Interview with photographer Anna Agoston

Untitled #131

Untitled #131

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

Anna Agoston: My mother was an amateur photographer.  I started taking pictures when I was a little girl.  As an adult I tried various mediums, including oil on canvas, before settling on photography. Photography both satisfies me and lets me say what I want to say without thinking too much about it.  I have a visceral connection with the camera. The camera is an extension of my body that enables me to give form to what I have in my mind.

F-Stop: The Portfolio Issue 2014 of F-Stop Magazine includes images from your project “Untitled” can you tell us about this project?  What led to this project?

AA: In March of 2013 I was laid off from a stressful and time-consuming job. Buds, stems and leaves were sprouting. It was as though I had never seen spring before. I needed to somehow contain this new excitement in my art.

As I took photographs I started to understand just what it was that I loved in my newly-identified subjects. I loved the shapes, the textures, and the fact that they evoked human behaviors. My pictures slowly became a series that showcased what I felt were my subjects’ essential characteristics.

The series is ongoing. I now have 179 pictures at this point in time. Each picture is a 22″ x 30″ (which includes a 3.5″ border), black and white macro photograph. Prints are in signed limited editions of ten using archival pigment ink (100+ years permanence rating) on thick Hahnemuhler photo rag 500 gsm paper.

Untitled #152

Untitled #152

F-Stop: Can you discuss your process for making these images or your creative process more generally? How do you choose what to photograph, what are you looking to capture?

AA: My creative process happens in the field as well as in the studio and is quite simple. It is driven by my coming to a clear understanding of what defines that particular project. From then on, it’s just a question of finding my subjects and bringing out what I feel while in their presence.

I go for long walks to search for my subjects and look for features that may or may not evoke certain human behaviors. I then distill the aspects of my subjects that I feel are essential by playing with the plane of focus, the light, the aperture, and etc..  For example, in my first three pictures, I saw something very sensual about the way the two stems were intertwined. I enhanced that feeling by playing with light and by strategically placing the plane of focus.

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

AA: I hope that my art invites contemplation. I want it to make you stop, look and feel.  I want it to draw you in and connect you to your inner self.  I want the relatively large size of the image, the attention to detail, the purity of shapes, the way light caresses the subject, the subject matter itself, and the tones and contrast to be like a melody that soothes and takes you beyond your daily preoccupations.

Untitled #155

Untitled #155

F-Stop: Do you have a favorite image in this series? If so, which one and why is it the image that speaks to you most?

AA: I love all of my images but I have a lot of affection for the three first pictures. They are my Three Graces. In many ways they are the epiphany of what I am trying to achieve: a simple and clear expression of something — in their case, of femininity, grace, and seduction.

F-Stop: Are you working on any other projects currently?
AA: No, I am not.

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

AA: I am profoundly inspired by Constantin Brancusi. I feel that fundamentally I am searching for something very similar. In Brancusi’s work there is a departure from reality, a very particular use of raw matter that enables him to express things that are beyond matter, such as feelings, and human and animal behaviors, etc

For more of Anna Agoston’s work: www.annaagoston.com

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Interview with photographer Wiktoria Wojciechowska

WiktoriaW1F-Stop Magazine: The Portfolio Issue 2014 of F-Stop Magazine includes images from your project “Own Place”, can you tell us about this project? What led to this project?

Wiktoria Wojciechowska: Nowadays, distance is no longer a barrier: We have cars, planes and internet. We can be in several countries each week, in many virtual places at the same time. It’s getting harder to identify with one particular place. This uprooting process is approved by our society. Moreover, it demands from every individual to be more flexible and without obligations if you want to be successful and build your own career that is. It became clear to me that, despite being a participant of this process, I treat it only as a temporary stage in my life. Something that will change in future, because I cannot accept that a root once torn will never grow again. I missed home and stability. In every temporary apartment I tried to make an illusion of a real home: celebrating a small rituals, bringing books, souvenirs, hanging pictures on the walls. I started to think about the archetype of house which people usually identify with “home”, a place where they feel safe and at peace.

F-Stop: Can you discuss your process for making these images or your creative process more generally?

