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Gary Beeber
Gary Beeber
Gary Beeber

Gary Beeber

Country: United States
Birth: 1951

Gary Beeber is an award-winning American photographer/filmmaker who has exhibited in galleries and museums throughout the United States and Europe. His documentary films have screened at over 75 film festivals. Solo (photography) exhibitions include two at Generous Miracles Gallery (NYC), the Griffin Museum of Photography (Wincester, MA), and upcoming exhibitions at PRAXIS Photo Arts Center, and the Rhode Island Center for Photographic Arts. Beeber’s work has also been included in juried exhibitions throughout the world. Among Fortune 500 companies who collect his work are Pfizer Pharmaceutical, Goldman Sachs and Chase Bank.

Sylvester Manor, Shelter Island
As an artist I am drawn to subjects I find to be incongruous, and always like to experiment with composition, lighting and perspective. As I'm taking pictures I think a lot about the passage of time and how things evolve over the decades.

When living in Sag Harbor, NY one of my great pleasures was taking the 10 minute ferry trip to Shelter Island (whose sleepy beauty starkly contrasts with the glitz and glamor of the Hamptons) and exploring/documenting Sylvester Manor. The island was originally inhabited by indigenous peoples, but was officially established as a slave holding provisioning plantation in 1652 by Nathaniel Sylvester, a sugar merchant from Barbados, who purchased the entire island for 1600 pounds of sugar.

Sylvester Manor has been in the Sylvester family for 11 generations. Descendants of Nathaniel Sylvester used slaves to work the plantation until early in the 19th century when slavery was abolished in the north.

People relate to this series because of Sylvester Manor's history and mystery. I was drawn to it for those same reasons, and of course it's sad, dark haunting beauty.
 

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Joe Vitone
United States/Italy
1954
Joe Vitone is a documentary fine art photographer and educator living in Austin, Texas. His work consists of large format portraiture and landscape in the United States as well as panoramic and other views examining cultures abroad. He is Professor of Photocommunications at St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas where he has lived with his family since 1991. He teaches traditional as well as digital photography and electronic media. He has received a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in photography and been a Fulbright scholar in Costa Rica as well as a Fulbright Specialist in the Apulia region of southern Italy. In both Costa Rica and Italy, Vitone’s work centers around small-scale family based agriculture. In addition to presentations given in the United States, he has lectured on his photography in Australia, China, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam. Involved in international education, he has led American students on study abroad programs in China, France, Japan, and Thailand. With a focus on documentary photography, he has worked with students outside of the U.S. in Australia, Costa Rica, France, Italy, and Thailand. His work has been exhibited at a number of venues including one-person exhibitions at the Hungarian Museum of Photography, the Akron Art Museum, and the Instituto Cultural Peruano-Norteamericano. His work is held in a number of collections including the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Center for Creative Photography, the Museum of Fine Art, Houston, Hungarian Museum of Photography, and the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History. About Family Records: These photographs have been drawn from an ongoing series of 4x5 and 8x10 inch (10x12.5 and 20.3x25.4 cm) negative portraits called Family Records which was begun in 1998 to document members of immediate and extended families of the photographer and his wife. 2017 marked 20 years of work on the pictures. The majority of the portrait subjects live in an orbit around the Rust Belt city of Akron, Ohio, former home to the country's major rubber and tire producers including Goodyear, Goodrich, and Firestone. Doylestown, Barberton, and other rural communities neighboring Akron serve as locations for many of these images along with Akron proper. The photographs generate dialogues between one another at a number of levels, some directly, as in lineage and interpersonal relation of mother to daughter, father to son, or brother to sister, and some at less specific and more universal places as well. Comment is made on finding purpose or respite in what can be a painful life, on time and aging, on moving from childhood to adulthood, on relations sustained or lost through the years, on masculinity and femininity, on sensuality and beauty seen not only in youth but in age, and on our valuing of ourselves and others not only because of our strengths but, perhaps even more so, by reason of our vulnerabilities.
