woensdag 28 december 2016

Views & Reviews Being a Photographer is like Writing a Diary Poste Restante Christer Strömholm Photography

Christer Stromholm - Poste Restante

Publisher Art And Theory Publishing
ISBN 9789188031365
Idea Code 16620

Christer Strömholm, born in 1918 in Sweden, began is photographic career in earnest in1958, traveling to places like Paris, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Calcutta, and Nairobi. He is most known for his intimate black-and-white street photography portrait series. This is the first English edition of ‘Poste Restante’, a book originally published in Swedish. It comprises the original photographs, layout, and texts, including the unrevised introduction from 1967, a text based on a taped interview with Strömholm conducted over five days at a hotel in Paris. Titled “Before the Photographs”, in it he recounts childhood memories and various of his experiences during World War II.

124 p, ills bw, 21 x 25 cm, hb, English

Martin Parr, The Photobook, vol 1, page 251, 802 photo books from the M.+M. Auer collection, page 466. Very scarce and important publication of only a few existing with photos by the legendary photographer, who is also famous for "Place Blanche" or "Till minnet av mig själv" (The Open Book, Hasselblad Center, page 216/217, 802 photo books from the M.+M. Auer collection, page 443). 

-Being a photographer is like writing a diary, he said. “In Memory of Myself” he titulated one of his many books (and an exhibition).

Strömholm is known for his intimate black and white street photography portrait series and is  particularly known for his depictions of transsexuals in the Place Blanche area of the 1950’s Paris, published as Les amies de Place Blanche.

He ran Fotoskolan in Stockholm in the 1960-1970s where many great artists studied, among them Billie August and Anders Petersen.

in 1997 Strömholm received the Hasselblad Award described as “one of Scandinavia’s leading photographers, and the first post-war photographer to gain international renown”.

by Anna Tellgren

“… for me, working with photographic images is A WAY OF LIFE. When I think of it, and when I look carefully at my images, ALL of them, each in its particular way, are nothing but SELF-PORTRAITS, a part of my life.”

This quote is from a lecture held by Christer Strömholm in 1983 at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. It was reproduced a few years later in a book about the photographer published by Kalejdoskop. The exhibition ‘A Way of Life’ presents Christer Strömholm and his friends, and brings together a group of photographers who have taken documentary photography in a more personal and artistic direction. The focus is on that which is private, intimate, intrusive, and on the subjective tendencies in Swedish photography, with the addition of a few foreign examples. The period spans from the 1940s, via the 1980s, to the 21st century. The exhibition is based on the Moderna Museet collection, presenting more than 300 pictures by 29 photographers. It highlights three contemporary photographers, Martin Bogren, Anna Clarén and JH Engström, all of whom have pursued the subjective movement in photography in different ways and on different terms.

© Christer Strömholm/Strömholm Estate, Shinohara, 1961

Christer Strömholm (1918 –2002 ) is a seminal figure in Nordic photography. He became interested in photograpy in the 1940s, via graphic art. Through the German artist Wols, he came into contact with Fotoform, a group that promoted and practised a creative and personal style of photography, far removed from the instrumental image of advertising or reportage. The head of Fotoform was the medical doctor and photographer Otto Steinert, who had begun teachIng photography at the State School of Art and Craft in Saarbrücken after the Second World War. Steinert’s ideas went back to the 1930s and the photographic experiments at Bauhaus. In the 1950s, under the collective concept of “subjective photography”, he produced three major exhibitions of modern photography that had a strong impact on many young contemporary photographers. Strömholm was featured in the first exhibition in 1951 but left Saarbrücken the following year.

While living in Paris in the 1950s and ’60s, Christer Strömholm’s style developed towards street photography. He also travelled with his camera to Spain, Japan, India and the USA during this period. He discovered and was inspired by famous French humanist photographers like Edouard Boubat, Brassaï and Henri Cartier- Bresson. But Strömholm’s photographs appear slightly more harsh and brutal in comparison, with none of the romantic or humorous allusions often found in pictures of the French capital just after the war. His motifs and approach had more in common with the revealing and personal photo-documentations of US-based women photographers Lisette Model and Diane Arbus; in Strömholm, this influence was at its strongest in the photographs of his transsexual friends at Place Blanche.

© Christer Strömholm/Strömholm Estate, Hotel Central, Paris, 1951/198

Christer Strömholm returned to Paris in the early 1970s, after a few years in Stockholm, and tried to live as an independent photographer. Christer Strömholm’s images and methods have inspired generations of Swedish photographers, but the general public did not discover him until 1986, with the exhibition 9 Seconds of My Life at Moderna Museet in Stockholm. Aged 68, he was just what the public wanted, fulfilling a general desire to highlight photography as a personal and artistic means of expression. In the mid-1950s, Christer Strömholm had begun holding photo courses, together with Tor-Ivan Odulf, at Kursverksamheten’s adult education centre in Stockholm. The courses developed into the famous Fotoskolan, which was attended by more than 1, 200 students from 1962 to 1974. The curriculum was largely based on Otto Steinert’s methods, where the key theme was to encourage individualistic, creative photography; and thus, the subjective movement has long existed as a strong undercurrent in Swedish and Nordic photography. Among Fotoskolan’s students were: Bille August ( DK ), Yngve Baum ( SE ), Dawid ( SE ), Ann Christine Eek ( SE ), Agneta Ekman ( SE ), Leif Gabrielsen ( NO ), Neil Goldstein ( SE ), Kenneth Gustavsson ( SE ), C.G. Hagström ( FI ), Walter Hirsch ( SE ), Ben Kaila ( FI ), Eva Klasson ( SE ), Tom Martinsen ( NO ), Robert Meyer ( NO ), Anders Petersen ( SE ), Håkan Pieniowski ( SE ), Marco Plüss ( SE ), Jo Selsing ( DK ), Ulf Simonsson ( SE ), Gunnar Smoliansky ( SE ), Odd Uhrbom ( SE ) and Risto Vuorimies ( FI ).

