Archive of Abandoned Dreams: new files

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If you are waiting to hear how the review went, it hasn’t come yet. It kept getting postponed, which is great for my worrywart soul but also prolongs the anxiety. Anyway, the project that has taken the most of my time is The Archive. As the best form of presentation, I decided to make an actual antique binder, covered with dark green cloth with metal corners and the photographs would be filed inside, stitched with thread.

If you have been following my blog you know that the Archive of Abandoned Dreams is based on the poetry of Dimcho Debelyanov, a Bulgarian symbolist who, after a brief life as a literature student and then clerk (in order to support his family after the death of his father), volunteered for World War I and was killed in a battle with an Irish division. The irony of his life, in which his forced choices were made against his worldview and beliefs points so well to the aesthetics of symbolists, who relished in the impossibility of communication and forged a code of metaphors that distanced them instead of bringing them closer to readers. Debelyanov himself lamented the impossibility of his dreams but then abandoned them willfully with a very symbolic gesture. This way of relating has so much to do with contemporary culture: a world of facebook mirages in which participants create willful representations of their lives that seem more compelling when ambiguous.  Continue reading

Portfolio reviews from the other side of the table. FotoFest 2014

If you are a photographer, you already know the importance of portfolio reviews for putting your work out there in front of curators, gallerists, publishers and other movers and shakers of the art world. You may have attended a few of them or at least may have read (scary) stories about them. Or you may have a great story of success to share yourself.

Well, mine is a bit different as I had the chance to sit along with a reviewer at the largest of them, FotoFest, and closely observe a full day of portfolio reviews with a wide range of photographers. And be the recipient of precious insider insights she shared with me. I can’t tell you her name as I don’t have her permission, but as this was a really invaluable opportunity to get to know a less known side of the art world, I thought it might be useful to write about the experience. What I saw was instructive, hopeful and overwhelming all at the same time.  Continue reading

Looking at pictures

Image by Penelope Umbrico, featured in The New Yorker‘s article on new technologies applied to photographic art. She uses images found online to create complex collages; the most frequent ones turn out to be sunsets.

Perhaps you are familiar with Nicholas Carr, the author of “Is Google Making us Stupid  and especially his recent book The Shallows, which contends that the internet, as a medium of communication and distribution of knowledge, has changed our mode of thinking.  He contends that its format, with its clickable links, fast-paced stimuli and information bits constantly competing for our attention is leading us to forget how to focus - the basis of deep thinking – and has conditioned us for fast skimming and scanning mode of thought that favors multitasking but also short attention spans. The internet grounds us in an environment that encourages superficial reading, shallow and scattered thinking and the accumulation of piece-meal knowledge. And while it is possible to think deep while surfing the internet just as we can think superficially while we are reading a book, technology doesn’t encourage or reward that.

Nicholas Carr’s ideas, although based on learning and knowledge in the form of text, got me thinking about the influence of the internet on our perception of images. Or rather, how our approach to image-based information of the world has changed because of it.  Does it contribute to shallow image-thinking and consumption? Are we superficial with images and the factual and aesthetic information they carry as we are with words? Continue reading

Mordançage, or the gentle beauty of the tortured print

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©Ellie Ivanova

As the New Texas Talent exhibition at Craighead-Green Gallery in Dallas is drawing to an end, I realize that I haven’t talked about my new work in the show. The images are done in an arduous process that took months to research and produce that it now deserves to be told about. It’s a process that makes for unique prints that also fits so well in the broader direction I’ve been following in the past couple of years. See some examples above. Continue reading

Hand-colored photographs by Joseph Finkleman

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©Joseph Finkleman

I wrote a couple of months ago about hand-colored photographs and my search for meaning in hand-coloring. OK, maybe not that melodramatic. But my main concern in  approaching a technique, as visually appealing as it may be, is “Why do that?” Is it just because it looks pretty? I do believe it’s necessary, for the work to be compelling and authentic, to use a technique only because you have a good creative reason for it. Continue reading

Under Fire (1983)

I feel a bit reluctant to write about the role of photography in Roger Spottiswoode’s film, when it’s really about something deeply personal – the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua and the unexpected angle I got to see it through Under Fire.  First, it was exciting to see a movie about a place I know all too well even if I was constantly distracted by the Mexican accents and urban environment (it was filmed in Oaxaca).  

Second, it was  a rather crude reminder of my own preconceptions. I have to admit that growing up, I had a very simplistic picture of the American involvement in Latin American military regimes. Perhaps just like the simplistic pictures we get today about current world conflicts. All I knew was that Americans supported the hereditary dictator Somoza and aided his dictatorship financially.  Only later when I went there did I learn that the reality was much more complex and that public opinion in the US was something different from the official policy.  In fact, which is where the film comes, that tide changed with the murder of ABC reporter Bill Stewart by Somoza’s National Guard, documented by a fellow journalist. Continue reading

The Photographic Archive of Milan, Sforza Castle

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By Giorgio Zaccaria. A circus artist, ca. 1880, silver bromide print

I just have to write about the Photographic Archive of Milan, not only in aid to those who may need to do research there, but also because it is such a great metaphor for Italy in general. Located in one of the wings of the magnificent Sforza Castle, a brief walk from the Duomo, it is really a pleasure to wander around its vast cobblestone yard before venturing inside.

But, the first surprise: it’s open only in the morning. And materials are available by prior appointment. You need to go in person first and explore the card catalog, arranged by subject matter.  Said catalog is only partially digitized and can be found online along with all other public photography collections in Lombardy. Then you can place an order for what your heart desires. However, the staff is so extremely Italianly nice that they offered, in case I needed it in the future, to do any research for me and even send me scans of the images.

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Anyway, your patience and skill in navigating the system will be richly rewarded.  Continue reading