In the modern age, maps have become more than simple depictions of geographical locations and features. We can now "map-out" our schedules, our psyches, and even our genes. This expanding concept of the map as a visual rendering of information speaks to our desire to analyze and order the world in which we live. And photography, with its ability to record events and history, is often seen as the ultimate tool for achieving these ends.
This issue of spot is filled with photographic maps and guides, visual explorations of both concrete and abstract subjects. We open with Fernando Castro's, The Lure of Cartography, an examination of mapping and its role in the works of the nine photographers to be featured in HCP's upcoming exhibition, Created and Found Maps - Exploration of Self and World. Castro discusses the use of maps as a means of exploring both our inner selves and the external world.
The works of Lorna Bieber and Rose Marasco navigate viewers though the murky realms of dreams and the sub-conscious. In Borrowed Dreams Bevin Bering Dubrowski observes that both of these artists use images and forms from mass media to create personal explorations for themselves and their viewers.
The representation and memorialization of space are explored in Corinne Vionnet's series Photo Opportunities. The photographer interweaves images taken from anonymous online tourist snapshots, underscoring the symbolic value that famous sites have acquired through time. Madeline Yale considers Vionnet's work within the context of photography and the touristic experience.
Houston area high school students participating in HCP's Collaboration's VII were give the opportunity to produce an exhibition exploring the photographic self-portrait. Transcending the casual snapshots popularized by social networking websites, the students were encouraged to investigate their shifting sense of self through photography. Rachel Hewlett discusses the student's
use of the self-portrait as a tool for self-discovery and analysis.
Carolle Benitah's photo albums trace the artist's transition from childhood, to adolescence, to adulthood. The photographer painstakingly orders and arranges family photographs and then embroiders them with thread and beads to signify the passage of time, presenting us with a poignant examination of the past and memories.
Edmund Clark documents the enduring effects of incarceration on former detainees of the Guantanamo Detention Center. By juxtaposing images of the naval base that houses American soldiers and their families, the camps were detainees are held, and the homes where former detainees now reside, Clark forces viewers to share in the feelings of entrapment and disorientation that are central to the incarceration process.
.The works of Matt Eich and Scott Dalton serve as guides to the social and cultural landscapes, rather than geographical features, of a region. Eich photographs the daily lives of the residents of Southeastern Ohio. His images provide insight into the poverty, unemployment, and substance abuse that plague the region. Dalton searches for the essence of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude while exploring contemporary Columbian culture. His photographs of the residents of Columbian seaside towns reveal a people who are joyful, resilient, and connected to the landscape and history of their country.
Inspired by the innovative works featured in this issue, we attempted to create our own visual map of spot. This publication would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of its contributors, artists, and staff. Mapping has become a part of our modern nature; in plotting the varied locations of our contributors, we feel that we have captured the true essence of this magazine.
"...In that Empire, the craft of Cartography attained such Perfection that the Map of a Single province covered the space of an entire City; and the Map of the Empire itself an entire Province. In the course of Time, these Extensive maps were found somehow wanting, and so the College of Cartographers evolved a Map of the Empire that was of the same Scale as the Empire and coincided with it point for point."
Of Rigor in Science, Jorge Luis Borges
Whereas "cartography," the discipline of producing geographical maps, is fairly precise, "mapping" is exquisitely polysemic. "Mapping" has meanings in neuroscience, mathematics, genetics, robotics, marketing, Googling, GPSing, etc. During the age of European exploration and expansion, the beginning of which coincided with the Renaissance, cartographers began to use ever more refined theories and tools (e.g., the magnetic compass, the sextant, the telescope) in order to render maps more accurate. Maps became tools of knowledge and colonialism. Artists from Johannes Vermeer to Guillermo Kuitca have reflected about maps in their works. Frazier King, curator of Created and Found Maps - Exploration of Self and World on exhibit in the main gallery at HCP, focused on ideas of internal and external mappings as referenced in the Cartesian ontological distinction of res cogitans (the mind as "self") and res extensa (the physical world). However, as often happens, the most interesting works included by King blur this distinction.
For example, the work of Tatiana Parcero, Nuevo Mundo, and of Eva Timothy, Lost in Learning, both include ancient maps and documents, but the former points to the artist's own experience as a bearer of new life, whereas the latter focuses on the evolution of knowledge of the world. Parcero superimposes acetates of the human body on photographs of ancient maps; a process that allows her to address one of the main problems of mapping-projection. German mathematician Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss proved, and a neatly peeled orange skin shows, that a sphere cannot be projected onto a plane without distortion. The Mercator projection prominent in most classrooms contains more distortion than one would think. Parcero further alters ancient maps by projecting them onto her own pregnant belly and onto her baby's body. In Nuevo Mundo #16 the navel is featured in the geometrical center of the image. According to scholars of religions like Mircea Eliade, the navel (omphalos) is a foundational symbol that symbolizes the place where both the life of individuals and civilizations begin.
