11 February 2014

Due diligence lacking: Clanet and Larsen on reindeer herders in Lappland

Don't you just hate it when you write something for publication, then just as the piece is hitting the stands you find something you wish you'd known about when you wrote the piece?

Dang. I do.

My short review of Erika Larsen's book on the Sami reindeer herders, published last year by emphas.is, is just coming out in Afterimage.

Yesterday, I was flipping through a magazine--the Winter 2013/2014 issue of Modern Farmer, of course--and discovered a portfolio titled "Reindeer Country." Covering five pages are very good photographs by Celine Clanet, with text by Andy Wright describing Clanet's experiences in Lappland, first as a tourist then as an "embedded" observer.

What my photo-bibliographic mind failed to recall while reviewing Larsen's intriguing book was that Photolucida published Maze, Clanet's collection of the Sami, three years earlier.

I would have mentioned this work, almost certainly, as prelude and complement to Larsen's efforts. Not in a competitive or preemptive way, just as a comparison worth considering. I could have used the excuse that Afterimage allotted me too few words to explore external connections. But my conscience would have troubled me, as it did today when I thought about what I'd seen, did a quick search on Clanet, and recalled one of the things I try to mention when I write about a set of photographs.
Spread from Maze by Celine Clanet via photo-eye
 So, there it is. Due diligence performed. Until I find the next precedent; anyone else got a pre-2010 book of Sami photographs I ought to consider?

P. S. This issue of Modern Farmer (the print component of a lifestyle site--FARM. FOOD. LIFE.--at modernfarmer.com. Check out their Culture Feature, "Celebrity Gentlemen Farmers: They're Just Like Us!" while you're there.) also includes work by Daniel Shea, Nicola Twilley's series on refrigeration, and a fashion spread--modern, indeed--by Aimee Brodeur. "Big up" to the art department there--director Sarah Gephart, photo director Luise Stauss, and photo editor Ayanna Quint.

02 February 2014

Richard Grossman, "The Man in the Gray [or is that "Grey"?] Flannel Suit," and Photography Books

I read in today's New York Times about the death of publisher Richard Grossman. According to the obituary by Douglas Martin, Grossman "was photographed, anonymously, for the cover of one edition of The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit" by Sloan Wilson, originally published in 1955, and the following year made into a movie starring Gregory Peck in the title role.

Martin quotes a friend of Grossman's as noting that "his pose was jaunty--the perfect suit with his back to the camera."

I searched Google Images and LibraryThing to locate covers of Wilson's book that would fit the bill.
Various covers of The Man... from LibraryThing

One image is of Peck, wearing the suit, dressed for the movie. And thus, clearly not anonymous or from the back, and appearing in variants on several other covers.

There is a graphic, probably derived from a photograph, appearing in the first row, far right, and the third row, far left, gracing the cover of a fairly recent Spanish language edition of the book (El hombre del traje gris, with a prologue by Jonathan Franzen).

So, my money is on Grossman's posterior aspect appearing in the positive/negative, animus/anima, figure/silhouette cover in the middle of the middle row, with its UK spelling of the operative color--"Grey" here, but "Gray" in all the other English-language editions I found. This paperback edition was published by PAN Books (based in West Molesey, Surrey, England - thanks to Tikit Resources at http://www.tikit.net/ for their compilation of data) in 1958.

Also on the bookshelves in 1958, at least across the Channel in France, was Robert Frank's Les Americains, published by Delpire (and in the US the next year, from Grove Press). Frank's photographs offered the flip side of the "gray flannel suit" version of America.

In partnership with Aperture, Grossman Publishers, started in 1962, released a second US edition of The Americans in 1969.

One of Grossman's biggest books was Ralph Nader's Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-in Dangers of the American Automobile (1965) which certainly annoyed a few men in gray suits.

While Frank's magnum opus may be the Grossman publication best known in photo circles, it was not the only recognized work from the company. Other photography books first released by Grossman Publishers include, in order by photographer or editor:

  • Cornell Capa, ed., The Concerned Photographer 2 (1972; including work by Riboud, Vishniac, Davidson, Parks, Haas, Hamaya, McCullin, and W. E. Smith)
  • Robert Capa, Images of War (1964)
  • Elliott Erwitt, Son of Bitch (1974)
  • Leonard Freed, Black in White America (1968) and Made in Germany (1970)
  • Mark Jury, The Vietnam Photo Book (1971)
  • Andre Kertesz, On Reading (1971), Sixty Years in Photography (1972), and J'aime Paris (1974)
  • Dorothea Lange, To A Cabin (1973)
  • Irving Penn, Worlds in a Small Room (1974)
  • W. Eugene Smith and Aileen M. Smith, Minimata (1975; with Aperture)
  • Dennis Stock, California Trip (1970)
  • Paul Strand, Tir A'Mhurain: Outer Hebrides (1968; in conjunction with Aperture)
  • Adam Clark Vroman, Dwellers at the Source (1973)

And these are culled from the first 191 entries on ABE's list of 6,292 results from a search for Grossman Publishers, arranged from most to least expensive. There are over 6,000 items priced $200 and below still to be considered. (Be my guest.)

