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 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