The exhibition ‘A Way of Life’ includes examples of Yngve Baum’s famous ‘Shipyard Workers’ series from the early 1970s, where he gets really close to the people and environments he portrays. We also show examples from Odd Uhrbom’s Mine project from 1968, a shattering reportage from Sweden. Both photographers rose to prominence in the genre of documentary photography, a field that grew strong, not to say dogmatic, in Sweden in the 1970s. Ann Christine Eek’s long series from the former Yugoslavia also belongs to this tradition, along with Håkan Pienowski’s photographs from Poland. From Ulf Simonsson’s oeuvre we have chosen a few affectionate child portraits from various times and settings, and Neil Goldstein is represented with four images telling about the life of the last crown crofters in the village Naisheden in the North of Sweden. Eva Klasson attended Fotoskolan for a few months, before Strömholm dispatched her to Paris. In the mid-1970s, she was widely acknowledged for a series of intimate close-ups of her own body, which she called ‘Le troisième angle’ ( The Third Angle ), alluding to the three levels or states of mind she wanted to express in her photographs. Another interesting project is ‘Poltava med guds hjälp’ ( Poltava with the Aid of God ) from 1992 by Marco Plüss, in which he interpreted and reconstructed the place and the war in a series of mysterious black-and-white pictures of nature and historic artefacts. It is possible to discern two different approaches among the students: those who leaned towards the documentary photo reportage, and those who ventured in a more poetic, private, dramatic direction – towards art.

© Nina Korhonen, Kati i båten, 1987-1995

The inner circle around Christer Strömholm included a few photographers who began as his students but eventually went on to become teachers at Fotoskolan. One of these is Gunnar Smoliansky, who attended one of Strömholm’s first evening classes in the mid- 1950s. Smoliansky has been a highly consistent photographer, portraying the objects around him on innumerable walks through the city, gradually moving more and more towards an abstract idiom. For a few years around 1990, a number of photo exhibitions were held at Lido in Stockholm. One of these featured early pictures by Christer Strömholm, selected and printed by his friend and colleague Gunnar Smoliansky. These prints were later incorporated in Moderna Museet’s collection. Another photographer who belonged to the first group of students at Fotoskolan, and who later taught there, was Agneta Ekman. Her early and only published artistic project was the photo book ‘Tall-Maja’ ( Pine-Maja, 1967 ), where she used experimental photographs to enact old folk tales about the wood nymph in the Värmland forests. The teachers also included Rune Jonsson, who studied British photography in the 1970s and is represented here with a series of his own photographs from England and Wales. Rune Jonsson had a background in the so-called Photo Club movement in Sweden, and was the editor of ‘Fotografisk Årsbok’ for four years; he also taught at the Konstfack University College of Arts, Crafts and Design until his retirement.

Walter Hirsch belonged to this innermost circle, and a series of diary pictures from the early 1980s are shown here, including portraits of several of the photographers in the exhibition. Walter Hirsch, Gunnar Smoliansky and Dawid started the publishing company DOG in 1982, together with the art director and designer Mats Alinder, which published books with their own photographs in conjunction with exhibitions at Fotografiska Museet in Moderna Museet. Later on, DOG donated a photographic collection to the Museum, and we have selected a few of these pictures, including Stina Brockman’s intimate, terse self-portrait and studies of interiors in the homes of old people at Södermalm in Stockholm’s inner city. The photographer Gerry Johansson was also involved in DOG, and the exhibition includes a series of his enigmatic nature studies produced as contact prints. Denise Grünstein became famous for her innovative portraits, and we are showing portraits of Dawid at the age of 30, and of the writer Klas Östergren in West and East Berlin. Worth mentioning in this context is Johns S. Webb’s fine artist portrait of Christer Strömholm in Höganäs, where he lived periodically during the last twenty years of his life. Dawid is represented with a double portrait of Stina Brockman and Gunnar Smoliansky, but also with examples from his ‘135–36’ and ‘Rust’ series, the latter in the characteristic deepred wooden frames. ‘Rust’ was published as a book in 1983 by DOG.

© Anders Petersen, Zigeuner-Uschi with her third husband. From the series Café Lehmitz, 1967-1970

Anders Petersen, however, is perhaps the one photographer who and has most distinctly continued in Strömholm’s spirit. He studied at Fotoskolan from 1966 to 1968, and it was during this time that he started on his series from Café Lehmitz in Hamburg ( 1967–70 ). This is still his best-known work, and it was published a few years later by Schirmel & Mosel, Germany. Throughout his career, Petersen has continued to seek out people and environments that are challenging or interesting in various ways. He has published a dozen or so books, on themes such as the Gröna Lund amusement park, circuses, prisons, mental institutions and the carnival in Venice. His approach involves making contact and being accepted – photography as a way of relating to reality; a way of life. ‘City Diary’is a work in progress which involves travelling to different cities and staying there for a while to experience and explore, before moving on. He enlarges his images to 70x100 cm, and in his most recent exhibitions he has let the pictures cover the walls almost entirely, like wallpaper, to achieve the desired effect. Anders Petersen started the Saftra group in 1967 with Kenneth Gustavsson, and in the years that followed, they made several widely acknowledged photo reportages. Moderna Museet has a collection of some 30 Saftra images that were donated by Mira Galleri. Saftra merged with Mira Bildarkiv, which was founded in 1979 and eventually represented some 40 independent photographers in Scandinavia. Among them were Ann Christine Eek, Nina Korhonen, Maud Nycander, Anders Petersen and Håkan Pieniowski. Mira, with its collective darkroom, became a meeting place, but also managed sales for its affiliated photographers, and produced several exhibitions in its own gallery.