Anders Petersen
Sweden
1944
Anders Petersen was born 1944 in Stockholm, Sweden. 14 years old his family moved to Karlstad in Värmland, where he met the artists ?Karin Bodland and Lars Sjögren.In 1961 he stayed for some time in Hamburg in order to learn German and trying to write and paint. He didn’t take any pictures. Five years later he met Christer Strömholm and became a student at his School of Photography in Stockholm. Strömholm was not just his teacher but also a close friend. Their friendship influenced him for life. In 1967 he starts photographing a bar called Café Lehmitz in Hamburg, close to Zeughausmarkt. He was photographing there for a period of almost three years and in 1970 he had his first soloexhibition over the bar in Café Lehmitz with 350 photographs nailed to the wall. In 1973 he published his first book ”Gröna Lund”, about people in an amusementpark in Stockholm. In 1974 he graduated from the Swedish Filmschool,Dramatiska Institutet, in Stockholm. In 1978 he published ”Café Lehmitz ” in Germany. In 1984 the first book in a trilogy about locked instituations was published. The three books were about people in a prison, a nursing house, and a mental hospital. After photographing the mental hospital for three years he oriented himself towards a more free approach in a kind of diarylike photography. During 2003 and 2004 Anders Petersen was appointed Professor of Photography in the School of Photography and Film at the University of Göteborg, Sweden. He regularly has workshops and exhibitions throughout Europe, Asia and in the USA. He has received numerous grants and rewards since the seventies. In 2003 Anders Petersen was elected the ”Photographer of the Year” by the International Photofestival in Arles.In 2006 he was shortlisted as one of four for the ”Deutsche Börse Photography Prize”. In 2007 he received the ”Special Prize of the Jury” for his exhibition ”Exaltation of Humanity” by the third International Photofestival in Lianzhou, China. In 2008 he received the ”Dr. Erich Salomon Award” by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Photographie, Germany. ”The Arles Contemporary Book Award for 2009? went to JH Engström and ?Anders Petersen’s collaborative book ”From Back Home” by Max Ström.?The book was nominated to ”The Best Photographic Book in Sweden, ?year 2009? and also Winner of Design Bronze Lion in Cannes. In 2010, he was in the jury for the BMW Prize at Paris Photo. In 2012, nominated to the Swedish Photo Book Prize in Stockholm for ”SOHO”, and PhotoBook of the Year award for "City Diary" Paris Photo and the Aperture Foundation. Anders Petersen has his darkroom in Stockholm, Sweden. Source: www.anderspetersen.se Anders Petersen, one of Sweden’s most influential auteur photographers, sensitively blurs the boundaries between madness and normality in his artwork “Mental Hospital”. Petersen, who won international renown with his Hamburg Café Lehmitz series (1967-1970), spent several years photographing patients at a psychiatric hospital just south of Stockholm. His gaze is one of raw tenderness, conveying naked emotions with insightful poetry. Carried by a deep integrity, he takes the viewer to the limits of normality. "It is the naked encounter, the raw, piercing confrontation with the Other and therefore with myself," Petersen said, describing his intention. "I photograph people with whom I can identify and I feel attracted by people who live outside society. In all my photographs, I try, essentially, to create self-portraits." He is neither sentimental nor sensational. Instead, his images show a great respect for that which is enigmatic in people, for that which is hidden under the surface. Petersen’s works have marked the history of photography. In 2003, he won the award “Photographer of the Year” at the festival "Rencontres de la Photographie" in Arles, and he was honored with the German Photography Society’s Dr.-Erich-Salomon prize in 2008 for his life’s work. Source: Grundemark Nilsson Gallery
 Izis
Lithuania
1911 | † 1980
Israëlis Bidermanas, who worked under the name of Izis, was a Lithuanian-Jewish photographer who worked in France and is best known for his photographs of French circuses and of Paris. Born in Marijampol, present-day Lithuania, Bidermanas arrived in France in 1930 to become a painter. In 1933 he directed a photographic studio in the 13th Arrondissement of Paris. During World War II, being a Jew, he had to leave occupied Paris. He went to Ambazac, in the Limousin, where he adopted the pseudonym Izis and where he was arrested and tortured by the Nazis. He was freed by the French Resistance and became an underground fighter. At that time he photographed his companions, including Colonel Georges Guingouin. The poet and underground fighter Robert Giraud was the first to write about Izis in the weekly magazine Unir, a magazine created by the Resistance. Upon the liberation of France at the end of World War II, Izis had a series of portraits of maquisards (rural resistance fighters who operated mainly in southern