Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Drive-by Landscape Photography

"It is now obvious why photographers in the North-East photograph people and all things made of concrete while those in the South-West photograph deserts and mountains: because that is what you see outside the car window."

Why Weegee was not a Westerner: or, the secret of successful landscape photography; Bill Jay on Photography

Bill Jay describes the idiosyncrasies of landscape photography from one American coast to the other, including 'the Westerner’s fascination with the land and abhorrence of people' and the compulsion towards 'people and all things made of concrete' in the East.

I was a little burned out on garden research this week so I jumped over to the more general topic of landscape photography. This article isn't particularly informative, but it mentions some legitimate names in photography and was above all, sarcastic and therefore, refreshing. Also I will accept the personal (self-inflicted) jab at photographers who photograph what is immediately available to them, but I will defend myself by pointing out that I explore in person and photograph on foot. I mean it's really only because I don't want to contend with photoshopping out window glare, but still. (<- joke)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Joakim Eskildsen

"Joakim Eskildsen was born in Copenhagen in 1971 where he trained with the Royal Court photographer Rigmor Mydtskov. In 1994, he moved to Finland to learn the craft of photographic book making with Pentti Sammallahti at the University of Art and Design in Helsinki, graduating with an MA degree in photography in 1998."

"[His] work is based on the theme of the relationships between man, nature and cultures. . .This approach can be related to the works of the humanist photographers in the sense that his intent is no the scientific interrogation or exploration of his subjects, but the creation of an empirical record of his encounters with various peoples and cultures. Submerging himself in the worlds he wishes to explore, Eskildsen resides for extended periods of time with the people he photographs in order to better understand their culture and so as not to violate their intimacy by the simple appropriation of their image. The photographs are presented as a story and are usually accompanied by [text]..."

A Conversation with Joakim Eskildsen

Städtische Galerie, Iserlohn

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Machine in the Garden

"...they depend altogether upon the Liberality of Nature, without endeavouring to improve its Gifts, by Art of Industry."

The Machine in the Garden, Leo Marx

'For over four decades, Leo Marx's work has focused on the relationship between technology and culture in 19th- and 20th-century America. His research helped to define--and continues to give depth to--the area of American studies concerned with the links between scientific and technological advances, and the way society and culture both determine these links. The Machine in the Garden fully examines the difference between the "pastoral" and "progressive" ideals which characterized early 19th-century American culture, and which ultimately evolved into the basis for much of the environmental and nuclear debates of contemporary society.'

A chapter on Gardens offers a perfect dissection of  the ambiguities and inner conflicts regarding the image of (here Virginia as, but in general) The Garden and the meaning men find, or bestow therein. On the one hand it represents the mythology in which the garden is a natural paradise, it "stands for the original unity, the all-sufficing beauty and abundance of the Edenic land of primitive splendor inhabited by noble savages." But then there is also the "actual, man-mad, cultivated piece of ground. This image is also an emblem of abundance, but it refers to abundance produced by work or, in Beverly's idiom, improvement." Marx tells us that even though Beverley (author of The History and Present State of Virginia) has uncovered this contradiction, he is far from comprehending it. The threshold between the two is where my interest falls.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Pentti Sammallahti

"Sammallahti has a special relation to man’s best friend and many of his photographs are extremely entertaining pictures of dogs engaged in living their doggie lives."

"...He was a teacher at the University of Art and Design in Helsinki before obtaining, in 1991, a grant from the Finnish state, which allowed him to give up teaching and concentrate entirely on art.

Sammallahti works within the classical black-and-white tradition of photography. . .His approach is influenced by Henri Cartier-Bresson, from whose work he adopted the idea of the decisive moment, meaning the ability of photography to capture a unique moment in the flux of time, and the importance of harmony and balance in composition of a picture. . .As a photographic globetrotter, Sammallahti leaves the beaten track in order to photograph remote locations, places where people still live in close contact with nature. While maintaining a distance which is both respectful of his subjects and necessary to capture any given scene, Sammallahti succeeds in imbuing his photographs with a sense of lyrical intimacy. 

