My "My Own Wilderness"

In two days Today I am off on a road trip from Philadelphia to Northern Minnesota, 3000 miles round trip. Just me and my dog with the canoe on top of my minivan, meeting J Randall Updegrove, who is coming the same distance (but from Montana). This will be our fifth canoe trip into the Minnesota wilderness, always to a new location within the Boundary Waters area. But any road trip for me is much more than the destination.

1. Being on the road is as much fun for me as being in the wilderness. In the past I have driven west to Chicago, and then up through beautiful Wisconsin and on to Minnesota. Last year on my way home I drove up and around the northern shoreline of Lake Superior across the Province of Ontario and then down through Michigan. This year I will be driving west to Toledo, Ohio and then up through Michigan and west across the Upper Peninsula for my first visit to the area and the completion of driving around the entire coast of Lake Superior. Another part of the road trip involves doing some paddling along the way. I've got an ongoing list of bodies of water that I want to get my canoe into. The five great lakes are on that list and I'm going to make an effort to paddle in Lakes Huron, Michigan, and Superior during this trip. I think I have figured out a way to do that all in a single day, but that might be a bit of a stretch.

2. I am a fairly new Vegan (a little over a year now). And the challenge of doing a 3000 mile road trip while staying true to veganism is an interesting one in itself. The American Inter-State Highway system isn't exactly Vegan friendly, and camping in the woods is traditionally a time for lot's of meat cooked over the open fire. I bring lot's of good food in the cooler for the drive and I've also tracked down several promising Vegan restaurants in small towns across the Upper Peninsula by using this awesome web site...Veg Guide.  Food out in the wilderness consists of   my own custom blend of Lentils, Tofu, Seaweed, and dried Veggies that I package up in individual meals with my Food Saver (vacuum sealer). It's essentially eating the same thing for dinner every night, although I have daily variations of flavorings in each package to mix things up. The key out in the woods is ease of preparation and light weight. With these meal packs all I have to do is simmer everything in one pot. The meal is satisfying and full of nutrition. Breakfast is a similar portioned package of oatmeal or grains, to which I add raisins or other dried fruit while it simmers in the pot. It's all about feeding the body for a full day of paddling and portaging.

3. As a baseball fan, it is a big sacrifice to completely miss the first week of the playoffs, and as a Philadelphia Phillies fan, the angst of wondering how they are doing is a constant throughout the week without any electronic communication. Last year I missed the no-hitter by Cliff Lee, and in 2004 I completely missed the historic Red Sox comeback against the Yankees. This is a long and ongoing Fall tradition for me though. October is always camping season for me. As long ago as the 1970's I have missed critical baseball moments while heading off into the woods.

4. Of course, being in the middle of one of the last great wilderness areas of the United States is the entire reason for the journey in the first place. Serene and beautiful, October is past the prime season up there, so very few people means you can go an entire week without running into another human being. The sky at night is gorgeous, with full visuals of the Milky Way down to both horizons and regular displays of the Northern Lights. And it is the land of 10,000 lakes. Nothing but beautiful lakes and pristine woods for miles around on all sides. The call of Wolves at night and the siren of Loons in the morning are the music of the North Woods.

Lot's of photographs to come... I take digital images on the road, and use only my Olympus OM-1 while out in the woods. I feel that B & W film just captures the spirit of the place like nothing else can, especially Plus X 125. I use a very minimal system in the wilderness. The nice compact OM-1 with a 50mm lens in a small dry bag with a half dozen rolls of film ends up being the size of a large grapefruit. Light, easy and simple. There is no need for any extra stuff out in the woods.

My own photographs will not be included in the upcoming My Own Wilderness exhibit or book. I think it is important as a curator to detach from including personal work. (Maybe not always... I have seen many nice exhibits that included the curator's own work). For this particular call for work I decided from the start that my focus would be entirely on the submitted work and related artist statements. Trying to decide which of my own work to include would be a distraction and create a possible influence on the work I was reviewing.

Beautiful work continues to come in from all over the world, and I want to thank every photographer who has submitted their work and artist statements. Reviewing this work on a daily basis for the past month or so has inspired me in so many ways as I have been preparing for my own trip to the wilderness.