While it's clear that there wasn't a lot of women's photography appearing in Grossman's books--a fact we might attribute to the abundance of gray-suited guys a la Mad Men--it is also clear that Richard Grossman is responsible for an important chapter in the history of photography book publishing.

According to today's obituary, he also prompted some great work to be made. Here's Douglas Martin again:

One story [Grossman] liked to tell about his publishing days concerned a visit to the photographer Richard Avedon at his home on the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. He found Mr. Avedon crying.
"Where are your 35-millimeter cameras?" he said to Mr. Avedon, who was best known for his fashion work. "Get out on the streets immediately."
The haunted faces of grief that Mr. Avedon shot that day are considered some of his most moving work.
Richard Avedon, The Night of John F. Kennedy's Assassination, November 22, 1963

Thank you, Richard Grossman, for making it possible for us to see this moving work, and so much more through your will to publish great black-and-white photography against the grain of those ubiquitous flannel suits.

Douglas Martin, "Richard Grossman, 92, Crusading Publisher of 1960s" NYT 2/1/2014

31 January 2014

McKnight Photographers Becoming Visual Artists

What do Anthony Marchetti, Paula McCartney, Alec Soth, and Mohamud Mumin have in common?
  • They are all recipients of 2013 McKnight Fellowships for Photographers, chosen from a pool of 108 applicants by three photography professionals from outside of Minnesota. As such, each received a cash award of $25,000 to use over the course of a year.
  • They resided in Minnesota for at least a year prior to receiving the award, and they intend to remain residents for the Fellowship year, July 2013 to June 2014. 
  • They are all artists who have used photography as a primary means of creative expression over a period of time that would mark them as beyond emerging in their careers. Marchetti, McCartney, and Soth have each received at least one previous McKnight Fellowship; Mumin was a first-timer. 140 photographers have received financial assistance, in amounts varying from $2,500 to $25,000 since the program began in 1982. (All awards, in all the McKnight Artist Fellowship programs, were pegged at $25,000 starting in 2001; that year 53 awards were made in twelve disciplines, and the number has seen an overall downward trend since then. Click here for the Foundation's list of all Fellows in all disciplines, from 1982 to 2013.)
  • Finally, Marchetti, McCartney, Mumin, and Soth are the last four artists to receive McKnight Fellowships awarded specifically to photographers. As the Foundation's May 10, 2013 press release explains, the visual arts program hosted by the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (organizations outside of the Foundation serve as administrative hosts for all the programs) will "expand to include photography" starting with this coming spring's awards.

Photographers will continue to receive funding. I have no concerns about photography "falling short" when put head-to-head with other visual arts. Fellowship recipients will have work that is strong and may emulate the more conspicuously "arty" photography that is being done today. This is worst-case scenario thinking: A culture of commercial imitativeness may emerge among Minnesota photographers seeking McKnight funding. Risk-takers will be at a disadvantage, as will those whose image-making drives them to document realities that move them personally, profoundly, but quietly, often over periods of many years.

The work Marchetti and his fellow 2013 Fellows do is diverse and divergent. These artists, aside from the similarities cited above, bear little resemblance to each other. The same extends to the other 136 recipients of McKnight Photo awards, noted in the list below. Photography is as polyglot and vital a visual language as any expressive mode extant today. I understand that the MCAD program will make eight fellowship awards instead of four. But will there be a provision, or an insistence, that some of those be directed toward photographic artists? That kind of direction towards a quota tends to make review panels very uneasy. Here's what the 2014/2015 guidelines state about the reviewers:

Maybe I'm cynical. Maybe my experience of running the McKnight Photography Fellowship Program for ten years slants my perspective. But I feel that this change not only deprives Minnesota's photographers and shortchanges the audience for their work, it creates a precedent for further consolidations. How about lumping all of the ceramic artists, currently under the Northern Clay Center's McKnight Fellowship program, and the media artists at IFPMinnesota, into MCAD's program? Why not put all the word-smiths under one roof as well? Musicians, dancers, theater artists--they're all on stage, so why not unify them?

