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TXN_005Bill Daniel, “Black Flag w/Henry Rollins,” 1981


News coming off the wire from experimental filmmaker, tireless photographer, and American Romantic Bill Daniel:

Many readers of this blog are undoubtedly familiar with Who is Bozo Texino, Daniel’s mesmerizing documentary about the “secret society… of hobo and railworker graffiti.” The artist has just released a fine-looking portfolio of black and white fiber prints that showcase the rail drawings of Herby, The Rambler, Coaltrain, and Bozo Texino himself, in addition to a portrait of the elusive Colossus of Roads. The entire suite of prints, which Daniel dubs “Moniker,” runs for remarkable price of $250.

But wait, as the wise man once said, there’s more.

Moniker_portfolio_Coaltr001Daniel has also opened the archive to his classic Texas Punk Pioneers and Texas Skatepunks work from the early ’80s, which found the artist at basement and backyard shows for seemingly every important punk band of the era (Hello, young and skinny Henry Rollins. Aloha, Jello Biafra.), as well as poolside with skate legends like Jeff Phillips and Craig Johnson. I’ve geeked out on these photos many, many times, and I’m really excited that he’s selling 8×10 fiber prints of a lot of this work for $25. That’s crazy cheap, especially when the prints are being sloshed around stopbath and fixer under safelights, rather than rolling en masse off an inkjet printer. To check out these sweet pics, hit Daniel’s new print site, Tri-X-Noise.

Finally, this seems like the perfect time to mention that Daniel’s work appears in the new issue of Hamburger Eyes, which is evidently out now.

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Sara Vanderbeek, “The Principle of Superimposition 2,” digital C-print, 2008.


Unless my instincts are way off,  phot(o)bjects will undoubtedly be the most important photography show to hit the Northwest this summer (if not this entire year). On view at Lawrimore Project in Seattle through August 1, phot(o)bjects includes some of the most critical and forward-thinking voices in contemporary photography, including Walead Beshty, Trisha Donnelly, Roe Ethridge, Guyton/Walker, and Sara VanDerBeek, in addition to videos by Wolfgang Tillmans and Torbjørn Rødland. Organized by indie curator guru Bob Nickas for Presentation House Gallery in Vancouver, the work in the show appears to be largely sculptural, offered in response to Nickas’ query, “Beyond a carrier of an uninterrupted image, what else can a photograph be?”

I’m heading up to see the show later this week, and hope to secure a forum for a proper review of this important show. I will have a brief report of the show here in upcoming weeks, along with a few thoughts on the Gursky retrospective and Anthony Hernandez shows from earlier this month in Vancouver.

phot(o)bjects at Lawrimore Project, 831 Airport Way S.,  Seattle, through Aug 1


domesticated_24Amy Stein, “Riverside,” from the series Domesticated, digital C print


Most readers of this blog are surely familiar with Amy Stein’s fantastic photographic tableaux, and those who live in Portland have hopefully caught her current show at Blue Sky Gallery. I’m working on a proper review for the Oregonian, but thought I should break to spread the word about her upcoming artist talk on Saturday, Aug 1. In addition to the lecture, Stein will also be signing copies of Domesticated, which was published here in Portland via Photolucida’s Critical Mass. (Only three days left to apply for your own Critical Mass monograph!)

I saw a version of the Domesticated show in San Francisco last year, and despite the Blue Sky exhibition being unframed, the current incarnation is a stronger showing. I have no doubt that Stein’s talk will be equally smart and engaging.

Domesticated at Blue Sky Gallery, 122 NW 8th Ave, through Aug 2. Amy Stein artist talk Saturday, Aug 1, at 3 pm. Free.

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Laurie Simmons, “Big Camera, Small Camera,” silver gelatin print, 1977


This was indeed a pivotal moment for art. Pictures Generation features women who entered the art world at levels equal in importance to their male counterparts for the first time. Often, they surpassed men in terms of invention and impact. Most of the women—Kruger, Levine, Lawler, Sherman, Charlesworth, Bloom and Laurie Simmons—worked with photographic imagery, partly because photography was still regarded as a bastard child of art. This was a field they could have pretty much to themselves, while gaining the support, rather than the envy, of the bad-boy painters around them.