One of the photographers who were inspired by Anders Petersen and worked alongside many male photographers in this tradition, was Catharina Gotby. Her first book, ‘Evigt brinnande tid’ ( Eternally Burning Time, 1992 ), was the result of many years working at mental institutions in Sweden and Nicaragua during the second half of the 1980s. Gotby had a distinctly documentary approach. Over time, however, she has become more interested in social issues and psychoanalysis, and her pictures examine female identity and the underlying causes of violence. Another photographer worth highlighting in this context is Nina Korhonen, whose book Minne, Muisto, Memory ( 1997 ) portrays her childhood summers in Finland in soft black and white images. In her second book, Anna, American mummu ( 2004 ), Korhonen delivers a portrait in words and images of her grandmother, who went to New York and stayed there for 40 years. For this project she used colour and larger formats.

© Kenneth Gustavsson Estate, Berlin, 1983

At the time of Christer Strömholm’s exhibition at Moderna Museet, he had attracted a following of photographers, copyists, designers and journalists from a new generation. Johan Ehrenberg and the magazine ETC carried reportages by older and younger photographers. For a few years, they also published the photo magazine ‘Picture Show’. Its first issue was devoted to Christer Strömholm and was produced in conjunction with the 1986 exhibition. The ensuing issues were about Finnish photography, polaroids, Russian underground, Spanish Harlem; the tenth and final issue included a series of photographs from Paris in 1989 by Lars Tunbjörk. Issue No 7 was also a catalogue for the exhibition of Swedish photography at FotoFest in Houston, Texas in 1988. Six photographers took part: Håkan Elofsson, Kenneth Gustavsson, Tuija Lindström, Anders Petersen, Gunnar Smoliansky and Hatte Stiwenius. Kenneth Gustavsson presented a series of new photographs in a slightly larger format, in which he continued his probings into the darkness, beauty and ambiguity of black-and-white images. Several of these photographs are now in the Moderna Museet collection, and they are featured in this exhibition. Tuija Lindström was represented in Houston by a series of female nudes – a theme she explored and elaborated on for several years, and which developed into the conceptual suite ‘Kvinnorna vid Tjursjön’ ( The Women at Lake Tjursjön, 1991 ). From 1992 and ten years onwards, Tuija Lindström was a professor at the School of Photography, University of Gothenburg. During this time, the curriculum changed in a more theoretical and artistic direction, which had a great impact on the students.

© Tuija Lindström, Maria i en båge. From the series ‘Kvinnor vid Tjursjön’, 1991

Lars Tunbjörk has recounted the powerful effect that Christer Strömholm’s book ‘Poste Restante’ ( 1967 ) had on him, and he later became one of the many young photographers who visited Strömholm to ask for advice, show their photographs, and discuss image production and life’s great questions. Tunbjörk is featured with a few examples from his breakthrough, ‘Country Beside Itself. Pictures from Sweden’ ( 1991 ), but also from his morose series Winter, which was originally shown in a solo exhibition at Moderna Museet in 2007. One of Tunbjörk’s close friends is the Latvian photographer Inta Ruka, who belongs to a generation of Baltic photographers who have documented the post-Soviet era. She has strong ties to Sweden and is one of the prominent Baltic photographers in the Moderna Museet collection of photography.

JH Engström made his breakthrough with the book ‘Härbärge’ ( Shelter, 1997 ), which has a short preface by Robert Frank. For several years, he documented the women in an institution for the homeless, portraying them in uninhibited black-and-white images. Engström has progressed from classical black-and-white documentary photography to colour. His motifs have grown increasingly personal – and revealing – over the years, with nude portraits of friends and girlfriends and pure self-portraits. In this exhibition, we show works chosen from his latest project, ‘Tout va bien’, a tale of his life and the people around him.

© JH Engström, from the series ‘Tout va bien’, 2014

In Swedish photography we often refer to a succession, where Christer Strömholm is followed by Anders Petersen, and JH Engström is a successor of both. All three are represented by Galerie Vu in Paris, where owner Christian Caujolle early discovered and exhibited Strömholm. French photography, and France/Paris as a setting, has impacted on the output of all three. The legacy of Christer Strömholm has largely been that of the independent ( male ) photographer who travels, exposes himself to life, in search of himself, and who has a secret, bohemian existence thanks to his camera. But the women photographers have, as we have seen, always been there as a strong force and tradition in Nordic photography.

© Anna Clarén, from the series ‘Holding’, 2006

Anna Clarén, like JH Engström, belongs to a generation of photographers who made their debut in the late 1990s. Her major breakthrough came with the book ‘Holding’ ( 2006 ), a project that encompasses some 50 pictures, and with a narrative that builds on an existential crisis. In bright colour photographs – dominated by pastel blue and pale skin tones – we meet people and places close to the photographer. Anna Clarén has been one of the principal teachers at Nordens Fotoskola on Biskops-Arnö. The school has an explicit policy on image production, stating that it strives to promote the authenticity of editorial pictures and that it is the photo journalist’s responsibility and subjective choices that give the image authenticity. This has of course grown even more important in our digital era, but the question of responsibility has always been paramount in documentary photography. It also reflects Christer Strömholm’s many statements on responsibility and veracity in connection with his own photography.

