The Floating Piers by Christo as a quasi religious experience

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It was a privilege to walk  Christo’s Floating Piers on the first day of the project. They are the ultimate sensorial experience: all about touch, vision, and whole body mobilization: it felt so light yet the day after everything feels sore. Continue reading

Italy in photographs

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:

RuthOrkin

Ruth Orkin. An American Girl in Italy, 1951

 

 

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The Afghan Girl and what does photoshop – and the Impressionists – have to do with it?

national-geographic-100-best-pictures-coverYou 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

Humble and archival in photography

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Beach cyanotype. Hung home style

Rascuache (or, in its Americanized version, rasquachismo) is a Mexican term for reuse and repurpose of things. It is a strategy for everyday life typical for the poor masses as well as a mark of resourcefulness for people in general everywhere. But in the last decades rascuache is also an artistic term meaning the use of humble materials and unexpected sources of supplies – like plastic for drawing, discarded metal parts for sculpture and others. That may sound like the usual found-object crafts that we often see in gift shops and  at artfests today but actually originate from the revolutionary practices of Chicano movement artists in the 60s. They used it not because it was cool but to make a political point and insert themselves in a process that was seen as the privilege of higher classes. Continue reading

Michel Tournier and photography

Michel Tournier with his camera, 1977. Getty Images.

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

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

Exhibition opportunities in university galleries

The Union Gallery at UNT. The building is currently under reconstruction and the gallery will not available until 2016.

The Union Gallery at UNT. The building is currently under reconstruction and the gallery will not available until 2016.

Many artists, including photographers, are not aware of the exhibition opportunities in university galleries, yet they are some of the best places to make your work known to a great audience. Not only are university galleries places where you can start a dialogue with the budding artists who are students in these academic institutions, but they are visited by invited curators and others – not to speak of the faculty.

Also, since universities are intellectual communities first and foremost, the dialogue that an art exhibition establishes goes beyond art appreciation and connects with concerns of broader interest; it participates in the intellectual debates on campus. Continue reading

Students work this semester in Photography 1

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I had the distinct pleasure of teaching a group of awesome students this semester: sensitive, hard working and very much personally invested in photography. They made some great work and also allowed me to post some of their images.

If these images look familiar to you, you are not mistaken: this was their emulation assignment, in which they had to research an iconic photographer, analyze his or her style and produce images inspired by it. So that’s why you may recognize something you’ve seen. Continue reading

Photo transfer bits and pieces

phototransferDo you have a favored way to learn making new things? Like trial and error? If you overcome the fear of wasting a lot of materials as you learn, that’s one of the best ways. If.  Yet, if you decide to use cheap materials, just to obviate that fear, you may not get good results  and so be discouraged and abandon the whole project. But still. As I always like to say, I learned photography because of digital formats so I didn’t have to worry about wasted pixels.

Here is something new that I taught myself over a period of three years maybe. Continue reading

CADD FUNd: an invitation

safe_image.phpHere is something exciting to which I would like to invite you!

Contemporary Art Dealers of Dallas, the umbrella organization of Dallas art galleries, is organizing, for the first time, CADD FUNd: a fun, fast-paced evening of sharing innovative ideas about potential artistic projects. CADD FUNd will make possible a high-impact idea that needs the support of the Dallas-Fort Worth community. I am very excited to announce that I have been selected as one of 6 finalists for this event!

CADD FUNd was inspired by similar events throughout the U.S. such as Feast in Brooklyn, Incubate in Chicago and Spread in Santa Fe. Numerous organizations have taken the basic premise of a Sunday soup supper – collect creative proposals, invite the public to pay, eat, listen, and then vote for a winner – and adapted it to their own local purposes. The winner will receive the funds raised by the attendance tickets to finance his or her project.

I would love to have the honor of your presence at the evening as my fellow artists and I share our work and projects. Regardless of whether I win or not, it is a really great chance for me to speak about a new exciting work in progress to an audience that deeply cares about art. Hope to see you there!

To purchase tickets or for more information, follow this link: http://www.caddallas.net/wp/cadd-fund-2/