Curated Trilogy

Tao produced The One
The One produced Two
Two Produced Three
Three produced the thousands of things.

          -tao te ching

Martin Buday
My Own Wilderness (2011)

Dan R Talley
Self Contained (2012)

Christopher H Paquette
All Our Relations (2013)

At What Cost?

The Syngenta Photography Award, is a new international competition that aims to stimulate  dialogue around key global  challenges. Open to professional and amateur photographers, the Award will explore a central theme each year. In its inaugural year, the theme is  “rural-urban”, exploring the relationship and tensions between rural and urban environments.

Marcus Lyon

For the first time in history, over half of the world’s population lives in urban environments, which is increasing the competition for natural resources and labor,” commented Mike Mack, Syngenta CEO. “Finding a balance between these rural and urban tensions is critical. This new competition aims to establish an important platform to explore issues of global significance through photography.”

The competition will be judged by a  distinguished  international panel chaired by award-winning South African photojournalist  Jodi Bieber. The other members of the panel are: Irina Chmyreva (Russia)  curator and researcher of photography; Stephen Dunbar-Johnson (UK) publisher, International Herald Tribune; Milton Guran (Brazil) curator and photographer;  Malu Halasa (Lebanon) writer and editor;  Marcus Lyon (UK) photographer;  Mike Mack (U.S.) Syngenta Chief Executive Officer; and Liu Heung Shing (China) photographer and photo editor. 

The Syngenta Photography Award has two categories.  The Open Competition welcomes photographers of all levels, from professional to  amateur.  In addition, professional photographers are invited to compete for a  Professional Commission by submitting an original proposal that is related to this year’s rural-urban theme.The winners of the Syngenta Photography Award will be announced  at an exhibition in London in May 2013.

The Syngenta Photography Award is free to enter and has two categories: Professional and Open. Professional photographers are invited to compete for a Professional Commission by submitting an original proposal that is related to this year’s rural-urban theme. The first place winner will receive a US$15,000 prize, and up to US$25,000, to complete the commission. The second and third place winners will receive US$10,000 and US$5,000 respectively. The Open Competition welcomes photographers of all levels, from professional to amateur. The judges will award a first, second and third place winner who will receive US$5,000, US$3,000, and US$2,000

The deadline is January 15th, 2013

Competition Website

About Syngenta

Who wouldn't love a free competition with big cash awards??  PHOTO/arts Magazine is always looking for free and low cost photo competitions. The urban-rural theme of Syngenta's first competition perked my interest because it is closely related "My Own Wilderness".  Both explore the relationships and tensions between uninhabited versus populated environments. But I had never heard of Syngenta prior to learning about this competition. The old saying about "nothing is ever free" would seem to hold true in this case.  Syngenta is a global Swiss based chemical company that markets seeds, herbicides, and pesticides. Their seeds include both hybrid and genetically engineered varieties. Syngenta is a major global supplier of genetically modified corn and soybeans.There is a long history of legal issues and controversy involving Syngenta and the numerous companies it has purchased or merged with over the years.

I present this merely in the name of full disclosure. We've all experienced some very rough years in this recession. Artists especially have felt the pinch. The lure of cash prizes and no entry fee is very enticing, but I think it is very important to know where prize or grant money comes from. Concerned Photography is more than just what is seen through the lens. Choose wisely and responsibly.

The Dust Bowl

This is such a powerful documentary filled with very touching and emotional first hand accounts of survivors who were obviously children at the time. Their vivid memories and the emotional pain that still rises to the surface is heart breaking. If you missed part one last night, you really missed something special. Part 2 is tonight!

Dorothea Lange (1939)


