The Daily Edit: Isamu Sawa: Mercedes Benz Magazine

- - The Daily Edit


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Mercedes Benz Magazine

(Australia & New Zealand)

Managing Editor: Sarah Lewis
Editor: Helen Kaiser
Art direction & Design: Glenn Moffatt
Hair & make-up: Blanka Dudas represented by Hart & Co
Retoucher: Aaron Foster @ Studio ADFX
Photographer: Isamu Sawa

 

Heidi: How did the SHOWSTOPPER JPG project come about?
Isamu: In October 2014, the famous French couturier was bringing his retrospective exhibition ‘The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk’ to Melbourne Australia to be held at the National Gallery of Victoria. To coincide with the event, Mercedes Benz who was the Principal Partner of the exhibition wanted to run an editorial in their magazine and commission a photographer that could handle two disciplines; that of portraiture and automotive photography together. Collaborating with Mercedes Benz, Jean Paul Gaultier had created a unique one-off design of a Mercedes SL-Class exclusively for the exhibition and images were required of him and the car for the editorial.

Editor Helen Kaiser approached me and commissioned the photo shoot. Helen knew my capabilities as both a portrait and automotive photographer. She also knew that I was comfortable shooting high profile celebrities; we worked together previously when she entrusted me to photograph famous Australian actor Geoffrey Rush.An  ad campaign was realized by Clemenger BBDO Melbourne to promote the exhibition and I was subsequently commissioned to shoot that as well.

Have you shot for Merc Benz Magazine before?
Yes, a while ago though. If memory serves me right it would have been over 10 years ago when I was still shooting film.

What was the direction from the magazine?
The brief was to capture Jean Paul Gaultier with his uniquely designed Mercedes in the studio; covering off three to four different angles within a very limited time frame of no more than an hour.

Helen Kaiser initially sent me illustrations of the unique vehicle design by Jean Paul Gaultier with his signature stripes; we subsequently discussed shooting against a plain background due to the graphic nature of his design. The main issue however was the limited time allocated with the fashion designer. It would not have been possible to pre-light for multiple angles of the car together with the designer and achieve the sort of result that would do the story and publication justice. After a few days of brain storming I emailed Helen with the idea of shooting his portrait and the car separately…

“…in essence my idea based on the very limited time we have with JPG is to shoot him and the car separately and try to make up nice graphic images. So I suggest we do very graphic portraits of him and make up ‘double-exposed look’ collages of him around the car. I also like the idea of having him and the car in black and white apart from the blue stripes…I think this idea would make it more ‘editorial looking’ rather than looking like a typical advertising shot…”

 With the concept approved, we shot multiple angles of the car on the first day in the studio and concentrated on just the portraits of Jean Paul Gaultier the following day.

How difficult was it too keep the cyc clean and do they roll the car in?
Keeping the cyc clean was not an issue. We laid carpet down to avoid tire marks when driving the car into the studio and onto a revolving floor; once it was on the turntable it was quite easy to turn the car around for the specific angles we needed. The assistants wore protective plastic covers around their shoes when moving around the studio.

Is the car engine ever running at some point?
Yes but only when we initially drive the car in.

What is the biggest challenge with shooting a car, I’d imagine reflections? 
Reflections are ‘one’ of the main challenges when shooting cars in the studio. In this instance however we had the added difficulty of shooting a white car in a white studio; so the main challenge was to create enough light and shade in the bodywork to bring out the unique contours of the vehicle without losing definition against the background; at the same time highlighting the design created by Jean Paul Gaultier.

Was their any wardrobe direction for JPG?
We asked his management to bring some dark plain tops, ideally black and perhaps a jacket for some texture. We didn’t want to be too prescriptive; especially given his line of work, but emphasized that we needed something plain and dark for the ‘double’ exposure idea to work…

 

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I see you have a signed print. Do you often have people sign your prints?
A few days after the shoot I was printing out some proofs of the retouched images and had a wild idea about having them signed by Jean Paul Gaultier. With nothing to lose I contacted his personal assistant via email to see if there was any chance that I could have him sign a set of prints for my personal collection. She replied that, “in the ideal world it would be easy to organize” but she couldn’t promise anything as he had such a busy schedule including a talk and book signing that evening. She suggested trying to catch him at the book signing; which was easier said than done because the evening was booked out. I attended anyway and talked my way into the event and with the help of his personal assistant Jelka, managed to get one print signed. I waited for over two hours but it was worth it. The image hangs proudly in my studio.

I don’t often have prints signed especially these days when we hardly print anything but I do have a set of prints signed by famous Australian guitarist Tommy Emmanuel and a poster by one of Australia’s most famous bands Hunters & Collectors.

The Daily Promo: Fedele Studio

- - The Daily Edit

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Who printed it?
John: Donoson Printing for the video carrier and Bender Graphics for the booklet insert.

Who designed it?
I designed the piece. I began my career as a designer/art director so I still dust off those skills every once in a while to create new feature marketing and promo pieces. My studio has moved into shooting both stills and motion content over the past few years so we needed a way to showcase all of our work in the most efficient and memorable way we could find. It was designed to display all of our content while also having maximum flexibility for future print runs to minimize additional design time in front of my computer –I’d rather be shooting! The branded carrier has only general info about us. The video player has a USB port so we can upload custom motion content, as needed. The still imagery booklet is then printed short run so we can then be as targeted as we want to specific prospects/clients.

Who edited the images?
I edited the images wanting to include a broad overview of our portfolio & reel on this first run.

How many did you make?
We created a run of 100. Given the ridiculously high expense of each mailer we chose to do a small test run first to see how recipients responded. We’re planning a much bigger run for 2016.

How many times a year do you send out promos?
We try to send smaller printed mailers out quarterly/bi-monthly. The more expensive ones like this go out about once a year. Any more and I’ll have to pick up a second job to finance it.

What type of reaction are you getting from the piece?
This is a fairly new technology so it’s been hilarious to see the initial responses. People walk into a portfolio meeting expecting our book and iPad, then see these sitting there waiting for them. “Where in the hell did you get this?”, has been heard more than a few times.

Sometimes the button that auto-plays the video is tripped while in the mail so we’ve heard from a few people that the package arrived and it was playing music. It’s unintentional but guaranteed they’ll open ours first.

This Week In Photography Books: Adam Ekberg

by Jonathan Blaustein

I’ve got a stream in my backyard. One month every year, it turns into a river. Snow, freshly melted, descends from the Sangre de Cristo mountains, and snakes along the border of my property.

It’s as nice as it sounds.

But life being what it is, sometimes weeks go by, and I never even see it. Wake up. Drink tea. Feed the kids. Get the lunches packed. Take my son to school. Do work for my 7 jobs. Go to the gym.

You get the point.

Two weeks ago, I had a mini-epiphany. How many people in the world would love to have a gorgeous mountain stream in their backyard? (Obvious answer: Billions.)

And how many of those Billions would go weeks without sitting at their private Zen paradise?

Likely answer: not that many.

So I made myself a promise that I’d endeavor to sit by that stream once a day, listening to the gurgle of water running around rock, watching the light glint from odd angles, feeling the shadow of ravens as they glide overhead.

I’ve mostly kept the promise, aside from a day when I left before the sun was up, and came home after dark. (I thought of going out with my Iphone as a flashlight, but I don’t think the bears have hibernated yet.)

What can I report? Well, my stress level has gone down, for sure. And my appreciation for life’s brevity is at an all-time high. On Sunday, one of our “adopted” red-tailed hawks screeched not 15 feet above my head, while the sun’s rays warmed my cheeks, and all was right with the world.

It may sound trite to you, but appreciation is a highly-undervalued state of mind. It allows us to find peace with our lot in life, and focus on the small moments that ground us in the present. (Granted, if I were living in Syria right now, I might not preach inner peace so blithely. But I’m in Taos. Thank God.)

Sometimes, a good photo book can offer the same sensation. It reminds a jaded psyche that no matter how many donuts you make, and how much you might hate the taste of sugary-glaze, there is still joy to be found in child-like wonder and curiosity.

Will I get hurt if I jump off that swing when it’s at its apex. (Shout out to Joanna Hurley for schooling me in the proper use of it’s vs its, early in my writing career.) Will I burn the house down if I point a magnifying glass at those dry blades of grass just off the porch. (Never did it.) If I tied 5000 helium balloons to my house, like that Old Dude in “Up,” would it lift off its moorings and head towards the great beyond?

These are the types of questions you’re forced to ask when you look at “The Life of Small Things,” a new book by Adam Ekberg, recently published by Waltz Books in Indiana. (Yes, Indiana.) There is a forward here by Darius Himes that forced me to write a good column this week, because I didn’t want to look outclassed to those of you who subsequently buy the book.

(Short version: Dude can write. If he ever gives up his gig at Christie’s, I may well be out of a job.)

The pictures in this book do speak for themselves, so I’m loathe to describe too many. They are cool, funny, and clever. Warm and cool is a difficult mix, but he pulls it off with aplomb. Balloons repeat, as do disco balls. Items that symbolize fun and leisure. (Birthday parties and Studio 54)

A goldfish in a bag, plopped upon a field, shows up two photos before a splash in a sea. I like that they’re connected, but not sequentially, as many would do. Flashlights abound, reminding us of sleep-overs and camp-outs gone by.

Milk jugs are punctured multiple times, conjuring not just the obvious spilled milk, but the act of “peeing,” which gets a laugh out of my kids every time. (Say pee or poop to an adult and you get nothing. Try it with a 3 year old, and you’re guaranteed a giggle.)

Explosions, fires, soap bubbles, and a lit-up vacuum cleaner lonely in the snow-covered gloaming.

Great stuff.

Yes, this book fits the bill for my “preference for edgy pictures,” which makes it the right book to discuss in my first book review in a month. But don’t fret. This one is not just for the hipsters.

Everyone still has a kid somewhere inside. You just need to know where to look.

Bottom Line: Fantastic book of innovative, witty constructions

To Purchase “The Life of Small Things” Visit Photo-Eye

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The Art of the Personal Project: Jonathan Hanson

- - Personal Project

As a former Art Producer, I have always been drawn to personal projects because they are the sole vision of the photographer and not an extension of an art director, photo editor, or graphic designer. This new column, “The Art of the Personal Project” will feature the personal projects of photographers using the Yodelist marketing database. You can read their blog at http://yodelist.wordpress.com. Projects are discovered online and submissions are not accepted.

Today’s featured photographer is: Jonathan Hanson

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How long have you been shooting?
I started taking pictures about 10 years ago.

Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
I’m mostly self taught aside from a few darkroom classes and workshops.

With this particular project, what was your inspiration to shoot it?
I was in a bar in Baltimore and saw a young man walk in who reminded me of model/actress Grace Jones. I was intrigued and began questioning the way we see femininity and masculinity. After our portrait session, I posted some of the images to my blog and I received emails from readers wanting to know his sex. The reader responses encouraged me to continue to question current gender classification and to continue the work.

How many years have you been shooting this project before you decided to present it?
I’ve been working on it on and off for the last year. As soon as I had enough images that I thought showed the viewer my voice and vision, I posted it to my website. Its a work in progress so as it develops, I’m presenting it to various outlets for publication.

How long do you spend on a personal project before deciding if its working?
Its tough to say because I think its relative to the project. With this project, I new I was on to something after the first portrait session.

Since shooting for you portfolio is different from personal work, how do you feel when the work is different?
I look at shooting for my portfolio and personal work as the same thing. My goal is to shot what I love and make a living from doing it.

Have you ever posted your personal work on social media venues such as Reddit, Tumblr, Instagram or Facebook?
I post a fair amount to Facebook and Instagram. In January, the project was published in The Washington Post Magazine as a six page feature and they shared it across their social network which helped it gain some traction.

