Sunday, October 4, 2015

Eleanor Macnair's - Photographs Rendered in Play-Doh - showing at London's ATLAS GALLERY

Eleanor Macnair -  Child with toy grenade, NYC, 1962 by Diane Arbus

When in London back in May I was introduced to artist Eleanor Macnair through our mutual friend Clare Strand. Eleanor kindly gave me a copy of her wonderful book - Photographs Rendered in Play-Doh. The work is currently showing at London's ATLAS GALLERY, through until November 21st. The book and the show are well worth a look.

The photographs rendered and reproduced in the exhibition range from the well-known and iconic to lesser-known images by contemporary photographers. Photographs Rendered in Play-Doh started by Macnair on a whim in August 2013. The images are produced using Play-Doh, a chopping board, a highball glass as a rolling pin and a blunt Ikea knife. Each photograph takes 1-2 hours to reproduce, paring the image down to just form and colour, before being shot the next morning then disassembled back into the Play-Doh pots. The works themselves no longer exist and the Play-Doh is reused for future renderings, so the photographs are all that remain.

The objective of Photographs Rendered in Play-Doh was to encourage viewers to slow down and re-engage with familiar photographs and discover new ones. Eleanor Macnair  says this: On the surface, photographs can condense complex ideas and present them in a straightforward visual language. I take this a step further and pare them down to almost nothing, just form and colour. They are what they are. Photographs Rendered in Play-Doh. It’s my strange tribute to photography.

Eleanor Macnair's Photographs Rendered in Play-Doh was published in book form by MacDonaldStrand / Photomonitor in October 2014. The book featured in the Observer’s Best Photography Books of 2015, described as ‘sublimely post-modern’.

You can get a copy of Photographs Rendered in Play-Doh from MacDonadStrand HERE. The book was produced in a limited edition of 500 - with covers in 100 each of 5 Play-Doh colours. 140x165 mm, 144 pages with 100 litho colour reproductions, Hardback with coloured card, laminate and foil blocking.

And see the show at ATLAS GALLERY, 49 Dorset Street, London W1U 7NF (nearest tube is Baker Street)

Eleanor Macnair  - Vivienne in the green dress, NYC, 1980 by Nan Goldin

Friday, October 2, 2015

Paris Apartment - worth checking out for your next visit to the city of light


With Paris Photo just around the corner some of you may be looking for the perfect Paris apartment. Here it is! Mdm Baron's apartment is located in the pleasant 11th neighborhood very near the Marais between Republic and Bastille. Just 5 minutes from the Picasso Museum, the area has a delightful market, wonderful cafes and restaurants and is yet to be discovered by  tourists! The metro is almost at your doorstep and it is a pleasant stroll through the Marais down to the river Seine. The apartment has wifi, a well equipped kitchen, and comfortable double bed. The rate per night is very reasonable with a minimum of 4 nights. I have been staying here for a number of years and it is well worth checking out.

For reservations or more information you can contact:  Elisabeth Baron by email at or Tel: +33 6 84 07 53 79 (mob)

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Broomberg & Chanarin at LISSON GALLERY London

Broomberg & Chanarin
Comedy is a man in trouble, 2015

Viewing now until 31 October at London's LISSON GALLEY is a show from Broomberg and Chanarin - Rudiments.
The gallery says this: Tackling politics, religion, war and history, Broomberg and Chanarin prise open the fault lines associated with such imagery, creating new responses and pathways towards an understanding of the human condition. Trained as photographers they now work across diverse media, reacting to the photojournalistic experience of being embedded with the British Army in Afghanistan (and the controlled access to frontline action therein) with an absurd, conceptual riposte, composed of a series of abstract, six-metre swathes of photographic paper exposed to the sun for 20 seconds, for the work The Day Nobody Died (2008). Through painstaking restitution of found objects or imagery, from the long-lost set and discarded footage of the film Catch-22 in Mexico, for example, Broomberg and Chanarin enact an archeology or exorcism of aesthetic and ideological constructs behind the accepted tropes of visual culture, laying bare its foundations for fresh interpretation. Language and literature play an increasing role as material for their multifaceted work, from the philosophical underpinnings in Bertolt Brecht’s War Primer to the sacred texts of the Holy Bible itself, both books having been refashioned and recreated by the artists in their own ambiguous, combatant image.

