Archive for photography

Photography: Idle Thoughts

Posted in Culture with tags , , , , , , , , on January 16, 2012 by Robin Gosnall

What, precisely, is the role of photography today?

Ten years ago we all thought the answer was pretty self-evident. It was a method of recording an approximation of what the eye saw for various purposes ranging from holiday snaps to high art via advertising, prison mug shots, and camera club material, etc., etc. There was a limited scope for embellishment in the processing and printing but on the whole film was a fairly faithful medium. Then along came digital.

Digitalization of photography was not an isolated phenomenon, it was part of the great IT revolution and cannot be considered outside of that context. Moving from chemical film to electronic sensor had many repercussions from the obvious practical ones like reduced dynamic range and increased sensitivity to the slightest variation in light levels (this meant that cameras had now to be smarter than the operators to ensure a reasonable exposure, a reversal of the former position), but there were also the wider implications such as the viewing process no longer being the fixed and controllable event that looking at a print was.

This electronic tsunami has now, I believe, peaked, and what we see is a new landscape where the process of recording an image has become not only easier but far cheaper. Such empowerment should be welcomed, cautiously, for there is much of value that the waters washed away in the rage. The first and most obvious casualty is that quality (however defined) is now considered a function of camera expense rather than operator skill.

A second and less obvious perversion of the old order is that the multitude of pictures now created has changed the way in which they are viewed. No longer are carefully prepared prints studied at leisure but images are flicked through on the monitor, a device which cannot display the wealth of detail, tonal values, subtlety of shade or colour and effects of light that the old-fashioned wet print can. Not only that but the wet print was an unreproducible article in its own right. Variations in chemical concentration as prints were developed ensured that each picture was unique. Another detrimental effect is that every monitor is different and so the photograph will appear differently on each device that is used to display it. LCD screens for instance will lighten areas of pictures that we may wish to remain black, ruining an effect that was carefully built into the original picture.

I could go on listing the changes that digital has brought but I’d like to make one further point and that is the camera has now become little more than an extension of the home computer and although I have been part of the camera club movement and learnt a great deal from it I fear that it has moved on to the web in such a way that editing and censure of the results is not encouraged, indeed it is considered the height of rudeness to suggest deficiency in another’s work. This leads to the general acceptance of poor quality imagery being used in places where those responsible really should know better.

What’s at the back of your kitchen cupboards?

Posted in Culture, Food with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 31, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

(Source: Grauniad)

Photographer James Kendall was rooting through his wife’s 90-year-old grandmother’s larder when he discovered packaged foods dating back to the 1950s. Some canned items were covered in rust.

“She doesn’t really believe in sell-by dates,” explains Kendall. “She holds on to everything, and sees it all as eventually having a use. I think it comes from her living through the war, and being used to rationing.” Among the ageing items were dried onions, smoked cod liver, canned corn, a jar of tartare sauce, and a pack of KP nuts, complete with vintage logos.

Kendall was so excited by the hoard that he took it back to his studio to be photographed – and hopes to exhibit the resulting series at next year’s Brighton Photo Biennial.

“I still daren’t open them,” says Kendall. “They’ve been wrapped in cellophane over the summer, so they’ve had a bit of a baking. I’m not exactly sure what state they’re in now. Probably worse than ever.”

Lee Friedlander: America By Car

Posted in Culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 3, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

Lee Friedlander went looking for America by car – but unlike other photographers he chose to shoot it through his windscreen, producing a set of strange and powerful images of the varied US landscape.

Lee Friedlander’s exhibition America By Car & The New Cars 1964, is at Timothy Taylor Gallery until 1 October.

The frame of the car window provides a constant in the photographs of vastly different American landscapes. Here, we can also see a reflection of someone in the car, looking out

Reflections from the car’s mirrors add to the complex composition of some of the photographs.

Sometimes the lines, angles and reflections can be perplexing, in this case reflecting the chaos of the city.

Photographs: Lee Friedlander, courtesy Frankel Gallery, San Francisco

Laura Levine: Musicians in pictures

Posted in Culture, Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 17, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

Afrika Bambaataa, NYC, 1983 by Laura Levine

(Source: Observer)

A revealing archive of unseen photographs of music stars taken more than 20 years ago is to go on display in a New York gallery on Thursday. The images, which were all taken by Laura Levine while working for a succession of music magazines in Manhattan, show performers such as Chrissie Hynde and Michael Stipe in an unpretentious setting or a pose that often challenges their public image.

“It was definitely my intention to get away from the studio look,” Levine told the Observer this weekend. “I started out as more of a photojournalist anyway and I wanted to get past all the artifice. I wanted to show a side to the public that was really something that they weren’t aware of. To show them something you don’t normally see.”

The photographic show, titled Musicians, is being mounted by the Steven Kasher Gallery and came about almost by accident after Kasher worked with Levine on another show chronicling the same era. Levene’s show is being billed as an insider’s look at the artists at the forefront of rock, punk, indie rock, post-punk hip-hop, new wave and no wave – and it is already causing a stir in the Big Apple.

