These are my favorite...(cont'd)

Young Farmers in their Sunday Best, August Sander (1913)

An early example of conceptual art, August Sander begins to blend his portraiture work with documentary elements. I love the element of a moment in time that this image conveys, as if Sander has simply asked these men to glance his way for a quick snapshot. (while in reality, this is certainly a carefully staged photograph). John Berger opens his essay The Suit and the Photograph with the question...

"What did August Sander tell his sitters before he took their pictures? And how did he say it so that they all believed him in the same way?"

I have often wondered that same question regarding many photographers, and I think the subtle conversation between photographer and subject can be as much a determining factor to the image as the camera setting are.The subject fascinates me, and I love stories that relate the personal interaction between photographer and subject, such as Dorothea Lange's 1960 essay, The Assignment I'll Never Forget, in which she relates the experience of shooting her iconic Migrant Mother photograph.

"I did not ask her name or her history. She told me her age, that she was 32. She said they had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields, and birds that the children killed. She had just sold the tires from her car to buy food. There she sat in that lean-to tent with her children huddled around her, and seemed to know that my pictures might help her, and so she helped me. There was a sort of equality about it."

We have no way of knowing what Sander said to his subjects, and yet they all seem to look at the camera in the same way throughout his large body of portraits, and all seem to have been willing to help him achieve the incredible historical social documentary record that have been such an important part of the recognition of photography as art.

(above photo from Barack Obama, as posted on Flickr)

If Obama loses this election, Democrats have only themselves to blame...

Here are some excerpts from a fantastic Maureen Dowd piece in today's New York Times...

High Anxiety in the Mile-High City...

There were a lot of bitter Clinton associates, fund-raisers and supporters wandering the halls, spewing vindictiveness, complaining of slights, scheming about Hillary’s roll call and plotting trouble, with some in the Clinton coterie dissing Obama by planning early departures, before the nominee even speaks.

Ed Rendell, the governor of Pennsylvania, compared Obama to the passive-aggressive Adlai Stevenson and told The Washington Post that Obama gives six-minute answers and “is not exactly the easiest guy in the world to identify with.” (Rendell is planning to vote for Hillary in the Roll Call)

"People just constantly underestimate the narcissism, beyond narcissism, of the Clintons", said one top Democrat. "They keep thinking they can manage them. I wish Obama would just tell them 'Shut Up. You guys have only cared about yourselves for much too long. Get over it.'"

Here is a related story from the Huffington Post

What a score! I found this book in the bargain boxes at Harvest Books in Fort Washington, Pa. Harvest is a fantastic source of rare and out of print books as well as standard everyday used paperbacks and hardcover books. They happen to have a retail outlet a couple miles from my house. Every Saturday they change the special section of boxes of books that they bring in from the warehouse. Today I found this really nice photo book, Philadelphia: The Unexpected City by Laurence Lafore & Sarah Lee Lippincott, published in 1965 by Doubleday. It is chock full of really nice black & white images all taken by the authors.And best of all, the price was $2, which is the standard price for hardcover books in this area of the outlet.

The image below is Grape Street, Manayunk
(which looks amazingly similar to how it appears today)

...and the next image is Fisherman on Schuylkill embankment

Seeing people fishing along the Schuylkill River is such an iconic scene to any Philadelphian. I don't think I have ever driven down Kelly drive and not seen someone dangling a line in the river. Interestingly enough, Schuylkill River fishing is the subject of a not to be missed local film. On September 10th at First Person Arts there will be a premier screening of Hooked, a short documentary film about urban fishing in Philadelphia by Andrew Schwalm Keep an eye on the First Person Arts Blog for details.

For those like me going through Olympics withdrawal symptoms... this Sundance channel documentary on Peter Beard is like a dose of Methadone. It is mesmerizing.


Renowned for his magnificent images of Africa's landscape and wildlife, his collage diaries and his commercial fashion shoots, photographer Peter Beard comes into focus in this documentary profile by Guillaume Bonn and Jean-Claude Luyat. Beard's life and half-century career has been divided between remote African locales and fashionable cosmopolitan circles, where he has counted among his friends Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Francis Bacon and Mick Jagger. A rare and engrossing portrait of one of the world's last artist-adventurers.

I don't use this blog to promote cameras or products, but this morning I got an email from Hasselblad announcing the new H3DII-31
I know nothing about the digital medium format cameras, mainly because the $30,000 price tag has stopped me from even reading about them. But this new Hassey model has a 44 X 33mm, 31 Megapixel sensor and is being sold as a kit with body and 80mm lens for under $18,000. This is still out of my budget, but not on a ridiculous scale. It says to me that ultra high end digital equipment is starting to become somewhat competitively priced, and it is only a matter of time until they reach a price point that will be within the reach of serious amateurs and budget conscious pros.

Today is the 4th anniversary of the hit & run death of 14 year old Ashley Nickerson in Bensalem, Pa on August 20th, 2004. Her friends have left her messages on the back of her MADD memorial sign throughout the years....wishing her happy birthday, etc. I have been unsuccessful in trying to connect with Ashley's family and friends.