There are two more days until the deadline of October 1st. I hope to find lot's of last minute entries when I get back to civilization. You can find details for submitting your work here... My Own Wilderness

Best to all of you!  See you in a couple weeks... stay safe and warm!

Philadelphia Open Studio Tours

October 1st & 2nd
Noon- 6PM

Garage Gallery
1909 Wilcox Street
Philadelphia, Pa

featuring the work of Ron Corbin, Josh Marowitz, and Al Wachlin Jr.

Light Room Gallery
2024 Wallace Street
Philadelphia, Pa

featuring work of Richard Boutwell, Genevieve Coutroubis, Annarita Gentile, and Erin Yard.

Kelli Connell

Kelli Connell lecturing at
Philadelphia Photo Arts Center

 I've been fascinated with Kelli Connell's Double Life series ever since first seeing it in the 2007 Aperture publication PHOTOart: Photography in the 21st Century.  Connell's repetitive use of a single model to tell the fictional story of a relationship between two women is both beautiful and visually confusing all at once. Are these images of two sisters? Twins? Self portraits? What is going on here?

Kelli Connell  discussed her series and process methods during a recent lecture at the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center. Especially interesting to me were slides of the hand cut montages Connell creates from cheap drug store prints that allow her to visualize the final composition. The work is pure fiction. A single model is used in a complex arrangement of scenes with Connell acting as director, photographer, and sometimes stand-in model for staging purposes. Everything is shot with a medium format Pentax, and then the quick prints are made in order to manually compose and visualize the final digital result. The negatives are then scanned and processed in Photoshop to achieve the seamless results.

I also liked Connell's inclusion of historical reference in her lecture. She showed Henry Peach Robinson's 1858 image Fading Away, made from five negatives, and Oscar Gustave Rejlander's 1857 image The Two Ways of Life, made from at least 30 negatives. Those of us who tend to dismiss Photoshop usage, and Connell admits to a previous bias against the software, tend to forget that it is simply a modern day version of well established photographic processing technique.

Henry Peach Robinson, Fading Away , 1858

Oscar Gustave Rejlander, The Two Ways of Life, 1857

Double Life is a series that began in 2002 and is now almost ten years old. Connell spoke of the subtle pressure she has begun to feel from the art world to move on to other projects, mostly stemming from the inevitable aging of the model.  Personally I would love to see this project continue for many years to come. The themes that run through this conceptual series; narcissism, identity, gender roles, etc., do not end with the transition into middle age. Hopefully, even if Connell takes a break from Double Life to explore other projects, she will return to working with this model and continue documenting the resolution and exploration of those issues within this fictional relationship into its golden years and beyond.

Kelli Connell  website

Fine Photographs

Sally Mann, Candy Cigarette, 1989
est. $12,000 to $18,000

Fine Photographs
at Auction
Swann Auction Galleries
New York, NY
Tuesday, October 18th, 2PM


Russian Photography Today

A link to the ongoing call for work "My Own Wilderness" made it's way onto the Russian art website Art Nagrada, and as a result over 35 submissions have been received from that country. The submitted work has almost entirely come from young photographers living in Moscow and St Petersburg. I started to wonder about the current state of photography in Russia, so I asked a few of the contributors to send me their thoughts on the subject. I have corrected a bit of the English translation here only when necessary, leaving as much of the direct information from the photographer intact. I think these are marvelous windows into the world of Russian photography. Many thanks to Katya and Alena for sharing these well considered essays, and to all of the amazing young Russian photographers who have contributed to this call for work.

