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Monthly Archives: June 2008

Virginia Beahan and Laura McPhee, “Apple Orchard, Manzanar Japanese-American Relocation Camp, Owens Valley, California,” 1995, c-print

The blog post I had just begun contended that far too few photography writers archive their work online. Drawing a name from the proverbial hat to test my premise, I googled “Of Mother Nature and Marlboro Men,” and to my delight, a pdf of Deborah Bright’s essay appeared at the top of the results. If you’ve never read this po-mo classic, the internet (and Deborah Bright) just made it easier for you.

Here’s what Bright has to say about her essay:

Probably my most widely known essay, “Of Mother Nature” was an attempt to answer the question: “Why are there no great women landscape photographers?” With twenty years of hindsight, I can appreciate the polemical tone of the essay as an artifact of its time in the mid-1980s (raging gender wars within the Society for Photographic Education where I was active in the Women’s Caucus, an exciting energy as artists and scholars were speaking truth to power in the academy and art world and inventing new critical tools to dismantle entrenched minority privilege.) Those heady days seem distant, now, as conservative backlash has taken its toll. However, the fact that this essay still strikes a chord with so many young people indicates to me that it’s still doing its good work.

This essay was originally published in Exposure 23:1 (Winter 1985).

Download “Of Mother Nature and Marlboro Men” here, and find more of Bright’s essays here.

(I’m also happy to report that the hardest part of this entry was deciding which great female landscape photographer to use in illustrating the piece. There are so many to choose from… )

Virginia Beahan and Laura McPhee

Thomas Tulis, “Untitled (See Rock City),” 1991, cibachrome print

[Ed.—When I started pulling together links and articles for this web roundup, I was halfway through before realizing they were all somehow tied to my years as a photography student in Texas during the mid-90s. But I figured if Artforum could run two consecutive issues devoted to their editor’s Reagan-riffic glory days, one Around the Web about the “Photoshop 4” years wouldn’t hurt. This post goes out to everyone who lived through this.]*

Just as most photographers have one picture or one image-maker who inspired them to pick up a camera, A.D. Coleman was the single impetus for my interest in photo criticism. Critical Focus and Light Readings were my sacred texts in college, and they inspired me to start making sense of the exhibitions I was voraciously consuming by writing out my analysis and opinion. (I really wish I could find those early stabs at the work of Mariko Mori, Cassio Vasconcellos, and Thomas Tulis.) When I saw Coleman in Houston a few months ago, he said that he was essentially retired from journalistic criticism, and had turned his focus to poetry and curatorial projects (including a retrospective of the wonderful Arno Rafael Minniken and a group exhibition of Chinese documentary photographers), and writes essays at a more measured pace than in previous decades. He also maintains C: The Speed of Light, which along with ZoneZero, were the sites for photonerds in those early years of the interweb. I was poking around on Coleman’s online newsletter today, and ran across a typically smart and readable essay about photographic experimentation that he wrote in 2000 for the exhibition this is [not] a photograph. You can read it here (pdf), but probably for a short time only, before it heads off for the Photography Criticism CyberArchive.

Mark Steinmetz, from the series “South Central,” 1991-3

Speaking of Thomas Tulis, things seem very inactive on his front, as far as I discern from Googleville. He, William Greiner, and Mark Steinmetz were my Southern-photographer heroes in college, but Tulis has an elusive presence online today. There’s a fairly comical Wiki (“Tulis lives a very simple life.”), a five-year old article about starving artists in Atlanta, an online gallery of his paintings (who knew?), which are… um… different…, and an Amy Stein post inquiring as to his whereabouts that went unanswered. (Oh yeah, I almost forgot about the pictures I discovered of Tulis shirtless. At least we know he looks good.) Thomas—the internet calls you. Please turn up online to claim your Recently Rediscovered/Unfairly Obscured Photographer e-card!

There’s been a rash of online video interviews with photographers making the rounds lately, but how about taking a break, making your English teacher happy, and reading interviews with contemporary masters over at the Journal of Contemporary Art. Take a pick from a huge selection of gems from the mid-90s, such as Uta Barth, Larry Clark, Miwa Yanagi, Joan Fontcuberta, and Cindy Sherman, who I think is really going to go somewhere with this photography thing if she sticks with it!

Finally, in keeping with this theme of Pecker-era photography, I’d like to send a shout-out to See: A Journal of Visual Culture, which was, in my opinion, the finest American photo magazine of the decade, and which I sorely miss.

