Monday, 5 December 2011

The Geography of Nowhere

The blog has had to take a bit of a back seat these last 2 weeks as Vanessa had to travel back home for personal reasons.

New Mexico

While I was in New York, I was having a conversation with the photographer John Trotter about my first impressions of the US. He recommended I read the book, The Geography of Nowhere by James Howard Kunstler. The opening page in this book sums up our feelings fairly well.

" Eighty percent of everything built in America has been built in the last fifty years, and most of it depressing, brutal, ugly, unhealthy, and spiritually degrading- the jive plastic commuter tract home wastelands, the potemkin village shopping plazas with their vast parking lagoons, the Lego-block hotels complexes, the "gourmet mansardic" junk food joints, the Orwellian office parks, featuring
buildings sheathed in the same reflective glass as the sunglasses worn by chaingang guards, the particle-board garden apartments rising up in every meadow and cornfield, the freeway loops around every big and little city with their clusters of discount merchandise marts, the whole destructive, wasteful, toxic. agroaphobia-inducing spectacle that politicians proudly call "Growth".

New Mexico         

New Mexico

New Mexico

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Robert Adams

While we were in Denver we went  to see an exhibition of Robert Adams work, which by chance was on during our stop there.
I only fairly recently got to know/appreciate Adams work.....I guess in the past I'd been fairly dismissive of anything that smelled too much of landscape stupid I have been...
Anyway, a few months before leaving the UK I bought Adam's Summer Nights Walking, it's a beautiful small book.
So I was happy to find this exhibition on. As always it's a pleasure to be near the prints, and as I discover, to be near to where Adams lived and worked...I begin to understand more beyond the images on the page....
Adams, to me, is a bit of a spiritual man, and some of the small sentences he writes feel so pure in their origin...

"often there doesn't seem to be anything there, I feel foolish to have stopped, but small things can become important, a Lark or a Mailbox, or Sunflowers.
and if I wait I may see architecture - the road, the fields, the sky." RA
this one I also liked
"on the Prairies there is sometimes a quiet so absolute that it allows me to begin again, to love the future"
You can see more of Adams work and listen to him speak here , here, and here

installation Denver

all images © to Robert Adams

Monday, 21 November 2011

The Car

©Andrew Bush
Many of the secondhand bookshops we have been in have very good photography sections.
We recently picked up Andrew Bush 's book Drive.  Shot between 1989 and 1997 around LA. Andrew created a rig which would allow him to shoot while driving at speed of between 50 to 70 MPH.
Here is an interview explaining his methods.
©Andrew Bush
©Andrew Bush
While trying to figure out how to photograph the street, one of the methods I have been employing is photographing people in their cars. It's one of the few methods I've found of creating portraits of people in the landscape . The light at this time of the year is perfect for this.
Ogden, Utah
Spokane, Washington

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

MoMA interviews and NYC

MoMA have audio interviews from all the photographers in the New Photography show up on their website. Tomorrow there is a second opening of the exhibition alongside 2 other photography exhibitions showing in the other galleries. So a 3 day break from the road trip and back to NYC.
It feels like a different country. After the open landscape of the West, the empty streets, the suburbs and almost exclusively white population, it is great to be in the grime, the noise, the busy streets and the many different shades of people. I have to admit I've missed the unpredictability a big city gives you.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Veterans day

Listening to National Public Radio in the car yesterday, there was a discussion and phone-in about war veterans. A lot of vets were calling in about their situation since leaving the army. Whatever we might think about the rights and wrongs of all the wars the US and it's European allies have been involved in, their stories were incredibly sad and tragic. What really got me, was the high level of homelessness and unemployment . About 1/3 or 110,000 of the male adult homeless population are veterans, and more than 1/2 of these are African American or Hispanic. On top of all this you have post-traumatic stress disorder, mental illness, alcohol and/or substance abuse, marriage and family breakups
I find it hard to understand politicians that are happy to send young men and women to war but are not willing to take responsibility of these same people once they leave the army. 
More info on unemployment of young vets here at Bloomberg.
Also on the NPR website are portraits of Veterans by Suzanne Opton
Through The Lens: Seeing Veterans Up Close
©Suzannes Opton


Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Levittown: First American Suburb

Came across this article on the BBC website the other day about the first US Suburb, Levittown in Pennsylvania

Sunday, 6 November 2011

They have all moved to the Mall.

