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Philipp Bolthausen
Philipp Bolthausen
Philipp Bolthausen

Philipp Bolthausen

Country: United States

Akzidenz currently living and working between Paris and New York. His education focused around art and communication studies in Paris and New York, where he lived and worked for many years before returning to Paris. He presently works as an art director for some of the mosthigh-end luxury brands worldwide.
This background has a rooted presence in his work - in that he is less interested in the representational qualities of the photograph, focusing more on the exploration of the fringes of each terrain. This focus stems from the will to not use photography as a traditional means of representation of reality but creating a platform for discourse and thought. In order to achieve this dais, he tries to invent his own visual language, using multi-exposures, superposition, juxtaposition and ‘sequentiality’ to interpret, rewrite and therefore, relate to manufactured experiences which are being created on a daily basis by mass media.
In short his photography can be summed into Objects, which create an intrinsic world of their own, or in his own words: “My works aren’t pictures of something, but objects about something.”
Akzidenz purposefully chooses to use the 20th century medium of film allowing him to see, and therefore place the present into perspective. The choice of black & white and grain become the signifiers that depict and foster the equivalence of life and shape within his work. The single ‘effects’ of contemporary post-processing are not important to his work, to the point that he refuses to use such ‘effects’ - anything beyond the traditional workflow of the darkroom is prohibited in his work.

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Laura El-Tantawy
Laura El-Tantawy is an Egyptian photographer living between Cairo and London. She is represented by VII Mentor. She was born in Worcestershire, England to Egyptian parents & grew up between Saudi Arabia & Egypt. In 2002, El-Tantawy started her career as a newspaper photographer with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel & Sarasota Herald-Tribune (USA). In 2006, she became freelance so she could focus on pursuing personal projects. In 2008, she was nominated & accepted as one of 15 young photographers from around the world to participate in Reflexions Masterclass, a two-year photography seminar directed by renowned Italian photographer Giorgia Fiorio and French curator Gabriel Bauret. In 2010, she was awarded a six-month fellowship at the University of Oxford (UK) to write about freedom of expression in Egypt and the role played by Internet of expression in Egypt and the role played by Internet blogging and independent newspapers in pushing the boundaries of free speech in Egypt. In 2005 she started work on her first book exploring the identity and change facing her native Egypt. Her work has been published & exhibited in the United States, Europe, Asia & the Middle East and she has been recognized across several international awards. In 2013, she will be taking part in the 4th edition of the Northern Lights MasterClass, an educational program for documentary photographers powered by the Noorderlicht Foundation in the Netherlands. El-Tantawy is a graduate of the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia (USA) with a dual degree journalism and political science. Source: www.lauraeltantawy.com
Herbert List
Germany
1903 | † 1975
Herbert List was a classically educated artist who combined a love of photography with a fascination for surrealism and classicism. Born into a prosperous Hamburg merchant family, List began an apprenticeship at a Heidelberg coffee dealer in 1921 while studying literature and art history at Heidelberg University. During travels for the coffee business between 1924-28, the young List began to take photographs, almost without any pretensions to art. In 1930, though, his artistic leanings and connections to the European avant-garde brought him together with the photographer Andreas Feininger, who introduced his new friend to the Rolleiflex, a more sophisticated camera that allowed a deliberate composition of images. Under the dual influence of the surrealist movement on the one hand, and of Bauhaus artists on the other, List photographed still life and his friends, developing his own style. He has described his images as "composed visions where [my] arrangements try to capture the magical essence inhabiting and animating the world of appearances.” After leaving Germany in 1936 for political and personal reasons, he turned his hobby into a profession. Working in Paris and London, he met George Hoyningen-Huene, who referred him to "Harper's Bazaar". Dissastisfied with the challenges of fashion photography, List instead focused on composing still lifes in his studio. The images produced there would later be compared to the paintings of Max Ernst and Giorgio de Chirico, and paved the way for List's role as the most prominent photographer of the Fotografia Metafisica style. Greece became List's main interest from 1937 to 1939. After his first visit to the antique temples, sculptures and landscapes, his first solo show opened in Paris in the