This Week in Photography: Objectifying Women

 

I’ve been thinking about this column for a long time now.

(Six months, maybe eight.)

I even wrote it once, but then decided not to publish, as it didn’t feel right at the time.

Thankfully, today is the day, due to some unforeseen coincidence, or divine intervention, depending on your perspective.

It began two days ago, when I was scrolling through Instagram, and came across a photo of a very attractive, naked young woman, getting into a swimming pool. (Or something like that, it was a quick look.)

The image reminded me of something out of Playboy in the 80’s, and I was stupefied for a moment.

Doesn’t Instagram have rules against this sort of thing, I wondered?

I scrolled back to the photo, and clicked on the person’s profile, and lo and behold, there was an entire set of similar images.

Very pretty young women, naked, and shot in color by a white, male photographer who appeared to be in his 30’s or 40’s.

It didn’t conform to the stereotype of the leering, older man shooting black and white photos of nude women standing below big rocks, or leaning on trees suggestively.

No, this was more modern than that, and really, I couldn’t help wonder how this was deemed appropriate in #2020?

For all the media buzz around the shift in power dynamics, and the need to respect the perspectives of women and People of Color, it seemed so out of touch with contemporary reality.

So I did a Facebook post about it, without naming the artist, (as I’m not now, though I did reach out to him for comment, but he declined,) and not surprisingly the feedback was voluminous and fierce.

One artist, who does thoughtful nude work in black and white, suggested there was more nuance than simply deeming the entire practice off-limits, but in general, the tenor of the conversation was one of frustration, shock, not-shocked-at-all-but-angry, and cynicism.

How could any artist working today, one formed by the reality of the 21st Century, think it was OK to shoot pin-up soft-core porn and see it as art?

Much less post it on a public platform like Instagram?

So I went to his website, and there is a section for nudes, and a blog post about the ethics, that was written many years ago.

This was no random experiment, or so it would seem.

And speaking of random, and the potential of chance, part of why I waited so long to re-write this column was that I couldn’t find one of the two books I’m going to feature.

I had it once, decided not to review it, tried to review it with this companion book, and then it disappeared.

(My wife is known in our home for moving things around a few times a year.)

I wanted to write this column, and felt bad about losing the book, but I simply could not find it, no matter how many times I searched for the spine on my book shelves.

And then… on the same day I saw that Instagram image, I found myself looking down at a little Indonesian chest, upon which my wife had set a small pile of novels.

I noticed a book at the bottom, and it had one of those spines in which you can see the book binding, but there was no information at all.

Could it be, I wondered?

What are the chances?

Sure enough, I reached down in hope, and picked up Jordanna Kalman’s “Little Romances,” published by Daylight in 2019.

Hallelujah!

Eureka!

Fuck yeah!

We were in business, because it meant I could bring this column out in the perfect week.

The other book we’ll look at, “A Piece of Dust in the Great Sea of Matter,” was self-published by Melissa Borman in 2019, and both women wrote to me directly last year to see if I’d review their books.

These didn’t just show up in the mail because some PR Agent somewhere hoped I might cover them.

They chose me, and so I gave the books consideration, but each time, it didn’t feel quite right.

In each case, the taste level felt a touch off from what I like.

They were edgy, but not quite enough. Poetic, but in a heavy-handed way.

Imperfect, but not like an intentional extra thread on a Navajo rug.

(I subjected them to my “Goldilocks” standards, and they came up wanting.)

But then, I read an OP-Ed in the NYT by Brit Marling, the writer, director, and actor, (who starred in the Batshit-crazy Netflix series “The OA,”) and it got me thinking.

She discussed the idea that the Hero’s journey, basically the base-level operating code of all storytelling, was totally male-centric.

Which I get.

Thousands of years of men telling stories about men doing manly things.

So I asked myself, is my taste so male-centric, (given that I’m a man,) that I might occasionally have a blind spot to overtly female-centric work?

Even though I’m a feminist, and show female artists all the time?

I wrote this in a column, but as I said above, it wasn’t the right column for the right day, so I set it aside. (And promptly lost Jordanna’s book.)

At the time, I remember thinking the books were sensitive in a way that didn’t resonate with me. And as my parents used that as a pejorative term, to attack me, (“You’re too sensitive,”) I couldn’t get myself to figure out these books.

Eventually, I began to wonder, what if I’m not meant to get them, entirely?

What if by subverting the traditional, male-centric way of telling stories, or creating artistic narratives, there is that 5% that is designed for women?

If that were true, wouldn’t that be OK?

Or more than OK?

Maybe it’s even subversive?

So here we are.

It’s #2020, and white guys are still taking pictures of hot naked chicks, and posting them out and proud on a public platform.

Let’s get on with the subversion.

“Little Romances” features a series of images of nude pictures of the artist, (and her young daughter,) that were made by the artist herself.

Jordanna Kalman is taking back her own right to share her body, in her own way, on her own terms, because she wants to, and because she can.

Due to our long-standing policy against showing work considered NSFW, I’m going to limit how much I show of the full nudes. Even though, as I write this, I’m wondering how many people are even at “work” in the traditional sense?

There are images which are printed, and treated as sculptures, or covered with flowers, and then re-photographed.

They are well made, thoughtful, and dreamy, and I like them, but normally I want to love something.

Between the risk of showing a young naked child, and the hyper-poetic aesthetic, I still see why they’re not quite right, in my opinion.

But in this case, I don’t think my opinion is the ultimate arbiter, and the book has cleared my biggest threshold of making me want to write about it.

 

Melissa Borman’s book is similar in many ways.

She photographs women, in color, in relationship to the landscape. There is no nudity to speak of, but they scream “feminine” like a drum circle filled with Oprah Winfrey, Gwenyth Paltrow, and a class full of women’s studies majors at Smith.

I joke, (which is itself a risk in a column like this,) but the pictures will show you what I mean.

Interspersed are snippets of poetry by Sylvia Plath, and a set of graphic images that suggest the cosmos, (which are also depicted on the cover.)

With respect to empowerment, and creativity, and taking back the narrative, this book is pretty awesome, and of the moment.

I know what I’d do differently, if I were shooting these pictures, but again, the entire point is that I’m not.

These are photographs of women, by a woman, and on some level, it is pretty rad that I’m not the target audience.

They’re certainly accomplished, and smart, and I like the way the book was made.

 

As with Jordanna’s book, this makes me want to write.

It makes me want to punch someone in the nose, if that person thinks the objectification of women in the media is not a problem.

My 8 year old daughter grabs her belly, pressing together any extra fat, every time I tell her she has a beautiful, healthy body.

She’s 8, and already has body issues, because of the world we live in. (Maybe she’s watching too many perfect teens on Netflix?)

Regardless, I’m glad these issues are finally getting addressed, and that some attempt at balancing power is being made in the wider world.

For all the times I’ve written the equivalent of “Can’t we all just get along?,” once in a while, it’s important to also say, when the world isn’t fair, people need to do something about it.

To Purchase “Little Romances” click here

To Purchase “A Piece of Dust in the Great Sea of Matter” click here

 

If you’d like to submit a book for potential review, please contact me directly at jonathanblaustein@gmail.com. We are particularly interested in books by women, and artists of color, so we may maintain a balanced program.Β 

The Art of the Personal Project: Bob Stevens

- - Personal Project

The Art of the Personal Project is a crucial element to let potential buyers see how you think creatively on your own. Β I am drawn to personal projects that have an interesting vision or that show something I have never seen before. Β In this thread, I’ll include a link to each personal project with the artist statement so you can see more of the project. Please note: This thread is not affiliated with any company; I’m just featuring projects that I find. Β Please DO NOT send me your work. Β I do not take submissions.

 

Today’s featured artist: Β Bob Stevens

An agent pal of mine in NY, reached out to me because he had gotten wind of a potential bid opportunity. He knows that I like to shoot personal, self-assigned images as often as possible, so thought I would be interested. He had few details except for these: the women needed to be 55+ years of age and photographed without any makeup. No clue who the client was, etc. And he wanted samples within a couple of days.

I called my bestie in the talent agency biz, shared the specs and had an online gallery to view within an hour. She offered me her casting room to shoot in. A 10’x10’ β€˜studio’ was not my ideal scenario, but hey, that β€˜Necessity/Invention” saying comes to mind.

Driven by logistics and a desire to make the environment as intimate as possible, I used one light, a fill card and a small canvas backdrop. My objective was to keep things simple and compact.

I invited these women to pose for me with no makeup, clothed in a way that would allow me to show them β€˜discreetly naked’,Β  to increase the vulnerability of the setting.

The draped, gray fabric was inspired by classic sculpture and paintings (’Venus de Milo’ for example), and the lighting is β€œ3/4”, the way Rembrandt he lit all his painted portraits.

I created a private atmosphere, where I spoke to each of them personally and individually before each session. As we spoke, each subject opened up in a remarkable way. I realized that their stories needed to be told with motion, because there was so much to relate.

I wrote a list of questions, and my plan was to ask each individual the same ones so that in editorial I could create the voice of β€˜Woman’.

What I discovered is just how much these ladies had to say, and how powerfully they related to the questions I asked them: β€˜Who are You?”, β€œHow is your life different now than it was 20-30 years ago?”, β€œWhat does it feel like to be you at this age?” among others.

I was after personal moments, simply executed. I chose a very simple lighting setup and a black backdrop to feature my subjects. This was not β€˜about me’, and I wanted to make sure that technique and production value took a backseat to the message.

An unexpected part of my experience is how vulnerable and candid they were, at times, breaking down. Not so much because of what they were saying, but my perception was that they were being β€˜listened’ to and were moved that someone cared enough to ask.

The working title of the still shoot was β€˜Authenticity’. After I shot the film, I changed it to β€œI Am” in honor of their statements.

I am grateful for the Vulnerability, Courage and Power of these amazing women.

Video Link

To see more of this project, click here.

APE contributorΒ Suzanne SeaseΒ 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.Β  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.Β She has a new Twitter feed with helpful marketing information because she believes that marketing should be driven by brand and not by specialty.Β  Follow her at @SuzanneSease.Β  Instagram

Success is more than a matter of your talent. It’s also a matter of doing a better job presenting it. Β And that is what I do with decades of agency and in-house experience.

 

The Daily Edit – Sajid Wajid

- - The Daily Edit

Sajid Wajid

Heidi: Your graphic design, painting, and drawing work have now evolved into motion, why the evolution?
Sajid: Evolution is because I am more interested in designing the process as a game to be played and the resulting work is a byproduct of it and with each play, I get more and more at ease with the game, allowing me to enter a state of flow.

The point is to take it to a level where you don’t have to force anything and let it happen on its own. Allowing the impulse to just nudge you into the action of getting the work done. Furthermore to explore the horizons of my consciousness, which are shared.

The line from Waking Life defines it more appropriately: The idea is to remain in a state of constant departure while always arriving. It saves on introductions and goodbyes. The ride does not require an explanation – just occupants. That’s where you guys (the audience) come in.


How has this forced repose inspired you to revisit the everyday objects?
I look at it more in the sense of combining the minimalist philosophies to surrealism, where the object is celebrated for its objecthood and given a spin with a surreal idea. The more you look at the object itself the object tends to reveal more than meets the eye. I also am not taking responsibility to explain the work, as it’s more to do with the concept, not the aesthetics, which opens the room for interpretations. Allowing the images to tickle the brain, inviting people to read the visuals, and make their own reasons, making it more interactive.



How are you making these videos?

