graciela iturbide

April 30, 2008

I went to the Getty to see Andre Kertesz, but I was equally impressed by this exhibition. Mexican photographer with some really cool indigenous Mexican culture, ceremonies, life, etc., as well as a pretty great glimpse into the life of a family of gang members in East LA in the 80s. I liked how she seemed to truly get into people’s lives and tell their story from the inside. Her compositions were also really original and left a lot to the imagination. I like photos that don’t tell the whole story, but altogether create something more than the sum of their parts. In other words, she created an experience where the “reader” of her photographs was led along a journey that allowed one to imagine more than what was actually there.  At the same time, each picture stands on its own.

andre kertesz

April 14, 2008

I was fortunate to catch this exhibit in its last few days at the Getty Center in LA.

I’m blown away by what he did so long before people like Henri Cartier-Bresson or Robert Capa pioneered photojournalistic, “decisive-moment” photography. Kertesz was doing stuff in the 1920s that many people didn’t catch on to until the 1950s and 60s. Then he kept going. The cool thing about this exhibit was that it captured 70 years of his work. He just never stopped photographing.

(Side note: That’s something that’s always bugged me about Cartier-Bresson. For being such a foundational figure in photography, he just gave it up for something like the last 20 or 30 years of his life. That seems like a betrayal to me. A real artist, to me, is someone who can’t not do their art, and who keeps growing throughout his or her life. Cartier-Bresson disappoints me in that he seems a bit arrogant and opinionated. Also, some of his stuff, I think, just is pretty boring. I mean sure, he’s amazing with a lot of stuff, and I’m sure I’ll do a blog on him eventually, but I think he is sometimes overrated.)

Anyway, Kertesz, as a Jewish immigrant to New York from Hungary via the Paris 1930s art scene, never lost his medium of photography as a means of interpreting his life experiences. One especially poignant aspect of this is the death of his wife, and how he uses certain still-life objects in his apartment as subjects to photograph. Another aspect of Kertesz’s life and photographic journey is his feeling of alienation as an immigrant, alone in a new land, represented by his famous photo, “Lost Cloud”.

Another observation is his use of downward-looking perspective. He has such a great vantage point from his NYC apartment and finds great ways to photograph life happening below. However, this is something that started much earlier in his photographic career. I wonder if there’s any meaning to it, or if it just shows a certain unexplainable fascination with a certain angle. Regardless, Kertesz never fails to inspire me as a photographer.

Finally, Kertesz was constantly re-evaluating his work. I really respect that. It shows a certain atemporal aspect of his interpretation. He wasn’t afraid to crop out stuff, even drastically. His work was never a finished product. Most of his shots were cropped afterwards. In one really dramatic instance, he took a picture with his wife which showed his and her full bodies in a normal studio pose with his arm around her. Some decades later, he went back and cropped the picture down to half of her face and only his hand showing, which produced a dramatic new effect.

Also, chance played a role, too. One glass-plate negative was shattered with a hole directly through the center of a cityscape in Paris that he had photographed years earlier. Instead of seeing it as an unfortunate waste of a negative, Kertesz printed it as one of his prized photographs. Here it is:

Broken Plate:

The above shot was taken in 1917!

Lost Cloud, below:

Classic example of his use of perspective:

gueorgui pinkhassov

April 3, 2008

So I stumbled upon his book Sightwalk at a used bookstore and got a 1/2 off discount because the binding was unglued. Glued it with superglue and back to normal. Not bad for eight bucks.

I like his stuff because it could be taken anywhere, but he still manages to capture a certain sense of wherever he’s photographing. Sightwalk is all photos from Japan. Pinkhassov is great for mixing blurred images with focus, random light patterns, saturated colors and shadows.

He’s not one for getting huge news stories as much as creating interesting compositions and color patterns from everyday life.

Sightwalk:

I’m privileged to live in a part of LA county where you can drive for five minutes, or walk for 20 and be completely surrounded by pristine nature — hills covered in chaparral, mustard flowers after heavy winter rains, sycamore and oaks in cool mini canyons and the smell of sage. Here’s some pics from a short excursion the other day…

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alex webb

March 28, 2008

My favorite photographer. His use of colors, shadows and composition have shown me the complexity and depth of an image. I love how he uses perspective, anonymity, and figures.

Quotes:

“I only know how to approach a place by walking. For what does a street photographer do but walk and watch and wait and talk, and then watch and wait some more, trying to remain confident that the unexpected, the unknown, or the secret heart of the known awaits just around the corner.

“Color is very much about atmosphere and emotion and the feel of a place.”  – Alex Webb

trent parke

March 25, 2008

Australian street photographer with a Mad Max element of apocalypticsm. He’s one of the few street photographers that effectively elevates the situation out of its street context and into a realm of mystery. His work can be interpreted as dark and foreboding, as he describes it, but instead it gives me a lot of hope in the potential of photographic perception. Some aspects of his pictures remind me of characters from a Miyazaki animation. It’s like they’re lurking just below the surface…..

I’d like to see an exhibition of Trent Parke photographs with Radiohead tracks playing from Amnesiac, Hail to the Thief, and In Rainbows. Somehow I’m struck by the same mood, depth, and social commentary from both photographer and band.

After totally focusing on black and white, he now has switched to color. In my opinion, his black and whites have more of an other-worldly ghastly effect than his color work. As a color photographer, he does amazing things with saturation and lighting, but his subject matter loses its ominous quality. I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing, we’ll have to wait and see how his work continues to develop.

For more Trent Parke, go here

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john humble

March 24, 2008

Quintessential LA landscape photographer. Captures what all of us who live here see on a daily basis, but somehow points us to its beauty.

South LA

LA River

lawn mowing and overpass

martin parr

March 23, 2008

Sarcastic and hilarious, visceral commentary on modern consumeristic life. British sensibility a la Monty Python. Strong, saturated colors, macro-closeups bordering on the grotesque. Totally fun to look at.

“A Martin Parr photograph is like a painting by William Turner, a sentence written by Thomas Mann, the voice of Frank Sinatra or the scent of Chanel No. 5. Parr’s imagery is so characteristic that we recognize it immediately. And it is strong enough to condition our perception: once we leave a Parr exhibition, we find that we, too, are viewing the people and objects surrounding us from Parr’s perspective.” — from article at Deutsche-Boerse

More Martin Parr here

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