Thursday, October 29, 2009

Outer space

Sean Higgins, Pillars, 2008

Le immagini di Sean Higgins mostrano esplosioni, lanci di missili e paesaggi naturali trasformati in oggetti misteriosi in qualche modo alieni al nostro mondo, usando ancora una volta la fotografia come un gioco con la nostra percezione del reale, una collezione di esemplari impossibili, tracce di fenomeni familiari private di ogni spazio e tempo plausibili.

Sean Higgins, I'm a Mountain, Man, 2009

Sean Higgins' images show explosions, missile launches and natural landscapes turned into mistery objects somehow aliens to our world, turning photography once more into a game with our perception of reality, collecting impossible specimens detached from any familiar concept of time and space.

Sean Higgins, Rochambeau, 2009

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Eye pathologies

Juul Hondius, UN/Defender, 2000

Torniamo ancora sulla fotografia olandese: "un'iconografia critica del presente" è l'espressione usata da Juul Hondius per descrivere le sue fotografie, messe in scena che parlano di alcuni dei più ricorrenti temi del fotogiornalismo contemporaneo, come rifugiati, forze di pace e diversi scenari di attualità internazionale come l'ex Yugoslavia. Immagini che ricordano migliaia di fotografie viste e riviste, ma con una pulizia, una ricchezza di dettagli e un'immobilità che trattengono i nostri occhi invece di colpirci e farci muovere alla foto successiva. Icone di icone, imitano il linguaggio dei media riallestendo i soggetti di cui si nutrono, un'illustrazione "patologica" del nostro sguardo intorpidito sul mondo.

Juul Hondius, Canal, 2000

More Dutch photography: "a critical iconography of the present" is an expression used by Juul Hondius to describe his photographs, set-up scenes that deal with some of the most recurrent subjects of contemporary photojournalism, like refugees and international peace corps in former Yugoslavia and other international scenarios. These images look like thousands of news photos we've seen over and over, but have a neatness, richness of details and stillness that makes us 'stay' on the image, rather than being hit by the content and move fast on to the next one. Icons of icons, they mock the media language by restaging its subject matter, a "pathological" illustration of the numbness of our gaze on the world.

Juul Hondius, Busfront #1, 2006

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Monday, October 26, 2009

The Flying Dutchman

© Gerco de Ruijter

Piuttosto ovvio, certo, ma come altro chiamare Gerco de Ruijter e le sue immagini realizzate in volo con un aquilone o con un pallone aerostatico? L'astrazione diventa come una superficie attraverso cui percepiamo elementi familiari in una nuova luce, ripensando le relazioni tra i diversi elementi del paesaggio: il familiare e lo sconosciuto si scambiano di posto, come il piccolo e il grande, immersi in queste vedute al di là di ogni punto di visione.

© Gerco de Ruijter

Pretty obvious, of course, but how else can be called Gerco de Ruijter, whose work is entirely made of landscape images taken from a flying kite or recently even from a balloon? Abstraction here becomes just a surface through which we can perceive all sorts of familiar elements under a new light, redesigning the relationship between the different elements of the land, familiar and unknown trade places, as large and small do in these views that leave us with no clear point of view.

© Gerco de Ruijter

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Indian summer

Dayanita Singh, Poppy, 2006

Solo oggi ho scoperto la fotografa indiana Dayanita Singh, e le sue immagini mi hanno subito colpito per la loro eleganza e l'intensità (qualcuno l'ha definita 'cerebrale', io direi piuttosto che la sua fotografia è essenziale e al tempo stesso estremamente ricca), i suoi ritratti solenni ma così semplici, gli interni vuoti ma abitati da gesti e segni di tante persone diverse, una visione dell'India ovviamente così distante dalla trita percezione occidentale presente ovunque.
Un mosaico da ricostruire in rete (anche qui e qui), alcune cose da leggere (qui e qui, ancora), un'intervista, la recensione di un suo libro.

Dayanita Singh, Sundarba gloves, 2006

I have never heard of Indian photographer Dayanita Singh until today, and her images immediately struck me for their elegance, their depth made out of simple things (somebody defined her 'cerebral', which I disagree, I just find her essential and rich at the same time), her solemn yet sober portraits, her empty interiors so full of human traces, her view of India obviously so far from our Western vintage cliches.
A whole world to be discovered here and there on the Internet, a few things to read about her (here and here), an interview, a review of one of her books.

