2014 was a very good year for photoweenie.com.

My website, photoweenie.com, ended the year with over 500,000 hits. In fact, it was just under 550,000 hits.
Fine arts photography fans from all over the world visited the website and viewed the work of photographers that they most likely would not be able to see anywhere else.
Click here to see photoweenie.com for yourself.

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Bryan Schutmaat

I am very impressed with the color work of Bryan Schutmaat, particularly the series titled “Grays the Mountain Sends”.

From Bryan’s website:

“Grays the Mountain Sends
”

This project combines portraits, landscapes, and still lifes in a series of photos that explores the lives of working people
residing in small mountain towns and mining communities in the American West. Equipped with a large format view
camera, and inspired by the poetry of Richard Hugo, I’ve aimed to hint at narratives and relay the experiences of strangers
met in settings that spur my own emotions. Ultimately, this body of work is a meditation on small town life, the landscape,
and more importantly, the inner landscapes of common men.

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You can see more of Bryan’s work here.
Photo: © Bryan Schutmaat. All rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

There is much more to see and read on photoweenie.com.
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Rahi Rezvani

I found these hauntingly beautiful photographs by Rahi Rezvani on the web. I’m impressed by Ravi’s strong, simple compositions and his haunting use of color.

I’m not sure I understand all of it, but here is a little background on Rahi from his website:

The fantasy work ‘Rahi Rezvani’ is willful, but not stubborn and self-assumed. Without being based on the theories of the twentieth century and the various accompanying ideas, it corresponds harmoniously with a similar path in another way. It is based on the principals and systems of visual art.

It appears as if he is taking a ‘detour’, and not along the historical process of predecessors in the Art, but his creations belong to an exception, even along an extraordinary and unusual way. The result remains an exception, uniform and in harmony with the rules.

The expertise of Rahi Rezvani in the other genres of the Art is another motive for his visual strength: portraits, fashion, still lives, realistic scenes: Wonderful to interpret. He speaks the language of comparison and allegory. The scene is fantasy. Space is fantasy. Colour is fantasy. The composition is fantasy. Everything is fantasy. But there is no place for lies and forgeries. It is false, but not a lie. He has nothing to do with ‘reproduction’ based on the ideas of Aristotle on the imitation of nature, or with ‘speculation’. He has his own interpretation of portraying his fantasy. A picture which is not present in time – as in a story -, but in space.

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You can see more of Rahi’s work here.
Photo: © Rahi Rezvani. All rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

There is much more to see and read on photoweenie.com.
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Martin Usborne’s color portraits

From Martin’s website:

Martin’s key interest is man’s relationship to (other) animals. Although his imagery is sometimes dark – capturing the way in which we silence, control or distance ourselves from other animals – his pictures strive for a subtle humour.

Martin often undertakes editorial or commercial commissions and his work is regularly featured in international magazines and has been seen in group and solo shows around the world as well as in the National Portrait Gallery London. He has had four books published.

Martin lives and works in London. He studied philosophy and psychology and then 3D animation before finally settling on photography.

He is currently spending a year to see how many animals he can save in 365 days. Read the ongoing blog here. He hopes for this to become his next book.

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Photo: © Martin Usborne. All rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.
There is much more to see and read on photoweenie.com.

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Laura Pannack’s “Young British Naturalists”

I strongly suggest you visit Laura’s website to see additional images from the series.

From Laura’ website:
Nakedness is usually reserved for the private realm. We make sure the curtain is pulled before we undress. On the beach, we wiggle awkwardly behind towels to preserve our modesty a dropped corner is cause for deep blushes. We keep our private parts hidden from view, known only to ourselves or given as a gift to a lover. It is about more than just skin. Nakedness is a concept as much as it is a state of being, and one wreathed in paradox. With it are bound notions of privacy, self possession, jurisdiction. It can connote innocence or sexuality, purity or depravity. It can signify both power and vulnerability, used to liberate or humiliate.