Lost in Learning, the title of Eva Timothy's series, is ambiguous and can be interpreted as 'absorbed in acquiring knowledge' or 'astray as a result of studying.' The celestial globe, the astrolabe, and the maps that Timothy photographs were the tools of what she describes as "an age when exploration was life's supreme adventure. Times when men first took a lens and pointed it across the sea in search of new worlds." Yet, before Colombo's famous journey, that adventure entailed real and imagined dangers: the journey of no return, places where monsters lurk, and other unknowns. To prevent navigators from being lost at sea, cartographers often embedded warnings in maps about those dangers.
Timothy's work Celestial Sphere (Joseph Simon Guibot) alludes to a different kind of mapping. A celestial sphere is a spherical construction concentric with the Earth that aims to map the heavens. To build it, the equator is projected onto space so that it divides the heavens into the northern celestial hemisphere and the southern celestial hemisphere. One can thus locate on the heavens the Celestial Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, and the Northern and Southern Celestial Poles. The image is epistemologically important because it brings out the issues of geocentricity and anthropocentricity in the evolution of knowledge.
There is a certain familial resemblance between the works of Jean Miele and German Herrera. Perhaps is it is a certain penchant for making poetic imagery with photographic means. Although it may seem a contradiction in terms to say so, Miele's works involve a bit of scientific mysticism. They are also a confluence of fiction and reality. One of his key images is Cosmological Argument. A cosmological argument is one that infers from all merely caused things the existence of a single uncaused cause (the deity). In Miele's work a single human eye is ensconced inside the constellations, and the pupil of the eye is the globe. Our world, then, becomes the point from which we see the universe. Another one of Miele's works connects with those fears of the Age of Exploration that Timothy alluded to: Hc Svnt Dracones (there are dragons). It is one of Miele's simplest works: just a compass rose and the blue ocean. Only after you inspect it with some care, do you begin to see the dragon under the sea.
The work of German Herrera is even more enigmatic. Herrera has a penchant for mystical and arcane images which, using Photoshop, he seamlessly collages together. His titles speak for themselves: Antarctic Pole, New Babylon, etc. Like many a poet, Herrera is reluctant to speak about his work. He writes, "The world I am 'mapping' is not 'mappable' because the experience is totally unique and the experience itself is what creates the territory each of us traverses so, even when my images are my 'maps', they can not [sic] be used by others to build on their knowledge because
they will need to break their own code; mine will be useless.... "
By his own design, Herrera builds images that are as polysemic as "mapping" itself.
The work of Robert Beam, Past Present, is built around a personal pursuit: interpreting the aerial photographs shot by his grandfather, John Collier, while in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. Using Google maps, Beam then tracked down the locations where these military operations either took place or were supposed to have taken place over half-a-century ago. Thus in Beam's work a clinical comparison ensues between the landscape during World War II in a particular region of Italy, Austria or Poland, and the present environments which have expanded, increased in population, and sometimes been resettled as boundaries have been redrawn.
Nate Larson and Marni Shindelman have been working collaboratively for years. Their project Geolocation involves following strangers via their Twitter updates and locating the place where they stood as they uploaded their message. Larson and Shindelman write, "Using publicly available embedded geotag information in the updates, we track the locations of the Twitter users through their GPS coordinates and make a photograph to mark the location in the real world. Each of these photographs is taken on the site of the update and paired with the originating text." In Geolocation (Sneaking Suspicion) they locate the street corner where a tweet about just being laid off was uploaded. In another series of works called Performances, they set out to create the large scale A Portrait of Rudy Giuliani in a very ingenious fashion. The former New York City mayor was selected to honor his infamous opposition to Chris Ofili's depiction of the Virgin Mary in the 1999 Sensation exhibit at Brooklyn Museum of Art. The enormous line drawing is achieved collaboratively by tracking the movements of the participants as they walk. As the artists explain, "We started on one side of Prospect Park and used GPS software to track our position in relation to the planned drawing. The route formed a contour drawing and returned us to our starting position around 30 minutes later."
Maps are usually flat, but in John Mann's Folded in Place works, they are suddenly spatial and somewhat sculptural. Says Mann, "My constructions, as they exist before the camera, give the map a physicality, and turn the space of the photograph into a documentation of a small place." Indeed, in Untitled (ocean), a wall of ocean vertically rises like a tsunami from the flatness of a map; and in Untitled (Moksva), the map paper is cut up in strips in order to reveal the red ground upon which it rests. Mann's modus operandi thus involves two steps: one where he alters the material of the map, and a second one where he photographs his construction.
The title of Elaine Duigenan's oeuvre Micro Mundi alludes to an idea that the Renaissance inherited from ancient Greek philosophy; i.e., that there is an order of things in the infinitely small that reflects what is given in the infinitely large. Hence, the microcosm maps also model the macrocosm, and vice versa. The unlikely cartographers of Duigenan's whimsical Mundi are - by her own admission - small snails that, driven by their appetite for algae, eat paths that in Duigenan's works can be imagined to be the rivers or geological faults of her factitious worlds. Duigenan emphasizes the map-like features of the snail marks by printing her enigmatic images in a circle. The circular images come to resemble planets and the circle itself becomes an editing tool for this work. However, more than any resemblance her Mundi may have to any known planet is the one they may have to merely possible worlds of the imagination.