THE DUST BOWL, a two-part, four-hour documentary series by Ken Burns, will air November 18 and 19, 2012, 8:00-10:00 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings). The film chronicles the environmental catastrophe that, throughout the 1930s, destroyed the farmlands of the Great Plains, turned prairies into deserts, and unleashed a pattern of massive, deadly dust storms that for many seemed to herald the end of the world. It was the worst manmade ecological disaster in American history.
Until the arrival of European and American settlers in the late nineteenth century, the southern Plains of the United States were predominantly grasslands, the home and hunting grounds of many Native American tribes and the range of untold millions of bison. It was seldom used for farming. Bitterly cold winters, hot summers, high winds and especially low, unreliable precipitation made it unsuitable for standard agriculture. But at the start of the 1900s, offers of cheap public land attracted farmers to the region, and in World War I, in the midst of a relatively wet period, a lucrative new wheat market opened up. Advances in gasoline-powered farm machinery made production faster and easier than ever. During the 1920s, millions of acres of grasslands across the Plains were converted into wheat fields at an unprecedented rate.
In 1930, with the Great Depression underway, wheat prices collapsed. Rather than follow the government's urging to cut back on production, desperate farmers harvested even more wheat in an effort to make up for their losses. Fields were left exposed and vulnerable to a drought, which hit in 1932.
Once the winds began picking up dust from the open fields, they grew into dust storms of biblical proportions. Each year the storms grew more ferocious and more frequent, sweeping up millions of tons of earth, covering farms and homes across the Plains with sand, and spreading the dust across the country. Children developed often fatal "dust pneumonia," business owners unable to cope with the financial ruin committed suicide, and thousands of desperate Americans were torn from their homes and forced on the road in an exodus unlike anything the United States has ever seen.
Yet THE DUST BOWL is also a story of heroic perseverance against enormous odds: families finding ways to survive and hold on to their land, New Deal programs that kept hungry families afloat, and a partnership between government agencies and farmers to develop new farming and conservation methods.
THE DUST BOWL chronicles this critical moment in American history in all its complexities and profound human drama. It is part oral history, using compelling interviews of 26 survivors of those hard times—what will probably be the last recorded testimony of the generation that lived through the Dust Bowl. Filled with seldom seen movie footage, previously unpublished photographs, the songs of Woody Guthrie, and the observations of two remarkable women who left behind eloquent written accounts, the film is also a historical accounting of what happened and why during the 1930s on the southern Plains.

Now We Are Six

If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you.” 
― A.A. MilneWinnie-the-Pooh

PHOTO/arts Magazine is now six years old.  I am filled with gratitude for all who visit here and especially those who have participated in the My Own Wilderness and Self Contained projects. Here's to the year ahead, and many more. Cheers!

Black Friday for Idiots

"On Black Friday and throughout this holiday season, simply zoom in to a participating store on Google Maps to devise your shopping game plan. An indoor floor plan with helpful labels will automatically appear, and the familiar “blue dot” icon will help you figure out the fastest way to the accessories department, the food court when you need to refuel, and the closest restroom or ATM when you need a break from your marathon shopping session. For many locations, you can even get indoor walking directions to find the best route from one store to the next."

The Morning After

Warminster, Pa.  (Sept 30th, 2012)

Storms, elections, and personal matters have left me empty and searching for answers. The intensity of working on Self Contained only added to existing stress levels. I've de-activated my Facebook account temporarily and need some time away from the internet. Some self containment if you will. I'm working steadily on the book and other good things. I'll return after a bit of much needed internet vacation time.

Self Contained

If something is Self Contained it is said to be complete in itself; fully independent. Someone who is self contained is thought of as being reserved and in control. We may or may not equate self containment with self contentment. Perhaps a very thin line exists between self containment and self confinement. Just some things to consider. I am open to a wide range of explorations on this theme. Release that inner formality and self control. Breathe deep. Scream loudly. Show me what this theme is all about.

It is with great pleasure that I present a selection of images submitted in response to this call for work.  Two hundred and fifty photographers from around the world submitted just under seven hundred photographs. The exhibit you will see consists of sixty five images by forty six photographers. It goes without saying that choosing images from a large submission pool means agonizing over final choices. Too many highly talented photographers, and exceptional images, get left on the cutting room floor and that is the biggest downside to curating a project such as this. I am looking forward to featuring some of the photographers whose work was not chosen for this exhibit in future posts on PHOTO/arts Magazine.

Martin Buday  My Own Wilderness (2011)

While Self Contained is a stand alone exhibit, it is also directly related to last year's exhibition, My Own Wilderness(In fact, four photographers return from My Own WildernessEllen JantzenLaura GlabmanAndi Schreiber, and Irina Volgareva.) A familiarity with the images in My Own Wilderness will enhance the experience of viewing Self Contained.  A study of both exhibits will reveal a subtle conversation taking place among global artists. My Own Wilderness was primarily about  personal space/place, while Self Contained is a study in personal identity. Both themes are ripe for emotion and psychology. The participating photographers do not disappoint in that regard.  So many of the artists you will encounter here have reached down deeply to reveal what is raw and often difficult to express photographically. I can only hope that my editing choices and sequencing of images will improve the readability of these fascinating emotional stories.

Dan Talley  Self Contained  (2012)

I also hope you will enjoy the format for this exhibit. I have tried something a bit different from last year. It was my opinion that the video format used last year, while beautiful, was not something that viewers could easily return to again and again. At fifteen minutes in length, it required too much time for a casual visit. The idea behind this format is a more interactive experience. Something you can look at and refer to any time. Please let me know what you think.

