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555 West 25th Street, New York, NY 10001
Inspired by notions of ‘home’ and ‘community’, Common Ground brings together new work from two photographic collectives taking an outward-facing view of their respective home countries of Scotland and Wales. Working with diverse themes and ideas associated with distinctive national and cultural visual inspiration, this collective exhibition welds them together into a cohesive narrative, at times overlapping and continuously referencing and complementing each other.
Street Level Photoworks | Trongate 103 | Glasgow | G1 5HD | United Kingdom
opening is on 8th August, from 18h30 to 20h00.
Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, B1 Gallery
1-13-3 Mita, Meguro-ku, Tokyo (Ebisu Garden Place)
The title of this tome, The Good Life, immediately made me think of another work with the same title that I have a special fondness for. It is by Gerald Roscoe and happens to be A Guide to Buddhism for the Westerner. One of the features of buddhism is its focus on right mindfulness. It seems to me that Jasper Morrison’s Perceptions of the Ordinary were put to paper in a spirit of light-hearted mindfulness. And with a great sense of humour.
I feel irresistibly drawn to seemingly ordinary things and situations. For reasons unbeknown to me, they seem to emanate something magical. Hence the appeal of this very nicely done tome. There is however an additional reason: the “rigorous practical thinking and the logic of common sense available to all of us” that can not only be found in the objects that Morrison decided to present but also in his ponderings about these objects.
Let me start with the image on the cover which happens to be the detail of a pic which can be found inside the book and is accompanied by these words: “There are some images which cannot easily be explained and this is one of them! The facts are the following: 1. The pink, pressed cardboard-pulp packaging was originally used for transporting melons. 2. The blue structure is a Corse-Matin newspaper rack. 3. They were noticed together outside a village shop in Corsica. 4. We cannot be sure who placed the melon packaging on the newspaper rack, or why. 5. The resulting composition is a satisfying one.” Looking now once again at this image fills me with affection and puts a big smile on my face.
The first pic shows a log bench outside a railway station restaurant in the Japanese countryside: “It exhibits a determined conceptual rigour, as if its maker said to himself: ‘I’ll make this bench from a single log of wood, 1.5 metres long, without using any screws, and it will be strong enough for an elephant and heavy enough to survive a typhoon.’” Wonderfully said, I thought and felt joyful about Morrison’s playful presentation of what went through his mind.
Jasper Morrison notices what many very probably pay no attention to. And, he gives his discoveries quite some thought by letting his mind wander and wonder. In Porto, for instance, he comes across a small street of shops which offer wooden spoons in all sizes. Outside the Archaeological Museum in Pondicherry, he asks himself whether one of the museum’s staff or a visiting professor of archeoogy has parked his of her bicycle behind a headless buddha sitting on a patch of grass. In the much visited, traditional Japanese village of Shirakawa-go, he spots a former PET bottle now used to display wild flowers, and outside Doha, at Sheikh Faisal’s Museum, he detects ship’s nails and ponders the various acts involving a nail – “hanging a picture, repairing a cupboard, re-fixing a floor board, putting up a calendar.”
Jasper Morrison, born in London in 1959, works as a designer between London, Paris, and Tokyo. He uses his camera, a small Canon Powershot, “for a simple documenting of things I notice.” Over the years he took several thousands pictures and eventually, thanks to the easy visibility a computer affords, “noticed certain patterns within their number. One of these groups of images is of clever solutions to everyday problems solved with modest resources.” Two brilliant examples (Chandelier, Japanese Plumbing) you’ll find below.
I think “The Good Life” to be highly entertaining, philosophical, and inspiring. I’m glad it exists.
The Good Life
Perceptions of the Ordinary
by Jasper Morrison
Lars Müller Publishers, Zurich 2014
For more information and to purchase the book: www.lars-mueller-publishers.com/en/the-good-life
PASSION, PURPOSE and PERSEVERANCE
“Passion and Purpose” – The credo put forth by Robert Frank as the necessary ingredients to creating successful and meaningful photography. In any endeavor it would be impossible to attain true success without Passion and Purpose. I would add to that another, “Perseverance”. Many photographers exhibit either passion, purpose or perseverance but the ones that succeed exhibit all three.
To create a successful photography book your work must have a purpose, it must communicate and strike a chord with the audience. This will be impossible if you are not passionate about your pictures and it will not get done if you can not persevere through some failure. Good work requires one to take risks and everyone who takes risks occasionally fails, however those failures can and will make you stronger if you allow them to.
