Thursday, January 28, 2010


William Eggleston and Charlotte Rampling for Marc Jacobs. Photo Juergen Teller

It's always fun to hear what one photographer thinks about another, and rare when the affection is as palpable as that between Juergen Teller and William Eggleston. From the current British VOGUE, Teller writes amusingly and articulately about their friendship:

I first encountered William Eggleston’s photographs in my early twenties. I was very intrigued, and I liked them immediately, but I wasn’t quite sure what they were all about. Still, they sucked me in and stayed with me. Then, six years ago, an American magazine asked me if I wanted to photograph him. I didn’t think twice about saying yes, because, by then, he’d become a real master to me. I sent my books to him before heading to Memphis (where he lives), so he could see I wasn’t just another idiot coming to shoot him.

William’s son Winston picked me up from my hotel and drove me to the Eggleston Artistic Trust building. But William was nowhere to be seen. We were in the archive room for ages before I asked him, “Where’s your dad?” I went outside for a cigarette and William was sitting on the steps up to the archive room, a glass of water by his side, chain-smoking. We greeted each other and sat there smoking for about an hour. Then, nervously, I said, “This is perfect. Let’s do the picture here. Don’t move.” He nodded and I began. I think he liked me from the start, and he invited me to his house that evening. William’s a keen musician and he played Bach on the piano until 4am.

I was due to fly out the next day, but William didn’t want me to leave. He even came in the taxi with me to the airport. “Juergen,” he said, “do you want to go on a road trip in Bavaria?” What could I say? “Of course!” I didn’t think it was going to happen; we were so drunk.

Three weeks later, I flew to Bavaria to meet him. It was three days of total madness. We brought our cameras, but neither of us took a single photograph. We found a hotel where, again, there was a piano, and we stayed up until 3am every morning, playing music, talking, doing nothing really. William is good at just being; that’s something I learnt from him.

Not long after that, I was talking to Marc Jacobs about who we were going to use as a model for his menswear campaign that year. I suggested William. It’s well known he’s a very stylish man, and I knew Marc loved his photography. Still, it took me two days to build up the courage to ask William. “Juergen,” he replied, “I’d do anything for you. When are we going to do it?”

William had been photographing Paris intermittently over the past three years, and he had seen Louis XV (the book I’d worked on with Charlotte Rampling, shot in the Hôtel de Crillon). We shot the Marc Jacobs campaign in the same hotel room. It took hours to get William dressed; it was 10.30pm before he was ready. Suddenly, he said, “I want to meet Charlotte Rampling. Maybe we could do Louis XVI?” I sighed, but called her anyway. “Do you recall me telling you about William Eggleston? He wants you to come over and have a drink.” She replied, “Give me half an hour.”

When Charlotte arrived, William became shy, like a little mouse in the corner. I wanted them both in the pictures, so they ended up – dressed – in bed together. They got on so well, I started to feel a bit jealous – that’s William’s power. He’s unbelievably charismatic and can charm people to do whatever he wants.

The following day, we were sitting on a bench under the Eiffel Tower. We had the same model of camera, with the same lens, slung around our necks. I glanced behind me and saw an orange recycling bag with a red Coca-Cola can in the bottom. “Look,” I said, “that’s an Eggleston picture.” “Sure is,” said William, and we both turned to take the picture. He took one snap, I took five shots – all the time thinking, “I’m going to have an Eggleston picture!” Of course, mine didn’t work, but William’s ended up on the wall of his show at the Fondation Cartier.

He has a different way of seeing, of looking – it’s completely unforced. And he never gives a damn whether a picture comes out or not. I’ve never met a freer man; the sense of freedom he has in his every thought, decision and movement is extraordinary. His images give me hope; they capture the comedy and tragedy of life. He could never do what I do, I could never do what he does, but we respect each other’s work. As he once said to me, “Juergen, we have some things in common: smoking, drinking, and women. Photography just gets us out of the house.”

Juergen Teller and his son Ed.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Feet First!

