Friday, December 31, 2010

The 2010 Top Ten list

What is December 31 without a top ten list?

It’s been an odd year. A recovery year where it seemed like there were fewer highs and lows as everyone hunkered down with fingers crossed. Photographers being the creative people they are, however, signs of life could not be kept down and so in no particular order here are my top ten visual pleasures of 2010.

1. Richard Learoyd.

Working with a self-made camera that creates highly detailed near life-size images by projecting an image directly onto photographic paper without any interposing negative – Learoyd has invigorated at least three genres at once – cameraless (or more accurately film-less) photography, portraiture, and still life.

2. Auctions.

Continuing to make inroads into what was traditionally gallery territory, the auction houses (particularly Christies and Phillips) are putting on more interesting, original, and varied sales. And for the astute collector there are always bargains. This Irving Penn self-portrait from 1948 went for what I’m sure will be seen as a buy at $45,000 at Christies in London this past spring. I'd say it's worth at least double.

3. Mickalene Thomas.

The connections between contemporary art and traditional photography continue to intertwine as seen here in Mickalene Thomas’ bad-ass tribute to Seydou Keita. Jumping between painting, appliqué, and photography, Mickalene Thomas is just one of the new breed of hyphenates making waves as the art and photography world continue to grow closer together.

4. Susan Derges.

After a relatively quiet period, Susan Derges – one of the fab four of British camera-less photography – has re-emerged with a series of new photograms based around the idea of rock pools. In this image, Jackson Pollock meets Turner as light, color, and line intersect in a glorious mixture of fresh photographic ideas.

5. Tokyo Photo.

Gaining strength and energy – Tokyo Photo is fast emerging as the go-to fair of the east. Founder Tomo Harada, pictured above, has made it his mission to make the event a must see and entering year three the mix of American and Japanese dealers is creating an ever more exciting cultural exchange.

6. Patrick Smith.

Top of the list of new(ish) names that have emerged in photography this year is French photographer Patrick Smith. While clearly working in the tradition of Vitali and Niedermayr, Smith’s pictorial eye and immaculate exposures have a purity all their own.

7. Surprises.

No matter how much you think you know about photography, there are always surprises. Going through Art Miami I came across a group of pictures of Elizabeth Taylor by Frank Worth. I don’t know how I had never seen or heard of these images before but that is what makes life so interesting. (And boy, was she a beauty!)

8. Bruce Weber.

One of the best museum shows around (and up through February 13), Bruce Weber’s photographs of the residents of Miami’s “Little Haiti” neighborhood at The Museum of Contemporary Art in Miami are a reflection of Weber’s outstanding skill and diversity. To those who only think of Weber as a fashion photographer, the work may be a surprise, but to any one who has followed his career closely, the humanism and warmth of the work should come only as a welcome treat.

9. Jim Krantz.

One of the few disappointments of this gallery year for me was putting off a show of Jim Krantz’s work when we couldn’t get the releases we needed. Krantz is probably the most distinguished of the Marlboro photographers whose work was appropriated by Richard Prince for his “Cowboys” series. But Krantz is back in the saddle making new images strictly for himself of which the above image shot in 2010 is just the beginning. Stay tuned.

10. Teresa Vlckova

Noted as one of the highlights of Aperture’s latest round-up of new talent - reGeneration 2 – Teresa Vlckova creates pictures that pull us into her otherworldly universe of flying girls and Brothers Grimm-like twins. Born in 1983 in Vsetín, Czech Republic, Vlčková’s work will be seen in the U.S. for the first time in January when Aperture exhibits a selection of work of the 80 photographers featured in the book "reGeneration 2". If Vlckova lives up to her early promise, she will clearly be a name to be reckoned with.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Winter's Tale

Yuji Obata. Homage to Wilson A. Bentley #1. 2005 - 2006.

