Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Weekend Video - Michael Jackson

This year's Thanksgiving message and Weekend Video comes courtesy of Michael Jackson, performing here at the 1988 Grammy Awards. Although he was at the peak of his stardom, it's still quite impressive he was given nearly seven minutes - and even more surprising that with four nominations that year he didn't receive one award. Nevertheless. the song has an admirable message, and while it's not clear that Michael followed his own advice, here are the lyrics to the first few verses and chorus of "Man in the Mirror":

I'm gonna make a change, for once in my life.
It's gonna feel real good, gonna make a difference,
Gonna make it right.

As I, turn up the collar on my favorite winter coat
This wind is blowin' my mind.
I see the kids in the street, with not enough to eat
Who am I, to be blind? Pretending not to see their needs
A summer's disregard, a broken bottle top
And a one man's soul
They follow each other on the wind ya' know
'Cause they got nowhere to go.
That's why I want you to know

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sander & Sensibility

Sometimes an exhibition is many years in the making. Case in point
is the show I'm opening next week which deals with the ongoing influence the great photographer August Sander had and continues to have on photography. Most active from the early 1900s through the 1920s, Sander's credo was simple: "I am not concerned with providing commonplace photographs like those made in the finer large-scale studios of the city, but simple, natural portraits that show the subjects in an environment corresponding to their own individuality."

Sander's monumental photographic project "Man of the Twentieth Century" set out to document the people and typologies of his native Germany. He photographed people from all walks of life and became best known for the straightforward full length portraits that recorded his subjects not only with great objectivity but also with a subtle artfulness and psychological depth that has made them the definitive example of what a photographic portrait should be.

Sander's cool, objective style of portraiture anticipated work ranging from Irving Penn's "Small Trades" series to Diane Arbus's street photographs to The Sartorialist's style portraits. Yet the template he created and the medium itself have been robust enough to hold up to endless reinterpretation. That was the idea behind the show.

Going back to old notes and e-mails, I saw that I had been discussing this show with photographers like Rineke Dijkstra and Lolo Veleko over the course of many years, but what really crystallized the idea was when Sart posted the picture above left on his website and mentioned how much it had influenced him. Sometimes a chance word like this is all it takes to prod an idea into a reality.

One of the many pleasures of this kind of group show provides is the collaborative opportunity to work with some of my fellow dealers. Thanks to them I ended up with everything I wanted for the exhibition from rare Sanders to a large and magnificent Eggleston. Granted, the show could have been many times its current size and I would have been happy to fill a space ten times the size of my gallery, but here are examples by each of the photographers in the show. I hope as many of you as possible will get a chance to see it. To view everything else in the show click here.

August Sander

Seydou Keita

William Eggleston

Irving Penn

Hiroh Kikai

Albrecht Tubke

Milton Rogovin

Richard Avedon

Rineke Dijkstra

Lolo Veleko

Diane Arbus

The Sartorialist

Monday, November 24, 2008

Monday Report

This was one of those weekends where I unexpectedly came across a lot of different things I hadn't seen before. It started with a visit to Barnes & Noble where they were highlighting three surprisingly interesting mass audience picture books. The first, Influence by Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen, is an illustrated collection of interviews with fifty or so people from the worlds of art, fashion, and media who have influenced the twins. The book sounds like an easy target, but it's intelligently and seriously done, and full of surprises - great pictures and oddments like a full page reproduction of a wonderfully quirky letter from Diana Vreeland to Bob Colacello complimenting him on an issue of Interview.

Propped next to Influence was Sports Ilustrated - The Complete Swimsuit Portfolio. I snuck a peek at the book (well actually looked at every page). So I can now report that this is far from the complete portfolio - it's actually a selection of photographs of the most recent
S.I. swimsuit models where each model is represented by a one photographer portfolio. But the quality of the pictures is surprisingly high - as you can see from the cover image - and there's a clever and well-executed idea where every "portfolio" opens with a mirror self-portrait by the featured model.