Martin Bogren is the third contemporary photographer highlighted in this exhibition. In ‘Lowlands’ from 2011, his atmospheric black-and-white images tell of a small rural village in Skåne, his memories, his friends, and his longing to get away. But he returned, and through the people and surroundings he experienced and photographed his own childhood and upbringing. Thus, his project is exceedingly personal and, ultimately, a self-portrait.

© Martin Bogren, from the series ‘Lowlands’, 2011

In several interviews,Nan Goldin has emphasised that she was influenced and inspired by both Christer Strömholm and Anders Petersen. One of JH Engström’s inspirations, a photographer he has collaborated and exhibited with, is Nan Goldin. She also came to Nordens Fotoskola as a guest teacher in 1992. These are some of the reasons why Nan Goldin is included in this exhibition of Swedish photography. Her entire oeuvre focuses on documenting the people and places she loves and has a special relationship to, deeply private experiences encompassing the lighter and darker aspects of existence. Christer Strömholm said that all his images were, in some way, part of his life – a perspective that is significant for all the photographers presented here. Our selection also includes several self-portraits, friend portraits, and portraits of the photographer Christer Strömholm. Through the photographers in this exhibition, we have the opportunity to see a large range of fantastic photographs that show different ways of life.

Swedish Photography from Christer Strömholm until Today
Stockholm 6 September 2014 - 15 February 2015

© Moderna Museet, Stockholm

zondag 25 december 2016

From Our House to Your House a Collection of Home-made pictorial Christmas cards from the 1930s to the 1990s Martin Parr Photography

The Presentation House Gallery has a great bookshop for photography titles. I picked up another Martin Parr book: From Our House to Your House.

This is a collection of home-made pictorial Christmas cards, from the 1930s to the 1990s. There is the usual cavalcade of outdated fashion, poor taste, and even worse humour. Families arrayed in their Sunday best, stiff and upright, or laboriously showing off their skills as performers or musicians. The 1979 card from "The Ritchie family": full colour, appalling clothes, dubious mantelpiece ornaments, porn-star moustaches. The 1980 card from Merrily and Dick Gifford, their children "Debbie, Deanna, Dick, Dan, Daurie, Ann, David, and Dicksie" all lined up by the side of the pool.

Most extraordinary, however, are the image manipulations. Often these entail distortions of scale: a family playing among outsize Christmas baubles, for instance. And there's a peculiar fascination with the notion of giant children who have their parents, literally, in the palm of their hands.

From Our House
These cards (and their attendant Christmas letters) are the means by which American families presented themselves to the world, to their extended network of friends and acquaintances. But the cracks and faultlines within those families are also all too visible, all too painfully on show.

De invloedrijke Brits fotograaf Martin Parr heeft lang ansichtkaarten en andere fotografische ephemera verzameld en publiceerde verschillende boeken met behulp van dit materiaal, met inbegrip van saai ansichtkaarten. Dit boek bevat een selectie van gepersonaliseerde kerstkaarten uit de jaren 1950 tot de jaren 1970 dat dat gezinnen zou zelf maken of van aanpassen leeg voorgedrukt voordat ze worden verzonden naar vrienden en relaties. Een eigenzinnige boekje voor het feestelijke seizoen.

Hardback in gewatteerde rode covers en in uitstekende staat.

Door dewi lewis publiceren, Stockport 2002 gepubliceerd. Eerste editie.

Bint photoBooks on INTernet would like to wish you a happy holiday weekend. All the Best & Thank you for another fun and memorable year!

vrijdag 23 december 2016

A Gate of Heaven will Open Hiroshi Sugimoto Photography

Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto given solo exhibition at Foam
Written by Tom Seymour

Bay of Sagami, Atami, 1997. All images © Hiroshi Sugimoto, courtesy Foam

An overview of the work of Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto is about to launch at Foam, Amsterdam.

Born in Tokyo in 1948, Hiroshi Sugimoto moved to the USA in 1970 to study photography.

A multi-disciplinary artist, he works in sculpture, architecture, installation and photography.

He reportedly took his earliest photographs in high school, photographing film footage of Audrey Hepburn as it played in a movie theater.

In 1970, Sugimoto studied politics and sociology at Rikkyō University in Tokyo. In 1974, he retrained as an artist and received his BFA in Fine Arts at the Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, California.

Hyena, Jackal, Vulture, 1976. Gelatin silver print © Hiroshi Sugimoto

Afterwards, Sugimoto settled in New York City. He soon started working as a dealer of Japanese antiquities in Soho.

With extreme attention to light and shadow, Sugimoto sees his work as a way of exploring our ideas and understanding of memory, its preservation and its representation.

This is most apparent in his ongoing series Seascapes, which began in 1980.

Writing of the series, Sugimoto says: “Water and air. So very commonplace are these substances, they hardly attract attention―and yet they vouchsafe our very existence.

“The beginnings of life are shrouded in myth: Let there water and air. Living phenomena spontaneously generated from water and air in the presence of light, though that could just as easily suggest random coincidence as a Deity.

Lightning Fields 327, 2014 © Hiroshi Sugimoto

“Let’s just say that there happenedto be a planet with water and air in our solar system, and moreover at precisely the rightdistance from the sun for the temperatures required to coax forth life. While hardly inconceivable that at least one such planet should exist in the vast reaches of universe, we search in vain for another similar example.

“Mystery of mysteries, water and air are right there before us in the sea. Every time I viewthe sea, I feel a calming sense of security, as if visiting my ancestral home; I embark on avoyage of seeing.”