I am making them currently on my phone cam with natural light and a white elephant size white paper for the backdrop. I am keeping the aesthetic minimal to make the objects appear in a limbo, completely devoid of any distractions, and allowing the eye to jump straight to the point. I am getting really interested in the videos as it opens room for performance-art as well which is why I am planning to shift to a smaller town in a bigger studio to experiment with scale.

You are taking everyday objects and observing something, how do you know when it is time to create a piece?
Being aware is the key. Familiar objects tend to hit a road-block in their perceived understanding. ThisΒ gives a solid base to push it just a little to challenge that notion attached with the object, it just needs a very small degree of push to shatter the perceived understanding and once you are able to convince someone of this you can work towards changing the perspective.

I work on impulse and a strong belief in intention. So I can cause things to happen if I intend to, it’s just like rolling the dice. What you get is not certain but the only certainty is that you will get something, and one must be content with what he finds when the dice lands. Welcoming everything with arms wide open and no judgment is the point. In other words, the only lock one cannot open is the one that does not exist.


How many days did it take to create this piece? What was the concept?

I confinded myself for a week in this room to draw on each and every corner. The concept was to design an experience which allows the viewer to look inside my head, the grey matter and the things that happen inside the grey matter, and allowing me to look inwards and bring things to life as a process of meditative drawings.

The project was a pure celebration of moving forward and making and not looking back letting me glimpse into the vast ocean of my subconscious. I remember drawing in pitch dark as there was no need for me to see what I am drawing, liberating me of the confinements of the canvas as I was able to draw anywhere and everywhere possible.

What can you share about this piece? Where was this painted and how long did it take?
I painted it on the stairway to my building’s terrace; I am in the midst of moving my studio from here to a smaller town. I thought it would be a goodbye piece to the building. An intentional mark for people to see and ponder who did this? This piece took me about an hour to finish with a stencil and spray cans.

Was it inspired by this/your journals/is this a continuous line?
Yes, the lines are not continuous but are a result of making one thing as much as I can. Repetition is something I find really interesting.

Do you journal with words or only images?
I journal with both words and Images. I make as if my hand is dreaming and when I am in the process I come across motifs and compositions which make me wonder and that’s when the writing happens. I am tapping into a flow writing.

This Week in Photography: Flowers for Donald

- - Photography Books

 

A friend of mine

 

A guy I know

A dude I hung out with in summer camp

A boy I traded baseball cards with in middle school

A human with whom I communicate via Facebook messenger

A person

A bro I liked back in the day

 

He remembers everything.

 

We have a long-running, ongoing chat with another summer camp friend, and we like to talk lots of shit.

About sports, mostly, and the assholes we went to camp with. But there are also memories bandied back and forth from middle school, as that was the last time we were proper friends.

(Like I said, this guy remembers everything, but I don’t.)

As often as not, he’ll bring something up from back then, and I won’t recall, but the other day, he was on about the Central Jersey Bar Mitzvah circuit, in #1987.

(No lie.)

He correctly recalled my 7th grade crush, over whom I made moon eyes all night long at my Bar Mitzvah, back in Asbury Park, New Jersey, on a Saturday night in March of ’87.

Her name was Jill, and she would go on to be the best looking girl in High School, but this was before that.

Before I was an artist.

Before I was a hipster.

Before I thought I was cool.

I’ve since learned that plenty of people wanted to be me, back then, with my athlete friends, good grades, and relative success in sports.

But I was jealous of my younger brother, who was better looking, more popular, and more talented at sports, so I never realized how good I had it.

But this guy, this friend of mine, (for lack of a better word,) has all of it in his mind.

The slights and dramas.
The petty jealousies and broken promises.

It seems as clear to him in #2020 as it was in #1999 or #1987.

Who needs Youtube or Instagram or TikTok or cocaine when you can simply fire up your memories, where everything is as clear as the Mediterranean Sea on a quiet beach on the Costa Brava.

I went there, to Cadaques, for my honeymoon back in 2004, and that I can remember.

I can conjure the taste of the garlic clams I ate, or feel the cool magic of the crystal water on my skin. I can see my wife’s body when she took her top off, sunning on a rock outcropping with no one around.

As to summer camp, or 7th grade, it’s all kind of fuzzy.

I do remember my Bar Mitzvah, though.

And the way Clarence Clemons, the brilliant saxophonist from Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, turned up at brunch the next day, and how I gave him a supremely cheesy set of quasi-sunglasses that were designed to be a giveaway at the party.

That I remember.

The Bar Mitzvah circuit was a right of passage; running around in fancy shoes and ill-fitting suits. Chasing girls you’d never get. Hoping to steal a swig of beer from some drunk uncle.

That was #1987 all right.

But now it’s #2020, and my son is turning 13 in a few weeks.

He’s having his Bar Mitzvah too, but his will be in his grandparents’ backyard, due to the pandemic.

There will be no more than 15 people allowed, and everyone will be wearing masks.

No friends will be there, only family, and my Uncle from New Jersey will be flying out with my Aunt, only because it was his idea that Theo get trained in Judaism in the first place.

That, and because the Covid-19 test positivity rate is low enough in New Jersey that he’s actually allowed to visit to New Mexico, while people from most states in the US are forbidden from coming in without a two week quarantine.

Just like I’m not allowed to go to Cadaques, and swim in the Med, even if I could afford it.

We, the Americans, are banned from Europe.

 

Welcome to #2020.

 

Welcome to Donald Trump’s America.

But you knew this already, certainly if you’ve been reading here each week.

/

Or most weeks.

Or every now and again.

I have the pleasure of being one of our President’s earliest critics, and where has that gotten me?

Or us?

Did it stop anything, or make a difference?

Does it matter that by the time my son has his Bar Mitzvah ceremony, outdoors at a social distance, more than 200,000 Americans will have died from this novel new disease?

Did my words matter?

Will they last?

Birds are dropping dead here in my backyard, from the freezing cold that accompanied the earliest snow anyone can recall.

Just now, while typing, I saw a red-tailed hawk swoop in and chase down a pretty little bird, as they’ve been slowed by the freeze.

In California, it actually looks like the Apocalypse.

So I ask you again, did my words matter?

Does art matter, if it can’t change the future?

I don’t know, but I do know this: if museums survive, their job is to preserve what is made now, to represent it to future humans.

Or our Android overlords.

(I’m sorry, XGM876, I didn’t mean to insult your ancestry! Of course being flesh and blood is not desirable, and your ferocious artificial intelligence makes me a bug, compared to your radiance.)

Why did I write such a batshit column today?

I’m glad you asked.

Because I just put down “Flowers for donald and Countries Glorious,” a book by Gregory Eddi Jones, published by his platform, In the In-Between, in late 2018.

And it’s awesome.

Just like Lena Dunham once anointed herself the voice of her generation, I’d nominate Greg, who happens to be a friend.

I published his equally absurd, unsettling, and on the nose 26 Gas stations book after seeing it at Photolucida in 2019, and this one takes things a step further.

To begin with, it’s all about obfuscation, manipulation, digital reality, and distraction.

Pretty colors, painted flowers, and text you can feel but not read.

It goes at Trump directly, but also includes references to Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and such platforms in ways that are as authentic as Jeff Sessions’ Alabama accent.

Do you remember Jeff Sessions?

Mad Dog?

Or Anthony Scaramucci?

Do you remember #2016?

Or that there was a world before the coronavirus?

Before San Francisco skies turned orange?

Do you remember the stock market crash of #1987, when I lost most of my Bar Mitzvah money?

Did you know that my kind-of-friend, the one I mentioned at the beginning of this column, has many residences, including one in Northern California?

Yesterday, he sent a note asking me to help settle his estate, if he burns alive, and make sure a tennis court gets named after him in the local park in our hometown near the Jersey shore.

He was kidding, but maybe also not?

I’ve tried to make sense today, even though I pushed the limits of stream of consciousness, but what do you do when things don’t make sense for so long that you forget how to keep your train of thought for more than 3 minutes at a time?

Maybe you make pictures, instead of write words?

Or you take words and mix them up so they don’t make sense, no matter how hard a reader tries to parse them?

That’s how this book ends, and it’s pretty genius, even if it did make my head hurt.

The final essay is called “Countries Glorious,” and I thought maybe it was written by a bot.

By AI.

Because the words were real, and the context could be intuited, but nothing fit.

Turns out, I learned from the end notes that it was a jumble of Trump’s actual inauguration speech.

Back in #2016.

When his crowd was so much smaller than Obama’s.

Even though he said it wasn’t.

In honor of all the lies, I’ll leave you with one last thought.

Hey Kayleigh McEnany: Fuck off!

To purchase Flowers for Donald, click here

If you’d like to submit a book for potential review, please contact me directly at jonathanblaustein@gmail.com. We are particularly interested in books by women, and artists of color, so we may maintain a balanced program.Β 

The Art of the Personal Project: Cade Martin

- - Personal Project

The Art of the Personal Project is a crucial element to let potential buyers see how you think creatively on your own. Β I am drawn to personal projects that have an interesting vision or that show something I have never seen before. Β In this thread, I’ll include a link to each personal project with the artist statement so you can see more of the project. Please note: This thread is not affiliated with any company; I’m just featuring projects that I find. Β Please DO NOT send me your work. Β I do not take submissions.

 

Today’s featured artist: Β Cade Martin

I have a strong affinity for Mexico, the place and its people. I have been traveling there since I was a little boy and have returned numerous times for personal and professional photography projects.

I visited the state of Tamaulipas for a couple of days and created this series of photographs on farm workers.

On a ranch just north of Tampico, I came across migrant workers harvesting onions from the fields.Β This part of Mexico, just south of the Tropic of Cancer and a few miles from the Gulf of Mexico, is ideal for growing onions, hot chili peppers, and soybeans – its rich, tropical soil yielding multiple crops year-round.Β The onion harvest is a hectic operation that involves picking the onions by hand. Once cut, they are left in the fields to dry before being trucked to a shed to be sorted, packed and ultimately shipped to market.Β To work the fields, a nomadic group of TamalΓ­n Indians makes a yearly journey here from the tropical state of Veracruz.Β  Their weather beaten faces tell a story of many years of hard work in the fields under the relentless sun. I made these images in a shed, close to the fields where they worked – in the middle of their day.

As a “commercial” photographer, I really enjoy what I do. Of course, there are great characters and stories to capture in any shoot – but I continue to be intrigued by real, every-day people. Β I try to seek them out whenever possible, like I did the migrant workers on this ranch.Β  You can’t make any of it up – the authenticity of their faces, their culture, how they carry themselves or what they face in the reality of their day is endlessly rewarding for me.

 

To see more of this project, click here.

APE contributorΒ Suzanne SeaseΒ 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.Β  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.Β She has a new Twitter feed with helpful marketing information because she believes that marketing should be driven by brand and not by specialty.Β  Follow her at @SuzanneSease.Β  Instagram

Success is more than a matter of your talent. It’s also a matter of doing a better job presenting it. Β And that is what I do with decades of agency and in-house experience.

 

This Week in Photography: Visiting Houston in #2020

 

Part 1. The Intro

 

I went to Houston six months ago.

Went is the past tense of the verb to go.

In Spanish, it’s ir, and in French, it’s aller.

So I would say Je suis allΓ© a Houston.

Do you remember what it means to go places? To leave your home, or your town, and transport your body somewhere else, to a different city, or state, to a different culture, with a different landscape?

Honestly, I kind of forget what the sensation feels like.

Six months ago, I did something that was, at that point, second nature to me.

As you know, if you’ve been reading regularly, I hopped around America on airplanes from 2013 to early #2020, and wrote about many of my adventures for you.

By my trip to Houston, I was so burned out on travel.

I’d been to Europe two weeks before the Texas trip, and in 2019, I went to California, New York twice, Portland, England, Chicago, and Colorado.

