Sunday, September 28, 2008

Dana Hoey

"Meticulously staged with models, Hoey's fauxverité photos typically deal with the complex dynamics that come into play when groups of women--most often young women and girls--get together. 

...If you spend enough time with her pictures (and it's easy enough not to want to, their meaning is so hermetic), almost all of them feel that way, as though someone's just said, or is about to say, something she will later regret. In a sense, they turn you into a kind of voyeur, but one who's been dropped into an ongoing, ugly psychodrama without benefit of having met the characters or knowing the backstory.

Of course, despite their documentary appearance, they're all fictions, some more obviously than others.

...It is work that speaks in a coded language of gesture, of the direction of someone's gaze, of the pauses and silences between words that inform and reveal secrets about the ways in which women and girls behave and where they fit in the world. It is work that celebrates a kind of competitive female energy that has sometimes been viewed as self-destructive, but which Hoey and others of her ilk want to reclaim as a kind of power."

"Dana Hoey's Blatant Subtlety"

Friedrich Petzel Gallery






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Wednesday, September 24, 2008


[The unauthorized publication of a photo of a non-celebrity is] "the price every person must be prepared to pay for a society in which information and opinion flow freely."
-- Arrington v New York Times, 1982.

In 2006, a New York trial court issued a ruling in a case involving one of his photographs. One of diCorcia's New York random subjects was Ermo Nussenzweig, an Orthodox Jew who objected on religious grounds to diCorcia's publishing in an artistic exhibition a photograph taken of him without his permission. The photo's subject argued that his privacy and religious rights had been violated by both the taking and publishing of the photograph of him. The judge dismissed the lawsuit, finding that the photograph taken of Nussenzweig on a street is art - not commerce (even though the photographer sold 10 prints of it at $20,000 to $30,000 each) - and therefore is protected by the First Amendment. The judge ruled that New York courts have "recognized that art can be sold, at least in limited editions, and still retain its artistic character (...) First Amendment protection of art is not limited to only starving artists. A profit motive in itself does not necessarily compel a conclusion that art has been used for trade purposes."
Nussenzweig v DiCorcia

I was a little upset at first to hear that an artist would push ahead with a lawsuit brought out of personal duress or religious objection, but as I was searching for more information on the subject of Hassidic Jews and personal images or photographs I actually found more links to stock photos of this religious sect than I did on religious laws limiting them. Now I'm just kind of impressed that a court actually ruled in favor of an artist (after reading about how many blatant copyright issues are dismissed). Maybe it's just indicative of this new era of 'Patriot Acts' where personal privacy is practically nil. Anyway, I guess it's good to know that if I chose to step out of the realm of staged-realism, I would have legal precedence backing me up. For now though I think I'll stick to models and try not to step on any toes.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Candice Breitz

Breitz's approach to her integration into a society she presumed to share very little with may be simple, even logical, but it also opens the floodgates to a lot of engaging areas of thought. She brings a whole new credibility to popular culture, often denounced as shallow and insignificant, exploring its role in the shared collective of the most recent generations. Taking it even a step further, her Babel series makes reference to and ties pop culture in with historic, anthropologic and universal themes. The stripping down of popular early-90s music videos into a 'vocabulary of primitive sounds' was truly innovative, especially paired with the use of the audience as their own mixing board (moving between and around the sound channels).

Her interpretation of pop culture as a sort of parent figure, I thought, was particularly perceptive. The panel of mothers and fathers was a really effective reflexive exercise in dissecting exactly what kind of example we have all inadvertently taken from our surrogate TV families. Breitz could have steered her selection of footage to a number of different ends, but she chose to showcase a sort of 'best of' of the dysfunctional, but nonetheless legendary parental figures of cinema. The audience is left with the daunting realization that they may need years of therapy to recover from a second childhood previous unacknowledged.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Philip-Lorca diCorcia

born 1951; American artist photographer

He studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Afterwards he went to Yale where, in 1979, he got a Master of Fine Arts in Photography. He now works and lives in New York.

diCorcia alternates between informal snapshots and iconic quality staged compositions that often have a baroque theatricality. Using a carefully planned staging, he takes everyday occurrences beyond the realm of banality, trying to inspire in his picture's spectators an awareness of the psychology and emotion contained in real-life situations. His work could be described as documentary photography mixed with the fictional world of cinema and advertising, which creates a powerful link between reality, fantasy and desire.

During the late 1970s, during diCorcia's early career, he used to situate his friends and family within fictional interior tableaus, that would make the viewer think that the pictures were spontaneous shots of someone's everyday life, when they were in fact carefully staged and planned in beforehand. He would later start photographing random people in urban spaces all around the world. When in Berlin, Calcutta, Hollywood, New York, Rome and Tokyo, he would often hide lights in the pavement, which would iluminate a random subject in a special way, often isolating them from the other people in the street. His photographs would then give a a sense of heightened drama to the passers-by accidental poses, unintended movements and insignificant facial expressions.

