Celebrate the creativity and artistry of the Photobook at the Griffin in a series of conversations with independent publishers and creators in May!
For more information and the schedule: https://griffinmuseum.org/griffin-museum-photobook-weekend-coming-in-may/
Participants may sign up for any and all individual events that they please. Members of the Griffin Museum attend for FREE. For non-members, an $85 weekend pass is available for those who wish to attend multiple events– the pass will grant access to all of the seventeen events over the course of the weekend, at an almost 50% discount. For information and benefits about Griffin Museum membership, please visit https://members.griffinmuseum.org/general/custom.asp?page=whybeamember
“Over the last fifteen years, Nicky Bird has examined the themes of land, heritage, personal and social memory through a collaborative photographic practice. This show includes new works and brings together several of her site-specific projects for the first time, especially reimagined for Street Level, which largely focus on Scotland’s rural and small town communities.”
Street Level Photoworks
Glasgow G1 5HD
“The Jewish Museum of Belgium presents the unique retrospective Something is happening of French photographer Mathieu Pernot (°1970, Fréjus).
Combining photography, video and handwritten material, this exhibition places at its centre a space-time as precise as it is emblematic: the island of Lesbos in 2020. Located in the Aegean Sea, a few kilometres from the Turkish coast, this island experienced a series of crises in 2020, making it a focal point of our history and our consciousness. It is for this reason that the Jewish Museum of Belgium has conceived this exhibition, an original creation that explores themes echoing the long history of Jewish communities: exile, violence, solidarity.”
Jewish Museum of Belgium
Miniemenstraat 21 Rue des Minimes 21
Year of the Beast is a photo diary of 2020 featuring scenes from life in rural Vermont, under a looming specter of doom. It isn’t a book about the pandemic. It’s a record of a specific time and place as seen through the eyes of one photographer, but with universal themes and universal appeal.
“I can’t put this work out without first acknowledging that this has been such a difficult and tragic year for so many people, and yet I’ve been fortunate,” Wray says. “The people I love are healthy and our lives, though cloistered, have remained stable. But it’s still been an incredibly difficult, emotionally challenging year for myself and everyone I know. The pandemic, the state of our country, loneliness, gave me so many sleepless nights, worrying about loved ones, the future, the world. During this year, more than ever, photography helped me process fear and uncertainty; it’s a release. For one such experience I visited a local swimming hole, watching people enjoying a sunny day, but I felt so many powerful emotions—the beauty and joy of a summer afternoon mixed with an intense sense of foreboding. The title refers to holding these conflicting feelings together in one place and allowing myself to feel gratitude, guilt, and grief simultaneously.”
Wray’s images are understated in their masterful ability to capture the essence of a place in time she has inhabited. Her work is poetic and easily surpasses her own summary from her Too Tired for Sunshine project statement: “My work is rooted in documentary surrealism. I’m drawn to intense natural light, small details, and use color to evoke mood, atmosphere, and emotion. I’m especially compelled to document to the mundane and absurd aspects of life, and animals, especially dogs.” Wray’s work often comes across as a form of visual diary, communicating her own experiences through her photographs. Wray’s photographic choices suggest emotional states to the audience, often drawing power through the ways in which light and composition evoke feelings that the viewer is not fully aware of. I firmly believe there is something smart yet disarmingly approachable in Wray’s oeuvre, she avoids the appearance of perfectly planned and composed shots in favor of the conceptual — and she truly and expertly presents the ideas behind the images. In the book’s layout, Wray makes wonderful use of pairing images on facing pages, both for their thematic (often humorous) and visual compliment to each other, and single images facing a blank page to heighten the impact or give the viewer a visual resting place.
Year of the Beast is a photo book made during the pandemic in 2020, not of the pandemic. The book is a visual stream of consciousness. As mentioned at the beginning, it is a chronological diary featuring dogs, twins, and domestic scenes from rural Vermont, under a looming specter of doom. Many of the situations or encounters Wray experienced are surely a shared experience with millions of others. Discovering a new-found sense of what it means to share almost every minute with your family for weeks or months at a time; staring with wonder at the way sunlight bounces across the room (because you’ve never stood in your kitchen every weekday afternoon for a month), or experiencing feelings of isolation that swing into thankfulness which turn into fear, and back again.