Lastly, Hollywood Foto-Rhetoric (a simply terrible title) by Barry Feinstein, best known for his early pictures of Dylan, has a text by Dylan himself (written in the 60s) and some good inside Hollywood pictures from the same period, most notably a series of close-ups of the hands of Oscar winners clutching their awards.

William Wyler holding his Oscar.

All three books are worth consideration.

This Sunday’s New York Times Magazine was one of their best - an issue devoted to what we watch on screens. Among lots of good articles was a round up of memorable things seen recently by an eclectic group of writers, directors, and bloggers. I have to confess to not being among the 13 million or more people who have to date watched the "Christian the Lion" clip on YouTube. So the information in the following article and clip were new to me, and a revelation. But here for the record is what I thought was a beautifully written piece by radio producer and author, Starlee Kine:


Christian the Lion was a little lion cub that two young guys saw on sale at Harrods in London in 1969, back when department stores sold these kinds of things. They took him back to their flat, where he got into their sock drawers and played with balls of string. They befriended a vicar who let them use a local churchyard as a playground for the cub, and at the beginning of the video (which someone pulled out of an old British documentary and posted on YouTube last summer) there’s Super 8 footage of them frolicking about. Then text appears on the screen explaining that once Christian got too big, the boys had to take him to Africa to be with his own kind. A year later they decided to go visit him, even though they were warned that Christian had become a full-grown lion with a pride of his own and wouldn’t remember them and would perhaps attack them if they went. They went anyway, these two tall, floppy-haired guys whom I admit I am seriously crushed out on, and the next thing you see is this grainy footage of them standing in the African sand, calling Christian’s name silently, because there’s no sound. Oh, and I’m sorry, did I forget to mention that Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” is playing in the background, and that as you see Christian appear and are still unsure what’s going to happen (my friend Heather was convinced she was going to witness the two boys’ deaths; she couldn’t understand why else I was freaking out so much when I made her watch it) you hear Whitney sing, “I wish you joy and happiness, but above all this, I wish you lo-uh-ove,” and then Christian is running toward the boys, leaping onto his hind legs (“Watch out!” Heather screamed at this part) and the music is all, “And I will alll-ways love you,” and you see that Christian not only remembers them but that he loves them, dearly, desperately, he is hugging them with his enormous lion paws? And one of the guys, who looks a lot like a young Roger Daltrey, actually, has this huge smile on his face and you can see him choke back a sob. It’s just the most solid reason I’ve seen yet for why the Internet should exist. By the way, the video isn’t nearly as effective without the Whitney Houston song. I’ve tried watching it both ways and, really, you need the song in order to experience the full-blown effect.

And here, for those who haven't seen it is the clip:

Lastly, while watching the Jets crush the Titans, I happened to catch the new ad for Guitar Hero featuring Heidi Klum (and directed by Brett Ratner). You have to give her credit for the way she gets into this.
Apparently she suffered a concussion after launching herself onto the couch one too many times!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Weekend Video - Springsteen Rising

I know - enough with the Obama stuff. But Bruce singing "The Rising" live in Cleveland ... come on!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Photo Op

As regular readers of this blog know, I’m a big fan of sky and cloud photographs. So photographically speaking, the cold weather brings at least one good thing – we’re entering the season of nacreous clouds.

Nacreous are among the rarest of clouds, they are mostly visible two hours after sunset or before dawn when they shine brightly with vivid and slowly shifting iridescent colors. Compared with most lower altitude clouds, nacreous clouds stand almost still - an indicator of their great height (some 9 -16 miles high). Their brightness is because at those heights they are still sunlit. They can be found mostly at high latitudes like Scandinavia, Iceland, Alaska and Northern Canada. However, they do occur as far south as New England.

Photographing clouds is a tricky thing – it takes a special vision to make something that’s more than just pretty pictures. But as Alfred Stieglitz, Eliot Porter, Richard Misrach, and even Bruce Weber have shown, there are always ways to make a personal statement out of the ephemeral.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Thanks ...

My thanks to Eyeliah from Style Symmetry for leading me to the Miss at la Playa blog which not only identified where these pictures came from, but showed the entire amazing series.