While we were in New York, we made a visit to Aperture and came across the newly released book by Brian UlrichIs this great or what.

The book is a 10 year work looking at shopping malls,  thrift shops and shops that have closed down.
It's a really well realised project and well worth buying a copy.
Here is an Interview with Joerg Colberg on Conscientious Extended.

© Brian Ulrich
I only mention Brians work now, because by coincidence  Vanessa received an email from Stanley Wolukau-Wanambwa who edits the interesting website The Great Leap Sideways
 "I noticed George had mentioned the absence of people on the streets and downtown, and mention it only because I just interviewed Brian Ulrich about his Copia work for the forthcoming book and he said that he saw that work in a way as taking street photography indoors, because that was where the people had moved to. It casts his pictures in an interesting light I think, when you look at them in that fashion."
I couldn't agree more, the street in small towns and cities has difinately moved to the strip malls.
It's a fairly depressing sight to see. From town to town you see the same companies dominating. In a land that's supposed to promote competition, I think I have never seen such a narrow amount of choice. 
Downtowns have been designated historical centres, with a few independent shops, bars and galleries. But even these begin to take on a repetition. Thankfully the landscape that surrounds these towns is truly stunning, beautiful and keeps surprising us.


Friday, 4 November 2011

Installation photographs from Hereford

Just received some installation photos from the Hereford photography festival.
Georgia  "Seeds carried by the Wind"
Georgia  "Seeds carried by the Wind
Shadow of the Bear
Shadow of the Bear

Monday, 31 October 2011

Homage to Robert Frank

It's impossible to do a road trip project on the US without Robert Frank being in our thoughts. The Americans has played an important role as part of our photographic education, and continues to be the yardstick for the photography book.
In Eureka, we managed to pickup an original copy of New York to Nova Scotia,  the timely aspect of seeing the book and it's relevance to us now,  is very fitting.
The book is mostly letters and essays through Franks career and is a perfect companion. His images are already in our minds, and in many ways we are paying visual homage to a man who defined the medium of the photography book to speak about a Nation

Here's an interview Frank did with  Sean O' Hagan in the  Guardian  2004

Robert Frank

Monday, 24 October 2011

Hereford Photography Festival, UK

Vanessa is exhibiting some of the Georgian portraits from "Seeds carried by the Wind" and George is showing 3 series of sequences from "The shadow of the Bear".
I've never exhibited the sequences before so it's a shame we will miss the exhibition. If anyone goes, would love to hear impressions. 
Below is a statement by the curator, Simon Bainbridge.

Time & Motion Studies: New documentary photography beyond the decisive moment

Curated by Simon Bainbridge
Saturday 22nd October – Saturday 26th November
Tuesday to Friday 10am – 5pm; Saturday 10am – 4pm
Hereford Museum & Art Gallery, Broad Street, Hereford, HR4 9AU