“I turned to photography because I thought it was the dominant language of our culture,” says Charlesworth, who is represented in the show by photographs from her first two series of newspaper appropriation works, “Modern History” (1978) and “Stills” (1977). “I remember seeing Richard Prince’s first show at Anina Nosei and thinking, ‘Oh! This guy is interested in the same stuff I am,’” Charlesworth recalls. “Photography suited the things we wanted to address.”

Prince, the token male in the New York group, was taking a critical approach to appropriated photographs, most famously of the romantic Marlboro Man cowboy. But no man in the 1970s could have made Sherman’s “Untitled Film Stills” (1977-80). Nearly a dozen works from the series are in the Met show. Here, Sherman presents female movie stereotypes with a caustic humor that mocks the way men fantasized about women, while giving women who internalize those stereotypes a sharp poke in the ribs.

Bloom remembers seeing Levine’s appropriated Walker Evans photos and thinking, “Oh my God, that is so radical and so insane. It was also brilliant. Sherrie didn’t address any of the esthetic issues, just narrowed it down to the most essential idea about what constitutes ownership of an image, and that was it.”

Read “Photo Play” in its entirety at the Art in America website

The Pictures Generation at the Met

via AFC

In the past two or three months, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting three photographers who are fairly new to Portland, and are doing some very interesting things. Keep your eyes open for these talented artists:


Jennifer Boomer
of Dallas, TX and New York, NY: Hey Hot Shot Winner Fall ’07, currently in the Nymphoto Presents exhibition at Sasha Wolf Gallery.

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Lauren Henkin of Washington, DC: Current artist-in-residence at Newspace; preparing for June-July show at Camerawork Gallery. Henkin’s prints from Displaced: Part I, based on her self-imposed Nova Scotian exile, are astonishingly frank and beautiful.

Henkin

Blake Shell comes to PDX from Tucson, AZ, where she taught in the renowned UofA Photo Dept. Working with images and user-generated text culled from the internet, Shell frequently incorporates audio and video into her conceptual remixes of online culture. Also: make note of the blog!

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untitledImplosion_smJim Kazanjian, Untitled (Implosion), Archival Pigment Print, 2009


Aberrations, an exhibition of Jim Kazanjian’s hallucinatory photo-composites are on view at 23 Sandy through the end of the month. Kazanjian’s images are pretty amazing, and I was happy to pen a short essay about his work, which can be downloaded here (PDF). Aberrations is on view through Saturday, May 30.

Chen QuilinChen Quilin, from the Garden series, 2007. From China Urban at Reed College.


Readers of the Oregonian might have spotted a few of my reviews in the paper last month. This new gig is particularly exciting to me for two reasons: I haven’t penned local reviews on a regular basis in a few years, and the O is the only daily I’ve ever written for. So far, they’ve been great editors and have been more than generous with their creative allowances, so I’m excited to help the paper expand its critical presence in the local art community.

The three pieces I’ve written so far can be read by following the links below:

Review: Susan Seubert at Froelick Gallery

In its best moments, Seubert’s balancing act of horror and beauty yields artworks that are exquisitely tense and captivating. At other times, though, the two qualities work against each other, creating the sensation that the photos want their proverbial cake and to eat it, too.

“Science/Fiction,” Seubert’s sixth show with Charles Froelick, walks this tightrope with a lighter touch than we’ve come to expect, and employs an array of techniques and strategies to explore notions of home and family, scientific achievement, natural beauty and — just to keep things interesting — mass annihilation.

A Short Editorial Recap of Photolucida

While the Portland nonprofit has garnered a stellar national reputation for serving the needs of its conference attendees, Photolucida is still figuring out its relationship to the local community. While early incarnations of the biennial emphasized citywide exhibitions and public photography events, the increasing popularity of its portfolio reviews has made it even harder for the small organization to organize broader programming.

Review: China Urban at Reed College

Chen Qiulin’s video cycle and color photographs bear poetic witness to the demolition of her hometown, which was flattened and flooded to make way for the [Three Gorges] Dam. Beginning with “Bei Fu,” Qiulin intersperses footage of Wanzhou’s destruction with operatic vignettes of costumed characters engaged in their own destructive dramas. Subsequent videos continue this blend of documentary and performance practices, casting the regions’ drowning death as the central arc of Qiulin’s epic Chinese opera. The artist’s most recent video, “Garden,” follows two migrant workers as they haul cumbersome vases of artificial peonies by foot on an all-day journey through the dense, hazy city. However unnatural, their pink floral arrangements are bright explosions of color in the dingy landscape of overpasses and narrow alleyways.

