This Week in Photography: Be Memorable

 

 

 

I meet a lot of photographers each year.

 

 

 

 

Going to festivals as I do, reviewing portfolios, I see a ton of work.

Each time, when you meet with someone for 20 minutes, at some point, you’re giving specific feedback about their individual project, and the component pictures.

That’s obvious.

But often, (if you’re seeing 150+ portfolios a year,) you say certain things over and over again.

It’s the meta-advice, if you will.

Some of it, you’ve heard here a million times.

(Were I substantially more popular and important, they might have a drinking game for how often I say, “Get out of your comfort zone.”)

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 2022, one thing I said, over and over again, is the goal is to be memorable.

To somehow stick in the mind of the person you’re meeting, so they hang on to tidbits about you down the line.

(When they’re far more likely to work with you than ASAP.)

This year alone, I hit festivals in San Francisco, San Diego, Chicago, and I’m going to PhotoNOLA in New Orleans this December.

 

Chicago, Sept 2022

 

That’s a lot of portfolios!

How much work, how many people, can I really remember in detail?

Or perhaps, the better question is, which details did I remember at all?

 

 

 

 

Being memorable is meta-advice, because it’s not something you can do directly.

Sure, I guess you could go the obvious route and jump off your roof, while having your dumb buddy film it.

Post it on Youtube.

That might work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

By definition, average is not memorable.

Exceptional is memorable.

Brilliant is memorable.

Innovative is memorable.

Heart-breaking is memorable.

(As is extreme, unfortunately.)

Show me things I haven’t seen, and I’ll remember it.

If your work is FUCKING AMAZING, I’ll remember you.

Or if it’s odd, kooky, strange-enough-to-occupy-the-Upside-Down type of art.

The weird shit.

That’s memorable too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m more-than-overdue to write about the festivals I’ve visited this year, and San Francisco came first.

I mention all this because I’m doing something new today.

If you remember, in the Spring, I wrote an extensive travel article about SF, as my visit was so traumatizing.

It was a story about the power of human feces, and the death of cool.

(Better we don’t revisit it.)

But I never wrote about the portfolio review I attended, the reason I went to SF in the first place, and critiqued that Diego Rivera mural at the SF Art Institute.

(Calling it out for antisemitism. BTW, I’ve been warning about that for a year, so hopefully you’re paying attention now.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

The San Francisco Art Institute finally closed, as back then it had been hanging on by a thread.

I spent two days there at the PhotoAlliance portfolio review in March, and for some reason, I barely remember any of the work, or the people I met at the review table.

So today, for the first time ever, I’m only going to share the portfolios that stuck in my brain.

Sure, you could say it was the California weed, (and maybe it’s true,) but I’ve been stoned plenty of times and still remembered everything.

 

My 44 % THC Horchata joint

 

With respect to my few days in San Francisco, the location, the meals, walking through the city, sitting by the bay, I can recall all of it in my mind, easily.

 

View of the Golden Gate from Chrissy Field

 

$10 BBQ Pork noodle plate from Chinatown

 

(Damn, I’d eat a plate of those noodles right about now.)

But it’s far more likely that particular group of artists did not stand out, for some reason.

Not enough juice to the work, or the conversations.

Thankfully, two artists made an impression.

(Three, if you count Pamela Gentile, whom I once wrote about for the NYT, but we didn’t really look at new work. I just remember chatting.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

I met Jacque Rupp at one of the online portfolio reviews, back in 2020, or ’21.

(Really, can anybody remember which year was which?)

Jacque lives in NorCal, and I remember her black and white, documentary project about immigrant, farm-worker communities along the coast, near Gilroy.

I published those images here, and wrote about our conversation, with respect to how an “outsider” can do the research, work with non-profits, and earn the right to share stories from other communities.

Which she had been doing.

So that was my context for our IRL meet in March.

I was therefore NOT expecting “The Red Purse,” a series of intimate, color self-portraits that explored middle-aged, female sexuality.

It was weird, and personal, and not like anything I could recall.

In my mind, now, when I close my eyes, I remember slip dresses. The color red. And Jacque there before me, in the flesh.

I didn’t need to go to her website to look it up, because fragments of the images were living in my mind.

Thanks, Jacque!

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then there was Wik Wikholm.

I don’t need to say much about Wik, (other than he was a chill, nice guy,) because the pictures speak for themselves.

OK, there IS one story I’ll share.

It’s a quote really, that popped into my head during the crit, and Wik liked it a lot.

“We start with absurdity, and move towards insanity.”

Wik made digitally composited self portraits, but at first, I refused to believe him.

The guy in front of me looked SO little like the guy in the images, it just couldn’t be.

But Wik swore he’d lost weight, it was him, and playing the characters was a part of the deal.

“Damn,” I kept yelling out loud.

(Ask Wik.)

At one point, I got up from the table, walked for a few seconds, and then came back.

So weird!

Wik’s work kept blowing my mind, at a time when my mind was (apparently) occupied with weed, food and fecal matter.

(OK, I’m exaggerating for comedic effect.)

I love this stuff, and I’m sure you will too.

See you in two weeks!

 

This Week in Photography: The Chicago Beatdown

 

 

 

 

I love Chicago.

Of the American cities I know well, Chicago might be my favorite.

(Though San Diego and New Orleans are in the conversation.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chicago offers everything, at a world-class level: beaches, architecture, art, food, music and diversity, in a walkable, clean, urban megalopolis. I’ve said it before, but the buildings are so gorgeous, it’s like walking around a massive, public art installation.

 

 

 

 

That Chicago has always been a little-brother city means it’s had to work extra-hard to distinguish itself.

New visitors are surprised by how big it is, how clean, and how picturesque is the setting, with the ocean-blue lake and serpentine green river.

 

Bikers at the Lake
Jet-skiers on the river

 

The Chicagoans are nice, hard-working, and humble as the day is long. So when I visited last week, (just got home Sunday,) I was expecting a tight-gripped, large-person, bear hug, as Chicago always treats me well.

This was my 7th visit since 2015, and I’ve spent well over a month in the city since.

Honestly, Chicago loves me.

I have great friends, always talk to strangers, eat well, and never have drama.

This time, however, I got a little cocky, (acted too big for my britches,) so I got a proper Chicago-style beatdown.

(Ouch.)

What happened?

Let’s dive in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While my trip was efficient, as I said, it left little time for stopping to buy food.

And as soon as I got to the 21C Museum Hotel, for the Filter Photo Festival, the rest of the reviewers were heading out the door to the welcome party.

(So that added time pressure.)

Trader Joe’s was literally across the street, and I’ve already told you about my room-booze technique, which saves a lot of money at the bar.

Bourbon sounded like the perfect thing to put some pep in my step, so I bought a bottle of Bulleit, but was too tired to think about searching for food, (and too intimidated to roam the TJ aisles.)  So I showered, threw back a few glasses of whiskey, and was out the door for the 1+ mile walk North.

Do I know better than to drink on an empty stomach?

Of course I do!

Then, I didn’t dig the food when I got there, and as I’d jumpstarted my evening with the bourbon, and switched to white wine at the party, I was quickly too inebriated to make good decisions.

So not eating, and mixing drinks.

Two bad calls.

At the bar afterwards, my friend Doug offered me a pint of Guinness, and then someone else gave me a light brown beer.

We stepped outside to smoke a couple of times.

 

At the bar. Don’t entirely remember taking the photo.

 

By midnight, walking home with Caitlin and Grace, I’d put whiskey, white wine, black beer, reefer, and brown beer into an empty stomach.

Because I was so tired from the travel day, and hadn’t bought any food at Trader Joe’s, there was also no late night grub in the room.

(Nor leftovers, as I hadn’t had time for takeout.)

And we weren’t in a part of town where there were restaurants open.

That was mistake 3, adding nothing to the sad stomach, after the fact, to soak up the booze.

Oh man, was it going to be a nasty morning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Earlier in the week I’d bragged on a group text, arrogantly saying I never get hangovers.

That I had the perfect remedy, and really, getting too drunk was for suckers.

(I’m no sucker.)

Unfortunately, I got cocky in Chicago, and the city doesn’t cotton to hubris.

No sir.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To say I threw up four times before 8:30am is to be factually accurate, but contextually mild.

I wanted to die. I might have cried.

(Hard to be sure.)

I definitely called my wife, begging for empathy, and genuinely wondered if I might have caught a bug in the airports? At first, so sure of my own invulnerability, I couldn’t imagine my pain was self-inflicted.

I’m a dude who knows how to handle himself. It’s a part of my identity.

Yet there I was, curled in a fetal position in the shower, begging my poor body, which I’d just abused, to find enough energy to review 14 portfolios that day.

(Cut to the chase, I did it.)

I’m told I looked like death, with bloodshot eyes, raccoon-bags beneath them, and ashen, waxy skin.

By afternoon I’d rebounded, and by evening, I began my 3-types-of-pizza-in-3-days foray, which we’ll talk about next.

But the big moral of the story was explained to me a few times over the next few days.

If you’re going to be too full of yourself, stay out of Chicago.

If, however, you make an ass of yourself, but then learn your lesson, take your humbling like a pro, and grow from the occasion?

After the beatdown, Chicago picks you up, dusts you off, and gives you a hug.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, the pizza.

My friend Louie Palu has railed against Deep Dish as long as I’ve known him, claiming it’s not pizza.

Every. Single. Chicago. Local. I know insists they never eat Deep Dish.

That it’s for tourists.

By now, I’ve tried Pizanos, (good,) Giordano’s, (OK,) and Lou Malnati’s, (very good,) but I’d never tried the OG Deep Dish spots in Chicago: Pizzerias Uno and Due.

They’re a block away from each other, and apparently begat the trend, back in the day.

They’d been recommended to me before, so I was down to try it, but truth is, it was the first food I was going to eat since I was sick, and as Pizzeria Due was on the corner of my block, that’s as far as I was going to order it.

 

 

The place reeked of character, and when I saw a pizza with spinach and broccoli on the menu, I was sold, because I needed a little nutrition to jumpstart my system.

Did I assume I’d be the only person ordering that pizza that night?

Yes.
Yes I did.

So when I got the pizza home, and after I took the picture, I was a little surprised not to see much green inside.

 

 

Still, I thought, the veggies have to be in there.

I cut into a slice, (which looked quite good,) and wouldn’t you know it, I bit into a piece of sausage, but no veggies.

Sausage!
Again!

(For those of you who don’t remember, last year, at Tempo Cafe, they gave me sausage in my eggs, rather than green veggies, in the most Chicago of all flexes, and I ate it, b/c sending it back would have taken forever.)

This time, though it tasted good, I didn’t feel I had an option.

My hung-over body was begging for green vegetables, (just like in Jersey,) so I called Due, the woman apologized and said my pizza was there waiting. I went down the elevator, made the quick walk, and came home with a veggie pizza.

Which was sad, I’m sorry to say, and definitely not as good as the pizza she made me return.

(Seriously, once I’d eaten from it, maybe let me keep it? What else are you going to do with it? It wasn’t my mistake. The sticker on the sausage pizza said spinnocoli.)

As to the pizza, the cornmeal crust was too-thick, and flavorless. The pizza had too little cheese, and the sauce was weak.

Overall, just a bad pizza experience.

(Shame on you, Due!)

Pizzeria Due
1 star out of 4

 

 

 

 

 

The next day, though, I had pizza at Eataly, the Italian food mega-emporium chain that was started by the (since-culturally-defenestrated) superstar chef Mario Batali, and his partners, the Bastianich family.

 

Inside Eataly

 

I’d done the walk-through the day before, and found it to be a well-stocked joint, but a bit confusing to figure out.

On my return visit, having done the proper scope, I knew just where to go: La Pizza & La Pasta.

I ate with a few friends and colleagues, and was clear that I’d only share my pizza once I was done with it, as I was terrified of getting stuck with an unfavorable pizza experience, given the nightmare that was Due.

(Good thing too, when anchovies and mushrooms were suggested as possible toppings. Gross!)

We began with some arugula and parmesan salads that hit just right.

 

 

The pizza was in the Neapolitan style, and I got an eggplant parmesan pie, which was sublime.

The pizza had char, for looks, a firm-yet-chewy, flavorful crust. There was plenty of melty, high-end mozzarella cheese. Overall, the perfect balance of texture and taste.

 

 

The eggplant was not deep-fried, and offered a nice melt-in-your-mouth component.

Frankly, it was pizza bliss.

 

 

Eataly La Pizza & La Pasta
4 stars out of 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last, but not least, I returned to Eataly to buy some Italian cookies for my wife, on Saturday, right before I needed to walk 30 minutes South to the Columbia College Student Center, where the Filter portfolio walk would be held.

(Plus, I needed a snack.)

After giving the store a quick once-over, I spotted a gorgeous $6 hunk of Pizza Margherita, in their Pizza Alla Pala station.

 

 

It’s where they attempt to recreate Roman style, but fail.

Here, there are pre-cut slices of gourmet, rectangular pizza.