summer of 1937. Publications in "Life", "Photographie", "Verve" and "Harper's Bazaar" followed, and List began work on his first book, Licht Ueber Hellas, which wasn't published until 1953. Working in Athens, List hoped to escape the war but was forced by invading troops to return to Germany in 1941. Because of his Jewish background, he was forbidden to publish or work officially in Germany. Several works, stored in a hotel in Paris, have been lost. Portraits of Berard, Cocteau, Honegger and Picasso during a short visit to Paris and a series on the Panoptikum in Vienna characterized List's main work before the war ended in 1945. In 1946, he photographed the ruins of post-war Munich and took the job of art editor of "HEUTE", an American magazine for the German public. In 1951, List met Robert Capa, who convinced him to work as a contributor to Magnum, but he rarely accepted assignments. He turned his interest towards Italy from 1950 to 1961, photographing everything from street scenes to contemplative photo-essays, from architectural views to portraits of international artists living in Italy. In 1953, he discovered the 35mm camera and the telephoto lens. His work became more spontaneous and was influenced by his Magnum colleague Henri Cartier-Bresson and the Italian Neo-Realism film movement. Over the next few years, he completed several books, including Rom, Caribia, Nigeria and Napoli, this one in collaboration with Vittorio de Sica. List more or less gave up photography in the early 1960s. Despite his earlier fame throughout Europe, his particular style was no longer fashionable. By the time he died in Munich in 1975, his work had been almost forgotten. Interest has revived recently, though, thanks to a fine monograph published by Monacelli Press, which features 250 of List's photographs divided into five sections: Metaphysical Photography, Ruins and Fragments, Eros and Photography, Portraits, and Moments. Herbert List died in Munich, April 4th 1975.From wikipedia.orgHerbert List (October 7, 1903–April 4, 1975) was a German photographer, who worked for magazines, including Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, and Life, and was associated with Magnum Photos. His austere, classically-posed black-and-white compositions, particularly of male nudes, taken in Italy and Greece have been highly formative for modern photography, with contemporary fashion photographers like Herb Ritts being clearly influenced by List's style. He is also noted for his erotic street photography. Herbert List was born on 7 October 1903 to a prosperous business family in Hamburg, the son of Luise and Felix List. He attended the Johanneum Gymnasium, and afterwards studied literature at the University of Heidelberg. While still a student he became apprenticed to his family coffee company. From 1924 to 1928 List continued to work at the company and to travel to Brazil, Guatemala, Costa Rica and elsewhere. During this time he began taking photographs. In 1930 he met photographer Andreas Feininger, who introduced him to the Rolleiflex camera. He began taking portraits of friends and shooting still lifes, influenced by the Bauhaus and surrealist movements. He used male models, draped fabric, and masks along with double-exposures.He has explained that his photos were "composed visions where [my] arrangements try to capture the magical essence inhabiting and animating the world of appearances.” In 1936 List left Germany and took up photography as a profession, working in Paris and London. He met George Hoyningen-Huene who referred him to Harper's Bazaar magazine, but List was unsatisfied with fashion photography. He turned back to still life imagery, producing images in a style he called "fotografia metafisica", which pictured dream states and fantastic imagery, using mirrors and double-exposures. From 1937 to 1939 List traveled in Greece and took photographs of ancient temples, ruins, sculptures, and the landscape, many of which were published in magazines and books. In 1941, during World War II, he was forced to return to Germany; but because one of his grandparents was Jewish he was not allowed to publish or work professionally. In 1944 he was drafted into the German military, despite being of partly Jewish ancestry and gay. He served in Norway as a map designer. A trip to Paris allowed him to take portraits of Picasso, Jean Cocteau, Christian Berard, Georges Braque, Jean Arp, Joan Miro, and others. After the war, he photographed the ruins of Munich, and he became art editor of Heute magazine. In 1951 List met Robert Capa, who invited him to join Magnum Photos. For the next decade he worked heavily in Italy. During this time he also started using a 35 mm film camera and a telephoto lens. He was influenced by his Magnum colleague Henri Cartier-Bresson as well as the Italian neorealism film movement. In the 1950s he also shot portraits of Marino Marini, Paul Bowles, W. H. Auden, and Marlene Dietrich in 1960. List gave up photography in the early 1960s. He died in Munich on April 4, 1975.Source: www.magnumphotos.com
Valerio Nicolosi
