Monday, June 30, 2008

Zimbabwe Election

"We were just told to go and vote, so we had to. All night they were singing in the street, revolutionary songs, and chanting that we must go and vote. We were intimidated to vote." --Stella, 35

This group of pictures from Saturday’s New York Times showed Zimbabweans on their election day where they were forced to vote for the only candidate, President Robert Mugabe, for fear of punishment unless they could produce a finger colored by red ink as evidence they had cast their ballot.

According to the newspaper, the subjects agreed to be photographed and interviewed on the condition that their faces not be fully visible while the pictures ran uncredited for fear of reprisal against the photographer.

Given the information provided - the first name and age of each subject as well as in many cases, enough of the person pictured to make them identifiable - I'm not sure the story holds together in quite the way the front page treatment suggests. However, as testimonial to the freedom we often take for granted, as well as a creative use of photography, they were a striking group of pictures.

"I put an X on both candidates to spoil my ballot because the result will be the same. M.D.C. has withdrawn, so the result is obvious: ZANU will win. I just wanted ink for security reasons. I fear victimization from the ZANU-PF militia. It is obvious they will come door to door. If they see you don't have ink, they will know you are M.D.C." --MacDonald, 33

"I'm not voting at all because the outcome is still the same. Mugabe still wins. I'm not worried about having ink on my finger. Ink or not, it is the same -- they will beat us." --Agnes, 25

"I spoilt my ballot because I wanted to vote for Tsvangirai. I went to vote because I fear victimization if I don't have ink." --David, 32

"I'm registered in Chitingwiza, but there is no use in spending money on transport to get there when the result will be the same." --Loraine, 27

"I spoilt my ballot because this election is not free and fair. It is a one-horse race." --Sidwell, 34

"We have no choice; we must vote. It doesn't matter who I vote for, the result will be the same." --Mary, 43

"I just wanted to finish the process which was started. I don't want to say who I voted for. I just wanted ink on my finger." --Judith, 65

"I did not register. I moved into town recently. This is a one-man race. It is a waste of time." --Edna, 25

Friday, June 27, 2008

Weekend Video - Flashdance

For some reason, the 25th anniversary of the film “Flashdance” is passing by without the usual fanfare accorded to such decade defining films. So to redress the balance a montage of scenes set to the film's Oscar-winning Best Song “What a Feeling” (music by Giorgio Moroder, lyrics by Keith Forsey and Irene Cara).

For those in need of narrative assistance, a brief re-cap: “Flashdance” featured Jennifer Beals as Alex Owens, a Pittsburgh steel-mill welder by day, and exotic dancer by night. Harboring dreams of a career in ballet, she is supported by her hunky but kind-hearted boss Nick (Michael Nouri) and her tough but big-hearted instructor Hanna Long (Lilia Skala). Will Alex get in to the prestigious dance academy? Will true love bloom? Will leg-warmers stay in fashion?

Controversy ensued when it was revealed that many of the film's signature dance scenes were largely performed by Beals' dance double Marine Jahan, but the film went on to dominate the summer box-office.

Can we start talking revival here?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Found and Lost

Many years ago, I was in the bookshop at MoMA and came across a French book on the history of motion in photography with the above picture by Eadweard Muybridge on the cover. I loved the contrast of the romantic moment captured with such scientific treatment and also the obscurity of the image. I had seen and handled lots of Muybridge, but never this particular image and I couldn’t get it out of mind.

(Muybridge famously developed a precursor to motion pictures when he rigged up a set of cameras to settle a bet as to whether a horse's four legs ever leave the ground at the same moment.. They do - but not in the outstretched position that artists had assumed until then. The only time they leave the ground simultaneously is when they are tucked under.)

Anyway, when I went back to MoMA to buy the book it was nowhere to be found. So I began to call everyone connected to Muybridge to see if they had the image. No-one. It was as though I had dreamed it up.

A number of years later, I was at Photo LA and speaking to some dealers who had Muybridge on their walls and everyone thought they had seen it at the fair but couldn’t remember where. Eventually I tracked the picture down at Michael Dawson’s booth and bought it!

This should have provided it a happy ending but instead of taking it to the framers it went into one of my various storage places and somehow getting lost. This is an extremely rare occurrence as in 18 years of dealing photographs, I have only lost one other print (the Manuel Alvarez Bravo photograph “Good Reputation Sleeping”).

Anyway, going through old j-pegs yesterday, I came across this snap of the Muybridge and thought I would share it. If you come across a print, it’s probably mine so let me know!

My other lost photograph.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Tim Walker’s show at The Design Museum in London is the exhibition that’s got everybody talking. It’s terribly British in a whimsical, fantastical way - full of oversize props, references to childhood and dressing up, and lots of good cheer. If Lewis Carroll was a contemporary fashion photographer, these are the pictures he’d be taking.

Walker’s involvement with photography began at Condé Nast where he helped organize the Cecil Beaton archive. Next stop was a job in New York working as one of Richard Avedon’s assistants, and then back to England where a prize in the Independent (newspaper's) Young Photographer of the Year competition opened the door to a professional career.