In Rome, you walk up, tell them how much you want, and they cut you a rectangular hunk.

(Not the same thing.)

Then, after I waited 7 minutes, I got a little pushback from the pizza worker, just for choosing the piece I wanted.

(“Oh,” she said, “you want the REALLY cheesy one?”)

There was a $14 slice of burrata and fresh tomato pie, that included a full ball of burrata, which looked like art, and would likely have been amazing.

(But my stomach didn’t want to eat a literal ball of cheese.)

When I got back to the hotel with my takeout slice, (one block away,) and opened it up, my heart sank.

The Eataly-pizza-attendant has smushed some wax paper down into the slice, and nearly all the cheese had come up onto the paper.

She ruined it!

Cardinal sin.

I spent a few minutes scraping the cheese, which helped a little, before I ate it in a dejected condition.

And I was not impressed.

The sauce was zingy, at least, and the crust was thick and crunchy, with a bit of olive oil to it, so I could only wonder what might have been?

 

 

Eataly Pizza Alla Pala
2 stars out of four

 

See you next week!

 

 

 

This Week in Photography: The Best Work from PhotoNOLA, Part 2

 

 

 

“Just as a bow kept strung loses its usefulness, so humans cannot stand continuous tension.”

Koichi Tohei, Japanese Zen/Aikido master (1920-2011)

 

“Laissez les bons temps rouler.”

An old Cajun French saying

 

 

 

 

Last week, I went all Zen on you.

What with the meditation advice and such.

 

 

I know it can seem preachy, sometimes.

So I try to be careful.

(And as I tell all my students and clients, I never give advice I don’t apply in my own life.)

Happiness doesn’t just come from self-care, be it exercise, kung fu, or movement meditation.

Humans are social creatures, and need contact.

Isolation, and even worse, loneliness, make us sick.

But wait, I promise this won’t be a heavy column!

(Nor a long one.)

So let’s move things along, shall we?

 

 

 

 

 

Having fun, hanging out with friends, keeps us emotionally and physically happy.

Even if you don’t drink alcohol in your daily life, or stay out late, tying one on every now and again, hitting the town with your buddies, is a pre-pandemic habit that needs to come back ASAP.

(Or for most of you, maybe it already has.)

I went to my first post-pandemic, IRL photo festival in mid-December, as the Delta wave receded, and just before Omicron hit.

New Orleans draws certain people in, like a dumpling restaurant in the back corner of a forgotten strip-mall.

More invested, knowledgeable people than I have tried to write about New Orleans, and understand it.

I make no pretense.

I’ve been there five times in my life, always in December, and had a shit ton of fun on each occasion.

I feel comfortable in the town.

As different as it is from where I live, here in the high desert, at the base of the Rocky Mountains, there is somehow a connection between the places.

Honestly, it has to be the Spanish and French roots.

 

 

It shows wherever you look.

The 18th and 19th Century architecture is insanely gorgeous, and evokes a historical glamour I haven’t seen elsewhere in America.

 

 

(Though admittedly I haven’t been to Charleston.)

 

 

 

 

 

There’s music on the streets, on the regular, and it transforms any ordinary moment into something truly special.

Like the time I sat on some concrete steps, down at the Mississippi River, and listened to a talented busker behind me belt out “Ring of Fire.”

 

 

It was a moment.

(And yes, I gave him money.)

 

 

 

New Orleans is a city that enchants, and really, do you ever remember me saying anything like that before?

As usual, I stuck to the French Quarter and the CBD, getting bussed around the city a few times, never knowing where I was, because it was evening, the city is a maze, and I’d let loose and drank more than a few.

(So much fun, those few days.)

Let’s cut to the chase.

That’s the moral of the story, today.

Please, loosen up when you can, and have a jolly good time.

Live a little.

We’ve all gone through, or more likely are still going through, a seismic global catastrophe, with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Which is now two and a quarter years old.

No one can stand constant tension, as the great man said at this column’s outset.

We all need to break it, sometimes.

Having fun is a great way to do it.

And I speak from experience.

New Mexico weed stores opened on the first of the month, and April is normally my least favorite month, for a variety of valid reasons.

This year, though?

April’s been pretty, pretty, pretty good.

 

 

 

 

As to the real purpose of my trip to New Orleans?

Beyond eating, drinking, walking, listening, talking, and having a great time, (for the travel article I wrote in December,) my main goal was to look at photographic projects.

I went to PhotoNOLA to review portfolios, offer feedback, and then write about my favorites, here, for you.

Last week, we offered Part 1, and it was a pretty excellent mix of work, if I do say so.

This time out, as before, the artists are in no particular order.

And thanks to all of them for allowing us to share their wonderful work with you!

 

 

 

 

 

To begin with, Laurie Peek had a sad story.

Let’s get that out of the way. (Call it your trigger warning.)

She lost her son, Jackson, during the pandemic, when he tragically drowned.

Like many others, he had no funeral.

So she began making new work, “In Lieu of Flowers,” in mourning, and the pictures are quite beautiful.

Or so I imagine, as I met Laurie while Zooming from a comfortable chair in the IHH event building, during the online portion of the review.

Each image, she told me, represented one person who couldn’t have a funeral, due to the pandemic.

Like I said, super-sad.

But processing that grief through art is a powerful way to go.

(Just ask Marvin Heiferman.)

 




 

 

I met Vikesh Kapoor at a festival in Los Angeles a few years ago, (shout out to Exposure,) and have happily followed his career’s ascent.

He’s had a nice array of exhibitions lately, in Philly and Chicago, with accompanying lectures, and Vikesh had a solo show, with a talk, at the New Orleans Photo Alliance gallery during the festival.

But when we met at the the review table, he showed me something different.

Work from a commission from Leica and the BJP, in which he photographed people who were impacted by Vikesh’s mother, who was the local ob/gyn in a small, rural Pennsylvania town.

There’s a video as well.

Together, they tell a visual story of an immigrant in a far different culture, whose life intertwined with, and impacted so many people in that small world.

(Vikesh told me she delivered 3000 babies in a town of 9000.)

It’s an excellent project, for sure.

 

 

 

 

Pam Connolly and I got along swimmingly, and when I found out she lived in New Jersey, of course it all made sense.

Seriously, though, Pam showed me very-well-executed, sharp, lovely photos of constructed, tin, old doll houses.

They’re not creepy, though, as the bright colors, and seductive use of light, make it more fun and nostalgic, than anything.

(She also includes landscapes that are imaginary views out the widow of the mini-homes. )

Pam’s work made me think of Jane Szabo, who’s created some very cool work by moving miniature houses around the natural environment.

Seriously, someone needs to give these two a show together!

 

 

 

Next, we have Peter Hiatt, whom I ultimately owed an apology.

(Or, at least, I offered one.)

At the review table, Peter showed me a set of images of paint ball courses, near where he lives in Indiana.

They were nice, but not super-distinctive.

I told him I didn’t see a lot of passion there, and wondered why all the people, the crazy culture, were being elided, when that’s where many of the best details likely reside?

I suggested Peter focus on subject matter to which he felt a more intense, personal connection.

And it was a pass for this article.

However…

When I went to the portfolio walk at the Ogden Museum, I saw Peter’s work spread out on tables, with the prints arrayed in a group.

Like bashing a door-handle with your funny-bone, I immediately saw that his handling of color, in a weird, consistent palette, was spot on.

And the repeating use of shapes and compositions eluded me, viewing them one at a time, under less optimal lighting conditions.

So I apologized, and told Peter I’d be happy to publish his work, if he wanted to be included.

He did, and here we are.

Thanks, Peter!

 


 

Last, but not least, we have Sarrah Danziger, whom I briefly met at the aforementioned portfolio walk.

(Friday night of the festival.)

We didn’t get much of a chance to talk, but I thought her environmental portraits about people in the local culture, (she lives in New Orleans,) were really well done.

I offered to publish them on the spot, and again, here we are.

Thanks so much to all the artists, to the crew at PhotoNOLA for having me, and see you all next week.

 

This Week in Photography: The Best Work from PhotoNOLA, Part 1

 

 

 

I just began reading “Ki in Daily Life,” by Koichi Tohei.

Fascinating stuff.

(Tohei Sensei was a Japanese Aikido master, the most skilled in the world, after founder Morihei Ueshiba, and a major proponent of understanding ki, which is synonymous with the Chinese concept of Qi, or Chi.)

 

 

 

Though I’m not finished with the book, right off the bat, Tohei Sensei establishes we all have ki, or life energy, and can choose whether it flows in positive or negative directions.

We develop our ki by the thoughts we make, the breath we take, and the ways in which we move our bodies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In particular, Tohei Sensei guides us to drop our “one point,” or center of gravity, (what the Chinese call the Lower Dantian,) towards the ground, focusing on relaxing it, as well as our posture.

It’s really making a difference in my overall happiness, and I just began experimenting with the practice.

But once again, you’re wondering…why is he telling me this?

Because Chinese martial arts, (the various forms of Kung Fu,) use Qigong, or energy-based, movement meditation exercises, to develop fighting power, and life energy.

Koichi Tohei Sensei, one of the great Japanese martial artists of all time, advocated doing the same thing.

 

 

And he drew acclaim for helping non-martial-arts, just regular people, understand and utilize their ki, by encouraging certain movement mediations and thought-patterns.

He was explicit in teaching the extension of ki though your fingers, out towards the world, to spread the positive energy you cultivate in yourself.

Sample quote:

“Our lives are a part of the universal ki enclosed in the flesh of our bodies,” and “…practice emphasizing the sending forth of ki aims not only at improvement in the martial techniques, but also at facilitating the conflux of our ki with that of the universal. That is an extremely wholesome way to make the maximum of one’s life power.”

That’s some secrets-of-the-Universe type shit right there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Only two weeks ago, I published an advice column, suggesting you figure out new ways to chill the fuck out, while the world was going insane around you.

(Buck the trend, as it were.)

So now I’m giving you some concrete suggestions for how to accomplish that lofty goal.

These ancient practices, in which we trust old-school traditions, can help us learn to meditate, calm our minds when we’re stressed, and build up our ki, so life will get better.

(Knowing how to defend oneself is a cool side-benefit, but martial arts are really about developing internal control on a deeper level.)

If you’re not interested in Japanese or Chinese martial arts, things like Yoga, Zen meditation, Tibetan Buddhist meditation, Tai Chi, walking meditation, any of these are worth integrating into your life, to better prepare you for 2022.

I was thinking about all these things this morning, on my walk, right before I wrote this for you.

So I stopped by the stream, to capture a moment of Zen.

Hope you like it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you add movement or sitting-based meditation to your self-care regimen, along with exercise, eating well, and making your art, you’ll likely find yourself a bit happier, day by day, than during the darkness of the early pandemic.

(I had to discuss photography eventually, right?)

Making art is still the most powerful self-care arrow in our quiver.

It’s why you’re reading this blog.

Because even in a world with seemingly endless forms of creative expression, so many people still love using the camera to make art.

And I’m fortunate to be able to meet a lot of photographers, view their work, and hear their stories, now that photo festivals are back, IRL.

Today, though, I chose not to do another rant about how great photo festivals are.

(As I’ve sung that song a lot lately.)

But it is finally time to show the first batch of the best work I saw at PhotoNOLA back in December.

I met a host of talented, cool, interesting artists, and am thrilled to share their work with you today.

(We’ll have another group next week.)

As usual, the artists are in no particular order, and we hope you enjoy the portfolios.

 

 

 

 

Ash Margaret is based in Houston, and showed me a bonkers project, for sure. The through-line to the series was a set of old-school gas masks, integrated into staged environments, featuring models as well.

(Talk about creative expression.)

They’re really strange, and I made a radical edit for Ash, in which we divided the images I thought were too kitschy, from the ones that were ambiguous, cool, and foreboding.

Regardless, they seem the perfect example of how to use healthy ways to get your crazy out, so you don’t shine it on others.

 


 

 

Ellen Mitchell is from the Jersey Shore area, (like me,) but unlike me, she still lives there.

While I spied a series about seagulls that I loved, at the portfolio walk, when we met for our official review, Ellen showed me a group of street photos taken on the boardwalk at Seaside Heights.

(A bit South of where I’m from.)

We must have discussed consent, as it was 2021, and considering how we commodify the visual identity of strangers is a tricky topic.

I also suggested she take good care with certain techniques, like light quality and cropping.

Overall, though, the pictures definitely represent something different, (which is hard to achieve,) and I’m glad Ellen allowed us share them with you.

{ED note: I just went through the files Ellen sent, while posting the column, and have to say, upon second viewing, I think these photos are pretty great. It was very hard to edit down even to this large selection.)

 

 

 

Chad Schneider is based in Minnesota, and also has a background making films.

We’re all familiar with the genre of creepy/seductive twilight photographs of homes and buildings.

(I doubt Todd Hido invented it either, but it’s certainly something we know him for.)

However, some tropes are alluring for a reason.

Chad’s illuminated evening shots sucked me in, for sure.