Sugimoto’s work is represented in international collections such as the MoMA and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Smithsonian in Washington, and the National Gallery and Tate Modern in London.

Working with traditional methods, the artist reinterprets some of the principal genres in the classic tradition of photography, engaging with highly meditated conceptual elements.

The exhibition at Foam, Amsterdam, is divided into five sections devoted to the artist’s major series: Theaters (1976-ongoing); Lightning Fields (2006-ongoing); Dioramas (1976-2012); Portraits (1994-1999); and Seascapes (1980-ongoing).

On display are a total of 34 large-format works, selected by guest curator Philip Larratt-Smith, that offer a survey of the artist’s last forty years of artistic activity.

Een hemelpoort gaat voor je open
Hiroshi Sugimoto kan als geen ander ongrijpbare begrippen als ruimte, tijd en licht vangen in heldere foto's. En zo de toeschouwer de eeuwigheid in lanceren.
Hans den Hartog Jager
21 december 2016 om 20:08

Eigenlijk is het heel eenvoudig. Hiroshi Sugimoto is een van de beste fotografen ter wereld omdat hij erin slaagt ongrijpbare begrippen als ruimte, licht en tijd te vangen in foto’s die zo helder zijn, zo precies, dat ze lijken te stralen van pure overtuigingskracht.

Maar doe het maar eens.

Neem de openingszaal van Sugimoto’s overzichtstentoonstelling in Foam, Amsterdam. Daar, tegen grijze wanden en met tamelijk theatraal licht, hangen zes foto’s uit zijn serie ‘Seascapes’. Ze zijn in principe heel simpel: stuk voor stuk tonen ze een kalme zee, in zwart-wit, zonder mensen en met een horizon net even boven het midden. Toch is de zaal een knockout. Want Sugimoto slaagt erin dat overbekende landschap tot grote hoogten op te stuwen. Eerst brengt hij het terug tot zijn essentie, twee vlakken met een scheidingslijn, maar vervolgens drukt hij dat geheel zo perfect af, met zoveel gevoel voor nuance en licht en detail, dat hij die schijnbaar alledaagse werkelijkheid met een grote zwaai optilt, ver boven elke ervaring die je normaal uit het leven kent. Voor je ogen transformeert Sugimoto de zee zo tot de essentie van licht en ruimte en oneindigheid – een eeuwig beeld, waarin de tijd stilstaat en je alles om je heen kunt vergeten. Dat is op zich al een bijzondere ervaring, maar dan doen deze ‘Seascapes’ ook nog eens denken aan het werk van Mark Rothko. Volkomen terecht natuurlijk: ook Sugimoto’s foto’s gaan over het sublieme, roepen onbeheersbare emoties op – en dus maakte Sugimoto, ook niet gek, zelfs een ‘Seascape’ van de zee bij Rugen, de plaats waar oer-romanticus Caspar David Friedrich telkens terugkeerde om te schilderen.

Precies de spanning tussen verleiden en optillen aan de ene kant en beheersen en analyseren daar tegenover is de grote kracht van Sugimoto’s werk – alleen zou je dat door die sublieme, verleidelijke foto’s in de eerste zaal zomaar kunnen vergeten. De volgende zalen, waarin vier klassieke Sugimoto-series worden getoond, laten eigenlijk veel beter zien wat hem fascineert. Sugimoto heeft zichzelf altijd in de eerste plaats als een intellectueel beschouwd, een conceptueel kunstenaar die er niet op uit is zijn toeschouwers weg te laten zweven in verleiding en illusie, maar ze juist wil laten nadenken over werkelijkheid, beeld en perceptie. Hoe betrouwbaar is de fotografie? Is ze altijd een illusie? Of is ze, op haar best, juist in staat ons veel intenser naar de wereld te laten kijken dan normaal?

En inderdaad: in de rest van de tentoonstelling gaat het vooral over de kloof tussen het fotografische beeld en ‘de’ werkelijkheid, tussen constructie en illusie. Dat is het duidelijkst in ‘Lightning Fields’, een serie foto’s waarvoor Sugimoto stroomstoten direct ‘ving’ op het fotopapier, in al hun spontaniteit en grilligheid. Perfecte symbolen van de kortstondigheid van het moment zijn het, maar daardoor ook een tikje vrijblijvend – en wel érg esthetisch. Spannender zijn wat dat betreft de twee series foto’s van wassen beelden en van diorama’s. Sugimoto neemt hierbij beide keren een nadrukkelijk geconstrueerde werkelijkheid als uitgangspunt (mensen van was of dieren in een natuurdiorama) waarbij de makers iets proberen te bewerkstelligen wat eigenlijk onmogelijk is: leven suggereren en dat leven tegelijk stilzetten. Maar omdat fotografie natuurlijk precies hetzelfde doet, biedt die verdubbeling Sugimoto de kans om de verwarring over dat ‘stilgezette’ leven nog eens lekker aan te zetten. In hoeverre representeert een wassen beeld het echte leven? Of is het juist de dood? Verhoudt een foto zich überhaupt altijd tot de werkelijkheid als een wassen beeld tot een levend mens?

