The Daily Edit – Monday 8.8.11

- - The Daily Edit


( click images to make bigger ) 


Design Director: Jane Palacek.

Art Director: Steven Powell

Director of Photography: Tara Guertin

Photographer: George Georgiou

Note: Content for The Daily Edit is found on the newsstands. Submissions are not accepted. 

Heidi: Are you shooting a lot of travel now?

George: I don’t often shoot travel assignments, the last time I was in Jerusalem was during the beginning of
the 2nd intifada, when the City was very tense with a lot of clashes. So it was great to see the city relaxed,
with all the tourist returning and Arabs and Jews moving in each others areas without fear.

I know this was shot during Purim, how much of a gathering collected to listen and watch?
Where the streets bustling and were people responsive to you taking photos?

I had arrived in Jerusalem around 4 in the morning and was staying in East Jerusalem, the Arabic side.
 I got up around noon and decide to walk around the City to get a feel of the place, I had no idea it was Purim until
I started to notice a few people dressed up. I headed towards the city center in West Jerusalem, which was full of people
dressed up and generally partying and having fun. Shooting was easy, as is usually the case when people are celebrating.

Where were you to take this opening image?

I knew fairly early on that an image of the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock would be perfect as both
are unmistakably symbols of Jerusalem and illustrated the main theme of the feature, Jerusalem stone through the ages.
 I walk around trying to get onto as many rooftops as possible to find the right angle and light, in the end I took this image
from a spot that is accessible and popular with tourists. The photograph was taken at the beginning of the Sabbath on the Friday evening, just as the sun is starting to set and the floodlights are switched on. During the Sabbath, photography is not permitted by the western wall, so it was a perfect time to step back and make a landscape. I managed to get to this vantage point just before the tourists, by the time I left there were rows of people waiting to get to a glimpse of this view.

Martin Parr’s Best Books of the Decade

- - Photo Books

Ryan McGinley – The Kids are Alright

Rinko Kawauchi – Utatane
Geert van Kesteren – Why Mister Why
John Gossage – Berlin in the time of the Wall
Christien Meindertsma – Checked Baggage
Leigh Ladare – Pretend You’re Actually Alive
Sakaguchi Tomoyuki – Home
Simon Roberts – We English
Paul Graham – A Shimmer of Possibility

Doug Rickard – New American Picture
Dash Snow – Slime the Boogie
Miguel Calderon – Miguel Calderon
Viviane Sassen – Flamboya
Miyako Ishuichi – Mother’s
JH Engstrom – Trying to Dance

Jules Spinatsch – Temporary Discomfort: Chapter 1-V
Daniela Rossell – Ricas y Famosas
Uchihara Yasuhiko – Son of a Bit
Taiyo Onorato & Nico Krebs – The Great Unreal
Donovan Wylie – Scrapbook
Archive of Modern Conflict – Nein, Onkel
Stephen Gill – Hackney Wick
Susan Meiselas – In History

Florian van Roekel – How Terry likes his coffee
Michael Wolf – Tokyo Compression
WassinkLundgren – Empty Bottles
Nina Korhonen – Anna, Amerikan Mummu
Alessandra Sanguinetti – On the Sixth Day

Hans Eijkelboom – Portraits & Cameras 1949-2009
Alec Soth – Sleeping by the Mississippi

PhotoIreland Festival announces Martin Parr’s selection of the 30 most influential photobooks of the last decade. The selection, on show at the National Photographic Archive of Ireland until the 31st of July, is featured in the exhibition catalogue, limited to an edition of 500. The catalogue includes Martin Parr’s comments on each book, together with illustrations and ‘Author’s notes’. These are mostly unpublished texts by the photographers, publishers and curators of the works – personal statements on the process and raison d’être of each book.

More: PhotoIreland Festival 2011.

Newly Formed Agency Avec Artists

Recently launched Avec Artistsis a new boutique photo agency run by Carrie Ferriter in NYC. This new agency is part of Bruce Kramer’s growing fiefdom, the Kramer Creative Group which is set to launch this month along with a relaunch of JAW (Just Add Water ) as Selected to be run by Rebecca Fain former photo editor of XXL Magazine.

Heidi: What was your concept when developing this roster? 
You have quite the range from editorial, advertising, documentary, personal, and fine art.

Carrie: I wanted to create a company that appealed to advertisers but also take on photographers that had a range and were involved in other aspects of photography, whether it be fine art, publishing, directing, etc. I find that when photographers are involved in projects other than commercial work – they are in turn more interesting.

( Stephen Toner) 

What made you select someone like Stephen Toner and decided to open his book with the landscapes, do you see that type of work applicable for car advertising or….?