*[Doesn’t it seem odd that Metamorphoses was reviewed here?]

Fred Muram, “Re-Conjoined Twins,” 2006 (Fred Muram and Mike Simi of Fire Retard Ants)

On the topic of passing out thank-yous, I have endless gratitude for the incoming links and nice things that have been said about That’s a Negative online and in emails. (I’ll write back soon, I promise!) This was especially cool: Regina Hackett at the Seattle P-I compiled her top ten eleven photo blogs last week, and That’s a Negative was first up to the plate! Zoe Strauss, I Heart Photograph, Fire Retard Ants (by Seattle artists Mike Simi and Fred Muram) all make the list, as does Alec Soth, which is totally cheating.

That’s a Negative doesn’t have a blogroll because when I tried compiling one, it looked like every single blogroll on every single blog I visited. So on the occasion of Hackett’s Top Ten Eleven List, here’s mine, in alphabetical order:

1000 Words
Lens Culture
No Caption Needed
Notes on Politics, Theory, & Photography
Page 291
Shane Lavalette
State of the Art
We Can’t Paint

Honorable mentions to everyone on my Google reader, and special lifetime achievement award to (duh) Conscientious.

Roger Fenton, “The Queen’s Target,” 1860, albumen silver print

Thank you to everybody who came to “Before there was Ballen” yesterday at Quality Pictures. I was thrilled to have such a great turnout and a provocative discussion about Roger’s work at the end of the presentation. Extra thanks to Erik Schneider at Quality Pictures for hosting the event and supporting challenging photography, as well as the ideas that surround it.

You can read two very kind writeups of the talk here and here. And to answer the question put forth in Carlisle’s summary: Yes, there are plans to publish BtwB, and that’ll be announced here when the time comes. (Thank you for asking!) In the meantime, I think That’s a Negative will take a well-deserved Ballen Break™ in order to focus on some of the other amazing photography out there that’s calling my name. Regularly scheduled blogging will resume momentarily.

Please join me this Saturday for “Before there was Ballen” and a light brunch at Quality Pictures Contemporary Art. In conjunction with the closing of Roger Ballen: Photographs, I will talk about the artist’s work and show that, although Ballen’s photographs look like nothing else being exhibited today, they spring from a myriad of traditions that can be traced back to the dawn of photography.
Quality Pictures Contemporary Art, 916 NW Hoyt, Sat June 28, 10 am, free

Anon, c. 1850

August Sander, Dwarfs, 1912

Diane Arbus, “Identical Twins, Roselle, NJ,” 1967

Shelby Lee Adams, “The Rambo Boys,” 1987

Roger Ballen, “Twins, Western Transvaal,” 1993

I was saddened but not altogether surprised to learn that the title of the BBC’s series about the history of photography wasn’t a direct allusion to yours truly. I haven’t had a chance to sit down with this yet, but I typically love watching (and to a lesser extent, critiquing) programs like these. [Edit: Just based on my quick glances while posting these links, this show looks incredible!] Here’s part one from the first installment, Fixing the Shadows:

Episode 1, Fixing the Shadows, parts 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Episode 2, Documents for Artists, parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Epidose 3, Right Time, Right Place, parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Epidose 4, Paper Movies, parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Episode 5, We are Family, parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Episode 6, Snap Judgements, parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Daniel Barron, from A Numb Hinge at Pushdot Studio

Although I’ve only seen Daniel Barron‘s unnerving photo-imagery once or twice, the growing voice inside of me is insisting that I really, really like it. The Olympia, WA resident has a show at Pushdot called A Numb Hinge, which savvy readers can unscramble to spell “human being.” “I photograph things I believe are vital to the human experience – biological or otherwise,” writes the artist. “I then combine these images to create familiar, yet altogether new entities or structures, that elicit visceral emotional responses ranging from fascination and wonder to repulsion and fear.” I, for one, am very excited to see A Numb Hinge. Pushdot Studio, 1021 SE Caruthers, Mon-Fri, July 1-25.