They’re gorgeous in just the right ways, and I love them, even if we’re familiar with the style.

 

 

 

John Hesketh is a cool guy, and certainly knows New Orleans.

(He said an ancestor had been run out of Louisiana, at gunpoint, so he didn’t grow up down there, but had deep roots.)

John showed me multiple-image-composite photos of Mardi Gras revelers.

I would say I liked them; didn’t love them.

I mean, they’re fun.

What’s not to like?

But when John suggested he was done, that surprised me, as he didn’t seem bored or disengaged with the subject.

He agreed he was still excited, and then reconsidered, deciding to return to Mardi Gras 2022 to make more art.

Nothing gives me more pleasure, during an event, than knowing I can help get someone fired up to use their creativity, which is so good for our health.

 

 

 

Last, but not least, we have Diane Meyer, whom I met via Zoom, during the online portion of the reviews.

They happened simultaneously, and each reviewer found a nice spot in the hotel’s events building, (across the street from the International House Hotel,) to connect via WiFi to a photographer elsewhere in the country.

Diane is based in LA, and showed me some really amazing work.

I don’t normally disclose such things, but I voted for her for the PhotoNOLA Review Prize, and others must have too, because she won.

Congrats, Diane!

As to the work, they’re photographs of the location where the former Berlin Wall stood, in which parts of the photos have been sewn over.

Like fabric art had a baby with photography, and I loved it back in December.

That was before the Berlin Wall, and the resurrected Clash of Empires, was so firmly ensconced in everyone’s consciousness, under a resurgent, imperialistic Russia.

It’s just a killer project, technically and symbolically.

 

 

We’ll have more portfolios for you next week.

See you then!

 

 

This Week in Photography: Festivals Are Back

 

 

It’s my birthday today.

And thankfully, my wish was granted.

Photo festivals are back!

 

Birthday week selfie, mad-dogging the camera

 

From my perspective, they’re the life-blood of the photo world, here in the US.

Few things have the potential to change your career, (and your life,) more than spending time among a group of your talented peers, where you can make new connections, create friendships, receive feedback on your work, see new art for inspiration, listen to lectures that light up your ideas, discover new opportunities, eat different food, and walk around a fresh environment.

It literally builds new neural pathways in your brain.

Photo festivals rock!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our regular readers know I reviewed portfolios at most of the major American photography festivals, in the years leading up to the pandemic.

At one point or another, I attended Medium in San Diego, Filter in Chicago, PhotoNOLA in New Orleans , the NYT review, LACP’s Exposure, the Academy of Art University review in San Francisco, a festival in Santa Fe, and Photolucida in Portland.

Additionally, I was meant to go to the MOP Denver reviews last year, but they were held online, and I’ll be visiting the PhotoAlliance review in San Francisco in two weeks.

 

Courtesy of PhotoAlliance.com

 

For some reason, there has always been push-back against the idea of “pay-to-play,” and I was resistant to attending festivals myself, before a few colleagues talked sense to me in 2009.

I’ve reaped tremendous rewards, both as an artist and writer, and I’m telling you: it’s worth the financial and time investment.

(Plus, your tuition goes to support a non-profit organization, which is putting its energy directly into the community.)

The phrase “it takes money to make money” is correct, but that doesn’t mean it has to take A LOT of money.

Rather, it’s about finding value.

 

 

 

 

 

Good output requires good input.

Just as you wouldn’t expect to be healthy if you ate like Morgan Spurlock, when he filmed “Super Size Me,” it’s hard to make your best work if you’re not learning and growing.

 

Courtesy of MorganSpurlock.com

 

If you can’t see great art IRL, and share energy with people who are like-minded, but also very different from you, you’ll get stuck.

Which is where the festival circuit comes in.

If you attend a local event, you can likely save a lot of money on travel and accommodations.

So that’s a route to take, if your budget is tight.

(Many festivals also offer online components now, which is another value play, though you’ll miss out on most of what I’m hyping.)

 

 

 

 

 

Just off the top of my head, we’re talking about San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, Portland, Houston, Chicago, New Orleans, Santa Fe, Boston, New York and Atlanta.

Which means most American photographers have a proper festival within a day’s drive.

(I guess the Hawaiians and Alaskans are shit out of luck.)

And the great thing about going to an event, with an open mind, an open heart, and the intention to press the flesh, is you simply don’t know what will come of it.

The combination of learning, wandering, listening, looking, laughing, eating, talking, drinking, thinking, and meeting new people is always worth the cost, because you’re guaranteed to emerge from the weekend a different person.

(Again, if you put yourself out there. Sitting quietly by yourself, and refusing to engage with others, or get out of your comfort zone if you’re an introvert, will undermine the effort, and exceeds the limits of my guarantee.)

 

 

 

 

 

One of the last festivals I attended before the world shut down was Photolucida, in Portland, April 2019.

The memories are so vivid.

I walked for miles, saw scores of photo projects, and ate amazing Thai food.

 

Walking around Portland.

 

I attended my first Hardcore Metal show, and was introduced to an entire subculture I didn’t even know existed.

I interviewed the bouncers there, at Dante’s, and then reported to you about the organized street fights, between different left and right-wing “gangs,” (for lack of a better word,) which was pretty cutting edge info, given what happened in PDX the following year.

(And is still happening, unfortunately.)

 

At Dante’s, where earplugs were a necessity

 

I’d never been to Portland before, and trying to understand an entirely new local culture, walking around the oddly-compressed downtown, (where I struggled to find the perfect vantage point to get my bearings,) smoking weed on the famed river bridges while talking to a great friend, it all made me richer, emotionally.

Smarter.
Happier.
Better.

If I close my eyes now, I can see events play out in my mind’s eye.

These are the types of experiences we all need, to rebuild our psyches, our creativity, and our sense of self, after one of the most brutal two-year stretches in American history.

(As the President himself said, in his State of the Union address the other night.)

And that’s without even mentioning the PTSD people feel this week, watching an unjust war play out in Ukraine, on their device screens, helpless to stop the onslaught of death and misery.

You feel me?

 

 

 

 

 

While I was in Portland, I also met some of the members of the local arts group, the Small Talk Collective.

 

Courtesy of Smalltalkcollective.com

 

Like many artists before them, these women joined forces, to support each other as people, as creators, and to make new opportunities for themselves, and members of the “female-identifying, nonbinary, BIPOC and LGBTQIA+” community.

When positive, supportive people stick together, and pull in the same direction towards a common goal, really good things happen.

And wouldn’t you know it, but today, I pulled a little envelope sleeve from my book stack, (which arrived in June 2021,) and it had a postmark from the Small Talk Collective, featuring a slim publication to publicize a new venture.

According to the letter affixed to the outside of the attached ‘zine, the group started their own gallery, Strange Paradise, in the Disjecta Contemporary Arts Center, which is pretty phenomenal.

(And their text mentioned how important such gestures are, coming out of a period of intense isolation.)

The very simple ‘zine, called “Reverberations: Vol.1,” featured work from the first two solo shows the gallery presented, in May/June/July 2021, by Kelda Van Patten and Marilyn Montufar.

It’s a sleek, cool little offering, for sure.

 

 

 

 

The ‘zine reads more like a promotional piece, than a proper art object in its own right, but so what?

(Not everything can nail the gestalt effect, where the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.)

Partly, it’s because the writing skews towards artist statement, rather than audience engagement, and because the two included projects are not an obvious fit.

They compliment each other with color palette, and overall image quality, but Kelda Van Patten makes IRL/digital collage work, from still lives, and Marilyn Montufar documented local culture in the hinterlands of Northern Mexico.

(In Chihuahua, where most tourists never, ever go.)

Now, before you assume this is one of those reviews that skews negative, I like this ‘zine a lot.

It’s well-produced and engaging, featuring strong photography within, and all the information you need to figure out its intent.

Furthermore, given most people focused on the high-end production fees I shared, in my recent “Making a Book” column, few seemed to grasp the embedded advice, that a professional-looking publication can impress, on next-to-no money.

This is a great example.

 

 

 

 

 

I’m assuming it was printed with a fine-art inkjet printer, double-sided, on a simple, low-weight rag paper, (or newsprint,) but it’s possible these pages come from a high-quality color copier.

You can imagine the Small Talk Collective members, (Audra Osborne, Jennifer Timmer Trail, Kristy Hruska, and Marico Fayre) patiently folding the 4-printed-pages together, with a straight edge, then carefully jamming two staples into the middle, thereby taking separate papers, and making them into a holistic object.

How much could each copy possibly cost to produce? (Not including postage.)

$1?
$2?
$3?

There’s no way it cost more than that, yet here I am, impressed, writing about it.

I now know who these artists are, (again, a benefit, if you’re promoting their exhibitions,) I know the Small Talk Collective has a gallery, and that they’re making publications.

I like this ‘zine, which means I also now have a positive impression of the Small Talk Collective, whereas yesterday, they were not in my consciousness.

If you think back to the mega-column on publishing, I wrote about combining your budget and your vision, with a sense of value and purpose.

Today’s publication is a perfect example of that.

Don’t spend more than you can afford.

And don’t overcomplicate things, if you don’t have to.

Hope that advice is helpful.

See you next week!

 

To purchase “Reverberations: Vol. 1” click here 

 

 

If you’d like to submit a book for potential review, please email me at jonathanblaustein@gmail.com. We are particularly interested in books by artists of color, and female photographers, so we may maintain a balanced program. And please be advised, we currently have a significant backlog of books for review. 

 

This Week in Photography: MOP Denver 2021

 

 

I’ve been making new photographs all year.

(Such a gift to my sanity.)

 

 

 

From 2006-20, I worked in little bursts in the studio, not-shooting for long stretches of time.

Now, though, I’m taking pictures out in the world, all the time, and it’s blowing my mind.

When you shoot constantly, (I now realize,) it locks-in a certain kind of seeing.

Your general awareness heightens, and you begin to feel where the photos might be.

(The Spidey-Sense.)

It’s been in over-drive lately, trying to capture the hyper-saturated Autumn light we’ve had here in New Mexico.

(Or not capture, as you’ll soon see…)

 

 

 

This morning, I was heading North on 522, in-between Taos and our little valley.

(We live 25 minutes away from my kids’s schools, and leave the house to commute before the sun is up, so that’s part-context.)

I was 4/5 of the way back home, after the double-school turn-and-burn, and hadn’t had my morning coffee yet.

But I HAD been to the grocery store, on a two-minute-mad-dash, and was really hungry, already visualizing how I’d make breakfast with the food I just bought.

{ED note: It was delicious.}

 

 

 

There I was, driving, in my head, day-dreaming, listening to The Beatles on Satellite Radio.

All of a sudden, like a jolt of electricity to the mid-section, I saw a flash of yellow to my left.

It snapped me back to reality, like getting hit in the eye with an errant-flying-rubber-band.

What the fuck, I thought?

 

 

 

It was a massive, bright-yellow, candy-colored hot-air balloon, hovering low in the sky to the West.

It had no markings, just that unmistakeable yellow.

The sky looked like Carolina blue had a baby with purple.

(Yes, it was THAT blue.)

I turned my head, and could see only the yellow hot-air balloon, the digital-blue sky, and the ancient, extinct volcanoes that fade in the distance to the Southwest, where they give way to the silhouette of the Jemez Mountains.

 

 

 

I had my camera in the back, and thought, my God, would that make an amazing picture!

The perspective was just right, from where I was driving at that second.

But at 65mph, that perspective was changing, quickly, getting worse and worse.

I was hungry, had no coffee, the groceries needed to be put in the refrigerator, and it’s notoriously dangerous for pedestrians in NM.

That’s what I was thinking.

Do I slow down, make a U-Turn, pull onto the side of the highway, risk getting killed, for a photo of that beautiful, yellow hot-air balloon, against the perfect blue sky, with the insanely gorgeous mesa view that goes for 80 miles?

Do I?

 

 

 

No…I do not, I thought.

Hungry, bleary-eyed, ready to make breakfast, do I trust myself not to lock the keys in the car, or to avoid getting hit by a truck?

To make that photo?

No.

I don’t.

So it will have to live in my memory.

However…

 

 

 

 

However, I finished up a walk later in the day, down at the stream. After washing my face in the water for a minute, I saw a pooling of yellow leaves on the opposite bank.

They were in a little eddy; such a beautiful, different yellow than the puffy hot-air balloon.

Behind me, water flowed over a rock, making the most-amazing-sound.

I grabbed my cell phone and made a short video, so while you’ll never get to see the photo I chickened-out of making, at least I can share a moment of Zen with you now.

 

 

And by evening, while walking the dog, I looked up and saw the warm, just-before-sunset yellow light, illuminating the mustard-yellow leaves on a Cottonwood tree, and sure enough this time, I had the good camera with me.

So here you go.

 

 

While I admittedly Google beach-real-estate every few months, living in the Rocky Mountains is pretty amazing.

We’re blessed.

And speaking of the Rockies…

 

 

 

As I wrote a few weeks ago, Denver is not-too-far away.

