The Return of Photographs

January 15th, 2012 § 0 comments

The final months of 2011 were good for writing, and good for my photography. Prolifically shooting while in South America, switching between lenses I borrowed that allowed me much more freedom than my own kit lens, I finally had a reason to edit and publish my images—I’d promised my editor a few art related photo essays while on vacation. It was an excuse, really, to do what I would have done anyway, and that extra motivation I need to get the images edited and published. I’m thinking of turning all my vacations into business ventures, or things I can get paid to write about later, and have my sights set on the upcoming art biennale in Havana, Cuba this May—with four weeks of paid vacation this year, travel options are much less restrictive than in the past.

Though I am very detailed in my research while writing here at home, I found I was much less committed to getting the necessary information while away, perhaps understandably, though it’s something I’ll have to work on in the future to save myself hours of Google time later. While in South America I covered street art in Rio de JaneiroBuenos Aries, and a show about India at the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil. My piece on street art in BA was tweeted by MoMA as a “great read,” and as a result was read, looked at, liked, reposted, and retweeted by more people than have looked at anything I’ve done, ever. That particular piece is also going to be republished by the online magazine Global Graffiti sometime in February.

As usual 2011 was brought to a close by Patti Smith, who gave one of the least impressive performances I’ve ever seen her give, leaving me to think perhaps her 65 birthday was too much for her to handle. I wrote a piece about the show nonetheless, and I’ve got a good feeling about 2012—it’s going to be a damn productive year.

The Subtle Highlights

March 21st, 2011 § 0 comments

Standing out against a garish background of colorful artwork, I did discover a few artists during the March art fairs that caught my eye because their work differed from everything else: it seemed to represent a kind of realism that was lacking from almost all the artwork shown. Though you’d think bright colors would be the eye catcher, these artists stood out visually with softer, more muted color palettes, and conceptually with their quotidian, almost mundane subjects. Overall I found them more compelling visually and conceptually, actually stopping my stroll to get a better look at their work. Researching the names I jotted down afterward, I found that most of them are in their early to mid 30s, and are all holders of MFA’s from somewhat pedigree schools. While I don’t see this as an indicator of quality, it’s interesting to see where our artists are coming from, and how, if at all, they were trained.

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A Small Sense of Community

December 30th, 2010 § 0 comments

Most artists are trespassers at heart, and most of us want to explore the places we are unable to see, to go inside, or to photograph at all. If I could somehow break into strange houses and apartments to photograph the interiors without going to jail afterward, I would. Having spent a great deal of my childhood in the backseat of various cars, watching images pass by the car window almost like I was inside the camera frame of Lee Friedlander, I dream of one day being able to shut down portions of the Los Angeles freeway system in order to capture those fleeting images. I’ve tried to use the camera as a means of time travel, and I’ve tried to photograph ways of life that no longer exist, or that might never have existed at all. It seems photographs can be about our denied fantasies as much as they can be a documentation of our immediate reality.

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Less Than Picturesque

April 16th, 2010 § 1 comment

queens

astoria

Queens, for some bizarre reason, has a very bad reputation when it comes to its aesthetic virtue. In a show on NPR a while back the borough was humorously described as being less than picturesque, and I was appalled by its representation in the movie Julia & Julia, where shots of trains I take and buildings I walk by looked manipulated to make Queens even more discouragingly ugly than it actually is. Certainly it is not Manhattan, the island of architectural diversity and beauty, but I can’t make it less attractive than Brooklyn. I find Queens mostly made up of attractive residential buildings surrounding the train lines, suburban strip malls farther outward, and industrial warehouses along the waterfront. Beginning in recent years with Long Island City, the closest area of Queens to Manhattan, and working eastward, gentrification of sorts has slowly begun. LIC reminds me of what Williamsburg might have been a few years ago, after the artists but before the high-rise glass condos. While I love my neighborhood (Woodside)  with its little houses and tiny gardens, Colombian cafes and ethnic diversity, and its close distance to Manhattan and Brooklyn, it matters very little for my photographic purposes how picturesque Queens may or may not be. Often the “uglier” it is, the more interesting it becomes.

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An Endless Fascination

January 12th, 2010 § 0 comments

madonnaWho Shot Rock & Roll, on display through the 31st at the Brooklyn Museum, was surprisingly one of the best shows I saw in 2009. It was oddly underwhelming at the same time that it was deeply satisfying, in the same way that a chocolate covered strawberry never tastes as good as imagined, but in itself remains difficult to dislike. On the surface—despite the multitude of reviewers forced to discuss the deeper connections between rock & roll, celebrity and their constructed image, and the roll photography plays in mediating between the two—this show could be summed up as a crowd pleaser. While it is easy to roll our eyes at yet another Van Gogh or Dali exhibition, shows that appeal to our cultural understanding of “good art,” it is harder to make an argument against the type of images we simply can’t resist. Who Shot Rock & Roll goes deeper than this, however, not necessarily because the exhibition really is deeper, but because whatever the photographs lack the viewers make up for through the interest they bring to them.

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