Dayanita Singh, Dark Tent, 2007

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Common places #2

Till Roesken during Plan de situation #2 : Sélestat, 2005-2006

Si può raccontare la storia di un luogo condensandolo in uno stile visivo forte e coerente, oppure all'opposto si può scegliere di arrendersi al luogo che si vuole esplorare, vagare dentro di esso, guardare, ascoltare, cominciare a disegnarne una mappa, un incrocio tra una ricognizione e un diario personale, una "geografia soggettiva" dei luoghi plasmata dalle esperienze delle persone che li vivono.
Proprio come fa Till Roesken, fondendo fotografia, cartografia, video, storia orale, disegni e altro ancora, inseguendo storie non raccontate, cose dimenticate, bellezze trascurate.

Till Roesken, taken from Plan de situation #6 : Joliette, 2007 - ongoing

One way to tell the story of a place with images is to condense everything into a clear and strong visual approach, another one, on the opposite side, can be just to surrender to the place you chose, wander through it, look at things, listen to people, draw a map little by little, a map that is halfway between a survey and a personal diary, "subjective geographies" of places shaped by the experiences of the people living in them.
This is what Till Roesken does, merging photography, cartography, video, oral history, drawings and more, chasing untold stories, forgotten things, unnoticed beauties.

Till Roesken, front cover of the book Quelques-unes des choses que j’ai vues à Marseille, 2008

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Common places

Common Place © Eoin O Conaill

Luoghi ameni e deserti, luce notturna o crepuscolare, nebbia, ritratti neutrali, formato quadrato: Eoin O Conaill sembra avere tutti gli ingredienti del fotografo documentarista contemporaneo, come dimostra il suo lavoro Common Place (con cui quest'anno ha vinto l'Artist Award della Gallery of Photography di Dublino), "un'esplorazione visiva dell'Irlanda di oggi e della fase di rapido cambiamento culturale e economico che sta attraversando".

Common Place © Eoin O Conaill

Odd or empty places, dawn or night light, fog, 'deadpan' portraiture, square format: Eoin O Conaill seems to have all the ingredients of the documentary photographer of our time, shown in his body of work Common Place (for which he received this year's Gallery of Photography Artist Award), "a visual exploration of Ireland during the recent period of rapid cultural and economic change".

Common Place © Eoin O Conaill

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Shaping chaos

Havana © Jan Koster

Cuba e La Avana sono spesso il soggetto di lavori fotografici coloriti e colorati, folkloristici o dallo stile molto aggressivo, dove molte volte il fotografo di turno non riesce a evitare di mostrare le automobili d'epoca, gli edifici malandati e la gente di Cuba con quello stile che inevitabilmente vuole dirti cosa guardare, e come guardarlo. Immagini obbligate, che finiscono per essere ostaggio dei loro soggetti, immagini in qualche modo a tesi, tesi a cui devono conformarsi e confermare.
È quindi sempre una piacevole sensazione quando si incontra un lavoro dove il fotografo semplicemente applica una propria visione alla realtà che ha intorno, lasciando che il luogo in cui si muove sia libero di mostrare o nascondere aspetti di sè, cercando di descriverne la sua complessità piuttosto che pretendere di smascherarne una presunta 'verità'.

Havana © Jan Koster

Jan Koster mi ha scritto per segnalarmi il suo ultimo lavoro, Havana, affascinanti vedute della capitale cubana dove nessuno ci porta per mano, nessuno ci dice dove sia il bene o il male, dove non c'è morale della favola.
Il suo lavoro mi ha ricordato Havana di Robert Polidori, anche se la sensazione è che lì prevalga il contrasto fra l'eleganza della visione e la decadenza dei luoghi. Oppure si può scegliere una terza via e guardare i paesaggi interiori di Havana Series di Alexey Titarenko, dove tutti i possibili cliché su Cuba si trasformano in eleganti allucinazioni.