Nowadays, Google maps and GPS devices are so ubiquitous, accessible, and automatic that the rigor behind cartography has been largely forgotten. Art often urges us to cease and desist: stop and think, halt and remember. With Created and Found Maps - Exploration of Self and World we have reflected upon a woman mapping a world for her newborn, the liberating and frightening sides of new knowledge, how wars may change political boundaries and even geography, how current technology tracks almost every move we make, and more. If the technology of cartography keeps improving, future maps are unlikely to miss any detail of the "Empire."
On a recent visit to Lorna Bieber's studio a friend looked at me and asked, "Where have I seen that before?" I suggested that he saw it on the exhibition section of the HCP website. "No, no. You're going to think I'm crazy, but I've seen that image in a dream."
When Lorna Bieber sets out to create a work of art, she seeks to tap into a shared consciousness by constructing an image that evokes a sense of familiarity. Bieber works to create something that the viewers have never seen yet recall from their "memory's stock of images*." These reactions are at the root of Bieber's creative process. She began her artistic career as a painter, but it wasn't until she started to use the photocopy machine, and the possibilities the technology made available, that she found her creative license. She begins by making copies of found images, reinterprets them through various manipulations, and then photographs her constructions. Using multi-layered, complex processes allows Bieber to explore extreme variety and reproducibility. She paints, collages, and then may print and re-photograph a specific construction several times before reaching her desired effect. Then, working with master printer Chuck Kelton, she creates unique and poignant gelatin prints which allow us to see the ordinary and common place from a new perspective.
Rose Marasco also pulls images from everyday material — magazines, posters, and advertisements — to create work that becomes less familiar through alteration yet retains recognizable elements from the original. In Interior Projections, Marasco investigates the ubiquitous images that surround us in contemporary life. Projecting found images on domestic scenes, the resulting tableaus exemplify the impact of media culture representations on one's sense of identity. Larger than life faces of female celebrities are superimposed against living room walls, kitchen cabinets, and bedrooms, evoking the challenges of living between the fictionalized ideals and more mundane aspects of daily life. In Silhouettes, she uses the shape of naturally beautiful creatures to examine and explore cultural ideals of feminine beauty — perfected female forms are abstracted from advertisements and positioned within the hand-cut silhouette of a bird. In her most recent work, Marasco has further worked with this perspective, confining views of the historically prominent New York City architecture within a hand-cut silhouette of a female form from fashion history. Through her use of opposing historical forms, Marasco provides a thoughtful meditation on the role of time and era in promoting archetypal constructions.
Both Bieber and Marasco begin their processes with vernacular imagery appropriated from popular media. Through their creative processes — layers, manipulations, and reinterpretation — they offer us images that are familiar, yet not quite tangible, as if we once experienced them in a dream or fleeting observation.
* Charlotte Cotton, The Photograph as Contemporary Art (London: Thames & Hudson, 2009), 192.
For most, to sightsee is to photograph. Embarking on treasure hunts to tourist destinations renowned for monuments of grandeur, we pursue the extraordinary. Framing sites of mass tourism in our viewfinders, we create photographic souvenirs that are integral to the touristic experience. These products, coined "photograph-trophies"1 by Susan Sontag, separate our leisurely pleasures from the real everyday experiences of work and life, validating that we had fun on vacation and were in exotic locales where the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, or Niagara Falls exist.
Conducting online keyword searches for monuments, Swiss/French artist Corinne Vionnet culled thousands of tourists' snapshots for her series Photo Opportunities. Working with several hundred photographs of a single monument, the artist weaves together small sections of the appropriated images to create each layered, ethereal structure. Famed landmarks appear to float gently in a dream-like haze of blue sky. Each construction espouses the "touristic gaze"2, its distorted visual referent functions as a device for memory transport by funneling many experiences into one familiar
What is remarkable about Vionnet's findings is the consistency in online iterations of the travelers' gaze. It makes one wonder, how do we determine the optimum spot to photograph landmarks? Maybe we stand at the gateway to the Taj Mahal to render its architectural fagade in perfect symmetry, or we stand where we can frame all four American presidents in equal scale at Mount Rushmore. Perhaps we instinctively choose how to photograph known monuments as we are socially conditioned to take pictures we have seen before - images popularized through film, television, postcards, and the Internet.
Not so long ago, people would often organize their tourist snapshots into travelogues. Today, the travelogue is less likely to be a tangible album found in our homes than it is an online directory of digital images. When placed in the public realm, the travel souvenirs become anonymous products of tourism, searchable by the keywords ascribed to them by their makers. These meeting points, as Vionnet describes the sourced snapshots, may be inspiration for your next photo opportunity.
During Atlanta Celebrates Photography, Corinne Vionnet's work will be on exhibit October 21 - November 27,2010 at Wm Turner gallery.
1. Susan Sontag, On Photography (New York: Picador, 1977), 9.
2. John Urry, The Tourist Gaze: Leisure and Travel in Contemporary Societies (London: Sage, 2002).
Each year HCP sponsors a non-competitive educational outreach program called Collaborations. Now in its seventh year, Collaborations VII is a celebration of photography which encourages collaboration and teamwork amongst Houston-area high school students. Students from diverse ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds are invited to participate in collectively planning and executing an exhibition of their own photographs.