When asked what the “Year of the Beast” means to her in an NPR feature, Wray says, “Photography helps me process fear and uncertainty. This has been such a difficult and tragic year for so many families, and mine has been very fortunate. I feel extremely grateful that the people in my life are healthy, that we have food security, and a safe, stable home. But it’s still been an incredibly difficult, emotionally challenging year. The pandemic, the state of our country left me with feelings of dread and sorrow and foreboding, and gave me so many sleepless nights, more this year than any other I can remember, even during periods of my life that were more personally challenging to me. I’d take photos of people at a local swimming hole, just enjoying a sunny day, and I’d feel so many conflicting emotions — the beauty and joy of a summer afternoon, but also this intense existential dread. That’s what the title refers to.”
Tara Wray has notably worked on the acclaimed project: Too Tired for Sunshine in 2017/2018 which documented the beauty, darkness, and absurdity of everyday life, as seen through the lens of her own struggles with depression. Wray received an overwhelming wave of support and she used her platform to help people with depression by offering a place for collective creative expression. She also hopes to reduce the stigma of mental illness and open a dialogue about depression and art with her site, Too Tired Project, and the Instagram account Too Tired Project. Year of the Beast is one of the first three books being published by her own imprint, Too Tired Press.
YEAR OF THE BEAST
by Tara Wray
80 pages / 8 x 8 in. / Perfect bound / Signed /Softcover
First Edition limited to 100 copies
Published March 2021
Tara Wray is a photographer, filmmaker, and founder of the Too Tired Project, a non-profit arts organization working to de-stigmatize mental health issues by bringing them out in the open through photography. Her most recent photo book is Year of the Beast, published by Too Tired Press in 2021. Other books include Too Tired for Sunshine (Yoffy Press, 2018), El Dorado Freddy’s (Belt Publishing, 2020, a collaboration with writer Danny Caine), as well as several limited run artist books. Recent exhibitions of Too Tired for Sunshine at Kunst Haus Wien, Museum Hundertwasser, Vienna, Austria; Brush Art Gallery at St. Lawrence University, Canton, NY; Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center Gallery, University of Indianapolis, Indianapolis, IN. Personal work featured on NPR, Vice, Huff Post, Washington Post, Vogue Polska, and more.
When two of his oldest friends died unexpectedly, Rick Schatzberg (born in 1954) turned to photography to cope with his grief. He spent the next year and a half photographing his remaining group of a dozen men who have been close since early childhood. Now in their 67th year, “The Boys,” as they call themselves, grew up together in the 1950s in post-war Long Island, New York.
Conceived from the outset as a photo book, Schatzberg collected old snapshots from the 1970s that tell the story of their shared history and used them to introduce each individual. He paired the vintage photos with contemporary large-format portraits which connect each boy to the man they are today. Interspersed amongst the images are twelve chapters of moving, poetic text in which Schatzberg addresses friendship, aging, loss, suburbia, and memory as the group arrives at the brink of old age. In the final stages of preparation for the book, two more of his friends died. The group had been reduced by two.
In an interview with Float Magazine this year, Schatzberg said this about how the book came to be, and why he approached the subject matter in the way he chose:
“In the spring of 2017, I was in Berlin with my wife Marilyn when I got a message from an old friend telling me Jon had died of a drug overdose. Only 9 months earlier, another friend from our group, Eddie, had died suddenly of a heart attack. On the plane ride home, all I could think about was Jon and Eddie. I saw them vividly, with what seemed like unusual clarity, though I hadn’t really been that close with either of them in many years. My re-estimation of their lives, suddenly with far less judgement than before, surprised me, and also got me thinking about who I should be paying closer attention to. Somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean I got the idea that I should be photographing our remaining group of a dozen childhood friends, many of whom I was still very close to. By the time my plane landed in New York, undertaking a formal photo project about these men and their longstanding friendships seemed the most meaningful project I could imagine.
