I am working on some narratives to my Roadside Memorial project, and part of that work is confronting some memories of events from years ago that have a lot to do with why I started this project in the first place. I am still in the rough draft of the stories that go with these three photographs. I am having difficulty in keeping these events from seeming too gloomy and morbid. This project is not about morbidity, it is about a unique form of healing from intense grief and tragedy. My own experiences were as an outside observer. In each case I was the first person to arrive upon a tragic scene within minutes of the actual event. I did not know these people, but I was there at the moment of their deaths, purely through random chance.

The memory of what occurred at these places is still as clear as a photograph for me. I drive past these locations many times a week. They are all within a few miles of my house. I think the intensity of those memories, and the reverential feeling I still have for these places is what connects me emotionally to the people who create Roadside Memorials for lost loved ones. I understood the reason why from the moment I first saw a Roadside Memorial.

girl killed on a bicycle. 1975

drunk driving accident. 1977

three men killed eluding police. 1989
Carmilo José Vergara. Girls, Barbies, Harlem (1970)

Harlem, 1970-2009: Photographs by Camilo José Vergara
New York Historical Society
through July 12

From a review in today's New York Times by Holland Cotter

From the time he arrived in the United States from Chile as a college student in 1965, the photographer Camilo José Vergara has been haunting, and haunted by, American cities.

He lives in New York but has spent the better part of the past four decades in Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit and Los Angeles, urban centers with big, poor, largely segregated minority neighborhoods. He has also frequented smaller, fallen-apart industrial cities like Camden, N.J., and Gary, Ind., places he calls “permanent ghettos.”

By his own estimate he has returned to Gary more than a hundred times.

On each visit he has done the same thing: take pictures, mostly of buildings, often the same ones, recording over decades their abandonment, disintegration, demolition and replacement by cheaper structures, or parking lots, or by nothing at all.

This vigilance has produced several books, among them two great, generative visual essays in architectural anthropology, “The New American Ghetto” (1995) and “American Ruins” (1999), and exhibitions like “Harlem, 1970-2009: Photographs by Camilo José Vergara” now at the New-York Historical Society.

His self-created job as documenter is demanding. It can require the fearlessness of a reporter in a war zone and the solicitous detachment of a doctor doing rounds, though Mr. Vergara doesn’t claim these qualities. He has said in interviews that he goes where he goes and does what he does because he needs to.

Complete NYT review

Harlem Photographs
Dream camera...

I have been thinking about this quite a bit lately... a camera that would combine the best of the old school with the best of new technology. This would be my absolute dream camera, and I would trade in all my existing cameras if someone could manufacture this for me-

1. Full sensor digital processor (24mm X 36mm)
2. Range Finder with bright split image focusing
3. Full Manual operation, with Aperture & Shutter Priority options
4. High quality, fast prime lens 50mm F1.8
5. About the size & weight of a mid 70's Japanese rangefinder
6. No LCD screen
7. ISO range 50-1000
8. Should cost no more than $2500

So essentially it is a digital version of a 35mm film based rangefinder, and you might say just buy a Leica M8. The M8 is too expensive, and doesn't have a full sized sensor. And yes,no LCD screen!. I want to eliminate the distraction of constantly looking at that stupid little screen to see what I got. It is a total waste of time and tells me absolutely nothing about the quality of the photograph. Just give me the simplicity and quality of a really well made range finder without the constraints of film developing.

Do you think any manufacturer would make a camera like this? I would love to hear your thoughts about your own dream camera...

Map charting Robert Frank's road trips during the 1950s that resulted in The Americans

From a terrific post on The Year in Pictures

Spiritual intoxication...

"Why is photography, like the other arts, that kind of intoxication? And a quieter pleasure too, so that occasionally photographers discover tears in their eyes for the joy of seeing. I think it is because they've known a miracle. They've been given what they did not earn, and as is the way with unexpected gifts, the surprise carries an emotional blessing. When photographers get beyond copying the achievements of others, or just repeating their own accidental first successes, they learn that they do not know where in the world they will find pictures. Nobody does. Each photograph that works is a revelation to its supposed creator. Yes, photographers do position themselves to take advantage of good fortune, sensing for instance when to stop the car and walk, but this is only the beginning".