Have you printed your personal projects for your marketing to reach potential clients?
I mostly use personal work for self promotion because I think it reveals a little about me and shows off my style a bit.

“Androgynous” is a portrait series focusing on people with a single sex who have a combination of both masculinity an femininity in their physical appearance. The subjects are a mix of people who identify with different sexual orientations and genders, breaking assumptions based on current prescribed gender roles. Through the series, I hope to challenge current gender classification and question the way they see current cultural gender frameworks and beauty. Through the series I propose male and female dualities are interconnected and complementary forces instead of opposing, thus creating a fluid spectrum of gender and sexuality where the whole is greater than the parts.

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Jonathan is a Los Angeles based editorial and commercial photographer with roots on the East Coast. Culture, people, music and color inspire much of his work. He received dual degrees in Creative Writing and Journalism from Drake University before setting out on his photographic career. He credits early street photography for seducing him into being a photographer. Jonathan’s work has been recognized by ASMP Best of 2014, The Magenta Foundation, PDN, NPPA, The International Color Awards and the Eddie Adams Workshop.

Clients include – Adidas – Adobe – Bank of America – Billboard Magazine -DeWalt – Discovery Channel – Der Spiegel – Ebony Magazine – EssenceMagazine – Fortune Magazine – Inc. Magazine – Johns Hopkins – Miller Lite -NPR – Men’s Health Magazine – Sports Illustrated – The Advocate – The Guardian -The Huffington Post Magazine – The London Times – The New York Times – The Observer – The Smithsonian Magazine – The Wall Street Journal -USA Today – Verizon website: jhansonphoto.com


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 establishing the art buying department at The Martin Agency then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies. She has a new Twitter feed with helpful marketing information believing that marketing should be driven by a brand and not specialty. Follow her on twitter at SuzanneSease.

Dissecting the Terms and Conditions Document

- - Working

Valuable information from Heather Elder Represents

DISSECTING THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS DOCUMENT On a few recent projects, we have spent a lot more time than usual reviewing specific terms and going back and forth with both agencies and lawyers to come up with language that works for everyone.  During these particular projects, I often felt at a bit of a disadvantage when there were lawyers involved and wishing we had one of our own to help navigate our point of view.

I figured we were not alone in this thinking so asked attorney Linda Joy Kattwinkel of Owen, Wickersham & Erickson, P.C. if she would help dissect a generic Terms and Conditions Document that we can share with our readers.  People were so appreciative of the information she shared regarding Copyright, we figured they would feel the same about Terms and Conditions.

The documents are a bit long and dense, so we are breaking this series up in a few posts.

The format we thought most helpful would be to 1) review the term 2) translate the term into layman’s language and 3) ask any relevant questions.

Terms #1-5 can be found here.
Terms #6-9 can be found here.
Terms #10-14 can be found here.

The Daily Edit – ArtNews: Katherine McMahon

- - The Daily Edit



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Creative Director/Designer: Artur Wandzel
Creative Editor: Katherine McMahon
Photographer: Katherine McMahon

 


Are all creative editors also photographers or is this a reflective of your large skill set?

For the most part, I’m a Photo Editor. I research, request and edit photos for the front of book and features each month, but I also try to contribute original photography as much as possible. Whenever there’s an opportunity to shoot original photography for the magazine or website, I try to set up a shoot. I’ll discuss concepts/ideas with my Editor in Chief Sarah Douglas, Creative Director Artur Wandzel and the editor or write of the piece. For this shoot, I worked closely with Hannah Ghorashi who wrote the feature. We discussed concepts together before and conducted the shoot/interview within the same 2 hour window. Jenny Kanavaros was the makeup artist for the shoot, and we discussed keeping it with neutral tones but a strong brow.

What is your role at ArtNews?
Essentially,  I’d say my role has elements of both being a Photo Editor and Staff Photographer.

You mentioned you were inspired by an image from her 1976 performance.
What’s your process for sourcing inspiration?
I find inspiration everywhere. I try to first think big picture but I also like to keep it simple. For this shoot, I re-watched ‘The Artist is Present,’ The documentary that chronicled her 2010 Retrospective at MoMA, and I always find inspiration in looking at old archival images. This image in particular really stuck with me:

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I wanted for us to try to emulate it in a different time and context. Our office is near the Flower District, so I handpicked a few long stemmed red roses the day of the shoot and brought them with me. Before I left dropped them in a vase with some flowers she already had on her kitchen table.

I love the Givenchy dress, it has look and feel of being a headmaster, what drew you to this look for her? I know you thumbed through her closet full of designer clothing.
It was surprisingly simple- Marina picked out the dress, and I loved it. She had so many beautiful outfits to choose from, but I personally loved the high contrast. It seemed bold and assertive in an understated way.

Marina Abramović is widely known for her performance art and clearly a trail blazer in that genre. How easy or hard was it to direct her?
It was a breeze directing her. With every shoot comes vastly different dynamics, like any other relationship or interaction in life. As a performance artist, she seems very aware of her physical presence and very comfortable in front of the camera. She has an intensity in her eyes and I found her to be very charismatic. This was a shoot where I took on a more passive role as the photographer. I tried to just let her do her thing.

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Aside from the simple rose for a prop, you had a candle and matches, why was that?
I had a general idea but wasn’t totally sure what the lighting in her apartment would be like the day of the shoot. I also just like to have a few unconventional props on hand just in case, so I brought a few candles and matches as a potential lighting tool in the event that we wanted to try a few intimately lit images, and I thought it might be nice to incorporate an open flame into the image somehow. In the end, the natural light was too good to pass up and I think that a darkly lit setting for the images wouldn’t have served the story as well. In addition to the candles and matches, I brought two large bags worth of lighting equipment to the shoot and didn’t end up using any of it.

The Daily Promo: Andrew Kornylak

- - The Daily Promo

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Who printed it?
Universal Printing in Durham, NC

Who designed it? Who edited the images?
Peter Dennen of Pedro+Jackie guided the edit and design of this piece.

How many did you make?
150

How many times a year do you send out promos?
I try to stick to e-promos once a month through Yodelist and a twice-yearly print promo.

How did this project come about?
The “Southern Climbers” portraits came from a personal series I shot during the 2014 season of the Triple Crown Bouldering Series. It’s the largest outdoor climbing competition in the country and spans three events over three months every autumn in the Southeast US. I’ve been competing in and shooting at these competitions since 1996, and it’s kind of a crossroads of the Southern climbing scene with big name international climbers who migrate through every year. I painted a series of backdrops that I could lug around the cliffs with a bunch of lights and a pile of film and digital cameras. I made portraits of hundreds of climbers, spectators, vendors, and a biker gang who showed up for the fellowship and free beer. Climber and photographer Erik Danielson was instrumental in making this big setup work and making the light sing every time.

Peter Dennen of Pedro+Jackie edited the project down to something that would fit in a 12-page booklet. We went with a very simple design. I proofed it using an inkjet printer myself and Universal Printing in Durham did a superb job matching these proofs to the final 4-color booklet.

Chicago’s Filter Photo Festival – Part 3

by Jonathan Blaustein

I get confused sometimes.

I lose sight of what’s important, facing the never-ending onslaught of the 21st Century Hustle.

It happens.

Lately, I find myself in a Twilight-zone-ish reality, where I’m respected and lauded online, or when I leave town, but am treated like a sham here at home. (Where I’m attempting to reform the Art Department at UNM-Taos.)

As this week’s big interview with Trevor Paglen attests, Art leaves the door wide open. It’s all things to all people. If we call it Art, it’s Art. For him, that means surveilling the surveillance machine. For me, it might mean shopping for things to photograph, and then photographing them.

But here in Taos, for the last 50 years, (with a few exceptions, like Dennis Hopper, Agnes Martin, Larry Bell and Ken Price,) Art means looking at something pretty, and making a pretty painting of a pretty thing. Or, just as often, making an attractive abstraction that means nothing whatsoever. Beauty, or one might even say decoration, is its only reason for being.

Why? is a question never asked, because the answer is always, because I wanted to. Because I enjoy plein-air painting. You’re outside. The mountain is pretty. That’s that.

So the idea that Art should mean something, that it can critique society and provoke thought, that it might have a purpose beyond distraction, is a challenging one. It questions the validity of the accepted practice. (Nobody ever made friends by speaking truth to power. You might win a MacArthur Genius grant, a la David Simon, but you won’t become Homecoming Queen.)

Why am I on about this? Well, this column is something of a weekly diary. And my regular readers know there is always a “point” just round the bend, so let’s get there.

When I was in Chicago in late September, I had the opportunity to recharge my creative batteries in the one way that can’t be replicated via the Internet: I got to stand in the presence of some of the best Art being made today.

If you don’t get that feeling from time to time, you forget it exists. Without a regular dose, you become self-conscious about why you’ve devoted your adult life to a practice that many deem superfluous. (STEM, STEM, STEM these days.)

At the Art Institute of Chicago, on a balmy Sunday afternoon, just before the Museum was about to close, I was reminded why Art matters. As this is traditionally a photography blog, I’ll give a shout out here to the Deana Lawson photo show they’ve got up, which was genuinely excellent.

But my psyche was body slammed- Lucha Libre style- by the “Charles Ray: Sculpture 1997-2014” exhibition. In my first draft, I strongly recommended you fly, drive, or train your way to Chicago, ASAMFP, but I now know it sadly closed on October 4th.

Mr. Ray makes sculptures that are in obvious conversation with the past, present, and future all at the same time. His figurative sculptures, in particular, are modeled off the Classical Greek and Roman riffs on humanity that take up many a square foot in the “Best Museums in the World.”

What we know of the past, we often know from Art. Stone lasts longer than paper, or papyrus, or whatever lambskin people were scratching on 3000 years ago. We read into those faces, and postures, what society valued then. We imagine a chisel hacking endlessly to give us an object that wind, rain, and time have worn down to what we see before us.

Charles Ray, working with a team in the 21st Century, makes figures out of machine-milled stainless steel. They are shiny and sleek, like a sexy robots circa 2432. They’re alluring, with their gleaming texture, and impossible manipulation of form, because metal shouldn’t look like this. (And will likely last forever.)

Some are painted white, and those are great too, but the silvery humans, rendered permanent like gods, took my breath away. That the AIC gives you 3 sculptures in a gallery as long as an American Football field, with ceilings as high as Seth Rogen on an average day, makes the experience that much more luxurious.

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I missed that feeling of exaltation at being human. The pride at knowing such things exist in the world, and that future societies will judge us on them.

I had 1.5 hours of downtime in my entire near-week in Chicago, and with a walk to the museum and back, that left me 45 minutes to look. To think. To walk in circles, and realize how far I’d have to go to ever be NEAR the best in the world at what I do.

Will I ever get there? It’s unlikely, but impossible to know.

What about you? Do you want to grow? To challenge yourself? To emulate the immortals living on a Mountain somewhere, communicating with ghosts in togas, and yet-to-be-born phantasms in space-ships, who dream of sculptures in hyper-sleep?

It’s not my job to tell you how to aspire. And frankly, I’m learning that some people don’t want to imbue their Art with deep meaning. To contemplate, to fret, and to struggle. I suppose that’s OK. (Though I’d be a lot happier if at least they were nice to me.)

Now is probably the right moment to pivot back to photography. In particular, the rest of the best work I saw at the Filter Photo Festival in Chicago. As usual, these artists are in no particular order. That they are featured in the 3rd, and final piece, does not mean I like them least.

I hope you enjoy. We’ll be back to the book reviews soon enough.

Barbara Karant wrote to me this Summer, as she was sad we hadn’t met at Review Santa Fe. She suspected I’d like her work, and she’s absolutely right. (We’re actually installing a Pop Up exhibition of prints in the Art Building at UNM-Taos next week.)