I have known Stephen for many years and have always felt strongly about his photography.  We originally met through an old friend while I was living in London and I have worked with him throughout the years with EXIT.  I wanted to work with Stephen because not only is he an excellent photographer he is very much tapped into the pulse of what is happening in the photography world. His work appeals to creative directors because he is a creative director and has also founded and runs a really respected and award winning magazine called EXIT.  I approached him to join Avec because his photography has never really been shown in this sort of outlet.  It’s almost as if I’m introducing someone very new but also very established at the same time.

The reason I opened with Landscape is because the pictures are stunning.  They grab your attention.  That’s also the work that he loves and wants to shoot all the time so I thought I would just put it out there from the very start.  Whether or not it’s applicable to car advertising I’m sure going to approach all car advertisers along with everyone else.

( Perou ) 

Are you the only agent?

Yes, I am the only agent but Avec is part of the Kramer Creative Group which is a group of agencies my partner Bruce Kramer owns. Bruce is fully involved  with avec and all the agencies in the group. Each agency is unique and has it’s own style of talent. It’s great to have that because we all really work together and help each other out.  For example, I work alongside another agent, Bridget Flaherty, who runs Bridge Artists. She represents stylists, set designers, hair and makeup. Her and I are constantly feeding ideas off of each other and helping each other out with clients.  It’s a great team.

What kind of content will be on your news section?

It’s going to start with mainly news on the photographers.  I would like it to be a very visual blog but eventually I want it to grow into something a bit more and allow the photographer to contribute on it.  I want it to be accessible to people on my roster and give them the freedom to post whatever they would like.  Avec translates to ‘with’ so the essential core of this agency is to be ‘with’ the artists.  This isn’t an agency about me, it’s very much about them and I want the blog to showcase that.

Where were you before this agency?

I started my career working in production at an agency called JGK, after that I worked for Moo Management (now Trish South management) and then for a more commercial agency in NY.   Working at Moo was a great springboard to where I am now – the roster there was great and really allowed me to develop my own working style and eye for type of photography that I feel strongly about representing.

( Lauren Ward ) 

How would you describe your roster? and who are your premiere clients, mostly European?

My roster is a group of photographers I feel passionately about and enjoy working with.   There is a definite fine art and documentary feel to avec but once you look a little deeper you will see that there is a good range than can appeal to many different clients.  My clients are across the board –  I wouldn’t say that they are mostly European though.  Throughout my career, the agencies I have worked for have all been European or have had European founders so that definitely comes into play but I’m heavily targeting clients in the US.

As an agent what do you think is the single most important aspect in getting your photographers to work in the current economy?

Target to the right client, be persistent, be genuine, follow up consistently but in a way where you are respecting the clients time and space.  Sorry, I realize that was more than one thing!

( Cyrus Marshall ) 

What will you do differently with this particular agency?

I’m launching as a traditional photography agency but competition is fierce so I think it’s important to stand out and be a little more modern in my way of thinking.  I try to stay on the pulse of what is happening industry wise – blogs like ‘A Photo Editor’ are a huge resource.    I really want avec to grow and as the industry changes I will adapt the agency accordingly.

When did you launch?

Just this month!

The Daily Edit – Thursday 8.4.11

- - The Daily Edit

( click to make image bigger )

Men’s Health

Creative Director: Robert Festino

Director of Photography: Brenda Milis

Deputy Director of Photography: Jeanne Graves

Photographer: Stephen Lewis

Prop Stylist: Elizabeth Press

Heidi: How long did it take to assemble this still life?

Stephen: This shot took about an hour or two. There was a lot of playing with different foods trying to come up with a shape that worked. Generally I like to start out loose and with this shot things got a little messy. The fish shape didn’t come until I had tried a few different ideas. It turned out that Jeanne Graves (the Photo Editor) wanted to see something like this so we continued to pursue this idea until we came up with the photograph that ran.

Were the items editorial driven? meaning how did you pick those food pieces?

The items were editorially driven. The article was on “FrankenFoods” or foods that combine ingredients with ostensible health benefits in different ways; i.e. putting anti-oxidants in sugary drinks. So the stylist, Elizabeth Press, with the direction of Jeanne Graves at Men’s Health, picked up ingredients that either made health claims or were suggestive of such claims or suggested ridiculousness in some way. We played it a little loose as we were going for a feeling more than a literal approach.

Who was your food stylist?

My food stylist wasn’t a food stylist but a prop stylist – Elizabeth Press. I usually do shoot with food stylists on food related jobs. Since this story didn’t actually involve cooking and there was (hopefully) a humorous element here, I chose Elizabeth because I knew she’d understand what we were looking to accomplish.

Photographer Scams

- - Just Plain Dumb

Photographers are continually getting hit with different versions of the check swap scam. The way it works is they contact you for an assignment then send you a check that overpays for the work or pays for you and someone else they claim to be working with. Then they ask you to refund the overpayment or pass along the extra to that person they’re working with (for weddings this could be a fake florist). You cash the check and send out the payment but after your payment is cashed the check they sent you bounces.

