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Monthly Archives: September 2008

Alex Webb, “US/Mexico Border (San Yisidro, CA),” c-print, 1979


I eagerly awaited the premier issue of Photography & Culture for so long that the new journal—edited by longtime favorites Val Williams, Alison Nordstrom, and Kathy Kubicki*—completely slipped my radar. The $40 price tag** also prevented me from pestering my local bookseller about the impending release date. This morning I was excited to learn that Berg Publishers has made the entire journal available free online, and my early impressions are very favorable. In their introductory letter, the editors state their intentions to “challenge the traditional language and mind-set of art history,” while fostering “new investigations of photographs.”

Photography has never been more interesting than it is today. Regarding this medium as it enters a state of flux, we are equally transfixed by the possibilities and implications of its technological advances, yet constantly refer to its past as we contemplate the ever renewing fascination with the archive. Photography & Culture will look at photography as an integral part of our contemporary culture, asking questions about a medium which, more than any other, illustrates our world, as well being a conduit for our imaginations, a provider of evidence and information and, at times, a kind of magic. It may also be a destroyer of illusions and a purveyor of horror.

Highlights from the table of contents include Shinrei Shashin: Photographs of Ghosts in Japanese Snapshots by Richard Chalfen, archival photographs of Ernest Shackleton’s ill-fated crew, and Geoffrey Batchen’s review of Dutch Eyes: A Critical History of Photography in the Netherlands. Hopefully, the editors will be able to maintain a critical tone that is academically rigorous yet vigorously readable, so that these rich topics germinate outside the confines of museum and university libraries.

*Kubicki probably doesn’t qualify as a “longtime favorite,” as I just heard of her this morning. I can, however, attest to the professional company she keeps.


**The per-issue newsstand price is $40, although non-institutional subscriptions are only $65. Volume 2 will be published this November, and then it goes to thrice-yearly in ’09.

I’ll skip the groveling and self-flagellation that usually follow stretches of blog blackout to say that paying gigs and personal sanity (rightfully) took priority over all of my passion projects, including That’s a Negative, although I remain dedicated to developing this site. The past six weeks or so found life too overcrowded for everything, so blogging had to take the backseat for a late summer break. (As did blog-reading; my Google Reader overfloweth.)

Out of necessity, my original goal of reviewing each of these shows was revised to the idea of having one long essay that somehow encapsulated all of the exhibitions. Unfortunately, that ship has already sailed. For the sake of wiping the e-slate clean and unshackling myself from the burden of reviews not yet written, here is a roll-call of everything I have intended to write about during this period of inactivity. In many cases, I really regret not being able to expound on my notes and thoughts, but I’d be working on this post until the Obama victory if I took the time to do so. I’m still on deadline and desperately short on time, but circumstances are conspiring to give me a little more blogging time very soon. Here, then, are the things I would have reviewed in a more perfect world.

In Portland:



Emi Anrakuji: IPY at Charles A. Hartman Fine Art




Andy O’Brien: “Star Maps: (l-r) Spike Jones, Nicolas Cage, Don Johnson” at Newspace’s Annual Juried Exhibition (Full disclosure: I bought the Nic Cage piece)




Melody Owen: Alexandria, I’m Waiting at Elizabeth Leach Gallery



In Seattle:



Isaac Layman: Photographs from Inside a Whale at Lawrimore Project. (My favorite show of the season; I must write about Layman soon.)




Gregory Blackstock: Vernacular Photography at Garde Rail




New Photo: Richard Barnes, Martin Klimas, and Fred Muram at Howard House (Fred Muram, “One Day I Will Learn to Build Things” pictured)




Ask a Banana, Baby: Swedish Contemporary Video and Photography at Howard House (Annika von Hausswolff, “A Given Moment in the History of Coming into Being” pictured)




Smoke & Mirrors at the Seattle Art Museum (through Nov 9)
A really well curated group show from the museum collection, exploring depictions of and experiments about ephemerality in photography, featuring Muybridge, Sugimoto, Nagatani, and many others. Titled for Eileen Quinlan’s photos of smoke and mirrors—many of which I like very much. (Quinlan, “Smoke & Mirrors #10” pictured)




Mark Soo “That’s That’s Alright Alright Mama Mama,” c-prints, 3-D glasses, and angled wall at Western Bridge‘s You Complete Me



In San Francisco:



The Art of Lee Miller at SFMOMA (through Sept 14)




Double Exposure: African Americans Before and Behind the Camera at the Museum of the African Diaspora (Roy DeCarava, “Couple Dancing” pictured) (through Sept 28)




Amy Stein: Domesticated at Paul Kopeikin Gallery