My latest enthusiasm is for the work of Yuji Obata who we are now lucky enough to represent. I was introduced to Obata’s work by Yoshiko Suzuki, curator of the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, who kindly gave me a rare copy of Obata’s study of winter in the Hokkaido Province titled “Winter Tale”.

Yuji Obata was born in Japan in 1962. He attended the Nihon University College of Art and currently resides in Tokyo. In 2003, Obata was compelled to photograph winter scenes in Japan as he stood in front of Pieter Bruegel's painting "The Hunters in the Snow" in Vienna's Museum of Art History. Upon returning to Japan, he traveled to the country's northernmost island, Hokkaidō, known for its cold and snowy winters. As he worked there photographing ice skaters at a middle school rink and a local speed skating team, his enchantment with images of winter deepened. Traveling around different regions of the island in winter, he began noticing the varied qualities of the snow itself, and finally became fascinated with the unique challenge of photographing snowflakes in motion as they fell from the sky.

Obata was inspired by the story and works of W.A. Bentley, an American farmer and photographer who adapted a camera and microscope to photograph a single snow crystal for the first time in 1885. Bentley went on to photograph more than 5,000 snowflakes in his lifetime, and his technique was so successful that it continues to be used today.

Like Bentley, Obata was obsessed with the challenge of doing something no one had done before – in his case photographing snowflakes in freefall rather than on a flat surface without digital or any other manipulation. It took Obata five years to achieve but his breakthrough resulted in the capture of pictures that allow the snowflakes to relate to each other in space and size, creating dynamic compositions and scenes. Obata chose to shoot the series in the mountains of Hokkaidō, based on its extreme cold and its history as the place where Dr. Ukichiro Nakaya did research that led to his invention of artificial snow. And while Obata is properly reverent to those who inspired him in this project, his photographs stand alone as fresh and original works.

I hope you enjoy them and if I don’t get around to posting again for a while I hope you'll find these pictures seasonally cheery and appropriate. Happy Holidays!

Homage to Wilson A. Bentley #4. 2005 - 2006.

Homage to Wilson A. Bentley #10. 2005 - 2006.

Homage to Wilson A. Bentley #7. 2005 - 2006.

Homage to Wilson A. Bentley #8. 2005 - 2006.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Weekend Video - Special Thanksgiving Edition

Antony and the Johnsons performing on David Letterman.

This Thanksgiving Holiday I can’t think of a more appropriate song title than Antony and The Johnsons “Thank you for your love”. I’ve been vaguely aware of the band’s songs for a while as well as their indie critical reputation but seeing Antony Hegarty perform on Letterman a few weeks ago showed me what all the fuss was about.

The song is simply about the power of love to rescue you from pain. But in a time of as much global and national distress as we’re in now, this message shouldn’t ever be considered trite or sappy.

It’s a tradition in our family for each member to make a toast at Thanksgiving dinner saying what they have to give thanks for. But this year I would like to make a toast for the blog:

Thank you to the many readers who e-mail or come up to me out of the blue to say how much they enjoy The Year in Pictures. Thank you to the photographers whose work inspires all of us. (I know the pace of my postings has slowed down after nearly three years and over a million visits but I’ll continue to keep posting anything that seems noteworthy.) Thank you to my staff (past and present) whose professionalism and positive attitude make the gallery such a happy place. Thank you to our clients who appreciate all that the gallery stands for. Thank you to my friends - especially to the ones who love to talk about photography! Thank you to my running partners (about whom more later). And finally thank you to my children Julian and Josie and my wife Lucy for their love and for the way they put at least 110 percent into everything they do.

If there’s one miracle this Thanksgiving, it’s that this past July one of my running partners was biking in Central Park when a dog ran out in front of her causing her to flip onto her head, break her pelvis, and have a quarter of her skull removed in order to allow her brain not to compress. She was in hospital for nearly for a month and came out a little wobbly but exactly the same bright and cheerful person she was before the accident. Yesterday, along with our other running partner, we ran a full loop around the reservoir. And if that wasn’t enough another friend who had been in a coma for two weeks woke up on Monday!

