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“The best thing about a picture is that it never changes. Even when the people in it do.”
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“The best thing about a picture is that it never changes. Even when the people in it do.”
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DIVE DARK DREAM SLOW
Photographer and bookseller Melissa Catanese has been editing the vast photography collection of Peter J. Cohen, a celebrated trove of more than 20,000 vernacular and found anonymous photographs from the early to mid-twentieth century. Gathered from flea markets, dealers and Ebay, these prints have been acquired, exhibited and included in a range of major museum publications. In organizing the archive into a series of thematic catalogues, she has pursued an alternate reading of the collection, drifting away from simple typology into something more personal, intuitive and openly poetic. Her magical new artist’s book, Dive Dark Dream Slow, is rooted in the mystery and delight of the “found” image and the “snapshot” aesthetic, but pushes beyond the nostalgic surface of these pictures and reimagines them as luminous transmissions of anxious sensuality. Through a series of abandoned visual clues, from the sepia-infused shadow of a little girl running along a beach to silhouettes of a group of distant figures pausing upon a steep and snowy hill, a dreamlike journey is evoked. Like an album of pop songs about a girl (or a civilization) hovering on the verge of transformation, the book cycles through overlapping themes and counter-themes—moon and ocean; violence and tenderness; innocence and experience; masks and nakedness—that sparkle with deep psychic longing and apocalyptic comedy.
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Photographer Bronia Stewart recently spent nine months documenting the offscreen activities of the men and women who work at Babestation, an adult television and phone sex line based in Central London since 2002. The project was chosen by the Photographers’ Gallery to be part of FreshFaced + WildEyed, an annual competition for emerging photographers out of BA and MA programmes. Having completed her MA at the London College of Communications, the Babestation series is the first step for Stewart in a wider investigation into the themes of hyper-sexualisation, and how the media’s portrayal of women has influenced the nature of aspiration. Here, she speaks about her experience behind-the-scenes, and how she was able to capture such candid photos.
How did you end up shooting at Babestation?
For some time I’ve been interested in themes of aspiration, why some people succeed, why some don’t; what drives people to certain jobs and careers. I started out looking at the adult entertainment industry, and from this I ended up doing a series of portraits, which was my entry point.
Then I met a guy at the Erotica trade show in Kensington Olympia who works for the Adult Industry Trades Association, and through him I was introduced to Babestation’s PR woman. The Babestation studios are on Great Portland Street, opposite Radio 1. I didn’t really know what I was getting into but I was taking every opportunity, and I ended up shooting there for nine months, sometimes going three or four times a week.
What exactly is Babestation?
It’s a dedicated channel on Sky and you can also watch it on the internet. You can phone in and speak to the girl that’s on the screen, though you’ll probably have to wait in a queue, paying all the while. While you’re waiting you’ll be able to see her talking to someone else –there’s normally some mad set design like pink velvet or something – but you can’t hear the girl until your call is live. It gets really busy after the pubs shut.
How difficult was it to forge relationships there?
It was quite hard at the beginning to get the sort of access I was hoping for. The girls took a while to understand what I was trying to do. I like to get engrossed in subject matters so it was a good experience in learning how to build relationships.
Were you surprised by anything at Babestation?
Initially I thought it was going to be all about fame for the girls, but what I found out was that it was more about a working life. So while some of them had 20,000 followers on Twitter, it was about being able to provide for their family and earn good money. Also, I want to differentiate between people working in the sex industry, and people working in adult entertainment. What prostitution and what these girls are doing has no crossover
How do you feel personally about what they’re doing?
There’s an element of trust with these people that I have known for nine months and who I care about. I’m not going to be disingenuous and become judgmental in how I portray them, because that goes against everything I want to achieve. But I do want to make work that I hope provokes some debate about why things are the way they are.
What I started to realise is that the drive to do something like this is symptomatic of how the media has pushed the complete sexualisation of women. This is how you can get ahead; this is how you can make money. It’s easy; it doesn’t require education or qualifications. A lot of these girls have changed their bodies to become the perceived ideal woman. Massive lips, massive boobs, skinny, long hair extensions.