Barbara teaches at Columbia College, in Chicago, and the institution recently purchased the former home of the African-American-owned Johnson Media Inc, the publisher of Ebony and Jet magazines. (They downsized.) Columbia bought the building, but they don’t have the funds to re-furbish it yet, so it sits alone in its funkadelic wonderfulness.

As you can see, the interiors evoke the mix of 70’s modernism, and the can-you-dig-it style we all remember. (Yes, my folks had shag carpet when I was born in ’74. I think it was orange.) I love these pictures so much, and they resonate more deeply, given the Nat Geo layoffs that were announced this very week.

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Ileana Doble Hernandez is a Mexican photographer living in Massachusetts. I forgot to ask her how she handled the Winter from Hell last year. I’m guessing she was no fan, and nor were her pets. Ileana told me that in Mexico, pets always live outside.

When she got to the US, she learned that house pets lived indoors, so she adopted the local custom. These photos examine what that new life is like, and they do it with the humor and baroque absurdity that is familiar to people who know Mexico. Ridiculous stuff.

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Richard Alan Cohen was among the first people I reviewed at Filter. He’s looking at commercialism, and the fetishization of the female form, by photographing window displays in shopping districts around the world. The use of reflections and the Magritte-Hat-photo make the Surrealist references a little-heavy handed. But the pictures are cool, and I liked that some were constructions, but I couldn’t figure out where the seams lived.

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Paul Matzner had a project that I found cheeky and subversive, though he hadn’t thought about it like that. He photographs random strangers on the street, in various cities. Paul gets right up in their grill, and then clicks the shutter. Nothing new there. (Though the photos are very well made.)

What’s interesting is that he hands them a card, and tells them to contact him if they want a print. Almost no one does. So he never knows their name, or anything about them. He hangs out with people for a minute or two, and they’re gone forever.

So much photography aims to tells us more about a person than a picture really can. (Hence the captions.) Photography tries to seduce us into wanting to know more; to care about someone’s backstory.

Paul is doing the opposite of that. You may be curious, but answering questions is impossible here. These really are strangers, giving us 1/500 of a second of their lives. And it has to be enough.

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Marina Font is based in Miami, and showed me the typology project below. She based the work on a broken scale that she came across, and then “weighed” objects from her life that matter to her. Of course, the value provided by the scale is false, and that’s a fun idea.

But it also hints at obsolescence. TVs. Books. Records. All piled up, and waiting to be judged by a scale that can no longer do the one job for which it was invented.

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I’d seen Adam Reynolds work briefly in an exhibition at the Center for Contemporary Arts in Santa Fe. I remembered it being antiseptic, these photographs made in bomb shelters in Israel. Seemed a random subject for an American.

But Adam, who recently got an MFA at Indiana University, lived in Israel for years as a journalist. He even speaks Hebrew. (Which is more than this American Jew can do.)

We discussed the way in which some photos had a visceral quality that hinted at menace, death, and destruction, while others seemed more straight. He thought they were caught in the middle of a battle between the journalistic aesthetic, and the fine art style. (I agreed.) So we talked about how he might resolve that going forward, or if he even had to? Regardless, it’s a fascinating project, as certain societies are forced to live in a state of perpetual war.

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Finally, yes finally, we have Axelle Horstmann. She’s a French photographer based in Chicago, and she asked me to look at her work during the portfolio walk. I thought some of it was promising, and then we re-connected after she came to my lecture that Sunday. As such, I looked at her website, and found these photos made in Marktown, Indiana, a polluted enclave not far from Chicago.

Apparently, the oil company BP has been trying to buy up the town, as it’s already so toxified from all the refineries in the area. Just a grim place to live, and even then, people are fighting to stay, because it’s home. I thought the pictures were intriguing, so I offered to show them. I’ve since learned that Marktown is a mainstay on the Chicago photojournalistic tour, so you may have seen this place before.

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If you’ve made it to the end of this, the last piece about the best work I saw in Chicago, you have my gratitude. Hope you enjoyed the series, and we’ll move on to our regular programming next week.

Adios.

Trevor Paglen Interview

- - Art

Trevor Paglen is among the most innovative and successful artists working in the world today. In his ongoing investigation of the US Government’s massive and secret surveillance industry, he seamlessly moves between photography, film, video, sculpture and installation, and received an Oscar in 2015 for his contributions to the film “Citizenfour.” His major Fall Season exhibition at Metro Pictures, in New York, closed late last month.

Jonathan Blaustein: You’re in Berlin right now because of the museum exhibition with the massive autonomy cube? Is that what’s going on?

Trevor Paglen: I’m here in general, because I moved a bunch of my studio here in February or March.

JB: Gotcha.

TP: I’ve been working out of here a lot this year, back and forth between here and New York.

JB: There are a million things one would like to ask someone like you, who’s on the genuine cutting edge of how people make and think about art in the 21st Century.

TP: Thank you.

JB: You’re welcome. I would hope it’s not a surprise for you to hear that. You’ve been lauded in many circles.

You think about art in a way that is mind-expanding to others. What is the role of the artist in society today?

TP: I think the main thing it can contribute to society is that you don’t have to define what it is. Having said that, the kind of art that excites me most is art that helps us see the historical moment that we live in.

I guess that’s what I want out of it, for the most part. I mean that literally. I want things that teach me how to see.

That’s still pretty general.

JB: You use your practice as a way of understanding the world around you?

TP: Yeah.

JB: And other artists are free to make work as they choose.

TP: Absolutely. And I think that’s what ultimately is powerful about it. You and me and everybody and their sister can have a different definition of art, and that’s great.

JB: Right. It’s certainly what separates art from math. There’s not one answer.

You make your work for your own reasons, but the political and socially critical aims are so evident. For you, art offers enough opportunity to enact social change? Are you trying to change opinions and battle governmental structures, or are you just making your work?

TP: I don’t think art, in and of itself, can change anything at all. I think it can do a couple of things.

The first thing it can help you do is underline some things that may or may not be going on in the world, that you think are worth looking at.

The second is that it can give you permission to look at that. So through that kind of thing, you start to create the basis for a language with which to think about the way the world works. And again, literally see how the world works.

Art doesn’t make linear arguments. Art is not an op-ed. It doesn’t work that way. Even if I wanted to make an argument about- secrecy is bad- art is really not a great vehicle with which to do that, because you can’t make a thesis statement. You can’t defend it with evidence. It’s much more impressionistic, and I think that the moment we get too confident in the meaning of art, it will often run away from you in the opposite direction.

JB: So why art? Why did you end up with this non-literal way of expressing yourself?

TP: I have always been an artist. That’s the simple answer. I’ve always made stuff, since I was a kid. And I’ve always thought visually. That’s the baseline I’m coming from.

But I think the other part of it goes back to what we were talking about before, where the discipline of art is not narrowly defined. There’s a lot of exploration, and both methodological and formal promiscuity, that you can take part in as an artist.

JB: (laughing.) That’s awesome. Because that’s the way people normally drop promiscuity into casual conversation. I love it.

TP: (laughing.) Right.

JB: That was awesome. I’ve done a lot of these interviews, and terminology always seems to come up. We’re living in this perma-freelance culture, which I call the 21st Century Hustle. It’s a mashup environment.

TP: Sure.

JB: It’s a networked environment. We know this. And yet, a lot of times, people still get stuck on nomenclature. On distinction.

TP: Yes.

JB: Maybe in a way that’s a bit 20th Century. You’ve been quoted as saying you’re an artist, not an activist. You have colleagues who would fall in the latter category, and then of course there’s always the hybrid.

In your mind, if you’re going to say “I’m not an activist,” how do you make the distinction? And does it even matter anymore?

TP: (pause) I guess, for me there’s nothing metaphysical at stake. The longer I’ve been around this stuff, the more confusing that question gets to me, to be honest.

I’m friends with people who work at the ACLU, for example, and work alongside them quite a lot. We can be looking at similar kinds of things. What they do is pretty different from what I do, and at the same time there is a lot of overlap.

But I think there would be a lot of overlap between them and journalists in some cases. And then, obviously between them and traditional lawyers. And in other cases from policy-makers.

I guess I don’t see the world, and don’t see the ways in which people do things in the world, as falling in to very rigid categories.

There are really no lines, if you like. I don’t feel like there are any disciplinary boundaries I need to respect.

JB: That’s what I’m getting at. It almost seems outmoded, this idea of drawing lines around words. I am this, I am not that.

TP: Generally, when you hear people doing that, it’s a pretty conservative position. If you’re sitting around having a conversation about what’s art, and what’s not art, you’re probably defending a very conservative position.

JB: One of the elements that finds its way into your work is spying on the spies. Actually enacting the behaviors that you’re critiquing in order both to draw attention to them, and to create an innovative process. While investigating the things you want to investigate.

Through your work, you found yourself tracking down a CIA black site in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2006. What was it like to be there then?

TP: First of all, I want to jump in on the way you set up that question. I might take a little bit of an issue with it. I think a lot of people look at what I do and say, “He uses the same techniques that the government uses, to look at the government.” But I actually think that the kind of practice, or viewing the things that I look at, have basically nothing to do with the way that state surveillance works.

In the sense that there is a very fundamental difference between a citizen of the state looking at how the operations of a purportedly democratic state are working? Versus a state working in secret to surveil its citizens, or gather intelligence about them.

I think they’re fundamentally different things. Although there are some rough outlines that on the surface appear similar.

JB: Of course. I’ll stipulate that you can’t possibly ape the multi-trillion dollar machine that you’re critiquing…

TP: And I’m not doing it in secret.

JB: Right.

TP: But anyway…I just want to mess that up a little bit.

JB: Please. Feel free. We’re talking about your work. But when you spoke in Santa Fe, with Rebecca Solnit, I remember you talking about keeping tabs on certain mailboxes, and tracking down people who were in the CIA. Following them home.

TP: Oh sure.

JB: I don’t have trouble using the term spying. It’s clearly not the same thing as what the NSA is doing. It’s a structural metaphor. I think a lot of the best work uses relevant elements within its process as a way of commenting on process.

Having said that, I will not be the person to tell you how you’re working, or what you’re doing.

TP: (laughing)

JB: We’ll let somebody else be that guy.

TP: In terms of being in Afghanistan in 2006, I was there with an investigative journalist who’s a long-time friend and sometimes collaborator on different projects. There were about a dozen people around the world who were trying to understand what the global footprint of the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program was.

In other words, the CIA had a program of kidnapping people around the world, and holding them in secret prisons and torturing them, basically.

JB: Right.

TP: And one of the things we were trying to figure out was where these prisons were. It wasn’t just us, we were talking with people at Human Rights Watch, for example…but we strongly suspected there was one outside of Kabul. And that’s been subsequently confirmed, that the place we’d found was indeed one.

We spent a couple of weeks in Afghanistan in 2006, interviewing everyone from former prisoners to local journalists to human rights workers. Aid workers. Basically as many people as we could find who’d come across evidence of this.

At that time in Afghanistan, the War in Iraq was going full on.

JB: Yeah.

TP: People had basically forgotten there was this other war going on in Afghanistan. I think that’s something the CIA was leveraging, quite a lot. They had this place they controlled relatively well, and the world’s eyes were simply not on it at that moment. People were looking at Iraq.

In Afghanistan at that time, and I’m sure it’s true now, it’s crawling with mercenaries and spies. There’s a whole class of people in the world who show up at wars, and get involved somehow.

JB: I was hoping to hear about the on-the-ground reality. The adrenaline pumping. Did you feel like you were any more at risk than anyone else in that city at the time? Did you feel like you were in any more danger than anyone else would be in a dangerous city? Were there people aware of what you were doing?

TP: There were definitely people aware of what we were doing. On the other hand, I didn’t feel in much more danger than other places. At that time, when we left, I was living in Oakland, California. When we were researching and talking about going to Kabul, my first impression was “No way. It’s a war zone. I don’t want to go anywhere near it.”