It’s actually the biggest city around these parts, by a long stretch, as Phoenix and Dallas are thrice as far, and Albuquerque doesn’t count as a massive metropolis.

(No offense.)

Last March, I attended virtual portfolio reviews for the Month of Photography Denver, and saw a lot of excellent photographic projects.

Today, we’re going to take a peek at some of the work I viewed, as we’re happy to share The Best Work I Saw at the MOP Denver Portfolio Reviews.

As with most virtual events, attendees came from all over the place, but I saw a few Colorado photographers.

Today, it’s time to share their disparate, interesting work with you. As usual, the artists are in no particular order, but maybe we will start with the locals, out of respect.

Thanks to all the photographers!

 

 

 

I first met Susan Goldstein back in the 90’s, in Taos, as we both worked for the Taos Talking Pictures Festival, which eventually went defunct. (RIP.)

We’ve since bumped into each other over the years, and I was very into her Covid-inspired series, as Susan rarely left her home, and lived alone, for the pandemic.

The window-sculptures are whimsical, and also a little sad. She actually told me sometimes she “put things in the window to change the landscape.”

It shows.

 

 

Cypriane Williams is a veteran, had studied in CPAC’s Veterans Workshop Series, and was doing a social justice portraiture series called “3 Questions.” (Which was featured as a billboard in Denver.) For her project, she asked women of color, from the Denver area, three questions, and the answers are written on the women.

The questions were:

1) “Who are you?” 2) “What do you believe?” 3) “Given the chance to say whatever you want to the world, what would you say? What do you believe the world needs to hear from you?”

 

 

 

Julia Vandenoever and I also met years ago, at a photo festival in New Mexico, and she’s been based in Boulder for ages.

Julia showed me a set of images, “Still Breathing,” that she’s publishing as a book with Conveyor. The photos focused on tense little moments within the visual narrative of our family lives.

They’re totally on point.

 

 

I’d first seen multidisciplinary artist Krista Svalbonas’s work at an IRL NYT portfolio review event in 2018, as the laser-cut physical pieces have an impact rather different from 2D paper prints. (She’s represented by Klompching Gallery in Brooklyn.)

Krista told me her relatives were immigrants from Latvia and Lithuania, and as her heritage was important to her, she went over to the former Soviet Republics and took photographs.

This series features actual architectural photos from Lithuania, which have been altered with patterns from local textiles, via the machine tooling of a 21C laser cutter.

 

 

Jim Hill, who’s a retired geologist, brought night-time-alleyway images from Chicago, and they make me cold, just looking at them. (Meaning, I feel physically cold, not that they leave me feeling cold, emotionally.)

These night shots are terrific, and reminded me a bit of Dave Jordano, who also prowls the Upper Midwest.

I recommended to Jim that he ditch his zoom lens for a sharper prime, and he’s since reported he made the switch, and is much happier with his photos as a result.

 

 

André Ramos-Woodward was about to receive their MFA from UNM, when we spoke in March, and they’ve since graduated and moved back to Southeast Texas.

I recognized their work right away, having seen it in Critical Mass in 2020. The series is called “BLACK SNAFU (Situation Niggas: All Fucked Up,) and André reminded me one piece was an animated .gif in its original form.

You can feel the dynamic creativity in these images, which feature drawings mixed with photos.

Given that André wrote powerfully in the first person about this work, I’m going to share two paragraphs from his artist statement:

 

“I’ve been told plenty of times that in order to understand the present, I’ve got to know the history. I find that funny as a Black person born and raised in America. It’s not that I disagree, it’s just that I know that my history on this land—Black history—has been distorted and fucked-up to perpetuate the racist repercussions of European colonialism and white privilege in this godforsaken country.

Anti-Blackness at the hands of racist America seems inescapable no matter what context I place it into; literature, science, government, health, art… look into any “field” and see for yourself. My people have had to cry, scream, and fight for respect throughout all these fields of study for centuries, and we still haven’t gained the respect we deserve. Even in the visual arts, the field I’ve chosen to dedicate my life to, the history of racism against Black bodies runs rampant. In order to move on from this shit, we must acknowledge the many ways that this country has implemented a racial hierarchy since these lands were first colonized and stripped from indigenous peoples, and Black people were stolen from their native land and brought here.”

 




 

Suzanne Revy and I actually met at the virtual portfolio reviews at Photo NOLA, last December, but I made a rare mistake, and forgot to follow up when I wrote the article about the best work I saw there.

I don’t f-ck up often, so when I saw Suzanne in the waiting room for the Denver festival, I reached out and offered to publish her here in instead.

Unlike my Rocky-Mountain-Centric opening, this work is straight out of Massachusetts. So East Coast. It’s a series of triptych landscapes from Emerson and Thoreau country.

Super pastoral, for sure.

 

 

Becky Behar had two projects for me to see, and I preferred the latter, as the former reminded me of a style I was seeing a lot of in the photo world of late.

These images, “Homespun,” were made with her family during lockdown, as her children became interested in knitting. They’re reminiscent of Rennaissance stylings, but in a perfectly modern, it’s Covid and we’re hanging out with our adult children in the basement kind-of-way.

 


 

Last, but I promise you not least, we have Shelby Meyerhoff, a multidisciplinary artist who’s also from Massachusetts. Shelby had some of the strangest work I can recall seeing in quite a while, but it’s definitely perfect for Halloween week.

We chatted about trying avoid veering into full-on-kitch, but her selfies painted as animals and nature are weird-wonderful.

Right?

See you next week!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Week in Photography: Projects from PhotoNOLA, Part 2

 

Metro Pictures is going out of business this year.

 

The NYC mega-gallery announced it a couple of weeks ago, and there were plenty of lamentations on Twitter.

Catherine Edelman, the long-time Chicago photo gallerist, closed her space to the public recently as well.

A week or two ago, a colleague wrote in a Facebook post that they didn’t make a lot of money in the arts, and felt like a failure.

These are not unrelated situations.

There is a significant lack of funding for creative fields here in the US, and I suspect even arts-rich places like England, France and Germany will be lucky to keep up their systems in the coming decades.

That’s where we’re at in the 21st Century.

But then again, someone seemingly dropped 69 million crypto-dollars on a massive jpeg, which set the world aflame, but also also begat questions about financial shenanigans rather quickly.

 

I’ve written extensively over the years, (but not in quite some time,) that the high-end-art-world is an unregulated commodities market, with all sorts of machinations, money laundering, and conflicts of interest.

Why am I writing about this, when there are so many other things to discuss?

Well, this is eventually going to be an article about the final batch of artists I reviewed at PhotoNOLA online in December, and as I didn’t go to New Orleans, there are no juicy travel details to share, nor tidbits about the humming sound in the review room, the yummy food at lunch, or the length of the bathroom breaks.

So I had to manufacture an opening rant out of other material.

But the more important reason is that I understand art very well, having devoted my entire adult life to the process, and I’m here to tell you making money off your pictures is not a good reason to be here.

Neither is fame, nor acclaim.

All three goals are elusive, unlikely, and fleeting.

 

Rather, art practice is about self-improvement and self-expression.

And those things are priceless.

I know that sounds cliché, or idealistic, but it is unquestionably legit.

In a world rife with stress, misery, and difficulty, making art on the regular makes us happier, more confident, and potentially more self-aware.

Those of us who commit our full souls to the endeavor, work extremely hard at our craft, and study art history, might occasionally have a moment where we make some real cash, or everyone is talking about us.

But that happens to very few people, and again, even if it does, it never lasts.

(Outside of a handful of photographers in the entire world. Seriously, the odds of becoming the next Cindy Sherman or Andreas Gursky are negligible.)

 

image courtesy of Artnews.com

 

I understand it seems like I’m being negative, or trying to project a “realistic” attitude, but I’m not.

Quite the opposite.

What we do as artists is extremely important, because like being a proper Buddhist monk or nun, it allows us to clean up the energy we put out into the world, and make the human collective healthier, even if it’s in small amounts.

That’s the big news.

Having shows, selling prints, publishing books, being written or talked about, getting compliments, they are all nice accomplishments, and fortunately I can speak from experience.

But beyond a year or two when I sold a lot of art, I don’t make a lot of money either.

In the real world, businesspeople would laugh at my annual income, and I’m cool with that.

Because Capitalism is an imperfect system, and just because something doesn’t have a high financial value doesn’t mean it’s not extremely valuable in other ways. (Karmically, for example.)

I say all this because the world is in the process of slowly re-opening, and only now are people beginning to realize that 2019 might not be the best model to shoot for.

I traveled so much in 2019 that I grew sick of it, and ungrateful.

The things I took for granted now seem like platinum-and-gold-plated diamonds, but all the same, being on the road that much was not healthy.

(Not for my carbon footprint, my children’s mental health, or my hangovers.)

I’ve been preaching for years that endless growth is not only unattainable, and unsustainable, but unachievable.

Efficiency of resources, and energy, is a far more important goal.

And if you push yourself in your art practice, the difference it will make in your self-confidence and self-esteem will give you back so much energy you would otherwise waste on anxiety.

That’s the truth.

So today, we’ll look at work from six artists I met during the online reviews at PhotoNOLA, and tomorrow I’ll meet a whole new batch of photographers at the online reviews for the Month of Photography Denver.

That said, let’s pivot to sharing the second batch of my favorite portfolios with you, and honor the hard work these women and men put in to get their projects in front of my Zoom screen.

(As usual, the artists are in no particular order.)

We’ll start with George Nobechi, whom I met at PhotoNOLA in 2017, and published his work after that festival as well. George is a perfect example of what I’m talking about today, as he switched careers to commit to his photography, and studied in workshops with people like Sam Abell to learn his craft.

As a half-Japanese guy who moved back to his ancestral homeland in 2017, after living away for many years, he has a complicated relationship with Japan, and its history. So he poured himself into a project to understand the country, and himself better.

I’ve written many times of my love for Japanese literature and the 19th Century woodblock printers Hokusai and Hiroshige, and these photos channel some of that genius. Not saying they’re at the same level of brilliance, but there are commonalities in the vibe, and energy the work projects.

I’m sure you’ll love these photographs.

 

When I met Eric Kunsman, I had a bit of a laugh, as I’d heard of him obliquely only a few weeks earlier, in one of my Antidote online classes.

A student was experimenting with the idea of photographing pay phones, and after a polite amount of time, someone cleared their throat, and announced there was an artist out there who had committed to the subject so well that it was kind-of off limits to others at the moment.

And that artist, who remained unnamed that night, was Eric Kunsman, a professor and master printer in Rochester, NY. Eric told me he’d moved into a lower-income neighborhood, and in order to get to know his community and surroundings, he looked very hard, and noticed that pay phones were broken down relics in plain sight, as not everyone can afford a cell phone, or the attendant bill.

So he became a legit expert in the social and community dynamics behind pay phones, both in Rochester, and then around the US. The images themselves are both bleak and beautiful, which is a style I always appreciate when it’s done well, as it is here.

 

Ruth Lauer Manenti is another artist I’d met previously, and I published her work after the Filter Photo Festival back in 2019. She’d been trained as a painter, and I loved the delicate and gorgeous sensibility she created with objects, though at the time, I recall re-editing her work on the review table, as I thought there were essentially two groups in one.

Ironically, I did it again this time, (virtually,) as Ruth had moved outside with her camera, in pandemic reality, and photographed poetic, artful landscapes in her surroundings in upstate New York. I was most enamored of the photographs that seemed to step out of time, and will share them with you here.

 

Fernanda de Icaza joined me from Mexico, but I fell in love with a series she made while living in Japan. Frankly, Fernanda had two series from Japan, with her primary project being in a monastery where she lived for some time, in silence.

Those pictures were cool, for sure, but during a short break from that monastic life, Fernanda went to Tokyo to party her face off at dance clubs, and the wild, colorful, chaotic energy she captured was dynamite.

I suspect she appreciated this world all the more, for living most days with the quiet, but we’ll let you decide for yourself.

 

Stephen Starkman, from Canada, is an example of an artist whose work grew on me over the course of our 20 minutes. At first, the images seemed disjointed, as they were not “about” a subject or concept, per se.

But as you look at them, there is a consistency of vision, and a sense of beauty, that I really came to enjoy. I think you’ll dig them too.

 

Last, but not least, we have Rosalie Rosenthal, who makes photographs with her teen-aged daughter that consider mid-life.

There are Dutch vanitas-style still lives, and quiet portraits, which were quiet and thoughtful.

So to wrap it up, I’d like to thank Rosalie, and all the artists, for allowing us to share their hard work with you, wherever you are.


This Week in Photography: Projects from PhotoNOLA, Part 1

 

I was just standing outside, with my face in the sun.

 

The season change is always obvious here, in the Rocky Mountains, and it’s most definitely spring outside.

Thankfully, winter is over.
(I swear.)

I stood there, and after a moment, became aware of the musical arrangement of bird calls happening all around me.

(Mostly from the trees near the stream, as it’s no longer frozen.)