In addition to the exhibition of forty six images that will also be published in the upcoming book, this format  allows me to showcase the full submissions from the selected winners, as well as their artist statements. Please join me in congratulating the three winners and two honorable mentions-

First Place  ($200 Gift Certificate)             Louis Michael Hernandez   Rochester, NY

Second Place  ($100 Gift Certificate)          Emily Franklin    Dekalb, Illinois

Third Place  ($50 Gift Certificate)             Aaron Hobson   Adirondack Mountains, USA

Honorable Mention                           Viacheslav Kabanov  Moscow, Russia

Honorable Mention                           Andi Schreiber   Scarsdale, NY

Thanks once again to all who participated in this call for work.  It was an honor to experience such talented and thoughtful expression of art. Please enjoy the final results, and I welcome any feedback or comments.

Self Contained Online

Thoughts on International Diversity in Contemporary Photography

“To celebrate new ideas in photography, we are asking people to nominate up to five photographers who have demonstrated an openness to use new ideas in photography, who have taken chances with their photography and have shown an unwillingness to play it safe."
Towards The 21st Century
Joerg Colberg, Conscientious

This was an open call to photo bloggers initiated by Joerg Colberg and Colin Pantall. Initially, a small group of bloggers were asked directly to participate, but the request for nominations was open any blogger that wanted to participate. Those who participated were asked to post their choices on their own blogs and help to spread the word to others. At some point Pete Brook, on his Prison Photography blog, renamed the initiative “The Best Photographers of the First 1/8th of the 21st Century”.  Suddenly a compilation of names suggested by a group of bloggers that was only meant to represent individual examples of artists who were working with new ideas morphed into what many took to be the blog world’s presentation of the Best Photographers of the 21st Century.  And within a day or two it was being called “The Best White North American and European Photographers (with Minor Exceptions) of the First 1/8th of the 21st Century That We Happen to Be Familiar With.”  

I can’t speak for Colberg or Pantall, but I’m highly confident that they were not asking bloggers to nominate the BEST photographers of the 21st Century.  In a nutshell, they were looking for the current Avant-Garde, and I think it is important to distinguish the Avant-Garde from The Best.

Have we become so accustomed to “best of...” lists that any list we see is automatically assumed to insinuate some sort of ranking by favorability or popularity?  Best is a dangerous term in considering something as subjective as art photography. Colberg and Pantall were pretty specific in their parameters; openness to new ideas, taking chances, and avoiding artistic safety. These are things that can be cited without getting into aesthetic subjectivity.  One can point out a photographer who demonstrates those characteristics in their work without claiming they are among the best contemporary photographers.  

“The Best” is easiest to determine with hindsight. We can look back at a past decade or century and compile a list of who was the best at something based on things like popularity or financial success, and it is those things that best quantify pop culture. Box office success in movies or downloads for recording artists. It is harder to quantify photography success, but with so many photographers obsessed with numbers such as follower counts and website hits there is no denying that mass appeal is extremely important to the current generation of New Media artists. It is digital media, and not digital photography, that is to blame for the current epidemic of low brow art. Media that provides every artist with instantaneous ratings feedback in the form of likes and comments results in trends of very conservative and safe art. Art produced under the thumb of ratings is nothing more than Television. We can have fun producing and consuming it, but let’s not pretend it isn't kitsch. Colberg and Pantall’s initiative was a search for photographers producing work outside of the synthetic and artificially created pop photo culture.

People get very upset when a “best of” list does not include their own favorite choice, or lacks the perfect ratio of diversity.  I saw this list described as ‘a travesty’ in a comment on Facebook. The participating bloggers were accused of being myopic and racially biased . I found that extremely disappointing. A positive and optimistic initiative of searching for new directions in photography was twisted around to become something so negative and ugly. I won’t spend even five seconds defending my contributions to the list, or the history of international diversity on PHOTO/arts Magazine.  The only energy I want to expend is on moving the conversation forward.

Tom Griggs has written a brilliant two part essay on his Fototazo website entitled Diversity in Photography and Contemporary Image Distribution Problems in which he skillfully investigates many underlying reasons behind the lack of diversity on mainstream photography internet sites.  If this subject interests you at all, I strongly recommend reading Grigg’s essays.