This year's theme focused on creating self-portraits. Portraiture has a long history both in art and photography, and within the past few years, self-portraiture has become an ongoing art performance within the MySpace/Facebook phenomena. Social networking websites have popularized such common snaps as arm's length perspective cell phone captures of best friends, nights out, come hither stares, and monumental travels, as well as the ordinary occasions of daily life. Digital photography has facilitated the possibilities of instant gratification, so now people can simultaneously be in a moment and sharing their photograph internationally through their online networks. These images become a shared visual diary, and much like the snapshots in the family albums of earlier times, they have meaning to the individuals depicted, but rarely hold the interest of others.
For six months Collaboration VII participants were challenged to go beyond the superficial "MySpace/Facebook" style of self-portraiture to photographically investigate themselves and their lives. Some participants focused on the psychological, exploring their feelings, fears, and desires to create images of their interior states. Yesenia Chavez sought to understand and represent her attempts to conquer her fear of heights; Alex Chavez explored a traumatic experience, whereas Lauren Januhowski delved into her sense of herself as physically and emotionally crippled. Javier Macias described the process of making self portraits as "the doubling of myself" which allowed him to examine his fear of transitioning from the familiarity of his school into adulthood. Insightfully, Macias found a sense of increasing confidence appearing in his photographs.
Other collaborators like Adrienne Duncan, Thora Ansell, and Alex Walker turned their focus to the physical by photographing their bodies. First thing each morning Caroline Brimberry photographed her face, searching for the self that exists before fully waking. "The fog between my dreams and reality," she says, "proved to be the perfect time for me to capture myself in my most natural and unguarded state...a real, unfalsified depiction of myself."
Some approached the project through their environment - the space they live in and the world around them. Investigating daily activities, both Bobbie Richardson and Jody Lu's work illustrate the repetition and ritual in daily life. Magaley Deleon and Maria Morfin looked at themselves in the school setting within which they spend the majority of their days. Rachel Walker and Alex Liso both explored landscape as a metaphor for self. Walker "felt this was the best way to let my personality show through, without being shadowed by the chaos of our material world."
The idea of memory and reflection occur in the work of Kayla Stewart and Ellen Phillips who attempt to trace the origins of their current selves through past experiences. Alex Goss and Amanda Hafemiester use mirrors as actual reflection; one capturing repetition, the other capturing a moment. "My photographs are a reaction to occurrences and observations I feel are important to my life. Memory is vital ... and photography is how I hold on to things," says Goss.
Portraits of Self is a reflection of twenty teenagers on themselves and their place in the world.
THIS YEAR'S PARTICIPANTS INCLUDED:
Thora Ansell, Bellarie High School Caroline Brimberry, Episcopal High School Alexis Chavez, Reagan High School Yesenia Chavez, The Chinquapin School Magaley Deleon, KIPP Houston High School Adrienne Duncan, HSPVA Alex Goss, The Kinkaid School Amanda Hafemeister, Bellaire High School Lauren Janunowski, Cy-Fair High School Alex Liso, Episcopal High School
Jody Lu, HSPVA
Javier Macias, The Chinquapin School Maria Morfin, KIPP Houston High School
Ellen Phillips, HSPVA
Bobbie Richardson, St. John's School Amanda Singer, The Kinkaid School Kayla Stewart, Lamar High School Judith Vite, Reagan High School Alex Walker, Lamar High School Rachel Walker, Cy-Fair High School
This is a study of home, of a very particular idea of home at a very particular time in our history. For eight years in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the American naval base at Guantanamo Bay on the island of Cuba has been home to hundreds of men, all Muslim, and all detained on suspicion of varying degrees of complicity or intent to carry out acts of terror against American interests.
Rather than a document to monumentalize the historical fact of the camps, this project illustrates three experiences of home: The naval base at Guantanamo which is home to the American community; the complex of camps where the detainees have been held; and the homes where former detainees, never charged with any crime, now find themselves trying to rebuild their lives.
The post-Guantanamo environments illustrate the contrast between the shared humanity of their domestic interiors and the spaces of the detainee camps they once called home. Motifs of imprisonment and entrapment are present in both, resonating with their experiences and their personal aftermath. Glimpsing the evening sun through a window is a simple thing but readjusting to having the freedom to do so may not be so simple. Like a net curtain, memories can obscure the view.
Still-life imagery of personal space and possessions follows a long tradition of symbolism and metaphor. As in my previous work, Still Life Killing Time, this series draws on the 'Vanitas' style of 17th century Dutch painting in which the artist used everyday objects like hourglasses, candles, and flowers to symbolize the passage of time, the transience of temporal existence, and the vanity of man's endeavors in relation to the rule of God.
The details of the ex-prisoners' homes and the environments at Guantanamo reflect similar themes, only the rules of control are not divine but of a different kind of superpower - and its guards and interrogators. Identity bracelets, Red Cross calendars, and Guantanamo-issue Korans are among the objects kept after their detention. Moreover, still worn items of clothing or an image of a solitary confinement cell carried on a mobile phone may be ways of regaining a sense of personal control for some.