The chirp sounds were beautiful, and I noted them, but after another moment, realized they’d been gone all winter.

The bird music.

I hadn’t heard the calls since September or October. And you might not remember, but in the first week of September #2020, we had such an unusual freeze that birds fell dead from the sky.

By the thousands.

#2020 was that kind of year.

Back to the bird calls, though, and the truth is, over this evil-Covid-winter, I’d forgotten such things existed.

When you’re that deep in the hole, (or have lived in a cave for generations, like The Croods,) you begin to forget that light is a reality too, just like darkness.

 

And here we are.

Green grass is growing in our field.
My children are (supposedly) going back to school.
Checks are headed to many mail boxes.

After years of mental torture by you-know-who, capped off by a whopper of a year that gave us house arrest, (for some people solitary confinement,) and a half million dead people, we should all forgive ourselves if things like hope are slow to return.

It will take a while for the collective PTSD to wear off, for those who can shake it.

But spring follows winter.
That’s the way it works.

So what will you do when you emerge from your shell?

In a way, we can all honor the Americans, (and people everywhere, really,) who didn’t make it out of the pandemic alive.

We can love more deeply, cherish new experiences, embrace personal growth, make fresh things.

Because our art is an expression of our personality, our vision, our sense of self.

Even in the worst of winter, (you knew the hook was coming, right?) I was still able to look at photography portfolios, by a talented and diverse group of artists at the PhotoNOLA festival online, back in December, and today, I’m happy to share some of my favorite portfolios with you.

We’ll have a Part 2 as well, and as usual, the artists are in no particular order.

Cathy Cone showed me work that looked good on a computer screen, but is the kind of thing that I’d really love to see in person. Her work involves scanning old tintypes, and then painting directly onto the output prints.

They’re beautiful.

And in the “spring is here” vibe of this column, I can only hope IRL festivals come back this year, so we can all resume the habit of appreciating art in person, with our physical senses activated.

Diana Nicolette Jeon’s work is the perfect follow up, given the tactility, as her prints are mounted to, and exhibited in Altoids tin lids.

I first saw this work at Photolucida in 2019, loved it, and meant to publish it then, but a miscommunication on my part meant it didn’t happen. Fortunately, Diana, who’s based in Hawaii, gave me a second chance.

The images come from film noir, and definitely channel that energy, minus the scary soundtrack.

Elizabeth Clark Libert showed me a set of razor sharp images, shot with a medium format digital camera, of her young boys playing, fighting, and growing together. (The first two being intimately related, when brothers are close in age.)

It’s a meditation on masculinity, as the artist grapples with how to raise her boys in a post-me-too era. There are some nudity issues, which open another set of questions, but as we’re not publishing those, we’ll save that debate for another occasion.


Nathalie Seaver showed me some work that I didn’t necessarily appreciate. But as I’ve written many times, if you have other options to pivot to during a review, it allows the situation to be salvaged. (Proper preparation is key.)

The last project we discussed was quarantine related, as Nathalie made still lives of objects from her home, (since she couldn’t leave,) and they were grouped by color.

They’re kitschy, but also cool, IMO.

Rene Algesheimer shared images of ice caves in Alaska and Iceland, and I suppose they qualify as some of the least-lockdown-pictures I saw last December.

They’re haunting, and need little explication, right?

Last but not least, Suzette Bross will help us land the idea that travel, which was practically impossible in #2020, may rejoin us again in #2021. Exotic countries, or even just the county across the State line, will become more accessible, once things improve.

Suzette’s project was shot in Rwanda, and is a reflection of the grief she felt due to a family loss. Rather than photograph the countryside, Suzette presents hacked-panorama-iPhone-images shot from a moving bus, as she crossed the country.

The resulting photographs are strange and compelling.
Don’t you think?

See you next week!

This Week in Photography: Welcome to 2021

 

Happy New Year, everybody!

 

I’m back, and writing on Thursday as usual, which makes this the last day of #2020. (Though by the time you read this, the calendar will have turned, giving the world a fresh start.)

What will become of us in 2021?

I wish I could tell you, but honestly, I have no idea.

Even though I just had a week off, my powers of prediction are not as sharp as I might like.

(And nobody could have guessed #2020 would go off the rails to the extent that it did.)

I vaguely remember last January, in which I put the final touches on my first book, the aptly named “Extinction Party.”

And I certainly remember February, in which I traveled to Amsterdam for a week, reveling in the soon-to-disappear pleasure of chatting up random strangers, visiting art museums, and smoking tons of weed and hash in the city’s rightfully-lauded coffee shops.

(Shout out to the Jolly Joker.)

 

 

While roaming Amsterdam, I met two men named Mohammed, and one named Godsend. For the first time in my life, I said “As Salaam Alaikum” to Muslims, and it felt so good to be out of my New Mexican bubble.

Then came early March, and after my brief visit to Houston to launch the book, I got home… and never left.

As awful as some parts of the year were, and I mean horrible in the truest sense, I was also given some unbelievable gifts: namely, after discovering my wife was suffering from clinical depression, by the end of #2020, I can report that she’s happier and healthier than she’s been in years.

 

How can I hate a year that so changed my family’s life for the better?

And once she recovered, my wife suggested we get the kids a dog, with whom they are now totally obsessed.

No #2020, no healthy wife, no dog, no happy kids.

(There is something to be said for the old adage, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.)

But I also wrote a column for you in March, correctly predicting that the virus, with its imposition of “social distance,” would create chaos within our society, as people fought, and ultimately died, to protect personal space, or “individual freedom.”

So much bad, so much good, all in one calendar year, and I’m pretty sure it will take me decades to digest it all.

By May, I did my first online portfolio reviews, for the Los Angles Center of Photography, and at that point, I barely knew how to use Zoom.

Then we had to cancel our Antidote Photo Retreat program, for obvious reasons, (which sucked,) but as a result, it forced me to migrate our community online, and now I have a successful Antidote online educational program.

By September, I was fully-Zoom-literate, and participated in the Filter Photo Festival online, as my favorite week of the year, when I normally get to party with my best friends in Chicago, became a Saturday of sitting at my computer, meeting new people, virtually, and looking at their work from my bedroom.

(Things that would have been LITERALLY unimaginable in #2019 became commonplace by the Fall of #2020, and that’s about the best way I can sum up this cluster-fuck of a year.)

In the Pre-Covid reality, I went to festivals all the time, and reported on cities, restaurants, galleries and museums for you, before writing about the best photographic portfolios I saw.

It was a huge part of our regular content, as you long-time readers know.

But #2020 being #2020, (even though it’s now 2021,) I’m only just getting around to writing about the cool work I saw via the Filter Photo Festival a few months ago.

Thankfully, online festivals are much better than no festivals, and I recently saw work online at Photo NOLA, with online festivals in LA and Denver lined up between now and March.

Meaning, I’ll have lots of interesting work to share with you in the coming months, from artists spread around the world, as one of the obvious benefits to online festivals is that the lower cost, due to lack of travel budgets, means people can “attend” from their bedrooms in Sao Paulo, Mexico City, or Japan. (All places that artists were residing at Photo NOLA.)

So with all that as a background, (and a kind-of-year-in-review,) today, I’ll show you the best work I saw at Filter, back in September #2020, while simultaneously wishing you a happy, healthy, safe, and perhaps much-better year in 2021.

As usual, the artists are in no particular order, and I hope you appreciate their hard work and dedication.

I first met Paula Riff poolside, at an afterparty for a festival in San Diego, back in 2018. But I’d never reviewed her work before, despite seeing her name pop up in gallery announcements from time to time.

Paula showed me a perfect series for #2020, as it involved cutting up leftover prints, and mistakes from the past, and turning them into something entirely new. The images are gorgeous, as you’ll see, and provide inspiration for all of us to make something positive out of the waste in our lives.

 

I reviewed Adam Frint’s work at Filter in 2019, loved it, and shared it with you here in the column. (That project involved snooping on people during their smoke breaks around the city.) So I was excited to see what he would come up with next… and he didn’t disappoint.

Interested in graffiti cover-ups, and riffing on color blocks like an oddball 21st Century Mondrian, Adam set up his wife, and brother-in-law, to hold up color-shapes, as he arranged them against buildings, so the blocks would be in relationship to each other.

Not much more needs to be said, as they’re funny, charming, and visually appealing, all at once.

 

Matthew David Crowther had a very different take for his Chicago-centric series. It was all made in one small nature preserve, set within the city limits, in which he went walking for more than three years.

We discussed how to communicate the urbanity to the viewer, as the images are so poetic and pastoral, but apparently there is some serious urban-scape surrounding the seemingly-rural place. Do you also shoot establishment images outside the park for context? Or use sound recordings of all the noise heard within?

Given the mood of the images, I suggested poetry might also be an option, and just this morning, Matthew sent me a poem he’d written to accompany the project. It’s lovely, so I’ll include it here:

“The bones of one world
are the soil of another
We walk the looping paths
With our children
Lost in the ash borer trails
And receding water lines
Moving with the steady force
Of generation after generation
We hear the birds singing along
With the passing planes
And the jackhammer
Of woodpeckers and road crews
Fall winter spring summer fall
The patterns shift yet remain
Loops within cycles within
Wheels within wheels”

 

Kambua Chema and I met at Filter years ago, and she’s one of those people whose positive energy is simply infectious. (Perhaps not the best adjective for #2020, now that I think about it.)

Stuck at home like the rest of us, Kambua used a telephoto lens to document the Chicagoans who used the parking lot below her apartment as a lockdown-recreational-area. As the idea is so relevant, we spent most of our review discussing the importance of the edit, and making sure the color/contrast palette stood up to the strength of her concept.

 

I spoke with Jane Yudelman, who was in lockdown in her studio in Maine, and she showed me two digital composite projects that I liked, despite the fact that I often have a bias against such strategies. Both were visually arresting, but I’m showing you the one that offered me a proper surprise.

I can’t tell you how many sea/sky images I’ve seen over the years, and I’ve shot my share of them too. (Nothing original, I’m afraid.)

Yet these image are not real horizons. So it’s more Rothko than Sugimoto, and the colors and vibe are just right, IMO.

I had a nice chat with Karen Osdieck, a Midwestern photographer and accountant, who mostly makes work out of her young boys’ lives. We discussed her antecedents, and the mentors she’d developed, as Karen has studied with some excellent female artists in the photo world.

I thought her primary project, which had achieved some success, was lacking in the color and light palette, despite the occasionally taut narratives. But her secondary project, in which she photographed one son in all the outfits he wanted to wear to Zoom school, in the pandemic, was really cool, and so #2020.

 

Last, but not least, we have Sandra Ullmann, who was trained as a psychoanalyst, and showed me a vintage, black and white project from her archive. Apparently, when one of her children had a baby, she had to drive three hours to the hospital multiple times, and discovered these wrapped trees.

There was a Jungian feeling to the project, for sure, and we discussed ways that she could shoot new subjects that might fit together with the older group. I loved them!

See you next week, and hope you all have a safe, healthy, and amazing 2021!

 

This Week in Photography: A Year in Review

 

I’m writing on Wednesday this week.

I never write on Wednesdays.

 

It’s weird. Strange.

Odd.

 

By the time this column is posted on Friday morning, I’ll be reviewing portfolios, virtually, for Photo NOLA.

It’s commonplace, by now, that festivals and events have migrated online, and we’ve all adjusted.

Adapted.

Sorted it out.

For whatever reason, the other day, I was thinking of my word of the year, whether I could encapsulate the entire bonkers, tragic, confusing experience of #2020 in just a few syllables.

My choice was adapt.

The verb tense, not the noun. (Adaptation.)

I feel like we’ve all had to adapt, whether we wanted to or not. That word always annoyed me, when used in conjunction with Climate Change, as if we could never surmount our problems, so we’ll simply have to adapt to a new environment.

Now, after seeing our inability to come together as a species to battle corona, I guess I’ve been disabused of my naiveté.

But as we’re almost halfway through December, the last month in this mountaintop of a year, I realized just how little I was able to travel, and experience cool things for you, the readers, in #2020.

I got to Amsterdam and Houston just moments before travel became impossible and lockdowns the norm, in the early part of this year, but ever since, I’ve been out here on my farm.

Looking at books.
Walking in circles.

And, occasionally, reminiscing.

 

On the canal behind my hotel, Amsterdam, 2020

 

But most of the column this year has been generated from reacting to things in my house, holding photo books in hand, and then making judgements.

(So different from wandering the world, and then telling you about it.)

If ever there were two opposite years, lived back to back, it’s #2019 and #2020.

#2019 was the year to celebrate, rather than begrudge, (in retrospect,) because I got to visit so many brilliant cities, smashing up against people from every walk of life.

I was on airplanes constantly, bouncing around America, and then I even got to England.

(What a celebration of all the things we can’t do now.)

In late March, I drove up along the spine of the Rocky Mountains to Denver, to meet my friends Kyohei and Jeff, at the Month of Photography, Denver.

