Thursday, February 26, 2009

David Goldblatt, Part 4

Here's a little trifle, interesting only because it seems incongruous for David Goldblatt's work to appear in a magazine with such a cover. Pix is a South African version of Popular Photography--tricks in PhotoShop, lenses to use, equipment reviews, etc. The text about Goldblatt is mostly platitudes and information about equipment and film.

May/June 2007
(8.25 x 11.25 inches, 114 pages)

Love and a very special thanks to Ann in SA for feeding my interests.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Richard Misrach

Show and Tell today features gallery announcements for shows of Richard Misrach's work. They tend to be more graphically interesting than most.

The title of this first show is From My Front Porch. I don't really know what to say about having a view like this from one's front porch. Had I such a view from my front porch, I'm not sure I would ever leave the porch. For any reason. Might miss something.

There was a book of this work called Golden Gate, produced by Arena in 2001 and reissued in 2005 by Aperture.

1999 - Robert Mann Gallery, NYC

(26 x 5 inch heavy glossy paper, folded three times to produce a 6.5 x 5 inch pamphlet
that opens once to a double gate-fold )



Opened once

Both gatefolds open

This show was held in conjunction with the release of his book, The Sky Book, Arena Editions.

2000 - Curt Marcus Gallery, NYC

(6 x 4.25 inch, stiff card, printed one side)

2002 - Robert Mann Gallery, NYC

(10.5 x 8.5 stiff card)



The On The Beach series was published in book form in 2007 by Aperture. It's huge: 20 inches wide by 16 inches. This trend toward huge books is a little disconcerting. Where do you put these in a studio apartment? I feel like I need a bookstand just to go through the book.

I looked into bookstands a couple of years ago and found that most are custom made these days (those that are of any interest stylistically or of any useful size for photography books.) But to get one big enough to hold this--40 inches across when open--would be prohibitively expensive.

2004 - Pace/MacGill, Chelsea, NYC

(35 x 16 inch glossy poster, folded three times to produce a 8 x 8.75 inch pamphlet)




Again, Chronologies was mounted concurrent with the release of a book of the same name, an overview of Misrach's career. And again, it's big--12.5 x 15.5 inches and weighs over 8 pounds--with, according to the back of this show announcement, 125 "extraordinary" reproductions. It is a nice book.

2006 - Pace/MacGill, Chelsea, NYC

(20 x 16 inch heavy glossy poster, folded twice to produce a 10 x 8 inch pamphlet)



Detail of signature

Opened once

Fully opened

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

David Goldblatt, Part 3

From The Star, a daily newspaper in Johannesburg, South Africa:

The Star, March 10, 2006

Goldblatt Honoured
For his Acute Perception

SA photographer wins award for his portrayal of social and political life in country of his birth

By Demian Van Der Reijden

SOUTH AFRICAN PHOTOGRAPHER David Goldblatt (75) has been awarded the 2006 Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography, the organisation announced yesterday.

"I feel honoured," Goldblatt said. "But I feel strange as well. Many people who won this prize before me are great photographers I've admired all my life. Being among the greatest in my profession is...strange."

Goldblatt won the prize for his lifelong portrayal of the social and political life in South Africa, the Hasselblad Foundation said.

"His acute historical and political perception provides a sense of the texture of daily life, and an important piece of missing information regarding life, under apartheid in South Africa," the citation noted.

He will receive his prize, a golden medal and 500,000 krona (almost R400,000), at a ceremony in December in Goteborg, Sweden. The award will be made by a member of the Swedish royal family.

The winner of the prestigious annual prize is disclosed on March 8, the anniversary of the birthday of the founder of the Hasselblad camera equipment company, Victor Hasselblad.

"I knew I won for a couple of months already, but I had to keep it a secret," Golblatt said.

"I held an exhibition on Reunion Island last December, when I got a call from Sweden. Of course there were some people close to me who also knew."

Goldblatt, who lives in Johannesburg, ventured into photography during high school. Several collections of his photographs have been published as books, and his works have been displayed at museums all over the world.

"This is actually the third prize in photography I have won, as far as I can remember. The first I won when I was only 16--it was a Meccano photography prize. The second one was in the late eighties, the Camera Austria prize. And now this. I was really surprised, because the nominees are never revealed," a happy Goldblatt concluded.

The Erna and Victor Hasselblad Foundation promotes scientific education and research in natural sciences and photography.

The Hasselblad Foundation's citation reads: "David Goldblatt's work is a life-long observation of the social and political developments within South African society.

"He has been concerned to explore the relationship between individual subjects
and the structures within which they live.

"His interest in the violent history of his country, and his awareness of the symbolic significance of architecture, form an extraordinary statement both personal and socio-political.

