Ula Wiznerowicz

Behind The Curtain

Beautiful images submitted by Polish photographer Ula Wiznerowicz belie the underlying reality of alcoholism that pervades the community and culture in which she grew up. Wiznerowicz spent a year visiting this community of her birthplace, researching the disease of alcoholism in an attempt to understand the impact it has not just on the alcoholic, but the entire family structure as well. I particularly like the fact that in none of her images from this series is there any direct visual evidence of alcohol. No empty bottles, etc. The disease of alcoholism is often hidden from plain sight, and requires sometimes very subtle observation to detect by outsiders. The images are hiding something from us in the same way that families of alcoholics hide the reality of their lives to the outside world.

 "Forgotten and useless things covered in dust, emaciated cats running around searching for leftovers, rooms taken over by spider webs and the strong odour of alcohol. These were just part of the chaos I encountered while photographing the village of Palmowo, my birthplace, and its surroundings in the Polish region of Wielkopolska (Greater Poland). This cycle of images depicts a personal journey through the individual stories of men and women struggling with the problem of alcoholism. I decided to create a form of visual narrative to help me tell the story of my past. Although not every person in my pictures suffers from alcohol dependency, each one has, in his or her own way, encountered this problem through their relatives or circle of friends.  
 For 15 years I was part of that community and, like the majority of these people, I ignored or accepted without protest the situation around me and the inevitable misery of life in this world. Throughout this 12-month project, which I called Behind the Curtain, I carried out numerous interviews with the people I photographed, their families and specialists in the field of addiction, which helped to greatly improve my understanding of alcoholism. This was my way of trying to understand the lives of my former neighbours, who had either encountered these problems or had struggled with them for many years. I know all of the people in my pictures, their wives, children, the interiors of their homes and the views from their windows."
          - Ula Wiznerowicz (Artist Statement for Behind The Curtain)

Images from Behind The Curtain
by Ula Wiznerowicz

ULA WIZNEROWICZ (b. 1986) studied a BA Hons Degree in Photography at Middlesex University (2010). Her photographs have been exhibited widely with solo shows in Italy, England and Poland.
Working mainly within social documentary photography, Wiznerowicz documents a particularly unique Polish/English perspective using the camera to explore narrative conventions with a powerful subtlety and poise. Her careful handling of subjects and their emotive stories has won her acclaim with most recently a FotoVisura Grant, along with Ideas Tap Portfolio Award in 2012 and Channel 4/ Saatchi Gallery Prize and D&AD Best New Blood Prizes in 2010.

Ula Wiznerowicz's website

Aras Karimi

A favorite book of mine is Teaching Photography: notes assembled by Philip Perkis (RIT Cary Graphic Arts Press 2005), which is a collection of notes from 40 years of lectures, assignments and critiques given by Mr. Perkis. The book is filled with so many small gems, my copy is highlighted and underlined throughout. But one of my favorites is Excercise #6  Watching Light:

Find a room where sun comes in late in the day. Place a comfortable chair that looks toward the light and sit down. Sit there until it's dark. Just watch.

Profound and zen like in simplicity. What a way to meditate on the qualities of light. One would not need to be inside a room to experience this meditation. It could just as easily be accomplished on a quiet beach or mountaintop. The same thing could be observed in reverse; watch the light come up in the morning and gradually transition from black to light. I have observed this first hand numerous times from a canoe in the middle of a dead calm lake. Paddling out on the water in pre-dawn hours so dark and calm I can see the stars reflected in the water all around me. And ever so slowly and subtly that darkness fades away and sunlight begins to bring the horizon into focus. I am always mesmerized and awed by this experience, as well as somewhat frustrated by my inability to capture the experience of transitional light into a photograph. 

It was with this in mind that drew my attention to a recent submission from Iranian photographer Aras Karimi , who works with light as the subject of his photographic work. His artist statement is as follows...

"I look at photography as a relationship between light and film: light as a playful actor and film as a serious recorder. The job of a photographer, which is experimental by nature, is to write the best scenario for this one-time instant play. A genuine play is inevitably the result of accurate eyes, free mind, and fundamentals of photography at heart. Light is the subject of my works. Unlike the usual process in photography that uses light as a means to record a scene and tell its story, I am interested in light as a story teller. In fact the scene in my works is the medium to picture light, its mood on different surfaces, and its personality in different spaces. Photography has become a meditation for me. I capture light through a process and technique that I have developed myself and take lots of patience and passion. Sometimes I set the camera in a location and take pictures of natural light through time. Sometimes I move the camera with the change of light in time. All of these efforts are to illustrate light in its most naked way, freeing and extracting it from the sense of time, space, and objects. What satisfies me and urges me to do more and more photography projects are the results, which are the ability to depict my childhood fascination and share it with others: the irresistible playful beauty of light."