I’ve posted about this before and people left the emails they’d gotten in the comments which seems to help thwart this because the names and emails used show up in searches with the headline “Photographer Scam.”


How is Business today?

My name is Sonia Ramirez. I am an handicap and i reside in U.K.
The reason i am contacting you is that my Son is having his birthday soon in your Location,United States on the 19th of August 2011 and I will like you to take care of the Photographs.

I came across your advert on the Internet and am impressed with your services.
All expenses would be taken care of,Please I want the best service from you, because this is my only son so i want the best for him. So your best effort is needed at this occasion.

Pls Let me know your price to work for 3 Hours on that day,12 noon to 3 pm in the afternoon.We want about 25 copies of different photos in coloured form.We want you to work for at least 3 Hours at the occasion.

Also,we will have the photographs snapped at the Birthday forwarded to the Publisher of a Magazine Company in United Kingdom so they could feature it in their celebrity journal.

I look forward to your response

Best Regards
Sonia Ramirez

From: mack carthy
Subject: Wedding
Date: Friday, June 24, 2011, 6:06 PM

I will like to know if you can shoot a wedding of about 100 guest. Please let me know so that I can give you details.


LA Gallery Visit Part 1: The East Side

by Jonathan Blaustein

It wouldn’t be a story about LA if I didn’t bitch about the traffic, so let’s get it done right now and move along. I was headed up Highway 5 from a vacation getaway in a cute little beach town down the coast. Off hours, no drama, until I hit the LA County line. As soon as I crossed over from Orange County (nicknamed the Orange Curtain, I now know) it was as if I drove into a pile of mud. Stop and go, snarled, miserable, bumper to bumper traffic, all the way into Los Angeles. And of course I had to pee. Badly. Really, there are so few things I hate more than being stuck on the Freeway when I have to go. And then some old-school, straight-out-of-Long Beach Snoop Dogg came on the radio while I was trapped under an overpass. I started to laugh, because sometimes you feel like you’re stuck in Hollywood cliché, and it’s just not worth fighting it.

Regardless, I clamped down as hard as I could and hopped off the 110 in downtown LA for my little tour of the East Side. (The article on the West side will follow shortly.) Let’s be clear, it’s insane to think that one can cover all of LA as a scene, so I didn’t try. I went to see as much as I could, and accepted that much would be left out. That said, I saw a lot.

I started out in Chinatown, which is home to a dozen or so galleries, mixed in among the restaurants, fish stores, and shops selling cheap crap from the Motherland. It sprang up as a home to the contemporary gallery scene a while back, and seems to have held on through the economic chaos. I was last there in 2008, and it was definitely a bleaker place now. Several galleries have gone out of business, and one spot that I’d visited in the past now had some old people playing Mah Jong inside. The homeless quotient was also way up from three years ago, which wasn’t a surprise.

I started out at Sam Lee gallery, on the edge of the neighborhood, right across the street from a highway off-ramp. Sam was showing the work of two different California photographers, mixed up around the room. The first were large scale, razor sharp images by Rebecca Sittler. Whenever possible, I like to look at work without knowing anything about it so I can read the images for all they’ve got. Ms. Sittler’s photographs were of interior scenes, tackily decorated. The first had an eye-catching textural combination of red curtains, trippy carpeting, a wall and a window drape. Another had two beds with a phone in between. There was an image of a heavy, frayed rope on carpet against an angled metal wall, a photo of a roped-off painting with a chair, and also a shiny wood railing in a fancy room.


Taken together, I thought I was looking at the inside of a cruise ship. They were devoid of people, and felt lonely. They spoke of an almost Love Boat, 70’s style- cruise culture, where everybody had suddenly disappeared, like the Rapture. Sure enough, I went to look at the press release, and found that Ms. Sittler’s images were made on the decommissioned RMS Queen Mary that sits in the harbor at Long Beach. (Again with the LBC) It’s impressive that she was able to communicate both the setting and the mood without any text or obvious details. Terrific work. As to why this symbol, and why now? A decommissioned behemoth who’s best days are behind it? A musty style that’s trapped in the past.? A lonely relic of the Cold War heyday? Yeah, I get it.

Adam Thorman’s images, on the other hand, were medium-scale photographs of the California Coast, shot in the detail style, from directly above. Tide pools, moss, rocks, that sort of thing. I’ve spent a lot of time on the Coast in my day, and these looked like spots around Point Lobos, or somewhere south of San Francisco. I often wonder why artists try to capture the essence of Nature, without attempting to communicate scale or sound. Zen has it’s place, but requires a depth of perception that was lacking here. Having seen the real thing, I felt like Mr. Thorman’s photos were far less impressive than the original, and not that interesting.

