Archive for the 'Photography' Category

19
Nov
09

26 Interviews: (E)nid Crow…

 The majority of New York based artist Enid Crow‘s  photographs contain little more than a tightly cropped  self portraits of the artist wearing different costumes and posing. Despite the seemingly simple and repetative nature of her work, Crow has managed to create a body of images that says quite a bit about American culture and politics.     

 

 

 

 

 

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Jon Miller: What initially drew you to self portrait photography?

Enid Crow: Around 1979, my parents sent me to the Wendy Ward School of Charm. I took classes from when I was eleven until I was about thirteen. In addition to learning things like how to answer the phone and good grooming, part of charm school is learning how to be a fashion model. This involved collecting photographs of good poses from magazines, going to the front of the class, and posing like the model in your photograph. Then we were supposed to get professional black and white photographs taken and start making fashion model portfolios. My mother seemed to think this was either a scam or totally pointless since I had a mouth full of braces and bad skin.

So, I made my own studio in the basement by taping white paper over the wood paneling and photographed myself with my mouth closed, copying poses of the fashion models in Better Homes and Gardens. That was the only magazine my mother subscribed to. When I was a drama student in college and grad school, I started acting as characters in the self-portraits and working with costumes more.

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  JM:  Your early series, “Disasters” features characters on the brink of, well, disaster. Their faces all share a similar look of fear, shock, and disgust. In contrast, your newest series, “Happy Workers”, is nothing but smiles and happy faces. Clearly, these images comment on disaster as well, but on a more subdued and personal level. What are your thoughts on this shift in the way your ideas are presented?

EC: After photographing all the tragedy in Disasters and in the midst of the financial collapse last year, I needed to photograph something to cheer myself up. So I photographed myself as people who still have their jobs. Granted the characters in my photographs don’t have health insurance and their 401(k) plans tanked, but at least they aren’t working in a child factory in China. America really knows how to treat its workers!

Seriously, in my pictures, I try to address social issues like sexism, homophobia, and the exploitation of workers. Often I think a strong way to get a point across about a painful, controversial topic is to use humor. So in that sense, I haven’t shifted too far from Disasters even though my facial expression has changed and I’m now using text beneath the photographs to help tell the story.

JM:  I love your “Faggots” series in which you and your real life partner at the time play the roles of queer men, in both graphically sexual moments as well as quieter and even mundane situations. Though you had been doing drag self portraiture as men for some time, this series seems to have developed later and contains the only overt sexual imagery in your catalog. What inspired these images?

EC: When I first came to New York City in 2000, I worked for an attorney who has an extensive photography collection of men loving, taken from the latter part of the 19th century to today. The International Center of Photography featured some photographs from his collection in a show in 2001. My boss would show me new pictures as they were sent to his office and I’d see them scattered around his desk when I delivered papers for him to sign. The subjects ranged from stiff studio portraits of male couples, men sharing beds in rooming houses, to beefcake pictures from 1970s porn magazines. So in my series, I tried to reflect the scope of the images that I saw in his collection.

JM:  Queer sexuality in art is almost automatically processed as transgressive and political. What were you trying to say in creating this work? 
 

EC: Faggots is my favorite series. Justin Duerr, my ex-boyfriend who plays my lover in all the pictures, helped me shoot some of the pictures in the Disaster series around 2005 and 2006. Justin is bi and he would get aroused and want to kiss me when I was dressed as a male character for Disasters. We decided scenes of us kissing as men would make interesting photographs themselves so we started our own series together and ended it just before we broke up in 2008 when I decided to grow my hair long.

The photos comment on issues that I care about very deeply—the arbitrariness of gender and homophobia. I don’t think there’s any need for me to get into a long soap box sermon about why those issues matter because this is, after all, Gaycondo. But briefly, being in love with someone who loves men, and knowing he could engage in certain social rites with me because I am a woman (like marry me or display my photo at work) but not a man he might fall in love with after me, is in my mind, one of the greatest social tragedies there is.

JM:  Any future projects currently being fleshed out?