Then I tried to be a little more rational about it, and I looked up what are the kidnapping and murder statistics in Kabul? It turned out that Oakland was 10 times more dangerous, or something like that.

JB: Yeah, man. I had a former colleague whose journalistic mentor was shot in the face in broad daylight, because of a scandal about the…

TP: Chauncey Bailey. Is that what you mean?

JB: Yeah.

TP: Wow. The black muslims.

JB: Yeah, the guys who run the bakery, but are also the Oakland Mafia?

TP: Exactly.

JB: Anyway, moving on from Oaktown. Let’s talk about the idea that in the 21st Century, people now know that they’re under almost perfect digital surveillance, thanks to the work by you and your colleagues.

These stories pop up in the global media cycles for a day, or a week, and then there’s always the next way of commodifying the news. Do you think now, a couple of years after Edward Snowden’s revelations that led to “Citizenfour,” that people are too apathetic and tuned out?

Do you think there is a complacency, for the average American, in the face of this information?

TP: I’d break that up a little bit.

JB: Sure.

TP: In terms of popular culture and everyday life, we have no physical experience of mass surveillance. It seems kind of abstract to the normal person.

JB: Right.

TP: In addition to that, it is abstract because in order to understand it, and its implications, you need a pretty developed technical knowledge about how infrastructures work. How data works. How processing and protocols work. That sort of thing.

On one hand, I think that it’s difficult for people to become outraged about something that you don’t have a visceral feeling of in everyday life.

At the same time, for people who work with these infrastructures, and are a part of these industries, this has been a huge and ongoing thing. The Snowden stuff is still a HUGE deal in the world of information technology and network security. Everybody talks about it non-stop.

JB: I don’t doubt it.

TP: The Snowden documents showed the degree to which global telecommunications infrastructures had been totally, not only compromised, but weaponized. For everybody outside of the NSA, who works in that industry, this was a real punch in the gut. When you talk to people on the technical side, people are doing a lot of work to re-think what these infrastructures might look like in light of what the NSA is capable of doing.

Not just the NSA, but state actors in general, on one hand, and there’s been less concern on the corporate side, which I think is actually just as big a deal, if not a bigger deal than the state side. But I definitely think that a lot of these questions are on the cultural agenda in a way that they really weren’t at all, pre-Snowden.

JB: Unquestionably. So part one was, your average citizen may well be complacent, but that’s understandable, given that it’s an abstract concept, the degree to which their digital security has been compromised. It’s hard to get pitchfork angry about it.

But for the experts, powers like this are very hard to undo. It’s almost like the nuclear revolution. Once those bombs existed, they existed. So at the highest level, there’s a re-organization of the landscape, in a world in which these powers are out there, and are not likely to be constrained.

TP: I mean something very simple, which is that everybody from Google on one hand, to anarchist computer clubs in Berlin, on the other hand, are trying to figure out how to build much more secure systems. Obviously, they have different end games with them. Google wants to create a system that they can surveil, but that other people can’t break into.

Wheres someone like the Tor project is trying to build infrastructures that are, by design, very very difficult to conduct mass surveillance on. Both of those actors, at different ends of the spectrum, are nonetheless united by the revelations about the degree to which telecommunications infrastructures have been compromised by state actors such as the NSA.

JB: Right. The nefarious “they.” I had to get the local video store to hold a copy of “Citizenfour” for me, and I watched it the other day in anticipation of this interview.

I had my little notebook next to me, and it seemed like every tenth word in this film was “they.” The simple pronoun “they” came to stand in, obviously, for the NSA, but also the powers that be. The other guys. The bad guys.

Of course, it’s not that binary, good guys/bad buys, but how could I not ask. To you and your colleagues, who are “they?”

TP: I don’t generally use that language, “us” and “them.” It’s pretty blunt.

JB: It came up at least 50 times in “Citizenfour.” It was like a drinking game.

TP: (laughing.) I think you could create the “Citizenfour” drinking game around that.

JB: I think we just did.

TP: It’s generally a binary term that I don’t use, but I think in the context of “Citizenfour,” he probably meant “they,” the NSA. Right?

JB: Right.

TP: You can say that the NSA is not an internally consistent or unified actor in the world, but at the same time, it’s pretty close to being one. It is an organization with a tremendous footprint on the world, that does have some fairly specific goals that it’s trying to achieve. And it’s an organization that operates, in large part, in absolute secrecy, and with very little oversight.

JB: For me, and probably for many viewers, it was extremely disturbing to see the scenes where those guys openly lied to Congress. That’s evidence right there. “They,” or elements of the National Security Agency, do not believe they are beholden to the legislative branch of the US Government.

TP: The Directors. The people at the highest levels.

JB: People need to see the film.

TP: And they aren’t, by the way.

JB: Well, there’s another question I’d like to circle back to, about grass-roots versus grass-tops activism, so maybe we can lead into that.

I watched the film trying to find your imprint. There were several beautiful, aestheticized establishment shots, one of the big oversized satellite dishes. External moments. Brief interludes. I guessed those were yours. Is that right?

TP: Yeah. In general, a lot of the landscapes, I shot for that film.

JB: Did you do the gorgeous shots of Rio de Janeiro?

TP: No, I did not. Laura shot that, and she also shot the Utah data center stuff.

JB: OK.

TP: We both shot it. There were other things in Germany that I shot, and in the UK. I shot about 90 hours of footage for the film, in about 12 or 15 different places in the world.

It wasn’t just shooting for “Citizenfour,” it was also doing research. Looking at infrastructures, and trying to understand how do mass surveillance infrastructures work, and how does that lead us to places in the world that we should pay attention to, and make images of, even if those images don’t have any obvious evidence of mass surveillance in them.

That was the process. The deal that I’d made with Laura was that whatever they didn’t use towards “Citizenfour,” I could use for my own work. There’s a video installation that was just shown in New York, (at Metro Pictures,) and is about to go up in Vienna that’s made out of tons of landscapes that were shot for “Citizenfour.”

JB: Fantastic. Was it in the investigatory research for the film that you started discovering the locations of these undersea cables?

TP: Yeah. Exactly. When I started researching the film, that’s one of the things I started thinking about a lot. This is something that Snowden, and also Bill Binney, who is another NSA whistleblower, kept underlining: the importance of cable stations and cable landing sites.

I had never even heard of that. I had no idea what it even was. So that’s one of the things that we ended up looking at.

JB: And now you’re going to be leading a scuba tour to show people these cables?

TP: (laughing.) Yes. I learned how to scuba dive earlier, in January or February. I’d been traveling around, trying to find different cables on the bottom of the ocean, around these different landing sites. Then photographing them underwater.

I know where a bunch of them are around Miami, so I was going to the art fair, (Art Basel Miami,) and I thought, “Well, let’s just put together a little expedition.”

JB: Let’s pivot a second to what may be a more difficult question. We agree that a lot of people ought to see “Citizenfour.” But as I was watching, and breaking it down, it felt like as important as this information is, and given that your average citizen is not terribly connected to that import, the film did feel to me somewhat inaccessible.

Maybe it was even constructed as such. Very little camera movement. The use of music is muted. There are long sections of lengthy, super-high level discourse.

And with your work, the people in the Art World, who pay attention to art a the highest level, the people who support it are a part of the 1%, not the 99%. I know you’ve worked with some of the Occupy folks, and I’m just sitting here as a critic, but it seems like we’re up against the grass-roots versus grass-tops conversation.

Does one try to influence mass culture directly, or does one try to influence the influencers? It felt to me like “Citizenfour,” and some of your work, falls into the latter category. How would you respond to that?

TP: I’m interested in being as ecumenical as possible in the work that I do. I try to make it as accessible as I possibly can, and try not to be an artist who is really pretentious, and says, “I’m not going to talk about what it is.” Because I think what it is is interesting, and important.

But I think we all speak to different audiences. As an artist, there is an art infrastructure that has specific kind of venues that people go and experience it within. You always have a self-selected audience, whether you’re writing for VICE magazine, or doing an independent film, or making art in museums. I think that’s OK.

Not everybody has to be all things to all people, all the time. For me, anyway, I just try to make the work as accessible as I possibly can, and to create as many different avenues into it as I possibly can. That’s really all I think you can expect of one person. That’s my approach towards it.

JB: You’re an artist, you make art, and as such, you engage in the world that supports it. OK.

It’s mind-boggling how many ways you’ve been making art in the last 6 or 7 years. I doubt you have much time for sleep. “The Last Pictures” is a project in which you launched a highly specialized piece of information-storage-technology into space, on a satellite that was at least intended to speak to Deep Time. To a future that nobody can possibly imagine. Is that about right?

TP: It was a project that was trying to underline the existence of Deep Time, and the fact that humans are making interventions into Deep Time. We wanted to inhabit that contradiction.

The provocation of the project was to say, “Humans are capable of altering the planet on cosmological time scales, and we can’t even imagine what a cosmological time scale is.”

Discuss.

JB: (laughing.)

TP: (laughing.)

JB: Awesome. One person could take his or her entire life to edit down a selection of photographs to represent humans.

TP: It’s an impossible project.

JB: Right. But you did it as one of many things. So what was your criteria? What goes through your head when you have a responsibility that nobody really could or should have, but you have it. How do you react? What do you do?

TP: For that project, we narrowed down the question a little bit. It wasn’t “How do we represent humans to some beings in the distant future,” the question we had was a little bit more specific. It was, “What are all the ways in which human progress has backfired?”

JB: OK.

TP: What are the ways in which we have terraformed the Earth’s surface in our own image, which has paradoxically created the conditions for our own potential extinction? That was a little bit of a narrower question.

How do you represent this moment in which human activities have affected every grain of sand on every beach?

And the way I approached it was to create a research group at Creative Time, who commissioned the project. I had a group of mostly graduate students, but also other artists, and we spent the better part of a year having weekly seminars. Bringing in images, and talking about the project. Trying to think through these questions.

We also brought in different guest speakers who were in town. It really was a kind of seminar that we ran. In addition to that, I interviewed between 40 and 50 different people around the world who are involved in fields where these kinds of contradictions between progress and self-destruction were becoming very evident. From people studying bio-technology to people who were pure mathematicians, in some cases.

A huge range of sciences and social sciences and arts. By collecting these conversations, certain types of images would distill from them.

I didn’t actually pick that many of the images. I brought them all together, but it was a pretty collective effort.

JB: I assumed you had collaborators. But it’s very evident from our conversation that you don’t get to make the kind of work you’re making right now, you don’t get to have the kind of cultural imprint you have, without reams and reams of collaborators.

TP: Oh yeah.

JB: You’re building teams everywhere.

TP: For everything. Yes.

JB: For everything.

TP: Yeah, I have different teams for everything.

JB: But you have to.

TP: You have to.

JB: It’s fascinating.

TP: I don’t go into a studio at the beginning of the day, and then emerge at the end of the day with anything. (laughing.) Mostly, I email people and talk to people. On any given day, that’s mostly what I’m doing.

JB: Right. And you’re learning. You get to work with global experts in their own individual fields. That’s what an artist means in 2015.

We talked about the term. You get to do these things under the mantle of “artist,” and co-ordinate with other experts.

Speaking of which, you did a piece in the Fukushima exclusionary zone that I’d like to talk about. We have a program here at UNM-Taos, where I teach, and we bring in High School students from the rural communities around Northern New Mexico, and they get two free college classes each Friday.

One of the communities outside Taos is called Questa, and Chevron had a Molybdenum mine there that they recently closed, and it’s become a Superfund site. This town has to deal with the aftermath of losing all the jobs, and having their mountains ruined.

So one of my Questa students, Anna Marie Sanchez, wanted to ask a question about the Trinity Cube that you made in Fukushima.

TP: Sure.

JB: How was the radiation cube made? And if people aren’t allowed to view it for between 3 and 30,000 years, because it’s in the exclusion zone, how did you handle the radiation to build it?