For the record it's French VOGUE, November 2008. The model is Eniko Mihalik. The photographers are Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, and the shoot was styled by Carine Roitfeld with make-up by Lisa Butler.

Monday, November 17, 2008


A lot of good things came in pairs this last week. The William Eggleston show opened at The Whitney and runs through January 25. This untitled image from 1975, while somewhat atypical, has always been a favorite. I like the contrast of the modern American look of the girl on the right with the pre-Raphaelite look of the girl on the left. If you divide the picture down the middle and look at it one half at a time, there's an amazing visual dichotomy.

I've unfortunately lost track of where this picture came from (please post if you know) but the pictures illustrate how skillful styling. lighting, and photography can make the same model looks decades younger and older!

Pretty silly, but here are the winners of the "most beautiful bottom in the world" competition, just held in Paris - Brazil's Melanie Nunes Fronckowiak (R) and France's Saiba Bombote (L).

I gave Callie Shell a hard time for what I called her "rip-off" of Paul Fusco's "RFK Funeral Train" pictures, and the response was quite divided. To redress the accusation, TIME have just published a portfolio of her pictures from the Obama campaign. Click here. I particularly like this moment shot while the first couple elect were listening to Bruce Springsteen. Unless the pictures lie, the Obamas do seem to have an extraordinarily good relationship.

And finally, one of my favorite "couples" pictures. I had this for years as a postcard and didn't think I'd ever be able to find a jpeg, but a google image search of "black and white cat tails" brought it up!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Weekend Video

William James Adams, Jr., better known by his stage name, was one of the founding members of the Black Eyed Peas. Early this year, wrote the song, "Yes We Can", in support of the presidential campaign of Barack Obama and within a week the song had been seen more than 7 million times on Dipdive and YouTube. Composed almost entirely of excerpts from Obama's speech following the New Hampshire primary, the video featured guest appearances by Scarlett Johansson, Tatyana Ali, John Legend, Herbie Hancock, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Common amongst others, and it quickly made the new spokesman for a politically involved post civil rights black generation.

This week, released this new song, “It’s a New Day”, which I'm happy to post as the weekend video. I think it speaks for itself!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Afloat - Part Deux

A comment yesterday from Antonio suggested that it would be interesting if I fleshed out the criteria I used in selecting the images posted. Seems like a reasonable request, so here goes:

Lartigue's "Zissou in his Tire Boat" Estimate $1000 – $2000. (Color changed for graphic effect.)

One of my favorite Lartigue stories involves a conversation between Francis Bacon and Lucien Freud as reported to me by the late Bruce Bernard, my predecessor as picture editor of the London Sunday Times Magazine. The pair were discussing a major Lartigue show they had each just seen and Freud was enthusing about the work. "My dear Francis," he began, "It's quite remarkable. This man can actually photograph happiness!" Bacon looked up from his beer with a look of derision. "Silliness if you ask me."

Of course both were right. Lartigue, the great prodigy of photography, blessed with a sharpshooter's eye and a wealthy and sporty family who were always having fun, could photograph both happiness and silliness, as well as all kinds of love and desire, and make it all sing. The picture above is one of the silly ones but it never fails to make me smile.

A rare Cartier-Bresson taken in Mexico c. 1963. Estimate $6,000 - $9,000

What appeals to me about this Cartier-Bresson is first, the rarity. I was H C-B's New York gallery for ten years and knew his work pretty well, but I never saw this image. I like the yin-yang of the light versus shadow cutting diagonally across the image and the sweetness of the girl and dog. In my experience Mexico is a country full of strays so this image also rings true to my sense of place.

One from a lot of 3 views of New York (all good) taken by Charles Rotkin in the 1940s. $1,000 - $1,500.

What can I say here? For about $300 a pop if you're lucky, you get three different but excellent views of New York City in the 40s. Compare the skyline to today's. Pick your favorite of the three and give the others away as presents. Sell one at Sotheby's and get your money back. Start your own Print Giveaway ...

Marilyn Monroe c. 1945 by Andre de Dienes. $2,000 - $4,000.

