We're pleased to continue presenting Exposures: An Aperture Blog, where fine-art photography enthusiasts around the world can interact with some of the most engaged professionals in the field. We welcome your comments.

08 June 2007

Photo-London, Part II

In my last post, I promised to talk about the panel discussion called How to Collect Contemporary Photography. This was a discussion moderated by Anna Somers-Cocks, founding editor of The Art Newspaper, with Francis Hodgson, head of the photographs department, Sotheby's London; Jeffrey Boloten, partner, ArtTactic; Greg Hobson, curator of photographs, National Media Museum Bradford; and William Hunt, partner in Hasted/Hunt gallery (and well known to Aperture audiences).

Mr. Hodgson weighed in passionately about a subject that is near and dear to my heart: conservation.  He mentioned that when the photo conservator at the V & A, Elizabeth Martin, passed away four years ago, her position was not filled.  He stated that this has left a backlog of photo conservation and restoration projects at the major British museums that would take "lifetimes" to complete.  Remarkable!  I think there needs to be much greater awareness—and tons more information disseminated—about how to care for photographs.  Mr. Hodgson's comment elicited multiple responses from the panel, including Mr. Hunt remarking that his own awareness about the non-archival quality of face-mounted plexi [Plexiglas] had prompted him to insist that no artist in his roster use it.  Of course, it was mentioned that the "most expensive photo in the world," a.k.a. Gursky’s 99 Cent II Diptychon, is on face-mounted plexi.
(Stay tuned for next season's programs at Aperture. We will present two of the finest conservators in the world discussing just such issues. It's such a big and challenging topic that I hope to make a regular fixture of Tuesday nights at Aperture.)

This was a fabulous panel.  Each member was articulate, informed and passionate about the topic.  Debate was lively and spirited.  It both answered questions and posed new ones.  Really a treat.

A few last notes about art on view:

This was billed as a contemporary photo fair, which meant that there were fewer mid-century blue chip photographers on display and many more up-and-comers.  In the blue chip category, Camera Work from Berlin had a stunning vintage print of William Klein's "Smoke and Veil."  London gallery The Approach had a number of John Stezaker's collages of found images. I have seen this work at a number of other fairs and most recently at the auction to benefit White Columns in New York City.  The work always attracts my eye and engages my mind. Even though similar techniques are applied to all of them, each one looks fresh and original.Also looking as good as ever to me was a large scale urban landscape by Stephane Couturier. I continue to be impressed and engaged by this artist:Filed under up-and-comers, Laurence Demaison at Parisian gallery Esther Woerdehof has been exploring self-portraiture for a number of years. Her best, to me, have been where she explores her relationship to and with water. There have been a number of series where she submerges herself in a pool to be photographed. Some of these just present the natural distortion of the water, while in others she creates wave patterns to further evoke a painterly effect. I think there is a link to the work of Susan Derges who I mentioned in my first post. Derges' Observer and the Observed series also uses water and self-portraiture to striking ends. In Demaison's newer work, water is just a puddle in which to catch fleeting glimpses of a fractured self. In a B/W format there is also some question to the viewer about whether the liquid is water. Titled "Jour de Sang," I am told the phrase translates as “day of suffering” or “sacrifice.”Next stop: Venice Biennale.

07 June 2007


My eldest nephew, Mitch (pictured in the first photograph and then again with his brother Nils on the left), has a very special gift. He knows literally every dinosaur by its Latin name, and all specifics about each of them. He draws the animals all the time and he must have hundreds, maybe thousands of drawings of these dinos. When asked, he refused to give me one and so I asked him to draw a couple in my diary, which he did.
When you look carefully, you will always see the little eye in the head. Also he draws them almost with one stroke; he almost never takes his pencil off the paper.

05 June 2007

Photo-London, Part I

Evan Mirapaul writes from Photo-London on June 2, 2007. The fair ran from May 31st to June 3rd.

A former 19th century fish market, Old Billingsgate was the site of the Photo-London fair this year. The closest thing we have to it in New York is the Lexington Avenue Armory, though Billingsgate is quite a bit smaller. This makes for a rather intimate fair (just 42 juried exhibitors). After having been to the behemoth fairs like Armory, Art Forum, Basel/Miami, and Paris Photo, the smaller scale was welcome and pleasant. At least on the days I went, the fair was not too crowded, and seeing the work on display was easy.

Several works immediately caught my eye. At Zebra Gallery (London) Julia Glover had a new take on stereoscopic images I found intriguing. She mounts stereoscopic viewers on matte board in a frame so it appears on first blush that the viewers are the Duchamp-like art.But when you step up and look into the lenses you find a voyeuristic look into dark, crowded rooms occupied by a man surrounded by the ephemera of whatever collection he has created. Entitled "Men Only", I found it very good and not a little creepy. The 3-D effect of the stereoscopic viewer makes one feel as if you are literally looking through a hole in the wall to spy on a private scene. Fascinating.

I suspect some readers will share my weariness at seeing so much Photoshop-created faux reality. Still, a few photos in this genre bullied their way into my imagination. Galeria Bacelos (Spain) is showing the work of Victoria Diehl. Ms. Diehl superimposes parts of a human figure with parts of decaying statuary. The net effect is haunting.Though the figure alone would be beautiful and the statuary alone would be perceived as beautiful, the combination is a kind of horror show. By using male and female models, Ms. Diehl effectively asks questions about aging, the nature of beauty, and what it means to idealize the form.

Another Photoshop work was created by Chen Chieh-jen. Best known for his video art, the Parisian gallery Alain Le Gaillard showcased his photography. Of particular note to me was his photo "Self-destruction 1927-1997". Mr. Chen inserts himself into an historical photo of Chinese civil war from 1927 mirroring the violence in the original photo by showing himself both being beheaded and beheading others. Chen has stated that he does not consider himself a political artist but an artist from a violent culture. He seeks to portray that violence which he feels is an indelible part of his self.

There was also "straight" photography that was of note to me. Many viewers will know the work of Helsinki school artist Jorma Puranen. Purdy Hicks Gallery (London) was showing some of these exquisite large-scale photos of reflections. Sumptuous.

The photo work of Sean Scully was beautifully presented at Ingleby (London).His "Walls of Aran" series was presented as both visually poetic and typological.

Both Purdy Hicks and and Ingleby had the work of Susan Derges.It seemed that this artist was being re-examined and reappraised, perhaps because the show is held the UK. Regardless, I like her work very much.

There was much more art to comment on. In the next installment I'll mention a few more artists, and provide an account of a fascinating panel discussion with Bill Hunt, Greg Hobson (from the National Media Museum , Bradford), Francis Hodgson (Head of photo dept., Sotheby's London), and Jeffrey Boloten, moderated by Anna Somers-Cocks (founding editor of "The Art Newspaper").

Before Spain, A Little France

On my way to Spain I made a stop to see my brother and sister in law and their two sons, Mitch and Nils. They live in the middle of Les Landes, a big area south of Bordeaux which is actually nothing more than hundreds of acres of pine trees (some corn is grown on this land as well).

Napoleon used to give pieces of this poor land to officers of his army as a reward for their loyalty. This way he hoped that the land eventually would become useful. For many years it housed shepherds and small farmers. The trees that are there now live off the water in the swamp (which was why they were planted in the first place) and are now used by the paper industry. The last few years flower bulb growers (mostly from Holland) have come to buy the land because it seems to be good for their business.

Ironically, there are huge brush fires every year now because of the lack of water. The local airfields house numerous yellow firefighter planes. The one in the photograph is a model that was put up in the middle of a roundabout.