There's a strange serendipity to the way pictures pop up. I was having a conversation with Beth Rudin DeWoody - art collector, curator, board member extraordinaire - about pictures of feet and two hours later this popped up in my inbox! It's an image illustrating the announcement for a play that Carole Anderson, a Parisian friend of mine is directing. The photographer is Aurélie Fernando. I don't know much more than that, but I do like the photograph!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Gifts à Gogo

You have to hand it to mega-dealer Larry Gagosian - he sure knows how to do things in grand style. Whether it's mounting museum-scale Picasso shows or raising photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto's prices to close to half million dollars each, nothing is done in half measures. Now Gogo (as he is known) has turned his attention to the concept of a gallery gift shop. And so street-front on Madison and 78th Street, in what has to be some off the priciest real estate around, he has opened an art book/print and tchotke shop featuring mostly product by Warhol, Koons, and Damien Hirst but also including books, magazines, and limited edition prints by people like Murakami and Ruscha.

It's hard to see the business (as opposed to promotional) sense of the enterprise, but it is beautifully done, and well worth a visit even if much of the most desirable merchandise is in the four and five figure range. It also happens to be one of those places that doesn't allow photography so here are the usual surreptitiously taken snaps.

Below, another view of the main floor:

Then a Damien Hirst wall-papered stairway takes you downstairs to a more gallery like room.

The downstairs gallery (below):

Hard to know how long it will be around for, so I urge anyone interested to see it sooner rather than later.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Weekend Video

A summer clip for a winter day:

One of the highlights of last summer's Woodstock anniversary for me was seeing Barbara Koppel's documentary, "Woodstock: Now and Then", full of old newsreels, concert footage, and now and thens of many of the performers and concert goers. One of the interviewees who particularly stood out was Santana drummer Michael Shrieve, who I remember from my teen years as being about the coolest guy around and whose cool I thought stood up pretty well 40 years on!

One of many great stories from the film was how Carlos Santana was so zonked out on mescalin he thought his guitar was a snake and most of his performance was trying to hold on to the writhing snake and keep it under some kind of control. Watch the Koppel documentary clip (above) first, then if you're still interested, you can see the whole 9 minute+ performance (below).

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Sneak Preview

So here it is - the show based on a selection of photographers I had written about on this blog. We hung the show in about 5 hours yesterday and the opening is tonight from 6 to 8. (So any readers in NYC please drop by.) The concept I had in my mind was a lively, chock-a-block installation, where everything has its own place in contrast to everything else, and I feel the space is now bursting with energy. So I'm very happy!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Jowhara Al Saud

Airmail. 2007.

I only posted a single installation shot of Jowhara AlSaud's work (in my Paris Photo report) so here is a little more information to fill you in on another of the photographers who I'll be showing in my new exhibition.

Jowhara AlSaud is a 32 year old Saudi photographer whose photographs combine straight photography and what could almost be described as scrimshaw. She photographs an image that will become her ground and then elaborately and painstakingly carves traced images onto the negative using an array of tools. The foreground figures are all family and acquaintances sometimes photographed by Jowhara and sometimes using found photographs, but their facelessness is a commentary on censorship in Saudi Arabia and its relationship to visual communication.

I found the work immediately striking without knowing the full meaning, but I find this often happens with me. In my experience good work frequently communicates itself viscerally before revealing more subtle and complex meaning, and what appealed to me first was simply the resonance of the airmail border combined with the graphic illustration.

AlSaud explains the work and her intentions so well in her artist statement I'll let her speak for herself, but illustrated are the two prints we'll have up on the wall in our "The Year in Pictures" show. (They're worth clicking into to see larger.)

Artist Statement:

This body of work began as an exploration of censorship in Saudi Arabia and it's effects on visual communication. While there is a lack of consistency from region to region, overall, images are highly scrutinized and controlled. Some superficial examples of this would be skirts lengthened and sleeves crudely added with black markers in magazines or blurred out faces on billboards.