Melody Owen, \One of my very favorite Portland artists (although she hasn’t called Portland home in years) returns for a new show at Elizabeth Leach. Melody Owen‘s Alexandria, I’m Waiting presents a collection of work in photography, collage, video, and sculpture the artist made while on residencies in Iceland, Quebec, and Paris. Owen also has a small show on view at Reed College’s CaseWorks gallery, and will give a talk at Reed on July 17, 7 pm. Elizabeth Leach Gallery, 417 NW 9th, Tues-Sat, July 3-Aug 8. Reed College, 3203 SE Woodstock, Mon-Sun, through July 20.

While I’m not usually a big fan of juried exhibitions, Newspace’s annual roundup is usually a lot of fun. TJ Norris took the juror’s seat this year, writing, “The subject matter here ranges to cover cultural influences, which blend hints of private or public space, to works that rely on the quirky domestic gaze or even more esoteric abstraction.” What’s really impressive is that they published a 48-page catalogue in conjunction with the show. Whoever made that happen—nice work! Newspace Center for Photography, 1632 SE 10th, Mon-Sun, July 3-27.

Also at Newspace this month: Among the myriad workshops and classes available (including one on street photography called “The Concrete Jungle” which is a difficult expression to use about Portland without cracking up), is a free talk entitled “It’s Not About the Money, But Let’s Talk About it Anyway,” by Erik Schneider of Quality Pictures. Based on previous conversations I’ve had with Schneider, I’d venture that he’ll address a, shall we say, lack of business acumen among many artists and discuss some of the professional and financial considerations that occur between artists and galleries. Besides being a top-notch gallerist, Schneider’s also a CPA, so I’m inclined to listen up. (Incidentally, the talk is billed as being geared to artists and collectors alike.) Newspace, Sun July 20, 11 am, free.

Rauschenberg Lotus SeriesIn a touching and fitting tribute to Robert Rauschenberg, Blue Sky Gallery is presenting The Lotus Series, the late artist’s final series of prints. Based on hundreds of photographs that Rauschenberg made on his trips to China in the 1980s, these 12 prints ought to be considered in relationship to his 100-foot photograph, “Chinese Summerhall,” which derived from the same travels. Ellen Susan‘s wet collodion portraits of US soldiers will also be on view, and Susan will talk about her work at the gallery on Sat, July 5, 3 pm. Blue Sky Gallery, 122 NW 8th, Tues-Sun, July 3-Aug 3.

For the second month in a row, Charles Hartman Fine Art presents the Portland debut of another Japanese photographer, and I’m not complaining. Emi Anrakuji is regarded as one of the country’s most talented emerging artists, and has just published her third book with Nazraeli Press. From what little I can gather, Emi deals heavily with self-portraiture, dream states, eroticism, magic, and invented scenarios. This has potential to be July’s sleeper hit. Charles A. Hartman Fine Art, 134 NW 8th, Tues-Sat, July 2-26.

Sadly, it looks like July is going to be our last opportunity to catch any photography at Quality Pictures for a few months, as they prepare for a run of exhibitions in other media. As if to ease the transition, though, this month’s show, Urbania, highlights the disorienting pigment prints of Gerald Slota, as well as works on paper by Christopher Rose, and the unsettling sculptures of David Isenhour. And, of course, Holly Andres’ Sparrow Lane remains on view through August 2. Quality Pictures Contemporary Art, 916 NW Hoyt, Tues-Sat, July 3-Aug 30.

Last but not least, Photolucida’s Northwest Reviews are happening July 26-27. If you’re not already registered, this doesn’t mean much to you, but be sure to block out the evening of Friday, July 26. That’s when all the registrants (most of whom are quite serious and dedicated emerging talents) open up their portfolios for ‘Lucida’s Portfolio Walk. In addition to the visiting photographers, eight local artists (including Angela Cash, whose untitled photograph appears here) will be showing their latest work, so it’s sort of like being able to conduct a few dozen studio visits in one fell swoop. Art Institute of Portland, 1122 NE Davis, 2nd floor, July 26, 6-9 pm, free.

Nicole Jean Hill, “Hissing Cockroach,” 2006, c-print

Blue Sky made efficient use of their three galleries this month with just as many exhibitions: Karen Glaser documented the wild kingdom; KayLynn Deveney made a portrait of solitary domestic life; and Nicole Jean Hill managed to unify them both in Home Turf.