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Tim Lee, “Untitled (James Osterberg, 1970),” C-print, 2004


GLOOMY SKIES MAKE GREAT SOFTBOXES
NORTHWEST PHOTOGRAPHY NOW

A Presentation by Chas Bowie

PNCA • 1241 NW Johnson, Portland OR
Wednesday, March 18, 2009 • 12:30 pm

In Gloomy Skies Make Great Softboxes, Portland art critic Chas Bowie surveys the state of contemporary Northwest photography, assessing the work of regional artists who are actively cultivating new photographic idioms and avenues of exploration.

The Pacific Northwest has a longstanding and multi-faceted engagement with photography, as evidenced in part by the legacy of Portland’s Blue Sky Gallery; Seattle’s acclaimed Monsen Collection; and Vancouver BC’s concentration of noted “photoconceptualists.” These disparate traditions are not only well-documented, but markedly at odds with one another, rendering any Northwest photography “scene” more compartmentalized than unified.

As the demographic makeup of the Northwest shifts, however, so too does the application of photography in the fine arts. Gloomy Skies Make Great Softboxes demonstrates how emerging artists such as Isaac Layman (Seattle), Andrew O’Brien (Eugene), and Holly Andres (Portland) are transcending regional aesthetic trends and moving toward an increasingly progressive and critical mode of image-making.

peterbrown4lPeter Brown, “Snapping Turtle Sunning on the Road, Sand Hills, Nebraska,” C print, 2005


The Fall/Winter issue of SPOT arrived today, sporting a cool cover from emerging Houston artist Ariane Roesch. The Houston Center for Photography‘s twice-yearly mag is a critical and sentimental favorite, so I’m pleased to be included in the new issue with a review of Peter Brown and Kent Haruf’s collaborative ode to the High Plains,  West of Last Chance. The review has been added to the Selected Writings section of this site, but I encourage everyone to hunt down an actual copy of this handsome photography magazine for themselves.

While West of Last Chance never set off to be an encyclopedic record of the region (the Midwest’s penitentiaries, army bases, cookie-cutter suburbs, and migrant workers are among the absent), Brown and Haruf depict a sort of lyric taxonomy in their subjects: Hand-painted signs, pickup trucks, superhighways and gravel roads, Wal-marts, grain elevators, crosses, high school mascots, diners, swallows, post offices, cattle, and mechanics all coalesce into an ambiguous geography of unequivocal alone-ness. In one lonely Nebraska highway scene, Brown presents a suitcase-sized tortoise, camouflaged by the baked sandy asphalt of the roadway he paddles across, like a holdover apparition from the Plain’s Paleolithic era.

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Doug Keyes, “Chuck Close,” 1999, dye destruction print


In recognition of the “unprecedented number of applications by photographers” to the 9th Northwest Biennial, the Tacoma Art Museum is hosting a five-hour extravaganza Saturday entitled Taking Pictures Through Multiple Lenses: Photography in The Biennial.

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Rebecca Cummins, who teaches at University of Washington and is a very interesting artist in her own right, will moderate a conversation between four Biennial photographers: Michael Kenna, Doug Keyes, Isaac Layman, and Susan Seubert. The lineup promises to be a compelling mix—the artists, all extremely good at what they do, each approach photography with very different conceptual and aesthetic attitudes.

l26Layman is incredibly bright and talented, as I’ve mentioned here before, and I was a fan of Keyes long before moving to the Northwest. (Keye’s recent monograph, Collective Memory, is fantastic, and from what I gather, the first printing is going fast.) Kenna’s work isn’t a personal favorite, but that’s about my tastes and preferences, not the merit of his photography.

maskHis relatively traditional approach to the medium, his exquisite attention to craft and technique, and his years of popular success should all nicely balance nicely the younger artists’ experimentation. Portland’s Seubert the wild card I’m curious about; some of her series, including “The Ten Most Popular Places to Dump a Body in the Columbia River Gorge” and “Chimeras” hold up really well and continue to impress me, but I wish more of her work had the same effect. (Actually, her editorial work knocks me out. If you want to see really well-done assignment work, look no further. I grew up around this kind of photography, and can’t help but stop in my tracks when I see it done so well.)