WW: It was cold and it was winter. Yet again, I was making a cup of tea in my kitchen, I was waiting for the water starting to boil. I looked out of the window, it was dark and I could hardly notice the contours of a huge weeping willow growing in the backyard. In that moment, I realized that I see myself, reflected in the glass, wearing a sweater, tangled hair and kitchen’s furniture around. I was in between, in two spaces at the same time, inside and outside, totally connected with this place. My body was split by imperfect glass. This seemed like a fitting metaphor of my life.

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F-Stop: How do you choose the place or the person to photograph, what are you looking to capture?

WW: I started to look into the connection between human beings and their place of living. I talked with my friends, asked them whether they had the same problem as me and how they deal with it. In response, I got a spectrum of different attitudes: some of them never unpacked their boxes filled with personal belongings expecting to move in near future, others collected things that posed as a substitute of their past and identity. I pictured them in their temporary houses, reflexions of them in one of the windows.

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

WW: I hope, and this most the most important thing for me, that they can feel the ambience of my pictures. The interpretations may vary. In my projects, I use real subjects and stories and I am usually deeply connected with my models. Sometimes I try to catch the moment of “truth” between studied gestures – somewhere in an unconscious gaze.

from the series "Aurora Portraits"

from the series “Aurora Portraits”

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

WW: I am still working on some projects, which I made during my artist’s residencies in China (projects: “Short Flashes” and “Swallow”) and Iceland (project “Aurora Portraits”). The effects will soon to be seen on my website. Tomorrow, I am going to Ukraine to start a series of photographs about loosing innocence when facing war.

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

WW: Most of the time, I am inspired by people surrounding me, their stories and words. Additionally, I get a lot of inspiration from a wide range of texts: from poems, to anthropological books and scientific publications. The photographer which works moved me a lot is Bill Henson: I love the mysticism of his dark landscapes and naturalness of his models. Furthermore, I highly appreciate the works of Davide Monteleone, Amy Elkins and some polish photographers such as Mateusz Sarełło and Igor Pisuk.

Traveling by train is giving me a lot of new ideas.

For more of Wiktoria Wojciechowska’s work: www.wiktoriawojciechowska.com

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Interview with photographer Christine DiThomas

untitled from the Somewhere in America series

untitled from the Somewhere in America series

Yvette Meltzer: Christine, tell us please how you first become involved in photography

Christine DiThomas: I became involved with photography as a child just by being aware and looking intensely at the world. Growing up during the heyday of news magazines and Time-Life publications, I saw a flood of images from the turbulent 1960s and 70s. I was more transfixed by the unforgettable images than by any idea of making them. It’s hard to remember now that we had to wait to see the pictures.

YM: So true, Christine – that was before our culture had developed an expectation of immediate gratification. So you were a visual person even then because while it may be true that many families had these publications in their homes, I’m not so certain that the average child took as keen an interest in them as you did.

CDT: There were so many shocking events, occurring one after another, that really shaped me. Aside from that, many in my family were interested in photography. I snapped a few pictures, but nothing remarkable. Then, as an undergrad, I took a photojournalism course, but was completely flummoxed by the camera—a Canon AE-1P. I was trying to make “decisive moment” pictures, but not succeeding.

In 1990 I started taking photography classes at the City Colleges of Chicago. I bought a manual Nikon FG and a copy of Henry Horenstein’s Basic Black & White Photography. That book is what finally helped me understand the machine.

YM: When you say “machine” you are referring to the camera? What influences you to use that term as a synonym?

CDT: Well, a camera is a mechanical device. I had to approach it as a machine and not some kind of magical box (which it also is). Although I have an M.F.A. in photography from Columbia College Chicago, I still enroll in classes at the City Colleges, which allows me to use their darkroom and digital facilities and to work and learn among enthusiastic students, teachers, and staff.

untitled from the Somewhere in America series

untitled from the Somewhere in America series

YM: It seems to me that you were/are an enthusiastic student photographer yourself, Christine. And your interest in learning more about photography has been persistent, staying with you from childhood through college and beyond your college graduation to the present. What led to you working in this medium as an artist?

CDT: I started working as an assistant editor at the World Book Encyclopedia, also in 1990. I met many artists there, some who had art jobs and others who had unrelated jobs. They were influential in my decision, later on, to go to grad school, especially the photo editor Julie Laffin, who is a performance artist. I began documenting her work out of curiosity and entered into the world of conceptual art. Though I still work as an editor, I also work at my art practice. I’ve been lucky to combine the two fields as the editor of a number of photography and art monographs, including the 6 x 6 Series of photography books that Bob Thall and Tammy Mercure launched at Columbia.