His pictures have black humor within them, and have been described as "Rorschach-like", since they can have a different interpretation depending on the viewer. As they are planned beforehand, diCorcia often plants in his concepts issues like the marketing of reality, the commodification of identity, art, and morality.





"Philip-Lorca diCorcia: choice, non-event and truth"

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

High Dynamic Range Photography

The Future

"Computer graphics has achieved the goal of photorealism. Now the goal is to go beyond simply matching paper and silver halide - to create display technologies which can present any visual stimuli our eyes are capable of seeing. One area of rapid development is in dynamic range. A new crop of technologies using High Dynamic Range imaging (HDR or HDRI) aim to extend the dynamic range of digital imaging technologies way beyond traditional media."

The Future of Digital Imaging - High Dynamic Range Photography

Jon Meyer, Feb 2004

Meyer discusses how dynamic range has been dealt with through other media (i.e. traditional conventions in painting) and how photography has in the past come up short, with the ability only to represent a 300:1 dynamic range when 50,000:1 is present in real-world scenes. He considers changes in technology that will be made in each step of the imaging process: capture(quality over quantity of pixels; merging multiple images), storage(higher-bit storage formats), editing(software supports for higher bit-per-channel), output(increased dynamic range of displays).

The author of this article seems optimistic about the new digital technology. According to him, professional photographers will benefit from HDR technologies, with the ability to really 'push the creative envelope, exploring the extremes of high-key and low-key effects.' As someone who still likes to play with the limited dynamic ranges of film and especially lower end cameras (i.e. the Holga, Diana, etc), I'm really interested to see how a technology aimed at capturing an even more life-like image can be manipulated to artistic ends. If I'm lucky, Paul, I can get this technology installed in my hypothetical future camera glasses.


   mmm, the elite

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio

"Caravaggio put the oscuro in chiaroscuro."

He was born Michelangelo Merisi on Sept. 28, 1573, in Caravaggio, Italy. As an adult he would become known by the name of his birthplace. Orphaned at age 11, he was apprenticed to the painter Simone Peterzano of Milan for four years. At some time between 1588 and 1592, Caravaggio went to Rome and worked as an assistant to painters of lesser skill. About 1595 he began to sell his paintings through a dealer. The dealer brought Caravaggio to the attention of Cardinal Francesco del Monte.
Caravaggio's novelty was a radical naturalism which combined close physical observation with a dramatic, even theatrical, approach to the use of light and shadow. Chiaroscuro was practiced long before he came on the scene, but it was Caravaggio who made the technique definitive, darkening the shadows and transfixing the subject in a blinding shaft of light. With this came the acute observation of physical and psychological reality which formed the ground both for his immense popularity and for his frequent problems with his religious commissions.

Caravaggio's tenebrism (a heightened chiaroscuro) brought high drama to his subjects, while his acutely observed realism brought a new level of emotional intensity. He had a noteworthy ability to express in one scene of unsurpassed vividness the passing of a crucial moment, but opinion among Caravaggio's artist peers was polarized. Some denounced him for various perceived failings, notably his insistence on painting from life, without drawings, but for the most part he was hailed as a great artistic visionary: "The painters then in Rome were greatly taken by this novelty, and the young ones particularly gathered around him, praised him as the unique imitator of nature, and looked on his work as miracles."

"He expresses a radical division between our unconscious internals morality, represented by shadow, and the part of life we live searching for ourselves, expressed through light. A split between the matter from which we are formed and the Divine for which we yearn."
"Vittorio Storaro on Caravaggio." Aperature Magazine, #190; Spring 2008. pg 96.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


"There is no real return to the past in the psychoanalytic cure. The [origin] is only a reconstruction, a fantasy made of bits and pieces "arranged" by the unconscious, in the way a saxophonist "arranges" a musical theme..."
The Feminine and the Sacred, by Catherine Clement and Julia Kristeva

Regression, according to psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, is a defense mechanism leading to the temporary reversion of the ego to an earlier stage of development rather than handling unacceptable impulses in a more adult way. The defense mechanism of regression, in psychoanalytic theory, occurs when thoughts are temporarily pushed back out of our consciousness and into our unconscious.