France) published to considerable acclaim. He returned to Paris where he became friends with French poet Jacques Prévert and other artists. Izis became a major figure in the mid-century French movement of humanist photography - also exemplified by Brassaï, Cartier-Bresson, Doisneau and Ronis - with "work that often displayed a wistfully poetic image of the city and its people." For his first book, Paris des rêves (Paris of Dreams), Izis asked writers and poets to contribute short texts to accompany his photographs, many of which showed Parisians and others apparently asleep or daydreaming. The book, which Izis designed, was a success. Izis joined Paris Match in 1950 and remained with it for twenty years, during which time he could choose his assignments. Meanwhile, his books continued to be popular with the public. Among the numerous books by Izis, Gerry Badger and Martin Parr have especial praise for Le Cirque d'Izis (The Circus of Izis), "published in 1965, but bearing the stamp of an earlier era". Shot mostly in Paris but also in Lyon, Marseille and Toulon, the photographs are "affectionate and nostalgic, but also deeply melancholic" with "a desolate undercurrent", forming a work that is "profound, moving and extraordinary". Source: Wikipedia
Maureen Ruddy Burkhart
United States
1954
My creative quest has always been about the 'journey' as opposed to the 'destination'. The first is experiential, alive, organic; that latter seems rushed. I grew up in places that I now see as exotic, but at the time I just thought it was terribly inconvenient and definitely too far from friends back 'home'. In 1971, at age 17, I left Iran, after three years, in tears and some relief. I immediately thought 'why didn't I take any pictures there?'. I fell in love with that country and its people, but I would not be going back (at least, not yet!). Holding onto what memories I had taken with me, I vowed this would not happen again. So I enrolled in the SFAI. Many years have unfolded since then, and I've been a filmmaker (when 'film' was film), a writer/director, an I.Q. tester, stock photographer, and a documentary and fine art photographer. My most seminal work to date, in terms of how it changed my worldly perceptions, came after spending some three years on and off working for a documentary project in the Kibera slum of Kenya. "Kibera: A Slice of Heaven" earned numerous international awards and press, but my favorite was a local 'Artist of the Year' in Longmont, Colorado. The Firehouse Art Center curator, Jessica Kooiman Parker, called it an 'act of bravery'. Reflecting on that, I realized that bravery is a way to change the world AND the photographer, one heart at a time. The power of photography is truly unlimited. Amidst a crazy world (and always being on the move), I developed a love of landscape photography. Most people acknowledge that nature can be a place of solace and inspiration. While it is definitely the same for me, I've been creating 'scenes' from nature. I often photograph the same landscape over and over, taking my favorite parts of the series and compositing them into a singular landscape that mimics my relationship to it. It's fantasy, whimsy, and hope. In my darker landscapes, there's a moody melancholia…but I never lose sight of the hope. Exclusive Interview with Maureen Ruddy Burkhart
Emma Powell
United States
Emma Powell is an artist in residence and lecturer in photography at Iowa State University. Powell graduated from the College of Wooster in Ohio and received her MFA from Rochester Institute of Technology. Her work often examines photography's history while incorporating historic processes and or devices within the imagery. In her series In Search of Sleep, Powell uses the cyanotype process to create a visual lullaby in wish she explores personal narratives and metaphors.In Search of SleepFrom my earliest days I have had a difficult relationship with sleep. As a child I avoided it at all costs, especially at night. To get me back to bed, my father used to tell me stories. They were not traditional children’s bedtime stories, but invented tales that began on our quiet street and journeyed down open drains to a dream-world of caverns, forests, and oceans full of unexpected animals and dangers. The story would always find its way back to the real world and end where it had begun, hopefully but doubtfully with me that much closer to sleep.In Search of Sleep recreates this shadowy realm and allows me to explore my real-life questions, from personal dramas to romantic doubts. The cyanotype process, with its distinctive blue tones, visually traverses the distance between waking and sleeping. These images are also toned with tea and wine to both dull the blues and add warmth. Tea, wine, cyanide – all three of these substances relate to different levels of consciousness that often mirror the mental states evoked by my photographs. In Search of Sleep creates a visual lullaby that allows me to safely explore what I love, what I fear, what I remember, and what I imagine.
