Friday, May 30, 2008

Weekend Video

The flow of talented young British female singers continues unabated with 20 year old newcomer Adele (born Adele Laurie Blue Adkins). A neo soul/jazz singer, Adele was the first recipient of the Brit Awards Critics' Choice, given to an artist who yet to release an album. A few months later, Adele released her debut album 19, which went straight to #1 in the UK charts and was certified platinum within a month of its release.

This weekend’s video shows Adele performing her hit single "Chasing Pavements" live on BBC 1's "Friday Night With Jonathan Ross"

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The First Mugshot

This photograph (top) has been somewhat incongruously making its way around the internet recently. However, I guess this should not be altogether surprising as it’s a powerful and seductive picture. It appears heroic in a Che Guevara kind of way, and it’s very chic! However, it is in reality 143 years old and a precursor to the mugshot, being a prison portrait of Lewis Paine (who attempted unsuccessfully to murder Secretary of State William Seward as part of the conspiracy in which John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Lincoln).

The photograph was taken in 1865 by Alexander Gardner, the famous civil war photographer also known for his definitive portraits of Lincoln. He photographed Paine and his co-conspirators on board the prison ship on the Potomac where they were incarcerated. Three months later they were hanged.

What is so haunting about the picture is the confidence and poise with which Paine looks at the camera and the modernity of his whole look. As you scroll down, you can see in the picture where the guard is standing beside him that he was enormously tall and if you study the photographs closely, there is certainly a kind of jock arrogance about the man. He’s a fanatic and a fashionista at the same time.

But as we all know pictures can be deceiving. While Paine failed in his task of killing Seward, he brutally stabbed him as well as injuring his two sons Fredrick and Augustus. And while Booth was the only assassin who succeeded in his task, the conspiracy not only robbed America of one of its greatest presidents but set a path of violence that continues to haunt America.

Bodies of the four condemned prisoners at Fort McNair, Washington, following their execution on July 7, 1865. From left, Mary Surratt, Lewis Paine, David Herold and George Atzerodt. Photo by Alexander Gardner.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


I’ve been incredibly lucky to have great assistants and last night Samantha Contis, my first assistant when I opened Danziger Projects, and Julia Baum, my current assistant, presented an irresistible photo-op. The occasion was the opening of the Yale MFA Photography 2008 exhibition at Danziger Projects which included Samantha Contis's work. If you want to see what the other eight graduates of what is generally considered the top photography MFA program in the country are up to, the show runs through this Saturday.

One other thing that Samantha and Julia have in common is that both have extremely good websites. Samantha’s features a range of her work which is both pastoral and cinematic. She’s terrific at landscape, great with skin, and given any opportunity to combine the two she’s off to the races!

Julia’s website features an ever growing body of portraits of redheads, shot in a luminous outdoor studio she has found for the project. Any genuine redheads living in or passing through New York and wanting to be photographed for the project should contact her via the site or at

Samantha Contis's photographs:

Julia Baum's photographs:

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


At the beginning of this month, the Chaiten volcano in southern Chile, which had been dormant for many thousands of years, began to erupt. Fortunately, there was time to evacuate the town although the ash has now begun to spread its way south across the entire country.

Photographer Carlos Gutierrez of UPI took these dramatic photographs. If you’re a fan of these “hand of god” kind of pictures, which I most certainly am, there’s an apocalyptic element to these images that’s literally incredible. In reality, however, the drama has been caused by the erupting ash and smoke colliding with a lightning storm.