Now, I can barely remember what it’s like to go anywhere, and I would kill for the chance to travel, while the last time I got out of New Mexico, I was barely able to scrape my carcass onto the plane.

I suppose I can thank this truly batshit year, #2020, for reminding me what’s important in life.

 

Part 2. Getting there

 

I was headed to Houston to attend the SPE National Conference, where I’d be debuting my first book, “Extinction Party,” at a Saturday afternoon book signing.

I have some good friends in Houston, and have written about the city here several times, so while normally I would have been fired up to go, my general exhaustion dampened my spirit.

As such, I booked only a two-night-trip, and then packed my itinerary as full as I could, to suck every bit of juice from the experience.

Thank goodness I did, because those vivid memories have been my sustenance, travel-wise, for the last half-year. (Which has of course felt like five years.)

The world has changed so drastically that I got a late start writing today, because I was giving my daughter a pep talk about improving her attitude towards Zoom school and remote learning.

Back in March, on the heels of my 46th birthday, I had never heard of Zoom, and remote learning was for people studying in a different part of the world than their teachers.

Not a different part of town.

But here we are, and I’m sitting in my customary writing spot, having just chugged a cup of my super-caffeinated Jot coffee, and I’m closing my eyes to see the places I visited.

 

Part 3. Being there

 

In retrospect, a lot of the travel writing I did in 2019 pointed out the cracks in the American dam.

There were hints, which I picked up on piecemeal, of an impending crash.

I chronicled NYC becoming so expensive that it was now meant mostly for tourists, with rents no one could afford. And a development project in my hometown in New Jersey that had sat vacant for nearly 15 years, before getting a multi-million dollar infusion.

I chronicled Portland street-gang fighters, and how they mocked Antifa while admitting there were a host of white mini-gangs that liked to stir shit up.

I discussed the decline and fall of San Francisco, where the homeless issue was so bad that the city was in effect a Third World society.

The signs were there.

And when I arrived in Houston, got my rental car, and headed to my friend Ed’s apartment, in East Houston, I soon saw hints of expansion and gentrification that only happen at the very, very end of a long economic boom.

While Ed napped, I got hungry, and walked a few blocks East to a dingy strip mall where he’d once taken me to a great Thai restaurant. (Houston is a driving city, but I needed to stretch my legs.)

At the time we ate in the Thai joint, (2013) I remember Ed telling me his part of town was mostly Latino, and thoroughly un-gentrified.

There was not much around, he said.

But while the Thai restaurant was closed on me, (in between lunch and dinner service,) right next door, I found a hipster cafe, Bohemeos, with great prices for tasty, heaping plates of food, (chicken nachos,) palm trees in the outdoor courtyard, and cool, inexpensive paintings on the walls.

 

Right next door, a street-art gallery, Insomnia, had popped up, with graphic T-shirts for sale, manga and graffiti-style art on the walls, and a young hipster behind the counter who paid me no mind. (Very on brand.)

 

There was a record store next to that, so I was surprised, to say the least.

As we drove around town that weekend, Ed showed me shiny new condos build along the train tracks, (Houston famously has no zoning laws,) which he said went for $450,000, and another new condo building that was literally abutting a highway overpass.

For the uninitiated, Texas real estate is notoriously cheap compared to wealthy mega-states like California and New York, so half a million bucks to live on the train tracks is the equivalent of twice that in a blue state.

I took note, and thought things were out of whack, but even then, in early March, with Covid-19 on cusp of destroying reality as we know it, I had no idea what was coming.

 

Part 4. Get on with it already

 

Honestly, no one did.

Not really.

Because my 48 hours in the city were packed with gallery openings, museum visits, parties, dinners, FotoFest’s grand opening, and lots of hugging my friends.

A few people wanted to elbow bump, but other than that, (and the fact that people were talking about the virus,) life was essentially normal.

What would you give to go back in time and feel normal again?

After I ate my lovely nachos that Friday afternoon, Ed and I went to the Houston Center for Photography, for the opening of their fashion photography show.

It was packed, and my publisher arrived and handed me my first copy of my book, which I promptly handed off to a curator at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, for their library collection.

I was jazzed up, and talked to friends for an hour, barely getting to see the art on the walls, but I did return on Sunday, and have some photos for you.

The truth is, I saw two fashion photo exhibitions in Amsterdam two weeks prior, and both were edgy and progressive in their installation, while the HCP show had some new work, and a slew of re-printed reproductions hung in one horizontal line, so I was disappointed for sure.

 

From there, we went to Foto Relevance, a gallery run by HCP supporter Geoffrey Koslov, and it was in a very chic, Chelsea-like concrete structure that screamed of money and a big rent.

The gallery was gorgeous, and the Letitia Huckaby show was nice, but I couldn’t help wondering if this too was a sign of an economic imbalance, as the gentrified-high-rent-Museum-district was so much shinier than I remembered it.

(Houston, or H-town, is known for its keeping-it-real, diverse charm, rather than glitz.)

From there, it was on to a big, art-dinner party, in a lovely Italian restaurant, with some fellow artists, curators and collectors, and I had such great time.

I sat across from Osamu James Nakagawa, and diagonal from Brad Temkin, two super-talented artists who have been embraced by Houston, and the party was in honor of Brad’s show at the Houston Museum for Natural Science.

Needless to say, such gatherings are currently verboten. (And often illegal.)

My broccoli cannelloni was delicious.

 

Part 5. Finishing strong

 

On Saturday, I had brunch with curator friends at Barnaby’s Cafe, a local chain that all the art folks like, and the plate of food they gave me, for a reasonable fee, was 2x as big as I could eat. (Leftovers for sure.)

While perhaps not everything is bigger in Texas, certainly the food portions are.

From there, we went to the MFAH so I could sign a copy of my book, and get a tour of “Through an African Lens: Sub-Saharan Photography from the Museum’s Collection,” which featured some killer work, including a massive Zanele Muholi wheatpaste.

 

MFA,H was among the first museums to re-open in the US, earlier this summer, and they have some major health protocols in place, so maybe it’s time to go visit?

From there, I sped across the city to SPE at the Galleria, the massive mall complex in the Western part of Houston, where thousands of maskless people walked around, shopping obliviously, not knowing that the end of the world would soon be upon us.

My book signing went well, as we sold some copies, and I was always engaged talking to friends, as the photo community is so supportive.

Rather than resting afterwards, I’d set up in impromptu dinner party at Ed’s place, with curator, artist, festival and educator friends, but before that, even, I snuck in a quick trip to Cherryhurst House, a private, alternative exhibition space that was almost like a mini-Pier 24. (The San Francisco non-profit I’ve written about a few times.)

I’d met Barbara Levine, the Cherryhurst House curator, at the HCP opening the night before, and she invited me to an open house to see the space, of which I had not previously heard.

(A second open house event, scheduled for a few days later, was eventually cancelled, as we were all standing on the precipice of the cliff, we just didn’t know it yet.)

There was an exhibition of vintage album covers, presented as art, and the entire place, with its beautiful sofas and modern design, was like an art installation in which you could make yourself comfortable.


There was a photo booth, and Barbara and I crammed in together, new friends for only a day, to take our portraits.

(I haven’t been that close to someone other than my family since.)

There is a second installation on the property, an old house that was carved up into bits by a visiting artist duo, Havel Ruck Projects, in the style of Gordon Matta-Clark, and I found it fascinating and oddly beautiful.

Then I said goodbye to Barbara, and sped back to Ed’s place, late for my own party, but secure in the knowledge that others would turn up even later than I did. (As was the case.)

After a simple and tasty dinner, with friends from Chicago, Atlanta and Albuquerque, I left Ed behind and went to the FotoFest opening party, for their show “African Cosmologies: Photography, Time and the Other,” which was busy, but not packed with people crushed together. (Thankfully.)

To give FotoFest credit, I’ve never been to an art show that had so many African-American people in attendance, and it felt wonderful to be around legitimate diversity.

 

 

But I was very tired by then, and after doing a couple of laps around the massive space, I went home to bed, zipping through the empty highways, amazed that such roads could ever be quiet.

I woke up hungry, and Ed and I went to brunch with our friend Joan at Bistro Menil, after taking a turn around the neighboring park, but before we toured the Menil museum collections.

I had one of the best burgers of my life there, (Spanish-style,) and noticed friends walking across the park, though the window, sent a text, and watched them read it and smile.

Afterwards, we went to the new drawing center, and sat quietly in one of the most Buddhist, calming, invigorating shows I’ve ever encountered, by Brice Marden.

The guards insisted I not take pictures for you, and for that I apologize, as it was the last art show I saw in #2020, and possibly the best.

Will I ever see an art show again?

Will I ever get on an airplane?

I hope so.

But this deep into #2020, I really don’t know.

The Art of the Personal Project: Jasmin Shah

- - Personal Project

The Art of the Personal Project is a crucial element to let potential buyers see how you think creatively on your own. Β I am drawn to personal projects that have an interesting vision or that show something I have never seen before. Β In this thread, I’ll include a link to each personal project with the artist statement so you can see more of the project. Please note: This thread is not affiliated with any company; I’m just featuring projects that I find. Β Please DO NOT send me your work. Β I do not take submissions.

 

Today’s featured artist: Β Jasmin Shah

After being based in Chicago for decades, in July of 2019, I branched out and started a nomadic photography journey to pursue more of the work I love around the world. I had nine wonderful months of travel and adventures before COVID-19 changed my plans.

My story is a story of pivotingβ€”of having a plan that needed to change but sticking with what is true to me.Β Like so many people, I have not had the 2020 I originally envisioned, but I am grateful to be healthy, to have generous friends, and to have found new faces to photograph and ways to experience the world around me, wherever that may be.

I have started a new project, and I’m calling it β€œReintroducing America.” From 1935 to 1944, the US government-sponsored FSA program hired photographers and writers to “introduce America to Americans.” Those photos today work as a time capsule of that era. While I do not fancy myself as being at the level of those famed photographers, I do feel the need to document this strange time. We are a divided nationβ€”there is no arguing thatβ€”but as I’ve been traveling around and talking to people, I find that even when we have completely different points of view, we are still living through this crazy time together, and we always find some way to relate. I am one person and currently sponsored by no organization, but I am going to do my best to document the many faces and stories that make up our country, one person at a time.

I love people. I love people’s storiesβ€”their joy, their pain, and the many realities of life. I will always keep telling these stories.

Eileen’s Caption:Β 

When planning my drive out west, I looked at campgrounds and Airbnbs between Kansas and California, and I stumbled upon an Airbnb in a ghost town in Cisco, Utah. It had no running water and looked rustic, but obviously, I was intrigued because I wanted to photograph it. I booked myself a spot.

When I arrived, I met Eileen, the visual artist who is the sole year-round resident of Cisco, Utah. She acquired the land in 2015 and has been rebuilding since then. Fun fact: Eileen is from the Milwaukee area and was living in Chicago just blocks from me before she left. But we never met until I arrived at her ghost town.

I admire Eileen, as this does not look like an easy place to live. While I was here it was over 100 degrees, and in the winter it gets really cold. But she is working to create an artist-in-residence program so others can come and be inspired. I spent some time photographing and talking with her. Then I went to my cabin and watched the sun set and the stars come out. I realized if I had another few days, I’d want to stay here too. (I included some photos of my β€œhotel” and the land because I really did love it.)