I tried to apply the language of the censors to my personal photographs. I began making line drawings, omitting faces and skin. Keeping only the essentials preserved the anonymity of my subjects. This allowed me to circumvent, and comment on, some of the cultural taboos associated with photography. Namely the stigma attached to bringing the “personal portrait”, commonly reserved for the private domestic space, into a public sphere.

It became a game of how much can you tell with how little. When reduced to sketches, the images achieved enough distance from the original photographs that neither subjects nor censors could find them objectionable. For me, they became autonomous, relatable, pared down narratives.

I've always been interested in how photography functions, and I try to undermine any documentary authority it may possess as a medium. I've always felt that a photograph functions more like a memory, in that it's a singular perspective of a split second in time, entirely subjective and hence impressionable. By etching these drawings back into film and printing them in a traditional darkroom, I'm trying to point out how malleable it is as a medium, even before digital manipulation became so advanced and accessible. With these interventions emerges a highly coded and self-reflexive language. What also interests me is that the information omitted (faces, skin and emulsion) creates an image of its own, as do the censors to our cultural landscape.

Golden. 2009

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Wave

I am putting this picture in after multiple requests from my brother, Danny, a regular reader of this blog. The reason I didn't put it in when he first sent it was because as astounding a meteorological phenomenon as it is, the picture didn't have that certain je ne sais quoi that makes me snap to. It's a little flat. But I don't want him to feel bad, and so I'll let the readers tell me whether it was worth posting.

FYI - this picture, taken in January 2009 at Las Olas Beach in Maldonado, Uruguay, shows a rare roll cloud. These clouds form when a downdraft from an advancing storm front causes moist warm air to rise and then cool below its dew point. When this happens uniformly along an extended front, a roll cloud may sometimes form.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tsukasa Yokozawa

Approach Lights #4. 2006

Tsukasa Yokozawa is an interesting story. As a Japanese postman, Yokozawa was much taken with the concept of distance, and as a novice photographer this became the idea he wanted to explore. Beginning in 1999, he began to photograph different Japanese cities by day and night, but from enormous distances with a very long lens. This night view of Hiroshima, for example, was taken from a mountain top several miles away.

Yokozawa not only gave up postal work for full time photography, but before long began to teach photography. Just over a year ago he was given a grant by the Japanese government to come to New York to photograph and make a name for himself (and Japanese photography). His New York series continues his interest in distance but adds to it what he sees as the particularly New York phenomenon of parallel living and lives. Below you will see some of his New York work as well as more of his earlier Japanese pictures. (The pictures of mid-town Manhattan were taken from Brooklyn!)

He is also the last photographer I am adding to the forthcoming Danziger Projects show based on work featured in this blog. The show, not surprisingly called “The Year in Pictures”, opens on January 21 and includes 15 young photographers plus a tribute to the four major photographers and two muses who passed away last year. I’ll parse out details for now, but save the date and if you’re anywhere near Chelsea, the festivities will run from 6 to 8 p.m. on the 21st.

From the series "Parallel Lives". 2009

From the series "Parallel Lives". 2005

On White #1. 2002

Spilt Milk #2. 2001

On the Margin. 1999

Monday, January 11, 2010

Sedgwick by Name

One of the many reasons I'm addicted to the print version of The New York Times is the pleasure of being surprised by the terrific photographs that unexpectedly show up, often quite randomly. (And which you would never find online.) This photograph of Edie Sedgwick was taken by Factory resident documentarian Billy Name while Warhol was filming Sedgwick's "screen test". It ran in Saturday's paper to illustrate the sorry tale of how Name's negatives have gone missing. The story was written by culture writer Randy Kennedy who is building up quite a collection of oddball stories of lost archives, forgotten artists, and other curiosities. Just type his name into the Times' website search box.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Weekend Video

With all the current fuss about photoshopping in magazines, let's not forget that these special effects can often be used well. Case in point, this Evian commercial!