Havana © Jan Koster

Cuba and La Havana are obviously often the subject for colourful, folkloristic or in-your-face photographic works, where the photographer most of the times can't help showing old vintage cars, worn out buildings and, of course, the Cuban people in a way that inevitably tell the viewer what to look at, and why. The images end up many times simply being overtaken by their (presumed) subject, and there's a strong feeling of a thesis that precedes all the photographs, which then can easily end up just being supposed to confirm that thesis. Hence it is always a nice and fresh feeling when you run into some work where the photographer simply tries to apply his vision to a general subject, letting the place he moves inside being free to show and/or hide things about itself, trying to depict its complexity rather than pretending to unmask its supposed 'true nature'.

Havana © Robert Polidori

Jan Koster sent me word this morning about his new project Havana, beautiful views of the urban landscape of the Cuban capitol where we are left just with our own judgement or feeling to read what we have in front of us, nobody taking us by hand, nobody showing us the good or the bad, no moral of the story.
His work made me think again of Robert Polidori's Havana, though my feeling is that his work aims more at expressing the contrast between the grandeur of the vision and the decadence of the places.
Third choice could be the inner landcsapes of Alexey Titarenko's Havana Series, where all the Cuban cliches are turned into elegant hallucinations.

Havana Series © Alexey Titarenko

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Domande a Seba Kurtis

video


"Negli corso degli ultimi anni decine di migliaia di africani hanno raggiunto le coste delle Isole Canarie e migliaia di loro sono morti tentando di arrivarci, probabilmente per disidratazione e esposizione al sole.

Ho immerso le lastre fotografiche che avevo esposto dentro lo stesso oceano che queste persone hanno cercato di attraversare.

Le immagini che vedete sono quelle che sono sopravvissute."

Il fotografo argentino Seba Kurtis usa queste parole per introdurre la sua serie Drowned, ma in qualche modo possono riassumere tutto il lavoro fotografico che ha realizzato fino ad oggi: una lotta per salvare deboli tracce di esistenze invisibili, un mondo di volti graffiati via dalla superficie delle fotografie, memorie logore di vite logorate.
Ci siamo conosciuti circa un mese fa all'ultimo SiFest, abbiamo parlato (e riso) di tante cose e la logica conclusione è stata di continuare la nostra conversazione via e-mail. Buona lettura.

"Tens of thousands of Africans have reached the Canary Islands in recent years, thousands or more are believed to have drowned or died of thirt or exposure in the attempt.

I drowned the boxes with the sheets of film off the shores of the same ocean that they crossed.

The images represented are those which survived."

This is how Argentinian photographer Seba Kurtis introduces his series Drowned, but these words can easily sum up the spirit of all his work so far: a struggle to preserve faint traces of invisible people, a world of faces scratched away from the surface of the photographs, of worn out memories from worn out lives.
We met a month ago at the last SiFest, had fun, talked about a lot of things and decided to hook up again by e-mail for an interview. Enjoy the read.


HIPPOLYTE BAYARD: Your work deals mostly with immigration and you’ve been an illegal immigrant yourself during your first years in Europe. What can you tell us about those years and how and when did photography become part of your life?

SEBA KURTIS: An old friend of mine left me his camera for two months when he went traveling, I fell in love immediately. I always wanted to be a writer and at that point my writing was motivated by strong feelings against the fake democracy and the past regime... but it didn’t feel natural, it felt really forced, in contrast I felt really comfortable with the camera and I knew that it was the right medium for me to express all of that anger. The problem was that me and my family had financial struggles that were getting worse every year, so I found a free night course once a week for beginners, It was great, most of them attending were pensioners and maybe just 2 people had a camera, so the tutor have to make us do collages and stuff like that instead of shooting… but the same year I decided to leave and become an illegal immigrant in Europe, in order to try for a better life and help my family. So life gets put on hold temporarily as the daily fears and insecurities take over and prevent you making any plans, the first 3 years were really bad… I had to work on big construction sites in Spain and get used to long hours, hiding, sharing small flats with 12 people, watching friends being deported and sometimes we didn’t even get paid. After 5 years I got married to an Italian friend to get my papers, at that moment I was sleeping on a sofa where I used to work and had been for nearly a year, I was drinking too much and had lost all future direction… Until I met Clare, my “real” wife, she gave me the opportunity and encouragement to pursue my dream of becoming a photographer.