Untitled Images by Aras Karimi

"All of my photographs are purposefully untitled. I like to give a chance to the viewer to experience their own emotion while they are coinciding with an expression of mine. It is also unnatural to apply a rational meaning to something that is opposite from being a product of intellect as all of my works are pure reflections of my vision, and emotion at the moment the shot is taken.

When the photographs are left untitled, the communication between me and the audience stays in a non-verbal infinite world, free of cues, symbols, cultural limitations, current trends, and of course the native characteristics of our mind. In this sense, pure visual experience is more universal, imaginative and free. Any word associated with the photograph limits this possibility and directs the mind to a world constructed by language, hence the photo becomes a visual-verbal experience, rather than pure visual."

Aras Karimi's website

Embracing Banality

So much discussion lately about photography being boring...

We have reached the end of photography! 
Everything has already been photographed! 
There is nothing new to experience!
Where is the avant-garde??

Photography is boring... always has been, is now, and always will be. The enabling factor of digital imagery and the mass production and availability of images for our insatiable consumption has temporarily allowed us to believe that photography is exciting. Exciting like Television and Video. Sorry, It isn't.  Photography requires us to slow down and look for subtle nuance. The internet, like television, does not encourage or allow for nuance. Everything is built for speed and impulse. Instant satisfaction and rapid eye movement. The false reality of our times. When people spend the greatest part of their lives living on the internet, the internet becomes the greatest part of people's lives.(1) We naturally want to include photography in our internet lives, however disappointing that relationship may be. We very quickly get the sickening and disheartening feeling that we have seen all there is to see. 

Photography is a lot like nature. Nature can sometimes be very exciting, but for the most part it is extremely  boring. Spend some time in the wilderness. Nothing much happens. Trees move in the wind. An animal might make a noise. The sun moves slowly across the sky. In order to experience what is really going on requires us to slow down and tune into human perception skills that we have lost connection to. We no longer observe and feel the weather forecast, we rely on someone to tell us the weather forecast. We get angry when the forecast is wrong.  We no longer observe and feel photography on our own, we rely on curators and blog-urators to tell us what is good photography. We rely on artist statements to explain it all to us, and we get angry when the statements are confusing or pretentious. We get angry and frustrated when we no longer see something new and different every day.

We label common and ordinary photography as Banal.  Meaning boring, nothing new. Ho hum. Not artistic. Not exciting to our senses. Maybe we don't know how to react to banality. It makes us feel uncomfortable and anxious in the exact same way we would feel out in the wilderness without a smart phone. We don't know what to do with all the slow. Nobody to tell us the forecast. Lost without a compass.

Ellen Jantzen wrote to me last week about the subject of boring photography. Ellen's work is remarkable and most definitely not boring. She uses a variety of digital techniques to push visual interpretation in a unique conceptual language all her own. Ellen was included in my 2011 exhibit and book My Own Wilderness, and I considered her images to be among the most interesting photographs submitted.  So I found it interesting that Ellen was exploring her inner banality. Admittedly, this is, as Ellen describes it, slightly satirical. If you have seen this type of work before, please direct your anger at the internet.

BANAL by Ellen Jantzen (2012)

"This is a series of things I have always ignored but now notice". 

In art (photography), Modernism explicitly rejects the ideology of "traditional" forms of art and makes use of works of the past, through the application of reprise, incorporation,rewriting, recapitulation, revision and parody in new forms. The poet Ezra Pound's 1934 injunction to "Make it new!" was paradigmatic of the movement's approach towards the obsolete.

A salient characteristic of modernism is self-consciousness. This self-consciousness often leads to experiments with form and work that draws attention to the processes and materials used.

With that in mind, I took a walk around my studio in St. Louis. I saw a lot, but noticed little. There is not much to look at, normal sidewalks… signs, nothing interesting. But then I began looking at things I had previously ignored, uninteresting things, just stuff on the ground. So on my next walk, I took my camera along and started shooting...