Tatiana Bormatova
Tatiana Bornatova is a documentary photographer from Moscow, now is based in Sevastopol. She currently engaged in personal projects in Russia. Her work focuses on topics devoted to social problems and phenomena of modern Russian society. She studied documentary photography and photojournalism at the School of Modern Photography Docdocdoc (St. Peterburg, Russia). Continues to study in the direction of post-documentary photography. Her projects were published in the REGNUM News Agenсу, IZ Magazine, FLIP Magazine, F-Stop Magazine, Dodho Magazine. Tatiana became a participant in the projection festival Nuits Photographiques d’Essaouira (Essaouira, Morocco) and World Biennial Of Student Photography (Novi Sad, Serbia). Underground In ancient underground quarries, all is in full swing by day and night. Both adventurers and serious researchers - speleologists and spelestologists - come here. Speleology is the study of naturally - occurring caves, and spelestology is the study of underground cavities not used for intended purposes. In the fourteenth century, in Outer Moscow people began mining stone underground using closed methods. It lasted until the nineteenth century. Under Stalin, entrance to the underground was strictly forbidden, but this did not stop people going on adventures. In the 1960s, the masses started to venture into the underground. Then they started to blow up the entrances to caves. Access to the underground became much more difficult, but the interest for anthropogenic underground caves did not cease to exist. Starting in the 1980s, spelestologists and enthusiasts again started to look for underground caverns, previously forbidden in Soviet times. The analysis of old rubble, digging up and exploring passages, and topographic surveys all require staying underground for several days at a time. In the caves specialists would start to allocate grottos for toilets, sleeping, eating and collecting water, as well as strengthening areas that were prone to collapsing. The walls were covered with drawings, inscriptions, artefacts and graffiti. These new traditions and rules resulted in the formation of new subcultures. Visiting caves now is very entertaining. More and more often, they are being visited by thrill seekers, people who like to drink, unofficial excursion groups, and bloggers. Often people go underground without knowing basic safety precautions. That said, the risks in underground caves are not few: one could get lost or end up in a rock collapse. Spelestologists think negatively of amateurs who try to prevent filming and unofficial tours. A few of the researchers carry out excavations and study the underground caverns, but the increase in popularity is starting to disturb their work. They try to keep the whereabouts of newly discovered caves secret. The photographs in this project were taken in the Moscow Oblast, in the Syankovsk and Novlensk caves, and also in the Kamkinsk quarry, more well-known as Kiseli.
Ralph Gibson
United States
1939
Ralph Gibson is an American art photographer best known for his photographic books. His images often incorporate fragments with erotic and mysterious undertones, building narrative meaning through contextualization and surreal juxtaposition. Ralph Gibson studied photography while in the US Navy and then at the San Francisco Art Institute. He began his professional career as an assistant to Dorothea Lange and went on to work with Robert Frank on two films. Gibson has maintained a lifelong fascination with books and book-making. Since the appearance in 1970 of THE SOMNAMBULIST, his work has been steadily impelled towards the printed page. To date he has produced over 40 monographs, his most current projects being "State of the Axe" published by Yale University Press in Fall of 2008 and "NUDE" by Taschen (2009). His photographs are included in over one hundred and fifty museum collections around the world, and have appeared in hundreds of exhibitions. Gibson has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (1973, 1975, 1986), a Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (D.A.A.D.) Exchange, Berlin (1977), a New York State Council of the Arts (C.A.P.S.) fellowship (1977), and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (1985). The Rencontres d'Arles festival presented his work in 1975, 1976, 1977, 1979, 1989 and 1994. His book "Syntax" received a mention for the Rencontres d'Arles Book Award in 1983. He was decorated as an Officier de L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (1986) and appointed, Commandeur de L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (2005) by the French government. His awards include: Leica Medal of Excellence Award (1988), "150 Years of Photography" Award, Photographic Society of Japan (1989), a Grande Medaille de la Ville d'Arles (1994) and the Lucie Award for lifetime achievement (2008). Gibson also received an honorary doctorate of Fine Arts from the University of Maryland (1991), and a second honorary doctorate from the Ohio Wesleyan University (1998). He has worked exclusively with the Leica for almost 50 years. Gibson currently lives in New York and travels frequently to Europe and Brazil.Source: Wikipedia Having begun his acclaimed photographic career as an apprentice to the great documentarians Dorothea Lange and Robert Frank, Ralph Gibson is known for his highly distinctive vision in still photography. By intensifying contrast and emphasizing the grain of the film in his prints, Gibson concentrates on the minute details: the edge of a café table, the arc of a hip, the glint of a fork. Gibson’s works are both formally vigorous and eternally evocative. His photographs are in major private and public collections worldwide, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Bibliotheque Nationale.Source: Weston Gallery