I walked back to Chung King road, which houses several galleries in a row. They had completely turned over since my last visit, and there were fewer spaces in business as well. I began at Charlie James, which was showing work by Carol Selter, also from California. (Now that I think about it, I’m sure that most of the work I saw that day was local.) Ms. Selter was showing a project, “Animal Stories,” that included photographs, sculpture, and video. Her images contained taxidermy animals that she had returned to nature, then photographed. Birds in particular, and also amphibious creatures trapped in little vitrines.  One image depicted a song bird, held by string up to the mouth of a flower.

Damien Hirst references aside, the photographs were compelling. The videos featured the same squirrels, turtles, and a variety of animals talking to each other, bitching about global warming in funny voices. I enjoyed the absurdity, but it didn’t really improve on the message from the photographs. Definite thumbs up, overall.

Next stop was The Box, for a collaborative exhibition by Sara Conaway and Lisa Williamson. Ms. Conaway’s photos were mixed among painting and sculpture, and had a distinctive, airy LA vibe to them. The images were minimal, color-drained photos of 3d objects like wire, cut paper, styrofoam, and cloth. Very sculptural. One exception was a photo with red cloth against an intense yellow background. It reminded me of a de-contextualized, de-politicized “Piss Christ.” I left thinking that everything would look great on a big wall in a big house owned by a big Hollywood production executive. But I’m not about to criticize them for being beautiful, especially as they didn’t look just like everything else out there.

Pepin Moore, right down the alley (Chung King Road is a pedestrian only affair) had a group show curated by LA art star Soo Kim. The exhibition was titled “US EST,” but that didn’t really inform anything. It was a melange of seemingly disconnected work, with a heavy hand from photoshop, and a definite nod to the natural world. (The Earth and sky in particular.) Hannah Whitaker had two multiple image panels in the show: one contained four phases of the moon (boring), and the other was of a white girl in a blue costume dancing with a red hula hoop. Strange, playful, and awesome. The background was all white, and looked like it was photoshopped, especially as one of the shadows seemed to be coming from the wrong direction.

Mark Wyse, another LA art star, was also included in the show. I’ve seen several of his projects before, (cars, surfers) and have also read some of his writing(dense, Yale-ish). Here, he was showing some photos of rocks, perhaps beach rocks, photographed from directly above (not terribly dissimilar from Adam Thorman’s photos up the street.) The images were dry, and razor sharp, but left me unimpressed. Especially as I supposed they were backed by some theory of other. You get a lot of that in LA… pretty photos that are described as far more than what they really are. Not to backtrack from my linear sensibility, but give you an example, the Conaway/Williamson show of pretty pictures was described in the press release as such:

“Their meanings are implicit (not explicit!), resonant (not dull!), and inspired (not locked down!) …there is an aspiratory and generative sensibility that runs throughout.)”

Oh. Thanks. Now I get it.

From there, I made another classic, LA cliché-type mistake. I decided leave the car in the lot and walk across the 110 to MOCA downtown. It didn’t look that far, and I’ve driven it before in 5 minutes or so, so I figured it would just be a quick little nothing walk. Wrong. Pounding on the pavement in my flipflops, desperate once again to pee, I couldn’t believe how dumb I was to play pedestrian. It took almost a half an hour, all told, and I had to sneak into a conservatory across from Frank Gehry’s Disney Hall just to find a bathroom (The secret? Act casually confident, and pretend you know where you’re going. Make no eye contact, under any circumstances).

Problem solved, I walked the last couple of blocks to MOCA. I had seen on FB the previous week that they had an exhibition of Andy Warhol’s entire Campbell Soup Can series, and I wasn’t about to miss it. Andy has had a huge influence on my work, and was unquestionably one of the two or three most important artists of the 20th Century. His impact has been felt across culture, and here was a chance to see his first major painting project, returned to LA where it had debuted (lent by MOMA, fueling the ever-present East Coast/West Coast rivalry).

The ladies at the ticket counter were kind enough to tell me how to get back to Chinatown by bus, but couldn’t suppress smirks at my silly walking endeavor. Advice freshly received, I headed down into the museum. On my way to see the soup cans, I passed through an exhibition of MOCA’s Pop Art collection, and ran into one of Richard Prince’s Marlboro Men photos, “Untitled (Cowboys),” 1980-84. Prince’s work has been much discussed on this blog in 2011, and I was happy to see it again firsthand. The photo was fascinating in that it had some altered texture that looked very much like the noise or rasterized effect we see all the time in digital images that have been pushed too far. To my eye, it looked current, and the blurring texture definitely looked like an alteration of the original (which we probably all now know is a key ingredient in qualifying for Fair Use).

After rounding a couple of corners, I came face to face with the Campbell Soup paintings, installed in a horizontal line, hung in chronological order of when each type of soup had been released by Campbells. Beginning with Tomato soup in 1897, running through the last released in 1962 (the year the project was exhibited in LA).