Andre de Dienes was one of the great nudie photographers of the 40s and 50s taking the kind of healthy outdoor shots featured in naturalist magazines and camera annuals of the time. He happened to cross paths with M.M. when she was about 18 and his book "Marilyn Mon Amour", first published in 1985, is probably the best and most sustained coverage of the star. In it we see Marilyn morph from the slightly awkward teenager to the blonde beauty who became an icon. The book is now out of print as is Taschen's recently created $200 boxed set of De Dienes/Marilyn memorabilia now going for double that price.

A wonderful (but tiny) Karl Struss of the Flatiron Building. $3,000 - $5,000.

The Flatiron Building is one of those buildings just made for photographers. If Steichen's famous "Flatiron" picture were to come up at auction, it would without question fetch many millions. So even a little print by Karl Struss, who pre-dated Steichen but was a pivotal figure in the transition from pictorialism to modernism, should be quite a catch. On top of that, this is quite a wonderful picture with the glistening rain-soaked street reflecting the building's form, the pedestrians scurrying around, and the pinpoint of the street lights drawing the eye back to the building itself, highlighted against the chiaroscuro sky.

Ruth Orkin's portrait of Woody Allen at the Met. 1963. $3,000 - $4,000.

I've always made the point that humor in photography can't be posed, it has to be spontaneous as in the Lartigue, above. But there are always exceptions. Woody in front of this gilded full length painting is one. A little schoolboy humor, the nebbish upstaging and deflating the aristocrat, but done with a light touch.

Ray Metzker. Chicago, 1983. $4,000 - $6,000. (This seems high, but it's a strong picture.)

Ray Metzker is a Chicago based photographer who is the logical successor to Harry Callahan. An acknowledged innovator, his work explores the formal potentials of black and white photography in puzzle pictures that play with abstraction and composition. If you're looking for a cerebral but still engaging image, this could be the one.

A 1969 Garry Winogrand estimated at $2,000 - $3,000.

I've already written quite a bit about Winogrand, so I'm going to direct you back to my previous post. Click here.And here. But at $2-3k this is a steal.

Stephen Shore. 1974. $4,000 - $6,000.

After Eggleston and Meyerowitz, Shore is the other key modern american colorist. His career began at the age of 14 and his deadpan images of everyday scenes and places draw a connection between photography and photorealist paintings. Seeing this image in that context explains its strength. A picture that at first looks banal, but on closer viewing pulls you in.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

How To Stay Afloat

First - many thanks for your comments and best wishes. I published all your comments, good and bad, and other than "Anonymous" who wrote to accuse me of being defensive and compromised by financial self-interest, the points were well taken. I write about what I think is good regardless of the source and only publish contrary opinions that I think are worth airing.

Today I'm highlighting a forthcoming auction of photographs from the estate of Dan Berley. (The auction is being held at Rago Arts and Auction Center in Lambertville, New Jersey.) Berley was a real estate developer whose main avocation was collecting - which he did from the early 60s on. In today's troubled economic time, there's not much spare cash around, but it's worth pointing out that a sale from a minor auction house (sorry, Rago), held outside of the week of the big photo auctions, and with low estimates, presents a buyer's dream. From an investment point of view this looks like a great opportunity. (I was not paid to say this.)

Anyway, here are some of my picks from the 300 lots for sale. (Above - Lartigue's "Zissou in his Tire Boat" Estimate $1000 – $2000.)

A rare Cartier-Bresson taken in Mexico c. 1963. Estimate $6,000 - $9,000

One from a lot of 3 views of New York (all good) taken by Charles Rotkin in the 1940s. $1,000 - $1,500.

Marilyn Monroe c. 1945 by Andre de Dienes. $2,000 - $4,000.

A wonderful (but tiny) Karl Struss of the Flatiron Building. $3,000 - $5,000.

Ruth Orkin's portrait of Woody Allen at the Met. 1963. $3,000 - $4,000.

Ray Metzker. Chicago, 1983. $4,000 - $6,000. (This seems high, but it's a strong picture.)

A 1969 Garry Winogrand estimated at $2,000 - $3,000.

Stephen Shore. 1974. $4,000 - $6,000.