Taking Pictures Through Multiple Lenses: Photography in The Biennial
February 28, 11 am-4 pm

Submissions to The 9th Northwest Biennial saw an unprecedented number of applications by photographers. These numbers reflect the tremendous growth in this medium over the past decade. Historically, artists were bound by the limitations of film and equipment, but today many select from a myriad of technologies, processes, and tools.
Biennial artists Michael Kenna, Doug Keyes, Isaac Layman, and Susan Seubert participate in a half-day program discussing photography’s role in fine art and commercial imagery. Rebecca Cummins, Associate Professor at University of Washington School of Art, moderates a panel conversation.
Cost is $10 and includes museum admission; $5 for members and students with ID. Email Education@TacomaArtMuseum.org to reserve your seat.


Thumbnails, from top:

Isaac Layman, “Bookcase,” 2006, archival inkjet print
Michael Kenna, “Skyline, Study 3, Shanghai, China,” 2008, gelatin silver print
Susan Seubert, “Mask,” tintype
09202101Stereograph Representing a Telescope, anon, c. 1862, from the Getty Collection


On the occasion of the upcoming exhibition, History of the Stereo Card, at Portland’s 3D Center of Art and Photography, March 5-May 3, 2009, Oliver Wendell Holmes’ classic, “The Stereoscope and the Stereograph:”

(The Daguerreotype) has fixed the most fleeting of our illusions, that which the apostle and the philosopher and the poet have alike used as the type of instability and unreality. The photograph has completed the triumph, by making a sheet of paper reflect images like a mirror and hold them as a picture.

This triumph of human ingenuity is the most audacious, remote, improbable, incredible,—the one that would seem least likely to be regained, if all traces of it were lost, of all the discoveries man has made. It has become such an everyday matter with us, that we forget its miraculous nature, as we forget that of the sun itself, to which we owe the creations of our new art. Yet in all the prophecies of dreaming enthusiasts, in all the random guesses of the future conquests over matter, we do not remember any prediction of such an inconceivable wonder, as our neighbor round the corner, or the proprietor of the small house on wheels, standing on the village common, will furnish any of us for the most painfully slender remuneration. No Century of Inventions includes this among its possibilities. Nothing but the vision of a Laputan, who passed his days in extracting sunbeams out of cucumbers, Could have reached such a height of delirium as to rave about the time when a man should paint his miniature by looking at a blank tablet, and a multitudinous wilderness of forest foliage or an endless Babel of roofs and spires stamp itself, in a moment, so faithfully and so minutely, that one may creep over the surface of the picture with his microscope and find every leaf perfect, or read the letters of distant signs, and see what was the play at the “Variétés” or the “Victoria,” on the evening of the day when it was taken, just as he would sweep the real view with a spy-glass to explore all that it contains.

When human art says to each one of us, I will give you ears that can hear a whisper in New Orleans, and legs that can walk six hundred miles in a day, and if, in consequence of any defect of rail or carriage, you should be so injured that your own very insignificant walking members must be taken off, I can make the surgeon’s visit a pleasant dream for you, on awaking from which you will ask when he is coming to do that which he has done already,—what is the use of poetical or rhetorical amplification? But this other invention of the mirror with a memory, and especially that application of it which has given us the wonders of the stereoscope, is not so easily, completely, universally recognized in all the immensity of its applications and suggestions. The stereoscope, and the pictures it gives, are, however, common enough to be in the hands of many of our readers; and as many of those who are not acquainted with it must before long become as familiar with it as they are now with friction-matches, we feel sure that a few pages relating to it will not be unacceptable.

Read the complete essay at the Atlantic Monthly, where “The Stereoscope and the Stereograph” was first published 150 years ago this June.
(Less anthologized, but equally lyrical and inspired is Holmes’ follow-up essay from 1863, “The Doings of the Sunbeam.”)