Karen Glaser, \Glaser’s murky underwater landscapes, shot in the swamps near her Florida home, were hit-or-miss for me at best. It was refreshing to see someone use a color palette of dusky pinks, moss greens, and hazy azures that’s far more painterly than most of what we see today; I only wish I actually liked it better. “Ethereal swampiness” all too often gave way to “melon-y ocher” in the chromatics department. Some of the pieces, such as “Dust Storm” (pictured here) and “Turtle Hop” approached that elusive magical zone, but too many failed to transcend the genre of artful nature photography.

Several years ago, KayLynn Deveney moved into a South Wales apartment and met Albert Hastings, an elderly man who does all the things elderly men tend to do: feed pigeons, eat lunch, sit and reminisce, etc. Deveney adopted Bert as her muse, and recently published her extended portrait of Hastings in book form. Deveney attempted to emulate the rhythms of flipping through the book by hanging dry-mounted prints of varying sizes in a scattered fashion on the gallery wall. I’m not against this approach on principle, but in Deveney’s case, it made it hard to zero in on any of the stronger images, of which there were an unfortunate few. The project’s “hook” is that Bert hand-wrote autobiographical captions, which the photographer says, “create a new context for (her) photographs.” But scrawled captions like “Ironing my laundry,” “Enjoying my evening whiskey,” and “Shaving before going out” didn’t exactly blow open the doors of perception.

Thankfully, Nicole Jean Hill’s large-format color prints of exotic “critters” in their terrariums and assorted coops saved the day. Like an entomological version of Adrienne Salinger‘s In My Room, Hill’s Home Turf focuses on the individual’s personal space as much as on the human (or animal) figure. Hill photos of domestic ferrets, scorpions, cockateils, and iguanas go a step farther, though, to provide a glancing portrait of the pet owners, as seen through their own living spaces. When I first saw “Fire Eyes” (pictured here) at Newspace a few years ago, I flipped my lid for it (as did Amy Stein a few months ago on her blog), but seeing a gallery full of Hill’s critter pictures got a little repetitious. She doesn’t vary her framing or lighting too much, and this uniformity works against the photographs. Hill has also made extensive series on greyhounds and showbirds; a nice mix from these three series would have made for a more interesting exhibition. About half of her photos were total knockouts though, and virtually impossible not to love. (“Fire Eyes” definitely stands the test of time!) In an otherwise underwhelming month at Blue Sky, Nicole Jean Hill—tucked way in the back gallery—makes a trip to the gallery totally worthwhile before the exhibition closes this weekend.

Blue Sky Gallery, 122 NW 8th, Tues-Sun, shows end June 29.

Gabriele Leidloff, “Goethe,” 1996, radiograph

As I entered the hall I was confronted with the unfamiliar face of Goethe’s X-rayed plaster life mask. Goethe (1996) incarnates the leitmotiv of the exhibition: a scientist-artist alliance as testimony to Goethe’s interest in the mechanism of vision, his studies in optics in particular, and poetry. It is worth noting that masks were commonly used at that time, along with drawings and portraits, as photography was yet to be invented. The contrast between the density of the image and the artificial coldness of the light box that frames and displays the mask generated an uncanny feeling in me. It was as if I was in a hospital watching radiographs of patients rather than attending an art exhibition. The rather vague features of Goethe allowed me to build up in my mind how the living Goethe would have looked, given the fact that we do not have any portraits or drawings of him. Leidloff’s X-rayed mask seemed to bring to the surface the personality of Goethe and, departing from that, to allow me to create the physical lineaments of Goethe’s face. The inside becomes the outside. This turn runs counter to the usual way we operate, namely by starting from certain physical appearances to deduce the character of a person.

Excerpted from “The Enchanting World of Gabriele Leidloff: Imaging the Unseen in Between Science and Art”

Gabriele Leidloff

Joni Sternbach, “08.04.13 #7 Pilot Peak,” 2008, unique tintype. Critical Mass Book Award Winner, 2007

It was no surprise that when the emails and phone calls started coming in from the Photolucida folks following my last post about their organization, they weren’t looking to name me Guest of Honor at this year’s black tie gala. Although it was conceded here and there by various players within the nonproft that I had raised some good points, the key message was delivered succinctly by the board member who called my piece “naive.”

Last Friday I met with Photolucida Director Laura Moya to talk about what I had written. She pointed out a few factual errors I made, listened to me further articulate my grievances, filled me in on some of Photolucida’s challenges, expounded on their strengths, and ultimately proposed a “common ground” arrangement that will hopefully please us all (not just she and I, but photography enthusiasts at large). At no point, however, did I see where my naivety came into play: A understaffed, underfunded nonprofit, fueled by well-intentioned volunteers and board members who have varying degrees of involvement and experience, is what I presumed to be true of Photolucida, and that organizational profile is the very line of defense that everyone wished to impress on me.