EC: I am going to my parents’ condo in Florida in a week for a vacation. I am going to finish the Happy Workers series and start shooting a very short self-portrait series called Beauty Queens in tiaras and heavy makeup on the beach. In December, I am going to start shooting a series of portraits of vegans in New York City. I would also like to do a serious series of pigeon photographs. I love pigeons and I take a lot of snapshots of the cute ones I see on the street and the sick ones who I take care of in my apartment.

JM:  Pigeon photographs? That seems like a pretty grand departure from your regular aesthetic! What type of images are you planning on creating? 

EC: I am as fanatical about pigeons as Nikola Tesla, and these pictures will be like poems in their honor. I will take photographs of ordinary street pigeons loafing and flying and manipulate the images so that they are monochromatic and simple. Then I will take the individual, simplified versions of pigeons and use them as individual design elements, like the way the artist Tae Won Yu manipulates letters of the alphabet to make fancy designs. I have been doing this a little with pictures of pigeons I’ve found on the Internet, but I think the pictures will be better if I start from scratch with my own pictures. 

 But I am not moving away from self-portraits. Sometimes I just need a break to come up with a new idea. As I age, my face is getting saggier and more comic, so I think that the photos will probably get funnier and sadder.

For More: www.enidcrow.com

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26 Interviews  by Jon Miller

365 days.

26 interesting people.

1 alphabet.

27
Sep
09

Paul: Miranda July’s Extras…

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from Vice

05
Jul
09

Jon: July First Thursday Round-up PART ONE: Photographer Ferit Kuyas at Blue Sky Gallery….

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The shows at Blue Sky, one of my favorite Portland galleries, have been a little *meh* the past few months. It’s unfortunate too, because as a non-profit they are one of the few major galleries in Portland with curators who are willing to take risks and not simply rely on easy-to-sell decorative art.

This month however, Blue Sky is back on top of their game. The two shows they currently have up for the month of July are both excellent. While I am not shocked to find how much I liked photographer Amy Stein’s highly choreographed images of taxidermied animals invading suburbia (more on her in a later post), it was the Chinese city scape photographs of Ferit Kuyas’  City of Ambition series that I found the most surprisingly alluring.

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As a theme, I generally find architectural still life kind of un-dynamic. It usually falls into the trap of becoming either overly precious and decorative (sunsets over San Fran) or hard and documentative (spreads in Surface magazine). While both styles of architectural photography hold a certain level of importance, neither does much to actually inspire a viewer to experience the image at a deeper level.

However, Turkish photographer Ferit Kuyas refreshingly creates a style all his own. Kuyas’ images of the Chinese city of Chongqing feel immediately noir-like and full of secrets.  Paradoxically, where noir style art examines the hidden truths lying in the shadows, Kuyas manages to create a similar intrigue in the overcast vast expanses of nearly empty white space that occupies most of his photographs. It is not hard to imagine the hidden underbelly and tragic stories lurking in the mist of Kuyas’ vision of Chongqing.

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I highly recommend heading down to Blue Sky this month to experience theCity of Ambition in person. The large scale of the images as well as the sense of immersion experienced by being physically surrounded by these photographs is well worth the trip. You can also check out most of the images from the show at Ferit Kuyas’ website.

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19
Jun
09

Jon: The Portraits of Ryan McGinley…

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I am currently loving the work of New York photographer Ryan McGinley. In an area of photography bloated with a lot of uninspired fluff, his nude portraits stand out. Much like the youthful exuberance documented by the images, McGinley’s adept use of lighting and motion feels fresh, dynamic, and full of life. His several photographs involving fireworks (bottom image) are especially memorable. I love the use of lo-fi methods to create art that feels anything but. Make sure to visit his website for many more images, including behind the scenes photos of his often impressive gallery set-ups.

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23
May
09

Jon: The artificial lives of artists Duane Hanson and François Sagat …

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Though Duane Hanson and François Sagat couldn’t be more different in almost every way as artists (time period, medium, subject, and place in the art community), their work seems to have a similar question  at it’s root: what is the meaning of artifice in it’s relation to value? Both artists work plays with finding a solution to this question that, though at first seems to offer only whimsy, upon deeper viewing says more.

