29 August 2010

fictographica006: Ophelia, Storyville Diary

Bellocq - April 1911

There comes a quiet man now to my room--
Papa Bellocq, his camera on his back.
He wants nothing, he says, but to take me
as I would arrange myself, fully clothed--
a brooch at my throat, my white hat angled
just so--or not, the smooth map of my flesh
awash in afternoon light. In my room
everything's a prop for his composition--
brass spittoon in the corner, the silver
mirror, brush and comb of my toilette.
I try to pose as I think he would like--shy
at first, then bolder. I'm not so foolish
that I don't know this photograph we make
will bear the stamp of his name, not mine.

--Natasha Trethewey, Bellocq's Ophelia (2002)

Michal Chelbin: Strangely Familiar starts September 7 at PRC

Portraits of performers and athletes in Russia, Ukraine, and England.

Exhibition runs September 7–October 31, 2010
Photographic Resource Center
832 Commonwealth Ave., Boston

Reception: Thursday, September 16, 6:30–8 p.m.
Artist lecture & book signing: Tues., Oct. 19, 7 p.m., BU Photonics Building rm. 206, 8 St. Mary's St. Boston

"Because I shoot portraits I can say that people are my first inspiration. They are intriguing, mysterious, and unsolved."  —Michal Chelbin (from 9/4/2008 interview on Nymphoto)

Michal Chelbin (born 1974, Haifa, Israel) started making pictures when she was 15, and honed her skills as a photographer during her compulsory service in the Israeli military. Following four years of study in Haifa, Chelbin began pursuing personal photographic projects and traveled in Russia, Ukraine, England, and Israel making the portraits that appear in Strangely Familiar (also the title of her 2008 Aperture monograph; The Black Eye, her new book, is forthcoming from Twin Palms). The body of work on display at the PRC this fall demonstrates Chelbin's search for those displaying a "legendary" quality, which she describes as "a mix between odd and ordinary."

Her photographs depict mostly young people who carry their livelihoods with them, often in the very form or function of their bodies. Her subjects are members of itinerant companies—dancers, acrobats, and carnival attractions—and athletes. Chelbin's work, typically made of individuals in off-stage repose, reflects both the intensity of their pursuits and the fatigue engendered by being constantly on the road and almost always on display. Her photographs are staged, in the sense of being made by arrangement between artists and subject, but not manipulated or otherwise altered post-exposure.

The artist, who again lives in Israel after several years in the United States, will be present for a talk and book signing on October 19 at 7 p.m.

Exhibition organized in collaboration with Andrea Meislin Gallery, New York City.

To read more, please visit www.prcboston.org.

17 August 2010

B+W @ Mpls Photo Center

Clicking on the link above (or here) should get you to a nice little Quicktime slideshow on MPC's site, showing the works I selected* for the Black and White juried exhibition that opens September 10 at Mpls Photo Center. If you're in Minnesota between 9/10 and 10/25, do try and find your way to MPC to see the show. From what I could tell, working with jpg files, it should be good.

They're also publishing a catalogue, with an essay I wrote about the selections. You'll find an order form for it down that page a little. Thanks to MPC for publishing this record of the show.

* Selected from 1,961 entries, a good warm-up for Critical Mass pre-screening, which I just completed this morning. That had over 5,000 photos. Talk about retinal exhaustion...

14 August 2010

Pieter Hugo Redeemed

I was distrustful of his over-close, highly detailed records of light-skinned, Albino African faces that featured in his catalogue of facial portraits from 2005 and 2006. I liked his 2007 book, The Hyena and Other Men, quite a bit. I was put off by Nollywood, as I intimated in my review for photo-eye.

But this portfolio, "A Global Graveyard for Dead Computers in Ghana," on the New York Times web site brings me back into the Pieter Hugo fold. He's tied people to the post-industrial myth once again, but unlike the "dream machine" and its exemplary spear carriers that I cited in my Nollywood review, the situation in the Agbogbloshie dump in Accra, Ghana, is a waking nightmare, far more insidious and toxic. His photographs in this portfolio address both cause and complication, and veer just far enough from the people to address the dangers--burning computers, keyboards leaching metals into the ground, child laborers supporting distant families at sub-subsistence, scavenger pay.

Bravo, Pieter, and thanks.