We arrive in this world without a stitch on our backs, raw-skinned and unadorned. In infancy and childhood, nudity is still considered natural, a sign of prelapsarian purity, untainted by the unseemly connotations that begin to attach themselves as we draw nearer to adolescence. As newborns we are free, unencumbered with the societal expectations of clothing, the delineations of style, the consumerist pressures of fashion. All these are yet to come.

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About “Young British Naturalists” from Laura’s website:
In order to full understand my subject and gain the trust and respect of the people I wished to photograph I felt it was essential for me to cross over to their side and be naked. By placing myself in a vulnerable situation, the connection with my subjects was one of mutual understanding and equality.

Photo: © Laura Pannack. All rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.

There is much more to see and read on photoweenie.com.
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David Moore – 28 Days in Paddington Green High Security Police Station

I came across David Moore’s color photographs of Paddington Green High Security Police Station recently.

From David’s website:
This series extends my ongoing investigations into apparatus of the state. The high security areas of Paddington Green had never been photographed before.

“In 2007, a joint parliamentary human rights committee stated that the old and decrepit mid-1960s police station was “plainly inadequate” to hold high risk prisoners. Lord Carlile, the official reviewer of the government’s terrorism laws, said the Metropolitan Police needed a new custody suite suitable for up to 30 terrorism suspects. The old cells were 11 foot square and contained no windows and were reportedly too hot in the summer and too cold in winter. Refurbishments were made in 2009 at a cost of £490,000, suspects now have access to an audio-visual system on which they can watch films and listen to music whilst incarcerated. This system was added because it was felt inhumane to keep people locked up for to 28 days without any stimulation. One anti-terrorist officer was reported to be angry with these improvements saying, “If you beat up your wife or have a fight down the pub you will be slung in a cramped cell with nothing more than a toilet and a mattress. But if you are a terrorist intent on blowing things up then you get a luxurious cell with a telly and a CD player.” [Wikipedia]

I was able to gain access to Paddington Green High Security Prison in London for two long days in July 2009. It took me six months of meetings. Having The Last Thingspublished was a great help because as was noted by a superintendent, ‘ a relationship already existed’.

The complex, used originally to hold arrested members of the IRA in the early 70’s were in the middle of refurbishment. The Carlile report of 2007 made recommendations to the Metropolitan Police Authority to upgrade the complex in response to the extended powers of detention without trial, currently 28 days. People arrested under the Counter Terrorism act were being held in cells only designed to for 2/3 days detention at most.

I was offered a two-day window, at the end of the re-construction and before it became operational again; after that it was out of bounds. The work I have made attempts to record, interpret and negotiate the anomalies of a refurbished complex, which in response to Lord Carlyle’s recommendations rubs up against the fabric of older police cultures.

Paddington Green police station will hold individuals who have been arrested under the pre text of killing, maiming, inciting, using propaganda, etc. In the period 2007/8 the police made 231 arrests, 39 charges and 22 convictions under the Counterterrorism act.

It is believed that a new high security jail designed to hold up to 30 suspects is being planned for central London in the near future.

You can see more of David’s work here.

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There is much more to see and read on photoweenie.com.

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A Couple of Comments About Portfolio Review Events

I recently spent a weekend in Boston at the New England Portfolio Reviews. My good friend Paula Tognarelli of the Griffin Museum and I ran the reviews years ago when I served as Executive Director of the PRC. So, whenever Paula asks me to serve as a reviewer, I am more than happy to oblige.

A photographer I have known for many years drove up from New York City to attend the event. It was the first time he had his work reviewed at a portfolio review event. Over lunch, I asked him for his impressions. He said, “It reminds me of kindergarten, everyone is running around like their hair is on fire.” It’s true; there is generally a great deal of hyper activity during the event.

As usual, I saw a wide variety of work on many different levels of sophistication. Many of the people I reviewed (like my friend from New York City) were attending for the first time.