After Jon’s funeral I mentioned this idea to my friends, and they were all game to participate. As my thinking about the project evolved, I understood that what I really wanted to do went beyond honoring our lost friends’ memories or creating a nostalgic keepsake. I wanted to investigate time and its manner of passing, through the lens of friendship. I wanted to make work that was intimate, remorseless, and loving – with the occasional joke. I wanted to make a book about origins and endings.”
The Boys beautifully and frankly brings me into the intimacy and vulnerability of male friends, and of enduring boyhood friendships which, if we’re lucky, translate into lifelong friendships which gain a patina of sorts. I grew up with a younger sister, and often I don’t understand the relationship other men had with their brothers. They can beat each other up, pee in their brother’s shoes just to get even, all in the name of ‘brotherly love’, and at the same time they often will defend each other to the death against outsiders. This dichotomy is a mystery to me, yet I completely understand the sentiment of “if you mess with one of us, you mess with all of us.” I grew up in small-town suburbia, in a close knit group of guys who attended small schools and everyone knew each other. We are brothers.
I would be remiss if I didn’t speak to the attention given to how this book was conceived and executed as a photo book. The Boys is designed by the award-winning Dutch photo book designer Sybren Kuiper. The book includes a dozen gatefolds each opening to reveal a portrait along with close-ups and details of one of the 12 men. The afterword by Rick Moody is produced as a separate 12-page pamphlet which sits in a “pocket” on the book’s inside back cover. This is one of the best books I’ve reviewed in terms of consideration to how gatefolds and inner revealed pages work with the overarching flows and pacing of the book. Something akin to peeling back the layers of time and emotional levels of intimacy speak to the reader in artfully crafted pages. My one criticism would be the unfortunate placement of a photograph across the gutter – two men in a friendly tussle, or demonstration of ‘brotherly love’, are buried in the fold of the book. Their faces are divided and reduced by the bend of the pages into the center of the binding. Not all photos work across a two page spread, and the designer or publisher should’ve caught this one.
But most importantly, this book is so personal in nature and I’m reminded of the concept that one’s work can reflect how we see ourselves even if the artist themself isn’t captured in the image. The way Schatzberg photographs his friends in portraits as middle aged men, paired with the photographic ephemera of their youth, speaks to the way he might feel about his own existence, his own past, and present as seen with the wisdom and hindsight of decades gone by. At some point in our lives, many of us stare at the unknown years yet to come; and reflect upon the nature of our existence, the meaningfulness of our past, and the value of such things often taken for granted. Like friendships from our childhood. Without rosebud, Citizen Kane wouldn’t be half as relevant, nostalgic or melancholy – that bitter-sweet sadness we welcome and fear all at the same time.
In his closing essay, On Rick Schatzberg’s The Boys, noted novelist Rick Moody writes about the contemporary portraits of the men: ” … photos of creaky, decaying, older white men struggling for dignity are perhaps the hardest photos to look at now. There is no audience, in the strictest sense, for these images, if audience is determined by fashion or by the merchandising demographics of the present. But that’s exactly what makes this book terribly affecting. The relationship of Schatzberg’s gaze to his subjects is never less than loving, never less than intimate, but it is also, fair to say, remorseless. In this, I think, the book tells us a lot about how one thinks about one’s own past.”
by Rick Schatzberg
Essay by Rick Moody
Hardcover, 7-1/2 x 9-3/4 inches, 144 pages
Rick Schatzberg is a photographer living and making work in Brooklyn, New York and Norfolk, Connecticut. He received his MFA in Photography from the University of Hartford in 2018. Schatzberg holds a degree from Columbia University in Anthropology (1978), played French horn with Cecil Taylor’s jazz ensemble in 1970s, and was a business executive and entrepreneur in the New York metropolitan area for many years. In 2015 he completed a one-year certificate program at the International Center of Photography. In the same year, his first monograph, Twenty Two North (self-published), was awarded first prize at Australia’s Ballarat Foto International Biennale. His second monograph, The Boys, was published in 2020 by powerHouse Books.
“Simon Lehner’s works mostly have their core in an autobiographical context. Photography, always fascinating in its ability to store the past in pictures and to keep it ready for later decoding, develops in his pictorial, filmic and also sculptural works through the use of the latest technological possibilities in an expanded, emotionally charged space. He continues to expand the normal process of mapping the medium with highly advanced simulations, which are always based on real photographs.”
