Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Foreign Correspondents: The Art of Guessing

When they arrived in Phnom Penh they discovered that there had been a revolution in Thailand. As Times correspondent, Robert was desperate. He read the French newspapers in Phnom Penh, translated the article on the revolution, rewrote it and cabled it to London. As the story was going out he remebered that the French correspondent in Bangkok was a friend of ours and totally unreliable –given to wild exaggeration and catastrophic conclusions.
"Did you cancel the cable?" I asked fearfully.
"No," said Robert, "but I added a shaky postscript: PLEASE CHECK."

Thus do the headlines in Southeast Asia originate. Formerly I had a touching faith in the veracity of our better newspapers, now I read everything from that dim area with tongue in cheek. The respectable format of the London and New York Times impresses me no longer. Behind the authoritative columns I have my memories of the wild and bewildered correspondents in the mad countires in which no Westerner knows or understands what is really happening. Robert spoke fluent Thai and knows more abot Thailand than anyone I ever met out there, but in times of stress the Thai were not given to conversation and most of Robert's stories were educated guesses.

Carol Hollinger
Mai Pen Rai Means Never Mind

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Edward Weston 1886-1958

@taschen

This beautifully done book of photography by Edward Weston was edited by Manfred Heiting and comes with an essay by Terence Pitts and with a (very brief, comprising merely half a page) portrait by Ansel Adams who wrote among other things: "Edward suffers no sense of personal insecurity in his work; he required no support through 'explanations,' justifications or interpretations ... I would prefer to join Edward in avoiding verbal or written definitions of creative work. Who can talk or write about the Bach Partitas? You just play them or listen to them." And this is exactly what I did after having read that.
Edward Weston with Seneca View Camera 
Copyright: Collection Center of Creative Photography 
© 1981 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of RegentsPhoto: Tina Modotti, 1924

Edward Weston was the son of a doctor, his mother died when he was five, his formal education ended before high school. "I cannot believe I learned anything of value in school, unless it be the will to rebel," he later wrote according to Terence Pitts who writes about the life and art of the photographer in an interesting text entitled "Uncompromising Passion".

Before spending time with this book, I was only familiar with Weston's Nudes and his relationship with Tina Modotti, an Italian immigrant to the United States who had acted in several silent movies in Hollywood and who would eventually become a photographer herself. Their time in Mexico had quite an impact on Weston. "In his daybooks he described street life in Mexico as 'sharp clashes of contrasting extremes ... vital, intense, black and white, never gray'. By contrast, Glendale, California, now seemed 'drab, spiritless, a uniform gray – peopled by exploiters who have raped a fair land."

Eggs and Slicer, 1930
Copyright: Collection Center of Creative Photography 
© 1981 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents

Edward Weston believed that photography must take a different avenue than the other arts. "The camera should be used for recording a life, for rendering the very substance and quintessence of the thing itself, whether it be polished steel or palpitating flesh." And so he also photographed shells and sliced vegetables. "Weston made many of the photographs that are now recognized as among the most important: photographs of a gleaming white chambered nautilus shell set in a dark, ambiguous space; pairs of shells tucked into each other; and sensous bell peppers."

Many of his photographs are razor-sharp, and quite some taken from up close. His credo from later years can be felt or so it seems. "I am no longer trying to 'express myself,' to impose my own personality on nature, but without prejudice, without falsification, to become identified with nature, to see or know things as they are, their very essence, so that what I record is not an interpretation   my idea of what nature should be   but a revelation, a piercing of the smoke screen ..."

Nude, 1936 Copyright: Collection Center of Creative Photography
 © 1981 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents
My favourite pics in this tome show dunes, landscapes and the ones that present views of the Armco Steel mill in Ohio. Weston felt that the artist had to respond to "the architecture of the age, good or bad  showing it in new and fascinating ways", as he had written in his daybooks. Stieglitz, whom he showed his portfolio of prints, was not enchanted. "Instead of destroying or disillusioning me he has given me more confidence and sureness    and finer aesthetic understanding of my medium", Weston wrote to his friend Johan Hagemeyer." In other words, his ego seemed to match the one of Stieglitz.

Edward Weston
1886-1958
Essay by Terence Pitts
With a Portrait by Ansel Adams
Edited by Manfred Heiting
Taschen, Cologne 2017

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

The Best of LensCulture

“How to discover the best practitioners worldwide amidst our image-filled cultures of the 21st century?”, Jim Casper, the Editor-in-Chief of LensCulture, asks in his introduction. “Our editorial team scours the globe – attending festivals, portfolio reviews, exhibitions and graduation shows – in search of new and developing talents. And each year, we organize four annual photography awards to extend our reach even further.” In addition, LensCulture sends out its calls for entries in 15 languages, uses social media and taps into photography newtworks all over the world. In other words, the LensCulture team is undoubtedly very active.

But what are the criteria for great talent? “LensCulture draws on the expertise of an international panel of jury members for each award. These jurors are active and influential in the world of photography. Thanks to their experience, they are adept at identifying photographers who are doing something special in their work. You can be assured that the 161 photographers you will discover in these pages are among the best of the best.” In other words, there are no criteria given and explained respectively.
It might of course very well be that this not exactly illuminating self-promotion – trust us, we are the experts, Jim Casper is basically saying – is well deserved. Although to claim expertise without elaborating on the criteria employed is pretty common, I do find it not exactly convincing.
On the other hand: It is indeed difficult to define relevant criteria for judging pictures. The protagonist of Robert M. Pirsig’s “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” ... 
For the full review, see http://www.fstopmagazine.com/