Interview with photographer Russ Rowland

Through The Looking Glass 12

Through The Looking Glass 12

Yvette Meltzer: How did you first become involved in photography and what led to you working in this medium as an artist?

Russ Rowland: It happened very slowly and very late in my life. I worked in PR and one of my accounts was a camera company. They gave me a little digital camera and I just started playing with it. After a few years I realized I really wanted to learn about photography and cameras in a more disciplined way so I got my first DSLR and enrolled in a course at ICP. That was in 2010.

Through The Looking Glass 11

Through The Looking Glass 11

YM: When did you know you wanted to pursue photography as a career?

RR: I never intended to be a photographer. Ever. I rarely looked at photography or cared about it. But once I found it, it really felt like the thing in life I was meant to do. Now I work, play and eat photography pretty much 24-7 and I’ve never been happier. You know how people say “do the thing you love and the rest will follow”? I always thought that that was a load of BS…until I started working as a photographer. Things have really fallen into place and keep encouraging me along the way like some guiding force. It sounds dumb I know. I’ve never experienced this with anything else in life.

YM: The “Open Theme” issue of F-Stop includes images from your project “Through the Looking Glass”. Can you tell us about this project?

RR: It brings together a number of things that continue to fascinate me: shooting portraits…the ways photographing through glass alters and enhances faces…my love of paintings, abstraction and the texture of brush strokes…and trying to find something transcendent in the utterly mundane (in this case using a shower as a medium.)

YM: So the whole is more than the sum of the parts?

RR: YES!

Through The Looking Glass 2

Through The Looking Glass 2

YM: What led to this project?

RR: Basically I just love the way glass, water and steam can be manipulated to create a painterly look, and evoke texture and emotion. It creates a look I covet. Also, I’ve been taken with creating images in camera that look like they must have been photo-shopped. It’s a challenge that fascinates me (probably because I was doing a lot of photo-shopping and wondered if I could save myself some time.)

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

RR: It’s a bit like theater and a chemical process. I use the same exact set up each time, but I never know what I will get. There is ample room for anomalies, kismet and surprise. Each session lasts about 45 minutes and is collaboration between me, the subject, and the water on glass. It’s like a performance: we play and improvise as I move around the single light. Then we take a bow and go home.

YM: What is the intended end or purpose for the project?

RR: A gallery show would be nice…or even Bed, Bath and Beyond.

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

RR: I hope that they see beauty, something that grabs or touches them in some way before they run off to the next thing. I’m not really here to teach.

Through The Looking Glass 5

Through The Looking Glass 5

YM: Do you have a favorite image in this series?

RR: The ones that make the cut are all favorites in a way.

YM: What are you working on now?

RR: More altered faces! I’m shooting a lot of theater productions and I think that keeps inspiring me in ways. This spring I’ve been taking advantage of the blooming foliage to shoot another portrait series in the park, late at night, with a projector. It’s called “Force of Nature” and they are like a “non-humans of New York.” I’ve turned everyone I know into a sprite from a Shakespearean play.

YM: What photographers or other artists inspire you?

RR: Throughout my life paintings have always inspired me. In fact, I always refer to photos as paintings and have to catch myself. The works of Picasso, Di Chirico, Monet, Van Gogh (to name some obvious starters) have been in my head as far back as I can remember. It’s only recently that I’ve immersed myself in the world of photography. And there is so much knockout work that inspires me every day.

YM: What is the best career advice you have ever received?

RR: The best – and most liberating – advice I ever got was: “Go ahead, Make a mess.” Boy did that free me. You have to try stuff…even the silliest notion. If it all falls apart, and comes to nothing, so what? No one will die or bleed. But if you don’t push, experiment and play, you will never get anywhere interesting or meaningful.

YM: What is the most challenging work you have ever done?

RR: I don’t think I’ve done it yet. Hopefully that’s what I am working towards.

YM: Thank you, Russ for responding to all of these inquiries.

For more of Russ Rowland’s work: www.rrsnapshop.com

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Book Review: Danny Lyon’s The Seventh Dog

Crossing the Ohio, Louisville / Chicago, 1966–64

Crossing the Ohio, Louisville / Chicago, 1966–64

Danny Lyon is a rebel with a cause. He has spent his career documenting American counter-culture. Every body of work a political statement, the goals of which were to create conversations about social change. His photographs individually are as strong as they are as a whole, THE SEVENTH DOG breaks down a number of his books to their barest forms. He honestly expresses his feelings and intent behind his most well known bodies of work. The books, like visual literature, are Lyon’s true form.