From the photos, Babestation seems like an upbeat place. What’s it like to work there?
Babestation is a proper business and it’s run as such. Also, it’s a nice environment. It’s a fun environment. Very secure, safe, comfortable. They’re treated well. All the men who work there are producers. In the photos I thought it was important to show the girls’ interaction with them because it’s very positive.
You chose to shoot on film. Why?
I enjoy everything about it. I enjoy the feel and the process of taking pictures. Also there’s a financial implication with film, so you become much more considered. A project like this really benefits from film because there’s no back camera, so your subjects will never see a bad picture of themselves. I think when you’re trying to gain trust this can really help.
I want to look at the industry of kiss and tell girls; particularly girls who sleep with footballers and sell their stories. Also, I’m looking at publications such as Heat magazine and the themes that come out of that: money, drama, body obsession, attractiveness. It’s a much bigger project – I’m excited.
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UNDER THE SKIN
Cinematography : Daniel Landin
Music by : Mica Levi
In early 2001, Jonathan Glazer began planning his next film. The director was then 35, a wildly sought-after maker of music videos and adverts who had just released his first film, the singular gangster movie Sexy Beast. His next was to be an adaptation of Michel Faber’s cult novel Under the Skin. The project ended up on ice. Work didn’t start until 2004.
Ten years later, Under the Skin is finished, and Glazer is in a publicists’ office in Soho, a well-preserved Londoner with a thicket of dark hair, tall enough to verge on the looming. Having spent almost all his 40s getting the film made, he must feel like a different man from the one who began it? “Well. Hmm. I … God. That’s a teaser.” He stalls. “I want to be honest. It’s just hard to articulate. I need to scratch my chin about that one. Can we pick it up later?”
He clearly finds interviews akin to visiting the dentist. “But I want to stand behind the film,” he says. The thing is, Under the Skin does invite you to ponder its creator. It concerns an alien in Glasgow, preying – obliquely but chillingly – on single men. They co-operate because the alien is played by Scarlett Johansson, who is still Johansson even in a mangy fur coat and wig. There is footage from cameras hidden in the van in which she tirelessly cruises; elsewhere, visions of her black, amniotic alien realm. Many will loathe it – the premiere at the Venice film festival was met with boos. It will also blow minds, its punk experimentalism and raw sensuality making pretty much everything else seem hopelessly quaint. Masterpiece is the word.
Interview phobia aside, Glazer is affable and open. He has the fractionally dazed air of a rescued castaway. “I’m a bit bereft without the film. It’s like falling in love. You think, what do I love? I love this.” He puffs on an electronic cigarette. The boos don’t matter: “Some people love it, some are repulsed. Fair enough.” We talk about literary adaptations. “I don’t think I’m the right man to adapt a book,” he says.
To recap: at the dawn of the noughties, he was cinema’s coming man, adored for his witty, ingenious ads for Nike, Guinness and more. Sexy Beast, with Ray Winstone playing a saveloy-tanned safecracker retired to the Costa Brava, was hailed as a surreal-ish modern classic. With Under the Skin shelved, he swept on instead to his 2004 film Birth, an uneasily gorgeous tale of a young boy who might be the reincarnated husband of a New York widow (Nicole Kidman). It was also booed at the Venice film festival. It was also a masterpiece. Fans claimed him as the new Kubrick. The world wondered what was next.
For a decade, he vanished behind a door marked Under the Skin, where events fell into three acts. The first involved a faithful adaptation of the novel that producer Jim Wilson sent Glazer while the pair worked on Sexy Beast. Glazer liked this early script, with its rendering of Faber’s carnivorous aliens. He just had no interest in making it. “I knew then that I absolutely didn’t want to film the book. But I still wanted to make the book a film.”
Puzzled, he sought to find out why. The longest phase in the process saw endless versions of a story assembled and dismantled. “It was the job. It wasn’t a hobby.” Days and nights slipped by. Weeks became months. Memories of normal life dimmed. Three years in, one co-writer Milo Addica made way for another, Walter Campbell. Eventually, the script revolved around a pair of aliens masquerading as a Scottish farmer and his wife. Brad Pitt signed to play the husband. There was still never a workable budget. Anyway, Glazer wasn’t ready. “I said I was giving up many times. I don’t think I ever meant it.” Others around him suggested he should. Wilson says he grew “convinced this just wasn’t going to happen”.
