Book Review: Gull Juju by Lukas Felzmann

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Photographer Lukas Felzmann, born 1959 in Zürich, Switzerland, lives in San Francisco and teaches photography at Stanford University.

“Gull Juju” shows photographs from the Farallon Islands, a group of small volcanic islands, situated about 45 kilometers west of San Francisco in the Pacific Ocean. From a press release I learn: “At this position the ocean floor drops to abysmal depth, which results in an upwelling of cold nutrient rich water. Because of this the entire oceanic food chain is present, from the microscopic plankton to the biggest animals on earth; the grey whales. The Farallon Islands are the densest seabird colony on the Pacific Coast outside of Alaska. On its edges sea lions and seals are hunted by great white sharks. The islands and the Gulf of the Farallon became a protected marine sanctuary in 1969 and are closed to visitors.”

There are scientists working on the islands; Lukas Felzmann was invited, together with a poet and a painter, to make their own work there. Since there is no good harbor, “visitors are pulled onto the land by a crane that dangles a net over the arriving boat. Throw in your gear, climb in yourself, keep your balance and hold on. My gear included a sleeping bag, a 5 x 7 inch camera, boxes of sheet film, a sound recorder and some bottles of wine for the scientists.”

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I thought the sound recorder particularly interesting. And, needless to say, it actually makes a lot of sense for the Farallons are, in Felzmann’s words, “as much soundscape as they are landscape. The wind and the pounding waves weave together with a cacaphony of animal sounds. Elephant seals grunt in a deep sonorous bass that carries across the island. The gulls are always talking.”

Felzmann documented the geology and the animals of the island. One day, he came across an old box with a label that said “Gull Juju Archive. Strong Juju”. It contained very diverse objects – from buttons to plastic turtles to parts of credit cards – that gulls had swallowed along the coast and around the bay and regurgitated in their nests on the Farallon islands.

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“Gull Juju” is an inventory of what Lukas Feldmann has found on the Farallons. I thought it most extraordinary (for artists usually seem to believe that pictures always speak for themselves) that although there were no captions (and, as far as I’m concerned, for good reasons) this nicely done work comes with lots of textual information (that also includes a species list). I especially liked that Felzmann elaborates on what motivates him, and explains how he goes about his work. And, I very much warmed to his approach: “I did not edit them (the objects the gulls had brought back to the islands) according to which objects might be photographically interesting, because I felt that the gulls had already done the editing. It was their selection.”

It is a well-composed book that starts with black and white photographs of the surface of the ocean and ends with colour photographs, again of the surface of the ocean. To me, “Gull Juju” (by the way, Juju is a West African word for objects used in witchcraft) demonstrates convincingly that by noticing, and documenting, what is there our world-view is altered. I, for one, would have never assumed that gulls could be collectors of plastic. And, learning about it, made my mind also wander to “the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an area believed to be as big as Central Europe in which small plastic particles are endlessly gyrating…”.


Gull Juju
by Lukas Felzmann
Lars Müller Publishers, Zürich, Switzerland 2015

For more information and to purchase the book:

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Interview with photographer Jiaxi Yang

Eggs, threads

Eggs, threads

F-Stop Magazine: How did you first become involved in photography and what led to you working in this medium as an artist?

Jiaxi Yang: I’ve been influenced by my boyfriend Zhe Zhu who is a truly talented and passionate photographer. And he is the one who encouraged me to start taking photographs with a camera. I immediately fell in love with this medium.

F-Stop: The current issue of F-Stop Magazine includes images from your project “The Horizontal Mode of A Waking Life,” can you tell us about this project? How did this project come about?

JY: This project is composed of still-life photographs of arranged food and objects such as octopus, pig’s blood cake, papaya seeds, coffee sleeve, cooktop. I began this project in 2014 as experiences of sleepwalking through the daily life, explorations of the barely recognized traces of desire. Theatrical, and often absurd, my living space becomes a stage set on which I perform my own little creation. I animate what I have on hand. I relocate the subjects from their original contexts in order to call attention to the waste, the decay and the delicacy, that would otherwise be overlooked and lifeless.

F-Stop: What were you looking to capture?

JY: I am fascinated by the context, in its affect performed on the perception and meaning of the objects. My work places careful attention on the context and challenge the line between photography and sculpture.

F-Stop: What do you hope people see or feel or perhaps learn when they look at your photographs?

JY: I want people to see the beauty in the unremarkable, to perceive habitual existence in a completely new way. I want these displaced objects to prompt the viewer to imaginatively reconstruct fictional narratives of the owner’s life or even their own lives.

F-Stop: Are you working on any other projects currently?

JY: I am also working on another project which starts from an abandoned beach located at the far corner of the city. It used to be a landfill for New York City garbage. I use the remnants of the past garbage found
there to tell a story that sits between the past and the uncertain future. A project comes with an adventure :)

F-Stop: What photographers or other artists inspire you?

JY: I’ve always been inspired by minimalist artists such as Fred Sandback, Agnes Martin, and Carl Andre. And photographers such as Thomas Demand, Barbara Kasten and Kenji Aoki. To name a few.

