Artists I Like- Lars Tunbjork

The poet Philip Levine (1928-2015) once said, "I think poetry will save nothing from oblivion, but I keep writing about the ordinary because for me it's the home of the extraordinary, the only home." That sentiment perfectly applies to the work of Swedish photographer Lars Tunbjork (1956- 2015). Tunbjork specialized in photographing the ordinary, the everyday, the mundane. His brilliance lay in his photographing those scenes in ways that made us reconsider them and see them in new, fresh ways.

Here is his take on the modern office:



And his observations on people in a variety of settings: Lars-Tunbjörk-5



Thoughts on Joan Fontcuberta

I recently attended the Society for Photographic Education's national conference in Baltimore. Joan Fontcuberta was a keynote speaker (articulate, funny, thoughtful- every keynote speaker should be so engaging!) and he said many things that really struck me. He was talking at one point about photographic truth, a topic with which he has been intensively engaged throughout his career. (Go to his website and you'll see what I mean.) He said, "In today's world, photography is Google." He went on to explain that, back when photography was born in the 19th century, everyone looked at it as the ultimate arbiter of Truth. If it was photographed, then what was seen in the photograph must be true. It did not take long for photographers to challenge this notion. And today, people treat the internet the same way. We search for information on Google and tend to believe that whatever results we find are true, even though we know that isn't so.

I found his notion really interesting, and had something to chew on for the rest of the conference.

Photographic References to Painting

I'm not completely sure why I keep finding photographs that refer to 15th-to 17th century Dutch and Flemish painting, but they just seem to fall in my lap sometimes. I've already posted about the work of Nina Katchadourian and Hendrik Kerstens, and here is another take on the same idea by Eric Klemm: Sweetie #6

They are all clever, beautifully done, eye-catching and thought-provoking. They definitely make me want to try my own hand at it!

Artists I Like- Timothy Archibald

Timothy Archibald is another artist I've discovered in Art Photo Index's (API) new online exhibition titled "Fear & Loathing", which was curated by Katherine Ware, Curator of Photography at the New Mexico Museum of Art. Although most of the work on his website is quite humorous in nature (and worth checking out!), Archibald has done a project called Echolilia, a beautifully conceived and executed series of pictures that examines the power and vulnerability of his son Elijah, who was diagnosed with autism at the age of 5. (Echolilia is also available as a book.) Echolilia is the "automatic repetition of words or phrases just spoken by others", and is often a symptom of autism. The New York Times has published an article that goes into more depth about this project.

For me, the following picture is the perfect expression of this exploration of Elijah's world and of the vulnerability that his father Timothy saw in it:

Timothy Archibald

Humor in Photography- The Tutu Project

A friend of mine sent me a link about The Tutu Project, and I instantly fell in love with these pictures. A project of the Carey Foundation, "The mission of The Tutu Project™ is to support the fund raising efforts of The Carey Foundation for women with breast cancer. We strive to bring laughter and understanding to a community that has endured far too much."Unknown Photographer Bob Carey's wife was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003. Having lost his mother to the disease, Bob needed something to distract him and started to photograph himself in various locations around the world. Working on this project has become a form of therapy for him, and I can see why.

images-1Using lighthearted humor and the visually unexpected (an overweight, middle-aged man dressed only in a pink tutu!?!) are great tools for getting the viewer's attention and prompting them to ask questions about what they are seeing. Add to that Bob's outstanding sense of composition and you have a body of work that is eye-catching and funny/whimsical. Add to that the fact that these photographs are being created for a greater good, and you have a slam-dunk success. images

Artists I Like- Matej Peljhan

This week's horrific bombings at the Boston Marathon left many people with terrible leg injuries. It left me thinking, among other things, about how those victims will cope into the future with the loss of their limbs. So the issue of physical disabilities and challenges were already on my mind when I discovered today a series of pictures by Metej Peljhan made for a 12 year old boy named Luka who suffers from muscular dystrophy.

