Monday, May 12, 2008

Fallen Paradise - William Greiner

I mentioned William Greiner's current show at Klompching the other day. I also recently got a note from him that his new book Fallen Paradise is available in conjunction with the exhibit.

This is the underbelly of pre-Katrina New Orleans. Greiner presents an image of a city that was already devastated, by neglect and abandonment, long before natural disaster struck. His imaging of New Orleans' urban vernacular is perceptively pictured through a carefully constructed use of color, form and content.

William Greiner's modus operandi is the American Color Tradition — the snapshot that isn't. Here, the familiar becomes unfamiliar. The seemingly objective actuality of the city, its banality, its ordinary everyday impression, is transformed into a vista of flush saturated palettes of color. Born, raised and (until Katrina) living and working in the city, New Orleans has always been an important source of inspiration for Greiner's work.

Here, a decade of looking and picturing his immediate environment, is brought together and displayed for the first time. Fallen Paradise is a celebration of apparent incidental imagery that is, of course, abound in formal devices — frame, vantage point, shape and line. Although there exists an autobiographical subtext, Greiner is most successful in compelling us to also look, not just at his city, but at the photograph itself. Whilst the importance of his subject does not disappear, these images function as photographic artifact — at once, they are observation and cultural object. (from Klompching)

(p.s. - I should mention I've just finished a fairly intensive course - about archives - that was rather time and energy consuming - hence the sparse posting lately)

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Iconic Red Army Reichstag Photo Faked

I don't know if Der Spiegel was having a slow news day or they are merely employing bad headline writers (at least they didn't use a "!"), but their article about Red Army photogrpaher Yevgeny Khaldei makes it sound like the retouching of the famous Reichstag photo to remove looted watches as well as add smoke is fresh news.

Whereas the photograph in question is a standard illustration in works about war photogrpahy and propaganda or about the long practice of manipulating photographs - I remember reading about it in one of those old 1970's Time Life books that was either about photogrpahy or WWII (Khaldei also brought his own supersized Soviet flag with him - sewn together by his uncle... just in case). But then again, perhaps Spiegel only just figured it out.

In fact, what is at the root of the story is that there is a current exhibition about Khaldei at the Martin Gropius Bau in Berlin. Which in itself shouyld be worth a view if you happen to be in the neighbourhood.

Interestingly, I recall reading somewhere that Khaldei said he had been inspired by Joe Rosenthal's famous Iwo Jima flag raising photograph - which is self has been embroiled in controversy (unfairly imo) almost from the moment it was made.

BTW, Khaldei was a former TASS press photographer who, despite photographing the Red Army after their grinding advance on Berlin, was actually a photographer/Lieutenant in the Soviet Navy. After the war, despite his 15 minutes of fame, he didn't fare too well as a Jew in Stalin's Soviet Union and he was never acknowledged as the photographer who took this picture until after the fall of the Soviet Union.

"As the Soviet army marches through a devastated Budapest he sees a couple wandering about with yellow Jewish stars on their clothing. Approaching them he first snaps a photo; he is after all a photographer first. Then uttering a prayer in Hebrew he tears off their yellow stars and tells them that the fascists have been beaten. (Bram Goodwin)

His work is certainly well worth looking at.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Way too much good stuff...

(Sophie Calle)

I started off trying to synthesize all this into one post, but after a few minutes I realised there wasn't much point... so here's a list of several interesting posts I came across in the last few days:

A rare post from the always excellent A Space In Between -
A Practice Without Center: the Work of Sophie Calle

A little while back someone asked me what had happed to Charlotte Cotton's Tip Of The Tongue - well, she moved from New York to LACMA on the West Coast it it has been reborn as WORDS WITHOUT PICTURES. The current essay is an interesting one about photobooks by Darius Himes.

The - at times nicely acerbic blog - You Call This Photogrpahy has a very worthwhile interview with Liz Kuball

Then William Greiner has a show up in New York at the Klompching Gallery in New York

(William Greiner)

● Finally, Colin Pantall links to a fairly in-depth Q&A with Sally Mann and Stephen Cantor, director of the film What Remains - a film I would very much like to see.

(Sally Mann)

Monday, May 05, 2008

Susan Silas

Some interesting work by Susan Silas came my way recently.

I am particularly taken by Helmbrecht's Walk, 1998 - 2003:

Helmbrechts walk, is a visual representation of the act of walking through a landscape marked by the historical specificity of the forced march of 580 Jewish women prisoners at the end of the Second World War. This book is a document of that endeavor - walking for 22 days and 225 miles in Germany and the Czech Republic on the fifty third anniversary of those events. A historically accurate reconstruction of the march route was possible with the help of the German trial transcript of Alois Dörr and historical maps housed in the New York Public Library.

