Monday, March 29, 2010

If You Build It, He Will Come

Tim Schenck is an engineer-- the kind of photographer who builds a graphic structure within every image. And then there is the fact that he is an actual engineer--a structural engineer. Really. "Blessed and cursed" with two callings, Schenck uses his architectural eye and career path to aid his passion for documenting significant architectural construction, renovation, and demolition. He has a knack for using color, shapes, and mathematical principles to create a striking image. His 9/11 Series is on permanent collection at the Smithsonian. He documented the before, during, and after of the creation of the High Line.

Schenck's style is very different from my own, on every level from equipment to purpose; so when I caught up with the photographer, who was nice enough to agree to a chat, I wanted to know everything-- background, inspirations, what makes him click, his take on digital versus analog-- and everything he did tell:

Julia Wideman: Can you tell me a little bit about your background and how you first became interested in photography?

Timothy Schenck: I am blessed and cursed to have two callings. In addition to being a self-taught photographer, I'm also a structural engineer. Structural engineers collaborate with architects to design buildings, specifically the "skeleton" or "bones" of the building (think steel beams, concrete walls, etc). We create computer models, perform calculations, draft plans, and help administer the construction process. I started out in photography by taking photos of my projects in construction--out of necessity, I needed to document the work progress. Gradually I found myself taking shots of little details and vignettes around the jobsite. I was using the company's cameras, early digital models, and thought to myself that this was fun and I should get my own camera. I bought my first digital camera, a cutting edge 1MP point-and-shoot and I quickly grew out of it. I then took the plunge and bought a DSLR. This was a major turning point for me as the level of adjustment available in the DSLR piqued my creative curiosity and forced me to learn--and of course my photographs got much better. I was hooked. I started carrying the camera with me everywhere I went. I shot more and more and eventually started developing my own voice and aesthetic.

JW: I called it "a graphic quality," but what do you identify as some of the main themes in your photography? Why are they compelling to you?

TS: My personal work largely focuses on found and carefully composed color and form, shape and symmetry. I have heard people describe my work as very "graphic" and think that it is an entirely appropriate description. My analytic background in architecture and engineering greatly informs the making of these types of photographs. I appreciate the beauty of mathematics in nature and the built environment. The engineering and the photography allow me express this beauty in two quite different ways that are very satisfying to me (the old left brain, right brain thing).


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Pretty, Funny Ladies

By Terry Richardson

To make the rainy (NYC) Monday brighter, below are some great images caught of eccentric women being, well... eccentric. Some are posed (although those that are do seem spontaneous at that), some are on the fly. In any event, all seem to capture a little piece of the subjects' personalities. This one of Pam Anderson just makes me chuckle every time, as do the many more after the jump.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Going Nowhere

Happy Friday everyone. This weekend I'll be hitting up the brand new Ryan McGinley exhibit, Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere (through April 17th), at Team Gallery. Last Thursday was the opening reception, and although I couldn't make it to witness myself, I heard it was so packed that the attendees spilled out to fill the entire city block from cross street to cross street (and to the point where the fire brigade came in and shut it down!). 

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Whose Space?

Street photography is not for the faint at heart-- or rather, the general concensus is that one is more apt to be successful if he/she is unafraid of getting a reaction, welcomes it even. Wednesday, Exposure Compensation did a great post on Jeff Mermelstein, a bold photog not concerned with getting in the faces of strangers. This is a great circle back to the discussion of being an "asshole" when shooting. How close do you have to get to be considered in someone else's "personal space"? And does it even matter?

Consent is not really an option on the street. As Mermerlstein says in the video after the jump, "I'm, in a sense, stealing something from them without asking them... I myself feel no guilt from that. I'm not trying to hurt anybody with the camera"

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Woman is a Woman

Having gone into it a bit skeptically, I left his ICP exhibition as a passionate convert in favor of the work of Miroslav Tichy.

Tichy, a Czech eccentric artist, not only takes his photographs by way of homemade equipment (most of the time out of cardboard and waste of production), but he is absolutely and utterly uninterested with his own recent success in the art world. He says he takes his pictures, prints them, and throws them away. The spots, the curled edges, the tears, that is all part of the beauty, not to mention the makeshift cardboard frames he sometimes creates. See some of those after the jump.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Charles Moore (1931 - 2010)

This week, photographer, Charles Moore, who "changed the course of history" with his powerful documentary images of the civil rights movement while working under contract for Life, has died at age 79.

