Friday, May 27, 2011

Postcards from America – From San Antonio to Oakland

In the first of a series of trips around America, five Magnum photographers and one writer travelled from San Antonio TX to Oakland CA, between May 12-26, 2011. I’ve been following Paolo Pellegrin, Jim Goldberg, Susan Meiselas, Alec Soth, Mikhael Subotzky & Ginger Strand on tumblr everyday since they started their adventure, and it’s been an amazing experience: the American road trip made real and accessible.
The opening of their pop up show was last night in Oakland and of course I had to be there, and I don’t regret it!

The show was in the Starline Social Club and Ballroom in West Oakland. An area and a venue full of personality. The room was packed with young hipsters and photo enthusiasts chatting loudly and drinking cheap beers. The RV that the photographers traveled in was parked in front of the venue. The protagonists of the trip were there, also chatting and drinking beer. (For the anecdote, one of my friends asked Jim Goldberg where the restroom was!)
Photos from the trip were everywhere: on the walls and on tables. You could touch them, look at them closely, search through them, and feel them. It felt like looking at your vacation pictures with a bit of nostalgia and the emotion of wonderful memories, except that unfortunately we don’t print our pictures anymore. The only difference I guess is that they were not the average tourist pictures, they were not your usual subjects, they were not random pictures and they were definitely the work of very talented photographers!
Fun, accessible, unpretentious, the event was everything I love about photography.
I can’t wait to get my book. Still copies available on:
Look at the blog, stay connected to follow the next trip and make sure to go to the next pop-up show if it comes to your area…
Here are a few pics of the event:

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A journey through the Great North (Part 1)

When I think of Scandinavia, I think of a cold winter and a snowy deserted landscape. At the far north end of Europe, between Europe and Russia, Finland in particular is this mysterious country with a language impossible to pronounce and dreamlike imagery.
I don’t know much about Finland or Scandinavia but through my photographic peregrinations I discovered talented but very different photographers that share a love for their unique homeland and offer their unique approach of a journey through the Great North. But more than a country Finland is a state of mind and through their photography artists from Finland not only depict the landscapes but also the solitude and the absurdity of their silent land.
Pentti Sammallahti
Pentti Sammallahti is considered as the father of contemporary photography in Finland. His work can be associated to the photography of Henri Cartier-Bresson or Joseph Koudelka. In a traditional black and white style he offers a poetic and playful vision of his country. From incredibly breath taking landscapes to decisive moment situations, Sammallahti photographs the great north with humor and sensitivity.
‘Sammallahti describes himself as a wanderer who likes the nature of the great north, the silence, the cold, and the sea.  He likes the people and the animals of far off places and he records the relationships of those people and their environment.  Like people, animals wander into his photographs and then disappear as naturally as they appear.’

Helsinki, Finland, 1973

Helsinki, Finland, 2002

Pyhajarvi, Finland, 1982

Solovki, White Sea, Russia, 1992

Solovki, White Sea, Russia, 1992
More on Pentti Sammallahti:
Ville Lenkkeri
Ville Lemkkeri was born in Finland and he describes with his images better then no one  the absurdity of life in the far North. With his series The Place of No Roads and Civil Courage he tells the story of isolated places and people, the stories of places where time is suspended, where life can be a daily fight. He makes us feel the beauty as well as the difficult reality of these places far away from our dreamlike imagery of magical snowy landscapes. 

Civil Courage: Lisa as a woman who carries her child to safety over fields, as her car and the roads have been buried knee-deep in snow that has fallen during the night.

Civil Courage: Sergey as a man who has moved to mine coal in the Arctic, in a place that has a history, but no future, since life where he grew up now had even less meaning.
  The Place of No Roads
Visions of an Arctic UtopiaA visitor to a small town in the utmost North that has lost its entire population is met by a surprising, subjective vision. […] In looking for something nonexistent, it is the searching and the dreaming that matter. This collection of photographs is a ballad to all ways of life, and is dedicated to dreams.'

Arctic Wildlife

First snow on an August night
 More on Ville Lenkkeri:
Nelli Palomaki
Nelli Palomaki is a young Finnish photographer specialized in black and white portraits. Dark, intense portraits where the subjects look at us as if they could see through our minds and we could see through theirs. Most of her work is focused at children while their posture and faces seem very adult like. She searches for the forgotten magic of portraiture, with decontextualized backgrounds and formal settings. Her images look like Dutch paintings from the Renaissance.

Julia #2, 2010

Viola and Elsa at 10 and 9, 2009

Sanni at 30, 2010

Viola at 11, 2009

Anni Maria at 24 with Donna, 2009
More on Nelli Palomaki:
and also on video:


Friday, May 13, 2011

An evening with Leo Rubinfien

Leo Rubinfien is a traveler, photographer, essayist, author, curator, and probably philosopher and poet. He is also a great speaker and his lecture at the SFAI (with Photo Alliance) last week was a great discovery for me. As an internationally acclaimed American photographer, his work has been exhibited in galleries and museums around the world so I was already familiar with some of his photos. But I feel that you always discover something more about the art when you listen to the artist. And of course when the artist is as smart and passionate as Leo Rubinfien it becomes an absolute pleasure.
A lot of artists prefer to let their work speak for itself - behind each image, behind each series a story is hiding – real or invented, anticipated or totally out of the viewer’s imagination. But as Rubinfien said during the lecture ‘a photograph tells you so little. It’s about what it doesn’t say as much as what it says.’ And I guess that’s really the beauty of photography.
When you think of Leo Rubinfien’s images you think of globalization, you think of the ‘world city’, you think about his book ‘Wounded Cities’ where after 9/11 he explored cities of the world that had suffered from terrorist attacks. But I believe his work is also really about what his images say as much as what they don’t say. Many critics raised about his series ‘Wounded Cities’ as the only link between the images is the context or history of the cities they were taken in. But the images only represent people in the streets lost in their own thoughts. Of course the people’s expressions cannot all be interpreted as effects of terrorist attacks.  It is impossible to guess the real reasons behind their expressions based on a photograph alone. But I guess it was the photographer’s way to project his own fear and questions after being personally touched by 9/11 attacks as he lived very near by.
My goal is not to serve the debate about this particular book, but to look at Leo Rubienfien work’s through his own lens, try to understand his perspective and objectives. And I guess his work is a testimony to his own relationship with the world. It’s not, as he explained, a recording of the world as such, because most of what goes on in the world is unknown, and of course only a negligible proportion of it is photographed. His work is more an expression of his own vision of the world. His work is about what the world is made of, beauty and ugliness, order and chaos, joy and fear, glory and despair. His way to discover the world is by photographing it and being surprised by what he has photographed. He is more interested in the uncertainty, the ambiguity of a photograph, by the mystery behind a single scene captured by his unconscious camera. He only searches for the meaning of a photography after he has taken it. He reminds us that a photograph is a static statement and the story we think it tells being about a political issue, a sunrise or a beautiful woman in the streets can only be the result of our own imagination.

For Leo Rubinfien a good photograph is in between truth and redemption, between the real and its representation, it makes the world more beautiful, richer, improves life as well as being a lie. Photography is like poetry and for him it can be defined by the sentence in a poem by Wallace Stevens ‘A Tune Beyond Us, Yet Ourselves’


First 2 cantos of Wallace Stevens'poem  "The Man With the Blue Guitar."

‘The man bent over his guitar,
A shearsman of sorts. The day was green.

They said, "You have a blue guitar,
You do not play things as they are."

The man replied, "Things as they are
Are changed upon the blue guitar."

And they said then, "But play, you must,
A tune beyond us, yet ourselves,

A tune upon the blue guitar
Of things exactly as they are."

I cannot bring a world quite round,
Although I patch it as I can.

I sing a hero's head, large eye
And bearded bronze, but not a man,

Although I patch him as I can
And reach through him almost to man.

If to serenade almost to man
Is to miss, by that, things as they are,

Say that it is the serenade
Of a man that plays a blue guitar.

At Harrods, London
On a Train to Brighton, England, 1980
Near Kowloon Station, Hong Kong, 1990
A View from the Sugar Loaf, 2000
Americans in the Breakfast Room of the Chateau de Cenevieres

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

31 contemporary photographers by Lens Culture

Lens Culture is an online magazine celebrating international contemporary photography, art, media, and world cultures. For the 2d time this year they’ve organized an international photography award and received more than 6,500 photographs from photographers in 47 countries. The winning images will be exhibited in San Francisco, Paris and New York.
In San Francisco the opening took place in Gallery 291 last week.  It was a success and I recommend that you check the exhibition in NY or Paris if you can!

The selection is rich and diverse, fresh and inspiring. 31 photographers, 31 talented artists with very different styles and approaches to photography.
3 portfolios winners, 3 single image winners, and 25 single image honorable mentions: that’s a lot to discover so here is a teaser for the show as well as I guess an expression of my personal experience… of course I’ve added a bit more insight and images, because when you enjoy what you see, one image is never enough!
Louisa Marie Summer  (3rd prize – Portfolio Category)
Louisa Marie Summer is a young German photographer who manages to capture emotional portraits and simple daily situations with incredible trueness, respect and tenderness. She arrived in the US with the idealistic vision of the American dream and discovered a country in despair. Her series Jennifer depicts the daily life of a family in Rhode Island. Through her lens we enter the private secrets of their home and share moments of incredible emotions with them. Terribly humanist, both joyful and sad, always full of hope, her images deliver a powerful testimony of life in the margins of capitalist prosperity, far from judgmental stereotypes.
Her series Youth in the Republic of Georgia shows another powerful side of her documentary work. Again she gives the sensation of being part of the scenes she photographs and offers an emphatic look on this specific population without voyeurism or clichés. 
  More on Louisa Marie Summer:
Martine Fougeron (Grand Prize – Single Image category)
Martine Fougeron is French, but she has been living in NY for 10 years. She used to be creative director for a perfumery, but she’s now a photographer. She is also a mom. A mom who follows her teen boys and their friends and depicts their private life in New York. Through their portraits and spontaneous snapshots she tells the story of wealthy teenagers anywhere in the world. Between youth and maturity, Tete a Tete reveals the universality of that phase, of that quickly changing age between innocence, frivolity, consciousness, discomfort, friendships, first loves… 
  More on Martine Fougeron and Tete a Tete:
 Adam Magyar (Honorable Mention)
The work of Adam Mayar is captivating. I’m not sure I fully understand how he produces such images, but he manages to capture the details of human life in urban environments to create beautiful, precise, intriguing tableaux of humanity. He explains that he ‘capture[s] man's finite time in infinity.’ He explores time, energy and rhythms. He unfolds the city and the man-made environment to analyze people’s reactions, interactions but also to recreate situations and relationships that never existed in real life. Both surreal and so full of reality his images make us wonder about our place in the world, the speed of our lives, our ultimate aim…
#7283 - New York
#03621 - Tokyo

Urban Flows

More on Adam