Michael Ackerman
Israel/United States
1967
Born in Tel Aviv, Israel. His family moves to New York in 1974. Lives and works in Warsaw. Since his first exhibition, in 1999, Michael Ackerman has made his mark by bringing a new, radical and unique approach. His work on Varanasi, entitled "End Time City," breaks away from all sorts of exoticism or any anecdotal attempt at description, to question time and death with a freedom granted by a distance from the panoramic – whose usage he renewed – to squares or rectangles. In black and white, with permanent risk that led him to explore impossible lighting, he allowed the grainy images to create enigmatic and pregnant visions. Michael Ackerman seeks – and finds – in the world he traverses, reflections of his personal malaise, doubts and anguish. He received the Nadar Award for his book "End Time City" in 1999, and the Infinity Award for Young Photographer by the International Center of Photography in 1998. In 2009, he won the SCAM Roger Pic Award for his series "Departure, Poland". His last book "Half Life" has been published in 2010 by Robert Delpire. In 2014, he collaborated with Vincent Courtois, cellist, and Christian Caujolle, behind the project, in a show called “L'intuition” which proposes a dialogue between photography and music creation. This show was presented, in particular, as part of the festival Banlieues Bleues and for the Rencontres d'Arles 2014.Source: Agence VU Selected Publications 2wice, Abitare, Aperture, Art On Paper, Beaux Arts, Die Zeit, Doubletake, Eyemazing, French Photo, Granta, Harpers, India Magazine, La Humanite, Internazionale, Les Inrockuptibles, Liberation, Le Matin, Le Monde 2, Metropolis, New York Magazine, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, The New Yorker, Ray Gun, La Repubblica delle Donne, Rolling Stone, Stern and The Village Voice. Awards SCAM Roger Pic Award, 2009. Prix Nadar, End Time City, 1999. Best Documentary of 1999, photo-eye, 1999. Infinity Award, Young Photographer, International Center of Photography, 1998. 2014 L’intuition – A projection in collaboration with musician Vincent Courtois, curated by Christian Caujolle. Performed In la Friche Belle de Mai, Marseille, 4 Fevrier Le Lux Scene national de Valence, Festival Banlieues blues, Paris and Rencontres photographiques d’Arles SUSPENSION Noun: Suspension, Verb: suspend: “To cause to stop for a period, hold in abeyance; suspend judgment.” In Michael Ackerman's work, documentary and autobiography conspire with fiction, and all of the above dissolve into hallucination. The particular journeys of his book Half Life encompass New York, Havana, Berlin, Naples, Paris, Warsaw, and Krakow, but the locations aren’t necessarily recognizable at all. Michael has been moving towards this erasure of geographical and other distinctions in his photographs for some time. It hasn’t become dogma - the Smoke photographs shot in Atlanta’s Cabbagetown remain a beautifully regional document, but they document a neighborhood as a particular dream state rather than a set of facts, and the photos could wander easily into his other bodies of work. In all cases, there is surely a trajectory away from the constraints of a traditional documentary mode towards a very different way of getting at the world. Some notes about particular photos in Half Life: A family, seen on a decaying porcelain tombstone portrait - solarized by decades of exposure - is falling apart, as families do, is holding on together, as families do. The shape of their little monument is uncannily like that of the Hotel Centrum on a later page, where such a family, had they existed in the same era, would not have been able to stay. The Centrum, a modern Polish megalith, floats absurdly in the frame, freed from all scale but heavy on the page. A naked man kneeling on a bed; we find him in supplication or some unspecific bondage. He is trapped, caught between stations, and the terrible but accepted scratch lines on the negative make it feel like TV or video, as if the man is seen through some screen, receding. It’s no longer a portrait of a particular person. It seems as if the man has become some vague entity, a sick feeling, a migraine headache, I don’t even know. A man goes up stairs or an escalator and his hand is ridiculously long, maybe like that of Nosferatu in Murnau’s silent film. The stairs begin in Lodz but, according to the next page, pass a landing in Havana. Suspension... A woman, naked, holds her arms against her torso. She looks up, somehow in simultaneous surprise and recognition. I can’t say if her face shows love or sadness or fear, but there’s something inevitable in her expression. It’s strange how she seems so caught in flux, while her shadow, so dark on the wall, is just the opposite, permanent.