We are ALL photographers now” isn't globally accurate. The reality is...“We are all photographers now, in the Industrial World”. For better or worse, photography is a consumer driven art. It is a product of Capitalism. It has always been a hobby of the wealthy. Global industrialization has enabled a wider and wider consumer base, and millions of people are now “wealthy” enough to afford digital cameras, smart phones, web access, etc.  But billions of other people around the globe are not part of this picture. Photography remains the artistic medium of the global elite. Equipment cost is a huge investment for any photographer, so imagine what it would be like for someone living in a developing country. Major contemporary photography competitions and portfolio submissions that charge upwards of seventy five dollars per entry are not an option for most emerging photographers across the globe, if they even know about them at all. It might be grossly naive to ask... “Where is all the innovative photography from Africa?” (or India, South America, etc etc.)

This is obviously a very complex problem involving economic and political issues beyond my knowledge base. I can only speak to this issue as a casual observer of contemporary photography. But I am very interested in this topic, I had a chance to meet with Tom Griggs when he was recently traveling through Philadelphia. These were the issues we discussed and made a commitment to continue the conversation.

In the meantime I extend an open invitation to anyone who wants to submit the work of artists from developing areas of the world to feature on PHOTO/arts Magazine.  This site remains an open venue for emerging artists across the globe.

As a final note.... One small thing you can do to help is to donate some money to one of these Micro Grants for South American photographers. This is a fantastic project started by Tom Griggs and something I fully support. I would love to know about other projects similar to this around the world. If you know of any, please let me know.

LBM Dispatch: Michigan

Alec Soth    Lake Superior, Marquette (2012)

From October 20th through November 5th, Alec Soth and Brad Zellar will be on the road in Michigan, producing an election season version of the LBM Dispatch in one of the country’s most diverse and politically fascinating states. The trip —a rambling search for the state of the union in towns all over Michigan— will take them across the Upper Peninsula to the Mackinac Straits, and then downstate through the enormous territory of the Lower Peninsula, including stops in Saginaw, Flint, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo, and Grand Rapids.
Michigan  will be the third edition of LBM Dispatch books produced by Soth & Zellar. The two previous titles were Ohio and Upstate. Both are terrific and I am looking forward to seeing Soth's images from Michigan, having just traveled through almost everywhere this book will cover.

The LBM Dispatch

Self Contained

I am pleased to announce the selected photographers for Self Contained. Two hundred and fifty photographers from all over the world submitted almost seven hundred images to this project.  The resulting exhibit will consist of sixty eight photographs by forty six artists.  As I hoped, the images submitted were deeply personal and full of emotion.  I'm looking forward to releasing the online exhibit on November 3rd

Dan R. Talley   Self Contained   (2012)

Mildred Alpern New York, NY
Sheri Lynn Behr Edgewater, NJ
Cary Benbow Greenfield, Indiana
Patricia A Bender Somerset, NJ
Inga Bugaeva Saint Petersburg, Russia
Laura Chenault El Cerrito, CA
Sansert Choabert Buenos Aires, Argentina
Janis Deinats Olaine,Latvia
Sylvia de Swaan Utica, NY
Emily Franklin Dekalb, IL
David Gardner San Francisco, CA
Chernega Gennadiy
Laura Glabman Hewlett, NY
Mira Gohel Philadelphia, Pa.
Max Gorbatskyi Krivoy Rog, Ukraine
Dan Hayon Paris, France
Louis Michael Hernandez Rochester, NY

Ekaterina Vasilyeva  Self Contained (2012)

Aaron Hobson Adirondack Mountains, USA
Rose Hunter Puerto Vallarta, Mexico  
Ellen Jantzen St Louis, Missouri 
Viacheslav Kabanov  Moscow, Russia  
John King Clarenville, Newfoundland
Ilya Kuklinsky Krasnoyarsk, Russia
Anna Laurinavichyute Saint Petersburg, Russia
Douglas Ljungkvist Brooklyn, NY
Daniel Mosher Long Storrs, CT
Mark Lozier Glen Oaks, NY
Julie Nymann New York, NY
Roberta Orlando Italy
Mikhail Palinchak Jr. Uzhgorod, Ukraine
Natasha Podunova Yekaterinburg, Russia
Gilberto Salazar Caracas, Venezuela
Oleg Savunov Saint Petersburg, Russia

Garrett Williams   Self Contained   (2012)

Andi Schreiber Scarsdale, NY 
Alexei Shved Moscow, Russia
Anton Singurov Kiev, Ukraine
Denis Sivack Brooklyn, NY
Jessica Skelton Dublin, Ireland
Kenneth Smoot Manchester, CT
Masha Svyatogor Minsk, Belarus
Dan R. Talley Kutztown, Pa
Satoshi Tsuchiyama New York, NY
Ekaterina Vasilyeva Saint Petersburg, Russia
Irina Volgareva Perm, Russia
Garrett Williams Oslo, Norway
Zac Wray Stockton, Ca. 