TP: The exclusion zone is radioactive, but it’s not radioactive in the way that a nuclear submarine is radioactive, if it melts down.

JB: OK.

TP: The radiation in the exclusion zone, in particular in the place where we were working, is basically the same level of radiation you would have if you took an inter-continental flight to Europe. If you got above the atmosphere and were bombarded with cosmic rays.

You can go into the zone for any number of hours at a time. I think it’s up to 6 hours.

JB: Suited up?

TP: Yeah. Sure. Absolutely. And it’s not considered harmful, basically. The idea is that you can go in and out of there, especially if you’re a resident, but you can’t live there.

And in terms of handling the material, it’s radioactive, but a very low level of radioactivity. Weirdly enough, it will become more radioactive the longer it stays there. That’s a part of the piece.

JB: Because it absorbs radioactivity from its surroundings? The outside is glass, and the inside is Trinitite, which comes from here. From New Mexico.

TP: Yeah.

JB: From the Trinity site. Did you have to come here to harvest it? Can you buy Trinitite on Ebay? How does one come by the materials themselves?

TP: The first rule of Trinitite is that you don’t talk about where you got the Trinitite. (laughing.)

JB: Is that a David Fincher reference? I think that was.

TP: Yeah.

JB: Right on. I love it.

TP: Trinitite has been illegal to collect since 1974, but Trinitite collected before 1974 is out there. You can get it from different collectors.

JB: I was just curious. I didn’t know it was illegal.

So this is predominantly a photography blog, but we like to talk about art when we can. We now have a picture of you, the modern, hyper-successful artist who’s working in photography, research, video, sculpture, film, space. All sorts of things.

You’ve lived on the West Coast, the East Coast, now in Germany. But at some point, you were in Chicago. I was just there for the first time, pretty much, and had almost no free time, as I was at the Filter Photo Festival.

I carved out an hour, and visited the Charles Ray show that’s currently up at the Art Institute of Chicago. Did you have a chance to see that?

TP: No. I haven’t seen it. I haven’t been to Chicago for a long time. I went to graduate school there, but I have not seen that show.

JB: OK. I was asking because he’s making these sculptures that have these very obvious classical references, and he’s working with teams, but the sculptures are made out of machine-tooled stainless steel, and will last forever. They’re referencing the past, but speaking to the future.

It made me think, in particular of “The Last Pictures,” but of the way you’re working. You’re making an imprint that will outlast us, and then trying to figure out what to say with that imprint.

I was wondering if you were familiar with the work, or had thought about it all, and it sounds like the answer is “No.”
That’s a quick answer.

TP: The quick answer is “No,” the longer answer is I think when you’re making art, you’re always in a dialogue with your ancestors, and your descendants. The way that I think about it, anyway, is that you’re part of a conversation that is on a horizontal axis, in the sense that you’re talking to the other humans now.

But it’s also on a vertical axis, in the sense that you’re talking to the artists that were alive before you, and you’re talking to the artists who will be alive in the future as well.

JB: Can I hit you with one more question?

TP: Yeah, one more, and then I’ve got to go. I’ve got a conference with a space company.

JB: Exactly. How perfect.

I’m sure you’re familiar with Neal Stephenson’s “Snow Crash,” and how so much of it has come true. Lately, I’ve been trying to put some of my interview subjects on the future prognostication seat.

I read where you were discussing the degree to which drones would become ubiquitous in the future, and people know about Amazon, and their plans for a drone delivery fleet. We didn’t even get to talk about your photographs of drones.

How will people’s lives be different when drones are everywhere?

TP: I think about drones as one very small part of a much larger landscape of automation in general. Automation of labor, on one hand, and automation of analytical work, on the other.

In terms of automation of labor, drones would be a part of a landscape that includes self-driving cars, which will have a huge, huge economic impact on the country. Especially if you look at something like the trucking industry.

Being a truck driver is one of the few jobs that a modestly educated person can have right now, and make a living at all. Particularly, if you look at different economies of the South, the income generated by truck driving is just massive.

So when those jobs start to go away, it’s going to create a huge amount of economic distress, and even further exacerbate the tendencies that we’ve seen in terms of a bifurcation between the 1% and everybody else.

JB: Sure.

TP: In terms of the automation of analysis, we’re already there, it’s just not evenly distributed yet. You’re going to see a world in which much of your activities will be quantified.

It’s very easy to imagine a world in which, for example, the insurance rates on your automobile will fluctuate every month, based on what kind of material you’re posting on social media. What kinds of books you might be buying. What kind of activities you might be engaged with.

Your health insurance rates might fluctuate based on how much time you spend at the gym, and what kind of data your Fitbit sends off to Microsoft, or whomever. These kinds of things, which already exist, will be much more pervasive.

It will add up to a society that, in general, is much less free.

TK

Trinity Cube
Irradiated Glass from Fukushima Exclusion Zone, Trinitite
20x20x20cm
2015
Trevor Paglen; Metro Pictures, New York; Altman Siegel, San Francisco

TK

Trinity Cube
Irradiated Glass from Fukushima Exclusion Zone, Trinitite
20x20x20cm
2015
Trevor Paglen; Metro Pictures, New York; Altman Siegel, San Francisco

TK

Trinity Cube
Irradiated Glass from Fukushima Exclusion Zone, Trinitite
20x20x20cm
2015
Trevor Paglen; Metro Pictures, New York; Altman Siegel, San Francisco

No. 15 Black Site, Kabul, Afghanistan  C-print 2006 Trevor Paglen; Metro Pictures, New York; Altman Siegel, San Francisco

No. 15
Black Site, Kabul, Afghanistan
C-print
2006
Trevor Paglen; Metro Pictures, New York; Altman Siegel, San Francisco

No. 87 They Watch the Moon, 2010 C-print Trevor Paglen; Metro Pictures, New York; Altman Siegel, San Francisco

No. 87
They Watch the Moon, 2010
C-print
Trevor Paglen; Metro Pictures, New York; Altman Siegel, San Francisco

No. 97 Untitled (Reaper Drone), 2010 C-print Trevor Paglen; Metro Pictures, New York; Altman Siegel, San Francisco

No. 97
Untitled (Reaper Drone), 2010
C-print
Trevor Paglen; Metro Pictures, New York; Altman Siegel, San Francisco

No. 103 National Reconnaissance Office Ground Station (ADF-SW) Jornada del Muerto, New Mexico Distance ~16 Miles, 2012 C-print Trevor Paglen; Metro Pictures, New York; Altman Siegel, San Francisco

No. 103
National Reconnaissance Office Ground Station (ADF-SW)
Jornada del Muerto, New Mexico
Distance ~16 Miles, 2012
C-print
Trevor Paglen; Metro Pictures, New York; Altman Siegel, San Francisco

No 172 Bahamas Internet Cable System (BICS- 1)  NSA/GCHQ-Tapped Undersea Cable Atlantic Ocean 2015 C-print  Trevor Paglen; Metro Pictures, New York; Altman Siegel, San Francisco

No 172
Bahamas Internet Cable System (BICS- 1)
NSA/GCHQ-Tapped Undersea Cable
Atlantic Ocean
2015
C-print
Trevor Paglen; Metro Pictures, New York; Altman Siegel, San Francisco

TK

TAutonomy Cube
Mixed media
350mm x 350mm x 350mm
2014
Trevor Paglen; Metro Pictures, New York; Altman Siegel, San Francisco

The Daily Edit – GUP : Sebastian Palmer

- - The Daily Edit

Choque, 27, resident of Cracolândia; São Paulo, Brazil.
Choque, 27, resident of Cracolândia; São Paulo, Brazil.

José Maria, 55, resident of Cracolândia; São Paulo, Brazil.

José Maria, 55, resident of Cracolândia; São Paulo, Brazil.

Ariane, 19, resident of Cracolândia; São Paulo, Brazil.

Ariane, 19, resident of Cracolândia; São Paulo, Brazil.

Moisés, 36, resident of Cracolândia; São Paulo, Brazil.

Moisés, 36, resident of Cracolândia; São Paulo, Brazil.

Patron Saint of Impossible Causes, Saint Rita de Cassia, is glued on the window overlooking the room; João, a kindergarten teacher has just become a grandfather. He has given up his home so that his daughter and grandchild have a better start in life.

Patron Saint of Impossible Causes, Saint Rita de Cassia, is glued on the window overlooking the room; João, a kindergarten teacher has just become a grandfather. He has given up his home so that his daughter and grandchild have a better start in life.

GOD’; Lisene currently works as a manicurist in an up-market salon. Working 6 days a week she has been able to save enough money to buy 2 cows for her brother who lives in the countryside and looks after her child. One day she hopes to travel.

GOD’; Lisene currently works as a manicurist in an up-market salon. Working 6 days a week she has been able to save enough money to buy 2 cows for her brother who lives in the countryside and looks after her child. One day she hopes to travel.

The orange cover of a book entitled “how to interpret your dreams” sits next to Kris; a single mother who lost all her savings due to fraud. Her sole income is from selling toys on the street corner.

The orange cover of a book entitled “how to interpret your dreams” sits next to Kris; a single mother who lost all her savings due to fraud. Her sole income is from selling toys on the street corner.

Edvaldo; a cook, works 7 days a week. Last year he won a competition to train as a chef in Europe but was disqualified when it was discovered he didn’t have a high enough literacy level.

Edvaldo; a cook, works 7 days a week. Last year he won a competition to train as a chef in Europe but was disqualified when it was discovered he didn’t have a high enough literacy level.

Tom Blomfield, founder + CEO of Mondo bank . Bloomberg Markets.

Tom Blomfield, founder + CEO of Mondo bank . Bloomberg Markets.

Baroness Denise Kingsmill, chairman of Mondo Bank. Bloomberg Markets.

Baroness Denise Kingsmill, chairman of Mondo Bank. Bloomberg Markets.

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GUP
Guide to Unique Photography

Photographer: Sebastian Palmer

Heidi: How did the instagram take over come about, are you invited?
Sebastian: Yes. I was invited by GUP

Do you shoot new content for this or does it come from your archives?
All the content came from my archives. I guess that It would have been interesting to shoot a new project specifically for the takeover but the call came in quite late and at the time I was bogged down with other work in London (so maybe a fresh / new series of images might not have been possible anyway)

Is there a print component to this?
Yes. I will be featured in their 10th Anniversary issue. GUP #47 – The Big Ten
(showcasing images not posted in the takeover)

How do you decide what you are going to post over the course of the 10 days?
I wanted to keep to showing just my personal work. So I decided to post a small selection from those projects based in Brazil along with images that might help to explain my surroundings or way of thinking.

You studied French, History, Economics and Sociology prior to becoming a photographer. What was your turning point to become an artist?
I don’t really see there being a turning point such just a coming back to. I was always artistic and from a really young age I was always doing something creative (drawing, painting, sculpture, guitar etc etc etc)

However, when I went to a new school at the age of 13 it all fell by the wayside (for numerous reasons) and as the years progressed I began to focus on subjects that were “going to get me a good degree and make me successful in later life”…. it just took me a while to realize that I had been following the wrong path (whilst at university) and that I needed to get back to what I had left behind all those years ago.

Is PROJECTS in your portfolio an expression that combines your previous studies and your current life as an artist
Possibly, maybe….. It’s a bit of a ‘chicken and egg’ scenario (which one came first)…. I’m not sure how much those subjects actually influenced my work. I see it more in reverse, I chose the subjects because they interested me to some degree.