Then came the Eureka moment. What Glazer wanted, he realised, was to make a film representing, as purely as possible, an alien view of our world. Everything clicked. “We took years to get there, and suddenly it was obvious.”
Pitt moved on. Work focused on the female character alone. Glazer and Campbell took their 100-page script and deleted the 60 in which she played no part. Elaborate special effects sequences were tossed. “It was like a big, extravagant rock band turning into PJ Harvey,” Wilson says. Glazer obsessed over how the world might really look to new eyes. “I liked having it in my head. Finding the logic, the images. It’s like learning an alphabet, then a language, then writing in it, then trying to write poetry in it.” His face falls. “This is why I don’t like interviews. I sound batty.”
The desire to capture an alien perspective became, he says, his “North star”. Why did it mean so much?
"I suppose I must have that alien thing in me to start with. Yeah. Probably. I do feel outside. Not entirely, but I do. I’ve had that about me since quite a young age I think." He looks perturbed.
I tell him that though I love his films, I know almost nothing about him. Where does he live in London? Near Camden. Married with three kids. And he grew up in – “A place called Hadley Wood. Near Barnet. Yep. Knocked around with mates on my street, messed about on the railways, in the woods. Motorbikes, skateboards, CB radio. All that.” He pauses. “Arsenal fan.” Another pause. “I’m Jewish. Went to a Jewish school.” Do you feel Jewish? “Yeah. I mean, I’m not fanatical. But I do.”
His father was a film buff, with whom he watched David Lean movies. As a teenager, his circle included the comic actor Paul Kaye; the two ended up going to university in Nottingham together, Glazer studying theatre design. Back in London, he found himself unhappily editing trailers for multiplex movies. He started making shorts, music videos, breaking into commercials. But while the corporate world fell for his grand designs, his inspirations were spiky – such as the incendiary 1968 satire If …
"I saw it on TV when I was 12, 13, and it shocked me. Scared me. It probably fucked me up a bit. To see something with the questions left in, it’s powerful when you’re young. You think: ‘Oh, I didn’t know you were allowed to do that.’ It stays with you."
Glazer still needed a movie star – and one who was very, very game. If Under the Skin belongs to him, it also belongs to Johansson. Her beestung femininity gives the film a lushness among the cold surfaces. Besides learning to drive a van and mastering an English accent, she also had to cope with his second epiphany. For life to feel real, he decided, they needed real life. Extras shouldn’t just be non-professional actors, but people who didn’t even know they were being filmed, caught on hidden cameras when she pulled up at the roadsides of Glasgow. (Glazer and crew were concealed in the back.) She was hardly ever rumbled; who expects to be accosted by Johansson on their way to the Asda in Govan?
She was, Glazer says, “devoted. Unflinching.” And as she chose where to drive next, Glazer – as with most directors, used to being in control – gladly gave up his film to the random.
"There were times I said to Jim, Let’s just dump the last two-thirds of the script and stay in the van. Because I loved the idea of leaving the door open to reality. The surprises. The treasure."
There is more to Under the Skin than the van. Besides the abstract social realism is a skeletal story, heartbreak, horror, extraordinary sweetness. But if the goal was to make the humdrum lurchingly strange, it worked. As Johansson totters through a Glasgow shopping centre, passing between Clinton Cards and H Samuel, the human environment looks so unshakably weird, it became one of the most disturbing moments I’ve had in a cinema. Glazer looks pleased when I tell him this. He himself, he says, had a similar experience in Debenhams.
Wilson pleaded with him to book conventional extras, have a scripted Plan B. Wilson explains: “I was saying: ‘What if Scarlett drives all day and nothing happens? What if there are no happy accidents?’ But Jon was insistent. And he was right.”