Since the weekend, I’ve been thinking about what kind of advice I could give to photographers that may be planning to attend their first review event. Here are a couple of thoughts. It’s a short list and it’s in no particular order. I’m sure if you asked the other reviewers, they would have more than a few of their own.

Finish all of your homework
Do a little research on your reviewers. It makes for a better review if you know something about the reviewer’s background. I’m sure you will better understand my comments about your work when you know a little bit about my history. I learned this incredibly valuable lesson during my 30+ years presenting advertising concepts to potential clients. You can never know too much about your audience.

Don’t follow me into the men’s room
Don’t laugh, it has happened. I appreciate that you want to maximize your investment, but approaching reviewers during breaks will not win you any extra points. Most review events book reviewers with a very, very full schedule. We need a bit of breathing room after each review to reset our brains.

You shouldn’t argue with me – I’m always right
You paid a fee to hear the reviewer’s perspective on your work, and the review time goes by very fast. I may not be right, but at least have an open mind. And, oh yes, take notes.

Please, please work hard on your craft
Only about 20% of the prints I reviewed were exhibition quality prints. If I recommended that you take a printing workshop, do it. It means that even if I were knocked out by your work, I would not be able to include it in an exhibition. The prints just didn’t come up to exhibition quality.

I consult with photographers on a regular basis about portfolio development and there are a large number of additional points I could include. These four were taken from the notes I made during the review event.

In the photo below, Jo Sandman is having her recent work reviewed by Dalia H. Linssen PhD. I’ve been a huge fan of Jo’s work for many years. Her work is totally unique. You can see more Jo’s incredible work here.

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There is much more to see and read on photoweenie.com.
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“Harold Feinstein: A Retrospective” wins PDN best photo book of 2013 award

I  (Jim Fitts, Head Photoweenie) am very proud to announce that a recent book project I worked on has been chosen by PDN Magazine as one of the best photo books of 2013. The book is Harold Feinstein: A Retrospective.

To complete the book took several years of dedicated work, and a terrific team. Jason Landry, Phillip Prodger, and, of course, Harold and the Feinstein Dream Team (Judith and Cherie) were the core drivers of the project.

PDN best photo book 2013The story behind how it came about is quite unique and I wrote about it in my foreword to the book.

“I’m driving back from Merrimac, Massachusetts to my home in Boston and my head is swimming. I’ve just seen hundreds (perhaps it was thousands) of prints and contact sheets taken by a photographer that until a few months ago I knew nothing about.

The photographer’s name is Harold Feinstein.

Is Harold’s work as remarkable as I think it is? Are the photos as important as I think they are? How can I insure that people get to see them?

I’ve collected fine art photography for over 40 years and I think my judgment of quality is pretty sound, but I’m smart enough to know that it’s prudent to have someone you trust confirm your opinion. One week later I am back in Merrimac looking at Harold’s black and white prints with the one friend whose eye I trust emphatically.

This time, on the drive back to Boston, both our heads are swimming. It turns out we both saw the same brilliant qualities in Harold’s work.

A few years have passed and a dedicated team of Harold’s admirers has worked hard to put together the book you are holding. This book is not meant to be an all-inclusive catalog of Harold’s six decades of black and white work – it would take a much larger and heavier volume to accomplish that – but we hope that these 80 images will give you a sense of the wonder and inspiration we see at the heart of Harold’s work.”

A select number of Harold’s images will be in the Summer Salon exhibition in the private room at Panopticon Gallery from July 12 – September 10th.  They also have a limited supply of signed copies of Harold Feinstein: A Retrospective.

You can see the entire list of PDN’s best photo books of 2013 here.
You can see a list of this year’s judges here.
You can purchase a copy of the book here.
You can see more of Harold’s work here.

The facts:
TitleHarold Feinstein: A Retrospective
PublisherNazraeli Press
Creative Team: Jim Fitts, Jason Landry (Panopticon Gallery) and Chris Pichler (Nazraeli Press)

There is much more to see and read on photoweenie.com.
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Rick Ashley introduces Superman to Inges, Manet, Sargent, and Hopper

A Question of Identity

Sometimes (very rarely in my case) you see work that stops you in your tracks. That is exactly what happened when I first saw Rick Ashley’s work he creates with his brother-in-law. The images certainly provoke a strong immediate response, but immediate responses can be incorrect. Work this broad and complex can be easily misunderstood.