Robert Adams from the essay Colleagues
by Henri Cartier-Bresson

If a photograph is to communicate its subject in all its intensity, the relationship of form must be rigorously established. Photography implies the recognition of a rhythm in the world of real things. What the eye does is to find and focus on the particular subject within the mass of reality; what the camera does is simply to register upon film the decision made by the eye. We look at and perceive a photograph, as we do a painting, in its entirety and all in one glance. In a photograph, composition is the result of a simultaneous coalition, the organic coordination of elements seen by the eye. One does not add composition as though it were an afterthought superimposed on the basic subject material, since it is impossible to separate content from form. Composition must have its own inevitability about it.

In photography there is a new kind of plasticity, the product of instantaneous lines made by movements of the subject. We work in unison with movement as though it were a presentiment of the way in which life itself unfolds. But inside movement there is one moment at which the elements in motion are in balance. Photography must seize upon this moment and hold immobile the equilibrium of it.

The photographer’s eye is perpetually evaluating. A photographer can bring coincidence of line simply by moving his head a fraction of a millimeter. He can modify perspectives by a slight bending of his knees. By placing the camera closer or farther from the subject, he draws a detail- and it can be subordinated, or he can be tyrannized by it. But he composes a picture in very nearly the same amount of time it takes to click the shutter, at the speed of a reflex action.

Sometimes it happens that you stall, delay, wait for something to happen, except for just one thing that seems to be missing. But what one thing? Perhaps someone suddenly walks into your range of view. You follow his progress through the viewfinder, you wait and wait and then finally you press the button- and you depart with the feeling (though you don’t know why) that you’ve really got something. Later, to substantiate this, you can take a print of this picture, trace on it the geometric figures which come up under analysis, and you’ll observe that, if the shutter was released at the decisive moment, you have instinctively fixed a geometric pattern without which the photograph would have been both formless and lifeless.

Composition must be one of our constant preoccupations, but at the moment of shooting it can stem only from our intuition, for we are out to capture the fugitive moment, and all the interrelationships involved are on the move. In applying the Golden Rule, the only pair of compasses at the photographer’s disposal is his own pair of eyes. Any geometrical analysis, any reducing of the picture to a scheme, can be done only (because of its very nature) after the photograph had been taken, developed, and printed- and then it can be used only for a post- mortem examination of the picture. I hope we never see the day when photo shops sell little schema grills to clamp onto our viewfinders; and the Golden Rule will never be etched on our ground glass.

If you start cutting or cropping a good photograph, it means death to the geometrically correct interplay of proportions. Besides, it very rarely happens that a photograph which was feebly composed can be saved by reconstruction of its composition under the darkroom’s enlarger; the integrity of vision is no longer there. There is a lot of talk about camera angles; but the only valid angles in existence are the angles of the geometry of composition and not the ones fabricated by the photographer who falls on his stomach or performs other antics to procure his effects.

gradient blue sky

Hue manipulated sequence of a photograph of the sky taken this morning. The original image is not included in the sequence, but would belong directly in the center of the gradient scale. Each image is +/- 2 increments of Hue from the next image.
Poetic Sequence...

Cassidy by Durruti Column
Gallery Picks: June 2009

International Center of Photography
1133 Avenue of the Americas at 43rd Street
New York, NY 10036

Avedon Fashion: 1944-2000
Richard Avedon (1923–2004) revolutionized fashion photography starting in the post-World War II era and redefined the role of the fashion photographer. Anticipating many of the cultural cross-fertilizations that have occurred between high art, commercial art, fashion, advertising, and pop culture in the last twenty years, he created spirited, imaginative photographs that showed fashion and the modern woman in a new light. He shook up the chilly, static formulas of the fashion photograph and by 1950 was the most imitated American editorial photographer. Injecting a forthright, American energy into a business that had been dominated by Europeans, Avedon's stylistic innovations continue to influence photographers around the world.
This exhibition will be the most comprehensive exploration to date of Avedon's fashion photography during his long career at Harper's Bazaar, Vogue, The New Yorker, and beyond. Working closely with The Richard Avedon Foundation, ICP curator Carol Squiers and guest curator Vince Aletti will present new scholarship on the evolution and extraordinary, ongoing impact of his work. The exhibition will feature more than 200 works by Richard Avedon, spanning his entire career, and will include vintage prints, contact sheets, magazine layouts, and archival material.
Avedon Fashion @ ICP

Danziger Projects
534 West 24th Street
New York, New York 10011

The exhibition "Location" looks at some of the many ways the concept of location in photography differs from "landscape". Like a photographic portrait, a photograph of a location can never be entirely objective. The time, light, vantage point taken by the photographer, and degree to which the photographer intervenes with the location all come to bear on the final product. By this definition, the location photograph is a conceptual act.

