Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Kids Are Alright

Copyright Matias Aguilar 2010

The other week I came across an interesting ruin by the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Although in recent years the city has transformed the Brooklyn Navy Yard more or less successfully to an industrial park, a few buildings on the northeast corner of the Brooklyn Navy Yard have been left there to rot away. You could tell that the ivy-clad house obscured by a tree had been abandoned at least for a decade or two, if not more. I decided to return later with my camera to take pictures in hope of finding interesting subjects in close proximity. So when I arrived at the ruin again armed with my camera I noticed that a group of kids was passing by in front of the ruin. Right at that moment I took a picture. I was grateful. I went to a site without expecting awfully much to take pictures of and was handed an interesting moment in return. And I am thankful that actually there is humor in the juxtaposition of the kids with the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Without the kids I must admit, it would have been the lamest of lamest pictures. But even with the kids the symbolism is not really that earth-shattering. In fact, it isn’t a great picture at all. But in my defense I must state that it probably would have been nearly impossible to pull it off. By now we all know that photographs of abandoned buildings as a result of our depressing state of the economy is the most overdone shtick for socially conscious and concerned artists. Sometimes I wonder what kind of noble aims drives us to take pictures of ruins? Is it an infantile creepy shiver that runs down our backs or is it a romantic notion of projecting our pessimism on our beloved city? No matter how skillful the photo, to me a politically conscious photographer automatically falls flat the moment he or she infuses the romantic into the social concern. If an important goal is that pictures should make the viewer aware of the problems of the toiling poor and underprivileged working communities in need to be salvaged by an impending green economy revolution then a moody, large format depiction of a run down commercial facility might not be the most successful medium of choice.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Brian Ulrich

copyright BrianUlrich

Now that our economy is in the slump we are all anxious to find out how the current economic climate will reflect on pictures photographers take. I have always considered being political in the arts as problematic. This does not mean that social problems and art are necessarily separate from each other. Of course, they are not. Naturally, the better the author can convey a link between the two to us the more interest we find in such work. It is quite remarkable that most of the pictures dealing with the effects of the downfall of the economy as great as the may be executed seem far from enlightening, but predictable instead. Are all those blown up pictures of shopping malls gone out of business you encounter these days supposed to offer any new insight to topics we would prefer reading literature about if we really wanted to know more about them? Everybody knows that businesses go bankrupt when the economy is in recession and sadly, they do close down. Certainly, good and engaging photography may very deal with such subject matter. However, I find it quite funny that on a politically level a lot of these pictures you see right now do not have anything to communicate to us that we don't know already. I would even go as far as to say that the most interesting aspects that can be found in political art end up never being political. It does not make sense to me to advertise what is obviously the weakest link.
Precisely this is the problem I have with the recent photo series 'Stores That Are No More' by admirable photographer Brian Ulrich. Ulrich also produces political opinions, none of which you would ever be able to pick up on just by looking at the pictures here. But I guess being Anti- Bush/Cheney still wins you a lot of easy approval these days.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Pizzicato File

“Imagine every great record you’ve ever heard stuck in a blender overlaid with the most experimental heavy metal guitar you’ve never heard combined with the most outstanding montage of video clips you can’t imagine plus superadorable camp fashions, all synthesized through a demented Japanese consumerist impression of America,” Yasuharu Konishi.

A weekend with the music of Pizzicato Five

Weekend. It's a beautiful day. Ice-cream melting mellow. I'm flying high on the sound of music. Good. The world is spinning at 45rpm. The earth goes round. My baby portable player sound plays rockn' roll, peace music. What a happysad, hippie day. On the sunny side of the street a Mini Cooper is passing by.

A quick glance of the japanese site the Pizzicato File reveals that compulsive record collecting plays an essential part in the music making and styling of 90's J Pop group Pizzicato Five.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Harri Peccinotti

Harri Peccinotti
taken from '1969 Pirelli Calendar"
Copyright of the Artist

I am not particularly following fashion photography, so it is not surprising that I have not come across British born (1938) Harri Peccinotti earlier. Highly acclaimed, he is not only a photographer, but also an art director. He founded British style magazine - Nova Magazine - in 1965 and was both, its first art director and photographer at the same time. He was also the photographer of the legendary Pirelli calendars of 1968 and 1969.

