Nowadays everything is accessible immediately. I can look at everything. I can look at everything which is being made right now and I can look at everything that has ever been made. The reason why critical writing and thinking is important is because otherwise all of this stuff will just float around, in the air. There is no more context. Things just become superficial and disconnected. People lose that connection between which is being made right now and which has ever been made. And they can’t realize that it totally comes from there!
I feel bad for kids today. Teen-agers in particular. There is no privacy anymore. No secrets. It’s impossible to grow through one’s awkward moments out of the camera’s gaze. If I had to worry about my worst habits and styles living forever in a Facebook post, I’d probably move to Plum Village and become a monk.
Am I exaggerating? Not really. You see, I grew up in the 80’s, that famous decade now fetishized daily in the mainstream media. (Have you seen the trailer for that new Tom Cruise movie? Yes, people, we have a new definition of irony. The king of the 80’s, who actually managed to get it right back then, parodying the entire farce in a fake rocker outfit. Please.)
Back then, I actually sported a mullet and braces at the same time. Yes, photographic evidence exists, but I suspect my parents will set a high price. My style was so bad, I wore a day-glo ski jacket for two years. My first earring hole got infected, so I went back to the mall to have it punched again. That’s right, the mall.
Was there ever a more American invention than the shopping mall? I believe it sprung to life in Houston, which makes sense to me now that I’ve visited. Who wants to try on the new Tommy Hilfiger button-down when you’re covered in a sheen of humidity-induced sweat? Not me. Not anyone. So the air-conditioned, sequestered, shopping-only zone was born.
The mall used to be the coolest thing in the world. (Again, this is a world that approved of rat tails and shoulder pads.) My parents would drop me off for a few hours, and my friends and I would search out others of our own kind: with our own two eyes. Clearly, that youth-mating-ritual is obsolete. (OMG, u r @ the fuud kort? B rite ther.)
And what of malls? Do they still reign? Not exactly. I’m sure the Beverly Center in LA still has its swagger, and I’ve never seen the Mall of America, so I’ll reserve judgment there. But in general, I think the safe answer is no. They’re an anachronism, like the myth of American Exceptionalism.
In fact, I think Brian Ulrich’s “Dead Mall” photos are some of the most compelling documents of 21st C America that we have. Furthermore, I’ll go ahead and say that his “Dark Store” Circuit City photographs are the enduring images from the Great Recession. (The crumbled KFC sign picture is up there too.)
Seriously, what could say more about the fallacy of endless consumption than those eerie, empty boxes, glowing from within? Yes, the stores are vacant and worthless, but let’s keep that electricity running. (Pictures can indeed communicate better than words, sometimes.)
The images turn up at the end of “Is This Place Great Or What,” Mr. Ulrich’s new monograph, recently published by Aperture and the Cleveland Museum of Art. The book is blue, which seems a bit random, and opens with historical images of a bygone American era, which seems odder still. At the very least, it sets the scene.
The book covers Mr. Ulrich’s “Copia” series, which has taken up the last decade or so of his life, broken down into convenient sections: Retail, Thrift, and Dark Stores. Each investigates a different facet of America’s ubiquitous consumer culture. It’s the first book I’ve reviewed, I believe, where you can see the artist’s clear improvement as you turn the pages.
The initial series, from early in the last decade, depicts life inside the world of consumption, before the bubble burst. People push shopping carts through Costco, Target and Home Depot. We see crucifixes, big screen TVs, guns, and spilt milk. All smart, but slightly obvious symbols. The pictures feel grabbed, and a little naughty. The compositions are well done, but also a bit arbitrary. Good work, for sure, but it feels like he was just beginning to sort out his vision.
Next comes “Thrift,” which shows more of how the other half lives. There are some real gems here, true keepers. The room full of useless computers, the racks of empty plastic hangers, the barren garage with an asymmetrical Britney Spears poster. Sharply observed, and definitely more visceral than the first section. Mr. Ulrich was starting to hit his groove.
Finally, we come to “Dark Stores,” the project that rightfully made the artist’s career. Powerful stuff, this. The global economy almost broke completely during the creation of “Copia,” and it shows. Desolate parking lots, empty stores, and the sorriest looking abandoned Toys-R-Us I ever did see. These photos are as well crafted as they are well seen. The symbols resonate, the eye dances around the rectangle, and the physical impact of the disillusionment is palpable. These photographs will endure.
Bottom Line: An artist’s evolution, with some brilliant images
Full Disclosure: Books are provided by Photo-Eye in exchange for links back for purchase.