THE SEVENTH DOG is a diary, of sorts. It is organized in reverse chronological order, the cover is an upside down Kodak box,  with a Kelton Labs mailing label (Chuck Kelton has been Lyons printer for decades).  This collaboration is honored by incorporating the Kelton mailing label w a self portrait. The design and packaging of the book allows us to feel like we are opening one of Lyon’s personal “boxes”, containing prints, ephemera and memories. It’s an intimate, visceral and aesthetic experience. The book begins with Occupy Wall Street in 2012, and ends with what is likely one of his first photographs made in 1960, an abstract that, brings Minor White to mind.

Occupy demonstration on Broadway, Los Angeles / Occupy, 2012-2011

Occupy demonstration on Broadway, Los Angeles / Occupy, 2012-2011

In 1962, at the age of 20, Lyon became a member the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in Alabama so as to work against segregation. This began the development of his signature style, his photographs, formal but always intimate. As a witness and a participant Lyon delivered what we now know as some of the most important images documenting the virulent racism and  the Movement.

Whatever one’s background, race or social status, to go down south in 1962 to support and document the civil rights movement, was to risk arrest, extreme violence or even death. Lyon’s left Chicago, while he was in the middle of working on BIKERIDERS: one of the great photo books, and the work that began Lyon’s career, not only as a photographer but as an author. Admirable, to say the least, because he went down south not for his personal creative purposes, but to honor a political and social commitment, and to work for the Movement. I’m not sure his desire was to make political statements with his work, rather it was to document, for history what was happening right in front of him. In addition, his images helped to visually define the Movement. In the chapter entitled ‘SNCC Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee 1964-62’  we see SNCC posters using Lyon’s images, and he mentions in the text that some of his photographs are part of a permanent exhibit on the civil rights movement at the Library of Congress. He says this is one of his proudest accomplishments.

Crowds along the funeral route of the four girls murdered in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist church, Birmingham, Alabama, September 1963 / Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), 1964–62

Crowds along the funeral route of the four girls murdered in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist church, Birmingham, Alabama, September 1963 / Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), 1964–62

The most revealing part of the book is learning about Lyon’s relationships to his subjects. He enjoyed a rare status…one of witness and participant. Lyon was an artist of a certain age. Coming of age during the turmoil of the 60’s informed his choices in subject matter, as much as it did his politics. The text in THE SEVENTH DOG is highly personal, and tinged with sadness.  Lyon lost quite a few friends and colleagues. He writes about Danny Seymour, friend, colleague and legend among a certain generation of artists and filmmakers(Seymour was Robert Frank’s assistant on COCKSUCKER BLUES). Danny Seymour made a photo book, A Loud Song (Lunstrom Press, 1971) which is spoken about on mythic levels and perhaps Lyon gives Seymour a new life here, as he introduces his work to a new generation. You can see how Seymour influenced Lyon and Robert Frank and visa versa. A Loud Song, is Seymour’s first and only photography book. Danny Seymour disappeared in The Caribbean in 1973.

Danny Seymour with his Arriflex and John Lennon / Danny Seymour’s loft, Bowery between Prince Street and Spring, 1970

Danny Seymour with his Arriflex and John Lennon / Danny Seymour’s loft, Bowery between Prince Street and Spring, 1970

Other chapters of the book look at BIKERIDERS, CONVERSATIONS WITH THE DEAD and THE DESTRUCTION OF LOWER MANHATTAN. Also strewn throughout the book are Danny Lyon’s collage works. Most of this work is personal. They are travelogues, family albums and some appear like sketches for larger bodies of work.

Introducing his most recent photographs, in the first chapter entitled “New York, 2012”, Lyon says:  “Many years ago I was being driven along Central Park West in a New York taxi with Robert Frank. When I spoke of using texts with words with photography, as part of what were then called ‘photography books,’ Robert said, ‘Well, then that’s the end of it.’ The year was 1969, and it was not ‘the end of it.’ As a young photographer deep into a career of making picture books with texts, I couldn’t help but feel that Frank’s comment smacked of kicking out the ladder.” Spoken like a true iconoclast.