“We were setting up a punk and post-punk poster show and talking to Laura then,” said Christiona Owen of the gallery. “Steven has known Laura for many years and enjoyed her photography and so we invited her to do a second show with us. We didn’t realise how many vintage prints she had for show that hadn’t been seen in public before.”

The show will be the first solo gallery exhibition for Levine and will feature more than 35 vintage and modern prints, including the photographer’s vintage gelatin silver prints, many of which are one of a kind.

“There’s been a strong interest in seeing the photos so we think the show is going to be very popular,” said Owen.

Levine has not taken photographs since 1994 and has worked instead in painting, video and animation, but in the 1980s she showed frequently in downtown galleries after working as chief photographer and photo editor of underground newspaper New York Rocker. She also published in the Village Voice, Sounds and Rolling Stone.

“My photo sessions would be very relaxed,” said Levine. “Most of the subjects I didn’t know beforehand, although some became friends. The REM photo I took in Athens, Georgia, at a point where they were very good friends. It was one of many times I photographed them. By the time I did that picture in the diner I knew them really well. I flew down to see them and we spent two whole days just going around Athens and we stopped there for lunch. Then I thought this would be a great picture, so I got behind the counter and told them all to look up.”

Among the other images in the show is a striking early photograph of Madonna. “I took it before she was famous in 1982, I think she had her first single coming out, and she was really game,” said Levine. “I knew nothing about her at the time. She came over to my apartment in Chinatown and climbed up all the steps to the top. I think some of the other pictures from that shoot are well known, but not the one in show. She was a pleasure to work with and had a real sense of self even then. I set that picture up by asking her to scream.”

The show also includes an evocative picture of Tina Weymouth of Talking Heads and hip-hop artist and DJ Grandmaster Flash. Marking the birth of hip-hop as a popular genre, it was taken in New York in 1981 in front of a wall of graffiti. “I love that shot. It was for the cover of Andy Warhol’s magazine Interview. They look great with those boomboxes,” said Levine.

“I think the most important thing with anyone you photograph is to establish a real sense of trust.”

Gallery: Laura Levine Musicians

Down the Road: The Lowry, Salford Quays

Posted in Culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 9, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

Nadav Kander, Selected Portraits 1999-2011: The Lowry, Salford

The photographer Nadav Kander has said a portrait is “so much more than just a likeness”. This exhibition showcases his work with celebrities from Ian McKellen to Cheryl Cole, Tinie Tempah to Barack Obama.

I might stroll down there tonight …

Rare Marilyn Monroe Pics

Posted in Culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 18, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

Dressed down in a simple white shirt and with her hair plaited in pigtails, Marilyn Monroe looks a far cry from the iconic star synonymous with old Hollywood glamour. In the newly released image, the actress sports a sombre expression but appears relaxed as she is snapped on set of 1961 movie The Misfits – her last ever completed film.

Other shots also show a fresh-faced Marilyn caught off-guard wrapped in a towel, reading the script between takes and standing at her trailer door sipping coffee as she chats to co-star Montgomery Clift.

The images form part of a series of eight intimate portraits entitled Marilyn, taken by America photo-journalist Eve Arnold, that went on display in galleries nationwide on Saturday. Only 495 prints of the pictures will go on sale, with prices starting at £350.

Eve Arnold said: “She was going places but she hadn’t arrived. She liked my pictures and was canny enough to realise that they were a fresh approach for presenting her – a looser, more intimate look than the posed studio portraits she was used to in Hollywood. It became a bond between us … Marilyn was very important in my career. I think I was helpful in hers too.”

Proclaimed by Vanity Fair to be the top photographer in the world, Eve Arnold’s career spanned much of the 20th century.

It was in 1954, with her intelligent choice of subject matter and a unique fresh quality that Arnold was invited to join Magnum Photos, the prestigious international co-operative of photographers as their first woman member.

Eve Arnold was recently honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Sony World Photography Awards this spring, just one day after her 98th birthday.

Matteo Pericoli: Views of New York City

Posted in Culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 2, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

Matteo Pericoli found fame with his 22ft fold-out drawing of the Manhattan skyline. His new book shows the city through the windows of New York resident musicians, artists and writers, from Annie Leibovitz to Philip Glass, David Byrne to Nora Ephron, with their thoughts on what those views mean to them.

For Manhattan Unfurled, Pericoli began by journeying around New York on the Circle Line cruise boat, photographing the skyline. For his current project, London Unfurled, he walked the length of the Thames, from Hammersmith to the Isle of Dogs, and back again, photographing constantly.

“I am gently obsessive,” he says, understating the case somewhat. “ walk 10 metres, then stop and photograph. All along the north side of the river, then back along the south. It was two incredibly intense weeks in which I took 6,300 photographs and destroyed a pair of shoes.”

(Source: Observer)

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