In the wake of this decision there are ten programs that next spring will award 32 Fellowships to mid-career Minnesotans with the following titles: Ceramic Artists (2 $25,000 Fellowships to be awarded); Choreographers (3); Composers (4); Dancers (3); Media Artists ("independent producers, directors, writers, and developers in film, television, radio, web, computer/video games, transmedia, and other emerging forms of media"- from the program's web site) (3); Musicians (4); Playwrights (2); Theater Artists (3); Visual Artists (4); and Writers (4).

Composers, choreographers, playwrights, writers--all of these original target groups remain autonomously funded groups in the McKnight array. Why not photographers? Why deny the prescience that the foundation demonstrated when commencing the Artist Fellowship program in the early 1980s? Conversely, why did it take thirty years to recognize that photography qualified as a visual art? And on a third tangent, why have there never been painting or sculpture centers in Minnesota? I guess photographers need to be happy that, like printmakers, they remain in the running at all.

I will be very interested to see what the MCAD panels select in future grant rounds. What kinds of photography will be identified as viable (fundable) visual art? The practitioners and consumers of an inquiring medium want to know. In the meantime I say goodbye, good McKnight Photo Fellowships. You served us well.

The deadline for uploading your submission to the MCAD 2014/15 McKnight Artist Fellowships for Visual Artists is noon on Friday, March 21, 2014. Here's a link to MCAD's site.

McKnight Photography Fellows, 1982 to 2013
Jen Ackerman + Joseph Allen + Thomas Allen + Eric Altenberg + Chuck Avery + Jack Bardon + Andrew Baugnet + Doug Beasley + Sara Belleau + Mae Benson + Elizabeth Berardo + Vicki Berg + Carol Berlin + Ricardo Bloch + Keith Braafladt + Thomas Bremer + Priscilla Briggs + Linda Brooks + Gloria DeFilipps Brush + Bruce Charlesworth + Peter Happel Christian + Richard Copley + J. John Corbett + Bill Cottman + Dorit Cypis + Gina Dabrowski + Stephen M. Dahl + Michal Daniel + Ioana Datcu + Todd Deutsch + Tom Dodge + Beth Dow + Natasha D’Schommer + Amy Eckert + Osama Esid + Sheila Farrell + Chris Faust + Teri Fullerton + Linda Gammell + Gretchen Garner + Lynn Geesaman + Vance Gellert + Frank Gohlke + David Goldes + Wayne Gudmundson + Terry Gydesen + Monica Haller + Gary Hallman + Barry Hansen + James Henkel + Stephen Hermann + Kristine Heykants + Keith Holmes + Wing Young Huie + David Husom + Jennifer Jenkins + Richard Johnson + John C. Johnston + Kathy Hemingway Jones + Dale Kakkak + Leigh Kane + Stephanie Kays + Diana Keller + Kel Keller + Shannon Kennedy + Ellen Kingsbury + Lynn Klein + Angie Klidzejs + Stuart Klipper + Jim Knipe + Jeff Krueger + Sue Kyllonen + Timothy Lamb + Peter Latner + Vince Leo + Peter Lindman + Lauren Lippman + Lynn Lukkas + Paula McCartney + Heather Mackereth + Anthony Marchetti + Roger Mertin + Jeff Millikan + Deirdre Monk + David Monson + Colleen Mullins + Mohamud Mumin + Robert Murphy + Barbra Nei + Celeste Nelms + Gary Ness + Justin Newhall + Jila Nikpay + Meg Ojala + Wendy Olson + Sheryl Olson + David Parker + Jason Pearson + George Peer + Sarah Penman + Bambi Peterson + Phuong Phan + Keri Pickett + Gail Rapson + Karl Raschke + Stevie Rexroth + Thomas Rose + Linda Rossi + Molly Rucks + Orin Rutchick + John Schlesinger + Barbara Schubring + Richard Sennott + Rik Sferra + Paul Shambroom + Mickey Smith + Rosemary Smith + Alec Soth + Carla Steiger-Meister + William Stieger + Angela Strassheim + Xavier Tavera + Carrie Thompson + Lex Thompson + Peter Haakon Thompson + Jim Tittle + Tobechi Tobechukwu + Stephanie Torbert + Mary Tortorici + Andree Tracey + Katherine Turczan + Charissa Uemura + Inna Valin + JoAnn Verburg + Diana Watters + Catherine Whipple + Tom Wik + Steven Williams + Mark Wojahn + Vue Xiong