YM: I’d like to talk about your photography. Can you tell us about your ongoing project Somewhere in America? The “On the Road” issue of F-Stop includes 4 images from that series.

CDT: Over the course of 4 years I visited my friend Jacek Lupina, who was working in Colorado. This gave me a home base for short trips to Utah, Wyoming, South Dakota, Arizona and New Mexico, as well as the Midwestern states along the way there. That helped me to experience the area more fully than as a tourist. As a kid, I desperately wanted to see places like the Petrified Forest, which I imagined as gigantic standing trees made of stone. Of course, it looks nothing like that. But I made it a point to stop at those types of sites.

In the end, I found myself more interested in the way the country looks today in these towns that once survived on tourism, back when people routinely piled their families into their car for a summer vacation. I’m interested in the traces left behind. I chose the name for the series because I feel that these places, and the condition they are in, are almost interchangeable with large segments of the U.S. I used to think only the Rust Belt area had such economic stagnation. Not so. But that’s not all that I am choosing to depict; the editing is still in process.

untitled from the Somewhere in America series

untitled from the Somewhere in America series

YM: Can you discuss your creative process for making these images?

CDT: The road trip work is essentially a visual diary of my travels, combined with a somewhat systematic documentation of certain places and things that I always wanted to see. Aside from hitting major historical sites and parks, like Mount Rushmore, not much was planned. I was led by whatever signs I saw along the way. It is more often a way to occupy my mind and my eye, and it’s a nice way to experience these places. I always thought of Rushmore as a kind of kitschy tourist center. But being there as an American, for me, was profound as well disturbing. That place is not without controversy to say nothing of the Crazy Horse monument, nearby and still under construction.

YM: Would you say this is your usual process for making images?

CDT: Not usual, but I have been traveling back to my family home in Pennsylvania for 30 years, so there is something similar about it. I often stop at local tourism spots of significance, like birthplaces of notable Americans. I am still keeping most of that work to myself. Making work in the Southwest helped me view the work I made on my trips back East in a different light. Alternately, I do have another more abstract approach to making work. I will get an idea and spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to transform it into imagery or vice versa. The idea for the visuals of my recent series Erasure: 2013 (recently shown in a group show in Chicago) hung over my head for many years until I figured out a good purpose for it.

courtesy of Mayumi Lake

Installation view of Erasure:2013

YM: So it sounds as if you are both spontaneous and reflective in creating your work. Do you have a favorite image in this road trip series?

CDT: I always feel like my favorite images are the ones that I missed. Like the time I came upon a burning field during a very foggy night on a dangerous stretch of road in Nebraska. I have to laugh at how those elements came together. I just won’t stop if there’s not a safe place to pull over. I worry excessively that I will cause someone else to crash into my car. I think someone has already made that picture, anyway, but I would’ve liked to have my own version, because I stumbled upon it.

YM: So are you saying that some of your favorites are the photos not taken. You know there is a book by that title. (The Photographs Not Taken edited by A Will Steacy is a collection of essays by photographers.)

CDT: I’ll have to get that book immediately. So many books, so little time.

YM: Indeed! You too?
What do you hope people see or feel or perhaps learn when they look at your photographs?

CDT: I don’t have any firm expectations in that regard. Although I have my own intentions with the work, I know that people will view and understand it through their own experience. I learn a lot from people who tell me their thoughts about my work.

YM: What is your most recent work?

CDT: I participated in a recent group exhibition with the Stella collective at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art in Chicago. It’s the new work I mentioned earlier, Erasure: 2013, which included a 3-D printed sculpture, digital prints, and reversal images printed through digital positives onto expired C-print paper, a sort of alternative process. This work was spurred by the unexpected demolition of my family’s former home, which we sold after my father died. So the idea I had been thinking about—photographing a large number of desiccated flowers that I’d collected from home for over 2 decades—came into being through the shock of that event. I went back almost immediately to photograph what was left. There was just a small claw tractor and the smoothed over earth. It all looked so small, whereas, in reality, a very large, old foursquare house once stood there among many wonderful flowering trees and shrubs. In the end, I made the work I needed to make with just the images of the flowers.

untitled from the Somewhere in America series

untitled from the Somewhere in America series

YM: Who are your influences? What photographers or other artists inspire you?