HB: The issue of immigration is raised by your work in different ways: as a border you try to cross, as a country that will never really accept you, as a place you leave to go elsewhere, and probably more. Which is the thing that affected you most and inspired your work?

SK: It was definitely the experience of working and making relationships with people from Africa. I never imagined they experienced such a difficult life…They try for years to get a passage to Europe in overcrowded boats that have a high risk of drowning at sea, some loose family members on the voyage, have had to sell their house in order to pay the human traffickers and many face getting sent back after spending a few degrading months in refugees centers… It’s not just that, it’s the racial abuse they have to continually suffer for the ones who do actually made it. I remember two new guys from Senegal, who were working with us in a building site in the middle of nowhere and after 40 days of hard work they got paid with photocopies of Euros! What do you do? The guy who contracted them said that if they make a fuss he would hand them over to the immigration police, so they are helpless, without rights and beyond which afraid to go back to the misery of no prospects and poverty in their homeland. They end up just putting their heads down, losing self respect and try to get another job so that they can send money back to their struggling families, as they are the only hope back home… I saw lots of things in those years man, people are dying… it’s so sad. I think the anger that results from witnessing these kinds of experiences motivates and animates my work. The frustration that we as a society accept that someone can be illegal and thus without rights just because they are temporarily living in another country, is insane… as when you and your family are hungry, you… anyone would do whatever was in their power to change that situation…

HB: I remember you saying once that your images are different from the conventional documentary or news photography about immigration and that your approach was more ‘romantic’ than the usual one. What do you mean with ‘romantic’ and what do you think of news photography and they way it usually deals with the same issues you work on?

SK: Yes, I think the romantic notion evolved because I always shoot by my instincts, it has to feel right… as I don’t see anything wrong with combining aesthetics with feelings or passion. I can’t plan too much before hand in a contrived, institutional way how to execute my projects, it hinders the sincerity and creative freedom of my work. I am more interested in what my images don’t show with regards to trauma and conflict, as I want to stimulate and engage with the audience in a way that challenges them more deeply and the text to create internal dialogue and promote discussion. I have to be honest about my practice, that the work I produce is mainly for me and a photography/art audience… as I could do much more effective things to help these people.


HB: To me your images are often about what remains, about the impossibility of seeing or showing certain things, they look like faint traces of a life, a place, a time. Huge light leaks, damaged emulsions, burned sheets often return in your series. Why did you choose to give this kind of treatment to your film sheets?

SK: It started as an accident in a project I did in Chez Rep. the project didn’t work, but I felt that that the images represented what I was looking for… When you are illegal, especially after you have faced deportation a few times, you want to become invisible, so you start to believe that it is true, that you don’t deserve to have the same rights that a normal citizen possesses. Your life become really chaotic, sharing overcrowded apartments to save on living costs, accepting that you can’t make plans for more than a month at a time as you don’t know if you will still have your job tomorrow? So I found myself changing habits, loosing my spirit… And it’s not easy go back to normal afterwards, even when you sort out your situation… so I think that all this chaos was reflected in my project. I wanted to shoot in large format, but the only camera I found was in quite a bad state, the film was out of date, no changing bag, no light meter, no cable release… It didn’t really matter for me, I was used to imperfect things! When I saw the result I was more attracted to the damage than the sharpness and perfection, for me it was a good representation of that chaotic lifestyle, so I started to purposefully vandalize some of the film.
The Drowned series is a clear example how the work takes its own form, I was shooting landscapes basically, where the clandestine people arrived from Africa or the beaches where they worked… I thought it would be really clean and pretty. But in the process, before I finished shooting I saw a documentary in the TV where the Navy intercepted a boat full of people in the ocean and left them to drown… so I decided to drown the boxes with the film in the same ocean, before processing them…
Maybe the next project will be more “normal”, I wouldn’t want this to be the only formula for my work, but its works well for me at the moment.


HB: Did you ever work in Argentina or are you planning to do it in the future?