 

9780714848532-Lyon-The-Seventh-Dog-2D
The Seventh Dog
by Danny Lyon
Phaidon
To purchase the book: http://www.phaidon.com/store/photography/the-seventh-dog-9780714848532/

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MY SISTER WHO TRAVELS @ The Mosaic Rooms

Jananne Al Ani, Aerial V (2011) and Corinne Silva, Imported Landscapes (2010)

Jananne Al Ani, Aerial V (2011) and Corinne Silva, Imported Landscapes (2010)

MY SISTER WHO TRAVELS
18 July – 30 August 2014

a group exhibition of five contemporary women artists who use lens-based media. Each in her own way challenges canonical representations of landscape photography, and their works are presented alongside archival photographs by Esther Van Deman, a Victorian archaeologist, whose work acts as a fulcrum for the project.

The Mosaic Rooms, 226 Cromwell Road, London SW5 0SW

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Stephen Shore @ FONDATION MAPFRE

© Stephen Shoren,U.S. 97, South of Klamath Falls, Oregon, July 21,1973. Courtesy 303 Galley, New York.

© Stephen Shoren,U.S. 97, South of Klamath Falls, Oregon, July 21,1973. Courtesy 303 Galley, New York.

STEPHEN SHORE RETROSPECTIVE
17 septembre – 23 novembre 2014

FONDATION MAPFRE
Salle Barbara de Braganza, 13, Madrid-Espagne

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Richard Renaldi: Touching Strangers @ Photo Center NW

© Richard Renaldi, Elaine & Arly, 2012

© Richard Renaldi, Elaine & Arly, 2012

Richard Renaldi: Touching Strangers
September 10–October 29, 2014

Lecture & Reception: Friday, September 12, 6–9pm

Richard Renaldi creates spontaneous and fleeting connections between strangers by asking them to physically interact while posing together. Often pushing his subjects beyond their comfort levels, through his photographs Renaldi breaks down the societal barriers that separate us.

Photo Center NW
900 12th Avenue
Seattle, WA 98122

 

 

 

 

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Documentary: 19th Annual Photography Exhibition @ Photo Center NW

© Chris Barrett, Icons of Rhetoric, 2013

© Chris Barrett, Icons of Rhetoric, 2013

Documentary: 19th Annual Photography Exhibition
August 1-29, 2014


Lecture:  Friday, August 8, 6:30PM at Seattle Art Museum
Reception: Friday, August 8, 8:00–9:30pm at PCNW
Artists: Noah Addis, Chris Barrett, Antoine Bruy, Jesse Burke, Alejandra Carles-Tolra, Scott Dalton, Miska Draskoczy, Matt Eich, Andrew Fillmore, Daniel Farnum, Cynthia Henebry, Aaron Wojack

Photo Center NW
900 12th Avenue
Seattle, WA 98122

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Melanie Friend @ DLI Museum and Durham Art Gallery

Avro Lancaster Bomber (part of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight) Eastborne International Airshow, Sussex 15 August 2009.

Avro Lancaster Bomber (part of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight) Eastborne International Airshow, Sussex 15 August 2009.

Melanie Friend: The Home Front
21 September

Made over a four-year period, the exhibition considers the civilian experience of war and conflict as a spectacle.

DLI Museum and Durham Art Gallery

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Matt Henry @ ONE EYED JACKS GALLERY

unnamed-1Matt Henry: BLUE RIVER FALLS
2ND JULY TO 3RD SEPTEMBER

One Eyed Jacks
28 York Place
Brighton
BN1 4GU
07743 098 530

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MARTIN ROEMERS @ AnastasiaPhoto

unnamed

AnastasiaPhoto
166 ORCHARD STREET NEW YORK, NY 10002

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Portfolio Showcase 2014 @ The Kiernan Gallery

image: Antoine Bruy

image: Antoine Bruy

Portfolio Showcase 2014
July 2014

Reception, Saturday, July 5, 5:00 – 7:00PM

Featuring the works of Susan Keiser, Bootsy Holler, S. Gayle Stevens & Judy Sherrod, and Antoine Bruy.

The Kiernan Gallery
23B W. Washington St.
Lexington, VA 24450

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