On the naval base, an American community lives surrounded by razor wire barricading it against a new post-Cold War threat from a religion and cultures that are not understood. Developed over the course of a hundred years, Guantanamo is an idealized small town America with its own high school, golf course, mall, and familiar fast food chains. Yet this was the location chosen precisely because it was not America: A place where hundreds of men could be held beyond the protection of US law. Motifs of entrapment are to be found here too, together with iconography redolent of religiosity and military order.
The sequence of these images brings the three notions of home together in an unsettled narrative where the eye jumps from prison camp detail to domestic still life, from life outside to the naval base and back again. This is intended to evoke the process of disorientation central to the techniques of interrogation and incarceration at Guantanamo, and to explore the legacy of disturbance such experiences have in the minds and memories of these men.
Edmund Clark has been awarded the 2009 International Photography Award by the British Journal of Photography for this work. Soon, the book of Guantanamo: If the light goes out will be published by Dewi Lewis Publishing (October 2010) with supporting exhibitions in the UK, Europe and Australia. US exhibition venues are yet to be announced. Additionally, Clark's work has been selected as one of the feature exhibitions for the European Month of Photography Festivals in Berlin, Rome, Paris, Vienna, Moscow, Bratislava, and Luxembourg in 2009 and 2010.
Like an archeologist, I excavate the pictures in which I appear from the family albums and the shoeboxes full of photographs. From these fragments of my past, I select images that evoke intense memories and feelings of loss. For me, these photographs seem like confessions. I order them, classify them, scan them, and then I re-print them. In this way, I transpose past realities into new forms sometimes selecting details for further study, other times eliminating other aspects. My work of interpretation begins with these steps.
From my present vantage point some forty years later, I begin to re-work and re-tell myself, my life, and my past. With each image, I start to narrate my version of the story. The past of a human being, unlike the remains of a medieval castle, is neither permanent nor finished but always reconstructed in the present time. Through the traditional feminine art of embroidery, I transform the image with decoration to re-interpret my own history and to expose its failings.
This precise and slow process of embroidery serves as a metaphor for the work of making oneself and for the passage of time. With each stitch I make a hole with a needle. Each puncture releases a demon. It's like a personal exorcism. As I reinterpret each photograph, I am raising a veil on the past. My needlework becomes a narrative revelation brought about through the archeology of emotion. For example, in one picture, my personal story is metaphorically realized through the imagery of Little Red Riding Hood, the story of a little girl swallowed by a wolf. Through the silk threads and glass beads, we know we have entered a transgressive story, marked with perilous paths that should not to be trespassed. In another picture, I embroidered cockroaches (symbols of my childhood fears) which invade the space, yet they have angels' wings representing the surprising protectors who were there to save the girl I was.
I use the red thread to symbolize the path of my existence. With red silk, I trace the maze of my misplaced history. Red is the color of sexuality and violent emotion; it is also the color of life blood, and of bad blood. The beads I use are chosen for their sheen and their fragility, stressing the precariousness of decorative transformations.
The family album on which I sew, embroider, glue, and cut catalyzes the memories and the imagination; I play with the red thread of emotions and the fragility of glass beads, sometimes allowing the archaic ruins of my history to rise up again. Photographic memories and present day interpretation, the reality and the dream, these are the keys that unlock my pictorial language. The needle and the thread reinterpret the vagaries of memory and recreate the lines of my present.
— Carolle Benitah
Photo Souvenirs is a body of work that traces three phases of life: childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Comprising 45 images in all, each phase consists of 15 images which are presented both in a photo album format (7.8 x 11.8 inches) hand bound in a clamshell case, and as larger individually framed prints (20.8 x 31.5 inches). In both formats, the images have been hand embroidered with silk thread and glass beads. They are three dimensional pieces of art. More of Carolle Benitah's work can be seen at www.carollebenitah.com.
BOOK EXCERPTS Tillman Crane A Walk Along the Jordan Sterling & Hurst Editions, 2009 55pp., $95
At first I came to the Jordan for solitude. I walked and photographed along the river to find peace and quiet and to touch base with nature. | It also fed my need to photograph a favorite subject over and over again, each time looking at the river with different eyes. When I return to familar locations to photograph, the process becomes less about external discoveries and more about those that are internal. These internal discoveries are both harder to classify and more difficult to talk about, but what remains are the photographs. | My walks along the Jordan profoundly changed me. I found new images, rediscovered ways of making images, and learned a little more about myself. This personal journey of discovery is what I think life is all about. To discover who we are and what is important to us. | The physical manifestations of my meditations became the images in this book.
- From the closing essay by Tillman Crane
Paula McCartney Bird WatchingPrinceton Architectural Press, New York, 2010 119 pps., $50
Paula McCartney's book is purely delightful; it teases and engages the intellect as well as soothes the spirit with its crafty, and crafted, playfulness. Here is an artist that takes a simple, pastoral pleasure - bird watching while wandering through the woods - and turns it elegantly on its head. I was hooked from the first image in the series, before I knew what she was up to. Then, once I'd been smacked around with the sheer brilliance of her fakery, I was even more in love.
