Jun 112014
 

Take or Make

by David Lykes Keenan

Are you a taker or a maker? 

25_150_Parade, New York City, 2011

I had the pleasure of meeting photographer Robert Herman recently in my new home of NYC. We were meeting to compare notes about self-published vs. artist-funded photography books. These are probably the best two (the only two?) ways for artists not-already-famous to publish books of their work these days.

Robert, by the way, has self-published his book The New Yorkers to much success and acclaim. It’s been a ton of work for him but he’s now into a second printing which is almost unheard of for a self-published photography book.

During our talk, Robert suggested I find a book that has long been out-of-print. “You can probably find it on Amazon,” he said. He was right. My copy was either legally or illegally lifted from the University of South Carolina Museum of Art library and sold to me for $1. Only the library pull card was missing. The book is Mirrors and Windows: American Photography Since 1960 with an introductory essay by John Szarkowski, an untouchable if there ever was one, in the world of photography.

I usually just look at the pictures in a photo book, I call this the National Geographic Effect, but in this case, I read every word. My first impression was how timely to 2014 it felt even though it was written in 1978.

The first part of the Szarkowski essay focused on the impact that Robert Frank (and The Americans) and Minor White (and Aperture magazine) had on American photography after the 1950s.

The point of the essay (and the theme of the book) was to demonstrate how photography could be divided into two camps that Szarkowski referred to as “straight” (Frank) and “synthetic” (White). He was very careful not to draw to firm of a dividing line, leaving that open to artistic interpretation, but went onto discuss the new generation of photographers who emerged in the 1960s and how they were influenced by Frank and/or White to find themselves representatives of either straight or synthetic photography.

The photographs in the book are divided into two sections with many examples of each form. The names associated with this collection of photographs, we now recognize as a Who’s Who of iconic photographers. Erwitt, Winogrand, Friedlander, and Meyerowitz on the straight side; Capanigro, Uelsmann, Warhol, and Hass on the synthetic side. Among many others.

By the time I was nearing the end of the essay, the title of the book had completely slipped from my mind. In the closing paragraph, Szarkowski tapped his seemingly endless knowledge of the history of photography when he looked even further back than the 1950s and suggested that the father of straight school to have been Eugene Atget, and the synthetic to have been Alfred Stieglitz.

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Then everything about the book, about mirrors and windows, came completely into focus (pun intended) with the final sentence of the essay. “The distance between them (Atget and Stieglitz) is to be measured not in terms of the relative force or originality of their work, but in terms of their conceptions of what a photograph is: is it a mirror, reflecting a portrait of the artist who made it, or a window, through which one might better know the world?”

As I wrote earlier, change some of the names, add about 30 years to the dates, and Szarkowski could have been writing about photography of the 21st century, the essay would have a very contemporary feel. These two camps of photography haven’t gone anywhere.

I certainly have experienced this is my own photography and I strongly identify with my camp. I think this is why I found the Mirrors and Windows essay compelling enough to not give it the NatGeo treatment. I just never thought about it using the terminology adopted by Szarkowski, that is “straight” and “synthetic”, which does have a rather dated feeling in 2014.

I’ve always thought of this photographic divide to be between photographers who “take” pictures and those who “make” pictures.

As a street photographer, I definitely take pictures. Landscape photographers take pictures. A fashion photographer or a commercial photographer make pictures.

Of course, as Szarkowski was careful to point out, overlap is allowed. That, pardon my editorializing, ridiculous $7 million photograph of the Rhine River by Andreas Gursky was a made landscape.

Try as I might, any personal attempt at crossing over in the make camp has, well, not been pretty. My mind and/or photographic eye just doesn’t work that way. It’s not a good thing or a bad thing, I remind myself, it just is.

So, do you take photographs or do you make photographs? Are your photographs windows or mirrors?

David has been photographing seriously since 2006 when he left his software company in capable hands and has not set down his camera since. Presently he is managing a Kickstarter campaign to publish his book of street photography entitled FAIR WITNESS. You are encouraged to check the campaign and make an investment to assist in bringing FAIR WITNESS to the bookshelves.

