Tag Archives: featured

New Ways of Seeing: The Democratic Language of Photography by Grant Scott

© Grant Scott. From New Ways of Seeing

The strength of New Ways of Seeing is in the discussion of where we are today. The discourse and investigation of photography and learning the craft of fluently speaking a visual language is at the forefront. The book feels perfectly positioned to appeal to both students and educators of visual arts, or anyone wanting to better understand the importance of applying practiced skills and knowledge to the visual language of photography.

The ‘democratic language of photography’ couldn’t be more appropriate as a guide or theme throughout Grant Scott’s new book New Ways of Seeing. In a very agreeable tone set in the text, Scott presents his opinion about how we got to the current position of the billions of people worldwide who carry a camera each day. However, he makes the point that this fact does not necessarily make us all well versed in a photographic, or visual language.

I’d like to make a short comment at the start of this review. Aside from the single image chosen from the book and the cover image, this review largely focuses on subject matter and not images. It’s a significant departure from my normal reviews, but one that I’ve tried to make in an effort to highlight the significance of how we all can write and talk about photography without the narrative crutch of photos to illustrate the ideas.

In the book, Scott easily recognizes the importance of pre-smartphone photography and visual storytelling, while also giving credit to the importance of the ease and ability of photographers to create without the burden of expense, or perhaps ironically, without the burden of a traditional photography education. Thus giving rise to photographers being able to proliferate personal projects and elevate the democratization of photography.

The book is laid out in chapters, but as Scott mentions in his introduction, it is not necessary to read them in order. His chapters cover a broad spectrum of topics and they are presented with the sentiment of embracing change. Scott liberally references photographers of prominence and notes the significance of their work – historically and contextually. He gives them ample credit for the influence they have made for contemporary photographers, even if it is without their awareness. The importance of internet sites like Instagram are given credit, due to the role they have played in the process of forming and informing the lives of people studying photography. Scott says in the chapter Speaking in a Digital Environment:

“For a photographer to ignore the impact of Instagram on lens-based image creation could be an act of informed decision making. For a teacher involved in photographic education to ignore Instagram’s impact on the next generation of photographers would be an act of denial and negligence”.

I enjoyed reading through the range of topics, and embraced Scott’s attitude toward a general inclusion of all the advances in smartphone, digital, and computational photography, rather than adopting a stance of being firmly grounded in traditional analog photography and scoffing the present state. The role of narrative and telling a meaningful story through the visual language of images is a primary theme throughout. Scott mentions that many people currently studying photography more readily identify themselves as visual storytellers, rather than as photographers. Very little attention is paid to gear or kit as it applies to how to make meaningful work, but the technological advances of photographic equipment are chronicled for the purpose of better understanding how we’ve gotten this point. This is one of the most meaningful books about photography that I’ve read. It is highly informed, but not over my head, and ultimately invites the reader to thoughtfully inspect and challenge their own practices of being an image creator.


New Ways of Seeing: The Democratic Language of Photography by Grant Scott
240 pages, 5.6 x 0.6 x 8.4 inches, 60 color photos
Published by Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2019
ISBN-10: 135004931X
ISBN-13: 978-1350049314


Grant Scott is the founder of United Nations of Photography, a Senior Lecturer in Photography at Oxford Brookes University, UK, a working photographer, and the author of several previously published books.

His documentary film, Do Not Bend: The Photographic Life of Bill Jay has been screened across the UK, Canada, and the United States, and was ultimately posted for free via YouTube in the spirit of sharing knowledge.

Grant Scott is the founder of United Nations of Photography, a Senior Lecturer in Photography at Oxford Brookes University, UK, a working photographer, and the author of several previously published books. He can be found on Twitter at @UNofPhoto

His documentary film, Do Not Bend: The Photographic Life of Bill Jay has been screened across the UK, Canada, and the United States, and was ultimately posted for free via YouTube in the spirit of sharing knowledge.

To buy a copy of New Ways of Seeing, it can be found on Amazon here, or at the publisher site here. Check out the website for  United Nations of Photography and to find out more about Grant Scott or see his work, please see his website: https://www.grantscott.com/

Featured photographer – Parker Reinecker

Parker James Reinecker is a Street / Documentary Photographer, Writer and Educator based in North Carolina. He is currently working in Northern Georgia, Northeastern Pennsylvania, and the American Southwest. Growing up in coal country, Scranton Pennsylvania, with a bar and a church on every corner, his work touches on the experience and struggle of growing up in the blue-collar United States. Drawing inspiration from his own struggles with personal identity, crime and homelessness which can be conceptually suggested within the compositions of heavy highlight and deep shadows. Parker’s images and series develop symbolic narratives while immersed in his relationship to the broken landscape of “Small Town America” and the conflict of poverty and beliefs, values and traditions, hope within the broken dreams and some touches of humor within it all.

Reinecker’s work has been exhibited in various galleries and museums in the United States including the Colorado Photographic Art Center, the Academy Art Museum and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. His work has also been featured in various national and international publications/platforms including C41 and Eyeshot Magazines, Dodho Magazine and The Photo Review. Parker is an MFA recipient from Savannah College of Art and Design and is a full-time Visual Arts Professor at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College in Salisbury, North Carolina.