To see more of Jiaxi Yang’s work:

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Michael Lange @ photo-eye Gallery

FLUSS || flow | flux | fluency | current | stream | river

FLUSS || flow | flux | fluency | current | stream | river

Michael Lange – WALD | FLUSS
August 28 – October 17, 2015

Opening, Artist Reception, and Book Signing: Friday August 28 from 5–7 pm

photo-eye Gallery
541 South Guadalupe St
Santa Fe, NM 87501

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Still Life 2015 @ The Center for Fine Art Photography

Still Life 2015
October 2nd – October 31, 2015

All Selected Artists | Rhonda Harris Baines, Helen Barrette, Angie Brockey,
Eleanor M. Brown, Ellen Cantor, Hsien Chih Chuang, Anne Connor,
Walter Crump, Darcy Dangremond, Ricardo de Vicq De Cumpitch, Mary Dondero, John DuBois, Klaus Enrique, Carol Erb, Anna Eroshenko, Cynthia Fleury, Alan Gaynor, Jose M. Gomez-Ros, Cecil Gresham, Carol Hayman,
Victoria Herring, Alyssa Hobson, Tracy Hoffman, Katsy Johnson,
Emily Laura Kirkpatrick, Sue Lezon, Joyce P. Lopez, Yasuaki Matsumoto,
Pete McCutchen, Brian Patrick Miller, Caroline Nicola, Alice Ohashi,
Wayne Palmer, Keith Parks, Eric Rennie, Lia Rothstein, Ken Sanville,
Diana Schoenfeld, Vicky Stromee, Kathleen Taylor, Robert C. Tetro,
Lynda Tygart, Joanne Urban, Frank Sherwood White, and Mitsu Yoshikawa.

The Center for Fine Art Photography
00 North College Ave. | Fort Collins | CO | 80524

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JOSEF KOUDELKA @ Fondation Mapfre Madrid

10 septembre – 29 novembre 2015

FUNDACIÓN MAPFRE Cultural Institute – Barbara Hall Braganza, 13 Madrid Spain

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19th-Century Landscapes @ Hans P. Kraus Jr. Fine Photographs

Édouard Baldus (French, 1813-1889) Château de Polignac, 1850s

Édouard Baldus (French, 1813-1889)
Château de Polignac, 1850s

19th-Century Landscapes From the Collection of Jay McDonald
September 14 – November 20, 2015

Hans P. Kraus Jr. Fine Photographs
962 Park Avenue at 82nd Street in New York City

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Gabriel Martinez @

Gabriel Martinez: Bayside Revisited
September 18 – December 19, 2015

The Print Center is located at:
1614 Latimer Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103

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Jeffrey Milstein & Eric Cahan @ Benrubi Gallery

Eric Cahan

Eric Cahan

Jeffrey Milstein LA NY
Eric Cahan Data Mining
July 9 – August 22, 2015

Milstein, long known for his images of planes in flight photographed from directly below, reverses the perspective in the current images, offering views of New York and Los Angeles taken from an altitude of 1,000 – 2,000 feet. The distance is far enough that the geometry of the urban streetscape, invisible from the ground, emerges into surprising, often elegant patterns, as in the Masonic-inspired layout of the Park La Brea housing development in Los Angeles, yet close enough that the scenes retain a human feeling, whether it’s the claustrophobia of tiny rectangular houses squeezed next to each other in virtually treeless grids. The images suggest that however chaotic or inscrutable modern life might appear, it is tied to age-old patterns that guide in ways we don’t immediately perceive, but which nevertheless guide us through our daily routines.

Eric Cahan’s Data Mining takes its name from marketing research techniques that measure web users’ browsing patterns when they view fine art content online. A museum-goer spends an average of thirty seconds in front of an individual work of art, whereas a browser on Instagram or Pinterest spends only eight. Images flow past the eye one after another, throwing into question long-held assumptions about the totemic nature of a work of art. Cahan mirrors this blurring process in his photographs, transforming solarized image of water through a combination of techniques both digital and traditional. The resulting images, luminescent yet opaque, are as seductive as carnival mirrors, yet ultimately reflect only the viewer’s gaze. Though representational, there silver swirls and bursts of color and shadow are so abstracted that they challenge our notion of what a photograph actually communicates: a view of an object removed in time and space, or nothing but the viewer’s assumptions about the image itself.

Benrubi Gallery | 521 West 26th Street | 2nd floor | New York | NY | 10001

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Renato D’Agostin @ Sala delle Grasce

Renato D’Agostin: ITER
August 8-20 2015

Opening reception Saturday August 8 2015

Iter presents a selection of photographs from Renato D’Agostin’s past and future projects. Visitors will be invited to explore photographic prints from D’Agostin’s published projects such as Tokyo Untitled, The Beautiful Cliché Venezia, Etna, Acrobats and Frecce, as well as a preview of the upcoming projects Kapadokya, Shanghai, Paris, Washington DC, Los Angeles, Istanbul and Eros.

Sala delle Grasce, Pietrasanta, Italy

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Kapadokya @ Leica Gallery Tokyo

July 23 – October 25 2015 – 11:00am – 7:00pm

Opening reception July 22, 8-10pm

Kapadokya belongs solely to the myth. It was once inhabited, in the middle of traffic plying the ancient Anatolia by connecting the logic west with the east of religion, the magic and the wonderful. For this reason Pasolini set his Medea, as if Euripides took from those caves of mystery the golden fleece to carry to Greece. Now nothing has remained besides the wonderful, the timeless, the silence/suspended wing over the unchangeable cobalt, the shadow/mystery of painted caves. Which people will again animate those stones? Maybe nobody. Which word will rise from underground to become harmony again? What form will clouds be in the sky? Or will it forever remain the stone and the enigma of gone seasons, of extinct spirits? There will remain nothing but the mystery-blue sky, the moon in silvery nights, the motionless sun over lonely rocks. Forever, because the only one not to die is the myth.

Leica Store Ginza 2F I 6-4-1 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo

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