Commonness, Russia, Kostrova
by Alena Agadzikova, Moscow

Alena Agadzikova, 18 years old,  Moscow

I can not say what the situation of photography is in all RUSSIA , because I live in the capital, Moscow. You know, in Russia there is a joke - "Moscow - Russia is not,"  And indeed it is. Moscow - a lively city where people live in the information. Province of Russia live quite differently. In some cities, living as if still the Soviet Union. However, a mistake to think that the Russians go with the bears and vodka. Of course, we love vodka! But even in the remote province of many appropriate people. It was not long since, as Russia has to keep pace with progress. At the far ends of the country's Internet appeared only a year ago. And mass-regarded photography, art, people have started too recently.
Because of the Internet, to be a photographer in Russia has become fashionable. Buy cameras, even those who do not know how to use them. In small towns, "photographers" are beginning to respect and be invited to various events. Although images poorly photographed. They become local celebrities. But the same province and the people have no taste. Someone has taste, but there is not enough. In Moscow, everything is different. 100% of photographers shoot only 8-10% because it is their vocation, and passion. These people take pictures good. all the other 90% do so for the sake of fashion.
Recently, a good many photographers are returning back to film photography. It takes a lot of money, but it paid off. Photographers are increasingly taking pictures with old Russian cameras, "Zenith", "FED", "Lyubitel'"
Moscow is now actively promoting the art of photography. In the center there are two places where young writers can exhibit their work (if they approve, if they are talented). There are hundreds of small galleries, but they are not the same. 

1. "Contemporary Art Center Wine Factory" - "winery," because the center is built right into the former factory where they made wine. In Moscow there is an entire government program from the Department of Culture, according to which all former factories in places rebuilt Culture. 

2. "Moscow House of Photography" - State Exhibition Hall, the largest in Moscow.Brought there by Fellini, "More than fashion," Jurgen Taylor and many other photographers. The permanent exhibition there are always works of the famous Russian photographer, in whose honor and created the "Moscow House of Photography." This photographer named Alexander Rodchenko. He photographed in 1920-1940 years. His most famous portraits - a portrait of the poet Vladimir Mayakovsky and Lili Brik women. Portrait of Mayakovsky, Brik and a portrait of Lily, where she puts a hand to his lips - 

But in "Moscow House of Photography" is difficult to exhibit their work. There may exhibit only the students' school photos. "School of Photography Rodchenko " - the only serious Academy pictures in Russia. They are taught the most powerful Russian photographers. The Academy is notable that students learn (they are trained for two and a half years) there for free. .In September, ends in a set of portfolios. Each year the academy are trying to do about 700-800 people. Of these, 30 people are choosing to do.

I came to the academy for two years. Unfortunately, unsuccessfully. But the teachers explained the reason: they choose the students who graduated from university and engaged in photography professionally. I do not really understand this principle, I think it's wrong, because you have to enable even the youngest photographers. For example, I'm 18 years old. I came to the Academy at seventeen and eighteen years.Incidentally, in this academy despise fashion photography. They consider it a bad grade. With this, too, is debatable. Teachers Academy is very outdated attitudes, they are professionals, but do not look at the present.