Sometimes the saying ‘never judge a book by its cover’ is absolutely true. Seeing a copy of a book entitled ‘HP –Harri Peccinotti’ displayed at St Marks Bookshop did not generate any motivation on my part to flip through it. Maybe it is just me, but I found the cover picture of a female model suggestively performing fellatio on an ice-cream cone a lame eye catcher. Boy, was my first judgment wrong. The brilliant pictures of Photographer Harri Peccinotti justify not only a peek, but also a closer study. And now that I finally have my own copy in my hands I have made my peace with the cover. I love, love, love this book.

It is Peccinotti’s knowledge and use of contemporary culture and his bold, seductive imagery that draws me to his work. As a photographer and art director Peccinotti is fully taking advantage of the possibilities of combining photography and layout to communicate new ideas to magazine readers. As many pictures (particularly those he created for women style magazine Nova) are from the sixties it becomes clear that female magazine readers back then were expecting more daring, more seduction and more authenticity to keep up with the speed of change of that time. Peccinotti’s knew of the cultural transformation taking place in Britain during the period of ‘Swinging London’. He knew Sex played a crucial part in showing women taking a more liberated place in society. After all, the sexual revolution was a centerpiece of that era. However, as these events took place four decades ago our notions of sexuality, feminism and race (it was the sixties that started featuring models of various ethnicity for couture and style magazines) altogether have further developed. So it helps to keep in mind that these ideas were a novelty back then. And above all the images and Layouts themselves remain seductive, strong and fresh as ever.

Read about the making of the fabulous 1969 Pirelli Calendar here.

More pictures on Flickr

Some of my most favorite pictures depict Coca Cola bottles…..

William Eggleston, Dunkerque 04
Copyright of the Artist

Daido Moriyama, Shinjuku, 2005
Copyright of the Artist

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Not about Nostalgia

Berlin 2008
Copyright Matias Aguilar

In regards to the pictures I take a number of people have asked me if I believed that my work reflected a nostalgic view that I wanted to convey to the viewer. Basically, I believe nostalgia to be the least interesting aspect I would like to discuss. I never encountered a discussion about it that was faintly productive, which come to think of it is no surprise, really. Nostalgia as an integer part of artwork is just too obviously problematic. Too many such works automatically seem out of touch and as a likely indication of an unwillingness to face the current ways of dealing with today’s processes of making art… Thanks to the recently published book by the late Italian photographer Luigi Ghirri “It’s beautiful here, isn’t it…” I was able to read some refreshing views on nostalgia and I absolutely love the fact that I do not have to discuss it.

I admit it; in my wildest dreams I would not have been able to come up with anything as good as the following quote...In his essay ’Endless Worlds: On William EgglestonGhirri quotes writer Gianni Celati:

For many ”nostalgia is an ugly word, a sign of mental weakness. However, I can’t find another one to describe what I don’t have, and at the same time it presents itself as a liberation. I have nostalgia for a feeling, because it seems to be free of sentiments that are tangled up in ugly thoughts. I have nostalgia for a narrative tone that ties me to others, because all I know how to write are things that are separate from the things of others. The true, strong feeling that I have might be described as that of being lost. Not me in particular, as an individual. Instead it is a state of things that I seem to see everywhere.
And the longer I am in a city – Paris, for example – the more I am convinced that being lost is the true feeling that I have around me, the liveliest thing that exists. I often go back to reading Sartre, who says: “Only filthy wretches don’t feel lost.”

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Tunes Of Summer from my new series here

Saturday, September 6, 2008


Now that it is election time in the US, I often get annoyed about really unqualified rants by fellow artists. Often it appears to me that bashing the so called status quo is the easiest way of releasing some steam and the cheapest way to fish for compliments. There is nothing progressive or courageous about bashing your political opponents when your opinion is in the clear majority amongst your circle of friends…Maybe it is just me but I really prefer not to take a stand on my blog. It really would not matter. And it would be embarrassing if I thought it did…

Often I have asked myself the question why artists would want their work to address political issues, when art is really just about itself in the first place. Being political does not make anything more or less meaningful, better or worse. There is great political work I do admire that is just too good to be overlooked. But the way I see it there is always one problem with political artists: It is just too easy to discredit a cause that supposedly concerns a larger group of people, but in reality just benefits artists who exclusively strive for personal interest. You would have to be exceedingly brilliant or make the most convincing images to pull this off and get away with that. Brilliance is the only loophole in such cases, the only escape from being terribly ridiculous. There is always an element of improbability in creating works of art. It just must be difficult to achieve. Herein lies an element of tragedy. One thing the viewer treasures without a doubt is watching a tragedy unfold. Who can beat the tragedy of an artist walking a thin line between greatness and ridicule? Why should we make it unnecessarily hard for ourselves? Where is the gain?