Valerio Nicolosi, filmmaker and photojournalist based and born in Rome in 1984, has always had a passion for photography and video. In 2008 he graduated with highest honours from the 'Experimental Television Center' in Rome. He is always looking for the "human factor" on his photos. He made few reportages from the Syrian-Lebanon border about the crises of refugees and the humanitarian corridors. He made Italian and european network and investigative journalism programs for which he has made many reportages on the issue of immigrants and in particular in the "Jungle of Calais". He also covered the terrorist attacks both in Paris and Brussels. During the months of October and November 2016 he followed the US elections making a series of reportages together with the journalist Giovanna Pancheri, broadcast by SkyTg24. Most of the reportages were about human condition on suburbs of America. Making the documentary "Death Before Lampedusa" for the German national TV, ARD, he followed the operation "Mare Nostrum" on board the Italian military vessels deployed in the recovery of boats coming from Africa. He has made numerous music videos with Italian and Palestinian singer/songwriters and has published three books of short stories and photography, "Bar(n)Out", "Be Filmmaker in Gaza" "(R)Esistenze". He spent more than 20 days on board the "Proactiva Open Arms" boat, a Spanish NGO whose main mission is to rescue refugees from the sea that arrive in Europe fleeing wars, persecution or poverty. On that 3 weeks they rescued 86 refugees. He is just come back from the Gaza Strip where he taught filmmaking and did some reportages about fishermen and daily life. He also works as an occasional lecturer with the 'Audio-visual Journalism Tribune' at La Sapienza University and the Palestinian Al-Aqsa and Deir El-Balah, both located in the Gaza Strip. He collaboreted with the international press agency Reuters and currently he collaborates with Associated Press. Discover Valerio Nicolosi's Interview
Eli Reed
United States
1946
Eli Reed was born in the US and studied pictorial illustration at the Newark School of Fine and Industrial Arts, graduating in 1969. In 1982 he was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. At Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, he studied political science, urban affairs, and the prospects for peace in Central America. Reed began photographing as a freelancer in 1970. His work from El Salvador, Guatemala and other Central American countries attracted the attention of Magnum in 1982. He was nominated to the agency the following summer, and became a full member in 1988. In the same year Reed photographed the effects of poverty on America's children for a film documentary called Poorest in the Land of Plenty, narrated by Maya Angelou. He went on to work as a stills and specials photographer for major motion pictures. His video documentary Getting Out was shown at the New York Film Festival in 1993 and honored by the 1996 Black Film-makers Hall of Fame International Film and Video Competition in the documentary category. Reed's special reports include a long-term study on Beirut (1983-87), which became his first, highly acclaimed book Beirut, City of Regrets, the ousting of Baby Doc Duvalier in Haiti (1986), US military action in Panama (1989), the Walled City in Hong Kong and, perhaps most notably, his documentation of African-American experience over more than twenty years. Spanning the 1970s through the end of the 1990s, his book Black in America includes images from the Crown Heights riots and the Million Man March. Reed has lectured and taught at the International Center of Photography, Columbia University, New York University, and Harvard University. He currently works as Clinical Professor of Photojournalism at the University of Texas in Austin.(Source: en.wikipedia.org)
Peyman Naderi
Peyman Naderi is a Persian contemporary fine art and portrait photographer born in 1990. He is a self-taught photographer who started his first professional projects in the year 2013. As he began his career as a professional photographer, his first motto was to create original and creative photos through which his own perceptions of the world and art could be understood. Also, he is eager to represent a unique way of looking at various concepts in the world. "Concept" is one of the most important parts of his photography projects, and Peyman tries to spend enough time and energy on finding the right concept. To create and discover the right idea he usually listen to classical music during his free time or at nights. Such high-quality music can inspire him and help him to concentrate on finding ways to present the world in ways that he sees. Besides, the colors that he uses in his photos create the illusion of a painting, and, hence, most people usually mistake his works as paintings. Peyman has received several awards including Second Place In Portrait in Fine Art Photography Awards 2020, Particular Merit Mention in All About Photo Awards 2020, Bronze in Fine Portrait and Fine Art Other in One Eyeland Photography Awards 2019, 1st Place in Conceptual in Chromatic Awards 2019, 2nd Place in Fashion in Chromatic Awards 2019, Gold In Moscow International Foto Awards 2019 in Portfolio Category, Bronze In Fine Art Photography Awards 2019 In Fine Art Category, Bronze In PX3 2019 In Fine Art - People and Also Peyman has been chosen as a 100 Great Photographers of 2018 and also Took 