Light is coming out of the darkness. Life is beginning to imitate Avatar. Happy Thanksgiving!

Below, special bonus official video.

Antony and the Johnsons official video

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Street Viewed

Michael Wolf. A Series of Unfortunate Events #49. 2010

Across the road from us is an excellent new show at Bruce Silverstein. Covering four bodies of work by the photographer Michael Wolf, all dealing with the modern urban condition, the heart of the show is comprised of a series of large blow-ups of images Wolf has taken from Google’s “Street View”.

For those not up to speed on Google’s latest good/evil technology, "Street View" is a feature in Google Maps and Google Earth that provides panoramic views from various positions along many streets in the world. It was launched in 2007 in several cities in the United States, and has since expanded to include cities and rural areas worldwide. Google "Street View" displays images taken from a fleet of specially adapted cars. On each of these vehicles there are nine directional cameras for 360° views, GPS units for positioning, and three laser range scanners for the measuring of up to 150 feet and 180° in the front of the vehicle.

Due to an initial outpouring of privacy concerns, in 2008, Google announced that it was testing face-blurring technology on its photos of the busy streets of Manhattan. This technology uses a computer algorithm to search Google's image database for faces and blurs them. Sadly, if you visit "Street View" today you will find it much in evidence.

A quick search will also find the web full of sites where someone has scoured "Street View" for scenes a little less aesthetic and artful than Wolf - at least that's how I see it. And like Gursky's "Oceans", it's who sees the art in the everyday first that counts. But to test this theory, below you'll see four more pictures by Michael Wolf and three images from random websites having fun with "Street View". See if you can tell which are which. Answers to follow in a couple of days.

Picture 1

Picture 2

Picture 3

Picture 4

Picture 5

Picture 6

Picture 7

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Lights! Color! Abstraction!

It’s never easy to write about abstract photography – the impact is in the seeing. However, if the response of the viewers who have come into the gallery over the last week is anything to go by, our just opened show of new work by Garry Fabian Miller is having quite an impact. (And it’s up until December 23, so there’s plenty of time to see it.)

GFM (as we’ll refer to him from now on) is another of the artists in the Victoria and Albert’s “Shadow Catchers” show, but he has been a presence on the English art scene for quite a while. Highly intellectual and somewhat reclusive, GFM prefers to work in the relative isolation of his studio near the rocky tors of Dartmoor where his daily walks inform his sequential experiments shining light through various forms and vessels onto to cibachrome paper. Picking up where abstract painters like Albers, Rothko, and Judd left off, GFM is the rare photographer whose abstract work is created rather than observed. Added rather than reduced. Bringing the elements of light and time to photographic paper, GFM’s prints glow and shimmer in a way that only be achieved in the darkroom.

GFM’s earliest work explored the abstract possibilities of landscape in a more traditional way. His minimal sky and seascapes of 1976 in fact pre-date similar work by Hiroshi Sugimoto by several years. Following that, GFM created a beautiful and now very rare botanical series made by shining enlarger light through various translucent plants. From then on, the work became increasingly abstract and exclusively camera-less. But as Martin Barnes, curator of the V&A’s show points out, unlike most photograms, in GFM’s work, no objects touch the paper. It’s only light.

Our exhibition focuses largely on the recently created body of work titled "Year Two". Following the form of a previous body of work titled "Year One", GFM devoted himself to making 12 different monthly series, each exploring how individual elements such as color, edge, and border affect a specific geometric composition. At the end of the year, he selected the ten images from each month that worked best as a complete chapter. Taken as an autonomous body of work, we have not only a highly personal and rigorous exploration of color and shape, but also the thought and association such forms bring forth.