We had really good beer at Union Station, Denver’s downtown train hub that also became a social center, with tons of bars and restaurants. (Remember, all of this is #2019. No masks, and no issues with humans congregating.)

In April, I went to New Jersey and New York, which I wrote about here at length. From this vantage point, crushing against all those people on the High Line, with the skyscrapers behind us, seems downright decadent.

And I recall the beauty of stepping in off the street, into one of my all time favorite restaurants, (Grand Szechuan,) and having a piping hot pot of tea delivered, so quickly, to warm me up.

(What seemed commonplace now seems unimaginable.)

April brought me to Portland, for Photolucida, which has been postponed for 2021, due to the pandemic.

Last year, though, I partied in a heavy metal concert at Dantes, and pressed through a packed Portland Museum of Art, for the festival’s portfolio walk. (At Photo NOLA this year, the portfolio walk will be held in virtual reality.)

Dante’s, in Portland, 2019

 

In May, I went to London for a week, and was in and out of more public spaces than I can even believe.

Galleries, museums, trains, shops, squares, baths, movie theaters…

All of it.

Trafalgar Square, London, 2019
Inside the National Gallery of Art, London, 2019
Sir Antony Gormley sculpture, Tate Modern, London, 2019
Art and Ecology conference, London, 2019
Walking around, London, 2019

If I could teleport, and eat a pizza margherita with mozzarella di bufula, from Zia Lucia, right near Hugo’s house on the Holloway Road, that would be ideal.

Zia Lucia, Holloway Road, London, 2019

 

June was quiet, but then July brought California, bouncing from Oakland to San Francisco to Monterrey to Carmel to Oakland to San Francisco and back to Oakland. (A microcosm of the year.)

Sitting on the steps of the 19th Century City Hall building in Monterey, at twilight, with my wife all dressed up for a wedding that we’d just escaped round the corner, just the two of us, was one of the best moments I can recall.

That week we ate Italian, Indian, Thai, Chinese, Salvadoran, and Mexican food.

(And totally took that for granted.)

Transamerica Tower, San Francisco, 2019
Yee’s Restaurant, Chinatown, San Francisco, 2019
Beef with pan fried noodles, 2019
BBQ Pork with cabbage, 2019

 

In early September, the wife, kids and I flew into Philadelphia, for a family wedding at the Jersey Shore. (Down in South Jersey, near Cape May.)

The wedding on the beach, Avalon, 2019
The last time I saw the ocean, Avalon, 2019

 

The kids and I picked up wedding confetti off the beach, and we ate pizza each day until we were sick of it.

My wife showed her first real symptoms of depression; moments that DEFINITELY got my attention.

(The Geno’s cheesesteak at the Philly airport was the best airport food I’ve ever eaten, fyi.)

In mid-September, I went to Chicago, for the Filter Photo Festival, and even wrote here how such partying and festival hopping had become the norm.

View of the Hancock Tower, from the rooftop bar, Chicago, 2019

 

How will they top what they’ve done before, I wondered?

Entertain me!

I’ve been to so many festivals, in so many cities, that I’m no longer satisfied by good food, music, and friends.

I’ve seen the concerts, and done the karaoke.

I want next-level fun, your hear me!!!

Of course, that attitude seems silly now, nine months into a quarantine that might well last that much longer, depending on when my family gets the vaccine.

It seems out of whack, that I’d take such things for granted. (Or that I’d travel 20,000+ miles and think nothing of it.)

October was Albuquerque, and then Boulder in November.

Airport hotel lawn, where we played football, Albuquerque, 2019

I remember in Colorado, finding a quiet balcony at the Boulder Hilton, with no people around, and Jessie and I would do some stretching, staring at the Flatirons, so close we could touch them.

Though we were above all the shopping centers, all the cars and the activity, up there on that balcony, it felt so peaceful, and private.

View of the Flatirons, Boulder, 2019

 

It felt like we were the only people in the world, with our bird’s eye view, and our mountains right there in the sky.

Just us, all alone.

Now, at the end of #2020, that’s how I feel every day.

Alone.
Quiet.
Hoping I can travel again in 2021.

 

 

 

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 allé 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.

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. »
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 “Urban 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 “innovative 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 © 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 Best Work I Saw at the Filter Photo Festival: Part 3

 

Part 1: The Intro

Hi there, everybody.

How are you?

Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, and Christmas will be here before you know it, most people are ready to wind down a bit.

To slow the pace, bitch about the weather, fantasize about being on a warm beach somewhere, and then begin to plan for 2020.

(You know it’s true.)

Honestly, my ass would have been in coasting mode weeks ago, if it hadn’t been for the (now successful) Kickstarter campaign for my upcoming book, “Extinction Party.”

As for the cold and the gray, I spent the better part of Saturday plotting and planning to drive to a clean, beautiful beach, where we could swim in the warm water, and feel free.

I searched and searched, finally settling on South Padre Island in Texas, on the Gulf Coast next to Mexico, before realizing that a 16 hour drive each way would wash off any bliss imparted by the serene salt water.

(Staycation #2019 instead.)

As for the planning, I think right around now, people begin to look at the calendar in earnest, visualizing the trips they might take in 2020.

One year ends, the next begins.

I know it’s a big lede, but I was building to a point, which is that people often ask me which photo festival they should attend, or which ones are the best?

It happened twice in the past week, and once was a public query on Twitter.

Thomas Patterson, a photographer and writer for PDN, asked me and a few others the following:

 

As I’m currently in the middle of my series on the Best Work I saw at the Filter Photo Festival, and have said many times that Filter does it right, it seemed like a great way to answer the questions for you ahead of time, in case it helps you book out next year.

So let’s get to it.

 

Part 2: Which Festival is Best?

I’m going to cut to the chase, and let you down, simultaneously.

There is no “best” festival, though of course I might have a personal favorite.

There are now so many options, in almost every major city, that I think a photographer can base his or her decision on a number of factors. And I will say this, there are several annual festivals that I think are at the top of the heap, and I name-check them all the time.

Filter Photo Festival in Chicago.
PhotoNOLA in New Orleans.
Medium Photo Festival in San Diego.

All three have different strengths, but few weaknesses, and all share some common strategies, with respect to wraparound programming.

I’ve already written that I know the staff at each place, and think they’re amazing people. The three cities are beautiful tourist destinations, with superb leisure activities and incredible food.

Each of the three features lectures, exhibitions, parties, keynote speakers, partnerships with important local museums, and are run by artist-driven non-profit organizations.

They’ve had stability in leadership and staff, and take place in excellent venues, where they remain each year.

(Cohesion and teamwork are important.)

Basically, I’d vouch for all three festivals, strongly. They’re different of course, as Filter has the massive-city-blue-collar vibe, New Orleans is a party-forward city, and Medium is a bit smaller and homier, set in a poolside, SoCal hipster hotel.

I’ve been on gallery tours in both Chicago and New Orleans before, and Medium now does one in Tijuana.

You will get your money’s worth in each place, and that money is going to support a non-profit that gives back massively to its local community.

As to the biennial festivals, I had a good experience at Photolucida in Portland, which I chronicled here this year, and it too has great relationships with its local city. (And amazing food, music, and legal reefer.)

FotoFest, which is coming up this March, is the oldest American portfolio review festival, and I made two of my best friends in the world while attending. (In 2012 and 2016.)

Ironically, though, I think it’s the least social of the festivals I’ve gone to. I love Houston, but the downtown business district, (where FotoFest is held,) is not super-lively in the evenings, and while it’s a great city in which to have a car, parking downtown is expensive.

FotoFest a place to get business done, as you’ll have approximately 20 portfolio reviews, and I know colleagues who go for two sessions each year, as they always make enough money to justify it.

So there’s my two cents.

And just to reiterate, in my copious experience, it’s the partying, the social experiences, the eating and drinking, that really brings people together.

(It’s not an accident, as human beings like working with people they know and like.)

If you get out there, invest the time in broadening your network and making new friends, it will have a positive impact on your life in so many ways.

And with that, we’ll move on to the final piece of today’s puzzle: more of the Best Work I Saw at the Filter Photo Festival in September.

As usual, the artists are in no particular order.

 

Part 3: The Photographers

Sometimes, a project just jumps off the table at you, often due to technical prowess. And as a teacher and a critic, I typically recommend artists make work about what they’re expert in, or something they’re so curious about that the art practice itself makes them an expert.

With Christoper Barrett, it was an interesting confluence, as he works as a professional architectural photographer in Chicago, and chose an art project that allowed him to put those skills to use.

He began taking walks around his neighborhood, photographing the mishmash of local architectural styles. At the same time, he created a tense, boxed in, claustrophobic view of emo Americana.

The series feels like a snapshot of an empire in Decline, devoid of color. And the formal constructions, super sharpness, and solid tonal range make for a powerful group of pictures.


Speaking of expertise, Colleen Woolpert must have found it strange to tell me her story, given the massive coincidence we shared. She described a rare eye condition called strabismus, in which vision and depth perception can be severely impaired.

Colleen is a twin, and her sister has it, but she does not. (The coincidence is my son has strabismus, and after nearly 10 years of treatment, one surgery, and some strong eye-glasses, he sees really well.)

Apparently, Colleen wanted to help her sister, (as the impairment was believed to be permanent if not fixed in childhood, ) so she built a stereoscopic device to help her sister improve her vision, and it worked!

Then she patented it, and now it’s in pubic use.

You can’t make this shit up!

Her art project uses the stereoscope to depict images of Colleen and her sister, where they blend together into one person. Radical stuff!

Next, we have Mitch Eckert, who’s a professor at Louisville University in Kentucky. I always ask photographers about their background, and then dispense advice accordingly.

Mitch told me he was trained up, and that he thought his work was ready to go, so I was prepared to be a tough critic. Thankfully, I found his work to be cool and a bit exciting.

Normally, I think zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens and museums are too easy as subjects, but Mitch brought a hyper-real compression of space to the game.

His plants, trapped behind glass, sweating, breathing, pushing up against the see-through constraints, feel very compelling as environmental pieces in #2019.

Ruth Adams and I had an editing session, as we discussed how to create solid through-lines, or connection points, via subject matter and style.

Ruth had been shooting in Berlin, and what she first described as being about Jewish cemeteries quickly expanded to include other religions as well, and other cities.

I zeroed in on the images that felt most connected to each other, and encouraged her to keep things tight and make more work. As with Christoper’s project, the tonal range here really is impressive.

Anastasia Davis, in from Pittsburgh, let me know she had studied with good people, and was connected in her community. She also said that she used her work to cope with, or process, her history of panic disorder and depression, which is of course one of art’s highest and best uses.

Anastasia showed me two groups of photographs, both of which were meant to conjure a different emotional experience. And as the images are made separately, and then edited together, it does share much with poetry, vibe-wise.

Really lovely stuff.

 

Last, but not least, we have James Kuan, whose work caught my eye at the portfolio walk at Filter.

I always make sure to do a quick visit at a festival’s portfolio walk, (always,) because I ALWAYS find cool stuff to show you from people I would not otherwise meet.

In this case, I learned that James is a surgeon based in Seattle, and has studied at PCNW.

This project, about identity, is all about cutting and pasting. Slicing and replacing.

Cool stuff, and I’m sure you’ll like it.

See you next week!

The Best Work I Saw at the Filter Photo Festival: Part 2

 

I never have a hard time writing.

It’s true.

It must be muscle memory, as words normally flow from my brain to my fingers, like wet snow dropping from a gray sky.

Then, we get to this time of year, when the days are shorter, the light is less intense, and the column gets more difficult.

Especially as I’m spent, having just finished a run of 8 big trips in 8 months.

It ended a few days ago, when we returned from a family Bar Mitzvah in Boulder. (Partying with the same extended family for the third time this year.)

It was both exhausting and perfunctory, which is an odd combination.

(And if my cousins are reading this, apologies, you threw a great shindig.)

Rather, the joy and surprise of such family reunion-type-events lie in the typical time-gap between them: people change, and have new stories to tell.

By the third get-together in a year, it’s only natural that people have run through their prime “life-story” material, and the conversations get a bit stale.

What I found, though, is that it’s not always the big, dramatic moments that burn their way into memory. Or that are even the most pleasurable, necessarily.

I told my kids about, and then actively noticed, the random, seemingly-meaningless-in-between moments that can come to feel important in a family bonding narrative.

Like the time we were sprinting though an underground parking garage, the four of us, desperate not to be late for (always boring) Temple, and I heard our shoes clicking on the concrete as I looked at my daughter and smiled.

Or the four of us huddled over a few plates of Thai noodles, sucking up the city-food-goodness, while the mountains and shopping malls of Boulder looked on beyond the fifth floor, hotel windows.

It’s not always the glamour, I’ve found, that pulls us out of our respective reveries, and helps us revel in the moment.

Right now, I’m actually thinking of a perfect moment in Chicago, back in September, when I visited for the Filter Photo Festival.

If you’ve been reading this year, you know I used food, architecture, and travel as methods of inspiration, rather than just photographs, paintings and sculptures.