To see more work by Parker Reinecker, please visit his website at http://parkerreineckerphoto.com or on Instagram @in_the_park_

 

Featured photographer Rachael Banks

© Rachael Banks, Grady after Benson, 2016

Rachael Banks is a photographer from Louisville, Kentucky, and is an Assistant Professor of Photography at Northern Kentucky University. In a recent issue of F-Stop Magazine, I was fortunate to interview her and feature her work in the thematic context of animals  – while acknowledging her work focuses primarily on family dynamics, relationships, and nostalgia. She is also especially interested in social subcultures and identity informed by place. Banks’ creates work about her family and the uneasiness of those relationships that are strained but also incredibly involved. The inclusion of numerous pets or animals in her family’s life conveys the importance animals play in our lives as she explores feelings of loss, identity, and meaning in the context of family, love and acceptance. It is immediately apparent that she cares deeply for her family – a tough subject to be subjective with, and also intimately close to. 

 

I am the oldest of three, but more like a mother than a sister.

I constructed a family of siblings, both real and assumed.
‘Between Home and Here’ addresses deeply internalized
guilt and the essence of loved ones.

There is a history of pain and an apparent inwardness in my family.

My brother has a rage inside of him that I know others can see. 

But, I can’t help noticing the way he delicately handles a small rabbit in his arms, gently stroking its ears and shielding its eyes from the fear of the unfamiliar.

I am a witness to their sensitivity and empathy in how they revere animal life, despite human failure.

This is a story about hating and loving where you are from.
It comes from doing anything to go back to a place that you left.

I left my heart in Kentucky and came back to find it.
The photographs are artifacts from my search.

Rachael Banks – ‘Between Home and Here’

Cary Benbow (CB): Your project Between Home and Here explores very powerful tropes of Family and inclusion. Let’s talk about the level of trust and intimacy in your work, and I’d like to ask about the project in terms of portraiture versus straight documentary style photography.

Rachael Banks (RB): While I am extroverted at work (I have to be), I am actually pretty shy and slow in how I go about making work, so it isn’t always as viable for me to photograph strangers. There is definitely a level of intimacy I have to achieve with a person to make work about them extensively. I really like to invest in whoever I am making work about. I go back and forth about my work being more portraiture based vs. documentary. In the beginning, I was interested in the concept of aesthetic beauty and portraiture allowed me to explore that. However, as the work has continued, I’ve thought more about my relationships with people and the place I feel I have in the world. I never considered myself a documentary photographer because I wasn’t sure if photographing my family fit within the scope but as the work expands, I definitely feel like the work is more heavily influenced by documentary photography. Portraiture is something I naturally gravitate towards in respect to my working methodology but my intent goes beyond the mode in which I present my images.

CB: Let’s discuss the role animals play in your work; how much of a role do they play in the lives of your subjects, or in your own life?

RB: I’m not sure if this is a regional or family influence (maybe a little bit of both) but I grew up surrounded by animals. My family members have always had a wide array of pets and my dad lives on a farm. I was definitely raised in an environment that placed a heavy emphasis on respect for animals and to treat pets as family. Because my work is so centrally focused on my relationships with immediate family, it is inevitable that animals become a part of that. Additionally, I see that animals often serve as an extension of the subject I am photographing and that they can help inform the viewer with more insight into the personality traits of the individual. On a personal note, I spend a lot of time driving to make work and I bring my dog Ghost with me as much as possible. If there isn’t an animal in the photograph I’m making, there is most likely one sitting next to me while I’m shooting.

CB: With regard to your earlier statement about your portraits documenting your family, what do you feel are the “obligations” of a photographer, or what obligation do you have to the people, your family, in your photos?

RB: I think it is important to have the ability to stand behind every image that you make. I understand that anything I put out into the world for others to see is coming from my own specific gaze and that I am actively selecting how the subject is framed and presented. I feel that I have a responsibility to myself and others to be able to understand that not everyone will see my images the same way that I do and that I have the ability to contribute (both negatively and positively) to how an individual/region/situation is represented. There is always the possibility that something I make can be misunderstood or that I can even cause harm, so with that in mind, I try to make sure that I don’t share anything that I can’t live with later on in life.

CB: What compels you to make the images you create? Why do you photograph?

RB: My mom photographed my entire childhood – and I mean she photographed everything constantly. While she has never identified as being creative/artistic, I feel that her compulsions have influenced me greatly and my need to document as much of my life/surroundings as possible. I have a lot of anxiety about forgetting defining moments or losing sight of what informs my identity. Photography has always provided a way for me to stay connected to who I am and what matters to me.

CB: Who are your photography inspirations or how to they influence your work?

RB: This is a question where I can go overboard so I will attempt to be as concise as possible. I really love Doug Dubois and the way he documents youth in addition to integrating a graphic novel in his series My Last Day at Seventeen. When I think about the muse in the photograph, I always look at Emmet Gowin; because who wouldn’t want to be loved the way that Edith is? I’m really inspired by Nathan Pearce and the way he photographs his life in the Midwest – he also has an incredible work ethic that always pushes me to be better. Jake Reinhart is another big inspiration for me because of his extensive approach to research and his ability to articulate his work in such a thoughtful way. I am also currently excited about Amy Powell, Caiti Borruso, Susan Worsham, and Dylan Hausthor.

CB: Do you feel there is a significant difference between “documentary” style photography versus “portrait” photography as a label? Or are those labels significant as a category to your work?

