25 July 2006

State of Grace

In the Rake magazine issue of December 2005 I read Jennifer Vogel's exegesis on the religiosity of Eric Enstrom's "Grace" ("That Old-Time Religion," pp. 23-25; one version of the image is reproduced above); it is good for us to have such an abject image of humility in a season--nay, a yearlong culture--of conspicuous consumption. I was disappointed, however, by the omission of the fact that Enstrom's work, or some tinted, altered, photomechanical descendant of it, is the state photograph of Minnesota. Among our state's many symbols--loons, pink-and-white lady slippers, blueberry muffins--is this very image, and we are unique in the nation in having an official state photograph. A copy of it hangs in the Secretary of State's office, by order of state legislation. (Whether it's a gelatin silver print or some non-photographic process is not clear, and deserves further investigation in order to be sure we're not misrepresenting ourselves or mislabeling our symbols.) We are, officially, a "state of Grace," and Enstrom's contested, reconfigured version of it truly does, as Vogel states, "belong to everyone" in the land of 10,000 reflective surfaces. We're also graced with lots of great photographers, though I don't believe our god-fearing leaders meant to celebrate this population in their choice of this symbol.

For further reference--I've written at greater length about the "Grace" issue in a 2002 feature on mnartists.org; you can find it here.

30 June 2006

Massive cameras

The article in PDN, linked above, got me thinking about records. How do you measure a world-record camera? Is the proof in its two-dimensional product, or in its cubic dimensions, or in the linear distance of lens-to-recording medium? There are several orders of magnitude separating the planned hangar-sized "dark room" and the records cited in the article for print scale, which are at most twice my height. Well, to clarify, the image they produce is twice my height, while the hangar will produce a 25 x 100 foot image.

Anyone who's seen Vera Lutter's work knows that large images from airfields have already been secured; I'm not sure if she worked in a darkened hangar, but what other obscurable room would have been available to make the enormous black-and-white prints of airplanes she's exhibited in Chelsea and elsewhere? She made one of the Nabisco box printing factory in Beacon, NY (now the home of Dia:Beacon) that measures about 9 x 14 feet.

British artist Steven Pippin made images using a shipping container transformed into a multi-pinhole camera for "Brilliant!": New Art from London, a mid-1990s Walker Art Center exhibit. The camera recorded images of the space--the museum's Vineland Place lobby--in which it was hung during the show, high enough for people to duck under and view the work from inside out. Here are two views of the installation.

Steven Pippin, Introduction (1995)
Trailer, unique paper negative
Installation: “Brilliant!” New Art from London, October 22, 1995 – January 7, 1996
Outer Lobby, Walker Art Center
Photo Credit: Dan Dennehy for Walker Art Center

Another way to measure the phenomenon is to consider the dimensions of the surface receiving the image. Abe Morell has certainly proven his ability to project and capture image in large spaces, and Aaron Bommarito recently transformed the Minnesota Center for Photography in Minneapolis, 12-foot ceilings and all, into a walk-in camera obscura.

Aaron Bommarito, Interior, Minnesota Center for Photography, May 2006 (copyright 2006 Aaron Bommarito)

I guess records are made to be broken--sometimes by will, sometimes by retrospect, knowing what's come before but has perhaps been unchronicled.

01 June 2006

... and moving from an old one

That's me in the living room of my apartment in St. Paul, which I was in from September 2004 to July 2006, when I left for more spacious digs on Malcolm in Prospect Park, and from there a year later to the house Stephanie and I bought on Cambridge, safely back in St. Paul after my only Minneapolis residence as a grown-up. 

Here's Laura in a telling view of the situation:

The flood of books and paper, both mine and my daughters', was a big factor prompting the move. Plus this futon couch, which the girls slept on before the arrival of the Christmas bunk bed, was neglected and begging for a room of its own, or, at least, to unplug itself from the densely-packed living room on Marshall Avenue.

31 May 2006

Opening a new space

I can liken this space to the "professional" journal I used to keep as a distinct space from my "personal" journal. I wanted a book in which to write my thoughts about photography, which I assumed were inconsistent with my thoughts about anything else. Someone once asked me if I was writing something about her in that photo journal, and I brashly answered that no, this is only for ideas about photography. She was perplexed and put out by the reply, and I've mused about it a lot in the intervening years. Now I know that photography is inextricable from my life, and vice versa. I filter so much experience through photography, and encounter so much of the world through the medium and as a result of it, that to segregate it is a vain effort. I have to work to keep photographic currents OUT of the stream of consciousness that flows through my sensorium.