I strongly recommend you research the work which has preceded you. Look at the masters’ books and then look some more. Determine what it is about these books that makes them successful. You’ll see lots of passion on those pages, the work will have a purpose and clearly exhibit such. It will strike a chord with the viewer and hopefully initiate a creative or intellectual a response from them. If you wish to have some of that limited shelf space allotted picture books then your work must elicit a strong response.
Assuming you have a strong body of work it needs to be edited into a stronger body of work to meet this publishing criteria. Editing is a very important component to creating a cohesive and strong book. It is also a very difficult process. We all know how hard it is to toss a picture we love because it just doesn’t fit. We all become infatuated with the newness of recent pictures or those that proved technically difficult. Unfortunately no one cares how hard it was technically for you to complete, or how fresh the picture is to you. It is the content that matters and good editing will assure that your content is as strong as it can be.
Many of us tend to work in a vacuum, focused on the task at hand while completing a series of pictures. Once photography is completed it is very helpful to get a second or even third opinion on the book edit. You may find you need to create some new pictures to round out the book. I appreciate working with a good picture editor and find that their contribution manifests itself in the success of the book. If you are serious about your project I encourage you to solicit the help of an experienced picture editor working in your genre.
Keeping the work as simple and honest as possible works best. This does not mean you need to make simple pictures but rather should strive to eliminate any element that does not contribute to the purpose of the picture and subsequently also the book. Adhere to the credo that you are only as good as your weakest link. Show less but stronger pictures that engage the audience, don’t over tell the story. Leave a little open to interpretation for the audience to connect with.
Work with the best designer you can and be sure they are as passionate about the book as you are. It’s their work on those pages that will show yours in the best light possible. I like simple design. I adhere to the Bauhaus principle of “less is more”. I believe good design is unobtrusive and efficient but also compelling. Remember you are making a picture book and it is about the pictures. No amount of flashy design can mask poor picture content.
If income is the only goal you desire from your book, invest the money and time elsewhere. The actual financial return pales when compared to other investments you can make. In my workshops and seminars I break down the associated costs of book making, the business of publishing and the ways you can use your book to help generate a livelihood.
The decision to self publish or work with a publisher can only be made by you. It’s your book and your career. The same goes for ebook vs ink-book. The ebook has made it easy for anyone to put together a “book” and I use the ebook format as an editing tool. It helps to see content in book order and adjust/edit accordingly. While I am not affiliated with any companies I find the new version of Lightroom® 5 to be very accommodating in this regard. If you are not familiar with the Lightroom® book options you may wish to investigate it.
Self published books and those created by “vanity” presses can be excellent promotional pieces for the photographer, but only if done very well. Should you be fortunate enough to self publish a best selling book your profits will be substantially better. You may actually recoup all the original photography and book production expenses and break even. That is a big “IF” however, and quite hard to almost impossible to do with out a publishers expertise behind it.
Another advantage to self publishing, if you view it as such, is that you will have complete control over the edit, design, production specs, warehousing, distribution, marketing and PR. However you will also have the expenses and responsibilities associated with the above.
Publishing is a business. Businesses need to turn a profit and while some publishers are quite passionate about their titles and authors they never loose sight of the bottom line. This is responsible business practice and necessary for success. A first time author is a big risk. Picture books present even more risk, as they are very expensive to produce. Publishing is a tough business and getting less profitable, therefore the publisher’s risk allowance is diminishing. Sometimes your only option may be to self-publish.
Next week in Part 2 I will address making the pitch and working with a publisher.
Duncan Oja: I have been taking pictures about as long as I can remember but only started getting serious about it in high school. since I was very young though my passion has always been exploring everywhere I could and collecting little treasures I found. I think photography was an appealing medium because I’ve always been more interested in discovering and pointing out things in the world that interest me than creating new things altogether.
F-Stop: All of the work that you present on your website seems to be a result of being “On the road”. Can you tell us a bit about your work overall?
DO: My work does often have to do with being “on the road.” I have always been interested in the culture and aesthetic of roads, I think I am drawn to the liminal spaces they create and the people who pass through them. I really enjoy shooting on the road too, I think it gives me the time and space to focus on my work and I feel like it has a way of helping me to see places and things more objectively.
F-Stop: Can you discuss your process for making your images or your creative process more generally?
DO: I generally work on one or a couple of separate projects at a time. Sometimes they start with a specific concept, and sometimes come from sort of aimless shooting, most often I find something that I am drawn to in the world (as with the backs of signs) and after thinking about it for a long time without deciding its stupid, I dedicate a lot of time to it and start shooting.
F-Stop: How do you choose what or who to photograph, what are you looking to capture?