You can go to Broomberg and Chanarin's site HERE and LISSON GALLERY HERE.

Broomberg & Chanarin
Snoop Dogg, Sylvester Stallone, Sugar Ray Leonard, American Landscapes, 2009

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Sotheby's - Photographs, October 7, New York - Something for everybody

Sotheby's October 7 photography sale in New York, has something to satisfy every taste. Here are a few of the works that caught my eye.

LOT 128 / Hans Bellmer -1902-1975 / LA POUPÉE (WITH CARPET BEATER)
hand-colored, 1937 / 6 1/2  by 6 5/8  in. (16.5 by 17 cm.) Estimate - 25,00035,000 USD

LOT 144 / Robert Mapplethorpe -1946-1989 / MAN IN POLYESTER SUIT
signed, dated, and editioned '7/15' in ink in the margin, flush-mounted, the photographer's copyright stamp, signed and dated in ink, on the reverse, 1980 / 18 by 14 in. (45.7 by 35.6 cm.) Estimate 250,000350,000 USD

LOT 177 / Irving Penn - 1917-2009 / 'MARCEL DUCHAMP'
numbered '16 6 - P - 20' in the negative, signed, titled, and annotated in pencil and stamped on the reverse, framed, 1948, one from an edition of no more than 25 gelatin silver prints (MoMA, pl. 13; Moments Preserved, p. 128) 9 3/4  by 7 3/4  in. (24.8 by 19.7 cm.) 
Estimate 25,00035,000 USD

LOT 173 / Collier Schorr - B. 1963 /ARRANGEMENT #15 (HERRHAUSEN)
archival pigment print, framed, a 303 Gallery label on the reverse, 2008, no. one in an edition of 5 / 39 by 31 in. (99 by 78.7 cm.) Estimate 5,0007,000 USD

LOT 204 / Stephen Shore - B. 1947 /'US 10, POST FALLS, IDAHO, 8/25/74'
chromogenic print, signed, titled, and dated in ink on the reverse, framed, an Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York, label on the reverse, 1974 (Uncommon Places, p. 98)
7 3/4  by 9 3/4  in. (19.7 by 24.8 cm.) Estimate 8,00012,000 USD 

You can go to Sotheby's HERE to view the complete offering.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

What makes a great photograph?

William Eggleston - WTF?
Yesterday I was host to a bunch of enthusiastic book lovers who came to my home to hear me talk about the contents of my library. This was at the invitation of fellow photographer Simon Devitt who has started a project he calls Reading Room. Judging from the lively discussion people seemed to enjoy themselves. First incarnation was at the home of architect Marshall Cooke, I was second and next is at the studio of painter Judy Millar.

The Reading Room at my place - 26-9-15

Not surprisingly yesterday's discussion turned to the subject of photographs. As I've just finished the edit on a new bookwork it got me thinking about what makes a great image. I hesitate to use the word great, because so many pictures (mine included) are simply not that at all, so let's settle for the descriptor good. So what does make a good photograph?

To me it comes down to several simple attributes - enigma, mystery, surprise and poetry.
Authenticity too where the work is intelligent (not clever) and comes from the heart and the head. That's content dealt with but let's not leave out form. Henri Cartier-Bresson called it geometry. The picture has to look good, have a visual structure that's pleasing to the eye. Eggleston has it, he knows exactly how to structure the frame, what to leave in (and what to leave out) and his control of the picture edge is masterful.

If you, we, can make pictures that have all of the above going for them the pictures will be good and will work. To work, the photograph has to pull the reader in and give them something to do. Something to work out, offer the start of a narrative where the reader can bring their own life experience, make their own story. I call images like that What The Fuck images. What The Fuck is going on here? The reader is invited, compelled even, to try and work it out. On the other hand most pictures are not WTF images, they sit dead in the water, offering nothing beyond a pale attempt at description. I call these images So What photographs. Nothing more than what you see is what you get. There has to be more than that!

Of course you may ask, how do I make WTF photographs when it seems every possible image has already been made? Good question. John Baldessari says why make a photograph when somebody else has already made one just like it. And he's right. Two possible ways of  dealing with this. First, get to know the history of photography and find out who has done what. So many students I speak to have no idea at all about what has gone before. Second, consider making photobooks where the images speak and relate to each other, holding hands to make a work that is greater in impact than the individual parts.