Al Sugimoto’s thema’s en fascinaties komen prachtig bij elkaar in zijn beroemde bioscopen-serie, die in Foam de laatste zaal vult. Hiervoor fotografeerde Sugimoto lege, vaak heel theatraal gebouwde bioscoopzalen in de Verenigde Staten op een opmerkelijke manier: de sluitertijd was precies even lang als de duur van de gedraaide film. Het resultaat is geweldig: door de extreem lange sluitertijd wordt de architectuur op de foto’s mysterieus en theatraal en vol subtiele grijs-nuances, terwijl het projectiescherm diep, lonkend wit toont als de poort naar de oneindigheid. Juist door dat prachtige contrast denk je meteen weer aan de ‘Seascapes’: alsof Sugimoto er opnieuw in is geslaagd jou, als toeschouwer, via het licht en de ruimte in de eeuwigheid te lanceren. Dat is de grote kracht van deze foto’s: steeds als je denkt dat je deze wereld beheerst, dat je de zaak onder controle hebt, trekt Sugimoto een hemelpoort voor je open – en weerstand bieden is geen optie.


Hiroshi Sugimoto. Black Box. In Foam, Amsterdam. T/m 18 maart.

donderdag 22 december 2016

Views & Reviews The Bread Book Kenneth Josephson Conceptualism Photography

by Josephson, Kenneth
Austin, TX: University Of Texas Press, 2016. First Edition. First Printing.. Softcover. As New/No Dust Jacket, As Issued.. Austin, TX: University Of Texas Press, 2016. Softcover. As New/None, As Issued. First Edition/First Printing. 20 pages. Collection of photographs, presented as an Artist Book. One of the most important Conceptual art photography books of our time, in a New Edition. Limited Edition of 250 signed copies. Published as a softcover original only that will not be reissued once all of the copies are sold. An austerely elegant production by Kenneth Josephson and Only Photography Press: Regular-sized volume format. Pictorial softcovers with titles on the cover, as issued. Photographs by Kenneth Josephson. There is no text. Printed on pristine-white, thick coated stock paper in Berlin, Germany to the highest standards. The photographer himself has said that the production quality is superior to the original edition in the way that it captures the tonal nuances which, of course, is the whole point of the book. Without DJ, as issued. Re-presents, in a Limited Edition format, Kenneth Josephson's "The Bread Book". Pioneering Conceptual art photography at its Minimalist best, long before Minimalism itself became a full-fledged and dominant movement. "A deceptively simple object - photographs of the fronts and backs of ten slices of bread with no accompanying text - this Artist Book raises questions about the nature of photography and its ability to transform an object into an idea or concept while creating yet another object: The book itself. The result of this act of transformation is that the original loaf no longer functions as a loaf of bread, but as a self-contained book that considers the ideas of sequence and illusion" (Publisher's blurb). "A monument of the photobook. It's the book itself that is the work of art, not the individual images. Like most of the best Conceptual photography, the idea is devastatingly simple on the surface yet infinitely complex when you look beyond the surface" (Gerry Badger). Originally published in an edition of 1800 copies, "The Bread Book" has been out-of-print for a very long time. Here it is, in a production that Kenneth Josephson himself regards as definitive and superior to its original realization. An absolute "must-have" title for Kenneth Josephson collectors. This title is a late-modern art photography classic.  One of the greatest artist/photographers of our time. 

The Bread Book by Kenneth Josephson (1973) is a small booklet of twenty pages printed in offset. Starting with the front cover, which shows, besides the title, the cap of a loaf of bread. Each sheet progressively shows the front and back of all ten slices of a small loaf of bread. The back cover therefore shows the other end of the loaf.

Josephson created this book in direct response to the photo story sequences that were being created and published by Duane Michals at about that time.

“If you look at a Duane Michals book you see it and you get it, and you never look at it again,” Josephson said. “With The Bread Book there is nothing to get. You can even look at it backwards.”

What started life as a fairly cheap and affordable book now retails for quite some dough.

Kenneth Josephson is one of the foremost conceptual photographers in America. Since the early 1960s, when institutions such as MoMA privileged photography in the documentary mode, Josephson has championed the photograph as an object “made,” not taken, by an artist pursuing an idea. Using innovative techniques such as placing images within images and including his own body in photographs, Josephson has created an outstanding body of work that is startlingly contemporary and full of ideas that stimulate the digital generation—ideas about the nature of seeing, of “reality,” and of human aspirations, and about what it means to be a human observing the world.
The Light of Coincidence is the definitive, career-spanning retrospective of Kenneth Josephson’s work and one of the few volumes ever published on this major artist. Josephson has worked in series over long periods of time, and this book beautifully reproduces representative selections from every series, including Josephson’s best-known Images within Images. Lynne Warren places Josephson’s art in historical context, from his early studies with Aaron Siskind and Harry Callahan at the Institute of Design and with Minor White at the Rochester Institute of Technology, to his mature work, which shares affinities with that of conceptual artists such as Cindy Sherman and Ed Ruscha, to his shaping influence on generations of students at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he taught for over thirty-five years. Preeminent photo historian Gerry Badger’s foreword confirms Josephson’s stature as an artist who has explored “in a thoroughly creative and complex, yet accessible, way, the perhaps narrow but infinitely deep gap between actuality and image.”
“Kenneth Josephson’s photographs have life because they are great pictures. That is why they are not only satisfying but have resonated in our consciousness for so long. . . . He has produced one of the foremost bodies of work that explores how photographic images operate and their ultimate purpose.” -Gerry Badger, from the foreword to The Light of Coincidence
“A monument of the conceptual photobook. . . . It’s the book itself that is the work of art, not the individual images. . . . Like most of the best conceptual photography, the idea is devastatingly simple on the surface, yet infinitely complex when you look beyond the surface.” —Gerry Badger on The Bread Book, author of The Photobook: A History
“The book shows the tremendous range of image-making styles, from street photography to collage, poignant family photos, references to photo history, and cheeky nudes. It’s easy to imagine they’ll continue to resonate deep into the future as well. –Famous in Chicago? What a Concept, New York Times Lens Blog article on Kenneth Josephson
Read a Wall St. Journal review of his most recent exhibition here
“Ken makes photographs through conceptualism using expedient formal strategies calling attention self-consciously to the medium’s limits. It is conceptual and accessible because it is so clearly formal while playful wit and irony prevails. His images of humor and clarity that simultaneously invite pondering speak to generations in their freshness. And curators have long taken note and continue to speak to his influence in contrast to the relative under-representation of his rich and varied oeuvre.” — Marilyn Zimmerwoman, photographer/activist/educator
Kenneth Josephson was born in Detroit in 1932. He began his formal photography training at the Rochester Institute of Technology, earning an Associate Degree before being drafted into the army in 1953, where he spent several months in Germany doing photolithography for aerial reconnaissance. He returned to R.I.T. immediately after to earn his B.F.A. studying under the new program head, Minor White. Josephson started his graduate studies at the Institute of Design in 1958 studying under Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind. In 1960 Josephson became an instructor at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he taught until 1997. Josephson has participated in numerous exhibitions, and his works are in major museums around the world, including the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris; the Center for Creative Photography; the George Eastman House; the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Museum of Modern Art; the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, as well as countless private collections.