Friday, January 1, 2010

My Top Ten List

With all the year and decade end reflection going on - most of which I’m finding pretty depressing - I‘m going to make my annual top ten list about the things I’m looking forward to in the year ahead. I’ll start with shows I’m planning.

1. (Above.) Viviane Sassen. Opening in March, I’ll be doing the first U.S. show of work by Viviane Sassen. A Dutch photographer who grew up in Africa, Sassen has long been a highly regarded fashion photographer in Europe. However, starting several years ago, Sassen returned to Africa and began making collaborative portraits with people she met on her travels. Mysterious, colorful, and complex, these works are like visual haikus – compact, poetic, and resonant.

2. Annie Leibovitz. (Opening in April.) Whatever has been going on in her life, Annie Leibovitz not only remains but reigns as the number one portrait photographer in the world. Over a career that has now spanned four decades, Leibovitz’s work has deepened along with her color palette and time has allowed us to see her as a major colorist and conceptualist and the key photographer of her era.

3. AIPAD. Having had a terrific fair at Art Basel Miami Beach, I’m looking forward to participating in this March’s AIPAD Photography Fair in New York. Every fair if done properly should be more than just an assemblage of greatest hits. A booth should make a statement. And while I have to admit I haven’t yet figured out what I’m going to be doing at AIPAD, the journey is half the fun.

Susan Derges. Gibbous Moon Cloud, 2009.

4. Brits. I’ve enjoyed following the work and renewing my ties with a number of British photographers over the last year – in particular Susan Derges, Christopher Bucklow, Richard Learoyd, and Tim Walker. I’ve also had the chance to meet two of the photography curators at the Victoria and Albert Museum – Martin Barnes and Susanna Brown – who are both bursting with ideas and as opposed to their U.S. counterparts enthusiastically looking at and showing good new work. There’s something particularly energetic and positive in the London air right now - and I’m looking forward to bringing as much of it as possible back to the States.

5. Jim Krantz. (Opening Fall ’10.) Krantz was one of the original Marlboro photographers whose work was appropriated by Richard Prince for his famous series of images of cowboys. This fall we’ll be turning the spotlight back on Krantz who you’ll see is a uniquely talented photographer. Unlike the Manny Garcia/Fairey situation, however, in this case both Krantz and I feel (to different degrees) that Prince’s work was more insightful and legitimate. So rather than picking a fight with Prince, we would rather accept his homage and take the opportunity to educate people about the source.

6. A time for healing. If you feel the 00s were one sick decade, I’d like to propose the 10s as a decade of healing. Starting with healing oneself – get in shape physically, fiscally, emotionally, professionally and let this work its way out exponentially. It’s clear that just about every system has failed - from the safety of our food, to travel, the financial system, and on a macro level - the ecology of the planet and hope for peace. So here’s to proposing that if everyone tries, we can begin to reverse things just a little!

7. Magazines. The relationship between photography and magazines has been one of mutual nurture and creativity for almost a hundred years. Now that we’re firmly in the world of new technology, let’s hope that either the new or old media companies can find a way to be profitable and continue to be the vital link between art and commerce.

8. Digital photography. Now that we’re firmly in the digital age, let’s stop grousing about the death of film, continue to improve the quality of digital cameras, and get serious about easy ways to archive our snaps so that we can replace drawers full of old snaps and outdated hard drives with reliable and accessible image retrieval.

9. Documentaries as entertainment. Two of the films I most enjoyed seeing in cinemas this year were “Every Little Step”, a documentary following the casting of the revival of “A Chorus Line”, and “The September Issue” the documentary that followed the making of VOGUE’s biggest issue ever. If movie companies and filmmakers continue to broaden the range of subjects covered in feature length documentaries, my hope is that we can enter a new golden age of intelligent and entertaining film going.

10. Blogs. Many of the year end summaries in newspapers talked about the growing influence of blogs and bloggers and their effect in the real world. Happy to hear this! And to do my part in taking it to the streets, opening on January 21, I will be putting on a full five week long show of selected photographers whose work I’ve featured on this blog. So stay tuned and Happy New Year to all!