FOTOHOF / Inge-Morath-Platz 1-3 / 5020 Salzburg / Austria
“Established in 1935 as a division of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the goal of the National Research Project (NRP) was to investigate new industrial technologies and their effects on employment. Lewis Hine was hired by the WPA to show the modernizing accomplishments of the nation’s factories in the years prior to WWII, particularly those being fitted for the most sophisticated forms of industrial production. Hine focused most specifically on the reorganized workplaces that were created by these modernizing efforts. It was during this time, for example, that women began entering the factory floor and joining the assembly line, and in the case of Hine’s photographs, were being called upon to help produce many of the country’s newest and most elaborate technologies.”
Howard Greenberg Gallery
41 East 57th Street, Suite 1406, New York.
“In the presented long-term photographic project, Jozef Sedlak deals with so-called tests, the waste that is created in a darkroom during the analog enlargement process. These are small fragments, strips of photographic paper used to verify the correct exposition during enlargement, and which are not later chemically fixed. By means of oxidation, the effect of developer, fixer, water and joint superimposition during the photographic processing, together they cling and change their readability, tint, hue and picture quality.”
Photon Gallery Vienna
Zieglergasse 34, 1070 Wien
“Including breathtaking views of the Arc de Triomphe, Musée du Louvre, Jardin des Tuileries, Hôtel des Invalides, Tour Montparnasse, Centre Pompidou, the Seine, and La Défense, among many other loca- tions, Milstein’s highly detailed images bring these unmatched aerial vistas of Paris to life. A portfolio of images of the gardens and buildings of Château de Versailles, Louis XIV’s great palace, is also included.”
31 Mill Hill Rd · Woodstock · New York · 12498
I do not find these photographs especially well-crafted, do not deem the framing very appealing but, nevertheless, I feel drawn to them because wide open spaces attract me. In other words, I do not think you can do much wrong when photographing open landscapes. Such was my take after a first and rather casual look at these pics. Upon closer inspection I’ve however realised that quite obviously I was missing what these photographs were all about – for there are objects in the pictures that weren’t meant to be there or so I thought.
The accompanying text “Military-Pastoral Incursions” by Matthew Flintham explains: “Here on Salisbury Plain, Britain’s largest military training area, the photographer Melanie Friend identifies the subtle markers of military power, exclusion and danger, and the uneasy union of the martial and the pastoral.” With this in mind, I see what is in front of me differently. I suspect this is due to the information given and not because of the photographs for my mind now wanders to what is not on the pictures – soldiers in training (running, exercising, shooting – always in groups).
But back to Flintham’s text. “Friend’s Salisbury Plain is littered with mysterious artifacts, cryptic signs and architectural anomalies.” The concrete examples he gives I would have not seen without his elaborations. What he points at, interprets, insinuates might be of interest to the ones who are into “Military-Pastoral Incursions,” for the ones mainly into visual framing (like me) it is disappointing.
Or, differently put: As a photographic work or a visual undertaking, “The Plain” doesn’t convince me, as a visual education project it however does. Thanks to the scarce but telling notes/captions at the end and the accompanying texts, that is, for only they made me contextualise what was in front of my eyes. Without this information I doubt that I would have even guessed that I was looking at a military zone.
“The Plain” does however not only show a militarised zone but “also presents an English landscape which endures despite or even because of its current custodians, a landscape formed and forged in contradictions.” Right, but contradictions only exist in our minds, photos cannot show them.
There are also interesting and varied “Voices from the Plain” found in his tome. The one that appealed to me the most were (for it captured what I felt after I knew what I was looking at): “There are two contrasting realities: one minute it could be a practsising war zone, and the next minute it’s wonderfully peaceful with the larks singing and wild flowers.” And (for it made me aware. Once again, how photography can enlarge one’s horizon): “It seems whereever I’ve been, there has been some sort of military thing going on. If you look at a map of Britain which has got the military bases on it, it’s quite staggering … it’s quite a job to go somewhere where there’s no military.”
by Melanie Friend
Dewi Lewis Publishing, Stockport, England 2021