Nevertheless, these kind of images have always had a place in the history of art. The eruption of a volcano was in fact so compelling that it spawned an entire subgenre of landscapes - Vesuvius paintings. Sir William Hamilton, English ambassador to the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (as Naples and Sicily were known) from 1764 to 1800, was the great patron of this school. In addition to guiding an entire generation of wealthy and artistically inclined young Englishmen up the slopes of the volcano, he commissioned the artist Pietro Fabris to do paintings of the mount in all its moods. Fifty-four of the resulting works were gathered together with Hamilton's own notes and published as Campi Phlegraei: Observations on the Volcanoes of the Two Sicilies. This became a highly sought-after collector’s item as soon as it appeared in 1776. At the same time, Joseph Wright of Derby (one of the greatest British painters of the time) journeyed to Italy to paint Vesuvius and his painting “Vesuvius from Portici” is generally considered the masterpiece of the genre.

Remember that in pre-photographic society an event like this could only be experienced directly – no National Geographic, no evening news. The burning desire to see and record was the force that drove artists to cross oceans, trek the desert, and hack their way through jungles in search of the sublime, the mysterious, the unstoppable force of nature. While today we can travel further, know more, see more second-hand, our opportunity to experience this kind of wonder has changed and become more rare. So when photographs like Gutierrez’s come along, un-photoshopped, unconstructed, and looking the cover of a Meatloaf album, they are a reminder and a warning of the turbulent times we live in and the deceptive sense of connectedness we feel to the planet.

Joseph Wright's “Vesuvius from Portici”, painted 1774 - 1776.

A detail from Joseph Wright's “Vesuvius from Portici”.

Wright's "Vesuvius in Eruption, with a View over the Islands in the Bay of Naples" painted on his return to England.

Also taken on the first day of what turned into a five day eruption in Chaiten was this photograph by Alvardo Vidal, below.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Memorial Day Weekend Video

In this week of all things Indiana Jones, I’m featuring a 2006 t.v. clip from when its director Steven Spielberg was awarded a Kennedy Center Honor.

The awards, now in their 31st year, are broadcast every Christmas, and for anyone who hasn’t seen them I would highly recommend catching the next one. The premise is simple. Five individuals in the arts are selected each year based on a lifetime of contributions to American culture through the performing arts. Each honoree is introduced by
a friend or colleague, followed a short but always fascinating filmed biography. The tribute is then capped off by some sort of surprise performance.

In Spielberg’s case the performance was of the finale from Leonard Bernstein's Candide, “Make Our Garden Grow”, sung by Gregory Turay and Harolyn Blackwell. Other than being conducted by Spielberg’s longtime composer John Williams, I’m not sure exactly what the connection was but the piece was so movingly and powerfully sung
I promptly downloaded three different versions!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

More P.J.s!

Just a few days after my post on pyjamas as outdoor wear, I got an
e-mail from the photographer Justin Guariglia announcing a book signing at ICP this coming Friday for his new book “Planet Shanghai”. The book, which is essentially about the look and style of Shanghai, features dozens and dozens of pictures of people wearing pyjamas outdoors, as well as close-ups of Chinese footwear, Shanghai shoppers, and futuristic looking motorcycle riders.

Taken mostly in 2005, the rapid development in Shanghai is already changing how the city looks and feels and so the book is as much about a moment in time as current Shanghai style, but the images are nonetheless mesmerizing.

The prevalence of pyjamas, Guariglia explained to me, was due to both the extreme summer heat and the lack of plumbing. The area where most of the pictures were taken was one where many people had to use outdoor communal toilets and thus the boundaries of what was considered home expanded past people’s houses to the public bathrooms. Once that relaxation of the dress code became acceptable (starting around the 1980s) the perimeter for p.j.-wear just kept expanding until many people were wearing them day in day out.

In addition to the inherent quality of Guaraglia’s pictures, one of the things many readers of this blog will notice is their similarity to The Sartorialist’s photographs. What is equally interesting is the ways in which they differ. While superficially almost identical, the two photographers are worlds apart in spirit and intent. Guariglia depicts, Sart endorses. Guariglia is a journalist, Sart is an editor. In John Szarkowki’s parlance Guariglia is a window, Sart is a mirror.