DO: I usually choose things that interest me in the world and have for a while, things I can’t stop looking at anyway. I think for whatever reason they have a striking visual presence to begin with, so they would make good photographs.
F-Stop: What do you think interested you in the backs of signs?
DO: Something very simple and basic first drew me to the backs of signs and I was interested in them before thinking of them as a potential art project, but looking again as an artist I think I was interested in the lack of any concept or specific meaning, that presence of absence. From behind, the signs loose their intended message and become purely things, objects in the landscape, monuments of absence. This seemed to remind me of something I have always enjoyed about photography; it’s ability to show the plain being-ness of a thing honestly and beautifully.
F-Stop: What do you want people to experience or think about when they look at these photographs?
DO: I guess I want people to experience what I do when I see these things, and agree that there is something special there. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t.
F-Stop:Are you working on any other projects currently?
DO: I am, right now I’m traveling in South America and shooting but without too specific of a project. Back home I was working on a project about these big sort-of stumps that I was seeing a lot especially in the northeast when a tree is removed from someone’s yard and the branches cut off, but for whatever reason the bottom five or ten feet of the trunk are left. Like the blank signs they are these beautifully empty, purposeless structures.
F-Stop:What photographers or other artists inspire you?
DO: I have always been inspired by Walker Evans. I also really love the geological survey photographers of the nineteenth century. Eugene Atget may be my favorite right now, his photographs are strikingly beautiful but still with a subtlety that I think I strive for in mine.
F-Stop Magazine: How did you first become involved in photography and what led to you working in this medium as an artist?
David Gardner: The seeds were planted at a young age but didn’t take root till much later. During a family outing in the Santa Cruz mountains, I got separated and lost in the forest. I was 8. I wandered around for a few hours completely terrorized until I came across a young couple on the trail. To calm me down, they put a camera around my neck and showed me how to use it. They also taught me how to drink from a stream and showed me how to identify various plants around us. I went from utter terror of my surroundings to complete joy, and the joy and curiosity of the natural world, and the desire to picture it has lingered all these years after.
But that desire to photograph was dormant for many years afterward. In my large family, there were always cameras around, but they were toys to us – something to be played with. I would use my Kodak Tri-Chem packs to develop my B & W snapshot negatives in the bathroom – because it was fun. I felt the magic, but the thought of using a camera in pursuit of creative expression never seriously occurred to me until my mid-20’s when I discovered the work of Ansel Adams. Adams led to Edward Weston, but more so his son Brett. Brett led to Minor White, and Imogen and the whole West Coast School. I learned early on that I was more visually oriented than verbal, and I was attracted to the way a photograph could express what I was feeling about the world around me. Photography was the perfect form for me because it was rooted in reality but could be used to express so much more. Unfortunately, I was entangled in a non-photographic life by then.
It remained a serious interest though, and I took classes to learn more at the local community college. This is where I met my friend and mentor Stephen Johnson. He is a master fine art landscape photographer and pioneer of the digital imaging age, whom I’ve now known for more than 35 years. On the first day of class, he stood at the blackboard, drew a rectangle on the board and said, “This is your world and you control everything in it.” I was just so lucky to have found someone I felt so in tune with visually at that point in my life.
While mostly self taught, Stephen has been my guide these many years. He taught me all the technical aspects of picture making, but more importantly, he guided me in how to “see” photographically. I still wanted to go to art school though, and applied at the San Francisco Art Institute. I thought a degree was important. My entrance portfolio reviewer was Jack Fulton. He looked at my work, looked up at me and said, “You don’t need to come here. There’s nothing much more we can teach you”. While that was kind of great to hear, it also discouraged me from wanting to try and work it out. Working at a full time job and attending what few classes I could get at night was not a pleasant experience. I attended for a couple of semesters, then dropped out. I’ve been mostly working it out on my own ever since.
F-Stop: How did the project “Life on Wheels” come about?
DG: Well, I am primarily a landscape photographer. When I stopped working full time in 2006, my wife and I bought a motor home so we could travel the continent to photograph the landscape. While doing this, I began noticing some of those around me in the places we stopped to camp seemed a bit different from what I thought vacationers would be like. They would stay for weeks in one spot, hang around the campground a lot and seemed to know lots of other campers in the area. A large proportion of them seemed to be from either Texas or South Dakota.
Since I was also in camp a lot during the day, I started approaching them to shoot the breeze. We’d talk about general stuff, but eventually I learned they were actually living full time in their recreational vehicles. They’d sold their homes and property and traveled the country. I was shocked as to how many people were doing this. It was not what I expected and assumed about the older generation and what retirement was about. They were lively and had a positive attitude toward life.