"Photography," in the words of David Goldblatt, reveals "something of the subtlety and ambiguity of our shifting and frequently contradictory perceptions of reality".

"The reason why Goldblatt has been chosen for the Hasselblad Award is because his photographs are acute in historical and political perception."
© The Star 2006

Love and a very special thanks to Ann in SA for feeding my interests.

Monday, February 23, 2009

David Goldblatt, Part 2

In 2006, David Goldblatt was given the Hasselblad Award. The local papers and magazines in South Africa took the opportunity to write about what the photographer had been up to. Here is one of those articles from a magazine called Style; and luckily for us, this interview appeared just before the magazine folded. I'll post one tomorrow from a newspaper.

Style, June 2006

And The Guru Sails On
Why older bodies fascinate South Africa's most famous Photographer
Why he sometimes employs an armed guard
And what David Goldblatt will wear to the Hasselblad Foundation Award in Sweden

By Hilary Prendlnl Toffoll
Photography by Nick Aldridge of Hurricanes

THE BODY ON THE COVER of Antjie Krog's latest volume of poetry, Body Bereft, belongs to a woman in her 60s. You can't see her face. What you can see are her surprisingly young-looking boobs. The photograph was taken by David Goldblatt, who is more renowned for his unsettling portraits of ordinary South Africans in ordinary situations, clothed. Those iconic images, layered with meaning, are on another stretch of more political turf altogether from these ambiguous shots of naked people past their youth.

"As a photographer l have always been aware of our bodies," he says during a visit to Cape Town, where he has his prized printmaker, Tony Meintjies. "The marks that life leaves on our bodies, the tensions that exist between the various parts...It's something I have pursued over the years. When Antjie Krog wrote to me, wanting photographs of older people, we found a shared interest."

The interest did not, however, lead to a collaboration, as it had earlier in his career with Nadine Gordimer, whose short stories inspired two of Goldblatt's 10 books. "Suddenly I was reading in the most precise pungent way about the Witwatersrand we grew up on..."

Ironically, most of his books, though sought-after collector's items, have been commercial disasters. "Copies of In Boksburg now go for about R3,000, but at the time the book just about bankrupted my friend Paul Alberts who published it. I can't live off my books. Royalties bear no relation to what goes into them.

"On the other hand, what have become ridiculously lucrative are my print sales to collectors and museums. The art market for photographs has really taken off, though I suspect it might be based on fashion. It's a bubble. The people at Michael Stevenson and Goodman Gallery work very hard on my behalf. So here I am on the doorstep of dotage actually earning a living."

He turns 76 on November 29, when he'll be in Sweden collecting the 2006 Hasselblad Foundation Award from a member of the Swedish royal family'd0the kroner equivalent of R400,000. With him will be his wife Lily, a social worker with whom he lives in what he describes as "a comic book Cape Dutch house built in 1938 on the wrong side of the tracks, in a suburb called Fellside next to Houghton." They have three children'd0Brenda, the filmmaker, in Britain, and his sons, Steven the advocate and Ronnie the website designer, in Johannesburg.

Though South Africa's most famous photographer says he hasn't received many prizes, he's been the subject of two documentaries and 13 international exhibitions, as well as endless local ones. Between 2001 and 2005 a David Goldblatt retrospective was shown in New York, Barcelona, Rotterdam, Lisbon, Oxford, Brussels, Munich and Johannesburg, and he currently has work in major public collections in New York, San Francisco, Paris, Cologne, Vienna, Perth and London. Not bad for a Randfontein boykie whose Lithuanian Jewish father had a men's outfitting store. Goldblatt worked there till the age of 32, when his father died and he sold the business to devote himself full time to photography.

It was at the height of apartheid. "I had a sort of missionary zeal to tell the world what was happening here, but I soon realised I couldn't be an activist with a camera. I'm physically a coward. I shy away from confrontation. What I'm most interested in is photographing the underbelly of society."

The pioneer of this type of reportage in his homeland, he remains careful not to exploit his subjects. "As a photographer you have considerable power. You can see what your subjects look like but they can't. You can do a hatchet job, which I confess I have done in some of my political portraits in Leadership magazine. My overriding wish is to present the complexities of reality. We're all a mixture, not wholly good or wholly bad. The challenge is to allow the viewer to find his own way into the photograph, unless it's a shot like the one I did of a Pretoria policeman in Church Square. There's no way you can read anything but evil into that face."

He's been mugged twice while working. "Now, when I work in central Johannesburg and the townships I have an armed guard. Thabo works quietly, doesn't make himself obvious. But still it's a step backwards. I always felt if I showed people I trusted them, they'd trust me."

Though he attended tbe openings of his retrospective he tends to find overseas travel disruptive. "The threads that you work with, that exist in your conscious mind, are fragile. They get lost, buggered up by air travel."