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Ryan McGinley

Copyright Ryan McGinley

Copyright Ryan McGinley

I am puzzled as to why so many people interested in photography love to hate Ryan McGinley's pictures. For some reason they seem quite embarrassing doing so. His work is pretty stunning. here

I Heart Mary Weiss (Part 2)

I already mentioned that I am still totally fond of Mary Weiss' Dangerous Game Album(produced by Greg Cartwright from the Reigning Sound). I went to see her show South Street Seaport. It was great. After the show she signed Cd's, posters and t-shirts. Of course, I could not resist to attend...

Baroquo Me Rocko

Copyright Eternity's Children

Copyright Triste Janero

Since getting into the Beatles at the age of 10 I have always loved the sixties. With the time passing I have been witnessing quite a number of sixties revivals. Being the fan I am of this period I quite always enjoy them. I find it very interesting to see something familiar viewed in a new, fresh light…It’s great to have my sixties horizon extended. Over the past recent years my personal view of that era has definitely transformed a little. My music profile at Last FM confirms that Beach Boys and the Free Design have replaced the Beatles from my #1 spot. Still, as I already mentioned the Beatles have consistently been one of my favorite bands; I can almost always listen to them. But recently I have come to prefer Pet Sounds and Smile(Bootleg) to Revolver and Sgt. Pepper. Aside from that I have also fallen for Roger Nichols & the Small Circle of Friends and Curt Boetcher. I surely have not heard of these two back then as a lad in the seventies. There was just no access to knowing how great they were. It is 3o years later that there is.

After the hippies got grungier and grungier at around 68 a lot of great music suddenly appeared dated. Almost overnight genres coined as Baroque Pop and Sunshine Music were suddenly not hip enough to appeal to a counterculture in full swing. It is this music genre I have learned to love.…I’m thankful that more and more people agree with me that not only Disco(after being bashed for so many years) but also these styles are now being considered up there with the best of the best. It had to happen. The last rebellion of Rock in my experience is probably all about letting go of it. It happens within. Admit that you are probably more bourgeois than working class hero before you plug in your Fender. Sincerity lies in the musicianship and not in shallow political platitudes that accompany so many rock acts. It's funny that Elevator music appreciated long after its time is as provocative as punk to the fools who are holding on to their sacred rebellion.

More great sixties stuff I have recently come across...

Eternity’s Children,

Marc Eric,

Triste Janero,

Roger Nichols and the Small Circle of Friends.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Matias Aguilar, Hannover, New York

Copyright Matias Aguilar

...a group of pictures taken in Hannover, Germany and New York City...more

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

New York 6/08

Copyright Matias Aguilar

here for more

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Bill Owens

Copyright Bill Owens

Copyright Bill Owens

Last Tuesday I heard that the James Cohan Gallery was having a show with works of Bill Owens accompanied by a book signing on Thursday. So, I walked over to Strands to secure a copy of my favorite photographer’s book. I was pleasantly surprised that I arrived just in time for a lecture and signing ‘right there’ at Strands. Did I feel lucky?
Mr. Owens gave an interesting lecture. He repeatedly pointed out the importance of ‘reading’ pictures, of looking at the entire image ahead of you carefully, of how even the smallest props in the background contribute to a successful image and of the necessity of finding the perfect angle to create compelling compositions.
I always enjoyed looking through ‘Suburbia’ and ‘Leisure’. They are among my most favorite photo books. There is a special relationship that Mr. Owens has with his subjects. Looking at the pictures of the books it is pretty obvious how much at ease the subjects feel in front of the photographer’s lens. The photographer is far from being an intruder.
But what always stunned me is his gift of exposing at the best possible moment. I always wondered how Owens succeeds so brilliantly in exposing a certain look in the eyes or a posture of the subjects. How do you control or should I say not control your subjects to act this way in front of you? I believe that a shared trust by being social plays a role. Owens enjoys speaking to his subjects, gives out his card to them before taking their picture and enjoys showing the pictures afterwards. For a while I was under the impression that there is a photographer’s instinct that comes to play in taking these pictures. But after hearing Owens at the lecture I would rather call it timing. There is no mystery to pictures. Timing improves after making your homework, having a plan, being concentrated at all times…. being together. The photographer has carefully scripted the pictures he needs to take for his project.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Luigi Ghirri