Glazer’s iron will is nothing new. Even before Sexy Beast, he walked away from his planned debut – the film Gangster No 1, later made elsewhere – after disagreements over casting. His relationship with advertising is strained these days. In 2010, he shot a commercial for Cadbury Flake, in which the French actor Denis Lavant cavorted as a crimson, Byronic chocolate demon. The ad never ran; when it surfaced online, Cadbury’s lawyers demanded its removal. Glazer says that in commercials now, “fear abounds”.
He knows it is time to let go of Under the Skin. “I won’t know if it’s good until I see it on TV one night and can’t remember what comes next.” That, of course, might take 10 years. He smiles. “Another 10.”
I mention Faber, whose novel Glazer once called “great but trashy”. He winces. “I did say that. Well, one day I hope to meet Michel, and I hope he sees the film, and I’d be very interested in talking to him about what he wrote and what I made. I think there’s a rhyme there.”
It is a curious thing, Glazer’s relationship with words. He wonders aloud if somehow film peaked with Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights.
"I’m still obsessed by images. Not intellectually. Practically. How they sing, how they sync. And I wonder what cinema could have been had it not gone down the word road. But we always want to know what’s going on. We hate to not know."
Wilson remembers conversations with Glazer in Scotland when the director was chasing pure realism. Filming, Wilson argued, itself made things unreal. “And these talks we’d have became very philosophical. I found them fascinating. But I think they only interested Jon up to a point.”
Later, I listen to the tape of the interview. One of his own answers, Glazer says, is “nonsense.” Another is “baffling”. I realise I never returned to my first question. Apologetic, I email: “Are you a different Jonathan Glazer to the one who started making Under the Skin?”
Next morning, he replies: “Yes.”
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NEW YORK UP AND DOWN
The street photography series “New York Up & Down” is a fascinating glimpse of New York City in the 1980s by photographer Frank Horvat. Horvat began photographing 70 years ago and his career has spanned photojournalism, fashion, and advertising. He talks about “New York Up & Down” in this L’Oeil de la Photographie article.
"But if they were measured by their emotional intensity, the years in New York would count twice as much… This is what I tried to convey by the words ‘up and down’. The highs and lows of New York are not just the transitions from Uptown to Downtown, from the darkness of the subway to the view from the top floors of the skyscrapers, from the temperatures in January to those in July. But also the shifts, between one day and the next and sometimes between one minute and the other, from exhilaration to disappointment, from triumph to failure, from fullfilment to defeat".
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Jeremy Mann was born in 1979. He holds a Cum Laude BFA from Ohio University and an MFA with valedictorian honor from Academy of Art University in San Francisco.
In his creative practice, Mann aims to imbue his city, San Francisco, with drama, mood, and personality. He paints his immediate surroundings with intimate, dynamic expression. A number of his compositions are inspired by wet pavement that reflects street lamps and neon signs and glitters in the rain.
Painting on medium-to-large scale wood panels, Mann utilizes a number of techniques: staining the surface, wiping away paint with solvents, and applying broad, gritty marks with an ink brayer. He paints with confidence and flair, addressing complex compositions with colors both vivid and atmospheric.
Since his graduation, Mann has received attention from critics and collectors alike. His work recently graced the cover of American Art Collector magazine and has been extensively exhibited in Ohio and California.
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Installation / Encirclement
Thistle is a fierce plant well armored with sharp prickles all over itself, from the stem to leaves to flower buds—much protection for its soft purple flowers. After blooming, the plant sends out feathery white thistledown into wind.
Encirclement is created with hundreds of thistle plants, stemming perpendicularly from the wall, outlining two silhouettes of a standing and a bending figure. The performer then positions herself inside the thistle field, disguised/ camouflaged with thistledown. The beautiful plants surround the body as if protecting her, while she is in fact being embraced by the countless thorns of the plants.