RB: I think that there is crossover between portraiture and documentary in my work. In terms of there being a difference, I believe the intent of the photographer is significant in making distinctions between the two. I’ve seen documentary work that is mainly consistent of portraiture so there isn’t much a difference between the two in that situation but I have also seen a lot of portraiture work that is more about visual aesthetics than it is about being documentary. I feel that my work falls in both categories in that I work primarily in portraiture but I am approaching my subject matter as a documentarian. Portraiture is a natural habit for me but I am more interested in the research and document component of making work. I don’t want to be the person that says I don’t fall into a category because I definitely fall into a few! If I had to describe my work in one sentence to a stranger I would summarize it as a documentary approach to family (assumed and biological) portraiture.

CB: Please talk about the role of a photographer as “publisher” and what you think about the recent increased push for photographers to publish photo books and/or zines. I know you are a strong advocate for publishing work.

RB: I am 100% supportive of photographers working in self-publishing and its one of my favorite components of photography. I think there is a lot that self-publishing/zines allow for a photographer in regard to the opportunity for exposure that it provides. While I feel it is still important to show work in galleries, a zine allows a photographer to share work without being weighed down by so many financial burdens. Accessible art is really important to me and I feel that self-publishing allows for photography to be more readily distributed and shared which fosters such a dynamic community that I value being a part of. On another note, I think that there is an over saturation of photobooks in the world right now, but I’m not terribly upset about having more books to collect. If there is a project that isn’t ready to be presented to the work as a traveling solo exhibition or a monograph, it can still be shared/distributed as a zine. Publishing also allows for photographers/viewers to see work as a physical object as opposed to looking at everything through a screen. I definitely appreciate the photograph more as a physical object and publishing encourages this.

 

© Rachael Banks, Ghost in the Snow, 2017

© Rachael Banks, The See Him in You, 2018

© Rachael Banks, Dad Holding Mabel, 2017

© Rachael Banks, In the Garden, 2015

© Rachael Banks, from Between Home and Here

© Rachael Banks, Ghost, 2017

© Rachael Banks, My Dream of a White Horse, 2018

© Rachael Banks, Basil, 2015

© Rachael Banks, from Between Home and Here

© Rachael Banks, from Between Home and Here

© Rachael Banks, Bo Jackson, 2015

© Rachael Banks, from Between Home and Here

© Rachael Banks, from Between Home and Here

© Rachael Banks, from Between Home and Here

© Rachael Banks, from Between Home and Here

© Rachael Banks, from Between Home and Here


Rachael Banks (b. Louisville, KY) is an Assistant Professor of Photography at Northern Kentucky University and is based in Covington, KY. She received an MFA in photography from Texas Woman’s University (Denton, TX). Banks is an avid supporter of self-publishing, accessible art, zines, and collecting. Her work has been shown at The Center for Fine Art Photography, The Kinsey Institute, Black Box Gallery, Darkroom Gallery, and several other institutions. She has also been featured in a number of online photography publications and frequently participates in panel discussions and invited speaker presentations.

To see more work by Rachael Banks, please visit her website at www.rachaelbanksphoto.com


An edited version of this article was first published in F-Stop Magazine in April 2019.

Arthur Fields – Seen and Heard: Evidence of a unique personal experience

Grid of images from ‘Seen and Heard’ © Arthur Fields

Arthur Fields is a photographer from Texas, currently living in Vincennes, Indiana where he is an Assistant Professor of Art at Vincennes University.  He currently teaches courses in traditional analog photography as well as digital imaging.  He also serves as the director of VU’s Shircliff Gallery of Art.

Fields’ latest artistic research is based on his love of landscape and self-representation. By compiling imagery from online web searches and social networks such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, both virtual and tangible, his work consists of imagery collected through the process of data compiling using hashtags (identity markers). Acting as both curator as well as image-maker he is concerned with choosing, organizing, editing, and remixing, to better understand the collective cultural experience that is mediated through digital processes.

Much of Fields’ recent work involving images and hashtags used on social media platforms (especially Instagram) explore themes of place, sense of self, and inclusion/exclusion; especially in the context of class, race, and culture. His exhibition From Academic to Instagram complied collections of images based around a core group of hashtags. The resulting grid of multiple images from his collection is a manner of both curation and image-making. In his statement for the exhibition, Fields says, “I am concerned with choosing, organizing, editing, and remixing, to better understand the collective cultural experience that is mediated through digital processes. By considering the photograph as data to be sorted, I engage in systems for which modern culture stores and presents images that reflect the pictorial and social relationships connecting the camera, the photographer, and the spectator.”  Fields includes more context for the work by addressing the collective social experience people have by being both producers and consumers of visual media. Fields continues in his statement, “As John Berger writes in his seminal book, Ways of Seeing, ‘Oil painting, before it was anything else, was a celebration of private property. As an art-form it derived from the principle that you are what you have.’ These sets of images, placed in the IG grid format, represent my view of the genre or a hashtag as it relates to my personal online experience. The amount of feedback or likes I get from IG followers. Why are these images created? Are they actually memories of daily life or is this just the modern way of displaying wealth, class or culture?”