As an artist, I’ve done more writing, drawing and installation work lately than I have photography.

(Each step in our creative journey is different, and things change over time.)

But rather than repeating my old patterns in Chicago, (as I discussed last week,) I went to Pilsen to have a Kung Fu lesson with a great teacher in town.

It took two subway trains and a bus to get there, and wouldn’t you know, but that’s where one of those little moments managed to find me.

On the bus heading North.

I was late, (again,) but this time, I’d texted Sifu to give him a heads up, and I was assured it was no drama. (So I settled in for the ride.)

By the time I got to that bus, though, I was ready to be there.

It wasn’t a long journey, only a mile, and I’d normally walk, but again, I was late, and didn’t know where I was going.

So after the third or fourth bus stop in a row, I was properly impatient, and must have had a sour look on my face.

Then the fifth stop was the doozy.

An elderly Latino man got on the bus, walking very slowly. He had on a dapper hat, (not a fedora, more short and peaked,) a sharp outfit, and these glittery, oversized sunglasses.

(If Elton John had ever looked as good in his sunglasses as this guy did, I’d be surprised.)

I noticed him immediately, and then time stopped.

Literally.

Because the man had his bus ticket in his wallet, in his back pocket, but he couldn’t get it out to save his life.

I watched as his hand slowly tried to work the wallet back and forth, bit by bit hoping it would slide out from its overstuffed home.

He stood there, motionless, but for the little bit his arm and hand moved, as they fruitlessly tried to access his bus pass.

30 seconds went by.

Then a minute.

I was transfixed.

90 seconds, and finally he had progress.

The last bit was easier than you might think, he paid his fare, then came and sat down near me.

It was like I was in the presence of a proper showman, a rock star from a previous era, and I’d watched him in a mini-life movie, right there on the bus in Chicago.

I tell you this story, today, while I’m fighting off the winter blues, because as much as I’m thrilled to be facing a 4 month travel break, to recharge and restore…sometimes we do need to get out of our own little worlds to realize how big it is out there.

In the best case, art can help us do that too.

It’s the reason people like these portfolio review articles, I think, because it allows you to see so many different viewpoints and perspectives in each piece.

And at every festival I go to, the range of photographic work I see is as broad as Lake Michigan.

So here were are, speak of the devil, in Part 2 of “The Best Work I Saw at the Filter Photo Festival.”

As usual, the artists are in no particular order.

We’ll begin today with one of my favorite Chicago photographers, Yvette Marie Dostatni. We met at a festival a few years ago, and I loved her quirky, funny, and definitely absurd series, “The Conventioneers,” which I wrote about at the time.

Yvette and I stayed in touch, and I admit I’m a big fan of her work. But when I saw her at Photolucida this past Spring, I didn’t love some of what she showed me, and gave her a tough critique.

In the follow up, Yvette told me about a project she’d done visiting Indiana, where her family comes from, which she thought I might like.

(Boy, did I.)

As I didn’t get to feature Yvette in my Portland series, and she’s both Chicago through-and-through, and a former Filter participant, I thought it would be perfect to include her in this series.

I admired Thomas Brasch’s intention in his work immediately, as he described his desire to make healing, positive work out of terrorism against humanity.

Not an easy goal, to be sure.

He described an intensive digital process through which photographs taken at or near the scene of mass shootings were digitally manipulated into mandala-like creations.

I liked some more than others, but as I got to look at them consecutively, I got a sense of the good juju coming off of them. I’m actually showing a large selection below, because it creates a pretty cool sensation.

Thomas and I had a great chat about how such restrictions, (on process and form/shape,) which originally inspire us, eventually can be constraining, so it’s good to stay fluid.

Like Margaret LeJeune last week, I had one of “those” chats with Nina Riggio. The one where I explain why I think one project falls short, only to have the artist show me, with the next series in the box, that they had it all sorted already.

In Nina’s case, she had a documentary photo project about some Venus flytrap poachers in North Carolina that felt very “parachute journalism” to me, despite her passion.

I asked about things more personal, or connected to her life experience, and she brought out these images of Tesla factory workers who live in their vehicles.

As Nina had already told me she is based in a van, the intersection was powerful. I’ve written a lot about the West Coast, (and perhaps American) homelessness epidemic, and this is a really intriguing, poignant and visceral way to convey a part of the story.

Next, we’ve got Ruth Lauer Manenti, from the Catskills in NY, whom I met early on the first day of the festival. Ruth is a great example of what I wrote earlier, as she told me she was trained in painting and drawing, but had come to photography when she inherited an old large format camera.

Much as I’m currently using my photo skills to learn how to draw, (seeing is seeing,) Ruth figured out her own way of communicating photographically.

It’s spare, Zen, and very, very beautiful.

Love it!


Sam Scoggins is back in the column, as likely the first person to be featured twice, with different work, from two different festivals in the same year.

(Quite the achievement, if you think about it.)

After Photolucida, I published Sam’s black and white documentary photographs of Upstate NY night time party creatures. Then, he went on to have success with a artificial, digital landscape project.

But in Chicago, I noted him toting around a huge box of prints, but couldn’t see what they were. During the portfolio walk on Saturday night, based on their size and the edges that stuck out, I found that Sam had also been working on a cyanotype series as well.

Talk about prolific!

There are two groups, featuring endangered native species toned in oil, and then an invasive species bunch as well, all from near his home.

What a talented guy.

Native species plants

 

Invasive plants


Finally, we have Sarah Pfohl, who is a photo professor in Indianapolis.

Sara told me that she was working on a very a personal documentary series on her family’s property in Upstate New York, as she did not expect to ever inherit it.

For her, the place represented home, but Sara felt there was limited amount of time that she’d be able to access it, and those feelings.

So her work amounted to memory-creation and capture, but also a quiet elegy to the death of her childhood, in a way. It’s a sad place to leave you, today, but then again, it’s November, with all the sad light.

See you next week!

The Best Work I Saw at the Filter Photo Festival: Part 1

 

I was doing some math last week.

Adding up the number of days I’ve spent in Chicago over the last four years.

I was talking to my son about it, and realized that 5 trips at 5-6 days each equates to almost a month.

A month!
In a city I barely knew.

I’ve gone from not knowing where I was going, to almost remembering the landmarks but getting a little turned around, to kind-of-remembering and mostly going in the right direction, to knowing where I was and walking with a military march in my step.

What can I tell you?

Chicago is a beautiful city, and the large downtown area, filled with gorgeous skyscrapers, is set up against a blue lake as big as an ocean. There are green waterways criss-crossing the city as well, things you’ve seen in movies, with building reflections shimmering in the water below bridge-crossings.

People are friendly, and though it bears a resemblance to Manhattan, with the 20th Century, period nature of a lot of the buildings, it’s much cleaner.

An Über driver from Morocco told me he thinks Chicago is still much cheaper, and therefore more livable, than its East and West Coast mega-city competition.

But this September, at the 2019 Filter Photo Festival, I couldn’t help thinking it was strange how quickly something can go from new and fascinating to comfortable and nostalgic.

Here’s an example.

On Thursday night, after a long first day of reviewing portfolios, there was a little gap in the schedule before a reception at the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College, where Teju Cole’s fantastic, curated exhibition “Go Down Moses” was on display.

Rather than Übering or Lyfting, cabbing, bussing, or taking the subway, I chose to walk, alone, to gather my thoughts.

It’s about two miles, and I’ve done it before, so I know the way.

And I was also hoping I’d bump into someone.

Sure enough, on a street corner opposite Millennium Park, (before you get to the Art Institute,) I saw blues singer/guitar player/drummer Brian Doroba, in the same spot he was a couple of years before, when I stumbled upon his act, awestruck.

I had left early enough to be able to stop and listen, (just in case,) and got a ten minute concert of some genuinely killer street blues.

I dropped a couple of bucks in the hat, made a video to remember the moment, and sunk into the music, bopping my head as I leaned back against the side of a building.

Other people stopped, breaking their routines to engage with the blues, right there amid the theater of the street.

It was pretty excellent, as far as moments go.

And it felt symbolic of my view towards the Filter festival: I have incredibly high expectations, and they’re consistently met, even if I can’t be surprised, like I was when everything was new.

At this point, the Filter crew has their mission dialed in, and the festival is hyper-well run.

Their systems work, their venue is great, and the members of their team complement each other well. (Which I wrote about in last week’s team-building column.)

Filter has lectures, workshops, exhibitions and parties, along with four days of reviews.

Things just work so well.

People arrive at your table on time, never late, and leave when they’re supposed to. The breaks come at just the right time. The food is amazing, and the vibe in the reviewing room is positive.

To establish this level of excellence, in the heart of a world-class city, is to be commended.

But we all know I went to Filter to look at portfolios to publish here. I scouted some great stuff, and am thrilled to be able to share it with you now.

That’s right: we’re officially opening the series, “The Best Work I saw at the Filter Photo Festival,” and this is only part one.

As usual, the artists are in no particular order.

Let’s get to it!

I totally loved Adam Frint’s work, and can even say it inspired me.

Adam showed me a series called “Smoke Break,” in which he’d skulked around Chicago, watching people on their aforementioned alone time. And then he photographed them.

The concept is simple, but the pictures are dynamic and mysterious.

Then he showed me a different idea, which he had worked out as drawings. (He’s trained as a designer, and works in various media.)

Loved them too.

I’ve had a drawing project in mind for a while, and recently started, and I’d like to think Adam’s work triggered my confidence.

There was a lot of strong photography at Filter, so you may find me throwing compliments around. But I was really struck by Crystal Tursich’s work, and thought they were some of the best matte paper prints I’d ever seen.

I caught one or two out of the corner of my eye at the portfolio walk, the night before I had a review with her, so they looked amazing at a distance, and up close.

At these meetings, I often critique matte prints that are flat, or oversaturated. Most everyone presents prints that limit the illusion of 3 dimensional space.

But not Crystal. Her prints were extraordinary.

She seemed to appreciate the compliments, and let me know it was no accident, but that she worked hard at her craft.

As for the subject matter, the images are personal, and inspired by a miscarriage. They were super-impressive in person, but show well digitally too.


Whitney Bradshaw was another Chicago artist, and had a project that was getting buzz and attention, and had been exhibited a lot lately too. (Hopefully with more opportunities ahead.)

The project, “Outcry,”  is based on meet-ups that Whitney organizes, predominantly at her own home, where different women from various backgrounds come together to scream; communing around their own personal experience, or broader experience, with sexual violence. (Meaning most, but not all women are survivors.)

Whitney, who was a social worker, and has an MFA from Columbia College, then photographs the women when they’re screaming.

It’s intense, and apparently cathartic. I think it’s phenomenal as social practice work, and large format photographic installation.

I’ve seen Jim Ferguson’s work before, because we have a mutual friend in common. I even remembered the premise, which is the he doesn’t have proper depth perception in his vision.

So he makes work that visually communicates the way he sees. (Here were are with the flattened picture plane again.)

While I liked his previous black and white work, these color pictures were very cool. I told Jim about my critique of “headache” art at Photolucida, but his pictures make you see differently, without the need for ibuprofen.

I’m very curious to see what he comes up with next.

Margaret LeJeune had my favorite story of the festival. Or, rather, the story of our encounter was most memorable.

She told me, straight off, that she’d lived on a boat in the Atlantic Ocean for 14 months, sailing around the seas, making art.

I was hooked.

And she also let me know she’d been trained at the Visual Studies Workshop, so I expected high level technical skills.

I was crestfallen when the first thing she showed me were OK, documentary photo-style images, done with a not-special camera, shot around coast lines, and they didn’t give me any specificity.

Honestly, I didn’t understand how she didn’t do something more original, given what she seemed capable of.

She got a smile on her face, which is always a good sign, and told me about her other project, harvesting bioluminescent creatures from the sea, raising them back home in a studio lab, and using them in her photographs.

Say what now?

They are genius, and maybe for once I’m not exaggerating by using that word.

Last but not least, we have Vaune Trachtman.

I’ve written before that it’s important to judge the right time to approach someone at a festival, if you don’t have a review with them.

Well, I got into an elevator with Vaune, and she was super nice about letting me know she’d hoped to show me her work, but hadn’t had the chance.

Nothing pushy, totally genuine, and it allowed me to be a nice guy, which is always my preference.

So I gave her my card, and told her I’d look at her website if she dropped me a line. She did follow up, with an email and a thank you note, and once I got a proper set of jpegs, I knew they would look great here.

These images are trippy, suggesting a November, nocturnal voyage. They have a gravitas, and a sense of purpose that I really like. Normally, I think light trails are kitschy, but here they work.

Hope you enjoy them, and I’ll have more for you next week!

The Best Work I Saw at Photolucida: Part 6

 

I didn’t sleep well last night.

Not at all.

I woke up, imagining it was nearly 6, and waited for the alarm to go off.

When it didn’t, I finally looked at the clock, and it was 3:15 in the morning.

Ouch.
Oof.
Barf.

