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Sofa Portraits now available for pre-order

  1.          Sofa Portraits is now available for pre-order from my website (orders will deliver in October/November)   The pric...

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Sally Mann

An excerpt from a question and answer session between Sally Mann and Stephen Cantor, director of What Remains - interesting what Sally Mann has to say about misconceptions about the responses to her work.

QUESTION: Steven, when you were filming "Blood Ties," did you in any way anticipate that "Immediate Family" would be controversial?

    STEVEN CANTOR - I think we all thought it would be significantly controversial. It was the day of the Mapplethorpe uproar; parents were being arrested for taking naked snapshots of their children, and one had her kids taken away from her; Jock Sturges had his whole life turned upside down by the FBI; Alfonse d’Amato ripped-up a Serrano photograph on the floor of the Senate. It was a crazy time, and Sally seemed to be stepping into the eye of the storm. The funny thing is, her pictures were received very acceptingly and non-controversially - that word has come to be associated with Sally, but at the time there was really very little public outrage. On the contrary, the pictures were widely hailed and embraced and purchased en masse.

    SALLY MANN - But, in the way of mushrooming misperceptions, the facts haven’t gotten in the way and there is still a generalized sense that I was either arrested, threatened, denounced on the Senate floor or investigated, none of which happened, of course. In fact absolutely nothing happened to me except a radio personality in Minneapolis ranted about the pictures, some feminist critics tut-tutted and an antediluvian reviewer in North Carolina waggled his finger at me for the nudity.

    STEVEN CANTOR - I still wonder if maybe you somehow managed to slip under the radar or something. We have never really discussed it, but why do you think there was ultimately so little fanfare around your exhibition and subsequent book of those pictures?

    What separated you from Jock Sturges at the time? The fact that you were the kids' mother?

    SALLY MANN - I don’t think I slipped under the radar, I know I was very much in the radar but they chose not to come after me. One of the first things I did when I heard about Jock’s situation was to make an appointment with the head of the FBI agency that had conducted that raid. I went up to Quantico with Larry and the kids and we met with him, showed him the prints and asked him point blank if they were going to come after me. He said he was familiar with the work, it had been brought to his attention and, no, they were not going to do anything to me. He made some comment similar to Justice Potter Stewart’s to the effect that he knew child pornography and this was not it.

    So, having that assurance I felt safe from that quarter, but there was still the religious right. Our local Pat Robertson was one of the right-wing Christian preachers who was loudly condemning the work of many artists, but I was hoping that Mr. Robertson might be cognizant of a peculiar relationship that obtained between us: my father very likely delivered him and had been his family’s physician when Mr. Robertson was a child.

In the end, I think the fact that I was the children’s mother, the fact that I was clearly a fighter and would have been able to garner a lot of legal support (my brilliant high-profile lawyer Richard Sauber offering his services in case anything should happen to me) and the fact that the pictures were “reality based”—i.e. the nudity was not something imposed on the children but was a natural state of their summer lives, all contributed to my security.

Monday, 28 April 2008

John Londei

In Shutting up Shop, John Londei did realise the Nation of Shopkeepers theme. In images that are part Emmet Gowin, part Bert Teunissen, Londei recorded the owners of Britain's declining number of independently owned small shops, most of which have now closed.

This is what it says at his NPG show.

In 1972, photographer John Londei started taking pictures of small independent shops the length and breadth of Britain. Often family-run businesses, well-established in their local communities, Londei strove to capture the timeworn presence of these already anachronistic businesses ­ the butchers and bakers, button makers, cobblers, fishmongers and chemists of our high streets. Over a fifteen-year period, he photographed 60 shops. In 2004, when he retraced his steps and revisited the shops he'd photographed, he found that only seven of the 60 were still in business. His subsequent book of the series, Shutting Up Shop is a fitting tribute to Britain's independent retailers.

Book available here.

Unrealised Project Number 1

Following on from the previous post, everybody in the UK photographs the local shops at some point - a commentary on the overwhelming power of the big 5 supermarkets or something or other, it's the UK equivalent of photographing overpasses in Germany or suburban no-man-lands in North America.

I started but I never quite finished - I still like my portrait of Mrs A., keeper of the local shop when we lived in Grosvenor Place. It's one of my darlings, as is Mrs A. herself.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Time, distance and reinvention

Koen Hauser

It is hard to find the necessary distance to your own work. If you are not strict enough with yourself, the soup becomes too thin. And if you are being too hard on yourself, you really are in trouble.

Zoltan Jokay (via The Sonic Blog)

It's also important to know when a project is started, when it is finished and when to pack it in before it really gets going - and what to do with all those unfinished and unrealised projects, those little photographic factoids that lie around in boxes and on the computer.

In Cri de Couer, Dutch photographer Koen Hauser (via Mrs Deane) reuses his unfinished 'visual sketchbooks for unfinished work' to create strange but compelling combinations of text, archive and digital manipulations (I think) that become 'objects of their own'. It's hard to know what he means from his website, but you get an idea.

In De Luister van het Land ( The Lust of the Land - I'm guessing) he uses '250 photographs in which I interweaved old photographic narratives with my personal image in an installation on imagination and ephemerality'. Available now at a bookstore somewhere.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Little House on the Prairie

Before I read A Dangerous Liaison, I will repeatedly read through Horrid Henry (good) and the horrendous money machine of the Rainbow Magic series (very bad) - bedtime stories you understand.

Surprising respite has been provided by my wife's childhood copies of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie and Little House in the Big Woods - which tell the story of growing up at the forefront of 19th century America's westward encroachment. These books just make me want to grow some corn, build a log cabin and smoke a peace pipe with the locals.

Best of all are the vivid and scary Garth Williams illustrations - and a far cry from the saccharine representation of the books in the old TV series and the Wilder heritage industry.

Here are a couple from the Little House in the Big Woods - apparently Charley ( that's him in both pictures) had it coming to him for telling lies!

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

We English

If you haven't seen it already, Simon Roberts has a blog and website on his new project, We English.

You can make suggestions in Your Ideas. He also has pages from Tony Ray Jones notebooks on his blog. Here's just one of them (more viewable here).

Which reads like this:










· WATCH CAMERA SHAKE (shoot 250sec or above)




A Dangerous Liaison

A Dangerous Liaison by Carol Seymour-Jones
details the relationship between Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir in all its salacious and gossipy detail. Sartre expounded ideas of living in good faith at great length in his novels and philosophical writing. He also borrowed de Beauvoir's idea of the look to come up with a concept that (as the look or the gaze) heavily influenced both photographers and writers on photography.

For all his ideals of living in good faith, Sartre was a bit of a self-deceiver. He believed in "The Writer" as an idealised philosopher king, thought the Cultural Revolution was a great idea and never went near the sea for fear of being seized by a giant squid.

Sartre ossified himself into a French philospher totem - that's why he looked so much like a philospher should look.

Lithuanian photographer, Antanas Sutkus, captured this aspect of him in this great picture. He didn't get Sartre in among the squids of the sea, but did persuade him out onto this expanse of sand dunes near Vilnius, Lithuania. You can read more about Lithuanian photography here.

And here is a review of A Dangerous Liaison from The Weekend Guardian.

by Joanna Briscoe

The story of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre is hardly mired in obscurity. All that unlicensed shagging, bisexuality, existentialism and turban-wearing; all that philosophical rigour, complete with bohemian outbursts against the bourgeoisie, make this a tale so well known it could virtually be appropriated by Disney. Picture a toadish Sartre expounding to a lipsticked De Beauvoir at Café de Flore with a coterie of underaged lovers panting in the jewelled light of the spirit bottles. Continue reading here.