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Oscar Muñoz, “Línea del destino (Line of destiny),” 2006, single screen projection




A girl named Bice, someone’s ex-sister-in-law, and another named Lydia, someone else’s ex-secretary, asked him please to take a snapshot of them while they were playing ball among the waves. He consented, but since in the meanwhile he had worked out a theory in opposition to snapshots, he dutifully expressed it to the two friends:

“What drives you two girls to cut from the mobile continuum of your day these temporal slices, the thickness of a second? Tossing the ball back and forth, you are living in the present, but the moment the scansion of the frames is insinuated between your acts it is no longer the pleasure of the game that motivated you but, rather, that of seeing yourselves again in the future, of rediscovering yourselves in twenty years’ time, on a piece of yellowed cardboard (yellowed emotionally, even if modern printing procedures will preserve it unchanged). The taste for the spontaneous, natural, lifelike snapshot kills spontaneity, drives away the present. Photographed reality immediately takes on a nostalgic character, of joy fled on the wings of time, a commemorative quality, even if the picture was taken the day before yesterday. And the life that you live in order to photograph it is already, at the outset, a commemoration of itself. To believe that the snapshot is more true than the posed portrait is a prejudice…”

So saying, Antonino darted around the two girls in the water, to focus on the movements of their game and cut out of the picture the dazzling glints of the sun on the water. In a scuffle for the ball, Bice, flinging herself on the other girl, who was submerged, was snapped with her behind in close-up, flying over the waves. Antonino, so as not to lose this angle, had flung himself back in the water while holding up the camera, nearly drowning.

“They all came out well, and this one’s stupendous,” they commented a few days later, snatching the proofs from each other. They had arranged to meet at the photography shop. “You’re good; you must take some more of us.”

Antonino had reached the conclusion that it was necessary to return to posed subjects, in attitudes denoting their social position and their character, as in the nineteenth century. His antiphotographic polemic could be fought only from within the black box, setting one kind of photography against another.

“I’d like to have one of those old box cameras,” he said to his girl friends, “the kind you put on a tripod. Do you think it’s still possible to find one?”

“Hmm, maybe at some junk shop…”

“Let’s go see.”

The girls found it amusing to hunt for this curious object; together they ransacked flea markets, interrogated old street photographers, followed them to their lairs. In those cemeteries of objects no longer serviceable lay wooden columns, screens, backdrops with faded landscapes; everything that suggested an old photographer’s studio, Antonino bought. In the end he managed to get hold of a box camera, with a bulb to squeeze. It seemed in perfect working order. Antonino also bought an assortment of plates. With the girls helping him, he set up the studio in a room of his apartment, all fitted out with old-fashioned equipment, except for two modern spotlights.

Now he was content. “This is where to start,” he explained to the girls. “In the way our grandparents assumed a pose, in the convention that decided how groups were to be arranged, there was a social meaning, a custom, a taste, a culture. An official photograph, or one of a marriage or a family or a school group, conveyed how serious and important each role or institution was, but also how far they were all false or forced, authoritarian, hierarchical. This is the point: to make explicit the relationship with the world that each of us bears within himself, and which today we tend to hide, to make unconscious, believing that in this way it disappears, whereas…”

“Who do you want to have pose for you?”

“You two come tomorrow, and I’ll begin by taking some pictures of you in the way I mean.”

“Say, what’s in the back of your mind?” Lydia asked, suddenly suspicious. Only now, as the studio was all set up, did she see that everything about it had a sinister, threatening air. “If you think we’re going to come and be your models, you’re dreaming!”

Bice giggled with her, but the next day she came back to Antonino’s apartment, alone.

The Adventure of a Photographer

sleeping-beauty-16

One of my favorite books of the past year, Sleeping Beauty by John Sparagana (1, 2) and Mieke Bal, is at the center of an enviable launch party in Chicago Saturday afternoon. Corbett vs. Dempsey Gallery is hosting the official release, which is set to feature a short concert by Glenn Kotche. Best known as the drummer for Wilco, Kotche also performs and records as a solo percussionist; at the Sleeping Beauty event, he’s scheduled to perform two pieces by Minimalist composer Steve Reich. Sparagana’s work will be on view, and he’ll be there to sign books, but the press release I have encourages early arrival at this free event.

sleeping-beauty

Sleeping Beauty is the first publication in the Project Tango series from University of Chicago Press. Project Tango is described as “a new series of experimental collaborations between artists and writers,” and if future titles sport the creative integrity of the Sparagana + Bal pairing, they’ll quickly become essential acquisitions. [Disclosure Alert: I have known John for nearly a decade, and although we've never been close friends, we keep in touch sporadically, and I'm a longtime fan of his work. This mildly embarrassing piece I wrote in 2002 includes a short review of a great show he created that year for FotoFest.]