Vanessa Winship: Georgia, 2009-10
Time & Motion Studies presents the works of five photographers, each the result of deliberate and sustained observation. But more than that, each employs a carefully thought-out strategy for their study, a methodology by which to transcribe and communicate ideas about the world, tackling subjects that aren’t always obviously photogenic. For the photographers in the exhibition, the ideas they are trying to communicate take prescience over aesthetic concerns, although these remain important, both in terms of engaging viewers and in contributing to the development of a wider photographic language.
The festival gives me an opportunity to show these works, five excellent examples of the diversity of contemporary documentary practice, and all of which have appeared in British Journal of Photograph, some in the recent past, which I hope the photography crowd will enjoy seeing in the flesh, some of it exhibited for the first time anywhere. But the festival attracts a wider public than just the photography crowd, particularly at the Hereford Museum & Art Gallery, and for these visitors I hope to give a flavour of what photography can be and what it can say, beyond the traditional idea of the artist photographer as someone wandering the earth communing with nature. And by showing five very different approaches, I hope to expose the photographers behind the images, to get viewers thinking about how they position themselves – both physically, embedding themselves into situations, and in terms of negotiating themselves into spaces – to make their pictures.

Donald Weber Interrogations: Big Zone, Small Zone
In the case of Donald Weber, that’s a very uncomfortable space. Having befriended a Ukrainian policeman whose career was on the rise, he spent years negotiating access to the interrogation room the officer spent much of his time, gaining confessions from mostly petty criminals. Waiting for the moment of confession, the results are a terrifying insight into the justice system, but also, a defining point of departure for the subjects – a cathartic experience sometimes – after which life may never be the same again.
Robbie Cooper exemplifies the increasing convergence between still and moving images, using the first digital camera that truly delivers both, in high resolution. Technology is also at the heart of his subject matter, which is concerned with how our identities are becoming wrapped up in new virtual territories – in this case, capturing animated faces close up through as his subjects engage with computer games and other screen-based worlds. Manuel Vasquez also touches on technology, particularly surveillance culture, in his montages that splice together different moments in time. Captured in largely anonymous public places, they capture the anxiety as well as a sense of spectacle within the spotlight of this constant observation.
Manuel Vasquez: Traces
Robbie Cooper Immersion

 George Georgiou is also working with sequential imagery. He is interested in the continued influence Russia plays on its former Soviet neighbours, and how this is manifested in the daily lives of ordinary people, capturing them in sequences shot from the same vantage point. His installation at this year’s festival is his most ambitious realisation of this approach, and is the first time he has presented a work on such a scale. His partner and travelling companion Vanessa Winship takes an altogether different approach. Where as Georgiou remains largely hidden to his subjects, she places her camera in such a way as to invite her subjects to present themselves. She seeks a direct connection, and somehow manages to capture the complexity of this dialogue in the directness and vulnerability of their gazes. Putting them together in the same show, I aim to demonstrate that a photograph is not so much the result of what’s in front of the camera, rather than the motives, instincts and ideas of the person behind it.
Shadow waiting, Ukraine
Time & Motion Studies also refers to this year’s festival theme of motion, a concept I struggled with at first (after all, photography is all about distilling moments into single frames), until I thought about this idea of the photographer waiting, quiet and still, capturing what before his or her camera. It also got me thinking about one of the most enduring concepts in photography, now nearly 60 years old – “The Decisive Moment”, as termed by Henri Cartier-Bresson. In it’s most simple form, the idea was that every image of a “stolen moment” had it’s own decisive moment, a split-second capture in which “simultaneously and instantaneously the recognition of a fact and the rigorous organisation of visually perceived forms [expressed and signified] that fact”.
It’s not a very fashionable concept anymore (especially when you think about the Becher School photographers who have dominated in the past 25 years, with their monumental images, largely of scenes that denote no single important moment of time). But a sense of the right moment pervades in photography nonetheless, along with photography’s pictorial visual language. Cooper has to decide where to pull the stills from his motion, Weber looks for a moment of confession, and even Georgiou, who presents multiple takes on a time and place, edits from hundreds more moments.
The Decisive Moment was a product of a particular time, when newspapers and magazines were the primary outlet for photographers’ work, a medium through which they could speak to hundreds of thousands of readers. And up until relatively recently that remained the case for anyone with documentary concerns; photographers making their names on smaller titles before hopefully working their way up to bigger commissions on bigger and more prestigious publications.
But there are no big commissions these days, and few photographers can earn a proper living making interesting work for newspapers and magazines anymore. There simply isn’t the budget; a situation that would seem to point to more straightened times, were it for the fact that they are still prepared to pay huge sums for images of celebrity. You can blame it on dumbing down, or the deep conservatism of publishers, or the internet, which has helped drive down the price of professional photography to unsustainable levels through the digital distribution of cheap images.
For photographers the end of print is a reality, at least regards to newspapers and magazines. (On the festival’s opening weekend, Self Publish Be Happy will present a flourishing counter-trend, showcasing the work of independent book publishers who still find vital express in printed matter.) But these publications never really gave them real freedoms to express their points of view, and in their absence, photographers are searching for news ways to communicate with audiences, free from the editorial confines of newspaper dictat.
Although they operate in uncertain times, these five photographers present us with clear and articulate takes on the world. And if such different voices and approaches can sit side-by-side so easily, isn’t that a sign that photography is maturing, rather than a medium in peril?
Simon Bainbridge

