Sky Gallery, Portland, OR – June 2016

I’ve known about Blake Andrews for many years. He is a force to be reckoned with in the world of photography, particularly because of his minimally titled blog, B. Steeped in the history of and a dialog about photography, the blog is informative, but its real bite comes when Andrews applies his creative, incisive wit—sometimes so dry that how one interprets him says more about the person reading than what he writes—that makes it a must-read. Those who make the mistake of taking him at face value are said to start bleeding a good 24 hours later from the place his scalpel almost imperceptibly pierced their skin.

But I’m here to talk about his exhibit of photographs, specifically his exhibit this past June, Pictures of a gone world at Blue Sky Gallery. All framed by sprocket holes (not visible in the reproductions here), the 28, black and white, analog photographs carefully attend to a specific aesthetic and technical history of his craft. The subject matter is mostly his wife and kids, which some might consider a bit of a throwback. But the images illustrate the title for the exhibit, “Pictures of a gone world,”  which, the exhibit’s press release informs us, is also the title of Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s first book of poems.

“Gone?” If I were of a literal bent, I’d see no pending doom in these photographs. (Well, maybe in one photo, but we’ll get to that in a bit.) Quite the contrary: I see joy, even in the most chaotic of moments portrayed in these images, and a lot of fun being had.

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Leo, Geoff, Dylan, Emmet, Tab (2005) © Blake Andrews

Oh! “Gone!” Like in “Gone, Daddy, gone,” as in “far out,” taking things to a new level, or being unconstrained. It is a vernacular older than Andrews; another time lost; still, albeit anachronistic, applicable for this exhibit.

The press release goes on to explain that this exhibit is inspired by a specific Ferlinghetti poem, “The World is a Beautiful Place,” which starts out: “The world is a beautiful place/to be born into/if you don’t mind happiness/not always being/so very much fun.” Continuing the theme, the poem finishes: “Yes the world is the best place of all/for a lot of such things as/making the fun scene/and making the love scene/and making the sad scene/and singing low songs and having inspirations/and walking around/looking at everything/and smelling flowers/and goosing statues/and even thinking/and kissing people and/making babies and wearing pants/and waving hats and/dancing/and going swimming in rivers/on picnics/in the middle of the summer/and just generally/’living it up’/Yes/but then right in the middle of it/comes the smiling/mortician”

I have gone to the bother of transcribing most of this poem for a reason, and it is not because these photographs are not capable of standing on their own. The majority were taken between 2006 and 2010, yet span a slightly longer period of time. As such, they function as a chronicle of his family as they age, and as one might suspect, there is a broad range of emotions portrayed.

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Zane, Leo, Tab (2004) © Blake Andrews

Andrews is known as a street photographer, a practice that is said to depend heavily on the “decisive moment,” that critical and optimal split second in which the photo comes together in both form and content within the frame. These street skills become paramount when capturing the half-feral, gleeful chaos that can be found in a child’s exuberance. Even so, to be both parent and photographer must pose some interesting problems: To be both in the moment and outside of it; enjoying/enduring the time in a dual capacity; and then capturing it as best he can. Stopping to appreciate that which has just passed is an indulgence he may not be able to afford, that is if he is to follow the photographer’s dictate: Take it all in, watch, watch, watch to see and be ready before the moment becomes a missed opportunity. (And, I would add, capturing the decisive moment is only an attempt, the actual accomplishment something else, closer, perhaps, to the happy accident in one of ~36 frames.) Only at a later time might he make something of the experience.

Taken as such, the option of staging a photo doesn’t seem like a bad decision. And there is one photo in this group that does have that flavor, a photo that, somewhat understandably, was not available for reproduction here. It shows one of Andrew’s sons at a fairly young age, naked and holding a large pair of garden shears—the limb-lopper variety—in front of himself.

Despite this psychoanalytic show-stopper, I can hear someone ask incredulously, “Pictures of his children are worthy of an exhibition?” and perhaps continue with a litany of photo history references that amount to an argument of “been done a thousand times.” Sure, if the work simulated the times I’ve been trapped on someone’s couch with their photo album in front of me. Instead, Andrew’s combination of the candid moment and his composition skills set a stage from which to dismantle the contempt of even the most hardened, wow-me-now gallery-goers—and perhaps not just the ones who have watched their own children grow.

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Emmett, Ella, Chris (2008) © Blake Andrews

Still, is the temptation to ask such a question telling of another gone world? There is a certain cynicism as well as disregard that lurks in the contemporary art arena; both attend to our need to expect the unusual. In the face of such a reaction, Andrews might smirk. The yearning for the quirky or unique creates a disconnect, both passive and active (seen that, done that), and manifests as a loss. In spite of all of the obvious fun his kids are having, these images could very well flip around and act as a stand-in for anyone’s loss of innocence or sense of wonder.