CDT: It’s impossible to answer that question. There are so many phenomenal people throughout history and working today. At Columbia College I worked alongside and studied under so many amazing and generous photographers. Also, the Stella collective is a group of insightful, prolific, and inspiring women. We meet monthly, mainly for critique sessions. I’m lucky to be included in that group.

YM: You mentioned that you learn a lot from people who tell you their thoughts about your work – participating in the STELLA collective must feed you in that way.

If you could own one photograph whose would it be and which image?

CDT: That’s also hard to answer. I do collect a bit of photography, from vernacular snapshots to 19th century portraiture to works by emerging artists. I was thrilled recently to buy an Arthur Tress from The Dream Collector (1972) series. It’s the one of a boy in the road with the grim reaper behind him. It’s creepy, but it also makes me laugh. It fits my sensibility of morbid obsession and interest in postmortem/mourning art.

Another photo I’d like to have is one of the last images taken by Robert Capa. It is from a series of color photographs of soldiers walking in a field of tall, golden grass in Viet Nam. There’s no real action in the photograph; it’s ominous and oddly peaceful. But it also stands on its own as a memorial. Capa was killed when he stepped on a land mine shortly after taking those pictures. I truly get the sense that I am literally seeing through his eyes. It’s the same feeling I get with his D-Day photos. There’s something inexplicable about certain photographs, besides the obvious content. That’s what drew me to photography as a child.

YM: Wow, Christine, we’ve come full circle. You spoke of your interest in documentary photography as a child and that is still the type of photograph you would like to own today.

YM: In conclusion, can you share what you regard as the best career advice you have ever received?

CDT: Dawoud Bey, one of my professors/mentors at Columbia, in relating his own experiences, said that we shouldn’t be discouraged by people who try to dismiss us. I’m still here, he said, so don’t be discouraged—keep on working. And I’d add, get involved, become part of a community, including people from outside of photography. And remember the people who helped you along the way. So, thank you, Yvette, Christy, and F-Stop, for showing my work and for this interview, as well as for showing my landscape series called American Gothic a few years ago.

YM: It’s been a pleasure speaking with you Christine. You really are a thoughtful person who obviously takes pride in your work and in your words as well. You carefully thought through and selected the words you wanted to use to communicate your thoughts and ideas with our readers just as you do with your photographs. Thank you.

For more of Christine DiThomas’ work: christinedithomas.wordpress.com

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MARIETTE PATHY ALLEN @ Cuban National Center for Sex Education

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TRANSCUBA: PHOTOGRAPHS BY MARIETTE PATHY ALLEN

OPENING RECEPTION WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 10, 2014

For more than 30 years, American photographer Mariette Pathy Allen has been documenting transgender culture worldwide; in 2004 she won the Lambda Literary Award for her book
The Gender Frontier. In her latest series, TransCuba, which was published this year in a monograph of the same title by Daylight Books, Allen captures the transgender community of Cuba through vibrant color photographs. Her images document the details of the everyday lives of her subjects engaging with family and friends and the community at large, revealing the growing visibility and acceptance of transgender people in a country whose government is transitioning into a more relaxed model of communism under Raúl Castro’s presidency.

Cuban National Center for Sex Education
10th Street, No. 460 Corner, 21st, Vedado in Havana

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Stacy Kranitz @ Gallery Protocol

unnamedStacy Kranitz
Once Entangled With it, No Other Place Seems Possible to Us
Dec. 12, 2014 – Jan. 16, 2015

Opening Reception: Friday, Dec. 12, 7pm-12am

Gallery Protocol
67303 Verano Place / Adobe Circle Road South | Irvine, CA 92617 US

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Maria Cienfuegas @ Soho Photo Gallery

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Maria Cienfuegas: La familia se retrata
Portrait of the family, Cuba: 2009-2011
January 7, 1015 – January 31, 2015

OPENING RECEPTION: Tuesday, January 6, 2015, from 6pm to 8pm.