The best place to find the project is:Β here

(It is on my website but I’m in the process of changing my site so I don’t want to link to it if the direct link changes)

To support the project:

https://www.patreon.com/jasminshah

 

APE contributorΒ Suzanne SeaseΒ 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.Β  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.Β She has a new Twitter feed with helpful marketing information because she believes that marketing should be driven by brand and not by specialty.Β  Follow her at @SuzanneSease.Β  Instagram

Success is more than a matter of your talent. It’s also a matter of doing a better job presenting it. Β And that is what I do with decades of agency and in-house experience.

 

The Daily Edit – Samant Chauhan: Fashion Designer, Photographer

- - The Daily Edit

The Egg. The memory. The people.

Fashion Designer + Photographer: Samant Chauhan
Instagram


Heidi: When did you start this series?

Samant: The first egg I flipped on the first day of the lockdown was an act of imitation.

Why did you choose eggs?
My father would flip the egg perfectly when he would make omelettes for us in a small town where we lived back then. Egg was a treat in those days. It wasn’t everyday that we had eggs for breakfast. In fact, my mother could never flip the egg the way my father would. And over the years, I forgot about that art he had mastered. Lockdown meant a role reversal. A total overhaul, a complete reimagination of things, of life itself.

What did this lockdown project represent for you?
I was going to do everything on my own and it started with the flipping of an egg. The first egg I made was an ode to that memory. In silence and isolation, memories become a guidebook. I remember having stitched a school bag, having painted the walls of my house, and a lot of other things I had given up because I was chasing other dreams and ambitions. It might sound trivial but I decided to make eggs every morning as an ode to people who made them for me, including lovers, friends and family and even random strangers.

Why breakfast?
The first meal of the day is a significant one and for me, it would be an exercise in memory, a way of paying homage to little acts of love, of camaraderie, of togetherness. So over three weeks, I conjured the memories of those mornings and those breakfasts and strangely enough, some of the people recognised the eggs and wrote to me. And that was it. A revisitation of sorts when you are alone and you want to hold on to people. The breakfasts became a ritual for me in the lockdown. I would make the egg, decorate the plate and capture it.

How did this honor your father?
And it all started with the first egg I flipped and I could flip it the way my father would. It was pure joy because for a son, the act of growing up culminates when he can be like his father. And for me, it came with the flipping of an egg. Like he did in that house of love where we learned to be with each other. That’s how it started.Β The egg. The memory. The people.

This Week in Photography: The ICP Online Portfolio Review

 

The sports world went on strike yesterday.

 

(As usual, I’m writing on Thursday.)

It all began when the Milwaukee Bucks, the putative best team in the NBA’s Eastern Conference, decided at the last minute not to take the court for their impending playoff game against the Orlando Magic.

For those of you unaware, the NBA resumed earlier this summer in a “bubble” at the Disney/ESPN campus outside Orlando, Florida.

The professional basketball league created an artificial community, cut off from the rest of America, with very stringent rules and testing procedures, to allow the players and associated staff to stay safe from Covid-19.

As there are no fans allowed in the games, the entire affair has been arranged for broadcast television, (which is now also done via streaming, for some,) so that the global audience, including millions of Americans, could have “entertainment” to soothe them from this psychotic year.

I’m a fan, and the father of a LeBron James super-fan, so I was glad to see the league resume, and have watched many games.

As the NBA is made up of predominantly Black players, and has a reputation for being the most progressive of the American sports leagues, there were special concessions made for this time of protest and strife.

In particular, the courts are painted with Black Lives Matter, and most of the players wear a slogan on the back of their jerseys, where their names traditionally go, which supports the movement as well.

(For the record, the players were offered a list of pre-approved slogans; they could not just choose whatever they wanted.)

Some players, including union leaders Kyrie Irving and Avery Bradley, were concerned that by entertaining America, they were just providing a distraction from the need for social justice, which was more important than a game.

While a few players opted out of the bubble, almost everyone didn’t, but then yesterday, on the heels of the shooting of Jacob Blake, and the subsequent rioting in Kenosha, WI, including the murder of protesters by an unhinged 17 year old with a long-gun, the players went on strike.

And athletes from Major League Baseball, the WNBA, and Major League Soccer followed suit.

I was not surprised, as the day before, I’d read quotes from George Hill, a Bucks player, that expressed anger and exasperation at being in an artificial environment, playing ball instead of being out in the world, making a difference.

As of last night, the NBA players took an impromptu vote as to whether to resume the playoffs, and the LA Lakers and LA Clippers voted to cancel the season, though in an official vote today, the players decided to continue with the playoffs.

On Twitter, (where I learned of the resumption 2 minutes after it was announced,) I saw a tweet from a fellow blogger suggesting that marketers, podcasters, and others in different professions should go on strike as well.

I won’t say I considered it, because I didn’t, as part of having a weekly column for 9 years is that I’m trained to show up for you.

I’ve never missed a deadline, and don’t intend to start now.

However, while I considered writing a super-short column, (a mini-strike, if you will,) that obviously isn’t happening.

(500+ words so far.)

But, (you knew there would be a but, right,) instead, I’m coming at you with a promised column that does the next best thing: it provides direct access to a slate of diverse artists I met on Zoom earlier this summer.

I was reviewing portfolios for the school at the International Center of Photography in New York in early July, and as I wrote shortly thereafter, I saw some terrific and timely photography and art, all of which was made by women and men of color.

You know I’ve written many times, including recently, that I believe all voices in the photography world should be respected. Hell, a few years ago, (in this column) I rebranded myself as a Jewish-American, because I didn’t want to be known as a White Guy. (Ahead of my time, for sure.)

While I advocate against cutting out any particular group, (including my own,) I’ve also spent years championing work by female artists, and artists from a diversity of cultures and races whenever possible, because it’s the right thing to do, and it also affords you, the viewers, the chance to see things you would not otherwise.

A classic win-win.

So today, we’re going with “The Best Work I Saw at the ICP Online Portfolio Review,” and I’m sure you’ll dig these pictures.

Not surprisingly, most of the students I encountered were impacted by the pandemic in some way, including those who were in a 1 year program, but didn’t get to spend much time in NYC, or on campus.

As resourceful artists often do, they came up with elegant solutions, and I’ll share them with you now.

Normally, I say the artists are in no particular order, but today I’ll show them to you in the order I encountered the photographers that day.

We’ll begin with Danny Peralta, and I actually mentioned him in a previous column, as he works with diverse media, and his photographs were not what impressed me the most.

Danny is an educator and community developer from the South Bronx, in addition to being a talented artist, and he showed me a set of watercolor drawings that drew attention to the health effects of environmental pollution.

For whatever reason, eco art is often associated with white hippies, so I hadn’t seen many projects that directly tackled the issue from within a community of color.

Danny drew/painted a series about inhalers, as so many people in his community use them, due to asthma and other breathing issues due to pollution.

(I can’t breathe.)

It’s fantastic stuff, IMO.

 

 

Next, I met Zoe Golden-Johnson, who just finished her junior year of undergrad at ICP, having been in a joint-student program from St John’s University in Queens.

Due to the pandemic, Zoe was quarantining in Upstate New York, in a town near Poughkeepsie named Wappingers Falls.

Like many photographers during this strange time, (including me,) Zoe went on walks around her neighborhood, as her family had recently moved to a different part of the village, and it was all new to her. (And filled with creepy, late 19th C and early 20th C East Coast architecture.)

While at first, I told Zoe that this was not the most innovative of methodologies, a few photographs in, she showed me an image of a shadow puppet on the side of a green, siding-clad house.

It stopped me in my tracks, as it was created, rather than found, and it seemed like it had so much potential as a way of making photos.

“You should do a whole series of these,” I recommended.

Zoe smiled, and then a few images later, showed me an exquisite self-portrait, also in shadow, done in the same location.

I found it to be an exceptional picture, and hoped she’d continue working in that way. I also suggested it was brave, and a little risky, to use a stranger’s house, unless maybe it was her own home?

She confirmed it was, (no creeping necessary,) and I hope she continues working in that vein.

 

Next, I spoke to Madeline Mancini, who was in the exact same situation as Zoe, only 2500 miles away.

Madeline also finished her junior year at ICP, on loan from St. John’s, but was pandemic quarantining at her parents’ home in Las Vegas, Nevada.

(Ever the dorky New Mexican, when she said Las Vegas, I asked, “Nevada or New Mexico?”)

Madeline is into horror and suspense, weird and strange movies, and also looked at her neighborhood, and her immediate environment, trying to find the surreal and spectral in the mundane.

I’m always a sucker for normal-is-odd, so I liked this work immediately.

 

After a short break, I spoke with Violette Franchi, who spent a year at ICP after studying architecture in her native France.

Violette used her time in NYC wisely, as she learned about, and then devoted her time to exploring and photographing in Starrett City, the largest housing project in East New York, Brooklyn, which is one of the most poverty-stricken parts of the city.

While I often find myself suggesting to students that they try to mix up varied approaches to making their photographs, Violette needed no such encouragement.

She had made friends and contacts in the local community on her own, without any fixers, and used big cameras for the landscapes and establishment shots, smaller cameras when appropriate, and also mixed in video and photographs of found imagery and tv screens.

(Including images of junk mail and advertisements she found on the ground of the mail room, and shots of cheesy TV commercials pimping the development back in the 70’s.)

I found it to be a sophisticated and nuanced look at a place in time, (including the future, as she also has images of renderings of impending development,) and was seriously impressed with her drive, work ethic and talent.

A2 tower’s entrance, Starrett City, East New York, 2019. Starrett City is located on the southeast corner of the studied intersection.

View from the balcony of Jerry’s apartment, Starrett City, East New York, 2020. Starrett City is the US nation’s largest federally-subsidized apartment complex. Starrett City contains 5,881 apartment units in 46 buildings, ranging from eleven to twenty stories high.

Laron and Bernard filling up their tank at Conoco gas station, East New York, 2020. Laron and Bernard are regular customers and live in East New York.

17th floor entrance doors, Starrett City, East New York, 2020. Starrett City towers are all designed identically, with no designated communal spaces above the ground floor.

Archive from a TV Commercial advertising for Starrett City after its construction, 1979. Screenshot with added subtitles, 2020.

Syed, clerk at Conoco gas station, East New York, 2020. He lives with his wife and daughter in a shared house with his older brother Ali. Syed’s family is in the basement and Ali’s is upstairs. Ali and Syed emigrated from Pakistan with their parents in 1996.

Mail left out in one of the towers’ lobby, Starrett City, East New York, 2019. All the 46 towers have the same design and elements for their ground floors: two elevators in the lobby space, postboxes, a shared laundry room, the janitor’s premises and staircases.

Mackenzie, working at Ultimate Auto Parts, Flatlands Avenue, East New York, 2020. Mackenzie has worked at the used auto parts store for a year and a half. The store stands right by Oasis Motel, and is one of the eight auto-themed businesses within a thousand feet.

Teenage girl, standing in Starrett City’s shared outdoor spaces, East New York, 2020.

Ultimate Auto Parts store, Flatlands Avenue, East New York, 2020. The store stands right by Oasis Motel, on the northwest corner of the studied intersection, and is one of the eight auto-themed businesses within a thousand feet.

Tamara on her afternoon stroll, East New York, 2020. Tamara resides in a nursing home in front of Starrett City. East New York is a neighborhood with a large Russian elderly community. There are fifteen assisted living facilities and nursing home at a mile around Starrett City.

Margie, standing in her building’s lobby, Starrett City, East New York, 2020. Margie is 90 years old, she was born in Puerto Rico and has lived in Starrett City for 15 years. Everybody calls her grandma in her tower.

Our Daily Bread, a given out, collected and scanned cover of a Bible, East New York, 2020.

Found, collected and scanned piece from a commercial brochure, Starrett City, East New York, 2020.