* * * In the early stages of his building the Half Life book, Michael and I talked about where to put the series of pictures taken from train windows, mostly in deep winter. At one point they were scattered throughout, at other times they fell together in a bloc, but in any case, the body of work, and the book as a whole, started to feel to me like they ran on rails in the snow, and the places and people within them were stops, things seen or felt in passing. They’re encountered, drift away, are longed for, returned to, left behind again. If Michael’s work is sometimes tough, the landscapes remind us back to a balancing delicacy, a faith in beauty. Michael deeply loves the snow trains that cut archaically through Europe, especially through Eastern Europe, especially the overnight trains which he and I share as our transportation of choice. On these you travel but are nowhere for the duration of the trip, floating through whiteness if it’s wintertime. This nothing in which things float is echoed in his prints, though the white is sometimes heavily vignetted, as if darkness wants in. Alternately, the backgrounds can be of total blackness, and then the subject radiates like a candle. But back to the snow trains, which often run through the most ignored and beautiful parts of cities, where commercial facades drop away like forced smiles into debris and frozen mud and warehouses, which then give way to fields. Riding on one of these trains outside of Katowice, Poland en route to Paris, Michael spotted in the distance the warped row of dead train cars seen in the book. Desperate to photograph them, he guessed at their location and eventually returned. He got off at the closest stop, trudged through the snow, and found the trains, but approaching across a frozen field, camera in hand, his legs suddenly plunged through a chasm in the whiteness, a missing manhole cover. In what he referred to as a “rare case of quick thinking,” he stuck out his arms, breaking the fall, and managed to pull himself out. No one knew he was there, and if he’d perished, it would’ve been for the love of trains, and of wreckage, and of course, of pictures. * * * Many in the panel of men at the beginning of Half Life were photographed in bars. Some were found in a bar in Paris where the old and ageless proprietor became one of Michael’s favorite people, not just in the city, but in the world. Her bar was a special refuge, and though she was difficult, she truly took Michael in. This tiny bar remains a constant, a place of return, but many of the regulars he’s met over the years are now gone. For some moments however, they drew, or seemed to draw, terribly close, with alcohol as glue and pictures proof -- but of what… mutual need, eventual isolation, or the pendulum swing between the two… A bar is something like the center of an hourglass: at the top is time disappearing, and at the bottom, time spent. But to those in the place, the regulars, the middle is the only thing apparent and there time has stopped. (An interesting circumstance for others in the time-stopping business, and not just still photographers. The phenomena is beautifully understood in Daumier’s paintings of drinkers or Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son). It is illusory, of course; the people are held in that place where, like the proverbial cartoon character who’s gone off a cliff, they just don’t realize the ground has dropped away beneath their feet. Once again, suspension. Which also has a musical definition: The prolongation of a tone in one chord into the following chord, usually producing a temporary dissonance. This prolongation of tone, an ongoing search, gives the work continuity, as does the dissonance, which can be restlessness or loss. I won’t talk much here about the emotional drive behind the work, or the personal ramifications, but that’s my hesitation, not Michael’s. There’s a picture in Half Life of the photographer and a woman, both with shaved heads, a troubled mirroring, a last strange union. The photograph is a pact: see you now, see you later, so long... In the last few years, such goodbyes have given way to a series of welcomings, explorations of the concrete changes and dream states of immediate family, wife and child. These pictures, deeply caring but by necessity fearless, reverberate with bluntness, warmth, shock, matter of fact erotics, and of course love, which when regarded honestly, includes a steamer trunk of contradictions. So, there is fear mixed in with the fearlessness, the joy includes some trepidation, the innocence is utterly real, but tangled and fleeting. How disappointing it would be if a photographer so open to the wrenching truths of the world would suddenly pull all punches when faced with the most intimate situation of all. How unfortunate it would be, for all of us, if investigations of intimacy were left to the whitewashers and the advertisers, the puritans and the pornographers. And so, in the recent work, new tightropes are stretched and new risks are taken. But in looking back at Michael’s work as a whole, I’m reminded that one of the great challenges artists face is when to pull back from the proverbial edge - those addicted to pushing the envelope sometimes fall into a negative trap which has its own complacency. A kind or subtle or purely beautiful image might actually be the risk that they can’t seem to take. The walking of tightropes has always been integral to Michael’s work, but I don’t see him falling into that dark trap, which is why the work is thorny but never cynical, heavy but also sweet. Beyond all of that, I still don’t understand how the pictures happen, how he gets them. It certainly isn’t about the equipment, the cameras come and go, sometimes literally broken but