Category Archives: social issues

Hidden ID at Savignano sul Rubicone, Italy

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My first solo exhibition in Italy will open next week at Savignano sul Rubicone. It will be in conjunction with SI Fest Off, a festival of photography in its 26th edition, and is related to this year’s theme of the festival: Dialectic Strategies.

Hidden ID is a series of pinhole images that juxtapose public identity to interior privacy through using the metaphor of the archive as a substitution for the construction of the self. The images are based on a hybrid pinhole capture with in-camera photogram elements.  Continue reading

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Alec Soth and the issue of social class

Alec Soth at UTA, in the shadow of his presentation. On the screen: a note with the dreams of his subjects

Alec Soth at UTA, in the shadow of his presentation. On the screen: a note with the dreams of his subjects

 

Last night, UTArlington and Arlington Camera hosted a discussion of the noted documentary photographer (and Magnum member) Alec Soth with the curator who gave him the first big push of public recognition, Anne Tucker of the Museum of Fine Art, Houston. These public conversations are always useful. It’s true that most probably the information they reveal can be easily found elsewhere. But there are always revelations that happen only in a face-to-face setting.

That’s the reason I used this particular image as an illustration for my post: Alec in the shadow and, on the screen, a note scribbled with the personal dreams of the people he has photographed. It is an approach he uses to get closer to his subjects and allow them to show something of themselves and make it visible in the portrait.

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Dangerous Heights

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If you follow this blog, you remember that last summer I started studying a series of photographs that today are part of the collection of the Photographic Archive of Milan. I may have not mentioned though what this series is and why this research project is so exciting.

The images are of the reconstruction of the Sforza Castle, Milan’s perhaps most emblematic historic building, and the building of the beautiful Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, arguably the first shopping mall (and the concept behind all those “galleria” type malls we find in many American cities today, by the way).

The images are remarkable for different reasons. First, because they show the wave of renewal that gave Milan the face we know today; the physical process of how it came to be. Second, because the places are so emblematic. The Sforza Castle was the seat of Milan’s ruling Renaissance dynasty. Although of course it had lost its significance by the 19th century, being a castle in the era of industrial revolution, its near destruction by Napoleon’s invasion was still an insult. So the new state of Italy (unified in 1861) wanted to elevate its historic legacy with the reconstruction some 30 years later. The Galleria, of course, was to showcase the wealth of the new industrial society. Think fashion. That’s why both are closely related to Milan’s identity as a city.

But this is not exactly why they are exciting. 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

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

Discouraged Dialogs — Human Rights, Borders, War Zones and Bodies: Lee College Human Rights Art Exhibition and Symposium.

Lee College in Baytown, TX, organized an exhibit drawn from the permanent human rights art collection at South Texas College back in April of 2012. It was called Discouraged Dialogs — Human Rights, Borders, War Zones and Bodies:
Lee College Human Rights Art Exhibition and Symposium.

Artwork is featured in this video – can you recognize my pieces? They are in color and I haven’t worked much in color for some time… I miss it!

In any case, it’s one of the few collections in the country dedicated to human rights, with special emphasis on border issues. Here is the official description of the event: Continue reading

The road that leads to Roma

©Ellie Ivanova, 2012. Celebration on the Square.

Roma Transitions, an online portal for news related to Romani issues in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, recently published an interview with me about the Third Eye photography project. It was a great occasion for me to talk about the ideas behind it and thank all the people who contributed. Here is an excerpt: Continue reading