- From the essay "Following Birds" by Darius Himes
The focus of my photography is on the Middle East, women and children especially. Lebanon in particular is interesting because of its key location as a gate to the Middle East, between the West and the Arab world. | I am a Lebanese insider who speaks the language, knows the country, and understands its people, but I am also an outsider who can see Lebanon and its complexities through Western eyes, who can still be intrigued by the dichotomies that are shocking to the Westerner, but unnoticed by the locals. | The images are not meant to represent all facets of Lebanon as a country, or to be political in any way, but they focus on the universality of being human no matter what the circumstances are...
- From the preface by Rania Matar
Suzanne Turner and Joanne Seale Wilson (with photographs by Paul Hester)
[With] photography of Paul Hester, this book chronicles the origins, the sometimes tumultuous process of organization, and the intertwined relationship to civic and regional history of this Houston landmark. | Glenwood Cemetery developed according to the standards and preferences of the nineteenth century "picturesque" rural garden cemetery movement, of which it is Texas' first and perhaps finest example.
Dona Schwartz tagged a photo of you in her kitchen, to see this photo follow the text.
In the age of Facebook, when all our visual diaries are open to the world, In the Kitchen provides a smart coalescence of imagery, poetry, and prose that successfully enhances this pervasive impulse to follow the characters in other people's lives through personal photographs. In August 2003, Dona Schwartz, a self-proclaimed "photo-ethnographer," began photographing the everyday activities in the kitchen of her newly expanded Midwestern family. After she and her boyfriend decided to move in together, their combined family amounted to six kids total; four of whom would be living at home, three girls and one boy ages ten to seventeen (plus two dogs). Add someone with celebrity status or an elimination round, and this premise would
lend itself to the next hit reality TV show on Bravo. Rather than offering a mere expose of their first undeniably volatile years as a newly blended family, the images and texts from In the Kitchen provide an incredibly touching insight into the seemingly banal occurrences that come to define a family and its members.
One of the most interesting aspects of this book is the sense that Schwartz is constantly fluttering back and forth between mother, artist, and social scientist. Knowing that she is weighing what role to fill, the viewer can easily imagine that Schwartz at times might be dodging a potential outlash from her teenage subject by setting down the camera and scrambling some eggs. She focuses on the kitchen as the nexus of family life, a neo-hearth in contemporary American culture where everything important happens: mouths fed, girlfriends visit, stories shared, tantrums had, death lamented, boundaries tested. As to be expected in the drama of adolescence, Schwartz also surveys the kitchen as poignant battle ground between parent and child. By turning her training and perspective as a social scientist inward, Schwartz objectifies very personal situations. Sharpie covered arms and dyed-purple hair become "clues of emergent identity." Chopping tomatoes and doing homework become "rites of passage." Schwartz' photographs provoke the senses. They beckon us to imagine the sounds, warmth, and smells of a social center.
While the images provide solid ethnographic insight into the family's development over the two years they were made, the texts significantly bolster the project. The preface, by George Eastman House's Alison Nordstrom, contextualizes Schwartz' photographs within both photographic tradition and cultural history, providing necessary links outside of the very personal project. While offering fundamental back story, in her own essay Schwartz acknowledges her interwoven perspective as mother, daughter, spouse, photographer and ethnographer. There she delivers intimate questions with the same level of logical exploration seen in her pictures: "What makes a family 'whole'?" "What makes a family 'broken'?" "How, when, and to what degree does each generation leave imprint on the next?" Yet it is Marion Winik's poems, inspired by Schwartz's photographs, that marvelously set the pace of the book. They punctuate the rhythm of the photographic sequence, dynamically evoking the viewer's senses and offering lyrical accompaniment with poems such as The Revolution Will Not be Televised (But it might be on YouTube), which provides another avenue by which the viewer can identify with the project. A single photograph from this series is unlikely to be as powerful as the series as a whole, which is why, amplified by the texts, the book really is the most successful end form of this project. Schwartz has created a smart and emotive visual document that resonates well beyond the kitchen.
Curatorial Assistant, Photography Department, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Elaine Duigenan's Micro Mundi and Odette England's As Above So Below at Klompching Gallery (Brooklyn, NY)
by Frazier King On June 17, 2010 Klompching Gallery opened a beautiful duet of a show featuring the work of Elaine Duigenan and Odette England. Together, the works sing of a connection between heaven and earth and provide the viewer with a means to contemplate life and to transcend the travails of the day. All twelve of Duigenan's series and six of the thirteen images in England's series were on display through August 6, 2010.
ELAINE DUIGENAN, who lives and works in London, presents us with Micro Mundi and gives us a view of earth from the heavens. However, the sinuous lines of Duigenan's images leave room for viewer interpretation. We are freed from conventional maps. We are free to imagine a map of our own interior world and to navigate whatever journey we may be upon. As it turns out, our cartographers are small snails who chisel out a trail as they eat their way across a field of algae on an abandoned caravan (what we call a camper trailer in the U.S.). Each tiny worker is driven by unseen forces to construct its own pattern. Duigenan artfully selects constructions that create an entire cosmology, their own small world. We see a river delta (Aqua Amazonas), a cloud-covered bay bordered by the twinkling lights of a city (Manus Dei), or a newly cut trail through the forest of a discovered place (Terra Nova). In her statement Duigenan points out that the "rasping action of a spiky tongue" creates "patterns in nature [which] seem to replicate on both micro and cosmic scales. Small etchings on the side of a derelict building can look like entire swathes of earth in a satellite picture."
