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.