Artist Statements

GHOSTS
[All images were shot on location in Cracolândia, São Paulo, Brasil]
Over the past 3 years I have been living with and photographing sections of Brazilian society that have been marginalised and discriminated against. It is my aim to create a body of work that raises awareness for vulnerable sections of society; to give them a voice and in doing so hope that measures can be taken to ensure that they live in dignity.
The latest chapter of my project focuses on crack-cocaine addicts.
I felt that shooting a portrait series of close up, black + white head shots was the best way to humanise my sitters – by minimising any distractions and allowing the viewer to come into direct face to face contact with them.
Although this subject matter has had a lot of exposure with Brazil hosting the World Cup, I believe that it has only worsened the situation by further dividing an already fractured society and reinforcing negative views and prejudices. Reportage style images often taken from a far and with no interaction have only helped to strengthen the “us” and “them” mentality.
Separate from us. Away from us. Far from us. Nothing to do with us.
In order to banish this misconception I needed to get as close to my subjects as possible.
To interact. To communicate. To participate. To let you look into their eyes and realise that they too are human beings; that they too are a part of this society in which we all belong.
Are we able to look at ourselves in the mirror and face uncomfortable truths?
HOPE
In this series I have been living in an illegally occupied building in downtown São Paulo, Brazil with some of the 70,000 people that migrate to the city every year in search of a better life.
Often arriving from the countryside with little or no money, no skills and high rates of illiteracy their journey is a tough one. They can not afford to pay for rent and the majority can not find employment. Those that do manage to find a job are underpaid and often work 7 days a week to make ends meet.
Yet despite these conditions and the hardships that they face, everyone that I encountered found the strength to carry on through hope. It is this theme that I wanted to explore.
I have used diptychs as a means to expand the narrative. Always using items found close to or belonging to the subject. These detail shots are clues so often overlooked and dismissed but that I see as fragments of information which help to complete the puzzle.
All images are shot in camera. I have made use of long shutter, deliberate camera movement and the placing of items in front of the lens in order to allow me to create an aesthetic quality and my interpretation of the subjects’ utopia.
SÃO PAULO NIGHTS
São Paulo Nights focuses on transgender prostitutes.
Transgender persons in Brazil are treated as 3rd class citizens. They are discriminated against on a daily basis and are marginalised by society.
They experience such injustices from an early age when they first appear to be different and as such many do not finish school.
Nonetheless, even those with an education still find it hard to find work. As a result, many turn to prostitution to make a living.
This, combined with the majority of societies fear, ignorance, hypocrisy and lack of education on the issues means transexuals are caught in an ongoing downward spiral of discrimination and marginalisation [being subject to violence, social exclusion, drug abuse, crime, exploitation and severe health risks].
Many of the photos were printed, then ‘tampered’ with (painted, etched, bleached, burnt etc) and then re-photographed in an attempt to portray not only Brazilian societies views + actions towards transgender persons but also the struggle and human injustices that they face on a daily basis.

 

 

 
Contact GUP here

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 Bloomberg Markets

What sort of direction did the magazine give you?
In the beginning I was sent through some reference shots of my own work so I could get a feel of what direction the magazine wanted to take the shoot.  However, although the style of the images looked similar they were all achieved by using different techniques and lighting setups. Also, they liked some elements from one shot and wanted to combine it with elements from another shot. So, we sat down and mapped out a rough plan of what we were going to shoot and how we were going to do it, with the understanding that things might change on the day.

Tell us how you used your creative freedom? Was it difficult to earn?
As mentioned above, nothing was set in stone, so to speak. Bloomberg understood that to achieve the look that they wanted we would have to experiment on the day. I like to see it as organized chaos. I set a starting point (a foundation) knowing that if I do steps 1+2 I will get a certain look. However, from there you can play around – get the subject to move more or less, move the camera, increase the number of flashes or their duration, play with shutter speeds etc etc etc – the possibilities are endless. Once you see the shots coming through you can decide to follow a certain path and push things in one direction or maybe dial it back and go another way.

No, I don’t think that it was difficult to earn. I think that it has more to do with the fact that Bloomberg were very open minded and willing to experiment. (something that I find a lot of the industry is scared to do these days by always playing it safe in the fear that they might upset what they believe their readers want to see)

Bloomberg is known for spectacular photography and creative leaps. Knowing this did you want to take some creative risks?
Of course. I think that it would be silly not to. On the day of the shoot we did try out many different things, some of which never made the final cut. However, there are always going to be constraints, such as time and money. Also, you have to be aware that you are working for a client and no matter how creative they are they still need to put together an issue where all of the photo pieces are going to tie together.

The Daily Promo: Tuan Lee

- - The Daily Promo

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Tuan Lee


Who printed it?
I printed with Jennifer O’Neill at Marina Graphics. Very experienced and supportive throughout the entire process.

Who designed it?
David Hsia, a design director here in LA and happens to my buddy.

Who edited the images?
David and I did the final edit together, but I did consider some input from some consultants.

How many did you make?
I printed 500.

How many times a year do you send out promos?
I do one substantial promo like this piece once a year. Then I’ll send out single sheet promos as support and as new work gets created.

Tell us about the pacing of the promo.
Well, there is an easter egg built into the design of this promo. If you notice, its not blinded. Yes, it flips like a traditional book, but its also a series of double sided posters! And they keep their relationships together either way, sports or traditional fashion. (Although, there are two spreads that are exceptions.) That way my audience can select what they want. And we wanted to show how much thought and planning went into this. The hope is that it’s associated with how much thought and process I put into my work.

Chicago’s Filter Photo Festival – Part 2

by Jonathan Blaustein

Portfolio reviews are great events for a number of reasons. Primarily, they’re a place where photographers can go to build community, and get feedback on their work.

Do not underestimate the value of both endeavors. As I tell people in my 21st Century Hustle lecture, (which evolved from this very column,) your peers are the people most likely to help boost your career. If you have their back, in most cases, they’ll have yours.

But what if you’re working in a vacuum? What if, like me, you don’t live in a major city with a teeming and supportive photo community? Visiting a festival with a portfolio review component, and there are now countless across the world, can be a great way to meet new people, have fun, allow ideas to cross-pollinate, and likely have a laugh or two along the way.

As our long-time readers know, my photo career received a massive boost from two consecutive visits to Review Santa Fe in 2009-10, and a trip to FotoFest in 2012. Hell, I’m going back to FotoFest this March as a photographer, as I have some new work I’d like to introduce to the world.

Having now been a reviewer 6 or 7 times, I’d say I have enough experience to know of what I speak. And as I said last week, Filter is a terrific festival, and I couldn’t recommend it more highly. But no experience is perfect, and you know I can’t pass up a teachable moment, so…

Filter, like most reviews, is not juried. That means, from a reviewing perspective, you have no idea who is going to turn up at your table at any given moment. It might be a highly trained artist, with an MFA and a long exhibition record. Or it may be a hobbyist who’s been shooting pictures for decades, for fun, and believes his or her work is ready for the big time.

My strategy is to ask a few questions at the beginning, to suss out someone’s background, what they’re looking for, and how I can best help them achieve those goals. I take the job very seriously, and work hard to be of service to whoever’s sitting across from me. Portfolio reviews cost money, and I don’t want to be the schmuck who makes a photographer doubt the investment of time and resources.

As soon as I got back from Filter, Rob co-incidentally did a post where a photographer asked him whether it was worth attending a portfolio review event without a portfolio? Could an Ipad alone make it worthwhile? I couldn’t help making a snarky tweet about it, because that’s what Twitter’s for. (The gist of it was, if you aren’t prepared, why go?)

Therefore, allow me to share some advice that you might or might not have heard/read before:

If you’re going to invest the money, invest the time. Do research on who will be at an event. Choose your reviewers carefully. Figure out what type of work they publish, exhibit, or support in their organizations. (Don’t leave it to chance.)

Print up the best, most cohesive work you can, in a consistent size. Put the prints in a nice box. Decide ahead of time what type of questions you want to ask, and what type of advice you’re looking for. Know as much as possible about each person you’re sitting with, to ensure that you’ll suck the marrow from each 20 minute session.

This type of preparation is VITAL.

I had three reviews in a row, one afternoon, where the photographers came to my table knowing nothing about me whatsoever. Not my name, my biases towards edgy/artsy work, nor the type of photos that are published in the NYT Lens blog. Each sat down, as ignorant of what I could do for them as a rabbit staring at a coyote, hoping he’ll offer up a carrot for lunch. (Excuse me, Mr. Coyote, but why are you putting my head in your mouth? Are there carrots in there?)

Of course, it’s a difficult conversation from that point on. One person understood me to say, “You don’t know who I am? How do you not know who I am? You’ve never heard of the famous Jonathan Blaustein?” as if I had an ego the size of Trump Tower Chicago. Would I really say something like that? Of course not. (But conversations are two ways streets, and sometimes, they go wrong.)

What I said was, do your homework. Show up prepared. Treat your aspiring photo career with the same focus and rigor one uses in one’s day job. Get the best bang for your buck, or don’t bother.

That advice seems obvious, and I apologize if you feel I’ve wasted the 5 minutes it’s taken you to read this article. But I happen to think it’s worth saying, and it does apply beyond the portfolio review environment.

It’s a rough world out there. Tens of thousands of trained photographers are battling for very few slots in galleries, museum exhibitions, shooting for newspapers or magazines.

Everybody wants acclaim, but there’s only so much to go around, even in a world of viral attention spans.

So if you’re not prepared to do what it takes, I’d suggest you don’t bother. There’s nothing wrong with doing art only for yourself. Most people operate that way.

But if you’re going to seek out an audience of perfect strangers, you ought to respect them, and yourself, by working as hard as you can to make sure your pictures, and your business practices, are worthy of their respect.

Rant over, I can honestly say that my time in Chicago offered many of the same benefits that photographers get: great conversation, deep inspiration, new ideas, fresh energy. Once again, I thank the Filter folks for inviting me, as I’m grateful for the experience.

Now it’s time to show you some more of the best work I saw at Chicago’s Filter Photo Festival last month. (In no particular order.)

We’ll lead off with Bruce Morton, whose work I showed here last year, after meeting him at Photo NOLA in New Orleans. (Another festival I highly recommend.) Bruce blew me away, as he’s the kind of guy who radiates positive energy. The good vibes beam out of his perma-smile like electricity off a taser. (Don’t tase me, bro.)

Bruce was showing pictures from his edgy series, “The Audience,” in which he photographed spectators at all types of events near his home turf in rural Illinois. They’re not exactly flattering, nor are they mean-spirited. But they are fascinating to look at, IMHO.

I’d also like to add that lately, since English-photo-world-good-guy Stuart Pilkington had an unexpected stroke, I’ve been thinking a lot about how quickly life can change. How easily we take our relative good fortune for granted. When I asked Bruce how he was doing, in passing during our email communication, he told me that he had suddenly lost almost all the vision in his left eye, due to wet macular degeneration. It won’t get better, and he’s now mostly blind in one eye. Just like that.

So let’s all send some good thoughts Bruce’s way. (When you have a moment, of course.)

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Susan Rosenberg Jones showed me one of my favorite portfolios at Filter, shortly after we looked at a joyless project about her fellow tenants in a rent-stabilized building in Tribeca. It was stilted, which made the next pictures that much more shocking.

Susan lost her husband a few years ago, which is of course very sad. But then she met and married the one and only Joel Roskind, and they’re very happy. It just so happens that Joel Roskind is a Jewish guy who likes to walk around their apartment naked all the time. What? These pictures are therefore warm, hilarious, and witty. It’s not often we get to ogle an ass like Joel Roskind’s.

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David Freese brought a portfolio of images from his series “East Coast: Arctic to Tropic,” which will come out in book form next year. It is an examination of the East Coast, from North to South, that attempts to convey the hazards of melting ice caps, and rising sea levels. It’s hard to engender actual fear in the populace, when the change creeps along more slowly than a drunk turtle.

But by the end of the series, all that water began to take on a bit of menace. The sea itself felt like Jaws, looming out there, ready to strike. All that water, and all those cities, so very vulnerable to its power.