True love will not fade away...

Here is a beautiful soft cover short run publication... for the love of light: a tribute to the art of Polaroid, edited by Jenifer Altman. This is a collaboration of 25 photographers from around the world, and was inspired by the announcement that Polaroid will soon cease production of instant films. From Altman's introduction...

"This project was conceived out of love and loss, an opportunity for 25 photographers to bid farewell to a true love. While some of the photographers featured in this book shot Polaroid for many years, others were relatively new to the medium. Yet what binds us is our unconditional love for the art and the desire to communicate our daydreams in soft, love-infused light."

I first learned about this book from Fernanda Montoro, whose work I avidly follow. Fernanda is one of the contributors to this book, and I bought it for that reason alone. I debated spending $50 for it, but considering it is a numbered edition of 500 (mine is 397/500), and came with a 5" X 5" print from the book, I think it's well worth it, knowing the high cost and difficulties in small run publishing.

Jenifer Altman did a really nice job editing this book and the selection of photographs is first rate, rivaling some of the best Polaroid work I have seen, including the bible of Polaroid work, Taschen's The Polaroid Book

Some of the standout photographers in For The Love of Light are Yu-i Chan of Los Angeles whose still life of a bird on a glass table is every bit the equal to some of Andre Kertesz's Polaroids. Maditi from Germany presents work with a minimalism and subtle color tone that is the essence of Polaroid film. And Hannah Huffman of Kansas City presents what I think is the best diptych in the book. Her photo shot out the window of an airplane is perhaps the best I've ever seen. ( and that's saying a lot, considering everyone has tried that at some point)

If I have one complaint about the book, it is that with only a few exceptions, it is primarily a collection of SX-70 (and the almost identical 600 format), with a couple Spectra shots included in the mix. Don't get me wrong, I shoot with both of these films on a regular basis and I love them both. I just wish the book included a wider variety of films such as Marie Ek of Sweden's use of 88 film in her Color Pack 80 camera. Maybe there will be a second edition of this fine book that could include some of the specialty pack films like Chocolate or Viva or even good old 669. Just a suggestion. (oh...and how about more than 3 male photographers in volume two?)

Overall, a killer book and a beautiful tribute to this beloved medium. Get one before they are all gone...

For The Love of Light
Here's a good reason to take a break from watching the Olympics...

Documenting the Face of America:
Roy Stryker and the FSA/OWI Photographers

This documentary film, airing tonight at 10PM on PBS, shows how Roy Stryker turned a small government agency's New Deal project to document poverty into a collection of thousands of images of American life in the 1930's and early 40's.
This project helped shape modern documentary photography. The film includes excerpts from the diaries and shooting scripts belonging to Stryker and the photographers, including Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Russell Lee, Gordon Parks, Ben Shahn and others.

Dorothea Lange (1939)

Ben Shahn (1935)

Weekend, read, read....there will be a quiz on Monday.

I love this type of vintage photograph. My grandfather is the guy in the Germantown Academy sweatshirt, and my grandmother is next to him. This is summertime in Maine during the 1920's. Check out the bobbed hair on the ladies and the skirts and saddle shoes. The knickers and sweater vest on the guy at far right. That is one awesome canoe, and a sweet looking catch of the day.

Time for a little Curatus Populatus

I've written about this before. The curating of exhibits or magazine publications via popular vote. Click! was a self described "Crowd-Curated" exhibit that just ended on August 10th at the Brooklyn Museum. 78 Photographs were chosen from a submitted field of 389, and the top online vote getters made it into the show. And the highly popular JPG Magazine works the same way.The more votes and comments your submission gets, the better your chance of being published in the magazine.

I haven't sorted out exactly how I feel about this type of selection process. It might be more prestigious to have your work selected by an elite art world jurist, but how often is really great work overlooked because of the arbitrary taste of one person? On the other hand, curating via the masses might lead to less than art worthy selections (a dumbing down effect?) As I've mentioned before, I think there is plenty of room for both types of selection processes.

That said, I submitted the photo above almost a year ago to JPG Magazine for the Nostalgia Theme. It got some nice comments, but I more or less forgot about it until today when I got an email from JPG saying "Your photo is Hot!". They must be planning to use the Nostalgia Theme in an upcoming issue.

So now it's time to plead and beg before the crowd.... If you like my nostalgic photo of the Cherry Top Drive In taken with my Holga with polaroid film (heck, just the use of Holga and Polaroid film should bring a nostalgic tear to your eye)... then please please please go add a comment or make it a favorite or give it props.....

Cherry Top on JPG Mag
A Picture You Already Know...

"Perhaps this is why working in series is so important to photography, for to shape a personal vision requires revisiting a subject over many images to create a more focused and particular view, rather than relying on the unique aspects of a single image. In other words, photography is particularly suited to the accumulation of and relationships between many images, rather than to the specific imprint on the individual image, to create a unique vision or outlook"

Sze Tsung Leong from A Picture You Already Know (2007)

A friend of mine just sent me a link to the full essay on Repetition and Similarity in photography written by Sze Tsung Leong in 2007. It's a fantastic essay from one of my favorite photographers.

