Phaidon interview with Stephen Shore

Phaidon, the publisher of art and photography books, is apparently dong a series of brief interviews called “The Decade Interview” asking artists and photographers: Where were you 10 years ago? What are you doing today? Where will you be in 10 years time?”

The interviews appear to be pretty brief little snippets, but interesting. You can find more on the Phaidon website, but be forewarned, the website seems pretty random to me.

I spotted this one with Stephen Shore: ‘In the mid-1970’s I was once invited for dinner at a friend’s loft in SoHo,’ recounts Shore. ‘At dinner was Ansel Adams. During the meal I saw Ansel drink six tall glasses of straight vodka and, at some point during our long conversation after dessert, Ansel said – and I remember him saying this in an unemotional, detached way, like a photographer observing something: “I had a creative hot streak in the 1940s and since then I’ve been pot boiling.”

Also from the Phaidon site, this interview with Shore

Finally, for another side of Shore, take a look at his fashion photographs for Urban Outfitters.

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2009 NPR Story about Robert Frank

Robert Frank, Political Rally, Chicago

Political Rally, Chicago, from "The Americans" copyright Robert Frank

One of the great things about Google and the Internet is that you never know when you might stumble upon a prize. This one comes via Google Alerts and is an NPR story from 2009 on Robert Frank.

It’s pretty basic stuff, but I have a rule that virtually anything on Robert Frank that I find is going to get posted. He’s just that important.

You can listen to the story here.

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Is Fine Art Photography Dead?

I’ve been slogging through David Bate’s textbook, Photography: The Key Concepts. (And it is a slow, hard slog.) There’s lots to think about and write about, but in the meantime, Philip Gefter has an interesting piece in the magazine Photograph touching on the future and nature of fine art photography.

It’s a topic I’ve been interested in lately, and while my title above overstates the case, it’s something worth considering. Gefter asks “…whether fact and fiction can coalesce in the visual universe of fine art photography.”

Having recently come off of Gretchen Garner’s Disappearing Witness I’ve been thinking about the century-long jockeying between fictional and factual photography. Fiction has dominated the art world for the past several decades, but I wonder if that’s sustainable. Can the two co-exist? My gut feeling is that the documentary nature of the photograph is so intrinsic to the medium that over the long haul, the document will almost always prove more sustainable than the fictions.

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I don’t expect to see this at our local AMC

Promotion for movie on Bill CunninghamThis looks like fun. Click on the image to go to a trailer for a new film on New York street/fashion photographer Bill Cunningham. It caught my eye because the producer is Philip Gefter, author of Photography After Frank, and the Director/Cinematographer is Richard Press. Press is Gefter’s  partner.

I am a little ticked off that there was no embed code for the trailer. Can’t image how someone as savvy as Gefter wouldn’t realize that you need to give sites the option to embed the trailer if you want the publicity.

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Interview with Robert Frank

This is pretty cool. An interview with Robert Frank. It was posted on this French website, but appears to have originated with this other French website, in conjunction with a 2009 exhibition.

Robert Frank : interview

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Philip Gefter on Chinese Photographer Hai Bo

Hai Bo, Man on Road

Passing Traveler, 2008. Copyright, Hai Bo

On the Daily Beast, Philip Gefter has a new essay on Chinese photographer Hai Bo.

Gefter is the author of Photography after Frank and former picture editor for the New York Times.

He writes of Hai Bo, “One image, Passing Traveler, 2008, has no visual cues to place it in time: The landscape is barren; the overall amber light might just as easily be sepia-toning from the 19th century as air pollution in industrialized China today; the figure in the center of the frame could be a soldier or a factory worker, but his clothes do not place him in any specific period in recent Chinese history. The combination of the season and the time of day in which Hai Bo chose to photograph render a mythic timelessness to these pictures of local residents making their way on a long empty road across the desolate countryside. “One can say that [these photographs] are elegies for the vanishing agricultural society of China,” Hai Bo has said about this work.”

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Recent Pictures

Still deciding about these. Having some fun with Christmas paraphernalia.

Reindeer sucker with tongue out

Reindeer Sucker, Mark Gordon, 2011

Santa with Lit Up Nose

Santa with Nose in Forehead, Mark Gordon, 2011

Jimi Hendrix Ornament

Experience Christmas, Mark Gordon, 2011

Reindeer Drops

Reindeer Jelly Bean Dispenser, Mark Gordon, 2011

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In Search of Things as They Are

Disappearing Witness by Gretchen Garner. Johns Hopkins University Press.

Image from W. Eugene Smith's Minamata, 1972

From "Minamata" copyright W. Eugene Smith, 1972.

Gretchen Garner thinks documentary photography contributes something that is worth preserving.

For much of the 20th Century,  that would have seemed like a ridiculously self-evident perspective. Documentary photography, or more precisely, what Garner refers to as spontaneous witness, dominated photography for most of the past century in one form or another. Continue reading

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Gretchen Garner is hot!

Disappearing Witness. Gretchen Garner.

I thought that might get your attention.

Gretchen Garner

Gretchen Garner

To clarify, and to avoid any domestic problems, it’s really Garner’s book Disappearing Witness that I’m infatuated with. Most photography critiques don’t exactly qualify as page-turners. But, I find myself rushing through Disappearing Witness, anxiously anticipating each section.

I’m not quite finished yet, so a full discussion will have to wait. But, let me just say, this is one of the best photography books I’ve come across. Garner has a real talent for tackling issues in photography, while keeping her text entertaining and readable.

She has a knack for understated observation and can wryly nail the work of photographers with a single line: “Like (Georgia) O’Keefe, the wives of Harry Callahan and Emmet Gowin have become subjects of the somewhat obsessive photographic attentions of their husbands.”

But, most importantly (and unlike too many other photography books) she actually has something to say.

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So, what’s Philip Gefter got against Annie Leibovitz?

John Lennon and Yoko Ono

John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Copyright Annie Leibovitz

A lot, apparently.

In his Photography After Frank , most of Gefter’s essays are complementary profiles of a variety of photographers, some famous, some not so much. But, when it comes to his review of Leibovitz’s own book, A Photographer’s Life, the accolades disappear.

Actually, I’m kind of on Gefter’s side. I’ve always been ambivalent about Leibovitz. I feel the same way about her that I do about most National Geographic photography. In fact, I consider them both in the same genre: illustrations not reportage and not documentary photographs. Technically perfect and strongly graphic, but too often interchangeable and a bit generic. Continue reading

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