Posts Tagged ‘New York Times’

Notable: The Mystery at the Heart of Great Photographs, Geoff Dyer

In Article, Black and White Photography, Photographer on September 30, 2016 at 2:04 pm

Image by Eli Weinberg

What makes for a Great Photograph? Is it great technique? A unique perspective? Creative use of materials? A clever staging? How about crystallizing a significant moment in documentary photography?

What makes a great photograph is becoming more and more difficult to discern in an era when a majority of the population has an above average shooter in their pocket at all times. Geoff Dyer, however, looked into the past recently in a great essay for New York Times Magazine. He’s searching for the significance found within historic photographs and a key time: the Civil Rights movement and Apartheid. It’s well worth the time to read.


“There is nothing as mysterious as a fact clearly described.” The fact that versions of this observation have been attributed to two very different street photographers, Garry Winogrand and Lisette Model, underlines its wisdom and its mystery. It helps explain why attempts to stage photographs – to create fictions – only rarely work as powerfully as the kind of quotations from reality that we get in documentary photographs. Larry Sultan once said he “always thought of a great photograph as if some creature walked into my room; it’s like, how did you get here?… The more you try to control the world, the less magic you get.” Winogrand had no objection to staging things; it was just that he could never come up with anything as interesting as what was out there in the streets. But when does the staging start?

To Continue Reading: NY Times Magazine

Notable: Just Kids … Unpublished Pictures of Smith and Mapplethorpe

In Article, Black and White Photography, Exhibits, Gallery, Photo Print Collector, Photographer on March 29, 2013 at 12:54 pm


Mr Ziff’s 1960s portrait of Robert Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith

It was 1976 in Bloomingdales when we “bumped” into Patti Smith cruising through the aisle in her monochromatic outfit with a shy demeanor. No one knew the legend she and her roommate would inspire many years out.

For years his pictures lay dormant. Mapplethorpe had lost interest, though he did incorporate them in later works. And even after Mapplethorpe’s death in 1989 from complications of AIDS, LLoyd Ziff was ambivalent about showing them. As for Ms. Smith, he said: “I never considered publishing a naked picture of Patti. It just wasn’t something you do to a friend.”

Decades later, he reversed himself.

For more information: N Y Times

Danziger Gallery

Notable: Photography–Museums’ Rising Star

In Art Museum, Article, Black and White Photography, Exhibits, Photo Print Collector, Photographer on March 21, 2013 at 2:05 pm

Bill Brandt. <i>Bombed Regency Staircase, Upper Brook Street, Mayfair.</i> c. 1942. Gelatin silver print, 9 x 7 5/8" (22.8 x 19.4 cm). Acquired through the generosity of Clarissa A. Bronfman

Bill Brandt. Bombed Regency Staircase, Upper Brook Street, Mayfair. c. 1942.

For a quick summary of where the Photography department stands within some major museums:

This recently appointed crop {of photography curators – ed.} is not a bunch of 20-somethings. They are all seasoned professionals, mostly in their 40s or early 50s, and they are approaching the medium differently than their predecessors. Where the curator of 20 or 30 years ago struggled to be recognized, this generation no longer has to fight to be heard. Museum directors are realizing that photography exhibitions attract crowds, particularly the young audiences they covet, so they are giving more attention and space to the medium than ever before.

For more information: New York Times

Preview: Faking It – Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop, Metropolitan Museum , NYC

In Art Museum, Black and White Photography, Exhibits on October 15, 2012 at 11:59 am


Grete Stern’s “Dream No. 1: Electrical Appliances for the Home”

An exhibit we have been looking forward to for a couple of years is now opening at the Met. “Faking it” takes on the whole question and validation of manipulated photographs. Is it “real” photography when it is no longer “straight photography” or is it just artistic expression, license , creative artifact … or whatever. The rather pointless philosophical discussion leaves behind an array of important images that can be appreciated for “the thing itself” :

To make sense of it all, you need to understand that Ms. Fineman’s mission is to challenge something that is absent from the show: a different view of photography that prevailed among the intelligentsia for most of the 20th century. That was the idea that a great photograph must be transparently truthful. Canonized eminences of modern photography, from Stieglitz and Weston to Arbus and Winogrand, took the world straight, with no cosmetic or fantastic chaser. What they and their cameras saw was putatively what you got.