Ernesto, outside his building, Starrett City, East New York, 2020. Ernesto moved in Starrett City in 1996 and said he loved it back then. « It used to be the best place in the universe in the 90’s. Now I’m trying to get out of here. I’m two years sober.Β Β»

An older resident walks back home with groceries, Starrett City, East New York, 2020.

Jarrell’s daughter in a shopping cart at the intersection, East New York, 2020. She wanted a ride to the shop. Jarrell works as an educator and him and his family live in Starrett City.

Shortie, working at Ultimate Auto Parts, Flatlands Avenue, East New York, 2020. The store stands right by Oasis Motel, and is one of the eight auto-themed businesses within a thousand feet.

Shelter residents looking out the window at Oasis Motel, Flatlands Avenue, East New York, 2019. Oasis Motel is a men’s shelter located on the northwest corner of the studied crossroads. The shelter is facing Starrett City as well as the parking lot of NYC’s biggest Church, the Christian Cultural Center, soon to become a massive residential complex.

Parking lot of NYC’s biggest Church, the Christian Cultural Center, is located, East New York, 2020. The Church’s empty property is only full on Sundays. This lot will soon become the β€œUrban Village”, a massive residential complex that will face the current Oasis Motel shelter on the other side of the street.

Jerry, on his balcony on the 17th and last floor of Starrett City, East New York, 2020. Jerry was the first resident to move in his tower of Starrett City, 45 years ago. Jerry used to work as Starrett City’s postman and is now retired. He is divorced and his kids have left the apartment. Every day, he plays the numbers, resolves puzzles and volunteers at the same post office he has worked at for 20 years.

3D rendering of the future “Urban Village”, soon to be built on the Christian Cultural Center’s site, New York City’s biggest Church, East New York, 2020. The Church is located on the southwest corner of the studied intersection. This promised β€œinnovative urban living” is promoting affordable housing when the units will be unaffordable to almost 4 out of 10 East New York families. The project comes from a partnership between a real-estate developer and the Church’s pastor Rev. AR Bernard. Image made by Β© Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU).

Archive from a TV Commercial advertising for Starrett City after its construction, 1979. Screenshot with added subtitles, 2020.

After Violette, coincidentally, came another young Frenchwoman who made work in Brooklyn: Tina Levy.

Tina, like Madeline, likes the surreal and bizarre, but her work shared far more in common with the Roger Ballen, black and white, aesthetic.

Tina had studied Philosophy at the Sorbonne, and was thrilled when I suggested she consider drawing and painting as well, (like Danny,) as that was where she felt her work was headed.

But I loved these photographs, which were made in her neighborhood and local environment in Brooklyn. (Greenpoint, where I lived back in the day.)

 

After Tina, I met Beverly Logan, who had completed an MFA at ICP, and had a very different process from everyone else.

Beverly had traveled extensively, and taken a lot of pictures in her life, and told me she had an archive of 250,000 images, which she searched for fragments to build collages.

Even in a digital age, these were laborious, as she made prints of the fragments, and then assembled real life pieces, rather than using Photoshop.

They screamed of Americana, and surrealism, but had a snappy, optimistic palette that seemed to contrast with these dark times.

I mentioned Patrick Nagatani’s “Nuclear Enchantment” to her, as her smart work made me think of my late teacher, and in general was super-impressed by what I saw.

 

Finally, (yes, finally) I met with Kechen Song, who was a Chinese national living in New York for his program. (Soon to move to Syracuse U to attend the prestigious MFA program there.)

He had barely left his apartment for months, during the pandemic, and told me he’d been wearing a mask for most of year, as he knew from China’s experience the chaos and death that was headed New York’s way.

Kechen had a few projects, including this mind-numbing and amazing video of taking and recording his temperature, over and over again, until his notebook went black.

The project I want to share, though, featured images he made by hacking, or mis-using his flatbed scanner, with only objects he found on his desk.

So many of these artists had their process, (and education) impacted by the pandemic, and used those constraints to fire up their creativity. This project is the perfect example of that, as everything came off of one desk, including the art-making equipment.

 

So I’ll leave you there, along with the reminder that if the NBA players can use their platforms to send a message, and I can show up to enlighten you on the regular, and all these artists can mine the pandemic for creative fuel, I hope you can do your best work, and make a difference too.

See you next week!

The Art of the Personal Project: Stephen Wilkes

- - Personal Project

The Art of the Personal Project is a crucial element to let potential buyers see how you think creatively on your own. Β I am drawn to personal projects that have an interesting vision or that show something I have never seen before. Β In this thread, I’ll include a link to each personal project with the artist statement so you can see more of the project. Please note: This thread is not affiliated with any company; I’m just featuring projects that I find. Β Please DO NOT send me your work. Β I do not take submissions.

 

Today’s featured artist: Β Stephen Wilkes

Stephen is known for his masterful ability to capture the heart of what makes this country what has always has been, a mixing bowl.

While things may feel unsettled right now, it’s a moment to reflect, to look at images that reinforce what makes us all uniquely American.

We are a strong nation, we are a resilient nation and we are a caring nation.

Β Β 

To see more of this project, click here.

APE contributorΒ Suzanne SeaseΒ 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.Β  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.Β She has a new Twitter feed with helpful marketing information because she believes that marketing should be driven by brand and not by specialty.Β  Follow her at @SuzanneSease.Β  Instagram

Success is more than a matter of your talent. It’s also a matter of doing a better job presenting it. Β And that is what I do with decades of agency and in-house experience.

 

Pricing & Negotiating: A Large Production Cancelled by Covid-19

Craig Oppenheimer, Wonderful Machine

Concept: Stills and video content featuring seven athletes participating in various sports, as well as images of each athlete posed with product.

Licensing: Unlimited use of all images captured for 2 months from first use.

Photographer: Sports and portraiture specialist

Agency: Canadian office of large international group

Client: Large telecommunications company

Here is the estimate:

Creative/Licensing Fees: The scope of the project included stills and video to capture seven athletes participating in five unique sports over four shoot days in two different cities. Each athlete had unique needs in terms of gyms/facilities where they would need to be captured, and the need for posed shots on white led to some unique scouting and location needs. Some of them could entirely be captured in a studio, and others were a combination of them at a facility where a seamless background would be set up.

The creative needs called for a specialist who was technically savvy and could photograph/direct athletes who had limited time. These needs, along with the large agency/client, put upward pressure on a creative fee (which they asked us to break out from a licensing fee, as opposed to combining the two numbers), and we landed on $5,000/day for each of the four shoot days. While the high exposure and request for all images captured put upward pressure on the licensing fee, we knew that they had hoped to get about 30 total images, and would likely use just two for each athlete. Additionally, while they asked for unlimited use, the duration was very limited with a request for just two months. With those factors in mind, and based on previous experience, I thought that around $3,000 per subject or less than $1,000 per image for 30 shots would likely be appropriate. We initially settled on $19,500 for a licensing fee, which broke down to $650/image for the 30 shots we had been discussing, and just under $1,400/image for the 14 shots they were likely to use (7 athletes X 2 shots each).

On top of the creative and licensing fees, we included two travel days and two tech scout days based on an itinerary we detailed in the job description.

Producer Day(s): While the talent would be providedΒ and the styling would be minimal, this project had a ton of moving pieces, and the logistics required a seasoned producer to lend a hand. We included six prep days prior to the travel/tech/scout/shoot daysΒ plus a wrap day.

Production Assistant Day(s): We included 10 days, two of which would be prep days to lend a hand with whatever tasks arose, plus the travel and shoot days.

Assistant Day(s): We included four assistants in total, two of which would travel with the team to both locations, and the other two would be locals and just be needed on the individual shoot days. Given how fast the team would have to move, the multiple setups/scenarios that would be needed, and the equipment requirements, we needed a lot of hands-on deck.

Digital Tech Day(s): We’d hire a digital tech locally in each city, and this accounted for each of the four shoot days.

DP/Camera Operator Day(s): We included $3,500/day for each of the four shoot days, and $1,500 for two travel days. While the photographer would be capturing stills and directing the video, we felt it was important to have a separate person actually capturing and focusing on the video content.

Grip and Gaffer Day(s): To assist the DP/Camera Operator, we included a grip and a gaffer to help with equipment and electrical needs, hired locally for each shoot day.

Hair/Makeup and Wardrobe Stylist Day(s): The subjects would be providing their own wardrobe and would have minimal hair/makeup needs, so we just included a single hair/makeup stylist and a single wardrobe stylist, hired locally in each city, just for the shoot days without any prep/wrap time or expenses.

Location Fees: This was a big TBD, since we were told that that the athletes might be able to leverage relationships with various training facilities for scouting purposes, but we needed to account for the payment of those facilities in our budget. We ballparked some numbers here, and also added $2,000 for the day where we’d just rent a studio instead of shooting on location.

Equipment: We included $8k for both photography equipment and video equipment, based on $2,000/day for four shoot days.

Catering: We anticipated about 22 mouths to feed each day and included $90 per person to include breakfast, lunch, craft and additional meals to support a long day with overtime.

Travel Expenses: I based this on the schedule detailed in the job descriptionΒ and the number of people that would be traveling to each of the locations. The cities were within driving distance, which eliminated the need for airfare.

Parking, Expendables, Additional Meals, Misc: I included $1,500 here, truly as a buffer for unforeseen expenses that might arise throughout the production.

Insurance: A loose rule of thumb I use to calculate insurance is to base it on 2% of the expenses. In this case that was closer to $3k, but I wanted to come down a bit as it was feeling a bit excessive, so I included $2k.

Post Production: We included $2,000 to handle basic processing of 30 selects. The agency would handle most of the retouching, and this just included both color correction and file cleanupΒ but would still take a decent amount of time to sift through the images and perform those tasks.

Overtime: On three out of the four shoot days, we anticipated 14-hour daysΒ rather than a typical 10-hour day. It’s customary to bill for crew at time and a half for up to 12 hours, and double time after 12 hours. So, in this case, we had two hours per day at time and a half, and two hours per day at double time, for three shoot days.

Once the photographer and I finished collaborating on these numbers, we looped in a local producer to further tweak the fees/expenses based on local knowledge and preferred logistical approaches. Overall, she bumped up the estimate by about $12k, bringing the bottom line just under $200k.

Results: The photographer was awarded the project…but then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. This led to a lengthy process of uncertainty regarding how to tackle the project. Since the dates for each part of the project were spread out, they had discussed canceling some datesΒ but just postponing others, and each day brought a new update on how it might shake out. Surprisingly, given the size of the agency, their purchase order didn’t detail any sort of cancellation policy, so we stuck to the cancellation policy in our terms/conditions. At the time when they asked us to formalize what a cancellation agreement might look like, we were a few days out from the first shoot date, with the next trip schedule just over a week away. They asked us to focus our cancellation fees/expenses on just these first two projects for now, hoping to just push the later shoots/dates. Here is what we came up with:

I noted that the out of pocket expenses would be billed at 100%Β and handed this off to the photographer’s producer to help detail what those exact expenses were, and she tackled it from that point on. Ultimately, they cancelled the entire project. The photographer was able to charge part of his creative fees, half of his licensing fees, and all out of pocket expenses based on how our terms/conditions were worded.

If you have any questions, or if you need helpΒ estimatingΒ orΒ producingΒ a project, please give us a call at 610.260.0200 orΒ reach out. We’re available to help with any and allΒ pricing and negotiatingΒ needsβ€”from small stock sales to large ad campaigns.

