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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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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“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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Guest Contributor Neal Rantoul On Art In Photography

Art in Photography… Showing: Gal­leries, Museums and Elsewhere

Here I am on Photoweenie, which is a real honor. Some of you may know my work or my blog which resides at: www.nealrantoul.com. I have also been on Lenscratch a couple of times and I wrote a short piece on working aerially for Luminous Landscape recently and then, as these things go, it was picked up by dpreview.

At any rate, I wanted to write here about showing; galleries, museums and all things art in photography. Am I qualified? With over 50 shows over my career and two up right now in the Boston area (Panopticon Gallery and the Danforth Museum) I at least can speak from experience as to what to expect and what you get.

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Almost always less than what you need, to coin a phrase from the Rolling Stones song.

Simply put, that if you expect fame, fortune and critical acclaim for getting your work shown you may not be living on this planet. Does it happen? Yes, I suppose it does. As an example, when the Starn Twins burst upon the art scene in the eighties, there was a flurry of activity and excitement. Or earlier when Diane Arbus emerged in New York in the seventies. Her work was clearly a break through for the medium and for women too. But it is rare and mostly art trudges along as a somewhat lower level of activity with artists working hard, producing new work, galleries and museums paying occasional attention to some or all of it, then moving on to the next person’s work and so on. There is real value in perseverance, of being out there with good work again and again with a proven track record. Even the heroes in our field, the Lee Friedlanders, the Bruce Davidsons, the Sally Manns and the Emmet Gowins have to keep plugging away, need to show new work that is alive and visceral, work that reinvigorates the concept of who they are in the discipline while being respectful of where they’ve come from. The appetite for new work is, of course, large but there is also some baggage inherent in being someone with an established career. By this I mean that often a well known artist is well known for something they’ve done practically in an earlier former life. This can be hard when he/she is disillusioned with that work and seeks to be known for a completely different kind of work they are doing now.

Regional Verses National
Most art is shown and made regionally. By this I mean that most artists have a regional fan base and their work seldom goes national or global. Most will get a show or be in a show somewhere else from where they live but it seldom amounts to much. Galleries particularly are susceptible to this, large museums less so. Some art markets sit way outside this definition, of course. New York is at the top of this list, but other large cities fit into this as well. In those markets I would bet that being local could even be a liability and for certain it makes it really difficult for the new and mostly young local talent to get noticed in such a large sphere.

As a for instance, it was always almost impossible to get any traction with work in the Boston area, if you lived there. I believe this is less of an issue now than when I was younger in the 70’s and 80’s but it certainly was true in my case. One popular tactic was to get your work shown successfully in New York so that you could bring it back to Boston because you were now an established artist.

Galleries and Museums
Of all the avenues for getting one’s work out I believe galleries are the most fluid and adaptable, flexible and enterprising. Galleries are, after all, small businesses and they are trying to compete in a large market that requires real enterprising business acumen. Museums, on the other hand, are slow, large behemoths that move at a glacial pace and do not take chances often. There are exceptions of course, as in when the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston chose to show the photographer Herb Ritts. This was by all accounts ridiculous as Ritts was a high-end advertising photographer with little credibility in the art world.

Group Shows Verses Solo Shows
There is another line of distinction that needs looking at. Representation of work in a group show verses having a one person show. All younger artists do this, submit work for group shows. Some more well established artists do as well but I think of this as more of a placeholder than something that furthers a career. By this I mean that if the show is in a category that is your own stock in trade, so to speak, then it would unconscionable for your work to not be represented in that show. As a younger artist one of the ways that my work was different and known was that I photographed in black and white infrared. For my work to not be shown in a survey that looked at contemporary black and white infrared photography would be bad and could cause my career some damage.

Solo shows are better, of course, particularly if where you are shown in a “one person” is an excellent gallery, at a good time of year, with good publicity and a gallery backing you and your work every step of the way. But even a show in a restaurant or a bar that is only your work, has clear advantages in that you can list it as a one person show, you can Facebook and Twitter it as one and you can email your friends and contacts about it.