But the truthfulness of straight photography came under suspicion in the 1970s, most resoundingly in Susan Sontag’s “On Photography,” which indicted the medium for voyeurism and other crimes. Since then, doubting the capability of any representational system to convey naked truth has become obligatory in academic circles. The advent of digitization and Photoshop-type software has only affirmed the now orthodox conviction that not only does reality elude representation but also that truth itself may be just a misleading chimera.

We are left, then, to wonder. If photography cannot capture truth, what is it good for? Leaving aside the ever-increasing use of imaging technology for identification, surveillance, scientific and medical discovery and so on, what is its special purpose as far as art is concerned? While a good answer to that question does not emerge from this exhibition, it offers much that any new theories must take into account.

Runs through Jan. 27

For more information: The Met

For above referenced NYT Review: New York Times

Notable: Martine Franck, Documentary Photographer, Dies at 74

In Article, Black and White Photography on August 25, 2012 at 1:12 pm


Martine Franck

A great photographer that worked in the shadow of her famous husband has passed away …

Ms. Franck was an exemplar of a school of postwar photography that aimed to capture the real world. Her style was to work outside the studio, to use a 35-millimeter Leica camera, and she preferred black-and-white film. She was drawn to fragile populations like Tibetan boys who had been selected as reincarnated lamas and a dying Gallic community on Tory Island, off Ireland.

She also returned over and over to photographing well-known artists, among them the painter Marc Chagall and the sculptor Étienne Martin. The poet Seamus Heaney was also a subject.

“I think our collective sense of the artistic and intellectual life of Paris in the second half of the 20th century has been substantially enriched by” Ms. Franck’s portraits, said Peter Galassi, who was director of photography at the Museum of Modern Art until last year.

For more: NY Times Obituary

Notable: John Myers, New York Times

In Article, Black and White Photography, Photographer on May 14, 2012 at 10:26 am


Photograph by John Myers

Roll through the NYT slide show and see seminal photography from 40 years ago, previewing  the work of the next 30 years in fine art photography.

He was influenced by the photography he found in books at the local library — John Szarkowski’s “Photographer’s Eye,” for example — and the work of photographers like August Sander and Diane Arbus. “I really did object to the world of, particularly, Ansel Adams and that kind of American photography, which is highly technical — it’s almost like creation in the darkroom.” A 1972 retrospective of Arbus’s work had a particularly strong impact. “She talked about technique and she used the phrase ‘my technique is adequate,’” he said. “All of that kind of magic and darkroom messing around just kind of disappears, and you’re actually left with the real world.”

For Myers, the real world was Stourbridge, the “normal small English town” that has been his home for nearly 40 years, and where most of his pictures were taken. His subjects, shot using a 4X5 Gandolfi camera, were people he knew and their children, as well as the houses and roads around town. “There’s nothing particularly remarkable about where I actually ended up working and living and eventually marrying and settling down,” he said. “This is the world that the great majority of people live in.”


For more information: NY Times

Favorites: Jerry Uelsmann’s Analog Dreams

In Article, Black and White Photography, Photographer on December 12, 2011 at 10:53 am


Jerry Uelsmann

One of our favorite artist photographers is interviewed in the NY Times today.

Q. How do you create these images?

A. When I was a graduate student, I was still trying to find this ultimate, complete, meaningful image. I would walk around with my camera and I would find something and if I thought too much, God herself could appear, and I would think, what does that mean? You’ve talked yourself out of it.

But I began finding that I had elements that I thought were interesting, but not quite interesting enough. So initially, it began with foreground/background relationships being put together. And once I accepted that idea, in my mind, that it was O.K. to do that, that really expanded the vocabulary, and it freed me up, in terms of taking pictures.

Q. There were a lot of people working visually in surrealism in the 20th century. Why photography instead of painting or collage?

A. In my case, all of my technical skills were in photography. I had taken basic painting and drawing courses, but I felt much more comfortable with photography. I began to realize that there was an incredible psychological dissonance created by combining images, because all photography has an inherent believability. Even when you look at Magritte you realize this is a painting. But from the time you’re a child, a photograph represents a specific time and place.