Willson Cummer "Altered Environments"

Altered Environments
Szozda Gallery
Syracuse, NY
October 10- November 4

Willson Cummer  Selkirk Shores  #7

Willson Cummer's photographs are included in this two person show at the Szozda gallery in Syracuse, NY entitled Altered Environments. The images are from several of Cummer's projects that investigate the boundaries and interactions between man and wilderness. These boundaries are often subtle and go unnoticed to the casual observer and visitor who may take for granted that these spaces have been improved upon for the convenience of man. Cummer has a fine eye for these subtleties and his images are very carefully produced observations.

In his Parklands Series mounted in this show, Cummer documents the natural and human elements that, for him, elicit ‘great beauty though not the picturesque kind that one might expect.’ He says, “The man-made placement of benches, fences, roadways, signs and other ‘improvements’ in park lands embraces the ‘half-nature’ that exists there. When these areas are not in use, they look almost wild, yet nature is controlled and contorted.” His Green Lakes Project investigates off-season scenes in areas normally crowded, but when vacant, ‘boundaries to the natural world invoke solitude and loneliness.’ He says of his Lake Ontario Project, “Standing at the edge of the lake is like standing at the edge of the ocean: the water extends to the horizon, waves break against the shore.” He comments about ways in which use of water is controlled with signs and fences, and how improvement to the natural world is tied to benches and volleyball nets. “Visitors to this New York state park will struggle to have an unmediated encounter with the great lake.

Willson Cummer, Green Lakes Overcast #25

In addition to his photography, Cummer is a curator and teacher at Syracuse’s Light Work/Community Darkrooms. He maintains a studio in the Delavan Center in Syracuse. He is also the editor of New Landscape Photography.

Willson Cummer's website

Curation 101

Alpena, Michigan  (2012)

A friend was insistent yesterday that I express my own definition of Self Contained.  I do have one, but I wouldn't tell her what it was. As I look through the submitted images of this recent project, I am always trying to be aware of avoiding my personal biases. I stated in the call for work that I was open to a wide range of interpretations on this theme and I meant it. The most important thing for me to do right now is to keep an open mind and allow the work to unfold and teach me new things. Why is that the most important thing? The artists who have submitted work have entrusted in me the care of their work and statements. To take the time and effort (and angst) to submit work, and to risk rejection, deserves the assurance of mindful consideration and lack of personal agenda.

The root meaning of Curate is cure or care. The religious context is one who cares for the souls of a parish, and in Scotland the term Curator is used to describe the guardian of a child. It is an over-used term in the art world and has almost lost meaning. I don't think many people really think much about it. To me, the association with the soul and/or children is significant. Shouldn't the art curator treat the work under review with complete reverence and the assumption of innocence?  To quote E. H. Gombrich, "There really is no such thing as Art. There are only artists."  Artists with hearts and souls and fearful inner-children in need of occasional hugs. I don't need to remind you of the internet universe filled with artists seeking positive feedback and attention in the form of likes and favorites. Most of the time this is the best we can hope for. We all spend a significant amount of time producing art that receives little more than a glimpse of attention.

Set aside one's own opinions and agenda and let the work of the artists tell the story and explain the theme. That would be the ultimate goal in curating an exhibit.  Likely impossible to completely avoid subjectivity and aesthetic prejudice, but certainly worth striving for. Every image submitted to Self Contained is now in a folder on my desktop and I look at them throughout the day, everyday. I look at them front to back and back to front. I look for patterns and relationships between images and artist's statements. I study your work. I care about it. I know that it comes from your soul.

Self Contained 2012

Whitefish Bay, Michigan  (2012)

I've just returned from nine days alone (with my dog) on the road exploring virtually the entire coastline of Michigan. Twenty seven hundred miles round trip from Philadelphia. Following the entire Eastern shoreline of Lake Huron along Route 25 up and around the tip of the thumb, down to Bay City and then up Route 23 to Cheboygan. From there I crossed the Makinac Bridge and spent four days on the North shore of the Upper Peninsula along Lake Superior, and then the last two days driving down the Western shoreline of Lake Michigan along Route 22 before heading home yesterday. Nine days of driving wherever the road led and the map looked interesting.