Special thanks to Lori Waselchuk for circulating the link.

04 August 2010

The Pencil of Nature at the University of Minnesota

Peter Martin with W. H. F. Talbot's Pencil of Nature in the Special Collections and Rare Books at the University of Minnesota's Andersen Library on the West Bank

My St. Paul friend Peter Martin, above, knew there was a copy. I had seen a copy, too, in a display case in the early 1990s that highlighted the very specialized Mertle Collection on the History of Photomechanics; Pencil, of course, was the first book illustrated with photographs, hence its inclusion in Mertle's unique assemblage. The library's special collections had experience a massive relocation into the caves, the carved-out storage area below Andersen Library, during the late 1990s. Peter wanted to show it to a class he was teaching in the early 2000s, but it was not to be found. AWOL, within the walls or outside, no one quite knew. But Peter kept pushing, kept requesting, kept nudging me and a couple of other photo folk to help pressure the U to locate and serve up this rare volume.

And it finally surfaced; not a complete copy, and in somewhat rough shape. But it included Talbot's well-known images and captions, and a surprise in the form of a paper negative. Peter printed the negative, and I may be able to persuade him to let me show it here. Can you imagine, though, having the chance to handle this masterpiece, this landmark of photographic history, in our hometown library, no less? It was a thrill to see it again, up close and in person, to hear how curator Tim Johnson found it tucked behind other material, and a credit to Peter's persistence that it reappeared.

William Wylie, Route 36

Bill called me when he was in Minneapolis in the late winter, during the waning weeks of a winter that didn't have much to say for itself in terms of notable Minnesota winters. The upside of global warming is the endurable, even boring, version of the winter season that's been the case the last several years.

Anyway, Bill was in town having a new book project printed by Shapco Printing. I offered to pick him up from the printer and take him to his hotel. I'd hoped to have had time to hang out over beers and a meal, but as it tends to do, time shrank to the point where all I could do is chauffeur him from one spot to another, and pause briefly in the hotel driveway to look at sheets hot off the Shapco presses.

I'd been eager to see Shapco's shop, as I'd been acquainted with their work over some time; my long-time designer for McKnight materials, Mike Lizama, used to do most of our printing there. Shapco is located in the shadow of the new Target Field in downtown Minneapolis; the stands loomed over my car as Bill sat in the front seat. I didn't get time to see inside. But Bill was extremely excited about the production, and mildly surprised to find such excellence in Minnesota. (I had to remind him about Litho Specialties.)

The book, Route 36, came out in June. Published by Flood Editions, a small (about a half-dozen titles per year) non-profit publisher in Chicago, it's a modestly-scaled but beautifully produced volume of photographs resulting from several road trips across Kansas. The light is summer, and fall, mostly light that you can feel, light that bears upon you as an almost physical force in these photographs and in the prairie and town spaces Wylie has captured. Elegant spaces, quiet and calm. Spectacularly unspectacular.

It is good to see such quality in an affordable, and affordably made, volume; accessibility is part of Flood's mission, and while they are publishing photography along with other types of books, they have affirmed, in Wiley's Route 36, a clear commitment to photography engaged in a dialogue about representing place. The promise evinced in the early sheets came through in the final book; thanks again, Bill, for calling.

01 August 2010

A friend's gallery goes to the dogs

Panopticon Gallery: Wegman reception | A smashing success!:

My almost-colleague at the PRC, Jason Landry (he was the program manager just before I arrived to assume the curator role), has assembled a tremendous collection of William Wegman prints for a show in his space, Panopticon Gallery in the Commonwealth Hotel, just a few blocks from the PRC. Really, it's more of Man Ray and Fay Wray's descendants (biological and thematic) than I've seen all together, and it's a tribute to Jason's dedication to photographers and the medium.

Interesting historical background note about Jason and Panopticon. Jason took over the gallery from Tony Decaneas this spring; he left the post at the PRC in order to do this. Tony had run the gallery for years and years. One of the artists he represented at the gallery (and still supervises the estate of) is Ernest Withers. When I became the artistic director of MCP in 2003, the show that was up at the time was of work by Withers, borrowed from Panopticon. The wheel keeps turning...

p.s. There's a snap of me (by PRC intern YoonJoo Kim) and Jason at the last PRC opening on Flickr.