Fantasy Baseball 2010
Word of the year: 2009

written by Marc Feustel on his blog Eye Curious

Firstly, let me apologise for another post that looks back at 2009 given the avalanche that there has been over the past month. I took advantage of a few days of exile to the French countryside over the holidays to think about some of the trends that have emerged over the course of 2009. One thing that I have been particularly struck by is how ubiquitous ‘curators’ and ‘curation’ have become over the last year. I keep hearing these terms used in what I would consider to be unusual contexts, referring to the process by which the stuff that is sold in a store is selected (some ‘trend watchers’ have even labelled this curated consumption), a group of images are put together online, or even to someone making a mixtape. It seems that we now walk around curating all day: which sandwich to have at lunch or which furniture to buy from IKEA. Have I curated my living room or my underwear drawer (I was definitely not aware of doing so)?

We are all curators now, or at least we all want to be: apparently curator ranks as one of the best careers for 2010 in the US. This sounds pretty insane to me given the crisis that is affecting American museums. Maybe it is considered to be one of the best careers because there are so few curator positions out there and this rarity is creating desire? It has become such a popular profession that it has been attracting quite a bit of vitriol from art critics who see the curator as responsible for the bloated state of the art world, particularly the contemporary art one. This is a pretty radical transformation: just a few years ago curators were essentially considered to be overly scholarly caretakers, wandering the dusty corridors of their museum poring over the collection: far from a ’sexy’ profession.

So what exactly do we mean when we say ‘curator’? This is a question that I am deeply interested in as I work as an independent curator. The term can be confusing: in French for example it is split into two terms ‘commissaire d’exposition’ and ‘conservateur’ which cover different aspects of what a curator does (or at least used to do). These days the term ‘curate’ is often used for any process that requires somebody to make a selection from a large group of some form. In my view, that falls well short of what curating should be. The major transformation is that curating is something which is now done far more in the business sphere than in the artistic one. By appropriating the term, brands and retailers are hoping that its high-mindedness will wash off on them. In a 2.0 world, it makes sense that people need to be told that someone has gone to the trouble of whittling down this infinite choice to a manageable handful of only the best items. But is this really the same thing as what a curator does in a museum?

I think the crucial difference is that curating should really imply more than a process of selection. Ideally it should not only be based on in-depth research into a particular area, but it should also attempt to contribute new ideas that shed light on some unseen aspect or that allow us to see things in a new context. When I think of the best curated photography shows over the past decade, they were all based on several years of painstaking research and all attempted to say something new about their subject. Curators also have a crucial role to play in terms of collaboration with artists. Just as there is some concern about self-publishing because it generally implies that there is no outside editorial input, exhibitions curated by the artists themselves tend to be messy affairs.

What is ironic with the current rise of the ‘curator’, is that museum curating seems to be going through a particularly difficult time. Budgets are being slashed left, right and centre, shows are being extended from 2-3 months to 4 or 5, and many museums are resorting to blockbuster shows to get the maximum number of people through the door. Despite the criticism that has been directed at them of late, I hate to think of what the museum world would look like without them.

There is an interesting online conversation regarding this essay taking place this week on Flak Photo's Facebook Page. Lot's of very insightful commentary on the subject of what defines curation.

We Are All Curators Now (PHOTO/arts Magazine July, 2008)
"I think almost all great pictures have ghosts in them."

Sylvia Plachy

Ghost. Chelsea Updegrove 2010

...And the person or thing photographed is the Target, the referent, a kind of little simulacrum, any eidolon emitted by the object, which I should like to call the Spectrum of the photograph, because this word retains, through it's root, a relation to "spectacle" and adds to it that rather terrible thing which is there in every photograph: the return of the dead".

Roland Barthes
Camera Lucida
Door (Watch Your Step). Stephen M. Gray 2010

X Gray Vision

Stephen M. Gray
Photography & Poetry...(continued).