In a collection of related images and posts on Fields’ Instagram feed (@artfields), he uses the hashtag ‘overheard’ to explore themes of inclusion and exclusion, as well as identity and a sense of place and self. The images are part of a larger project, Seen and Heard. When I asked Fields about these images and the themes within, he said the feeling of being an outsider was especially noticeable soon after relocating from his home in Texas. That feeling has subsided with time, but the series of ‘overheard’ tagged images definitely builds off the feeling of being ‘on the outside’ of a conversation, culture or class.

In his project statement for Seen and Heard, Fields states that the project is ultimately “an exploration of a way that memory is influenced in the digital age. Using the senses of sight and sound, I share my daily walk through the world. These routine and sometimes mundane activities such as driving to work, celebrating birthdays and watching nature are activities that represent my life. Through the use of the social network Instagram, these mundane scenes are revisited and carefully edited to portray my public-self. Upon seeing an image, the brain informs us that we have seen or had that experience. By choosing to print specific imagery, I transform it from experience to object which in turn enhances the ability to recall the experience. This work promotes the intuitive recognition of shared experiences. Like the careful construction of the vanishing ‘scrapbook’, I am selecting and constructing the memories for myself and the viewer. Created to trigger both visual and auditory memories, this selection of images and text are randomly chosen to represent my life.”

“Each image is labeled with its associated information, such as location and hashtag,” Fields explains. “The images are also given the bonus of a quote. The added quote represents an overheard comment or audio blurb, heard by the artist within 48 hours of taking the image. By choosing a particular quote with an unrelated image, a connection between the two leads to the generation of a personal narrative. While this work does mirror that deluge of images and audio prevalent in a digital society, it is curated; filtered to make a particular story that serves as evidence of a unique personal experience.” Fields’ work explores his own personal interactions; yet there is a strong supporting level of universal experience through social contexts, identity and memory. 

The collection of images from the Seen and Heard project can be views at Fields’ Instagram feed: @artfields. In connection with this published feature, beginning April 23rd, Fields will be posting work from his project on the Instagram feed for Wobneb Magazine. To see images from this project, please click on the link, and follow @WobnebMag on Instagram to view his work.

From ‘Seen and Heard’ © Arthur Fields

From ‘Seen and Heard’ © Arthur Fields

From ‘Seen and Heard’ © Arthur Fields

From ‘Seen and Heard’ © Arthur Fields

From ‘Seen and Heard’ © Arthur Fields

From ‘Seen and Heard’ © Arthur Fields

From ‘Seen and Heard’ © Arthur Fields

From ‘Seen and Heard’ © Arthur Fields

From ‘Seen and Heard’ © Arthur Fields

From ‘Seen and Heard’ © Arthur Fields

From ‘Seen and Heard’ © Arthur Fields

From ‘Seen and Heard’ © Arthur Fields

From ‘Seen and Heard’ © Arthur Fields


Arthur Fields completed a MFA in Photography at Texas Woman’s University in Denton, Texas, and earned a BFA in Digital Imaging and Photography at Washington University in St. Louis.  His prior studies included printmaking and photography at Brookhaven College.  He also is a board member of several photographic arts organizations: Ticka-Arts, The Texas Photographic Society, and the editorial board of YIELD Magazine. He also is an active member of the Society for Photographic Education, where he serves as Student Volunteer Coordinator of the SPE National Conference.

For more information about Arthur Fields, and to see more of his work, please visit his website at http://www.arthurfields.net.

Seeing Deeply – A Retrospective by Dawoud Bey

The Woman in the Light, Harlem, New York City, 1980. © Dawoud Bey

Dawoud Bey: Seeing Deeply offers a forty-year retrospective of the celebrated photographer’s work, from his early street photography in Harlem to his current images of Harlem gentrification. Photographs from all of Bey’s major projects are presented in chronological sequence, allowing viewers to see how the collective body of portraits and recent landscapes create an unparalleled historical representation of various communities in the United States. Prodigious is an apt descriptor for ‘Seeing Deeply’.

After taking in the span of images within the book, an analogy came to mind. You can draw a line from the beginning of his work and see it all the way through to his current projects. Like a carpenter lifting a board to look down the length of its edge, one can see straight from one end to the other and know that it is true. The sturdy grain of the wood may flow slightly from side to side, but  its core is unwavering and reliable.

Throughout his career, Bey made images in communities he felt had been under-represented by other photographers. He shot photos in Harlem, Birmingham, Syracuse, Brooklyn, Boston, Chicago, and many other cities. Whether the work was made in small or medium format cameras, black & white or color, and even large format Polaroid portraits, the feel of Bey’s work gives a nod to some of his influencers; photographers such as as Roy DeCarava, Walker Evans, Gordon Parks, and James Van Der Zee.

Bey’s photo of a young woman waiting for a bus in Syracuse in 1985 could have easily been taken in 1965. The timeless quality of this portrait demonstrates sensitivity to the person, and showing them in a certain state of mind, rather than a time and place, and allows the viewer to make an intimate connection. The way she regards the camera/viewer, leaning against a counter in a bus terminal directly under a sign telling patrons to wait outside for busses, evokes a feeling of dignified protest, or respectful righteousness.

The list of Dawoud Bey’s accomplishments, awards, grants, and museums that collect his work is staggering. Bey was also a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant”, yet when I viewed a TEDx talk he gave in 2015 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, I was struck by his humility and sense of inspiration and drive to explore ideas and themes through his genuine love for the medium of photography.