While Duigenan uses traditional film to capture the work of these creatures, she uses modern technology to create the final presentation. She has developed a special procedure to print the images on Hahnemuhle paper with an inkjet printer. The blacks are rich and deep as the pitch-black sky. Upon examination the prints have a velvety quality, yet the trails have a very sharp definition.
ODETTE ENGLAND, born in Australia but lives and works in London, like Duigenan, creates a conversation between heaven and earth. The title of England's exhibition, As Above So Below, refers to the cultural belief of indigenous Australians that the sky and earth are the foundation of all creatures. To convey this concept England selects a single location in the primal desert, photographs the sky immediately above and the land immediately below and combines the two images in an obvious but unexpected single image. The resulting interplay of images that compares the similarities and differences between the two extremes while creating something new. Thus, clouds and desert both exist in a single plain, and both are subject to light and shadow. However, the ethereal nature of one allows it to be combined with the concrete nature of the other, resulting in an entirely new image.
In one image clouds printed over a dusty desert floor maintain their identity yet appear as filtered light on the desert floor. The inclusion of feathers of a bird on the desert floor is an ingenious way to remind us that there is something in between. In another image the clouds become a frost on the ground. In yet another image the blue of the sky and the wispy forms of cirrus clouds transform a rocky desert floor into a riverbed with crystal clear water rushing over river stones and breaking into bits of white water.
In the works of Duigenan and England the world above and the world below are combined into one harmonious union. Debra Klomp and Darren Ching of Klompching Gallery have most astutely presented us with two photographers who show us two ways to see both the world and ourselves at the same time.
SHAPING THE IMAGE: 28TH ANNUAL JURIED MEMBERSHIP EXHIBITION
by Hannah Frieser
Every year HCP proudly holds a call for entries for its Annual Juried Membership Exhibition. Juried by an internationally acclaimed specialist in the field, members' work is selected for exhibition in the HCp galleries. this year we were delighted to have Hannah Frieser, Director of Light Work (Syracuse, NY) as our juror. Of the more than a thousand submissions, Hannah selected 56 images which were exhibited in the main gallery at HCP July 9th to august 22nd, 2010. To learn more about the annual membership exhibition, see "Calls for Entry" at www.hcponline.org.
Life, with all its different levels of intensity, is ever-present around us. Yet while our daily existence includes a wealth of input through our senses—including sight—most people do not see the world as a string of extraordinary images. We may notice occasional moments that would make a good picture. We may even reach for our cell phone cameras to take a quick snap, but for the most part we move through our life trying to get to the next place we want to be. It is not our priority to maximize our visual experience or find its best interpretation through the lens of a camera.
Then there are some of us for whom even a stroll to get the morning paper represents a visual plethora, who cache away impressions, ideas for composition, colors, or memories of little moments for possible creative use later. The photographers among this group work ceaselessly when filled with an idea for a project, until their images express the full depth of what they had envisioned. So rather than capture their images, they cultivate ideas until they have matured into the perfect blend of concept, style, and camera work. They push for excellence and the culminating image.
The resulting images usually look and feel entirely different from casual photos. They amaze with layered depth, while greatly varying from boldly colorful to discretely monochromatic, energizing and active to soothing and still. They may imply a narrative, or not; show an invented scene or a documentary one; be heart-warming or distantly cool. But they will move and beckon to be noticed.
For example, BRYAN SCHUTMAAT's timeless photographs of the Great Plains and other regions distill moments from the land to communicate the artist's intent. The images stand on their own, making additional information such an artist statement or gallery text unnecessary. His striking images in the Heartland series describe a great expanse of land that has been shaped to accommodate the needs of its people and their rural life style. By combining the landscapes consistently with at least traces of human presence, the focus shifts to the people not shown in the images. The images of topography narrate the land that serves its people, but they more importantly become portraits of the people that exist there because of their relationship to the land.
Whereas Schutmaat uses the landscape to tell the story of its residents,
JOSEPH HOLMES uses people to tell the story of a vanishing trade. His starkly lit images in the Custom Machinery series depict men in small New York City repair or machine shops, who sit idly waiting. They have seen time pass them by, as a shift to mass production has created a world that throws away and replaces generic products instead of repairing and maintaining customized items. The juxtaposition with photographs of the machines only emphasizes the way machines and their keepers have changed in the face of technology. The photographs are weighed down by a saddening stillness that recalls a time when these tools would have been in constant use - all within the lifetime of these men.
DANIELLE HEAD casts a sympathetic eye on sleazy men of dubious backgrounds. These fictitious characters, styled as inhabitants of the forties to mid-seventies eras, typically straddle the sidelines of pulp novels and B movies. The photographer pulls them uncomfortably into the limelight by taking on their personas in these dark-humored self-portraits. The resulting images are as funny as they are poignant and memorable. Referring to her images as "Mantasies," the photographs offer Head the opportunity to step outside of her own skin. "I wouldn't necessarily
want to actually be some of these people, yet I find myself wondering what it would be like to step into that identity," Head muses in her artist statement. She breathes life into roughly sketched characters, thereby making them real and herself a little less so.
