Feeling Bookish? You could win a beautiful hard-bound!

OK, I’ve been pretty busy lately. Working on the final exhibition prints for my show next month in Milwaukee; a full-plate of assignments (thanks Evan, Lonnie, Jake, Randy, Melissa and Kate!); and finally trying to put together a book dummy for the Blurb book contest and just to create a dummy to shop around (love to multi-task). It’s a lot of work, but fortunately, I am not alone. I am enlisting the help of fellow Bobcat, the genius Jody Sugrue – who is so incredibly talented she may well drive me to therapy for insecurity.

I attended EnFoco‘s portfolio review last weekend up in NYC and had the good fortune to meet with Denise Wolf, one of Aperture‘s talented staff. She gave me some good feedback to consider about creating a book. Though she acknowledged that she usually works on a book for a year, and I have like two weeks – she suggested that I might consider putting my Off-Season and Consumed works together. I’ve gotten this feedback before, and just as often affirmations to the contrary (anyone else familiar with this conundrum?). Well Jody took this idea and ran with it.  We decided to put the work together, but in the spirit of democracy we want to keep them separate but equal.  Hardcore traditionalists may hate this look, I dunno, but I’m a big believer of the theorem: “Be bold and strong forces will come to your aid.”
I am submitting for your approval two design ideas for the cover and some page layout ideas. You can click on the individual frames a couple times to enlarge.  Would love your feedback gentle readers, so please leave a comment. And to show that no good deed goes unpunished I’ll be happy to forward one lucky winner the  book,  A Better Time, which is a beautifully printed hardback book published by Cartiere del Garda, and is an offering of great photographs from around the world on the subject of leisure time, including an opus by yours truly from work in Peru (still updating that component of the website), and with work from other great photographers like Kathryn Cooke, Silvia Morara, Matilde Gattoni, and more. Go ahead, leave a comment (not on facebook please but in the comments field here on wordpress), it won’t hurt.

I’ll put all the comments in a hat in a week or so and draw the winner who will get a copy of A Better Time delivered straight to your mailbox.  Employees of Susana Raab Inc. are ineligible (this means you Teddy Roosevelt!).

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Salient Words from Martin Parr

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(screen grab from Martin Parr’s website © M Parr)

Our great chronicler of consumer culture was another big highlight of the LOOK3 festival of the photograph for me. Love him or hate him, I believe M. Parr to be a great advocate of photography. At LOOK3, he also proved himself to be an articulate speaker whose vision has method to its madness. While I don’t think words are necessary to understanding a photograph, they often augment, and I find it maddening when photographers can not speak engagingly about their work. Here, in no particular order are some nuggets from ParrWorld:
1. I disguise my images with humor. I am a concerned photographer. I feel a responsibility to not photograph nostalgia. To make it palatable you bring in irony to make it susceptible.
(for my own part, I call this the Mary Poppins/spoonful of sugar method – a method I attempt to employ in some of my own work, most notably Consumed & Off-Season)
2. You’ve got to change and push forward – you can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again. Commercially yes, but not the work you do for yourself.
3. Photographers are inspired by books, [and the book as an object is ever more critical today]

Truth be told, I will never love any of his work more than The Last Resort, but I appreciate his worldview and his obsession with collecting.  When pursuing some of my projects, I often think of myself as a detective, locating clues that will unravel a larger mystery.  Parr follows a similar avenue, looking at his picture taking as a kind of collecting.

OK, I lost the rest of my notes, but I’ll leave you with the one nugget I was able to claim from the train-wreck that was Gilles Peress conversation:
“As a viewer you process the image and make it yours.”

and another one I just found online, when searching for his non-existent website (who needs one when you have Magnum?)

“I don’t care so much anymore about ‘good photography’; I am gathering evidence for history”

Well that modality may work for a photographer emeritus like G. Peress, but I strive to both gather evidence for history and am very concerned with making a good photograph (whether or not I am succesful or not I will leave it to you to decide since you are the viewer processing the image and making it yours).  I guess it just depends on how you define a good photo and your POV.  I don’t think they have to be mutually exclusive, history making and good photography.  Comments, pro and dissenting, as always are welcome.