I admired that zest for life. Enough so that I felt compelled to photograph them. You have to understand this was a huge leap for me. I don’t photograph people. I have never wanted to photograph people. But each time I walked away from a full timer, I would kick myself because I hadn’t had the nerve to pull out my camera. Eventually I decided I couldn’t call myself a photographer if I didn’t do a project I felt uniquely qualified to do.
So I finally just resolved to try it out. I knew something was there, and would be interesting not just to me, but others as well. I really wasn’t even sure I could photograph people in an interesting way, but I had to try.
F-Stop: Can you discuss your process for making these images or your creative process more generally?
DG: The process for this project is quite different from anything I’ve done before. Initially I decided to travel down to the small desert town of Quartzsite in Arizona. Quartzsite has a year round population of about 3000, but in January and February over 1 million people pass through – all RVer’s. Not all are full-timers of course, but many are. They come primarily for the winter warmth, but it has become sort of the Burning Man of the Geritol set. I refer to it more as “The Gathering of the Tribes.” There are rock and gem shows, swap meets, flea markets, all culminating in a giant RV show at the end of January. The land around Quartzsite is all public Bureau of Land Management property, and people can stay long term for very little money. Out in the middle of nowhere really. I found a group of RV owners who had the same brand as me and asked if I could join the gathering.
I started by identifying prospective subjects. Then I approach them, initially just to talk. I work the conversation around to whether they are full-timers, let them know I am working on a photography project about the lifestyle, and eventually ask if I can include them. I’ve only been turned down once.
I have found the more time I can spend with them, the better my images are. I started by doing the whole process in an hour or two. Now I often spend multiple days between visiting and photographing. Sometimes I actually travel with them from place to place. As their guard lowers, they tend to open up and reveal more. I am completely honest with what I am trying to convey and I think it comes across. Sometimes we meet only in passing and I can only spend a few minutes.
I wanted this project to be mostly about the people, but it also seemed important to include their rigs and the landscape they occupy. I think of it as a sort of environmental portrait project of all of those aspects. So I wanted portraits of the people, both outside and inside their RV’s, and images of them living the life, and I wanted portraits of the rigs in the environment.
F-Stop: How do you choose what or who to photograph, what are you looking to capture?
DG: Since I travel 4-6 months per year in my own motor home, I had a pretty good idea of what I needed to include in the project. I started by just photographing any full-timer I could find. Eventually, as the project became a little better defined in my head, I began refining what I wanted. I look for people and situations that best represent the lifestyle – grooming habits, how they connect personally and online, etc. Interesting personal stories can lead to more intimate pictures, and unusual or quirky characters – no shortage there – also add a nice touch. I also look for dramatic environmental lighting for the “rigs in the landscape” images.
F-Stop: What are some of the things you have learned about the people you have met and/or this lifestyle they have chosen?
DG: They’ve actually really opened my eyes as to the vitality of what I’ve always considered the “Older Generation”. They are not content to live out their lives in one place. They want to engage with new people and places all over the country, and they do this by embracing the newest technologies in their rigs. Solar panels give them the ability to exist off the grid and meet in remote locations. That’s where I find many of them. WiFi and Skype enable them to surf the web and stay in more intimate contact with one another.
The whole nature of home and family has changed for them. It used to be, kids could rely on their parents being a safe haven for home visits or babysitting – a sense of home base. Now the parents are traveling and the kids don’t like it. They want their parents close!
The rigs themselves would seem to be gas guzzlers – and they are – but full-timers aren’t driving all the time. They stay put for weeks or months. They are using solar panels for power, composting toilets for waste, and because one can only carry so much fresh water, they are natural conservers. The carbon footprint of the typical RVer is much smaller than any stick and brick home. Oh yes, the reason they often seem to be from Texas and South Dakota is because there is no vehicle registration fee in those states so full-timers save hundreds by registering there.
I’ve also had a personal realization over the course of this project. I’ve come to understand my own trepidation toward aging. About 2 years into the project, I remembered a conversations I had in my 20’s at a bar over multiple drinks. The question was posed, What age will you be when you start to be old? I said 60. Next month I turn 60. I realized I’d been worried about becoming old and what I thought that meant. The thing is, I don’t feel the way I thought I would back then, and neither do any of the people I’ve been photographing. This project has been a great way for me to work through my own silly notions.
F-Stop: What do you want people to experience or think about when they look at these photographs?
DG: I think many of the things I spoke to in the earlier questions, but also to give people an inside glimpse of this lifestyle. I think it’s also important to adjust our view of how baby boomers are still forging new territory in retirement.
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?