Soho Photo Gallery
15 White Street
New York, NY 10013

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Elena Kalis @ Duncan Miller Gallery

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Elena Kalis: Ocean Song
Opening reception, Saturday, December 6, 2014, 7-9 pm

Duncan Miller Gallery
2525 Michigan Ave, Unit A7
Santa Monica, CA 90404

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Interview with photographer Anastasia Bogomolova

AnastasiaB1

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

Anastasia Bogomolova: I was involved in photography through  journalism, which I studied at the university in Chelyabinsk. A few years after graduation I was working as an editor, but at the same time I was looking at myself in art. Before finally changing the type of activity I worked as a photojournalist, but this visual method and rapid work style weren’t close to me. Nevertheless, the magic of the image captured my head, and I took photography as my key method of communication and expression. It allows me to overcome myself. This is the language in which I feel comfortable to speak not only as an artist but also as a person.

F-Stop: The Portfolio Issue 2014 of F-Stop Magazine includes images from your project “Lookbook”. Can you tell us about this project? What led to this project?

AB: This project is a continuation of my research in the themes of memory and archive, which I’ve begun in previous works. I represent an archive not as a canned time capsule, but asa  lively and supple medium constantly expanding its own borders. This understanding has allowed me to take another look at the family closet, where my mother kept a myriad of her former clothes and my elder sister’s costumes. There are mostly colorful dresses acquired in the soviet department stores and stitched in some atelier or at home, as was the custom in the USSR. When I was 7—8 years old, every time I was left home alone I was just climbing into the closet to try on every outfit. I was posing in front of the mirror, trying to find something adult in myself. These days I’m approaching the age when my mother gave birth to me, and I took out all those dresses, useless now, to wear them without fear of being caught up. In project “Lookbook” I try to recall the children’s ritual and at the same time to recreate all images of women in my family to understand how they saw their own sexuality and femininity.

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F-Stop: Can you discuss your process for making these images or your creative process more generally?

AB: In addition to the old dresses, my mother’s vintage lipsticks, eye shadows and blushes I used another part of my family archive. This is the pieces of cloth which my grandmother kept for many years and never had time to sew anything. Cloth was the backdrop for self-portraits, which were also inspired by Soviet fashion magazines from 1970s and 1980s, formed my very first idea of beauty.

F-Stop: How do you choose what to photograph, what are you looking to capture?

AB: I almost never plan and act intuitively. On the one hand it gives me the freedom to maneuver between styles and genres, but often such a search forces me to spend more time on the project.

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

AB: I’d like to see people feel belonging not only with the history of my family, but with visual background of my country.

F-Stop: Do you have a favorite image in this series? If so, which one and why is it the image that speaks to you most?

AB: For me each of these pictures has become an independent detached image in which I don’t recognize myself. It’s a strange experience where I see the signs of self-objectification.

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from “Under the Dome”

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

AB: I’m keen on the project “Under the dome” about finding meteorite places. This work was inspired by my personal experience of observing the meteorite “Chelyabinsk” (Urals, Russia) in February 2013. It’s recognized as the largest of the known celestial bodies which fell to the Earth after the Tunguska meteorite (1908). In search of areas where there have been cases of the falling meteorites in the last hundred years I travel through the Urals region where I live. As it turns out, there is a rich meteorite history here. But I don’t find any signs or memorials. I start my own mythological topography and form my own memories of the past based on personal perceptions.

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

AB: Christian Boltanski, Joan Fontcuberta, Christian Patterson, Boris Mikhailov and Vladimir Kupriyanov are among such artists but the greatest inspiration I always get is my family history and mythology of the space where I live.

 

For more of Anastasia Bogomolova’s work: anabogomolova.viewbook.com

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Book Review: Fifty Shrinks by Sebastian Zimmermann

1409240347566Fifty Shrinks combines photographs by Sebastian Zimmermann, a psychiatrist and photographer, of therapists’ offices as well as interviews with therapists. “As you read through the book, you will be struck by the variety of mood, ambience, and furnishing, mirroring the wide spectrum of therapeutic philosophies held by the practitioners who opened their private offices and their minds as well,” writes Lee Kassan in the front cover text.  And, that sums it up nicely.