I’ll share my thoughts as best I can, but clearly this is something to see in person. One of my first observations, as I walked up and down the line, was that the paintings are not, in fact, identical. For all the notoriety that they are 32 paintings of a soup can, they’re not. Warhol was a commercial illustrator before becoming a fine artist, and he did the majority of each painting by hand. So the slight differences, like where he drew the highlight and shadow demarcations on the can lid, became obvious. And a couple of the paintings had a slightly different hue of red from the others. A function of aging or not, it broke the continuity.

I loved the ironic humor. Cheddar Cheese soup (also a sauce), Pepper Pot, (what?), Scotch Broth (a hearty soup), Beef Consommé AND Beef Bouillon, all condensed, of course. Subtle absurdity that grows as you engage the sequence.  I could just see the 1950’s Ad men sitting around drinking cocktails, trying to come up with the next hot product to entice the burgeoning suburban shopper class. The paintings are also cold and a bit alienating. It’s well known that the show was not an immediate success, and the dealer Irving Blum ended up buying the whole set for a song. I can see why. In their mechanical-ness, they really lacked any sense of emotion or viscerality, which would have been a big change from the high drama of the 1950’s Abstract Expressionist emo-fest. But of course, they meshed perfectly with Andy’s blank, emotion-suppressed personal brand. For all the talk about branding nowadays, he clearly got there first (15 minutes, anyone?).

What else? They’re brilliant. Simply brilliant. Has anyone ever really picked a better symbol to speak for so many larger issues? Campbell’s soup. How American is that? Soup was the original peasant food, just add water to whatever else is lying around. It also represents warmth, comfort, and Mom’s home cooking. “Soup is good food,” for god sakes. Then someone figured out how to mechanize the production, canning, and distribution of the thing, and the growth of the American Empire was soon to follow. Soup for everyone, the same everywhere, cheap, with a reassuring label, replete with fleurs-de-lis. Classy. And then, over the years, so many choices were offered. What better way to anticipate the mind-cleansing consumerism of the 21st Century grocery store, or Ebay for that matter?

Mechanization of culture, commodification of home, repetition of ever so slightly different but really the same objects, the mesmerizing combination of white and red (just ask Target how effective it is), the space-agey-ness of the Kennedy era. It’s all there. The paintings obviously look like advertising images, and from a distance resemble photographs. They’re phallic, and were a precursor to the Becher’s water-towers, as well as any other deadpan, ironic type of work we see from the 70’s to today. All together, they tell a story about how American Popular Culture, beginning with Pop Art, became the global monstrosity we see today.

After ten or fifteen minutes, I finally shoved off to see the rest of the museum’s offerings, weaving through a few rooms of painting and sculpture with little that jumped out. Suddenly, I found myself in a not-large room surrounded by 58 of Robert Frank’s photographs from “The Americans,” hung in two horizontal rows. They were crammed together, and I felt like I do when I try to shoe-horn myself into my jeans the week after Thanksgiving. Uncomfortable to the point of claustrophobia. I saw the Frank retrospective in 2009 at SFMOMA, and wrote about it in Fraction Magazine, so I’ll spare you a rehash of how seminal I think the work is. Here, I could not get a sense of the scope or the message. The installation was non-linear, and confusing. Really, it made me want to not look. And they were all framed the same size and way, cream colored mats with black frames. Hard to imagine that I didn’t want to bother looking at some of my favorite art of all time, but there it is.

Right around the corner, I saw ten terrific photographs by Helen Levitt, framed and hung the same way, literally jammed into a corner. Of course, across the hall, each of Mark Rothko’s paintings were given feet upon feet of breathing space. Odd. I’m the last guy to have a complex about photography’s place in the Art World, because I think those battles were fought and won years ago. At MOCA, however, the message of photography’s inferiority was emblazoned on the wall through it’s second-class installation.

So with my panties in a wedge, I climbed back to street level, hopped a Dash B bus, and headed back to find my car in Chinatown. After a couple of stale, nasty pork buns from a Chinese bakery on Broadway, I got some directions to I-10 in Spanish, and headed out to the West Side, hoping the traffic gods would smile kindly on me… they did.

Getting Off Your Arse In Times When The Black Dog Is Upon Your Shoulder

- - Blog News

I started the project at a time when work had been very quiet for several weeks. I had barely seen or spoken to anybody. In times like those your reserves of confidence can literally eat themselves up in minutes. Since the demise of analogue/film in my world, the opportunities to meet and spend time with other like minded types have been heavily diminished. […]The ’140 Characters’ thing was my attempt to meet people, as well as ‘self assign’ a project that would fill up some time, inspire me and also serve as a big, barbed stick with which to keep the Black Dog away.

via Chris Floyd: Clean Living Under Difficult Circumstances..

The Daily Edit – Tuesday 8.2.11

- - The Daily Edit

(click image to make bigger)

Fortune Magazine

Creative Director: John Korpics

Photography Director: Mia Diehl

Photographer: Gregg Segal

Heidi: Was the subject hard to open up? What did you ask him at this very moment?