While Walker has shot advertising campaigns for clients including Barneys, Comme des Garcons, Gap, and Kate Spade, these uncredited campaigns have meant that he is not that well known in the States, but this is likely to change with the publication of “Tim Walker – Pictures”, the new ($125) book of his work just published by Taschen.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Bug's Life

One more week to see Sally Gall's show "Crawl" at the Julie Saul Gallery in Chelsea.

Other than the unusual rhyming of the key words (Gall, crawl, Saul) it's an unusual view of nature taken from several inches above the ground. Gall, who has been unapologetic about her interest in beauty throughout her career, now brings a Pixar like scrutiny to a bug's eye view of the world and discovers a wondrous Eden.

She reflects, "Infants know this world for a time. Picnickers and soldiers glimpse it. There is no more dynamic stage of life and death on earth than the first few inches above its surface. This is where prairies and forests are born. Here is where the bulk of our food comes from and where all earthly creatures return when our lives are finished. Comforting, beautiful, frightening, and strange--this is the terrestrial world. And it can only be discovered and known intimately on hands and knees."

One marvels at the patience that must have been necessary to capture these images as well as the consistency and quality. It's a mid-summer treat!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Sent from my iPhone

Like the first bird of spring, the first street vendors selling Obama buttons and paraphernalia have just arrived on the streets of New York City. Of course not a penny of the proceeds will get anywhere near the Obama campaign, but what a shining example of the American way!

As further proof of democracy in action, the vendor next to the gentleman below had a smattering of McCain buttons but informed me they were selling very poorly.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Weekend Video - Beirut

I was recently introduced to the band Beirut and their two videos directed by Israeli film-maker Alma Har’el. Both the music and the visuals make a nice change of pace.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


When someone tells me I'm not allowed to take a picture, I take it as an affront and a challenge. I haven't looked into the actual legality of the situation yet, but I'm pretty sure there's nothing wrong with photo-
graphing the former TWA Terminal at JFK (above), as I tried to do before I was stopped by security, or in the various stores, museums, and establishments who routinely tell you, "Photography is not allowed". With the advent of tiny digital and cell phone cameras it's pretty hard to enforce anyway, but here are some samples of my recent surreptitious iPhone camera work.

This from Juicy Couture in Beverly Hills, after they would not sell my daughter the bathing suit on the display dummy. (We wanted a visual reference.)

This from the revelatory August Sander show at The Getty (photography not allowed), about which I'll write more later. The title for this picture is "The Photographer after a Nap" so it's an unusual self-portrait!

This from Katsuya - a new-ish Philippe Starck designed restaurant in Brentwood. The tricky thing here was that Robert Downey Jr. was sitting at a table just to the left of the frame so I was trying to get the graphic on the wall while respecting his privacy as a diner. However, I'm sure he thought I was pretending to photograph the wall while really trying to snap him!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Greg Miller

I am in Los Angeles this week so I’ll do my best to keep posting. On
the plane over I was reading TIME Magazine when I was stopped by
the full page picture by Greg Miller (above). It’s from their current
cover story on childhood obesity.

I have known Greg since 1988 when he was photographing for the magazine 7 Days and have always been a big fan. Since then he has had a highly successful career mixing editorial and advertising work but he’s very much a picture person’s photographer. I e-mailed him when I landed to congratulate him on the TIME pic and find out what he was up to and he told me he just received a Guggenheim Grant to photograph around his hometown of Nashville. Patience and virtue have been rewarded!

For a further look at his work, his website is rich with good pictures.

From a recent series taken in Brazil.

From the series "Italy".

From the series "Band Camp".

Friday, June 13, 2008

Weekend Video - Adele

After posting "Chasing Pavements" by Adele as a Weekend Video two weeks ago, I was pleased to receive an e-mail from "Federico" pointing out that Adele had also covered the same Bob Dylan song I had featured a few weeks previously - "Make You Feel My Love". As both a completist and a great appreciater of this kind of serendipity, I'm happy to make it this weekend's video, and I hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Cool Stuff!

A year ago, I stopped into Tusk - a terrific leather goods store a few blocks from the gallery - and ended up in conversation with Hiten Manseta, the owner. I was bemoaning the fact that I couldn't find a backpack that was both ergonomic and didn't look like a school bag. Anyway the result was that I ended up designing what we dubbed ”The Flatpack” for them – a thin nylon and leather backpack that rides close to your body and carries a laptop up to 15” in size. After Departures Magazine featured it, they quickly sold most of their stock, and I just found out there are only a few left in brown and black. It’s not cheap, but it’s been a lifesaver for me and my back.

The other Tusk product I can’t live without is a little leather case I use to carry my pocket digital camera. Because they keep introducing new product, this one is also nearly sold out, in fact it’s not even on their website. But if you call up and ask for it, they have a few left in their stockroom. It’s incredibly light and soft unlike most other camera cases which bulk up with unnecessary protection and defeat the notion of pocket-sized. (Squeezed flat it’s 3” x 5” so it’s only good for the smallest cameras that are around 2” x 4”.)