In other areas I wasn’t so smart, though. My original post contained two sizable blunders: At one point I mentioned not having received press releases from Photolucida in years, which I thought absurd, since I’m the most photo-centric art writer in town. Moya said that she absolutely sent me one, and later provided me with a copy of the press release she mailed to the three local papers. I am more than willing to blame the grouchy mail sorter at my old workplace for this, but I’ll take a polygraph stating I never received that press release. But then it gets worse: You might remember that I wrote Photolucida provided zilch in the way of public programming, aside from their portfolio walk night. Evidently, in addition to the p-walk, the last event featured lectures by Louie Palu and the two artists exhibiting at Blue Sky, the Portland Grid Project exhibition at the now-defunct Portland Art Center, and workshops at Newspace by Mary Virginia Swanson and Darius Himes. I greatly regret my errors on this point (just as I regret not knowing about these events last year).

So was my mind completely reversed about Photolucida, and did I realize that my passive aggressive blog posts are but pathetic cries for attention? Take a guess, and then see if you’re correct after the break.

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Dave Schubert, “Lips,” 2007, silver gelatin print

This morning I filed my short review of small A project‘s final Portland exhibition, the goofily named but otherwise fantastic Every Picture Tells a Story… Or At Least is a Picture. Curated by local art stars Chris Johanson and Jo Jackson (neither of whom are photographers themselves), Every Picture presents an exciting and challenging collection of photographs, almost all of which were new to me. There’s no clear central theme that runs through the show, and it feels like Jackson and Johanson took the liberty of spotlighting a dozen photographers whose work they really admire. It’s always fun when artists do this, but I had a hard time writing about the actual exhibition in 430 scant words, so I thought I’d turn to the web instead. Every Picture introduced me to a slew of photographers I was unfamiliar with, so I thought I’d pass the introductions on, along with a few notes from my gallery visit.

“Lips,” by Dave Schubert (pictured above), competed with an untitled Terry Richardson for the outstanding stand-alone photo award. (More on Richardson later.) Schubert occupies that fourth-generation Nan Goldin zone of seedy lifestyle photography, wherein photographs of sex acts, drug consumption, and beautiful losers mingle with occasional still-lives and landscapes. Most are forgettable, but “Lips” shines like a full moon on a cloudy night: appearing briefly like a noir-ish mirage of lust and romance, before being swallowed back into the darkness. Curiously, the 16×20″ silver gelatin print is unique, so there’s no chance of scooping one up cheaply down the line.

Elieen Quinlan, “Smoke & Mirrors #13,” 2005, UV laminated chromogenic print mounted on Sintra

Eileen Quinlan was represented by three photographs from her “Smoke & Mirrors” series, which actually works better for me in jpeg format than in person. The concept is simple: Basing her abstractions on the two fabled ingredients of trickery and deception, Quinlan made hundreds of photographs of those two malleable, unfixed elements: smoke and mirrors. Her larger black and white prints of razor-sharp lines, tonal gradations, and wafty hazes recall Jan Groover’s formal commitment to abstracting sporks and cereal bowls, as well as certain elements of Eastern and Central European Modernism. As if to demonstrate the “nothing up my sleeve” aspect of the work, Quinlan accentuates the small flaws in her work by touching up the white areas with black SpotTone (sure to make all photo purists convulse in agony). I’d like these better if they actually looked a little nicer, but the smaller emerald green print is the only one that didn’t look like a half-finished darkroom experiment. (To be fair, Google turns up some examples that appear stronger than what was on view in Portland.)

