Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Women in Photography

Wendover, UT
copyright Victoria Sambunaris

I am looking forward to tonight's Women In Photography Panel Discussion hosted by Aperture Gallery. Co-founders, Amy Elkins and Cara Phillips, will speak with selected photographers who have contributed to WIP, a fantastic new website featuring work by contemporary female photographers, about what it means to be a woman in photography today.

I met Cara Phillips last March when she and I participated in a panel discussion at the 3rd Ward organized by Humble Art Foundation and moderated by Amy Stein about women in photography along with photographers Sarah Small, Mary Mattingly and Dina Kantor. One of the most positive aspects of that experience for me is the lasting friendships and supportive relationships that I developed with all of the artists involved.

Cara Phillips and Amy Elkins kept the ball rolling with WIP, where I have discovered some great work by new and familiar female figures in photography. Among my favorite work showcased on the site are the evocative and epic American landscapes of photographer and explorer,Victoria Sambunaris, one of which is pictured above.

Women In Photography Panel Discussion
Aperture Gallery
547 West 27th Street, 4th Floor
Tuesday, September 30th, 6:30pm

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Arid Lands

The last time I saw my friend, Josh Wallaert, in Minnesota in 2005, he was talking about his plans to make a film with his friend and colleague, Grant Aaker, about the Hanford nuclear site in southeastern Washington State. This piece of land, where sixty years ago the government produced plutonium for the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, is currently the focus of the largest environmental cleanup in history. And now, Josh is the co-director of an award-winning, exhaustively researched and beautifully filmed documentary feature called Arid Lands that is being shown in the New York Peace Film Festival at the Anthology Film Archives on Sunday September 28th.

According to their press release, Arid Lands takes us into a world of sports fisherman, tattoo artists, housing developers, ecologists, and radiation scientists living and working in the area. It tells a story of how people changed the landscape over time, and how the landscape affected their lives. Marked by conflicting perceptions of wilderness and nature, Arid Lands is a moving and complex essay on a unique landscape of the American West.

For more information about Arid Lands, please visit: www.sidelongfilms.com

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Main Street

Main Street
Binghamton, NY
September 2008

If America slides into a depression, or even if it doesn't, can I be Walker Evans or Dorothea Lange ... pleeeease? If the government has spent $700 billion on the war and might spend $700 billion more on bailing out Wall Street, could it set aside just a little funding for a photo project examining the effects of the economic decline and job losses of the last half-decade on a vast number of Americans? Is it selfish of me to think that way at a time like this?

One can at least dream while working a day job and listening to horror stories on the radio ...

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Ballad of Sad Young Men

Greyhound Station
Binghamton, NY
September 2008

Besides the many real things to be afraid of and appalled by about Sarah Palin, did she really have to liken herself to a pit bull? As a pit bull lover and former owner who made everyone who happened to land on my blog this summer confront the loss of my dog, I was not the least bit excited and turned on by picturing Sarah as pit-in-lipstick, or convinced that it was an apt portrait. As if pit bulls don't get maligned enough, and frankly, I'd venture to say that Barack possesses more of the strength, intelligence and compassion that I associate with the pit bulls I have known and loved. Not that I necessarily see Sarah as pig-in-lipstick either (that's John McCain in drag), but perhaps more like one of those little, loud, yappy, vicious, sneaky, ankle-biting dogs.

Mostly these past couple of weeks, I have been spending my time worrying. Reading ... worrying ... turning the radio on and off ... worrying ... tuning into some blogs for some shared fears as well as some positive, hopeful thinking which is hard to come by alone ... swimming even more than usual to diffuse the anxiety and to locate some faith and optimism.

One one hand, living in New York City, I can assume that I exist amongst a significant population of peers with similar politics, but it is the America between the east and west coasts that I wonder and worry about come election day, and it is also that part of the country which, as a photographer, I care about the most. I am the kind of photographer who lights up like a kid in a candy shop when I step off the Greyhound bus in anyplace that resembles small town America.

I spent Labor Day weekend in Binghamton, which is currently where my heart is, and not just because my girlfriend lives there. I love the old houses and storefronts frozen in time and a downtown where the bricks haven't entirely succumbed to big box stores. I love the sprawling green trees and the big cloudy sky of a valley in the hills of central New York. I love sitting on a back porch and hearing next to nothing and seeing stars in deep darkness.

On Tuesday after Labor Day, while my girlfriend was at work at the Tri-Cities Opera, I spent the afternoon driving around in her little blue Volkswagon trying to put some of my affinity for Binghamton into images and feeling almost desperate since who knows when I will ever escape New York City again. Actually, if truth be told, I was prowling the streets for sad young men.

At the end of the summer, one of my closest friends in Minnesota, Anthony Stanton, sent me a description for a workshop he is teaching this fall in the theatre department at The St. Paul Conservatory of Music. His class, Heartsong, encourages students to create musical performances based on songs that resonate with our stories, our past, our hopes, our fears, our dreams and our losses. The song that he referenced as his own source of inspiration, The Ballad of Sad Young Men, has been sung by both Shirley Bassey and Roberta Flack and has some resonance in the gay community.

I was sorry I couldn't take his class, though I am barely musical, except when I try to play the violin with my girlfriend. But I, too, found his song inspiring and decided to approach it instead as an exercise in photography to give me some direction as I roamed Binghamton. And I discovered there is no shortage of sad young men in Binghamton and probably in every other town between the coasts. For that matter, who isn't a little sad right now?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Fashion Week 2008

As fashion week kicks off in NYC, I got to be a fashion photographer this time around, and those super models below are none other than the gamut of employees who make up the strange and colorful world of Bergdorf Goodman. With the help of the new 5th Floor Visual Manager, Sarah Greene, I spent three days in front of a white back drop coaxing BG employees to jump, walk, dance, spin, punch, kick, juggle balls of yarn, read a newspaper, play with power tools, pretend they were in a Robert Longo drawing from the 1980's ... whatever it took to get them moving.

Thanks to the efforts of artist, Lynne Chan, also known to the art world as J. J. Chinois, the images arrived at a series of collages which were installed on panels on the 5th Floor of the store to celebrate the arrival of the new season.

If you just happen to find yourself on 5th Avenue and 58th Street, please drop by and check out the 5th Floor of the Women's Store, as well as the current windows, a tribute to New York Times Fashion on the Street photographer, Bill Cunningham.