Greg: It wasn’t difficult to get him to open up because, coincidentally enough, we’re from the same small town in Ohio (Marietta, population 16,000). I googled Moynihan before photographing him and discovered this. I’d had a friend in junior high, Pat Moynihan, who I found is Brian’s younger brother. So there was plenty to talk about. At this moment, I may have been reminiscing about Mr. Peacatch, the assistant principal at Marietta Junior High, a small bald man with a Hitler mustache and a thick rural accent who’d whack you with a wooden paddle if you got out of line. I was probably telling Mr. Moynihan the anecdote about my brother, who walked into the bathroom on the first day of school and found Mr. Peacatch sitting in one of the stalls, which had no door, and couldn’t help but stare. “What’s a matter,” said Peacatch, “ain’t you never seen someone take a shit before?”

What is the biggest challenge about photographing “regular” and very busy people?

The challenge to photographing very busy people is keeping them engaged because even if you have them for 30 minutes, they’ll get antsy in half that time.

Did you set up in his offices?

We set up in a large meeting room adjacent to the trading floor at B of A’s headquarters in Manhattan and had to turn the space into a studio, hanging immense panels of black cloth all around us so as not to disturb traders.

Do Whatever You Do In Spite Of Trends

- - Blog News

Every artist will one day face the moment when he or she is doing what he or she does after the style has passed and the art-world heat-seeking machine has moved on. Lucian Freud’s career affirms that the only thing an artist can do is remain true to whatever vision, (lack of) talent, or ideas that happened to pick them in order to be made known to the world.

via artnet Magazine.

The Daily Edit – Monday 8.1.11

- - The Daily Edit

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Women’s Health

Design Director: Theresa Griggs

Art Director: Lan Yin Bachelis

Photo Director: Sarah Rozen

Deputy Photo Editor: Irene La Grasta

Photographer: Levi Brown

Note: Content for The Daily Edit is found on the newsstands. Submissions are not accepted.

Kurt Markus Interview – Part 2

- - Photographers

[Part 1 is here]

Photograph by Michael Karsh

Rob: The book “After Barbed Wire” came out and your phone started ringing with a few assignments, then you had a gallery show in New York and more assignments, so did your career take off like a rocket after that?

Kurt: It was a great time to be a fashion photographer because skin was being celebrated. I mean sunlight on skin. Bruce and Herb Ritts were really responsible for that. There was a sensuality in naturalness that allowed me to enter, because I couldn’t tell you what the fashion point was in a particular dress, but I could tell you how I felt about the sunlight on her skin. And that’s what I was responding to, and that was a time for it.

That was a unique time in fashion.

Yeah, and you could feel the skin. The skin looked real, touchable. That was the point. And that paid for everything. It was my passport to all sorts of stuff. It’s a great training ground to do portraits in.

Were you shooting a lot of fashion?

Yes, lots. I was a traveling fool. I had to fly Delta everywhere to get out of Montana and there was a time when I would be met at JFK by a representative from Delta to escort me through customs.

[laughs] Really?

I’m over a two million miler.

Wow, that’s epic. So, how soon after the book and gallery show, are you suddenly blown-up in the fashion world?

It really started to kick in like around 1988, 89. And then I’ve got about a 10-year time period there where I was flying non-stop. Fashion is this wonderful picture beast. Twice a year you’re starting over with new collections and the wonderful thing, nobody ever gave me a layout or anything. I mean you show up, and maybe you’d have some idea of where you were going to do the shoot, but once you got there you just made it up. I mean it was very free.

And I think most of the time as soon as you stopped shooting and the pictures were done and they appeared, you know the two or three out of 800 that you did, or 1000 you did, you know once that happened, the pictures are dead. They’re over, they’re gone.

That’s amazing, feed the beast.

But you’re making this incredible money and meeting incredible people.

I wanted to ask you about the fashion crowd, because those don’t really seem to be your people.

You know after awhile if you’re going to do fashion you wind up, at that time anyway, with your own team. You’d have somebody to do hair and makeup and probably a stylist, and that they were integral to your pictures because it required that kind of collaboration. You spent all this time together too, you take most of your meals together, you’re traveling together. So you better be with people you enjoy being with.

What about the designers, and the editors at the fashion magazines, they seem like a wacky group of people.

There are some, but my experiences were with people like Rosanna Armani, Giorgio Armani’s sister, who was just absolutely delightful. Funny, no bullshit, she had her crew, and if she styled someone, you can better believe that’s the way they were going to look. It wasn’t like, “Oh, do you like it with the hat on or with the hat off? Oh, let’s shoot it both ways. No, this is it.” And it was just so direct and so pure in that sense.

It’s a creative thing for them, but it’s a business too. And they’re like anybody else on this group that’s traveling and doing the pictures, they want it done well, but they have to enjoy the day. And if they’re creating dramas every single moment, it’s not going to be fun.