Visual Criticism in Photography

Jno Cook, Nit & Wit Magazine, November 1981

Photography is somewhat different from the other visual arts. Much of what has passed as photo-criticism in the last one hundred and forty years, and there has been very little of it, has been written by photographers. This has been so because, historically, photography represented more of a guild community, and therefore fell upon its own membership to formulate a critique. There were no objective outsiders who took any interest in the field, and few of the insiders have been articulate. Additionally, that photo community had little awareness of its own history, a condition that prevailed into the sixties, and photography's status as art was not firmly established until the seventies.

But at that point in time we not only see a rise in the volume of literature dealing with photography, but for the first time we start to see what might be understood as a criticism that is expressed in the same medium. It is photographic work done by photographers which deals with the work of other photographers. But there is little of it, and it is often inconclusive. The sparsity of work is in some ways difficult to understand, for when it comes to turning out work the photographic process has much greater possibilities for less of an investment than, for example, painting. More likely it stems from the discomfort many photographers must feel in attempting critical work. Because it is mostly absent or goes unrecognized, there is no clear legitimacy for photographic criticism done photographically, for work that forms a reaction, a condensation, or an understanding of the work of others. I am not speaking here of simply the art-historical allusion, references to the medium, or of conceptual explorations. And I'm not speaking of ifluences or derivative work. I'm speaking of genuine reactions, direct responses. Let me give two examples.

As a first example, consider the work done by a number of photographers which has had a clear reference to the work of the nineteenth century photographer Eadweard Muybridge, who in 1887 published some 800 motion studies under the title, Animal Locomotion. Muybridge had demonstrated in 1877 what a galloping horse looked like, and specifically that all four feet were off the ground at some point. But the studies of 1887 went far beyond his initial effort. Animal Locomotion showed the gaits of elephants and camels and other animals borrowed from the Philadelphia zoo, as well as humans, most often in the nude, in every type of activity. The colotype prints of these activities generally showed a dozen or more consecutive frames, and often simultaneous views were shown from the front, the side, and obliquely. Bound into books, the studies represented eleven volumes.

In 1974, Jim Snitzer spoofed the Muybridge efforts with a series of prints titled "Animal Crackers." Within the consecutive frames of each print animal crackers were being transformed, perhaps by being eaten. At about the same time, Marion Faller and Hollis Frampton produced a set of 16 prints under the label "Vegetable Locomotion," which did similar things with vegetables. Significant of the date -- 1974, 1975 -- is the fact that this seems to be the earliest time at which this type of activity is allowed while simultaneously the requirement is made of the viewer that it be taken seriously. It needed to be taken seriously, to the extent that that was possible, because all three of these persons were students in an art curriculum at the time. Snitzer was at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and Faller and Frampton were at the Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester.

But what kind of activity is this? How are we supposed to react to this work? Despite the fact that both of these series are the products of working artists, there seems to be little or nothing we can clearly label as art. The work does not deal with personal concerns or larger social issues. None of it calls up an emotional response, nor is any of it important as an appeal to its inherent sensual quality. To understand how this work functions one has to recognize the use of humor, parody, the historical allusion, and the exuberant display of imagination as intellectual activities, and realize that when the allusion becomes the primary reference of the work we are simply dealing with criticism. The legitimacy of an intellectual basis for work was, of course, firmly established in the other visual arts, but in photography it was tolerated much less. Photographers have always had problems in not dealing with real subject matter. This may explain the hesitancy with which these ventures are undertaken, and the fact that they fall short of their goal. For, although both of these studies can be understood as a reflective critique of Muybridge's Animal Locomotion, both miss the central reality of Muybridge's work: its in credible compulsiveness and exhaustiveness. It is this, after all, that makes Muybridge stand out as an exemplary figure in the history of photography. Those 800 studies were produced over the span of three or four years, and who can tell how much additional work was never published. A dozen prints, therefore, do not adequately address Muybridge's work or personality in scope or essence. A portfolio of a hundred prints would have been more to the point. Neither Snitzer nor Faller and Frapton, for example, blow up their subjects with a stick of dynamite as Muybridge did with a turkey, or use deformed vegetables as subjects.