Luka longs to do things that are physically beyond him, so Peljhan created photographs that depict him doing those activities, things like playing basketball and breakdancing.prince-5

The beauty of these pictures lies in their simple, low-tech approach, and in their whimsicality.They are utterly honest, and therefore compelling.

They are a good example of how photographs can touch the heart, and of how a little imagination can go a long way.

To see more, to go Peljhan's website.


Humor in Photography- Nina Katchadourian

When I first saw the  series by "Lavatory Self-Portraits in the Flemish Style" series by Nina Katchadourian, I laughed out loud. And they still make me laugh every time I see them. Not many photographs can make me do that, but how can you not?! IMG_4825-lores IMG_4726-lores






Here's how the project started: "While in the lavatory on a domestic flight in March 2010, I spontaneously put a tissue paper toilet cover seat cover over my head and took a picture in the mirror using my cellphone. The image evoked 15th-century Flemish portraiture. I decided to add more images made in this mode and planned to take advantage of a long-haul flight from San Francisco to Auckland, guessing that there were likely to be long periods of time when no one was using the lavatory on the 14-hour flight. I made several forays to the bathroom from my aisle seat, and by the time we landed I had a large group of new photographs entitled Lavatory Self-Portraits in the Flemish Style. I was wearing a thin black scarf that I sometimes hung up on the wall behind me to create the deep black ground that is typical of these portraits. There is no special illumination in use other than the lavatory's own lights and all the images are shot hand-held with the camera phone."

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Here is what I like about these images: Katchadourian looked at an everyday object, saw what it might resemble when photographed, took the nearest camera at hand and went to town. Who says you need high end cameras and fancy sets and tons of lights to make a photograph that has an immediate impact??!! I also like the references to Dutch portrait painting, similar to the work of Hendrik Kerstens. Kerstens and Katchadourian have similar impulses and influences, and it's really intriguing to see how differently they express themselves. The next time you see a painting like "Girl With a Pearl Earring"  (see below) think of them!

Girl With a Pearl Earring, by Johannes Vermeer

The Photographs of Hendrik Kerstens

Simple, eloquent, resonant, complex, fun- all these terms describe the photographs of Dutch photographer Hendrik Kerstens. Whenever I find myself looking at his work, which is often, I am constantly finding new things to enjoy and appreciate.  Hendrik-Kerstens-bag-2009 This photograph of his daughter Paula, whom he photographs a lot, is a good case in point. Technically, the image is brilliant. Well lit, well posed, everything about the way it was set up and shot supports the concept. Anyone familiar with Dutch portrait painting of the 17th century will appreciate the connection he makes to art of that era. At the same time, it is totally contemporary in its use of the plastic shopping bag instead of some kind of fabric, and a simple turtleneck instead of a satin dress.

hbz-march-2013-hendrik-kerstens-comme-de-garcons-deAnother image of Paula finds her in a quite different getup, although the pose, background, and lighting are similar. It would be easy for her to look ridiculous, but she doesn't. I find great humor in Kersten's approach to photography, and love the fresh, crisp look and feel that his images possess. They ask me to consider the relationship of photography to painting, and to think about how photographs can transform everyday objects into something metaphorical. Kerstens doesn't try to hide anything in these photographs and revels in making the ordinary extraordinary.


Humor in Photography- Ivo Mayr

It is not easy to make pictures that are humorous. I can count on the fingers of one hand the photographers who have made me laugh out loud when looking at their work. Elliot Erwitt has done it with single images, while Duane Michals has done it using multiple images in a series. German photographer Ivo Mayr does it, too, and in a fresh and exciting way.

What I find humorous about them is that the human being relates to something in her/his surroundings in a way that is either unexpected or imitative- and it's presented visually in such a way that it makes me think/laugh/wonder about it in a way that I never would if the person weren't placed and posed in exactly the way he/she is. All the elements come together perfectly for me in these. Love his work!