DG: Each time I come back from a photo trip I come back with new favorites, so it changes a lot. But some are Roger Catches up on Facebook, Debbie with Rupert and Elliot, Jolly with his Fighting Knife. I also like a lot End of Day, Valley of Fire and Evening Gathering. Those images really embody a sense of the people and the experience of being out there for me.
F-Stop: Are you working on any other projects currently?
DG: I have a couple of ongoing projects at the moment. I am stepping back a bit to some landscape roots for a series called Sandscape – abstract sand dune work. Not sure how commercial it will ever be, but this kind of work for me is so satisfying. Also a new project I’m tentatively calling Western Myths. I haven’t completely wrapped my head around it yet – just making pictures as I travel in the west at this point. I hope that it will speak to the perceptions of the west as opposed to the realities that I experience as I travel.
F-Stop: What photographers or other artists inspire you?
DG: I mentioned earlier those who brought me to photography, Ansel, Edward, Brett and the like, but as my photographic interest in the landscape has evolved, I find my influences have also. Robert Adams and Stephen Shore became important to me, and now I look to Richard Misrach and photographers like Terry Falke and Lisa Robinson for how landscape should be approached. And of course my friend Stephen Johnson.
To see more of David Gardner’s work: lightight.com
On the Gypsy Row
“Romani first appeared in Hungary in the 14th century, fleeing the conquering Turks in the Balkans. Since they were thought to be refugees from Little Egypt in the south of Greece, they are still known by the term ‘Gypsy’ today. Their population forms the largest ethnic minority in Hungary. The majority of the Hungarian Romas still live segregated on the ‘Gypsy Row’– on the last streets of the villages and towns.”
Everything Is Broken
“This collection of images reflects the internal tension I’ve been experiencing of late. To be sure, I’ve got no right to complain (heck, I have a show of my photographs on the wall of SoHo Photo Gallery). But unemployment, depression and all the attendant emotions that come along for the ride…well, sometimes it feels like everything is broken.
The title of the show is borrowed from a Bob Dylan song of the same name.”
Congolese Wrestlers – Kinshasa 2010-2013
“I was hypnotized when I saw it for the first time. In the dark and muddy streets of Matete district, the atmosphere was warm and full of music. The boxing ring trembled as fighters collided. But what struck me more than anything was the theatrical performance. Beyond the fetish and other magic objects, the Congolese wrestlers were authentic showmen whose magic dance and physical exploits held the public spellbound. I was on the edge of my seat.”
The Altered Landscape: New Humanoid Constructions
“A photo of a landscape may or may not look like its original. The landscape can’t be changed but its image can be converted to whatever you choose. The landscapes in this show of 12 digital color photographs-mostly of Utah’s rocky mountains and Florida’s lakes-playfully and sometimes whimsically express something suggested by their original shape or color. The original image becomes a means to an unknown end, sometimes with unconscious themes.”
Waiting Room: Kay
“Life and death, the fragility of human connections, the certainty of the end. We know death is waiting; yet we persist. This work explores the waiting, the persistence and the places, largely separated from life, where we live while dying. Waiting Room is a photographic installation about Kay, 54, dying of cancer. Through Kay’s story at the boundary between life and death, I tell the story of all of us.”
“I had never given much thought as to why steps and stairs seem to work their way into my photographs, until I assembled this collection. I suppose I like the fact that stairways ascend so hopefully, and that they have all those neat, organized right angles. They are purposefully demanding, literally and metaphorically taking us to a new level, but they also keep us honest, by requiring us to do a little work to get there.”
“I take pictures of people on the streets on New York City, almost everyday, all year round. I look for those fleeting moments when human emotions and physical surroundings combine to create stories of joy, pathos, absurdity, contradiction, anger and humor. In this show — like my two shows earlier this year — I continue to explore and celebrate the street life of New York City.”
Soho Photo Gallery
15 White Street
New York, NY 10013 www.sohophoto.com
Manuel Pandalis’ images take audiences through a raw and intimate visual exploration of human physiognomy. With the rejection of strict poses, make-up, and intense post-production he allows his models to come as they are, creating unique portraits that focus upon the subjects face and revelations that are ultimately exposed through the human gaze.
Scott Tansey has been taking photographs for over 40 years. He has been highlighted on the Leica blog and has exhibited recently at gB Gallery, Bergamot Station and other LA galleries. In addition, his photographs have been published in Audubon Magazine and Consumer Reports.
Leica Gallery Los Angeles
8783 Beverly Boulevard
West Hollywood, California 90048
Opening Reception: Thursday, September 4, 6 – 8 PM
510 West 25th Street, New York