From Steve: Please DO check out David’s Kickstarter and if you like what you see feel free to help get him to his goal. These things are tough and I applaud and respect those who go out there and make efforts to get it done. You can see his video below, great and passionate guy:

Dec 192013
 

Lost Angels

By Lee Jeffries

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I guess “Lost Angels was a “process” that started for me five years ago. I was in London to run the marathon and found myself wandering the streets with my camera the day before the race. I trained my long lens on a young homeless girl huddled in a sleeping bag from across the street. She noticed and began to shout at me in an objective manner. I was obviously very embarrassed and at the time two thoughts went through my head. Turn away and get out of the situation quickly. Or go over and talk to her. I chose the latter. Doing so changed my perception of how I wanted to approach photography. The photographs became of secondary importance. Making contact, stopping to chat and helping out where I could become much more significant. Loneliness goes hand in hand with homelessness and alleviating that for 20 minutes..or an hour…or sometimes for a few days then it’s that reaction, nearly always positive, that I take away from an encounter. The intimacy of my portraits are perhaps a testament to this.

SH2 - The Cat Lady

My images have become more like art. For that reason I never dilute them with “document” or “circumstance” unless it’s absolutely warranted. I try very hard to capture both an emotional element and supplement that with a metaphysical quality that grabs and holds the attention of the viewer. I like to allow all of that emotion to breathe inside the mind of those that “see” and allow them to make their own conclusions on the “reality” of the situation. There is enough packed into any one of my images to take the viewer on a journey. They are an exploration of humanity. It’s as much an exercise in self-examination as it is in photography. They carry a social message, a message of injustice and suffering. They are about faith. Love. Compassion.

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Cheers

Lee

You can check out Lee’s book “Lost Angels” at the link HERE. His 500px is HERE.

Aug 292013
 

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Salted Wounds – Hurricane Sandy Book 

Hey to everyone! Today is a gorgeous Thursday and I am taking it slow for the next few days because I know there is a slew of new stuff right around the corner, sO I am gearing up for it. New Micro 4/3, New Sony, and maybe a surprise or two from other camera companies. Also have a couple of new bags on the way for review, more on the “Stylish” and “Functional” side. So I will have a busy week next week. That means today, I am answering e-mails, catching up with news, cleaning my home office and trying to decide what I want for lunch.

While browsing around I remembered a project that a friend of mine is doing and many of you should know her. Amy Medina is working on a book called “Salted Wounds” about Hurricane Sandy. Amy has written many articles and  reviews here in the past few years and Hurricane Sandy affected her personally with damage to her roof (that is now leaking). Being the passionate photographer that she is, she went out after the storm and shot much of the aftermath and is now compiling all of those into a beautiful book and e-book. Her Indiegogo goal of $1000 has been met to cover costs of the books, printing and work involved and Amy is now going to donate some of the proceeds to a Hurricane Sandy Charity as well.

I’ve met Amy as she has attended two of my meet ups/workshops in the past. Great person and 100% passionate about what she does.

Go check out her Indigogo project page and if you would like to pitch in you can for as little as $7 for the e-book. Also, FYI, I was in early and paid $57 for the full book and print :) Good luck Amy!

Check it out HERE.

 

Dec 132012
 

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A look at the 99 Years of Leica Book!

A couple of weeks back I received a package from UPS direct from Leica that consisted of their new coffee table book “99 Years”. This book surprised me with its content and even though I have not read the whole book yet I have been very pleased with what I have seen and read so far. This book covers 99 years of Leica from the beginnings to the current and brand new “M” model. It also has loads of iconic photos, interviews, articles, info on prototypes such as the original “S1″ digital camera and much more.

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At $130 it is not cheap but it is also not expensive for what you get. This is a book for any true Leica fan and it is very well made with a hardshell cover/case and all. Take a look at the quick video I made to show you what the book is like:

 

This book is available right now through Ken Hansen for $130. You can e-mail him at [email protected] as he has about a dozen in stock. To some $130 is expensive for a book but this is a very well made 300 page coffee table book with just about every piece of information you would ever want to know from the last 99 years with Leica. Very cool to have and for those who still think it is expensive, check out this MONSTER book from the band Kiss for $4200 :)

All in all I can say that if you love Leica, you will love “99 Years”!

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