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Gregory Blackstock, “Euroslide, San Diego County Fair, 1993” at Garde Rail Gallery

Compiling this list really has me looking at the calendar for an open weekend next month. This sounds like a perfect day of looking at photographs:

The Portland Art Museum likes to boast that it has the biggest permanent photography gallery west of the Mississippi, but I can only think of one photography show they’ve done in the past six years that sounds as interesting as the Seattle Art Museum’s current exhibition. Smoke and Mirrors “presents 34 works from SAM’s photography collection that prompt a compelling dialogue about vision and illusion.” With artists that include Hiroshi Sugimoto, Ralph Gibson, and Jan Groover, S&M sounds like a great reminder of how a museum can organize a thoughtful exhibition from its own collection that has something to say besides, “look what we bought.” Seattle Art Museum, 1300 First Ave, Tues-Sun, through Nov 9, $13

Outsider artist Gregory Blackstock is best known for his fantastic book of taxonomic drawings, Blackstock’s Collection. Garde Rail Gallery now introduces The Vernacular Photography of Gregory Blackstock, which looks like 65% Stephen Shore’s Uncommon Surfaces, 35% flea market treasure. Check the website if you don’t believe me. Garde Rail Gallery, 110 Third Avenue South, Wed-Sat, through Aug 2

Regular visitors to the Henry should already be familiar with the rotating exhibitions in the North Galleries, curated from the stunning Monsen photography collection. With motifs as simple as water, architecture, and abstraction, these small shows provide incredible opportunities to see incredibly rare and gorgeous pieces that span the history of photography. Their current selection, Somebody, highlights portraiture from the collection. Henry Art Gallery, 15 Avenue NE at NE 41st Street, Tues-Sun, through Aug 3, $10 (free for students)

Portland’s own Jim Riswold, whose photographs of plastic figurines and other kitschy objects have never made me pause for a second glance, is showing at G. Gibson Gallery. I couldn’t even be bothered to explain the many ways Riswold’s photos don’t work for me; D.K. Row’s review in the Oregonian hits a lot of the main points. G. Gibson Gallery, 300 South Washington Street, Tues-Sat, July 3-Aug 16.

One of the best photographers of the late 19th century, and the photographer of the Pacific Northwest, Darius Kinsey gets the royal treatment at Bellingham’s Whatcom Museum. Logging Days: Recent Donations of Darius Kinsey Photographs highlights 40 Kinseys, “most being exhibited for the first time.” Kinsey’s images of early loggers vamping and working in the undergrowth of mammoth firs rank among my favorite photographs of the American West. Whatcom Museum of History and Art, 121 Prospect Street, Bellingham, Tues-Sun, through Aug 16, free.

The final two shows don’t commence until July’s almost over, but they sound almost worth a trip in and of themselves. Howard House is readying two group exhibitions: Swedish Contemporary Video and Photography: Billing, Djurberg, von Hausswolff (who needs first names, anyway?), and New Photo, featuring the work of Richard Barnes, Martin Klimas, and Fred Muram. These three artists’ websites and work all remind me of how much I love photography. (Bonus: Solo show by Barnes coming up in Nov-Dec.) [Edit: The Swedish artists are Annika von Hausswolff, Johanna Billing, and Nathalie Djurberg.] Howard House, 604 Second Ave, Tues-Sat, July 24-Aug 23

Weegee on his fire escape (detail), c. 1939, photographer unknown.

It took me a few false starts before I was able to dive into the writings of historian/theoritician Geoffrey Batchen, who remains most well-known for his remarkable book, Burning with Desire: The Conception of Photography. For those who haven’t yet made the Batchen plunge, this brief interview covers a number of his overarching concerns, which are nothing if not ambitious. (Bonus: Read the New York Times‘ original review of Burning with Desire here.)

Holly Andres‘ photographs received some insightful analysis and praise last week from friend and colleague John Motley at the Portland Mercury. Also on the local front: small A projects is closing at the end of the month and heading to NYC. I’m in the middle of reviewing their current photography show, and was planning to post it over the weekend. This is a real blow to Portland’s art scene.

1000 Words, the new online photo mag that’s got everyone (rightfully) aflutter, just posted a nice short film about Stephen Shore, who serves to remind us how wonderfully articulate so many photographers are about their work. [Wow—YouTube user elphistone, who uploaded the video, has similar shorts about the Bechers, Martin Parr, Todd Hido, and others. If I still had a desk job and a boss, they’d both be so neglected tomorrow.]

Yesterday I started reading the deeply engaging Weegee and Naked City from the Defining Moments in American Photography series. Today the Times gives Mr. Felig the slideshow, three-click-through article, video, and primer” treatment, whatever the fuck that is. (Seriously, what is that?) Weegee would be most pleased.