Katya Deriglazova

Katya Deriglazova, 30 yrs old,  Moscow

Russian Photography Today
From the Point of View of a Spherical Cow

Who is a Spherical Cow, you ask? That’s me. Not an art expert, neither a student nor a bachelor of art, I have never had a personal exhibition or a display of my photographs and I earn money from a partly art-related job, rather than art itself. I don’t consider myself a follower of any artistic schools and I seldom, if ever, appear at the photographers’ hangouts. I mostly sit on the sidelines and watch what is going on with Photography in Russia these days.
It will be only logical to ask why I, being interested in photography as an art, haven’t got a solid opinion on many of its aspects. I guess the answer lies in my living right on the borderline of two different generations. While born and raised in the Soviet state, I’ve spent my mature years in the current Russia, and these are two completely different cultures.
Photography has never been considered an art among the Russians. A hobby or a part of journalist’s work: that’s what a photographer’s options were in the Soviet times. But even now there are no schools or colleges suitable for a person willing to become a photo artist. It seems all they teach these days is either how to become a photo journalist or how to win a grant for studying or working abroad.
I guess it was only after the Perestroika that photography was allowed to “become” an art. Then post-modern artists appeared, seeking not only “pure art”, but commercial success as well. And then it turned out that the only way to reach the latter was to go west and try selling your art there. But what does the Western world buy from a post-Soviet photographer most willingly? That’s right, the “social exotics”: abandoned villages, communal apartments, beggars and prostitutes, bums and lunatics. Everything that shows that life in Russia is not as good as the Soviet propaganda used to say. Sadly, this demand is still up even twenty years after.
As an ex-journalist and as a person I can’t but respect social art; I truly believe that the world can be changed for the better if we don’t turn a blind eye to what is not right. But I cannot approve of the fact that “social art” and “seamy side” are becoming more and more synonymous.
Sometimes I wish there were at least a few people among the modern photographers who would show us the bright side instead… but no glamour and Gucci suits please.
Besides social and documentary art there’s another group of photographers well-known both in Russia and abroad: the so-called “actual art”, e.g. AES+F group. They are indeed actual, with a little bit of politics, a tiny bite of scandalousness, a great deal of multi-media and a truly remarkable zoom. These artists are supported by both the Government and Moscow House of Photography, but unless anybody powerful approves of you, there is no way you will be considered “contemporary”. The line between art and advertising looks really vague in this case.
Of course, there are the “Pure Art” oriented photographers in Russia. But I am unsure whether they can even be called photographers. They are just artists, with a camera as their tool. Many of them print their photos the old-fashioned way. By the way, in Russia it’s cheaper to cyanotype or oil-print your pictures at home than to order high-quality pics from a public photo lab.
There are also avant-garde photographers, able to manipulate reality on a photo image without using computers or any other tech means.
“Female photography” needs to be mentioned as well, although it is often taken lightly by many fellow photo artists. These works are usually simplistic, with the photographers themselves and their friends as models, streets, parks and old apartments as backgrounds, focusing on self-reflection and on finding beauty in mundanity and everyday life.
Lately, analog technology in photography has become popular again both among amateurs and professionals. As today’s digital cameras allow anyone to make high-quality photos, people tend to look for some craftwork, for unique and hand-made photographs.
One of the most acute questions is whether Russian national photography exists at all. I can see why the question appeared in the first place. Seems like these days everybody’s talking about studying abroad, working abroad, leaving Russia for a place where one’s talent would be valued… This is a defeatist’s tactics, but unfortunately that is what on many of the younger photographers’ minds now. It pains me to see that most of them don’t see any prospects or possibilities in Russia. That’s why we are importing cultural trends rather than exporting them.
Тhat's why the Russian photo considered unfashionable Many young artists are trying to work on those trends that have been marked abroad.


Sarah Bloom: Totally Exposed

Totally Exposed: A Solo Exhibit by Sarah Bloom
Sept 3- 30, 2011

Da Vinci Art Alliance
704 Catherine Street
Philadelphia, Pa

Installation view
Sarah Bloom: Totally Exposed

I was really impressed by this solo show after the pleasure of walking through it with the photographer as personal tour guide.The intimate space at Da Vinci Art Alliance is just right for an exhibit of this size. It's a clean, well lit space that enhances the experience of viewing the work on the walls. I had seen Sarah Bloom's work many times previously; first discovering her on Flickr about five years ago, and now keeping up with her almost daily updates on Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, etc etc. In fact, it was by way of her increasingly popular web presence that Sarah was able to fund this show in the first place. A well run Kickstarter campaign raised all of the funding required to rent gallery space for a month and obtain some impressively large prints to put together the current show.

Sarah Bloom adjusting a print

Wasted Knowledge is the largest image in the show at about 30 inches high by 90 inches long, it is printed on silk, giving it a look closer to tapestry than photography, and reminded me of the work Chuck Close has done with woven fabric.It's a perfect image for this type of experimental printing. Every slight breeze in the gallery causes the image to slowly undulate against the wall for an interesting optical effect.

Wasted Knowledge by Sarah Bloom

The Earth is My Body is one of several very large square format prints that looked stunning and really anchor the remaining images in the gallery.Other favorites of mine were prints on translucent paper hanging in the two front windows of the gallery.All of these images are from Sarah's ongoing series of nude self portraits, mostly taken in abandoned and decaying buildings in various cities such as Philadelphia and Detroit. Lot's of people take photographs of abandoned buildings, especially in Detroit, but few people get naked and crawl around among the rubble and grime of  these buildings in order to pursue an intensive photographic project.