In this exhibition the idea of location is broken into four separate categories. In the first, exemplified by the photographs of Scott Peterman, Len Prince, and Beate Gutschow – a traditional landscape or cityscape is revisited and reinterpreted by the artist. This can be as straightforward and post-modern as Peterman and Prince's re-photographing of iconic places or as untraditional as Gutschow's computer based photographic re-imaginings of 18th century landscape painting.

The second category deals with the juxtaposition of art and interior location – handled in a relatively objective way by the Italian architectural photographer Alberto Narduzzi – whose shot of the lobby of the Byblos Art Hotel near Verona presents a startling look at a luminous Alladin's cave of art; and in a highly manipulated way by the Cuban-American Abelardo Morell - whose camera obscura pictures conjoin interior and exterior in a brilliant and original conceptual way.

The third category deals with invention, intervention, and photographic manipulation. Jack Pierson cuts and arranges chunks and scraps of photographs to create photomontages bursting with a sense of location often truer to the spirit of the place photographed than any individual photograph could be. Justine Kurland takes a different approach bringing a cast of "actors" into her location where she creates vivid and realistic vignettes of imagined scenarios. Susan Derges creates photograms in nature, taking large pieces of color photographic paper into Devon's River Taw and flashing the paper and freezing the moment as water and foliage stream by in the river's current.

Finally Melanie Schiff and Christophe Maout explore the relationship between man and nature, past and present, and how civilization (or the lack of) alter the natural location - in Schiff's photographs looking at the flowering graffiti that decorates a hidden skate pipe at the base of Mount Baldy in Southern California; and in Maout's work - contrasting the natural foliage that manages to still exist in a big city to Parisian modernist architecture.
Location @ Danziger Projects

Deborah Bell
511 West 25th street
New York, New York 10001

Sid Kaplan: Urban Stonehenge
Deborah Bell Photographs is proud to announce the gallery’s second exhibition of photographs by Sid Kaplan (American,b. Bronx 1938). Entitled URBAN STONEHENGE, this ongoing series will feature dramatic images made from the 1980s to the present depicting the monumental canyons of New York City’s streets at sunset. Kaplan’s eye is distinguished by graphic plays of light and dark tones, sharp angles and a tendency toward high contrast images. His pictures are arresting in their formal arrangement, and exciting for their visceral qualities of light and dark as rendered in traditional gelatin silver prints. Kaplan, a master photographer and printer, has been on the faculty of the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan since 1972.
Kaplan’s legendary career and influence as a printer for other photographers, and as a teacher, is well known. His own work, however, has been seen only in intervals over the last few decades. Kaplan has been called “the greatest printer in the world” for good reason. Not only does this accolade manifest itself in his own work, but it refers to his long reputation as a printer for Robert Frank, Weegee, W. Eugene Smith, Ralston Crawford and Allen Ginsberg, among many others.
Urban Stonehenge @ Deborah Bell Gallery

Yossi Milo Gallery
525 West 25th Street
New York, New York 10001

Vector Portraits
Yossi Milo Gallery is pleased to announce an exhibition of color photographs by Andrew Bush, entitled Vector Portraits. The exhibition will open on Thursday, April 23 and close on Saturday, June 27, with a reception and book signing by the artist on Thursday, April 23 from 6:00 to 8:30 pm. This will be the artist’s first solo exhibition at the gallery.

Begun in 1989, Andrew Bush’s series Vector Portraits was taken while the artist drove the city streets and freeways of Los Angeles. Either stopped in traffic or traveling at speeds of 20 to 70 miles per hour, the artist took portraits of other drivers using a medium-format roll-film camera and flash attached to the passenger side door of his car. Extended titles note particulars of speed, location or time with scientific precision while leaving other details unclear, such as “Man traveling southbound at 67 mph on U.S. Route 101 near Montecito, California, at 6:31 p.m. on or around Sunday, August 28, 1994”.

The photographs capture subjects in the ambiguous combination of private and public space created by a “private room on wheels.” The drivers are either alone in their vehicles lost in thought, or with passengers, revealing the dynamic between families, couples or friends. An examination of people and their cars in a city famous for its car culture, the series addresses personal privacy and challenges our definition of public space.

Andrew Bush’s work is held in the collections of institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Victoria & Albert Museum, London; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and the Museum of Modern Art, New York. He completed his Masters of Fine Arts in Photography at Yale University in 1982. Born in 1956 in St. Louis, Mr. Bush currently lives and works in Los Angeles. In 2008, Yale University Press published the book Drive, which includes an interview of the artist by Jeff L. Rosenheim, a curator of photographs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Vector Portraits @ Yossi Milo
Sunset Horizon...