Having collaged, altered, and otherwise obscured images from popular magazines since the late 1990s, Sparagana has spent the past several years “distressing” images of desire, glamour, and wealth, as he dubs his signature technique. At its most reductive, “distressing” is another word for “crumpling,” but to call it that would be a gross oversimplification. Sparagana rubs, wrinkles, and weathers his carefully-chosen images until they’re as frail as ancient texts, and one imagines that they could turn the whole work or art to dust by breathing on it too hard. In the artist’s hands, the paper’s inky coating cracks into a dense latticework of crystallized webs, draping the original images in blankets of crackled gauze. As Mieke Bal writes in Sleeping Beauty, “The act of destruction is reiterated, so much so that, at some point, the sheet of paper becomes soft, voluptuous to the touch, flexible like a fabric such as satin. The image loses its predictable aspect. It becomes enigmatic, hard to read as what it was, novel and unheard of.”

sleeping-beauty-12While it’s tempting to read this process as a simple, if violent, metaphor for media critique, this interpretation doesn’t account for the countless hours of tender attention Sparagana spends on each work, nor does it address the erotic allure of his primary imagery. These elements are made clearer in later works, where the artist collages distressed images with their pristine orginals, creating—as Bal rightly points out—”interventions” in the manufactured seduction of the fashion spreads. These disruptions jolt our attention, scattering our attention onto three simultaneous fields of meaning: the glamorous pull of the original image; the fragile tactility of the distressed areas; and the startled awareness of the original’s complex visual and cultural coding. It becomes a visual experience whose closest analogy is the short moment when, awakening from a dream, one tries to fall back asleep so that the rewards and riches of our slumbering fantasties might manifest themselves completely.

Corbett vs. Dempsey, 1120 N. Ashland Ave. 3, Chicago

Saturday, January 31, at 4pm

10stru_ca1ready1Thomas Struth, “Hermitage 1, St. Petersburg,” 2005

Beginning on January 28, I will be teaching an 8-week course about art writing at PNCA, which I invite everyone to consider taking. Art Criticism + Journalism meets Wednesday nights (6:30-8 pm) through March 18, and is offered through the school’s Continuing Education department.

The class premiered last fall, and was more engaging and dynamic than I had even hoped for. PNCA has extended it from a 6-week course to 8 weeks this semester, which will allow for even more in-class development, feedback, and exploration. The course is open to all levels of experience, and the class of 2007 included a frighteningly bright high school senior, the former art director of a national culture magazine, and an investment banker who wanted to write about the opera in his retirement.

Focusing primarily on reviews of visual art shows (although students are encouraged to write about all art forms), classes are comprised of discussions, lectures, writing exercises, and readings. The craft of writing insightful, persuasive reviews is covered in depth (drawing largely from the texts of Terry Barrett, Sylvan Barnet, and Henry Sayre), but we also discuss many of the social/pragmatic issues that commonly face art critics. This includes topics ranging from the usefulness of negative reviews to practical issues like starting your own blog and writing effective pitches.

If anyone is interested in signing up for the class, I encourage you to do so, or to email me with questions (chasbowie @ gmail). Classes start in less than two weeks!

barer_c-01Cara Barer, Houston, TX.
Projected winner of the 2008 Critical Mass book award.*




I just finished viewing 160 online portfolios for Critical Mass, the Portland-based competition that awards two to three photographers a year with swanky, fully-funded, widely-distributed monographs of their very own. Like a gaggle of pudenda-checking Westminster judges, 199 “of the world’s best curators, editors, and professionals,” along with myself, were given 10 images and an artist statement from each aspirant. A lively game of Hot or Not: The Roland Barthes Edition followed, with each photographer receiving a score of 0, 1, or 5.

It was, as with everything in life, a bon-bon hunt in Turd Hollow.