The Daily Edit – KR Sunil: Vanishing Home

- - The Daily Edit



Photographer:
KR Sunil

Home (Images 1,2,3)Β 
Vanishing Life Worlds (4,5,6)
Manchukkar: The Seafarers of Malabar (7,8,9)

Heidi: How did this idea of “Home” come about, which was your first image, how did that inform the series? How long has it taken to photograph this body of work?
KR Sunil:Β  I hail from Kodungallur (the ancient harbour town Muziris which was a significant presence in India’s port towns and trading history). So I have grown up closely related to the coastal life in this historical region. As a photographer, I have spent a considerable number of years with various series related to the sea.

The idea for this particular series (β€˜Home’) occurred to me following an incident while I was working on the β€˜Vanishing Life Worlds’ series in Ponnani (another port town). I photographed a thatched home of a young girl by the sea, which was on the verge of collapsing. On circulating this photo, few friends and well-wishers stepped up to rebuild this home for the girl. And they did too! But unfortunately, the renewed home too collapsed under the force of the tides in some time. This was the inception of the series for me, as I began to observe a growing number of desolated homes by the coast. For me, what struck was how hard-hitting this was for the people, as ‘home’ is a deep sentiment for them; it is much more than a shelter. For many, it is a lifetime’s endeavor to build a home. It is literally a dream come true for them. Also, for a close-knit community as theirs, the concept of home extends to the whole environment they live in. There are neighbourhoods, religious places they frequent and a camaraderie that they have to leave behind when the sea takes over. This encroachment by sea can be attributed to worldwide climate change and phenomena like global warming. But the unfair part of it is that these communities barely contribute to causing these. In fact, they are a community that holds utmost regard and respect for nature, to the extent of calling the sea β€˜kadalamma’, which translates to ‘mother sea’. Yet, they’re forced out of their own homes by the same sea. This has been a growing effect in recent years, especially in the coastal regions of Kerala, which includes my hometown too.

Do you know any of the homeowners affected by this climate event, or do you know where they migrated to?
I have known a few of the families that were forced out in recent years. Not personally up close, but I would’ve seen them during my visits and walks to their localities. Now only remnants of their homes are seen there. They have been dispersed to different places – near and far, but safer. They have to then spend uncertain number of days (many of them in rented houses), pondering about the home and community they have had to leave behind. As far as they are concerned, this shift to a safer place is not a resolution; they are only left with an angst about their home.

What draws you to the sea?
I have spent a good part of the last 5-6 years on various series related to the sea. ‘Vanishing Life Worlds’ was a photographic series based on the lives of people at Ponnani, an old harbour town in Malabar coast. It was exhibited at the Kochi Muziris Biennale in the year 2016. SImilarly, ‘Mattancherry’ was a series about life at another port town Mattancherry in Kochi. Then there was a series on the last surviving group of seafarers of Malabar, titled ‘Manchukkar – The Seafarers of Malabar’. This text-and-photographic series narrated the stories of men who worked in traditional dhow (or uru) and endured painstaking lives. Another series is in development right now, which follows the life of performers of Chavittunadakam, a dying artform that survived through the coastal community.

So to answer you, I’d like to point out that it’s not the sea that draws me, but rather it is the lives related to the sea that drives me.
Port towns have a unique history of having welcomed and accommodated people from all parts of the world. The people of these towns get a better sense of the world, thanks to the visitors. This has defined a broad-minded trait in these people about life, which I believe is universal for coastal or port town communities. For instance, while visiting the port town of Ponnani, I came across Abubacker, who I’d describe as one of the finest personalities I have ever met. Operating from an abandoned go-down facility, he sources and gives out free medicines to the needy – medicines worth thousands of Rupees on a daily basis! And this, without seeking any recognition or returns. In the same town I have met people with varied traits and vocations. Like Asees, who was a pick-pocket but known and familiar to everyone in the region. (Sharing a video by Kochi Muziris Biennale featuring these personalities, for reference –

 

I always found these people fascinating – they even have a glow on their face which I believe is attributed to their positive approach about life. So these lives appeal to me rather than the sea itself…

For “The Seafarers of Malabar” how much time did you spend with each subject prior to bringing out the camera?
The series occurred to me in a rather coincidental manner. I used to frequent the port town of Ponnani and interact with the people there. On one occasion, I came across Ibrahim, a very elderly man, who was singing a folklore about life at sea. I was intrigued by his rendition and listened to him for some time. When I started talking to him, I realised he was a seafarer in his youth. The more I spoke with him, the more fascinating his story grew into. He used to work in the traditional uru (or dhow ships) that carried out trading between port towns. He had spent his prime travelling around the world! I couldn’t have been more excited. He ended up inviting me to his home, where we sat and talked for quite a while. His home could not have been more basic, barely accommodating his own lonesome life. This man had travelled around the world, but his humble home and living conditions reflected nothing about his experiences. There, sitting in that tiny space, he was describing the great endless seas and journeys he had been part of.Β  He narrated adversities, facing death and escaping it – he had even survived a shipwreck, clinging on to a wooden log for two days in the sea!

Was there a common thread for you during these portrait sessions?
A whole new chapter of coastal life was opening up for me right there. He spoke of his fellow seafarers; many of them had passed on and the rest were struggling with a difficult old age. I was compelled to pursue the story and these lives, because theirs was an untold story. There were celebrated stories of travellers, traders and explorers who may have ridden the same ships as them, but the story of such common labourers and their hardships had never been documented or told. Even for me, it was a fortunate coincidence that had opened this avenue. From meeting this lone seafarer, I ended up tracing up to 35 of the surviving lot – each of them with unique stories, mostly of hardships.

How did you build and earn trust?
I spent a considerable amount of time interacting with them. In fact, a few years passed while I continuously met them and discussed their stories. This meant we had gotten accustomed to each other with a cordial rapport over time. The portraits were in fact taken during those conversations, as and when I felt the time was right. So it was all an organic process…mostly with a human-to-human basis, rather than a photographer-to-subject one.

What compels you to share their stories?
I felt compelled to bring their stories to light mostly because they were untold. Like I mentioned, stories of sailors and traders were celebrated worldwide. Even a single journey to a far off land was sometimes lauded as discoveries and achievements. But the labourers spent a lifetime making the same journeys and enduring a much higher degree of hardships. But being labourers or common men, their lives were neither pursued by historians or researchers, nor did they have the voice and ability to speak out their parts. This was typical of the working class in any part of the world, in any industry. I happened to come across their lives by chance, but I always felt advocative about the stories of such subjugated, marginalized lives in society. The coastal life as a whole had this general trait, which is the reason I was always inclined to retell their stories.

How have you been creatively engaged during these unruly and isolated times of the pandemic?
The lockdown came with a lot of travel restrictions. But I have been able to visit the coastal strips and photograph the effects of monsoon there. The time has helped me develop the ‘Home’ series.

Featured Promo – Noah Webb

- - The Daily Promo

Noah Webb

Tell me about your promo.
The one I sent you is book #6 in an ongoing series of books. The first book was created after an editorial assignment from Monocle magazine back in 2007. The magazine had sent me to travel throughout Ecuador and cover the status of events in the country at that time. Being that it was 2007 I brought both my film camera and digital camera to shoot. Upon returning I was going through my film proof sheets and started to cut out specific frames I really liked. It came to me then that I needed a way to tell my story of this adventure with these small proof prints. My first passport was fairly simple with a craft brown color passport size book with the words β€œEcuador, February 2007” β€œNoah Webb” embossed on the front. I hand adhered the proof prints into the pages and made a total of 30 books. They idea clicked and people responded in a way I knew I needed to continue the idea. Subsequent books became more fine tuned in the design and feel of the passport. Each book different colors and overall cover design to match the travels abroad. I hire different designer friends to collaborate on the cover design and have a local print shop do the foil embossing. I increased the quantity of books as I progressed since I was getting more demand. The latest book is and edition of 250 and I am still in the process of printing, cutting out and adhering the rest of the books. It’s a great pandemic project. One born out of my love of travel, a physical memento to hold onto which seems appropriate right now. Ecuador 2007, France & Switzerland 2008, Italy 2009, Berlin 2012, Rotterdam & Brasilia 2017, Seoul & Hong Kong 2019.

These books take a lot of time and energy but I love making them. I’m fairly certain some jobs opened up to me specifically from these books.

They have had coverage over the years, being included in β€œNo Plastic Sleeves” book in 2010.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7646254-no-plastic-sleeves

And last year PDN did a cover story on my passport books:
http://digitalmag.pdnonline.com/pdnonline/may_june_2019/MobilePagedReplica.action?pm=2&folio=Cover#pg1

https://digitalmag.pdnonline.com/pdnonline/may_june_2019/MobilePagedArticle.action?articleId=1528742#articleId1528742

This Week in Photography: Time is Hell

 

My daughter is turning eight next week.

 

Right here, in this space, I wrote about when she was born.

I discussed changing her diapers.

I shared how it felt.

It was 2012, and Barack Obama was about to be re-elected President of the United States.

His opponent, Mitt Romney, represented the Republican Party. Now, he’s one of its foremost critics, from the inside, and President Obama, out of power nearly four years, unloaded on Donald Trump in the digital version of a Democratic Party convention.

My daughter and her brother just got their first pet: a mutt that we rescued from the animal shelter.

This morning, she asked if I’d write about the dog, and so I have. (Her name is Haley, she’s a blue heeler/pit bull mix, and we already love her dearly, after only two weeks.)

#2020 feels like a different century than 2012. A different millennium.

Perhaps a different timeline entirely?

But then again, “Space is paradise, time is hell.”

I read that just now, at the beginning of a super-impressive photobook, “Fordlandia 9,” by JM RamΓ­rez-Suassi, from Madrid, published by NOW Photobooks, which turned up in the mail back in March.

I pulled the book from my stack this morning, knowing nothing about it, and my daughter spied me as I walked through the house with the cardboard box in tow.

She asked what I was going to do with the book, and I told her that I wrote about books for my work, and that sometimes I wrote about travel, but not now.

“Because you can’t travel?” she asked.

“Exactly,” I said.

But of course I can travel, in my mind.

A great photo book allows me, and all of us, to venture to far-flung parts of the world, in our imagination, if everything comes together just right.

Is time hell?

Was the quote correct?

I’m not sure I agree, but I do think time is experiential, and I’ve shared that thought with you before.

These days, people speak of Covid-time, and it’s generally accepted that #2020 feels like 10 years compressed into one.

And Einstein’s theory of relativity proves that time does change, relative to the speed of light, so why can’t it change relative to our perceptions as well?

While looking through this excellent book, time slowed down for me, and I lost track of where I was. Just as I write in flow, and forget where I am for a little while, this photobook took me out of my head, and out of my chair, and that was exactly what I needed today.

Honestly, I’m not sure if the artist is a man or a woman, given the name is comprised of initials, but I’ll check when I’m done writing and add it as a post-script, just so we know.

But I did break my traditional rule of no Googling while reviewing, and I’m glad I did. (We’ll get to that in a minute.)

I was impressed from the jump with “Fordlandia 9,” as the cover has a leather spine, and leather corners, which goes a long way towards making it look like a photo album. (At significant expense, I’d imagine.)

It opens with the aforementioned quote, and then unspools a narrative in a slow, luxurious manner.

I was immediately sucked in, because the reproductions are so good. (Immaculate, really.)

There are occasional vellum pages interwoven, which I also liked.

My first thought was this was a non-linear narrative, perhaps a collection of strong images that were not connected, as there is so little to go on.

Bit by bit, though, the story became clear.

First, there are hints of Portuguese, (rather than Spanish,) and a succession of jimmy-rigged objects that imply deep poverty, and the ingenuity that comes from having to make something out of nothing.

A leg-less chair tied and propped, so that it can be used as a seat.

A piece of cardboard fashioned to be sun protection.