SK: I’m currently looking to get funding to go back to Quilmes, where I grew up, in the Suburbs of Buenos Aires. I remember when I was a teenager a new kind of violence emerged, where you could get shot for a pair of new trainers, a jacket or what ever change you had in your pocket.
Then, 2 years before I left, a new wave of crime hit the streets: ‘The kidnap express’… where you could be kidnapped in broad daylight for a few hours, whilst they made a call to your family and demanded a small amount of money (like Eu500) for your safe return. These threats and daily struggles, along with the stress of unemployment, no hope of a prosperous future or a way out for young people pre-empted my decision to leave.
For many years, owing to my irregular migration situation in Europe, I couldn’t go back to Quilmes to see my friends and family and check out how life was progressing. Now I have the resources and documents that give me the freedom to travel and the burning desire to not just re-visit my hometown, but realise my passion to record the journey… as an artist.

HB: Your use of the view camera is pretty unusual, often it is chosen to make neat and detailed images while you tend to throw it in the real world and let it be affected by it, like that image in A Few Days More that is almost just a white surface, and you told us the story of the people trying to prevent you from exposing the sheet. Why did you choose to use a view camera instead of a more practical and fast to use kind of technical gear?


SK: You are right with the expression ‘Throw it in the real world’… just like everyday life in Latin America, where you go to work everyday, try to make it right, earn the money for the family and then one day the corrupt politicians made a pact with the banks (all Europeans banks only perform atrocities with banks of developed countries…) and they froze our money. So they throw all the families of a nation to the real world, to survive, without their own money, all the life earnings and then you have to go and beg to the bank for 5 pounds a day for food of your own money… that is the real world down there. My way of shooting is similar, I try to make it right, shoot in detail, like we expect when someone shoots on Large Format, the “perfection” of 10x8 or 5x4… and then throw it to the real world, like you said…
I choose work with plaque cameras to give to the performance and the relationship with the sitter more importance...
Pictures like the one you mention in Rashid, would not have been possible to shoot with a small camera. As by the time I put the camera on the tripod and the hoodie on to focus, I saw them coming and I knew that they would try to stop me… there was this physical tension so I didn’t have time to set up the camera, only to take out the darkslide and shoot, in effect the people who tried to stop me actually set up the camera for me, and that’s great…

HB: SalAM brings back once more many elements of your other series: a photographic studio full of old objects and found photographs. What can you tell us about this work?


SK: I was shooting in north Africa, in Muslim countries, where human traffickers had created new routes to smuggle immigrants to Italy and Greece... My fixer after 2 days gave me a knife to protect myself and then he disappeared, I don't speak Arabic, my 5x4 and I weren't welcome in those places, I felt the friction from the people everyday in the streets, even physical contact to try to stop me taking photographs...
At the same time I was fascinated by the photo studios that were in every village, I visited one just for curiosity and experienced first hand the universal language of photography. They loved my camera and I loved their passion... they even invited me for tea, whereas outside they tried to punch me… So in between the waiting for access or contacts to emerge I started to visit those local photo studios where people understood each other with out talking... Unexpectedly this project came alive…

HB: The overall feeling I get from your work is that it looks the story of a constant struggle to preserve memories and personal histories from all the events that can fall on somebody’s life, and you express this with images that look like they might disappear while you’re watching them, like fragile things. The subjects of your images are often elusive, whether it is the corner of a room or a landscape, there’s always the feeling that what you want to say is that photography should never show much, to leave space for the viewer to fill the image with his or her own feelings. Even people in your portraits look like we see them through some kind of veil, as if they might disappear any moment. Fragile subjects, fragile photographs: do you perceive your own work somehow in this direction?

SK: Absolutely, that is a great perception of the work. In a way it is what I want to communicate with the audience, by leaving them a bit of space to participate, interact with the work and to allow them to experience their own undirected feelings …
With regards to ‘Fragile subjects’… this relates to the instability of your future… at some point I was up in court for falsification of documents in Spain, and I remember the fear of being deported, the fear of having to start all over again from scratch, that everything can disappear in a blink… and I think that that is where the fragility of my subjects emerges. Imagine having to live where each day poses the threat of having to start over again, and again… after a few times that becomes part of who you are and your everyday life.


HB: What are you currently working on these days?