Every night was spent in a different State Park right on the beach with a sunset view like the one above. With only one exception on the first Saturday night of the trip every park was virtually empty and I had the entire place to myself. Lonely at times and a challenge for sure, but a meditative retreat in the best possible way. This was my sixth trip to the Great Lakes & North Woods area of Michigan and Minnesota.  Eighteen thousand miles driving what I consider to be the most beautiful coastlines of the United States. I always return from these trips renewed and uplifted.

I returned to find all of the work submitted on the final days of the Self Contained call while I was away. 250 photographers sent in almost seven hundred images and now begins two weeks of curating this project with a fresh set of eyes and a quiet mind. The work and the statements are beautiful and well thought answers to the theme and I will enjoy every minute of the selection process. Thanks and appreciation to all who participated this year.  Selected photographers and the winning entries will be announced on October 20th.

Looking at the Land

Looking at the Land: 21st Century American Views

Curated by Andy Adams and produced in conjunction with the exhibition America in View: Landscape Photography 1865 to Now, organized by the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island, and shown there September 21, 2012 - January 13, 2013. This exhibit is presented as a video slideshow as well as individually accessible images containing detailed information about the photographers and a short interview format.  

Emily Shur   Parking Lot
Sedona, Arizona  (2010)

"Photographers are doing what they’ve always done — looking at the land with a camera to explore, understand, critique and comment upon humankind’s relationship with nature. The subject matter has changed with each new generation, as have the impressions of the photographers behind the lens. This survey is by no means exhaustive but it does signal the beginning of a fertile new era in the ever-evolving landscape photo tradition. It studies a cross-section of current landscape photography in the documentary style. Most of these pictures depict actual places and their content says much about the United States and the American people. We live in a post-New Topographics landscape where an entire generation of photographers was born and raised in suburban sprawl. Wilderness is a foreign concept. Our environment has been significantly altered. We live with nature at arm's length. Photography describes these things."
          -Andy Adams, Looking at the Land 

Christine Carr
Roanoke, Virginia (2005)

When we really begin to think about the landscape, and look beyond the cliche and romantic images that might appear in our heads when hearing the words Landscape Photography, it quickly becomes apparent just how ambiguous the concept really is. The landscape is both a visual experience and a cognitive puzzle without an obvious solution. The American landscape has intrigued artists and geographers for centuries, the best of which have never stopped asking themselves why things look the way they do.

In The Interpretation of Ordinary Landscapes  (1979 Oxford Press) , D. W. Meinig's essay The Beholding Eye offers what I have found to be one of the most helpful ways in which to categorize and evaluate landscapes. Meinig breaks down the landscape into a pattern of language based on ten elements; landscape as Nature, landscape as Habitat, landscape as Artifact, landscape as System, landscape as Problem, landscape as Wealth, landscape as Ideology, landscape as History, landscape as Place, and landscape as Aesthetic. This language of landscape allows us to analyse and better appreciate not only the visual aspects of the landscape, but also the cultural and psychological qualities. And while this is obviously most helpful for academics like Meinig and J B Jackson (etal), I think it is just as useful to curators and photographers/artists in search of deeper understanding of the ambiguous meanings within the contemporary landscape.  Based on Meinig's elements as a benchmark, I think Andy Adams did a remarkable job with his selections.  Eighty eight images were chosen from a submission pool of over five thousand. As a back story to the photographs in the exhibit, each photographer was asked the same set of four questions, including one about the specifics of place and another that explores the compulsion of the artist to photograph the land. The answers are as intriguing and insightful as the images.

Mike Sinclair  Western Auto Building from 22nd & Main Street
Kansas City (2010)

I'm not sure I agree with Andy Adams about today being a post-New Topographic landscape. For better or worse, the landscape hasn't changed all that much since the mid-nineteen seventies and neither has the general aesthetic of contemporary landscape photography. The influence of the New Topographic photographers and the New Color photographers of the 1970's is very evident among the images being presented. Stephen Shore, Robert Adams, Len Jenshel, Joel Meyerowitz, and a few others are eerily present and hovering over this exhibition. I'm not saying that is a bad thing. I love those photographers. We're not quite ready to declare independence and graduation from the influences of such recent photographic past is the only point I am trying to make.

Ian Baguskas  Two Structures
Death Valley, California (2008)

This is, however, a post- Gallery Centric exhibition.  The evolution of the online exhibition format has been relatively slow and hindered when compared to the frenetic pace of internet time, but Adams has his foot on the accelerator. I won't get into the details of the development of this exhibition. There is an excellent piece written by Paul Moakley on Time Lightbox  that needs to be read to fully appreciate the significance and success of what Andy Adams has accomplished not only with this exhibit, but also in shaping the virtual contemporary photography landscape. We are witnessing a new interpretation of the exhibition format.