Referring to Metaphor and Context in the analysis of an artistic body of work or project, we can also closely compare poetic metaphor and context to photographic metaphor and context. Metaphor coming from the Greek and Latin word for Transfer. A verbal metaphor transfers a word from one place to another. A photographic metaphor transfers our mind's eye or our emotions to another place. This place is what is known as context; the environment in which a word or photograph exists.

"The proper and natural environment for words is other words. Words join with other words to form organized utterances, according to grammatical laws, and they all have more in common with one another than any of them has with any non-verbal thing. A verbal context has no fixed or predeterminable size, and its boundaries cannot be decided except in a somewhat arbitrary manner. The phrase in which the word occurs, the sentence, the paragraph, the chapter, the book, the collected works of an author- all are verbal contexts, radiating like concentric circles outward from the central word".

The Design of Poetry
Charles B. Wheeler
W. W. Norton & Company (1966)

The consideration of context as radiating outward from a central idea, or word, or photograph is not something I have thought about before in respect to my own sequences and themes. I have always considered the contextual relationship between images in a series or sequence to be a lateral one. It is interesting to think in terms of the outward expanding circles. And not just one photograph in a series being the center and origin of the expanding context; but each individual image in the series creating its own ripple effect, (like so many raindrops on a water's surface).The circles overlap one another, and we could plot a Venn Diagram of the relationships created between the images of the sequence.
Feasterville, Pa. 2010
Willow Grove, Pa. 2010
Peanut Gooding, Idaho. Jake Stangel 2009

Emerging Artists Auction
Presented by Daniel Cooney Fine Art &
January 14th - February 4th, 2010

This is a nicely curated collection of work from emerging photographers including Shane Lavalette, Jake Stangel, Maureen Drennan, and many more.

View the Photographs
Basketball Hoop. Zoe Strauss 2000

Zoe Strauss is offering limited edition prints to help fund the final installation of her ten year project I-95. Prints are $250 each in editions of only five prints each. There is to be one photograph from each of the ten years of this project. The first three issues are posted on her blog, and the remaining photos will be announced randomly in coming weeks.

Check out the first three photographs here.

Gallery Picks...

A selection of exhibits for a late winter visit to New York City

Library of Dust. David Maisel

Library of Dust
Jan 21- Feb 27, 2010
Von Lintel Gallery
520 W 23rd Street
New York , NY 10011

Von Lintel Blog

David Maisel's Library of Dust features copper canisters in varying states of metamorphosis. The containers are photographed individually, black backdrop in place, each posed like a subject sitting for a portrait. Maisel's treatment of these objects is apropos. The canisters, once stored in a dilapidated outbuilding of a state-run psychiatric hospital, hold the cremated remains of people—more specifically, the unclaimed ashes of the asylum's patients. The Oregon State Hospital, inaugurated as the Oregon State Insane Asylum in 1883, interred the canisters in an underground vault in the mid-1970s. As the vault flooded repeatedly, the canisters—some containing remains more than a century old—underwent potent transformations. The chemical composition of each cremated body's ashes has caused unique and colorful mineralogical blooms to form on its individual copper surface.

House and Car. William Christenberry

William Christenberry
House and Car and
Pace/MacGill Gallery
until Feb 6, 2010
32 E 57th Street
9th Floor
New York, NY 10022

William Christenberry returns to his home in Hale County, Alabama
annually. Like Walker Evans, his images of the region’s architectural
sites and material culture provide a window into the rural South
by offering prolonged studies of a place over time. For example,
Christ berry’s sequence of 20 photographs, House and Car, near Akron,
Alabama (1978-2005), chronicles the physical transformation of a
single building over the course of 27 years. A related sculpture
gives three-dimensional form to the photographed building, however,
it is not intended to be seen as a replica. Rather, the sculpture
is a hybrid of both the actual image and Christenberry’s own memory
of it. Christenberry elaborates: “they are not models. They are
re-creations. Imaginative re-creations, like dreams.” The powerful
combination of memory and imagination is particularly evident in
Christenberry’s abstract drawings of gourd trees that reference the
regional tradition of hanging hollow gourds to attract nesting birds
and generate new life.