Her two bird projects are also somewhat intriguing - yard bird and bleeding bird. As well as Re-unifications 2001

Each print couples an image from the Olympic Stadium, in what was once West Berlin with an image from the Jewish Cemetery at Weißensee, once in East Berlin.

She also has an extract from the Meditations accompanying Helmbrecht's Walk:

In a meeting with the scholar Dora Apel who was working on a book about artists born after the conclusion of the war who have made work about the Holocaust, these excursions into Manhattan from suburbia with various Hungarian immigrants - some of whom could barely speak English -came up. She too had seen Dr. Zhivago in her teens. Given the number of times I had seen the film back then it came as a surprise to me to discover that I could only remember one scene in the film with any clarity. It is the scene in which the young girl, played by Rita Tushingham, is asked by her father’s half -brother , played by Alec Guiness, “How did you come to be lost?” It is the scene that opens and closes the film.. And she replies “I was walking with my father (.....) and he let go of my hand. He let go of my hand! And I was lost.” This scene was also the only scene that my scholar friend Dora remembered...

... In 1945, Albert Speer, Hitler’s chief architect and later his Minister of Armaments, was tried by the war crimes tribunal at Nuremberg, along with numerous high-ranking Nazi officials. Unlike most of the others, who were found guilty and sentenced to death, the urbane, handsome, charming and self-serving Speer was sentenced to only twenty years in prison.

Spandau prison was located in Berlin and was administered by the four occupying powers: the British, the French, the Soviets and the Americans. In the summer of 1947 the Americans gave the prisoners (all German war criminals) permission to garden the exterior space at Spandau - then described as “a 6000 square meter wilderness”. This wilderness was later described by one American colonel as “Speer’s Garden of Eden”.

Speer had laid out a path in the garden he created. It began as an exercise path but in September of 1954 he decided to think of his exercise rounds as a walk from Berlin to his home in Heidelberg. “I had worked it out - if I did thirty circuits of the path I had laid out in the garden, that would be seven kilometers a day. I asked Hess, who sat and watched me, if he would mark down each time that I passed him, so that I wouldn’t lose count. He had a marvelous idea. He gave me thirty peas and said, ‘Put these in one pocket and move one to the other pocket each round. That will do it’. It was a more imaginative goal than just completing the circuit thirty times as I had been doing. That was successful, so I kept on going across the mountains to Italy, and finally decided to see how far I could get. After preparing for the walks by studying maps, travelogues, and art history books, I focused imaginatively on the differences in the landscapes, the rivers, the flowers, plants, trees and rocks. In the cities I came through, I thought of churches, museums, great buildings and works of art.” He determined what he thought to be the shortest route around the world at 40,000 kilometers and so the goal became a “Walk Around the World”.

September 29, 1966 was the last day Speer spent walking in the garden. He was released from Spandau the next day - having served 19 years in prison. In the twelve years since he had begun he had walked a distance of 31,936 kilometers. At midnight on his last night at Spandau he had sent a close friend the following message: “Please pick me up thirty-five kilometers south of Guadalajara, Mexico.”

The next day I saw him on television. I was thirteen years old.

Friday, May 02, 2008

No Middle Distance

Interestingly, I got a number of comments on one phrase in Tony Ray Jones' notes to himself from the last post and what did he mean by that?:


Well, among other things, I don't actually know what he meant, but for me it says a couple of things (mainly fairly obvious...).

I often write these kinds of lists to myself when I'm working on a project to remind myself to cover certain areas, to make sure I don't forget the "brilliant" ideas about the work that come to me while I'm doing something else. But more than anything, they are often about things I know I'm not doing. You get in a sort of groove, find something that seems to be working - a subject, a way of seeing, a way of working - but then you start to get a sort of tunnel vision about it. And you realise you are missing other, not seeing them things, not catching opportunities. And so the list is a little stone in your shoe reminding you that while the groove you are in might be good, you need to keep paying attention to other things as well, and be open to what else may be there.

It seems to me there is some of this in Ray Jone's list. And on the point of NO MIDDLE DISTANCE, most of the comments seemed to take it as an injunction to get closer. But to me, it works both ways - move further back as well. Cartier Bresson was the master of the middle distance in many ways. In Tony Ray Jones work I can see him embracing that, but probably wanting to move himself away from it, in part because the middle distance is what he most easily falls into (and is very good at) when he puts the camera to his eye.

Move in closer... or step back further away - that's what I think he's reminding himself to do. As I said, fairly obvious.