The background to this idea comes from the conversations you and I (Paul and I, depending on the audience here..) have had about my landscape "tableaus" as a bit of a photographic palate cleanser, following a particularly emotionally trying extended portrait series. Separately, I have been drowning myself in research on the genocide in the Darfur region of western Sudan. Going back and forth between various loads of classwork, these two ideas briefly merged and I my thoughts went to Freud's psycho-analytical concept of regression in light of trauma or tragedy. I'm drawn to the idea of this mental escapism, a sort of emotional cushion, this natural, involuntary, unconscious defense mechanism. I find myself romanticizing the idea of the duality of our nature, both suffering and nurturing, in and of ourselves.
I can't say this has been the driving force of my landscape work (at least not consciously...), but it is definitely something I will keep in mind while I focus on transforming the back alleys of Richmond into secret gardens in my own form of photographic escapism.

I'm including here another picture of Hans Christian Andersen in light of the quote I included in my last topic blog about his child-like or underdeveloped defense mechanisms. That aspect of his personality, which was likely directly responsible for his unrivaled success as an author of grim fairy tales, seems to have been perfectly captured in this portrait.

Loewald, H.W. (1981). Regression: Some General Considerations. Psychoanal Q., 50:22-43.
Regression is a concept involving developmental as well as structural considerations. Clinically speaking, it refers both to psychopathology and to potentially therapeutic phases of the psychoanalytic process. Regression, a movement backward, reverts to more or less primitive stages of psychic organization which deviate from a norm, while at the same time these stages are enduringly active in the continual integration of psychic life. Regression and progression are necessary and complementary phases of this organizing activity. Certain theoretical and clinical aspects are discussed in some detail. The normative implications of regression, in the context of modern Western rationality as the standard of normal mental life, are briefly considered.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


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Saturday, September 6, 2008

Robert & Shana Parkeharrison

American, born 1968 and 1964
Trained as a photographer, ParkeHarrison did not follow in the well-practiced wake of environmentally charged photojournalists or social documentarians. Theirs was a cautionary tale fixed in the present day; it did not always project a future. Instead, ParkeHarrison conjures up a destiny in which humankind's overuse of the land has led to environments spent and abandoned. The veracity of the photograph, from which all his images are constructed, provides the convincing backdrop for narratives of separation and loss. And the influences from literature, theater, cinema, and painting enrich the work with symbols supportive of the artist's universal subjects, particularly the struggles of the Everyman...

In The Architect's Brother, the theme of the individual human responsibility is recast in a new photographic language resonant with the complexities and uncertainties of present- day life, with its consuming technologies and greater dependency on the land and its resources. In the innovative hands of ParkeHarrison and his wife and partner Shana ParkeHarrison, who collaborates in the conception and execution of the images, this language does not transcribe the natural world. Instead, it reinvents it in compelling personal 
narratives that attest to the continuing power of art to address contemporary cultural issues.

Undergrowth; Black Snowparke-color.htm.jpgRootwallparke-color.htm.jpgThe ScribeImage+3.pngGray Dawn

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


I was thinking about the aesthetics of some of the landscape work I have done and how I hope to push it with a sense of narrative this semester, and the best way I could think of to describe it is as at the impasse between the surreal and ethereal. Thanks to a thesaurus I came to the word phantasmagoria (a sequence of real or imaginary images like that seen in a dream) which seemed even more appropriate. I thought immediately of the macabre fairy tales I shared with my dad growing up and went searching for an article I thought surely must exist, something along the lines of "The Dark Undercurrents of Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales." Surprisingly I didn't find a whole lot of scholarly literature focused on what I have always thought to be the most outstanding aspect of his body of work. I did come across Tess Lewis' "A Drop of Bitterness: Andersen's Fairy Tales" and a pretty appropriate quotation:

"Andersen's tales are not for the faint of heart."

I thought this one was pretty interesting too,
"Like a child, he seems to have experienced unconscious conflicts directly, with weaker defense mechanisms than the average well-socialized adult. And, like a child, he defused his inner turmoil by projecting it onto people, animals, and objects around him. He just happened to have the intellectual sophistication and literary talent to make his projections memorable."

A Drop of Bitterness: Andersen's Fairy Tales, by Tess Lewis. The Hudson Review © 2002 The Hudson Review, Inc. 

Lewis reviews Hans Christian Andersen: The Life of a Storyteller by Jackie Wullschlager and discusses Andersen as the last great writer of Fairy Tales. She quotes Wullschlager as saying that Andersen "was uniquely positioned to revolutionize the fairy tale, not simply because of his vast talent, but also because of his background and the social changes of the nineteenth century." Lewis credits Andersen with adding irony and humor to the genre of fairy tales, and creating new and "original symbols that have entered our cultural consciousness as deeply as any primal myth. She cites his own psychology as a source for his works, noting that "the more directly Andersen's tales draw on his own emotional vulnerabilities or satirize his contemporaries, the more powerful they are."

Monday, September 1, 2008

one-word image