It took a while for me to wrap my head around it. The best work takes time to digest.

I have the good fortune to know Rick and to see how the work has evolved over time. It is challenging and important work and I am very pleased that Panopticon Gallery in Boston is featuring it in their current exhibition.

I highly suggest that you get to the gallery if you can, and if you can’t be sure to check out more of the work on Rick’s website.

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I got the chance to ask Rick a few questions about the work.
PW:  Where to start? There is so much to discuss about the work. I’ve been very interested in finding out what was the impetus for the series. What was the thought process that led you decide to work with Michael?
RA: The idea for the series was planted while preparing to teach a course on portrait photography. The boss made the comment that to create great portraits “all you needed to know was how to pose the subject”. This seed of an idea grew into my creating a compendium of “bad” photographic poses. The problem was how to examine such conventions without just creating more “bad” portraits. Michael was my answer.
Michael is my brother-in-law, and we have been making photographs together since 1975. This project began 4 years ago and continues to evolve in ways I never anticipated. I chose Michael as I hoped the disconnect between these pretentious poses and someone with Downs Syndrome would bring attention to the superficial nature of posing specifically, and the inability to know anything about anyone in a portrait generally. To my surprise, the resulting photographs did not reveal pretentious poses, but instead different Michaels: the author, the jock, the hipster, etc. What the poses failed to do on others, they did to Michael to such an extent that his mother was amazed at the transformation, once commenting that ‘he almost looks normal”. My guess is that this occurs as Michael has no agenda, no image of self that needs to be presented. Michael is fully engaged in the process. He sits, puts his hands where I ask, and looks where I ask him to or he doesn’t as Michael doesn’t do what he doesn’t want to. The resulting photographs, which were based on photographic conventions, were then emailed to China where they were hand painted onto canvas, as painting is the original maker of myths.
PW:  Why the shift to Superman photographs?
RA: The Superman photographs evolved from my research into the history of portraiture from the Renaissance forward as many photographic cliches find their genesis in painting. The subjects of these formal portraits were dressed in their finest attire illustrating their status as surrounding props gave clues to their character and achievement. Most of these superman photographs find their compositional style and motifs in the works of Inges, Manet, Sargent, and Hopper. These photographs remain as photographs as their inspiration comes from painting. Other photographs in the series explore public relations and editorial motifs for presenting character.
These photographs and paintings were created to explore issues of artifice and identity, and to see if Michael and I could make interesting pictures together. The artist presents and the observer interprets, interprets what is seen in personal terms, adding meaning to the work. The more ambiguous the greater freedom for interpretation.
PW: I think the unique strength of the work is that it transcends conventional fine art photography boundaries. Due to the fact that the work incorporates a multiplicity of media, what has been the reaction from the photo community?
RAWhen I first showed some of the painted portraits in Boston, Houston, and Santa Fe, most everyone was intrigued and interested in seeing more. In my opinion much of this was due to the fact that the photographs had been sent to China to be painted, perhaps a new mode of photographic representation or just another gimmick. It was not until I added the Superman photographs to the project that the work hit a nerve. Suddenly I was being asked: “Do you feel like you are taking advantage of Michael?” and to paraphrase another: “you are receiving this reaction because you don’t portray Michael as the person he is and while the photos of Michael may be ones he loves they aren’t positive portrayals that assist in breaking down walls of prejudice against those with developmental disabilities”. Symbols, even ones with unexpected consequences, are charged with great power and influence our perceptions irrespective of their validity.
This is not the forum to examine the assumptions and positions of those opposed to Michael being portrayed in his superman suit, but let me end with this. My father contracted polio at the time I was born. My formative years were spent with a father that had use of his left arm and right hand and could breath without assistance for only a few hours a day. He was a brilliant and strong man who had served in WWII later receiving his MBA from the Wharton School, and then from a wheel chair he ran an automobile dealership and insurance company never once complaining about his condition. As a child I continually watched people judge my father based on what they saw and the assumptions they made about him based on that information. What was true about my father is true of Michael and for that matter the rest of us.
As for the multiplicity of media in this body of work (photographs, painting, etched glass, and debit cards thus far), the choices evolved through the exploration of the idea not the decision to create a group of photographs. Ideally when this work is shown in its entirety, paintings will hang next to photographs and superman will hang next to the man in a sports coat so that each successive bit of presumed knowledge is negated by the next piece, leaving the viewer with a multitude of identities presented in various media whose only real commonality is Michael, and that in the end we know nothing without meeting Michael and getting to know him in person.
PW: I have to ask, where are you planning to take the work from here?
RA: Cleveland.

