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Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Andy Adams, Making Pictures of People and Touching Strangers

picture by Richard Renaldi

Stacy Kranitz from the previous post also features on Flak Photo's Making Pictures of People, an online exhibition curated/exhibited by Andy Adams and the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art.

Andy Adams is a social networking beast, the go-to guy for finding how to use the internet for a consistently uplifting experience that is also increasingly sophisticated in its outlook. Lovely and smart don't always go together but they do with Andy.

Listen to Andy speak on Wisconsin Public Radio here, discussing key images from the series and the different readings that can be given to them.

The layout of the website is simple but fantastic: pictures followed by short interviews which are direct and revealing. The line-up is fantastic too. From the UK there is Deborah Parkin (whose wonderful prints I saw in person at Film's not Dead last month - just gorgeous), Jim Mortram, Simon Roberts and Laura Pannack.

But then there's Doug DuBois, Yolanda del Amo, Molly Landreth, Cara Phillips, Shen Wei and many more. It's a bit Anglo-heavy as is the nature of the beast, but there is a lot of diversity in who is represented and how they are represented.

I think my favourite interview is from Richard Renaldi's Touching Strangers, an incredibly simple project where Renaldi gets strangers to touch each other. Simple can be beautiful as Renaldi shows in a really quite lovely twist on the Old Street Straight-Up.

These portraits are extremely difficult to make, involving complex negotiations with the participants that push them past comfort levels, into a physical intimacy normally reserved for loved ones or friends. Their reluctance and predisposition towards conventional poses has pushed me into the role of director and my initial attempts at creating these complicated images resulted in extremely tentative and uncomfortable photographs. The most obvious and frequent gesture people make when not given instruction is to hold hands or extend their arm around the other’s shoulder. I knew I wanted more. I was inexperienced and apprehensive about directing my subjects, but as time progressed and I did more shooting I started to imagine more complex and emotional relationships between them. 

And this is from Deborah Parkin who makes wet plates of her children.

The process felt such an intimate collaboration – I loved seeing how the children would momentarily drift off – it was a stillness that I rarely saw in their waking moments and there they were on a plate, beautifully still. I have developed a good relationship with the children, listened to their ideas, watched them play, and from there, we worked on how we could make this work for wet plates. 
The series has developed over several years. Sometimes there was a house full of around 10 children who organized themselves and decided how they would liked to be photographed – for example, some wanted flowers, some wanted to lie down, some dressed up, some just sat against a wall.  Most of the time however, it is just a one on one experience in a very quiet atmosphere.

picture by Deborah Parkin

And this from Dave Jordano who photographed in Detroit.

I started this project in 2010 after reading about so many photographers who were going to Detroit to photograph all of the abandoned factories and the emptiness that was so pervasive there.  Detroit is my hometown and I felt that this one-sided photographic approach to the city, although accurate and noteworthy, didn't give full credit to the people who live there and who have been struggling for decades with Detroit's economic decline.  My first encounter with the city wasn't much different from my predecessors in that I too was drawn to the sprawling, empty, wasted landscape, but I quickly realized that I was contributing nothing to a subject that most everyone already knew much about, especially those who had been living there for years. 

picture by Dave Jordano

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