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The photorealistic art of
KIM SUNG JIN
An artist working out of South Korea, Kim Sung Jin graduated from the Hongik University for Fine Art. He works primarily in oils on canvas, and as you can see is a photorealist painter, with a very sensual style. I’ve always enjoyed artists that painted in a photorealistic style, but often the content was not as impressive as the skill level the artist had. This new crop of artists, such as those shown at Thinkspace Galleries “New Realism“, are creating work that is not only technically impressive, but draws you in further with the content. Kim Sung Jin’s art falls perfectly into that description. Every new painting you see while going through the artists gallery bring back that awe of how someone could create an image that looks so real, and he even paints macro-like closeups of the lips and face of the models. After looking at these previews, make sure to check out the artists homepage for a lot more.
click here for Kim Sung Jin website
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Stage of Mind
Recently graduated from Seoul’s Hongik University in her native South Korea, JeeYoung Lee shoots the invisible. Whereas traditional photography submits extracts of reality to our eyes, the artist offers excerpts from her heart, her memory, or her dreams. Restrained by the inherent limits of the conventional photographic medium, she adds plastic creativity and theatrical performance to it, in order to blow life into her immense needs of expression, and interrogation.
For weeks , sometimes months, she creates the fabric of a universe born from her mind within the confines of her 3 x 6 m studio. She does so with infinite minutiae and extraordinary patience, in order to exclude any ulterior photographic alteration. Thus materialized, these worlds turn real and concretize : imagination reverts to the tangible and the photo imagery of such fiction testify as to their reality. In the midst of each of these sets stands the artist : those self-portraits however are never frontal, since it is never her visual aspect she shows, but rather her quest for an identity, her desires and her frame of mind. Her imaginary is a catharsis which allows her to accept social repression and frustrations. The moment required to set the stage gives her time to meditate about the causes of her interior conflicts and hence exorcise them; once experienced, they in turn become portents of hope.
Recipient of multiple artistic awards including the Sovereign Art Prize (2012), JeeYoung Lee is one the the most promising up-and-rising figureheads of the younger Korean artistic world. Her Photographs have already found their way into public collections such as th Kyoto Photographic Museum in Japan, the Incheon Foundation for Art and Culture, or even Seoul’s OCI Museum.
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THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR
Max Von Sydow
Directed by Sydney Pollack
A mild mannered CIA researcher, paid to read books, returns from lunch to find all of his co-workers assassinated. “Condor” must find out who did this and get in from the cold before the hitmen get him.
Let’s talk about ‘Three Days of the Condor’
That’s another film that’s gained stature over the years, although when it came out, several of the New York critics took it very seriously. It was kind of a prescient movie because we thought we were really going out on a limb talking about destabilizing foreign regimes in the interest of oil and the CIA killing people and then all of the sudden, all this crap comes out, while we were shooting the movie! All the stuff about dirty tricks with Nixon. We cooked all that stuff up that’s in the movie in a hotel room one night, and we’re thinking ‘Man, maybe this is just too far out. Is anybody really going to buy this?’ (laughs) But that part of it worked.
There are definite Hitchcock elements in Condor. Was he a big influence for you?
You know, I’m embarrassed to say, no. I’m really pretty illiterate when it comes to film. I have to make myself watch a movie. I really don’t know film history all that well. I saw ‘Psycho’ (1960), (laughs) what can I tell you? I know all his films are famous and I know he was a great director. I just take everyone’s word for it that he was the original cineaste. When I get around somebody like Steven Spielberg who says “It’s like that great scene in Wyler’s movie where such and such happens…,” I feel illiterate. But a lot of those guys went to film school and were passionate movie buffs from the time they were kids. I backed into movies. I never wanted to have anything to do with movies, or ever saw myself as a director. I just saw myself acting in the theater in New York. I still don’t see that many movies. It’s hard for me to make myself go to a movie and sit in a crowd. I can’t wait for the films to be over. (laughs) That doesn’t mean that I don’t love them, because I do. Once I get in there and get transported, it’s great. But I feel like it’s work. It’s my job. And I don’t want to be doing it when I have free time, you know? If I have the evening off, the last thing I want to do is go to a screening. I do have a screening room at home, like all spoiled brats in Hollywood, and I have screenings at home a lot. I’m terrifically impressed with a lot of the new younger directors like David Fincher, and I enjoy producing a lot of them. So Hitchcock wasn’t a big influence on me simply because I didn’t know his work. Had I known his work, he absolutely would have been. I actually spent more time at Hitchcock’s house with him personally than I did seeing his films.