2nd Place In Conceptual Photo In 35Awards 2018, and also he has been Winner in ND Awards, Tokyo International Foto Awards, PX3, and International Photography Awards and V Concurso International De Fotografía 'Alicante' 2019. His work has been published in international publications including Harper's Bazaar Magazine and The Exhibition was In Ontario, 2019 CONTACT Photography Festival and Also The Last Exhibition was in France, 2019 Voies Off, Galerie Des Arènes. Statement My name is Peyman Naderi, and I am a contemporary Persian fine art and portrait photographer. I am a self-taught photographer who started his first professional projects in the year 2013. As I began my career as a professional photographer, my first moto was to create original and creative photos through which my own perceptions of the world and art could be understood. Also, I am eager to represent a unique way of looking to various concepts in the world. My first experience as a subject of portrait photography was quite funny though. I remember that I was only six years old, and I was terrified by seeing various equipment and cameras. Trying to make me calmer, the photographer gave me a toy camera to play with while sitting on the chair. This memory, somehow, triggered my curiosity and interest in this art. I bought my first camera years later, in 2010, and started to take photos of my friends and family members. The more I got engaged in this art, the more I found out about my artistic talents and the passion I have for photography. I remember that I used to go to a burnt cotton factory located on the outskirt of Tehran, my hometown. Although the fire had ruined almost everything in the factory, a small hall with a high ceiling and golden walls was left intact. When I first entered this building, seeing this magnificent scenery inside a totally destroyed and abandoned building took my breath away and provoked my first fine art ideas inside me. As I started my first project, I used to go to this place every day to try different photography techniques and become master in them. Then, I started studio photography to learn about various lighting techniques. I tried to include my own ideas and perceptions here, and manipulate the lighting based on my perceptions and concepts. Winning the silver medal in the Victor Polynsky competition for one of my photos called Oblivion, further increased my self-confidence and my persistence in photography. In the years after that, I won several awards in many competitions like Moscow International Foto Awards, Chromatic Awards, ND Awards, Tokyo International Foto Awards, PX3 and IPA, and I had my works published in various international magazines. "Concept" is one of the most important parts of my photography projects, and I try to spend enough time and energy on finding the right concept. To create and discover the right idea I usually listen to classical music during my free time or at nights. Such high-quality music can inspire me and help me to concentrate on finding ways to present the world in ways that I see. Besides, the colors that I use in my photos create the illusion of a painting, and, hence, most people usually mistake my works as paintings. In this project, I tried to exhibit the mind and though barriers that humans face. To fully present my idea I decided to use handmade metals and natural flowers, and then I tried to expand my idea to show both emancipation and captivity at the same time. Also, I have been attempting to display my own viewpoint in all of my works and to enable the viewer to connect with the world that I see. I genuinely hope to create a permanent path in the art of photography inspire other talented and hardworking artists.
Agata Vera Schiller
Agata Vera Schiller was born in 1980 in Inowroclaw, Poland. Grew up in the countryside surrounded by loving family and beautiful nature. She has graduated at the Faculty of Journalism in Poznan in 2003. Lived for several months in Scotland, spending time drawing and taking pictures of landscapes with her first camera Zenit. In 2006, she has made Masters at the Academy of Fine Arts in Poznan, drawing workshop. Moved to Warsaw and began postgraduate studies at the Department of Interior Architecture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow, which she graduated in 2009. Worked for several years as an interior and furniture designer. In 2010 she moved to Beijing for 3 years, working, living and taking lifestyle pictures. In Beijing began her journey in darkroom focused on discovery old techniques of classical photography such as wet plate. Beijing is also a place, where was held her first solo exhibition „Sol oriens” in 2011 at the Polish Embassy in Beijing, and then at the Chaoyang Culture Center in Beijing. She took part in several collective photo exhibitions in Poland. Her photography is not only a lifestyle photography looking for a beauty in simplicity of Scandinavian interior style and magic of everyday life. But the closest to her heart are nostalgic portraits of women, found somewhere between the worlds, living in a dreams. Agata’s fine art photography is characterized by tension between sensual experience and intellectual construction. Agata currently lives and works in Warsaw as a freelance photographer.