Self Contained

I shared with more than a few people during the weeks of this call for work that I was nervous about a slow response and that I was having trouble finding patterns and relationships among the images being submitted. I began to doubt myself in choosing this theme. Maybe it was too cerebral.... too vague.... too similar to last year's theme, etc etc. I had to let go of that anxiety and just wait to see what would come in.  I have not been let down. In the past few weeks I have received some really strong work and remarkable symmetry is happening in front of my eyes. To me this is the primary joy of curating a project like this. An orchestra sounds chaotic and dissonant while warming up, but ahhh, once the music begins! That is how I feel right now.

There is one week left to submit your work. I want to remind all readers that this is a completely profit-free competition. No entry fees, and the resulting Blurb book will be sold at the artist cost (no profit added).  The deadline is October 1st, 2012.

Sylvia De Swaan     Self Contained (2012)

Satoshi Tsuchiyama       Self Contained  (2012)

Mikhail Palinchak       Self Contained (2012)

Submit to Self Contained

Towards the 21st Century

“To celebrate new ideas in photography, we are asking people to nominate up to five photographers who have demonstrated an openness to use new ideas in photography, who have taken chances with their photography and have shown an unwillingness to play it safe."

In response to this open call from Joerg Colberg and Colin Pantall for examples of the current avant-garde among photographers, here are the first two that come to mind for me...

Zoe Strauss

Zoe Strauss
Billboard #28 "Women Kissing" at Cottman Ave & Revere Street

At the turn of the century, an unknown Philadelphia based artist named Zoe Strauss created a ten year public art project that presented an annual outdoor photography exhibit, displaying works in progress mounted on concrete pillars under Interstate 95 in South Philadelphia. Visitors were invited to take home a print at the end of each annual one day exhibit. Five dollar copies of the images from the exhibit were sold to art collectors and curious neighborhood visitors who (towards the end of the decade) stood in line for hours for a chance to meet Zoe face to face and have her sign the prints. In 2012, as part of a mid career retrospective at the Philadelphia Art Museum, images were displayed on 54 billboards throughout the city of Philadelphia, further enhancing the public accessibility of her art. Strauss fully embraced the transparency of social media; allowing Facebook, Twitter and her blog to become an open diary and window into her work process. Starting relatively late as a photographer (age 30), she does not even have a 20th Century portfolio. Strauss developed an internationally recognized photography career entirely within the 21st Century.  The PMA exhibit had the double effect of being one of the most talked about and well attended exhibits in the museum's history, while at the same time ruffling the feathers of Philly's photographic olde guard. Self taught photographer Zoe Strauss has never played it safe a day in her life. Just ask the White House press secretary.

Alec Soth

Alec Soth photobooks

Alec Soth has changed the way we think about, and consume, photobooks. Always pushing in new directions, Soth sells a wide variety of book formats via his prolific Little Brown Mushroom publishing venture. Collectors can buy limited edition books that range in price from less than ten dollars to almost one thousand dollars, in an amazing variety of formats. Soth has produced cheap staple bound zines in various edition sizes, as well as elaborate projects such as Broken Manual that took several years to complete. Most recently, Soth has been travelling the United States, producing very quickly edited newsprint "dispatches" from places like Ohio and Upstate New York. Soth also transitions seamlessly from solo artist to collaborator. Projects such as Lonely Boy Magazine have been produced with multiple contributors, House Of Coates was produced with writer Brad Zellar, and Soth has ventured into the pseudo-psychological realm via his alter-ego Lester B Morrison. I am an avid collector of Alec Soth's books and have written about my passion previously on PHOTO/arts Magazine.  Alec Soth has little competition in becoming the defining figure in the early 21st Century photobook genre.

Valerio Spada

The first United States showing of Valerio Spada's Gomorrah Girl series is currently on the walls at the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center in Philadelphia, Pa. The exhibit opened on September 13th and runs until November 24th, 2012. Spada's self published book of the same title won the grand prize in the 2011 Blurb Photobook Now competition. The book is a uniquely designed format consisting of two books in one; larger staple bound pages of crime scene reports interwoven with smaller pages containing Spada's photographs. The crime scene reports are details of the shooting death of Annalisa Durante. It was meeting Annalisa's father on a visit to Naples that instigated the desire in Spada to create this series.