My criteria for evaluation is moderately pluralistic; it essentially boils down to “Keep the hoary clichés to a minimum.” In the course of looking through the portfolios, however, I noticed several other, subconscious evaluative measures:

  • If you photographed anyone who could be described as a “villager,” you almost certainly got a 0.
  • If your subjects were selected because they possess only four of the five senses, you almost certainly got a 0.
  • If you and I are friends, you got a 1. Call it the Great Nepotism Equalizer.®
  • If my first thoughts were either “Michael Kenna” or “Keith Carter,” you almost certainly got a 0.
  • If your work was mostly good, but looked like an Alec Soth outtake, you probably got a 1. (See you in the blogosphere.)
  • If I was compelled to enlarge all 10 of your jpegs, you got at least a 1.
  • People could be a lot more subtle with the Photoshop. Just saying.
  • I feel bad for photographers who make exactly one stunning image and nine unsuccessful attempts to bottle that same magic. I gave them all 1’s, to restore the symmetry.
  • Few phrases are as neutered and meaningless today as “politically correct,” yet it seemed entirely appropriate for a few of the treacly series I saw. Those were the only times I wished I could vote with negative integers.


These guidelines helped to trim a lot of the fat, although I disregarded a few of them more than once. Thankfully, we could vote for all the 5’s we wanted, and didn’t have to whittle it down to a top three. There were lots of 3’s and 4’s on my list—work that successfully avoided all the pitfalls listed above and stood firmly on its own merit—but if they weren’t honest, unqualified 5’s, they had to be lumped with the other, less remarkable 1’s.

The 21(!) artists I maxed out my voting privileges for all surprised me in one way or another—whether by turning a familiar convention on its head, or using techniques and strategies I typically don’t respond to and employing them so well I had to tip my hat. Plenty of the artists I reviewed know exactly what to do with their eyes and their equipment; the ones included here similarly know just what to do, but then shift everything a few degrees off-axis to create something disorienting and fresh.

In no particular order…

riedler_r-02Reiner Riedler, Vienna Austria. Vacation time in the era of simulacra.




abbott_j-08John Abbott, Irvine, CA. Neo-Modernist abstractions of power lines and communication towers.




lockwood_w-05Walter Lockwood, Los Angeles, CA. Sergio Leone flicks, performed by Asian American cast.




aaronson_j-06Jeffrey Aaronson, Santa Barbara, CA. Scenes from the US/Mexico border.




percher_e-05Eric Percher, Brooklyn, NY. Theatrical portraits of high-power young businessmen.




heller_r-05Robert Heller, Knoxville, TN. Birkenau concentration camp.




friedman_a-04Amanda Friedman, Hollywood, CA. Nocturnal landscapes, minus the usual banalities.




miller_g08Graham Miller, Fremantle, Australia. Edward Hopper meets Ray Carver in the land down under.




lampton_a-06Adam Lampton, Boston, MA. A sleepy Portugese colony is rapidly transformed into major gambling mecca.




sibilia_m-09Michael Sibilia, Hopewell Jct, NY. Remarkably vivid landscapes.




alleman_t-07Thomas Alleman, Los Angeles, CA. The only plastic camera work I’ve ever enjoyed.




brggemann_j-05Jörg Brüggemann, Berlin. The backpack/budget-tourism industry of Southeast Asia.




takemoto_h-10Hideki Takemoto, Hokaido, Japan. Memory and loss, rendered with Super8 camera.




cartagena_a-01Alejandro Cartagena, Monterrey, Mexico. Demolition landscapes in downtown Monterrey.




parisi_m-01Mary Parisi, Pacifica, CA. Wonderfully resuscitates the dormant genre of food photography.




plviranta_h-08Harri Pälviranta, Helsinki. Drunken, Finnish street fights. Enough said.




whittle_s-06Scott Whittle, Brooklyn, NY. Some of my favorite work. Scenes from Brooklyn’s Prospect Park.




kaufman_j-07Jessica M. Kaufman, Brooklyn, NY. Pastoralism and decay at Nazi concentration camps.




malone_a-02Alison Malone, Brooklyn, NY. Inside an elite, all-girl strain of the Masonic Youth secret society.




lancaster_l-10Lauren Lancaster, Abu Dhabi, UAE. Staff photographer of UAE newspaper depicts country’s complexities.




*My prediction of a Barer victory is purely speculative, based entirely on my wicked sooth-saying abilities. Here’s Barer on my olde blog.

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