A great lover of nature, Sammallahti often combines the landscape with his portraits of people and animals. But he also pays tribute to nature’s beauty in remarkable, highly contemplative landscape photographs..."

Review by Greg Fallis

Candace Dwan Gallery

Visiting Artist: Paul Shambroom

Paul Shambroom was a breath of fresh air after visiting artist, Alix Pearlstein. In a general sense, the subject matter of his work was more pressing- an investigation of power from local government forums to nuclear reactor sites, which consequently made it more engaging (this generation is concerned not with the antiquated idea of nuclear family units, sorry Pearlstein, but with the increasing reality of [and de-sensitivity to] nuclear war machines). It wasn't just his choice of focus either, Shambroom actually made a point to interact with his audience. Rather than put on pretentious airs, he was a bit self-effacing, just enough for you to accept his legitimacy as a photographer and real person.
Shambroom's work is modest in a lot of ways too. I was almost questioning his merits as a professional photographer when he addressed his aesthetic reasoning for the amateur appearance of his nuclear weapons series; and then he showed a couple images from a landscape series and then I knew that he knew what he was doing with a camera. By the end of his lecture, Shambroom was addressing the sheer nature of photography today, in a dialogue that acknowledged his audience's role in the future of this art form, beyond his own vision.

Overall, a great guy with an interesting vision. Nice pick, Paul.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


reclaim |riˈklām|

verb [ trans. ]

1 retrieve or recover (something previously lost, given, or paid); obtain the return of : he returned three years later to reclaim his title as director of advertising | when Dennis emerged I reclaimed my room. 

redeem (someone) from a state of vice; reform : societies for reclaiming beggars and prostitutes.

archaic tame or civilize (an animal or person).

2 bring (waste land or land formerly under water) under cultivation : little money is available to reclaim and cultivate the desert | [as adj. ] ( reclaimed) reclaimed land.

recover (material) for reuse; recycle : a sufficient weight of plastic could easily be reclaimed.

((, that's a definition loaded with irony))

Beyond Civilization: humanity's next great adventure; Daniel Quinn

"In "Beyond Civilization, " Daniel Quinn challenges the fundamental belief that civilization is the ultimate human social development to be preserved at any cost. Arguing for a movement into the unexplored region beyond civilization as we know it, Quinn presents a radical notion of our world as a temporary experiment in social organization...that is failing. Both a philosopher and a visionary, Quinn exposes the damage we inflict daily on the world around us, and then offers clear and viable alternatives that provide us an "escape route" to a future beyond civilization. Quinn believes that if just some of us are willing to live differently, we may be able to effect enough change to save us all. He explores other past and present cultures, examining what their failures and successes can teach us about our own society. Through his powerful message and shocking revelations, Quinn inspires us to change the fundamental way that we live, asserting that the very nature of humanity is at stake."

So somewhere on the interweb, someone must have posted something about the idea of the environment reclaiming what has been lost to human civilization. I know it's a taboo way of looking at things, but there are natural laws concerning population control and eco-stability and when we blatantly flout those laws- do we not expect the environment to retaliate in defense of herself? The planet is, after all, a living organism; why should we expect anything less? So why can't I find anything interpreting the recent flux of earthquakes and typhoons and floods as self defense? Hmph. Maybe I should appeal to the Biblical crowd and consider the overarching metaphor one could find in the idea of a God smiting his people for living outside of his laws. God....environment, okay that works.

Monday, February 9, 2009


Paul Thulin has read your blog up to this point/entry. Your blog is currently up to date and complete.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Ilkka Halso

"Restauration" is a series of photographs of night scenes in a fictional field hospital where "suffering" species, mainly trees and plants, are depicted in a pseudo scientific context. The installations are first physically assembled and then photographed.

. . .Halso's approach is less rigidly aesthetic and imbued with quiet but critical social commentary, sometimes presented with subtle but barbed humor that exposes the paradox of treating technologically inflicted environmental damage by applying more technology.