Robert Redford in ‘Three Days of the Condor.’ How was that?
My wife was an actress and she was under contract to him for seven years. She was going to take Grace Kelly’s place after she became a princess. My wife, Claire, was the girl in the famous ‘Twilight Zone’ with Robert Duvall playing the ballerina doll. So Alfred Hitchcock hired her, put together a huge, expensive reel on her, then she got pregnant with our second child and Hitchcock was furious with her. But while she was under contract, we used go have dinner with he and (his wife) Alma at their house! I was too naive to realize what a great opportunity this was. I directed several of the ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’ for him, and was in one that Norman Lloyd directed. But when I spent time with him, I wasn’t even smart enough then to know what to ask him. Spielberg stares at me and says “You got to spend all that time with Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick. I’m so jealous!” (laughs)
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. . .Martin Scorsese’s
“With a clear emphasis on style and carrying the philosophical in its dark and gritty movement of visual-audio language, ‘Taxi Driver’ is an undeniable classic and timeless film, one that most certainly places director Martin Scorsese among the unforgettable filmmakers in cinema’s short history. Thus, ‘The Making of Taxi Driver’ is an exceptional documentary on filmmaking. In these 70+ minutes, we are given a unique glimpse into the workings of a film from one of the most creative eras in U.S. cinema.
Beginning with the origins of the project and moving into a behind the scenes overview of the actors, shooting, editing, and more, ‘The Making of Taxi Driver’ offers a detailed look into ‘Taxi Driver.’ The documentary reveals how Martin Scorsese’s approach to filmmaking is meticulous and yet openminded, and fortunately, interviews with Scorsese, writer Paul Schrader, director of photography Michael Chapman, editor Tom Rolf, actors Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Cybill Shepherd, Albert Brooks, Harvey Keitel, and other collaborators add to the rich examination of the film.
Taxi Driver - Making Of - (click to view)
Taxi Driver - Audio Commentary - (click to listen)
Taxi Driver - Storyboard Shootout Shot by Shot - (click to view)
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JAMES TURRELL / RECENT WORKS
Turrell is among the most influential artists of the past fifty years and Pace is proud to continue its lifelong commitment to the artist stretching back to 1967. This is the gallery’s sixth exhibition of his work and it follows his unprecedented three concurrent museum exhibitions at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (on view until 6 April 2014), and Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
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2001: The Making of a Myth
2001: A Space Odyssey, so its fans will tell you, is awesome, amazing, astonishing, astounding—and that doesn’t even exhaust their list of “A” adjectives. But however emphatically they’re spoken, those words don’t tell you much. I fear they sometimes even put off potential 2001-lovers—or at least those who would enjoy a screening or three—who fear themselves unequal to the imposing labor of appreciation ahead. You’ll learn more meaningful things about Kubrick’s film in 2001: The Making of a Myth (made in 2001), a 45-minute documentary on its conception, its production, and its undiminished resonance in our cultural imagination.
Introduced by filmmaker James Cameron, the program brings in a host of the original contributors to 2001’s look, feel, and psychological and technological verisimilitude. We hear from those involved in the photography, design, editing, and even technical consultancy. Actor Keir Dullea, still best known for his role as astronaut Dave Bowman, has much to say about working with his co-star HAL, and even the fellows in the ape suits offer insights into their non-verbal craft. Critical minds such as Elvis Mitchell and Camille Paglia weigh in on the picture’s simultaneous visceral and intellectual impact, but Arthur C. Clarke, who wrote 2001 the book while Kubrick shot 2001 the film, puts it most sharply when describing the intent of his director counterpart: “He wanted to make the proverbial good science-fiction movie.” Mission accomplished.