I’ve illustrated this post with installation shots, because in some way, it feels like less of a reduction than a j-peg of an individual piece, and it conveys something of the constant experimentation that is the core of GFM’s work. (But if you must see the individual pieces click here.)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Shooting Gallery


Shooting yearly self-portraits is nothing new to photography, but a rather extraordinary series has just been discovered and published in The Netherlands in a book titled "Almost Every Picture #7". Starting in 1936, the then 16-year-old Ria van Dijk went into a shooting gallery - one of those fair booths where every time you hit the target it triggers a camera shutter and you win a portrait of yourself in firing pose.

This series documents almost every year of Van Dijk's life (there is a conspicuous pause from 1939 to 1945) up until present times. But at the age of 88, Ria van Dijk is still shooting!

1936. The picture that started it off.







Tuesday, October 19, 2010


It can't have escaped those of you who follow the photography scene that there's a lot going on in the"camera-less" photography world. Adam Fuss at Cheim and Read, Christopher Bucklow at my gallery with Garry Fabian Miller coming up next, and the major exhibition "Shadow Catchers" which just opened at The Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

One of the lesser known artists in the V&A show, but equally worthy of attention, is the German photographer Floris Neusüss. Neusüss was one of the first contemporary artists to return to camera-less photography, one of the medium’s earliest forms. In 1978, Neusüss created a piece that paid specific homage to William Henry Fox Talbot's 1835 image of a window in Lacock Abbey and last year he re-created the piece specifically for the V&A show.

As curator Martin Barnes explains: “Talbot’s Latticed Window anticipated the notion that photographs are often perceived as windows on the world. And yet, Talbot seems to have understood that it was rather the window itself – half way between interior and exterior – that was as beguiling as any view beyond.”

“This particular subject”, adds Neusüss “was, for us, not just a window in a building but an iconic window, a window on photography. Lacock’s discovery became a window on the world. Back in 1978, when we first photographed the window, that was the first time I worked outside of the studio, on location. It was the start of our adventures in making photograms of large objects in the places we found them".

As you'll see from these pictures, the piece that Neusüss made is extraordinarily beautiful and resonant, innovative, and chock full of ideas - a description that applies equally to the other artists in the show, So if you're in London, be sure not to miss the exhibition.

(All photographs via the London Daily Telegraph. Unfortunately no photographer's credit was attached.)

In collaboration with his wife Renate Heyne, also an artist, Neususs covered the interior of the window with photographic paper at night, before exposing the paper by shining a light from outside.

Some of the test prints are laid out on the floor of the abbey.

Floris Neusüss

The finished Neusüss piece.

Photogenic drawing negative by William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877). Taken with the Camera Obscura, this photograph is the earliest camera negative in existence.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Weekend Video Face-off. Dance v.s. Story-telling.

Stiff competition in the family as my brother and daughter both submit videos for the "Weekend Video". I won't say who submitted which but please vote on your favorite by posting a comment.

Above a new concept of "Dancing in the Rain" featuring dancers, No Noize (red jacket), Man (back jacket), BJ (striped shirt), and Dreal (white shirt). Video directed and edited by Yoram Savion

Below a french fairy tale by the extraordinarily imaginative Capucine:

Friday, October 8, 2010

Fore- ctd.

To the astute observers who commented on one particular spectator in the background of the Tiger Woods photographs: you are not alone! While his identity is still not known, the man pictured wearing a ginger-coloured wig, fake moustache and chomping on a large Havana (in tribute to Spanish golfer Miguel Angel Jimenez) has become an internet sensation nicknamed "Cigar Guy". Below, a selection of some of the viral images that have begun to appear on the web!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Straight from the Heart

A new website that's a treasure trove for those who like vernacular photography and a good story - Pictures of My posts pictures people have submitted of their mothers along with a story or recollection of the subject.

It's surprising how moving these little vignettes can be, but that's the power of words and pictures that come from the heart. Perhaps that's something that should be added to the rules I posted about what it takes to make it as a photographer!