Lastly, Aperture has thrown together a web-only tribute to the year 1968, which is fine once you get past the goofy intro. There’s a nice gallery of photojournalism from the likes of Bruno Barbey, Raymond Depardon, Don McCullin, and Elliot Erwitt, as well as a reprint of “The Unbearable Relevance of Photography” by the underrated Fred Richtin. And as a special bonus: groovy fonts, man!

Taryn Simon, “White Tiger (Kenny), Selective Inbreeding, Turpentine Creek WIldlife Refuge, Eureka Springs, Ark,” from An American Index of the Hidden and Familiar

I always enjoy it when blogger Joerg Colberg takes the time to flesh out his thoughts about photography at Conscientious, and wish he’d write more often. Yesterday, however, he authored a post about photographer Taryn Simon that was so puzzling, I feel moved to respond.

In an attempt to loosely define what sort of photography he enjoyed, Joerg pitted himself against photography that contained “an element of entertainment,” singling out the young photographer, whose two books, in my opinion, demonstrate exceptional depth and vision. My contention isn’t simply that Joerg shortchanges Simon’s powerful photography—much of the work that’s championed on Conscientious leaves me cold, so there’s obviously a difference of personal tastes at play—but that his take on her projects is uncharacteristically shortsighted.

Joerg begins with a dismissal of most street photography, writing that the genre too frequently relies on simple visual gags that makes him feel as if he’s watching an episode of Friends. This allows Joerg to broaden the common denominator of his displeasure to the vague “entertainment” factor. “I have noticed that the entertainment element appears to be quite common,” he writes. “Providing visual thrills, and then being left with (a feeling of)… ‘been there, seen that,’ and now we have to move on to see something even more exciting—because, after all, what would be entertainment without excitement?” At this point, I’m interested, but not quite sure where Joerg’s going with all this. The last place I expected him to arrive, though, is at the doorstep of Taryn Simon.

Taryn Simon, “Larry Mayes, Scene of the Arrest, The Royal Inn, Gary Indiana,” from The Innocents

Simon, just one depressing year older than I am, is a hugely successful photographer in both the art and editorial worlds, with an exhibition at the Whitney, a Guggenheim Fellowship, representation at Gagosian, and spreads in publications like the New York Times Magazine and the New Yorker under her belt. Moreover, I feel like she’s one of the rare hotshots who truly deserves the accolades. I became a fan with the publication of The Innocents, in which Simon made extraordinary portraits of more than 80 men and women who had done time in prison for crimes they were later exonerated of. Rather than systematically clicking off uniform headshots of them all, as so many contemporary photographers would have chosen to do, Simon brought the ex-cons to the scenes of the crimes they supposedly committed, and made dramatic, narrative images of them in these spots, accompanying the photographs with brief accounts of their injustices. (She occasionally photographed them at the sites where they were arrested, rather than at the crime scene, resulting in unforgettable portraits such as the one of Larry Mayes, who pathetically tried to hide between two filthy mattresses in an empty hotel room in Gary, Indiana.)

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Thomas Smillie, “Komodo Dragon and Keeper, Roy Jennier, at the National Zoo,” 1891

I am very pleased to announce that on Saturday June 28 at 10 am, I will deliver a special presentation about the work of Roger Ballen at Quality Pictures Contemporary Art. My new essay and slideshow, “Before There was Ballen,” will attempt to trace a spiritual and aesthetic heritage for the South African photographer’s disquieting, psychological images. Working mostly with lesser-known historical photographs, I aim to show that the themes and approaches evident in Ballen’s work—including the tensions between the theatrical and the documentary; order and chaos; the grotesque and the seductive; inner lives and outer expressions; men and beasts—have been in play since the dawn of photography.

Ralph Eugene Meatyard, ““Romance of Ambrose Bierce #3,” 1964

In addition to some of the leading names in photo history, such as August Sander, Matthew Brady, and Walker Evans, “Before There was Ballen” will highlight photographs of shot-up rifle targets from 1860, staged Pictorialist tableaux from the Reconstruction south, and early phrenological portraits of women from the Surrey County Lunatic Asylum.

Roger Ballen, “Selma Blair,” 2005

If you are in Portland, please come by for the talk; Saturday is also the last day you can catch the Ballen exhibition, which features nine new photographs making their US debut. Holly Andres’ fantastic Sparrow Lane will also be on view, and I’ve heard talk of a pretty nice spread of food at the event, as well.

Before There Was Ballen, Quality Pictures, 916 NW Hoyt, Sat June 28, 10 am, free.