Books are found in the bookstore and submissions are not accepted.
QUESTION: Why bother yourself about the archaic world of long-forgotten photographers when there is so much happening that is now? Why concern yourself with images that are so passé when there’s a new aesthetic that supplants those banal images of the chemical days? Why study outdated ideas when the world has moved on and left them in the fossil bin next to the dinosaur teeth?
via LensWork Daily.
Still Images In Great Advertising, is a column where Suzanne Sease discovers great advertising images and then speaks with the photographers about it.
When I am looking for work for this column, I check out the blogs of various agents to see what they have done recently. I went to the blog for Bernstein & Andriulli and saw this interactive website for A&E’s two-night movie “Bag of Bones, an adaptation of the best selling by Stephen King. The dramatic black and white images shot by Joachim Ladefoged catch your eye and then you start to see them move. You can check out more of these subtle but creepy images at http://darkscorestories.com
(click images to see gifs move)
Suzanne: The subtleness of this campaign had to be a lot of fun to work on. Did the creative group allow your input to the subtleness of the creepiness?
Joachim: Yes, the creative group wanted my input. As every professional creative director and agency does they show up well prepared and with a clear idea about what they want, so it is a cooperation between me and the creative team. It’s my job to provide creative solutions and to help make the best pictures for the client. In the cinemagraph with the butcher and the knife blade reflecting the light, the creative director said to me that she was in tears because it was so much better then she had ever expected. When that happens it is a lot of fun!
Suzanne: How were these shot to get the animation of the subject’s movement?
Joachim: The moving images are cinemagraphs that were shot with video. Since we worked with video, I was acting as a film director asking the people to do some very precise movements. The post production plays a big part in the final images. The editing process is where the video is turned into a into a moving gif.
Suzanne: Do you think your work “Albanians” was an influence to you getting this assignment? Was that a personal project?
Joachim: The “Albanians” is a personal book project and I do think the body of work played a big factor for me getting this assignment. The client was looking for a reportage photographer with black and white photojournalistic stories. However, it is always very important that you understand how to work with a crew on set and you know how to transfer the reportage experience into setup images to create pictures that look like they were shot as they happened. So while I think my reportage work got the agency interested it may have been my commercial experience that ended up convincing them.
Suzanne: You have a wide array of areas in which you shoot but do you feel as if your photojournalistic background and your Danish style help you secure assignments?
Joachim: At age 25 I was hired as a staff photographer on the best and most creative newspaper in Denmark. They gave me a lot of creative freedom to do what I wanted and this is where I explored different ways of approaching photojournalism. Having a true photojournalistic background has given me access to a wide variety of subjects from sports to politics. This opportunity combined with my internal desire to experiment with photography is what keeps me motivated. I love shooting a wide array of assignments and I love trying out different styles and techniques.
Note: Content for Still Images In Great Advertising is found. Submissions are not accepted.
Joachim Ladefoged has worked as a professional photographer since 1991 and is a member of the international photo agency VII. Today he works for editorial clients such as The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, National Geographic, MARE, Newsweek, The Sunday Times magazine and TIME. He has received numerous awards for his work from institutions such as Visa D’Or, World Press Photo, POYi, Eissie, and Agfa, as well as Picture of the Year in Denmark. He has been named one of Photo District News’ 30 emerging photographers to watch and he has participated in the Joop Swart Master Class at World Press Photo.
APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s, after founding the art buying department at The Martin Agency then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies.
Across the 190 magazines tracked by the survey, the total print audience declined by 1.7 percent in the past six months versus the prior six-month period. At the same time, digital readership (which could be digital-only or in combination with print readership) had increased by 24 percent on the same basis. However, digital-only reading added 1 percent to overall magazine readership. These digital readership figures include magazines’ digital reproductions and apps but not magazine websites.
Love to watch how it evolves past the mailers and sourcebooks to the curated lists, events, obscure magazines and blogs (APE even got mentioned). This is great news for everyone, because there are more places than ever to discover photographers and there are more outlets than ever where you can be found. Here are a few choice quotes:
Maggie Brett Kennedy
Photo director, Garden & Gun
“Look3 Festival of the Photograph in Charlottesville, Virginia. It is an unbelievable weekend attracting anyone and everyone interested in photography.”
Director of photography, TIME
“I am always surprised and delighted by the photography showcased on Feature Shoot.”
Associate picture editor, The New Yorker
“Last year I participated as a reviewer at [Center’s] Review Santa Fe, and now work regularly with a photographer I met there.”