Asking why...

John Pfahl, Wave, Lave, Lace 1978

"Why should not the camera also throw off the shackles of conventional representation?...Why not repeated successive exposures of an object on the same plate? Why should not perspective be studied from angles hitherto neglected or unobserved?...Think of the joy of doing something which it would be impossible to classify, or to tell which is the top and which is the bottom!"

Alvin Langdon Coburn
Sequence and Series....

"Series are generally thematically related or connected while Sequences are based on causal relationships."

Nathan Lyons, from Landscape as Photograph (1985)

Parking Lots. Ed Ruscha

East of Lancaster. Robbert Flick

The traditional concept of Sequence tends to go much deeper than simply having a causal relationship. Stieglitz firmly believed in the value of multiple images bound by context serving to support one another and producing a more complex and complete document than a single image was capable of providing. Minor White expanded on this concept by going beyond the pure visual connections of sequential images and moving into a spiritual and mystical connection that have roots in the mixed media of photography and poetry.

With that in mind, it becomes easier to distinguish between Ruscha's series of Parking Lot's and Flick's sequence of Landscapes. I've always loved Ruscha's work, as well as other masters of the series genre such as Bernd & Hilla Becher, but I tend to prefer the visual poetry of sequences that is clearly a part of Flick's work.
Hubert Van Es, War Photographer, Dies at 67

The defining photograph of the end of the Viet Nam war, taken on April 29th, 1975. This was the evacuation of a housing facility for CIA members and their familes, not the US Embassy as it is usually incorrectly identified.

Hubert Van Es Obituary
Symmetry and balance....

Most of the images in Collected Horizons that include clouds in the sky have a lack of balance and symmetry. The clouds usually have a distracting effect and ruin the minimalism and uniformity I am looking for in the overall project. The image above is an example of a cloudy sky that really works. The texture of the clouds nicely balance the silhouetted tree line, and there are no distracting breaks in the clouds.
Avedon Fashion 1944-2000
International Center of Photography
May 15- September 6, 2009

Homage to Munkacsi. Richard Avedon

Roberta Smith reviews this show in today's New York Times...

Avedon’s fashion photographs from the late 1940s to the early ’60s are everything you want great art to be: exhilarating, startlingly new and rich enough with life and form to sustain repeated viewings. Their beauty is joy incarnate and contagious. The best of them are as perfect on their own terms as the best work of Jackson Pollock or Jasper Johns from that era, and as profoundly representative of it.

I'm not sure I am ready to accept her comparison of Avedon to Pollock or Johns, but I do know that this the one show I am most looking forward to this summer.

Roberta Smith Review in NYT

Avedon Fashion @ ICP
Kertesz & Spirituality....

In the last years of his life, Andre Kertesz performed what he humbly referred to as "a little play" with a Polaroid SX-70 camera in his New York City apartment. Prior to these last years he was a broken man. Lonely and depressed in a city that never felt like home and where he was under appreciated for his photographic genius. He also suffered deeply from the loss of his beloved wife Elizabeth.

Kertesz found a small glass bust in a bookshop window, and the SX-70 was a gift from Graham Nash (of CSN&Y). The combination of these two items resulted in a spiritual renewal for Kertesz and the re-discovery of his photographic soul.

Ketresz would place the glass bust, as well as other objects in various places around his apartment and then go about his day, returning often to observe the light and capture the images. Many of these Polaroids are metaphors for his love and devotion to Elizabeth. They are symbols of joy, loss, love, and mortality. I consider them to be the most beautiful Polaroids I have ever seen.

Andre Kertesz: The Polaroids (the book)

Review of Kertesz Polaroids @ Silverstein Gallery
Point of View...

When I photograph, I am trying to grasp the whole. This requires me to trust my instinct and impulse of the moment. I cannot do this with thinking alone. It helps to use the same lens all the time because one gets used to the field of vision of that lens and can grasp the whole more quickly. Zoom lenses are the work of the devil. They are seldom sharp on the edges, and more importantly they don't encourage a person to establish a real point of view.