LOOK3: Highlights

Intermittent rain showers which cooled the summer Piedmont humidity did not detract from the goings on at LOOK3.  Now that I’ve been to my share of photofestivals I will say what LOOK has going for it that few of the others that I’ve been to have is the compactness of the venue. Most events take place either along Charlottesville’s downtown pedestrian mall or just a few blocks from.  The events are scheduled so you do not have to pick and choose, you can attend them all, as none overlap.  The mix-up of presentations, slideshows, workshops would make Goldilocks quite happy as it feels just right.

from Bankrupt © Phillip Toledano

from Bankrupt © Phillip Toledano

Despite the event being organized by Geographic staffers and contributors the offerings are not all strictly traditional photojournalism.  For this reason I was able to be delighted and inspired by “Mr. Toledano” aka Phillip Toledano’s presentation, who had the unenviable position of being the first in a line-up of four.  Messr. Toledano showed work from several series: Bankrupt (empty offices after the dot com bust), Phone Sex, and some new work on plastic surgery.  Some salient quotes from Philly Toe:

1.  “I see my photographs as unfinished stories.”

I remember when I signed up for the Peace Corps and one of the requirements was a high tolerance for ambiguity.  I had it in spades, and I admire it in photographs as well.  Unfinished stories and ambiguous meanings are the stuff where creativity can thrive.

2. “For me photographs are like when you walk into a house and the phone is ringing and you pick up the phone and someone starts talking to you.”

3.  “When I work on a series it is like making a piece of music.”

4. “My ideas are gate crashers.”

5, “The project determines the style not the other way around.  All my projects are different stylistically.”

Here, here!  I adore photographers that adapt and change, stretch themselves – there is value in pursuing the single minded theme throughout one’s life to be sure, but for peripatetic types like myself, I appreciate people of ideas, good and bad – and the risk-taking that comes through changing it up with each project.

Mr. T enjoyed a 10 year career in advertising before pursuing photography full-time.  He is responsible for the Blue in JetBlue and for making the phrase “vigorous shaggery” an addition to my lexicon (in describing some noises made by his Phone Sex workers subjects, lest you get the wrong idear.)  If you are not familiar with him, check out his Days with My Father project on the website.  Phillip also enjoys writing accompanying in his photos, and I find his personal notes accompanying the last days of his father to be poignant.

More to come!

From Days with My Father © Phillip Toledano

From Days with My Father © Phillip Toledano

Behind the Curve

I’ve been so single-mindedly focused on preparing for my upcoming solo show of “Rank Strangers” at the Dean Jensen Gallery next month (If you are in Milwaukee, or even Chicago! come on down!) that there has been very little brain juice left over for blogging and other diversions. Today I head down to the LOOK3 festival in Charlottesville where Consumed is being projected Saturday night along with other friends and colleagues like Amy Stein, Hank Willis Thomas, John Trotter, and Todd Hido (!). I am hoping to resume some light blogging from the fest as my screen-addled brain is not ready for heavy lifting. George Orwell, you were right. Stay tuned –

Urban Nature Magazine

© Ryan Hodgson-Rigsbee

© Ryan Hodgson-Rigsbee

Straight from Chicago, photographer Ryan Hogdson-Rigsbee (say that ten times fast), is debuting the fourth issue of Urban Nature Magazine. Ryan was that undergrad kid in all my grad classes who was kicking all our old cynical asses. The last class we took together had him work on a long-term project about the closing down of the projects in Chicago. I’m glad to see he is still working it there – and staying true to himself. Check it out – what one man and an idea can do.

Issue #4 contains four stories:

-The Return: Looks at the transformation of Winter to Spring in Chicago
-Urban Characters: A collection of photos from the past year of urban objects that have all the character of an urbanite.
-Music Festival Season: Looks at past covered music festival in anticipation of the start of 2009’s festival season.
-From the River (sneak peak): A glimpse into next issue’s story on Chicago from the river.

Urban Nature Magazine looks to explore the merging point between nature and urban man in the hopes of cultivating new appreciation and insight into our relationship with the everyday and each other.

Chinese Sentiment

My friend Shen Wei has two pictures from his new series, Chinese Sentiment, for sale on Jen Bekman this week. I’d love to curate a group show along the idea of lost homelands/horizons. Very romantic, I know, but my own project on Peru, soon to be unveiled, explores a similar idea, and I know of several other good projects along the same theme.

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Blessing over the Rice Machine, Guiyang, Guizhou Province (30″x40″) by Shen Wei

From Shen:
After leaving China for almost a decade, going back to photograph China has been an emotional process of integrating my retrieved memories and my desire of seeking. My passion for this on-going project is to observe and rediscover the affecting moments in Chinese daily life, both in the private and in the public.

Chinese Sentiment is a personal journey for me to reconnect with the authentic Chinese living and culture. I intend to look pass the materialistic surface, pay appreciation to the concinnity in China; finding the poetic tradition, the romantic serenity, and the inherent beauty of China. My goal is to reveal China from a personal perspective, let the audience experience China internally and see the realness of China.