Chicago 206. Aaron Siskind 1953

Aaron Siskind
Jan 21- Feb 27, 2010
Alan Klotz Gallery
511 W 25th Street
New York, NY 10001

Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago

Architecture was one of Aaron Siskind’s principle photographic concerns during the 1950s. For instance, from 1952 to 1953 he and his students from the Institute of Design were engaged in an ambitious documentation of the Adler and Sullivan buildings in Chicago. Likewise, a similar project involved photographing the interiors of Mies van der Rohe’s buildings.

During the 1950s, Siskind’s primary subjects were urban facades, graffiti, isolated figures, and the stone walls of Martha’s Vineyard. Graphic in form, the subjects of each of these series resemble script, reflecting Siskind’s interest in musical scores and poetry.

Summer Nights. Robert Adams 1980

Robert Adams
Summer Nights, Walking
Feb 6 - Apr 17, 2010
Matthew Marks Gallery
523 W 24th Street
New York, NY 10011

Aperture Foundation, Summer Nights, Walking

From the Aperture book description from which this exhibit is based...

In this exquisitely produced book, Robert Adams revisits the classic collection of nocturnal landscapes that he began making in the mid-1970s near his former home in Longmont, Colorado. Originally published by Aperture in 1985 as Summer Nights, this new edition has been carefully re-edited and re-sequenced by the photographer, who has added thirty-nine previously unpublished images. The book is re-designed by revered book designer Katy Homans and printed as dry-trap tritone on uncoated paper by Meridian Printing. It is truly an “objet d’art” for the avid book collector.

Illuminated by moonlight and streetlamp, the houses, roads, sidewalks, and fields in Summer Nights, Walking retain the wonder and stillness of the original edition, while adopting the artist’s intention of a dreamy fluidity, befitting his nighttime perambulations. The extraordinary care taken with the new reproductions also registers Adams’s attention to the subtleties of the night, and conveys his appeal to look again at places we might have dismissed as uninteresting. Adams observes, “What attracted me to the subjects at a new hour was the discovery then of a neglected peace.”
chain link paradise 2010
Studium and Punctum

from Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes

What I feel about these photographs derives from an average effect, almost from a certain training. I did not know a French word which might account for this kind of human interest, but I believe this word exists in Latin: it is studium, which doesn't mean, at least not immediately, "study", but application to a thing, taste for someone, a kind of general, enthusiastic commitment, of course, but without special acuity. It is by studium that I am interested in so many photographs, whether I receive them as political testimony or enjoy them as good historical scenes: for it is culturally (this connotation is present in studium) that I participate in the figures, the faces, the gestures, the settings, the actions.

The second element will break (or punctuate) the studium. This time it is not I who seek it out (as I invest the field of the studium with my sovereign consciousness), it is this element which rises from the scene, shoots out of it like an arrow, and pierces me. A Latin word exists to designate this wound, this prick, this mark made by a pointed instrument: this word suits me all the better in that it also refers to the notion of punctuation, and because the photographs I am speaking of are in effect punctuated, sometimes even speckled with these sensitive points; precisely, these marks, these wounds are so many points. This second element which will disturb the studium I shall therefore call punctum; for punctum is also: sting, speck, cut, little hole- and also a cast of the dice. A photograph's punctum is that accident which pricks me (but also bruises me, is poignant to me).

Having thus distinguished two themes in Photography (for in general the photographs I liked were constructed in the manner of a classic sonata), I could occupy myself with one after the other.

Many photographs are, alas, inert under my gaze. But even among those which have some existence in my eyes, most provoke only a general and, so to speak, polite interest; they have no punctum in them: they please or displease me without pricking me: they are invested with no more than studium.
parking lot warminster, Pa. 2010

Photography and Poetry

The past few months I have been contemplating the relationship between photography and poetry/short fiction. The narrative poverty of photography versus the purely textual forms of poetry and fiction; and yet photographic images often invoke a poetic emotion within, and a poem has the ability to fill our minds with images.