More rewarding is driving around South Africa, capturing his visions upside down and the wrong way round on large-format film. Often alone.

Though the Hasselblad invitation says 'black tie' he feels he's entitled to a certain amount of license. "I have reduced my life to the bare essentials, nothing I regard as fat." So he might opt for something traditional, like a Mandela shirt.

Love and a very special thanks to Ann in SA for feeding my interests.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Margaret Bourke-White

While we're on the subject of Maggie Bourke-White, here are some gallery invites and booklets that accompanied shows of her work.

The first may be from an exhibit held at the George Eastman House in 1956. It doesn't say so, and the copyright is "Time, Inc.", but I've seen references to a booklet produced for the Eastman House show and it's description matches this one exactly.

(10.5 x 7 inches, 8 pages of stiff card, saddle-stiched)

First spread

Second spread

Third spread

Back cover

Bourke-White bequeathed a collection of prints, negatives, and personal papers to the Bird Library at Syracuse University. This next booklet was produced for a show at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse. The images were culled from 2500 negatives in the library's holdings and printed by some of the students in the Photography department.

The first spread is not an optical illusion but is instead a rather significant design flaw. The first page is a half page which obscures some of the text below but not in a way that makes any sense. Type from the half page reads into the text on the next page. (Students, will they never learn?) Furthermore, the headline typeface is too cutesy next to photographs of deprivation and hard work.

Let's digress for a moment and address that photo of Maggie on the second spread where she manages to out-swashbuckle even Robert Capa. This photo reminds me of a Far Side cartoon. The idea of the cartoon was an archeologist's Indiana Jones fantasy: an Australopithecus skull in one hand and a hot babe in the other. In my younger days, I'd look at that photo of her--where you could be forgiven for thinking she had been piloting the plane behind her--and think: yes sir, that's what being a photojournalist is all about. Zipping around the globe from conflict to conflict, bringing the truth back to an eagerly waiting audience and looking great all the way.

Later, I heard Don McCullin talk about his life and that was end of that daydream.

(9.25 x 8 inches, stiff card cover plus 8 pages, saddle-stiched, back cover blank)

First spread

Second spread

Third spread

Fourth spread

Fifth spread

The last ephemeral item I have is a 1975 show announcement from the Robert Schoelkopf Gallery.

Between 1966 and 1979, Schoelkopf's gallery was the only gallery in New York City that showed painting and sculpture with photography as fine art. He represented the work of Brassai and Cartier-Bresson though he was primarily interested in antiquarian photography and the work of 19th and 20th century masters such as Atget, Brady, Watkins, and Cameron.

Schoelkopf's first show of photography was of Walker Evans' work and between 1966 and 1977, the gallery held five solo exhibits of Evans (including one concurrent with the 1971 MoMA retrospective of Evans' work.) Given the economy of the 1970s, by 1979, Schoelkopf decided to more narrowly focus the gallery on painting and sculpture exclusively. He died in 1991.

(8.5 x 11 inch stiff card folded once to produce a 5.5 x 8.5 inch card, back cover blank)


And finally, moving from the ephemeral to the substantive, here is an example of her signature, in this case from a copy of Portrait of Myself.

She started the book in 1955, soon after was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, and didn't finished it until 1962. I suspect her pre-Parkinson's signature is bolder but I've not seen one so can't say for certain. The book was published in 1963 and was popular. So popular that it's a very common book. The reproductions in the book are nice. They look like gravures but I don't think they can be. Also, very nice typeface on the cover.

I respect Bourke-White's work and like quite a bit of it. During World War II she was "as close" as Capa or Smith, besides which I think that anyone who covered that war had to be brave or they had to do their reporting from another continent. An excellent overview of her work is the volume UTC published for the 1988 ICP touring show. Gorgeous binding, tipped in photo to the cover, excellent reproductions.

In the same vein (work not production values), I recently saw the powerHouse book of Wayne Miller's work. I was unfamiliar with his work and that was a revelation. Wonderful stuff. His images from aircraft carriers during WWII are very good--a bit heroic at times, but generally gritty and intimate.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The American Artists' Congress

This isn't strictly a photography ephemera post. But it does include the participation of some photographers.

What we have here is material from the American Artist's Congress.

In response to the call of the Popular Front and the American Communist Party for formations of literary and artistic organizations against the spread of Fascism, a group of New York artists gathered in 1935--among them, George Ault, Peter Blume, Stuart Davis, Adolph Denn, William Gropper and Moses Soyer--to draw up a call to action document. From there, the AAC was formed.