Another example of criticism within the media is found in the work of Kenneth Josephson. Josephson teaches photography at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and much of his work over the years has dealt with an analytical exploration of photography in itself. Among his works, for example, is a continuing series dealing exclusively with allusion to the history of photography. Josephson is facile and at ease witht his type of work, and it is therefore no surprise that he was able to shift to a piece of work that was decidedly more critical than conceptual; the 1973 production of The Bread Book. The Bread Book is a small booklet of ten leaves, that is, twenty pages if the covers are counted, printed in offset. At first glance it might seem like yet another conceptual statement. Starting with the front cover which shows, besides the title, the cap of a loaf of bread, each sheet progressively shows the front and back of all ten slices of a small loaf of bread. The back cover therefore shows the other end of the loaf. It is easily dismissable unless some thought is given to what is being presented here, and how that is being accomplished. And it gains considerable significance if one knows that Josephson created this in direct response to the photo story sequences that were being created and published by Duane Michals at about that time.

"If you look at a Duane Michals book you see it and you get it, and you never look at it again," Josephson said. "With The Bread Book there is nothing to get. You can even look at it backwards." Josephson is notorious for the understatement. He doess not make mention, for example, what must be obvious after a moment's reflection, that the bread book incorporates the physical aspects of a loaf of bread. It not only records the bread in detai1, but the form of the book is the plan and layout for the reconstruction of the loaf. When you stand the book on end it becomes a sliced loaf of bread again. And like the building plans for a house, it has been condensed to a thickness of a mere eighth of an inch. Similar to other books of instructions with similar deadpan titles which appeared in the seventies -- books The Dome Book, The Massage Book -- Josephson's book seems to hold the same promise of completeness and no-nonsense authenticity. And it is. It's all there, the whole loaf. The slices are even reproduced full-size.

The Bread Book also comments on art and the making of art, and especially on the lack of taste or intelligence that goes into the preferences of the buying public. Duane Michal's work was selling. By 1974 Michals would have an exhibit at LIGHT gallery in NewYork. But for Josephson's bread book, the possibility of monetary rewards seemed limited, for the book sold for only two dollars and fifty cents. But that was the point of it. For Josephson, who normally dealt in single photographic peints, matted and signed, there was a gesture in the inexpensiveness of The Bread Booh just as there was in its availability. "I have quite a few left," Josephson remarked recently.

I have to admit that I had to struggle with The Bread Book when I first saw it. Its most significant aspect at first was the clever way in which the paradigm of subject and object had been retained. The book not only duplicated a loaf of bread, but any loaf of bread now became a model for The Bread Book. That is the sort of thing that makes Siskind's photograph of a discarded glove work in the same way that a photograph of a shoe woulddn't work -- for gloves, or hands, exist in the vertical, but a shoe on the wall would have been an absurdity.

What next became obvious is that I was here dealing with a book, and would tend to look at it with those presumptions which we nornally have about books. We immediately assume a narrative character, a progression from front to back, and a content that starts and completes itself within the covers -- not, as with this book, on the Covers.

We even assume that serial images are located in time. The Bread Book satisfied none of these requirements. Instructive as this might be in enlightening our ignorance, just as we might delight in those parallels that are being shown between books and bread, all of this make much more sense when seen in the context of Josephson's purpose. Compare The Bread Book now with the books of Duane Michals which play with space and physical transformations, but which are always located in time, always meant to be read from left to right, always assume a narrative unfolding.

As I mentioned above, efforts such as these seldom occur in photography, and when they happen they often fall short. Direct critical work is often reduced to a display of humour, and does not involve the requisite activities of amassing data, of analytic comparisons, or even of expressing a complete response to the work of others. The two critiques of Muybridge are obviously incomplete. Josephson's book, too, is inconclusive in that he never revealed his target publicly. But then, Josephson never deals in specific subject matter. For him the concepts incorporated in the book are more important than a specific reference to Duane Michals would have been. Josephson was wise enough to choose a small loaf -- there are only ten slices -- not only apropos for a small book, but perhaps also for a single roll of film, and at any rate just enough to establish it as a toss-off. His target, Josephson might have suggested, didn't require any more comment than that.

Photos: Matthew Carson

Kenneth Josephson was born on July 1, 1932 in Detroit, Michigan and he is one of the early and influential practitioners of Conceptual photography. Layering his images within other images and playing with the act of picture-making, investigating the nature of truth and illusion in the photographic medium. He is one of the great photographers of the latter part of the 20th century. Information. Happy birthday, Kenneth!

Matthew Carsonis a Librarian and Archivist at the International Center of Photography [ICP] in New York. Information. He is one of the committee members of the Contemporary Artists’ Book Conference at the New York Art Book Fair [NYABF] and is also a co-founder of the 10×10 Photobook organization. In 2013 he was a curator of the book component of the ICP Triennial: A Different Kind of Order. Information. Information. As a photography enthusiast and bibliomaniac he is the editor and a writer for the ICP library blog, Monsters & Madonnas.

The Book of Bread. Text by Owen Simmons. Uncredited photographer. Maclaren & Sons, London, 1903. 360 pp. Large quarto. First edition. Hardbound with debossed title. 27 black-and-white and 11 color reproductions (8 tipped-in) plus 2 pasted-in silver gelatin prints. 

Of all the books mentioned in Parr and Badger's The Photobook: A History, vol. I, one of the titles most often mentioned in reviews was this idiosyncratic (mainly because it is so doggedly literal) look at the world of bread. As they explain, even though the book was published in 1903, it is related to nineteenth century attempts to catalogue and classify the "things of the world." "Here, at the beginning of the twentieth century," they write, "one of the humblest, yet most essential of objects is catalogued as precisely, rigorously and objectively as any work by a 1980s Conceptual artist."