Monday, May 21, 2012

Highlights from NY Photo Fest -- Extended

This was an exciting weekend for photography in Brooklyn -- New York Photo Festival, founded by Daniel Power and Frank Evers, returned for its annual exhibition of curatorial sites scattered around DUMBO. And, in other exciting news, NYPH has been extended until May 31, so that the exhibits (if not the panels and lectures from this weekend) will be open to viewers who weren't able to attend last weekend.

NYPH is in its fifth year, and should feel new. The curation is so developed, and the event so widely attended, that it feels as if it's been around for decades; reading the exhibition schedule reminds you more of how photography's place in the art world, its increasing relevance and the ways that the medium is changing. This year featured four different curators, with exhibits on locations at the event's center (powerHouse Arena) and off-site locations around the neighborhood.

At powerHouse, Glenn Ruga's "On the Razor's Edge," exhibits works that walk the fine line between fine-art and documentary, of documentarians who capture a content-driven subject in a way outside of journalistic territory. These range among journalists who would either include or disclude themselves from either camp, with artist Bruce Davidson's recent monochrome images of the nature of downtown Los Angeles; social documentarian Lori Grinker's global capture of veterans after wartime; activist photographer Reza's images from Afghanistan; photojournalist Platon's images of activists in Egypt during Arab Spring; Eugene Richards series "The Blue Room," of abandoned farm homes in the midwest; and Rina Castelnuovo, an Israeli New York Times photographer documenting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

[Reza, Portrait of a Woman, Saudi Arabia, 2003]

On May 17, Ruga (the executive director of the Photographic Resource Center at Boston University, founder of, moderated a panel with most of the featured artists. I missed it, unfortunately, but Resource Magazine has a quick article with a few quotes from the panelists, most on the nature of storytelling and truthtelling

Ruga makes these points in his curatorial statement: art stems from ideas, and in documentary work, ideas are the driving force behind how to bring a truth of your subject to an unfamiliar audience. It's not just storytelling, and it's not just taking pictures. It's capturing that unnameable thing that brings you closely to the subject of the image itself. 

Platon, Laila Said and Wael Ghonim

Amy Smith-Stewart's "What Do You Believe In," explores the ways in which photography informs ideas and perception of the world around us, with works by 16 artists that also cross into sculpture, installation, and collage; from subjects both real and imagined. The exhibit's name came from the work of artist Jen DeNike, who has a circle of 8x10 black-and-white images made from large-format and collage, representing DeNike in deep outer space. From the curatorial statement (I love this so much): "Made with a large-format view camera and found collaged elements captured by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, the photos together form a circle, spelling out 'What Do You Believe In' using the codes of semaphore flag language -- a visual mode of Naval communication."

[Jen Denike]

Does anyone else who missed the Space Race feel nostalgic? It feels a little weird writing about it on the internet -- our new, invisible-space mining zone. But I loved seeing this right around the news of 
our new era in space travel. Fingers crossed that DeNike makes it out of the stratosphere for real one of these days. 

Claude Grunitzky's "The Curse and the Gift," working with the idea of how photography is changing in our digital instant-gratification day, includes artists Evangelina Kranioti, Iremlie Krekin, and Christian Witkin. 

[Evangelia Kranioti, Desert Onboard, 2012]

Last, Paul Miller, a.k.a. DJ Spooky, has an installation up with large-scale multimedia from Sinfonia Antarctica (The Book of Ice), the artist's ongoing high-tech audio and image documentation of the changing environment of our least-vacation-friendly continent. More about this one on Spooky's website.

Though the panels and lectures of the weekend are officially closed, the New York Photo Festival has the exciting news that the full exhibitions will remain open through May 31; so anyone who was out of town this weekend can still drop down and see the work, and the rest of us can go back to visit. 

This is also the inaugural year of NYPH's New York Photo Awards, which has massive prizes, including agency rep, exhibition opportunities, and book deals. The contest is juried by the curators of this year's NYPH as well as a chosen team from the art/photo world. The deadline for this one is August 17. 

[All images courtesy New York Photo Festival. Check the website to follow more details.]

Land Art of bricoleur Sylvain Meyer

Design blog Colossal ran a link to the amazing land art of Ondes, Switzerland-based artist Sylvain Meyer. According to the artist's Flickr page, all of these are created using just the materials the artist finds onsite -- and (he writes) "hours of bricolage." I would love to be the hiker who unknowingly stumbled upon this particular spider in the woods....

(Image credit the artist)

More images on Meyer's Flickr. Would love to see these up-close -- I wonder what Meyer could put together with the un-natural urban environment of Bushwick?

Story via Colossal.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

New York Sleeps (as photographers stay awake)

The April My Project for Popular Photography, a feature on Christopher Thomas' long-exposure Polaroid Type 55 series "New York Sleeps," is up now online at

In the neverending (till it ends) film v. digital debate, Thomas had a few great points in the interview; first, that wandering around the city with a large-format camera commands a certain respect or type of authority that you get less often taking pictures with the latest Canon DSLR. (This didn't, however, stop drivers from parking in the way of his camera.) And that having immediate Polaroid prints on hand gave him the ability to nicely bribe passersby (kids in particular) from staying out of his image -- maybe there's a lesson here about carrying pocket printers around.

But my favorite (full) quote from our interview speaks more to the haunting, timeless-feeling quality of Thomas' work, and the reason why we never want film to fully go away, even as the industry has largely replaced it by digital:

"I just love the detail of large format and the character of this particular film. With film, especially with Polaroid, you always have these not-so-perfect parts in the picture, not totally in focus everywhere – I always find mistakes coming up in the emulsion. It makes it a material process. It's existing, rather than something made up of electronic information."

Monday, April 9, 2012

Looking Through Water

Link of the day via Designer Daily: artist Luka Klikovac's psychedelic images of colored fluids moving through water.

See more of these awesome abstractions on the artist's gallery at

Friday, February 24, 2012

See the Stars (from everywhere!)

...or captured from multiple stopping points across South Africa and the western United States, then stitched together to create a gigantic hi-res zoomable 360-degree panoramic. Wired Magazine reports on the work of 28-year-old astrophotographer Nick Risinger, who starting from March of 2010 began a trek with his father across approximately 60,000 miles to gather the images. (37,000 total for the final result, using 6 astronomical cameras.)

His final result is kind of like a Google Earth celestial umbrella hat. And also much brighter than previous sky surveys; Risinger's cameras shot between 20 and 70 exposures, rotating with the earth, that captured in three color wavelengths, compared to prior surveys that only shot in red and blue.

View the zoomable version here), and, if you're even remotely interested in astro-capture, expect to lose about half an hour clicking through obsessively.

(Image via Wired.)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Erik Johansson -- more on making the impossible real

Pop Photo
has a posting up about a talk that Erik Johansson gave at TED last year; I missed the video when it came out, but this artist completely rocks me. (See my story on him from last year.) It's the combination of insanely inventive ideas, meticulous assemblage, and the fact that they weirdly all look so real. And I am in awe of his work process -- it takes a seriously smart eye to craft photos and image-editing in the way he does, not to mention ones as complex as cars passing in two dimensions.

Check out the images on his website.

Saturday, February 11, 2012