Copyright Luigi Ghirri

Copyright Luigi Ghirri

Copyright Luigi Ghirri

Studying painting in Braunschweig, Germany so many of my fellow students and myself included were absolutely fanatical about early renaissance Italian paintings of Giotto, pittura metafisica a la De Chirico, Carra and the still lifes of Giorgio Morandi. What I really loved about the 'Italians' was that they never beat you over the head with revolutionary ideas and concepts their works are most clearly not devoid of. The works of Morandi were simple, yet they felt appealing and sensuous. The Carlo Carra's and De Chirico's juxtapositions of familiar objects seemed to point to a mysterious world of the subconscious and preceded Surrealism. Giotto's ability to desribe his sujets virtually and involve the viewer in a stage like set were probably the most revolutionary change that came about in Western art.

I am glad that the late Luigi Ghirri's photographical work is becoming more known outside of Italy. His pictures seem to embody a lot of what 'typically Italian' means to admirers like myself.

Last year at Hasted Hunt I watched the brilliant Color before Color show curated by Martin Parr of which Luigi Ghirri was part of. I can’t wait to get my hands on this book entitled “It's Beautiful Here, Isn't It...”, here

Mark Power

Copyright Mark Power

I just came across Magnum photographer Mark Power's recently updated new series on his site. It is really amazing work!

...Destroying the Laboratory for the Sake of the Experiment is a speculative mix of photographs by Mark Power and poems by Daniel Cockrill. Each month, time permitting, the pair spend a few days in a different part of England, responding in pictures and words to shared experiences in a country they both love and loathe. Expected to continue until 2010, their work will be presented here as 'work-in-progress' on loops of different lengths, encouraging random juxtapositions to occur. The series will be added to periodically ( here

I feel very fortunate that I was able to show a selection of my prints to Mr Power at last year’s Magnum Portfolio Review in the city. My reviewers Mark Power, Jonas Benediksen and Jim Goldberg all gave me pretty straightforward input about the work that I presented. It was interesting to hear what they had to say. I really valued their opinions. I was pretty surprised how long I carried some of the advice around.
Aside from taking pictures, which I really love I find it quite challenging to put myself out there and generate as much interest in my work as possible. Like most I do struggle to ‘pitch’ my work. But before you can even go out and try to contact people you better have a nicely edited and sequenced set of pictures ready.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Germany 5/08

...more pictures from my recent trip to Germany here

Saturday, May 31, 2008

I Heart Mary Weiss!!!



I really love Mary Weiss' recent record. It is called "Dangerous Games". A lot of people remember Mary as the lead singer of the 60's teenager band the Shangri Las. The Shangri Las gave us such unforgettable tunes as "Leader of the Pack" or "Remember(Walking in the Sand)". "Dangerous Games" is Mary Weiss' first recording since 1965!!! Wow! There is not one filler on this record."Don't Come back", "Stop And Think it over" are my current faves.


Mary Weiss -NewYork

'Mary Weiss of the Shangri Las'My Space

Friday, July 18, Seaport Music Festival, South Street Seaport, New York, NY

Friday, May 23, 2008

F.C. Gundlach

Copyright F.C. Gundlach

Copyright F.C. Gundlach

Copyright F.C. Gundlach

Having recently been in Hamburg for 2 days I did not miss my chance to go museum hopping at Kunsthalle and Deichtorhallen. At Deichtorhallen there were two interesting shows on view. I changed my initial plan of watching the Fischli and Weiss(who I really like, but already know) show. Instead I checked out a retrospective of German fashion photographer F.C. Gundlach. Especially the C-prints of fashion shoots from the 60’s were really beautiful.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Square America

Courtesy Square America

Courtesy Square America

Courtesy Square America

I like to visit the Square America site to check for updates. It is maintained by Nicholas Osborn and specializes on vintage photography...
Square America is a site dedicated to preserving and displaying vintage snapshots from the first 3/4s of the 20th Century. Not only do these photographs contain a wealth of primary source information on how life was lived they also constitute a shadow history of photography, one too often ignored by museums and art galleries. Or at least that's what I tell people- more accurately, the site is a catalog of my obsession with vintage photographs. For the last eight years or so I've spent countless hours digging through boxes of old snapshots at flea markets (mostly here in Chicago and in NYC) and too much money buying photos on eBay. The site is my attempt to create some kind of organizational framework, however idiosyncratic, for the sprawling mess my collecting has created....( Nicholas Osborn, Square America)
...more here