The Houston Center of Photography is fortunate to have an abundance of excellent photographers among its members, who are currently making their mark on the medium and who understand what it means to shape an image. A group exhibition of their work sparkles with talent from Texas and beyond. The styles and formats run the gamut, but the quality of the work never waivers
In this issue we introduce you to the two 2011 HCP Fellowships Recipients. This year's competition was juried by Brian Paul Clamp, Director of ClampArt (New York, NY). The fellowship call for entries is open to all HCP members; a record 208 members submitted this past season. The Carol Crow Memorial Fellowship is awarded to a Houston based photographer, and the HCP Fellowship is awarded to a national or international photographer. For more information about these annual fellowships, see "calls for entry" at www.hcponline.org.
Macondo: Journeys in Garcia Marquez's Colombia
The recipient of the 2010 Carol Crow Memorial Fellowship is Scott Dalton. His photographic series, Macondo: Journeys in Garcia Marquez's Colombia, sets out to explore the people and places that inspired the Nobel Prize-winning book, One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
First published in Spanish in 1967, One Hundred Years of Solitude instantly earned critical and commercial success, and is often described as a quintessential example of magical realism - a genre in which the supernatural is presented as mundane, and the mundane as supernatural or extraordinary. As German art critic Franz Roh wrote in the early part of the 20th century, "[Magical realism] faithfully portrays the exterior of an object, and in doing so the spirit, or magic, of the object reveals itself."
The setting for Marquez's seminal novel is the fictional town of Macondo, and as Dalton writes, "With its surreal charm, [Macondo] represents the uniqueness of Colombia: eccentric and eclectic, timeless and earthy, a place where truth and fiction, myth and reality merge." And with the book strongly in mind, Dalton traveled through the tiny towns along Colombia's coast to find the essence of Macondo.
Nonetheless, despite Dalton's inspiration, his series of photographs can be duly enjoyed without a familiarity with One Hundred Years of Solitude. In essence, what the artist portrays is a richer, more accurate portrait of a country that has been historically painted with ambivalence as either a nostalgic, tropical paradise or a corrupt, blood-splattered battleground in the grip of powerful drug lords. Dalton's vivid, saturated images reveal a culturally vibrant country full of personalities and people who are certainly facing extreme challenges but also managing to celebrate life to its full extent.
Scott Dalton is an award-winning freelance photographer and documentary filmmaker who has chronicled the civil conflict and drug war in Colombia over the past ten years. His images have appeared in The New York Times, Business Week, Time, Newsweek, Conde Nast Portfolio, Harper's, Der Spiegel, Washington Post Magazine, and The New Yorker, among others. Dalton's documentary film, La Sierra, has won numerous awards and been broadcast by PBS, BBC, HBO Latino, and many others.
-Brian Paul Clamp, Director, ClampArt (New York, NY)
Matt Eich Carry Me Ohio
Artist Matt Eich is the 2010 HCP Fellowship recipient. He opens the self-published book for his first major photographic series with the line, "This is my love song to Southeastern Ohio." And as one soon discovers through Eich's searing images, it is not a place for which affection comes easy.
Southeastern Ohio was once known for its rich natural resources such as coal, salt, clay, and timber. However, once industry had stripped the place of its raw materials, it was abandoned and its people were left to fend for themselves. The communities have long struggled to survive, but with the recent widespread economic crisis in the United States, the outlook for this particular region is even grimmer. In 2006, well before the American recession had hit, Athens county in Ohio reported a poverty rate of 27.4% with a median household income $14,000 lower than the national average. Of course, economic hardship opens the door to an array of other problems, and Eich's photographs touch upon such issues as substance abuse, birth defects, and crime.
Matt Eich was born in 1986 in Richmond, Virginia, and raised in the peanut-farming town of Suffolk. In the fall of 2004 he began his photographic studies at Ohio University where his love of the medium and his passion for exploring issues of social relevance converged. Thus, he turned his attention to documenting the daily life in the impoverished towns of Southeastern Ohio. One imagines a bright young university student "slumming with the locals," if you will, but Eich's perspective is not at all voyeuristic, insensitive or cruel. The images convey a deep empathy for and understanding of the subjects' profound plight. The artist has spoken of initially meeting one of the series' main protagonists, the Goins family, at a town hall meeting in Chauncey: "The family had been undergoing a lot of struggles at the time and were kind enough to open their home to me and allow me into their lives..." Eich clearly possesses respect for the people in his pictures, and expresses his gratitude for their trust and generosity.
Carry Me Ohio represents an astonishing accomplishment by a very young artist. Eich continues to shoot in the region, and the series is ongoing. There are still a myriad of powerful photographs to capture, each with its own story to tell. Eich reflects: "Now is the time to look inward and investigate the issues that lurk below the surface within our country. It's the first step to resolving them."
-Brian Paul Clamp, Director, ClampArt (New York, NY)