Valerio Spada lecturing at the
Philadelphia Photo Arts Center

I have attended quite a few artist lectures over the years, but I have heard very few as mesmerizing as the one given by Valerio Spada at the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center on September 15th.  For ninety minutes non stop, Spada gave us a first hand account of the history of his series, which documents the crime and drug ridden neighborhood outside Naples that is the setting for his photographs. From his first encounter with the father of murdered teenager Annalisa Durante, to journeys inside heroin shooting galleries and dangerous situations with the Camorrah (mafia). Spada speaks very fluent English, but his unique accent that is strongly Italian with a slightly noticeable touch of French required intense concentration for me to follow every part of his story. I must admit I got lost a few times, but never once lost interest in the subject.

The most touching part of this series are the Gomorrah Girls themselves. We never see Annalisa except for a tiny portrait that hangs from a gold chain around her father's neck. The images of young girls we see in this series are growing up among one of the most difficult and dangerous environments in Italy.  Spada is a fashion photographer in Paris and it was significant to hear him talk about his reactions to meeting very young girls whose only dream in life is to become a sex symbol on the nightly TV news. The ambiguous messages they receive from Italian mainstream culture are compounded by the intensely difficult environment in which they are growing up. The Gomorrah Girls live in a world of lost adolescence; lost to violence, criminal social order, and a misogynistic sexual culture.  Spada presents us with a chilling look into the center of this world.

Gomorrah Girl installation images
Philadelphia Photo Arts Center
Philadelphia, Pa

Valerio Spada's website

Self Contained

"Society is commonly too cheap. We meet at very short intervals, not having had time to acquire any new value for each other. We meet at meals three times a day, and give each other a new taste of that musty old cheese that we are. We have had to agree on a certain set of rules, called etiquette and politeness, to make this frequent meeting tolerable, and that we need not come to open war. We meet at the post office, and at the sociable, and about the fireside every night; we live thick and are in each other's way, and stumble over one another..."
Henry David Thoreau

The deadline to submit your work to Self Contained is October 1st, three weeks from today.  I have been receiving some beautiful work, and I thought I would share a tiny peek at some of the images that have inspired me. Each week between now and the deadline I will post a few images from the submission pool.  Here is today's selection of photographs, from Eastern European submissions.

Alex Kruglov   Self Contained (2012)

Robert Hutinski    Self Contained (2012)

Kristin Lukash   Self Contained (2012)

Call For Work 2012.... Self Contained

Irina Popova responds to Pussy Riot

Irina Popova was one of the five selected winners in last year's My Own Wilderness competition with her documentation of a young Russian couple trying to raise a child amid the chaos of drug addiction. The work received intense criticism when it was first published. The series pushed the boundaries of voyeurism, exploitation, and morality within the genre of photo-documentation. 

When the Pussy Riot trial was receiving heavy news coverage earlier this month, I thought about Irina Popova and wondered how she was reacting to these events. Was she documenting this story? In fact she was, and sent me a series of images from the past two weeks in which she spent protesting the verdicts.

Irina Popova, Balaclava (2012)

PH/arts:  Tell me what is going on in these photos.

Popova: This mask is called a balaclava and is used to cover the face to protect from cold, sun, or for anonymity. After the protest action of Pussy Riot singing the "punk prayer" against Putin in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour it became the symbol of modern Russian protest and activism.I started wearing it on the day of the court verdict as an action of support and solidarity. I wore it in the intercity train, metro, streets and near the court building during the demonstration. After I knew that the girls were condemned for 2 years in prison, I decided to wear the mask as the solidarity and memory act every day, and at least for some time in the public space until they are freed. This is my individual action, but it can happen to become a mass movement, and I expect the balaclava to become in fashion this season. 

Irina PopovaBalaclava (2012)

PH/arts: Was there any risk to you in wearing it out in public?

PopovaWearing it can't be officially forbidden as a part of clothing. I was arrested only once, while putting flowers on the memorial of those who were killed during the August Putsch of 1991 - the fighters for freedom which is disappearing now. I was released 2 hours after the arrest without any formal charges.

Irina PopovaBalaclava (2012)

PH/arts:  Do you have any personal connection to Pussy Riot?

Popova:  I know one girl personally, Ekaterina Samutsevich, we studied in the same art school (The School of Photography and Multimedia in Moscow).

PH/arts:  After one or two days of intense news coverage in the US, this story has been quickly forgotten. Has it continued to receive coverage and reaction in Russia?

Popova:  Not much has happened since then, people forget the news very quickly.That's why i decided to conduct my solidarity action every day.

PH/arts:  Thank you Irina. Keep us posted on this subject and be safe.

Irina Popova's web site