3 Greenland Ice Cap, near Kangerlussuaq copy

10  Greenland, Illulisat into Disko Bay copy

52 Saglek Fjord striations 2 copy

62 Gros Morne, Western Brook Pond, Nfndlnd copy

104 Boston copy

110 Orient Point, Long Island, NY copy

115 New York Harbor and Statue of Liberty copy

122 Arthur Kill waterway, the chemical coast copy

124 roller coaster Seaside Heights NJ copy

130 Cape May NJ  copy

139 Delaware River copy

151 Fishermans Island Ches Bay Bridge copy

158 Overlea MD copy

174 coal loading Norf and West, Norfolk VA copy

180 Outer Banks NC copy

210 North Key Largo, FL copy

211 Miami copy

Jack Long sat down at my table, and almost immediately I noticed that he was missing some digits. As I once almost cut off my thumb, I felt an immediate kinship with the dude. And he gives off the vibe of a carpenter on payday too, which was cool.

Jack showed me some pictures that he called liquid sculptures. He has his own process where he whips liquid to the point that it rises in the air, and he photographs it at 1/8000 of a second. (I guessed the shutter speed correctly.) Some of them were kind of decorative, but as we went along, others began to refer to sea creatures, or psychedelic aliens from a parallel dimension. Cool shit.

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I met Krista Wortendyke during the portfolio walk Saturday night. She had a photograph that showed three images of war; one real, one from cinema, and a third from a video game. They were all hyper-real, and the mashup made a strong point about the degree to which the fetishization of violence is ubiquitous. The series is called,(re): media, and I think you’ll dig it.

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Last, (but of course not least,) we’ve got Victor Yañez-Lazcano, a Mexican-American photographer based in Chicago. (He also works at Latitude, the print studio that is run under the Filter umbrella.) This is one time where the order does matter, as I looked at Victor’s work at the end of the last party, on the final night.

His was likely the 60th portfolio I saw, but I’d been told his work was great, and I certainly thought so afterwards. Victor’s family came from Mexico, so he’s examining identity, and what it means to be Mexican-American in a family of Mexicans. Apparently, he spent some time shooting here in New Mexico, (down South,) so how could I not share the pictures with you.

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OK. That’s it for today. We’ll have one more Filter article for you next week, and as a special treat, a 2 part interview with a massively important artist as well. Stay tuned. (Same Bat time. Same Bat channel.)

The Art of the Personal Project: Rhea Anna

- - Personal Project

As a former Art Producer, I have always been drawn to personal projects. A personal project is the sole vision of the photographer and not an extension of an art director/photo editor or graphic designer. This column features the personal projects of photographers who use the database for their marketing with Yodelist. You can read their blog at http://yodelist.wordpress.com

Today’s featured photographer is: Rhea Anna

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a woman in a wet slip comes out of the water

How long have you been shooting?
I’m trying to remember the first time I picked up a camera. Grade school… maybe. I’ve been obsessed with photography forever, and this obsession still burns bright in me to this day. My brain just thinks in images. I remember in pictures. In my head, I’m constantly framing flashes of moments and thoughts.

Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
My journey in photography started in college but was in no way a direct route. I received a BFA in photography from SUNY College in Buffalo NY and then took a detour and found myself as a first mate on a sailboat in the Caribbean. After 5 years of traveling the seas, I made my way back north and started freelance assisting for photographers in the Rochester area (think RIT, Kodak, IBM…). With some perspective and a new sense of direction, assisting helped me pick up where I left off with my education. I consider assisting the most important part of my education. It was here that I combined the theoretical piece from my fine arts background with the technical insights learned in studios across Rochester that I really started to shift from exploring photography to being a photographer. My love for learning the craft has never stopped and I still enjoy taking weekend workshops and seminars whenever I can.

With this particular project, what was your inspiration to shoot it?
Throughout my career, there’s been a piece of advice that seems to come up over and over again. Find your Voice. Find your point of view. Now express it in your work. I’ve been working with this in mind for years, I think that’s what makes my lifestyle work consistent. This advice is something every successful commercial photographer pulls into their process, and rightfully so because it’s helped develop a lot successful careers. That said, I’ve also found that it can be a bit confining at times. With inspiration hitting me from every direction, there are so many ways of seeing, so many ways for me to interpret those images swirling around in my head.

For this project, I gave myself the gift of releasing myself from those boundaries. The inspiration was to go out and push myself to shoot this work without feeling like the images needed to fit into the portfolio or speak to a particular audience. I wanted to be that little girl obsessed with photography, but before she learned to be a commercial photographer.

How many years have you been shooting this project before you decided to present it?
Taking on a personal project these days is a particularly complex task for me. My business has morphed into two (photography and directorial/dp work) and I’m the mom of two school age girls. At a certain point something’s gotta give and for me that’s the long term personal project. This work was one month in planning and was shot in 6 days.

How long do you spend on a personal project before deciding if it is working?
Personal projects can mean so many things. I’ve always admired photographers dedicated to an idea or a cause so much so that they’ve committed to shooting the project for years. In my case, my personal project was more like creative play, a push to experiment, less about a well thought out idea and more like an investigation into something raw and unexplored. You can’t really over think this kind of personal project. ‘Anything goes’ was the philosophy here, as long as it felt like I was listening to my own voice. Of course, it didn’t always go like that though. The first day I was constantly trying to shake off my lifestyle hat, which took some time and was really uncomfortable. Don’t get me wrong, I love that lifestyle hat, but I just needed to try on something different here; something that felt like risk. I needed a change in my photographic energy, so I could continue to be excited about creating imagery. Sometimes your work grows the most when you see an edge and you walk right up to it, maybe even jump.

In the end, there are some images I really love, and they will help pave new directions for my future work, both personal and professional.

Since shooting for your portfolio is different from personal work, how do you feel when the work is different?
When shooting for my book, I’m always thinking about that imaginary client or brand. My goal is to create images that emotionally connect with a client. I want to show them I can capture a moment that will resonate with their customers. My personal project didn’t have a product in mind. In most of the shots, I wasn’t even thinking about what market would find it appealing. So the work looks different, and it taps into a side of my work that’s a bit more introspective and edgy, and sometimes intentionally more somber than lifestyle imagery typically wants to be.

Have you ever posted your personal work on social media venues such as Reddit, Tumblr, Instagram or Facebook?
I do post personal work on Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter albeit somewhat sporadically. I post to Instagram a whole lot more regularly, mainly because it’s more about the pictures and less about the commentary. Recently I’ve gotten most eyes on my work by posting on storytelling platforms like Storehouse and Shocase, and then publishing theose links on the aforementioned social media sites.

If so, has the work ever gone viral and possibly with great press?
Not yet!!

Have you printed your personal projects for your marketing to reach potential clients?
I’m still in love with print, and in the past I have traditionally hand printed my promos, cutting and assembling them in very small runs in my studio. The ‘small and select’ mailing has always been my m.o. Even though I’m not really able to be as hands on with it now, I do still regularly send personal work out in beautifully crafted print promos. Just now I’ve just finished reviewing design ideas for a promo with this body of work. It will go out to a very small group of creatives very soon.

Artist Statement
Visão de Portugal
Visão translates to vision, and this project was about rediscovering my own vision. It was about getting lost and finding a new way; it was about being out of my element.

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Rhea is a creative collaborator, a commercial photographer, director, and DP.

She is best known for bringing a ‘zest for life’ to everyday lifestyle moments. With a close eye on style and design in her work and in her life, the images she captures are fun and carefree. Clients are drawn to Rhea because she is able to connect a deep sense of optimism and a love of life to the campaign’s concept.

Through Rhea’s lens, a road trip or an afternoon playing in the backyard becomes a modern day milestone… one of those moments that are forever etched in your memory as simply “the perfect day”.

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 establishing the art buying department at The Martin Agency then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies she decided to be a consultant in 1999.  She has a new Twitter feed with helpful marketing information believing that marketing should be brand driven and not by specialty.  Follow her on twitter at SuzanneSease.

A Photographer’s Cheat Sheet to Making It In the Industry

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By Demetrius Fordham

In 2013, I was commissioned by Ilex Press and Hachette to write a book entitled “What They Didn’t Teach You in Photo School,” which just launched in the U.S. this month. The entire book is essentially a long cheat sheet on how to make it in the industry, based on the wisdom and advice of over 20+ photographers, photo editors, consultants, and industry leaders that I interviewed over the course of a year.

Though they covered every photography-related topic imaginable—from portfolio editing to managing finances—their collective advice can essentially be distilled into the following points. I hope you’ll find the following tips as helpful and enlightening as I did, regardless of how long you’ve been in the industry.

Find a mentor.
“You should never be the smartest person in the room,” was the best advice anyone ever gave me. It applies very literally to a career in photography: surround yourself with people who are smarter than you—they’ll push you to grow. Almost all of the photographers I interviewed cited a mentor, someone they went to for advice even long after they’d “made it,” someone who offered continual guidance and feedback on their work (generally a more illustrious, seasoned photographer). “Tap into the wisdom and genius of those who came before you,” advises commercial photographer Peter “Poby” Pobypicz. “Learn from their mistakes and lessons.”

Get business-savvy.
Without exception, the most successful photographers I met were the ones who treated their photography career like the business that it is. “The thing that holds back a lot of photographers is not having a plan, simply going from gig to gig,” says commercial and documentary photographer Doug Menuez. “They don’t have an understanding of the business side—the thing we all hate—and as a result, they never have enough cash to create the portfolio and marketing they need to establish themselves. It’s necessary to write a business plan that clearly states what the end game is, and how you see yourself getting there over however many years.”

Diversify.
Though making a living entirely from taking photographs is the dream, it’s becoming increasingly harder to realize. The reality is that to survive in this industry in the long-term, you’ll need to get creative and find ways to capitalize on your passion in more ways than one. “I would strongly advise having multiple income streams across different sectors of the industry, because unless you are a category killer, you are not going to make a living doing 100% editorial,” says photographer Robert Wright. “More likely, you’ll need a mix of publishing, stock, book publishing, corporate, consulting—some sort of blend so that when one revenue stream dwindles the others take up the slack.”

Get face-to-face.
Now, more than ever, making the effort to meet people and cultivate real world relationships is crucial to a photographer’s success. “Getting out there is key,” says Pobypicz. “You can’t sit at home hoping the phone will ring if you don’t show your face, literally. Insist on face-to-face meetings with clients you want to work with.” Even making real life connections that are indirectly work-related—taking a fellow photographer out for a beer, meeting a photo editor for coffee—helps to build networks that can serve you in the future.

Think outside the box.
Experts say that there’s no better time to be different, so don’t concern yourself too deeply with what will “sell,” or try to adapt your individual style into something that’s more commercial or mainstream. “Don’t be afraid of niche areas you’re interested in,” says Menuez. “There’s this amazing work being done by a guy shooting dogs jumping in pools that’s getting lots of attention. Now it’s all about finding your own thing that’s all yours, that you are passionate about, and then shoot that like hell.”

Have a good attitude.
Think it’s common sense? You’d be surprised. “This industry seems to spawn some huge egos of the ‘legends-in-their-own-mind’ variety, and in my experience, it always catches up with them,” says Ellen Erwitt, owner and producer at Big Splash Productions. “There are many photographers that can do one given job, and, all things being equal, the one that will get hired is the one with the best attitude and most simpatico personality. The one who contributes yet listens, is receptive to ideas, and is a team player.”

For more detailed advice on how to make it in today’s industry, pick up a copy of “What They Didn’t Teach You in Photo School,” available at Barnes & Noble stores, local bookstores, Urban Outfitters stores, and online at Amazon.com.