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.
Polly Gaillard
United States
1965
Polly Gaillard is a fine art photographer, writer, and educator. She is part-time Professor of Art at Furman University and has taught photography workshops and college courses for more than ten years including summers abroad teaching American students in Prague, Czech Republic, and Cortona, Italy. Polly received a Master of Fine Arts in Visual Arts from Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2010. She has exhibited her fine art photographs nationally and published a limited edition artist book, Pressure Points, with a foreword by actress Jamie Lee Curtis. Polly's photographic skills traverse contemporary art, documentary, portrait, and traditional photographic practices. She lives in Greenville, SC with her daughter. You, From a Distance Making portraits in a pandemic is challenging if you like to get closer than six feet to your subject. Frustrated by an inability to work at close range, I began to make portraits on my computer screen via FaceTime and Zoom by photographing friends, family, acquaintances, strangers, and my daughter at her father's home. This collaboration with others is particularly rewarding, especially when I've put the camera down, and we sit screen to screen discussing the changes in our collective worlds while checking in to make sure the other is okay. Each person has been generous in showing me around their homes to find the right background and light. They move furniture, take pictures off the wall, change clothing to create the right contrast, and position their laptops or phones so that I can take their picture at just the right angle. I sit behind my screen watching them do the work that I so desperately want to do as I experience a heightened sense of ambivalence, the love of "seeing" others, the distaste for lack of physical control over the situation. At times, the process calls for a third person to hold the camera phone, sometimes that assistant is a six-year-old girl, a father, a husband, or a cousin. During the awkwardness of the portrait session, there are moments of laughter when cats photobomb the sitting, a mother walks in the room wanting to reclaim her office space, a dad saunters by with a laundry basket, a sibling or grandchild screams from an adjoining room, and many phones crash to the floor from their perch of prime picture-taking position. We laugh together across connected distances about the absurdity of the situation and that I am trying to make a meaningful portrait amid unpredictability. Strangely, I find the absurdity satisfying; everything feels peculiar at this moment in time. For a more technically astute photographer than myself, the lack of technical command over making screen portraits would be unnerving. In essence, the image is blurry if the Wifi connection isn't clear. There are uncontrollable color shifts due to monitor calibrations; a moire pattern may appear because the screen is refreshing, and the perspective of the body can distort if the phone isn't perfectly parallel to the subject. I won't elaborate on how the highlights and shadows clip. The image noise and pixelation can drive you mad if you don't accept it as divine intervention. I find myself wanting to jump into the scene and move things and bodies, hold reflectors, close blinds, and refrain from making my subject do the heavy lifting. However, I sit behind the computer giving direction to "look to the right, chin down, eyes up, come closer to the camera" and then I embrace every technical flaw as if it's a gift. The power I have over the subject and the limitation I command over the image humbles me. The vulnerability I feel in putting these imperfect images into the world is tempered by the realization that we are all powerless in the face of this pandemic. You, From a Distance reflects the way I have experienced life during the Covid-19 pandemic- a personal feeling of distance and loss but with a desire to hold onto normalcy of making pictures, albeit without influence over the outcome. I am interested in these new ways of seeing each other and being together without being together - I look at you on my computer, in return, you look back at me through a phone or laptop while you can also see yourself in the frame. Who are we looking at - ourselves or others? The intersection of gazes is countless at times; it excites and confuses me. The process of looking and seeing divided by screens changes everything I have learned about image-making. The portraits become my memory of shared moments across time zones with distant faces; the four walls of my house expand into the space of others' homes. The intimacy I feel with the subject ironically is far greater than the portraits I make in-person in a time before social distance. In the span of one month, I have virtually traveled to five countries, five states, and homes nearby in South Carolina. Although more than the required physical distance is maintained through these portrait sittings, the mutual human connection is undoubtedly rich with meaning and unlimited possibility. December and Everything After
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