If presented with the question "How can I become a better Photographer?", I have come to believe one of the best answers is... "Read as much poetry and short fiction as possible !" Find your photographic eye not from other photographers or painters, but from the poets and writers who touch your soul.

I stumbled across this in the book The Design of Poetry by Charles B. Wheeler, from the first chapter, titled What is Poetry?. Read it first as it is written, then read it again, but this time apply it to photography instead of poetry.

What is Poetry?

Three mistakes commonly made in defining poetry are to define it by (1) subject matter, (2) form, or (3) mode of apprehension. The first two of these can be dealt with very briefly. The main reason why neither the subject matter of poetry nor its form (verse form, choice of words, or verbal structure) can be used as a basis for a definition is that poets have written on too wide a range of subjects and in too many different forms. In such a variety it is impossible to find a set of common characteristics a definition would require, nor is there any reason to believe that new subjects and forms cannot always be added to those existing, regardless of precedent. The definition in terms of subject matter is particularly vulnerable because it implies that all a poet has to do is choose a "poetic" subject if he wants to write a poem. This is simply not true. It makes no difference whether one conceives of the subject narrowly or broadly- whether, for example, the subject of Burns's familiar poem is said to be a louse on a lady's bonnet or (at the other extreme) the spectacle of human vanity- as long as the subject is extracted from the totality of the poem and considered per se it will fail to show any characteristics that could not as well be adapted to prose. When a poem from a foreign language is translated into English prose, as sometimes happens, it is the subject matter that remains more or less intact and the poetry that disappears.
The third kind of definition requires more extended scrutiny. By "mode of apprehension" is meant something the way the poet's conception works, something in the way his mind meets the external world and transmutes the mere raw stuff of the senses. This mental operation has been characterized as primitive and magical- even when it takes place in a civilized society- because of being a throwback to much earlier times, when man was not prevented by the accumulation of his own artifacts from meeting nature face to face, when his capacity for wonder had not been enfeebled by too long an acquaintance with trivialities nor his spiritual palate jaded by overstimulation. The typical mode of thought then was synthesis, not analysis. Ideas were grand and simple; human sensibility was not split between thinking and feeling, but both were organically combined; language was concrete, not abstract. Instead of drab scientific truth, men had myth: the very names that they gave to things were poetry. In our own age, the argument goes, the poet is best able to recapture this earlier state, while the rest of us are mainly dependent upon him for whatever glimpses of celestial light we can obtain.

The Design of Poetry
Charles B. Wheeler
W. W. Norton & Company (1966)
So much trouble...

Damon Winter/ New York Times

...The red-carpet smiles were more forced than usual this year at the Golden Globe awards. Getting out of a limo while you haul a couple of pounds of damp couture silk behind you isn’t exactly a blast. Heidi Klum, poured into a soupy Cavalli, actually seemed annoyed by the number of steps she had to negotiate...No, they didn’t seem to be happy campers in their designer frocks and “Mad Men” hair. So much trouble...

The Globes: Wet & Ernest
Just what the doctor ordered for a dreary rainy winter day... a bright cheerful color chart. This has reminded me that the Crayola Factory is only about 50 miles from where I live, and I have always wanted to go up and take the tour of the facility. I want to see thousands of fresh crayons rolling off the assembly line. I want to smell the colors. I want to reach in and grab one while it's still warm!

What's your favorite crayon color?

Crayola Color Chart 1903-2010

List of Crayola Crayon colors
Best Photo Books of 2009

Both of the books offered in the recent contest are on the Photo Eye best of 2009 list, with Looking In being the top rated photo book of the year. Interestingly enough, both winners choose to receive The Jazz Loft Project, and that book is on it's way to them.