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Excerpts from journal entries made between 1989 and 2002
For the three years I lived in Chicago, from 1985 to 1988, my way of making pictures was to pile into my Dodge Dart and drive around the city with my camera looking for anything worth getting out of the car for or, more importantly, anything worth returning to. I was fishing and Chicago was an ocean of potential photographs. The Summer of 1988, I accepted a teaching position at the Maine College of Art and, a few weeks before leaving, I made what I thought would be my last photographic excursion. I drove all the way down Halsted from the North-side to 18th street and took a right turn. It was the heart of a neighborhood I later learned was called Pilsen, an odd name, I thought, for a Mexican community. I’ve been coming back ever since. Though I loved my time in Maine, it was difficult photographing there. It became clear after looking at my contact sheets from the summer before, discovering pictures like “Girl with Lingerie Catalogue” (frontispiece), that my interest in making pictures was deeply rooted in some kind of urban experience. The day school ended, I headed back to Chicago for the summer. Thirteen years straight I left Maine (just when all the tourists were arriving from Boston and New York) for a sweltering, tree-less neighborhood made of concrete, bricks, and asphalt – a place that stayed hot well after the sun set and was relieved only when someone illegally opened a pump, borrowed a piece of the lake and flooded the street. I loved every minute and worked day and night knowing it would be a year before I could come back. Just about all of my time was spent in the neighborhood of Pilsen, occasionally in Little Village just to the west and, once in a while, in Back of the Yards further south.
During the time I photographed here, I kept a journal. I was never particularly disciplined about it, most often writing in the cracks between making pictures and sleeping, and only when I felt like it. I recently reread these journals and discovered that what I wrote about – sequences of events, dialogue, anecdotes, or about photography in general – were things my pictures didn’t describe. It was as if the photographs and the writing described separate but parallel realities, the life in front of the camera versus the life behind it. Like the pictures, I edited the writing to offer a sequence of moving verbal pictures to go with the non-moving visual ones.
First, an overview: Through the early ‘90s, I thought in fairly traditional documentary terms about photography and about what I was doing in Pilsen. That meant bearing witness to something that seemed socially significant, offering a transparent description of it, and being comprehensive – not just telling the truth but the whole truth. In the beginning, as an outsider, the only truth I had was the street. Part of the truth about Pilsen back then was street gangs. As a result, there are a number of journal entries that talk about my experiences with one gang in particular, La Raza. This is the only place where the amount of interesting stories far out-weighs the number of good pictures. It took me awhile, about three years, to realize that the kind of drama afforded by hanging out with a gang wasn’t the kind of drama that I wanted for my pictures. It was too narrow and sensationalistic and not nearly as complex and nuanced as the day to day life of the larger community. It occurs to me now that the gangs unwittingly functioned as sentinels for the neighborhood keeping outsiders at bay with their reputation for random violence. So it makes an odd kind of sense that I would have to go through them to get into the community through the back door. And that’s what happened. Because of my friendship with various la Razas, I got to know their families and was invited to weddings, quinceneras, house parties,or simply inside to eat.
As I abandoned photographing La Raza I also abandoned my documentary pretensions and assumptions. It seemed preposterous to me that I could ever say anything authoritatively about my subjects or the culture as a whole. Their experience wasn’t my experience – I could understand aspects of it, but I couldn’t speak for it. What I did know is that there are some places, not many, that have a kind of gravitational pull and I wanted to make pictures as close to the center as possible. It was at this point that the community opened up for me. I photographed on and off the street, letting the rhythm of each day dictate what I saw, trusting that I couldn’t take what the world wasn’t willing to give. In 1994 I received a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship. I moved to the middle of the neighborhood (18th place and Paulina) for a year, and the work spiraled inward. Though Pilsen was only about a square mile and Little Village not much larger, I would go for days without leaving my block. My son, Max, was born in May, 1995 and I brought him and Anne, my wife, back the following two summers. Anne, who is an artist, painted, and I photographed while Lupe and Sonia, sisters of my good friend Victor (Webek), looked after Max in the afternoon. As I ran out of things to look at near the end of the 90s, I began photographing in the various places where people in the community worked. This was one of the more challenging things I attempted as I learned how jittery the business community can be. But it rounded out the work and I thought it was a good place to end. In 2001, when I moved back to Chicago after being away for a few years, the neighborhood had already begun to irrevocably change. Maxwell street, the last barrier between Pilsen and the Loop, had been bulldozed and replaced by condos and soccer fields for University of Illinois. Latte shops and restaurants were springing up along 18th street, and tour buses made a loop through the neighborhood from Chinatown – two ethnic groups on one convenient bus ride. Though all of this was a bit shocking, I had to accept that for a Mexican neighborhood called Pilsen – a legacy of its Bohemian, Polish, German past – change is virtually encoded in its name. Over the next two years, I made the last pictures that were left for me to make and moved on.