All told, I was up from 2:45-4:45am, which is atypical for me. I even found myself doing Qi Gong exercises by the light of the moon, at 4am, trying to will myself to get tired again.

It didn’t work.

Why am I telling you this? (Silly question. I get personal each week.)

Well, I’m trying to establish my right to keep the intro short and sweet today. As it stands, I’ve got to be up at 5am tomorrow to drive to Albuquerque and fly out to Chicago for the Filter Photo Festival. (One of my favorite cities, and festivals, anywhere.)

This means I’ll have a whole new set of portfolios to show you in the coming months, as I’ll be reviewing work for a few days in Chicago. (And partying my face off. Man, do they know how to have a good time there.)

But it also means that we’ve got to end our series on Photolucida, the stellar festival I attended back in April, up in the Pac Northwest in Portland.

When I began this series, “The Best Work I Saw at Photolucida,” I told you there was so much good work, I’d be writing about it for months.

And so I have.

Never have I ever done a 7 part series on a festival before, but between 5 portfolio articles, and two stories about books I picked up, it’s exactly what’s happened.

And while it’s never taken me this long to wrap up a series before, there’s a first time for everything.

Kudos to the Photolucida team for bringing together so many talented photographers. But Chicago beckons, so it’s time to put this baby to bed. (And hopefully I’ll follow. Damn do I need a nap.)

As always, the artists are in no particular order, and I hope you enjoy the work below.

Let’s begin with Alexis Pike, if only because her work is fun, and as I’m both grumpy and nauseated from exhaustion, fun sounds good to me.

Alexis showed me her project, (also a book by Ain’t Bad,) featuring work about the cult of Evil Knievel. That name might not mean anything to all the millennials out there, (truth,) but the now-dead daredevil was the biggest thing going back in the 70’s. (Yes, I feel old today.)

Alexis is from Idaho, and teaches in Montana, where Evil’s demographic still runs deep. Killer stuff. (No pun intended.)

Now things are going to get a little gloomy. First, let’s look at the work of Hillary Clements Atiyeh, who showed me a very heavy project. Apparently, her (now) ex-husband was in a small plane crash, and and suffered serious injuries.

She helped nurse him back to health, before they divorced, and these photographs document their difficult journey. One imagines the art also served as a major stress release valve for Hillary, as we all know that art is among the best ways to express our emotions in a healthy, controlled way.

Super-poignant stuff.

And let’s get the other super-heavy project out of the way now too. Joe Wallace and I had a review together, and he brought along a project about people suffering from Alzheimer’s.

It’s a disease that affects so many people, but I don’t think it gets the same recognition in media as cancer does now, or perhaps AIDS did back in the 80’s and 90’s. But with the baby boomer generation rapidly aging, caring for the (potentially) millions of dementia sufferers will soon be a nationwide problem.

Powerful art, for sure.

On a political, but also weighty note, we’ll move on to Rich Frishman, whom I first met at Photo NOLA back in 2017. While Rich then showed me a series of Americana-themed images that have since gone on to success, this time, he dove into the belly of racism in America.

He photographed places that are seminal in the racist history of America, (how’s that for a not-proud subject,) and along with Jeanine Michna-Bales’ photos about the Underground Railroad, (which we’ve published a couple of times before,) they serve as a good example of the way visual history can supplement the written word, when it comes to proper preservation.

An official Texas Historic Landmark, the Goliad Hanging Tree is a symbol of justice, Texas-style.
The newly freed African Americans of the Shiloh Community established a school for their children shortly after the Civil War. The one-room building was demolished in the late 1800’s and classes were held at the Shiloh Baptist Church.
The United States government has recently begun fortifying the border between the US and Mexico. This new gate actually separates American farmers from their croplands just to the south, still in the United States.
Built in 1930, Hamtramck Stadium was home to the Negro National League Detroit Stars in 1930-1931 and again in 1933. The field was also home to the Detroit Wolves of the Negro East-West League in 1932, and to the Negro American League Detroit Stars in 1937.
Houston Negro Hospital School of Nursing, built in 1931, now stands abandoned along with the hospital with which it once was associated.
Palimpsest of bricks closing the former entrance for “Colored People” at the Saenger Theatre in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
The first Mississippi state field secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Medgar Evers was shot in the back in the carport of his humble home in Jackson, Mississippi, shortly after midnight on June 12, 1963. He died less than a hour later at a nearby hospital.
During the Freedom Summer of 1964 three civil rights activists were jailed briefly in the small Neshoba County jail on trumped up charges. When Mickey Shwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney were released that night, they were followed by Ku Klux Klan members tipped off by the sheriff’s office. They were forced off the road en route to their office in Meridian, taken to this remote backroads location and bludgeoned to death. Their bodies were later found in an earthen dam.
During the first half of the 20th century, the small community of Idlewild was known as “The Black Eden.” It was one of the few resorts in the country where African-Americans were allowed to vacation and purchase property, before discrimination was outlawed in 1964 through the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Richard Andrew Sharum, from Dallas, had some photographs of Cuba, and hoped that they might distinguish themselves from all the other projects shot in Cuba. (One of our Antidote students this summer also tried to claim a “different” version of Cuba, but I’m not sure it’s possible at the moment.)

As he’s a photojournalist who covers a variety of stories, Richard asked if I’d agree to look at more work online, to see if something else was appropriate for this article, and I agreed.

He sent me this very powerful project about homeless school children in Texas, and I gave him an immediate yes. (Not hard to see why, right?)

I may have my professional writer’s card taken away for using the word “Americana” twice in the same article, but since the first instance referred to an article from nearly 2 years ago, I’m going to risk it.

It’s the best way I can think of to describe Lisa Guerrero’s excellent little group of pictures, given that I’m down 10 or 15 IQ points at the moment. (Even with the coffee. There is not enough coffee in the world to make me feel better right now.)

But these pictures did put a smile on my face. It’s not that they’re glib, or overly lighthearted, but a few weeks ago I admitted that I still try hard to love this country, and pictures like this seem to channel the absurdist-yet-earnest take on the USA that I try to share, in my better moods.

Finally, we’ll finish with Rebecca Hackemann, who is English, but is a professor in Kansas. (Bet she has a hard time getting a proper fish and chips there. Hope she likes barbecue.)

As to the work, it was conceptual, and 3D/sculptural, including a stereoscopic project, and these tintype photograms featuring antiquated technology. At first, I didn’t think it would reproduce well here, but once I saw her jpegs, I realized they were well worth showing. Hope you enjoy them, and see you next week.

 

The Best Work I Saw at Photolucida: Part 5

 

I made a new friend the other day.

His name is Keith.

He’s originally an East Coaster, like me, and now works as the security guard at the Harwood Museum of Art in Taos, where my “Party City is the Devil” show opens today.

Last week, while I was installing, Keith hung around a bit, and we got to talking. As the show took many hours to put together, over three days, it allowed for quite a bit of chatter.

In all honesty, when I first saw him, I did ask myself why he was the one protecting the joint. Not that he’s fat, old, or unimposing, (because he’s not,) but his look doesn’t scream dangerous either.

Keith has had an interesting life, filled with different phases, and confided he once spent years as the private chef for the CEO of Reebok.

Only after we’d gotten to know each other a bit, and he judged me cool, (I gather,) did he open up his jacket to show me his massive gun and even scarier knife.

Turns out, Keith knows some martial arts, but is a highly trained weapons specialist. A master marksman, he is quick off the draw, and is as familiar with handguns as shotguns and AR-15 rifles.

Yesterday, he showed me another knife, just as nasty, and a baton that can break bones faster than John Bolton is gonna get a tell-all book deal.

And he let me handle his Smith and Wesson .45 caliber hand cannon.

Truth time: it scared me shitless.

For most of us, guns, as objects, are terrifying. I don’t know how to use them, nor how to shoot, so to me, they emanate violence and misery.

I know they’re just a tool, (which Keith confirmed,) but man, are they unpleasant.

So you might be surprised to know I asked Keith to teach me how to shoot, and handle weapons properly. And he agreed.

Say what now?

Why would an artsy, hipster liberal want to know how to use a killing machine?

Because it was about as far out of my comfort zone as I could imagine going.

Over the years, I’ve come to dispense advice here, along with the art criticism, and doing things you find scary and difficult is one of the very best ways to grow as a human being. (And by extension, as an artist.)

That’s what it means, the phrase “get out of your comfort zone.” It’s about challenging yourself, and running towards the fear, and your weak spots, instead of away from them.

Another habit I think is undervalued, (or at least underutilized,) is knowing how to admit you’re wrong, and accept accountability and responsibility for your actions.

It may be the most Un-Trumpian thing a person can do, saying sorry and backtracking, but I believe it’s super-important.

Right now, I’m thinking of a particular incident that happened last April, when I was at the Photolucida festival in Portland. (We’re going to wrap up the series this and next week.)

It was on the last evening, at the closing party, when all the people from the festival were thrown together, artists and reviewers alike, and everyone was as worn down and low-functioning as they could be. (You try talking, looking, thinking and partying for 4 days straight.)

I wrote in a previous column that the photographers at this particular festival were too pushy and aggressive, for whatever reason, and that last night, people were approaching me left and right.

Someone even chastised me for removing my name tag, as if I’d broken the law.

I was grumpy, and spent, no question.

It took about 10 minutes to get from the front of the room to the back, and when I finally made it, Carol Isaak, a photographer I’ve since published here, approached me.

She asked, over the din, if I’d go outside with her for a private chat.

I was so tired, and burnt, that I was rude to her. I know I was.

“No, I said, I won’t go outside right now. But I will listen to you. Whatever you have to say, just say it here.”

Again, she implored me to go outside with her, and again I said no.

“Whatever you want to say there,” I grunted, “you can say here instead.”

I believe I mentioned in that last article that Carol is married to a Rabbi. I was courting some seriously bad Jewish karma by speaking to her like that.

So she looked me square in the eye, and took out a hearing aid. She held it up to my face, without a word, and watched me dangle on the hook like a dead hit man in a meat locker.

My face fell, I apologized profusely, and followed her to the front steps of the venue. (Sheepishly.)

As it happened, I’d asked Carol about the connection between her Buddhist-seeming India photographs, and her Jewish spirituality, and after a day or two of thinking about it, she had an answer for me. (She also accepted my apology graciously.)

Needless to say, I felt awful, but managed to salvage what I’d made of a potentially bad situation. (As a known good-guy, I really didn’t want people to think I’m an asshole.)

But now that we’re on the subject of Portland, it’s time to show the rest of the best work I saw. (This week and next week.) As usual, the artists are in no particular order, but as we have a lot to get through in the final two installments, I will be showing slightly smaller segments than I normally do.

Let’s get going!

Weldon Brewster is a successful commercial photographer based in Pasadena, who recently decided to focus more on his personal projects. He’s hardcore, for sure, as he sold his house and bought a new one with a studio, once he decided to commit.

Weldon is interested in Pictorialism, the style that was en vogue at the turn of the 20th C, before the group f.64 crew made it unfashionable in the 1920’s and 30’s. As such, the images he showed me of the California coast were intentionally soft and lush.

I liked them immediately, and later learned, (courtesy of Andy Adams,) that one of the images looked very much like a photograph on the cover of a famed Wynn Bullock book. So in our follow up, we discussed how one can stick with a project, and develop work more deeply, to move away from associations with things that have been done before.

Dawn Watson was one of several artists I met for a second time, as I’d reviewed one of her projects, (and published it here,) after the LACP Exposure portfolio review in 2017.

It was fascinating to see how it had evolved, as she clearly took some of my advice to heart, and it was strange to hear myself saying things that I’d clearly already said 2 years earlier. (Dawn and I both have good recall, I guess.)

Rather than showing the same work, though, we’re going to share a new, in-progress series she’s working on in the studio. The constructions, nature in an unnatural environment, are experimental, and very cool.

Marian Crostic, to lean into the theme, was also an artist I’d met at a previous LACP Exposure review. And she too had heard my critique, and then pushed herself much further. In particular, Marian, who lives on the West side of LA, and walks on the beach frequently, worked hard to imbue her imagery with more of a sense of Zen wonder.

They don’t need much of an explanation, (as you’ll soon see,) but are quite beautiful and lovely. No doubt you’ll be smitten, and wish that summer wasn’t 11.5 months away.

Cable Hoover is a fellow New Mexican, and was born and raised in Gallup. Anyone who’s driven through the West along I-40 might have passed through, and it presents as a dusty, hardcore Wild West town. (Not unlike Taos, but with less tourism, and no skiing.)

Rather, Gallup is in the Four Corners region, adjoining the Navajo Nation, and is known to be a properly tough town. These days, everyone likes to see “true” stories from inside a culture, rather than from without, and these images are about as raw as it gets.

Dynamite (and tragic) stuff.

Martha Ketterer, like Marian, is also smitten with the ocean. She presented a series of photographs made on the beach in Cabo, and explained a rather complicated technique she employs to create the panoramic effect.

I wasn’t sure the dividing lines made the pictures stronger, and told her so, but really, what’s not to like here?