And it’s going to show up in the pictures. You’ll see the drudgery, the lifeless eyes of the model, the unfortunate person who you’re photographing; if there’s a bad vibe in the air, whoo, to me it’s just deadly.

And what about the pressure?

I didn’t feel it.

You didn’t.

I mean I worked hard. I always showed up, there was never a single time when I didn’t show up, you know, or be present, and do the best. I’ve always associated the click of the shutter with “Yes,” that you like what you see. I never thought of photography as a job. And then when I’m given this chance to photograph these really great looking people, travel to nice places and eat well, I’m still trying to make the best picture I know how to make.

It never became a job?


That’s amazing. You’re lucky.

Well I think it’s absolutely essential.

You’re caught up in a very crazy industry and there’s a lot of money and there’s a lot of people fighting for it.

Well there’s the other thing. I’ve never thought of photography as a competition. They hired me because they wanted me, not because I’m the best photographer, but I’m a photographer that they wanted. And they could just as easily picked someone else, but they made individual choices where I’m not interchangeable with someone else. That’s why I don’t think of it as a competition.

That’s powerful.

It’s just different choices.

You were raised correctly, someone taught you well.

Well, thank you, but I don’t know where I get some of this shit sometimes.

That’s really healthy, you know? It’s really hard for artists not to take it personally.

I think most artists feel like it means that their work is not good enough but that’s not what the decision is.

What happened next? You got off the merry-go-round?

I think the world just went a different direction.

Right. I mean we’re pretty close to 2000, so things are really changing.

Yeah, 9/11 was big. I could feel the seismic shift pretty quickly after that. You know a lot of budgets got redirected, the trips got shorter and shorter.

And then it got more competitive, too. I mean the industry really changed in that way, and people were aggressively fighting for work.

Yeah. No kidding.

And we’re talking about the digital revolution as well. For a guy who spends a lot of time in the darkroom this has got to be disheartening for you.

It’s impacted how I make a living, but in truth I’m doing my best work right now. I’ve become a better printer, I think I’m a more interesting person. I photographed Mike Tyson not too long ago. I just really enjoyed it. I could appreciate that I’m the oldest guy around. And it’s cool. You can relax a bit, not be afraid of who you are even if you’re kinda dopey at times, just being human.

But I get shocked every once in a while. I had this workshop a year ago and I asked this group of people, it hadn’t even occurred to me in the first couple of days, but I said, “Raise your hand if you are making prints.” And one or two people raised their hand out of 17 people.

Oh, I would have thought zero.

That’s the revolution, because I’ve always thought of photography as an object. It’s not electronic information, it’s an object. I don’t believe in a photograph until I make a print. It doesn’t exist for me. It’s just like thin air. So from that perspective it looks to me like people are afraid. They’re afraid to commit to putting their name on an object and claiming it. They’re dodging the biggest bullet of all which is standing up for your work.

It takes guts to make a print. You know you have to convince yourself that this is you, that you’ve made this and that you’re putting your name on it, and you also have to believe that maybe somebody else either can appreciate the work you’ve done or can appreciate the fact that this is you. There’s nothing else to hide behind.

OK, but that’s Kurt Markus, the print is integral to who you are as a photographer. That’s not the case for all photographers.

But you know what, Rob? I’ll boldly say this. Those people are never going to make it.

Tell me more.

Because they won’t be satisfied. They’ll just get fed up with looking at their pictures on a computer monitor, because they’re going to surf the net, and they’re going to look at other people’s pictures, and they are going to wonder what’s wrong with theirs.

You don’t think photography can exist separately as an object and digitally?

Not by a practitioner. I think photography can exist that way to anyone looking at photographs.

If you make pictures, you have to make a print?

Yeah. If you make pictures, and pictures is your work, you might last for a few years, maybe even 10, but why would you want to be a photographer and not take it all the way, all the way to a print? I do not get it.

Well, I mean there are a lot of reasons, most people don’t have a work ethic that you have.

I don’t look at it as a choice, you’re either obsessed or you’re not.

I’m trying to think of some examples of photographers who are not printing.

I’m not saying that you can’t have someone else print for you. I’m just saying that if you don’t have a print and the image only exists only in a computer box that’s not sustaining.

You can’t make a career out of that as a photographer?

No. Obviously, as soon as I say that you can imagine someone doing it, but…

You only believe in photography as an object?

I believe in the rectangle. Filling that rectangle with a photograph remains the most challenging thing that you can do. Then you print it, sign it, and show it to somebody else. It’s a blank canvas. If you can make a straight photograph, fit it in the rectangle, and make it work, you have accomplished something.

If you have to go outside of that rectangle, bring in other things to put inside that using non-photography tools, it’s cool, I don’t have a problem with that. I just think that you run the risk of it being a gimmick when the most powerful expression is the simplest. For me, you can’t manipulate it into existence by going outside the rectangle.

It’s like a high wire act, and a safety net is not going to be there for you all the time.

