The Museum of Home Touch

The Museum of Home Touch, a participatory installation at Sunset Art Studios. May 12, 2018

As I mentioned in my previous post, during my residency at Sunset Art Studios I worked on a series of cyanotypes that combined physical traces of a home, memory and the physical experience related to them. In these photograms, home could be seen through objects associated with it that physically touched the surface of the fabric or paper and so transferred the sense of presence to the photographic representation.

But along with that ongoing project, I worked on another one that had been on my idea list for some time.  Continue reading

Neighborhoods of the Heart

Neighborhoods of the Heart, at Sunset Art Studios

Last December, I was invited to be the visiting artist at the Center for Creative Connections at the Dallas Museum of Art in the summer of 2018. This great honor involved developing a series of programs, based on my artistic process and concept, to connect visitors of the museum to the works in the collection and a larger idea. Continue reading

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

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.

Continue reading

Dangerous Heights

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If you are following this blog, you might remember that last summer I started studying a series of photographs that are currently 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 impressive 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 sites are so emblematic for the city. 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) and especially the municipality of Milan that was developing its first urban plan, 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

The Old School Residence, international art residency in Gorna Lipnitsa, Bulgaria

Summer is my village time. I try, as much as I can, to connect to a piece of Bulgarian culture that’s slowly fading away. And this summer, this was the invitation to participate in the The Old School Residence international art residency, which takes place each August in the village of Gorna Lipnitsa in Bulgaria.

The residency may be called “The Old School”, but it has nothing to do with a conservative style in art. Rather, it gets its name from the building where it’s hosted, the former schoolhouse of Gorna Lipnitsa (pictured above). By using the tools of contemporary art, the organizers say it aims to connect to village culture by exploring a theme related to the village. This year’s theme focuses on legends about the end of the world while understood as a new beginning: “The end as a beginning: Gorna Lipnitsa and the beginning of the world”. Continue reading

The Bulgarian National Radio has a Third Eye

The Bulgarian National Radio (aka the Bulgarian version of NPR) aired an interview with me on the work of the Third Eye Photography Workshop yesterday. For a transcript on their website – in Bulgarian – just follow the link above.

In related news, I am at the seaside village of Ravda in Bulgaria where the first workshop in this summer’s series is taking place. It’s happening within a summer camp for Roma kids from Northwestern Bulgaria. We are very limited in terms of photographic material due to our location, but the kids are getting very creative with their modelling.

The most exciting thing so far? One of the teenagers from last year’s workshop is now a junior counselor in the camp! It was so great to see him again, especially in this capacity.

Third Eye Photography Workshops for Roma/Gypsy kids in Bulgaria, this summer

Photo by a participant in the Third Eye Photography Workshop, 2010, in Kyustendil,Bulgaria

As many of my readers know, I led two photography workshops for kids from marginalized Roma/Gypsy communities in Bulgaria  in the summer of 2010. Even in today’s European Union, Roma people still experience rejection and isolation from the mainstream society. Their culture is ignored and their voice is unheard.  Kids don’t have the social and educational opportunities and often don’t even know what life looks like for the rest of their peers.

The workshops aimed to empower Roma kids by giving them the opportunity of self expression, the voice to show their point of view to the rest of society and the joy of being heard by others. They are called “Third Eye” to honor the concept of the third eye as a symbol of enlightenment in the Indian tradition, where Roma people came from centuries ago, and to remind us all of the power of photography to capture the elusive. Continue reading

Che Guevara the photographer

Photography, or at least this famous picture ,  has been crucial for the spread of Che Guevara’s image worldwide – and perhaps for the creation of his cult as well. But few people know that he was an avid photographer himself.  In fact, he’s said that before becoming a comandante he was a photographer. Continue reading

Resolana Music Festival

Resolana is a community-based nonprofit organization working to educate and empower incarcerated women  in the Dallas County Jail so that they spend their time in custody productively, building a foundation for change and preparing for their return to society.

Resolana will hold its second annual Westside Music Festival to share its effort with the community and to raise funds to continue its work. Besides great music, of course, the festival will feature creative activities that are a staple of its programming for the women in jail: yoga, doll making, art and many others. There will be a silent auction as well. Continue reading

The elusive dignity of strangers. In their own space

In a debate about photography as a tool of power, I heard the argument that we often see invasive photographs of the downtrodden in their humble environments but the domestic privacy of the wealthy is always respected. Not really true. Granted, it’s not a question of privacy.

But the home interiors of the wealthy receive significant public exposure. Magazines showcase their design solutions. They themselves hold open houses. And their domestic space tastes set trends while being inimitably eccentric.

The difference between those images and the photographs of the poor is in the photographs’ intention and silent commentary. The photographs of the wealthy exude respect and admiration for their subjects. The interiors enlarge their personality. The resources on display enhance their personal dignity.

However, not always is this the case – only if the wealthy also command power and social respect. Renowned Italian photojournalist Carlo Gianferro visited the mansions of wealthy Roma (Gypsy) people in Romania and Moldavia and, over several years, photographed the interiors with their posing owners, who were willing to show off their wealth and status.

Gypsy Interiors by Carlo Gianferro. Click on the image to see the slideshow

Gianferro made it clear that his intention wasn’t to present his subjects in a negative light. But there is something very elusively negative in these powerful photographs – something elusively mocking. They vaguely seem to present themselves as caricatures of what the wealthy owners certainly intended to present. Maybe it’s the oppressive space around the subjects in which they seem lost. The cascade of details. I can’t put a finger on it, but I feel it there. And it’s proof that wealth in not enough to ensure respect.