I've arranged a special offer for The Year in Pictures readers. If you call the store and give them the code "Danziger" you will receive a 10% discount on whatever you buy. 1.888.GET.TUSK. (438.8875.)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Paul Fusco Opening

Things don't always go smoothly. The frames for the Paul Fusco "RFK Funeral Train - Rediscovered" exhibition arrived on Thursday with the wrong plexiglass (They were supposed to have Atrium plexi - a u.v. protecting, non-reflecting plexi that costs about $300 per frame!) However, all was set right and now the show is up and ready for its grand opening tomorrow (Wednesday) night from 6-8 p.m..

By then the heat wave should have broken, we'll have the gallery nicely air-conditioned, and cold beer ready to be served. (One of my quirks - to serve little cans of beer instead of the nasty wine you usually get at openings.) So I look forward to seeing all local The Year in Pictures readers at 521 West 26th Street. There's no such thing as an opening that's too crowded!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Trouble in Paradise

Detail - see full image below text.

For almost 40 years Richard Misrach has been producing photographs of the American West focusing on man's relationship and impact on his environment. His extended series “Desert Cantos” explored many aspects of the American desert with subjects ranging from fires and floods to military-scarred terrain to luscious skyscapes.

More recently he has turned his attention to the water with a series he titled “On the Beach” photographing the ocean, sunbathers, and swimmers from a hotel balcony in Hawaii. Shot on his 8x10 inch view camera, the photographs yield exquisite detail and sense of light. But Misrach did not intend them to be just pretty pictures.

As he explained, "My thinking was influenced by the events of 9/11, as well as by Nevil Shute's 1950s Cold War novel "On the Beach". I was drawn to the fragility and grace of the human figure in the landscape. For me, the work is both a celebration of our survival and an elegy. Paradise has become an uneasy dwelling place; the sublime sea frames our vulnerability, the precarious nature of life itself."

While some of these photographs have been exhibited over the past few years, an exhibition of 19 of these photographs, some as large as 10 feet wide, has just opened at the National Gallery in Washington D.C. and is the first time that this many works from this series can be seen together. It’s a stunning and disquieting view of trouble in paradise.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Weekend Video

Given the popularity of my post on the various tribute versions of Mariah Carey’s “Touch My Body” found on YouTube, I thought I’d snoop around to see what versions of the current summer hits were popping up. To my surprise, so many of the tributes were good, I had
to resist any cheap shots and focus instead on three astoundingly strong performances.

Above – Colin Jennison backed by his brother taking a hack at Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” two days after it's release.

Below – Salicia singing Rihanna’s “Take a Bow” and 12 year old Jessica Sanchez’s version of “Bleeding Love” by Leona Lewis.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Let Freedom Bling

I just came across Shirin Aliabadi’s work and her two series “Miss Hybrid” (above) and “Freedom Is Boring, Censorship Is Fun” (below). In Aliabadi’s pictures, the subjects are young Iranian women who in spite of the oppression of Islam seem to be defying our stereotypes and having a good time. It’s a welcome revision to our view of the Middle East.

“Freedom Is Boring, Censorship Is Fun” like Andrew Bush’s “Vector Portraits” focuses on the way we live in cars to find its insights into contemporary life. Clearly the idea is as valid in Tehran as on Interstate 405.

Aliabadi’s latest series, “Miss Hybrid”, pokes fun at the style and beauty trends among fashionista Iranians, where the current vogue is for blond hair, light-colored contact lenses, occasional facial piercing and most importantly, surgical nose tape. (It's like the current trend for faux glasses.)

“Miss Hybrid” Aliabadi suggests, should be seen as an alternative beauty manifesto positing that natural beauty is unfair, elitist, and irrelevant - while artificial beauty and the need to transform into someone else via cosmetic intervention can be regarded as a healthy exercise in cultural rebellion and global integration. Now that's an radical and original concept!

Another picture from the "Miss Hybrid" series.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A Conundrum

I’m a big fan of Patrick Smith’s work. (See images above and below.) He has a good eye, a nice sense of scale, a feeling for light, and a pleasing way of putting a picture together. But what do you do when you’re a photographer whose pictures are somewhat reminiscent of other photographers who have gotten more exposure than you? In Smith’s case, Massimo Vitali, Peter Bialobrzeski, and Walter Niedermayr in particular. These photographers all deal with large format landscape where the figure is minuscule, and where photography’s relationship to traditional landscape is explored along with man’s relationship to the environment.

It’s a problem that I’m sure affects many photographers and I guess the only advice is to keep taking pictures and looking for places to photograph that differentiate your work based on the originality and freshness of the subject/location. Skiers have pretty much been done, so have beaches. So is it off to the jungle? The desert? Liechtenstein? None of this is to say Patrick Smith is a copyist - he has a much more pictorial sensibility than the more cerebral three mentioned above - but it's an issue that can't be ignored.

In the face of so much photography, it is increasingly clear that we are in a post-post (and maybe even one more post) modern world where concept comes first followed by execution. After that it’s a race to the finish line. It doesn’t matter if you’re Hillary Clinton, the Zune, or “Infamous”. (If you’re scratching your head, “Infamous” was the second film on Truman Capote released in 2006 .)