The Daily Edit – David Lopez: Have a Nice Day

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Have a Nice Day

Photographer: David Lopez


“Have a Nice Day” is framed around the fast food industry. How did you develop this idea and what were you wanting to express?
After high school just about all of my friends were working in the fast food industry while trying to pay for college. Like most people in that line of work their favorite topic of conversation was sharing fast food horror stories. One of my favorite stories was from an employee that had to deal with a customer that was so upset that his food was taking a little longer than expected that he punched out the window screen at the counter. He received his food shortly after because apparently the customer is always right, even when they throw a tantrum and destroy company property. My friends all shared this similar feeling of frustration and belittlement so years later I began trying to capture the feeling that my friends were describing. It just so happened that at the time I began to develop this idea a friend of mine was starting a magazine (Compound Butter) that was focused on junk food and was looking for collaborators. So the first two portraits I shot for Have a Nice Day were used for her magazine. I received a lot of positive feedback from my professors at Art Center so the project took off from there.

 

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Did you direct the workers ?
I try not to direct the workers much. I’m working very quickly when i’m shooting their portraits because they’re usually on their breaks and don’t want to deal with me. So I tend to pick a location beforehand and then let them inhabit the scene however they feel comfortable. At the very beginning of the project I was still getting comfortable approaching people so there were times that I spent up to an hour sitting in a restaurant waiting to get the courage to ask for a portrait. It’s been a great way to get me out of my comfort zone.

The images are graphic, have color pop, is that why you chose to shoot a doughnut; to have the color and graphic backbone get reinforced?
Yes! I’m glad you caught that because it’s something that’s very important to the project. From the very beginning I’ve been drawn to the relationship between the colorful environments juxtaposed against the unappreciated employees working behind the counter. It doesn’t matter what fast food restaurant I walk into I always feel like i’m being slapped in the face by this artificial experience that’s been manufactured to make me feel happy. It all goes back to the title of the project. I can’t imagine how frustrating it must be to constantly tell someone to have a nice day while you’re standing there having the worst day ever.

Did you drop the shake or was that a lucky find? What drew you to this, was it mix of graphic and organic shapes or more the “surprise” of a shake on the ground?
The shake on the floor was a lucky find or as my professor Ken Merfeld would say, “a gift from the photo gods.” I could’ve easily set up a shot like this but it’s really important for me to keep the project as honest and straight forward as possible. I may be the one documenting but at the end of the day I’m trying to tell the story of the under appreciated employee who has to go out clean up that mess.

How long did this body of work take?
I’ve been working on Have a Nice Day on and off for a year now. As a side project I’ve started collecting the receipts from the restaurants I photograph to have a written document that will explain why I’ve been gaining so much weight lately. My next project is going to have to involve some sort of physical exercise so I can even things out.

Will this be ongoing or a one-off for you?
This project is definitely something I plan on continuing. Especially right now while there is so much debate over minimum wage for fast food employees. New York and Los Angeles have raised the minimum wage up to $15 but many cities have yet to follow their lead. I’ve even begun to notice some restaurants implementing touch screens to replace wage earning humans. So this is a very crucial point for the narrative of the project that I need to document.

Did you give yourself a specific radius for the fast food places? 
I’m open to traveling as far as I have to for the right fast food restaurant. Right now I have my eye on a Del Taco that’s on the way to Las Vegas. Apparently it’s the first one that was opened so the design of the restaurant hasn’t been changed since 1964. There’s also a Taco Bell up north in Pacifica that’s been described as “the most beautiful Taco Bell in the world” it’s an isolated little lodge that sits right on the beach. I’ve seen some pictures on yelp and it has to be the strangest looking Taco Bell I have ever seen but I can’t wait to get up there. It’s also a good excuse to eat a cheesy gordita crunch with the sand in my toes.

 

The Daily Promo: Tom Hussey

- - The Daily Promo

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Tom Hussey


Who printed it?
I printed the images in house on a really nice feeling Red River paper.

Who designed it?
The concept for the promo series came from my Producer, Patty Hudson and I.  The envelope design is by Craig Carl and the copy is by Diane Carl.

Who edited the images?
I did.

How many did you make?
 Each “Mini Promo” is limited to an edition printing of 450.

How many times a year do you send out promos?
We send things out twelve times a year of various types and various quantities.

Why did you choose to do a mini print? I enjoyed how something so small could have such a large impact.
As the size of the standard cubical shrinks in the ad agency world, we thought it would be good to send a Mini promo.  I thought if we sent a really nicely printed, and yet smaller size piece of art, it would offer the creatives an opportunity to have a Mini gallery of my work.  That’s what it’s all about . . . keeping my brand in front of creatives and giving them something special and beautiful to look at.

Chicago’s Filter Photo Festival – Part 1

by Jonathan Blaustein

Sometimes I write funny columns, and sometimes I don’t. It all depends on my mood, and the subject matter. (Not to mention
what’s going in in the world at the moment.)

In the last big election cycle, for instance, the Presidential contest offered a bounty of humor-related-circumstances, thanks to Mitt Romney. That guy was a walking punchline, with a jaw bigger than El Capitan, and a man-of-the-people vibe right up there with John Kerry windsurfing in over-sized Oakleys.

(Oh, Mitt, we miss you so.) His opponent, one President Barack Obama, is harder to mock, mostly because I love the guy. He may have been raised in Hawaii and Indonesia, but the dude seems Chicago through and through.

This time around, we’ve got Donald J. Trump; he of the orange skin and genetically modified pompadour. Much smarter, funnier writers have harpooned him constantly, so I won’t really bother.

But man, does that guy come off like a clueless asshole. I couldn’t think less of him if he rode into a press conference on the back of a Mexican farmworker.

Until I went to Chicago last month, that is. Then, my opinion of him was forced up off the mat, if only slightly.

Why?

Because I had a moment, walking down a crooked street, late in the day, when the moist afternoon light was glimmering off his recently built skyscraper, the Trump Tower Chicago, that sits astride a wing of the Chicago river.

It simply took my breath away. Wow. What a beautiful building. Magnificent, even if most of the Chicagoans with whom I spoke told me he broke an unwritten local rule by plastering his name on the facade.

They seem to love it begrudgingly, the locals, as the structure blocks the view of a Mies Van Der Rohe classic, and was built by, well, The Donald.

Everyone also told me it was designed by Adrian Smith of Skidmore Owings and Merrill, and I now know the city is filled with architecture geeks. And why wouldn’t it be, given how remarkable the buildings are, up and down the city center?

Skyscraper after skyscraper mocks the idea of gravity, blending art and commerce more perfectly than a Chicago deep dish pizza sauce. (That was my one culinary goal for the trip: to eat some badass deep dish pizza. Never happened. The schedule was simply too packed. C’est la vie.)

Now, I’m not here to praise The Donald, but rather to use him as an introduction to my first article in a series about the Filter Photo Festival in the last week of September.

And? How was it?

Pretty fabulous, I must say. I went to Chicago knowing next-to-no one. Posse-less, you might say.

Which left me free to meet people, and hang out with the coolest folks I could find. It just so happened that I connected with the staff that runs the festival, so I got something of a locals-eye-view of the proceedings, and am better for it. (Big shout out to Erin, Sarah, Lauren, Pepper, Chris, Doug and Jeff.)

New Yorkers are famous for being neurotic and busy. Los Angelinos for being full of shit. (No offense.) Taoseños are crazy, and San Franciscans are more progressive than Edward Snowden.

But Chicagoans? Mostly, they’re known for being nice, friendly, down-to-Earth, humble Midwesterners. That’s what I’d heard, anyway.

And I can now properly report that it’s true. At least, that’s what I found in 5+ days, running around for nearly 20 hours a day. It’s enough time, and I chatted with enough people, that I’m prepared to state it here, with the kind of brash over-confidence that the New York-reared Donald would approve of.

(When I’m elected President, I promise that all Americans will suddenly become fabulously wealthy, and Vladimir Putin will step down in fear of me. ISIS will admit they’re just frustrated they can’t get laid without resorting to sexual slavery, so after we give them all a big trip to Vegas, on me, that Syrian War will be over in 2 seconds. You have my word on it!)

Where were we?

Right. Chicago rocks. It’s a clean mega-city with incredible architecture, a beautiful beach-fronted lake, terrific food, lovely people, and all the culture one could consume.

I didn’t get out as much as I would have liked, as I reviewed between 50-60 portfolios over four days, and delivered the 21st Century Hustle lecture on the final day of the festival.

Throw in a brilliant, late-night karaoke session in a Downtown Japanese sake bar, and by the time I left on Monday morning, my voice had disappeared entirely. No exaggeration. I went to thank the check out clerk at 6am, and nothing came out but the kind of squeaks you hear when you accidentally call a fax machine. (Do they still have fax machines these days?)

As usual, I’ll be showing you a bunch of portfolios in the coming weeks. I saw a lot of accomplished work, and plenty that was not, as the review was not juried.

These days, if I think work is resolved and interesting, I’ll show it to you, even if it’s not exactly to my preferred taste. (Which I’ve discussed in several recent book reviews.)

The verdict on the festival is that it’s pretty amazing, and I’d heartily recommend you give it a try next September, if you’re looking to attend a review. The Filter staff work hard, keep it real, and make sure everyone has a great time.

For that, they have my gratitude. As for the portfolios, we’ll commence now. As is the norm, they are not in any particular order, and I won’t inundate you with too much work in any one article. A series it shall be.

We’ll start with Anja Bruehling, a German artist based in Chicago. Anja showed me work she made on a visit to a rural brick factory in India. We discussed the difficulty of doing what amounts to parachute documentary photography, and I recommended that she dig a little deeper, if she wanted her work to stand out. I thought these particular images were worth showing.

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I recognized Stan Raucher’s name, though we’d never met. (Facebook friend, apparently.) Stan showed me pictures from his forthcoming Daylight book, in which he photographed in Metros across the world. We talked about whether one ought to wait for a book, as Dewi Lewis suggested in our interview, or grab the first opportunity that comes along. Tough call. But Stan is very excited about his book, which is due out in Spring 2016.

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Garrett Hansen was one of the few photographers I’d met who was classically trained, as he got an MFA in the excellent program at Indiana University. He showed me two conceptual projects that investigate gun violence in a genuinely innovative way, and I expect his work will do very well. These images are bullet holes from a gun range that have light exposed through them, and are then enlarged and printed. They’re visceral and smart, without being obvious.

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Suzanne Garr was another artist, like Anja, who was visiting the far side of the world to make work. She photographs in an orphanage in Uganda, where she volunteers, and has been there multiple times. We spoke at length about the difference between sweet, mushy images, and pictures that demonstrate a visual tension. We sifted through her photos together, and agreed these were the pictures with the most bite.

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Now, we’re going to have dueling creepy doll projects. The first series is by Chicago photographer Jessica Tampas, who originally showed me a project in which she’d taught herself the wet plate collodion process. Very impressive to have done so, but the pictures were not yet resolved.

These creepy doll pictures, however, were right on the money. Jessica collected vintage dolls, mostly from Europe, and I think the typology-style works very well here. Dolls are a well-worn subject matter, of course, but I’m always interested to see artists bring a fresh energy into the mix.

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Susan Keiser comes to photography from a painting background, and I think her use of color reflects that. She also showed me a doll-based series, but her issue was that some of the pictures were not disturbing enough. I warned her that such images can veer towards “sentimental abstraction,” but this particular group has a tension that balances well with her remarkable color palette.

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Believe it or not, Nelson Armour was one of two artists working with their own excrement. (The other will pop up in the next issue of Photographers Quarterly.) Nelson is working on a project that examines the pollution in Lake Michigan, and he’s experimenting with collaged images. Some were really cheesy, I felt, and others were nuanced and smart. The range was striking, but I think these four images are dynamite.

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OK, that’s all for today. Sorry about the Cubs, Chicago folks, but as I grew up a Mets fan before I got bored of baseball, I was actually happy with the result. (Don’t hate me.)