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Leo (2010) © Blake Andrews

On the surface, cynicism is antithetical to sentimentality. A closer look finds something not always easy to perceive, let alone embrace and utilize: cynicism and sentimentality are two sides of the same coin. What if, then, we were to accept this kinship? What if cynicism was just as hackneyed as sentimentality, and just as much from the heart? After all, in the quest for artistic contemporaneity, should we distance ourselves from a substantial part of what has nurtured us?

We learn to anticipate loss. The loss all parents experience as their children’s autonomy burgeons is just one aspect of this life-long lesson. Blake Andrews’ images celebrate playfulness—including his own with a camera—all the while making us look more closely at what we have lost in our sophistication as adults. After all, it is the adult, not the child, who worries about that garden tool.

 


Blake Andrews is a photographer based in Eugene, Oregon, who has been “shooting photos since 1993, with occasional one hour breaks.” His work has been exhibited nationally and internationally at venues such as Artget Gallery in Belgrade, Photofusion Gallery in London, Drkrm Gallery in Los Angeles, Rayko Photo Center in San Francisco, Lightbox Photographic Gallery in Astoria, and Newspace Center for Photography and the Art Gym in Portland.

Patrick Collier is an artist and writer in rural Oregon. He most often writes art criticism for Oregon ArtsWatch in Portland. A daily updated sampling of his photographic work can be found at http://twentymileperimeter.tumblr.com 


 

This is an edited version of an article originally published in Oregon ArtsWatch

A Process of Healing – Interview with photographer Tarah Sloan

I came across a series of images by Tarah Sloan when reviewing work in the F-Stop Magazine exhibition, Family, earlier this year. The exhibition took place at a time when Sloan was not able to give her input for an interview, but I had the chance to revisit her work; and I am glad for the opportunity. In our interview, she revealed the back-story for her series of images dealing with her mother, cancer, and loss. By dealing with her Mother’s life after the loss of family members, one could presume this work is catharsis for her as well.

TarahSloan-2- New Day
New Day

Cary Benbow (CB): Why do you photograph? Why did you become a photographer?

Tarah Sloan (TS): I photograph because it is a way of expression and a form of storytelling, for myself and the viewer. The environment I am surrounded by typically compels me to create images. I started photographing at a young age, so over time my skills developed and my love never wavered. After graduating from high school, I knew I wanted to attend an art college to receive my BFA in photography, and that’s exactly what I did.

CB: Your images in this series definitely come across as storytelling. Can you please explain the idea behind your series?

TS: These images are unlike any other project I have created before. My concept behind this photo series is the emotional plunge of grief a person will face in their lifetime. This project is significantly different because it is personal to my family and me, documenting my mother as the subject. I also normally would not have one person as my main focus through a whole body of work. Many of my ideas for my personal work come from observing the behaviors of others in my environment; such as, this work of my mother.

TarahSloan-5 Staying in Bed
Staying in Bed

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

TS: A good photograph should pull you in and make you think, feel, react or respond in some way. Photography, after all, is art.

TarahSloan-11 Classroom
Classroom

CB: How would you describe your work to someone viewing it for the first time?

TS: That’s a hard question for me, because I can be a little too critical of my own work. I want the viewer to gain some sort of emotional connection from the image. Whether that’s from wonder, amazement, sadness, or joy. Within this series of photographs, I documented my mother.

“I started documenting my mother a few months after my brother Daron passed away in July of 2015.
 I watched her daily struggle with grief after the loss of her husband, sister, and her only son – each who had suffered with cancer; all within 5 years.
I watched her put on the daily brave face and try to continue with life as usual.
I watched as the feelings of depression kept her in its grip.
After many lonely hours, days, and nights, I began to see her gaining strength as she finds new life in the comfort of her garden and the surroundings of her music and art students.”
TarahSloan-8 Yard Work
Yard Work

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

TS: Paul Strand, Ansel Adams, Sally Mann, Diane Arbus, Uta Barth, and Shelby Lee Adams- to name a few from a broad range of individually talented and inspirational photographers. There are many people who I draw inspiration from, including my past professors and colleagues. Why are these people my inspirations? The majority of their photographs are captivating and striking on a number of photographic levels. I think it would be hard for someone to not find inspiration in some way.

 

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CB: What work are you currently working on? Any new projects?

TS: This past summer my mom and I spent 40 days straight on the road, traveling a full circle around the US to visit different grad schools I have looked into. From visiting family in West Virginia, we journeyed upwards to the first art school in Chicago, across to the University of Oregon, down to San Francisco Art Institute, across to the University of New Mexico, then back across to Georgia. Of course, we stopped at as many National Parks as we could along the way, including Devil’s Tower, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, and the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. It was an amazing, exhausting, and eye-opening experience to see the grand, ever changing landscapes of the United States- totally worth it! As a (mostly) landscape photographer, I was in heaven the majority of the trip.  I’m pretty excited to see where my future leads me.


See more of Tarah Sloan’s images at her website: www.tarahsloanphotography.com