Given the gritty texture and implication of humidity and poverty, I imagined it was set in Brazil, but that was only an educated guess, at first.

Then we see portraits, all of which depict serious people, perhaps a bit sad, but haunting in a way that we’ve seen before from images of residents of the “Third World.”

Muddy ground, gnarled trees, cars ensnared by growing vines.

The artist also weaves in just a few black and white images, which is tough to do, but works here as a repeating motif.

I use that term all the time, repeating motif, and then at one point, a subject is repeated, sitting in an old car, the first image in color, the second in black and white, but then there is a second man, a twin or look-alike brother, and it jarred me out of my reverie.

This book is so well thought out, and so well constructed.

Towards the end, we do see the Brazilian flag appear, and that’s the only legitimate tip-off of where we are, until the end notes.

Shortly thereafter, there is another piece of text, only the second after the opening quote, and it says “Matthew 15:13.”

That’s it.

Just a verse name.

So I felt compelled to break my no-Googling rule and look it up.

There are multiple translations, but the gist is this, “He replied, ‘Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots.'”

(The He in question being Jesus.)

The text is placed in between one image that might be a person walking into a hole in a giant tree, (or a cave,) and right before a picture of some bent-finger-like tree branches.

Of course I took it to mean that the Amazon is being de-forested at such a rapid rate, we might all fucking die in a decade or two.

Powerful, powerful stuff.

Finally, the end note tells us the photos were shot mainly in the states of Para, Amazonas and Mato Grosso, in 2017 and 2019.

I’m not sure I’ve ever learned so much from a book with so few words.

This one is brilliant, and now that I’m back from Brazil, and back in my comfortable chair, I’m thinking less about American politics, and more about appreciating the life I have.

And hoping the planet is healthy enough that my daughter gets to live to 88.

No promises.

(PS: The artist is male.)

To purchase “Fordlandia 9” click here

If you’d like to submit a book for potential review, please contact me directly at jonathanblaustein@gmail.com. We are particularly interested in books by women, and artists of color, so we may maintain a balanced program.Β 

The Art of the Personal Project: John Henley

- - Personal Project

The Art of the Personal Project is a crucial element to let potential buyers see how you think creatively on your own. Β I am drawn to personal projects that have an interesting vision or that show something I have never seen before. Β In this thread, I’ll include a link to each personal project with the artist statement so you can see more of the project. Please note: This thread is not affiliated with any company; I’m just featuring projects that I find. Β Please DO NOT send me your work. Β I do not take submissions.

 

Today’s featured artist: Β John Henley

The portraits of artists appearing in this book “A R T I S T S” were taken in and around the city of Richmond, Virginia, over a six-year period. As a photographer who previously spent many solitary days making landscape images, I found the time spent with these artists to be nothing less than thrilling. Every portrait was collaboration with its subject, and to share ideas with each of them was revelatory.
I left Richmond to study photography as an undergraduate student at the San Francisco Art Institute. When I returned to my hometown in the mid- 1970s, I had been on the West Coast for five years and knew nothing about the art scene in Richmond. Soon thereafter, as I began my MFA studies in the VCUarts Department of Photography and Film, it was my good fortune to meet artists who were doing great work, and who were interested in what I was doing. Willie Anne Wright, George Nan, David White, Rob Carter, and Myron Helfgott were among those influential teachers who made me feel
at home and helped me to gain an artistic footing here. When I decided to undertake this series of artist portraits in early 2014, I started with these individuals.
Since then, I have met and photographed many artists, initially at the suggestion of the people with whom I began the project. To say that this experience has been a source of discovery and inspiration is an understatement. Simply put, interacting with all of these creative people has been amazing. It has instilled in me a much greater understanding of how important our arts community is, personally and collectively.
During my long career as a commercial photographer, I worked with many talented designers and art directors, including Rob Carter. He and I traveled around the country making aerial photographs for a Best Products Annual Report in 1983. Rob designed this book with stunning results, and I am immensely grateful once again to have had the opportunity to work with him.

The first public presentation of these portraits took place at the Richmond headquarters of Capital One (June 2–November 21 2017), thanks to an invitation from Art Program Manager Francis Thompson. On behalf of 1708 Gallery, board member Amie Oliver subsequently organized a two-part satellite exhibition at Linden Row Inn (January 15–July 8, 2018). More recently, VMFA educator Jeffrey Allison assembled a show of the portraits for the Richmond International Airport (February 3–August 2, 2020.) Selected portraits were also shown at Richmond’s Glave Kocen Gallery (June 15–July 18, 2020).
First and foremost, I hope this book will extend the recognition due these artists who have been so instrumental in the growth and visibility of Richmond’s cultural landscape.

To see more of this project, click here.

To purchase “A R T I S T S” click here

APE contributorΒ Suzanne SeaseΒ 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.Β  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.Β She has a new Twitter feed with helpful marketing information because she believes that marketing should be driven by brand and not by specialty.Β  Follow her at @SuzanneSease.Β  Instagram

Success is more than a matter of your talent. It’s also a matter of doing a better job presenting it. Β And that is what I do with decades of agency and in-house experience.

 

The Daily Edit – Bhagvati Khalsa: Pattern Plotting

- - The Daily Edit

Pattern Plotting

 

Photographer: Bhagvati Khalsa
Ceramic work

Heidi: Has photography always been a part of your creative life?
Bhagvati: Yes, very much so. Photos play a big role in my work as an apparel and textile designer, I use photography to storyboard my ideas, identify concepts and visually communicate the direction I am headed. My love of photography started early; I was the yearbook photographer for my high school where I learned to print in the darkroom. I loved the control and artistic understanding that it gave me to go beyond just creating an image, but also to express a specific feeling. Photography also gives me a good excuse to get out, be in the world and document all it’s amazingness.

When did this idea of pattern plotting come together?
While living in Denver I was taking daily walks at a local park. I had been making photos and paintings of clustered items for a long time.Β Β On these walks, passing the same spots daily I started seeing how the patterns in plants changed with different lighting. It made me start to think more about how lightning affects structure.Β Β By playing with the light in the editing process my images started to feel more akin to patterns rather than a representational photograph. The border around the images helped with a cut-off point giving ambiguity to the subject.

Why B/W?
By taking out the color from my images, it allows me to focus on the structure of the form and they can be more easily manipulated without having to also consider color. I am also influenced by 19thΒ century German photographer Karl Blossfeldt. His microscopic plant-based images feel so architectural and perfectly toned.

How long has this series been going and what are your plans for it?
The idea for #patternplotting started in 2013 as a series on Instagram, and for the last 5 or 6 years I’ve printed a calendar from selected images made during that year.Β Β I am not sure what the future holds, but the excitement that I get when I see the perfect lighting, or a cluster of objects compels me to photograph it, and in turn, the series continues. There have been requests for a book, but we shall see.

Did you start that hashtag #patternplotting?Β 
Yes, on Instagram.Β  The early adopters of Instagram had a big influence as there were a lot of artist and photographers that were using the platform as a place for creative expression, and I wanted to do the same. So, finding a hashtag that I could claim felt important. After a long while of being the only one who used it, I started to see people posting pictures with a similar aesthetic and the same hashtag. This gave me an interesting sensation knowing that the combination of those words was ringing true with others. To this day I have people send me pictures of things that they have seen that make them see the world through #patternplotting eyes.

How do these patterns inform other creative efforts in your life?
For me patterns are about systems, process and a sense of order. I recently had a show that was called β€œMeanderings” and it was a combination of both oil painting and ceramics. The paintings were all based on moving water and were sketched from life.Β Β They were titled β€œchoppy”, β€œstormy”, β€œcrashing” and β€œflowing”, but instead of photographs like in #patternplotting I used my observations and sense order to find and plot the patterns from memory.

As for the ceramics all the forms had something circular in nature.Β Β One particular piece I made was called β€œmove me”. It was a big table filled with sand, there were four shapes but in multiplicity.Β Β The idea was that the people could come in and rearrange the objects and make whatever type of patterns or order they wanted.Β Β Observing the different sense of order that each person brought to the piece, in a way moved me. It moved my sense of order and expanded it.

 

Featured Promo – Fred Mitchell

- - The Daily Promo

Fred Mitchell

Tell me about this promo.

I had it printed in Los Angeles at a place called Nonstop Printing. I actually found them when I was doing my wedding invitations last year and they were really pleasant to work with. So when I was looking at making these promos, I asked a friend who works with Curran Hatleberg for his maquettes with TBW books and he ended up pointing me back to Nonstop Printing for cost efficiency & quality. With them I did an ed. of 25, which I mostly used for marketing at photo fairs and conferences, but once the pandemic hit I had about 12 leftover and so I decided to offload the rest of them. I designed the book myself and did all the typography, layout and sequencing. This is actually the first time I have ever sent any printed media out blindly, but during the pandemic I started sending a digital PDF of recent work which includes this project (which is ongoing) along with some other ongoing personal work. If you’d like to check that one out, here is the link to that.

I believe in the printed object within the photo community, but I am also a strong advocate for photobooks. Most of my personal work is project/series based so a lot of it has turned into book projects. I actually have a book coming out through Yoffy Press that was set to be released this fall, but with the pandemic, it may get pushed back slightly. (Here is a link to that one) With my small bit of experience talking with commercial clients/agents, I have found mixed emotions on printed vs. digital portfolios. But a general consensus seems to be that if a project is intended as a book or zine people do seem to react positively to it rather than a digital portfolio. That being said, I try to have multiple tailored portfolios for different forms of marketing. So when I have done meetings, if it is with a photo editor, I try to lead with giving them a printed object they can keep and I let them know that they don’t have to look at that with me because it is for them to take away. Then I segue into a digital portfolio on an ipad which I also let them flip through at their own pace. When I was doing meetings with publishers to try to find a home for my upcoming book I also brought with me the hand-bound maquette of that project as well, but I have only a few copies of that one. That being said, people also responded positively to that and every now and then I will bring that with me to set if I am working with a client that I have a relationship with to let them check it out because it is a rather unusual project where the tactility and physicality are part of the concept.

I suppose for my work, if there is a reason the project should be printed then I try to do it, but I always want to make it something special. I have another project I am currently developing with my partner and fellow photographer, Alan Nakkash, that is also going to be a physical magazine/promotion tool. Part of our thinking was this is a special opportunity to make something different that gives us a reason to reach out to photo editors and potential clients. Additionally, our intention is for this to be a long term project where with each issue we create a visual dialog & narrative between two new featured artists. At this stage, a large part of this project highlights photographers similarities and differences in their artistic processes. This results in something truly collaborative because one artist takes the other artist’s work and they build the layout based on their interpretation of said work. So when this is printed it will continually evolve with each issue, thus giving a reason for us to frequently send these promos, and also hopefully help under-represented artists get their names out into the world. Sorry for such a long-winded explanation of my enthusiasm for printed matter haha!

Finally, the stories behind the images in Sweetwater. Inevitably, each image tells a story of its own, so I will try to give general context and then highlight my favorites so I hopefully don’t bore you!