Bey was drawn to visit the Met in 1969 by news of demonstrations by people who were called to action by the idea of who was being allowed to author the experience of the African-American community. He viewed the exhibition on the day he went to the museum, and decided to start making photographs in his own community of Harlem. His photographs from Harlem over a five year span resulted in an exhibition in 1975. The project was an effort to convey the humanity of the men, women and children in that community. In Bey’s words, many African-American communities up until that time had been predominantly been shown through a lens of pathology. His sense of duty to depict African-Americans and their lives has been an underlying theme throughout his career. I was drawn to a certain quote by Hilton Als in Sarah Lewis’ introduction to ‘Seeing Deeply’. Als comments that Bey creates “works of art made out of real lives as opposed to real lives being used to reflect the artist’s idea of it.” Amen.

A Young Woman Waiting for the Bus, Syracuse, 1985. © Dawoud Bey

Alva, New York, NY, 1992. © Dawoud Bey

Mark and Eric, Chicago, IL, 1994. © Dawoud Bey

Four Children at Lenox Avenue, Harlem, New York City, 1977. © Dawoud Bey

Mary Parker and Caela Cowan, Birmingham, AL, 2012. © Dawoud Bey

Men From the 369th Regiment Marching Band, Harlem, New York City, 1977. © Dawoud Bey

Three Men and the Lenox Lounge, Harlem, New York City, 2014. © Dawoud Bey

A Girl with a Knife Nosepin, Brooklyn, N.Y., 1990. © Dawoud Bey

A Boy in Front of Loew’s 125th Street Movie Theater, Harlem, NY, 1976. © Dawoud Bey


Dawoud Bey: Seeing Deeply by Dawoud Bey
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: University of Texas Press; First Edition
Language: English
ISBN-10: 9781477317198


Dawoud Bey’s work is held by major collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the High Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the National Portrait Gallery, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. In addition to the MacArthur fellowship, Bey’s honors include the United States Artists Guthman Fellowship, 2015; the Guggenheim Fellowship in Photography, 2002; and the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, 1991. He is Professor of Art and a former Distinguished College Artist at Columbia College Chicago.

To view more images or purchase ‘Seeing Deeply’ by Dawoud Bey, please visit the University of Texas Press website. All images represented are included with recognition to Dawoud Bey/University of Texas Press.

{First published in F-Stop Magazine in January 2019}

Taradiddle by Charles H. Traub

A taradiddle by definition is a petty lie, a little falsehood or trifling told often to amuse or embellish a story. But the Oxford English Dictionary also offers a second meaning: Pretentious or empty talk; senseless, unproductive activity; nonsense. Ironically, it’s a self deprecating term for such meaningful work. But then, that’s part of the fun.

So many of the images created by Traub involve witty visual interplay, tongue-in-cheek sight gags that beg the viewer to look again. But that summary sells them short. There’s much more going on here, there is wit and a sophisticated way of seeing what is in front of the camera. Traub’s work in Taradiddle is a collection of discoveries built around the idea of seeing — not just looking. He is a photographer’s photographer; demonstrating mastery of the medium without hubris or egotism. There is keen observation without embellishment in Taub’s oeuvre. As David Campany writes in this introduction to the book, the unifying element to Traub’s work is that “they are all in one way or another about photography. They may even amount to a commentary upon photography as a phenomenon of daily life. Photography as something we do daily, and photographs as things we encounter daily, often by chance. To this extent at least, these are meta-photographs.” Photos about photography.

An assistant to Traub suggested the term ‘taradiddle’ during the process of curating the images that would ultimately comprise the book. It stuck. An influence and friend early in Traub’s photo career was fellow Kentuckian Ralph Eugene Meatyard. Meatyard kept a collection of names he found funny and/or interesting. One could easily imagine the list might include a Miss Tara Diddle, of Lexington. In that spirit, Traub’s images ask the viewer to see and absorb an inside joke: the landscape painting of Death Valley on the side of a building located in front of the actual mountain range of Death Valley. A large red rock with hand-painted white letters in Monte Vista, Colorado prompting the visitor to bring the camera. He did. Ironic tongue-in-cheek humor with signage and whimsy like the Estate of Confusion building in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Or the compositional use of a natural frame-within-a-frame in a street scene in New Orleans to highlight we are viewing a selective representation of the three-dimensional world — an image akin to the work of Luigi Ghirri, one of the most influential conceptual photographers of the 20th century.

Over the span of the book we see the Michelangelo fresco painting of the Creation of Adam in several iterations. We see it in a hardware store, a poster reproduction poorly framed within a larger gold frame mounted to a wall, or in a faded wallpaper pattern behind a framed photo of a wedding portrait with bride and groom in a similar pose, touching hands, creating a future together. Traub captures an image of faux wooden boards with painted shadows on a flat metal door, mimicry of floral patterns on upholstery and carpet placed in front of a nature scene right outside the window. These witty visual interplays beg the viewer to think about visual reproduction, visual representation, and realistically… it can be humorous how people often choose to replicate a natural environment in such unnatural ways.