For more : NY Times

Notable: End of a Year, End of An Era “Kodachrome 1935 – 2010

In Article, Black and White Photography on December 30, 2010 at 9:29 pm


Steve Hebert for NY Times

The obituary for a technology of light, color and memory was written and presented today by the New York Times:

That celebrated 75-year run from mainstream to niche photography is scheduled to come to an end on Thursday when the last processing machine is shut down here to be sold for scrap.

The status of lone survivor is a point of pride for Dwayne Steinle, who remembers being warned more than once by a Kodak representative after he opened the business more than a half-century ago that the area was too sparsely populated for the studio to succeed. It has survived in part because Mr. Steinle and his son Grant focused on lower-volume specialties – like black-and-white and print-to-print developing, and, in the early ’90s, the processing of Kodachrome.

In the end, it was determined that a roll belonging to Dwayne Steinle, the owner, would be last. It took three tries to find a camera that worked. And over the course of the week he fired off shots of his house, his family and downtown Parsons. The last frame is already planned for Thursday, a picture of all the employees standing in front of Dwayne’s wearing shirts with the epitaph: "The best slide and movie film in history is now officially retired. Kodachrome: 1935-2010."

For more: NY Times

Random Thoughts: $105 Million For a Picasso This Month… Why Not?

In Article, Black and White Photography, Photo Print Collector on August 28, 2010 at 7:35 am


Nude, Green Leaves and Bust” , Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society, New York

We are dedicated to commentary on appreciation of fine photographs by all viewers but the lessons for our collector segment are often to be found in the high end of the art market. Once again a  record high price for a painting is set, with some would say, not the greatest work by Picasso.

In this column recently, our observation on the importance of market valuation drew the comment Ansel Adams to insure success should have had a business manager first and worry about print techniques secondarily . The high minded thought behind the comment intimates that great art is great art independent of the marketplace … and well it may be, but that is not the art world today.

The following is from “Kilroy” in the NY Times today, commenting on the Picasso sale:

The super-rich who trade in expensive art are filling the role of patrons once played by The Church and baronial city-state families like the Medicis. Name-brand galleries–thank you, Leo Castelli–indulge and buttress the investments of their rich clients by cultivating a fashion-like sense of exclusivity. Universities play their role with high-powered M.F.A. programs that boast of the name-brand artists who passed through their doors. It’s an ad-hoc system replete with deals, Basels, talent, fraud, and, less frequently than in the past, romantic Van Gogh-like suffering. But a system it is, designed to make the artist the most valuable component of the product for sale.

One can have a jaundiced view of the art machine and say the fix is in; or one can roll with it and enjoy some of the art that comes to market. I’m in the latter camp. To ask of the art world that it conduct itself on a plane higher than the rest of humanity is to ask the impossible and to expose oneself to endless self-martyrdom. I’ll take a pass on that, thank you very much.

So, cynical as it may be, history and the marketplace may now be inseparable, and the artist/collector relationship seems forged for the foreseeable future in determining “the value of great art”.

For more comments: NY Times

Preview: Black and White Films of Josef von Sternberg, New York Times

In Article, Black and White Photography, Photographer on August 22, 2010 at 8:36 am


George Bancroft plays a ship’s stoker in Josef von Sternberg’s “Docks of New York,” one of three silent films in Criterion’s new boxed set.

We don’t normally focus our coverage on moving pictures, but a review by David Kehr in the New York Times today of a new compilation DVD of work by Josef von Sternberg caught our interest.

In describing von Sternberg’s films, David Kehr, writes:

For Sternberg, the director of “Shanghai Express” and “The Scarlet Empress,” plots were at most a structuring device, a way of ordering elusive emotions, hazy atmospheres and almost abstract images.

There is a story, probably apocryphal, that Sternberg once suggested his movies be projected upside down, so that audiences wouldn’t be distracted from the sublime play of light and shadow on the screen.

With the camera moving almost constantly through a visual field dense with swaying extras, hanging clouds of smoke and fog, and looming foreground objects that together seem to keep the characters behind a scrim of unknowability, Sternberg here creates a spectacle at once breathtakingly beautiful and chokingly oppressive.

These films, re-issued by Criterion, sound like a Black and White image collector’s “must have” from a pure photographic perspective.

We often look at movie photography and comment, “That shot would make a great film still”, so it is interesting to look at work from a master of image making from the first half of the last century using Black and White to support story telling in an artistic manner… only in a serial sequence of pictures.

Check out the review at: NY Times