SK: I am putting together the photos that were found that you mentioned before with some super 8 film for a show in London. In the late 80’s beginning of the 90’s Argentina suffered another crisis, and my dad lost his business and our house, along with all the belongings inside. We got repossessed, so they even took the furniture, the only thing that belonged to us at that moment was a box that contained all the family memories. When I brought my parents to Europe, my mom started to work as an illegal too, in a hotel cleaning rooms and toilets and my dad worked as a night security guard … so it was impossible to go back to Argentina for a few years, now they are more financially secure and they have started their own little business and had the chance to go back and visit family and friends. They brought back the box with the photos and a few super 8 films, unfortunately they suffered a flood, but we can still see the beauty of them… I am also shooting a big commission in the UK, it is the first time I have shot in the place where I live, it explores the perceived romantic notion of living in a first world country that attracts people to risk everything to experience it. The reality is considerably different, so my shooting is based on that incoherence, those differences…


All images and video © Seba Kurtis

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Online

Annalisa Sonzogni, surround #1, 2008

Un anno e mezzo fa scrivevo della fotografa e videoartista (queste due cose sempre più spesso vengono insieme oggi) Annalisa Sonzogni, lamentandomi della mancanza di gallerie on line decenti che mostrassero il suo lavoro e chiedendomi perchè tanti fotografi italiani non hanno un sito.
Adesso lei ne ha aperto uno, con una bella retrospettiva dei suoi lavori dagli inizi fino alla produzione attuale.

Annalisa Sonzogni, derive #2, 2006

A year and half ago I was wiriting about photographer and video artist (these two things tend to come together more and more these days) Annalisa Sonzogni, complaining about the lack of decent online photogalleries of her work and wondering why so many Italian photographers don't have a website.
Well, she has one now, with a full retrospective of her work so far.

Annalisa Sonzogni, teorema praha #7, 2004

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Theatre of War

© Richard Mosse

L'ultimo numero di Visura Magazine presenta un nuovo video di Richard Mosse, dal titolo Theatre of War. Realizzato in Iraq all'interno del palazzo di uno dei figli di Saddam Hussein, mostra piccoli gruppi di soldati americani tra le rovine della reggia, una sequenza di tele in movimento carica di suggestioni prese dalla storia della pittura. Ampi totali o lentissimi movimenti di macchina intensificano il minimo gesto fatto dalle piccole figure dei soldati, creando una sorta di 'fotografia animata', la perfetta trasposizione in video dello stile fotografico di Mosse.

© Richard Mosse

Il suo video mi ha ricordato il documentario di Werner Herzog Lessons of Darkness del 1992, dove filmò le devastazioni della prima Guerra del Golfo come il deserto in fiamme di un pianeta lontano, mai menzionando il Kuwait o anche il Pianeta Terra stesso. La prevalenza di inquadrature fisse o di riprese aeree, il leggero slow motion e la persistenza delle immagini data da un montaggio dal ritmo molto lento fanno sì che lo speattore continui a guardare e a riguardare le immagini che ha di fronte, a insistere su di esse. L'immagine diventa così la 'casa' che ospita innumerevoli grandi e piccoli eventi di cui noi testimoniamo l'accadere dentro di essa, piuttosto che essere percepita (o realizzata) come un blocco unico da consumare in pochi secondi per poter passare a quella successiva.

Proprio come accade in fotografia, in fondo.

Film still from Lessons of Darkness, Werner Herzog, 1992

The last issue of Visura Magazine features a new video by photographer and video artist Richard Mosse, Theatre of War. Shot in Iraq inside the palace of one of Saddam Hussein's son, it shows little groups of US soldiers among the ruins of the palace, a sequence of moving canvas "redolent of classical history painting". Steady wide shots or ultra slow pans enhance any little gesture made by the tiny figures of the soldiers, and the result is some kind of 'photography in motion', the perfect transposition of Mosse's photographic language into moving image.

His video reminded me of Werner Herzog's 1992 documentary Lessons of Darkness, where he filmed the aftermath of the first Gulf War like the burning desert of a distant planet, never mentioning the Kuwaiti country or even the planet Earth. The predominance of steady or aerial shots, the slight slow motion of the whole documentary and the persistence of the images due to the slow-paced editing make so that the viewer has to actually keep on watching the images in front of him or her. The image then becomes like a 'house' hosting countless small or big events that we witness happening 'inside' it, it's not just a whole that we consume in a few seconds so we can move to the next one.