I don't own either of these books myself yet, but plan to buy them at some point. I do own three on the 2009 list; Sarah Stolfa's The Regulars, Zoe Strauss' America, and Shane Lavalette's Lay Flat 01: Remain in Light.

While I treasure my signed copies of The Regulars and America, I really think I scored something quite unique with Lay Flat 01. This was the first issue of a small edition print publication featuring contemporary photography and essays on the medium. The edition was limited to 1000 copies, and it has sold out.

Lay Flat 01: Remain In Light

Edited by Shane Lavalette.
40 pages, saddle stitched + 20 unbound photographs
5.5 x 7.5 in. / 14 x 19 cm.
ISSN 1948-2876
ISBN 978-0-9842973-0-6
Edition of 1,000
January 2009

Lay Flat is a new print publication devoted to promoting the best in contemporary fine art photography and writing on the medium. Each issue is assembled by Shane Lavalette in close collaboration with a co-curator.

Included in Lay Flat 01: Remain in Light are essays by Tim Davis, Darius Himes, Cara Phillips and Eric William Carroll, an interview with Mike Mandel by Shane Lavalette and a poem by Jason Fulford, all accompanied by 20 unbound photographs from a selection of international photographers: Andreas Weinand, Anne Lass, Coley Brown, Debora Mittelstaedt, Ed Panar, Estelle Hanania, Gustav Almestål, Hiroyo Kaneko, Kamden Vencill, Mark McKnight, Michel Campeau, Nicolai Howalt & Trine Søndergaard, Nicola Kast, Nicholas Haggard, Shawn Records, Raimond Wouda, Richard Barnes, Thobias Fäldt, Whitney Hubbs and Yann Orhan.

Lavalette has just announced the opportunity to pre-order Lay Flat 02: Meta. I wasted no time in doing so. This second issue of the series will have a printing of 2000 copies, and you can order one between now and the end of January to guarantee not missing out this time around.

Lay Flat 02: Meta

Edited by Shane Lavalette and Michael Bühler-Rose.
102 pages, perfect bound
7.75 x 10 in. / 19.7 x 25.4 cm.
ISSN 1948-2876
ISBN 978-0-9842973-1-3
Edition of 2,000

Lay Flat 02: Meta brings together the works of contemporary photographers whose images are conceptually engaged with the history, process and conventions of the medium itself. Photographs by Claudia Angelmaier, Semâ Bekirovic, Charles Benton, Walead Beshty, Lucas Blalock, Talia Chetrit, Anne Collier, Natalie Czech, Jessica Eaton, Roe Ethridge, Stephen Gill, Daniel Gordon, David Haxton, Matt Keegan, Elad Lassry, Katja Mater, Laurel Nakadate, Lisa Oppenheim, Torbjørn Rødland, Noel Rodo-Vankeulen, Joachim Schmid, Penelope Umbrico, Useful Photography, Charlie White, Ann Woo and Mark Wyse are accompanied by the textual contributions of Adam Bell (Co-editor, The Education of a Photographer), Lesley A. Martin (Publisher/Editor, Aperture Foundation), Alex Klein (Editor, Words Without Pictures), artists Noel Rodo-Vankeulen and Arthur Ou, as well as an interview with James Welling by Lyle Rexer (Author, The Edge of Vision: The Rise of Abstraction in Photography.

I am really looking forward to receiving this second printing of Lay Flat. It appears that the binding style has been changed. The first printing was a small saddle stitched book with the photographs printed on unbound card stock. The second book will be perfect bound with the photographs included within the book. I loved the style of the first edition, and time will tell if the second is just as nice. These should prove to be highly sought after in years to come. Don't miss out this time!

Pre-Order Lay Flat 02 : Meta
Photo Book winners!

This morning I put all of the names in a bowl and selected two winners...

Sol Exposure
Jeana Marie


I'll be in touch with you to find out what book you want...

My Winter blogging hibernation is now over!