It was meant to be a non-sectarian collective of appeal to artists who believed that the cultural crisis was a reflection of the economic crisis of the Great Depression. Their specific concerns were violations of international civil liberties, the inadequacy of government programs, censorship, and the decline of traditional forms of patronage.

This first piece is the program from the first night of the first Congress held February 14, 1936, in NYC. Their stance, "Against War and Fascism," is delineated with a list of the original members on the inside. Looking over the list you can see that Paul Strand, Berenice Abbott, Ralph Steiner, Margaret Bourke-White and Barbara Morgan were among the original signatories. These papers are from Barbara and Willard Morgan's estate and you can see either his or her notes along the margin on the inside. They were married in 1936 but I'm assuming these are her notes since his name is not on the program.

The back of this document is the program for the evening and among the list of speakers is Bourke-White. There was a book published which reprinted the speeches from the evening. I don't have it but an image of the cover follows the program.

(14 x 13 inch sheet of heavy paper, printed one side, folded twice to produce a 7 x 6.5 inch booklet)



Here are the by-laws of the organization. I've spared you the gory details of how members are picked and what the duties of the the central executive board are and besides which, as you read through it and come to the climax, well...the last page has been torn off so it's a bit of a let-down.

(16 page booklet, 3.5 x 6 inches)

An invitation to submit work to a show of "contemporary graphic art" to be shown simultaneously in thirty cities in the U.S. in December of 1936.

(8.5 x 11 sheet of thin paper)

An invite to the opening of the show of work by the New York region members, held in April of 1937.

(6.25 x 4.5 inch, thick card stock, printed one side)

By the next Congress, December of 1937, they were a little more moderate in tone. The theme this time was "For Peace, For Democracy, For Cultural Progress."

Despite the fact that all the artists who were instrumental in forming the organization were established figures of the Communist Left, their literature took great pains to be non-sectarian and membership was open to any established artist. When the congress endorsed the Soviet Union's invasion of Finland in 1940, a number of prominent members quit and publicly denounced the AAC. It survived through 1941 but dissolved soon after the U.S. entrance into the war.

The AAC was instrumental in bringing Picasso's Guernica to the U.S. in 1939 when it made it's fund-raising world tour.

(16 x 9 inch sheet of thin paper, folded once to produce a 8 x 9 inch booklet)



Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Life in the Glare of Celebrity

Let's talk about David Bailey for a moment.

I never quite understood how big a deal he was in London in the 1960s and 70s. He was actually a celebrity.

So? One could be forgiven for asking. You'll die not knowing a lot of things so is this really one of the most important bits of knowledge for you to die owning?

No. But the guy's kind of interesting.

Of course, I've always known he was the model for the lead character in Blow Up, which I saw again within the last couple of years and was pleasantly surprised at how well it held up.

I certainly knew he had photographed most everyone who was anyone in those days, and that should have been a clue as to the degree of his own fame. (But then, Irving Penn did as well, in his day, and Fred Astaire never played him in a movie.)

But I didn't know he was married to Catherine Deneuve (her only marriage.) It was only for a minute or two as in the end they realized they didn't speak the same language and therefore could not communicate. Stuff like that happens I suppose when one marries and divorces more genetically-gifted women than can be found in the average September issue of Vogue. (If I was pressed for the truth I would admit they were actually married for 5 years.)

Further, he claims to have slept with 350 of the models he photographed. Well, I don't know...that's so far afield my ken that all I can imagine is that those photo-sessions must have been so exhausting and what he meant was that they were compelled to take a nap.

Be that as it may, this is all by way of presenting a couple of press photos I found of Bailey and his women. (Yes, yes, a very slight post.)

First, we have him in 1969 at the publication party for Goodbye Baby and Amen with his then-girlfriend Penelope Tree, who was a pretty big deal in her day. According to the caption, everyone who was anyone showed up.

(6 x 8 inches)



And in 1975 with his then-wife Marie Helvin, another well-known model at the time. (Looking at this photo, I wonder: why the walking stick?) Helvin is the subject of all the images in David Bailey's Trouble and Strife, which, as a model, must have been difficult shoots for her. There aren't enough clothes in the whole book to fill Carl Perkin's Matchbox.

(6 x 8 inches)



So given those two images, I decided to make this a "way of all flesh" sort of a rumination. The guy was handsome young and his face is pretty interesting as it ages. So here is a portrait from a 1988 article in American Photo. (Note the author.)

(8 x 10.5 inches)


Here's a later pic. Same pose.

Finally, this is his publicity photo that runs in all the "contributors" pages of magazines he shoots for. This one is in Vanity Fair, edited by the above noted author.

And for goodness' sake, he still hasn't finished that cigar.

Coming up, in no particular order, some Bourke-White booklets, the 1936 Artists' Congress, and Misrach announcement cards and posters.