still pressed into use. I think Michael feels that taking pictures and taking chances should be kindred enterprises. I’ve met few artists less uptight about the technology and intricacies of gear and production, though he does of course become completely intimate with what he needs in order to get at what he feels. Once I heard him suggest in a Q & A that he just doesn’t care about technique, but knowing the time and tortures he’s given over to darkroom work, I thought that was a touch disingenuous. He meant that technique and technology are never the core of the matter, and that he doesn’t like to be precious about them. And he needs accidents; they might reveal something, break something open. Sometimes they might go too far and the image itself is obliterated: again, necessary risk. I’ve seen him photograph without putting the camera to his eye, as if to confirm that what he was after wasn’t primarily even about seeing. (That too is deceptive; with time, some photographers know what the camera is getting, regardless of where it’s held). Maybe I mean that compared to many other photographers, Michael’s work isn’t so concerned with sight itself. If he could have been a writer, painter, or a musician, that might have worked too. In any case, the results speak for themselves, and the results are often kind of insane. Sadly, because of the madness of these photographs and the digital times we’ve entered, people increasingly assume that certain pictures must be computer manipulations. Michael is no purist, but that simply isn’t what is going on here. Do you see how it matters that even if these are accidents of light and the distorting lens, they are things that somehow happened, that were? They come out of the real; however unlikely or impossible, they are measurements - not constructions. They are measurements, but in the end, of the interior as much as of the world. But like I said, Michael’s not a purist, and in his impure searching, he occasionally walks a thin line between accepting pure actuality and giving it a nudge. We argue about it. I don’t know what to make of the picture where someone else’s old portrait of Anna Akhmatova is held up and rephotographed. I guess Michael wanted to invite her into that streetscape, felt she was part of his history or emotional landscape; maybe he just loved her profile and wondered, what the hell, why not? Sometimes the work is funny. The absurdly mismatched nude couple in the book aren’t funny but they are, as is the man who wears a monocle made of smoke. The Coney Island hotdog signs reading ‘Franks’ and the American flag they stutter towards comprise a whimsical tribute to one particular, beloved photographer; first name - Robert. Occasional whimsy aside though, Half Life is a rough ride through damaged places and situations. And what’s it like to be with Michael when he’s photographing such things? Well, it isn’t necessarily comfortable, or easy, or pleasant. Sometimes artists push their work, and their luck along with it. Sometimes Michael just plunges in. I was crossing the street with him on the Lower East side once when a woman suddenly appeared, coming towards us in the intersection. Something in her presence struck us instantly with force -- she might have been beautiful or she might have been mutilated -- we had no time to register anything; but he lunged and got off one picture as I stood by and winced. I doubt she noticed at all, but what if she had? (The picture is in Fiction; it appears to be of a ghost in a miniskirt, perhaps with a black eye.) Such pictures do not come out of discretion, or delicacy, or fair exchange. In many of Michael’s pictures mutual understanding simply may or may not have existed. There is a harshness to this observation; it troubles me, and yet I can say that Michael’s pictures are always, deeply made without judgment, in total acceptance. That in itself is a kind of love. And the subjects obviously extend him enormous trust. (Well... except when they don’t. Walking with Michael on a street in Krakow, he photographed another approaching woman, a middle-aged matron. She yelled angrily at him in Polish; he kept walking but yelled back, in Polish: “You’re beautiful.”) It is probably no accident then that the gesture of the embrace recurs again and again in Michael’s work. Which leads me to what may be my favorite set of pictures that Michael has taken, of the couple on the stairs: To what do we owe this strange and tender record ? And what is the record of? An older man and his young girlfriend collapsed in drunken surrender… or perhaps a father and son broken together on a subway staircase ? Who is holding who up? Was the man once a boxer? If the younger one is in fact a woman, is she his lover? The stairs are at once unyielding and rippling, bending and unbending. This couple, whatever their relationship and circumstance, are attended to then in a series of photographs, equally harsh and gentle, unwrapped over time. But what time is given - minutes, hours, or an unending day or an unending night? You can just about hear the tinny loudspeakers in the background of the train station, and thinking of stations, I am reminded that the 13th station is the descent from the cross. The actual circumstances, the truth of it, the year and the gender, hardly matter, don’t matter at all. At its best, the work speaks past such details, and even beyond photography.
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