It is always a joy to pour over artwork in a book where the next image can’t come quickly enough, or there can’t be too many of; like a child who eagerly begs their parent to repeat a joke or trick they adore — again…do it again. Taradiddle is one of those books where I found myself soaking in the images, laughing to myself or making a interjection of appreciation, then quickly turning the page to see the next one, and the next, then the final one, only to work my way back toward the front of the book again. I have seen Traub’s work before the opportunity came to review this project, but critically thinking about it prompted the realization that I hadn’t fully recognized how much his photography was interconnected to other masters of photography who inform my comprehensive view of photography.

Taradiddle brings out the simplistic joy of creating images; photographing without pretense or strict conceptual confinement. “For me, serendipity, coincidence and chance are more interesting than any preconceived construct of our human encounters”, Traub says. Make no mistake, creating images and understanding the concepts and implied meanings and interpretations is required in endeavors such as this. Traub believes one should not front-load the creative process for fear of restriction, “All image making is basically conceptual and needs introspection. However, a self-conscious praxis often constipates it.“

Whether the final image is simple to describe, or built upon a complex relationship of elements within the frame, Traub’s work transcends subject matter and speaks most importantly to what we are seeing. It’s more than documenting a place, it’s more than a portrait of a person, it’s more than capturing the essence of a place. His work connects conceptual ideas with a visual interpretation of the world we live in, and also experience through photography. His images strive to lay bare the profound commonality of our lives; serendipity and humor included.

Taradiddle by Charles H. Traub

Essay by David Campany

Published by Damiani

Hardcover, 11.75 x 9.5 in / 116 pgs / 100 color

ISBN 9788862086219


Charles Traub was born in Louisville, KY and has been photographing for 50 years. He has eleven books to his credit and sixty major exhibitions including one person shows at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Hudson River Museum, the Historic New Orleans collection, and is in the collections of more than two dozen international museums. For the past 30 years, he has been the Chairperson of the MFA Photography, Video and Related Media program at the School of Visual Arts and presently is the Co-Director of the Aaron Siskind Foundation.

David Campany is a writer, curator, and artist who is widely recognized for his award-winning essays and books regarding the lens and screen arts. He teaches at the University of Westminister in London and is the recipient of the ICP Infinity award and the Royal Photographic Society’s award for writing.


To purchase a copy of Taradiddle please visit www.artbook.comTo find out more information about Charles H. Traub and view his work, please visit his website at www.charlestraub.com/


This review was first published in F-Stop Magazine in December 2018.

GenderQueer – Intimate and Genuine: An interview with Chloe Aftel

Chloe Aftel — ejlandsman

GenderQueer — Intimate and Genuine

Gender is a current topic of discussion and debate — politically, and socially. A political debate wages on in several states to decide who should use which restroom based on their assigned gender at birth, versus the gender with each person identifies themselves. Time Magazine’s cover story for March 27, 2017 is ‘Beyond He or She’; how a new generation is defining how they relate and interact with the world. This ‘non-binary’ sense of self-awareness is not just something one might encounter in psychology or sociology studies; It is literally front page news.Benbow-TIME Mag Bookstore shelf

Genderqueer, along with the alternate term nonbinary, are umbrella terms that address individuals who feel that the terms man and woman, or male and female, do not adequately describe the way they feel about their gender and/or the way they wish others to see them. Members of the genderqueer community generally try to distinguish themselves from people who call themselves transgender, because that term more closely relates to a different sense of self in a binary comparison. Generally, it means the individual identifies with a different binary gender than their gender assigned at birth.

For her series “Genderqueer,” Aftel photographed self-identified genderqueer individuals in their homes in an effort to explore a community that she says is too-often misunderstood. Aftel says that a few years ago, she and a friend were talking about the GenderQueer movement and she felt she wanted to explore it further on her own. Aftel feels her gender identity never fell neatly into one group or another, so she was curious what this discussion was grappling with.

She had shot three portraits in her project, when she was assigned to shoot Sasha Fleischman for an editorial piece in San Francisco Magazine. In the fall of 2013, Sasha was set on fire on an Oakland, California public bus because they (Sasha doesn’t use she or he as identifiers) wore a skirt with a men’s shirt. After this terrible event, more people were willing to be photographed and take a stand about the basic human rights that should be extended to any person regardless of gender identification. Aftel has photographed this evolving culture that consists of those living outside or in between the gender binary, refusing to define themselves as strictly male or female.

Chloe Aftel — rain

Q&A

Cary Benbow (CB): Beyond your project statement, please talk about the idea behind your GenderQueer portfolio. Does it relate to other work of yours?

Chloe Aftel (CA): Gender, identity and sexuality have always been subjects I enjoy exploring. Pieces of that permeate all my projects, I don’t think people fit neatly into boxes, nor should they, so I want to see what that looks like in real life.

Chloe Aftel — micha

Chloe Aftel — emma

CB: It has been a few years since you first started this project, is this an ongoing series? How much do you add to this project on a regular basis?

CA: Yes, I am constantly shooting for this series, until it is close to comprehensive, 1–2 times a month at least. I’ve been working on it since 2012 and it’s been interesting watching how the movement has grown and in what directions. I’ve never had a project that has been completed quickly, sadly! When I begin these, it’s with the knowledge it takes years to do correctly.

Chloe Aftel — emily

CB: As a photographer, what obligation do you feel to the people in your photos?

CA: I think my job is to portray subjects honestly, whatever that means. It’s not about a message or my intent, it’s about letting people be themselves and finding a way to shoot that.