Ellen Jantzen from the series BANAL (2012)

Ellen Jantzen from the series BANAL (2012)

Ellen Jantzen from the series BANAL (2012)

More images from Ellen Jantzen's BANAL series

Ellen Jantzen's website

(1)  Paraphrasing the great writer, Jerry Mander, from "In The Absence of the Sacred" (1991 Sierra Club Books) I have substituted the word 'internet' for Mander's word 'television'. 

Monique Pelser

South African photographer Monique Pelser tells PHOTO/arts Magazine some background details about her haunting 2008 series, Bystanders...

 Bystanders were photographed with a cheap Nokia phone camera.  In early 2008 I went to a talk by Marlene Dumas at the University of Witwatersrand School of Arts (where I was lecturing in photography) and while she was talking I was wondering about the images she quite obviously appropriates from the media and how, as a painter, she can do this without any worry about copyright.  In response to this I started looking at photographs in the newspapers and other popular media such album covers and started to extrapolate background information.

Initially I was going to use a macro lens on my camera and found I could not get close enough to make the kind of crop that I was after.  I was explaining what I wanted to start working on to my mother and she was not clearly understanding me so I took out my cell phone to shoot an example and I was blown away by how close up I could get with that little camera.  So I began working that way.  In order to develop a body of portraits I focused the Bystanders project by seeking out photographs in the South African newspaper archives in Johannesburg.  The images I looked for were front page images of the days of important events in South African history. So for example I found an image published on the day that Nelson Mandela was released, I then looked out for background and incidental characters and photographed those portraits.  

Formally the image files are very small and therefore they pixilate quite radically (even if you print them around a4 size) but they also capture the quality of the newspaper. It was my intention to push the work towards a painterly quality (without the use of filters!) but to still retain it's photographic integrity.  

Unnamed bystander #2 2008
the day archbishop desmond tutu won the nobel
peace prize

Unnamed bystander #9 2008
the day nelson mandela was released

Unnamed bystander #27 2008
the day queen performed at sun city

Unnamed bystander #37 2008
the day of the first democratic elections

Monique Pelser, born in 1976 in Johannesburg South Africa, is a visual artist currently working and living in Cape Town. Tierney Fellowship recipient for 2010 and voted by Art South Africa as a bright young artist for 2007, Pelser is well known for her role reversal portraits. Pelser was educated at the Market Photography workshop in 1996 and in fine art at Rhodes University Grahamstown where she majored in the photographic arts. In 2006 she was awarded a Masters of Fine Art with distinction.

Since 2007 she has lectured in photography and visual art at Rhodes University, AAA School of Advertising in Cape Town and Johannesburg, The Market Photography Workshop in Johannesburg, Stellenbosch Visual Arts Department and Wits School of Arts in Johannesburg.

Along with Sabelo Mlangeni and Musa Nxumalo she was selected as one of three South African photographers to attend the Maputo Curators Meeting, Mozambique in 2008, the Bamako Curators Meeting, Mali in 2009 and the Addis Photo Fest Portfolio Readings in Ethiopia in 2010. In 2011, along with Sammy Baloji, she was invited to co-curate the show Témoin/ Witness which show-cases the work of the group of photographers who have been involved in the Curators Meetings across the continent. Témoin opened in Bamako, Mali in 2011 and is set to tour to various centers across Africa in 2012.

Monique Pelser's current project, Conversations With My Father, is a combination of modes of photography- her own photographic prints; which are still lives of police things that were collected by her father, a series of found photographs of her father's graduating Troops at the police college, and a digital photographic installation of some images her father took while at the police force. This series, as well as additional works by Pelser can be seen on the artist's website. 

Monique Pelser's website

Call For Work

Open call for work...
21st Century American Landscape Photography

Nicole, Monument Valley, Utah 
by Graham Miller (2009)

Flak Photo director Andy Adams is teaming up with The RISD Museum of Art to produce a digital exhibition of 21st century American landscape views this summer - All are welcome to submit images for consideration.  Full details about the exhibition will be provided in July. Andy is requesting that the call for work be shared with those who might be interested in submitting work. 

There is no entry fee involved, and a deadline has not yet been announced. It would seem that the preferred method of submitting work is to send a link to a web based portfolio. Submissions may be sent via the following link...