Looking at his work, Moore's impactful images bring me back to the subject of photojournalism & reportage and art. There is an inextricable link, I'm sure of it. (Moore's amazing photos are strong evidence of that.) BBC quotes Moore on his work, "Pictures can and do make a difference. Strong images of historical events do have an impact on society."

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Me And My Cousins

I really like this Vampire Weekend video for Cousins, which the band released last November. It's a simple concept-- an alleyway, quick cuts (stop-animation-esque), and a lot of repetition.
I like that it is decidedly rough around the edges. And I think that that can apply to film as well. Take the Holga for instance. If you've ever used one, you know you can't ever rely on a perfect negative. There is bound to be a light leak, a spot, a drastic line of focus. But that's what makes it good.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

That's The Way Uh --- Uh --- I Like It

I discovered HUH. Magazine via my research for yesterday's post. HUH., a UK based publication with a publish-frequency they describe as "sporadic," focuses on art across the spectrum and does a particularly good job (I think) with photography.

HUH.'s photography blog and Features section is a mix of guest curators (recently, one of which was I Thought I Was Alone), reader submissions, and general photog. news.

Monday, March 15, 2010

I Thought I Was Alone

I love the sense of community within the photography world. It seems everywhere I go there is another hub of photographers banding together, helping each other, providing a platform to show their work. I Thought I Was Alone, the brainchild of photographer Lele Saveri, is just that. "I thought it was time to create an online platform for photographers who, while being very different, are united by a common starting point: to capture what surrounds their lives without worrying about the whats, the hows, and the whys," Saveri says via the site, "I thought I was alone, but maybe I am not." Saveri is currently the photoeditor for Vice magazine in Milan.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

What Gravity

Today the skies are opened up. I'm a lover of rainy days, so I'm looking at it positively. Perhaps it's April Showers come early?

Here are some great pictures by Daniel Gordon to remind us what all the hydration will bring in just a few short months.  I think the "flying" man is expressing how we (I) feel inside on the first day of spring. You want to skip down the street, jump up and down, defy gravity.

See more soaring images after the jump. Then read about Daniel Gordon on The Photobook.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Mr. Penn's Engagement

Lots of attention surrounding the great Irving Penn this year commemorating his death in 2009. Now on view until June 6th at the National Portrait Gallery in London is Irving Penn Portraits, which they call "a glorious celebration of his work" over the past seven decades. And that it is.

On a similar note, last night I had a nice surprise. I attended a fundraiser event at Christie's for the WCF and was able to see the Irving Penn work on view there, which is to be auctioned on April 14th. This is a collection which belongs to Patricia McCabe, Penn's long time assistant (for over thirty years!), and "the most significant group of photographs by Irving Penn ever to come to auction," as the press release states. The prints were gifts from the artist to his assistant. As would be expected the estimated prices are not what you would call "attainable" for just anyone.

My favorite for sale is the image above. He creates some wonder and curiosity with the Cuzco Children. I want to know where they have been, more about them. I love the angle of their stances. In all of his work, one can sense a strong engagement with his subjects, probably the most important quality for a portraiture photographer.

After the jump, a bit from the NPG curator, Magdalene Keaney, on Penn's "presence" in his photographs and more about the exhibition on view.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Good Old Fashioned Feeling

Aren't these portraits great? Although it's not intended (or I don't believe so) they remind me much of the circus, or maybe circus characters out of their element. These work because they are clean and light, and they are cropped well. I feel happy when I see them.

The photographer is John Huet, who specializes in athletic performance and portrait. His photos of Michael Phelps are also really mesmerizing (seriously), which you can take a look at here.

Last night, my boyfriend gave me a photo critique, and I enjoyed hearing his thoughts. He said things like "This gives me a good feeling when I look at it," pointing to one image; then pointing to another, "I don't get that feeling with this." So simple- and yes there is more to it usually- but isn't that the crux when you really get down to it?

Photo Credit: All by John Huet

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Reportage and Art: What's The Relationship?

Weegee was said to have thrived on a good crime. He earned his nickname (the phonetically spelled Ouija) due to his quick materialization at every crime scene seemingly within minutes of its happening. He tried to "humanize the news story." To him, every picture had to be a masterpiece, even a drunk. There is no question the thought he put into each photograph, which is why he is such a master. Click on the hyperlinks above to hear some insight from the man himself on the drama and backdrop at the scene of a murder.