Chloe Aftel — viola

CB: What photographers or artists do you take inspiration from? How does it affect how you work?

CA: I love a lot of the dead and older people, Arbus and Eggleston are favorites, as well as Gordon Parks, and Avedon, but there are so many who are still alive and awesome, like Steven Meisel, Alison Scarpulla, Joe Szabo, Matt Eich…. I don’t know if I am often inspired. I think I just like the work. I like problems and mistakes.

CB: Do you see your work as a way of documenting your life experiences in a way, or commenting on them with intent?

CA: I don’t discuss intent, as i want people to take from them what they will. Hopefully the images have enough structure to stay something and enough room for the viewer to take away what they will.

Chloe Aftel — sarah

Chloe Aftel — amanda

Chloe Aftel — sasha

CB: Is the GenderQueer series specific to a certain place or community or would it be applicable to anyone who identifies as non-binary?

CA: The people in it are from all over the country, from rural Ohio, to Detroit, to Seattle, and a million other places. I hope this series speaks to people no matter where they live and how able they currently feel to be themselves.

Chloe Aftel — lux

CB: What compels you to make the images you create — for this project or otherwise?

CA: Oh man, I love taking pictures, I love making shit, I love making the technical change the visual. I also love making a living. I just don’t want the say the same tired crap that’s already been said. If i can do that, it’s very gratifying. I want to shoot a million different subjects, and I don’t want all the images to look homogenized, so it’s much less about adhering to a certain genre and much more about understanding a subject, if that makes sense.

Chloe Aftel — chris

CB: From the standpoint of a working professional, how do you decide to take on new projects? What type of balance do you try to make between editorial and commercial clients?

CA: I think you always have to do both. They do inform one another, but you need to eat and you need to do work that really pushes you. Once in a while, ad jobs do that, but the personal work is where you just have to figure it out. I think that’s what makes you better in all aspects of the job. You make mistakes and can take some joy in what they teach you.

Chloe Aftel — aiden

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

CA: Yes, many! One on what it means to be a woman now, another on portraits of artists and intellectuals, and a few more. It’s the best work to do aside from making a living.

Chloe Aftel — edie

CB: What advice would you give to someone who wants to take on projects like GenderQueer?

CA: To be patient, it takes a lot of time and learning to figure out how to best do it and there will ALWAYS be problems and challenges that come up. One has to stay the course and remain focused while being open to changing as one’s understanding of the project evolves.


To see more of Chloe Aftel’s work, visit: www.chloeaftel.com


Originally published at F-Stop Magazine.

Photographer Patrick Collier

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Patrick Collier has been making art for about 35 years, and has numerous exhibits and shows to his credit. He also writes poetry, and is a contributor to Oregon Arts Watch orartswatch.org. From 1998-2000, he and his wife ran the Chicago gallery bona fide. The gallery received critical acclaim with reviews in Art in America, Frieze and the now defunct Midwest art magazine New Art Examiner.

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Collier says of himself: “I’m one of those photographer types who carry the conceit of not really being a photographer. Rather, I prefer to think of myself as an artist who is using a camera for the time being. Buried deep within my tumblr page are examples of how I exhibit my photographs. In short, I combine the photos you typically see on that page with photos I take of snippets of text I am reading. (The spacing on the page sometimes creates little framed segments of 2 to 4 lines of text, which I shoot and crop. They are called “Gists” on my website.) I will also sometimes use drawings and sculpture in the same installation. I’d like to think of these combinations as visual poems.”

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“Photos of the things I see on the street and placed in stand-alone projects are divided into two categories. ‘Deadpan’ are the rather symmetrical, extremely formal, crowd-pleasing photos. The others I call Sidetracked, as the scenes catch my eye when shooting – and some time afterwards they make it into this category.”

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Many of Collier’s photographic works explore the interplay of textures, patterns and forms, as well as color. The incidental markings on pavement or walls, and discovered visual ironies are also among his strengths.

To see more examples of Patrick Collier’s work, visit his website www.patrickcollier.com , his tumblr site http://twentymileperimeter.tumblr.com/or on Instagram @ptcpatrick

Interview with photographer Kevin Faingnaert

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

Kevin Faingnaert (KF): Social documentary combining portrait, landscapes and structures to tell in depth stories which are both analytical and emotional. I have a sensitive and aesthetic visual approach.

CB: Why do you photograph? What compels you to make the images you create?

KF: It’s quite simple honestly – it’s a way to share what I love. Making photo stories is the only way I’m able to share my ideas and feelings on a certain topic. When I’m traveling, I need friends around me to share moments with. It’s the first thing I miss when traveling alone. So making pictures is a way to fill this gap and share my moments.

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CB: You spent one month photographing and living with the people in Matavenero, in the region of El Bierzo, Spain. What is the idea behind this project?

KF: In spring 2015 I ventured to Matavenero, a remote eco-village high up in the isolated mountainous region of North West Spain, to document the lives of its inhabitants. When I heard about Matavenero and their independent lifestyle, I was hooked immediately. They turn away from the way of modern life, based on efficiency and consumption, to live according to their beliefs. They built their own village in the middle of nowhere and are dependent only from their own gardens. I was extremely curious to see how they live, who they are, what they do, and why they abandoned their old life.