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Slow Start

This has got to be the slowest start I have made to a project.
I feel this is down to a number of factors.
The downtown areas of middle and small towns are so empty of people, people love their cars and everything is so spaced out. It seems like everything is based around driving from one shopping mall to another, drive through coffee, drive through food.  I knew this would be an important part of the project but it wasn't something I wanted to focus on early.
The continuous sunshine since we have been on the road limits me, it's not the kind of light I like to work in, although I will have to find it's secret because for sure I will encounter it often.
Also because of the size of the country, even by just focusing on the Western States, we are maybe trying to stop in too many places, without spending enough time in any. We will now limit the number of places we will stay in, so we can spend a little bit more time in each. 

Although I am not worried about any this, as there are many things to observe, absorb and understand, and slowly little seeds are coming to the fore.
Eugene, Oregon
Eugene, Oregon
Eureka, California

Friday, 21 October 2011

The New Yorker Photo Booth

The view from The New Yorker’s photo department.

OCTOBER 21, 2011
Posted by James Pomerantz
Everybody makes mistakes; some people make beautiful ones.
 She shares the story of her favorite accidental photograph for our inaugural Great Mistakes post.

In a way, I don’t believe in accidents. But for certain, the image in question was not originally intended this way. I’d made several portraits of boxers, and had to get to this small dance company before I ran out of daylight. I work with a large-format field camera. This kind of working method requires a very specific level of concentration and, I suppose, discipline. You have to remember to turn the slide from white to black after you’ve exposed each frame. I’ve gotten quite good at this. In fact the whole process and procedure has its own internal rhythm and musicality to it:open the lens, look, focus, make a light reading, set the aperture, set the shutter speed, close the lens, cock the shutter, place the film holder into position, pull out the dark-slide, wait … expose the film, turn the dark-slide around to indicate exposed, return it into the film holder, finish.
I set up my camera and asked the first dancer to stand for me. Then I made a few more photos. I was rushed because of the disappearing light, but nevertheless this fading light and necessary long exposure was adding something. I was taken by it. In my stomach, I felt I had a picture. What I hadn’t realized was that one of the film holders I used during this session had exposed film from earlier in the day, and I had created this double exposure … two images on one frame. The magic of the image is the perfect relationship between the two and the way it appears that they are holding hands but at the same time partly disappearing. For me, this image encapsulates something about this place--dancers and fighters at the same time, a kind of romance of the Georgian psyche that is somehow inevitably unsustainable.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Giant Redwoods, Northern California

We have been staying in Eureka and Arcata these last 2 days and using it as a jumping off point for Vanessa to make some portraits of the gaint Redwood trees, the tallest living things in the world, some of them 2000 years old.

I hadn't imagined ever seeing trees so magnificent...the first time I saw them the light was fading, it somehow added to their mystery.
The thought of them standing there for so many years fills me with real joy, the kind of joy that makes me want to  touch them just for a second...vw