Enigma: a puzzling or inexplicable occurrence or situation.

Mystery: anything that is kept secret or remains unexplained or unknown.

Surprise: an unexpected sudden feeling of wonder or astonishment.

Poetry: to evoke meanings beyond the prosaic ostensible meaning.

Authenticity: real or genuine, not copied or false, true and accurate.  

William Eggleston - WTF!

William Eggleston - WTF!

And a last word from William Eggleston - I am at war with the obvious. Of course Eggleston has made some crap pictures in his time too. None of us are immune. 

Finally, a post script from John Baldessari - I will not make anymore boring art. 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Dennis Stock, James Dean, Anton Corbijn, Ron Brownson and me

Dennis Stock - James Dean, Times Square, 1955

One of the most well known and iconic images in photography is that of James Dean, with overcoat, hunched, and walking in the rain in New York's Times Square. Sadly, I doubt that many people would know that the picture was made by photographer Dennis Stock (1928 - 2010). Stock, a member of Magnum Photos, undertook a series of photos of the young star in Hollywood, Dean's hometown in Indiana and in New York City. He shot the photograph of Dean in Times Square in 1955 which was the year Dean died.

Reporting in today's online edition of the BJP: So began the brief and at times fraught relationship between Dean and the photographer as he tried to convince the actor to make a photo essay for Life. The ups and downs of their relationship lie at the heart of a new film, Life, directed by Anton Corbijn, and starring Dane DeHaan and Robert Pattinson... Loosely structured around Stock and Dean’s travels over a two-week period in 1955, the film faithfully plays out the making of Stock’s famous images – the Times Square photographs, images of Dean at his family’s farm, and of the actor sitting in a barber’s chair. 
You can read the full story on the BJP site HERE.

My encounter with Dennis Stock occurred in July 1996. Auckland Art Gallery curator Ron Brownson brought Dennis out to the house that I then owned at Auckland's Karekare Beach, known for where Jane Campion's 1993 movie The Piano was shot. The house is in the valley that leads to the beach and it sits surrounded by bush at the top of 104 near vertical steps. Dennis had recently undergone major surgery and I felt the climb to the house was somewhat of and ordeal for him. I remember a pleasant day where we talked and later wandered to the beach and walked in the sand dunes.

Harvey Benge - Dennis Stock and Ron Brownson, July 1996

Friday, September 25, 2015

PARIS PHOTO 2015 – Aperture Photobook Awards Short List

The Aperture Foundation has released the Shortlist for this year's PARIS PHOTO photobook awards. The final jury will meet in Paris on November 12, 2015, and the announcement of the winners will be made on Friday, November 13.  

The Shortlist contains thirty-five titles in the categories of First Photobook of the Year, Photobook of the Year and Photography Catalogue of the Year, with one additional honorable mention.

This year’s short-list selection was made by Yannick Bouillis (founder, Offprint Projects), Julien Frydman (LUMA Foundation), Lesley A. Martin (Aperture), Mutsuko Ota (editor-in-chief, IMA), and Christoph Wiesner (artistic director, Paris Photo).
Christoph Wiesner, newly appointed artistic director of Paris Photo, said, "As this was my first year taking part in this jury, I found the process very exciting and full of discovery. We saw a wide range of approaches, from the aesthetic to the political. Books are a critical means of disseminating the work of an artist, and of proposing different roles that photography can take. The photobook will continue to play an important part in Paris Photo’s festival. All of the short-listed books will be displayed in Paris, and in total, we have twenty- six publishers who will take part in the fair.”

The final jury will meet in Paris on November 12, 2015, and the announcement of the winners will be made the following day, Friday, November 13, at 1:00 p.m. The final jury will include Frish Brandt, president of Fraenkel Gallery; Christophe Boutin, co-founder of onestar press; Clément Chéroux, curator of photography at Centre Pompidou; Donatien Grau, author and editor; and Lorenzo Paini, curator of the Enea Righi Collection, Bologna. The thirty-five selected photobooks will be exhibited at the fair.

 You can see the full shortlist on the PARIS PHOTO site HERE.