Associate photo editor, The New York Times Magazine
“I’m actually using Facebook more and more as a resource to discover new work. It’s such a terrific aggregator. In one place, I can look at pages for individual photographers”
…in less than 10 seconds he was miraculously able to make a 180-degree turn and decided she was right. In what the previous day he thought was the best one-day shoot of his career, had now turned into a dismal failure without one good picture
Read more on Rodney Smith’s The End Starts Here.
Frankly, it’s hard to see war photography these days as anything but a moral compromise across the board.
For example, how is the embedding program anything else but a moral compromise? How are those emotional bonds, and the natural empathy that develops between soldiers and photojournalists anything but a moral compromise? How is photo story after photo story of medevac missions — dramatic and heroic reportage facilitated in lieu of imagery that delineates an actual war front or the battle on the ground — something else beyond moral compromise?
Read more at: BagNews.
“The guy who put dots over people’s faces”
via, John Nack.
“You can’t kill an idea,” said the great Sherlock Holmes. (As played by Benedict Cumberbatch.) How true. It’s the reason behind censorship, gulags, and Ministries of Propaganda. It’s also the reason that information has become one of the world’s most prized commodities.
Stories are ideas, as well as information. They’re the core methodology through which human knowledge was disseminated before writing. Early humans had stories, and, of course, pictures. It’s always been thus, and unlikely to change.
That’s why we, as photographers, have spread to all the globe’s corners, looking for stories. Personally, I’m not sure why people get so enraptured by tales they’ve heard and seen many times before. (Though that is how children learn: through repetition. Ask any parent who’s seen Madagascar 42 times.) Furthermore, some would believe there are only a few meta-narratives that keep repeating in an endless loop.
I think that’s why Stacy Kranitz kicked up such a shit-storm with that CNN debacle a few weeks ago. Like it or not, whatever her reasons, she delivered images that re-enforced what people already thought, and had seen before. We’re all familiar with depictions of Appalachia, seen through the white shroud of a KKK douchebag. Been there. (Jörg Colberg had a nice reaction to this as well.)
No offense to Ms. Kranitz, of course, but I’m more interested in seeing things I haven’t seen before. (Yes, I know, I’m repeating myself. But not everyone reads the column each week. Forgive me.) When I choose a book to write about, you can be assured that I found it fresh. I look at a lot of books, and many are good, but lack the proper spark for my curiosity. Others, like Olivia Arthur’s new volume, “Jeddah Diary,” published by Fishbar, give me a perspective I’d not encountered.
Ms. Arthur spent time in Saudi Arabia, hanging out with several bubble cultures of women. I’ll spare you any sort of Western proselytizing on why the subjugation of women’s rights in the Muslim world is any of my business. Some would dismiss anything I said as the mark of Cultural Imperialism. (If you doubt that, just ask Pieter Hugo, who defended himself from such attacks in our comment section a few weeks ago.)
Where was I? Right. Ms. Arthur’s book. It’s powerful, personal, and innovative: a difficult combination to conjure. She uses text well, introducing the photos with a bit of backstory, and then including blurbs opposite the pictures as well. I must say, that’s the path I think I’ll take if I’m able to publish a book of my own work. Words and pictures, not one or the other.
But this is a photo blog, so let me at least give the images their due. We see women covered by black abayas, sitting in kitchens and on sofas. But we also see seductive glimpses of flesh, legs in particular, that riff on the supposed reasoning behind the big “cover up” phenomenon. Remove the temptation. Kill the serpent.
Ms. Arthur’s most interesting formal invention, though, is the way she chooses to obscure the faces of women who need the protection. She makes a print, then blasts it with light, and rephotographs it. The scattered glare mars any facial recognition, while imparting a metaphorical discomfort to the viewer. Really smart, and also visually compelling.
The book also delves into hypocrisy, that most human of conditions. The subjects in the book apparently find loopholes through with to party and booty shake, via private beaches and estates. Apparently, it’s OK to show off your belly-button-ring on holiday in Lebanon, but not in the comfort of one’s own home if there are any men around. Typical.
Bottom Line: A fascinating inside view into a hidden society
Full Disclosure: Books are provided by Photo-Eye in exchange for links back for purchase.
Books are found in the bookstore and submissions are not accepted.
At the heart of the Internet business is one of the great business fallacies of our time: that the Web, with all its targeting abilities, can be a more efficient, and hence more profitable, advertising medium than traditional media. Facebook, with its 900 million users, valuation of around $100 billion, and the bulk of its business in traditional display advertising, is now at the heart of the heart of the fallacy.