“Do You Know”
Specifically, getting your art shown is a “do you know” game, meaning that places that might be likely to show your work aren’t gong to if they don’t know you or have only met you at an opening or in passing. This is where the cold call comes in, taking the initiative to establish a working relationship with those that you want to show your work. Rebuffed, turned down, blown off, told to try again in six months or a year? Suck it up, do try again if possible but be okay about moving on to plan B, whatever that may be. If you do get a chance to show your portfolio, congratulations, you have crossed a very large hurdle.

Elsewhere
As a young artist I’d had some initial success getting my paintings exhibited and sold in galleries but when I switched over to photography full time, galleries didn’t seem very interested in my work. This did upset me but artists need to have thick skins. I just moved laterally, to places that would show my work. In early days I had considerable success showing my work in academic galleries. I had one man shows at Harvard, MIT, Hampshire College, Dartmouth and so on. All those places and most other schools have galleries or small museums and need a constant flow of work to hang on their walls. Would my work sell? Seldom. Would the school pay for the framing or my travel? No. Would the show get reviewed by a major newspaper? No. Was it worth it? Yes.

Conclusion
As I said when I started out: You seldom get as much as you need. But you might get the satisfaction that you got your work up, that people saw it and thought about and perhaps were enlightened, enriched, affected, moved, concerned and impressed by it.

That may just be good enough.

The facts:
Neal Rantoul is a career artist/photographer/teacher with over forty years of experience of teaching photography and exhibiting his work. He is a professor emeritus from Northeastern University, where he retired in 2012. He now devotes his full time to making pictures and working to increase awareness of his work to a national and international audience. He lives in Cambridge, MA and his site is: http://www.nealrantoul.com

As always, there is much more to see and read on photoweenie.com.

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Danny Lyon’s Documerica Color Photos from the 1970s

I am a huge fan of Danny Lyon’s photography.
In my collection, I have three original prints, including one from Conversations with the Dead – a book that changed my perception of the nature of documentary photography. Recently, I ran across these images he shot in the 1970s for Documerica. I was not aware of this work and I love the fact that the reproduction of the images includes the edges of the slides as well as more than a bit of surface dust. They also have that wonderful otherworldly 1970s color.

I suggest you check out the work of the other photographers who worked for Documerica on Flickr.

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Just the Facts:
From the Documerica – Danny Lyon page on Flickr:
While on assignment for Documerica, Danny Lyon captured striking images of inner city American life of the early 1970s, including neighborhoods in El Paso, Houston, Galveston, Chicago, and the boroughs of New York City.
Photos are from between April 1972 & July 1974.

From the U. S. National Archives page on Flickr:
For the Documerica Project (1971-1977), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hired freelance photographers to capture images relating to environmental problems, EPA activities, and everyday life in the 1970s. 

The U.S. National Archives digitized more than 15,000 photographs from the series Documerica (Local ID 412-DA) and included them in our online catalog.

As always, there is much more to see and read on photoweenie.com.

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Bill Brandt: Shadow and Light

From the Museum of Modern Art website:

Bill Brandt is a founding figure in photography’s modernist traditions, and this exhibition represents a major critical reevaluation of his heralded career. Brandt’s distinctive vision—his ability to present the mundane world as fresh and strange—emerged in London in the 1930s, and drew from his time in the Paris studio of Man Ray. His visual explorations of the society, landscape, and literature of England are indispensable to any understanding of photographic history and, arguably, to our understanding of life in Britain during the middle of the 20th century.
Bill BrandtBrandt’s activity during the Second World War, long distilled by Brandt and others to a handful of now-iconic pictures of moonlit London during the Blackout and improvised shelters during the Blitz, are presented here for the first time in the context of his assignments for the leading illustrated magazines of his day, establishing a key link between his pre- and postwar work. Brandt’s crowning artistic achievement, developed primarily between 1945 and 1961, is a series of nudes that are both personal and universal, sensual and strange, collectively exemplifying the “sense of wonder” that is paramount in his photographs. Brandt’s work is unpredictable not only in the range of his subjects but also in his printing style, which varied widely throughout his career. This exhibition is the first to emphasize the beauty of Brandt’s finest prints, and to trace the arc of their evolution.

The facts:
Bill Brandt: Shadow and Light
March 6, 2013 – April 12, 2013
Museum of Modern Art
The Edward Steichen Photography Galleries
11 West 53 St‬
New York, NY 10019
212 708-9400