Along the way I was often asked, usually by people outside of this community, what reason I had for going to a place that wasn’t my own or, more aggressively, where I didn’t belong. As I tried to answer that, going from predictable documentary explanations to more personal ones, the work evolved. I ignored, as much as I could, the critical discourse in the art world at the time that suggested it was somehow immoral to photograph outside one’s own race, class, or community. I hoped, as I say later, to photograph from the inside looking out instead of from the outside looking in. I tried to be a part of the community but in the end, of course, I wasn’t. But, oh man, did I have fun trying. I recognize now that all I did was redefine where I belong and take an inordinate amount of time to be in a place I loved. You can learn a lot when you are willing to be a stranger. Most of what I know about photography has come from doing this work. The following are some of the experiences that never would have occurred if I hadn’t taken that turn onto 18th Street and kept on driving.
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Daido Moriyama is recognised as one of Japan’s most influential living photographers; he is certainly the most celebrated photographer to emerge from the Japanese Provoke movement of the 1960s.
To fully understand Moriyama’s photography one needs to consider the date and place of his birth; 1938, Osaka. Notoriously challenging and unsettling, Moriyama’s work is both raw and instinctive, haunted by the American occupation of Japan after World War II and its consequent aftermath; the social and cultural shifts, industrialisation, urbanisation and ultimately the clash of capitalism with a traditionally insular society. His work alludes to the struggle between old and new, the emotional imbalance between two worlds and the urban malaise of Japan, chronicling the relentless tug of tradition versus modernism; spirituality versus commerce.
Much of Moriyama’s work is black and white with shades of grey. His style - dark and grainy - echoes the subject matter. Although a master of technique, experimenting with light, shade and abstraction, he allows for photographic chance. In addition to social and historical context, Moriyama draws influences from a range of photographers and artists both within and beyond Japan. He worked under Eikoh Hosoe and is a contemporary of Shomei Tomatsu, Nobuyoshi Araki and Hiroshi Sugimoto. The influence of Andy Warhol is evident as is the stimulus of Ed van der Elsken and William Klein, both of whom visited Japan in the early sixties, the latter of which he celebrated a side-by-side retrospective at Tate Modern last year.
His work, often stripped of sentimentality, depicts a dark, urgent and disturbing edge of street life and political protest - from corpses preserved in formaldehyde to urban decay, junkyards, consumer goods stacked in supermarkets, transvestite performers, city life, stray dogs and images of young women at hostess bars. A world without apparent joy. The eighties, however, witnessed a shift in Moriyama’s work. Whilst retaining the perceptive intellect evident throughout his career, Moriyama studied both composition and form and his work became sharper, lighter and larger in scale.
Most widely recognised for his gritty, mysterious style, Siuture pays tribute to the multiple aspects of Moriyama’s practice from his initial projects made in Tokyo in the sixties to his compositional studies in the eighties and nineties. Undeniably difficult to sum up, to characterise in one way with reference to a single body of work, Moriyama has taken tens of thousands of photographs since the mid sixties and his complete works include black and white, colour, Polaroids, screenprints, films, installations and now silkscreens.
Moriyama has exhibited globally in a number of solo and group exhibitions, the most notable being a joint retrospective with William Klein at Tate Modern, 2012; he has published multiple photo-essays and photobooks. He is held in a number of public and private collections and has been awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from The Photographic Society of Japan, 2004; Der Kulturpreis der Deutschen Gesellschaft fur Photographie, 2004 and Mainichi Art Award, 2003, amongst others.
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