I grew up skating and that largely shaped my life as a young adult. California was a dream to me because it always appeared that this was where all the best skating happened. But as I grew up and eventually moved out west (first to Las Vegas where I did my MFA and taught college for about 3 years) I was terrified to visit this place I had dreamed of. When I finally did come out here it was just as incredible as I had imagined it would be. But I didn’t move here as quickly as I would have hoped. At the time when I had the opportunity to make the move, my (now) ex-girlfriend’s mother had been diagnosed with cancer, so we instead moved back to Alabama to be close to her family. The relationship didn’t last, and I ended up leaving the academic world when I was offered an in-house photographer job at a fashion brand. After three years of working in fashion as what turned out to be an art director, I met my now wife who lived in CA and I drove west. That first few months was tumultuous to say the least. I sold my camera equipment to have enough money to buy food. I lived in my car for the first 5 months or so, then I found a room share on Craigslist where I slept on a massage table. And finally I got my own apartment. Because I had spent the past three years learning the ins and outs of the fashion world, I found a place working as an unpaid intern at Milk Studios. I think it was the week that I was finally hired that I found out my father passed away. For fear of losing my financial security, I was unable to go to the funeral. Then my mother ended up undergoing brain surgery to remove a tumor (which turned out to be benign) but I was also unable to visit her because I would have lost my job. My coworkers became my surrogate family. We worked overnight from 3pm-8/9am, doing backbreaking work (literally, one of my coworkers broke his back on the job). Another person nearly lost a toe, and I fractured or broke my heel when it was run over.

It was at this job that I began meeting many people transplanted from the midwest great lakes area. I didn’t know much about surfing but it always felt similar to the skating world. As I got to know these new friends they boasted of the surfing on the great lakes. Specifically how incredible but brutal the peak surfing season could be. I spent about 9 months researching this before my first trip to Lake Superior. I suppose my mentioning all the difficulties leading up to this because it informed where I was mentally & emotionally when I started this work. Essentially, I was broken and unsure about life, let alone making photographs. I had been fired from my position as night-time equipment manager at the studio and still without a camera, I told myself that if I got a flight and rented gear, I had to do it. I was photo assisting full time so I worked extra to save enough money for this trip and suddenly I was thrust into the frigid mid-western winter. I treated it as I had treated skating trips as a kid. I contacted friends of friends who introduced me to other people and I began making my way around the upper peninsula of Michigan. Across the Wisconsin Coastline on Lake Michigan. Over the Mackinac Bridge (terrifying to drive over in a white out). All over the Mitten that is Michigan. Whenever I encountered new people, they would always ask where I was staying and offer me a couch to sleep on or a spare bedroom. Literally the opposite of my experience in California when I was homeless. And then there is the surfing. I wanted to craft a narrative that was true to the experience and community. An experience consisting of days we would go out and find nothing but ice. Other times there were long fantastic sessions ending with long frozen ice beards and hair. All of these days, filled with incredible people in a foreign frozen tundra.

The day that stands out most to me can be seen in the image of the girl with the bloody lip. Her name is Jaime, and we had corresponded through text messages for about a week or so before meeting. On the day we were finally set to meet she told me that she was uncomfortable meeting with me alone because for all she knew I could be a crazy person. So I told her that I totally understood and if she wanted to bring someone along with her to feel more safe that would be more than fine. So Jaime agreed to meet and arrived with her springer spaniel Murph. We talked and snapped a few photos while Murph ran around the frozen beach. Eventually, while we were talking we realized Murph had made his way onto the icy break. He couldn’t figure out how to get back and he was more than comfortable swimming in the cold water. But instead of jumping into the side with open water, he leaped into the side of the break that was mostly chunks of ice. As Murph began to panic and try to get onto the ice we ran toward him. Jaime was in her wetsuit, but hadn’t put on her gloves yet. She entered the water and began to try to help her dog from drowning. I was close behind her but I had fallen making my way across the icy break. As I made it to the ladder Murph was pushing Jaime underwater and her hands were beginning to freeze. I threw the camera aside and climbed down the ladder as Jaime pushed Murph toward me. I grabbed him and helped him back onto the land but Jaime’s hands weren’t working anymore. We linked our arms at the elbows and I pulled her up and as I did blood streamed down her face. As Murph trotted back to the beach I first asked her if she was okay and she said she was alright, just glad Murph was safe. Then I told her that her lip was bleeding, and she asked “how bad?” I told her it was okay probably. Immediately she responded, “well, do you wanna take a picture of it?”

Honestly, most of these photographs are stories like this. Rental cars having blowouts in the middle of the night. There was a time some friends accidentally blew up a propane heater inside of a van (photograph of the orange wetsuit next to the van tires). Falling asleep inside camper vans in sub-zero temperatures (boards storage photograph with the plywood room). Late-night talks of philosophy in relationship to surfing while drinking freshly harvested chaga tea. Moments that felt like I was talking to Gary Busey’s character in point break when he jumps on the desk (someone literally did this haha). I could go on but I don’t want to bore, and if I have, then I apologize. It’s all really fun to discuss and relive for me.

This Week in Photography: I Have A Dream

 

—“Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children…

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone…

And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., American hero, August 28th, 1963

 

—“At first I was self-conscious about photographing in these communities. What would the residents think of this white woman with a big camera photographing on their street, telling their story? But the people I met along the way calmed my fears. Although there were some exceptions, once they knew what I was doing, they were excited. The people I met were usually eager to point out things I should photograph and wanted to know when they’d be able to see the pictures.

Even though the residents I met seemed to accept me, I became acutely aware of the things I was choosing to photograph. What do my choices say about me? Am I recording a realistic picture of the communities? At several exhibitions of these photographs, people have been surprised to discover that I’m not African-American. That people don’t feel that these photos were made by an outsider is comforting to me.”

Susan Berger, photographic artist, 2019

 

Fifty-seven years ago this month, in the dog days of August, one of the most famous Americans of all time delivered one of the most famous speeches ever given.

You know it, and I know it as the “I Have AΒ Dream” speech, but I’m not sure I’ve ever read it in its entirety before today.

(Maybe I have and forgot?)

I was a little surprised to realize that it was given only one hundred years after Abraham Lincoln freed America’s slaves, (in legal terms,) via the Emancipation Proclamation.

That’s only the lifetime of a very old person.

Not much at all, when you think about it.

And as a forty-six year old American, I’ve spent many hours wondering what the 60’s were really like?

Protests, drama, riots, assassinations, chaos, near-nuclear annihilation.

The division of my fellow citizens into hippies and squares. Pro-segregation assholes versus others who craved a country where people could at least attempt to live together, or eat together, or sit in the same section of a public bus.

 

Square-jawed 1960’s square, Don Draper

 

I wondered, at the time, did people feel like the world was unraveling? Did they know that the Civil Rights movement would make changes to our broken society, without healing all the wounds caused by slavery and systemic racism?

Did they fear that things might break completely, leaving us two nations instead of one?

Did anyone have confidence that the turmoil would lead to “better” days, or were all Americans sitting on the edge of their seats, unsure if things would ever get “better” again?

Now I no longer wonder.

We’ve passed the threshold of fifty years since the sixties, and one hundred and fifty-five years since the Emancipation Proclamation, and now all Americans know what it feels like to fear whether our country can withstand the fissures that threaten to implode our historical experiment.

China and India, the two burgeoning global super-powers, are both thousands of years old.

Like, five thousand years.

By comparison, the United States of America is an extremely young society, and one that was built upon lofty ideals, but rotten realities.

You may be tired of being reminded that the institution of slavery and the theft of Native American land allowed this nation to thrive, but it is an inescapable history.

Hell, in #2020, jerkoffs like Tom Cotton have the balls to suggest that slavery was a “necessary evil.”

(You can’t make that shit up.)

And I’ve felt the need to write several columns asking you, and all of us, to open our minds to the fact that people of all races and genders “should” be able to appreciate each other, respect each other, and value contributions from those people who don’t look and sound like us.

Yet most of my friends are white.

I try, and have tried, to bridge the cultural and racial divide with friendships, and sometimes it’s worked, and sometimes it hasn’t.

Some may find me naive for thinking that our commonalities should be as important, or occasionally more important, than our differences.

If Kanye West and Jared Kushner can be friends, and plot to take America back to when it was “Great” again, why can’t we?

But enough with the sermonizing.

You come for the photography reviews, and won’t stay if you feel like I’m preaching too much each week.

Perhaps you like it when I’m funny, or say fuck and shit all the time, or maybe you like that I weave politics, cultural criticism and a deep-rooted optimism together with a love of art?

(No matter. It’s time to get on with things.)

This column was inspired by a photo book by a white Jewish lady curious about African-American culture, and I even published some of the photos already, after reviewing them at Photo Nola in 2014.

(Back in the Obama era, when despite the promise of an end of racism, we were met with no such thing.)

This week, Obama’s second-in-command, a white man from Pennsylvania, synonymous with the tiny state of Delaware, offered his second-in-command position to a woman whose parents came from Jamaica and India.

A child of immigrants, reared in that great American melting pot of California, which is supposed to represent the best we have to offer. (In my opinion, anyway, and I’m not alone, which is why nearly 40 million people live there.)

Of course I’m rooting for Joe and Kamala, not just because I respect their politics, but because I genuinely believe that if Trump wins again, America might cease to be a democratic republic by 2024.

Like a person can only take so many whip lashes before dying, America can only handle so many sustained attacks on our democratic institutions before becoming an autocracy.

And while we can hope and dream of better days, no one knows what will happen in November of #2020, one hundred and fifty five years after the end of our Civil War.

Having said all that, today I’m showing photographs from Susan Berger’s book “Life and Soul: American Streets Honoring Martin Luther King,” which was published last year by Dark Spring Press, and turned up in the mail in May of #2020.

It’s a thoughtful and well-crafted book, and one that takes a couple of risks, but it’s perfect to show today.

To begin with, in our current cultural climate, the mere fact that it exists, that it was shot by a non-African-American, would make it uncomfortable to some.

I get that, and so does Susan, which is why she wrote about it head-on in her excellent opening essay. (Accompanied by another strong essay by Frank Gohlke, a photo world legend for being a part of the seminal “New Topographics” show back in the 70s.)

They’re both a part of the tight-knit and talented Arizona photo mafia, and the end notes tell us that Susan worked for Mr. Gohlke back in day.

The end notes also give us a break-down of all the trips that Susan took to photograph MLK streets around the country, between 2009-14, trying to build a representative, (if not categorical,) view of where these streets are located and what they contain.

Apparently, but not surprisingly, they are almost exclusively in urban, African-American neighborhoods, some of which have absorbed Latino populations, and ironically the entire project was inspired by the artist driving by a sign for an MLK street in the middle of rural America.

Of course, it wouldn’t be #2020 if I didn’t point out that the resources required to fly around for one’s art, and the cost of purchasing and providing film for a medium format camera are marks of privilege.

Now it’s been said.

And I do find flaw with the other risk taken here, which is the repeating motif of reprinting close-up crops of images throughout, opposite blank, black pages.

That said, it’s an excellent book, and between the murals, statues, local restaurants, churches, small food markets, bleak vibes, (again, in the Obama era,) and hotels named after Dr. King, it certainly presents a vision of poverty and decline.

I suspect that Dr. King would be disappointed to know that this deep into the 21st Century, things are still as bad as they are.

Access to education and health care is still so uneven.

And among the tens of thousands of dead in this god-awful pandemic, too many are people of color.

But I also suspect that he might not like the manner in which like-minded people of different races distrust each other, and attack each difference, rather than building upon our common values.

Maybe it was always thus?

I’ll end here on a message of hope, just so you don’t feel like overdosing on sleeping pills.

We always have the opportunity to learn from the past, and the future has not yet been written.

Though many Americans have bought into Trump’s politics of hate and division, there are nearly 330 million people living in this Great country of ours, and I believe that a majority, enough to win the next election, (despite the obvious cheating he’ll try to engender,) desire a country in which we we can, indeed, all get along.

(Or at least most of us.)

To purchase “Life and Soul” click hereΒ 

If you’d like to submit a book for potential review, please contact me directly at jonathanblaustein@gmail.com. We are particularly interested in books by women, and artists of color, so we may maintain a balanced program.Β