Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Pamela Littky: Vacancy

Many years ago, I was driving from Las Vegas to LA and quite a few of the scenes pictured in Pamela Littky's Vacancy brought back mental images and some of the accompanying feelings from back then. Spending time with this well-done book also triggered memories from a more recent trip though Death Valley that included a night at Marta Becket's Amargosa Opera House in Death Valley Junction and a visit to a casino at the Nevada border - the pics that Littky took in the town of Beatty bought vividly back this casino visit.

Although photography is said to bring time to a standstill, the pics in this tome radiate a strange absence of time and that probably has to do with the sensation of eternity that one can feel in the desert. "The desert air clears everything away", as Pamela Littky observes. 

For more, see my fstopmagazine review 

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Swiss Press Photo 2014

Photograph @ Mark Henley

Given the number of press photos that are taken in the course of a year, it is quite a task to choose the Swiss Press Photographer of the Year. In 2013 the award went for the second time to Mark Henley and inspired Philipp Mäder to his supremely uninspiring question: "Are there no other good photographers in Switzerland?" to which Henley ... well, I assume you will guess his answer ...  
Photograph @ Mark Henley

 I often wonder what makes a jury decide that a certain shot merits to be rewarded. Luc Debraine, member of the Swiss Press Photo 2014 jury, penned: "In a competition such as this, Mark Henley's talent is obvious. His composition skills, his mastery of light and movement, wrapped with a tinge of irony, simply outcompete all other entries. Mark Henley best embodies the qualities of photojournalism, especially through his unwavering professionalism at events as chaotic as the Geneva talks on Iran's nuclear programme."

I readily admit that it is indeed difficult to find words that convincingly express what makes an outstanding photograph but what Luc Debraine offers here is so generally put that his words hardly say anything that couldn't be said about a lot of press photographs. From a jury member I would have expected a bit more eloquence.
L'attente @ Jean-Claude Roh

L'attente by Jean-Claude Roh is one of my favourite series in this tome. Because of what it does to me –  it invites me to contemplate things as they are, it makes me feel calm. I guess that's to do with the fact that my eyes aren't showing me anything extraordinary: some man-made objects placed into nature, a tree, bushes, and a mountain range in the distance. No clue what these objects in the foreground are ... places to sit on? From the text accompanying this photo I learn that what I'm looking at is the lido in Vevey in march 2013.
Photograph @ Helmut Wachter

Another favourite is Helmut Wachter's series of Zurich's most international intersection where Rolandstrasse and Zinistrasse meet. In the Midway-Bar gather the Thai Ladies and the Swiss who would rather be in Phuket, in the Biondi the old Italians, and at the hairdresser's place the Central Africans.

There are lots of discoveries to be made in Swiss Press Photo 2014. And lots to be learned about what happened in 2013. Since press photography is not only about pictures but about pictures with words, Swiss Press Photo 2014 represents an illustrated history of the year 2013.

Swiss Press Photo 14
German / French / Italian / English
Benteli Verlag, Sulgen 2014

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Mann trifft Frau

Ich bin ein Fan von Piktogrammen, der Reduktion auf erkennbare Gemeinsamkeiten. Man denke etwa an Flughäfen, wo man sie auf Schritt und Tritt antrifft. Und wo besonders augenscheinlich ist, wie hilfreich sie sind, denn Flughäfen sind Orte, wo sich Menschen ganz vieler und ganz unterschiedlicher Kulturen treffen und wo Piktogramme imstande sind ausnahmslos allen als Orientierung zu dienen.

Die 1976 in Peking geborene Grafikerin Yang Liu verwendet in ihrem Mann trifft Frau Piktogramme, um sich dem Verhältnis der Geschlechter anzunehmen.
Spiegelbild / Spiegelbild

Dass Mann und Frau die Dinge häufig verschieden sehen, ist bekannt. Das heisst, dass sie das, was sie sehen, verschieden interpretieren. Das sind doch Klischees, Stereotypen, Vereinfachungen also, die der Komplexität der Sache schlicht nicht angemessen ist, denn schliesslich ist Frau nicht gleich Frau und Mann nicht gleich Mann, werden jetzt einige vermutlich einwenden. Darauf kann ich nur sagen: Ich liebe Klischees, bin fasziniert von Stereotypen und nichts ist mir teurer als Vereinfachungen. Ich meine intelligente Vereinfachungen.
moderner Mann / Heimchen am Herd

Klar, nicht jede Vereinfachung geniesst meine Bewunderung, nicht jedes Simplifizieren ist hilfreich und selbstverständlich gibt es auch Klischees und Stereotypen die ausgesprochen dumm sind. Meine Faszination gehört den Generalisierungen, die Komplexes auf den Punkt bringen. Und zwar humorvoll auf den Punkt bringen.
mysteriöse Gegenstände / mysteriöse Gegenstände

Yang Liu führt uns gekonnt vor Augen, wie wir mit Stereotypen umgehen sollen: augenzwinkernd.

Yang Liu
Mann trifft Frau
Taschen, Köln 2014

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

The Good Life

The title of this tome, The Good Life, immediately made me think of another work with the same title that I have a special fondness for. It is by Gerald Roscoe and happens to be A Guide to Buddhism for the Westerner. One of the features of buddhism is its focus on right mindfulness. It seems to me that Jasper Morrison's Perceptions of the Ordinary were put to paper in a spirit of light-hearted mindfulness. And with a great sense of humour.

I feel irresistibly drawn to seemingly ordinary things and situations. For reasons unbeknown to me, they seem to emanate something magical. Hence the appeal of this very nicely done tome. There is however an additional reason: the „rigorous practical thinking and the logic of common sense available to all of us“ that can not only be found in the objects that Morrison decided to present but also in his ponderings about these objects.

Let me start with the image on the cover which happens to be the detail of a pic which can be found inside the book and is accompanied by these words: „There are some images which cannot easily be explained and this is one of them! The facts are the following: 1. The pink, pressed cardboard-pulp packaging was originally used for transporting melons. 2. The blue structure is a Corse-Matin newspaper rack. 3. They were noticed together outside a village shop in Corsica. 4. We cannot be sure who placed the melon packaging on the newspaper rack, or why. 5. The resulting composition is a satisfying one.“ Looking now once again at this image fills me with affection and puts a big smile on my face.

For more, see my fstopmagazine review