Philip Perkis Teaching Photography: Notes Assembled

The real point of view that Perkis is talking about can only be achieved by seeing with the eyes, not the lens. Grasping the whole is what I do everyday, everywhere I go. It has nothing to do with holding a camera up to my eye. I abandoned zoom lenses over a year ago and now shoot exclusively with prime lenses, and 90% of the time with a 50mm lens. I have become so accustomed to the field of vision of the 50mm lens that I often find it startling when I change lenses. I visualize and frame my images with my mind's eye without ever having to look through the viewfinder. I zoom with my feet and my eyes, not with my left hand. My point of view is established way before I peer through the viewfinder. This has allowed me to fully trust my instincts, with regards to what I decide to collect images of, as well as what I choose to walk away from. I pay less attention to composition and framing, and have the freedom to focus on more important things like light and shadow and movement.
purview [n]:

range of physical or mental vision

"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)

In the words of Minor White, the photographer invents nothing. We venture forth in a blank and receptive state of mind in search of images that fill our mental canvas with visual poetry. Our only job as photographers is the transmission of these images in a meaningful and cohesive way to the viewer. This process of transmission is the art of photography. Learning not just to see photographically, but to tell photographically. We accumulate and gather small chapters of our story every day, individual lines of poetry, sections of tile in the larger mosaic. The concept of Collecting is so vital to my current focus with regard to photographic art. It represents a rejection of the idea of making artistic images in the tradition of the pictorialists (today’s Photoshop Art), as well as the harshness of taking pictures (soul stealing & paparazzi). I invent nothing through the individual image. I cannot photograph a tree and call it art. The tree itself is the work of art. If I hold a mirror up to a tree, the image in the mirror is not art. However, I can photograph that same tree every day for a year and create a body of work that tells a story about that tree. My accumulated images of the tree, and the resulting story that they tell becomes an artistic body of work.

collection [n]:

group, accumulation, acquiring, agglomeration, amassing, assemblage, assembling, batch, bringing together, clump, cluster, collation, compilation, cumulation, gathering, hoard, lot, mass, number, obtaining, pile, quantity, securing, set, stock, stockpile, store.

horizon [n]:

skyline, extent, border, boundary, compass, field of vision, limit, perspective, purview, range, reach, realm, scope, stretch, vista

line at which earth & sky appear to meet; apparent, sensible, visible

limit of mental perception, experience, interest, etc.
Sarah Stolfa, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center has passed along this call for entries for Emerging Philadelphia Photographers, which will lead to the first exhibit at PPAC. Sarah also asks for help in spreading the word about this, so please pass this info along to Philly area photographers. This is another exciting expansion of the hot Philly photography scene. Please support it!

Call For Entries:
Emerging Philadelphia Photographers

Presented by the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center

Juror: Ariel Shanberg, Center for Photography at Woodstock

The goal of the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center is to make Philadelphia a place where important photography gets made, shown and talked about. Emerging local photographers are essential to that goal. They will be our photo community’s next leaders and the source of important new work and new ideas. PPAC is therefore excited to launch our exhibition space with NEXT: Emerging Philadelphia Photographers. Selected entries will be exhibited in PPAC’s new exhibition space in the Crane Arts Building from August 18 – November 29, 2009. First, second,and third prize winners will receive, $500, $300, and $200 gift certificates respectively for digital services at PPAC.

The competition is open to all subject matter and photographic processes.
The entry fee is $20 for a maximum of 5 images. Entry fees are not refundable. All entries must be received by Friday, June 26, 2009

Entry Form

Philadelphia Photo Arts Center
Call for Entries....
I was delighted to come away from the 2009 Zoe Strauss I-95 show with this image...

The Little Room. Zoe Strauss

It is not one of her iconic images, and I didn't have to stake out the pillar it was mounted to, or fend off any other collectors from getting it the way many of the more coveted images are sought at the annual public event. (I actually did witness a few arguments over who was going to get certain images when the clock struck 4PM... the time when photos can be removed from the concrete pillars)

I love this image for it's minimalism and simplicity, but also because it is an early and very personal image full of self reflection and sentimentality. It is the bedroom in her grandparent's house in the Mayfair section of Philadelphia where she lived for several years as a child. It also, to me, represents one of the clearest and most elemental examples of the influences of Walker Evans on Zoe's work. A study of that influence in numerous Zoe Strauss images are in a recent post on this blog, and a link to that is at the end of this post.

Iron Bed.Walker Evans

The image below is now at the top of my must have list and I'll be camped out next to it at the end of next year's (and final) I-95 show. It is also from the same house in Mayfair and is a collection of family photos, including Zoe and her siblings. The pastel painting on the right is Zoe's mother, Ilene Baker, who I am told did some serious enforcing of the "no photos removed until 4PM" rule at this year's show!

Family Photos. Zoe Strauss

Zoe's own words about the Mayfair house photographs

A Study in Influences: Zoe Strauss and Walker Evans

Zoe Strauss: Friends & Family I-95 2009