The cover shows the psychoanalyst Martin Bergmann who continued to practise until a few weeks short of his 101st birthday. He is pictured in an elegant penthouse office anchored by a towering bookcase and sweeping views of Central Park. It is an image that radiates, and invites, contemplation. I would have liked to know whether it had been Dr. Bergmann who had decided that he wanted to be photographed looking down in thought while seated on a bed or whether he did so following instructions by the photographer.

1409240797246A hint of how Zimmermann went about his work is given in the text that accompanies the portrait of Dr. Charles Brenner, “whose towering reputation as the dean of American psychoanalysis for half a century intrigued and intimidated me.”  After taking some photographs of him at his desk and reading from a book, Zimmermann noticed a chess board on a sideboard and asked Brenner if he would pose by the board. “His posture straightened, his focus intensified, his mood lifted, and he transformed into the authority figure that I had anticipated.” It is a remarkable portrait that radiates the kind of authority I would clearly be intimidated by.

I’m not always sure what a therapist’s office says about the therapist but I can quite easily say whether an office helps me to feel at ease or not. My favourite would clearly be the one of Martin Bergmann for I do share, and can easily identify with, the feelings expressed by Sebastian Zimmermann. “In his office I’m readily transported by a fantasy of high civilization, where time stands still and you can surrender …”  It goes without saying that it is not just the office that attracts me but also Bergmann’s approach: “Gradually you create within yourself an image of the person and then you communicate out of this idea. As you get to know the patient, the image becomes more articulate. In all of this, I am not focused on change. I am trying to understand what the patient is about and to allow him or her to develop the goal of his or her own changing.”

Steven_Lee0886Fifty Shrinks is a truly fascinating tome that provides valuable insights into what shrinks have decided to reveal about themselves. Some are talking about themselves, others about their patients, and some, Otto F. Kernberg, for instance, who mostly treats patients with severe personality disorders, explain what a certain affect state is all about. “A person with borderline personality organization, for example, experiences intense affects of love, hatred, fear, rage, anger, envy, or sadness. Under such affect states, he loses the capacity to assess where he stands and what he feels, what he should do, and what other people feel or think or are doing. This brings about a rigid judgement of what is going on and how to behave in his relations with other people. He doesn’t know how to understand his own feelings, how to control them, and what to do with them.”

The rooms shown are very varied, from spartan to colourful, the objects displayed couldn’t be more diverse. And, as Elizabeth Danze, writes in “The Therapeutic Interior”: “During the process of therapy, these objects provide potent opportunities for association.”

Since the personality of the therapist is crucial for the therapeutic process, and since this personality also reveals itself in the chosen therapy surroundings, Fifty Shrinks could very well serve as a suitable guide to select a possible shrink.

1409243542073PS: I thought it funny that the portraits are introduced by Alfred Adler’s quote “The only normal people are the ones you don’t know very well,” for it might of course suggest that what we are getting to see in this book are not normal people … and they would probably agree …

 

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Fifty Shrinks
by Sebastian Zimmermann
with an essay by Elizabeth Danze
First edition 2014
For more info and to purchase the book: www.fiftyshrinks.com

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Interview with photographer flannery o’kafka

The day she wore my leggings as a mask

The day she wore my leggings as a mask

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

flannery o’kafka: Once upon a time, in 1993, I took a high school journalism class.  That year, my parents gave me a TV for Christmas and I traded it in for a Pentax 2000 (which I still shoot with today).  I only occasionally used my camera for the next 15 years and picked it up again after a long spell of illness in March 2011.  I then started posting online in a daily confessional photo diary.  I began by documenting our family life and the things we were all making with a point-and-shoot digital camera.   By January of 2012, I was shooting editorial work and having my first exhibition.  In June of 2012, an Italian newspaper stole and printed one of my photos, so I asked them for a ridiculous amount of money—and bought a good camera and lens.  Since that time, I’ve worked steadily showing work both in the UK and the United States.  My iphone camera & Instagram serve as a sort of sketchbook, I shoot mostly with a digital camera, and I also work on dedicated film projects.  I really just have an all-consuming need to make images and photography allows me to do that on a daily basis.