The picture above is from a contemporary sometime-news photographer, Mariella Furrer, whose work I saw on the NYTimes Lens. More about her after the jump.

Monday, March 8, 2010

It's All OK

This weekend at the Whitney Biennial I saw the incredible images that are in part Larry Clark's series Tulsa. This is a really powerful documentation of the sex, drug use, and gun play that Clark participated in his 1970s youth where he grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Yes, Clark has received some push back for his subject-matter-- often being called perverted or exploitative. But- whatever the intention you can't call the images so-so. Controversy and quality are not inherently negatively related. If anything I think they might be just the exact opposite.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Father, It's Not Time To Make A Change

I find this self-portrait of Terry Richardson with his father, Bob, very moving. Let's just say it pulls at the heart strings. It's a sweet moment between father and son, and it feels very true. The kiss to the temple, the shut eyelids, the intimacy and closeness of the composition. It's a rare feeling to be portrayed by a Terry photo, where the more typical is a bit sexy (to say the least). It's refreshing to get a glimpse into the more vulnerable side of Mr. Richardson.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Narrow Road

All PhotosEast 100th Street, New York (1966-1968). Bruce Davidson.

I'm working on a project. I have an idea. It's an idea to start, but it's also one of those that could go in 20 different directions. So, recently I've been researching what qualities some of my favorite and/or the most successful series possess; the first to pop at me is: specificity and focus.

Among others, I have found: there is August Sander with his famous "portrait survey" of Germans in the 1920s and 30s, Portrait of the Twentieth Century; there is Larry Fink's Social Graces, a pointed comparison between the lives of wealthy Manhattanites and those of rural Pennsylvanians; and then there is Bruce Davidson.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Please, Do Not Say Cheese

Darkroom chit-chat of late has frequently come to the subject of capturing the 'real' portrait. One of my new buddies, and my most opinionated & constructive critics, Sumner, talks about "snapping the smile out" by a taking few shots before loading the film. I find that method funny, but most likely, it's effective.

Richard Avedon was a master of portraying what he argued as "what people were really like." As Leibovitz observed, Avedon “seduced his subjects with conversation."

This image is one of my favorite examples of such method. Avedon apparently knew the Duke and Duchess of Windsor were dog lovers so he told a little white lie on the subject, snapping at the precise moment of their sympathetic, concerned reactions.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Sampling and Revisions on the LES

Tonight marks the opening of Wayne Liu's first exhibition after arriving back from a three month photography stint in Bulgary and Paris.

I'm always impressed with photographers who have mastered the technique of a great print. Where I am right now, learning that skill is one of my biggest challenges. Wayne is one of those photographers. His series Haunted and Trace exemplify this quality. He makes a ghostly effect using high contrast, dripping chemicals, sometimes blurring the negative.

And I'm sure his opening tonight will be no exception as he has gone through his archives to create this work of installation photography, "Installation in 5x5 feet box of ortho lith films screwed and bolted on transparent fabric against fluorescent tubes" Liu definitively describes it on the invitation. 5x5 box, bolting, transparencies--all else aside, I just need to catch a glimpse!

March 3
7-10 PM
Gallery Bar
120 Orchard Street
photo: Wayne Liu from his TRACE series

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Royal Color, A Colette Exhibition

My friends and I check Purple Diary religiously. It's a matter of interest in compelling photos, international partiers, and a sprinkle of sexual, uh...freedom. Just a sprinkle.

Opening yesterday through April 3 (although Purple lists its opening as March 4), Colette, the hip Parisian shop/gallery/cool-place-to-be will host a Purple exhibition for which Zahm chose his favorites from over 10,000 images he shot since 2005.

As the Colette site calls it, and I agree, "His diary, figurative as it is, complements the magazine and holds up a mirror to our times." Wish I could be there to see it.

Where to find Colette: 
213 Rue Saint-Honoré
75001 Paris, France
01 55 35 33 90

Monday, March 1, 2010

This Made Me Happy, Go Figure


Last week I talked about submitting my photos to James Danziger's "Happiness Project." Well, he responded just the way I had hoped. My photo made it to the Happiness Report Part 1! This, along with the other joyful submissions he posted, put a wide grin across my face. Jump Book anyone? I won't get into the details, but let's just say after a hard weekend, I needed this smile.

You'll have to click there to see my image-- it's the third one down.