The facts:
Dress Up:
 Photographs by Keiko Hiromi, Atelieri O. Haapala,
 Eileen Clynes and Rick Ashley

Additional Exhibitions: New England School of Photography group exhibition 
Curated by Stephen Sheffield and William Scully – 
Emerging Artist
Panopticon Gallery in Boston
May 15 through July 9th
502c Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
Phone: 617-267-8929

To see more of Ricks work, click here.
There is much more to see and read on photoweenie.com.

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Toshio Shibata, Constructed Landscapes

The Peabody Essex Museum is only 25 miles North of Boston, but my advice is not to try to make the trip during rush hour. Which, as any Bostonian knows, runs from late afternoon through early evening. If that is your only option, the trip is always exceedingly well worth the irritatingly slow drive. The PEM is one of the cultural jewels of New England and it currently shines even brighter than usual.

It’s because of the current exhibition of Toshio Shibata’s black and white and color prints.

Phillip Prodger, once again, makes the smallish balcony photo gallery seem as large and important as any photography space in any museum. He curated the current exhibition featuring black and white and color prints by Toshio Shibata.

The work is beyond superb. Toshio Shibata’s photographs are both beautifully composed and expertly rendered. They are large-format prints and (as opposed to many large–format prints) they deserve to be. Details in Toshio Shibata’s photographs – both obvious and subtle – are of utmost importance. They are as crucial to the impact of the photographs as the photos carefully delineated compositions.

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At a recent event held at the PEM, Cary Wolinsky brought to my attention a minute figure in the corner of one of the images. Seeing that small figure immediately changed my entire perception of the photograph.

Toshio Shibata’s use of color is both subtle and bold. It works in almost magical ways. For example, in Okawa Village, Tosa County, Kochi Prefecture, 2007 a red bridge slams headfirst into a rich green landscape. Usually, these two primary colors would create an extremely irritating vibration. Not here. The red and green mesh perfectly.

My advice. If you are in the Boston area, do not miss this exhibition, and do not make the trip during rush hour.

From the Peabody Essex Museum website:

One of Japan’s preeminent landscape photographers, Toshio Shibata is known for exploring the delicate balance between human-made structures and nature. Photographing erosion control barriers, water catchments, roads, dams and bridges, he examines the unique appearance of such structures in his native land. Through his lens, riverbeds can look like origami, and waterfalls resemble kimono.

This exhibition of 28 large-format works will be the artist’s first solo show in an American museum since 1995 and the first time his color pictures will be shown in America.

Shibata was recently featured in a two-person show at the National Arts Center, Tokyo, and in a solo retrospective at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum.

Made possible by the East India Marine Associates of the Peabody Essex Museum.

The facts:
Toshio Shibata, Constructed Landscapes

April 20 – December 31, 2013
Peabody Essex Museum
East India Square
161 Essex Street
Salem, MA 01970-3783
Phone: 978-745-9500, 866-745-1876

See more of Toshio Shibata’s photos here, and as always, there is much more to see and read on photoweenie.com.

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