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Duane Hanson (1925-96) rose to fame as a part of the mid 60’s pop art movement. His life-size wax sculptures were always studies of the non-celebrity, though throughout his working life the  dramatic nature of his subjects drastically changed. In his early career, Hanson’s sculptures mostly portrayed everyday people caught in the middle of adrenaline charged and often historically notable circumstances. These included tableauxs of race riots as well as the Vietnam war. As his work developed though, he began to exclusively create sculptures of everyday people doing everyday things (reading the paper, going grocery shopping, cleaning, etc). Of course, in the act of capturing these moments and putting them on display in a gallery, Hanson  imbues these normally unremarkable moments with a  sense of extreme importance.

At the same time, these wax sculptures also  appear to also be commenting on and deriving value via the only other comparable use of wax as an artistic medium: the modern day wax museums. It is impossible to view these sculptures and not immediately read “celebrity” into their characters. It is exactly this relationship to celebrity and artifice that gives these sculptures (and the images of them) power.  

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(*It is hard to begin a discussion of François Sagat’s photography without first divulging that his most notable claim to fame so far has been his performance in numerous porn films. Interestingly, this knowledge both offers a deeper understanding of his work (as it largely comments on the human body and desire) while also initially prompting many viewers to dismiss his art as porn in and of it’s self. This is of course extremely reductive. There is a thin yet powerfully divisive line set by society between art and pornography. Most contemporary art lovers would agree that any evaluative system that immediately dismisses art simply for being sexually evocative is only damaging to the art community as a whole. Anyone who thinks otherwise is clearly to stupid to be allowed to make judgements about art in the first place*)

As a subject in his work, French multimedia artist François Sagat most commonly uses his own body. Through costume, lighting, and digital manipulation Sagat subtly tweaks his own image. Sagat has not chosen the easiest path for himself as a photographer. Artists have been creating similar work for decades, so it is easy to compare and judge his wrok agaist that of his forbearers. In addition to being part of a well established and hard to break into photographic tradition, Sagat also has to combat viewers first reading of his body.Resoundingly, this is to see it as model-ish/overtly sexual/fake. This is compounded by the fact that most viewers of his work are already aware of is career in the gay porn industry. These factors make it even more astounding that Sagat does seem to exceed on many levels.

In one of his newest series of images (pictured above) Sagat finds an ingenious and provocative way to not only debunk this preconceived reading of his photography, but to also use it as a tool to give the work a deeper meaning. In each of the photographs, we find Sagat staring away from the camera and into a full length mirror. The reflections we find staring back at him is anything but natural though. They  have been digitally altered so that his face and penis are erased from the image. In doing so François Sagat has taken away the exact things that has made him both desired and judged.

Sagat creates an artificial self image to displace the other artificial image of him that has been created by the spectator. Paradoxically, through making himself more visually generic he has also made himself more important.

 

Hanson and Sagat  make  strong arguments  towards the belief that all human value assignments in regards to individual worth hold there strength in artifice. If societal value can so easily be added or subtracted via the use of simple visual trickery, what makes that value worthwhile in the first place? This is both empowering and disheartening in that the art seems to say that at once we are all equal, but that that sameness holds no intrinsic worth.

12
May
09

Jon: The Many Views of Photographer David Hilliard…

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Check out more of David Hilliard‘s photographs at his site.

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 Rock Bottom

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 Cy Waiting

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Bleeder

04
May
09

Jon: New-ish images from LucyandBart…

Last Spring I did a post for Gaycondo about design duo LucyandBart (Lucy McRae and Bart Hess) whose art explores what they refer to as “future human shapes”. The pair takes photographs of themselves wearing home-made low tech prosthetics. These simply constructed garments drastically alters the human silhouette in ways that frequently fall into the gray area between whimsy and disgust.

Below are two new-ish portraits by the artists. They are not actually new (both are from last Fall), but they are both new to me. Unfortunately they are also the only new pieces LucyandBart have put up for view since early last year! Hopefully the pair intend to continue the collaboration. Incidentally, this set of images includes the first image featuring both artists together (as one body). Whether or not this is an omen of LucyandBart’s deepening connection and permanence as a duo is yet to be seen. 

In my opinion, these are two of the most promising artists I have been exposed to in recent memory. While the idea of costumed, postmodern, self-portrait photography is in no way revolutionary, Lucy McRae and Bart Hess take the medium into new and startlingly successful territory.

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Dripping Color




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