Just like photography can be.


Lessons of Darkness, Werner Herzog, 1992

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Sunday, October 4, 2009

When lightning strikes

Hiroshi Sugimoto, Lightning Fields 144, 2009

Elettricità che disegna su lastre fotografiche, questo è ciò che vediamo accadere nell'ultimo lavoro di Hiroshi Sugimoto, Lightning Fields (attualmente alla Fraenkel Gallery di San Francisco), dove l'artista usa un generatore di Van de Graaff da 400000 volt direttamente sulla superficie fotosensibile.
Fiumi di luce con centinaia di affluenti, alberi su colline che sembrano venire da favole nere, bianche silhouette di creature dal fondo dell'oceano e tutto quello che possiamo scoprire nelle forme delle nuvole quando teniamo gli occhi al cielo si trova in questo viaggio lungo l'esistenza della luce. La ricerca di Sugimoto sembra andare sempre più a fondo verso le origini dell'atto del vedere e dell'immagine fotografica stessa (un pezzo su Modern Painters qui), un capitolo dopo l'altro, fino a questo punto dove non c'è più scena di fronte alla macchina fotografica, nessun obbiettivo a definire lo spazio inquadrato, nessun otturatore: restano solo i sali d'argento, e la luce liberata dal suo domatore.

Hiroshi Sugimoto, Lightning Fields 13, 2006

Electricity draws images on dry plates in Hiroshi Sugimoto's last body of work, Lightning Fields (currently on show at Frankel Gallery), where he uses a 400.000 volt Van De Graaff generator to apply static onto his film sheets.
Rivers of bright light with hundreds of little affluents, stylised trees on a hill that seem to come straight from a dark fairy tale, white silhouettes of creatures from the depths of the oceans and anything else we can see in the clouds' shapes when we look at the sky can be found in this journey through the life of light. Sugimoto's investigations seems to be going further deeper into the roots of the act of seeing itself and of the photographic image as well (a piece on Modern Painters here), adding one chapter after the other, rarifying more and more the content of his own images, up to the point where there's no scene in front of a camera, no lens to define the space to photograph, no shutter speed: only a sensible surface is left, and light unleashed by its tamer.

Hiroshi Sugimoto, Lightning Fields 128, 2008

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Friday, October 2, 2009

A storm in a teacup

Sonja Brass, Tornado, 2005

Mi unisco alla lista degli ammiratori di Sonja Brass, dopo aver visto alcuni suoi lavori all'interno della mostra Realtà Manipolate in corso al Palazzo Strozzi di Firenze. Le sue immagini mostrano forze della natura in azione, rappresentate in un modo quasi ultraterreno, libero da ogni costrizione di gravità, punto di vista, vita mortale. Si tratta di modellini realizzati nel suo studio, miniature di fenomeni incontrollabili da essere umano. L'unico difetto che ho sentito nella presentazione dei lavori riguarda la dimensione delle stampe, che mi sembra eccessiva e che crea una sorta di conflitto percettivo: un effetto di vastità (neanche del tutto supportato dall'effettiva resa di dettaglio e dalla definizione delle stampe) che espande troppo la rappresentazione, mentre un'immagine più piccola forse avrebbe arricchito la combinazione della costruzione in miniatura con la vastità delle reali forze della natura.

I've joined the list of admirers of Sonja Brass after having seen some images from her work The Quiet of Dissolution in the exhibition Realtà Manipolate (Manipulating Reality) at Palazzo Strozzi in Florence. Her images show natural forces in action, depicted in a god-like way, free from any constraint of gravity, point of view, mortality. She achieved this vision by constructing her own tiny forces of nature in her lab, miniatures of powers beyond human control. Only flaw I personally felt in the work as presented concerns the size of the prints, which looks to me overblown, thus creating some perceptive conflict: a larger-than-life effect (not even fully supported by the quality and details of the prints, I would add) that expands too much the depiction, while my feeling is that a smaller image would have increased the beautiful effect given by the combination of the miniature realisation with the vastity of the real natural forces.

Sonja Brass, Lava Flow, 2005

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