[In his] recent series, "Museum of Nature," which he began in 2003, expands on the concept. . .damaged nature is preserved in elaborate, high-tech museum structures. Instead of helping nature to recover in its initial environment, nature is now isolated, cultivated and conserved like works of art. . ."

"Ilkka Halso...Is Constructing Something Natural?"

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Gender Implications in the history of The Garden

"Women seem not to have reacted against the land with violence not simply because they never dreamed of it as an object of sexual conquest, nor simply because they had evaded the frustrations of irreconcilable desires. They had, in addition, taken on a set of images that limited the very contexts of imaginative possibility. Thus, women avoided male anguish at lost Edens and male guilt in the face of the raping of the continent by confining themselves, instead, to the "innocent . . . amusement" of a garden's narrow space."

Kolodny, Annette. The Land Before Her: Fantasy and Experience of the American Frontiers, 1630-1860.

The Land Before Her examines the ways in which women reacted to male fantasies about the “frontier.” Frontier representations in Fredric Jackson Turner’s and others’ imaginations rely on images of paradise and femininity. Paradise, in other words, becomes a sexualized term, such as "Paradise with all her Virgin beauties" and the frontier is a "bride" that offers "sweet embraces." These representations deprive women any ownership of dominant frontier myths. Without access to these dominant frontier myths, women constructed their own mythology in part through the planting of gardens; a means of taming the wilderness. Kolodny examination then attempts to fill in the gaps of Turner’s “frontier” thesis with women’s perspectives and confronts what she sees as Turner’s over reliance upon mythology rather than history 

[L. McReynolds]

Pushing onward with research of the Garden-- it's social history and implications and how these relate to the in-between spaces of a city where nature slowly but surely pushes up through the cracks to break through industrially imposed order-- in hopes that filling my subconsciousness with this information will cause it to eventually manifest in some obvious yet creative way that I can relate to my work.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Visiting Artist: Alix Pearlstein

No to spectacle no to virtuosity no to transformations and magic and make believe no to the uninspired plagiarism of someone else's groundbreaking minimalist manifesto by get this-- inserting the occasional yes where once there was a no and pretending it's something new and meaningful. No to Alix Pearlstein. No no no.

Alix Pearlstein's work seems like is somewhere between 20 and 40 years too late. She poses as an avant-garde thinker addressing some breakthrough issues, but an interpretive piece dealing with the stereotypes of the nuclear family, and visually, a knod to.....the Simpsons? Really? And the grandiose rhetoric infused with obscure references to movements and writers we've never heard of because they belong to our parents' was just enough buildup to render the actual pieces laughable (at, not with).

Simon Johan was a let down when the audience found out he had absolutely nothing to say about his visually engaging series; Pearlstein, on the other hand, said too much. In the end left the audience was left wondering if they were in fact, unknowingly participating in some larger interactive work....

So.....were we?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Moira Lovell

2006    MA Photography, London College of Communication

1999    BA (Hons) Photography, Kent Institute of Art and Design

'Moira Lovell's series The After School Club revels in just such mixed messages and the testing of boundaries. Posing before the gates of their former schools, the young women in these photographs are dressed in school uniforms as adult party outfits for the 'school disco'. This nightclub phenomenon seems at once liberating, through the adoption of an alternative persona, in the carnival tradition, and yet is highly socially controlled. Dislocated from the night-time context of fancy dress and fetish, the women appear unsure of the role they must now play: by turns uncomfortable and forlorn, defensive and coy. As viewers we too feel the discomfort. In the cold light of day, in public, the infantilised sexuality is mildly disturbing. I am reminded of Diane Arbus's notion of the 'gap between intention and effect' that formed the core of her influential and sophisticated understanding of photography in the late 1960s. She noted how photographs ruthlessly pinpointed the threshold between how we think we appear and how we are actually perceived. The two states are often at odds, gaining potency from their conflict and uncertainty.'

Review of The After School Club, 2006-07

Martin Barnes, senior curator of photographs, Victoria and Albert museum, London / Portfolio Magazine issue 46 (November 2007)

MA Photography 2006, London College of Communication