What never ceases to be a source of wonder is how a mechanical instrument like the camera can produce images that in the hands of different photographers are so distinctly and personally expressive. It’s a miracle! And it’s why people like me have been involved and committed to photography for such a long time.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Worth noting - Kent Rogowski’s new work, currently on show at the Jen Bekman Gallery through June 14. Rogowski creates surreal pictures by combining pieces from different puzzles into his own original compositions. Because each manufacturer tends to use he same die cuts on different puzzles, the pieces when kept in their proper position are interchangeable within different puzzles of the same brand.

Mixing flowers, blues skies, puffy clouds, and idyllic scenery, Rogowski creates his own alternate fractured universe, one that undergoes yet another transformation when he photographs the finished object. Humorous and cheery, they are not without their own sly commentary on the commodification of happiness and idealism.

Whether they’re photography or re-photography or collage (or a combination of all three) is beside the point. Kent Rogowski’s work demonstrates yet again that although it may be increasingly hard to come up with new ideas, where there’s a will there’s a way.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Somewhat buried in the back of today’s New York Times was this terrific photograph by Chris Carlson of the Associated Press. It’s of Barack Obama at Sunday’s rally in Portland, Oregon where an estimated crowd of 75,000 came out to hear him speak. I think it has to be the best photograph of the campaign so far and I’m surprised it didn’t make the front page.

Because of the Times’ production, however, it appeared in black and white in the paper while the original color version appeared online. So it was not an aesthetic or design choice, but while I originally liked the graphic quality of the black and white, on reflection I prefer the color, largely because of the red, white, and blue bunting. Again – your thoughts ….?

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Greatest

The photographer Flip Schulke, who I had the honor of representing for many years, died last week at the age of 77.

Flip was a wonderful guy and a photojournalist with the soul of an artist. When the job called for it, as in his coverage of Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights movement, he was a powerful witness to history. But when the opportunity presented itself he would use his imagination and resourcefulness to create situations out of which he could draw memorable images.

The best example is his famous image of Muhammed Ali training underwater which is perhaps the most successful image I ever represented as a gallerist. The story behind the image is as striking as the photograph itself. Schulke was introduced to Ali in 1960 and mentioned that he also did underwater photography. Hearing this Ali confided to Schulke that his secret training routine involved a strenuous underwater workout. The boxer would allow Schulke to photograph him if he could guarantee that the pictures would appear in LIFE. Schulke got the O.K., the session proceeded early the next week, and the pictures dutifully ran in the magazine. It was not until decades later that Ali confessed that it had all been an elaborate ruse on his part to get into the magazine. But with Ali’s flawless showmanship and Schulke’s artistry the picture is not only completely convincing but a great and iconic photograph.

Flip Schulke at home in Palm Beach. Photograph by Allen Eyestone.

Mrs. Gordon Cooper watches her husband pass overhead in Gemini 1. 1965.

Coretta King at the funeral of Martin Luther King. 1968.

Martin Luther King Jr. and his son Martin. 1965

Comfort and Joy

A year ago when I was a judge at the Hyeres Photo Festival, one of my fellow jurors was Simon Foxton – the Fashion Director of the magazine Fantastic Man. This was not a magazine I was familiar with, although I particularly liked the name as it sounded like something you would make up as a joke, but when I finally saw Fantastic Man for the first time, I realized it was actually a very good magazine – accessible, original, creative, fun.

I bought the current Spring/Summer issue because it featured a long interview with my friend and colleague, The Sartorialist. But the feature I liked best was a fashion story on wearing men’s pyjamas outside. I’ve always liked the idea and been impressed with Julian Schnabel’s predeliction for P.J.s (as opposed to Hugh Hefner’s). I think the basic rule is that P.J.s should look preppy and rumpled, not shiny and boudoiry! Anyway, the photographs by Daniel Riera, and the styling by Jodie Barnes are natural and unaffected and present a completely convincing case for how to mix comfort and style this summer!

Please feel free to send in your pictures of outdoor P.J. dressing.