How much of the effort for you is making the picture versus making the print?

They’re just inseparable but I’d say the moment of exposure probably is the key.

How long will you spend in the darkroom working with the negative?

Well sometimes I don’t have to do anything. It isn’t that I expect a labor or anything, or that it’s going to take a long time. I try to follow Paul Caponigro’s thoughts on just not expecting anything, and if it’s just there and it’s handed to you, please, I’ll take it. It’s your point of reference for photographs that you love.

Why do you love this Ansel Adams picture, or why do I love this Paul Strand picture? You can’t deconstruct those photographs into pieces. They’re all of one thing. And the power of it is that you can’t take them apart.


It’s magic, you know [laughs] ?

Have you done many workshops?

I’ve done a couple in Santa Fe.

And that’s a big part of what you’re imparting onto these photographers, is that you know there’s a lot of value, there’s a big reward for treating a photograph as an object.

Well, yes. It’s part of it, but it’s also part of the experience of being a photographer and what it means to hold a camera in your hand and ask Meryl Streep if she could look to the right, or look down, or stand here. It’s a trip. You know, the actual experience of it is just a trip. It’s not like anything else. It’s so powerful.

I mean, I feel like I’m transported when I do pictures. Sometimes even with the landscape, I just think, “Holy shit, man, the electricity’s running through your body.” And that’s got nothing to do with the object in a sense. It’s part of why you’re doing the picture, to feel that. And then to carry through with it is the object phase.

And you get that same electricity from the print.

I think if you allow it, you get that jolt in every phase. You can get that jolt from signing the print. You are keeping your hands on it as long as possible before turning loose with it. And then once you turn loose with it, well, maybe you’ll get a jolt walking into somebody’s house that has one of your prints up, and looking at it you feel like saying, “Yes, that’s pretty good.”

Tell me about this show you’ve got at Staley-Wise.

So, it’s me and a dead guy.

Yes [laughs] .

Which is cool.

It’s cool you’re not dead [laughs].

It’s with Hoynigen Huene, who was a big Vogue photographer. His estate has these platinum prints and the gallery thought it would be interesting to pair his work with mine.

You’re having a show, and you’re alive. Life’s good.

Yes, and you know, it was nice. I enjoyed looking through some of my pictures, because most of these pictures probably were never published. And I think one of my favorite pictures is one that they would never publish, because you really can’t see the dress. But I’m so glad I did the picture.

Is this a picture you did for yourself. You knew they would never use it, so you made it for yourself.

No, not really. It’s pretty hard to do that, to intend to have this feeling. Because every once in a while, you can sneak one into a layout, or they’ll put one in that’s kind of a throwaway picture, as in a mood picture. So I didn’t consciously think, “Oh, there’s no way they’re going to use this picture, but I’m going to do it anyway.”

There were probably variations that showed the dress in a more detailed way, but, it’s really nice to go into the darkroom with pictures you did 15 years ago, and like one and make a print. It’s encouraging to know that you should follow whatever instincts are guiding you. You should really respect those and be willing to fail, because you will really fail if you look back on your work, and you discover that you didn’t really try.

Let’s talk about your legacy. Staley-Wise seems like a nice gallery to have representing you.

It’s a pretty traditional, old school gallery. They don’t represent photographers who work conceptually, and I think my pictures fit in there.


Yes, I’m not embarrassed by that. The Museum of Modern Art isn’t calling me up, I’m not like Lee Friedlander or Gursky or some photographer who has a museum show every two years. And I don’t get critiqued by the soothsayers of photography. I can live with that.

Why is that?

I don’t think my pictures are challenging enough for some people. You know what I said about the rectangle? I still believe that, it’s immensely challenging to work within the frame. I don’t feel a need to break new ground technically or any other way. I can still go out and do pictures and be very satisfied doing that. I think that my day will come.

Hopefully you’re not underground when it comes.

Either way that’s fine. I would like the luxury of some serious thought being placed on my photographs. When someone really understands the whole body of work, I think it’s a pretty remarkable life.

Is it enough for you to take the picture, make the print, sign it and put it in the box. Do you feel satisfied at the end of the day?

Yes. That’s why I don’t need a show to feel satisfied. I don’t confuse that, ever. Because by doing it this way, I also get to revisit it from time to time, and I can see, “OK, that print wasn’t so good, I need to tear that up and do that one again.” Or, I’ll look and I’ll say, “Jesus, I’m glad I did that, because that print is really beautiful and I can’t do that one again.”

Do you feel that you’re at the apex. Making the best pictures and prints of your life.

Yeah. I’ve got a better chance of pleasing myself.

Amazing. Does it really take that long?

I feel like that’s the way it should be. You don’t want to feel like you’ve done all you can do when you’re two years into this.

Nice. You still take pictures of cowboys?

I’ve got a hankering to go back into it.


Just because I think I’m a better photographer.

visit Kurt’s website to see more of his work