Looking at found photos
Vernacular photography – often defined as “authorless”, but in reality, made by the same people who use it, for themselves or family/friends, or, alternatively, commercial but made directly for consumers (e.g. the Sears portrait service) – has been gaining a lot of attention in the past few years or decades. If you are a photographer yourself, you know the writings of Geoffrey Batchen, who was the engine of the research of that type of photography with his books, especially Each Wild Idea. Continue reading
Lonneke Engel for Versus, 1996, gracefully shot by Bruce Weber
Bruce Weber, a noted fashion photographer with a long and distinguished career, is having a retrospective exhibition at the Dallas Contemporary. It is fascinating for many reasons, but first of all because an exhibition venue known mainly for installations and projections has dedicated almost its entire gigantic space to a solo show of this kind of “traditional” photography. But also – and especially – because it offers an unusual view of fashion photography as it is.
Can you guess who this is meant to suggest, just by looking at the picture?
Photo by Ahn Jooyoun for Sera Park
Now that the semester is over, I have to say it was really fun to teach both photography and Italian this year. Although formally the classes didn’t have anything in common, it was striking how much they were connected intellectually and as an experience.
For their final project, my students of Italian received the option to discuss a few classic photographs of Italy. As I was working on the assignment to decide what to include in it, so that they would learn both about Italian culture and art, I realized what a huge part of Italian photography is actually photos of Italy, in Italy, by non-Italians.
See this, for example:
Ruth Orkin. An American Girl in Italy, 1951
You already know this photo – it is the legendary portrait titled “Afghan Girl” that appeared on the cover of National Geographic in 1985 and then went on to become one of the most iconic pictures of all times. No wonder: the resolute gaze of the girl, in such dire circumstances, the unusual color of her eyes are indeed striking. What is also impactful but less consciously recognizable is the color contrast of the saturated green and red that appeal subconsciously. And if you are a photography enthusiast, you also know the name of the photographer, Steve McCurry, popularly famous for shooting the last roll of Kodachrome ever produced, too. He was given that honor by Kodak because that film, noted for its exceptional saturated colors, was his signature film. And you perhaps know that his signature style was striking human figures (most often shot in third-world countries) in traditional environments in saturated colors. Continue reading
Michel Tournier with his camera, 1977. Getty Images.
In the recent series of deaths of legendary figures, yesterday was the turn of Michel Tournier, one of the most interesting French writers and also a very influential, passionate lover of photography. To get an idea of how influential: he is the co-founder of Les Rencontres d’Arles, the famed photo festival in France.
Although he has published books with photographers’ bios and discussions of selected photographs, his most interesting writings are actually the novels and short stories in which photography is a subtle theme, a subject, plot driver and protagonist. I am fascinated with the ways the two arts intertwine.
Take his short story “Veronica’s Shrouds” Continue reading