Sze Tsung Leong's Horizons

Found Books

I love to browse Ebay looking for interesting photo books. I've built a sizable library over the years, and you never know what you might find. Here is a selection of interesting items that caught my attention today.

A first edition set of Ansel Adams' Photography series books, The Print, The Negative, & The Camera. I already own this set. If I didn't, I'd be snapping this up quick. This auction ends in 3 hours, and it has no bids on it's opening of $14.99

Ansel Adams Set

This is a pretty cool looking collection of vintage family photos from the 1920's to 1940's. An album of 112 photos from the Wisconsin area. This auction ends on August 12th, and also has no bids yet on it's opening of $19.99. (probably way too high as a start price)

Vintage Family Photos

And here is a fun group of cheesy photography magazines from the 1950's and 1960's. I'm really intrigued by the middle magazine, Living Photography... I would never guess that cover photo is from 1959, and it contains articles entitled "Why Girls" and "Girls are People" That is some heavy technical reading material right there! This auction ends August 13th, and has a starting bid of .99 cents. I might just have to get in on this one.

Vintage Photography Magazines

These are my favorites...(cont'd)

Children in Peru Irving Penn (1948)

Penn captures a portrait of two Peruvian children who could almost pass for an old married couple. The solemn expressions, adult style clothing, and the subtle way in which the children hold hands gives this a surreal quality that is utterly captivating.

Keith Memorial, Lancaster County, Pa (2008)

I've been creatively manic for the past few months, writing like mad and kicking out work on several projects. I can feel things grinding to a halt in the past several days. Tonight was the opening of a show that I have several pieces in, and I didn't even go. I just couldn't bear the thought of making small talk.

I think I've spread myself too thin photographically. I feel really good about the projects I am working on right now, but totally uninspired to work on anything else, and that's ok. I need a break for a few weeks, and not worry about using the cameras for anything. I seriously think I should just put them away and concentrate on some serious reading for the rest of the summer.

The New Color Photography
Sally Eauclaire
1981 Abbeville Press, NY

I adore this book, and have studied it religiously for many years. It could easily be used as the companion publication for the current exhibit at the Julie Saul Gallery, When Color Was New: Vintage Photographs From Around the 1970's
In fact, several photos in the Saul exhibit are in this book...

John Pfahl's Australian Pines (1977)

Joel Sternfeld's McLean, Virginia (1978)

And while the exhibit has received strong reviews....(see Vince Aletti's Critic's Notebook in the August 11th New Yorker and Ken Johnson's August 8th review in the New York Times)... it contains only 40 works by 20 artists...

Harry Callahan, William Christenberry, William Eggleston, Mitch Epstein, Walker Evans, Luigi Ghirri, Nan Goldin, Dan Graham, Jan Groover, David Hockney, Helen Levitt, Joel Meyerowitz, Paul Outerbridge, Martin Parr, John Pfahl, Arthur Siegel, Stephen Shore, Joel Sternfeld, Boyd Webb, Terry Wild.

Anyone wanting to explore this subject in greater detail would not be disappointed with Eauclaire's book, which includes 166 plates by 47 artists, many of the same names in the Saul exhibit, but also such notables as Emmet Gowin, Len Jenshel, Eve Sonneman, and Lucas Samaras (there are 11 women represented in the Eauclaire book)

Another book to consider is William Eggleston's Guide, the companion publication to the 1976 MOMA exhibition that is generally considered to be the serious start to color photography as art...

And finally, for another point of view, check out Aperture Magazine (Spring 2008, Issue 190) for Martin Parr's portfolio of European photographers whose work in colour during the 1970's was largely overlooked compared to the attention that American photographers received. This portfolio was presented as a Parr curated exhibit at Hasted Hunt Gallery in the summer of 2007.

When Color Was New @ Julie Saul Gallery

Colour Before Color @ Hasted Hunt Gallery

The New Color Photography by Sally Eauclaire

Amy, Cape Cod by Diane Arbus (1957)

One of my favorite blogs is The Year in Pictures written by James Danziger. If you love to read about the back stories of famous images, then go directly to Danziger's blog and see his latest post twins, etc.. It is a remarkable story about some of the people who were the subjects of several iconic Diane Arbus photographs, including Twins and Boy With Grenade. Both of these images are haunting and have can be interpreted a thousand different ways, so it is really fascinating to get the model's actual perspective on the shoot.
This image of Pakistani wrestlers by Emilio Morenatti was in yesterday's New York Times. It is the Kushti style of wrestling, which is several thousand years old, and a national sport in Pakistan

I've been photographing high school wrestlers for several years, following my son's teams. I've watched thousands of wrestling matches over the years and have discovered the grace and beauty behind the sometimes brutal realities of competitive wrestling.

I'm saving the rest of my Chocolate film for nudes...

There is no other film that can capture this look and mood, and I am now publicly begging the manufacturers of Polaroid Chocolate to please continue making lot's of it for years to come. (I took this photo today in an abandoned warehouse in North Philadelphia.)