F-Stop: How did the project “I would kill for you: a study in maternal ferocity” come about?

fo: It really began as an emotional-theory study into my own (sometimes manic) protective feelings and fears about my children…that feeling that as a mother, I could rip someone’s head off with my bare hands to save my child.  I started reading about women who had tapped into super-human strength when their children were threatened.  For this project, I decided to focus on portraits of my two youngest children, being the most vulnerable.   Unfortunately, whilst working on the series, I was given something to be truly fierce about.  Through the power of the internet and the evil in the heart of mankind, we became victims of The Creeps (who like to distribute photos of children on dodgy internet forums).  Like the devil-lion of The Bible, they roam around the world wide web, seeking whom they may devour. Because of the anonymity of the digital age, I cannot break their teeth, and though I desperately tried, I was completely helpless.  So I would kill for you: a study in maternal ferocity entered a second phase post-creeps.  The diptychs changed around, and the narratives of the images changed as I began to consider the fact that I would kill for my kids but I couldn’t when my enemy was invisible.  The work started to take on a lot of Biblical imagery as I began to look at my own helplessness and look to an ultimate justice and an ultimate protection.

St. Hugo appears to many in Cicero, IN

St. Hugo appears to many in Cicero, IN

F-Stop: Can you discuss your process for making these images? Do you make them as a moment arises in your day to day life or do you plan for or set up scenes or situations to photograph?

fo: All of these images were made in the course of our daily lives.  They were shot at my desk, in our garden, from the car, in the bath, on a train, in the kitchen, in the city, and in the Highlands.  A few times I might have said to the children ‘stay there while I grab my camera,’ but I generally have it on hand.

F-Stop: How do you choose what to photograph, what are you looking to capture?

fo: For this series, it was a bit more about what I was feeling at the moment I took each photo.  If it’s possible, I was somehow trying to pour all of my protection and relationship into a photograph. This is one of the things I find so amazing about photographing the everyday lives of children.  There are so many moments of transcendence, darkness, and extremity that a camera can isolate.  I’m not interested in innocence; I’m interested in redemption and relationship.

When I put the images together into diptychs, I began to illustrate real and fictional narratives.  Again, I was ultimately trying to capture how I felt at the time when the happening happened.

Franklin, Indiana

Franklin, Indiana

F-Stop: What do you want people to experience or think about when they look at these photographs?

fo: I mostly hope that people will be able to find some way into it—to relate to the work either as a parent or a child of parents.  On my end, I’m communicating some of my dearest, deepest, and darkest thoughts—though I’m not into self-expression for self-expression’s sake.  I’m mostly an extrovert.  I’m usually talking to someone.  So I just hope someone is listening and understanding—even a little.

The day of Rodrigo's Baptism

The day of Rodrigo’s Baptism

F-Stop: Do you have a favorite image in the series? If so, which one and why is it the image that stands out to you most?

fo: I think my favourite is The Day of Rodrigo’s Baptism.  The day I took the bottom photograph (my son with face-paint in the bath), our friend’s son had been baptized and there was a party afterwards where Hugo had his face painted as a skull.  After I took the photo, I could hear him and his little sister playing ‘baptism’ in the bath ‘IN THE NAME OF THE HOLY SPIRIT!’ and dunking each other under the water.  I was struck with the dark comedy of it all—the facepaint being such a physical picture of the death and burial that baptism symbolizes.  The photo on the top of the diptych is his father’s hand, bleeding from loading the car with rubbish for the dump. Together, they form a salvation/baptism story and though at first glance might look horrific, there is an ultimate narrative of protection and sacrifice.

Brambles

Brambles

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

fo: I’ve just finished a small collaborative book with 3 other mother-photographers which is a study in White– the first project of The Mothering Sunday Collective.  It’s sort of become the bridge to my next work which is mainly about teeth and my recurring dreams about losing mine.  I’ve been collecting teeth and casts for a year now.
I’m also in talks about continuing collaboration at Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art with Annette Reilly-Drummond and partially-sighted children—photographing during art workshops.

Photogen and Nycteris

Photogen and Nycteris

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

fo: For the past few years, it’s been Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Richard Billingham (I occasionally write fan e-mails to him), Truman Capote, David Peat’s photos of children on the streets of Glasgow, Johnny Cash, Nick Cave (the musician not the artist– I was privileged to photograph him live in 2013 which was terrifying and amazing), James Guthrie (painter), Arthur Tress’s work with children, Colin Gray’s Parents series,  Nick Waplington’s early photographic work, Tessa Farmer, and of course Flannery O’Connor and Franz Kafka.

 

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