I consider myself a social documentary photographer, so this project relates to my other projects that it focuses on sub-culture and communities that are removed from the mainstream.

It’s a totally different story than Banger Days, my series on a merciless full-contact demolition sport where drivers use scrap cars to race, crash and destroy.

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CB: Your projects include editorial style shots along with portraiture – Why do you think people are so interested in portraiture, and how do you feel your work meets that need?

KF: People can find feeling and connect on a human level to a portrait and what they see in the person in the picture. This is impossible with for example a landscape. People don’t relate as much to a landscape or a structure, than another person.

I like to make landscape photos to show the environment, to show where people live, but it in the end, it are the persons in the photos who make the story.

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CB: Why do you present your work on your website without statements, or commentary about the project?

KF: I like to save the stories for interviews or to talk about it in real life. I also don’t like the make any big statements. I want to create a visual story where viewers can step into, explore and analyze without the need of commentary or statements.

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

KF: There are so many and honestly, it chances every day. Alec Soth is a constant though, as well are Diane Arbus and Sally Mann. I love the work of Rob Hornstra and especially his Sochi Project. He’s a great documentary maker and storyteller.

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CB: How do you approach your personal work differently than editorial or commercial photography?

KF: I wish I had more experience in editorial photography to answer this question. Lately I’ve been putting a lot of effort and time in personal work. I do it slowly on my own pace. For example, when light conditions are not good enough to make the picture I want, I can just try again the next day, and the next day after,… This is not possible in editorial photography. It’s more fast-paced and you only get one chance to do it right.

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To view the Matavenero project, and other projects by Kevin Faingnaert, visit hiswebsite or view his Tumblr


 

This is an edited version of the interview originally published in F-Stop Magazine

Interview with photographer Laura Konttinen

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Cary Benbow (CB): What is your approach to photography or image-making as a visual artist?

Laura Konttinen (LK): What drew me to photography was realizing what a clever double agent it is; a photograph pretends to be an invisible window into an objective past, but is of course a deliberate point of view and often not that different from, say, a painting. I have this deeply rooted desire to reveal photography’s ‘fakeness’, somehow catch it in the act. At the same time, I can’t escape photography’s comforting link to the past.

My work process is a sort of ritual that quenches my thirst to preserve the past but at the same time cleanses me of its burden. The creation of each image involves multiple stages: browsing pictures I have taken on my travels, printing them, cutting, and making miniature arrangements. Photographing these staged landscapes gives a comforting finality to the vague experiences they are based on. They are now meaningful and they have a shape.

CB: What is the concept behind your portfolio images in this issue? How do they relate to your other projects, or how are they significantly different?

LK: Early on I realized that all of my artwork is somehow connected to nostalgia and memories. The portfolio I submitted features work from ”The Memory Project” (2010-2013) and ”Islands” (2014-ongoing). The images in ”The Memory Project” are based on my actual memories. I wanted to try and visualize the vagueness, the mutations and incoherencies that are a central part of memories. The series originated from my simultaneous frustration and fascination with photography’s connection to reality. It is easy for a photograph from a long gone place to replace the actual memory from that same place. I wanted to explore the visual possibilities to challenge that connection – to break apart the photograph and rebuild it as a more accurate representation of the surreal aspects of memories.
With ”Islands”, I have gone further, to the realm of imaginary. Each island is only loosely based on real places, and most of their character and story stems from mythologies, folk tales and symbols. In a way, the islands depict archetypes – they are places of fear, dreams, denial, isolation or sorrow. In history, literature and everyday life islands often become representations for different parts of the human psyche, as is demonstrated by their role as prisons, holiday paradises or untamed and harsh tests of survival.

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

LK: I am drawn to pictures that seem to be rich in symbolic meaning and melancholic undertones. In my own work I tend to be obsessively attracted to symmetry, overly saturated colours and a shallow depth of field, but in general I enjoy seeing work that is visually different from mine. I am in awe of the ”capture the moment” kind of photographers. My own work is very staged and there is little space for happy accidents, so an eye for fleeting moments is something that I admire.

CB: What are you inspired by?

LK: I am inspired by places, but only after they have started to fade in my mind. I only like to look at pictures I take on trips after I have started to forget the exact places and situations. The past is veiled in a new kind of glory when it’s affected by imagination and even fallacies.
I enjoy creating handcrafted illusions where an element does resemble a slice of a possible landscape, but is still obviously just a set-up. I feel this approach is similar to theatrical set design. In a theatre, set pieces can be just subtle symbols of real spaces, and the inherent fakeness is still accepted by the audience by default. I like playing with this same idea of things looking like something else, but still obviously looking like what they are – sugar is sea foam, but still just sugar.

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CB: What or who are your photography inspirations?

LK: Rather than photographers, I feel more inspired by conceptual artists. Even though my own work has a very different approach, themes and medium, I am fascinated by work like Yoko Ono’s instruction pieces, Joseph Beuys’s performance with a coyote and Sophie Calle’s journey secretly following a stranger from Paris to Venice. To me, the most interesting art gives a shape to the invisible oddities of human experience.

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

LK: I would invite them to explore the strange and the familiar in my work; to look beyond the softness and the bright colours.

To view more work by Laura Konttinen, visit her website athttp://www.laurakonttinen.net


 

Originally published in F-Stop Magazine