The Earth is My Body  by Sarah Bloom

The project explores concepts of age and body image, the confrontation of mortality, and a search for beauty among decay. Sarah Bloom's artist statement includes the following summary.. "I began shooting self-portraits in abandoned buildings in 2007. My work is raw and brave, but there are moments of shyness and vulnerability. More than anything, my self-portraits are about dichotomy. I fall and I rise; I rise and I fall. I try to look towards the light no matter how seductive the dark can be. I confront my own mortality with both fear and defiance. Akin to the stages of grief, I face the idea of aging at first with dread, then resistance, and ultimately acceptance. In my experience, these stages are non-linear."

Sarah Bloom: Totally Exposed

The work is beautifully displayed and thoughtfully hung on the walls. This gallery experience is a reminder that no matter how well you think you know someone's work, no matter how familiar it becomes on a daily internet basis, there is nothing like seeing work first hand. Photography is still about the document. The print will always reign supreme. Last year I saw Edward Steichen's actual prints for the first time at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. I never thought I was a huge Steichen fan until seeing those documents on the wall. I fell in love with them, and it re-confirmed the truth that we can't always trust the internet or even books to represent photography for us. Photography as art must be seen first hand in order to be fully appreciated.

Sarah Bloom: Totally Exposed

 This is a top notch exhibit on so many levels and I highly recommend a visit to see it before the end of the month.  Check out the link to Sarah's website below for updates on the show and where you can find links to her facebook and flickr pages.

Sad and Beautiful World

(As always, just click on the images in this post to enlarge them for a better view)

Moonstone Arts Center opening reception

Harvey Finkle, Irv Ackelsberg, Sanford Schram
Moonstone Arts Center, Philadelphia, Pa.

Class Warfare in Philadelphia
Moonstone Art Center

Class Warfare in Philadelphia
Moonstone Art Center

Photos from September 8th, 2011 at Moonstone Arts Center in Philadelphia for the opening reception of the Class Warfare photography exhibit and lectures by Sanford Schram and Irv Ackelsberg.  Also presented was this animation by David Harvey...

Class Warfare
September 8- November 3
Moonstone Art Center
110 South 13th Street
Philadelphia, Pa

The Earth Reclaims It

New York City and Yellowstone (2001)
J Randall Updegrove

New York City and Yellowstone (2001)
J Randall Updegrove

I posted these images a few years ago and they are still as incredible to me as ever. These are accidental 35mm double-exposures taken by Missoula, Montana based photographer J Randall Updegrove, who was in New York City in the Spring of 2001 where he shot a roll of film, which included these two images from the top of the Empire State Building. Somehow the same roll was re-exposed, upside-down, at Yellowstone National Park. In fact, Updegrove is not certain if the Yellowstone images were shot before or after the New York trip. This roll of film then sat in a drawer for eight years, and in 2009 were developed to discover these stunning results. The apocalyptic images of the Twin Towers suspended from the heavens over the violent geography of Yellowstone just six months prior to their actual collapse. These photos are straight out of the camera with no post processing whatsoever.

 Check out the whole series of images from this roll of film...

  The Earth Reclaims It


2001-2011 A Decade of Photography in the Aftermath of 9/11

Ruben Natal- San Miguel

Greenwich House Music School
46 Barrow Street
West Village, NYC 10014

 Please join us on Monday, September 12, 2011, from 8-10pm as we kick-off September's art season with a special curated projection by Ruben Natal-San Miguel, "A Decade of Photography in the Aftermath of 9/11." Natal-San Miguel has prepared the following artist statement:

 As a survivor of attacks on Sept 11, 2001 and now a photographer, curator and an influential figure among fine art photography community, I want to celebrate life and commemorate the 10-year anniversary and showcase how photography, as an art media and derivative works, have changed the face of America and the World It is a demonstration of how our life, a worldly vision manifested through the use of the photographer’s lens and accompanied by all the technological advances, has evolved since right after 9/11 until today. It will reflect the new sensibilities in this art medium, created by the war, the economy and the advances in the technological landscapes. The exhibition will also highlight some of the most iconic images over the past decade. These photography images over the last 10-years will be on exhibition display via the World Wide Web as a unique virtual gallery and as a special slide/musical presentation to be held at the historical Greenwich House Music School. Let the healing begin! 

 As part of the evening, Finch & Ada will be exhibiting a September Salon, a group show of selected photography and photo based work by featured artists, who have also been influenced by a decade of change among the visual arts landscape.